Thursday, January 29, 2009

Idea File: How to Use Leftover Food Scraps

I'm starting what I think may become a regular series known as the "idea file." Ever find an idea while reading a magazine in the doctor's office? Or you see a commercial on television late at night that reminds you of something you need to do 2 weeks from now? Or you're out with friends and someone mentions a great book you want to read or store you want to go to and suddenly you're afraid you'll forget it? That's what my idea file is for - to help me remember those flashes of inspiration so that I can come back to them later. Hopefully these little tidbits might help some of you as well!

Today I heard an idea on the Splendid Table's "How to Eat Supper" podcast. (Yes I'm just catching up on a series of podcasts that originally aired starting in the spring of 2008. Hot tip: Podcasts are perfect for a stranded foreigner with no satellite television and therefore nothing to watch in English especially if you have plenty of time to ride the trains and listen to audio podcasts of your beloved English language!). The discussion was in part about how Americans toss lots of leftover scraps that many other cultures would eat or cook with in ways we don't often think to do in the U.S. Now, if you're composting you're already "greening things up." But at our small urban townhome in Seattle, we haven't worked out the details of composting yet (although the city will now collect our kitchen scraps with our yard waste which seems like a step in the right direction) and as result this idea is an eco-friendly way for us to make the most of what we have.

Anyway, let's say you can't or don't compost. What are doing with all those chicken bones, beef bones, carrot and potato peelings, tops of celery stalks, ends of onions etc.? You could just toss them in the garbage. But the host, Lynne Rossetto Kasper suggests tossing everything into freezer bags instead. Store them in the freezer until you're ready to make stocks or broths. In the past, we've tried to immediately whip up the broth the next morning which frankly wasn't always that convenient and multiple ingredients might be missing. Using this idea enables you to have the makings of a quick vegetable or chicken broth when it's convenient AND when you've got lots of good scraps on hand to "sweeten the pot" so to speak.

Likewise, have an apple, peach or apricot sitting around that's starting to wilt? Make a fruit sauce with some hot water, a little sugar, and cinnamon or vanilla and you've got a perfect ice cream topping that you can store in the freezer. What a great way to use those foods which might otherwise go right into the garbage! And what a time saver!!


  1. We have a chest freezer and I have several 'soup bags' going- pork, chicken and fish. They are really yummy. :) BUT, my MIL came to help out when I was i hospital and FREAKED that we only had 'rubbish' is the freezer. She turfed everything and spent the whole week cooking things like 20 sardines boiled in pickled plums. Now which is rubbish? ;P Bentos are the absolute best recycler there is. Very few dishes can't be put in a bento!

    And I'd love a post on your favourite podcasts (hint, hint!) Mine is full of Sesame Street...

  2. How to use leftovers - my favorite kitchen subject! I'm a leftovers fiend. Although even I haven't graduated to using rubbish. I also have a freezer, and yes it has pulpled fruit and chopped tomato in it! I think I'll start a soup scraps bag.

  3. When I cook I try to use everything, even the "bottom" scraps from spinach and dip them in some type of sauce (mayo perhaps)!

    I wish I could be more disciplined and place them in a freezer but I don't think I would be very successful at it. I really solute those who can.