Whey soup/ Peynir suyu corba

Last weekend I made a gallon-of-milk worth of biberli lor!  This left me with about 10 cups of whey (the yellowish liquid remaining after cheese is made)!  Never wanting to waste, I asked my mother-in-law what I could do with this peynir suyu (cheese juice) and she advised I make a soup.  I wasn’t sure what kind of soup I could make with this slightly acidic, dairy flavored juice…. so she gave me this recipe.  While the hubby insists it doesn’t taste just like the original, I adore it…dare I say, I eat enough for both of us.  Following in turkish tradition, I don’t know exactly what the measurements are for this soup- I simply eye-ball it, but I will try to guess the measurements for those who aren’t accustomed to “approximate cooking”.

this picture features the whey soup with all the additional ingredients :)

Ingredients

  • 3-4c whey
  • 3tbsp flour
  • 1 heaping tbsp butter
  • vermicelli or cappelini, broken into 3 segments
  • salt to taste
  • black pepper to taste
  • 1 chicken buillion cube (optional)
  • other optional ingredients include:
    • spinach
    • mushroom
    • garlic

Preparation

  1. Pour the whey into a pot and bring it to a soft boil.
  2. Add optional spinach/ mushroom and vermicelli/cappelini, boiling until cooked
  3. In a separate pan, add butter and melt (cook the garlic with the butter if you opted for garlic). Add flour and mix well, forming a yellow paste.
  4. Take a ladle-full of hot whey from the pot and pour it in the pan with flour, whisking thoroughly and adding more whey by the ladle-full until dissolved (the paste will because goopier and goopier, until it is completely smooth).
  5. Pour the flour/butter/whey concoction into the main pot, whisking thoroughly to keep clumps out.  Let the soup simmer until thick.
  6. Add salt to taste before serving, sprinkle the bowl with black pepper as desired.

Afiyet olsun!

All American Muslim

No, not the TV show (that was canceled)…I just like the picture

On many of the TV shows, youtube videos, movies, etc., that I have seen featuring western converts to Islam, many of them forsake their old identity for a new, Islamic centered one.  Changing their name, their style of dress (not just halal-ifying it), picking up a new language in the hopes of moving to an Islamic country….yes, I’ve seen all of (or many) of these things occur.  Let me just take a moment to remind everyone:

You are still you.

Islam is both a guidebook for living and a religion- but it is not a culture, per se. I think that many of us have identified Islam with the middle east and, when converting to Islam, many people will pick up the culture-ways of the middle east as well.  While I do subscribe to the notion of all muslims being of one ummah (nation)I don’t think that means we should forget who our families raised us as.  While some converts/reverts embrace a new culture because they married into it (like myself- who embraced Turkish culture BEFORE I embraced Islam),  I am troubled by those who seek to isolate themselves from their western identities because they feel Islam is not amenable to their culture.

O mankind, indeed We have created you from male and female and made you peoples and tribes that you may know one another.- Ch 49, vs 13 of the Holy Quran 

I whole-heartedly believe that Islam can fit into any culture, and therein lies its beauty.  When people seek to release their previous culture in favor of a more Islamically rooted one, they are propagating the sense of “otherness” that many Western societies associate with Islam.  Muslims are “the other”, “the odd ones”, the mysterious eastern people with their strange customs and strange ways…as seen through the eyes of the US and others. But, here’s the thing… Muslims can be American too. Americans can be Muslim.  Please, go to the mall in your hijab, go out for coffee and lunch with your friends. Be SEEN. Interact!  You are no less the person you were born as before accepting Islam as you are after it.  In fact, you are only a BETTER version of yourself. But you are you.  Remaining an active part of your society after converting to Islam can be one of the best acts of dawah (inviting to Islam) you can do!

So, I don’t know about you, but I plan on keeping my name and my identity after my conversion.  I’ll always be that All-American girl next store…with a head scarf!  What about you?

