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Compost Springs Eternal

So, it’s been a year and then some since my last post.  Life, I guess.

What’s new?  We’re a year older, hopefully a year wiser.  Still composting right along.  Here’s the garden layout this year:

garden may 2016We’ve planted 24 tomatoes, 4 crookneck squash & zucchini, 8 assorted eggplant, beets, sweet potatoes, various cucumbers, edamame (ambitious), hot & sweet banana peppers, and basil, plus lots of seeds that haven’t sprouted yet including carrot sand bush beans.

Aren’t the roses breathtaking?  The red rose is William Shakespeare, a prolific, fragrant David Austin beauty and the gigantic pale pink climber in the trees is an old rose called Cecile Brunner.  In a true recycling move, my husband fashioned a trellis/canopy from two old teak garden umbrella frames to prop up this giant rose.  Ingenious, gorgeous and green.

Here’s the current state of the compost pile:

We hauled FOUR wheelbarrow loads of compost in early spring to enrich the vegetable beds and the roses (over 20 old bushes at last count) and I can report that the soil is absolutely beautiful in the boxes.  Rich, dark, loamy and full of earthworms.

compost pile 5.2.16But I digress.  Starting with an empty box in February, we’ve already built up a huge quantity of kitchen scraps, clean garden scraps, old leaves and more.  We’ve just started cutting the grass again, so the pile starts to build quickly.  Notice the squash (I think) sprouting in the front by the shovel.  I love re-seeds!  When it gets a bit bigger I’ll transplant to a garden box.

Of course, it’s always a balance between green and brown.  This time of year I’m keeping a pile of old leaves and dirt alongside the pile to balance things out.  I’ve also added compostable containers (cut/tear into small pieces), coffee grounds and lots and lots and LOTS of eggshells.

On the food front, I’m on Day 15 of a Whole 30 food reset.  If you’re a newbie, check out this link for all the details.  Simply stated, it’s a strict elimination-style diet of protein and vegetables/fruit.  That means a lot of scraps to compost!  I felt great before, but I feel even better now.  I guess my diet was pretty clean because I only suffered one day of discomfort and hit the “tiger blood” stage in the first few days.  Hooray!

Here’s the latest compost bucket:

daily bucket 5.2.16

If you’d like to check out my Whole 30 progress complete with food and compost photos, follow me on Instagram at #mydailycompost.

Happy Spring y’all!

 

 

 
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Posted by on May 2, 2016 in Gardening, The Daily Bucket

 

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A Week of Winter Compost

This time of year I wish I could be cozied up by a roaring fire, thumbing through garden catalogues, dreaming about spring gardens, but the reality is that I’m living every suburban mom’s life: balancing cooking, cleaning, carting kids, and, in my case, composting.

In other words, life is busy, and I love it all, but spare time is sometimes in short supply.  Therefore, I present a week’s worth of winter compost buckets.  Maybe it’s the gloomy grey skies and chilly temps outside, but I think all these scraps are pretty, in a quirky kind of way…

I'm not one for avocados in the winter, but they perfectly complemented the Roasted Beer and Lime Cauliflower Tacos as well as the Black Bean and Roasted Butternut Squash Tacos.  We like choices.

I’m not one for avocados in the winter, but they perfectly complemented the Roasted Beer and Lime Cauliflower Tacos as well as the Black Bean and Roasted Butternut Squash Tacos. Sometimes we need choices and these were two great ones.

roast chicken brussels lemon pound cake 2.21.15

Some things become classic for a reason, and this meal is our quintessential Sunday Supper: roast chicken, mashed potatoes, shallot gravy and pan-roasted Brussels sprouts. I make it often, but it definitely tastes best eaten on Sunday.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What's Sunday Supper without dessert?  Especially during Lent?  My middle boy loves lemon pound cake so we have a thin slice for dinner and the rest goes back to the dorm to fuel a huge college appetite.

This is the bottom of the bucket above…What’s Sunday Supper without dessert? Especially during Lent? My middle boy loves lemon pound cake (five eggs) so we each had a thin slice for dinner and the rest went back to the dorm to fuel a huge college appetite. Aren’t the spent stock blossoms from my bouquets around the house pretty even when they are destined for compost?

If your regular old meatball recipe has gotten stale, steal this idea: add a few ounces of chopped prosciutto to the meat mixture, bake, add sauce and spaghetti and get ready to swoon.  The best part?  My Whole Foods sells "cooking prosciutto" for just $10/pound.

If your regular old meatball recipe has gotten stale, steal this idea: add a few ounces of chopped prosciutto to the meat mixture, bake, add sauce and spaghetti and get ready to swoon. The best part? My Whole Foods sells “cooking prosciutto” for just $10/pound and it’s really just the dried ends of the pricey “good stuff”.  Here’s a recipe to try if you are intrigued.

