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Monthly Archives: October 2013

Forensic Compost …

 

I think I have a pretty good memory.  I remember things I need to remember, and if I forget, well, I console myself that it must not have been that important anyway (or as my dad used to say when I was a little kid, “it must have been a lie”).  I’m pretty good at straying off subject too.  Just ask my husband, or kids … no, actually.  Please don’t.

Anyway, can you recall what you had for breakfast, lunch and/or dinner every night for the last two weeks?  That’s what I thought.  No.  October was a spectacularly busy month (why, why, why?  Two catering jobs, college applications infinity, oh, life).  Each day I’ve added another photo and another layer of guilt at not posting.  (Confession: when it came time to choose what to do with the final moments of each night I chose sleep instead. of blog.  That’s why I’m an unknown.)

Now I have a dozen buckets of … what?  There are no notes, and my memory is shut as soundly as the door of a bank vault.  I recognize about half of this photo glut.  CSI: Compost?  I remember making a recipe of my mom’s and, wait!  I do remember that the stray arugula leaf was one I grew, and bugs ate.  Yay me.

The rest of these scraps, we’ll just sort through together.  Maybe you ate dinner at my house and can remind me what of I cooked?  Thanks!

So, here, in no particular order (except that’s how they were taken on my camera) are my buckets of no-clue compost.

Typical morning smoothie ingredients, possibly roasted veggies ...

Typical morning smoothie ingredients, possibly roasted veggies … and first pomegranate of the season…

Quite possibly some chicken stock was brewing here ...

Quite possibly some chicken stock was brewing here …

The ingredients for  Bolognese sauce

The ingredients for Bolognese sauce

"Hunky Soup" as in "from the old country, was a dish my grandmother made, and my mother  made from beef marrow bones.  It's essentially beef vegetable soup with carrots, celery, cabbage, tomatoes and square noodles.  I made homemade artisan rye bread to go with it and it was a comforting Sunday  supper.

“Hunky Soup” as in “from the old country, was a dish my grandmother made, and my mother made from beef marrow bones. It’s essentially beef vegetable soup with carrots, celery, cabbage, tomatoes and square noodles. I made homemade artisan rye bread to go with it and it was a comforting Sunday supper.

Easy: Asparagus Soup!  With homemade bread of course.

Easy: Asparagus Soup! With homemade bread of course.

Chives, orange peels, eggs ... no clue what this bucket produced.
Chives, orange peels, eggs … no clue what this bucket produced.

Are you a short ribs fan?  We think it's a bit too much work for not too much meat, even if it is grass-fed and tasty.  On the other hand, turnips braised in beef broth were simply delicious.

Are you a short ribs fan? We think it’s a bit too much work for not too much meat, even if it is grass-fed and tasty. On the other hand, turnips braised in beef broth were simply delicious.

More soup: this time beef broth from the giant bag I got from the farm.  Also, two sad, bloated, yellowed cucumbers from the garden that nobody wanted to eat.  Can you blame them?

More soup: this time beef broth from the giant bag I got from the farm. Also, two sad, bloated, yellowed cucumbers from the garden that nobody wanted to eat. Can you blame them?  That is home-grown celery in the background that was fab however!

I recognize the home grown arugula leaf that the bugs began to much, and I made a great salad with those bitter greens, but for the life of me, I have no idea what meal came from this bucket ...

I recognize the home grown arugula leaf that the bugs began to much, and I made a great salad with those bitter greens, but for the life of me, I have no idea what meal came from this bucket … the end.

