Thursday, February 28, 2013

Caramelized Pears with Walnuts, Honey and Yogurt

When you have more than enough fruits at home, what do you do usually do with them? I usually give them a quick stir in a skillet with honey and then enjoy every bit of them with a sprinkle of crumbled walnuts and ground cinnamon. Mind-blowing! We had caramelized pears to the accompaniment of some low-fat yogurt this time. Once you try it and see how quick it is to get such an amazing dessert in such a short time, you become an addict of fresh fruit desserts. What makes them so appealing is that they are both low in calories and rich in vitamins and minerals. If you are one of those who crave something sweet late at night, this type of desserts might be the right choice and solution for you. You can serve them with whatever you have on hand such as hazelnuts, raisins, walnuts, pistachios, almonds, ice-cream, and even cereals. 

2 pears, sliced thinly, discard core
1/4 cup unsalted butter
1/4 cup crushed walnuts 
2 tablespoons dark brown sugar
 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1/3 cup water
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon (optional)
1/2 cup vanilla yogurt
honey, for drizzling over top 

    1. Preheat skillet over medium-low heat.
    2. Add butter and melt.
    3. Stir in sugars (and optional cinnamon) to incorporate. Once mixture begins to bubble, slowly and carefully add water and stir together.
    4. Add pears. Use wood spoon and fork to flip and coat evenly.
    5. Allow mixture to thicken flipping pears.  Let pears cook for about 3 to 4 minutes on each side.The pears will soften at different times depending on their ripeness. The edges of the pears will brown a bit and appear slightly translucent when done.
    6. Remove from heat and leave in skillet while prepping plates.
    7. Place a dollop of yogurt in a bowl and place the slices of pear on the yogurt. 
    8. Top with a few walnuts and drizzle with honey.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Spicy Muffins with Feta and Vegetables

I am a big fan of cheese. Cheese is never enough or it is never too late to have some cheese. If I can ever add some cheese to any food, I do. I do it with a great pleasure. Whenever I have some spare time, I find myself on websites with lots of cheese photos. Well, here is a link to such a site where you can enjoy those awesome photos of mouth-watering sandwiches with Wisconsin cheese:

After a joyful visit to this website, I craved cheese and headed to the kitchen right away and I ended up with muffins with feta and vegetables. You should definitely give it a try! Please remember to smell it before the first bite!

  • Ingredients
  •  1 cup butter, melted
  • 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 cup milk
  • 2 ½ cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup crumbled feta 
  • 1 clove garlic, minced

  • 3 green onions, finely chopped

  • 1 teaspoon fresh ginger, grated

  • 1 teaspoon ground dry mint 

  • 3 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

  • Directions

    1. Preheat the oven to 200 °C and lightly grease or line with paper baking cups muffin cups. 
    2. In a large bowl, blend together the flour, baking powder, and salt. 
    3. In a medium bowl, beat the egg, milk, butter and sugar until smooth. Fold in the ginger, garlic, green onions, mint,  and feta.
    4. Combine the two mixtures, blending until the dry ingredients are moistened. 
    5. Fill the muffin cups about three-quarters full. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes or until a wooden toothpick inserted into the center of a muffin comes out clean. 
    6. Cool on a wire rack and serve warm.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Handmade Candies in Bosnia and Herzegovina

Here are the photos of the candies I bought at Nazmi's candy parlor in Visoko yesterday. 

     These ones are pepper-mint flavoured candy squares.

I was a fan of sesame and caramel candies when I was a kid. Have you noticed the pattern on the red  lollipops?

Candy Makers in Visoko, BiH

This is Nazmi's candy parlor where he, with his wife, makes old-fashioned candies in Visoko which is a small town nearby Sarajevo. He owns and runs perhaps one of those rare shops where they still use generations-old equipment. Their products are old-fashioned and all hand-packed. They don’t make or sell zillions of products, just a few including the sesame and caramel candy I used to enjoy when I was a kid. All of them emphasize the handmade feel.

