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No More Food Waste: Kale Chips, Fried Rice, Nice Cream

21 October

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Our innate aversion to rotting food is a beautiful and necessary part of our survival as a species. But there’s a gray area between hot-off-the-stove {and tasty next day leftovers} and covered in fuzzy mold and smelling like a vomit diaper left in a hot car.

Whenever we choose to throw food out during that gray period is part of what makes us all unique. Rye’s a sell-by-date girl, and I’m a smell-it-and-if-it-doesn’t-make-you-gag-it’s-probably-good type. Bad animal products always seem more dangerous than plant products, and it’s helpful to know where you stand on “Toss it!” or “Quick, eat it before it goes bad!”

Caveat: This blog post is NOT about using food that is moldy, slimy, discolored, or otherwise nasty & ready for compost. We assume you are in touch with your natural aversion instincts {ie: an intelligent adult}, & won’t eat food that’s rotting.

But no matter when you throw in the towel on food in the fridge, you’ve got a period of time when that food is past its prime but otherwise usable. This goes for extra ingredients leftover from recipes, too: ½ a cup of canned coconut milk, the remaining 1/3 of a zucchini, the end of a can of tomato paste, etc.

Often, this is an intimidating period that doesn’t spark inspiration or creativity, leaving us to watch the decline of our food every time we open the refrigerator.

And we’re not alone in this, which is why we’re joining Waste Not Wednesdays with this post!  Click here to read more tips for less waste!

So here’s our short list of our favorite past-their-prime foods and what we love to do with them:

1. Leftover Rice. It’s dry, it feels grainy, and those take-out boxes make it worse, but it is the PERFECT ingredient for homemade fried rice. In fact, we refuse to make fried rice with freshly cooked rice!

Fried rice has the added bonus of being a dish that will happily accept all of your ingredient odds-and-ends: leftover bits of veggies, pieces of already-cooked meat, the last, lonely egg in the dozen, even random bits of leftover fruits, like pineapple and mango. {Look below for our Rockin’ Fried Rice recipe.}

2. Wilted Kale. We all know that kale is a Super Green, full of nutrients, but it can be hard to eat, especially when it’s getting all wilty. But this is exactly when it’s ripe for Kale Chips! We think the secret to good Kale Chips is to use plenty of oil and salt, and to take the extra minute to lay each piece of kale separately on your baking sheet. {At the bottom of this post there’s a recipe for Crispy Kale Chips that will have you mindlessly crunching them like they’re Potato Chips – I’m not kidding!}

3. Rubbery carrots, slightly dried-out mushrooms & less-than-a-serving chunks of veggies {though not broccoli, cabbage or other cruciferous}, plus the stems of fresh herbs. These are the basis for homemade Vegetable Stock. We put them in containers in the freezer, and add stems and ends of veggies until we’ve got about a gallon’s-worth, then we simmer that for a few hours, and Voila! Veg Stock that’s ready to use, or freeze for the next time you’ve got a yen for risotto.

4. And speaking of the freezer: Bananas. Dark yellow and spotted, way too ripe to eat? Grab ‘em {before the fruit flies do}, peel them, and put them in the freezer for sweet, creamy smoothies, banana bread, Nice Cream, & anything else that calls for banana-y goodness. {If you don’t know Nice Cream, we’ve got a recipe for that below as well!}

5. Near-the-end juices {and Water Kefir & Kombucha} make great braising liquids, adding a little bit of sweetness when you’re cooking, or just needing to de-glaze the pan.

Extra odds-and-sods: small amounts of coconut milk or tomato paste, even leftover grits or oatmeal, can all be added to soups and stews for a little bit of thickening, bulking up, or texture.

In fact, soups and stews are the best line of defense against food waste given their forgiving nature: if you mix stuff up and let it simmer for awhile, you’ll probably end up with something tasty!

Even if you’re a strict recipe follower, adding a smidge of coconut milk to your lentil stew, or a handful of cooked grains at the end of your vegetable soup, is a safe foray into waste-less, intuitive cooking. Trust us!

Now tell us, what are your favorite ingredients to save before wasting, and how do you like to use them? Extra points for extra creativity!

