Composting at Home

To decrease our carbon footprint, home cooks should consider home composting.

Benefits to home composting include not only reducing your carbon footprint, but also growing a better home vegetable garden.  Composting is the process of controlling the decomposition of organic matter by providing the proper environment for the process to take place.

Devices can be purchased to start your composting project, such as this metal container with holes in the top to allow the material to breath during the decomposition process.

compose binThese are relatively inexpensive, but not necessary.  A good compose pit can be just a loose pile or old pallets stacked in a square.  Just allow 1 cubic yard by 1 cubic meter for mixing space.  Pallet-Compost-Bin

Start you compost pile with some twigs or loose straw, to provide a base. Then start adding your organic material.  A good compost pile includes different types of organic material for best results.

From the kitchen, scraps,fruits, vegetables, coffee grounds or tea leaves are ideal “green” material.  You will also need “brown” material, such as dead leaves, sawdust, straw, paper towels, brown bags or egg shells.

The compost pile must be turned periodically to allow all the organic matter to mix together, achieved with a shovel or pitchfork.  Make sure the compost pile stays damp, but not wet, similar texture to a wet sponge that has been rung out.  A “healthy” compost pile should be warm to the touch, but not hot.  The pile can be kept warm with a cover such as wood, plastic sheeting or carpet scraps – anything to prevent over watering and retain heat, between turnings.  A compost or soil starter is not necessary but could help induce the decomposition process.  If your compost seems to be decomposing at a slow rate, it could be low in nitrogen. Adding more “green” material will increase the nitrogen levels.

No bones, pet or human waste, meat or fatty foods should be put in the compost bin.  Do not include any yard or grass trimmings treated with herbicides or pesticides.  Healthy compost can improve your potted plants or vegetable garden.  Organic compost can help breakdown heavy clay soil and help  retain nutrients in sandy soil.  Just add your compost to your garden a few weeks before planting to adapt to your soil.  I plan to keep a small compost pile in the backyard and applying as an addictive to my herb garden this spring.  Do you compost food from the kitchen?  If so, leave me comments about your initiative to reduce your carbon footprint.

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My TOP 5 Kitchen Tools

These are the TOP 5 work horses in MY kitchen, the tools I cannot live without. Let me know if you agree or list YOUR top 5 kitchen work horses in the comments.

Top 5 Kitchen Tools

Boos Cutting Board

#5 – Boos cutting board – this one is 18″x24″x1 1/2″ and sits next to my cook top.  I use it to chop all vegetables and herbs, (I use a plastic cutting board for raw meat).  Treating it monthly with mineral oil, it will last a very, very long time. http://www.johnboos.com/Items_page.asp?s=r&SalesCode=&Prod=1&Page=6&Group=15&hdg=Cherry%20R-Board%201-1/2%22%20Thick%20-%20Reversible%20%20&nsf=False&nsfc=False&csa=False

#4 – 2 qt. All-Clad sauce pan – it high sides and durability makes it useful for everything

from making sauces to reheating leftovers.

All-Clad 2 qt. saucepan

All-Clad 2 qt. saucepan

All-Clad says it can be put in the dishwasher,

but I always wash mine by hand to insure its longevity. http://www.estore.all-clad.com/Collection/Stainless/3-QT-Stainless-Steel-Sauce-Pan-w-Lid-4203/0/pEstore=1

 

 

 

#3 – 4 1/2 qt. LeCreuset enameled cast iron dutch oven – evenly distributes heat and can be used on the cook top or in the oven.  Ideal for soups, stews, braising, searing, roasting or baking bread in the oven.

