Monday, December 31, 2012

Exploring the SECRETS of LONGEVITY

What if you could add ten years to your life? It begins with good genes, but also depends on good habits. Researchers studied three hot spots of longevity around the world and found living proof of lifestyle's powerful effect.

In JAPAN, Okinawans' average life expectancy of 82 years is among the longest in the world. The strong sense of purpose these seniors feel may be a buffer against stress and diseases such as hypertension. Many older Okinawans also belong to a moai, a mutual support network of friends and neighbours, bearing out studies that show elders who stay social are less prone to heart disease and depression. A low-calorie, plant based diet could be a factor too. The home-grown herbs, spices, fruits, and vegetables that fill their plates contain compounds that may block cancers before they start.

Okinawa Diet

In ITALY, Sardinian men reach 100 at a rate more than twice as high as the average for Italy. Their isolated villages have preserved a traditional way of life that promotes longevity. Up before dawn doing chores, walking miles each day with their sheep, and turning over the stress of the household responsibilities to their wifes may explain the nearly one-to-one ratio of male to female centenarians. A daily glass of red wine with a high concentration of a component thought to prevent heart disease could help too. As does a strong family dedication to care for the elderly - gerontologists say seniors who live near loved ones tend to live longer.

Shepherd Giovanni Atzeri pours the milk he has hand-drawn from his sheep. He’ll use the milk to make cheese. Pecorino cheese made from grass-fed sheep—a traditional part of the Sardinian diet—is high in omega-3 fatty acids. Goat’s milk, another staple, contains components that might help protect against inflammatory diseases of aging such as heart disease and Alzheimer’s disease. Photo by Mauro Bottaro/Anzenberger/Redux

In CALIFORNIA, Seventh-day Adventists live four to ten years longer than the state's average, following a faith that preaches and practices health. Their lifestyle forbids smoking and alcohol and discourages consuming meat, caffeine, and rich foods. Instead, they eat mostly grains, fruits, nuts, and vegetables, and drink five glasses of water each day - all of which may lower risk of certain cancers and heart disease. Many are also active as volunteers, feeling valued while avoiding life-shortening loneliness. As one 112-year-old observes, Of course I feel lonely once in a while, but for me that's always been a sign to get up and help somebody."

Studies of Seventh-Day Adventists (a religious denomination that emphasizes healthy living and a vegetarian diet) show that those who eat nuts add, on average, an extra two and a half years to their lives. 

Text from Complex Miracles of Health and Simple Ways to Enhance It by Philips (National Geographic, August 2007)

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Deep-fried Brussels Sprouts

I haven't met so many people who go crazy about Brussels sprouts, have you? Join the club, then. They're OK for me but they are on my blacklist of veggies which make me gassy so they aren't usually on the weekly grocery shopping list. Anyways, I happened to buy them last week, but broke the habit this time. Instead of stewing or stir-frying them, I deep-fried them turning these super healthy vegetables into something unhealthy. What about the result? Well, I ate up all the crispy and so super yummy sprouts with some yogurt with minced garlic inside. If you ever want to make a change while cooking Brussels sprouts, then try this. You won't regret.

Brussels sprouts
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup cornmeal
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 large egg
2-4 cups vegetable oil
salt and pepper
soy sauce or yogurt with minced garlic for dipping


1. Stew the sprouts for 10-15 minutes. Remember to add some salt to the boiling water. 
2. Meanwhile, whisk the flour, cornmeal, salt, pepper and baking soda in a large bowl. In another bowl, whisk the egg with a pinch of salt. 
3. Once the sprouts are done, strain them and put them on a paper towel to dry.
4. Heat the oil in a deep stockpot over high heat. 
5. Dip sprouts in egg mixture first, then in flour-cornmeal mixture and then to the egg mixture again to coat. 
6. Submerge very carefully in oil. 
7. Fry for about 2-3 minutes, or until golden brown, and use a slotted spoon to transfer to a paper towel lined plate. 
8. Serve hot with soy sauce or yogurt with minced garlic inside  for dipping.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Tuhafija: walnut stuffed apples

Tufahija is a popular Bosnian specialty which you can find in bakery shops and cafes all year long in Sarajevo. However, it's more popular when muslim Bosnian people celebrate Eid al-Fitr and Eid al-Adha and so it's made in a lot of houses on these special days. The main reason why the dessert is so popular is it's much lighter in calories than its rivals like baklava, ružica and hurmašica which are served with syrup. Another reason why tufahija is so popular is that, although lighter in calories, it still offers a great pleasure with its irresistible filling: walnuts and whipped cream. When you order a tufahija in any cafes here, it usually looks like this:


Traditionally, apples are peeled and cored, poached in syrup and served with a mixture of whipped cream and walnuts. (I will post the traditional tufahija recipe soon by the way).
                                                                                                                                                                                      This time, instead, I didn't peel the apples in order to make them keep all the flavour inside the skin. Then I baked the apples in the oven wrapped up in aluminum foil with cloves instead of boiling them in syrup which consists perhaps more than a kilogram of sugar. This way, the apples turned out much more lighter and they looked so natural in the end. The addition of ground cinnamon was a must for me as a cinnamon lover and it went along very well with the taste of the baked apples. By the way, the skin of the apples came off very easily after they were baked. Anyways, here comes the recipe of Mehtap's Tufahija. 

4 medium golden delicious apples
4 tablespoons sugar
4-5 tablespoons ground walnuts
8 cloves 
whipped cream 
aluminum foil

o. Preheat the oven at 200°C. 
1. Wash the apples and cut the tops off, but keep them aside. 2. Cut out the core. Remove all the seeds and a little more. Be careful not to make any holes at the bottom. 
3. Fill each apple with 1 tablespoon of sugar and sprinkle with some ground cinnamon.
4.  Place the tops of the apples back.
5. Wrap each apple in aluminum foil with two cloves. 
6. Bake in the oven for 35-40 minutes.
7. Let the apples cool down completely.
8. Meanwhile, mix some cream until thick and blend it ground walnuts.
9. Stuff each apple (when they are cool enough to handle) with walnut-cream mixture and put the tops back.
10. Chill in the refrigerator until ready to serve. 
11. Serve the apples cold in individual bowls topped with some extra whipped cream.

Raffaelo or the Sultan's Delight

"Raffaello was introduced in 1989. So white and refined, it reveals a light and delicate taste whose uniqueness is surprising.Tasting Raffaello means diving into a unique recipe, where a whole almond is plunged into a delicious creamy filling and enclosed in a crispy shell, covered in flakes of coconut. Raffaello, the only pleasure that transports you to a carefree world."

This is how Raffaelo is described on the website of Ferrero International S.A.  at  So little is left for me to say about this internationally advertised product as coconut and almond lovers would easily appreciate.

Well, I didn't have any intentions to clone or, let's be modest,  attempt to clone Raffaelo at all until I was handed a magazine on the plane by the stewardess on our way to Fethiye in Turkey. I was scannning through the pages of the magazine hastily out of  habit when I saw the photograph of cloned Raffaelos. They were given a totally irrelevant name such as "The Sultan's delight" which was probably meant to catch the tourist's eye. Whatever the intention was, its spell worked on me. After weeks, I was able to find the time to give it a try. However, the recipe needed some edits and additions. Since I know how things go with milk puddings, I decided to add some more ingredients: ground almonds. I think, as it was for the Raffaelo description I quoted above, instead of killing myself to find the correct words to describe the flavour and pleasure I enjoyed eating them, you should clear away everything on the counter and try it for yourself. They aren't, no doubt, close to the original. However, they were wonderful as the way they came out.  Here comes the recipe: 


1 litre milk
125 grams butter
1 cup flour 
1 cup sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla sugar
1 tablespoon honey
1/2 cup ground almonds
2 cups desiccated coconut for rolling


1. Mix sugar, flour and vanilla extract in a bowl.
2. Transfer the mixture into a medium saucepan and add in milk.
3. Stir constantly over medium heat and bring it to a boil. 
4. Add in the butter, honey and ground almonds. Continue stirring. The consistency gets thicker as you stir and the mixture stiffens to be rolled into balls.
5. Keep simmering for another 3-4 minutes.
6. Remove from heat and let it cool down completely in room temperature. Then, refrigerate it at for least 3 hours. As it showed, it's better if you refrigerate the pudding overnight.
7.  Mold 1  heaped teaspoon of the mixture into a ball and then roll in the coconut. 
8. Place the balls separately on a tray and refrigerate them again so they get firmer. 

After this first attempt, I realized that they could get closer to the original, if coated in melted white chocolate and then rolled in desiccated coconut.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Chewing Gum with Cinnamon: Smile

Cinnamon has been always my favourite and Emir showed up one evening in Istanbul with this packet of chewing gum from Iran. I still do not know how on Earth he was able to find it but he definitely made my day. It's the first time I'd tried some chewing gum with my favourite flavour and I liked it right away. Believe me, it's good to know people somewhere out there make an effort to make cinnamon-freaks smile! 

