Waste Not-Want Not
The amount of food wasted is staggering. Efforts have come to lime light to help the average citizen, and student come to grips with the disheartening amount of unwanted food. This has been becoming more and more apparent. Especially after large food holidays where most people are looking for lots of variety, in large portions, with the unfortunate result with lots of leftovers.
As the new year Starts, Resolutons are made and broken easily. But sometimes for resolutions to be successful, you need to live the promise you are making to yourself.
My household is small. Just one, plus a couple of sets of paws. But that doesn't mean there isn't a large amount food produced here. As a Chef, there is always testing, and experimenting. And quite honestly, cooking what you want, because you can.
There not much that goes to waste, in my house, my classroom, or my kitchen. Most weeks I only remove a grocery bag of garbage a week, plus about the same in recyclables. Not much. And nothing's wasted. If you don't believe me, ask my students. This also helps keep my budget in check as well.
The hot topic in the world of Chef-dom is how to control food waste. But how do you do that? And how can this relate to the rest of the world.
To have an efficient and profitable establishment, chefs must learn how to have a smooth running kitchen where portions are controlled, as well as the costs. Lots of research goes into how much should go on to a plate. The satiety of the items, how many components on a plate, how many courses you want to customer to order, the nutritional value of all these items come into play.
Controlling the edible portion of a plate is easy. How do you control the rest? Getting to that gorgeous devious mouth watering food waiting for you to devour takes a process. And one sacrifices of the ingredients. Ingredients must be washed, trimmed, peeled, deboned, portioned seasoned and cooked. If they don't look perfect, or can't match the requirement of the chef, they aren't used.
What happens then?
The modern invention of a freezer has made life very easy. So is the technique of canning, preserving, and putting up. But sometimes all you need are IDEAS of what to do. Most don't take very much time or effort, some take a little.
Here's 40 ways to reduce the amount of food that hits the landfill.
Let's start easy.
(Click the hyper links for more information and ready to use recipes)
Fresh herbs bought have very finicky requirements with temperature and moisture and can rapidly go bad if not monitored. They are also very expensive in comparison. These essential components of a dish can take your transform your dining experience.
Whether you have a bountiful bush of herbs that is too plentiful, or you have purchased a quantity, greater than what you could use, don't waste them once they have lost their shiny, plump greenness. Withered herbs can be further dried out, or use them in one of these ways:
This is one of my personal standbys. You can utilize varying varieties of herbs including: parsley, oregano, thyme, sage, rosemary or marjoram. Even when the herbs are brown and withered, a small amount of parsley will brighten up the mix, if that is important. Plus, the added bonus is when you sift out uneven bits, which I named "crunchies", they can be used to cover large roasts for imbedding flavor. Shelf life: 6 months or longer.
The herbaceous sauce has many different variations when it comes to consistency, and herbs used. This sauce tastes great with grilled meats, vegetables, and even for dipping bread. Batches of the sauce can be made an frozen in small quantities if desired. The bulk of the sauce uses cilantro. However I usually add a small amount of parsley if available to keep it green. Other herbs used in this could include oregano and thyme. Shelf life: several weeks.
3. Herb Butters
Chopping up various herbs and mixing it with other ingredients before mixing it into soft butter extends the life of the herb, especially when the mixed butter is then stored in the freezer. Try herb butter on corn, potatoes, pasta, or simply to jazz up fresh bread.
Try Sweet Corn with Herb Butter that uses tarragon, dill, parsley, basil, chives, and thyme or making your own Loaded Baked Potato Butter full of fresh chives. Pasta can be jazzed up quickly with any type of herb butter, right out your freezer. Shelf life: several months if frozen.
4. Herb Oil
This is great to have on hand to jazz up a dull looking plate of pasta or rice, or for dipping in bread. Use any leafy herb, or strip the leaves off of woody stems. The best is chive oil or basil oil, with a bit of parsley thrown in to keep the color vibrant. Perfect to make when the herbs are not so pretty any more. Shelf life: several months if refrigerated.
Keep summer in life all year long. Pesto is perfect to make when the basil bush as gone to flower and the stems get woody. The yield of the plant is going down, so make a batch to store in the freezer to hold you until the warm summer months again. Besides straight basil, you can mix and match herbs such sage, chervil, tarragon, and parsley. Any soft herb would work! You can also substitute out toasted pine nuts with any other nut. This can be frozen, or put up in a can for a few months. Shelf life: several weeks.
6. Herb Simple Syrup
Steep your herbs in simple syrup- a cooked mixture of equal parts sugar and water. These can be kept on hand to add to cocktails, iced tea, lemonade, or club soda. This works well with basil, and mint. Shelf life: several months if refrigerated.
