Archive for March, 2012

Ode to compost

I am pretty lucky to be employed at a place that works hard to practice what we preach. This includes a number of things like encouraging biking and busing to work, recycling, supporting a good work-life balance and providing space for a staff garden. As part of our effort to reduce our waste and to produce free compost for the garden, we also collect our food scraps during the warm months (though if I have my way, this will become year round in the near future). One of the challenges with composting is, like recycling, not everyone knows what’s in or out. We’ve struggled with getting folks to remember that yes, you can in fact compost the coffee, filter and all, but no, please do not put in your rotten cheese. And please, PLEASE do not put in fruit or veggie peels with those awful stickers (they are in fact plastic and DO NOT compost)!!

So, last summer I wrote a poem. I was on my bike, riding to work, when I thought that maybe something lyrical or poetic would help, so I started racking my brain for clever bits and phrases which might resonate with those standing confused over the food waste container in the kitchen. I created what I thought was a pretty good poem, which I shared with friends and family, but never had quite enough time to get laminated and posted at work. This year, with spring arriving early, I was determined to get this done before we started the garden. After a bit of revising (I really wanted to include something about those darn stickers), the following is my tribute to compost. I hope you enjoy it.


Ode to Compost
Written by Emily

The compost bin here doth stand,
Collecting our food scraps for the land.

In go your peels and apple cores,
Coffee grounds and so much more!

Thumbs up to tea bags and eggshells;
Bits of bread are okay as well.

Things not welcome are sticks and stones,
Meat and cheese and chicken bones.

Worst of all are those plastic fruit stickers –
Please don’t make our gardeners garbage pickers!

This may seem tricky at the start,
Just keep on trying, don’t lose heart!

If you’ve got a question, please do ask,
Making dirt from food waste is our task!

For help in this effort, we thank you now,
We’ll think of you next year when we plow. 


You are welcome to use this poem in your own home, office, garden, etc., I only ask that you please give proper authorship attribution, and please do not alter the text.

I would also like to add a few non-food items you are easily able to compost. These include leaves, grass clippings (though these really are better left on your lawn), egg cartons, black and white newspaper, the cardboard tube inside toilet paper or paper towel rolls and paper plates, napkins and cups which do not have large amounts of grease on them. In reality, it is possible to compost meat, cheese, grease, etc., (collectively known as FOG in the compost world, short for “fats, oil and grease), as well as bones, however many municipalities do not allow these items, as they can attract unwanted critters in ways that veggies don’t and have higher potential for being disease or pathogen vectors. Other things to keep out of your backyard bin are compostable plastics (sadly, these will not breakdown in a non-commercial/industrial setting) and pet droppings.

As always, check with your city about the rules for bins and see if they have a discount program for purchasing one. There are also easy ways to build one yourself out of wood and/or wirewhich is also a great opportunity for using salvaged wood from other projects.

Happy composting!


March 30, 2012 at 3:56 pm Leave a comment

I’m souped!

Tonight I spent several hours making soup. I know my last post was also about soup, but what can I say, it is probably my favorite category of food to make. Plus, I collected a few recipes over the last month or so that I wanted to try and had some veggies in the fridge in desperate need of using, so it seemed like a good way to spend the evening.

It just so happened that all three of the soups I made were of the pureed variety – two according to the recipes and one by my own choice. Though I love a good hearty, chunky soup, I often enjoy a good pureed soup as a way to use a lot of different ingredients to create exciting new flavors, and they generally make excellent “comfort foods.” Also, though I have done no research whatsoever on this, I feel it might be one of the best ways to help my body really absorb and utilize the nutrients in food. As my husband will tell you, I am not exactly a slow eater, which unfortunately probably doesn’t do my body any favors when it is trying to digest the foods I ingest. I’m working to slow myself down and chew my food more (that sounds ridiculous for a 27-year-old to say, seems like something I should have learned a couple decades ago), but the pureed soups (hopefully) help in the meantime.

On to the soups. First up was basically a homemade version of Cream of Mushroom Soup. My husband and I both love fungi of almost any kind, so this was a great fit for our family.

