Saturday, January 17, 2009

Waste Not, Waist Full

From the bean of Green Bean.

If I close my eyes, I can smell it - despite two closed doors. The oven churns heat into the cold morning kitchen and the sweet smell of maple syrup, eggs and bread creeps through the house, silent and crafty as a cat. Forty-five minutes earlier, I had shuffled out on slippered feet to transfer the covered casserole dish from the fridge to the oven and then scurried back to cuddle with the kids and Mr. Green Bean. My efforts will soon be rewarded with a cinnamony-sweet breakfast that spewed not a single dirty pot or pan this morning. Bread pudding.

It is a lazy Sunday and we were doing our best to live by the adage: "Waste not, want not." Did you know that "more than 40% of all food produced in America is not eaten." That is just wrong - no matter how you look at it. Moreover, times are tough and we are scrimping where we can.

In truth, stretching meals and reducing food waste is not much of a sacrifice. It only requires a pinch of organization and a teaspoonful of effort.

Bread pudding is one of the ways we don't waste food around here. Old bread gets chopped up and baked with something sweet (usually local honey). Suddenly, it is a delicacy with the kids begging for seconds and thirds.

Vegetable scraps likewise take a round-about trip to the compost bin. They travel from the cutting board to a year old plastic ziplock in the freezer to a boiling pot of water. An hour later, I've got cups of vegetable broth without a can or tetra pack to show for it.

Fruit syrup is another favorite tactic for "not wasting". Mushy strawberries, overripe persimmons, nearly done blackberries. Cook any and/or all of them down with a bit of honey or maple syrup and they become the best pancake topping imaginable. Even better, fruit syrup freezes for eons and tastes like summer in January.

Our efforts to reduce food waste have resulted in a slimmer food bill, a lighter landfill load, and a cut in compost. The only thing we haven't shrunk are our waistlines. Why? Because not wasting food is delicious.

Here are some other great ideas for stretching a meal. How do you stretch a meal?


By request, here is my bread pudding recipe from The Essential Vegetarian Cookbook: Your Guide to the Best Foods on Earth.

4 cups loosely packed bread cubes

2 large eggs

2 large egg whites

1 cup milk

1/4 cup maple syrup or honey

2 Tablespoons brown sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Place the bread in the bottom of a casserole dish. In a mixing bowl, mix all other ingredients until well blended. Pour mixture evenly over the bread. Cover and refrigerate overnight. Bake at 350 until gold brown and firm to touch, about 50 minutes.

Suggestions (that I've not yet tried) for making the pudding differently include adding 1/2 cup pureed fruit, pumpkin or sweet potato in lieu of half of milk or adding 1/2 cup of dried or fresh fruit to the bread mixture.


suzannah said...

i also love making bread pudding with leftover bread! it is so simple and delicious. i especially like buying day-old bread or rolls, serving it for dinner and then making pudding.

i'm filing away your great fruit syrup and broth ideas:)

the other night i simmered leftover orange peels, cilantro stems, (and a cinnamon stick) in water on the stove to humidify and naturally fragrance our home. if you had a wood-burning stove (i wish!), this wouldn't use any extra energy...

fullfreezer said...

We make a weekly menu plan that incorporates the left overs later in the week. I also save little bits of left over meat in a bag in the freezer and then use it to make jambalaya- I throw just about anything into that.
A neighbor brought us bread pudding that he had made from day old donuts. He got a great deal at a local store ($2 for a big bag) and made enough to share. It was very different from the bread pudding I've had/made in the past- but really good.

Erin aka Conscious Shopper said...

Okay, Green Bean, I need some more specific details here. I've been trying to make my own veggie broth, but it doesn't taste as good as using a veggie bouillon cube. What's your method and what vegetables are you including?

Same with the bread pudding. You've got to include a recipe with that yummy picture! I've got a freezer full of bread butts that need to be used up!

Anonymous said...

rice pudding. the next morning leftover rice goes in a pan with some eggs, milk and maybe some raisins. my kids gobble it up faster than i can get it to the table. now if i could just figure out what to do with the left over oatmeal!

Green Bean said...