Rocking Fried Rice

Ingredients
2 Tb sesame oil
1/2 cup onion, diced
2-3 cups of diced veggies, whatever you have available: broccoli, peppers, carrots, zucchini, mushrooms, cabbage {sliced thinly}, green beans, peas – the sky’s the limit!
3-4 cups cooked rice {white or brown}
1-2 cups cooked meat, or tofu, diced {eg: pork, chicken, shrimp}
1/4 cup cilantro, chopped
1/2 – 1 cup mango or pineapple, diced
2 Tb Tamari or Coconut Aminoes or organic soy sauce
2 Tb toasted cashews, chopped
2 eggs {optional}

Directions
1. Heat sesame oil in a large skillet or wok over medium-high heat, add onion and cook until translucent.
2. Add veggies and tofu, if using, to the skillet, and cook for 5-7 minutes.  Crumble in the rice, stir well, and cook until rice gets soft and starts to brown.
3. Add mango or pineapple and meat, if using, stir well, and sprinkle Tamari into the skillet, stirring again.  Cook for a few more minutes.
4. If using eggs: beat them together in a small bowl, and, just before turning off the heat, pour them over the rice, stirring quickly and thoroughly.
5. Turn off the heat, sprinkle cilantro and cashews over the fried rice, and serve.

 

Crispy Kale ChipsFullSizeRender

Ingredients
1 bunch of kale
1 – 2 Tb avocado oil {or other high-heat oil}
1 tsp sea salt {or more, to taste}
2 tsp nutritional yeast {or more, to taste}

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 400.
  2. Wash and stem the kale, and rip the leaves into bite-sized pieces.
  3. Put kale in a large bowl, add oil, sea salt and nutritional yeast. Use your hands to thoroughly mix and massage the oil and seasonings into the kale – this will take 2 minutes at the most.
  4. Lay each piece of kale as flat as possible on a cookie or baking sheet.
  5. Bake for 8 – 10 minutes, and check. The Kale Chips are ready when they’re browned around the edges, and all of the kale is crispy.

Nice Cream

Ingredients
1 frozen banana
1 Tb raw cacao powder {cocoa powder works, too}
a splash of your choice of milk {to help with the blending}
1 Tb nut butter {optional}

Directions

  1. Put banana, cacao powder and splash of milk into your blender {and nut butter, if you’re using it}, and blend on high until thick and creamy. You may need to use a tamper, or scrape down the sides, to incorporate it all.
  2. This recipe can be doubled {or tripled, etc}, just use the ratio of 1 frozen banana to 1 Tb cacao powder, and you’ll get a good, sweet flavor.

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Liz Flint-Somerville, Nutritional Consultant

Liz was a partner in Grub for 3 amazing years and helped author many of our most beloved recipes and posts. She is now dedicating her time to caring for her family, writing poetry, and continuing to cook delicious Real Foods.

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7 Responses to “No More Food Waste: Kale Chips, Fried Rice, Nice Cream”

  1. Lisa bell October 22, 2014 at 12:50 pm #

    What can I do with leftover salsa?!

    • Liz Flint-Somerville October 22, 2014 at 2:19 pm #

      We like to whisk it into scrambled eggs, or use it to top any bowl of food – you can’t usually go wrong with onions and tomatoes! Or just stir it into a pot of chili and incorporate it.

  2. Alexandra October 24, 2014 at 11:55 am #

    This is a great post. Food waste does make me feel like a moron. I have gotten pretty good at a lot of the ideas you mention: Soups/stews! Use it up. Fried rice. Definitely a hit. Veggie stock. Oh yeah. For me, just using the freezer is key. When in doubt, FREEZE it. Making sure I LABEL what is going into the freezer is a huge help. Why do I think I will remember what that weird brown stuff is in a month? Refried beans? Beef stew? Label it or revisit aforementioned moron feeling….

    • Liz Flint-Somerville October 25, 2014 at 5:54 pm #

      YES! to the freezer! And we’re right there with you when it comes to labeling. Mystery dinner is only sometimes amusing… 🙂

  3. Elise @frugalfarmwife.com January 17, 2015 at 1:43 pm #

    Using leftovers is a constant battle, and something I have to work to keep vigilant about! Must-go soup is probably my all time favorite way to use them up.

    Thanks for sharing these awesome ideas at the Waste Not Want Wednesday link party!

    • Liz Flint-Somerville January 19, 2015 at 8:04 pm #

      We call it “Empty the Fridge Soup” at our house! Thanks for the reminder, Elise. And thanks for hosting Waste Not Want Wednesday!

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