We were dressed down in cooking school if we threw away any scraps, peels, and things gone limp because they all had a place or a purpose in the kitchen. Every consumable product needed to be stretched. The rest of the world is throwing one-third of its food in the garbage, which over time sits in landfills, decomposes and releases serious methane into the air. We can do better! While we might not be able to save, repurpose or use every scrap produced in our kitchens or brought home after a meal there are some back-pocket tips to spark ideas on using what you already have in your kitchen or fridge.
Peels or rinds are packed with flavor and nutrients. Don’t throw those sweet potato peels away—crisp them with a little olive oil, salt, and pepper in a 400-degree oven for 20-25 minutes. Cucumber peels or citrus rinds can turn regular water into “spa” water. Boil apple peels along with a stick of cinnamon for a spot of afternoon tea. Decoct the bits and pieces of red bell pepper with some shallots, water, vegetable stock, or white wine to spoon over scallops or a piece of salmon.
My first favorite dish to use any random, leftover, half-used ingredients is Vegetable Fried Rice. I always seem to have half an onion sitting on my refrigerator shelf in addition to leftover rice. Once you make Vegetable Fried Rice at home, you will immediately question how much oil is being put into this dish at a restaurant? A LOT. You will not only save money, but calories as well. My second favorite leftover-ingredient-meal is a vegetable pancake. Mixing a savory batter and throwing in various leftover vegetables is a delicious way to use those wilting greens or half-used bell pepper, carrots, cabbage or zucchini. Vegetable pancakes are a popular staple in many cuisines such as Pajeon in Korea and Okonomiyaki in Japan.
There are wilted greens and then there are wiltedgreens. Before your greens get to the latter stage, throw them into a clear broth with whatever frozen vegetables you might have on hand. At the end of the week, this Detox Soup is a staple in our house. You could also opt for a heartier soup—add a bit of tomato paste or puree some leftover canned tomatoes, and add in whatever ingredients—peas, corns, green beans, leftover pasta that you have on hand.
Speaking of greens, sometimes we throw away green parts of vegetables that are usable. Carrot tops makes an excellent pesto when you don’t have basil on hand. Try them in this Ricotta Gnocchi with Pesto recipe.
Make friends with the freezer. I freeze just about everything. Egg yolks too. The innards of a red bell pepper or ends of a zucchini—toss them in a baggie labelled “For Vegetable Stock” and stick a date label on it and tuck in the freezer until it fills up and then use it to make a delicious vegetable stock. Herbs can be frozen—you can mince them and freeze them in small ice cubes to later throw into soups or stews. Still too many herbs? Make herbed oil, herbed butter or make herbed salt to keep on hand.
Instead of turning to that familiar box of food coloring for dying Easter eggs, use the extra red cabbage outer layers, smooshed blueberries, onion peels, turmeric skin, or coffee grounds for natural decoration.
If you want to repurpose leftovers—add a sauce so it doesn’t feel the same the next day or on a dedicated leftover night. Email if you need some inspiration as I love a good challenge.
Earth day is fast-approaching, but we don’t have to celebrate our beautiful planet just one day of the year. If we all can take just one step towards reducing home waste, the cumulative power of some creative actions can make a big difference. #stopfoodwaste