At school drop off the other day, I ran into my friend Carla. We talked about what our kids were going to be for Halloween, and then she asked, "Do you know if there are any programs to give away all that extra Halloween candy?"
My usual plan is to remove the excess loot from my kids' pumpkins when they are sleeping. The best thing to do then, healthwise, would probably be to throw it away. But even though candy has no nutritional value, I still can't bring myself to discard it. So I recycle it: I bring it to work, where it somehow magically disappears within minutes.
Recycling is one of the new "three Rs," which have traditionally referred to "Reading, wRiting and aRithmetic." These days, it carries an additional meaning-- "Reduce, Reuse, Recycle." Kids in Northern California and in other eco-conscious cities and towns are becoming environmentally literate even before they learn to read. For example, in a Mommy-and-Me science class I tried out with my then toddler-aged daughter, one of the "games" we played was garbage sorting bingo ("Which bin does the coffee filter go into? That's right, composting!") Elementary school-aged kids, and even preschoolers, with their inflexible and very concrete minds, become excellent recycling and composting police. ("Mama, you shouldn't put that milk container in the recycling!")
I didn't get the head start that my kids have, but I am getting my eco-education just by living in San Francisco. I just wish it could be more fun. It is actually a fineable offense to improperly sort your waste. Our Mayor, Gavin Newsom, has the lofty goal of making San Francisco the first "zero waste" city in the country within the next few years. This means that all waste needs to be recycled or composted, and nothing makes it way to the dump. We're already at an admirable 72%. When the program was introduced several years ago, I had no problems with recycling-- I had been doing that already for at least a decade. But it took me years and some shaming by more environmental friends to get me to begin composting. It is amazing how quickly the average consumer, like me, can train herself into sorting. Once I started, it became second nature. In fact, now I am the more-environmental-than-thou composter. I reflexively flinch if I am at a friend's house and see that they don't sort their trash. (Gasp!)
I have come a long way, so I am pretty proud of my environmental self. But I am not getting much positive reinforcement by our waste managers (guys who actually prefer to still call themselves "garbage men"). Every week, we dutifully roll out our three collection bins- black for waste, blue for recyclables, and green (of course) for composting. I always think we've done it accurately, but every so often, we'll get feedback that it's not so. It's a lesson, provided usually by example and not in words by our garbage men, who honestly, I would think wouldn't have enough time to teach every house a lesson. Last week, for instance, they left a cardboard orange juice carton (which I used to put in recycling but learned actually belonged in composting) propping open the lid of the otherwise emptied green bin. The little plastic spout and cap were carefully cut out and placed in the blue bin, and the now soiled paper-only container was left where it should have been-- with composting. I was chagrined.
Now that Halloween is approaching, I'd like to apply the waste-sorting lessons I have learned to creatively reusing Halloween candy. I'm talking about compost.
Compost may not sound like an appetizing thing to eat, unless you've been to David Chang's Momofuku Milk Bar
in New York. The Milk Bar's pastry chef, Christina Tosi, created a cookie with a cult following known as the compost cookie (TM).
I had one recently and it was fabulous--a little bit of salt to temper and enhance the sweet, and added crunch from its compost pail of ingredients: coffee grounds, potato chips, and pretzels to complement chocolate and butterscotch chips. The result combines the tastes of chocolate chip cookies with chocolate covered pretzels and espresso beans. In honor of this brilliant New York creation and living green, San Francisco style, I've adapted the compost cookie idea into a blondie filled with a bounty of Halloween candy.
Because blondies have more fun.
2 1/4 cups all purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
2 sticks unsalted butter, softened and at room temperature
3/4 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup light brown sugar
2 large eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup coarsely chopped Halloween chocolate candy (I used 3 mini 0.5 oz Heath bars and 11 Hershey's miniatures-- Hershey bar, Special Dark, Krackel)
2 T coffee grounds, for the true spirit of compost
3/4 cup salty snacks, coarsely crushed (I used equal parts potato chips and pretzels)
1. Preheat oven to 375 F and grease a 15x10 baking pan.
2. Sift together flour, baking soda and salt and set aside.
3. In another bowl, cream butter and sugars until light and fluffy.
4. Add in eggs one at a time. Beat until very well combined and light.
5. Add vanilla.
6. Slowly mix dry ingredients with the wet until completely combined.
5. With a wooden spoon, slowly mix in your crushed Halloween candy.
6. Swirl in coffee grounds.
7. Very gently add the crushed chips and pretzels. Don't overstir or they'll break into crumbs.
8. Spread batter evenly into the greased baking pan.
7. Bake at 375 for 30-35 minutes, until a knife inserted into the center comes out clean and edges are golden.
8. Cool completely before cutting.
Recipe inspired by Christina Tosi's compost cookie (TM) recipe, as seen on The Amateur Gourmet.
All text and images © 2010 Linda Shiue.