 
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Posted by on October 26, 2013 in The Daily Bucket, Toss It Tuesday

 

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Party Bucket

It’s been a weird week … meaning we’ve been out of the house (and consequently the kitchen) quite a lot.  There is not much going on in this bucket … and it’s an extreme close up thanks to a corrupted file…

party bucket 10.9.13

What you can see (clockwise top to bottom):

  • orange peels
  • Tazo “Focus” teabag
  • apple peels (Red Rome Beauty and green Mutsu)
  • sage leaf
  • lemon half
  • onion skins
  • banana peel (hiding underneath)

What I made with all of that:

  • The obligatory morning smoothing with banana, frozen berries, one orange and Greek yogurt
  • An apple, onion, sage tart for the monthly party, I mean meeting, of high school moms.  I used my own crust recipe, but this was a perfect fall appetizer.  I thought I took a photo, but there is one on the link and it turned out EXACTLY the same.  Give it a try!
  • We had leftovers for lunches and dinner … cereal?  At 10 pm?
 

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A-peel-ing Apples

Kimmy and her kids picked a peck of perfect apples …

apple basket 10.8.13

and turned them into applesauce.  Ok, that’s not exactly how the rhyme goes (and it’s not really true because my husband helped with picking too), BUT we did pick all these apples last weekend (actually about double what I’ve shown you) and we turned some of them into giant jars of applesauce and a giant jar of apple butter.

applesauce in pot

Here are some of the peels.  I kept filling the compost bucket, but forgot to take a picture of that.  Trust me.  It was filled to the brim and then some.  This is much prettier.

apple peels

If you’ve never tasted homemade applesauce, you need to get a big old bunch of apples and make a batch right now.  You might freeze your applesauce or can it or simply put it in the fridge to eat.  But whatever you do, just try a batch.  It’s that good.

A few things to ponder:

  • Use a mix of apples otherwise your applesauce will taste storebought: read boring.
  • Use sweet apples!  This is not the place for Granny Smiths no matter how much you love them.
  • Sweet apples don’t need any more sweetener.  They cook down into a sweet, yummy mush.  If you insisted on using Grannies you need to add sugar, or honey or maple syrup.
  • Experiment with spices!  I used cinnamon sticks and cardamom pods, but you could add a vanilla bean or make a little cheesecloth bag of your favorite spices; maybe allspice, cloves, or even fennel seed.  Think of what you like and think outside the applesauce box.
  • Adding water?  Most recipes call for some liquid.  I prefer to use apple cider.  It’s kind of an extra-apple-flavor-no-brainer.  It should be pure apple cider though, not apple flavored water.
  • Smooth or chunky?  It’s up to you!  You can run your apples through a food mill (which I don’t have so I don’t use and I hate smooth anyway) or you can puree with an immersion blender (which is one of my favorite appliances and it works well here unless you hate smooth sauce in which case, don’t) or you can just sort of smash the big chunks into manageable yummy chunks.  It’s applesauce, not rocket science.
  • Peel or no peel?  As evidenced by my photo above and my lack of a food mill, I opt to get rid of the peel.  If you leave it on, it turns the applesauce a lovely shade of pink, but you also have to simply quarter the apples and then pull the peel out by hand or grind it and get bits of peel in your teeth.  Do whatever you find a-peel-ing.
  • Final thought: if you are water bath canning, pretty much ignore the advice to think outside the box and don’t deviate from the recipe.  You need acidity or you get botulism in a jar.  And then you die.  And you blame me.  The end.  I’m not kidding.  I’ve canned lots of things, but if I am water bath canning, I follow the recipe and guess what?  I’m still here.  Of you follow the recipe you will be too.  Now go make applesauce!  And don’t forget to compost those peels.

Apple butter?  Another tasty story for another day.

 

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Two Day Bucket

Life is busy.  I’m sure that is not a revelation to anyone.  I am regularly surprised though by just how busy the days are and how quickly they run together.  Like yesterday.  I forgot to take a photo of my scrap bucket because we were juggling rainy weather and soccer practice and ballet and the first college acceptance letter (yay!) and life, so here are two days worth of scraps to ponder:

Image

What you can see (clockwise top to bottom):

  • yellowish green stem of a leek
  • iceberg lettuce core
  • carrot peels
  • iceberg lettuce outer leaves
  • banana peel
  • half of a lemon
  • apple core
  • russet potato peels
  • stem end of a leek
  • stem end of a small red pepper

What you can’t see:

