One way to reduce food waste: Campus Style

UC Davis Dining Commons Demonstration of what college kids waste for Love Food, Hate Waste in January 2013.

Two days ago, I saw a headline in my news feed that I nearly passed over. It read: “Elimination of trays decreases food waste in dining halls.” All I could think about were the opportunities to trip classmates struggling to carry their milk and dinner plates to a table. And then I decided to read on, and learned that in just two years Manchester University has saved:

  • 15,000 pounds of food from becoming waste, and
  • 200,000 gallons of water.

How? They removed trays from the dining halls. They removed convenience, and judging from the article it wasn’t a popular solution. But its makes a lot of sense.

If you drive to the supermarket, grab a big shopping cart, and have a lift to carry your groceries from car to home, then it is very easy to just pile unnecessary food into your life. If you have to think about how you are going to carry it all to the car and into your home, you probably make different choices.

I like that one simple decision has changed how an entire community consumes. It would be interesting to see if that same choice also helped students maintain weight. I mean, if not using a tray helps that freshman not gain infamous 15 pounds that many do gain in the first term, wouldn’t they willingly embrace the idea?

If the same could be said about using smaller shopping carts to lose weight, would people be more willing to embrace a small change?

Eggless, Yeastless Yummy “Stone Soup” Bread

Vegan bread with sun-dried tomatoes, onions, and sage.

Vegan bread with sun-dried tomatoes, onions, and sage.

In our new apartment, I want to have a “Zero Waste Kitchen”, but that means I have to use up as much as possible in the current apartment before we move. The idea is to start with a clean slate. To do that we need to make sure we do not bring bad habits with us. Today, I made bread, and in the process used up the last of our sun dried tomatoes, blue corn flour, extra jar of white four, and baking powder – as well as some almond milk. What I got, had the texture of a nice country loaf.

And it was 100% vegan.

Why Stone Soup Bread? Because, like Jean-Francois’s idea for stone soup, this recipe is so flexible that practically anything can go into it, and it complements salad or soup, and makes a nice sandwich. You could even use stone soup broth in the mixture. Best of all, I doubt I will ever miss traditional breads ever again.

I cannot take credit for the idea. I found the source recipes on the internet when searching for ways to use flour without eggs and yeast. I have Tish’s recipe at Food.com, Veggie Bon Vivant’s adaptation of Mark Bittman’s (How to Cook Everything), and a half day of looking at nearly empty jars and wondering what would work together.

Here’s what I did:

  1. Preheat over to 400F.
  2. In a large bowl, mix 3 cups of a variety of flours (blue corn, unbleached, corn meal, and whole wheat) with 1 tablespoon baking powder and 1 teaspoon salt.
  3. Chop 4 withering green onions and about 1/2 cup sundried tomatoes (in oil) and add them to the flour mixture. NOTE: I chopped the tomatoes on a wooden chopping board and left the oil on the board to use later when shaping the bread dough.
  4. Add 2 teaspoons dried sage to the flour mixture. Any herb would work, be creative.
  5. In a 2 cup measuring cup, combine 1/4 cup olive oil and 1-1/2 cups almond milk.
  6. Add liquids to flour mixture and mix until flour is moist but not very sticky.
  7. Turn dough on to wooden board (the one with the tomato oil). Flip a few times to shape into a ball.
  8. Drop ball onto baking sheet.
  9. Cook for 45 minutes.
Just out of the oven, not the blue colour from the blue corn flour.

Just out of the oven, note the blue colour from the blue corn flour.

And voila, two veggies saved from compost, three jars empty and ready to be packed, and a nice hearty snack to get me through the afternoon. I suspect this bread will toast up nicely and make heavenly croutons, too.

Avoiding “Dinner Party Aftermath”

We rang in 2013 with an Epiphany. More precisely, we celebrated the 12th day of Christmas with a gathering of friends, a mound of good (mostly vegan) dishes, and an embarrassing amount of alcohol. We celebrated decadence.

The epiphany? That a decadent feast need not be wasteful. We simply needed to plan with an eye to repurposing the leftovers. This we did–but only after we had identified the  signature dish for the meal.

