I Tried the Vitamix FC-50 FoodCycler Countertop Composter

Check out my honest review of the Vitamix FC-50 “FoodCycler” Countertop Composter!

I’ve probably mentioned this before, but as a food and nutrition writer, I often get offers to try out up-and-coming foods and food-related products. Sometimes these products are totally random, like keto-friendly Fruity Pebbles-like cereals or a skirt that somehow reduces muscle soreness after you work out. Sometimes they’re freebies that might be useful to someone else but that I don’t really use. (So. Many. Aprons.) And sometimes they’re just downright awesome.

Not long ago, I received an offer to try out the Vitamix FC-50 “FoodCycler”–a countertop composter that takes your kitchen scraps and turns them into usable fertilizer in just hours. I love having a garden, but since I have a black thumb and I more or less live on the surface of the sun (aka the Sonoran desert), my outdoor plants have been looking pretty sad for quite some time.

Exhibit A: Seems like some extra fertilizer could only do them good!

On the other hand, keeping up with traditional composting is, frankly, a hassle. You’ve got the smell of nasty old banana peels and slimy spinach wafting through your kitchen. And then there’s the issue of those intractable fruit flies. Gross. Although we have a compost bin in our backyard, the truth is, we hardly use it because of all the work it takes.

Enter this handy-dandy countertop appliance! Vitamix’s FC-50 FoodCycler purports to take some of the work out of doing your part for the planet (and your lovely garden). So how does it work, and is it worth the $400 price tag?

First up, a few specs: the FoodCycler is somewhat large, at about 14 inches tall by 12 deep by 10.5 wide. Yes, it should fit on your countertop, but it’s a pretty sizable box. It didn’t take long to set up, though, with just a few instructions for installing filters. After that, the little beast was ready to go.

Inside the black box, the setup is simple. A small bucket slides in and out of the box so you can set it nearby as you chop veggies for dinner, take the peel off an orange, or perform any other kitchen tasks that leave you with compostable odds and ends. Lately, when I’ve made salad or salsa, it’s been super handy to slide scraps into the bucket instead of into the trash.


Once the bucket is full, starting the FoodCycler’s composting magic couldn’t be easier. Place the bucket back into the box, close the lid in the “lock” position, and–ready for it?–hit the power button.

Lock position at bottom left, power button at bottom right

Now all you have to do is wait. The FoodCycler takes three to eight hours to dry and churn your refuse into a pulverized, broken-down organic matter you can spread in your garden.  It’s literally like having a machine digest the food you’re not going to eat. (Or maybe I just think of it that way because I’m a nutritionist…)

For a visual, in a few hours, the machine turns this:

into this:

Literally this is what that batch of scraps turned into.

A few things to know about the FoodCycler

  • As the FoodCycler does its work, it’s a bit loud. I’d compare it to an unusually boisterous dishwasher.
  • There are certain foods you’re not supposed to put in the FoodCycler: high-sugar fruits, large animal bones, sauces (obviously), and a few other things.
  • The FoodCycler won’t turn your food scraps directly into soil, so don’t expect to open the lid and see lush brown dirt. Rather, you’ll get a dried mixture that should be ready to get sprinkled onto or mixed into soil.

Overall, even though the FoodCycler probably isn’t something I would have invested in on my own, I’ve totally enjoyed it! It’s great to know that our family’s unusable foodstuffs can be repurposed to grow the herbs and tomatoes in our backyard, rather than just get tossed out. If you’re into gardening, or if you find traditional composting as labor-intensive as I do, you’ll probably be very pleased with a FoodCycler.

Hope you enjoyed my Vitamix FC-50 FoodCycler Countertop Composter review! Let me know if you end up purchasing this unique little appliance, and what you think of it if you do.

Sweet Potato Kale Curry

This easy Sweet Potato and Kale Curry is packed with nutrients and just happens to be vegan!

