October is a world wide focus on not wasting so much food and we have some easy tips for you.
First steps are always the hardest but trust us it gets easier. We’ve included a few of our favorite tips and tricks for reducing your personal food waste. At the bottom of the blog you can find links to learn more about food waste, the consequences of not changing our habits, and other people and organizations working on this problem.
Let's start with garden guilt. When our garden dreams in the spring are bigger than our stomachs and when fall rolls around and food rots on the vine or languishes in the back of the fridge. Our gardens were just too big. But the problem is even bigger than that. Beyond our kitchen garden waste 1 in 5 grocery bags of food is wasted; thrown into a landfill. It’s a massive problem both in terms of economics but also for the health of our planet. If food waste were a country it would be ranked third in terms of CO2 emissions. This is such a huge and pervasive problem that it's hard to even wrap your head around the numbers, the sheer quantities, the mountains of wasted food. But as with all problems, little first steps add up to huge change when we all work together.
Food Scrap Stock: this is a simple and tasty trick to make great homemade soups, stews, and risottos. Keep a mason jar or bag in the freezer. Every time you have scraps from cooking: carrot ends, squash tops, onion bits, tomato ends etc.. add it to the freezer bag. When the bag is full it's time to make stock. Get out the slower cooker and add your scrap bag, a hunk of seaweed (we recommend sugar kelp or oarweed), and your favorite blend of spices and some water. Let it simmer for at least a few hours but the longer the better. If you want a meat stock then save your chicken, ham, or beef bones or lobster shells and add them in as well. When the stock looks and tastes good, chill it, strain it and turn it into your favorite comforting soup or stew. If you're not feeling like soup then freeze the stock. A friend of mine just gave me an awesome tip for this. Pour your stock into a freezer or silicone freezer bag. Close it tightly and freeze it flat on a baking tray. When it is frozen solid you end up with a little sliver of stock that takes up hardly any room in your freezer!!!! For more details check out our blog Easy Peasy Soup Stock.
Too Much Garden Produce Freezer Meals: Ready to go homemade freezer meals are a mainstay in our house in the winter. They are the perfect way to make sure that we use everything in the garden and are eating lots of vegetables all year long. The three I make every year are vegetable lasagna (which is awesome cause you can use extra tomatoes by making the sauce yourself and an overabundance of eggs by making homemade noodles), chicken pot pie, and shepherds pie. The key to all of these meals is they start with roasted vegetables. I throw everything that is ready to be picked onto baking trays and roast away. You can add in summer squash, carrots, beets, potatoes, beans, cauliflower, broccoli, kale, winter squash, eggplant, and tomatoes or whatever combination is ripe. Even if you don’t have a garden but bought too much at the farmers market or have a CSA box that you can’t finish, this is the perfect way to make sure that nothing goes to waste and you're eating well in the winter. My pro tip is freeze everything!!! Do you have too many peas, beans, carrots, kale...you name it. Blanch it, spread it on a baking tray and freeze it. When it's solid, scoop it up and put it in a freezer bag then any time you need some veggies you just have to reach in and grab the perfect amount for any meal. Spice up eggs with some frozen kale and corn, make your soups swoon worthy by adding in all your summer veggie favorites. Veggies are expensive in the winter here in Maine and come from far away. By freezing my garden I am able to eat well and eat locally all year long. We have LOTS of recipes on our blogs including Zucchini Tots.
Cheese Bin: This is a trick that Claire learned from watching a Jamie Oliver program. Keep a bag or jar in the freezer where you can stash ends of cheese. Many households end up buying too much cheese and it molds. Especially if you are single, buying the right quantity of food is super hard and lots goes to waste. The cheese bin means that all your cheese gets used. Use the harder cheeses for soup stocks or save up until you have enough to make a bomber mac and cheese. Freezing cheeses can affect the texture of some types of cheese so it is best to make something where the texture doesn’t matter.
Cupboard Crisp/Veggie Baking: Yesterday both Claire and I ended up making an apple dessert. The really good farm stand apples we had bought a week ago weren’t so crisp anymore and we only had a few left. Instead of chucking them in the bin Claire made a small apple crisp and I made an apple cake. Everything got used, nothing was wasted, and we got a tasty dessert. Another great way to use up extra fruit that is a little past its prime to is make and then freeze fruit desserts. That way you don't feel like you have to eat a whole pie, crisp or cake. Freeze individual desserts like hand pies, slices of cake, or turnovers, which means you can always have the perfect portion of dessert. Another great dessert trick is to make desserts using vegetables. In Maine, it's much much easier to grow vegetables than fruit. We always have too much summer squash, carrots and beets. All of these make fabulous desserts, cakes, cupcakes, even frosting. The best part is that all these desserts freeze great too!!! Here's the link for our beet and seaweed cupcake recipe.
Don’t Follow the Recipe: The last tip is that recipes should just be a guideline. Sure for baking you should take less liberties since it is a science but everything else; change it up. If you have more veggies then add more veggies. If you have one ingredient but not the other substitute instead of a shopping trip. Get creative and use what you have. Especially these days when going to the grocery store is a scary ordeal you really don’t need that special ingredient.