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Delicious Autumn

    Delicious autumn! My very soul is wedded to it, and if I were a bird I would fly about the earth seeking the successive autumns.
    George Eliot

Friday, September 28, 2012

A Disappointing God

One of my cousins has been waiting for years to get married to the 'Prince Charming' that hasn't popped up yet. When I visited them in Istanbul last month, her younger sister showed us the doll she's been keeping for years (symbolizing her long wait in expectation and the disappointment that's followed) and made fun of her. When I looked at the doll, I felt so confused and didn't know what to say. I just stared at it and shot a couple of photos.  Perhaps, it's just me and my beautiful mind that still make me feel so sad about that doll. Weeks after our visit to my cousins, I remembered this poem by Emily Dickinson. 

There comes an hour when begging stops,
When the long interceding lips
Perceive their prayer is vain.
"Thou shalt not" is a kinder sword
Than from a disappointing God
"Disciple, call again." 

Friday, September 21, 2012

Prickly Pears in Karmylassos

While we were enjoying ourselves in Istanbul, we had the opportunity to visit a dear friend in Fethiye, Mugla. During the three days we spent there, I realized there's only so much you can do on one holiday in that fascinating ancient town. On the day we visited Karmylassos / Kayakoy, I was full of different emotions which made this haunting and magical town look even more interesting to me. While we were wandering among the remains of the stone houses, an old lady handed us a yellow-orange coloured something that I hadn't seen before. 

My friend told us it's a local fruit the ladies in Kayakoy sell to make some money during the summer season. Well, it was the prickly pear as I was to learn later. Some of the common local names for the fruit and the plant are ''dikenli incir'', ''Hint inciri'' and ''Frenk inciri" as it also varies in English as Indian fig opuntia, barbary fig, and prickly pear. The thick outer skin is peeled and the flesh which is juicy and sweet is eaten usually after being refrigerated. I liked it right away. 

After a few clicks, I learned it is a species grown in dry areas of the world such as Mexico, Spain, Sicily, and the coasts of Southern Italy, Greece, Libya, Tunisia, Morocco, Algeria, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Israel, Chile, Brazil, Eritrea, Ethiopia, as well as Turkey.  

a prickly pear seller in Morocco

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

The Ladybird in the Garden

Until I decided to post this photograph, I did not know that ladybirds, apart from being a welcome sight in the garden, are natural enemies of many insect pests and the most popular and widely used beneficial insects around the world. What is more, it was surprising to read how gardeners do that: They just buy and release ladybirds (as adults or larvae) in their garden, boost their numbers and basically help nature help them control pests while ladybirds happily munch away on tasty pests.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

The Swing Ride Nostalgia

On the second day of Eid we went to our old neigbourhood and visited some relatives and old neighbours. While we were walking in one of those familiar streets, I didn't know that I would come across the very same swing ride my sister and I used to enjoy as little kids. A wave of nostalgia swept over us when we saw it which made my sister burst out with childhood memories instantly. The man was the very same man who used to turn the handle of the ride's carriage while we were whirling around. We used to beg him, we remembered, to turn it faster and faster because the faster he turned it the faster we whirled. The man then would fold and carry the swing ride home after it got dark. 

My sister and I told the man that we wanted to give it a try but of course this time it was Milou and her cousins' turn to enjoy it. While they were doing so, we had a short chat with the man and learned that he has been doing this job for the last 25 years struggling to make a living. Interestingly, he survived despite all the malls around with playgrounds that offer futuristic mixtures of attractions for children. 

The man, then, folded the ride's carriage and headed for other streets leaving my sister and me with pleasure and sadness that he caused by reminding us of something from the past and making us wish we could experience it again. 

Monday, September 3, 2012

The Best Grape Arbor Decoration Ever: Melons and Watermelons

Have you ever considered melons or watermelons as summer-time decorations at your grape arbor?  Honestly I haven't. My father has apparently done. Take a look at these photograps. 

Using a hammer, a few nails and some packing yarn my father found the best way to store these summer fruits for the cool fall days. I liked the idea so much that I wanted to share it here. They also serve for the best grape arbor decorations ever with such bright and stimulating colours! They remind me of the starry chandeliers in ball rooms! Cool!

Summer Drinks #4: Cranberry Juice

The first day at my parents' house was full of surprises. It all started with a bowl of cranberry juice which was something I'd always wanted to try. It was refreshing and sweet with a mild tartness level. My mom used the frozen cranberries my father had brought from Bodrum - a popular seaside town on the  Mediterranean coast in Turkey. The juice was easy, delicious and super healthy. The jewel red colour looks very attractive, doesn't it?

  • 1 kilo frozen cranberries, thawed (or fresh if you prefer)
  • 10 cups water
  • 2 cup sugar*
*The amount of sugar needed may vary depending on your taste and the sweetness of the berries. Work your way up with 1/2 cup.