I wasn’t lured to the fairy-tale charm of the old shop, however, when I stepped into the shop, I felt as if I entered a world where nothing was rushed. Nothing seemed more important than the making of candies. An old man was rolling at least a twenty-kilo-piece of candy on the cooling table and a woman of his age was helping him holding the melted red candy. Their method seemed a bit too old-fashioned, but it was what gives the whole process and the products their charm. They make candy in small batches and nothing else mattered. I fell in love with the old roll cutter they have. 

I bought whatever they had ready on the shelves, but we couldn’t wait until they had finished the striped candy squares. We left. We headed for Sarajevo leaving the old couple in their shop behind. 
I don’t know how much candy they make or sell every year, I don't know whether they teach anybody else how to make candy using their own recipe, or I don't know who buys their products. However, I want to be of some help to the old couple. I wish I could help them make candy while they can. It’s a pity I don’t live in that town. I wish I did…

Banana Bread

It was almost midnight and I was dead tired after a fantastic trip to Visoko, a small town nearby Sarajevo. I had seen a lot and I wanted to crown the day by something special. I noticed the ripe bananas on the counter and I remembered how much I had wanted to try the banana bread for the last few weeks. I used John Barrowman's recipe on BBC Food and the bread came out exactly the same as it was shown in the photograph on the website. The recipe was easy and gave a perfect result. My contribution to this wonderful bread was two teaspoons of ground cinnamon. Early in the morning, the inspirational smell of cinnamon and bananas filled the whole house while the others were fast asleep. The taste? My colleagues in the office devoured their slices with an expression of pleasure on their faces this morning. The banana bread made my day.


285 g plain flour
1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
110 g butter, plus extra for greasing
225 g caster sugar
2 free-range eggs
4 ripe bananas, mashed
85 ml buttermilk (or normal milk mixed with 1 1/2 teaspoon lemon juice or vinegar)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon


1. Preheat the oven to 180C.
2. Sift the flour, bicarbonate of soda and salt into a large mixing bowl.
3. In a separate bowl, cream the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy.
4. Add the eggs, mashed bananas, buttermilk and vanilla extract to the butter and sugar mixture and mix well. Fold in the flour mixture.
5. Grease 20cmX12.5cm loaf tin and pour the cake mixture into the tin.
6. Transfer to the oven and bake for an hour, or until well-risen and golden-brown.
7. Remove from the oven and cool in the tin for a few minutes, then turn out onto a wire rack to cool completely before servings.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Street Food

Hot dogs in the U.S., maize on the cob in Tanzania, and crepes in France: In nearly every country of the world, street vendors serve up fast, cheap, tasty snacks. These are just a few. 
Pani puri (also called golgappa)
Potato cubes, chickpeas, and tomatoes are stuffed in a fried flour shell, then drenched in a tamarind sauce. 

Bread rings, brushed with egg white to add shine, are tied together with a string to hang around the neck or wrist. 

Paleta de mango
Pierced with a stick, then peeled and scored into sections, the fruit is sprinkled with lime juice, chili powder , and salt.

Grilled pork sausage is sliced and topped with a few squirts of ketchup, then dusted with curry powder. It's served qith a roll or fries. 

Fritters of mashed black-eyed peas are filled with vatapa, a sun-dried  shrimp puree mixed okra, tomatoes, and cilantro.


Hot Coca

"Yes to coca, no to cocaine." That's the slogan of Evo Morales, Bolivia's first indigeous president, as he battles the 46-year-old United Nations ban on the international trade of coca. Mainly targeting cocaine, the coca plant's infamous derivative, the ban blocks exports from Bolivia, Colombia, and Peru that use the leaf in legal coca-based items - even a soda called Evo Cola. 
Morales has politicized the plant's cultural roots, as have manufacturers. "To defend coca is to defend our sovereignty" is printed on bags of coca flour from Peru (right). Long before Europeans arrives, the people of the Andes made ritual offerings of the hoja sagrada, or sacred  leaf, and chewed it as a mild stimulant, - traditions  that continue today.  Modern coca goods give the same lift, much like  coffee, along with vitamins and minerals. The leaf's buzz-producing alkaloids are absorbed only in minute amounts during digestion. Snorting cocaine, however, blasts super-concentrated alkaloids into the bloodstream for what can be a dangerous high. 