LeCreuset Round Dutch Oven

LeCreuset Round Dutch Oven

Easy to clean: just fill with warm warm and hand washing detergent; allow to sit overnight and it will wash out, looking as good as new.  Never place this investment in the dishwasher. http://www.lecreuset.com/round-dutch-oven

#2 - 12" All-Clad non-stick skillet with lid

#2 – 12″ All-Clad non-stick skillet with lid

#2 – 12″ All-Clad non-stick skillet with lid – an anniversary gift from my husband, this is my favorite skillet that I own.   With its flared sides, this is why it is called a skillet not a frying pan, I have browned all kinds of meats, sauteed fish, fried eggs and simmered pasta sauces in this pan.  Durability and flexibility is why I use this pan at least 2-3 times per week. Rather expensive for a skillet, All-Clad offers a lifetime replacement warranty, which secures my loyalty.  http://www.estore.all-clad.com/Collection/Stainless/8-Stainless-Nonstick-Fry-Pan-4108-NS-R2/0/

#1 - J.A. Henckel " Chef's Knife

#1 – J.A. Henckel ” Chef’s Knife

#1 – J.A. Henckel’s 8″ Chef’s Knife – Sharp knives are the most important tool in any home cook’s kitchen.  I have used J.A. Henckel Professional “S” knives for almost 18 years and have not had to replace any of them.  Made to chop, slice and dice these knives are durable, forged from one single piece of steel. They have a 3 rivet handle which ensures the blade will never slip.  Lighter weight than its 10″ cousin, I like the 8″ blade for its balance and ease of use.  Although Henckel says their knives are dishwasher safe, I always wash my knives by hand.  Best practice is to wash the blade immediately with hot water when working with highly acidic ingredients.  http://www.zwillingonline.com/31021200.html

 

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Food Expiration Dates

For the exception of infant formula, food expiration dates are not required by federal law.  Some states require particular products to carry “use by” dates or “sell before” dates.  These dates are actually not for the consumer, but are mainly for the retailer to judge when a product should be pulled from the shelf.

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“Open dating” is used for perishable items.  Once this date has past, the quality of the food may diminished, but it is not an absolute “expiration date,” for the product.  If proper refrigeration has occurred, most perishable items will be consumable beyond the stamped date.

“Closed/coded dates” are used for shelf stable items, such as rice and flour. These dates are coded for the benefit of the manufacture for interstate commerce travel. This also helps the manufacture rotate their inventory and track products in the event of a food recall.

All perishable items should be refrigerated or frozen immediately upon returning home from shopping.  If properly stored and packaged, frozen foods can last indefinitely.  Canned or shelf stable items should be kept in a dry space, 50-70 degrees Fahrenheit.  They should not be kept in a cellar, basement or crawl space. Moisture is the enemy of these products.  Do not purchase canned goods that have been dented or damaged. This can compromise the packaging of the product and its sustainability.  High acidic items such as tomato sauce will keep for 18 months; canned beans, if properly packaged will keep for 5 years. Expiration dates

The Food and Drug Administration recommends the following guidelines for perishable items:

Milk – will last for approximately one week after “sell date,” if properly refrigerated between uses.

Eggs – will keep for 3-5 weeks after their “sell by date.”  Grade A eggs will decrease in freshness, but still will be edible.

Poultry or Seafood – should be used 1-2 days after purchase, unless frozen immediately.  Make sure to prep the poultry or seafood in an air-tight storage device before freezing.

Beef and pork – should be cooked 3-5 days after purchase, unless frozen immediately. Again, make sure to package the meat in an air tight container or food storage bag before freezing.

 

 

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Happy Margarita Day!

Happy Margarita Day!

JoAnn's margarita

JoAnn’s margarita

2 oz. Cabo Wabo tequila – the smoothest tequila I have ever tasted.

1 oz. Triple Sec

6 oz. “Jose Cuervo Original Margarita Mix”

I like my recipe because it is more sweet, than sour.

ENJOY!

Give me some feedback on this recipe.

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Easy Weeknight Roasted Pork Chops with Green Beans & Potatoes

Did you have a busy weekend or bad Monday?  Well, this quick, simple dinner will satisfy the family and be a breeze to clean up….

