Thursday, March 26, 2009

Re-Cre8 Your Garbage: Composting

We've had a composting bin for years, but we didn't know what we were doing with it. We had it next to the shed in the shade and we only put yard clippings in it. It wasn't doing much.

So, as our small little container gardening was going so well for us last summer, we thought we were ready for the next step of composting. We moved our bin to the sunlight. We started collecting kitchen scraps, old cardboard boxes, along with the yard waste to balance out the bin. DH religiously waters and turns the compost. At first, it was a pile of garbage (surprisingly, not too smelly). Eventually it became a beautiful pile of rich topsoil that we can use for this year's planting. Yeah.

And, we've got worms. Ours came of their own accord to feast on the glorious coffee grinds, banana peels, and junk mail. Oh, glorious day!

Composting gets two thumbs up from me. Here's my top ten list for why composting is great.

10. Lots of free pet worms!

9. A chore little kids love - adding their banana peels to the composter.

8. Makes it fun to clean out the refrigerator. The moldier the better for the compost.

7. Switch to fewer garbage pickups and save money.

6. Organic fertilizer for your landscaping.

5. Less waste has to go to waste processing facilities which saves energy.

4. Use fewer plastic trash bags.

3. Great free topsoil for the garden.

2. How often can you get excited about dirt?

1. No stinky food trash smelling up the garage.

Interested in composting? Here are some good resources:
Easy Composting from Montgomery County Recycles

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Cre8 Copy-Cat Fiber One Bars (Peanut-Free)

My family loves the Oats and Chocolate Chip Fiber One bars. We all love the taste and convenience. I love all the fiber and nutrients in the bars. There are a few things I don't like about the bars:
  • Peanuts as an ingredient means the kids cannot take them to school in the lunch box (peanut-free school).
  • The individual packaging generates a lot of non-recyclable plastic waste.
  • Even buying them in bulk, they are pretty pricey ~$1/piece
So, I decided to try to make a copycat version of these bars leaving out the ingredients I don't want (Peanuts, Hydrogenated Coconut Oil, High Fructose Corn Syrup, among others) and also add in some ingredients that I do want (flax meal, oat bran, etc.)

I would really like to add chicory root extract for all the soluble fiber, but I have not been able to find that commercially available. Would love a source if you have one!

This is a huge recipe - makes 30-40 bars and they last well. There are a lot of ingredients here and there is a good amount of room for improvisation. I don't think I actually make them the same way twice...

  • 3 Tbsp. butter, melted
  • ¼ cup packed brown sugar (melted to a syrup)
  • ½ cup honey
  • ¼ cup Agave Nectar
  • ¼ cup molasses
  • ½ cup sunflower butter (mine is sunflowers, tahini, and canola oil)
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 Tbsp. liquid lecithin
  • 1 ½ cup barley flakes
  • 2 ½ cups rolled oats
  • 2 cup crisped rice
  • ¼ cup toasted wheat germ
  • ¼ cup oat bran
  • ¼ cup white whole wheat flour
  • ¼ cup lightly blended almonds
  • ¼ cup flax meal
  • ¼ cup dry coconut flakes
  • 1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a large bowl, mix combine all the dry ingredients. In a separate bowl, mix together the melted butter with the soy lecithin (you could substitute egg yolk for this - it is the emulsifier) then add all the wet ingredients (including the sunflower butter) and whisk until well combined. Add the wet ingredients to the dry and mix with a wooden spoon until until all the dry ingredients are incorporated. Add the chocolate chips and stir until they are evenly distributed. Next, spread the batter into two greased 9x11 baking pans. Bake at 350 degrees for about 20 minutes (or until the edges are lightly browned).

Now, here's the hard part... Cover lightly and leave for 24 hours before cutting. This is a really essential step to keep the bars from falling apart. You may even place in the refrigerator for a few hours before cutting. Cut into bars (I use a pizza cutter, which works great). You can store in a glass container(s) or leave them right in the pan. These are great snacks for the lunch box, after school snacks, a lunch supplement.

Without the chicory root extract, these bars do not have the fiber content that Fiber One Bars do, but they stall have a lot! As well as a bunch of other good nutrients.

Friday, March 20, 2009

ReCre8 Profile: Design*Sponge Before and After

I am certainly no designer. I've always been missing that capability to put all the pieces together in such a way that they just look good. But, I do love getting inspiration from good, talented designers and artists in the world.

