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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.

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.

 
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Posted by on February 19, 2015 in 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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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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Toss It Tuesday: Pea Shoots

Aren’t these gorgeous?  Local, organic pea shoots.  I scooped them up in the grocery and couldn’t wait to get them home.  I planned my whole dinner around them because they were just enticing. So fresh, so fabulous.

Toss It Tuesday Pea Shoots 2.10.15

I roasted some small red beets.  You can do it too because they are infinitely better than the pre-cooked beets you can now find in the refrigerated cases.  Individually wrap each beet in a bit of foil and bake for about an hour at 400 degrees.  This method bakes and steams at the same time for perfect earthy goodness.  Cool, unwrap, and working one at a time, rub off skins gently with a paper towel.  Full disclosure: your hands will get bright pink, so work carefully with the paper towels or slip on some plastic gloves.  Slice your ruby red jewels into quarters and they are ready to eat.

For the salad I put a handful of pea shoots in a small bowl, added the sliced beets, some crumbled feta cheese and toasted pecans.  For dressing, I sloshed on a quick vinaigrette of sherry vinegar, dijon mustard, and walnut oil.  It was gorgeous.  (This picture does not do it justice because it was late in the evening. and there was no natural light.)

Beet & Pea Shoot Salad 2.2015

The salad was absolutely delicious; all the right notes of fresh, earthy, creamy, crunchy.  Whatever, with some crusty bread, it was a simple, satisfying meal.

About an hour later, my daughter complained of a tummy ache.  Then my husband felt a bit off.  Soon after, I joined them in feeling not terrible, but not good.  Nothing worsened, but we all agreed that all signs pointed to the pea shoots as the source of our ick. This episode kind of confirms my standard gut feel not to buy sprouted seeds.

So, on the compost pile they go. I kind of hate to toss them; they are still so pretty, but I like the idea of them quickly cooking away in the bottom of the compost pile.

Just so you know, the next time pretty, perfect pea shoots catch my eye at the market I am walking quickly by.

 

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