  1. Wash and drain the cranberries.
  2. Place the cranberries and water in a large saucepan and bring to a boil. Reduce to medium heat and cover loosely. Simmer 10 min. until the cranberries have slightly burst.
  3. Add sugar and stir until sugar is dissolved. Bring to a boil and simmer for 5-10 minutes.
  4. Remove from heat. Transfer to a pitcher and let cool to room temperature. Cover and refrigerate untill chilled.

About the Fruit:

Cranberries are one of the only three native North American fruits (Concord grapes, and blueberries being the others). To the eastern Indians, cranberries were known as sassamanesh. The Cape Cod Pequots and the South Jersey Leni- Lenape tribes called the little red berry ibimi or bitter berry. But it was the Pilgrims who gave the cranberry its modern name. To them, the pink cranberry blossoms resembled the heads of cranes; therefore the word crane berry later contracted to cranberry. Early American sailors carried barrels of cranberries while at sea as a source of vitamin C, much like the British limeys carried limes aboard ships.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Greetings from Turkey

Milou and I have been in Turkey for the last two weeks. We'll be around for one more week and it's been such busy days that I haven't been able to post anything. We've seen, eaten and done wonderful things so far. The photos are coming soon. 

Here is the first greeting photograph from Istanbul. It's taken on Çamlıca Hill, the highest point in Istanbul. The hill is one of the most popular tourist attractions day and night thanks to the fabulous scenery it offers over the historic peninsula as far as the Princes' Islands and north to the Black Sea. If you ever go to Istanbul, do not skip it.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Happiness in Sarajevo

Some cause happiness wherever they go.

Easy Toasted Bread Dessert

It is really hard to please everyone, but "Never stop trying," they say. Well, I happened to make a light and terrific dessert which made every single person who tried it the most delighted. So, on demand, I wanted to share the recipe with you. 

The original dessert is called 'ekmek kadayifi/bread dessert' in Turkey which is one of those Turkish specialties most people would feel thrilled to eat. It has a cake base which itself is a simple and moist sponge and it is bathed in  syrup that makes it really special. It is always served with Turkish sweet whipped cream turning it into something  absolutely delicious and perfect for those with a sweet tooth.

The one I made is a simpler version of the original recipe that's why it is named 'fake bread dessert', 'easy bread dessert' or even 'rusk dessert'. Here comes the recipe. 


for the base:
9-12 plain rusks (biscottes) - go for the ones with no salt 
left- over bread - 9-12 slices

for the syrup:
1 ½ cup sugar
2 cups boiling water

for the milk pudding:
1 litre milk
70 grams rice flour 
8-10 level tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon butter
1 teaspoon vanilla extract


*Always start with a clean pan and utensils, as any dirt or debris can cause crystals to form around it.

Step 1: Prepare the base

*If you use rusks, place them in a deep dish pan/tray. 

*If you want to use bread, then
1. Turn your oven on to 350°F.
2. Slice the bread thinly and lay the slices flat on the oven racks
3. Continue to bake until all the pieces are golden brown.
4. Place them in a deep dish pan/tray. 

Step 2: Prepare the syrup

1. In a heavy-bottom, high-sided saucepan cook the sugar over low to medium-low heat stirring constantly with a wooden spoon or silicone spatula until it gets darker. Watch the changing of the color carefully, it can go past the light brown stage quickly and burn.

2. When sugar reaches a uniform golden brown (light amber) color, add the water but this should be done very carefully, as the water will hiss and sputter. Add the water at the edge of the pan, slowly, and stirring as it is added.

3. Keep stirring until the sugar dissolves completely and the mixture just begins to simmer. It will turn to a clear liquid.

4. After the sugar dissolves and syrup is simmering, cook for approximately 8 to 10 minutes, without stirring and remove from heat. 

5. Pour it evenly over the rusks/slices of bread.  Let them soak up all the syrup. Meanwhile, prepare the pudding.

Step 3: Prepare the pudding

1. Mix sugar, rice flour and vanilla in a small bowl. 
2.Transfer the mixture into a medium saucepan and add in milk. 
3. Stir constantly over medium heat until it boils. 
4. Add the butter and continue stirring. 
5. Keep simmering for another 3-4 minutes. 
6.Remove from heat and pour the pudding onto the rusks/slices of bread. Spread it with a spatula.
7. Let it cool down completely in room temperature and then refrigerate it. 

Step 4: Top with sweet whipped cream

After the pudding gets completely cold, get some sweet whipped cream ready for the last layer. I don't like whipped cream very much so I just spread a very thin layer of it over the pudding. If you love it, feel free to use it as much as you like. 