Before I dive into telling you of the wonders of this Sweet Potato and Kale Curry, allow me to remind everyone that I am not a vegan—not even close. Though I do like to limit my meat consumption, especially red meat, it’s rare for me to eat a meal that’s totally vegan. Which is what always makes it surprising when a vegan dinner becomes one of my favorites…like this amazing recipe.

These days, in the throes of the coronavirus pandemic, I’m always looking for meals that are healthy and easy to pull together. With my kids home very day doing online school, I swear all they’re doing is sitting on laptops eating Sour Cream and Cheddar Ruffles (except for the times when I force them to go outside or run around the house a few times). And then there’s me. I’ll confess, my pandemic eating habits haven’t been stellar. With reduced activity and a dip in diet quality, I’m especially motivated lately to feed us all a healthy dinner.

This Sweet Potato and Kale Curry has been a particular lifesaver. It’s full of nutrients like vitamin A from sweet potatoes, vitamin K from kale, and fiber off the charts from the veggies and chickpeas. Not to mention, with minimal prep and about 18 minutes total cooking time, it’s a genuine 30 minute meal.

Now, this may sound well and good for health nuts who don’t mind flavorless food, but hold your peace until you’ve tried the coconut milk broth in this curry. Mild but rich, it’s the kind that makes you wish you’d made an entire separate batch just for sipping.

If you’re like me, I think you’ll find a little sweet potatoes and kale over rice will do your average pandemic dinnertime a world of good, whether you’re a vegan, a meat eater, or somewhere in between.

Sweet Potato and Kale Curry

Ready in 30 minutes, this easy vegan curry is a great choice for a healthy weeknight. Its coconut milk broth is especially delish!
Prep Time10 mins
Cook Time20 mins
Servings: 4

Ingredients

  • 1 Tbsp. vegetable oil
  • 1 Tbsp. minced fresh ginger
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 Tbsp. curry powder
  • 3 small or 2 medium sweet potatoes, peeled and diced into 1/2 inch pieces
  • 1 15-oz. can chickpeas, drained
  • 1 15-oz. full-fat coconut milk
  • 1/2 c. water
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 tsp. black pepper
  • 5 c. torn kale leaves
  • 4 c. cooked jasmine rice

Instructions

  • Heat oil in a large non-stick skillet over medium heat. Add ginger and garlic and saute for about 2 minutes, until fragrant. Add curry powder and cook an additional minute.
  • Add diced sweet potatoes, chickpeas, coconut milk, water, salt, and pepper. Bring to a boil, cover, and reduce heat to a simmer. Simmer 15 minutes or until sweet potatoes are soft.
  • Add kale to the skillet and cook until wilted, about 2 minutes. Serve over cooked jasmine rice.

Notes

Adapted from The Kitchn.

Maple Oatmeal Muffins

Maple Oatmeal Muffins bring simple, wholesome goodness to your morning! Make a dozen with a single bowl.

Like many Americans with a bit of disposable income and nowhere to vacation this summer, we’re in the middle of a kitchen remodel. (Cause, you know, great idea during a pandemic to rip up the cooking and eating space in your already stressed-out home. 🤪)

Anyway, we’re three weeks into the chaos of dishes in the bathtub, makeshift cardboard countertops, and appliances in the bedroom. I’m sure it’ll all be worth it when our new cooking space is sparkling and beautiful–and my husband has proven himself to be EXTREMELY capable at renovating–but man, it sure makes mealtimes tough.

I’ve been hanging in there at dinnertime with some pre-made frozen casseroles, but at breakfast there’s only so much cereal and frozen waffles I can eat. After awhile, I need my baked goods to start the day! (It’s no secret that I’m a muffinaholic.)

With my mixing bowls in my office and measuring cups in my family room, I’ve needed to stick to the old KISS principle: Keep It Simple, Stupid…which is why I chose this maple oatmeal muffin recipe recently. It’s made with just one bowl and super basic ingredients like oats, maple syrup, and nuts. This way, I was able to whip up a dozen hearty muffins without making an even bigger mess in my kitchen (though I *did* have to wash the bowl in the bathtub). Plus, no need to pull tons of ingredients out of my pantry and clutter up my already untidy space!