Creamy cottage cheese with peppers- start to finish! (Evde biberli lor/kesmik)

Yesterday I was feeling domestic, so I tried my hand at making “cottage cheese” (lor or, as my husband called it, kesmik).  I felt pretty pleased with how it turned out- nice and firm, but not rubbery!  I only got about 1/2-3/4c of cheese curds out of 4c of 1% milk! That left me with a LOT of whey (the yellow, watery looking leftovers of milk when a lot of macronutrients like fat and proteins have settled out into cheese).  I did some googling and I saw mixed opinions on whether or not an acid whey, left over from acid set cheese, such as cottage cheese/lor could be used to make ricotta.  Well, I thought I’d give it a go, if it didn’t work I’d still have whey.  Cranking up the heat on the stove,I was left with some creamy, semi solid substance that I had to scrape off of my tea cloth (aka- hubbys old tshirt scraps). Adding that to the solid cheese curds added a whole new dimension to the lor/curds! YUMMY!  I think I’ll use the whey as a substitute for water in a bread recipe, or as a stock for a creamy soup like potato…It feels so wrong to throw it out.  Later I found out from my mother-in-law that I can bring the milk and curds to a boil together the second time, saving me that extra straining step!

Today we went to the local farmers market and came back with quite a variety of goodies! This included some mild, raw banana peppers from a local farm. Cutting into them and washing away the seeds, I could smell the sweet aroma of a ripe pepper. MMMmmmm! Sautee them up in some olive oil, add the curds, and you should have biberli lor!  The first time I tried this at home, I added the curds to the pan…and they began to melt a little! Hmmm! So I added a tiny bit of whey to the pan to make the mixture extra creamy.  It was DELICIOUS with my homemade english muffins! Normally in Turkey, you wouldn’t add the curds to the pan but serve them cold from the refrigerator…its all up to you!

Now, down to the nitty gritty!

Acid set cottage cheese/ricotta

Ingredients:

  • 4c milk
  • 1/4c vinegar
  • salt to taste

Preparation:

  1. Pour the milk into a pot and heat slowly, stirring, over medium heat until it is hot to the touch, but not boiling or forming a skin on top (approx 120F).  This temperature approximation is CRITICAL. If it gets too hot at any time, the curds will come out rubbery! I did it without using a thermometer…it should be “hot shower” hot, but not scalding.
  2. Remove the milk from the heat once the proper temperature is reached. Immediately pour in your vinegar, giving the milk a slow stir for about a minute.  You will see the milk curdle before your eyes! Just scrape it off the spoon when you are done stirring.
  3. Cover and let it sit at room temperature for about 30 minutes.  I put it in the pantry so the AC won’t cool it down.
  4. Put the pot back on the stove, heating it to a brief boil (around 200F or so), remove from the heat and let sit for about 30 minutes again.
  5. Put a colander in a bowl (that doesn’t touch the bottom) and line the colander with cheese cloth or a tea towel (or an old cotton tshirt, one layer, no graphics). Slowly pour the pots contents into this straining device and let them strain for about 5 min.
  6. Remove the towel with the curds in it and run them under cold water, mixing them and breaking them apart with your fingers until they are completely cooled.  They will be incredibly soft. Squeeze the curds as dry as you can in the towel and put them in a container for storage or a bowl to eat them, adding salt in either case.

Creamy ricotta with peppers (biberli lor)

Ingredients:

  • Ricotta or homemade curds
  • Sweet/mild raw peppers (anaheim, cubanelle, charleston, banana… your choice)
  • olive oil
  • salt

(I purposefully didn’t put measurements in this recipe, since it is all about preference.)

Preparation:

  1. Chop the peppers to your preferred size and sautee them in olive oil.  I add just a smidge of salt to the peppers to bring out their own, unique flavor. Make sure to keep the seeds OUT! Let them cool.
  2. When storing, pack the cheese into a jar with the peppers (either mix the peppers in with the cheese, or layer cheese then pepper, cheese then pepper.  Make sure it is packed air-tight!
  3. Allow to sit for one day, draining the liquid that has come out of the cheese overnight. Do this again for another day.
  4. Pour olive oil into the jar, as you desire, and store in the refrigerator. It should keep for a week or two.

Afiyet olsun!!

I hope you guys like this as much as I did :).  I haven’t actually tried to make the ricotta and peppers with store bought cheese, but I saw the recipe on turkishfoodandrecipes.com for using store bought.  With how easy (and cheap) it is to make the curds at home, I don’t see why you wouldn’t ;) time permitting.

