Sunday, October 6, 2013

Before you throw it out...

Originally posted 02/25/10

Throwing food out should not be an option. Part of leading a truly thankful life is appreciating what we have and using it to its full potential. Just because the apples are too soft to eat or the bread is a bit stale doesn't mean they go in the garbage or compost. Be sure to scour your fridge and cupboards every few days to make sure you don't have turning meat, bread, etc.  If you find something that's not so fresh, here are a few things we do around our house to avoid trashing something:

1. Bananas
- this one is obvoius, BANANA BREAD or BANANA MUFFINS! Duh. We will often pick up 50% off organic bananas that are on their last leg just to make a few loafs of our favorite snack/breakfast. If bananas have managed to get a little too ripe (doesn't happen very often around here) we also add them to shakes (I'll get to shakes in a minute). Banana bread and muffins freeze VERY well, just thaw them overnight at room temperature before you want to eat them.

My all-time favorite Banana Bread recipe, adapted from Cat Can Cook:

Banana Bread
3 or 4 Large bananas, mashed
1/2 cup white sugar
1 slightly beaten egg
1/3 cup melted butter
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups flour
Mix the mashed banana, sugar, egg and butter together. Set aside. In a separate bowl, mix together baking soda, baking powder, salt and flour. Add dry ingredients to wet. I line my bread pan with parchment paper, but you can grease it with butter if you prefer. Bake @ 350F for one hour.
You can also make 12 muffins with this recipe, just lower your cooking time to 20 minutes.
* Have some extra carrots drying out? Shred them and add it to the bread/muffin mix. You may want to add 1/2 cup applesauce or an extra banana to balance out some of the moisture the carrots will suck out!*

2. Apples
- Apples can go soft before you know it, especially in the winter when they've been sitting in a barn or warehouse for months already. Making applesauce is not only delicious, but it's a great way to make sure you know exactly what's in your sauce! I never add sugar, but if you'd like to put in a bit of honey or brown sugar it's totally your choice. What I really LOVE about making applesauce is keeping the skins on. The skins of fruits and vegetables contain such a high amount of their nutrition that it pains me to not use them. I simply core and slice the apples, add a small amount of water, and cook until soft. Once the apples are good and soft I throw it in the blender to ensure there are no big pieces of skin and it's good to go! If you have a lot of apples to cook, consider canning some of the sauce you won't be eating within a week or two. What you plan on eating should be refrigerated. Do you hate applesauce? Do your kids? They might not notice that you've replaced half of the sugar in your cookies with applesauce, or that you've sweetened their oatmeal in the morning with a generous dose. There are lots of ways to eat applesauce that doesn't include eating it straight with a spoon.

You can add all sorts of other fruit to applesauce. Ripe peaches, berries, even frozen fruit can be added at the cooking stage to add a bit of kick.

3. Vegetables
- If you notice your veggies are starting to turn, there are a few things you can do
- Steam and freeze. You want to steam most veggies before freezing so it means when you defrost them you have to cook them in some way.
- Grill and save. If your zuchinni, eggplant, peppers are starting to get soft, just throw them on the George Foreman or the barbecue and grill them for 20 minutes and put them back in the fridge. It will help them last a few more days and since they're already cooked and ready to eat you could simply throw them in the middle of a grilled cheese sandwich and have a deluxe lunch or light dinner.
VEGGIE SHAKE. Surprisingly, veggie shakes are a hit with the old and young alike. The kids love the bright green of spinach and the adults love the nutrition of raw fruit and vegetables. If you notice your spinach is getting soft (not wet and dark) or you have a few carrots or pieces of celery starting to dry out, they are really easily added to these quick and healthy shakes. I sweeten mine with an apple or two and a banana or two (depending on the batch size I'm making), If you're just making it for yourself or family members, stick a straw into the blender jug and give it a quick taste before pouring everyone a glass - you may find you want to adjust the taste a little depending on what state your veggies or fruit was in. A good handful of ice is needed, or if you've frozen a few bananas that were turning they work well to cool the beverage to more of a frozen treat.
Don't ever throw out veggies. You can make soup stock, soup, pizza, pasta sauce, cottage pie, samosas, ANYTHING - just cook them and use them goshdarnit.

4. Bread
- Home made croutons are simple and delicious. Cube the bread into whatever size of crouton you'd like and toss in a bit of olive oil and herbs (I like dill and garlic). Throw in your toaster oven on low (250-300) for however long it takes them to dry out (usually an hour) and you've got delicious croutons that aren't loaded with salt.
Breadcrumbs are expensive considering they are CRUMBS! Sometimes you want to make pickle spears, or breaded chicken and because breadcrumbs don't really go bad you can make them in advance and save them for a few months. Just toast the bread, throw in a food processor and save in an airtight container.
- Bagels that are going stale can be sliced thinly, and just like the croutons - tossed in a bit of olive oil and herbs, baked low until they dry and used instead of chips. Bagel chips are delicious with homemade hummus.

I've said this before, and I'll say it again KNOW WHAT YOU HAVE so that you use it before it goes bad. Finding a bunch of $4.00 asparagus rotting and limp at the back of your veggie drawer should hurt - you just threw money away! Plan on using your fresh food first, and saving the food that will last until the end of your shopping week. Not throwing food away is the simplest and most obvious way of saving money - start getting creative with your not-so-fresh food and you will be amazed at how much life you can get out of something you thought was garbage!

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