Monday, June 27, 2016

Finding the World's Largest Baklava

While on a trip to Ljubljana, Slovenia I ran into a group of women trying to set the Guinness World Record for the largest baklava.

You can read my story about this delightful experience on

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Slovenia's Lake Bled and their famous Cream Cake

I loved scenic Lake Bled in Slovenia and wrote a story about their famous cream cake for

The tiny island on Lake Bled in Slovenia.
Photo @Debi Lander

Please use this link to read my story on Real Food Traveler:

Thursday, April 7, 2016

A Pumpkin in Turkey

Guest post from Judy Shulman

No, I am not going to talk about stuffing a turkey with pumpkin. I’m writing about a restaurant in Göreme, Turkey called Pumpkin Göreme Restaurant and Art Gallery. Dinner in this cave-strewn landscape in Cappadocia became a delightful treat.

Pumpkin Göreme Restaurant and Art Gallery
Hot Air Balloon ide are very popular in Cappadochia.

From the minute you walk into Pumpkin, you are warmly greeted and seated. Small niches filled with classic Cappadocian handicrafts such as miniature cave houses and pierced dimly illuminated gourds create a glowing ambience. An evil eye “tree” hangs above the blazing fireplace, much appreciated during our late March visit to the area.

Oguz Kaya or simply Ozie owns Pumpkin.  He previously worked as a chef with the Continental Hotels in Istanbul and Berlin. His wife hails from Göreme. Lately, Ozie says he kisses his wife ten times a day to thank her for his release from the fast-paced frenzy of hotel restaurants. In Göreme, he can take his time to create simple, fresh fare in a relaxed setting. We watched him in action, cooking and schmoozing, tending the fireplace, and moving heavy tables in and out of the small restaurant.

Oguz Kaya

A fixed-priced menu is featured, costing less than $25 per person, and includes five colorful and flavorful courses.  Local fresh bread comes first, brought to the table along with a dish of olive oil decoratively sprinkled with Turkish spices.  A comforting vegetable soup (nothing like the standard American vegetable soup) followed.  

Classic Turkish meze included tightly rolled and stuffed vine leaves, a slab of salty feta, bright red tomatoes and sweet green cucumbers along with Ozie’s version of koftas or vegetarian meatballs. Chef Ozie uses a mixture of bulgur, tomato paste and vegetables. He told us he attributes his good health and youthful looks to vegetarianism.
Meze is beautifully arranged.

Although the meze was primarily non-meat, the menu offered a choice of grilled chicken or the classic Anatolyan beef and vegetable stew. We chose different main courses in order to share the flavors. Both entrees were both visually appealing and mouth-wateringly tender.
Chicken Plate

Beef Stew

Dinner is capped off with a small plate of fruit, stiff but creamy Turkish ice cream and a tiny square of the yummiest baklava, plus tea or coffee.
The Dessert Plate

The restaurant seats about twenty, in addition to a small outdoor area for overflow during high season.  Reservations are necessary as we watched three different groups turned away. You can’t just “pop in” for dinner.  The pace is slow, and we appreciated the encouragement to relish the taste and enjoy the atmosphere.

Pumpkin Göreme Restaurant and Art Gallery
Igeridere Mah.
7/A Göreme/Nevsehir

To follow more adventures in Europe please visit

Monday, March 21, 2016

Fried Sage Leaves in Italy

Like Bubba Gump and his endless variety of shrimp, Southern cooks like to fry just about everything.  I’ve sampled more than my share of fried pickles, fried okra, fried green tomatoes, fried oysters, fried catfish, fried turkey, fried peanuts, fried apples, fried cheese, corn dogs, fried hand-pies, fried onion rings, fried Oreo cookies, fried sweet potatoes and, of course, fried chicken.

Kentucky Fried Chicken

On my travels, I don't turn down regional favorites and other ethnic dishes such as cactus fries, Blooming onions, fried banana chips, fried veal cutlet or Weiner Schnitzel, calamari, chimichanga, croquettes, egg rolls, falafel, pommes soufflés, tortillas and even fried ice cream.

But, I’d never tasted fried sage leaves before a recent trip to Italy.  The sage leaves were on the menu at the Renaissance Tuscany Il Ciocco Resort
, so I ordered them.  One bite and I knew I’d found a new love.  They were so scrumptious; each leaf was delicately coated in a thin batter and sprinkled with sea salt.  I would compare the preparation and taste to tempura.

