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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Lemon & Onion: A Perfect Pair

Have you ever noticed that my compost bucket contains onion skins or lemon halves and oftentimes both?  (Eggshells too, but that’s another post.)  Why?

lemons & onions 2.2015

Most days I make hot lemon water as a “tonic” before my morning cup of tea.  It’s very simple.  Add the juice and half of a lemon (or a quarter if it’s quite large) into a 12-ounce mug  lemon.  Add about two tablespoons (or to taste) unfiltered apple cider vinegar plus about a tablespoon of raw honey.  I often add a few thin slices of fresh peeled ginger and/or fresh peeled turmeric root.  If I’m battling a cold I use all those ingredients and also add in about a quarter teaspoon of cayenne pepper.  It’s definitely an acquired taste, but addictive once you’re used to it.

And the onions?  They are the one ingredient I always have in my pantry and the majority of my recipes include one.  In fact, when I’m creating a savory recipe I typically start with or add an onion at some point.  I still laugh when I think how opposite my sister and I are in this regard.  She said she always looked for another recipe if the one she was reading started with  “chop an onion …”

But why would lemons and onions be a perfect pair you ask?

Well, you know that chopping onions on a cutting board leaves the board and the knife with a distinctive pungent smell.  Even after washing with hot soapy water that smell can still linger, BUT if you scrub the cutting board with a piece of lemon, the citrus neutralizes the smell.  You can then wash as usual and the oniony smell is gone.  Rub it on your fingers to remove that distinctive onion aroma too.

Then toss the peels and the skins on your compost pile as usual.



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Wacky Winter Weather

It was heartening to find some signs of spring today after gearing up for the second terrible winter storm that wasn’t.

Is it just me or do you think that society as a whole is universally freaking out about impending weather?  The Atlanta mayor actually declared a state of emergency in anticipation of potential snow, essentially shutting the city down.  We were repeatedly warned to be home by 4:00 pm and to stay in for the night.  No exceptions.

I’m a rule follower by nature (and a driver raised on Southern roads) so that meant that I had to forfeit tickets last night to the musical “Wicked” … only to wake to the same slush on my deck that  had been there since nightfall.  Clear roads added insult to injury.  Was I peeved?  Yep.

At least there was a tiny cheery snowman to greet my day.

snowman 2015

And here are the welcome bits of greenery bravely pushing up shoots in my backyard, some still in snow, some in weak sunshine.

sign of spring

My vegetable garden even held a couple of surprises.  Collard greens and mustard greens are always better when they’ve been kissed by frost. Notice the mesh netting to keep out hungry deer.  Sadly everything else in the garden is long gone.

garden greens collage 2015

We are DONE with wishing for a snow day.  We’re just waiting for spring in ernest.

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Posted by on February 26, 2015 in Gardening


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How Cold Is It? Frozen.

The high today in Atlanta was twenty-six with a wind chill of two degrees below zero.  Brrrrr!  I can’t remember EVER being this cold.

Just how cold was it?  I think my compost buckets from the week express it best.

On the deck:

Frozen Buckets

And later on the compost pile:

Frozen Compost 2.19.15

The entire pile was frozen solid so I could not even cover these scraps.  I’m heading inside for the rest of the day.  Stay warm and be safe.


Posted by on February 19, 2015 in Compost How To, The Daily Bucket


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Ashes To Ashes

Yesterday was Ash Wednesday, which, for Catholics, is the start of forty days of Lent, a time of prayer, fasting and almsgiving, culminating in Holy Week and ultimately Easter.  At Mass, when the priest makes the sign of the cross on our foreheads with ashes (from the burning of blessed palms), he says, “Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return.”

Maybe since Ash Wednesday is a day of fasting, I found myself musing about the elemental nature of composting.  Our vegetable scraps begin in garden dirt somewhere, grow and then serve as nourishment (not just physical but emotional as well) and, when we return them to the dirt via composting, they help nurture new life for the garden and live on.  We, too, are created from ashes, have a finite time on earth to live and our bodies return to the earth eventually, but our souls live on.  Just a bit of gardening food for thought …

Fasting in the Catholic church means two small meals and one regular meal.  In our home, for older teens and adults, we have traditionally eaten just one simple meal and as little as possible for the rest of the day, usually just a cup of tea and a piece of toast.  As a result, there is not much in my compost bucket.

fish chowder 2.15

What you can see (clockwise from top):

  • onion skin & stem ends
  • two eggshells
  • potato peels (might have roasted them if it was not a day of fasting!)
  • espresso grounds
  • garlic skin

With that, I made soft boiled eggs for my girl’s breakfast, two cups of espresso throughout the day for me and fish chowder with salmon (no cod at the fish market) for dinner.

I’m feeling more spiritually than physically nourished today.


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Posted by on February 19, 2015 in Musings, The Daily Bucket


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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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