By Emma Stessman
Picture this: you just finished meal prepping for the week. The kitchen smells great, the fridge is fully stocked…and what’s left is a pile of veggie peels and kale stems you have no idea what to do with. They’ll likely make their way from your cutting board to the trash can—but that’s not the only option.
Employing a “no waste” root-to-leaf philosophy when it comes to cooking can give you way more bang for your buck, increase nutrient-density, and help that meal prep last a few days longer. You’ll also be contributing to solving the serious food waste problem we’re dealing with in the US. (Estimates show that up to 30 to 40 percent of food is wasted. Yikes!)
To help you turn your scraps into useful, delicious ingredients, we turned to celebrity chef Stephanie Izard, owner of some of Chicago’s best plant-forward restaurants, like Girl & the Goat. Izard’s is a spokesperson for Morton Salt’s #EraseFoodWaste campaign. Here, she shares how she uses whole veggies in her own kitchen(s), and how you can too.
Here are five tasty and inventive ways to use those lesser-loved bits of food.
5 Ways to Cook with Food Scraps
1. Juice your vegetable peels
Those leftover sweet potato, cucumber, and carrot peels can supercharge your smoothie. “Instead of throwing away vegetable peels, combine them and juice them,” Izard says. “This deep, earthy juice can be added to your morning smoothie for an added boost of flavor and vitamins.” P.S. You can also save tons of time, money, and get more nutrients by not peeling them in the first place. They’re all perfectly edible.
2. Make croutons out of stale bread
“There’s no excuse for delicious bread to wind up in the trash,” Izard says. A loaf that’s been sitting out for a little too long is actually better than the fresh variety for making crunchy salad toppers. “Croutons should always be made with leftover bread because it’s already begun to dry out and creates a better crunch,” she says. “They are the perfect addition of texture to any salad.” If you want to keep a fresh loaf from going stale in the first place, Izard recommends freezing it and taking out slices as you need them for toast or a grilled sandwich. (May we suggest a turkey grilled cheese?)
3. Eat your beet and radish greens
Most people detach beets and radishes from their greens and toss the leafy parts. But the greens “are really fun ingredients that are a little spicy, a little bitter, and add a lot of depth to a dish,” she says. “Treat them as you would collard greens or swiss chard—slow cooked or sauteed.” Just make sure you give them a good wash before chopping them up and throwing them in the pan, because they tend to carry dirt.
4. Make cocktails with your fruit and vegetable pulp
If you start your morning with a green juice, all that pulp left in your juicer can help you get a delicious post-work buzz. “Combine equal parts sugar and water in a saucepan and then add the pulp,” Izard says. “Bring to a simmer to combine flavors, let cool, and then add to soda water or a cocktail.” Cheers!
5. Make sauces out of carrot tops
While the tops of carrots don’t usually get much love, Izard actually shops for the bunches with the most greens on top. “They are so flavorful and can be used in a variety of ways,” she says. “I like to use carrot greens to make a great chimichurri, vinaigrette, or a salsa verde.”
(All Photos: Shutterstock)