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Blessed Bountiful Feast

All the planning, all the shopping, all the feasting … all totally worth it!  Such a warm and wonderful Thanksgiving and hope yours was too.  Not surprisingly, with all our veggie-heavy sides, there were LOTS of compost buckets filled to overflowing, but it’s easier to see that from a quick look at the pile:

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Can you tell I was prepping this meal for DAYS?!  Here’s a close-up look at the individual buckets…

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What you can see (clockwise from top):

  • pineapple core
  • lemon peels
  • dozen egg shells
  • onion ends & skins

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What you can see (clockwise from top):

  • green parts of leeks (WHY do they sell leeks with all this greenery – NO recipe EVER calls for the dark green parts)
  • stem ends of leeks
  • celery stem ends (I already have enough celery re-growing in my garden for my occasional celery use or I would have planted this one too)
  • more eggshells

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That is a sink full of the peels of ten pounds of organic russet potatoes.  Mashed potatoes could qualify as one of the major food groups in our house.

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What you can see (clockwise from top):

  • more leek tops
  • tough collard green stems
  • brussels sprouts ends
  • onion skins

Shall I give you a quick peek at the menu for the feast?  It makes me hungry again to type all these dishes in, and I thought I could never be hungry again after that meal!

Drinks:  Apple Cider Punch & Cranberry Pomegranate Margaritas

Appetizers: Baked Brie with Spiced Cranberry Chutney

Main Menu:

  • Sweet Tea Brined Local Free Range Turkey  (This was a 20-pound Southern brute that we nicknamed “Benjamin” because he was in excess of that currency.  It was the most flavorful bird anyone ever tasted.  Really.  People went back for SECONDS and we are all about the sides in this house.  I left a FB message on the farm site telling them this was the best turkey EVER.)
  • Traditional Bread Stuffing (My sweet mom’s recipe with even more butter than she ever used.  Fabulous.)
  • Cornbread Dressing with Leeks (As much as I’d like to dig up a Southern relative, fact is I’m a northern gal.  Since I’ve lived in the South for well over twenty-five years, I think I’m entitled to create my own Southern recipes.  Besides, my kids were all born at Piedmont Hospital and you can’t get much more Atlanta that that.)
  • Grandma Buzzy’s Mushrooms (hot mushrooms steeped in vinegar, whole allspice, peppercorns and onion.  Can’t have Thanksgiving dinner without it.  It’s one of “those” recipes, but it’s delicious.)
  • Baked Sweet Potatoes (No casserole with marshmallows for us.  These were farm-share organic teeny-tiny gems and they were delicious straight from the skin.  We gilded the sweet potato lily with lots of butter and brown sugar just because we could.)
  • Corn Pudding (A Southern Living classic recipe that I’ve been making for over a decade.)
  • Green Bean Casserole with Crispy Shallots (NOT the soup and canned green bean recipe.  We used fresh ingredients and made them taste canned.  Not really, but that’s the idea!)
  • Pan Roasted Brussels Sprouts (My kids can’t live without these.  They make the whole house smell like cabbage but since I love my kids I make these lots during sprouts season.)
  • Creamed Collard Greens (Another Southern goodie we love.  Cook collards with lots of fried onions in heavy cream and I dare you to say you are not a collard greens fan.  I’m even including a similar recipe so you will try it.)
  • Mashed Potatoes (See all the peels above, made with raw milk, homemade butter and cream just because.)
  • Pan Gravy (Hopefully your mom taught you take make gravy from the drippings.  Every year, every gravy required meal actually, I panic for a millisecond because gravy is supposed to be hard, then I whisk cream or butter or some cornstarch or flour into the pan drippings and present delicious gravy every time.  I think the gravy gods smile down on me.)
  • Spiced Cranberry Chutney AND Citrus Spiked Cranberry Sauce (Just because I love cranberries.)

Desserts:  I’ll be honest.  I was worried I might have more desserts that real food, but I pared the potential recipes WAY down.  These were all homemade and yes, I made my own pie crust and whipped my own cream for pies.

  • Apple Pie (Made with organic farm share Fuji and Pink Lady apples this was amazing.)
  • Classic Pumpkin Pie (I made this raw milk instead of canned evaporated milk and it was a bit less firm, but so delicious.)
  • Salted Caramel Pecan Pie (Oh. My.  Another Southern Living recipe and a total keeper!  My pie, made with local fresh pecans looked exactly like the cover photo.  If you are a fan of the chocolate coma I highly recommend.)
  • Pumpkin Roll (Made by my sister and there were basically no leftovers so does that tell you something?)
  • Brownies (Made by my best girlfriend because, really, is there anyone who doesn’t crave brownies?)

So that’s it… here’s hoping that you had a lovely celebration of your own!  And remember, Give Thanks, every day, not just on Thanksgiving!

give thanks 2013

 

(That’s me on the left.  My younger, thinner, more beautiful, not-twin sister on the right.)

 

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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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Toss It Tuesday: Guilt

I sort of hate this weekly post.  All through the week I find myself trying to have NOTHING to toss from my fridge on Tuesday … and that’s a GOOD THING!  Knowing that I have to photograph what I did not use keeps me on my toes.  It’s so easy to buy more than we need.  I can’t resist getting whatever veggies or fruits look fresh when I pick up my raw milk, regardless of what I already have in the fridge.  All of a sudden I have a really full fridge and then it’s a puzzle to everything them into meals so we don’t waste anything!