National Yeast day/ English Muffins recipe

There should be a national yeast day.  There’s so many amazing things you can do with it! For example:

 

 

Ingredients:
  • 2 1/4c bread flour
  • 1/4c warm water
  • 1 1/4 tsp. yeast (sprinkle of sugar)
  • 3/4c milk
  • 1 tbsp. butter, room temp
  • 3/4 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 tbsp. sugar
Preparation:
  1. Proof yeast in warm water with a sprinkle of sugar.
  2. Combine flour, salt, sugar, and butter in a mixing bowl, forming a well in the center.  The butter will not seem like much in the dough at this point.
  3. Pour milk and proofed yeast into the well. Knead well until smooth and tacky. You will probably need to add more flour.
  4. Place dough into a lightly oiled bowl and cover, letting it double in size (60-90min)
  5. Once doubled, turn out dough on a floured surface.  pinch the dough into 6-8 pieces.  Roll each into little balls and place on a well floured (or cornmeal sprinkled) parchment paper and cover, letting rise again for about an hour.  They will spread up and out, give them plenty of room.
  6. lightly oil a griddle and turn on to medium heat. Once the dough has risen again, gently place the dough balls on the hot griddle.  Let them brown on one side (a golden brown, not burnt), then flip them over. Each side can take 3-6 minutes, depending on the stove top temp.
  7. Preheat oven to 400F.  Place browned dough balls into the oven to finish cooking (either on a parchment covered cookie sheet or a baking stone).  Bake for about 10-12min.  Remove and let cool.
Afiyet olsun!
**Credit for this recipe goes to Elsie and Emma over at abeautifulmess.com
Edit: Today I tried these with my creamy cottage cheese and peppers...AMAZING!

God’s Not Dead: A response.

  When I first saw the trailer for God’s Not Dead I thought to myself, “This could be really good, or really bad.”  I recently took to watching the film and couldn’t finish the last 40 minutes because I was too offended to watch further.  What I had expected, in all my naievety, was a movie where people of different faiths could all join hands and say “God’s NOT dead!” and celebrate the different views people hold of God- but all agreeing that God exists. What I got was a load of anti-everyone-but-christian propoganda that made my cheeks flush with frustration.  Obviously, the part that was most offensive to me was the muslim family.

  In the scene where the girl, Ayisha, was being dropped off by her father I could sense a feeling of discomfort from the girl over her hijab/niqab that she was wearing.  When she removed it hastily upon her fathers leave,  I saw what could have been a great opportunity to explain hijab and its importance in Islam (majority opinion) and how it is an act of worship for a god that is not dead.  When she dawned the hijab again before her father’s return and another student commented how pretty she was and how she wished the girl didn’t have to cover, followed by a comment about “old fashioned” from Ayisha, I knew it was all down hill from there.  This showed a blatant misconception and misunderstanding of hijab in Islam- how it isn’t cultural, but scriptural (again, the majority opinion of scholars. I’m not looking for a debate, just stating my understanding and beliefs).  Additionally, the idea that her father made her wear a head scarf and veil herself is contrary to the “No compulsion in religion” part of Islam.  Even more, the short sleeved shirt she wore didn’t really fit into the additional requirements of hijab.  Well, if you’re going to misrepresent something, you might as well completely screw it up.

  Oh, well, maybe they can still save the movie.

  Then, when Ayisha is caught listening to biblical scripture (ironically, 1 Corinthians, which also states that a believing woman should cover her hair as to not shame her head…but of course that wasn’t included) her father smacks her around and throws her out of the house. Oh yes, how very islamic of him.  I’m not saying this doesn’t happen.  It’s unfortunate, but it is not limited to Islam.  A dear friend of mine, raised in a Christian home, has recently come to words with her mother because she has been studying religions besides Christianity as of late, looking for the truth as she can see it. The Qu’ran says to respect Christians, Jews, and other faiths.  Somehow, I didn’t get a sense of “respect” when a young girl was slapped by her father and physically removed from her home.  A Muslim father is responsible for the safety and well-being of his daughter, whether she is Muslim or not. 

  It was at this point that I turned it off.

  I’m not sure who paid to have this film produced, but it was incredibly unfortunate to take this stand.  Islam isn’t the fastest growing religion (with the largest number of converts being women in the west- according to a discussion I’ve heard previously) because of patriarchal, mysogynistic BS.  While people are free to believe what they want about God and their own faith, they are not free to make up whatever they want about other cultures and peoples faiths.  As if Islamophobia wasn’t already a problem in the US, a film such as this fans the flames.  Muslims are your/our neighbors, teachers, coworkers, family, and friends.  They aren’t going anywhere.  It’s about time someone extended an olive branch of peace and tried to understand Islam instead of demonizing it.