Here is a demo on how to use herbs year round in your kitchen.
When Good Milk Goes Bad
It's happened to us all. You're expecting a nice sweet glass of cold milk, and what you get is a mouthful of unpleasantness. There are many factors that influence the longevity of dairy milk including time, light, and temperature. Do you know what the date on the milk carton means?That is the SELLBY date, not the expiration date. It is derived by adding 2 weeks to the date the milk was pasteurized. It DOES NOT mean it goes bad then. Controlling the aforementioned factors can allow the milk to have a long healthy life, still about another 1 to 2 weeks after the sell by date. But when milk spoils, or sours don't throw it out.
1. Sour milk can be substituted in any items that will be baked or cooked that calls for buttermilk. The thickness is not quite the same, but it works well in quick breads, biscuits, and rolls. You can even use it for marinating such as Fried Chicken.
If you can't used the milk right away, freeze 1/2 cup or so portions in small containers or half-sized resealable bags. Then you will always have some on hand.
Easy to make, and then frozen if needed. Ricotta means "recooked". A small amount of cream (or half and half) is used to add richness, but can be left out. Use as you would store bought ricotta. Easily frozen for later.
The Bread of Life
Bread, especially in the humid climate of Florida, doesn't always has a long shelf life- until you are purchasing it, and then it is full of anti-staling preservatives. When your bread goes stale,
don't immediately throw it out. This stale bread can still be used for lots of things now- or saved for later. (However, I recommend cutting it before you just throw it out ).
1. Cut croutons (cubed) or crostini (thin slices). Bake now, or freeze and bake later. Great mixing and matching types of bread.
2. Breadcrumbs. Finish letting your bread dry out completely, then crushing into crumbs. You can then pulverize in a food processor, or place in a resealable bag and pound with a meat mallet, or bottom of a heavy sauté pan.
Bake and freeze this treat, or just gather all your dry ingredients and freeze those until you have time to make it. You can make it sweet or savory.
Similar to bread pudding, this can be prepped in advanced and frozen. Mixing and matching bread is always a good idea.
If your bread is small, or chunky, French Toast may not be an option. Add your ingredients and bake it like bread pudding. Now you can easily add fruits and nuts as well.
6. Why not just simple make garlic bread in advanced? Yes your bread is a little dry, but slather it with soft garlic butter, and maybe some chopped herbs and parmesan- and just freeze tightly wrapped. The moisture from freezing and the butter will help freshen up your bread when toasted off again.
When the Garden is too Bountiful
(or your eyes are bigger than your stomach)
What to do when you have too much produce?
What you do with left overs?
How about as you trim and peel your product?
Creativity is the key.
Composting is also an answer, but theres always options before that .
Yes I know, there are somethings you just can't eat. Some components of plants you can't eat. Sometimes too much product is overwhelming.
It's hard for me to imagine people just throwing out fruits and vegetables- because I just love them so much. But even when I receive bountiful gifts from my farmers, I feel a little overwhelmed with what to do with it all.
Let's look at ways to combat what is thrown out.
But how about this?
Do you know you can dry out the skins to make a seasoning?
It's very easily done, and can be mixed with other spices to form a custom blend.
And considered the inside- with the seeds. You can make the most luscious tomato juice of your life. You can easily control the amount of salt, and other spices added to it, or custom blend your flavors.
3. Tomato Juice
if you have "ugly" tomatoes, or ones that just won't ripen correctly, or are starting to get mushy, try preserving them in the oven or with fat.
7. Ripe tomatoes canned with basil.
Pineapple should be termed "nectar of the gods"- so sweet and juicy and luscious. And usually priced accordingly. There are lots of ways to enjoy pineapple, but do you know you can grow your own?
1. Cut off the top of your pineapple with about 1/4" or a little more of flesh left on. Place this into the dirt (the ground, or a pot). Water a little daily for about 2-3 weeks. The flesh will become roots and you will see new green shoots forming from the center. Now relax- it takes about 3 years for the plant to get to maturity. And then you may only get one to two pineapples a year per plant (now you understand the retail price of pineapples). But it is totally worth it.
A true way to use the entire plant- fermenting pineapple skins in
water, and a little sugar (with whole spices added as desired) is a great treat to have on hand. After fermenting, more sugar can be added as desired. And the natural fermenting process *might* give it a small amount of alcohol content. Super refreshing. After the fermentation, the rinds compost well.
Berries are super perishable. They are super plentiful in season, especially after "U-pick". What can you do with the berries, especially when they are past their prime, getting a little soft or mushy, or starting to get spots. There are lots and lots of berry recipes, but if you want to do something besides freeze them, try this.