To learn more check out the following:
There comes a point every summer when the garden just becomes a giant zucchini patch. Even though you go out everyday and harvest them there is always one hidden away; underneath the leaves that suddenly becomes the size of a small child. What to do with all that zucchini? There is only so much you can eat everyday. Only so many loaves of zucchini bread that you can bake. I feel horrible about composting zucchini, Claire calls this "Garden Guilt." But a few years ago I discovered making zuchinni tots and since then I have actually doubled the number of zucchini plants we have just so I can make more tots.
Zucchini tots are super easy to make and such a great way to use up not only zucchini but also whatever else you have in the garden. This is not a traditional recipe with amounts and measurements; just use what you have and adjust accordingly. The super important part about making these tots is that you really need to spice and season these bad boys up. Whatever amount of seasoning you think is enough add some more. Zucchinis are like beans: the more seasoning you add the better. These tots are even better frozen and then re-baked. Seriously, make a ton of these and freeze bags and bags of them. Then in the winter you can make an easy and delicious dinner with just an omelet and these tots and the best part is how many veggies you eat!!
Some amount of zucchini grated. I use all the big ones. It the center of them is really blown out and seeded then just cut that part out and grate the outsides
Onion and garlic to taste/what you have on hand
Any other additional garden treats (finely chopped kale or chard, hot or sweet peppers, grated carrots, chopped celery)
Finely Chopped Herbs (parsley, basil, cutting celery, thyme, whatever you got growing, or in your spice cupboard)
Beaten Eggs-enough to bind everything together. I usually do 2-3 for a couple large but not toddler sized zucchinis
Bread Crumbs/Panko/Cornmeal- some mixture of all or some of these, enough to hold everything together. The mixture should feel kinda wet but not sopping. You might need to add more as you go since the zuchinni will leak some liquid.
Seasonings to taste and them some- Pepper, dulse, table kelp, Italian Seasonings, fennel or take it a different route and add in curry powder, 5 Spice do what you want and have fun but add in a LOT!!!
Preheat the oven to 400F and really oil a baking pan or line with foil or parchment paper.
Mix everything together and add more eggs, bread crumbs or seasonings as needed.
Scoop 1/2 -1 T of the mixture and form it into a tot like shape.
Bake your tots for roughly 20ish minutes making sure that you flip the tots halfway through. You are looking for a very dark golden brown color on both side and they shouldn't feel spongy or wet. If you are going to eat them right away you might want to bake them even longer.
To Freeze: Allow the tots to cool completely and then freeze them on a baking tray. When they are frozen solid scoop them into a freezer bag and stash for later. When you are ready to eat place them frozen onto a baking tray and bake at 375-400 for 10-15 minutes, or the time it takes to make the rest of your dinner. There is so much moisture in zuchinni that you really can over bake (burn) them and they still will taste amazing. I once really burnt a batch when I got super distracted and they were still great!
If you eating these and realize that there is not enough seasoning make an amazing dipping sauce. Try a curry ketchup, spicy mayo, or a vibrant tomato sauce, all work super well!!
I can't say this enough: make more then you think you will ever eat!!! You'll eat them all and be wishing for more and next year you will be planting extra zucchini plants just to make more tots!!
We grow a LOT of onions, enough for an onion a day for the year. Even though our focus is on the onion bulbs I don't want those beautiful and yummy green tops to go to waste. Throughout the summer some of the onion tops will get broken or damaged and when that happens I head out to snip them off and make scallion pancakes!!! These are super delicious and versatile. Cut them int quarters and dip into a soy based dipping sauce. They make a wonderful and flavorful alternative to Naan with your favorite curry or dahl. I also use them in place of tortillas for breakfast tacos, quesadillas or fish tacos. They are also easy to freeze and a great summery surprise in the middle of winter.
This is adapted from Bon Appetit Scallion Pancake recipe. It is easily doubled or tripled depending on how many onion tops you have and if you want to freeze them.
2 1/2 Cups AP Flour
1 T Table Kelp
1 Cup Boiling Water
3-4 Cups Chopped Green Onion (I like a lot of onions in mine!!)
2-3 T Sesame Oil
2-3 T Olive Oil
Directions: In a bowl mix together the flour and the table kelp. Stir in the boiling water and mix until a rough dough forms. Cover the dough with a damp cloth or an overturned bowl so it doesn't dry out and allow it to rest on the counter for at least an hour. When the dough is rested divide it into 8 pieces. Work one piece at a time, keep the rest covered to prevent drying out. On a well floured surface roll a piece out till its as thin as you can stand making it. Spread a liberal 1/2 cup or more of the green onions on to the pancake, spreading them out evenly over the surface. Roll your pancake up from the long side, just like if you were making cinnamon roll, until you have made a long scallion pancake snake.
Then starting at one ends coil the pancake snake into a circle. With the heel of your hand press down and flatten the coil. Repeat with the remaining pieces of dough. Always keeping each piece before and after adding the green onion under cover so they stay moist.
When all 8 pieces have been rolled and green onion-ed its time to start turning them into pancakes. Working one at a time on a well floured surface roll each disk out until its 5-6 inches in diameter. Brush sesame oil onto the top and cook over medium heat on a well oiled skillet (brush with either sesame or olive oil) for 4-5 minutes then flip for another 4-5 minutes. I don't time the cooking I basically use the time it takes to roll of the next coil as my guide. You want the pancakes to be cooked through have some browning and bubbles. If you want to freeze them, allow them to cool completely before putting them in a freezer bag. To reheat them, pull them out fully frozen and cook on a heated skillet until hot and crispy.