Turning a heap into a help

With all the leftover food we'll be generating between now and the New Year, this is probably the perfect time to hop on the latest kitchen fad: the countertop composter.

That's right, a little compost heap nestled by the sink, a handy place to scrape those unwanted potato peels and turn them into food for houseplants.

Lifestyle company Gaiam (gaiam.com) offers four models, from a $14 plastic bucket to the floor-standing $189 Compost Can. Williams-Sonoma's ceramic composter (online only at williams-sonoma.com) has a designer, fluted-Regency look, while the Lillian Vernon steel version ($34.98; lillianvernon.com) will appeal to the funky stainless crowd. All models have activated charcoal filters to cut down on odors and will quickly make snacks for your spiderplant and fertilizer for that Ficus.

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