Fasanjoon: Persian Walnut & Pomegranate Stew

In the past weeks, after a nice warm 9 days in Cyprus, Istanbul had the harshest snow in years. We still managed to make it out with my husband & our little munchkin to have lunch at a restaurant within a mall, Hacı Abdullah at Zorlu Center, for our 3rd marriage anniversary. It was my second time there and it was great both times. They serve delicious Ottoman Turkish cuisine. My first time was with my mommy. (I still intend to write a post about the noteworthy restaurants I’ve been to in Istanbul, which really aren’t that many but just as a suggestion for those who might be visiting…) Other than that one Saturday, we were home the rest of the time while it snowed. Classes for my husband were canceled and my tezhip class was postponed. Now everything is back to normal, with gloomy & rainy weather.

Other than the usual housewife chores and running after a mobile baby, I’ve also managed to complete the certification requirements for the Go Diaper Free Coach Program, thereby becoming a GDF certified Elimination Communication + Non-Coercive Potty Training coach, I began translating my mom’s book Healthy Living In Cyprus into Turkish, and I’m working on my first tezhip piece that will hopefully be framed and hung on the wall in a few weeks time. I also made fasanjoon for the first time yesterday which alhamdulillah, turned out alright. This is a dish that I’m familiar with because of my maternal grandma: part Iraqi part Iranian, and an amazing cook who pours love into her dishes. I actually called her before I began cooking to ask for directions but she didn’t pick up so I googled some recipes just to get an idea and took it from there. I have to apologize for not taking any appetizing photos of the dish once I served it for dinner, but I’ll share the recipe and a couple of photos from while I was in the process of making it. Again, measurements are just approximation.

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Toasting walnuts

Ingredients:

2 lbs of chicken (I used half a chicken that was about 2 kg, it was a struggle trying to cut it in half and cut it into further pieces but that’s what I had to work with – if you can get chicken breasts, that’s better)

1 onion

1-1.5 cups of raw walnuts

1/3-1/2 cup pomegranate molasses

1/4-1/3 cup date molasses (or 1-2 TBSP of sugar)

Approx. 1 cup of water

1/2 tsp cinnamon, ground

1/2 tsp turmeric, ground

1/2 tsp cardamom, ground

salt & pepper

And of course Basmati Rice to go on the side, soaking in a bowl.

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I used one pot for this dish. I have a wide and low-rise stainless steel pot with a lid. So you could also do that, or use a separate pan for toasting and a pot for cooking. Toast the walnuts in the pot while you chop the chicken into appropriate pieces. If you are using chicken breast, chop into medium sized cubes. Slice the onion. Once the walnuts are done, remove from pan. Add some olive oil and the spices. Once the oil is hot, add the onions and sauté for a couple of minutes. Add the chicken. While the chicken browns, grind the walnuts in a blender. This is where I need to make some adjustments next time. I feel like the walnuts needed to be finer to give a smoother, creamier texture to the stew. Add the walnuts to the chicken along with the pomegranate molasses, date molasses, water and salt & pepper. I had just enough pomegranate molasses! I remembered I had some pomegranates in the fridge so I cut one in half and squeezed the juice into the stew. Give it a good stir. Cover the lid and let it simmer for about 10-15 minutes, until the chicken is cooked through and the stew reaches a nice consistency. In the meanwhile, cook your rice. I usually add a pod of cardamom or an olive leaf into basmati while it cooks.

This was just a warm-up post after a break… So I hope you enjoy this if you decide to cook it! I feel like fasanjoon is one of those dishes that you either love or hate. I’m planning on writing about my pregnancy next so stay tuned! 🙂

Edit: After watching my grandma cook Fasanjoon from beginning to end, I realized mine was far off from the traditional method lol! Mainly because she actually cooks the ground walnut ‘sauce/stew’ on its own for a while with the pomegranate molasses before combining it with the chicken that is cooked separately. I just wanted to mention that in case anyone thinks this is THE way of cooking it. No claims here!