The flavor of these muffins is not overly sweet, with the maple syrup adding its signature depth. As for texture, they’re slightly dense with pops of crunch from pecans. I’d recommend them for those times when you want a tasty baked good for breakfast but don’t have much to dress it up with.

Despite my torn-up kitchen, when I made these maple oatmeal muffins, it felt so good to sit down to my favorite type of breakfast once again. Not only were they wholesome, hearty, and perfect with a smear of butter, they helped me feel just a little more normal. (And, kitchen remodel or no kitchen remodel, couldn’t we all use anything that helps us feel more normal these days?)

Maple oatmeal muffins

Maple Oatmeal Muffins

These maple oatmeal muffins are a simple, wholesome breakfast made in one bowl!
Prep Time15 mins
Cook Time18 mins
Servings: 12 muffins

Ingredients

  • 1 c. quick-cooking oats
  • 1/2 c. milk, any type
  • 1 c. all-purpose flour
  • 2 tsp. baking powder
  • scant 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
  • 2/3 c. maple syrup
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/4 c. butter, melted
  • 1/3 c. chopped pecan pieces

Instructions

  • Preheat the oven to 400 degrees and grease a 12-cup muffin tin.
  • In a large bowl, combine the oats and milk. Let stand about 5 minutes to soften the oats. Add flour, baking powder, salt, and cinnamon and stir to combine.
  • Make a well in the center of the batter and add maple syrup, egg, and melted butter, mixing to combine. Fold in pecans.
  • Divide batter among the muffin cups and bake 15-18 minutes. Store in an airtight container.

Notes

Adapted from Midwest Living.

Peach Applesauce

Mix up your applesauce game with this sweet alternative! Peach applesauce is the perfect summery snack or dessert.

Quick: What’s your favorite summer fruit? While my thoughts immediately turn to blueberries and strawberries, peaches come in as a close second (or third, I guess?). These stone fruits are among the most versatile bases for sweets. I mean, is there any dessert you can’t make with peaches? Peach pie, peach cobbler, peach crisp, peach popsicles…I could go on, like:

Sorry, I’ve had a hankering to watch Forrest Gump lately.

Anyway, peaches aren’t just great on their own in snacks, smoothies, desserts, and breakfasts–they also make a great complement to other fruits, like…drumroll please…apples! I wouldn’t normally say homemade applesauce needs any tinkering (it’s pretty great on its own), but when sweet, juicy peaches are in season, might as well use the fruits of summer however you can. (Especially when you’ve brought home a giant pallet of them from Trader Joe’s, like I did recently.)

Anyway, this is one of those toss-everything-in-the-crock-pot-and-let-your-house-fill-with-aromas type recipes. You really can’t screw it up, and you could probably play with it to make it extra peachy, extra apple-y, extra sweet, or whatever you like. I also imagine you could use canned peaches in a pinch (like when they’re not in season).

Plus, since kids are STILL home for the longest summer ever that began in March, this makes a snack you can actually feel good about feeding them. (Anyone else going through snacks at record speed? Not gonna lie, we’ve been through a whole lot of chips and candy around here…)

Once the chunky goodness of this peach applesauce emerges from the slow cooker, it’s delicious hot or cold, on its own or atop vanilla ice cream. It’s a little smoother than traditional applesauce, which I think gives it an extra something special.

Enjoy!

Peach Applesauce

A summery variation on a fall favorite, this Peach Applesauce is lightly sweet with a hint of spice.
Prep Time20 mins
Cook Time3 hrs

Ingredients

  • 4 large peaches, peeled and chopped
  • 8 Granny Smith apples, peeled and chopped
  • 1/4 c. white sugar
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp. nutmeg
  • 1/4 c. water

Instructions

  • Place all ingredients in a slow cooker. Cook on high 2 1/2 hours, then reduce heat to low and cook another hour or until the fruit has softened. Blend to your liking using a potato masher or immersion blender. Cool and refrigerate.