One amazing source of ReCre8-ive inspiration is the before and after series on Design*Sponge. Grace Bonney, a Brooklyn-based writer, puts together a beautiful collection of makeover projects that can't help but make you want to go to the thrift store the next time you need something!

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Cre8 a Knitted Baby Hat - Episode I

I love to knit. Most especially, I love to knit baby hats. I think it is because of the speed and simplicity of the projects. I am always in need of baby gifts and I can whip up a hat in a night or two while I'm watching Top Chef.

I usually make up the pattern as I go, but lately I've been trying to write them down so I can share them. This little baby hat is probably best for babies ages 3 months - 1 year (depending on their head size).

  • Yarn: 2 colors (your choice) Baby Weight DK Yarn (I like Sirdar Snuggly Baby Yarn, which they do not make any more). You will need 1 skein plus a scrap for the second color.
  • Needles: Size 4 circular needles and set of Size 4 double-sided bamboo needles
  • Small Cable Hook
Gauge (Understanding Gauge)
  • 6 stitches/in
Don't know how to read a knitting instruction? Check out "How to Read a Knitting Pattern" at WikiHow or the excellent resources at
  • Cast On 80 stitches with Color #1 and join to work in the round.
  • Rows 1-3: in Color #1 (K2P2)*20
  • Row 4: in Color #2 (K2P2)*20
  • Rows 5,6: in Color #1 (K2P2)*20
  • Rows 7,8: in Color #2 (K2P2)*20
  • Row 9: in Color #1 (K2P2)*20 -- NOTE: continue in color #1 for the rest of the pattern
  • Rows 10-15: K35 P2 K6 P2 K35
  • Row 16: K35 P2 C6F P2 K35
  • Rows 17-22: (repeat 10)
  • Row 23: (repeat 16)
  • Rows 24-29: (repeat 10)
  • Row 30: (repeat 16)
  • Rows 31-36: (repeat 10)
  • Row 37: (repeat 16)
  • NOTE: While decreasing, switch to your 4 double-sided needles whenever the hat becomes too small for your circular needle.
  • Row 38: (K2 K2tog K3)*5 P2 K6 P2 (K3 K2tog K2)*5
  • Row 39: K30 P2 K6 P2 K30
  • Row 40: (K2 K2tog K2)*5 P2 K6 P2 (K2 K2tog K2)*5
  • Row 41: K25 P2 K6 P2 K25
  • Row 42: (K1 K2tog K2)*5 P2 K6 P2 (K2 K2tog K1)*5
  • Row 43: K20 P2 K6 P2 K20
  • Row 44: (K1 K2tog K1)*5 P2 CF6 P2 (K1 K2tog K1)*5
  • Row 45: K15 P2 K2 K2tog K2 P2 K15
  • Row 46: (K1 K2tog)*5 P2tog K5 P2tog (K2tog K1)*5
  • Row 47: K10 P1 K2tog K1 K2tog P1 K10
  • Row 48: (K2tog)*5 P1 K3 P1 (K2tog)*5
  • Row 49: K5 P1 K2tog K1 P1 K5
  • Row 50: (K2tog)*7
Using a yarn needle work the tail of the yarn through the 7 stitches, removing them from the knitting needles. Pull the top of the hat closed and work the yarn into stitches on the inside of the hat. Work in all your yarn ends to complete.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Garden Planning 2009

The blogosphere has spoken and I have listened. Now is the time to begin planning my 2009 vegetable garden. Thankfully, there are SO many great resources on the Internet for those of us who have a track record of killing plants rather than growing them. Here are two:
One thing I haven't been able to find is some advice about managing pests (from deers and groundhogs to unwelcome bugs) in an eco-friendly way. Anyone have good resources to offer?

Last year I had a container garden which I could conveniently keep on my back deck and the deer couldn't get to (although, a groundhog frequented my garden for a parsley meal). This year, I'm planning to expand to a full-out backyard vegetable garden. Unfortunately, none of my herbs survived the winter other than my bay laurel, so I have to start from scratch. Here's what I would like to plant (it is yet to be seen what I actually do).
  • Vegetables
    • Peppers (Cayenne, Bell, Paprika)
    • Asparagus
    • Lettuce
    • Spinach
    • Tomatoes
    • Garlic
    • Onion
    • Broccoli
    • Pumpkin
    • Squash

  • Herbs
    • Parsley
    • Cilantro
    • Basil
    • Bay Laurel
    • Thyme
    • Rosemary
    • Sage
    • Oregano

  • Sunflowers (because they are just so awesome)...