Getting back on my feet

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That’s Baki off to the right (in a Bad Piggies t-shirt), behind his friend Lexi, in red…

There is a big Lunapark in Antalya, right on the way from the apartment to the garden. Baki used to beg to go there every single time we passed it. Luckily, his persistence wore out, but he does pipe up on a regular basis to make sure we remember that he really really likes to go on the rides.

Well, in my last post I said that March is important because it has my birthday in it, but actually there is a far more important birthday this month and that is, of course, Baki’s. I consider it a special day for myself too, because it’s the day I became a mother (I know that sounds cheesy, but there you are).

We had planned to have a party for his whole class, doing something outdoorsy. But Baki really wanted to celebrate before his school holiday starts on his actual birthday, and I couldn’t imagine pulling a party together on such short notice. So as a compromise, I offered to take him and a few friends to the Lunapark.

It was actually a little controversial among his classmates that he did not invite the whole class, and I felt pretty bad about putting him in that position. But it sounded like the kids really discussed it, and then I didn’t feel so bad. It can be good to throw a spanner in the works once in a while. I just hope he doesn’t get ostracized from other parties… I told him we’d do a party for everyone next year, if he wants.

Well, five kids in an amusement park is an easy A. The kids had a whale of a time. One disadvantage of the Lunapark, as one of Baki’s friends’ moms pointed out, is that there are a lot of rides for really little kids, and lots of rides for teens, but not as much for kids Baki’s age. Luckily, her daughter Lexi knew the ins and outs of the place and guided us to every ride they could go on. She was absolutely fearless, and gaily threw up her hands and screamed on the rides while Baki and the boys looked green around the gills.

I really loved hanging out with Baki and his friends, and seeing their boundless energy (though I wish they didn’t have to run everywhere – what’s wrong with walking??) and the great camaraderie between them. We stopped for a snack, and it was so much fun to listen in on their conversation, with all of the kids talking at the same time and somehow managing to communicate with one another. Another thing I liked was that when some of the kids were too scared to go on a ride, they just said so, and no one made a big deal out of it. 

I kept it short and sweet — we were there for about an hour and a half and then we went out for ice cream nearby. I think it is a good thing that we did it that way, because by the time I drove Baki back out to the garden, I was half demented with tiredness. I made dinner in a daze: fish in salt – a meal you can actually make in your sleep. I’m living proof!

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Now that that’s over with, I am making my favorite tonic — beef bone broth. We stopped at the butcher on the way back into town today and they had soup bones, so I got a huge, 5 pound beef bone. I am just using half of it. Bone broth is my new obsession; it is insanely good for you — promoting gut health (including an ability to help heal the disgusting sounding Leaky Gut), and joint health of course, plus it is good for your skin and hair and nails, and it’s got valuable amino acids in it that you don’t get from muscle meats. There is a summary of its benefits here.

To make this elixir, I use a liter/quart of water for each pound of bones, and add an onion (unpeeled, which gives a lovely rich color), a carrot, a few tablespoons of vinegar (to leach the minerals out of the bones) and then anything else I have that seems like a good idea at the time – parsley stems, peppercorns, bay leaves, celery, etc. In this batch I have dried mushroom for umami, a chunk of ginger, star anise, and peppercorns. I cook it in my new best friend, the slow cooker. My slow cooker can cook for up to 20 hours, so I do it for the whole twenty on Low Heat and then when it’s finished, I run it again so it cooks for 40 hours total. But I dip into it while it is cooking. And of course, the stove is also an option, though I would feel nervous having the stove on while I slept or was out of the house.

After it’s done, I strain it into a big bowl and then, because I prefer a broth that isn’t fatty, I refrigerate it and then lift off the solid fat after a few hours. The broth is like jello when it gets cold from all the gelatin in the bones. (When I do chicken bone broth, I throw in some chicken feet for extra gelatin, since chicken stock tends not to solidify as much as beef. Yes, mom, I found a use for all of those feet from our chickens until we perfect our chicken feet recipe!)

My mom and I always keep stock in the freezer, but I never realized what a healthy, healing food it was. A cup of this in the morning with some salt and pepper makes me feel ready to be shot out of a cannon! Be warned, though, it is not everybody’s cup of tea — Ali hates it on its own. Never fear though, if you have good bone broth a hearty soup or gravy is never far off, plus it adds great flavor to braises.

In My Kitchen March 2014

Well, February escaped me so I am grabbing March by the horns here. As always, hats off to the talented Celia of Fig Jam and Lime Cordial for hosting this excellent series. Stop by her blog for links to kitchens all over the world.

March is the most important month of the year because I was born in it; I am ready to enjoy all 31 days.

And with me in my kitchen this month you will find…

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Liver!

Sorry, I know it isn’t the prettiest food (but I did refrain from a raw shot) but I am very happy to have this liver for two important reasons. One is that these are livers from our own chickens. I hate to admit it, but when we first started to eat our own birds we sort of got through cleaning them out as fast as we could and as long as we got the guts out with no poop explosions we were ready to call it a day. But the chorus of voices chanting about liver’s awesome nutritional profile, nature’s most potent super food, better than a vitamin pill, kept going round and round in my head and we decided to take things a little slower and pay more attention to all that stuff we were pulling out. The birds we were culling were young roosters (too many roosters in the coop) and they had beautiful, dark red livers. I “breaded” them in almond flour with a bit of coconut mixed in (almond flour just clumps like heck on its own, I discovered) with some paprika, oregano and garlic powder thrown in.

This is the second reason I am so pleased:

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I was one of those kids who loved liver, so I am delighted that Kaya likes it too. Baki is another story, but you can’t have everything.

Also in my kitchen this month are my two new best friends, ghee and coconut oil (which was shy, so only ghee in the picture)

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It is fairly easy to find good butter here, so I make it into ghee at home – a very hands off process in my kitchen. I just set it on a low stove until the solids turn light brown (30 to 40 minutes) and strain it through a fine sieve. I find it really nice to cook with. It has a fairly high smoke point (485°F /252°C), doesn’t need to be refrigerated, and it’s not very expensive. Coconut oil, on the other hand, costs a small fortune here, more than twice as much as single estate cold pressed extra virgin olive oil. I brought a lot back from Thailand, though, and I don’t use it as much in cooking.

Two of my favorite things to do with coconut oil are oil pulling and bulletproof coffee.

Oil pulling, like many good ideas, is not new at all. It’s an Ayurvedic practice and basically involves taking a tablespoon of oil in your mouth (I use coconut oil, but sesame oil is traditional) first thing in the morning and swishing it around for ten minutes. Then you spit it out, rinse your mouth and give your teeth a brush. Why do this, even though it feels really weird to have a mouth full of oil and 10 minutes feels like forever? It makes my mouth feel really clean and fresh. There are lots of claims about what oil pulling can do, but for me it is just a nice clean feeling that I am after. There are loads of articles online about it, of course.

Bulletproof coffee is the marriage of ghee, coconut oil and coffee. You just put a tablespoon of each in your black coffee and blend it – in a blender, or using an immersion blender. It makes a creamy and insanely good drink that tastes better than any sugary or milky coffee drink I have ever had. And I am a black coffee drinker, but this just makes me happy every morning. There are some health claims attached to this too, but I’m in it for shallow reasons. As with oil pulling, I’m just thinking with my mouth here.

And last of all, I have a little egg update for you:

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Did you spot the difference? Our Ameraucana hens are laying, and we now have their beautiful blue eggs in the nesting boxes every day. Tell me you wouldn’t want a room the color of that egg…