Fried Sage Leaves at Renaissance Tuscany Il Ciocco Resort

I searched for recipes online, but they called for deep-frying in oil. Since I don’t own a deep fryer, I keep looking.  Finally, I found this recipe on the blog: Eat Outside the Bag. It’s owned by Susy Morris, a thirty something girl who loves all things gardening, cooking and organic. She fries fresh sage leaves in butter and then uses the leftover sage butter on pasta or in soups.

Better yet, travel to Italy to taste some.


From: Eat Outside the Bag

1 large nob of unsalted butter* (preferably organic pastured butter) butter)
Gather a handful of fresh sage leaves; any size works; the small ones are less intense than the big ones.

A sprinkling of freshly ground sea salt

Melt butter in cast iron skillet over medium heat. When butter is melted, throw in the sage leaves, cook, stirring occasionally until they stop sizzling. Remove from pan and cool on a plate.

You’ll be left with sage brown butter in your skillet, which is quite a treat itself. It’s wonderful drizzled on top of soup or pasta and is at it’s best when enjoyed over pumpkin or butternut squash ravioli.

*About a quarter to a third cup or so, depends on the size of your skillet, I use an 8 inch skillet and you want between 1/8 to 1/4 inch of butter in your skillet.


Fried chicken photo:

Calamari: By alantankenghoe - Flickr: Seafood, CC BY 2.0,

Saturday, February 13, 2016

Crustless Quiche Interrupted

Ever since I returned from Flagler Beach, I’ve meant to bake a crustless spinach quiche.  I loved the dish so much that I asked Carol Fisher, owner of the Beach House Beanery and Café, to give me the recipe. But, as things go, the holidays and my move interfered.  It was when I began reviewing my Instagram account that I came across the quiche photo. The food photo garnered many likes, so I figured blog readers might enjoy it.

My Instagram photo of Carol's Quiche

Plus, Carol promised, "It’s easy. Just throw everything together and pour into a pie pan."

Even better, as I’m temporarily living on a farm, I have access to farm fresh eggs.  I would make the recipe using the beauties direct from the hen house. They come looking like they were dyed for Easter and the yokes have a warm golden glow.
Fresh from the hen house eggs.

The dark golden yokes.

On a recent morning, I combined all the ingredients in a mixing bowl, poured them into the pan and placed it in a 325-degree oven to bake.

Pre-baked Quiche. I added a little extra cheese on the top. 

About half way through, just as the eggs were beginning to puff up, I received notice that one of the mares on the farm was about to foal!! A foaling was an event I’d been waiting for, and could hardly believe it was happening. Horses are rarely born during the day, almost always at night.

I pulled that quiche out of the oven, and lickety split ran into the field with my camera.  How fortuitous for me; I would not have had my camera in the kitchen had I not been taking pics for this blog post.
The moment of birth

I stared and witnessed the miracle of life unfolding in front of my eyes.  No words can describe the wonder I saw and felt. I was awestruck and overwhelmed (and totally in love with this baby.)  How such a large animal(estimated weight about 100 pounds) lived within that mare’s belly just minutes ago is beyond understanding. I was extremely lucky and grateful to see this birth.

The mare sees her baby. 

The mare meets her colt.

I could not pull myself away from the field, so stayed and photographed the mother and colt for a long time.  The colt’s adorable antics when trying to stand on his wobbly legs made me laugh, and I wanted to run over and help the little fella.

As the minutes passed, the newborn grew stronger and more sure of himself.  I continued to marvel at this unexpected but glorious morning event.

Trying to stand.

These legs are not cooperating!

To better contain the pair, the mother and foal were walked into the barn, and I only then remembered the quiche.  I returned to the kitchen and decided to put it back in the oven. Why not?  However, the results were less than stellar, the quiche was rather runny in the middle, but the edges were firm and tasted great.

Mare and her newborn colt.

Proudly standing together.

I highly recommend this easy breakfast, brunch, or luncheon dish, but don’t let make it on a day when you might be interrupted by witnessing your first foaling.

The Interrupted Quiche

Crustless Spinach Quiche Recipe

from Carol Fisher and The Beach House Beanery in Flagler Beach, Florida

8 eggs
1 ½ cups cream
1 cup grated cheddar cheese
1 ½ cups fresh spinach
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon pepper

Mix all ingredients together in a large bow. Pour the mixture into a greased glass pie pan.
Bake at 325 degrees for 40 minutes.