  • eggshells
  • extremely dirty mushroom stems
  • garlic paper
  • stem end & ribs of a cayenne pepper
  • skin & stem ends from two Vidalia onions

What I made with all of that:

  • Banana Peanut Butter Smoothies
  • Bacon, Lettuce & Muenster Sandwiches on homemade bread
  • Scrambled Eggs with Muenster and Mushrooms
  • Potato Leek Soup
  • Really unbelievably spicy Chili 

Let me tell you about the chili.  My neighbor gave me a bag of about 25 homegrown cayenne peppers.  I’ve been debating whether to dry or pickle these or turn them into hot sauce, but since I was out of jalapenos and serrano peppers, I decided to sub a cayenne for dinner.  We like spicy, so I was not concerned.  Plus, I’ve made this chili about a million times and always tweak it for what I have on hand.  Today I used fantastic local grass fed chuck steak and a single red cayenne pepper.  WOW.  Can you say S P I C Y ?  Moral of the story:  Beware of neighbors bearing peppers.  No.  Taste hot peppers before you cook recklessly with them!  And if you forget to taste, have plenty of sour cream, milk, and homemade bread around to soak up the spice.  Would you like some leftovers?

 
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Posted by on October 8, 2013 in Musings, The Daily Bucket

 

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Toss It Tuesday: Yuck

Costco is not my produce friend.

I like LOTS of things about Costco: organic maple syrup, organic chocolate milk, organic evaporated cane juice, organic eggs, cheese, trash bags, wine, flowers, and surprises.  But produce … not so much.  Why?  There is just TOO MUCH of the SAME THING.

So, you can probably guess what I bought in excess at the big box.

toss it tues use 10.8.13

What you can see (clockwaide top to bottom):

  • fennel stems & fronds
  • tangerines, moldy, squishy or hard, NEVER tasty (Costco)
  • green onions
  • mushrooms, lots and lots and lots of mushrooms.  You can;t see them all but they are there. (Costco)

So, that’s a pretty big bucket of yuck…

I roasted the fennel bulbs with carrots, but despite my best intentions, never found a use for the fennel stems.

These tangerines were never good.  I thought they’d be perfect because, even for tangerines, they were tiny, but they sat unloved for weeks in the produce drawer.  They came home uneaten in lunch boxes.  My husband, who can eat a bag of oranges in a sitting, ignored them.  I hear compost bugs LOVE citrus.  I’ll let you know if they get tossed out of the pile …

The mushrooms were lost in the back of the fridge … how, when the container was the size of fridge shelf I can’t explain, but they were hidden.  I now realize that one kid who loves shrooms + one kid who hates shrooms = 8 ounce container.  Lesson finally learned.  Who ever said we don’t use math in daily life?

I wish green onions were sold by the piece.  I’d only ever buy one stem, maybe two.  Wait.  I just realized that’s what everybody would do, so the onion farmers have banded together and insisted on bunch sales.  This makes me cry!

Until next toss day … eat up your veggies!

 
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Posted by on October 8, 2013 in The Daily Bucket, Toss It Tuesday

 

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Easy, Lazy, No Turn* Compost

For a while now, artisan, no-knead bread has been popular among foodie-types, myself included.  I particularly like the “even lazier” version of no-knead bread, which minimizes mess and hands-on time.  Last week while I was whipping up a batch of no-knead sandwich bread, it dawned on me that my version of making compost is just about the same: minimal fuss, minimal tools, basic ingredients, heat and time.

