According to the US Department of Agriculture, the average family of four wastes approximately $1,500 worth of food each year. When discarded food ends up in landfills, it generates methane, a potent greenhouse gas with nearly 100 times the warming potential of carbon dioxide. In California, nearly 6 million tons of food are thrown each year, and around 20% percent of all the material that goes to landfills is food scraps.
As individuals, we each have an important role in conserving resources and minimizing food waste. Initiatives like the Ugly Produce is Beautiful℠ (UPIB) Educational Campaign aim to rescue nutritious fruits and vegetables from being discarded. Instead of simply disposing of surplus food, we should explore innovative approaches to handle it responsibly, including collaborating with organizations to distribute it or utilizing composting methods to enhance soil rejuvenation, and experimenting with new recipes that use food scraps and reduce waste.
With summer well underway, bringing with it a plethora of fresh fruits and vegetables in season, we thought it would be a good opportunity to share some recipes to reduce food waste.
Crunchy Veggie Chips
By using assorted vegetables and making good use of vegetable scraps, this recipe helps minimize food waste while providing a delicious and healthy snack option for summer. Enjoy them as is or serve them alongside your favorite dips or spreads.
- Assorted vegetables (such as zucchini, carrots, sweet potatoes, beets, parsnips, and kale)
- Olive oil
- Seasonings of your choice (such as paprika, garlic powder, chili powder, pepper or dried herbs)
- Preheat the oven to 375°F (190°C) and line a baking sheet with parchment paper or silicone mat.
- Wash and dry the vegetables thoroughly. Trim off any blemishes or tough parts. Save the vegetable scraps (peels, ends, and trimmings) for later use in stocks or compost.
- Slice the vegetables into thin, uniform rounds or strips. You can use a sharp knife, mandoline slicer, or a vegetable spiralizer, depending on the vegetable and the desired thickness.
- In a large bowl, toss the sliced vegetables with a drizzle of olive oil. Make sure the oil coats the vegetables evenly but isn’t excessive.
- Season the vegetables with salt and any additional seasonings you prefer. Be creative and experiment with different flavor profiles.
- Arrange the seasoned vegetable slices in a single layer on the prepared baking sheet, making sure they don’t overlap.
- Place the baking sheet in the preheated oven and bake for 15-25 minutes, depending on the thickness of the vegetable slices. Keep a close eye on them to prevent burning.
- After the first 10 minutes, flip the vegetable slices over for even browning. This step is optional but can help ensure crispy chips.
- Continue baking until the veggie chips turn golden brown and become crispy. Keep in mind that different vegetables may require different baking times.
- Remove the baking sheet from the oven and allow the chips to cool for a few minutes. They will become crispier as they cool down.
- Once cooled, transfer the veggie chips to a serving bowl or store them in an airtight container for later use.
- Experiment with various vegetables and flavor combinations to discover your favorite combinations. Feel free to customize the seasoning to your taste preferences.
- Make sure to slice the vegetables into similar thicknesses to ensure even cooking.
- If you have vegetable scraps left, consider using them for homemade vegetable broth or composting to further reduce food waste.
- Store the veggie chips in an airtight container to maintain their crispiness.
Hearty Vegetable Scrap Soup (Can Be Easily Frozen and Saved for a Rainy Day)
This dish is an excellent way to utilize food scraps and create a flavorful, nutrient-rich soup while reducing food waste. It incorporates a variety of vegetable scraps to make a hearty and comforting meal year-round. You can easily customize this with whatever vegetables and herbs you have on hand.
- 2 tablespoons oil
- 1 onion, diced
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- Vegetable scraps (e.g., carrot peels, celery leaves, onion ends, broccoli stems, etc.), washed and chopped
- 1 potato, peeled and diced
- 1 can diced tomatoes (14 ounces/400g)
- 4 cups vegetable broth (homemade or store-bought)
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 teaspoon dried thyme
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Optional toppings: fresh herbs (such as parsley or basil), grated cheese, or a drizzle of olive oil
- Heat the olive oil in a large pot over medium heat.
- Add the diced onion and minced garlic to the pot. Sauté for 2-3 minutes or until the onion becomes translucent and fragrant.
- Add the vegetable scraps and diced potato to the pot. Stir well to combine with the onions and garlic. Sauté for an additional 5 minutes, allowing the flavors to develop.
- Pour in the diced tomatoes and vegetable broth, and add the bay leaf and dried thyme. Stir everything together.
- Bring the soup to a boil, then reduce the heat to low. Cover the pot and simmer for about 30 minutes or until the vegetables are tender.
