Monday, October 31, 2011

In case you needed more reasons to visit Ölü Deniz, I thought I’d share some other photos I took during our recent trip to Fethiye.

The sea water, which is part of the Mediterranean Sea, is super clear, clean and warm. Even in the middle of October, the water temperatures were perfect for a dip!
How could you resist from getting in this beautiful water?
Swimming - bring your goggles and take a swim out to the rocky island not too far from shore. (Well, truth be told, this rock is farther away than I would swim.) My husband swam over to this destination and climbed on the rocks to see the sailboats docked on the other side. There also are some paddle boats available for the day.
One of the many sailboats that docked nearby on the day we were here.
And if the sea and swimming activities aren’t enough to entice you, how about the wildlife you can find here at Ölü Deniz?
This proud rooster was hiding underneath a table.
One of the first peacocks I've seen during our travels in Turkey.

Plus, the beach cafe serves up a decent tavuk döner when you get hungry. Hopefully, the döner meat isn’t from one of the many chickens or other birds running around on the beach. =)
An overview of  Ölü Deniz as you drive up the hills and head back to Fethiye.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Yesterday, nearly every building we passed in Istanbul had a Turkish flag hanging in the window or on its exterior.
Large Turkish flag hanging outside of the Pera Museum.
Why?

October 29th represents the date Turks celebrate Cumhuriyet Bayramı or Turkish Republic Day.  This day marks the anniversary of the declaration of the independence of Turkey and when Mustafa Kemal Atatürk was named as the first President of Turkey.

Kutlu Olsun 88 yıl! Happy 88th Birthday to Turkey!
Smaller flags like these also were strung up between the streets of Istanbul.
Another large Turkish flag adorning the Pera Hotel.
We spent Saturday afternoon walking through the old neighborhood of Pera down in Beyoğlu. We visited a new exhibit at the Pera Museum and then decided to grab a cocktail on the rooftop bar at The Marmara Pera. The bar didn’t open for another hour, but we were able to capture some amazing views of Istanbul for free. The lighting was perfect!
A great view of the Galata Tower, Yeni Mosque and Sultanahmet in the background!
The Pera neighborhood of Istanbul going all the way to Sisli in the background.
As my husband told me yesterday, “it pays to be nosy sometimes.” This was our first time up here, and certainly won’t be our last now that we know about this panoramic view.

As you can see from our photos, the Turks are quite patriotic and love to fly the Turkish flag!
Another view of Galata Tower and Sultanahmet with the Ayasofya and Blue Mosque to the left.
We finished off our day in Pera by stopping by Fıccın for dinner. This small restaurant, featured in Istanbul Eats, serves the unique cuisine of the Caucasus Mountains.

We tried the recommended soup called Tulen tavuklu çerkez çorbası - a chicken-broth based soup with shredded chicken and lots of delicious chunks of garlic. (I must learn how to make this one!) A superb welcome from all the lentil-based soups here.
I generously sprinkled pul biber on top of my soup.
For our main course, we both chose Fıccın’s version of mantı - Turkish ravioli, which is smothered in a yogurt sauce and a red pepper oil. Their version, called çerkez mantısı, is more like a thick dumpling similar to a Polish pierogi.
There are two versions of mantı on the menu - stuffed with ground meat or with potatoes.
We selected one of each dish to try.
This is a hearty meal, but perfect for savoring in this cool autumn weather. I highly recommend stopping here if you are in the area.

Full and happy, we decided to head back to our apartment. Another great day in Istanbul!

Places recommended from above:
  • Pera Museum, Meşrutiyet Caddesi No.65
  • The Marmara Pera, Meşrutiyet Caddesi 95
  • Fıccın, Kallavi Sokak No. 13

Friday, October 28, 2011

As I look through our photos we recently took in Fethiye, I’m still quite impressed by Ölü Deniz.

Ölü Deniz, which literally translates to “dead sea” in Turkish, is a beautifully, clear lagoon and a small resort village, about 14 km (9 miles) south of Fethiye. It’s a perfect way to spend the afternoon or about six hours like we did during our recent weekend trip to Fethiye.