Suzannah: Oh, the orange peel concoction sounds wonderful and I too wish I had a wood burning stove. How awesome would that be!

Fullfreezer: I so know that I need to have a menu plan but I don't tend to be organized enough. Love the tip for Jambalaya. I guess I do the same with veggies and packaged Indian spices that I buy at the farmers' market.

Erin: You are too funny! I'll amend the post to include the recipe for bread pudding. It is a good one! As to the broth, I leave out strong tasting scraps like beets, radishes and go light on broccoli. Heavy on carrots, and leeks or onions. Corn cobs are great when in season and then a bit tomatoes or potato peels (not too heavy). The taste of the broth varies a little seasonally and I tend to have more of it in the spring and summer.

Blonde: I am SO trying the rice pudding.

Donna said...

Normally, any leftovers become my lunch later in the week. However, as my preschooler's appetite continues to grow, I'm finding that I don't have as many leftovers as I used to!

One caution for your readers: Do not ever, ever try to hide leftover salmon in a pan of enchiladas. The result is inedible. ;)

Anonymous said...

When I'm meal planning I try to think what I can use for multiple recipes. We also make enough for two meals, if we aren't going to eat the second right away we freeze. Then our favorite meals our a microwave away. We also have worms so they happily chow down on coffee grounds, onions skins etc.

ruchi aka arduous said...

Another good no waste food? Kugel!! For when you have extra pasta. Mmmmm so good.

Green Bean said...

Donna: Bleh! That doesn't sound good on the enchilada front! We use alot of leftovers for lucnh too but, I have to confess, this bread pudding was from a baguette that I never got around to cutting up and freezing or distributing when it was not rock hard.

Badhuman: You sound like a good meal planner! I'm usually not but am going to try this Feb. Just signed up for Crunchy's challenge.

Ruchi: Yum, I'm so trying kugel. Never thought of that one.

kale for sale said...

I always order bread pudding if it's on a menu but I've never made it. I'm afraid I'll eat it all! I make a pan of croutons instead. And then I eat them all. Actually I don't have bread in the house that often for this reason.

My leftover veggie default is fried rice. It's a dish accepting of most everything with the constancy of peppers and scrambled eggs. I've never made it the same way twice and it's always good.

Joyce said...

It so funny that everyone is posting on this in the last couple of days. I used to be an ace at dealing with leftovers, but somehow lost some of those habits, and had just recently decided it was time to get back at it. This was a great reminder about bread pudding, which I haven't made for eons.

Farmer's Daughter said...

I can almost smell that baking! Thanks for sharing the recipe!!!

Up in Maine, my MIL made us blueberry bread pudding with those little wild Maine blueberries. It was so good! (Like blueberry pancakes)

Aisling said...

I have been trying to encourage my family to eat the left-overs in their original form - warmed up or cold, whichever. Lately, though I am back to the old habit of making them into something new. I could eat the same thing every day for a week and not worry about it, but some of my gang seem "allergic" to eating the same food two days in a row! *grin* Thanks for the inspiration and encouragement that this post provides!

Green Bean said...

Katrina: Yeah, it's a problem. Eating all the bread pudding, that is. Gotta give the veggie rice a shot. It sounds delicious.

Joyce: Isn't it funny how everyone is posting about food waste this weekend? Must be something in the air.

Abbie: Blueberry bread pudding?? Now THAT sounds good!

Aisling: Allergic to leftovers? Ha! My kids aren't yet but, usually they eat anything I've actually cooked up.

Crunchy Christian Mom said...

Oh, YUM! I usually save our bread ends for bread crumbs, but I have so many stuffed into the freezer right now... we're having bread pudding this week!

JessTrev said...

Yum! Fruit syrup?! Post that recipe too, please...

old bread = french toast or part of the stuffing for Italian stuffed peppers

I love to make a roast chicken and then use the carcass to make soup or enchiladas and then stock

soup is the great absorber of not perfect veggies which you know if you make stock!

Jamie said...

I made blackberry syrup today and have all the leftover seeds and pulp. It seems a waste to just throw that away - I've actually been snacking on it here and there. Have you come up with a creative way to use these berry leftovers?


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