So, without wasting more valuable time, here’s a step by step guide to Easy, Lazy, No Turn* Compost:

1.  Keep a container for scraps handy in your kitchen.  There are all kinds and I have this fancy one with a filter, but I prefer to use these plastic berry picking buckets.  Each season I get a few new ones & recycle the old yucky ones.  I keep my bucket on the sink & everyone know to toss food scraps in there.

bucket on counter

2. Empty your bucket regularly.  If you are too lazy, it starts to smell … and attract fruit flies and ants… Yuck.  We typically fill a bucket every day or two & take it out to this compost pile.  The “active” compost pile is where I pile the daily scraps.  (Note: We’ll spread the remaining aged compost in a few weeks over my fall veggie bed when my plants are more established.)

compost pile fall 10.4.13

3.  Dig a shallow hole in your active compost pile.  We keep a pitchfork at the ready beside the pile so that this takes just a moment.  It’s kind of hard to see, but here is a close-up of what the pile looks with the hole prepped:

compost pile hole 10.4.13

4.  Add your kitchen scraps to the hole.  Colorful!  The discerning eye might spot two paper towels.  We don’t use many of them, preferring cloth dish towels & fabric napkins, BUT I do line every bucket with a half sheet of paper towel, otherwise clean-up can be gross.  Decomposition starts immediately, even in the bucket.

compost in pile 10.4.13

5.  Cover scraps with lawn waste.  Using your pitchfork, completely cover the scraps with grass clippings, brown leaves, etc.  My son had just cut the lawn & leaves were falling, so this is a nice blend of clippings and chopped leaves.

coompost pile covered 10.4.13

5.  Repeat the process every few days.  The more kitchen scraps you add, the more compost you will have at the end of the season.  I’ve mentioned this before, but organic in, means organic out.  If you eat mostly organic, non-gmo produce and don’t use chemicals on your lawn, you’ll be producing rich compost for a fraction of the cost you can buy.  WITH PRACTICALLY NO EFFORT ON YOUR PART.

compost fall closeup 9.16.13

6.  So, walk away and let nature work!  Rain, sunshine, heat and cold, lots of naturally occurring bugs and microorganisms work to decompose your potato skins, banana peels, and coffee grinds into black compost gold.  You can put that back into your veggie beds, annual or perennial beds, or even around your trees and shrubs for happy, healthy plants.

* No-Turn … every compost pile requires some turning to mix the rotting scraps and the fresh additions.  We turn the entire pile two or three times during a six-month season.  Sometimes more, sometimes less.  Mix more if you want to speed up the compost process.  Mix less if you are satisfied with a a six-month process.

Happy composting!

 
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Posted by on October 7, 2013 in Compost How To, Gardening

 

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Savoring Sunday Supper

What does Sunday look like in your house?  Is it another day to get things done?  A day jammed with kids’ sports, household errands, work deadlines, and study?  Or is it a day filled with religious services, family time, hobby time, relaxation, and reflection?  Our Sunday falls somewhere in between.

Traditionally, unless we have a rare Sunday soccer game (under 19 is seriously laid back soccer), morning Mass is the only concrete item on our agenda.  This week after church, we headed right home for a leisurely afternoon and fun “chores” like painting the porch swing, carving out a new garden bed, working on creative writing (my daughter), and of course, NFL/fantasy football (my son & hubby).  There was a bit of schoolwork, some soccer kicking, and I even found time to knit a few rows on a shrug project.  It was a quiet and cozy family day.

Now one of our “day of rest” non-negotiables is gathering for Sunday Supper.  It might be just our immediate family, or it might include grandparents, or sometimes friends, but regardless of who is around the table, it’s a time we set aside to linger, savor, and just enjoy the company and food.  Here’s a clue to what we had:

Image

What you can see (left to right):

  • brussels sprouts leaves and stem ends
  • wax bean trimmings
  • sweet potato peels

Sunday Supper Menu

  • Pan Roasted Garlic Brussels Sprouts and Wax Beans
  • Oven Roasted Maple Sweet Potatoes with Nutmeg
  • Oven Roasted Mahi with Paprika & Lemon Butter
  • Chocolate Cupcakes with Ganache & my mom’s secret recipe frosting

Even though we decided we prefer cod to mahi, it was a nice time to just reconnect and prepare for the week.  A time to breath and a time to reflect.  If you don’t have a Sunday Supper tradition, perhaps it’s time to start one?

 
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Posted by on October 6, 2013 in Musings, The Daily Bucket

 

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