Composting Made Easy

by Leanne Ely

 

You know my motto when it comes to eating fruits and veggies: eat fresh, eat local, eat seasonal. The easiest way to stick to that rule of thumb is to grow your own. Whether you have a big garden out in the yard or a few pots of herbs growing in a sunny window, there is a certain satisfaction and fulfillment that comes from eating what you have grown.

When growing your own food you want to start with a solid foundation and this is your soil. One of the best things you can use is compost. Composting is the process in which you allow, and even assist, nature to break down organic matter into a very nutrient-rich dark dirt-like substance. By learning to compost you cut down on the amount of garbage you throw away and consequently, create wonderful nutrients for your garden.

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Back Yard Composting

To start composting in your backyard, you simply need to start a pile. Pick a good location in your back yard, it doesn’t matter if it’s sunny or shady, just make sure it’s accessible to water and that it’s an easy spot to add in leaves, garden and grass clippings. Make sure its at least two feet away from any structure (including fences).

You should shoot for a 60/40 blend of brown cuttings to green and food scraps. If you chop everything up first, your composting will go faster. Each time you add to your pile, add some water; don’t soak it but make sure its dampened. If your food scraps were wet when you put them in the pile, that should be enough moisture.

The next and final thing you need to do to your pile is to turn it occasionally. This will keep the heat more stable and keep the “food” at the center of the pile. It also helps to destroy disease by bringing contaminates to the surface so that the heat can destroy them. This will add oxygen which keeps the micro organisms that are breaking down the compost alive, and it also reduces odor.

Back Porch Composting

You can buy many different types of back porch compost systems or “tumblers”. These work well for smaller yards. With a tumbler it is more important to chop the ingredients that you put in it and keep a good mixture of organic materials, brown materials such as shredded dried leaves. Check your moisture level and turn often. If it starts smelling add more brown materials and mix well.

Regardless of what you put in your compost the more organic, unprocessed items the better. Here’s a quick list to help you get the most out of your composting.

Brown — 60% Green — 40% Do Not Add
Sawdust Fresh manure Meat
Eggshells Coffee Grounds Bones
Dried leaves (fall leaves) Fruit Peels Fat
Straw Weeds (annuals) Whole eggs
Cardboard Green plant cuttings Dairy
Paper Green grass clippings Feces from humans or pets
Hay Veggie peels Weeds (pernicious)
Tea bags Hedge trimmings Treated Wood

who knew? (asparagus=lily)

By: Leanne Ely

 

Happy Tuesday, Y’all!

It’s time once again for Tricks, Tips and a Recipe. Today you’ll learn a tip, a trick and you’ll get a great recipe to try it out with. Neat, huh?

Today’s focus is on Asparagus:

Asparagus are elegant and delicious! Truly in season right now, you can pick them up on sale everywhere. Lots of fiber, easy to cook; delicious to eat. I’ll tell you how!

Here’s today’s TRICK:

SMELL the tops of the asparagus in the store. The tips should NOT be slimy and stinky! Look for ends that aren’t dried out and woody. Some people like thicker asparagus, I prefer the pencil thin variety—you need to decide that one based on your own personal preference.

Here’s a TIP:

My grocery store keeps the asparagus standing upright in water to keep them fresh. You can do this yourself when you bring them home and they’ll last for days in your fridge.

Bonus Tip!

Make a “raft” out of the asparagus using presoaked bamboo skewers (soak the bamboo in water for 30 minutes before barbecuing to prevent them from igniting) and brushing the asparagus with a little olive oil before hand. Let me tell you, asparagus on the grill is just a little slice of heaven. (watch me make them for you)

After you’ve made grilled asparagus on the grill, you won’t want them any other way!

And your RECIPE:

HoneyLemonSalmonAsparagus5

Honey Lemon Salmon and Asparagus
Serves 4

Prep time: 10 minutes
Cook time: 15 minutes

INGREDIENTS:

2 tablespoons honey
3 teaspoons Dijon mustard
2 cloves garlic, minced
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 tablespoon olive oil, plus extra for coating pan
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
1 pound asparagus spears, ends trimmed
4 medium salmon fillets

COOKING INSTRUCTIONS:

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

In a small mixing bowl whisk together the first 6 ingredients (honey through lemon juice).

In an oil coated 9×13 baking pan, place asparagus and place salmon, skin side down, on top. Pour the mixture from bowl evenly over each piece of salmon. Bake for 15 minutes until salmon is flakey.

Remove from heat and serve fillet of salmon with asparagus on top.

Dinner Answers- No one will eat the other kind of lilies in your house except the cat. Isn’t it time you knew what was for dinner EVERY night? You will with Dinner Answers!

Herbaliciousness! (I’ll explain…)

Herbaliciousness! (I’ll explain…)

By: Leanne Ely

 

When I’m looking at a big rack of dried herbs in the grocery store, I often think of dollar bills chopped up and put into bags. For many dried herbs, you might as well just chop up a few dollar bills and sprinkle them on your food for the amount of flavor they add to anything! (Dried parsley? I don’t think so!)