I have to say what was really cool and different about Ölü Deniz was watching all the paragliders smoothly sail through the air from the comfort of my beach chair. 
Look how clear the water is here at Ölü Deniz.
One of my more upclose photos of the paragliders.
I’m not sure if I could do this as I’m a bit scared of heights or more the act of jumping off and then being in the air several thousand feet off the ground. However, my husband would do this in a heartbeat. Guess that means we need to make another trip to Fethiye for him. We just didn’t have enough time this trip.
In this photo, I count 15 paragliders in the air at the same time!
The paragliders descend from Babadağ (Father Mountain), which apparently has incredible thermals and the ideal conditions for paragliding. Here’s a site that offers paragliding in Ölü Deniz.
And this is where I was camped out - underneath the beach umbrella!
Still just a fun activity to observe even when you’re grounded!

Check out other things to do in Ölü Deniz over at my friends’ site - Turkey’s for Life.

Monday, October 24, 2011

During our recent trip to Fethiye, I took a walk along the Fethiye Marina while Jason went for a run.

The Yacht Boutique Hotel, where we were staying, was perfectly located along the marina and just a five-minute walk away from the downtown area. (BTW, I chose this hotel based on my blogging friends’ recommendations over at Turkey’s for Life.)
The view from the rooftop of the Yacht Boutique Hotel in Fethiye.
The weather could not have been better. The sun was shining. The morning air was a little crisp, but soon warmed up.

Of course, I left the camera back in our hotel room because my main purpose was to get some exercise. After breakfast, we returned so I could take some photos of the boats docked nearby.

And this is what I found....

I’ve never seen a large sailboat being made like this one we found here in the Fethiye Marina. I was impressed by how the boat was taking shape. I wonder how long it takes to complete one like this. Does anyone know?
This man was repainting this small red/white sailboat in front of the large
sailboat.
Jason wanted to know the length of the boat so he started pacing it out by foot. A Turkish man walked by and said in English “42 meters.”
Jason standing by the sailboat to provide some scale for its size.
How funny! He knew exactly what we wanted to know! Of course, I’m sure it might have seemed a little strange to have two yabancılar taking photos up-close of these sailboats.

Oh well! I enjoyed myself while we explored the marina area.

Next stop: Ölüdeniz.
More sailboats docked nearby.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Several of my expat friends here in Istanbul are pregnant.

Of course that means baby showers are happening in all their pink, blue, yellow and green glory!

And that’s what I’ve been up to this week in the kitchen as well - the reason for my blog absence. I've been mixing cake batters, baking cakes, whipping up frostings and perfecting the decorations - and then all the dishes!

For two of my girlfriends, I made a large, round cake - vanilla sponge cake with Meyer Lemon curd and vanilla bean buttercream icing.
Pink fondant hearts for the baby girl and blue ones for the baby boy.
Vanilla sponge cake filled with Meyer Lemon curd and vanilla bean buttercream icing.
Then, for my French friends, today I made happy and sleeping baby boys and girls out of vanilla cupcakes filled with the same tangy lemon curd. Aren’t they just the cutest?
Happy and sleepy baby boys and girls cupcakes.
Sleepy baby girl cupcakes
Happy baby boy cupcakes
It’s been fun to celebrate my friends’ happiness, and I can’t wait to meet their new bundle of joys soon!

Congrats to all the moms-to-be out there!

After all this baking, I think I deserve a weekend break. 

Here's my tangy lemon curd recipe I used in the cakes for my friends.

The decorated table at one of the baby showers complete with the cupcakes as the centerpieces.


Tuesday, October 18, 2011

I have three packages of sliced bacon in the freezer. These are slowly rationed out to make bacon and eggs on the weekends.

2 crispy slices for hubby and 2 for me.

You can find sliced bacon at a few of the larger grocery stores and gourmet markets here in Istanbul, but it will cost you a pretty penny and is inferior to the center-cut thick sliced bacon I prefer from the U.S.

So when I recently wanted to make my bacon and scallion cornbread muffins, I had to figure out a substitute for the bacon. I went with dana jambon (veal bacon/ham) so that it also would be non pork-friendly for some of my Turkish friends.

This sliced Turkish ham is tasty enough and works fine for baked goods. However, would I want to make a grilled ham and cheese sandwich with it? Not unless I really, really wanted one.

Living in a foreign country continues to teach me that sometimes you must make substitutes or simply do with out. I think I’m beginning to become an expert in this department. A few tweaks here and there is all that’s usually needed to adapt a recipe in my Istanbul kitchen.