Nature Walks, Herbal Up-To’s & Happy New Year

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I am in Cyprus now for the last one week, visiting my family with the little one. I’ve had the chance to experience warm sunny weather most days, unlike back in Istanbul at this time of year. I collected yellow daffodils, savored oranges right off the tree from my family’s citrus garden and enjoyed unpolluted fresh air.

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I picked the soft rosehips off the rose bush today. I still haven’t decided what I will do with them. I ate some just like that. I will probably make the rest into spread, or tea. Rosehips are the ovaries of the rose. They are what remains after the rose petals fall. They are a source of antioxidants and vitamin C.

I was also meaning to collect whatever was left of the olives on the olive trees in our parking lot. After rinsing the olives, I placed them in a jar, sprinkled a generous amount of sea salt, poured some apple cider vinegar and olive oil, sprinkled a little bit of red chilli flakes & dried rosemary, gave the jar a shake after closing the lid, and placed it in the cupboard until the olives are ready to be eaten in a week or two.

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Before dinner, I chopped some bergamot that went into the copper distiller for my mom to extract some bergamot hydrosol & essential oil. Bergamot has a refreshing citrus aroma and it is used in aromatherapy to uplift the spirit & promote feelings of contentment. A few hours later, my mom is still going in and out of the house to where the distiller is set up to watch the distillation process.

Other than stinging nettle and blue mallow, and a couple of wild calendula & sow thistle here and there, I didn’t notice a lot of herbs. My mom collected some stinging nettle last minute this evening and made some delicious creamy nettle soup for dinner. My baby loved it. We had that along with some leftovers.

Finally… I was hoping I could fit in a blog post in time for the first day of the year. We don’t celebrate New Year’s Eve, but we happened to get together as a family last night for a warm meal. After dinner we played mahabis, laughed a lot, and ate some homemade baklawa.

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My aunt made baklawa with pistachio, topped with saffron-infused orange blossom syrup

I hope this new year will bring much good to everyone reading this – health & overall wellbeing. I hope that this year we will break less hearts, be more forgiving of others, speak less, reflect more, take better care of ourselves, and make better use of our precious time. Prophet Muhammad ﷺ said that the two blessings people waste are health and time. I hope we can wake up in a mindful state every morning and remind ourselves of what is important.

 

Disclaimer: No content in this article is implied to substitute professional medical advice. How you choose to apply this information is solely your responsibility. The information provided is for educational purposes.

Simple Home Remedies for Common Kids Ailments

I have an 8 month old right now, and she had her first cold – stuffy nose, some coughing in the morning and occasionally waking up crying mid-night from what I perceived as her experiencing pain – after we had a long journey from the US to Istanbul last August. She was about 4.5 months. I was so sad to see my poor baby ill, but there had to be a first time. Thankfully she recovered just fine. So I want to share a couple of things I did to help her overcome her cold and also some simple remedies from my own childhood for common ailments that kids experience, such as sore throat, wet cough and congestion.

For my little one, I made sure she got lots of rest. I nursed her as frequently as possible. I gave her massages using olive oil, and maybe a dab of eucalyptus essential oil on her chest combined with olive oil to help with her congestion, and some calming camomile tea before bed (just 3-4 tablespoons). I would sometimes put a couple of dabs of eucalyptus essential oil on our pillow that she’d be sleeping on too. This is another option if you don’t feel comfortable using essential oils on your little one directly.

When a child complains of a sore throat, it’s best to do something about it as soon as possible. The first thing you could do is combine some good quality honey with black seed (Nigella sativa) oil (1:1), or give your child a teaspoon of just black seed oil if they don’t mind the taste. If you don’t have black seed oil, then just give them some good quality honey. Even better, add about 1/4 tsp of powdered ginger, cinnamon and/or marshmallow root to 1 tbsp of honey. Give that a good mix and take a tsp every other hour or so.