PREP TIME: 20 minutes  COOK TIME: 25 minutes SERVES 4

Roasted Pork Chops with Green Beans & Potatoes

Ingredients:  6 T. olive oil, divided;   Juice of one lemon

2 T. chopped fresh thyme

1 T. + 1 t. smoked Paprika

4 cloves of garlic, minced;  salt and pepper to taste

4 bone-in pork chops (each about 1″ thick)

12 oz. bagged trimmed green beans

4 medium Yukon Gold potatoes, cut into 1/2″ cubes

3 jarred roasted red bell peppers, coarsely chopped

 

Preheat oven to 475º.

In a  bowl, combine the following:  3 T. olive oil, the lemon juice, thyme, paprika and garlic; salt and pepper.

Add pork chops and coat with the mixture.

In a separate large bowl, add 3 T. olive oil green beans, potatoes and red peppers. Toss with your hands to coat the vegetables.

On a large, rimmed baking sheet lined with non-stick aluminum foil (for easy clean up),  pour out the vegetables, make

an even layer.  Then, place the coated pork chops on top of the vegetables.

Place in the oven and roast till chops are done and vegetables are tender. Should be about 25 minutes.

To clean up, just toss scrapes in the aluminum foil, wrap it up into a ball and throw away – DONE!

 

 

 

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Getting your spring plants ready…..

Planting season is almost here.  Right now, you should be thinking about what food you may want to grow and where, in your landscape you will put them.

First, determine which growing zone you live in…here is a chart to help you….

Garden-Zones-Map

Determine your zone……

 

 

 

 

Once you have determined your zone, here are a few items you can consider growing….

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I plan to grow a few herbs, once the chance of a frost has past.  Usually this is around April 15th.  If you decide to plant herbs, make sure the soil is slightly warm.  I try to wait till at least five days of sunny weather have past, to guarantee warmth of the soil.

If you plant and a late frost is forecast, just place a frost cloth over your tender plants, making sure the damp cloth does not touch the foliage of the plant.  You can use stakes, tomato cages or sticks propped upward in the soil to keep the cloth above the plants.

Remove the frost cloth the next morning, after the danger of frost has passed.

I will be interviewing a professional horticulturist next week and my post will include his 10 top tips for growing your own vegetables.  Till then, plot your plots.

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Quaint Gem in Greenville, Passerelle Bistro

Searching for a nice, less expensive restaurant for Valentine’s Day dinner was not difficult after I saw Chef Teri Youngblood profiled on local WYFF.  She is one of four chefs in South Carolina chose to be a state culinary ambassador, by the governor. She’ll spend 2016, touring the Southeast at various culinary events, giving cooking demonstrations and educational seminars.

Quaint but comfortable, this French bistro setting offers guest the choice of dining inside or a veranda that is heated and enclosed during the cooler weather. The restaurant sits at the start of Liberty Bridge in Falls Park.  Interior is fresh with French artwork and eastern European style furniture.  One bathroom serves all guest, which could be slightly inconvenient on those busiest of evenings or weekends.  The restaurant offers a moderate selection of French wines and the standard bar mixed drink choices.

One of Chef Youngblood’s signature dishes is her Mussels Passerelle. which stars Prince Edward Island mussels that have been proclaimed by diners to be the best in the upstate.  The saffron cream sauce is the perfect accompaniment to the white wine broth the mussels are quickly cooked in.    Another white wine and cream sauce accompanies her helix snails, Escargot.  Amazingly tender and delectable, I would truly recommend these to all her guest.  The Chicken Paillard is a sautéed, crispy chicken breast, served over beautiful egg pappardelle pasta, with a light cream sauce, capers and arugula salad.   Although these dishes sound simple, flavor was the hypnotic factor, which was especially evident in the finale, French Crème Brulee. The vanilla bean and caramelized sugar was “burnt” just to perfection, with a rich, creamy egg yolk custard that even a Crème Brulee hater would love.

Escargot

Escargot

Initially searching for a Valentine’s Day dinner getaway, I would love to return and try a few entrees from the Saturday and Sunday brunch menu.  Reservation are not mandatory, but highly recommended.

 

Passerelle Bistro

601 South Main Street

Greenville, SC 29601

phone – 864-509-0142

 

 

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