- Once the soup has cooked, remove the bay leaf. Use an immersion blender or a regular blender to puree the soup until smooth. Alternatively, you can leave it chunky if you prefer a more rustic texture.
- Season the soup with salt and pepper to taste. Adjust the seasoning as needed.
- Ladle the soup into bowls and garnish with fresh herbs, grated cheese, or a drizzle of olive oil, if desired.
- Serve the hearty vegetable scrap soup hot, accompanied by crusty bread or a side salad.
Scraps Ahoy: Sustainable Stir-Fry
This recipe is designed to make use of food scraps to reduce waste while providing a delicious and low-carbon, colorful stir-fry packed with flavor and nutrients. Feel free to adapt the recipe based on the scraps and sauces you have available.
- 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
- 1 onion (any variety), thinly sliced
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- Assorted vegetable scraps (e.g., carrot peels, broccoli stems, kale stalks, bell pepper tops, etc.), washed and chopped into bite-sized pieces
- 1 cup cooked grains (rice, quinoa, or any leftovers you have)
- 2 tablespoons soy sauce, tamari or other flavoring sauce (adjust to taste)
- 1 tablespoon rice vinegar
- Optional toppings: sesame seeds, chopped green onions, cilantro
- Heat the vegetable oil in a large skillet or wok over medium-high heat.
- Add the sliced onion and minced garlic to the skillet. Sauté for 2-3 minutes or until the onion becomes translucent and fragrant.
- Add the vegetable scraps to the skillet. Stir-fry for 5-7 minutes or until the scraps are tender but still slightly crisp. Feel free to adjust the cooking time based on the desired texture.
- Add the cooked grains to the skillet, stirring well to combine with the vegetable scraps.
- Pour the soy sauce or tamari over the stir-fry, followed by the rice vinegar. Continue stirring for another 1-2 minutes, ensuring the flavors are evenly distributed.
- Remove the skillet from the heat and taste the stir-fry. Adjust the seasoning by adding more soy sauce/tamari or rice vinegar if desired.
- Transfer the stir-fry to serving plates or bowls. Garnish with sesame seeds, chopped green onions, or cilantro for extra flavor and color.
- Serve the stir-fry immediately, while it’s still hot. Enjoy!
Refreshing Summer Fruit Salad with Funky/Bruised Fruits
By using bruised fruits in this recipe, you can prevent food waste while creating a delightful and refreshing summer fruit salad. Enjoy the vibrant flavors of fresh fruits and savor the taste of summer!
- Assorted fruits (such as watermelon, pineapple, berries, grapes, oranges, peaches, and mangoes)
- Honey or maple syrup (optional)
- Fresh mint leaves (optional)
- Lemon or lime juice (optional)
- Wash and dry all the fruits thoroughly. Inspect them for any bruises or blemishes. Set aside the bruised fruits for use in this recipe.
- Prepare a clean cutting board and a sharp knife. Remove any damaged parts from the bruised fruits, such as bruises or soft spots. Cut the fruits into bite-sized pieces or slices.
- In a large mixing bowl, combine the cut fruits, both the bruised and unbruised ones.
- Optional: Drizzle a little honey or maple syrup over the fruits for added sweetness. Alternatively, squeeze a small amount of fresh lemon or lime juice over the fruits to enhance their flavors and prevent browning.
- Gently toss the fruits in the bowl to evenly distribute the sweetness or citrus juice.
- Optional: Tear or chop a few fresh mint leaves and sprinkle them over the fruit salad. Mint adds a refreshing and aromatic touch to the salad.
- Once the fruits are well combined, transfer the fruit salad to a serving bowl or individual serving dishes.
- Serve the fruit salad immediately or refrigerate it for a while to let the flavors meld together. It’s best enjoyed chilled on a hot summer day.
- Be creative and use a variety of fruits depending on what you have on hand. The more colorful and diverse the fruits, the more visually appealing the salad will be.
- If the bruised fruits are overly soft or mushy, consider pureeing them and using them as a natural fruit dressing for the salad.
- Feel free to add other complementary ingredients like shredded coconut, chopped nuts, or a sprinkle of cinnamon for extra flavor and texture.
- This salad can be a versatile dessert or a healthy snack. Serve it as is or pair it with a dollop of yogurt, a scoop of ice cream, or a drizzle of chocolate sauce for a more indulgent treat.
Leftover Fruit Crumble
This recipe is a delicious and low-carbon dessert that utilizes leftover fruits and reduces food waste. It’s a simple and versatile fruit crumble that can be customized based on the fruits you have on hand. Enjoy this guilt-free treat while minimizing your carbon footprint!
