Temporomandibular Joint…and surgery on Tuesday

So, how do I start?  Well, I’ll start where IT started.  In May my jaw suddenly, and without warning, refused to open when I was eating lunch with my colleagues.  No, I wasn’t gnawing on taffee or chomping on peanuts, I was eating a fish taco- relatively soft with easy give when chewing.  I could barely open my mouth a fraction of an inch without feeling a clamping on the left side of my face.  In a tizzy I went to the campus clinic, and the nurse suggested I put ice on my jaw and take some sort of anti-inflammatory (read: ibuprofin).  I went home and did that and, several hours after it happened, I could move my jaw with some stiffness and pain.  In a few days, I was back to normal.

Then, in the middle of the night in August, I woke up to my jaw being locked again.  I got up, iced it, took some ibuprofin, and went to sleep when I was able to move my jaw more.  The next day it was still a little sore and chewing was difficult.  And day after that was the same.  And the day after that. And after that. And after that. For a week.  With constant ice and ibuprofin I was still in a good deal of facial/neck pain and I couldn’t chew without my jaw getting stiff (left side again) and aching tremendously.  One night the pain was so severe I felt like I was suffocating.  The next day I went back to the clinic and I was referred to an oral surgeon for TMJ.

TMJ refers to the temporomandibular joint.  This is the hinge and sliding joint where your jaw bone connects to your skull and, suprisingly, there’s a lot going on there.  A small disc takes the impact of chewing, talking, and general mouth movements, and several muscles like to hang around there too.  It seemed as though something in that complicated area had gone awry.  Anyway, I was perscribed a large dose of Naproxen (aleve) to help with the pain.  This worked for a while, until I began having side effects.

Apparently stomach problems, including heartburn and indigestion, can be a side effect to Naproxen that requires you stop taking it.  In the middle of the night I woke to a burning pain near my sternum.  The next morning it happened again.  This pain was deblitating and with some quick googling I found out this pain was associated with Naproxen use.  I called the physician and she agreed I should stop taking it immediately.  This was a few weeks ago and I am still scared to eat tomatoes (a common cause for heartburn) and I can’t eat too late at night.  After this craziness, I called the dental school (to which I was refered) to have my appointment moved up.

So, I went to the oral surgeon and they measured my mouth opening, palpitated my face, took some Xrays and poked and prodded…thank God for insurance… and they determined that the little disc I was talking about, well, it seemed to have slipped out of place and cause all kinds of disfunction in my jaw.  They scheduled me for a lavage/atherocentesis (a procedure of flushing out the joint, removing any adhesions, and working the disc back in- it requires two needles and is minimally invasive)…in three weeks.  In the meantime I had lost 11lb in the matter of weeks, been severly limited in my diet, in constant discomfort, and depression over all of it was beginning to set in.

Now finally….FINALLY… the surgery is Tuesday (5 days).  While I had been wishing the day to come I am now very nervous.  My biggest concern is that it won’t work.  While most patients in this scenario, no history of TMJ, sudden jaw locking, good occlusion (bite. I’ve had braces in the past) etc see great success with the procedure, I’m so scared that it isn’t going to help.  This constant pain and being unable to enjoy the food I used to love so much is heartbreaking for me.  It may seem trite and silly to those who haven’t been through it but…imagine a toothache that never stops and you can only eat liquids.  Yeah, it isn’t any fun.

Prayers and good vibes appreciated.  INSHALLAH I’ll be back to normal by the week after my surgery.

Putting your foot down

A lot has been going on recently, especially with the hubsy’s PhD!  He put his foot down with his advisor saying that he only has a little bit of time left in the US before he MUST return to Turkey, PhD or no PhD, and he has no time for classes!  His advisor was shocked, expecting many more years out of the hubster before he could graduate.  Well, long story short, it seems that he is done with classes after this term! YAY!

Also, he took his qualifies (the exam that means you can continue your PhD studies…like a GRE for PhDs) and PASSED! Alhamdulillah!

These are all the things that we were looking for as signs that his PhD is attainable and we should stay after I graduate this coming summer. Inshallah it all works out! Sorry I can’t be more detailed, I have to study for an exam. I hope my next post will be as happy!

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!