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Grounds For Composting

There are a lot of adjectives you could use to describe me, but “cheap” is probably not one of them.  Today, however, I tried a really cheap trick.  And it did not work.  At all.

For years I used a classic stovetop moka pot and never thought twice about what to do with the coffee grounds.  They went in the compost bucket.  Well, for Christmas, my husband splurged and got me a Gaggia Classic espresso machine, possibly to cut my coffee shop habit.

After weeks of adventures in brewing espresso, including spraying boiling coffee and/or hot milk on floors, walls, appliances,dogs, etc. and incurring lovely brown stains on my white subway tile, I’m pretty proficient.  I have not mastered latte art (not for lack of trying either) but have decided that homemade espresso is infinitely better than drive through.  It’s a bit  more work, but just like anything else we make at home, it’s worth the time.  (My secret recipe is to sweeten the latte with a splash of pure maple syrup.)

I’m not sure why, but it kills me that all my shade grown, organic coffee grounds are going in the compost after just thirty seconds of brew time.    That coffee is expensive and you have to pack it in like crazy to make two (delicious) ounces.  Each time I brew I wonder if I can use the grounds twice…

coffee grounds 2.15

Probably most of you are laughing at me right about now.  I admit I never even considered re-using the grounds from a regular coffee pot or even the moka pot,  so I’m not sure why I thought this would be a good idea.  Maybe I’m in the reuse, recycle mode and am just trying to make the most of my foodstuffs.  Anyway, I gave it a try.

Ha ha.  The liquid, I can’t call it coffee, was the color of tea and the taste was absolutely disgusting; unbelievably bitter and burned tasting.  Big surprise, right?

Learn from my mistake, espresso grounds are not reusable, except in the compost pile.

 

 
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Posted by on February 18, 2015 in Compost How To, Musings, The Daily Bucket

 

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Composting Valentine’s Day

Confession: I love all the hearts and flowers and corny cards associated with Valentine’s Day.  Instead of thinking of it as a money-making holiday created by the candy and greeting card industry, I much prefer to remember it as the Catholic feast of Saint Valentine, a Roman priest martyred for marrying Christian couples.

I’ve got plush heart pillows on my soafs and pretty hearts hanging in my windows and of course a sparkly red wreath on my door.  Of course I’ve already made heart sprinkled sugar cookies and spent an entire episode of Downton Abby (just started season two) putting candy in mini bags with pretty red ribbons for my girl’s ballet pals.

So I made these lovely little Linzer tarts (tortes?) for my loved ones this weekend.  They are essentially a crisp almond meal cookie filled with raspberry jam.  I’ve got my own secret recipe but this one is similar. There is minimal compost from cookies naturally, but they are so pretty I had to share.

Valentines Linzer Tarts

The cookie-making bucket looked like this.

Brussels, Potatoes & Steak

What you can see (clockwise from the top):

  • brussels sprouts trimmings (really questionable quality sadly)
  • shallot skins & stem ends
  • eggs (for the cookies!)
  • carrot sticks (left over from lunchbox)
  • blueberries (left over from lunchbox)
  • In addition to the Linzer tart cookies, I also made a some quickly seared hangar steaks with this sauce paired with roasted brussels sprouts and fingerling potatoes.

Here is the bucket for both Valentine’s Day family dinner and Sunday Supper.

Valentines Scallops & Sunday Supper Fittatta

What you can see (clockwise from the top):

  • lots of egg shells
  • lemon halves
  • bits of wilted salad greens
  • tea bag
  • orange peelsshallot skins & stem ends
  • espresso grounds
  • WhatI made with all of that:

Valentine’s Family Dinner

  • Scallops with Fresh Linguine
  • Caesar Salad with homemade croutons
  • Sunday Supper
  • Rich Vanilla Pudding with Strawberries & Lizer Tarts

My middle boy was a bit under the weather so our intended meal with friends and family was cancelled.  A sensible idea but when I cancelled dinner I didn’t make the meal… which resulted in hungry mouths at  seven wondering “what’s for dinner?”

frittatta eggshells 2.15

Frittatta to the rescue.  These never used to be in my rotation since I made my fair share of quiche and scrambled eggs, but quiche needs a crust and scrambed eggs really screams breakfast.  Enter the frittatta.  Made in my ten-inch cast iron pan with eggs, milk and whatever bits and pieces I have on hand, this meal is fast, fresh and super easy.

