And according to the Natural Resources Defense Council, the top three foods Americans throw away are “inedible parts, prepared foods and leftovers, and fruits and vegetables”.
For those inedible parts that would normally be thrown into the trash, composting is an amazing option. But when it comes to prepared food, leftovers and fruits and veggies, we can do better, right?
We teamed up with the brilliant, sustainably-minded, pastry team at Smith Canteen to bring you some creative ideas on how to minimize your food waste in the kitchen. Fun fact, Smith Canteen (also known as the #greencanteen) is going single-use plastic free in 2019 – they’ll be the first coffee shop in NYC to eliminate unnecessary plastic from their practices. It’s about time!
They’ve already ditched plastic straws and to-go containers, and will be phasing out plastic cups, lids, and utensils between now and January 1st. They’re also redefining their cooking methods to create as little waste as possible, which means utilizing food scraps and using the so-called “ugly,” but really just bruised, fruit that’s left at the end of the farmers market.
We asked their head pastry team, Gabriella and Diana, to share with us some creative ways to revamp your kitchen waste. They even threw in a bonus recipe that uses up common food waste items you might have lying around.
Put an egg on it.
The simplest way to make food scraps into a full meal, or leftovers into an entirely new one, is to add an egg. Have half an onion lying around in your fridge? Cook it on a cast iron skillet until soft and crack an egg over top for a diner-esque meal. Make a kitchen sink omelette with leftover vegetables or greens, or use up leftover rice or quinoa by adding a fried egg and your favorite sauces, dressings or spices on top.
Treat greens like herbs.
Veggies don’t have to just be the main event, they can be used to flavor other dishes or be the base of delicious dressings, dips and sauces.
Got a bunch of leftover arugula about to go soggy? Blend it up with fresh herbs, like cilantro or parsley, a dash of red wine vinegar and a little bit of olive oil to make a fun twist on chimichurri sauce which goes great with eggs, steak, or tacos. Or whip up a yummy pesto sauce with carrot tops by blending with basil, garlic, and enough olive oil just to hold the sauce together.
Got a lot of dressing leftover? Freeze the excess in ice cube trays then take out and defrost as needed. This allows you to extend the life of your greens even further and takes the pressure off of having to use them up right away.
Treat herbs like greens.
Have a lot of extra herbs left from making a recipe? Use them up in creative ways like making an herb salad. This is common in middle eastern cuisine. Or add some herbs into your morning smoothie. Mint tastes delicious with strawberry and banana, and cilantro can add a fun kick to a pineapple and mango smoothie.
A lot of people don’t realize that you can add fresh herbs, produce and cooked or raw grains like oatmeal and quinoa to a baked good, like a loaf cake or muffins. Find one basic recipe that works for your needs, then substitute whatever leftover herbs, fruits or grains you have on hand.
Here’s a recipe for quinoa muffins that uses leftover dried quinoa (you know that last bit in the box you have that just sits in your pantry for months…), fresh herbs and fruit (we used plums, but any fruit would work like peaches, blueberries or strawberries).
- 1 ¼ cups all-purpose flour
- 1 cup whole wheat flour
- ½ cup raw quinoa
- 1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- ½ teaspoon baking soda
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 2 eggs
- 1 ¼ cups yogurt
- ½ cup olive oil
- ½ cup honey
- ¼ cup basil, or another fresh herb (we used mint!)
- 1 plumb, or other fresh fruit
Whisk flours, quinoa, baking powder, cinnamon, baking soda and salt in a bowl. In another bowl, whisk eggs, yogurt, olive oil, honey and basil. Fold wet into dry until just combined.
Fill muffin tins that have been lightly greased 1/3rd full with batter. Add a few diced pieces of the plum, then add another layer of batter until the muffin tins are 2/3rds of the way full. Top with thin slices of plum, or whatever fruit you choose to use.
Bake at 350°F for 16 to 18 minutes. At Smith Canteen, we like to drizzle a little bit of honey on top right after the muffins come out of the oven for a little extra love.
Make vinaigrette out of almost gone condiments in their containers.
Add oil and vinegar to the jars of condiments that are almost gone, but you can’t seem to get the last little bits out of. Shake them up and go! Here are some ideas on how to use up the last bits of your condiments:
For mustard: add olive oil, red wine vinegar, and a dash of sugar, salt + pepper.
For jam: add olive oil, balsamic vinegar, red onion, salt + pepper
For tahini: add olive oil, lemon juice, garlic, salt + pepper
What creative ways to you use up your leftovers, or surplus fruits and veggies?