From Coca Leaf to Grocery Shelf

Products made with powdered coca leaf cater to many tastes and benefits. A 1975 Harvard study cited the leaf's protein, fiber, and calcium content. Coca leaf is also used in toothpastes, soaps, and skin creams.  

For further information on coca-based food and drinks please visit 

                                                                                                          - A. R. Williams, National Geographic, July 2007

Monday, February 4, 2013

Kaak: Street Bread in Beirut

food vendors on Avenue de Paris in Beirut, Lebanon. Source:, Photograph: Peter Rayner/Axiom

 As I was searching for photographs of life in Beirut, I came across these ones showing food vendors on Avenue de Paris selling kaak. They reminded me of the vendors selling simit in Istanbul which might be the main reason why I liked the photos and the sesame bread in the photos much better. Anyways, a friend of mine traveled to Beirut a couple of months ago and I e-mailed and asked her about this special kind of street bread to see whether she ever ate them. I learned that she had become a fan of them right away and sent me a recipe advising me to give it a try as soon as possible and I did. 

The purse-like bread was beyond my expectations. It came out puffy with a fabulous smell filling the whole house. We gulped them down warm with cheese and yogurt. I sprinkled some za'atar on some of them along with sesame which also contributed a great deal to the overall taste of the bread. I made them in two different sizes. I sent the photos to the same friend and she replied saying that they looked pretty the same as the ones she saw in Beirut. Since it was my first time with such a specific kind of bread, I was so glad with a big smile on my face after getting that feedback.

For more information and photos of kaak, please visit


1 1/2 cups warm reduced-fat milk
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 cups bread flour
1-2 tablespoons more flour for flouring and rolling
1 cup whole-wheat pastry flour
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 envelope rapid rise yeast

For topping
1 large egg
1/2 cup sesame seeds (1 tablespoon per kaak)


1. In the pan of an electric bread machine, add ingredients in the order recommended by the yeast manufacturer. Set for the dough cycle.
2. When done, remove dough from pan, cover with a clean towel and let rest for 10 minutes.
3. Divide into 8 equal parts, each weighing about 100 grams. With a floured rolling pin on a floured surface, roll each part into a large, 6-7 inch circle. Use a small, 2-inch glass to cut a small circle out, near the edge of each large circle:
4. Place rings on two greased baking sheets. Beat the egg and 1 TBS water with a fork. Brush each ring with the mixture and sprinkle with about 1 TBS sesame seeds:
5. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let rise for 30 minutes, or up to an hour.
6. Heat oven to 200°C. Bake about 10 minutes, or until golden and puffed. Serve immediately. 

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Grape Molasses - Special to Zile, Turkey

My brother came from Istanbul a couple of days ago with some white grape molasses from Zile which is a district of Tokat Province, Turkey. I had asked him to find the molasses similar to the ones my father used to buy us when we were little kids. He, fortunately, found one which is almost the same - even the box in which they sell the molasses has never changed. The only difference was that the molasses my brother bought is runnier than the ones I remember, but still super yummy. Spread it on a slice of whole grain bread  with a sprinkle of ground cinnamon and enjoy it with a cup of black tea. Excellent!

As to the ingredients in the molasses, it is made of white grapes special to the region of Zile. It is 100% natural product including no additives. It is obtained as a result of the process of condensing grape juice after boiling and mixing it with egg white. It is an instant source of energy since it diffuses into blood quickly and directly with no need to be broken down in the digestive system. Two tablespoons of the molasses (20 g) contains 2 mg iron, 80 mg calcium, and 58 kcal energy. It is an essential product for adolescents, workers, sportspeople, and breastfeeding women.

For further information on grape and other fruit molasses in Turkish cuisine, please visit