Speaking of using substitutes in Turkey, this week a writer friend and fellow Istanbul expat mentioned my little blog on Gadling, a popular travel blog. Check out her article: “Expat Fusion Cuisine: Combining foreign foods with favorites from home.” Thanks Meg! (You can search for Meg’s past articles about Istanbul, being a mom abroad and her travels.)

Another option is beg your friends and family members to bring you back foodie goodies from the U.S. or from their travels. This is how the bacon arrived at our apartment this summer. I also plan to stock up on exotic Asian ingredients on our upcoming trip to Singapore and Bali.

These moist cornbread muffins make a great breakfast treat and pair well with homemade chili for dinner. I hope you enjoy!

Afiyet Olsun!
A little dab of butter makes these warm cornbread muffins extra special!
Dana Jambon Mısır Ekmeği/Veal Bacon Cornbread Muffins
Makes 12-13 muffins

Ingredients:
1 ½ c. (215 g.) flour
½ c. (60 g.) corn flour (mısır unu - usually found in a yellow box in the baking aisle at most grocery stores here)
¼ c. (55 g.) granulated sugar
1 tsp. salt
4 tsp. baking powder
pinch paprika or pul biber (optional)
1 large egg
1 c. (230 ml.) whole milk
c. (65 ml.) vegetable/sunflower oil
scant ½ c. (50 g.) dana jambon or chopped, crispy bacon
2 T. scallions or chives, finely chopped
Chopped chives with the dana jambon.
1. In a medium-sized bowl, mix together all the dry ingredients.
2. In a separate bowl, mix together the egg, milk and oil. Add the liquids to the dry mixture, stirring just to combine.
3. Lastly, carefully fold in the dana jambon or bacon and the scallions or chives to the cornbread mixture.
4. Place muffin paper liners in a 12-cup muffin baking tray. Evenly divide the cornbread batter into the cups, filling about ¾-way full. You may have a little bit extra and need to bake 1 or 2 more muffins.
5. Bake in a preheated oven at 350 F/175 C for 12-15 minutes, until golden brown on the edges or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.

(Note: A fellow Istanbul expat and friend, Celia, originally provided me with her Turkish cornbread recipe, which I tweaked a little bit. Thanks Celia!)

Monday, October 17, 2011

It’s easy for me to spend five or more hours in the kitchen to make the perfect, layered and decorated cake.

But when it comes to knitting, I do not have the patience.

Several years ago, I tried learning this beautiful handicraft, but I lost count as I knitted my rows for a simple scarf. Was that 27 or 29? Or 30?

I eventually gave up!

Today, I met an expat friend in Eminönü and we went shopping for spices, fabric, sewing thread and yarn. Behind the Mısır Çarşısı, there are several streets where the stores sell every kind of sewing item you ever would need – buttons, beads, trimming, tassels, lace, ribbons, thread and more.

We stopped along Aşir Efendi Caddesi and found reasonably priced fabrics at several shops. (Speaking some Turkish will help you receive better service, I believe.) I bought some crimson cotton/polyester blend fabric that I hope to turn into some aprons for Christmas.

Then, we went in the search of velcro, which apparently is only sold in a box of 25 meters! No thanks!

My friend and her children are knitters, so we went in search of the yarn han called Kürkcü Han (Furrier Han) on Mahmutpaşa street. (See my helpful map here.) If you exit out the back of the Mısır Carşısı, hike up the cobble stone street of Mahmutpaşa and this han, a large stone building, will be located on the right. If you walk past the han, you soon will end up at one of the entrances of the Grand Bazaar.

The han’s building is as old as the Kapalı Carşı (Grand Bazaar) and was once built for the accommodation of furriers; but now it’s a shopping center or a knitter’s paradise. This two-story complex houses 80 stores and a few small cafés. These stores sell yarn, yarn and more yarn as well as a few random home textiles such as bathroom rugs, towels, bed sheets and curtains.

Lots of yarn!
I have to think this han is the best shopping destination for yarn of various kinds and colors in Istanbul. The stands are full of balls and skeins of beautiful wool yarn in various natural colors, grays, browns and some colors. If you knit, you must go here!
And even more yarn!
And cheap! 300 grams of thick wool yarn, which looked like a lot to me, for 5 TL. Some balls of yarn were only 1 and 2 TL! Crochet thread for only 75 kuruş!

