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Category Archives: Composting

Family plus Wine, a Surplus of Stone Fruit and Apple Crumb Pie Recipe

Family plus Wine, a Surplus of Stone Fruit and Apple Crumb Pie Recipe

Being a writer has its challenges, especially for someone like me. Just finding the time to sit and write is tough, since I’d rather be out and about drinking wine and eating apple pie with family and friends. So you can imagine that I am behind on my blogging. Insert open mouth emoji here. But for today, I will cut myself some slack and reflect on my birthday lunch with my niece Marie at Wente Vineyards from last July. 

#MAKETIME with your family. Especially your niece

Me and my niece Marie in the new wine bar at Wente Family Estates

Not only am I behind on writing, but I’m behind on my quilting.  Baby Luna our newest great niece, is already 3 months old and I’ve barely begun piecing material together. Luckily, it has been hot and babies don’t need too many quilts this time of year.

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Congratulations Ben and Hajara! Baby Luna is precious

I’ve also needed to spend time in my garden clearing out dead plants. We had huge sprinkler problems when we were away in July and lost quite a bit of our annuals and perennials. In addition to that, many of my 20 tomato plants that I planted in March are in need of harvesting. I try to pick them biweekly at least, and then of course you have to cook with them, preserve them in jars, or freeze them before they go bad.

And lately we have been quite the entertainers, having guests over for dinner multiple nights of the week. Made ricotta and spinach ravioilis inspired by our Tuscany trip. It’s never boring at the Smyth house that’s for sure. 

 

Also there’s the huge crates of European plums that Andy from Andy’s Orchard gave me a week ago to make jam with. I have Reine des Mirabelles and Green Gage (Reine Claude) which are tricky to make jam with. (Another blog to write!) Yesterday, our friends The Roth’s blessed us with a huge box of Gravenstein apples which I can’t wait to process into sauce, pies and cakes. It’s exciting to think of all the goodies that should be coming out of my kitchen right now. It’s just that all these activities take time and energy and I don’t have a live in sous chef these days. My husband would rather be watching soccer games in his free time.

 

And then there’s training for walking The Camino de Santiago in Spain which I need to be in shape for in October. How can a girl choose which activity to get involved with first? I’m super ecstatic right now because my girlfriend Sandra who wanted to meet in an hour, just cancelled and rescheduled for tomorrow. Yeah! More time to write and my husband won’t be home until after his soccer practice around 9:30PM. A bonus…

 

Back to the birthday lunch story. A few months ago, my sister’s daughter Marie invited me to have lunch with her where she works at the newly renovated Wente Winery Restaurant called “Vineyard Table” in Livermore. The veranda dining room is elegant and perfect for a lunch date in the country. Make sure you check the hours before driving there because the restaurant is closed on concert days. Yes! They have summer concerts and lots of wine tasting. 

 

If you’ve never been to Wente, it’s quite the Farm to Table experience serving only the best wines for a delicate palate. Marie and I met there for lunch at the Arroyo Road property and were brought Wente’s classic small lot Brut to celebrate the occasion. We were immediately put in the right mood to have a good time as we always do when we get together. She is so sweet and generous offering to take me to lunch at this spectacular oasis.

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My gorgeous niece Marie, Wente Brut and roasted olives with mozarella

I was excited to see the new menu and we started by ordering the roasted olives, my absolute favorite. Next came the Shrimp a la Plancha- caramelized onions, fresh tomatoes from the garden, chili sauce, shrimp scampi, green Goddess dressing with sourdough toast. We shared Diane’s Garden Bowl- Red quinoa, sunflower seeds and feta cheese atop a bed of fresh greens with a balsamic vinaigrette. We were stuffed, but somehow scarfed down the warm salted caramel laden plate, chocolate ganache tart in pastry, seasonal raspberries, and sliced strawberries with dulce whipped cream. This dessert is perfect way to end any meal. We would have ordered espresso, but Marie was on her lunch hour and needed to make some calls.

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#MAKETIME Amy Hoopes holding flowers from my garden and my niece Marie in the newly refurbished Veranda room at Vineyard Table Restaurant at Wente in Livermore.

It was a treat to be greeted by the President of Wente Family Estates Amy Hoopes who stopped by our table to let me know how valuable Marie was to their company. Sadly enough, Marie has since moved on to a better opportunity, but will always cherish her Wente family.