1. Crystallized Strawberries- Thinly slice strawberries, lay on a silicone mat, sprinkle with a little sugar, and bake at the lowest temperature possible until dried out. Store in an airtight container for a quick snack.
2. Berry Sauce- Cook and puree your left over, slightly overripe berries with a little sugar, and lemon juice. This can now be refrigerated, or frozen. Works with strawberries, blueberries, and blackberries, as well as raspberries, and a mixture of any of these. This sauce can then be used for lots of different recipes. Shelf life: several months if frozen.
3. Fruit Leathers- Great for random or small quantities of fruit. Sugar can be added as desired. Shelf life: several months if stored airtight.
5. Blackberries in heavy syrup
Instead of throwing away your apple peels, ferment them into fresh apple cider vinegar.
Place your apple peels into a GLASS jar, with a couple tablespoons of granulated sugar, and just cover with water. Place a piece of plastic wrap loosely directly on top of the peels. If needed, weigh down the plastic wrap with a small dish or ramekin. Cover the jar with a piece of cheesecloth, or loosely lid the jar. Let sit at room temperature for about 3-4 weeks, or longer until fermented. Don't worry if there is a thin white film on top, that's natural. When the vinegar is fermented strong enough, remove the plastic wrap, skim the film, and strain out the apples. Store in a clean, air tight container.
If you cut the kernels off the cob, make sure to make corn stock. This extracts every last bit of flavor from the cob. This can be frozen and used any where stock, broth, or water is used. Shelf life: Several months in the freezer.
1. When you trim off the bottom of the celery, instead of discarding, plant the butt of the plant, and soon you will have a new plant growing.
2. The green, bitter leaves of the celery can be saved (frozen) to make stock, or used in salads.
(Meer-pwa)- This is the French term for vegetables cut to add flavor to dishes. Traditionally, it is celery, carrots, or onions. However, there are a few different other vegetables that can be used. As you trim or pare your vegetables, the trimmings, as long as they are wholesome and not spoiled can be saved for when you go to make stock. The perfect candidates for mirepoix can include carrots, celery/celeriac, onions, shallots, garlic, parsley stems, tomato parts, mushrooms, turnips, parsnips, white/green cabbage.
When you just can't get to that last banana before it gets a little 'too ripe for your taste', instead of just pitching that one, there is so much more you can do besides just make a smoothie.
Bananas, especially super ripe ones freeze and defrost very easily. Defrost the bananas in a bowl, and they are ready for Banana Bread, Banana pudding, or any other cooked creation that you desire. Banana peels are also an essential of composting!
My favorite thing to do with random leftovers of any kind is to make quiche. These can be made in large or small portions, and can lead to creative combinations. Making small quiches (in large muffin tins) can ensure there are no leftovers, left-over.
Sometimes, you're just in the mood for cheese..........
Vegetable Fondue- Use all your random, left over vegetables, and all your random leftover cheeses for a truly unique snack. Easily customizable, but unique ever time.
left over vegetables, with baked eggs
Speaking of Cheese
Most hard cheeses can be shredded, and then frozen. If you think you cheese will go bad, save it by shredding and freezing.
When you are down to just a few scraps, of different kinds of cheese, trying making the cheesiest mac and cheese, or cheese fondue.
How about this?
1. After roasting meat or bones,(or crisping up bacon) how about saving the fat? You now have very flavorful fat that can be stored in the freezer for up to a year or in the refrigerator for at least several months. This works well with chicken fat, beef and veal fat, lamb fat and bacon fat.
2. Bones, of any kind, after the meat is cut off, cooked or raw, can be saved, frozen, then turned into stock. Save your bones, and shrimp/lobster/crab shells in double zipped bags in the freezer, until you have enough to make homemade stock.
3. With excess oil from frying- there are recycle stations available to collect oil. However, with small amounts, I soak it into the wood for my outdoor fire pit.
When you are done boiling pasta or steaming vegetables. What do you do with the water you drain off? Or the old water in your pets' bowl. Consider the plants in the garden.
Oh- when empty of a cooler of half melted ice- your lawn with thank you for thinking of it before the drain.
Before you throw out the scraps, what about composting?
Having worked in numerous commercial kitchens, now teaching others how to control food costs and #reduce_food_waste, I can honestly say that one of the best ways to reduce food wastes is to
1. control portion sizes
2. shop smart
3. be creative, and not afraid
4. figure out how to make soups
Soups are the penultimate way to keep random food scraps to a minimum. Any Chef worth their salt knows how to make soup out of nothing.
So as the new year rings in, resolve to waste less, and do more.
Creativity and knowledge is the key to waste less in the kitchen.
You'll never know what you can create!
©2017 Chef Jennifer M. Denlinger www.FloridaChef.net