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Granola Monday

It was another weekend filled with soccer, then ballet, more ballet, then more soccer.  Team meetings, team social time, cheering friends on … sounds busy and a little bit boring, but it’s senior varsity season and it was Youth American Grand Prix weekend, so it was essential and emotional at the same time.

Anyway, I piled up a small bit of insignificant compost that has already found its way to the compost pile minus the photo.  I can tell you there wasn’t much besides snack remains like orange peels, banana skins, and tea bags, plus the ever present eggshells, and a few garlic skins.  We ate out for most meals (ugh) and one night I crafted a quick late night carbonara, the easiest, tastiest meal when you want to order a pizza ever.  It was that kind of weekend.

Thank goodness for Monday morning.  On Monday, I made granola.  Nothing slows you W A Y down like baking up a batch of sweet granola.  You can mix it up, kick back and read your favorite book while it bakes.  Or you can do what I did, which was laundry and spring cleaning.  Granola AND a shiny, clean house makes for a marvelous Monday.

I’ve got a basic recipe (that is the result of combing three delicious recipes over the last few years) and I tweak endlessly based on what’s in my pantry when I get the granola making vibe.  I even wrote these ingredients down because it was pretty darn tasty batch.

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Nutty Granola

  • 10 cups rolled oats (not quick cooking)
  • 2 cups raw almonds, long slivers (not paper thin slivers, but you could use them too)
  • 2 cups raw walnuts, we like our chopped fairly small
  • 1/2 cup raw shelled pumpkin seeds
  • 1/2 wheat germ
  • 1/3 cup white sesame seeds
  • 1/4 flax seeds
  • 1/2 cup butter (1 stick)
  • 1/4 cup coconut (I used refined since my family is not fond of the coconut taste)
  • 1 cup raw honey
  • 2 tablespoons cinnamon
  • 1/2 of a nutmeg nugget, freshly grated or 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon almond extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt

Preheat oven to 250 degrees and line two cookie sheets with parchment or foil.  Combine all dry ingredients except salt in a large bowl and toss until well mixed.  Melt butter and coconut oil in a small saucepan, then add honey, vanilla and almond extracts.  Stir until well mixed.  Add half liquid mixture to bowl & toss with a wooden spoon or rounded silicon spatula, being sure to coat the small pieces from the bottom of the bowl.  Add remaining liquid and mix thoroughly, again scraping bottom of bowl to make sure that all dry ingredients are coated.  Spread mixture evenly on the prepared cookie sheets.  Bake 30 minutes then stir.  Rotate pans in oven if necessary.  Bake another 30 minutes and stir again.  Rotate pans again if necessary.  Bake a final 30 minutes.  Turn off oven and leave in the oven until the oven is cool.  The granola will crisp as it cools.   This makes a big batch of about 15 cups and lasts a long time, although never more than two weeks in my house.  Store in an airtight container.

Again, this combination of nuts and seeds is just a suggestion.  I’ve used sunflower seeds, cashews, pecans and chia seeds with great results.  Make sure you start with raw nuts and seeds (not roasted) because this recipe bakes for an hour and a half and you will have some VERY toasted, and possibly burned ingredients otherwise.   If you like dried fruit in your granola, and I do love dried cherries and apricots, add them after baking, otherwise you can get some very hard and sometimes burned and bitter fruit.  Keep in mind that dried fruit will soften the granola a little if you store it together.   Finally, most granola recipes call for coconut so feel free to add a cup or more.  I’ve just decided I’m currently in a no-coconut phase.

If you make this and tweak it let me know what combination worked for you!

 

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Recipe for Eggs-cellent Compost

This feels like it should be a “which came first, the chicken or the egg” kind of post, but clearly, in my house, it was an egg (no chicken) kind of day.  Scrambled eggs, soft boiled eggs, and my favorite, eggs baked into chocolate brownies.  These kinds of days are not planned.  But isn’t that a lot of shells in one basket?

eggshells

Funny you should ask because there is some discussion as to the safety of composting eggshells.  Of course, this is due to the threat of salmonella.  It’s a possibility, plus it bends the rule of “no animal products in compost” but it’s your call.  Not sure how you feel?  Here are a few thoughts and tips in no particular order:

  • Since we have already consumed these eggs with no issues, AND since my eggs come from a farm I trust, I feel comfortable putting them into my pile.  If composting raw shells makes you squirmy, you can always wash them first.  Or, you can bake them at 250 degrees for 20-30 minutes to kill any bacteria.
  • Usually I crush the shells with my hands before tossing in the pile but you can toss the shells in whole as well, knowing it will simply take longer to decompose.  There’s a hidden benefit to jagged shells though … keep reading.
  • If you are feeling particularly ambitious, you can grind the shells in your coffee grinder and sprinkle the powder over your compost heap.  That’s a kind of composting megastar behavior I can only aspire to … but just thought I’d share …
  • Eggshells are made up of calcium carbonate and in addition to calcium also contain carbon, phosphorus, and nitrogen, plus trace amounts of copper, iron, manganese, potassium, sodium and zinc.   That’s all good stuff for your garden!
  • If your soil is acidic (like my Georgia clay mix) then all this calcium is a great addition.  If you have a primarily alkaline soil you might want to be cautious about adding too much.  That said, if you also add citrus peels, which are obviously acidic, then you are balancing out your nutrients before they ever hit your garden beds.
  • Speaking of acidity and alkalinity, winter is a great time to get your soil tested before the spring rush.  Once you know your soil composition you can tweak your compost to fix or enhance your needs.  Cool idea, right?  It’s very simple.  Just check with your local county extension office for details.