The Sunday frittatta included smoked salmon and shallots sauteed  in butter and some    almost old mozzerella.  A quick simmer on the stove and a minute under the broiler and dinner was served along with a quick Caesar spin-off, some sesame bagels and more Linzer tarts of course.

Hope your heart was happy this weekend.

 

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Can I Compost: Date Pits

Last night I was making this truly delicious salad and I had a small handful of date pits.  Trash or compost bucket?

date pits 2.2015

Ordinarily I do not compost pits from stone fruits or seeds from vegetables like squash, peppers, cucumber, etc.  The pits are rock hard and take years to break down, but the soft seeds tend to germinate immediately, take root and send up volunteers all over the garden.

Date pits are a bit different. Not too hard, not too soft, pliable, but still a really big seed.  Hmmm… I had to do a bit of research.  This info reminds me a bit of the old Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood “field trips” that fascinated me when I was five (and when I was the mom of five year olds). It’s definitely worth reading if you are interested in where and how your food is grown.

My verdict was: compost. I’m pretty sure I won;t be growing a date palm in my garden!

Here are the rest of my kitchen scraps for the day.

kale salad

 

What you can see (clockwise):

  • yellow onion peels and stem ends
  • strawberry tops (lunch box)
  • carrot peels (lunch box)
  • Lacinto kale stems (especially in a salad I’m not a fan of the big stem crunch)
  • apple peels (sautéed in butter and topped breakfast pancakes)
  • garlic skin
  • lemon half (morning hot lemon drink)
  • lime & mandarin orange halves (salad dressing)

But back to the dates… and the salad… my daughter refused to eat it because she is not a date fan, but guess what?  Neither of us could not stop eating.  It’s really a keeper.  Give it a try.  And if you do, substitute bacon for almonds (I was out of nuts) and be prepared to reach for seconds.

 

 

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Don’t Forget the Flowers

What brightens your spirits in the middle of winter?  My secret pick-me-up is a stop by the supermarket floral department (Trader Joe’s is my absolute favorite).  Flowers keep me happy when the sun is not shining and let’s be honest, a little bouquet of daisies or spray roses costs as much as a specialty coffee from corner shop and it lasts a whole lot longer.

My favorite treats are the mini potted individual bulbs of hyacinth, tulip, or daffodil.  You can find them everywhere this time of year.   I buy a few, pop them in my own white ceramic pots and “plant” them around the house for little bursts of happiness wherever I turn.  **sigh** Spirits lifted.

To be fair, we’ve escaped the bitter chill of winter in Atlanta so far, and it is sunny and nearly fifty degrees as I write this, but still.  There are a lot of gloomy gray days left in this season and I like to be prepared.

Back to the blooms … they don’t last forever but don’t be hasty and toss them in your trash. Now, I’m not suggesting you plant the bulbs in your yard.  It’s a time for snuggling on the sofa, not digging in the dirt.  Forced bulbs rarely bloom again, but they are a great treat for your compost pile.  They may send up a few leaves, but I can almost guarantee that unless you’ve got a hardy daffodil that simply has to bloom, you’ll only get a few leaves in your garden as a reminder of your bulb’s former glory.  Save yourself and feed your garden.  Compost.

Here’s a look at the pretty hyacinths that scented my kitchen for two weeks.

hyacinth bulbs

Are here is a glimpse of the leaves & spent pink blossoms from two bunches of stock (that’s really the sad name of a pretty, fragrant flower) that I have in my living room and foyer. Remember, to help cut flowers last as long as possible, change the water and trim the stems every few days.  I know that’s extra work, but it really helps extend bloom time.