Fresh herbs are used very frequently in my home. I use them in my salads (chop some fresh dill into a bowl of greens and you may never want to eat it any other way ever again!), my soups, with my roast meats, chicken dishes, sauces and the list goes on and on and on.

Fresh herbs don’t only taste great, but many of these fantastic aromatic little green wonders are just packed with nutrition. Sage, rosemary and thyme are much more than just a Simon and Garfunkel hit! These herbs are extremely healthy for you.

herbs1

Fresh herbs: the basics

Fresh herbs add a certain something to your dishes that you just can’t duplicate with the dried variety. Once you start you won’t want to go back!

Cooking with fresh herbs can be intimidating at first, but it’s really pretty simple. You figure out which herbs go best with your favorite dishes, and you go from there!

But where do you start?

How about by learning which herbs go with what foods! Here’s a cheat sheet for you:

Basil: Amazing on pizza! Basil is almost peppery in flavor, it’s very fragrant and has a wonderful spicy bite to it. Basil almost a must for any dish containing tomatoes. The little leaves at the top of the bunch will be the sweetest.

Dill: Your fish will never the the same again! This grassy herb with its feathery leaves is often paired with fish dishes and it’s amazing in a vinaigrette.

Mint: If you plant your own mint be VERY careful. It is a prolific plant that can easily overtake your entire garden. It’s wonderful in beverages, with lamb and with peas. It’s also nice to chew on to freshen your breath!

Oregano: This wonderful earthy herb is a must for pizza but it’s also fabulous on eggs! Oregano is the one herb that is actually just as good dried as it is fresh.

Parsley: Parsley is great for everything from freshening your breath to chopping into salads, hummus, guacamole, soup – pretty much anything, really! It lends a nice freshness to anything you put it on. But the dried version? A waste of money.

Thyme: This citrusy herb is wonderful with seafood, poultry and many Mediterranean dishes. Here’s a tip for you! It’s a pain to tear off the tiny little leaves from their woody stems so use fork tines to strip them!

Sage: Another easy one to grow at home, this aromatic herb is just wonderful with duck, turkey and sausage.

Rosemary: One of my favorites, rosemary has a flavor that’s almost like pine. It’s wonderful in meat, soups, stews and even breads.

Cilantro: This one seems to be loved or hated! Popular in Mexican, Asian and Indian cooking, cilantro looks like flat leaf parsley but it’s much different in flavor. Some describe it as tasting soapy!

When you bring your herbs home from the store, rinse them in cold water to remove any dirt or bugs (hey, when you buy organic, it happens!). Store them in water in the fridge, covered with a plastic bag and they should keep for a few days. This method does NOT work with basil. Instead, put it in water and leave it on your counter.

PS – The 21 Day Knock Out is happening!!! I’ll sneak you in, but you gotta come right now!!

I’m a Spice Girl (you?) ;-)

By: Leanne Ely

 

Cooking with herbs and spices make all the difference in the world to the end product, your meal. But if you’ve never learned how to use the mountain of spices available, sometimes you need a little guidance. Never fear, the Dinner Diva is here! Do yourself a favor and copy this list and stick it to your fridge.

The Dinner Diva Spice Primer is guaranteed to get you cooking in no time!

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1. Bay Leaf – Used in stews, soup and great with pot roast. Go easy. Bay leaves are strong, especially California bay leaves, which are the kind most grocery stores stock. I use 1/2 a leaf in my stews.

2. Basil – Ah, the taste of summer. Who can resist fresh basil and tomatoes from the garden tossed with olive oil and garlic on a plate full of pasta? Dried, it’s wonderful in soups, pasta dishes and chicken.

3. Dill – It’s not just for pickles. Try some dill sprinkled on fish, chicken or even in a light cream soup.

4. Garlic – Nectar of the gods, well, bulb of the gods anyway. Garlic has a way of making the most ordinary food gourmet. Try sprinkling garlic powder (not garlic salt) into a prepared box of white cheddar macaroni and cheese. Surprise! It’s pretty good. Fresh though, is best. Squeeze it from a garlic press into almost anything. Don’t use with chocolate though.

5. Ginger – Sprinkle it in your stir-fry, try it on baked chicken breasts with a little soy sauce and garlic. For fun, get it fresh (it’s that alien-looking root mass in the produce department) and freeze it. It will keep almost indefinitely when frozen. To use, hack off a piece, peel it and grate into your recipe.

6. Nutmeg – I love nutmeg. If you can find nutmeg nuts and the itty, bitty grater that comes with it, buy it. Once you’ve had freshly grated nutmeg, the powdered stuff in the jar is beneath you. Obviously an ingredient in baking, it’s also good grated on sauteed squash, green beans, and carrots.

7. Oregano – A staple in Italian cooking, it’s also good in stews and salad dressings.

8. Rosemary – This beautiful plant grows wild in my garden and provides an intoxicating aroma to meats, stews and root veggies. Try some crumbled in your carrots for a change of pace.