Another remedy is to chop up one medium yellow onion, drizzle some honey over it, and cover it for about half an hour until the onion releases its juice. Take a tsp of the juice every other hour. This is helpful with coughs too. If one has a wet cough with mucus or is experiencing congestion, it is best to reduce dairy intake as dairy can increase mucus production. A wonderful warming ginger tea with honey and lemon is relieving. You could also prepare thyme & peppermint tea. For a dry cough, I would suggest using herbs that are mucilaginous (containing mucilage which is soothing in dry conditions) such as cinnamon, marshmallow root, and mullein. Ginger, thyme and peppermint are helpful with tummy aches or nausea as well. I remember my mom would always give us a quarter of a Turkish tea cup of thyme hydrosol whenever we complained of nausea or a tummy ache. It worked, but it either made the nausea or aching go away on its own if we were lucky or it caused us to throw up almost immediately and so I hated it because who likes throwing up?

For ear aches, again, black seed oil is my go-to remedy. Rub some into your ears and cover your ears with a cotton ball (make sure it’s not super small so that it goes disappearing into your ear). Another remedy is to drip a few drops of onion juice into the ear. You could do this by wetting a cotton ball with some onion juice (from either grated onions or chopped up onion that has released some juice over time) and gently squeezing the bud over the ear and allowing a few drops to enter the ear canal.

Always encourage rest during recovery and keep consistent with whatever remedy you decide to go with.

 

Disclaimer: This content is not intended to substitute medical advice. You assume full responsibility for how you choose to apply this information. This information is provided solely for educational purposes.

 

Stinging Nettle: A Herb For Everyone

Stinging Nettle (Urtica dioica) , a perennial plant, is by far my favorite medicinal herb. ‘An emerald queen who proudly reigns over her realms’, as Juliet Blankespoor beautifully described it. You only realize she’s a queen when you find out about and experience her offerings. Otherwise it’s just a plant that grows all over the place, stings pretty bad and you don’t want to go anywhere near it. Or even worse, it ends up getting mowed.

Stinging Nettle is a blood-builder and a mineral-rich plant. It contains vitamins A & C, as well as chlorophyll which is why a strong nettle infusion turns dark green. Its high iron content that’s easily assimilable by the body helps combat anemia. It is considered one of the best herbs to take daily especially if one is feeling tired or depleted. It helps ease allergic reactions and arthritic conditions. It is safe during pregnancy, it increases breastmilk and it helps rebuild blood reserves postpartum after heavy bleeding. A nice combination for a healthy pregnancy is nettle, oat straw and red raspberry leaf. Some herbalists consider red raspberry leaf safe during early pregnancy while others suggest its better not to take it until after the second trimester. I personally resorted to taking red raspberry leaf after my second trimester when I was pregnant.

I buy my nettle from Mountain Rose Herbs in bulk. If I were in Cyprus right now, I’d be harvesting nettles from the wild and making some infusion with the fresh herb, or a delicious soup, or some pesto. The potential stinging disappears when nettles are cooked. You can add nettles, dry or fresh, into your bone broth or vegetable stock. You can also infuse nettles, preferably dry, with some good quality balsamic vinegar in a glass jar for 4 weeks in a cool dark place and use that in salad dressings after straining it using a cheese cloth or a fine mesh. Another great way of adding some nettles into your diet is adding them to your omelette or quiche. There’s many ways to incorporate this wonderful herb into your diet for improved health. Make it a habit to have one cup of nettle infusion every morning.

Trust me, there’s so many beneficial favors around you.

Medical Disclaimer: This content is not intended to substitute medical advice. You assume full responsibility for how you choose to apply this information. This information is only intended for educational purposes.

