Friday, Food Waste

does this look good to you?

It’s my Amish bread starter. I’ve neglected it for several weeks because (yes, indeed) I am not baking as much. I am a bit determined to take off a few pounds and since I am home all day, scrumptious baked goods lying around looking like forbidden fruit are not part of my meal plan. Note that the blueberry pie was eaten, nay – devoured – along with its sister whipped cream. Shame. The starter seems to be all right. I gave it some sugar, and shook it, and it foamed up nicely. Fact is, sourdough starters always look like something the dog brought up on an empty stomach.

A couple of weeks or so ago, I published a photo of what our refrigerator looked like after a trip to the farmer’s market in St. Jacobs, the Ontario Promised Land of all farmer’s markets. This is a photo of our refrigerator today:

The produce drawers are empty except for a few carrots, and there is part of a head of cabbage and a green pepper left. Mostly, this is leftovers – casserole, falafel, hummus, salad. (Although we do have one Waterloo Dark and a couple of Blackthorns. For medicinal purposes only.) I have some potatoes and onions in the pantry, along with the canned foods.

most of the contents of the pantry

You can’t tell from this, but there are six kinds of baking chocolate in here.

Lately, I have tossed out three cucumbers – I think they were a bit overripe when I bought them, which is hard to tell until you cut them open and see how big the seeds are. I can only make so much gurkesalat at once – I had a big Pyrex bowl filled with it, and it has dwindled to a small Pyrex flat dish. Gurkesalat is a standard Danish fresh pickle which is so stupidly easy to make that my Danish friends must have wondered why I needed a recipe. (Slice cucumbers and white onion paper thin, sprinkle with sea salt, pour vinegar over to cover. Refrigerate.) And a green pepper developed a slimy habit and was threatening the other produce in the drawer, so I booted it out into the hedge.

Mostly, our leftovers are eaten as meals, even if I have to group some of them together as a kind of smorgasbord. Since the food was good the first time around, we all tuck in gratefully when it reappears.

Food Waste Friday

This was our refrigerator last Saturday. So far, the only things that went to waste were half a pepper that went gooey,  some parsley that gave up trying, and a small amount of sour cream that incubated some penicillin mold. I have cooked and canned, and preserved those luscious big eggplants in oilve oil with lots of garlic. I got the recipe from a facebook friend. It is a real neolithic recipe that involves slicing and salting the eggplant, infusing the olive oil with lots of aromatics, then grilling the eggplant slices before immersing in the flavourful olive oil. I used my crockery beanpot, since I am not using it to bake beans this summer. Served with some of the olive oil and a dash of balsamic vinegar, it was a great companion flavour to grilled koftas – kebabs made of ground lamb and beef seasoned with paprika, cinnamon, cumin and hot chile flakes.

I have some beets left from pickled turnips, so they will become harvard beets to go with grilled meats.

Food Waste Friday, either a week late or a day early

We`ve had some busy days around here, but despite a refrigerator full of produce (farmer`s markets!) and houseguests, we haven`t had much food waste. Last week a big green pepper went all soft and mushy and slimy in the produce drawer, and earned itself a good scolding before it went into the trash. This week, I had to sort through a large bowl of blueberries (highbush local berries) and pick out about a half-cup of gooey ones. I was afraid that the whole bowl had gone off, but I caught it in time.

The rest of the berries, along with some sliced peaches and strawberries that hadn`t made it into fruit salad, ice cream topping, or cereal bowls, went into a very,very delicious sauce for cheesecake. I put all the fruit, along with the accumulated juices, in a saucepan (it must have been about a quart or so) and added a cup of white wine, about a half cup of sugar, and the juice of half a lemon. I cooked that over medium heat until it came to a boil, and let it simmer until it thickened – no cornstarch necessary. The lemon juice and sugar jelled the natural pectins in the fruit.

At this time of the year, with lots of fresh food around, I check the refrigerator every other day and use anything I think has gotten past ripe. There`s no junk food in the house – we snack on fruit and cheese instead.

Friday Food Waste

We had lettuce go bad. I’d tried to revive it, but it didn’t seem to have any shelf life, so the last of it got tossed. Produce, especially when it is kept and eaten raw, is hard to stock up. Unless you’ve picked the head of lettuce yourself, you don’t know how long it’s been out of the field or how it’s been handled. I find it aggravating to buy food that doesn’t hold well, but it’s not as if we deliberately ignored it in favour of the chocolate-covered oreos.