9. Tarragon – An almost licorice flavor, this delicate herb takes front and center in vinaigrettes, as a delicious sprinkle on the top of baked or poached poultry and fish.

10. Thyme – Make time for thyme! It’s strong and adds a hint of character to an otherwise pretty standard dish. Use it with chicken, soups and beef.
Even though I’m not numbering these last two, I need to give a shout out to plain old salt and pepper. But not just the stuff in the blue cylinder with the little girl on the label or the familiar pepper sitting in the red and white can; I’m talking about sea salt and freshly ground pepper. You can buy both ready to go with their own grinders anywhere. Once you’ve used this kind of salt and pepper, you’ll never go back to the old stuff. It’s that much better.

And while this is an abbreviated list of spices, it’s a good start. I’ve skipped a lot of them because they are used so infrequently or just take up room on the lazy susan. Feel free to add or subtract ones you know you won’t use or you know you need!

Enjoy!

PS – The 21 Day Knock Out is happening!!! I’ll sneak you in, but you gotta come right now!!

Perpetual Salad! (love this idea!)

Perpetual Salad! (love this idea!)

By: Leanne Ely

 

I don’t know about you, but I have a really hard time buying produce that I can easily grow myself. At my house, we eat a lot of salad. As many of you know, I serve a large green salad with almost every meal that goes on the table. All of those heads of lettuce can add up!

So, I recently started looking into some ways to grow my own lettuce indoors and I thought I would share what I’m learning with y’all.

All you need is:

• A large round pot, about 6 inches deep (or a container of some sort with roughly the same depth)
• Organic potting soil (look for the kind with perlite in it—thats those little round white balls)
• Mesclun mix seeds (or whatever lettuce you like best)
• Water
• A sunny window

You’ll need a window that gets at least 6 hours of sunlight per day. If your lettuce doesn’t get enough sun, it will get tall and spindly and that isn’t what you want.

perpetualgreens1-3

To grow your lettuce:

1. Fill your container to the halfway mark with soil. You can sprinkle some fertilizer on there if you want to. Moisten the soil and sprinkle a couple pinches of seeds on top. Sprinkle a little more soil over the seeds and spritz the surface with more water.

2. Water daily and keep the pot in the sun or under a grow light. The seeds should sprout up in about seven days and your first harvest should be ready in about a month.

To harvest your lettuce:

After you cut your lettuce the first time (leave the growing crowns alone!), you’ll only have to wait another two weeks for a fresh crop.

And it’s pretty much just that easy!

Fresh lettuce greens are just the best, aren’t they?

PS – The 21 Day Knock Out starts TODAY!!! I’ll sneak you in, but you gotta come right now!!

 

Time to get rid of the winter grime!

Time to get rid of the winter grime!

By: Leanne Ely

 

The days are getting longer, y’all! And you know what that means? It’s just about time to get those gardens in, the patio furniture out, and to tackle that spring cleaning.

I like to keep a clean kitchen, but every few months I just love giving the kitchen a good scrub down and getting everything all freshened up organized. And now that spring is upon us, it’s time to get to work.

Smiling woman cleaning the oven in the kitchen

Kitchen cleaning tips.

Scrub the cast iron. A good cast iron pan will give you a lifetime worth of cooking so give it the TLC it deserves. Pour a good layer of coarse salt on the surface of the pan and a give it a good scrub with a soft sponge. The salt will lift away stuck on food and absorb oil without ruining the seasoning on the pan. If your pan needs another coat of seasoning, it will take better after a salt scrub.

Clean your oven. Self cleaning ovens are a God send. But if you have an old fashioned model, now’s the time to give it a good going over. For a (non-toxic) cleaning solution, make a paste out of water and baking soda. Coat the oven surfaces with that paste (not any heating elements or bare metal) and let that stand overnight. In the morning, put on some rubber gloves and scrub the paste off with a plastic spatula. A wet sponge should take off all remaining residue.

Clean cutting boards. If you use a wooden cutting board, every few weeks give it a good sprinkle of coarse salt and scrub with a sliced lemon. Rinse well with hot water and your board will be nice and fresh.

Clean the fridge. Take everything out of the fridge and wipe all interior surfaces down with some hot, soapy water. As you put everything back, toss out all outdated condiments and items you’re not going to use. Replace the box of baking soda!

Pantry purge. Take everything out and wipe down the shelves. Toss out anything that hasn’t been used and won’t be used. Spices lose their spiciness after a while! Treat yourself to some new staples. A good clean sweep in the pantry will perk it up like nothing else. Ditch the stuff you don’t use and donate it to a food bank if it’s worthy. Get that pantry magazine-photo worthy!

Meal planning. One essential tool that I think every home cook needs is a subscription to Dinner Answers! I swear this will change your life. This is the product that really put Saving Dinner on the map, and once you use our menu planning system you will have a hard time going back to anything else. You get access to our full database of recipes and weekly meal plans with shopping lists! Check it out here!

If you’re looking to get rid of the bloat and start feeling great, join us for our New 21 Day Knock Out now!

 

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