After our fabulous lunch, we had a tour of the whimsical half acre garden previously an old cabernet franc vineyard. For the past 20 years, Master Gardener Diane Dovholuk has been amending the soil and composting with kitchen scraps and green waste from Chef Josh’s restaurant just steps away. They were growing heirloom tomatoes, peppers, corn, zinnias, marigolds, sunflowers, hollyhocks, grapes of course and much more.

 

The highlight for me was getting a glimpse of the rattle snake that they were transferring to another part of the property in a huge Rubbermaid garbage can by way of a small truck. They found him in a corner of one of the wine cellars trying to stay cool. 

 

I’m fortunate to have Marie in my life. My niece loves food, beer and wine almost as much as I do, possibly more. And I’m not complaining about the precious stone fruit and apples that I’ve been gifted. Everyone has to manage their time and I need to be more patient with myself. We are already in mid September, the weather is changing and life goes on. Trip to Spain blog here.

 

Thanks for spending this time with me and reading my foodie stories. Wente’s hashtag is #MAKETIME. How more relevant to today’s post can you get? Follow my blog for more adventures in food, travel and recipes.

Here’s the write up on the day Marie and I had in Healdsburg California together.

Ohhh! And here is my recipe for Apple Crumb Pie!

Apple Crumb Pie

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As you can see, I wasn’t 100 percent accurate on removing the apple skins for my Apple Crumb Pie. I’m okay with that

1 Pastry Recipe. See recipe for pie crust in previous blog post. Make this first and set dough in fridge for half an hour to rest while you slice apples.

 

 Ingredients for apple pie:

5 Cups of Gravenstein or Granny Smith Apples peeled and sliced into acidulated lemon water

1 Lemon juiced into a large bowl of water big enough to hold sliced apples

 

1/2 C Granulated Sugar 

1 t  ground Cinnamon

1 t  ground Ginger

½ t Maldon Salt

1 T Tapioca Flour

1 T Apple Cider Vinegar

4 T Unsalted Butter (to dot on top of apples before crumb topping is put on.)

 

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My ready to pop into the oven Cinnamon Gravenstein Apple Crump Pie

 

Crumb Topping

 

½ C Granulated Sugar

¾ C All Purpose Flour

½ C Cold Unsalted Butter cut into chunks

¼ t Maldon Salt

½ C Whole Almonds

1 t ground Cinnamon

1 t ground Ginger (or Cardamon is nice too)

 

Instructions:

Peel,pare and slice apples into a large bowl of lemon water.

 

Make crumb topping next. I put all ingredients sugar, flour chunks of cold butter, salt, almonds, cinnamon and ginger in a food processor. Pulse until mixture is mixed well and butter is incorporated into dry ingredients. (You can use a pastry cutter to cut the butter into sugar and flour and spices if you don’t have a food processor.) Set aside.

 

For the apples:

In a separate small bowl, combine the sugar, cinnamon, ginger, salt, tapioca flour. 

 

When apples are sliced take out of lemon water and dry on a clean kitchen towel. Put in a large dry bowl and sprinkle with apple cider vinegar. Then pour dry ingredients into sliced apples and stir.

 

Have pastry shell crimped and ready to go before you add apples and sugar mixture. (I always sprinkle a little granulated sugar on the prepared pastry before adding fruit. It helps the crust from getting soggy.) Pour sugared apples into unbaked prepared pie crust.

 

Sprinkle crumb topping onto apples dotted with the extra 4 T unsalted butter. Butter always makes everything taste better.

 

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Place pie on a sheet pan in the center of the oven and bake for 45 min to an hour until apples look done and topping is a little brown. Cover with foil if the crust starts to brown too quickly. 

Yesterday I tried to hurry up the baking process by using the convection oven and turning temp down to 400 degrees. I think this just dries out the pie and it’s worth being late to the party and baking at normal 400 degree oven. Never rush a good thing.

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My half eaten Cinnamon Apple Crumb Pie

 

Serve alongside vanilla Ice cream of your choice. I like Kirkland brand sold at Costco. Caramel sauce can be a nice addition, especially during the Fall months.

 

Thanks again for reading my recipe. I’m grateful for the love and hope I’ve inspired you to bake something special.