Mujaddara: Simple Comfort Food

Last week we had some guests staying over with us, and I thought Mujaddara would be a good option for lunch the next day because I had all the ingredients as always. Mujaddara is a popular Middle Eastern dish that consists of lentils & rice, topped off with caramelized onions. It’s a dish that’s cooked in Cyprus too, where we call it Mucendra (moo-jend-ra) and I don’t remember any caramelized onions in my grandma’s version.

OK, so I know you can find hundreds of Mujaddara recipes on the internet. However, I wanted to write about it because I made a brilliant ‘mistake’ last time that I want to share with you. If any of you read my post on the Whole30 experience, I included a link to another blog that explains the benefit of soaking grains and how to do it.

Normally I soak my rice. The lentils, I  will sometimes soak them for a while or not. It depends when I decide that I’ll be cooking mujaddara or whatever includes lentils and how much time I have for soaking. So the other night, I decided I’d be soaking my lentils too. (I know I used the word soaking a lot but bare with me). So I place the rice in a bowl, cover it with water, and then I think, oh why not save some bowls and soak the lentils with the rice. I think this is a great idea and I proceed with adding the lentils to the rice. I add the apple cider vinegar and I give the bowl a stir. Then I realize, snap, lentils take a lot longer to cook than rice! At this point I feel like it’s too late to do anything. I considered separating the grains from one another but it was impossible because I had stirred the bowl. I thought, worst case the rice will just be really cooked through and lose its shape. I know this sounds silly right now but I actually freaked out about it in my head for a little while. It was late at night, I had never done this before, and I didn’t have a second plan for what I could have ready for my guests if this wouldn’t work. It made sense that after some soaking the lentils wouldn’t take as much time cooking as they normally do when cooked un-soaked. Time would tell. In the morning I bit through a grain of lentil and thankfully it was pretty soft. So it worked out just fine and I now soak the rice and lentils together before making mujaddara! It saves time. And bowls. Of course I won’t end this post before sharing the recipe so here it is – vegetarian, vegan, gluten-free, simple yet tasty!

(You’ll just have to go by gut feeling for exact cooking time & measurements. Sorry… but to give you an idea… I usually do a 1:1 ratio of lentils and rice. How much spice you’d like to use is up to your personal taste. I put about 1/2 tsp of each spice. Cooking is a little bit like art to me. You have to stick to some techniques but the rest is up to you. Add or subtract whatever you want.)

Ingredients

1 cup short-grain rice

1 cup brown lentils

2-3 tbsp apple cider vinegar or lemon juice

2-3 cloves of garlic, grated

1 medium to large yellow onion

cumin

turmeric

cinnamon

sumac

salt & pepper

olive oil

Soak the rice & lentils overnight using drinking water and add the apple cider vinegar or lemon juice. Sieve it before cooking. Add a couple of tbsp of olive oil to a pot. Add about 1/4 tsp cumin and the grated garlic. After a couple of minutes add the rice & lentils. Give it a stir. Pour about 2.5 cups of boiling water over the pot. Add some salt. Lower the heat and cover the lid. In the meanwhile, cut the onion in half and then into thin slices. In a skillet, add some olive oil over medium heat. Add about 1/2 tsp turmeric, cumin, cinnamon and sumac. Once the oil is hot, add the sliced onions. Stir every now and then until the onions are caramelized. I don’t consider myself a pro at caramelizing onions but they look something like this:

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The mujaddara takes about 30-40 minutes to cook. Once there’s no water left and the grains are soft, it’s done. If at any point you check and there’s no water but the grains are still kind of crunchy, just add a small amount of water and cover the lid again. Don’t check too many times though; the steam trapped inside helps it cook. Serve warm topped with the caramelized onions and if you like, some yogurt on the side.

Tip: My mother-in-law makes mujaddara with bulghur. In that case, you don’t soak the bulghur as bulghur is cracked wheat and doesn’t require soaking – at least not for the same reasons as you’d soak other grains. You could also use brown rice if you prefer. I haven’t tried soaking brown rice with lentils and cooking them together yet, but I would assume it’ll take longer to cook than regular rice as it normally does.

