Did you know that we throw away a lot of food? According to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the U.N., approximately 40% of food in the US goes to waste. Most of it ends up on landfills, costing us roughly $1.3 billion to dispose of (2008 EPA estimate). Considering that it takes seven to ten calories worth of energy input to produce one calorie of food, we’re throwing away so much more than food. And no, composting all this food isn’t the solution. Let’s try to reduce the amount of food waste we generate. Food ends up in the trash because it is spoiled, wilted, dented, past it’s Best By date, abundant or just not appealing. It’s this last part I will zero in on this week. A new food trend – Food Upcycling – is focusing on helping us to be more conscientious about what ends up not being used. As the name suggests, Upcycling is here to help us get more from what we buy. This week we share a few of the ideas on what you can do to turn those food scraps into something that is good for the earth, the wallet and, of course, the palate. Come and cook with us!
A start to making the most of your food is by eating left-overs. In fact, some dishes taste remarkably better the next day. This certainly applies to stews, sauces and casseroles, but also to left-over pasta that can re-incarnate into something even more delicious as flavors get the chance to meld together. Other ideas include reaching for that less-than-perfect looking fruit or vegetable as they will otherwise be scrapped in the grocery store. Or be more pro-active in mining the fridge and using the freezer. For more great ideas, check out this guide from the Natural Resources Defense Council.
Repurposing what’s left on the cutting board is not as intuitive so let’s give some practical examples of what we mean with Upcycling:
Milk: Make Indian Rice Pudding if you have a lot of milk that is approaching its due date. Slightly spoiled milk – sour, not rancid – can be used for baking or to make paneer, a milk fresh cheese used in Indian cooking.
Vegetable Scraps: Carrot peels, onion skins and celery leaves can be boiled down to make a vegetable broth used for soups, risotti or as a warm drink. Adding these scraps to meat and poultry bones when making stock also adds to the nutritional profile of the stock.
Broccoli Stalks: Unless you buy the florets alone, broccoli usually come with thick fleshy stems. Well, don’t throw them away. Either peel them, slice them and cook them up along with the florets, or try to shave them into a salad, cut them julienne-style into a slow or use them for stir-fries.
Greens: The red leaves and green stalks of beets are just as edible as the root and can be sautéed along with their more bitter cousins collard and turnip greens. On its own they are nutritional powerhouses high in calcium and vitamin A and C and should certainly not end up on the compost pile.
Apple Waste: Peels and cores can be boiled down with sugar, cinnamon and water to make a fragrant simple syrup poured over deserts or fruit compotes. There is a lot of pectin in these apple scraps that can be used as a liquid for making jams.
Almond Pulp: If you’re into making your own almond milk – and we’ll write about it in the fall, there are creative ways to use the pulp that is left-over after straining. It can be used to make all kinds of delicious dishes such as this cinnamon and peanut butter almond pulp crackers/cereal by Edible Perspective.
So in the spirit of reduce, reuse and upcycle, try to implement one of our suggestions this week. Let us know what you tried, how you liked it and if you have more suggestions for our readers. Come and cook with us!