In general, we eat well here, with whole grains, vegetables, lean meats and not too many desserts. I’ve been cutting fats and sugar in baking, with no discernible differenc ein quality. I use applesauce and about a htird less sugar in the Amish sweet bread and banana bread; they come out very moist but a bit flatter than expected. They keep well, though, and everyone here likes the texture.

I’ve also been working to use meat out of the freezer before we buy much more, or the older stuff will get buried and end up freezer burned. The freezer isn’t a pup, either; I think it’s got a bit of a gasket leak now and we are looking to replace it within the year. The older ones are often electricity hogs, as well, and it gets worse the older they get as the compressor starts to wear out. We could manage with just the little freezer atop the refrigerator, at least for a while, although that isn’t ideal for long term storage.

I’m quite easy with the thought that there isn’t any old, old food lurking somewhere – that’s one of the benefits of menu planning and using up what you have before you buy more.

Friday, Food Waste

I let the refrigerator stocks run low this week. That meant that I had used up a lot of the vegetables we bought last week. At this time of year, meat goes straight to the freezer, if it isn’t going to be used within twelve hours. I had made a good, spicy vegetable soup that incorporated frozen vegetables and herbs in the freezer, and served it with homemade bread twice this week. I have just a couple of frozen meals yet in the freezer, and I expect to use them in the next week.

One thing I haven’t done is made stock from the old turkey carcasses in the freezer. It’s about time, or time to toss them. Frozen stock or broth keeps well, better than its original meat or bones. I’ve been a bit lazy about this – it’s the whole planning issue, getting the frozen bags upstairs, into the big kettle, herbing and spicing it, and simmering it down. The worst part for me is disposing of the remains. This time I am just going to strain out the broth and toss whatever is too big to pass through the colander. I really should do it on a Saturday since the trash is picked up on Sunday night.

We have much less trash than we used to. Eight months ago, it was a full bin plus a bag on the curb and both recycling boxes. Now it’s maybe a bag and one box; there’s a little more this week since some old paper is going out. I’m pleased with this. Not only is the food waste almost nil, but the trash is more than halved in volume. My personal goal is zero waste, no trash bin, and almost no recycling – which is much harder to do.

My newest project is to find or develop a no-plastic freezer container. Some people use glass jars, but this is a temporary solution, since the jar will have air space, making it no more effective than the little plastic boxes. My parents, years ago, used to freeze blanched vegetables in a coated cardboard container, rather like a Chinese take-out box. Does anyone know if these are available?

Friday Food Waste

I didn’t blog about food waste for a couple of weeks, so we had some. One week, it was slimy salad (yuk). Then it was sprouty potatoes and onions – they weren’t forgotten, but I suspect that the packer let the bags get wet or damp, and the little roots and tubers just did what they are supposed to do. (Does anything smell worse than a rotten potato?)

I know that a leftover beef sandwich has been in the refrigerator for three days, and I believe that is about to become a dog snack. I could take the beef out, scrape off the mayonnaise, and give the bread to the dogs and re-use the beef ina chef’s salad…but no. We have lots of uncooked food in the house, and I’m afraid trying to recycle two slices of beef is a bit obsessive. (If I were starving, hey, sorry dogs! If the bread isn’t moldy, the beef still pinkish, and the mayonnaise uncurdled – that would be mine! But I don’t quite trust it now.)

Does anyone have the Mennonite cookbook from the seventies “Gathering up the Pieces”? I think that’s the title – I’ve had two copies and they got lent out and never returned. It had a lot of ideas and recipes and reasons for using food resources frugally. It may be out of print now, but is worth finding (again).

Friday, Food Waste

I did something really stupid – a real beginner’s stupid thing – and put eggs on the top shelf of the refrigerator. Six of them froze. I boiled them and chopped them for eggs salad, but they were too tough for human consumption, so they supplemented the dogs’ ration, and were much appreciated. Leftover salad got eaten (by me) and cold take-away pizza got reheated for supper last night, with a pasta and fresh herb side and more salad. I love salad – if I lived alone I would eat salads twice a day, with cold meat or shrimp and some cheese. Breakfast used to be whole-grain bread with goat cheese and soem fruit, and the rest of the meals were salads or a bit of pasta with the salad. I was quite thin, too. If I tried that now, there would definitely be a rebellion.

An onion went bad in the five pound bag, and I suspect there may be another one. It’s the time of the year when everything wants to sprout. I’ve got a chunk of fresh ginger to either use or plant soon.

I’ve got a few things in the big freezer, mostly chicken and pork, and a packet of hamburger rolls to use. I hope to get through all that this coming week.