 

 

Teri

 

 

 

  

 

 

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From Vine to Bottle in Livermore California and Ricotta Poppyseed Pancakes Recipe

From Vine to Bottle in Livermore California and Ricotta Poppyseed Pancakes Recipe
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Gorgeous grapes at Rubino in Livermore

 

Rounded up a friend last Wednesday to go wine tasting in Livermore. Maggie and I have talked about doing this for over a year and had it planned on the calendar for at least two months. She and I visited Steven Kent, Ruby Hill and Rubino and didn’t leave town until 1PM because I had a previously scheduled lunch date with neighbors.

 I have the nicest neighbors! Cindy, Joan and Nancy treated me to California Pizza Kitchen. It was the perfect lunch. I had half turkey club sandwich and a salad. My girlfriends even brought me gifts! A hand made knit scarf and cute blank stationary cards made by Joan, an adorable house plant from Nancy and pasta making tools and copies of favorite family recipes from Cindy and her Italian mother in law. It was already the best day possible and I have gratitude for these women in my life.

 

Back to the day in Livermore… Maggie and I met over 6 years ago at our neighborhood garden club. Again, how lucky I am to live in this great neighborhood!  You could say we bonded over garden walks, compost and Portlands’ chocolate tastings meeting. She and her husband have also lived in the neighborhood for 20 plus years. She is a red wine lover and wanted to take a day trip with me since she follows me on Instagram and sees the adventures I take.

 

She had called the day before to make appointments, but didn’t have much luck. I explained how I will usually “wing it” and drive around until I find an interesting location or side street that looks inviting. That system works in Napa, St. Helena and Healdsburg, but not so much in Livermore. We learned that they have 55 wineries there, and only 10 are open on Wednesdays. I guess my poor planning bit me in the bum that day, but we made the best of it. After all, how many wines can one taste anyway?

 

Maggie happened to have two free tastings at Steven Kent from a dinner auction item, so we started there. Instead of a flight, I asked for a pour of their 2016 SVS Cabernet Sauvignon from their Casa de Vinas Vineyard. Instead, our attendant would only pour me a little at a time. I thought this was a little strange, but I went along with it. Maggie wasn’t interested in the white varieties and only asked for the red varietals.

 

We learned Steven Kent Mirassou is a sixth generation member of America’s oldest winemaking family. Starting Steven Kent Winery in 1996, he specialized in Bordeaux grapes crafting small lot vintages of Cabernet Sauvignon.

 

The tasting room was dark, small and empty except for us and one other couple. We weren’t exactly welcomed with warm open arms either. We didn’t stay long hoping we would find a better experience elsewhere.

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Me and Maggie tasting wine at Ruby Hills Winery in Livermore

 

Maggie had done some research and knew that Ruby Hills Winery was open. Neither of us had tasted there before. I had been to the club years ago when my niece Jasmine and I attended a National Charity League Senior Presents program there. It was a special place, so I was excited to check out their winery. 

 

We weren’t disappointed although our Google Maps took us up over the hill in the middle of nowhere before we realized we were going in the wrong direction. I don’t think the WiFi was working, so we got a little lost. That isn’t an uncommon thing for me, unfortunately. The Ruby Hill building is enormous and grand with many country decorations inside adorning the walls. They sold jewelry, dark chocolate caramels from Something Sweet Chocolates, Rubino Estates Winery Orange Blossom and Wild Thistle Honey and of course wine. They also had a nice deli counter with many types of cheese, hummus, prosciutto, salami crackers and chips. I appreciate this gesture so people can enjoy their wine with food in case they are hungry.

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Hand made dark chocolate caramels with sea salt sold at Ruby Hills Winery

 

We were treated with the utmost care and respect at Rubino and I would highly recommend it. Our sommelier was friendly, helpful and easy going. She allowed Maggie to taste the reds of her choice from both the Estate Flight at $15 per person and the Jewel Flight at $20.00 per person. And she took off the tasting fee since she purchased two bottles of the 2014 Intesa for $34.00. Maggie really knows her wine and spits after she tastes. I tried a splash of just the 2015 Jewel Zinfandel which received 92 points from Wine Enthusiast and that was enough for me. 

 

We read about the Mello Cielo Vineyard Experience for groups which includes a tasting, then two hour tour on their vintage wine bus. Then a visit to Ruby Hill’s modern on-site production facility where one can see the winemaking process from vine to bottle. Our garden club members may take advantage of this opportunity. A few wanted to join us on our Livermore day out, but I only learned about it the day before. The private tour will require a minimum of eight people and a maximum of 14. There are two tours available daily, 11:15AM and 2:15PM and reservations should be made a week in advance. The price is $35.00 for non-members. Club members are only $30.00 and are allowed to bring one guest. Looks like a good time.

