I come from a farm heritage. My ancestors came from Bohemia and Germany and were primarily agrarian. When they all moved to Texas in the late 1890s, they started farms and transferred ownership down from generation to generation. I’m proud to say my sister still lives on our family farm in East Bernard, TX and maintains that heritage with her family.
I have many fond memories of going to the farm in my earlier years. I never witnessed a hog being slaughtered, but I do remember all the yummy sausage and sauerkraut my grandmother would make. Her pantry would be full of jars of spiced peaches, sauerkraut, and pickles and there would always be kolaches and an angel food cake resting on the aging chest freezer.
There was minimal food waste as most of the food waste went to the hogs which then later became sausage. It’s hard to believe in this day and age that food was ever not plentiful. The U.S. may not be the best of food distribution and yes, there are food deserts, but we certainly cannot say there is no food available. As I think about the amount of food we waste , I think about ways I can improve my own food usage and reduce food waste.
I love to cook and collect recipe books by the gazillion. It’s a slippery slope of believing you have to buy everything little thing in the recipe and then wind up with leftovers or dry goods you will never use again. I used to be pretty fussy about following a recipe to the “t”. I don’t anymore. I generally cook now to learn a technique and understand flavor combinations using the five flavors of taste -sweet, sour, salty, bitter, and umami.
As you look at your daily cooking or food preparation routine, look at every little piece of food – from cracker crumbs and herb stems to corn cobs. There are multiple options for using up food. Of course, the down-side is that leftovers do beget leftovers, but the bright side is you are being creative and saving money!
- Corn cobs – freeze and use for corn cob broth or enhance your usual chicken broth.
- Veggie ends and pieces -Keep a freezer bag of onion peels and pieces, carrot tops, parsley, celery tops or aged celery for future broth. When you are ready to make broth, simmer all your vegetables with your leftover chicken carcass, pork or beef bone.
- Chicken bones- I made the mistake of buying bone-in chicken thighs because they were so cheap. I deboned the thighs and froze some with the skin on and some with the skin off. I didn’t want to just throw away the bones and skin so I salted and peppered them, layered them on a baking tray covered with foil and spray oil. I roasted them for 20 minutes at 375 degrees. After the bones cooled, I stored them in a freezer bag with other chicken carcass parts to make broth later. The roasted skin was a little treat, I must say! The grease from the chicken was as beautiful as goose or duck fat. I saved it for a rainy day.
- Aging grape tomatoes – if your grape tomatoes are getting a bit wrinkly, slice each in half and roast them in the oven with some garlic, thyme and olive oil. Sprinkle on some bread crumbs, bake 10 minutes longer and then toss in your favorite pasta. Dust with parmesan and enjoy!
- End of the jar condiments – make an easy sauce by combining any leftover jam or jelly, a bit of mustard, a bit of apple or balsamic vinegar, brown sugar and salt. Simmer until thickened. Serve with meat or as a dipping sauce for chicken fingers, wontons, etc.
- Cheese – most cheeses freeze very well. Freeze slices separated by coffee filters or pieces of parchment paper. I prefer to wrap in Glad Press and Seal and then place in a freezer zip lock bag. Keep your parmesan rinds in the freezer then pop one in your favorite pasta sauce, soup or stew for an added umami flavor.
7. Bean slurry – Bean slurry is that gooey stuff at the bottom of a can of beans. Most of the time we rinse the slurry out of the can before it goes to the recycle bin. I have a greater respect for bean slurry as it is a great thickener. I freeze the slurry in freezer cubes. Instead of adding cornstarch or flour to a soup as a thickener, pop a couple of frozen cubes of bean slurry. It does not affect the taste and adds some thickening to your dish.
8. Make angel food cake or meringue shells with whites leftover from kolaches and custards.
9. Make an herby cooked mustard, fresh mayonnaise or custard from leftover egg yolks. See what’s happening?
10. Freeze your flour board flour to use later for pocepka topping for your kolaches.
11.Use any kind of dried fruit for kolaches. Sometimes we get caught up in kolaches having to be apricot, cherry or prune. I made the most fantastic kolaches out of dried fruit I had in the house – raisins, cranberries, dates, figs, and tart cherries mixed in with some apricots and prune. I added some rosemary, candied ginger and orange rind for a distinctive new take on traditional kolaches. Think about this for any kind of dessert requiring a dried fruit filling. Think outside the prune.
Cranberry Orange Rosemary Kolaches
12. Collect all your leftover cracker and bread crumbs in a bag. Crush up in a blender or roll in the bag with a rolling pin or a bottle of wine. Use for toppings or cracker crumbs for your favorite tilapia recipe.
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