Let’s face it: no matter how good we are at meal planning, we almost always end up wasting a little bit of food. Although consistently cooking at home is a great first step to save ourselves money and to cut down on our overall impact on the world, there are still plenty of opportunities to do the same thing in your kitchen that are easy and delicious—and once you start doing them, you’ll never look back. With that in mind, here are 10 of the most delicious and easy ways to up-cycle your food scraps.
1. Turn Broccoli Stems Into Something Delicious
If you buy fresh broccoli, the chances are that you keep the delicious tops and you end up throwing away the harder bottom part. Still, not many people know that if you prepare them correctly, the stems can be just as good as the part we’re used to eating! Although you can experiment on your own, we’ve included one delicious sample recipe for you to try as well.
olive oil or grapeseed oil
parmesan cheese shreds (optional)
Start by thoroughly peeling the tough outside of your broccoli stems off until you get to the tender, green center (keep peeling to get past the white inner layer). Once you’ve done that, slice the stem up into tiny pieces crossways, each one about an eighth of an inch thick. Next, get a skillet out over high heat and add enough oil to coat the bottom of the pan. Throw your slices in in a single layer and turn the heat down to medium high. Cook the pieces until they’re brown before flipping them with tongs. Cook for another 30 seconds to a minute before turning off the heat and transferring everything to paper towels. Let it drain before sprinkling with salt and parmesan cheese!
2. Make Sure To Use The Tops Of All Your Root Veggies
A lot of the time, we may get something like beets, carrots or radishes and intend to only use the bottom part of it. But our question is: why? As it turns out, all the green tops of these veggies can be reused for creative and delicious salads and stir fries that you may have never tried before! If it helps convince you, many of the more creative (and expensive) world restaurants already do things like this regularly. Although there are endless ways to use them, try this beet-green pesto as a nice way to get started:
5 cups of beet greens (stems removed)
1/2 cup of toasted walnuts
3 cloves of chopped garlic
1/4 cup of shaved parmesan
1/4 teaspoon of kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon of black pepper
1/4 cup of olive oil
additional herbs (basil, parsley, cilantro)
Once you’ve prepared all your ingredients, throw everything into a high speed blender or food processor except for the olive oil. Start by blending it on low to incorporate it before gradually adding in your olive oil as well. When it’s all done, put it in an air-tight container if you’re not going to use it right away. When you’re ready to eat, serve it with some crackers, chips or tossed with some pasta!
3. Save Your Bacon Fat For All Kinds Of Recipes!
Many of us probably know that saving bacon fat can be a good thing to do for it’s unique, savory flavors—but then we often have a jar of it in the fridge that we never end up using! As it turns out, bacon fat is definitely a leftover of your food that’s worth saving and we’ll show you how to get some good use out of it. Although you can definitely use it to stir fry veggies or bake it into a savory biscuit instead of butter, you can also use it to make baconnaise to use on any lunch sandwiches you may be making. Here’s how you do it:
2 egg yolks
1 tablespoon of Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon of mayonnaise (optional)
1 tablespoon of lemon juice
1/2 cup of bacon fat, melted
1/2 cup of vegetable oil
pinch of smoked paprika
green onion slices (optional)
cooked and crumbled bacon (optional)
After your ingredients are ready, mix together your egg yolks, mustard, mayo and lemon juice. Put that in a food processor and turn it on a low setting, gradually pouring in your mix of oil and bacon fat. Keep blending it until it’s well-combined and add in your paprika, salt, pepper, green onions and crumbled bacon as well. Let it all blend down further before transferring into an air-tight jar and keeping it in the fridge. Serve it up on all your favorite sandwiches—it’s even better than chipotle mayo!
4. Keep Cheese Rinds For Delicious Soup Stocks
You may have already known that you can make your own broth and soup stock out of leftover veggie scraps, but have you ever added leftover cheese rinds to the mix? If you’re into do-it-yourself cooking, adding this ingredient can take your soups and broths to the next level. Although you can experiment as much as you want, we’ll show you how to make a basic cheese-rind broth that you’ll love:
1 pound of Parmeggiano-Reggiano rind
4 sprigs of fresh thyme
2 bay leaves
1 teaspoon of whole peppercorns
Begin by throwing your rinds, thyme, bay leaves and peppercorns into a large pot. Add about five quarts of cold water and bring it up to a boil over high heat. Once it’s boiling, turn the heat down and let it simmer, partially covering the pot. Cook it for an hour to an hour and a half, stirring occasionally. Make sure the broth is a light golden color when you take it off the heat. Finally, strain the broth through a sieve over another pot to stop any particles from getting through. Keep the broth in the fridge and use it like you would in any other soup recipe!
5. Reuse Your Lemon Peels In Rice Recipes
If you’ve ever been to a really good Indian restaurant near you, you may have noticed that their rice dishes have lots of bright, beautiful flavor. Often times, that’s because their rice is boiled in water that has already been flavored—and lemon peels are a great way to do this! Here’s what you’ll need to do:
1 clove of garlic
2 cups of chicken broth
2 tablespoons of butter
1/2 teaspoon of salt
1 cup of basmati rice
1 tablespoon of grated lemon zest
additional lemon rinds (optional)
Begin by smashing your garlic clove with the flat side of a knife. Stir that in with your broth, butter and salt in a saucepan and bring the entire thing to a boil over high heat. At this stage, you can also add in additional lemon peels. Stir in your rice as well and turn the heat down to low, cooking everything covered for 20 minutes or until the rice is the right consistency. When the time is up, take out your lemon peels and garlic and stir in your lemon rind with a fork. Serve it up hot and enjoy!
