Saturday, 13 September 2014

Food for Thought...

Ever wondered what to do with some of the bits and pieces you end up with when cooking or baking?

I am going to give you some ideas of how to use them up, as well as some ways to eliminate waste when cooking.

  • Don't throw out the Parmesan rind when you've grated all the cheese from it. Save it, well wrapped, in the fridge and add it to soups, stews, pasta sauces. It adds a lovely richness, and when it melts some of the cheesy goodness is added to your meal. It's also easy to remove when serving, simply scoop it out and discard.
  • If you chop the leaves of fresh herbs, keep the stems, unless they're really woody. These can be added to soups, stock or sauces for flavour. You can also put them in the blender with some olive oil and make a flavoured oil to add to a salad dressing.Woody stems from rosemary can be saved and put to use as skewers for barbecuing. 
  • Don't peel carrots, the skin contains a lot of nutrients and fibre. Just give them a good wash before using.
  • If you boil beets, save the boiling water from the purple beets and use it to stain yellow beets for a funky, impressive canape or salad. Simply boil the yellow beets until cooked, cool and then cut into cubes or slices. Dip half of the yellow beet in the purple beet juice for a few minutes and you will have a bi-coloured piece of beet.
  • The end pieces of sweet peppers that are left when you remove the seeds can be diced finely and added to tuna salad, fish cakes, salad or roasted as they are with other vegetables and turned into a hearty roasted vegetable soup.
  • Cooked too much rice? Stir fry it with chopped cooked chicken, green onions, ginger and garlic, peas and egg to make a quick chicken fried rice. You can also use it to stuff sweet peppers and bake them...add chopped herbs, onion, cooked meat or cheese.
  • If your recipe calls for egg yolks, freeze the egg whites for later. One fluid ounce is equal to 1 egg white. Use them for lemon meringue pie, angel food cake or Italian meringue buttercream. A quick and easy nut meringue served with whipped cream and fresh berries: Whip 4 egg whites to soft peaks. Slowly add 10 tablespoons of white sugar while continuing to whip the egg whites. You will end up with a stiff, glossy meringue. Gently fold in 1 cup of nuts, toasted and finely ground. Spread the meringue out on parchment paper, about 1/2" thick, and bake at 250F for about 30 minutes, until lightly coloured and starting to crisp. Turn off the heat and leave in the oven to cool. it will continue to crisp.
  • Instead of wasting grapes that are starting to soften, freeze them. You now have a nice cold snack on a hot day, as well as an edible ice cube for drinks.
  • Grate softer cheeses such as mozzarella and store in the freezer. Due to the high moisture content, they tend to grow mould sooner than harder, drier cheeses such as Parmesan.
  • Fresh spinach doesn't keep as long as other lettuce in the fridge. After buying it, I use it for salad once, then wilt the rest down, squeeze out the excess moisture and freeze it. Now I have cooked spinach in a small amount when I am making lasagne, stuffing or baked pasta dishes.
  • Start a container in the freezer for old bread or bread ends. When it is full, put them in the food processor and turn them into breadcrumbs. Store these in the freezer.
  • Old bread can also be used for bread pudding, stuffing, panzanella ( a salad of bread and tomatoes, dressed with garlic, olive oil and fresh herbs), French toast or garlic bread (try using roasted garlic instead of raw garlic).
  • Apples that are bruised on one side can still be used. Cut off the bruised bit, then add the rest to tuna salad; make apple sauce; cut into chunks and toss with ground cumin, honey and olive oil and roast to serve alongside pork.

There are plenty of other ideas out there, and I will continue to share them as they come to mind. Happy cooking!

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