I'm officially joining Morton Salt's #EraseFoodWaste campaign. Check it out!
The new year is upon us and it's time to make New Year's Resolutions. My resolution - and I'm sure this comes as no surprise - is to waste less food. Maybe in 2018, I'll finally figure out how to be waste-free.
I'll tell you one thing that helped a lot, and it was great fun; I hosted a Pantry-Swap Party.
We all make food purchases that were perhaps unwise. Maybe we didn't like what we bought, or didn't use as much as we thought we would, or never even opened it because our cooking aspirations didn't match up with reality.
So, I hosted a party where people brought all the unexpired but unwanted food from their kitchens to swap out for food they'll actually eat.
Here's what they brought:
If you want to get into the Christmas spirit, this recipe will fill your kitchen with all the best Christmas smells.
A reader sent me a cool idea: make Dutch babies (also known as German pancakes) to use up fruit that’s still edible, but not fresh enough to eat plain.
When she first mentioned this, I thought she meant to use the overripe fruit as a topping. I make strawberry toppings for waffles and pancakes frequently; just slice the strawberries, stir in sugar, and wait for the sugar to suck out all the juices, making syrup. Peaches are also delicious this way. I also use blueberries as a topping by cooking them in sugar over the stove, with a little cinnamon and lemon juice.
Most fruit can make a good topping, even past the peak of freshness, but my reader didn’t mean for me to put the fruit on top of the dutch babies; her suggestion was to put the fruit inside. She sent me this link forCherry Almond Dutch Babies as an example.
My mind immediately went to Apple Dutch Babies because my mom used to make them all the time.
There were six people in my family, which meant there were a lot of apples to peel and core. My mom had an apple peeler that made the job a synch; she just turned the handle and thin strips of peel like spaghetti easily slid off. We used to love draping the peels around our arms and feeding them into our mouths like tickets at an arcade while we waited for dinner to be done.
My mind also went to Apple Dutch Babies because at the time, I happened to have four shriveling Honey Crisp Apples on my window sill.
I know what you’re thinking; what kind of a monster allows Honey Crisp Apples, aka nectar from the gods, to shrivel on a window sill. Well, they were on sale and honey crisp is basically my favorite fruit ever, so I stocked up.
Shopping sales is not always the best idea when reducing food waste.
You can use pretty much any apple for this recipe except Red Delicious, which would more appropriately be called Red Disgusting. Tart apples like granny smith are usually favored for recipes, especially pies, but for this, I prefer sweet apples like fuji or gala. The honey crisps were amazing, if you feel like splurging.
I made this recipe the other day, and the smells were intoxicating. Baked apple. Melted butter. Cinnamon. Nutmeg. Cloves. I want to make this recipe again for the smell alone.
This recipe is best when made in a cast iron skillet, both for texture and for lessening the amount of dirty dishes. If you want to double the recipe, though, you can transfer the ingredients to a casserole dish and increase the cooking time.
Apple Dutch Babies
3 Tb butter
¼ cup brown sugar
½ tsp cinnamon
½ tsp nutmeg
1/8 tsp cloves
½ cup milk
¼ cup flour
¼ tsp baking powder
French toast is the easiest solution to any stale bread problem. You can use any kind of bread: hot dog buns, hamburger buns, brioche, baguettes.
If you’d rather do something a little more exciting with your stale bread, I’d like to share with you a special Christmas tradition in my family.
I grew up in Portland, Oregon, and in Portland, Oregon, doing the same thing twice is so passé. Tradition? Not much of a concern. We don’t like to repeat what we did the day before, much less year after year.
That’s how you end up with Portland delicacies such as lavender ice cream with candied orange peels and chocolate bars made with bacon grease. (Great, now I feel homesick.)
My family didn’t have Christmas traditions as much as it had Christmas trends. If we really liked a holiday food we’d have it again as many or as few times as we wanted. Shepherd’s pie was a pretty common occurrence because Jesus was the Good Shepherd, but it was never a requirement.
Shepherd’s pie made out of lamb, by the way. I went on a rant about this on Facebook, and I’m going to go on another rant here: if you use ground beef in your Shepherd’s pie, it isn’t Shepherd’s pie at all. It is Cowboy’s pie.