You can also see butternut squash peels in the bucket. You can’t see the red onion skins, thyme stalks, dirty mushroom stems (ugh) and carrot peels but they are there.  I roasted all those veggies and mixed them with some brown rice, fresh arugula and a quick vinaigrette for a simple, filling but not heavy, school night dinner.

spent stock roasted veggie bowl

Here’s to sunny skies and fresh blooms in your neck of the world …

 
 

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Coffee Please, For Compost

If you’ve never considered them, coffee grounds are a great addition to your compost pile.  If you are a home brewer, you can simply toss the used grounds in their paper filter right onto your pile.   If you’re more of a drive-thru kind of coffee drinker like me, your local coffee shop will gladly give you their used coffee grounds.  I often see the brewed grounds bagged up and free for the taking at my local Starbucks.  Now, if they’d trade me a free drink for taking those grounds off their hands that would be even nicer, but sadly I pay for my coffee habit.

Every day my routine goes something like this:  (me) I need coffee.  (practical me) It’s not good for you.  It makes you jittery.  (whining me) But I love Iced Hazelnut Machiattos.  (scolding me) They’re expensive.  AND they’re made with crappy milk.  (petulant me) I want one.  I’m already in drive-through.  (realistic me) **sigh**  Now, run this scenario every day around three o’clock if I’m out and about.  Last summer this conversation involved a salted caramel frappucino, a terrible drink that’s bad for me.  Did you know you could have SIX KRISPY KREME DOUGHNUTS instead. of that drink?  Whoa.  I would MUCH rather have six doughnuts than one sugary drink.  Hence, my current iced milky coffee habit.  Lots less calories and added sugar.

But in the summer I crave something frozen, coffee, and sweet.  Years ago, I perfected a great “pseudo-cino” recipe but it’s more like a bottled frap and while satisfying, sometimes it just doesn’t get the job done.  Enter the  Coffee Banana Date Smoothie that I found on Pinterest.  What a cute blog!  What an awesome drink!  I’m totally hooked!  And, I the end result is I get good espresso grounds to add to my compost! I think we can call this a win-win for everybody but the coffee shop.

The coffee grounds:

coffee grounds

The newly addictive drink (note the knock-off cup and green straw, haha).

date almond coffee freeze

Wondering why used coffee grounds are good for your compost pile?

  • Even though they are brown, grounds are considered a “green” compost additive, meaning they’re a source of nitrogen.
  • Coffee grounds are high in nitrogen (20:1 ratio), which gives the bacteria in your pile the energy it needs to break down your scraps.  Manure, which is a great jump starter to break down organic matter, has the same carbon ratio.  Most home gardeners (myself included) avoid manure and animal products since they attract rodents and can harbor dangerous bacteria and pathogens.  Coffee grounds are a good substitute.
  • Brewed coffee grounds are relatively pH neutral (beans are acidic, but the acid is water soluble so it brews out).
  • Worms seem to be drawn to coffee grounds, which helps to aerate and further break down your scraps.
  • Grounds help to enhance soil structure.

The next time you indulge your coffee habit, remember to pick up some used grounds!  But be responsible.  If you decide to perk up your compost with substantial amounts of coffee grounds, be sure to layer it with equal amounts of grass clippings and leaves.

 

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Glorious Summer With Veggies

Glorious Summer With Veggies

Are you just reveling in S U M M M E R right about now? We keep switching between the signature Atlanta weather profiles: hot and muggy with a side of steamy OR breezy, blue and utterly blissful.  With an afternoon shower of course. Sixties in the morning, nineties (in the shade) in the afternoon, but heck, it’s July so I’ll take them both. I stay in Atlanta for the seasons and they rarely disappoint.