 

Baby fever

“Oh my goodness!  We’re expecting!”

  Something I’ve heard from several of my friends recently.  I am at that age where everyone is getting married… I’m glossing through wedding photos on facebook on a, nearly, daily basis.  But now the new topic at hand is babies.  What startles me the most is that these mommies-to-be are younger than me!  I’m not tutting and wagging my finger, when they want to start their families is their business, but…now I have baby fever.

   My husband and I have been together for four years in September, married for one year as of last May.  Looking at these numbers, I feel as though we have no business starting a family just yet, since once you have a family, you always have a family (inshallah).  Additionally, we are both still in graduate school, no true work experience, and a mere year or two away from moving to another country.  Clearly, this is NOT the time for a baby.

  Oh, but on the other hand… I am almost done with graduate school, and several graduate students that I know have children, or are pregnant.  This is our only chance at having an American child, since American citizenship is by land, not by blood.  Since I will be unable to work in Turkey for a while, until I’ve learned Turkish, it’s a good situation for an aspiring stay-at-home mom.  

  How do you know when you are ready to start a family?  Are you ever really ready?

  I need to go play with a friends baby and get it out of my system.

Muhallebi (pudding)

Today I tried making one of my husband’s favorite desserts, muhallebi! Muhallebi is a simple pudding that is light and delicious for these hot summer days. Mashallah, the dessert came out perfectly the first time! Let me share it with you!

nom nom nom

nom nom nom

Ingredients:
  • 2c milk
  • 2tbsp rice flour
  • 1/2c sugar
  • 1tsp vanilla
Preparation:
  1.  Mix rice flour and sugar together in a dry pot until fully incorporated
  2. Pour in 1/2c of milk, turn pot on to medium-high and whisk thoroughly,  making sure to dissolve all the granular bits.
  3. As the temperature increases add milk in 1/2c increments and whisk continuously.  Add the vanilla.
  4. Whisk and boil until the bubbles leave craters in the mixture.
  5. Pour into a pyrex dish and cool in the fridge for a few hours or until it sets.
  6. Serve with cinnamon and walnuts (or any crushed nut)
Afiyet olsun!

Ramadan Day 2: A missed opportunity

Today I had to go to school in order to complete some laboratory work for my research.  With much debate and inner struggle, I decided not to fast today, because I was concerned that driving, working, and whatnot may not be so safe for a first-time-faster.  My husband agreed and encouraged me to make up my fast later.  I already knew I’d be missing days 3 and 4 since I will be doing farm work in the field under the blazing summer sun.  Inshallah I will take it back up on Day 5.

Instead of relief and comfort from being able to eat and drink as I please, I feel guilt.  I feel as though I am missing out on something amazing.  There are ~1.6 billion people fasting together today as one religious nation (Ummah), and I am not part of that!

Inshallah I find the physical and mental fortitude to fast even when I’m active.

Happy Ramadan/ Ramazan Mubarek! (Day 1)

Selam aleykum and Ramazan mubarek!  Today (or, technically, yesterday night) begins Ramadan, a very special and blessed month in the religion of Islam! As I began preparing for my first month of fasting I realized that I didn’t really know much about Ramadan, besides that fasting from sun up til sun down is required.  I struck out on a quest to learn more about it, and I would be happy to share some information about it with you!

What is Ramadan

Ramadan is the 9th month of the Islamic calendar (a lunar calendar) and is the month during which the Quran was first revealed to the Prophet Muhammed (SAW).  The gregorian calendar that we use in the USA is set, but lunar calendars change based on the phases of the moon, which explains why the days of Ramadan fall on different days of the gregorian calendar every year (this year, fasting begins June 28 and ends July 28).

During Ramadan the gates of Hell are locked up, and the gates of Heaven are wide open.  The value of good deeds are multiplied during this month, where in obligatory good deeds are multiplied 70 times, while voluntary good deeds are worth as much as the obligatory ones.  Sincere praying, fasting, and charity during the month of Ramadan can cleanse the sins you have committed during the previous months.  Indeed, the month of Ramadan is very blessed, Subhanallah!