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Upside- Down Gingerbread for the Holidays

I'm a fan of gingerbread, be it cookies, muffins, gingerbread men, or gingerbread houses.  But, my favorite is gingerbread cake because it is so moist and gooey.  I like to believe the molasses adds some healthful iron benefits, but that's likely wishful thinking. 

With the Gingerbread Man

Here is an easy and decorative gingerbread cake that you can serve by itself, or with whipped cream or ice cream.  The fabulous aroma of baking gingerbread is enough to warrant the preparation, but the reward is tasting the yummy, not too sweet cake with a hot cup of coffee or tea. 

Happy holidays!
Finished Gingerbread Cake

Upside-Down Gingerbread Recipe

1 cup firmly packed brown sugar, (divided use)
1/4 cup butter, melted
1 8-ounce pineapple chunks in unsweetened juice, drained
3/4 cup fresh or frozen cranberries
1/4 chopped pecans (I used some whole ones, too.)
1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon cinnamon
3/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon allspice
1/2 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup boiling water
1/2 cup molasses
1 egg, slightly beaten

Heat oven to 350 degrees

In a small bowl, combine 1/2 cup brown sugar and the melted butter; blend well. Spread in bottom of ungreased 8-inch pan. (I used a round tart pan with a detachable bottom.)
Arrange pineapple, cranberries and pecans over the sugar mixture.
Layer the pineapple, cranberries and pecans on top of the sugar mixture.

In a large bowl, combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and spices; mix well. Add the remaining 1/2 cup of brown sugar, soft butter, water, molasses and egg; blend well. (I added the egg after I mixed in all the other ingredients.)   Pour batter evenly over the pineapple, cranberries and pecans.

Bake for 45-55 minutes or until toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.  Coll upright in pan for 2-3 minutes.  Run knife around edge and invert onto serving plate.  Cool at least 30 minutes. 

Serve warm with whipped cream or at room temperature.

Serves 9. 
Happy Holidays

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Product Testing: Hoisin Garlic Sauce

Stir-fry is one of my favorite meals to fix because I live alone, and one preparation often contains enough leftovers for a second or third meal. I also find its a great way to use up whatever veggies I have in the house: peppers, broccoli, carrots, green beans, spinach, garlic and onions.

I rarely have asparagus, but bought some specifically to try this recipe. You see, I received a complimentary bottle of SoyVay Hoisin Garlic Marinade and Sauce, and they enclosed a recipe card. It sounded good, so I figured I'd try it. Also, I always use hoisin sauce when making stir-fry, and the addition of garlic sounded great. 

I followed the provided recipe, which I share below.  The meal was inexpensive, easy to prep and speedy, about 10 minutes cooking time. However, I must say I'd recommend using plain hoisin sauce in the future.  I found the Hoisin Garlic blend had too much salt and was thinner than the plain variety. Therefore, you had to use more, adding to the long-term expense.

I enjoyed the snappy taste of the asparagus spears and the crunch of the unsalted cashews. (unsalted is important, as I already mentioned, because the sauce is high in sodium.) I think the addition of some red pepper strips would give the dish more color. 

I applaud Soy Vay for adding no preservatives to their Hoisin Garlic sauce.

For more recipe ideas, visit:

Garlic Beef and Asparagus Stir-Fry

Garlic Beef and Asparagus Stir-Fry
    Compliments of SoyVay

•    1 tbsp. olive oil
•    1 lb. flank steak, sliced think into bite-size pieces for stir-fry
•    salt and pepper, to taste
•    1 lb. asparagus, ends trimmed and cut into diagonal 1-inch lengths
•    1/2 cup Soy Vay® Hoisin Garlic sauce
•    1 cup roasted, unsalted cashews

•    1. In a wok or large nonstick pan, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the flank steak, and cook for about 3-4 minutes, depending on the thickness of the beef, until browned on all sides. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

•    2. Remove the meat with a slotted spoon, set aside, and pour off the fat from the pan. Add the asparagus to the pan, and cook for 2–3 minutes until crisp-tender.

•    3. Return the meat to the pan, add the sauce and toss to coat. Stir in the nuts, and cook for 1 minute more. Season again if needed. Serve hot over rice or noodles.