6. Use Your Herb Stems To Make Stocks And Oils
Of all the tips and tricks on this list, this one might be our favorite. If you spend much time cooking, you know just how important it is to season your food with fresh herbs for the best flavor. Still, herbs often go bad quickly—and we usually throw out the stems. To avoid that and get a little more mileage out of these fresh ingredients, why not use the stems to make your own delicious oils to add to recipes? Although you can experiment on your own, we’re going to show you how to make a deliciously heady basil oil:
1 cup of packed basil (stems and leaves)
2 cups of pure olive oil
Start by blending your herbs and oil together in a food processor or high speed blender until everything turns smooth. When that’s done, pour the mix into a saucepan and simmer it over medium heat for about 45 seconds (once the pan is warm enough). When that’s done, pour the resulting mix through a fine-mesh strainer into a bowl or container. Although you shouldn’t press the mix, you can tap the sides to get it to flow through better. When that’s done, filter it again through a flat-bottomed paper filter as well (change the filter as necessary). Store the results in an air-tight jar and use a few drops of it in your next cooking session!
7. Boil Your Apple Cores To Make Homemade Apple Juice
If you love apple juice, you probably know that it’s still expensive and actually not that good for you (unless you’re buying the right brands). The apple juice you get at the store is often packed full of additional sugar and preservatives—but what if you could make your own right at home? If you eat many apples, you can actually repurpose your old apple cores into a tasty juice. Here’s how:
cores and peels from five pounds of Granny Smith apples
water (amount varies)
1/2 cup of sugar (may vary)
Start off by throwing all your apple peels and cores into a large stockpot. Next, pour in enough water to just cover the peels and the cores before stirring in a half cup of sugar. Heat everything up over high until it comes to a boil before turning it down to medium-low or low heat. Keep simmering everything for 30 to 45 minutes. When it’s done, strain the juice through a sieve or a cheesecloth to take the pieces out. Store it in an airtight container and serve cold—be sure to drink it all within a few days!
8. Turn Old Corn Cobs Into Soup Stock
If you couldn’t tell from this list, there’s a lot of potential to be had from cooking your own soup stocks! Although we’ve already shown a few ways to do this, adding old corn cobs is another delicious way to add a touch of sweet, summery flavor to your stews. Play with this one as much as you want but here’s a basic recipe to try:
Start by getting out a large stockpot and filling it halfway up with water. Add your corn cobs into the water, cutting them in half to make them fit as necessary (use as many as you can for richer flavor). Bring the entire thing up to a boil before turning the heat down and simmering it for an hour. After that, turn the heat off and take the corn cobs out. When you’re done, transfer the broth to a pressure cooker if you have one and cook it under high pressure for 45 minutes. Strain everything at the end, put it in a jar and use it in your next soup recipe!
9. Add Banana Peels To Cream For Baking
If you like the flavor of bananas in your baked goods, why not make your own delicious banana cream using old banana peels? As it turns out, this method can add a ton of flavor to your recipes and it’s pretty easy to make. Though where you use your flavored cream is up to you, here’s a basic way to make it:
whole milk or cream
Of all the recipes, this one might be the simplest. Begin by pouring your milk or cream into a stock pot along with your banana peels (the more, the merrier—just make sure it all fits comfortably). Bring your dairy up to a simmer and turn off the heat once you start to see foamy bubbles on top of the mixture. Let the cream sit to the side until it’s cooled back to room temperature before straining it out and storing it. If you’re making a banana cake or another recipe, use this like you would any other cream ingredient—and feel free to experiment with other fruits, too!
10. Make Your Own Apple Cider Vinegar (Or Other Vinegars)
If you want to get really crafty, why not try making your own apple cider vinegar? Everyone knows just how good this ingredient is for you but you may not know just how easy it is to make on your own. As it turns out, all you have to do is a basic fermentation which you can apply to all kinds of other fruits as well (if you’re feeling brave and adventurous). Here’s how you do it:
peels and cores from six apples
1 tablespoon of sugar
6 cups of water
Start by throwing your apple scraps and sugar into a wide-mouth glass or ceramic jar or container. Stir it up well. Although you can also prepare this mixture uncovered (with a screen to prevent bugs or other things from getting into it), if you seal it with a lid, be sure to open it up every day to prevent explosions from the trapped gases inside! For the first few days, stir the mix a couple times a day. Once you notice bubbles in the mixture (over the course of a week or so), you can stop stirring as frequently. After about two weeks, and when the mix smells acidic, strain the fruit out and get rid of it. Once there’s no more fizz left in the liquids, transfer them into jars and save! The longer you keep them, the more acidic they’ll be… and they work perfectly in soups, as a replacement for lemon juice and many other uses. Still, be sure to open the jars occasionally just to make sure no excess carbon dioxide forms inside!
As you can see, there are actually tons of ways that you can reuse even the tiniest parts of our most common foods that we would usually throw away! In fact, learning to cook with the whole ingredient is a common practice of the world’s most elite chefs to harvest new flavors and cut down on our food waste. Have you given any of these methods a try? Do you have your own recipes to contribute? Let us know in the comments below.
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