 

Mia took care of us at Rubino Estates Winery open since March of 2013, and is conveniently located around the corner from Ruby Hills, open since 2007. Both Wineries are owned by the Callahan’s, the Lloyd’s and the Brown’s.  They call this the Cal-Ital Winery only an hour South of Napa Valley. They feature exciting Italian varietals such as Barbera, Sangiovese and Nebbiolo as well as the classic Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay. Mia’s family is from Sicily, so we had a nice time chatting about my recent time in Tuscany.

 

Maggie enjoyed Rubino’s wine tasting experience and we agreed to each bring home a bottle so that her tasting was free. I refrained from drinking, since I was the designated driver.

 

Rubino sells cheese at their deli counter with flavors such as Black pepper, Tennessee Whiskey, Basil Asiago, Espresso, Balsamic, Raspberry, Rosemary Olive Oil, and Chipotle that pair with each wine. Fantastic! The tasting room is 8,000 square feet and it’s nestled in between 150 acres of vineyards. Bocce ball courts are open Monday through Friday first come first serve. 

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Maggie and I didn’t take advantage of the food or bocce entertainment this time since we wanted to get back before the Bay Area commute traffic took hold on Highway 680. But we did stop off at a nursery to check out the flowers which seemed appropriate being that we are garden lovers.  I bought a small lemon verbena because the one I had last year died in the frost. It’s a beautiful fragrant leaf and nice in iced tea or lemonade.

My day with Maggie was delightful and adventurous. Maybe next time we will bring the rest of the garden club clan with us to experience the great wines of the Livermore Valley.

Here’s my recipe for Orange Poppyseed Pancakes with Ricotta. It’s perfect for a Sunday Brunch with family and friends.

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Orange poppyseed pancakes with ricotta.

Orange Poppyseed Pancakes with Ricotta

Serves 4 people

Ingredients:

1 C unbleached All PurposeFlour

½ C Almond Flour

¼ C Granulated Sugar

1 t Kosher Salt

1 t baking powder

 

½ C plus 2 T Ricotta Cheese

3 whole eggs separated

1 ½ C Milk 

½ C Heavy Whipping Cream

1 t Rum Extract

1 t Orange Extract

1 T Orange Zest

⅛ C Poppy seeds

Unsalted butter used for skillet

Confectioners sugar for dusting 

Pure maple syrup

 

Directions:

In a blender, place 3 egg yolks (whites to go in a stand mixer), milk, cream, ricotta, extracts. Blend on low until combined. 

In a small bowl mix all purpose flour, almond flour, sugar, baking soda and salt. Pour into blender and mix with wet ingredients on low and batter is smooth.

In the stand mixer, using a wire whisk, mix the room temperature egg whites and a tiny pinch of salt until small peaks form. 

Add the whipped egg whites to blender in three increments mixing well, but not for too long.

Using your large nonstick skillet, melt 1 Tablespoon of unsalted butter on medium heat. Pour or ladel about 1/2 C of the batter onto the hot skillet and sprinkle with about ½ t poppy seeds and cook for about 2 minutes or until edges are golden. Flip carefully and continue to cook for 1-2 minutes more until pancake is cooked thoroughly. No one likes a wet on the inside pancake.

I fold mine like a crepe, folding it onto itself twice like an omelette. Eat right away or keep in a low oven in a baking dish. Serve with fresh fruit peaches, strawberries or blueberries or whatever is in season and pure maple syrup. Mine were perfect all by themselves and didn’t need adorning other than a shake of confectioners sugar.

Enjoy!

Thank you for reading and sharing my blog. Hope I’ve inspired you to take get away day and enjoy a glass of wine or two. And here’s a glimpse of what Venice Italy was like.

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The best part of visiting #Venice is riding on a gondola

 

 

 

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Forks and Corks at Chez Panisse and Strawberry Pie Recipe

Forks and Corks at Chez Panisse and Strawberry Pie Recipe
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Me and my son Andrew at Chez Panisse in Berkeley

Had the best lunch today with my son Andrew in Berkeley. We ate at the #ChezPanisse Café, Alice Waters’ farm to table restaurant, open since 1980. It’s commonly referred as one of the best restaurants in the country. We visited The Local Butcher Shop which is where many of local chefs like Alice purchase their protein. Then we went to see the inspiring organic and sustainable Edible Schoolyard garden located at King Middle School a few blocks from the famous Chez Panisse Restaurant. At the end of this post you will find my strawberry pie recipe if you hang around long enough.