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Don’t be afraid to fill the top with onions. Afiyet olsun.

Herbal Protocol To Beat A Cold

Last winter when I was in Michigan I barely got ill – I didn’t even deal with a simple cold and I was pretty amazed at that. I felt like my immune system was really on track. This winter, being in Istanbul, exposed to germs from thousands of different people nearly every day, getting more tired than I was last year and so on, I caught a bad cold. I had a painful sore throat, I was congested, and I had a cough that would keep me up at night. The cough was not too dry nor too wet, kind of in between. Thankfully, it cleared up within a few days.

So the first thing I did upon waking up with a sore throat was to take a spoonful of my homemade Fire Cider (recipe below). Fire Cider which is a traditional herbal remedy (and not a trademark) is great for the body: it’s warming and it boosts immunity. Next, I combined some good quality honey with my mom’s black seed (Nigella sativa) oil and took a teaspoon of that. This I find very soothing. I use about 1:1 ratio of honey & black seed oil.

For my cough, I blended thyme, oregano & rosemary and drank that as an infusion about 3 times a day. I had fresh in hand, but you can also use them in dried form. I did a simple steam bath using eucalyptus oil to help with the congestion. At night when my cough would come around and prevent me from falling asleep, I would make any simple herbal tea (ginger, nettle, holy basil, mint etc.) and drink that while still very warm with some honey and that would usually ease the cough. So below are the recipes. The measurements are not all exact. Just go by your gut feeling but I’ll give you a rough idea! The key to natural medicine is to keep consistent. Don’t do it once and expect a miracle to happen.

 

Traditional Fire Cider

1 L mason jar

1 bulb of garlic

1 onion

1 piece of ginger, approx. 3″ in length

1 piece of horseradish, approx. 3″ in length

3 jalapeños de-seeded, or 1/4 tsp of cayenne pepper powder

raw honey

apple cider vinegar

Excluding the honey – grate, blend or chop all the ingredients. Place in jar. Fill the jar with ACV. Cover with a lid and place the jar in a cool spot with no direct sunlight. Give the jar a gentle shake every now and then. After 4-6 weeks, strain the jar using a cheesecloth. Add honey to taste. Take 2-3 spoons, 2-3x a day while fighting a cold/flu.

This is the typical recipe. From here you can tweak it as it suits you. When I thought it was time for me to make fire cider, I didn’t have horseradish nor did I have any jalapeños or cayenne pepper. I had bought organic apple cider vinegar, a little hard to find in Istanbul, and I didn’t want to procrastinate any longer. So I combined garlic, onion, ginger, red chili flakes and I also included some dried rosemary, dried olive leaves & turmeric powder. Here is a video of Rosemary Gladstar making some fire cider.

 

Tea for Cough

1 part oregano, dried or fresh

1 part thyme, dried or fresh

1 part rosemary, dried or fresh

If you’re making one cup, you should use at least a teaspoon of herbs. Add boiled water over the herbs. Cover and steep for up to 20 minutes.

 

Nasal Rinse for Congestion

1/4 tsp of sea salt or Himalayan salt

1 cup of boiled drinking water (does not have to be hot but the salt will melt better in warmer water)

Combine salt and boiled water. The reason for boiling the water is to make sure all germs in the water are killed before you rinse your nose. We don’t want any germs where there are already some germs! So for this you use a neti pot. I don’t actually have one of those, so I do what we do during ablution to rinse our nose… Take some with the palm of my hand, ‘breathe in’ the water, and blow it. Of course you need to keep your hand near by with your thumb and index finger around your nostrils to catch whatever comes out, over the sink. If you’re a practicing Muslim, you will know how to do this pretty well. If this sounds complicated, just stick to the neti pot if you have one.