Another family trend was eggnog French toast with sugar plum spice syrup. I still remember the first time my dad made it. There was something magical about how the different Christmas smells danced around the kitchen. It became a central memory in my childhood (even though we only had it a couple of times).
Then I married a Southerner, and everything about the way I do Christmas changed. My husband’s family has been eating the same foods for centuries. When I propose a new dish on Christmas, my husband’s first question is, “Do I want to eat that every year for the rest of my life?”
It’s not easy to introduce meal ideas when the stakes are so high, but my eggnog French toast with sugar plum spice syrup was, surprisingly, a hit.
We will never eat eggnog French toast on Christmas morning. That sacred slot has been awarded to Sourdough Waffles, which is what Andrew has had for breakfast at every special occasion – especially Christmas morning – since time immemorial.
Instead, eggnog French toast with sugar plum spice syrup is our tradition for the day we decorate the Christmas tree. It’s a tradition I love, and I could actually do it every year for the rest of my life.
NOTE: My dad actually makes this recipe with croissants. When I was a kid I thought this was the height of sophistication, but there were some logistical problems I noticed when I made it as an adult. Croissants are mostly air, and when you turn them into French toast, they deflate into thin slabs. I’ve been experimenting with different kinds of bread to use for this recipe and have yet to settle on anything, so feel free to run your own experiments.
And of course, you can use any syrup. I’m sure maple syrup would be fine, though for me, I couldn’t have it with anything other than sugar plum spice tea. Also, you can use this syrup recipe to make syrup out of any kind of tea. Like a chai syrup. Aw, man. I can’t believe I only just now thought of that. Chai syrup would be amazing.
Eggnog French Toast and Sugar Plum Spice Syrup
a pint of eggnog
2 Sugar Plum Spice tea bags
1 cup of water
2 cups of sugar
I have the feeling most of us have a lot of leftover food to deal with right now. Perhaps more than you can handle.
There’s a lot you can do with your leftovers. After all, it was a carcass soup recipe on Thanksgiving that gave me the idea for this blog in the first place. Here’s a list of some creative ideas to make this year that will convert your leftovers into delicious and original meals.
I’ve seen lots of ideas on Pinterest that use a waffle iron. I was so excited to make a waffle out of cake batter, except I pinned the idea years ago and still haven’t made it. I’ve also seen mashed potatoes, tater tots, and Thanksgiving stuffing.
I do not like stuffing. Every year I dish a mouthful or two on my plate out of some strange desire to teach myself to like it, but so far my efforts have been unsuccessful. When I saw the picture of stuffing waffles, I said, “No thanks.”
Then my husband approached me all excited about an idea he heard on NPR: stuffing waffles with a fried egg on top.
I asked him if he was sure the egg didn’t go inside the stuffing to keep everything together, but he insisted that all you have to do is spoon the stuffing on the iron.
(Pinterest gods say to mix an egg into the stuffing, so I was right.)
I expected it to be a hot mess, but it was actually pretty good. I did very much enjoy the fried egg on top.
To make broth, submerge the turkey carcass in water and boil for four hours, then strain to make delicious broth that you can eat plain, use for soup, or freeze in one-cup portions to use in recipes.
If you wantto make stock instead of broth, you boil vegetables and spices with the bones (typically onions, carrots, and celery).
Turkey Carcass Soup
You can get my recipe for the soup here.
Mashed potatoes freeze well, and so does the gravy. In fact, whenever I have potatoes that are about to go soft, I often mash them and put them in the freezer.
If you don’t want mashed potatoes later, there are lots of recipes that call for them as an ingredient.
My go-tos are gnocchi, and mixing it with cheddar and French fried onions to use as a shell for casseroles. Both gnocchi and casseroles freeze well; just put the gnocchi dough in the freezer before boiling it.
Turkey Pot Pie
You can freeze turkey. If you decide to do that, give me your address so I can drive to your house and smack you upside the head.