Since we do use a lot of eggs, just for fun, I looked up “other uses” for eggshells.  Wow.  There are dozens of blog posts dedicated to this subject and ideas range from fun to far out.  Homemade sidewalk chalk?  Maybe.  Calcium rich vinegar?  Not for me.  But check out all the ideas because I sure there is something there that will make you smack your forehead in a throwback V-8 commerical kind of ah-ha moment.

Maybe if I’m feeling creative and have some spare time I might start some spring seeds in shells, or even make some spring candles in cracked eggs.  Most likely though I’ll keep tossing big jagged chunks of shells into my compost.  And that’s okay, because slugs (and their ilk) don’t like to crawl over those sharp bits, giving my garden a tiny bit of protection.  So, stealthy nighttime intruders, beware!  I’ve got eggshells out there!

 

 
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Posted by on February 20, 2014 in Compost How To, The Daily Bucket

 

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How Sweet It Is

Last night we used up the remainder of the teeny, tiny, amazing locally grown sweet potatoes.  I had an entire small basket full, most no wider than a banana, and many much smaller.  Obviously too small to bake, I peeled and simmered these in salted water then mashed them with just a hint of real maple syrup.  Yum.  They were the centerpiece of supper.  Like eating dessert first!

Of course, all that sweet needs some personality and greens always fit the bill for bitter.  I had two final farm share bunches of kale and swiss chard, so chopped those & quickly sautéed in olive oil with a bit of garlic and splashed with apple cider vinegar.

The least exciting item on the plate was a garlic and sage crusted roast pork tenderloin.  Eh.  It was conventionally raised and we are so used to grass-fed and/or pastured meats that this was just fine.  Protein on the plate.  We ate it and throughly enjoyed the veggies.  It made me realize why we gave up meat for year.  I’d do it again in a heartbeat if my girl (and I suspect my active boys) didn’t need maximum iron.  (And please no comments on how meat is not necessary for optimum health.  My girl was severely iron depleted and I did not even know it.  Plus, I’ve been a carnivore, vegetarian, and short-term vegan and realize every person (family) needs to make their own personal diet choices.)

Anyway, here’s my daily bucket … Image

What you can see (clockwise from the top):

  • eggshells (scrambled eggs for breakfast again)
  • banana peel (smoothies too)
  • lemon half (my morning brew of lemon, hot water, apple cider vinegar & local honey)
  • garlic paper
  • sage stems
  • sweet potato peels (lots hiding underneath too)
  • kale stems
  • swiss chard stems
  • clementine peels (snacks)

Now, what’s for dinner tonight?  And Christmas is right around the corner … need to make plans NOW!

 

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Christmas Cookie Party

You can’t tell from looking at these buckets, but there’s a whole party in there!

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What you can see (clockwise from top):

  • onion peels
  • banana peels
  • orange peels
  • lots of eggshells
  • lemon halves
  • parsley leaves and dill stems
  • cucumber peels (hidden underneath)

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What you can see (clockwise from top):

  • spent hothouse roses (from a gorgeous bouquet my mom brought to Thanksgiving)
  • more eggshells
  • lemon halves
  • grapefruit halves
  • black banana peel
  • shallot stem ends and peels (hidden)
  • thyme stems (hidden)

So, tis the season and everything … You see, it’s become a bit of a tradition to host some friends for an early December gathering to decorate cookies for Christmas.  Lots of girls, lots of sprinkles, lots of finger food, lots of fun.  Here’s the menu that came from those buckets:

Cookie Decorating Party Menu

Sparkling Apple Cider Punch

Hot Chocolate

Cucumber Dill Tea Sandwiches

Homemade Nut Bread with Nutella MiniSandwiches

Mini Shallot, Pancetta, and Thyme Quiches

Green and Red Grapes

Chocolate Mini Cupcakes with Chocolate Ganache

Chocolate Mini Cupcakes with Eggnog Frosting & Crystallized Ginger

Lots and lots and lots of Sugar Cookies

That’s a lot of food and no recipes, but really, it was kind of a no recipe, tweak old standby recipes kind of shindig.  If you have your own party, it’s kind of key to use the easy foods you know and love.  That way your stress level is way down and the fun level is over the top.  Oh, and the sugar cookies?  They are my grandmother’s recipe and she is long gone, but she still said I can’t share it with anyone, sorry.  But here’s a picture to inspire you to create your own.

cookie

 
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Posted by on December 9, 2013 in The Daily Bucket

 

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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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18th Birthday Bucket

My middle boy turned eighteen a week ago (woohoo!  senior year!).  Instead of a big bash, he had a handful of friends over for one of his favorite meals, Buffalo Chicken Tacos.    Not much of that meal ends of in compost, but here’s what the bucket looked like (clockwise top to bottom):

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  • Romaine lettuce core
  • Vidalia onion ends & skins (several on bottom of bucket too)
  • carrot peels
  • rose leaf & pink petals
  • banana peel (morning smoothie)
  • garlic paper
  • apple core

No yummy taco meal would be complete in our house without watermelon.  Here’s the bucket of rind:

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And one more birthday photo …

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That boy sure loves his Krispy Kremes!  He had the option of any cake he could dream up (that I would bake). When mom’s a baker, but sometimes store bought has more appeal.  Happy Birthday G!

 
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Posted by on September 27, 2013 in The Daily Bucket

 

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