Part of living a healthy, green lifestyle is cooking and eating your own meals from whole foods. It feels good to make nutritious snacks and entrees, but most people create a surprising amount of waste when preparing foods. All those peelings, skins, and end pieces of your fruits and veggies add up, and there are better ways to use them! These bits of food “waste” are full of flavor and vitamins — and they’ve got a lot to give.
Don’t throw your kitchen scraps away; put them to work instead. Waste less and be healthier by consuming ALL parts of your produce. Scraps often have enough matter left in them for another go-round, in all kinds of different applications.
Whether you peel your veggies and fruits or not, citrus rinds, potato and other root and tuber vegetable peels, scooped-out avocados, and even cheese rinds all have more than one life. Some people love getting the nutrients and fiber found in produce skins by eating them on the product, though others shy away from the taste or texture.
Some people prefer removing the outer layer of produce to reduce pesticide load, but if you aim to use organic veggies and scrub well, it shouldn’t be a concern. Short on time? If you don’t have a chance to use scraps or have need for them at the moment, most can be frozen for future use. Today we’ll look at a few tips for making the most out of everything you buy, and putting even less into the compost.
- Citrus Extract Powder. Zest or twist any citrus skins (lemons, limes, oranges or grapefruit are all good candidates!) being sure to remove the pith. Allow to dry in the open air on a rack or towel, about three or four days for twists, less for zest. If you have a dehydrator handy, that speeds things up! Put dried skins in a food processor or spice grinder, and grind into a powder. Store in a clean jar in your cupboard. Great for baking and flavouring sauces! Add lemon powder to pepper for homemade spice rubs.
- Flavored Sugar. Citrus peels make another fantastic product if placed into a jar with some sugar for a few weeks. The oil infuses the sugar with its flavor, giving you a great sprinkling sugar for the top of oatmeal, the rim of cocktail glasses, or sugaring fresh fruit like sour strawberries or cranberries. Scraped out a vanilla bean? Take the bean casing and place it in a jar with sugar. After a few weeks you’ll have delicious vanilla sugar!
- Infused Oil, Vinegar, or Honey. Leftover spicy peppers? Extra citrus peels? These can be stuck into a bottle with the oil, vinegar, or honey of your choice (be sure to use a mortar and pestle to grind the peels lightly beforehand so they begin releasing their flavor. Left to sit for a week or two, you’ll have a fantastic flavored condiment for far less than the store-bought kind. Great for drizzling on salad or toast, or adding to dressings.
- Homemade Chips. Potato and apple peels make a fantastic, crispy snack. Pre-heat your oven to 400 degrees, arrange the peels on a sheet pan, and spray lightly with oil (canola, olive, coconut). Then sprinkle with whatever seasonings you prefer. For potatoes, a combination of salt, pepper, cajun seasoning, or herbs can be delicious. For apples, sugar and cinnamon are fantastic. Place in oven for 10 minutes, stirring around half way through cook time. No waste, and you get all the nutrients from the skins!
- Vegetable Stock. Homemade vegetable stock is easy and far tastier than the cartons from the store. Save up your veggie ends and peelings (potato peels, onion skins, carrot peels, leek ends, fresh herb stems, ect.) in the freezer in a specified container. When full, take it out and boil them together in water for a few hours, or put in a slow cooker and let it do the work. Strain at the end and you’ve got stock!
- Add Depth of Flavor. Cheese rinds almost always get tossed, as they’re too tough to eat. However, they still have a ton of flavor to give if tossed in with stock or braised with tougher greens such as chard or cabbage. Just be sure to remove any wax coating beforehand. Rinds can also be stored in the freezer until ready to use.
Hopefully these ideas have sparked a desire to use those scraps you’d previously been resigning to the compost.