So the tools and techniques don’t come around all too often mainly because I don’t usually think about my kitchen that way. There are many tricks that I use regularly and because they are habit I tend not to really notice them.
Recently I was hanging out with my friend Jon visiting from Toronto and – as we often do – we talked about consuming food. With consumption often comes waste. Jon went on about how much he hates wasting food and that there are some ingredients he just won’t buy in order to avoid a potential waste. I applaud his actions as I too, hate wasting food. I rather stuff myself than to leave food on my plate. I try to maximize every ingredient in my kitchen and pantry, and have come up with a couple of tricks to do just that.
Using his words “What the hell am I supposed to do with a huge bunch of cilantro when all I need is one cup?” My answer: “Why not make a batch of chimichurri? Freeze it in a jar or in ice-cube trays.”
Well, have no fear, Kristel’s Kitchen is here!
Let me share a few tips on how to maximize the use of your ingredients and minimize your waste:
Ice-cube trays! It’s convenient to have at least one ice-cube tray unused, that way you can easily portion out leftover ingredients and freeze for later use. Here are some examples:
- Tomato paste or sauce when you do not need to use the full amount; use individual cubes add depth of flavor to sauces, soups or
- Pesto, any kind. Pesto essentially just means to pound, crush to make a paste. Use basil, parsley, cilantro, arugula… basically anything that comes to mind or that may be lurking in your fridge.
- Fruit: purée and freeze, great for smoothies; or, cook down with sugar for a quick dessert topping.
Make soup! Often my soup creations spur from whatever is left in the fridge and pantry. The last creation was a Mexican influenced vegetable soup. From the fridge: the remainder of a bag of carrots and celery, an onion, a leftover ¼ cabbage from a previous dinner and shredded zucchini. From the pantry: a can of diced tomatoes, an ancho pepper (whole), a handful of coarse cornmeal and a handful of red lentils. All combined in a pot, topped off with water, seasoned with salt, pepper, cumin and coriander seeds, simmered for a about 40 minutes or until vegetables are tender.
Stale bread? Make breadcrumbs or croutons! Make sure the bread is hard and stale. Cut it up into smaller pieces then grind into crumbs using a blender or food processor. Store in the freezer. For croutons, toss with spices, garlic or parmesan (whatever you like), drizzle with olive oil and bake in the oven until brown. Store in an air-tight container.
Fresh ginger, always on hand! It is always convenient to have around for many recipes and marinades or even to spice up some tea, but like any fresh produce it doesn’t have the longest shelf life. When I bring home some ginger (and I am not talking about my better half here), the first thing I do is peel it and store it in a container in the freezer. Whenever I need some I just take it as is – frozen – and using a grater I shave off the needed amount.
Start composting! Contact your city, local borough office or Eco-quartier to find out what services are available to you. If you have the space for it, set-up compost bin in your yard. For Montrealers, get in touch with the nice folk at Compost Montréal to find out how you can get a compost pick-up service set-up for your residence, condo complex or even apartment building.
There’s a lot more where that came from. The key is to try to be a little creative, to think out of the ice-box when you’re looking at the leftovers you fear may be wasting away their shelf-life. Do you have your own tricks for minimizing waste? Please spread the word, share your comment on this post and help all of us make better use of our food consumption economy.
I know, I know… I’ve been bad, I haven’t been keeping up with my regular postings but I have an excuse! The office has kept me particularly busy for the past month and normally I would say “come on, give me a break, busy is not an excuse!” The office has not only kept me busy but it has also kept me out of the kitchen since I’ve had to travel to meet with an array of clients and consultants. Keeping me out of my kitchen means that my creative juices aren’t flowing the way they usually do. I’m not thinking about what I am going to cook since it is not something that is on the work-travel agenda.
But here I am, back home with the holidays upon us and not exactly on vacation – yet! This is the last haul until I get to decompress with my love, with nothing on the agenda but rest and our choice of outings at our own pace.
Since we have been so busy for the last while, we kept pushing back our holiday dinner party which was first scheduled for Thanksgiving, then to American Thanksgiving, then to the first day of Hanukkah, to finally the last day of Hanukkah, the weekend before Christmas. So, this coming weekend is when we will be celebrating Chrismukkah! Before I get into the likes of prepping for the holidays, we still need to eat in the meantime: since Sunday was the first weekend day in a long time we had to ourselves, we went ahead and simmered a lamb curry for the week and whilst it simmered we decorated our Chrismukkah tree.
Although it requires a long simmer time, this recipe is so much fun because it is incredibly versatile and one of those make ahead meals that you can eat throughout the week or freeze for another busy day!
Make -it-your-own Curry
- The following ingredient list is what I would recommend as a base to start with:
- 3 tablespoons of curry powder
- 1 large onion, chopped
- 3 garlic cloves, chopped
- 3 carrots, cut into bite size pieces
- 1 large potato, cut into bite size pieces
- 1 turnip, cut into bite size pieces
- 1 can chopped tomatoes
- Choice of meat, preferably bone-in (this adds flavor to the curry)
If you’re making a vegetarian version, then just skip ahead to the next point. For the meat lovers out there, you’ll want to begin by searing the meat, which just means cooking it until the sides are brown and then removing it from the pot. There is no need to cook it through entirely since you will be returning the meat to the pot and simmering it for a couple of hours. Lamb is one of my favorite meats, but it is also an expensive meat. For this kind of dish I like using lamb shanks. Not only are they less expensive than say lamb chops, but hey give a lot of flavor and the slow cooking process makes the meat super tender and completely delectable.
Once you’ve removed the meat, drizzle the pot with some oil and sauté the onions and garlic. I took advantage of this dish to use up a yellow pepper from my fridge that was almost forgotten, sliced it in julienne and added it to the pot. When everything begins to brown, add the curry powder and stir to blend well. Add the can of diced tomatoes and an equal part of water. Add the remainder of your veggies, notably the carrots, potatoes and turnips. Feel free to add or omit anything you like or dislike, or even any vegetables that are leftover in your fridge. However, if you are using leftover vegetables that have already been cooked, then I would suggest adding those at the end just before serving simply to heat them through.
At this point give the mix a good stir, add your meat, bring down the heat to low and simmer for approximately two hours. After two hours the meat and all the vegetable should be tender. Adjust seasoning with salt, pepper, more curry powder and/or cayenne if you like it a bit spicier. You can also add a can of lentils or chickpeas (drained and rinsed) to make for a more consistent dish especially if you’ve chosen to make a vegetarian version.
Your curry is now ready to package for lunches, dinners or to preserve in individual portions in the freezer. Serve hot with naan bread, rice or anything side-dish you’d like!
I hear a lot of people talk about how they do not have time to cook and I can see how that can happen especially if these are people who do not particularly enjoy the act of cooking. However, I’m going to say that although stews, curries, soups and the like do require a long cook time, the prep time rarely exceeds 20 minutes (and that’s if you’re taking your time). After all ingredients are in the pot and simmering, you are free to do anything you want for an hour or two or three! Just don’t venture outside your home, your stove is still on! I usually like to take this time to do household chores. So go ahead and stay in the house for a few hours and do some simmering while busying yourself indoors. You’ll be able to free up any busy weeknight resulting from a long day at the office, your last minute holiday shopping or even for some extra quality time with a certain someone!