Zero Waste Cooking
The issue of unused food is two-fold. First of all, buying more food than you consume is not eco-friendly since this way you are becoming a part of the waste culture. Secondly, discarding leftover ingredients is against common financial sense since you are virtually throwing your money into the dumpster. According to this study, the average US family throws away approx 25% of purchased food and beverages. In other words, most households lose from $1,500 to $2,200 annually in surplus food waste. Let’s be honest here, this sum is seizable enough and should be put to better use. Enter Zero-waste cooking – a way to avoid wasting money, storage space in the fridge and ultimately, global food resources.
Most of the great recipes call for a variety of fresh ingredients. By the time you are done cooking any of your favorite dishes, chances are you will have a bit of every component left. It is even more likely that after a party or a family dinner there will be a few odds and ends of every dish on the table. Therefore, you probably know the feeling when there is still food on your table or kitchen counter – and yet it’s hardly enough to put together into another helping of that meal. On the other hand, throwing good ingredients away is a shame so you pack it into a fridge – and never use it. That’s where the leftovers will be waiting to expire or pass to the next generation like that half-empty jar of applesauce that has been in your fridge since 2007.
A Second Life for Yesterdays Meal
The very first underrated ingredients emerge already while you cook. This is where fruit and vegetables are the stars of the play. Next time you are making pancakes with home-made apple sauce, or when you are in the mood for an easy apple pie don’t rush the clean-up. There are many reasons why we peel apples before cooking, whether the skin is too tough or because we are planning to puree the fruits. However, these scraps can still come in handy for decorating, making them into jelly peels or even better – you can make yourself a simple and delicious warm drink to pass the time while your main dish is cooking. This treat is especially lovely during nippy fall days.
All you need is:
5-6 apple peels;
¾ cup of water
½ tsp cinnamon / 1 cinnamon stick
1 tbsp of honey
1 tbsp lemon juice
Place apple peels into a saucepan and add in water, juice, and cinnamon. Bring the mixture to boil for 10-15 mins until it gets golden-yellow and fragrant. Strain the liquid to remove the peels, add honey – and enjoy!
If you prefer crispy bites to warm drinks – use the same peels to make easy apple chips.
To make this healthy snack you’ll need:
- Apple peels (the more the merrier)
- ½ – 1 tsp of cinnamon
- ¼ – ½ tsp ground ginger
Set your oven to the lowest setting (170oC recommended) and line a baking tray with parchment paper. If your peels are too big, trim them down to potato chips-sized rounds before putting them sparsely into the baking tray. Dust the peels with cinnamon and ginger, then put the tray into the preheated oven and bake for 1½ – 2½ hours. Cooking time will depend on how thick your peels are so just make sure to bake them until crunchy and crispy. And don’t forget to stir them occasionally!
Veggie scraps can have even more delicious uses. Raid your fridge for odds and ends of the legumes that are about to sing their swan song or collect the scraps from several other vegetable-based dishes and make them into a scrumptious soup.
A suggested combination (change the list at availability):
Carrot peels and tops
Green bean ends
2 handfuls of fading spinach or other leafy greens
3 fading celery stalks, minced
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1 tsp olive oil
A small diced onion
1 cup uncooked red lentils or other grain of choice
5-6 cups of vegetable broth
400g of diced tomatoes, with the juice
¼ to ½ smoked paprika, to taste
2 tsp chili powder
¼ tsp ground cumin
⅛ tsp cayenne pepper, or to taste
½ tsp ground coriander
Salt and pepper to taste
Put a saucepan on medium heat, add olive oil. When the oil warms up a bit, add in onion and garlic, and saute the mixture for 5-6 minutes until the veggies become transparent. Next come carrot scraps, green
Surplus Carbs Transformed
Have you made more rice than you can possibly eat before it becomes old and stodgy? Or have you discovered a forgotten piece of sourdough or baguette that is about to dry out? Your luck just turned: these food leftovers will be the base for your next delicious dish.
It’s time to say “au revoir” to the tough bread and transform it into the Traditional French Soup.
- 1.2 – 1.3 kg of onions
- 3 tbsp of butter
- 2 tbsp of olive oil
- 4-6 cloves of garlic
- 1 pinch black peppercorns
- 4 sprigs fresh or 1 tsp of dry thyme
- 1 bay leaf
- 1-1,3 kg of beef and/or up to 6 cups of vegetable stock (If you choose to make your own beef stock, make it before you start on this recipe.)
- 2 cups red wine, preferably a Burgundy or 2 cups of beer, preferably a brown ale or a stout
- Up to 1 baguette or other crusty bread
- 4-6 deli slices of cheese
- 1 1/2 cups of grated Swiss Gruyere and just a tad of Parmesan
Slice onions and let butter melt with olive oil in a large stockpot. Add onions and crushed peeled garlic to the stockpot, season the mixture with salt and pepper and stir until the onions are coated in oil and butter. Add in fresh thyme and bay leaf and let the onions caramelize for about 15 minutes. After you see that the onions are golden and slightly crispy, pour in the stock. Depending on how intense you want the onion flavour of your soup, pour 4 to 6 cups of broth in. Next, add wine or beer and let the soup simmer for about 30 minutes. In the meantime, slice the bread (approx. 2 pieces per person) and put it into the oven on 120 oC (or min setting) to soften it. Now it’s the time to grate the cheeses on top of the toasted bread slices and then put them back into the oven until the cheese gets bubbly and lightly browned. Ladle the soup into a bowl and transfer one cheesy toast onto the top of each bowl of soup.
Your leftover rice can become a perfect base for many dishes such as Pork Fried Rice.
1 tbsp butter
1 (150-170g) boneless pork loin chop, cut into small pieces
30g chopped carrot
30g chopped broccoli
1 green onion, chopped
1 egg, beaten
120g cold cooked rice
30g cup frozen peas
1 1/2 tbsp soy sauce
1/8 tsp garlic powder
1/8 tsp ground ginger
Take a large skillet and melt butter on low heat. Add pork, carrot, broccoli, peas, and green onion and cook the ingredients, stirring occasionally. Pork should be cooked in about 10 minutes. Remove the pork mixture from skillet and the meat rest. Meanwhile, scramble an egg in the same skillet until completely set. Return the pork mix into the skillet and stir in rice, soy sauce, peas, garlic, and ginger. Cook for another 9-12 minutes until ready.
Zero-waste cooking has a lot of benefits for you and the environment. However, the best part is that this way you can unleash your creativity and reconsider the recipes you’ve recreated so many times. Try making a carrot-top pesto, potato-peel crisps, or a variation of an Irish stew with an unusual set of ingredients and you’ll be rewarded with a dish that is affordable, sustainable and uniquely yours.