I am not a fan of freezing chicken or turkey after it’s been cooked. However, if you cut the turkey or chicken into small pieces and mix it up with gravy, vegetables, and put it in a pie shell, you don't notice the compromised state of the meat.
We used some of our leftover turkey to make pot pies that we put in the freezer for later, since the last thing we need right now is another pie to finish.
I’m going to post our recipe for pot pie in a day or two, but this is the recipe I originally used before I made adjustments to it. The only problem I have with this recipe is it makes enough filling for one and a half pies, and my recipe has the ingredients for just one.
Turkey sandwiches is a tradition almost as important as the turkey itself, but if you’re tired of eating it with mayonnaise on white bread, you can get creative with Dijon mustard, cranberry sauce, avocadoes, bacon, provolone or swiss cheese, etc., or you can experiment with different kinds of bread. You can grill it, too.
Roasted Potato Peels
Potato peels are delicious roasted. Just drizzle with oil, sprinkle with salt, lay flat on a cookie sheet, and bake at 400 degrees for 10-15 minutes. I like to put them in a bowl on a table for my hungry kids to munch on while I’m making dinner.
I have not actually made this myself, but I love chicken salad, and I imagine this will be just as good.
The nice thing about making your leftover turkey into a turkey salad is that it completely transforms the meat, so you don’t feel like you’re eating the same thing you’ve been eating all week just in a different way.
Green Chili Turkey
You can shred the turkey to use for many other recipes, like sprinkling over chips with barbeque sauce and cheddar and baking in the oven, on a barbeque pizza, in burritos with salsa and Mexican spices, or in mole.
Here's a recipe from my gifted culinary school graduate friend for green chili turkey.
One of my readers had a great idea to put leftover sauteed vegetables in the bottom of a muffin tin, top it with stuffing, pack the stuffing down, and bake it until warm. Then she broke a quail egg on top and put it back in the over until the white gets solid.
Just goes to show; if you ever want leftovers for breakfast, put an egg on it!
Shephard’s pie is usually made with lamb in gravy with vegetables and mashed potatoes smeared on top and cheddar cheese melted over it. If you want to be a rebel, you can use turkey instead.
I guess it would be pretty similar to turkey pot pie with mashed potatoes instead of pie crust.
That should be enough ideas to keep you busy! What do you do with your Thanksgiving leftovers?
I greatly appreciate all the links and ideas my readers send me. One of my readers showed me an article about a group of people in New York who are saving food that restaurants throw out.
Sorry I can't share the link; I have to cook potatoes before the turkey is done (which led to the inspiration for this post), so I don't have much time to finish this article.
The founder of the organization in New York was inspired when she ordered potato peels at a food cart and asked the owner what he did with the potatoes after peeling them. He said he threw them away.
The potato is one of the most versatile and beloved of foods. Wasting such a resource that could have easily been converted into a desirable dish...that's just bad business!
Luckily, the woman asked for the potatoes and delivered buckets and buckets of them to a homeless shelter.
After reeling from disbelief for a minute or two, I stopped and said, "Wait, wait, wait. People eat potato peels? Willingly?"
I had to investigate.
Turns out, you can roast potato peels, and they are delicious. It's a win-win all around; they're nutritious, they're free, and I can set them on a plate for my hungry kids to munch on while I finish dinner.
I realized as I was peeling my potatoes today for our Thanksgiving feast that a lot of nutritious peels were probably being thrown in the trash at that very moment, so I ran to my computer in hopes that I could inspire others to save the peels before it's too late.
Here's what you do.
I am a wizard. Seriously, Harry Potter and Gandalf got nothing on my magic.
After troubleshooting and creative problem-solving, I have…
…I have learned how to make rock hard cookies – cookies you could chip a tooth on – into warm, gooey, melt-in-your-mouth cookies that taste fresh. You don’t have to preheat your oven, and it takes less than two minutes.
Bow to me, for I am magnificent.
Now I’m going to tell you a rather long story about my Cookie Rescue Journey in order to drum up SEO stats. If you lose interest, scroll to the bottom of this page to see My Secret, plus the secret to keeping cookies from going stale in the first place.