Here is the recipe for Mushroom Soup:

Cooking the mushrooms


  • 1 pound firm white mushrooms, cleaned
  • Juice from 1 medium lemon
  • 1 Tbsp unsalted butter
  • 2 Tbsp minced shallots
  • 1/4 tsp dried thyme
  • 1/2 bay leaf
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp freshly ground pepper
  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 1 1/2 cups Chicken Stock
  • 1 tsp cornstarch

  • Sprinkle the mushrooms with lemon juice. In a food processor, fitted with a metal blade, coarsely chop the mushrooms.
  • Melt the butter in a heavy saucepan over medium heat, and lightly saute the shallots. Add the mushrooms, thyme, and bay leaf and saute for 10 minutes, or until the liquid disappears.
  • Add cream and stock and bring to a boil. Quickly reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes.
  • In a small bowl, combine cornstarch with 1 tablespoon cold water and add to the soup. Continue to simmer 5 minutes longer, stirring constantly.
  • Correct seasoning to taste.

MY NOTES: This one is definitely not for the faint of heart – it is a full on mushroom fest – loved it. I made the mistake of putting the whole pound of mushrooms in the food processor at once, that did not work, definitely split it in a couple batches. Also, I opted to pureed the whole batch at the end. In the future, I will probably just puree 1/2 or 2/3 and leave a little for texture. One other random thing, when cooking the mushrooms, they looked oddly like ground meat, which could put off the die hard vegetarian. Speaking of which, this could easily be made with veggie broth – though you might lose some of the richness of an animal fat based broth, so maybe add some butter – I did use some homemade chicken broth as suggested.

Next up was Thai-spiced Pumpkin Soup

MY NOTES: If there are two things I love in food, they are squash and curry, so this was a definite winner. Also, this was a super easy recipe, largely because of the curry paste, which includes other spices, so it would be easy for any level of cook to make. I used the Thai Kitchen brand of red curry paste, which I found at my local co-op, but you can probably find many places. Your local Asian grocery will probably have a recommendation for other brands as well, but being new to cooking with curry paste, I can’t say for sure what the differences might be between Thai red curry and other red curry pastes. The flavor of this soup was superb (my husband said, and I quote: “This is probably the best squash recipe you’ve made,” which could be taken several ways – he hates squash, but I also make a lot of stuff with squash, so…)

Finally, I did some serious chopping and made a recipe I got via my weekly email from Blendtec called Roasted Root Vegetable Soup. I cannot, for the life of me, find this recipe online, so here it is:


1 celery root, peeled and cubed
1 large parsnip, peeled and thickly sliced
1 large carrot, peeled and thickly sliced
1 sweet potato, peeled and cubed
1 medium onion, thickly sliced
4 garlic cloves, peeled
3 Tbsp olive oil
5-6 C chicken or vegetable broth
1 ½ tsp white wine vinegar
1/16 tsp cayenne pepper
Salt and pepper to taste


Preheat oven to 400°F. Add prepared vegetables, onion and garlic to 9×13-inch pan and drizzle with olive oil. Toss vegetables in olive oil and bake for 45 minutes until roasted and tender. Add 3 cups of broth and roasted vegetables to blender and secure lid. Puree. Pour remaining broth into large saucepan and add pureed soup. Taste and adjust salt as necessary and add black pepper, if desired and serve warm.
For a creamy touch, try adding ½ cup of half and half or full-fat coconut milk before serving or garnish with a dollop of crème fraîche or sour cream. Serve with a sprinkling of paprika, cumin or fresh herbs of your choice.

MY NOTES: As many of you already know, I do not use olive oil ever on high heat. It is BAD to do, no exceptions! So, the first substitution I did was using canola oil on the veggies, but you could easily use other high heat oils like sunflower oil. I did not have a celery root (celeriac) and didn’t really want to buy one, so to make up for the volume lost, I increased the carrots and parsnips and threw in a couple small potatoes. Also, the directions never said when to add the vinegar (which I did not have so substituted with a bit of white wine and apple cider vinegar) or the cayenne, so I added them both in near the end. For broth, since I had both chicken and veggie thawed out for the previous two soups, I used what I had left of each. The taste on this one was also excellent, as my husband said “rooty!”

March 4, 2012 at 11:36 pm Leave a comment

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