Apparently one way to avoid wasting food is to plan your meals.  I’m not a big meal planner; instead I think of a handful of dishes to make for the week and then I cook those according to my mood and the weather.  (You know, we don’t like chili on a hot day or salad on a cold day.  I’m grateful for the luxury of choice.)

Anyway, I’ve gotten so much better, but sometimes I still overbuy.  As you can see here.  Those raspberries are my guilty toss of the week.

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What you can see (clockwise top to bottom):

  • homegrown cucumber peels & stem ends
  • pineapple core (my Vitamix blends this well, but we hate the strings, so…)
  • lovely but moldy raspberries (I bought two containers at Costco but should have known better!)
  • banana peel
  • orange peel

What I made with all of that: smoothies & fresh cukes for lunch.  Surprisingly, Toss It Tuesday has become the best day for using up all our leftovers.  Less guilt all around and THAT is another GOOD THING!

My message for today is BE MINDFUL!  Americans waste A LOT of food, so try to break the trend and not be part of the statistics.

 
 

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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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No Place Like Home

The scent of burgers wafted on the air all afternoon.  Hot dogs sizzled on the grills and drinks were a mere $4 a bottle, $5.50 if you wanted a souvenir cup with ice.  We were enjoying a gorgeous family afternoon at the 2014 FedEx Cup at East Lake Golf Club from a shady spot on the twelfth fairway and it was a perfect day.  But after five hours on the course (and one meal already grabbed on the run), we opted for better burgers and fries. We headed to the home grill.

What you can see (clockwise from top)

  • sweet potato skins
  • banana peels

sweet potato fries 9.22.13

What you can’t see:

  • celery trimmings
  • carrot peels from two pounds
  • l2 onion skins
  • garlic papers
  • peel from six gala apples

What I made with all of that:

  • Grass-fed Burgers with Mushrooms, Sauteed Onions & Aged Cheddar
  • Baked Sweet Potato Fries
  • Chicken Pot Pie with Homemade Crust
  • Our usual morning smoothies …
 
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Posted by on September 22, 2013 in The Daily Bucket

 

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The Latest Dirt!

What happens when you pile bucket upon bucket of kitchen scraps into an open bin, add grass clippings and yard waste, and let the sun beat down and the rain pour in all summer? This is what you get:

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Rich, black gorgeous compost!  Here’s a close up of the dirt we (actually my ever-willing husband) dug out:

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We figured that this pile of compost represents roughly six months of “work,” which breaks down to approximately:

  • 1,000 hours of sunshine
  • 38.64 inches of rain 
  • a whole lot of earthworms (naturally occurring)
  • lots of other beneficial bugs and microbes
  • 120 buckets of kitchen scraps which could include:
    • over 100 eggshells
    • likely 100 tea bags (no string, tag or staple)
    • scrapings from about 100 carrots
    • scrapings from about 100 potatoes
    • at least 75 onion skins
    • probably 75 banana peels
    • most likely 75 lemon, lime, and/or orange peels
    • corn husks from at least 60 ears of corn (but no cobs)
    • core/stem ends of about 30 heads of lettuce
    • skin from at least 25 avocados (not pits)
    • grounds from at least 25 pots of espresso
    • peels from about 25 cucumbers
    • tough stems from about 20 bunches of kale
    • rinds from at least 12 whole watermelons
    • rings from at least 12 cantaloupes/honeydews
    • countless odds and ends from berries, tomatoes, hot & sweet peppers, broccoli stems, brussels sprouts, celery, garlic, and more
    • a variety of past-its-prime fruit, veggies, and/or herbs from my Toss-It Tuesday fridge clean-up
  • Plus:
  • 100 lawnmower bags of grass clippings (not all used)
  • assorted hedge & veggie garden trimmings
  • at least 1,000 spent rose petals & leaves
  • lots of spent spring annuals (pansies)

Phew!  Life is complicated enough without worrying about strict combinations of “greens” and “browns” or carbon/nitrogen ratios.  Like life, compost is a balancing act.  You provide the raw materials, Mother Nature provides the sun and rain, and by the end of the season, you’ve got compost to … start all over again.  If we can find time to do, you can too.

 
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Posted by on September 19, 2013 in Compost How To

 

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Sunday Buckets

Perfect Atlanta weather calls for a perfect Sunday schedule: Mass, soccer game, grandparents for dinner.  We were able to check the boxes for everything!  Sadly, we lost the soccer game AND the Falcons lost AND Florida lost too.  Come to think of it, Azarenka lost as well … but life is not all about sports!  It’s about food!  Here’s my Sunday lineup:

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What you can see (clockwise top to bottom):

  • A rotting homegrown plum tomato (darn!)
  • Cauliflower leaves and core
  • Husks & silk from six ears of corn
  • Watermelon rind, Vidalia onion tops & skin,
  • Sunflower petals
  • Thyme stems

What I made with all of that:

  • Local grass-fed Beef Burgers with Applegate Farms Sunday Bacon, Gorgonzola Cheese and Sauteed onions on on Buttered, Toasted Egg Buns
  • Corn-on-the-cob
  • Roasted Potatoes & Cauliflower in Dijon Vinaigrette
  • Watermelon

Here’s to late yummy late summer meals!

 
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Posted by on September 8, 2013 in The Daily Bucket

 

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