 

Eucalyptus Steam Bath for Congestion

5-6 cups of water in a stainless steel pot, newly boiled

2-4 drops of eucalyptus essential oil

Once the water boils, turn off the heat. Take the pot to a safe space on a table. Add the essential oil. In order to trap the steam put a towel over your head and bring your head over the pot to inhale the steam. You might want to take a second before you approach the pot to inhale the steam after you add the EO because it might be really strong at first. It’s a good idea to keep your eyes closed too. Do this for a couple of minutes at least, taking deep breaths. It’s very soothing. While you’re at it, if you’re suffering from weatherworn dry skin, slather your face with some coconut oil right after the steam bath since your pores will be open!

An alternative to this, if you don’t have eucalyptus EO, is another EO such as peppermint. If you don’t have any EOs or you’d rather not use any, you can bring some water to a boil, add some aromatic herbs such as mint, eucalyptus, oregano, thyme, rosemary, simmer for 10-15 minutes and use this as a steam bath.

 

Wishing you health & wellness.

 

Disclaimer: The information provided is not intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice, it is provided for educational purposes only. You assume full responsibility for how you choose to use this information. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare provider for serious health concerns or before following any alternative treatment.

Speaking of Dallas Hartwig: Whole30 experience

I discovered the Whole30 after finding Dallas Hartwig’s instagram through Nutritious Movement. I was about 2 months postpartum when I decided to give it a shot. It was Ramadhan. I wasn’t fasting this year as I was exclusively breastfeeding. I encouraged my mom to give it a shot too. She thought it’d be incorporated nicely with her 30 day Ramadhan fast. Unfortunately I couldn’t go past day 17, not because it wasn’t doable, but because I was invited for an iftar at a friend’s and I felt too shy to tell her I was strictly avoiding pretty much everything I knew she’d be serving for dinner – turned out I was right. I didn’t want her to plan according to me as I wasn’t the only guest, but I knew she’d make changes so I didn’t want to give her a hard time. Well, the plan was that I’d break only some of the rules. I ended up breaking them all. I felt like I had a hangover the next day. I experienced a terrible headache that lasted nearly all day. I had had sugar, wheat, chickpeas, rice, and yogurt. For those of you who don’t know, Whole30 is basically a paleo diet, except somewhat stricter: no legumes, no natural sweeteners etc. After this, I decided I’d try one of the no-no’s on the list every other day and note how I’d feel. I noticed that I experienced major joint pain and headaches shortly after eating particularly gluten. I didn’t feel much difference eating dairy.

OK, since my Whole30 attempt was a bit of a fail, I want to still mention some of the positives I noticed while I was following the rules in those 17 days. I didn’t experience any constipation or bloating at all during those 17 days. Even after eating, there was no bloating. I felt very light which made me feel good overall. I did notice some bloody stools a couple of times, and after some research, I thought it could be due to reducing carbs cold turkey. I didn’t have any pain though, so I don’t know.

My mom, on the other hand, successfully completed the 30 days. She was suffering from frozen shoulder syndrome for about a year. Whole30 cleared that up for her, which we thought was pretty amazing. I remember reading somewhere that frozen shoulder was something Dallas experienced too, until he improved his diet.

Just another note on Whole30/Paleo, I’m personally not too fond of the idea of eating so much red meat & chicken. I prefer sea food. That reminds me, I will be writing a post about some locations in Istanbul that are worth going to for those visiting Istanbul including a couple of seafood restaurants that I liked. I can’t find grass-fed organic red meat easily where I live in Istanbul, and Sunnah-wise it’s best to reduce red meat intake in general.

As the weather is getting colder now and as I’m experiencing stiff and achy knee joints, I’m seriously considering reducing my wheat intake (don’t touch my rice & oats! I try to prepare those properly, I promise.) I have some guests staying over with us for the next 5-6 days. My plan is to go on a 10 day wheat & sugar detox once our guests leave and then compromise once in a while if necessary.

To health & overall wellbeing.