Why do muslims fast for Ramadan

 Fasting was perscribed by the Prophet (SAW) as an act of worship during Ramadan.  By denying yourself those carnal desires that are permissible (halal), you can surely deny yourself the desires that are not permissible (haram) during Ramadan and the rest of the year!  Fasting is as much mental as it is physical, sharpening your mind and your soul/spirituality (imaan) by focusing on your spirituality rather than your physicality.  Additionally,  by fasting we feel the pangs of hunger and thirst that those less fortunate than ourselves experience on a daily basis.  This helps us to develop empathy and give more freely to those in need.

How and when to fast during Ramadan

Fasting in Islam is more than just obstaining from food.  During Ramadan muslims are to obstain from all food and beverages (including water) from sun up (Imsak) until sun down (Iftar).  This includes simply rinsing your mouth with water, or chewing gum. You can’t just look outside and tell when to break and begin fast, you need to check the calendar provided by mosques, masjids, and other Islamic sources.  The time spent fasting varies by country/ state.  During these fasting hours, you are also forbidden from other typical haram acts, such as swearing, gossiping, and drinking alcohol, acts that are discouraged (makrooh) such as smoking,  and sexual acts with ones spouse (which is halal).

The only time rinsing your mouth during the fasting hours won’t discredit your fast is during wudu (abtest/ ablutions), the ritual cleansing practiced before prayers/ reading the Quran.  There are other activities that can break your fast, such as vomiting or excessive bleeding from the mouth, among others.

During the evening hours,  all halal acts that are obstained from during fasting are permissible :) until fasting begins again the following day.

Who fasts

Every able bodied/minded muslim should fast during Ramadan.  Exceptions include: the very young/old, the sick/recovering, pregnant/breastfeeding women, women during menstruation, those traveling and people undergoing rigorous physical activities, such as soldiers in battle. However, there is a price to missing fast.  When fast is missed (by days, weeks, or the whole month), one must either make up those days of fasting later, or feed/pay to feed a person in need for every day you miss.  There are some guidelines on which of these actions are better for each situation, but I am not fully sure of them and don’t want to mislead anyone.

 Beginning fast and Suhoor

Suhoor is the morning meal that is consumed before fasting begins.  It is imperative to eat this morning meal and drink lots of water, since you will be fueling your body for an entire day on this food.  There are blessing in Suhoor, and it is sunnet (the way of the Prophet [SAW])  to eat Suhoor as late as possible, before fasting begins (Imsak).  Typical suhoor foods can be found on various websites (such as My Halal Kitchen), but breakfast foods accompanied with fresh fruits and vegetables are the norm.

Breaking fast (Iftar)

Fasting ends at the time of the evening prayer (maghrib/ aksam), which is sunset. The sunnet way of breaking fast is with the consumption of water, a date, or an olive.  It is good to start slowly with the Iftar meal, since your stomach has shrunk during the day.  Don’t forget to rehydrate!

What to do during Ramadan

There is more than just fasting to be done during the month of Ramadan!  It is good to focus on your spiritual side, and take on some other goals for the month!  Some people undertake reading the whole Quran during Ramadan (20 pages a day), or learn new Surahs to use for prayer. Besides the typical 5 daily prayers,  there are night prayers that are strongly encouraged during Ramadan.  During these holy nights, it is said that Allah (SWT)  will give anything one supplicates for.  Allah (SWT) is indeed gracious.  For additional religous lectures during Ramadan, visit the Quran weekly youtube site for Quranic Gems by Br. Nouman Ali Khan!

Other holidays (Eid) related to Ramadan

There are a couple of other religious holidays around Ramadan!  The Kandil holidays (typically celebrated in Turkey) fall on days during the month before Ramadan and celebrate various important events preceeding the revelation of the Quran (such as the Prophet’s [SAW] tour of Heaven with Gabriel).  After Ramadan is Eid-Al-Fitr (Seker Bayram/Sugar bayram), the day after Ramadan, during which is much feasting and celebrating.  However, don’t forget to do your required charity before this holiday!  Each household must feed/ pay to feed one needy person per every person in your household before this Bayram, or all of your fasting and good deeds may not be accepted by Allah (SWT)!

(Any information here that is wrong or left out is due to my human flaws, and everything right is only due to Allah SWT)

As I said before, this is my first Ramadan!  I am going on hour 10 and Allah (SWT) has made it easy for me thus far, alhamdullilah.  I am able to stay home all day today which has made it much easier than it could have been.  Inshallah it will be this easy on days I am more busy.

Inshallah your Ramadan will be productive and blessed <3