Feature

April 2016 Issue




Odd Bits

Mushroom stems

Save them in a zip-top bag in your freezer to make a tasty mushroom broth.

Broccoli stalks

Peel off the tough outer layer and thinly slice the interior for use in stir-fries, scrambled eggs, and pasta dishes.

Beet greens

Sauté with olive oil and garlic, add to frittatas, or blend into smoothies.

Carrot tops

Use as you would herbs in tabouleh, bean salads, and chimichurri sauce.

Potato peels

Mix with oil and roast in the oven at 425° F for 15 minutes until crispy.

Cilantro stems

Finely chop and add to salad dressings, salsa, and pesto.

Waste Not

Save money and reduce your environmental footprint by cutting food waste.

Most people assume landfills are stuffed mostly with plastic packaging, spent furniture, and garage sale leftovers, but what is really causing them to burst at the seams are items that could have made up a nutritious salad. Every day a staggering amount of food is wasted in America at the farm, retail, and consumer level. “We are squandering about 40 percent of the available calories in the food supply, which translates into more than a billion pounds of edible food going in the trash each year,” says Jonathan Bloom, a food waste expert and author of American Wasteland.

Ethical, Environmental, and Economic Repercussions

Up to 15 percent of households in America suffer from food insecurity, so food waste is a lost opportunity to help solve this problem, according to Bloom. “Decomposing food that makes its way into landfills releases methane, which is a significant climate warming gas,” says Dana Gunders, National Resource Defense Council scientist and author of Waste-Free Kitchen Handbook. Tossing away food means trashing all the resources, such as water and transportation, that went into producing it and getting it to stores. In the end, food waste represents a loss of about $240 billion to the American economy, according to Bloom.

Why do we waste food? Bloom blames the sheer volume of food produced in America, which offers a sense of abundance, along with our desire to have food look perfect and homogenous (picture a pile of blemish-free, look-a-like apples at the grocer), and the relative low percentage of income most Americans spend on food compared to many other nations. While food waste is a problem throughout the food chain, more gets disposed of in households than in other sectors, like grocery stores and restaurants.

compost bucket

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Cut Your Food Waste

Follow these tips to reduce taxing your food budget and Mother Nature.

Be a savvy shopper. Plan meals, make a shopping list, and stick with it. “Show restraint when grocery shopping by avoiding impulse buys,” says Gunders. She advises not being too ambitious with your meal planning. “As a workweek gets busy the chances of preparing elaborate meals decreases, which encourages food waste when what you bought for a recipe doesn’t get used.”

Embrace ugly ducklings. Shop at a farmers market and support farmers’ efforts to unload oblong fruits and knobby vegetables that many grocers won’t accept, but are just as tasty and nutritious as their “pretty” counterparts.

Chill factor. To extend the life of perishable produce, be sure to keep your fridge set between 35° and 37°, and properly store fragile items like herbs, berries and greens.

Frozen assets. “More people should use their freezer as a means of avoiding food waste,” advises Bloom. Freeze items like milk, bread, vegetables, and prepared dishes if you’re not likely to use them before they go bad.

Cook like a chef. Most chefs are masters at using all parts of food (see “Odd Bits”). Try recipes that use the whole food, from stem to flower, such as our Sweet and Sour Whole Broccoli Stir Fry.

Label lingo. Food gets tossed just because consumers are confused about expiration dates. “Sell by” and “best by” dates indicate when peak-quality starts declining, although the food is still fine to eat. “Use by” dates indicate when you should consume the food to avoid food safety concerns.

Scale down. Ballooning portions not only expand America’s collective girths, but also the size of landfills. “Serve yourself more reasonable portions of food,” says Bloom.

Break it down. If your city has a composting program, take advantage of it. Or use a compost bin to produce fertilizer for your garden.

—Matthew Kadey, MS, RD


 Sweet & Sour Whole Broccoli Stir-Fry

broccoli stir fry

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1⁄3 c low-sodium vegetable broth

2 Tbsp rice vinegar

1 Tbsp tomato paste

1 Tbsp low-sodium soy sauce

2 tsp honey

1 tsp chili sauce

2 tsp cornstarch (or arrowroot powder)

1 bunch broccoli

2 tsp grapeseed, peanut or canola oil

1⁄4 c sliced almonds

1. In a small bowl, whisk together broth, rice vinegar, tomato paste, soy sauce, honey, chili sauce, and cornstarch.

2. Slice broccoli tops into small florets. Peel stalks and slice thinly.

3. Heat oil in a large skillet over medium. Add broccoli stalks and cook 1 minute. Add broccoli florets and cook until tender. Add almonds and broth mixture and cook 1 minute more.

Makes 4 servings

Nutrition Information Per Serving: 162 calories, 8 grams (g) fat, 1g saturated fat, 20 g carbohydrates, 5 g fiber, 9 g protein, 229 mg sodium.

(Recipe by Matthew Kadey)