I was fortunate that my son had time to have a leisurely lunch with me. I decided to treat us both and give him (and me) the 5 star dining experience. Sometimes it’s nice to have one on one time to really appreciate your loved one. Andrew appreciates good healthy food more than most and today’s lunch was exceptional.

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Spring Flowers to brighten your day from my garden

I had been to Chez Panisse twice before when celebrating special occasions. The first visit was a dinner with my Mom Diane and my Step Dad Tom. They took my husband and I out for my birthday. The second time, I spoiled my friend Marie for her birthday and took her there for lunch. The attention to detail on every level is top notch. I’m speaking about the professional staff who greet you at the top of the stairs and graciously seat you. Of course, it’s best to have a reservation since it is very popular. Andrew and I were fortunate enough to get a table calling the day before. The atmosphere was delightful, people imbibing in a glass of wine (in my case) or beer (for Andrew) to go along with lunch to enhance the experience. Because you never feel pressured to eat quickly here and why not relax a little?

 

The menu is packed with seasonal fresh produce from local farms, fruit from orchards, ranches and the best fisheries that practice principles of sustainability. Chef Nathan Alderson is the Cafe’s culinary artist. Here is the menu we were presented when perfectly seated.

 

It’s actually a dream of mine to work at Chez Panisse. Still recovering from toe surgery, so I’m taking it easy these days. Easter is coming up and everyone is asking if I will host again. I’m not feeling 100% and I’m of the opinion that it’s okay to let others carry the burden of the holiday party once in a while. After all, I’ve been entertaining ever since Ken and I got married almost 30 years ago.

 

My Mother hosted Easter when the weather was good. For several years she had chickens and a bunny which the grandkids loved. And she has a picture perfect garden with a pond, big trees and a nice brick patio. But my mom hasn’t been well for about 5 or 6 years now and it’s not an option. I don’t like feeling pressured to host even though I love to cook and bake. I’m ready for the younger generation to step up and “take the reigns.’ After all, they have the young ones who like to hunt for eggs and like waiting for the Easter bunny. Luckily, my brother Rick and his wife Aly graciously offered to have Easter at their home. Hopefully, we can all be together this year.

 

So, enough of my ranting. Chez Panisse is a great Berkeley destination if you like good food. We were greeted at the top of the stairs with a beautiful flower arrangement with ranunculus, jasmine, and quince branches with gorgeous pink blossoms.

 

The lunch menu was full of seasonal vegetables like fennel, cauliflower, beets, carrots, parsnips and garden lettuces. We started with their fennel and citrus salad,  plate of rosemary olives, Spanish anchovies and parsnip-carrot soup with crème’ fraiche and chives. Delish.

 

Then I ordered the halibut with snap peas, spinach and Meyer lemon beurre blanc, and Andrew ordered the pork loin. After a bit, the waiter explained that they needed to substitute the pork with a roasted chicken breast, which was served with  roasted asparagus and shoestring potatoes. Andrew absolutely loved it. He said he could cry after taking the first bite. He said it was his second best meal of his life, the first being in Europe.

 

Later, the waiter brought us the coconut panna cotta with tangerine-passion fruit coulis and a cardamom cake with blood orange caramel and Chantilly cream on the house. Our generous waiter also gave me Mary Jo’s email who is the pastry chef at Chez Panisse. Of course I tried to look her up on Instagram immediately to follow her. And I will definitely be reaching out to her to see if she needs an assistant.

 

 

With full satisfied bellies, we walked into The Local Butcher shop and bought a pork chop so my son could finally get the pork he was looking forward to. This place had everything you could think of from chicken, sausages, deli meats, bacon, smoked ham hocks, hot dogs, pates, duck, turkey, rabbit, quail, varieties of lard, stocks and bone broth.

 

This butcher shop focuses on providing local proteins: Such as Wolfe Ranch in Vacaville, Devils Gulch in Marin County, Paine Farm in Sonoma, Farmer Joy in Petaluma, Tomales Bay Pastures in Marshall and many more. They offer sausage making classes, a poultry butcher class, a stock making class, duck confit classes and much more. I would check out their website for more information on dates and classes.

