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From Food Waste to New Tastes

posted Apr 1, 2016, 6:19 AM by   [ updated Apr 1, 2016, 6:19 AM ]
Each year in April, our ILC Wellness Theme is Sustainability in honor of Earth Day. This year, Earth Day is on Friday, April 22 with the theme of Food Recovery. All month long, our blog posts will provide tips for simple ways to reduce food loss and waste. First up, we’re talking about how to transform leftover ingredients or prepared dishes into something fresh and delicious before you have to throw it away. 

According to the Natural Resources Defense Council, Americans throw away the equivalent of $165 billion year in food waste. This is not only a lot of money, but also is a lot of food that ends up rotting in landfills, contributing to municipal solid waste and methane emissions. We can greatly decrease this number by learning how to repurpose ingredients and leftovers into something more palatable, and the first step is to just get in your kitchen and have fun! Some families’ favorite recipes were created by accident and could likely not be recreated exactly the same way ever again. If you think that a combination of ingredients will taste good together, then they probably will. Get in there and try it out!

If you need a little bit more of a guide, try any one of these tips listed below: 

1. If a recipe calls for juice from ½ lemon or lime, slice up the other half and add some wedges to your water. This is also a great way to flavor your beverage without adding sugar.

2. If your greens or herbs are starting to look (or smell!) like they’re about to spoil, mix them with pasta or rice or add to the top of a homemade, takeout, or frozen pizza. You could also toss them into a food processor or powerful blender with olive oil, salt, pepper, pine nuts, and/or parmesan cheese for a pesto filled with flavor. No time for cleaning the food processor? Just chop leftover herbs and sprinkle into the bottom of an ice cube tray. Fill the tray the rest of the way with oil and freeze. When it’s time to roast or sauté some vegetables, just pop out one of your herb and oil cubes and get cookin’!

3. Peel, slice, and freeze over-ripe bananas to mix into smoothies later.

4. Keep your sandwich bread in the refrigerator to extend its life a few days past the use-by date on the bag. Cold bread not your thing? If the expiration date on your bread is nearing, make croutons, French toast, or breadcrumbs. These processing techniques will extend the shelf life of your bread. Did you know that you could freeze cooked pieces of French toast and then reheat them in the toaster for a quick, weekday breakfast?

5. Veggies looking a little limp? Chop and roast them for a quick side dish. Refrigerate any extras and use in salads, omelets, or on sandwiches

6. Transform leftover cooked meats by adding them to salads, sandwiches, pastas, stir fries, or soups. One of ILC’s dietitians’ favorite ways to do this is with a whole roasted chicken.

7. Clean, chop, and properly store your fruits and vegetables immediately when you bring them home. If the veggies are chopped and ready to eat, you are more likely to eat them before they go bad! Set fruit out on the counter so that you can easily choose that over a packaged snack.

a. If you didn’t get around to eating all of your prepped veggies in time, toss them into the freezer for use in a soup, casserole, or quick stir fry later.

8. Save the trimmed portions of vegetables (such as carrot and onion skins, broccoli and cauliflower stems, garlic/shallot tops and peels, etc) for homemade broth.

9. Have your peppers seen better days? Make this delicious homemade pepper jelly to add some pizazz to your next cheese board or to give as gifts.

Build your meal plans and grocery lists around what is already in refrigerator and prioritize what needs to be used first. This will not only cut down on food waste, but will make meal planning a little bit easier! As you start to think of food and food waste like this, you’ll quickly find what works for you and what doesn’t. What are your favorite tricks for using up food scraps? Let our dietitians know during this month’s wellness visits.