Meal for a friend 2.24.15

One of the things I love about the South is the way friends and neighbors look out for each other with the gift of food. In this bucket you can imagine a meal lovingly prepared for an inspiring family who is coping with cancer complications and mitochondrial disease. I felt blessed to provide this meal and offered the best comfort food I know: two lemon roasted chickens, garlic mashed potatoes, pan-roasted green beans, all homemade Caesar salad, and my favorite weeknight dessert, Banana Poppyseed Cake.

 

Kalad Sale Parm Roasted Cauliflower 2.26.15

I’m pretty sure I could eat this meal once or twice a week if my family would concur: Kale Quinoa Salad (with dates, onions, and bacon instead of almonds) and Parmesan Roasted Cauliflower. It’s healthy, filling, and really yummy.

 

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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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Toss It Tuesday: Snow Day

A year ago this week, Atlanta was in the midst of “Snowmageddon”, a once in a decade storm that shut the city down completely.  What were the chances that we’d wake up yesterday to another snow day?  Excellent as it turns out, even though there wasn’t any actual snow; just plenty of ice on trees … which made them fall and take down power lines and shut down roads … you get the picture.  We had the good fortune to escape all that messiness around town and simply enjoy the blessing of a free day.

How to spend the time?  Baking of course.  What’s a snow day without sweets?  Especially on Fat Tuesday?  I rummaged through the fridge and pantry, grabbing ingredients for cinnamon bread.  Instead, I found some homemade pie crust and detoured with blackberry jam “pop tarts”.   Apparently I baked the same thing for last year’s snow day AND the year before, so I guess it’s a tradition at this point.

Thinking ahead to lunch,  I found  fig jam, blue cheese, and fresh thyme and turned the remaining pie crust into savory tarts for lunch.

pastry collage 2

Opting for relaxing instead of achieving (actually harder than it should be), we buried ourselves with books and snuggled doggies for a while, but soon discovered that the dogs were out of treats. Horrors!  Bake to baking, but for the dogs this time.

In the spirit of Toss It Tuesday, we turned a bag of sprouted wheat flour (that we were probably never going to finish) into two varieties of delicious (to them) dog treats: Chicken Cheese (on the left) and Almond Butter Oatmeal (on the right).  The dogs were literally camped out at the counter most of the afternoon begging for just one more.

PicMonkey Collage

You’d think that after all that food we’d be stuffed, but you’d be wrong.  You see, we took a long, LONG,  brisk walk amidst all the ice coated trees and worked up quite an appetite.  Again, trying to use up items in the fridge close to expiration, I cooked up a vegetable lasagna with whole wheat noodles, ricotta, asiago cheese, carrots, dried mushrooms, onions, cabbage and a butternut squash sauce.

Here is what the Toss It Tuesday bucket looked like:

Toss  It Tuesday: Veggie lasagna 2.15

What you can see (clockwise from the top):

  • old, wilted stock flowers
  • outer cabbage leaves
  • dried out & browned sage leaves
  • carrot peels
  • onion skins & stem ends
  • stalks from flowers

What you can’t see:

  • lemon peels
  • lots of loose tea leaves
  • espresso grounds

Interesting, with all that baking and cooking, I never did end up with any sweets.

 
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Posted by on February 17, 2015 in The Daily Bucket, Toss It Tuesday

 

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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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Toss It Tuesday: Garlic

If you are composting, it’s likely that you don’t use a lot of processed products, right?

We try to keep processed things to a very bare minimum around here and when we do buy packaged items we choose the highest quality, least processed products, without any added chemicals, and especially without high fructose corn syrup.  Of course, every now and again, I find a convenience item that I just can’t pass up.  In this case it was fresh whole peeled garlic cloves from Whole Foods.  Bad move.

Long ago I gave up the jarred chopped garlic.  For one thing it doesn’t taste like garlic.  For another thing it smells like formaldehyde to me.  Plus it has a shelf life of … forever.  That’s not my idea of “fresh” food, so I take the time to peel garlic cloves every time a recipe calls for it.

I buy and peel a lot of fresh garlic, so when I noticed this little tub two weeks ago, I thought, why not give it a try?  The ingredient list reads: garlic.  Although the flavor doesn’t seem too off, it’s not as good as fresh from my pantry.  Maybe it’s just that keeping garlic in the fridge isn’t optimal.  Whatever the case, yesterday when I opened the container this is what I found:

toss it tues garlic

Yuck.  Furry garlic.  I didn’t even toss this in the kitchen bucket but took it out and buried it deep in my compost pile.  Peeled garlic might be convenient, but it’s not worth the cost and certainly not worth the compromise for me.  How long had this mold been brewing?

Do you have any “fresh” convenience foods that you regularly use?

 
 

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