Some of you might be wondering why such a skill as reviving stale cookies is even necessary. After all, you can make a big batch of cookie dough and bake as few cookies as you want at a time. Well, we recently had a garage sale, and I had the genius idea to make a bunch of baked goods to sell. We made a decent amount of money off of them.
Except, I made waaaaaaay too many treats.
The cupcakes got put in the freezer and were defrosted and re-frosted (with frosting, I mean) for church potlucks. The ginger cookies are my husband’s weakness and were soon devoured. The chocolate chip cookies were another matter.
I won’t tell you just how many we had left over *cough, two dozen, cough*, and they were already sort of stale by the time we hosted the garage sale. So we had a problem. The problem could have been prevented, though, because….
TO KEEP COOKIES FRESH
…all you have to do is store them in an air-tight bag or container with something moist, like a slice of bread, a slice of apple, or a tortilla. I wonder if a wet paper towel would work, and then you don’t have to waste bread and tortillas? The cookies suck up all the moisture and this keeps them soft.
But by the time I found out about this technique, the cookies were already hard enough to throw on the floor without breaking.
I tried warming them in the oven. Bad idea. I meant to keep the cookies in there until the chocolate chips melted, but they never did, and the cookies were burned. This is hard for me to admit. Burning cookies is an unforgivable sin, not because it’s wasteful, but because they are cookies.
Mama loves her cookies.
My next attempt was the microwave. Also not a good idea. Microwaves don’t cook evenly, so they’re really only good for food you can stir up. Also, a microwave only heats up water, so if the food item doesn’t have any water in it (i.e. stale cookies), you end up with a tough cookie that has pockets of warmth scattered amid spots of cold. Yuck.
Here is when my stroke of genius happened. We like to eat frozen Asian buns, which are usually steamed. To make heat them in the microwave, you wrap them in a wet paper towel to infuse moisture.
I thought, I could zap the cookies to make them moist, then bake them to make them evenly warm and also crisp on the outside. Except baking in the oven is a huge pain and the toaster oven isn’t much easier, so I thought, why not use the toaster?
Voila. Heavenly cookies in less than two minutes.
TO MAKE STALE COOKIES TASTE FRESH
You are welcome.
If you try this, let me know how it worked out!
The moment I started this blog, friend and family started sending me videos, recipes, and articles with food-related ideas to inspire me. One idea I keep seeing over and over again is how to make vegetable broth out of scraps. (Think onions skins, carrot heads, celery leaves, things like that.)
Obviously, that idea is a home run for No Scrap Left Behind. To think that I could turn garbage into something useful and delicious...brilliant!
At least, it sounded brilliant.
The video I saw told me to use onion, carrot, celery, garlic, parsley, mushrooms, and potato peels.
This post is my magnum opus. I know I haven’t been blogging long so that isn’t saying much, but still, I am pretty proud of these sandwiches.
Once a week before my art history class in college, I would often go to the museum cafeteria and order the same sandwich. It was a massive tower of raw vegetables drizzled in salad dressing balanced between two slices of focaccia.
When my husband and I went on a trip to Italy, we kept hearing people talk about gnocchi. I had no idea what gnocchi was, so I simply had to order it and find out.
After trying it I still had no idea what gnocchi was, but I was nevertheless hooked. It's not quite pasta -- it's more of a dumpling that you can make with either ricotta and flour or mashed potato and flour.
Yet you use it just like you would a pasta. Any sauce that goes on pasta can go on gnocchi; any soup you would put pasta in, you can put gnocchi in.
Do you have potatoes and onions that need to be eaten up? Maybe they're getting soft, or they have mushy parts, or they've sprouted arms and legs?
You’re in luck, because I have a recipe that calls for potatoes and onions… and that’s it.
It sounds crazy, but it’s a Julia Child recipe, and everything she touches turns to gold. If you don't trust me, trust Julia.
Did you ever read Julie and Julia? It’s about a blogger who made everything in Julia Child’s cookbook in one year. This potato soup recipe is The One that inspired her to start the blog.
I will never waste food again
I've been tired of throwing out food for years - not to mention tired of our huge grocery bill! I decided to make a change and vowed never to waste food again. In this blog, I'll show you how I do it.