I wasn’t looking for yarn, but I did find some holiday cookie cutters at one of the shops as well as some cheap wool socks.

That’s the randomness of Istanbul! You never know what you will find, and I love that about the city!

Happy shopping!

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Kayaköy, Turkey
It felt a little eerie walking through this abandoned "rock village," about 8 km outside Fethiye.

Just hundreds of empty houses, a couple of churches and an old fortress remain of this former Greek settlement. In 1923, Kayaköy was abandoned because of the population exchange between Greece and Turkey.

Now, a few of the outer houses look like they have been reclaimed by local residents. There's also several small cafes, restaurants and a few pansyions to relax at or even stay at after you've explored the village.

We spent more than 2 hours here today, so I will have lots more photos to post soon. Well worth the drive out of the city to explore.

Stay tuned!

Saturday, October 15, 2011



Not a bad view to wake up to in the morning.

Actually, this is the view from our hotel's rooftop restaurant where we enjoyed our morning coffees and breakfast. The Yacht Boutique Hotel is located along the Fethiye Marina where it seems a hundred or so sailboats are docked.

We arrived here late last night for a short weekend get-away to celebrate Jason's birthday. Happy birthday honey!

Fethiye, a currently peaceful city, is located along the Mediterranean Sea and about an 800-kilometer drive away from Istanbul. Or you take an 80-minute flight to Dalaman and then drive about an hour to Fethiye, which is the option we chose.

We are heading out to explore the area so I will post more soon.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

When it comes right down to it, I’m a meat and potatoes kinda gal.

I’m particularly fond of steak.

Can you blame me? I was born and raised in the Midwest - land of many cows. =)

I’m still convinced some of the best steak I’ve ever eaten in my life is at one of my favorite mom-and-pop joints in Juanita, Nebraska, called The Plainsman Steakhouse. I’ll definitely be making a pit stop there when I visit my family around Christmas.

Here in Istanbul, I recently discovered or actually was recommended by my kasap to try antrikot. I still can’t figure out this cut of meat - maybe a ribeye or a sirloin steak. Whatever it’s called, this Turkish cut of steak is full of good marbling and just tastes pretty darn good! At 34 TL a kilo - it’s also a bargain compared to bonfile.

Simply add rub the antrikot steaks down with some olive oil, sea salt and freshly ground pepper and you are ready to grill - even if it’s indoors like we do here at our apartment.

You can find some helpful antrikot cooking techniques online here in Turkish, which is fairly easy to translate.

We enjoyed these grilled steaks with roasted sweet and yellow potatoes for dinner. It was a perfect meal - accompanied with a bottle of Turkish red wine, of course.

Now, sweet potatoes are another difficult foodie item to find in Turkey. (See previous foodie treasure hunt here.) But you’re in luck because I’ll share with you my new exotic ingredient place in Arnavutköy.

When I stopped in this manav (recommended by a long-time expat), I was shocked to see all the goodies. Real jalapenos, blueberries, red currants and kumquats are just a few items that caught my eye.

You’ll also be a bit sticker shocked! It just depends on how badly you really want that item.

First, I was told 25 TL for a kilo of the sweet potatoes, but then I started talking a bit of Turkish with him and another customer. Next thing I know, he shrugged his shoulders and said “On lira” for 750 grams of potatoes. It’s a deal!

Perhaps a sweet potato pie for Thanksgiving next month?

Afiyet Olsun!

For a good butcher and a specialty foods shop, check out these two places in Istanbul:
  • Kolaylar Manav, Arnavutköy
  • Kardeşler Kasabı, Gazi Refik Sok. No: 3 Türkali Mh., Beşiktaş

Pul Biber Sweet Potatoes
For 2 hungry people

Ingredients:
2 sweet potatoes, medium diced
2-3 yellow potatoes, medium diced
Olive oil
Salt
Freshly ground black pepper
Pul Biber or spicy red chili flakes

1. Preheat oven to 400 F/205 C.
2. In a large bowl, add the potatoes, drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle the seasonings on top. Using your hands, toss the potatoes in the bowl a few times to ensure they are completely coated.
3. Place the potatoes on an aluminum foil-lined baking tray. (The foil will help with the clean up later.)
4. Roast the potatoes for about 20 minutes until they start to brown around the edges, stirring once to ensure even cooking.
5. Dish up the hot potatoes onto your plate and enjoy with your grilled steak!

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