Pearl Couscous With Apples, Cranberries, & Herbs

The unique flavors in this Pearl Couscous With Apples, Cranberries, & Herbs blend perfectly for a memorable side dish. 

A few weeks ago we had some friends over for dinner.

Am I allowed to say that?

This is such a weird time where admitting to a dinner party feels like confessing an affair. (Also where coughing is the new farting.) Granted, our dinner group only just grazed the “gathering of 10 people” mark, so technically, we weren’t overstepping any official bounds. (There, now no one can yell at me in the comments.) Plus, personally, since having people over for dinner is something like a religious calling in my life, I felt pretty okay about inviting another family into our home after weeks of only virtual contact with friends.

While deciding a menu for our much-anticipated guests, I asked my husband if there was anything in particular he’d like to have on our special night. “How about that couscous thing you make?” he said, “The one with apples and herbs?”

I knew right away what he was talking about. I’ve been making this Giada de Laurentiis recipe for pearl couscous with apples, cranberries, and herbs for a few years now, and it’s one of those dishes that doesn’t *sound* like it’ll be anything spectacular–and then you eat it and go…

Not surprisingly, the wife of the couple who joined us for dinner ended up asking me for the recipe–not the first time someone has asked! Which I figure means it’s about time to share it on the blog.

So what makes this such a standout side? First of all, we have to give credit to the real star of this dish: the pearl couscous. If you’ve never had this larger, meatier type of couscous, you’re seriously missing out. It’s just the most delightful thing to eat–almost squeaky in its chewy roundness. Meanwhile, a savory olive oil and fresh herb dressing soaks into not only the couscous, but also into tart green apples, crunchy almonds, and sweet dried cranberries. While it may sound like more of an autumn combo, I think it’s one to enjoy all year round. It’s delicious all on its own, or serve it alongside grilled chicken or pork chops. Magnifico!

I’m happy I served this for our friends, and I stand by the decision to have them and their kids over for dinner. (I’ll even confess that we’ve now had friends over for dinner TWICE. Rebelzzzz.) Cooking for others after a lengthy stretch of isolation did wonders for my sense of well-being. And, if you ask me, while social distancing for physical health matters, connecting with others–yes, even in REAL LIFE–matters, too.

Pearl Couscous with Apples, Cranberries, and Herbs

Chewy pearl couscous pairs with tart green apples, sweet cranberries, and an herbed olive oil dressing in this memorable side dish.
Prep Time15 mins
Cook Time20 mins

Ingredients

For the couscous:

  • 1 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 2 c. pearl (Israeli) couscous
  • 32 oz. chicken broth
  • 1/4 c. fresh flat-leaf parsley, chopped
  • 1 1/2 Tbsp. fresh rosemary, chopped
  • 1 tsp. fresh thyme
  • 1 c. dried cranberries
  • 1/2 c. slivered almonds, toasted
  • 1 Granny Smith apple, diced

For the dressing

  • 1/4 c. apple cider vinegar
  • 2 Tbsp. maple syrup
  • 1 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 tsp. black pepper
  • 1/4 c. olive oil

Instructions

Cook the couscous:

  • In a large saucepan, heat 1 Tbsp. olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the couscous. Cook and stir until lightly browned, 3 to 5 minutes.
  • Add chicken broth and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer until liquid is absorbed, 10-15 minutes.

Make the dressing:

  • While couscous cooks, whisk together cider vinegar, maple syrup, salt, black pepper, and olive oil.

Put it all together:

  • In a large serving bowl, combine cooked couscous, parsley, rosemary, thyme, cranberries, almonds, and apples. Stir in dressing and serve immediately.

Notes

Adapted from the Food Network.