The garden is producing like crazy and we are knee deep (ok, I exaggerate but backyard farmers are like fishermen; always out to impress) in cherry tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, and squash. Aren’t these colors gorgeous?

tomato basket 7.2014

 

I planted over a dozen tomato plants this year because I was tired of having just a few tomatoes rolling in piecemeal over the summer and the plan is working.  We harvest huge handfuls of cherry tomatoes (Super Sweet 100) every day (not including the sun-warmed ones we steal from the vines) and now the big fruits are starting to ripen.  The yellow variety is Lemon Boy and the lighter orange is Early Girl.  Although I’m not a huge Early Girl fan, they were they only reliable tomatoes to produce last year so I had to have at least one plant!  The small bright red tomato (upper right of basket) is a plum tomato and the vines are filled with these.  I have visions of one small jar of tomato paste dancing in my head …  Finally, those medium reds are Parks Whopper, which I find amusing since they are distinctly un-whopper in size.  The small purple green cherry tomatoes are an heirloom, possibly Cherokee Purple, but my tag is missing.

Naturally, the question is “what do you do with all those tomatoes?”.  Eat them, of course!  Tomato sandwiches, tomato tarts, tomato jam, oven-dried tomatoes, the possibilities are endless.  I rarely use a recipe and even more rarely have a plan for what to make.  I think you just have to look at the tomatoes and let them silently suggest a dish.  Hmmm, I like the idea of tomato meditation … a quiet communication with nature … Now that I ponder it, I silently admire them each morning as I water, letting the hose sprinkle them for exactly one Hail Mary per plant before I move on to the next one.  It’s pretty easy to pray the Rosary when the birds are singing, the sky is brightening, the water is gently streaming, and you are surrounded by the sheer beauty of the ordinary.  So many blessings right in front of us if we only open our eyes, but I digress.

One summer several years back, I made fantastic tomato marmalade from a huge harvest of tiny yellow pear tomatoes but I have never again either found that variety or gotten it to grow.  I’m wondering if I can turn my tiny red jewels into something similar  … hmmm … I can still taste that tart, sweet, addictive, weird goodness!  I’ll keep you posted.  And as a caution, if you are canning, please ALWAYS use a recipe!  Botulism is bad.

squash 7.2014

Aren’t the squash pretty?  I’ve been picking them small because we’ve got a lot of birds, rabbits, and caterpillars who would love to make a meal of these (and everything else of course).  We cut these up, tossed them with olive oil, soy sauce, garlic and salt then roasted them with sliced red onions in a grill pan on the grill for five minutes. Right off the grill I added a splash sesame oil and  second splash of soy.  You don’t need protein when you’ve got veggies that good!

One more photo of my meager bucket for the day …Remember every little bit of green adds up!

cukes & cauliflower 7.2014

What you can see (clockwise top to bottom):

  • homegrown cucumber peels & stem ends (a daily snack or salad component)
  • core & outer leaves of a cauliflower
  • banana peel hiding underneath

Less in the bucket means more on the plate, right?  I pan roasted some wild Keta salmon and paired it with oven roasted cauliflower with lemon & salt, plus baked sweet potatoes.  Normally, since we don’t drench the potatoes with anything rodent-attracting I compost those skins, but my dogs were acting like human compost machines yesterday.  They enjoyed both the salmon AND sweet potato skins.  Either way, no extra green waste hit the landfill!

Soon, I’ll post some photos of the compost pile.  It’s looking surprisingly like soil for the lack of effort I’ve been putting into it!  I’m feeling great things for the fall…

 

 

 

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Toss It Tuesday: Spinach

It’s been a long time since I’ve completely forgotten some produce but this was a spur-of-the-moment purchase from Costco.  I was positive I needed LOTS of spinach and I did, but I got some fresh

from my weekly farm share … and so this huge package was sent to the outside fridge where I permanently forgot about it.  Of course when I did pull it out, it was a week past its sell date.  Never, NEVER use pre-packaged greens past the sell by date!

So, salad for my compost pile!

Image

What did you have to toss this week?

 
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Posted by on June 24, 2014 in Compost How To, Toss It Tuesday

 

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