Next, Andrew and I we on to the Edible Schoolyard at King Middle School which I’ve heard so much about, a few blocks from Chez Panisse. Kids learn about gardening, cooking, composting, edible education programs, and the program is committed to forging a just, sustainable food system. We saw rows of organic kale, arugula, leeks, borage and much more.

 

 

“To spend time in an Edible Schoolyard is to realize how much more is going on here than teaching kids how to garden or cook. Kids begin to learn about food in all its dimensions – as an edible medium of culture, science, ecology, and even social justice. The Edible Schoolyard is an eloquent and practical answer to some of the most pressing questions facing us as a society.”

MICHAEL POLLAN Journalist and Author

Here the children learn about fungi, bacteria, and how food scraps become rich organic compost in six weeks. Andrew and I saw cuttings of fruit trees that had been grafted and placed into pots. Last year, I took a class last year on grafting trees and learned a lot. Unfortunately, my apple tree didn’t survive, but plenty of Alice Waters’ students trees were thriving. There was even a greenhouse with new plantings that the students grew from seeds.

 

I was impressed by the curriculum of pressing cider, learning about global warming, making kale pesto, the study of bees and pollinators, and the process of orienting kids into a kitchen and what happens there.

 

We even came across a friendly neighborhood cat who looked content supervising our visit. It was even more exciting to walk by a plant share kiosk in front of someone’s house. People leave extra plants that they don’t need and share them. I could place one of these stations in front of my house since I have many plants that reseed everywhere. They call it the “give and take garden” and I’m in love with the concept. After all, I started out gardening when my friends gave me cuttings of perennials from their gardens.

 

Overall, it was a fabulous day spending time with my son and exploring Berkeley. We loved Chez Panisse, The Local Butcher Shop, and The Edible Schoolyard. I hope you and your loved ones are getting out and trying something new. It’s exciting to be inspired by what’s going on in the community.

 

Are you inspired to cook when you see fresh produce at your market? What dish are you looking forward to making this Easter? I saw an adorable cake on Instagram by TheTipsyCakery that I could try making with my four year old niece Josie.

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Isn’t this the cutest cake by thetipsycakery? Found on Instagram

Please subscribe to my blog to get the latest posts. And thank you for reading. It means a lot. Happy Easter!

Here’s my recipe for Strawberry Pie

 

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Simple Tips to Compost in Your Garden and Make the Best Fennel and Goat Cheese Tart for Mother’s Day

Simple Tips to Compost in Your Garden and Make the Best Fennel and Goat Cheese Tart for Mother’s Day

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Today I took a class on composting in the home garden. Luckily for me, The UC Master Gardeners of Contra Costa County http://ccmg.ucanr.edu/OurGarden/ offer weekly free classes at Our Garden on Wiget Lane and Shadelands Drive in Walnut Creek, California. This place was started in 2009 to grow food for the hungry and also to teach sustainable gardening practices to people like me. I go to learn new techniques on how to grow organically, how to compost efficiently, and to learn the secrets to growing my own vegetables and herbs.

In early April, I bought over 25 varieties of tomatoes, egg plant, tomatillos, cucumber, squash, pumpkin, and herbs like cilantro, dill and tarragon. Last season’s compost was ready to move into my raised planter box and I planted these beautiful plants into the organic soil. It’s being able to go out and pick fresh herbs that makes my dishes come out delicious, I believe.

Composting is nature’s way to turn fruit, vegetable and yard trimmings into a dark, crumbly soil amendment. I’m all for that. I’ve been composting for several years, not really knowing what I’m doing. The class taught me I should be chopping the leaves, fruit peels, greenery, etc into smaller pieces before adding to the pile. Compost is made by the breakdown of organic material primarily microorganisms like bacteria and fungi and macro organisms like worms, insects, and their relatives. The pile heats up because the bacteria decomposes the organic matter.

The compost process requires three components: organic matter, air and water. To begin composting you need brown items that include carbon like dry leaves, egg shells, straw, coffee filters, wood shavings, pine needles, shredded paper, and chopped woody prunings. You also need green items which include nitrogen such as grass clippings, well composted herbivore manures, flowers, coffee grounds, green leaves, tea leaves/bags, sod, and fruit and vegetable waste. Food scraps should be buried in the center of the pile 6-12 inches deep. Roughly 1 volume of greens to 2 volumes of browns are the starting proportions for building a compost pile.

