Tuesday, April 26, 2011
How To Eat Groceries: The End of it All
This shall be my final post in this series. I've so enjoyed writing it and do hope you found it fun, informative and a learning experience. Today we shall discuss the opportunity to completely utilize the very last of the groceries we buy.
Tomato and potato peels, onion tops and root ends, end pieces of bread, apple and pear parings and the cores of each...Sounds like just so much compost doesn't it? Well hardly! Bones from the meat dishes and the woody ends of asparagus will join this list of usable foods, yes, FOODS, as well. Along with cabbage leaves and the leafy tops of celery and root ends of same, and so much more. Because you see, it's all part and parcel of our purchases and we'll find a wonderful savings in using all we can of each item we bring into our home.
Let's start with bread shall we? My family doesn't care for the end pieces of any store bought bread (though they quarrel over my homemade bread ends!). I hate tossing them, as they are part of the purchase made when I bought bread. So how to use them? I have baked them until crisp and made dry crumbs, used them to make fresh crumbs (just as useful in the kitchen as dry). I've saved end pieces in the freezer then cubed for bread pudding and stratas (such as Breakfast casserole) or to make Apple Brown Betty. Homemade croutons is another option. So you see, those end pieces of bread may not seem like much to toss until you realize how useful they might be! I am inclined to think there aren't nearly enough end pieces in light of all I wish to make using them.
Now let's delve into the vegetable bin: potato peels....just dirty old things or appetizer? If you wish to really use all the potato scrub them well and leave the peel on, after all that's where a lot of the nutrients are. However, I am well aware that at times a bowl of creamy mashed potatoes is wanted and not the more rustic smashed potato dish. I noted in Pioneer Woman's book that she halved and baked potatoes then scooped out the centers and stuffed the shells for a tasty snack. I used to do this occasionally for my kids and that scooped out potato may be used to make mashed potatoes, potato pancakes or any number of other dishes.
If potatoes have aged somewhat and are starting to sprout eyes, you might well consider cutting away that portion and planting it to begin growing potatoes at home.
Onion tops and root ends, carrot tops, celery leaves and root ends...I use them all. When I need onion for a recipe, I always remove the top and root end and the first layer of onion as well(that just under the skin is often as thin as the papery skin). I pop those right into a bag kept in my freezer and when I've two or three chicken carcasses to boil, I put in those onion tops, root ends and skins. The skins give a lovely golden color to the chicken broth. Straining will remove them all, so no worry there.
That bag in my freezer also contains carrot tops and the root end of celery stalks as well as the leafy tops. Did you know that you can grow a pretty fern like plant from that carrot top if you don't care to save it for seasoning broth. Just place in a flat bottomed container with a wee bit of water and watch it grow.
Celery leaves may be dried in your oven overnight. Just in case you haven't priced them, check out the cost of dried celery leaves in the spice and herb section at the supermarket. It's crazy! And here we are tossing these leaves out all too often. Not me! I will chop celery leaves into salads and soups and stir fry dishes and freeze what I can't use. And if you find you've quite enough of those pieces saved up, the root end of celery makes a lovely rose shaped stamp. I once used the root end to make the prettiest wrapping paper from a paper sack we'd tinted a delicate white and then free hand drew on leaves in green. I'm afraid my gift recipient was far more pleased with the paper than the gift. She very carefully removed that wrapping and went immediately across the street to her neighbor to show it off, lol.
Did you know you can make jelly from apple cores and peelings? Or soup from the woody stems of asparagus? Slaw from broccoli stems? By the way, those broccoli stems are also good diced and chopped into soup, or sliced and stir fried with other vegetables when serving a stir fry dish. And yes, soup too may be made from those stems.
I keep a soup bucket in my freezer where I toss tomato tops and odd bits of vegetables we might have leftover (not cooked potatoes though) and that bucket also may hold the cooking water or liquid drained from canned vegetables. It makes for a richer soup to have all these vegetable broths added in.
Tired of the dribs and drabs left in the bottom of bottles of ketchup and syrup, steak sauce etc? Combine into homemade BBQ sauces. I've even added in the last spoonful or two of jams to BBQ sauce. Apple butter and peach sauces were BIG hits in my household. Maple BBQ is wonderful over ribs. Experiment as you find little bits of this and that left in a bottle.
You might consider mixing a little salad dressing with mayonnaise to create a sandwich spread or new salad dressing.
Banana peels, coffee grounds and egg shells, used tea leaves (or bags) make lovely meals for the flowers and drinks for the geraniums. I discovered that egg shells are good for orchids after walking into an oriental restaurant with dozens of blooming orchids massed in the lobby. In each pot were crushed egg shells. Well Granny told me those coffee grounds, banana peels and egg shells were good food for my roses as well and she must have been right because my roses are gorgeous. It was she who also shared that running water over used tea bags and tea leaves and allowing to steep at room temperature created a tea that made geraniums bloom like mad.
I save my vegetable cooking water (unsalted only) for my plants as well (but not potato water, that is too starchy). However, that starchy potato water may be used as the base for a sour dough starter (mix with flour and leave on counter for three days, adding water and flour the next two days and stirring well to mix). Then use to make bread dough.
Remember as well that vegetables and fruit parings, spoiled fruits and veg, egg shells, shredded paper from packaging etc can all be used to create compost and that is wonderful fertilizer to use to grow herbs, vegetables and fruits to further replenish your kitchen.
So you see, even the last bits, the end pieces of items, may be well used in the creation of foodstuffs for your family and if not for them, then to feed the garden that might well grow more food for you (or at least feed the bouquets that grace the dining table).
And that is it. How to Eat Groceries (and use them all up) to get the most for your dollar.
Posted by Terri Cheney at 1:54 PM