The Hook

Our dinner parties usually begin with a single idea. It can be a new dish, a technique, a flavour, or a beverage. (Yes, we once planned a five-course meal entirely inspired by our homemade Dark-n-Stormies.) Our desire to feed others is almost always triggered by one event. The trigger for our epiphany party? Veggie-based dips and spreads shared by some of the amazing chefs we’ve met through this blog, Two Spoons and Food to Glow.

On 19 December, Two Spoons posted a lovely instructional guideline for using vegetables to make flavourful spreads and dips. And the ideas are clever. I made two dips using ideas from her post that relied on winter veg, nuts, olive oil, and mushrooms.

And then there was the Spinach Pkhali with pomegranate and fragrant fresh herbs that Food to Glow posted on 13 November. We’d found a prettier, and tastier, version of the nut crusted cheese loaf.

Spinach Pkhali

We served four dips:

  1. Spinach Pkhali (vegan)
  2. Roasted mushroom, walnuts & feta
  3. Roasted carrot with miso and maple (vegan)
  4. Pistachio, olive oil, carrot greens & feta

One week later, these dips (and the rest of the food on the menu) were fully enjoyed. None of that meal went into the bin.

How? It helps that one of our guests was vegan and snapped up most of our vegan remains in his doggie bag, including the two non-cheesed dips and the two remaining okara falafel.

The pistachio  dip was used as a pesto over pasta. I put the mushroom dip on toast (like a terrine), used it as filler for wonton ravioli, and included it in an egg omelette. I suspect there is are many other ways to incorporate the dips into soups, salads, biscuits and muffins. But I ran out of dip before I could test the theory.

For those who are interested, here is our menu from that party. We’ve shared the recipes for the falafel and ginger beer in previous posts. The others, I will share in the coming weeks.

The Menu

  • Jamaican-style ginger beer (homemade, with a much stronger ginger punch than the commercial varieties) and rum cocktail,
  • Dips & cheeses served with crackers and crudités
  • Fenugreek, red onion, grapefruit and pomelo salad with a tangerine, tarragon dressing
  • Okara falafel with tahini
  • Roasted cauliflower tossed with homemade curry and other spices
  • Vegan tagine with couscous
  • Roast pork with a jerk rub and mango salsa

Country pork rib jerk

  • Stir fried rice pudding with flambéed shredded pineapple and raisins, shredded coconut, nutmeg and orange zest (the most decadent thing you can do to leftover rice)
  • Raw cheddar, goat cheese, gorgonzola and camembert

Feasting on Leftovers: A little pesto goes a long way

Jean-Francois arrived from Singapore on Saturday last with renewed energy and a clear goal: Complete our vegetarian cookbook in six weeks. But that requires a clean kitchen and an empty fridge. To prepare, I made all our meals with an eye to waste nothing and have no food in our home by the end of the week.

For the most part our meals at home are vegetarian. Not vegan, but meat is rarely on the menu. This week was no exception, save for an evening of miso-glazed halibut (wild caught from Alaska, approved by our Seafood Watch app) and served with flavoured rice and lemon roasted brussels sprouts.  I only mention this meal, because it is the trigger for what follows.

I had leftover rice and sprouts from that meal, so for last night’s dinner I wanted to give these morsels a second chance to dazzle. And use up some aging produce. Here is what I did.

Menu, Leftovers for two:

Pesto Blessed Leftovers

  • Vegetarian Meatballs  with okara (not egg) (recipe from The Meatball Shop)
  • Asparagus with lemon butter sauce (14 stalks)
  • Pesto Fried Rice with brussels sprouts, peppers, and onions
  • Blue cheese basil pesto

Everything but the asparagus was either a leftover or on its way out the door. (Note: I made the meatballs about six weeks ago and froze them in batches of 6, we thawed our last bag for future meals.

1. Warm the meatless meatballs.

Preheat over to 350F. Place meatless balls in baking dish, cover tightly to prevent drying.  Heat in over about 20 minutes, until heated through.