For the fruit base:
- 4 cups mixed leftover fruits (such as apples, berries, peaches, pears, etc.), peeled and chopped
- 2 tablespoons sugar (adjust according to the sweetness of the fruits)
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
- 1 teaspoon cornstarch (optional, to thicken the fruit juices)
For the crumble topping:
- 1 cup rolled oats
- 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
- 1/4 cup brown sugar
- 1/4 cup granulated sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 cup cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
- Chopped nuts (such as almonds, walnuts, or pecans)
- Dried fruit (such as raisins or cranberries)
- Coconut flakes
- Preheat your oven to 350°F (175°C).
- In a mixing bowl, combine the chopped leftover fruits, sugar, lemon juice, and cornstarch (if using). Toss until the fruits are evenly coated. Allow the mixture to sit for 10-15 minutes to macerate and release their juices.
- In a separate bowl, prepare the crumble topping. Combine the rolled oats, all-purpose flour, brown sugar, granulated sugar, ground cinnamon, and salt. Mix well.
- Add the cold butter pieces to the crumble topping mixture. Using your fingers or a pastry cutter, work the butter into the dry ingredients until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. This will create a crumbly and buttery texture.
- Pour the macerated fruit mixture into a baking dish or individual ramekins. Spread it out evenly.
- Sprinkle the crumble topping over the fruit mixture, covering it completely. For added texture and flavor, you can mix in chopped nuts, dried fruit, or coconut flakes at this stage.
- Place the baking dish or ramekins in the preheated oven and bake for 30-35 minutes, or until the fruit is bubbling and the crumble topping is golden brown and crispy.
- Remove the crumble from the oven and let it cool for a few minutes. Serve warm on its own or with a scoop of ice cream, whipped cream, or yogurt.
- Enjoy your delightful low-carbon fruit crumble while savoring the flavors and knowing that you’ve made use of leftover fruits and minimized food waste!
Note: Feel free to adjust the sweetness and spices based on your preference. You can also scale the recipe up or down, depending on how many leftover fruits you have available!
Leftover Persian Tahdig (ته دیگ): When the “Bottom of the Pot” Is the Best Part
Literally translated, the Persian word tahdig (ته دیگ) means the “bottom of the pot”–but don’t let that fool you, it’s truly the best part! Before nonstick cookware, tahdig had to be scraped from the pot, resulting in crunchy rice kernels at the bottom.
- 2 cups cooked basmati rice (leftover or freshly cooked)
- Leftover cooked vegetables or protein (such as chicken, beef, or fish)
- 1/4 cup vegetable oil or clarified butter (ghee)
- Salt, to taste
- Heat a non-stick frying pan or a pot over medium heat. Add the vegetable oil or clarified butter (ghee) and allow it to melt and heat up.
- If using leftover vegetables or protein, chop them into bite-sized pieces. Add them to the pan and sauté for a few minutes until they are heated through. If you don’t have any leftovers, you can skip this step.
- Spread the cooked rice evenly over the vegetables or protein in the pan, creating a flat layer. Press down gently to compact the rice.
- Reduce the heat to low and cover the pan with a lid. Allow the rice to cook undisturbed for about 30 minutes. This will create a crispy layer of tahdig at the bottom.
- After 30 minutes, remove the lid and check the bottom layer of the rice. It should have turned golden brown and crispy. If it needs more time to crisp up, you can cook it uncovered for an additional 5-10 minutes.
- Once the tahdig is crispy and golden, carefully loosen the edges of the rice with a spatula or a knife. Place a large serving plate upside down over the pan and quickly flip the pan to transfer the tahdig onto the plate. The crispy layer should now be on top.
- Season the tahdig with salt to taste. You can also sprinkle some additional spices or herbs if desired, such as cumin, paprika, or dried herbs like parsley or cilantro.
- Serve the tahdig as a side dish or main course, accompanied by your favorite sauce, yogurt, or salad. The tahdig can be enjoyed on its own or topped with additional cooked vegetables or protein if desired. Enjoy your delicious Persian tahdig with a crispy bottom layer–and the added satisfaction of minimizing food waste!
Note: Tahdig is traditionally made with plain rice, but incorporating leftovers can add extra flavor and reduce food waste. Feel free to experiment with different combinations of leftover ingredients and spices to create your own unique tahdig variation.
Cover image: “Rescued” fruit and vegetables. Credit: Miriam Aczel