You need a bin made out of chicken wire, welded wire fencing, or one that is purchased at a local garden supply. Geo Bin https://www.amazon.com/Compost-Bin-by-GEOBIN/dp/B0085O6NXQ came highly recommended. The optimal size bin is between 3X3 ft or 5X5X5 ft. The bin requires air holes for good circulation and someone needs to turn the pile daily/weekly to speed the compost process. Water is needed for the pile and should be kept as damp as a wrung out sponge.

I learned that compost piles are hottest in the center and can sometimes reach above 160 degrees. The ideal temperature for the best decomposer bacteria is between 122 and 131 degrees. Turning the pile brings fresh materials (food) to the bacteria and maintains the heat in the pile. Keep the pile watered and the compost should be ready in 6 to 8 weeks if the pile stays hot enough. If it’s not turned or watered enough it could take 3 to 8 months.

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Growing your own vegetables and herbs is very rewarding. Here is a pic of my raised garden in my front yard. There is nothing better than walking our to your organic garden and picking fresh herbs to add to your recipes. I’m inspired to use my composting techniques and build a healthier soil which in turn will grow healthier plants. I hope I’ve inspired you to try it in your back yard garden. You’ll be glad you did. Secrets to getting more vegies into your diet. 

Maybe you will bake this savory fennel and goat cheese tart for your friends and family this Mother’s Day. I made it recently for my garden club and they loved it. Here is the recipe:

 

Fennel, Goat Cheese and Tarragon Tart

 

Pastry Dough Recipe

1 ½ C Unbleached Flour

¾ Stick (6T) cold unsalted butter cut into small cubes

¼ t Kosher salt

4 to 5 T Ice Cold H20

 

For Tart Filling

2 large fennel bulbs @ 2 ½ lbs

1 large leek

8 green cardamom pods (or 1 t cardamom spice powder)

¼ C white wine or champagne

¼ C H20

¼ C Olive Oil

1 t Kosher salt

½ t black pepper

2 T unsalted butter

2 eggs

1 large egg yolk

½ C heavy cream

½ C whole milk

¼ C goat cheese

3 Oz (½ C) Taleggio Cheese cut into extra small cubes

1 T chopped fresh Tarragon from the garden

 

Make pastry dough for tart:

 

In a food processor, blend flour, salt and butter until blended. Or use pastry cutter or fingers just until most of  resembles coarse meal. Add cold water and blend until combined. Do not over mix or pastry will be tough.

Gather dough onto parchment paper or plastic wrap and make into a ball and flatten. Cover completely and let it rest in fridge to chill.

 

Directions for filling:

Cut off and discard fennel stalks and fronds. Cut out core and cut up fennel into ¼ in thick slices. Wash and cut leek into ¼ in slices using white parts only. Flatten cardamom pods with side of large heavy knife, then remove black seeds and discard pods. Crush seeds with side of knife and chop finely. Or sprinkle cardamom spice powder onto leeks and fennel in a 12 inch heavy skillet. Add wine, water, butter, salt and pepper and bring to a simmer, covered over moderately low heat stirring occasionally until tender about 20 to 25 min. Cool.

 

Preheat oven to 375 degrees and make sure rack is in center of oven.

 

Roll out dough into a 15 in round tart pan. I use plastic wrap to  prevent dough from sticking to rolling pin. Trim dough so that it is flush with rim of pan. Lightly prick dough with a fork, then chill for 30 min. Line shell with foil (I spray with Pam first)and fill with dry kidney beans, rice or pie weights.Bake on a large baking sheet for about 15 to 20 minutes. Remove foil and pie weights and bake 10 -15 min longer or until tart shell is golden brown. Remove from oven.

 

Whisk together eggs, yolk, until foamy and add milk, cream, goat cheese, chopped tarragon, salt and pepper. Transfer fennel and leek mixture into pastry shell spreading evenly, and dot with taleggio cheese. Pour custard into shell and bake until set about 20-25 minutes. Cool on a wire rack before serving. Serves 6-8 people

 

I hope you’ve enjoyed reading about composting and making delicious tarts. Please follow my blog and feel free to ask me any questions in the comments below.

Touring and Eating My Way Through Iceland

 

 

 

 

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