2. Prepare the pesto, add:

  • 2 1/2 cups fresh basil leaves
  • 1/2 cup of cashews
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • Salt to taste
  • 2 oz. blue cheese

To food processor and pulse until it becomes a coarse paste. Set aside.

3. Start the rice, Cook:

  • 1/2 onion, chopped fine
  • 1 green bell pepper, chopped fine
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed

In a skillet with 1 Tablespoon olive oil, until onions start to brown. Add:

1 1/2 cups leftover rice (no need to be exact) and leftover brussels sprouts. Stir until hot. Add:

  • 2 gobs of pesto
  • Salt to taste

Set aside until ready to serve.

4. Pan-fry prepared asparagus in a bit of olive oil over medium heat

Until browned, about ten minutes. Turn off heat and add 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice and 1 tablespoon butter and toss until sauce coats stalks evenly. Serve.

The pesto also serves as a dipping sauce for the meatballs. Jean-Francois topped his rice with the lemon-butter sauce.

Comments on the meal: 

  • We thought the blue cheese might over power the pesto, but the two were very nicely paired. We will use the remainder of the pesto with pasta on Saturday.
  • The rice was rather tasty.
  • We had enough fried rice leftover to make an egg hash for breakfast. Just add two eggs.
  • Those meatballs are very dry, made more so by the freezing. Considering the long list of ingredients and the time required to prepare them, you will want to make sure you find ways to “pimp them out”. The recipe makes 24 balls, which is a lot for two people. And since I am not a fan of lentils, I doubt I will be making these again.

All told we managed to eat every bit of veg in the fridge. When we shop on Saturday, it will be like starting with a new fridge.

On another note: I am in search of muslin cotton for making tofu and soy milk. My supply has turned to rags and I cannot find any cheesecloth here that is fine enough. If anyone can point me to a decent vendor, I would be over the moon. We miss our tofu and milk. Thanks.

Thanksgiving leftover roundup

Thanksgiving has come and gone, and I’m happy to report that the only waste that resulted from our feast was a baked wonton stuffed with vegetables – one that I would have eaten had it not turned into a soggy, slimy, scary mess. (It’s probably worth noting that I was properly chastised for letting it get to that state.)

I tend to cook just enough for one meal, so figuring out how to turn leftovers into new meals is a rare challenge – and kind of a fun one. I didn’t do anything wildly creative or exotic, but every meal managed to feel different from the one before, which was the goal. That being said, I was happy to see the last of the turkey and Brussels sprouts go.

The shots below are an abridged photographic record of our Thanksgiving leftovers. (People were spared such displays before the Internet came along.) Hopefully they will inspire someone out there to repurpose the leftovers from their next holiday feast rather than trash them.

Thanksgiving dinner

Thanksgiving dinner was step-5 turkey with bread stuffing, cranberry sauce made with the juice and zest of an orange and honey, pastry stuffed with a vegetable medley and a purée of roasted cauliflower & garlic, and mashed potatoes ‘n gravy (made out of the turkey giblets). It was a small turkey (8 lbs), but way more than the two of us could eat in a single sitting…

Turkey wonton soup

We stripped the meat off the turkey on the day after Thanksgiving, and made a broth, which ended up in a few soups. This turkey wonton soup was the best of them, and featured wontons stuffed with leftover veg and cauliflower purée. The wontons lacked a bit of structural integrity, but somehow it all worked.

Turkey hash

We used the meat in a few different ways. Some ended up in soups and sandwiches, and one thigh ended up in a baked turkey hash with a stuffing topping. We used up a lot of the veg in the hash as well, and flavored the white sauce with the last of the gravy.

Vegetable medley

This vegetable medley had a lot of great flavours and colours, and found it’s way into just about every meal for for several days. In addition to the hash and the soup, it was used in omelets and a frittata – and made for a good side dish all on its own.

Brussels sprouts with apple

We entered the holiday weekend with an embarrassment of Brussels sprouts, and had to get creative to get through them all, while still maintaining a little variety in our diet. Two dishes that stood out were some Brussels sprouts tacos and this dish made with Brussels sprouts, apple, shallot, garlic, apple cider vinegar, a bit of honey, salt and red pepper flakes.

So what did you do with your leftovers?