This month’s The Recipe Redux challenge is one that is near and dear to my heart (and actually a topic that you may have heard me talk about before):
In honor of Earth Day on April 22, we’re challenging ReDux members to show how they reduce food waste. Whatever you would normally toss, use it up. Share tips for reducing food waste in meal planning, prep or using up scraps.
There are so many reasons, from environmental to financial, why reducing food waste is a great goal and if I am being totally honest, it is an area that is still a work in progress for me. While I almost never let cooked food go to waste, I struggle with what to do with all of my vegetable scraps since I don’t have a yard big enough for a compost bin. Some of them I store in gallon-sized freezer bags to use when I make vegetable or chicken broth, but often times those bags (yes, there is more than one) reach capacity and so then I end up tossing peels, ends, and cores—and feeling guilty about it every time. Not very productive, I know.
So, if you are like me and throwing food away makes you crazy, here are some ways to at least start reducing food waste that have worked for me. And, please, please, please share your tips and tricks in the comments so we all can benefit!
- Keep ends of bread or stale bread in a freezer bag to be used for breadcrumbs. When you find yourself facing those straggler pieces of bread that you know no one will ever eat, rip them up into small pieces and toss them in the bag. Then, when you have a need or when you have some time when you’ll just be kicking it around the house, pour the bread pieces out on to a cookie sheet and put it in a 200 degree oven. Let them slowly dry out in the oven for 45 minutes to an hour, or until all the pieces are super dry, then throw them into your food processor and run it until you have bread crumbs! I do this from time to time and then store them in a sealed jar in my pantry to use as needed.
- Keep vegetable scraps in freezer bags for making homemade broth. I do this with onion peels, green onion stalks, carrot and celery ends, the stems from greens, mushroom tips, etc. When you want to make the broth, just throw them in a pot, fill with water until just covering the scraps, toss in some bay leaves, thyme, salt, and pepper. Bring it all to a boil, then turn down to low and simmer for as long as possible, at least 2 hours. Strain and save for your recipes. I like to save mine in 4-cup portions since that is the most often needed amount.
- Throw parmesan rinds into soups. Just fish them out when the soup is ready. This will add a depth of flavor and works especially well with minestrones and pureed vegetable soups.
- Turn your potato or sweet potato peels into crisps! The skin is where many of the nutrients are stored, so tossing these always makes me sad. But no more! These nutrient-packed snacks are so simple, so good, and can be changed up easily by tossing in a spice of choice (chili powder, garam masala, cinnamon, etc.). Here’s the super simple recipe:
- Potato peels
- Extra virgin olive oil
- Spices (optional)
- Preheat the oven to 425. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicon mat. Place all of your potato or sweet potato peels on the baking sheet and drizzle with olive. Sprinkle with a littlee bit of salt, pepper, and any spice you feel like using (chili powder, curry powder, garam masala, cinnamon, za’atar, etc.). Toss gently with your hands to make sure all the peels have oil and spices on them. Make sure the peels are spread out in a single layer. Bake for 10 minutes, then give them a stir and check for doneness. If they need more time, set a timer for another 3-5 minutes and check again. Mine usually take about 15 minutes total.