Step 5: Garnish the dessert

Use any kind of nuts, fresh berries, cinnamon, chocolate sauce, etc. to garnish your bread dessert. I chose walnuts this time. 

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Summer Drinks for Iftar: Fresh Plums with Cloves

Being so easy, tasty and refreshing home-made summer drinks have turned out to be my favourite this summer. Every other day I use whatever I have on hand in the refrigerator to make some cooling and healthy drinks. Here comes the latest one: Plum juice with cloves. It's one of those traditional Ramadan drinks my mom used to prepare for iftar dinners in Istanbul. I'd also like Milou to feel the same spirit when it comes to Ramadan and all the blessings it surrounds us with. 

Anyways, whether for Ramadan or not, as long as you some fresh plums in the kitchen, you can always follow a few simple steps to enjoy this fabulous cooler.

1 kilo fresh plums
3-5 liters water
1 kilo sugar
2 cloves
2 teaspoons sour salt

1. Wash the plums well and slice them into halves.
2. Put them in a big saucepan and add the sugar and water. 
3. Bring to a boil over high-medium heat.
4. Add the cloves. 
4. Let it simmer until the plums let their red colour out.
5. Add the sour salt. Keep boiling for another 5 minutes.
6. Remove from the heat.
7. Let it sit at room temperature to cool.
7. Once cool, strain it to a sealed container and store it n the refrigerator.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Summer Drinks for Iftar: Fresh Nectarines

 by Diane Herbort 

One of my ex-flatmates - more like a companion to me actually -  came to Sarajevo to visit us a couple of weeks ago. She's such a person that she has all the same colors and similar models in her wardrobe. I remember she was always stuck to some specific models with the same colours and avoided all the others. Well, she's broken a few of her shopping habits when it comes to colors and patterns since she arrived. Milou and I have played sort of ice-breakers for her and she went for the nectarine colour for the nail polish which she confessed she would never give it a try if it weren't me and Milou. I happened to find her several times looking at her nails and enjoying the colour. Anyways, when we went shopping she started to try on a variety of sandals and shoes for a change going for the ones in different colours or with different patterns most of the time. I think she loved the change. The nectarine nail polish she had put on inspired me to make some nectarine juice for iftar which was my first time with the fruit - which is thought to have originated from China, for your information.
Here are the photos. I liked the taste and the colour both. It was a great change for us too and it makes me feel really cool to be making my own juice at home. 

1 kilo nectarines
1 kilo sugar
5 litres water
2 teaspoons sour salt

1. Wash the nectarines well and slice them into halves.
2. Put them in a big saucepan and add the water. 
3. Bring to a boil over high-medium heat.
4. Keep boiling for 10 more minutes and remove from the heat.
5. Let it rest for 1 hour and drain it to another saucepan.
6. Add the sugar and bring to a boil again.
7. Keep boiling until it gets thicker.
8. Add the sour salt. Keep boiling for another 5 minutes.
9. Remove from the heat.
10.Pour into bottles and let it cool down completely and then put the lids on. 
11.Keep in the refrigerator.
12.Add some more water before you serve if it tastes too sweet.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Milk Pudding with Ground Almonds for Iftar Dinners

 'Kashkul'  which is basically a milk pudding with ground almonds in it goes along well with iftar dinners. Being very simple to make, it surprises you with its great flavour that largely comes from the rice flour and ground almonds, not to mention that it's one of those low-calorie alternatives to typical rich desserts in Turkey. Two days ago, kashkul was on our menu once again but for the iftar dinner this time. 

Well, before preparing  the pudding,  I ground half a package of biscuits (approximately 100 grams) with a handful of walnuts and almonds using a blender, and added ground cinnamon this time. When the pudding is done, I poured some into four medium glasses and then spread some biscuits-nuts mixture on the pudding layer. Then I repeated it until I filled the glasses up. When it was time to garnish them, I chopped some dried figs and walnuts to top each glass of pudding-biscuit-layers. Sprinkling ground cinnamon was the final touch. They looked gorgeous and tasted so. 

Milk Pudding with Ground Almonds (Kashkul) 
750 ml milk
35 gr rice flour
120 gr sugar
25-50 gr ground almonds 

1. In a small bowl, mix rice flour, almonds, sugar, and make sure there are no lumps.  
2. Add this mixture to the milk. Bring to boil over low heat stirring constantly with a wooden spoon, always in the same direction.  
3. When you see the bubbles keep stirring for another 3-5 minutes.
4. Remove from heat and set aside. Pour into serving cups and let it cool down. Refrigerate after 1-2 hours. Serve cold.