Tag Archives: cooking

15 Clever Ways to Reduce Food Waste & Get More From Your Garden

Don’t toss that! The USDA estimates that a staggering 30-40% of food in the United States is wasted. While you’re probably already more sensitive about using the produce out of your own garden we went ahead an compiled a list of ways you can reduce your food waste and make the most of your harvest.

Save Scraps to Make Broth

Many vegetable scraps can be turned into delicious vegetable broth. Save scraps like carrot ends and peelings, celery ends and leaves, onions ends and skins, broccoli leaves and stalks, potato peels, and more. If your not going to use them right away they can be collected in a container in the freezer.

Eat your Jack O’ Lantern

Sadly most jack o’ lanterns end up in the landfill which is an enormous waste of nutritious food. This year try to use your jack o’ lantern before it goes bad. The seeds can be baked for a delicious snack, the “guts” can be added to broth, and the shell can be baked and turned into delicious recipes like pumpkin pie, pumpkin waffles, or even pumpkin cinnamon rolls.

DIY Pumpkin Puree & Pumpkin Spice Waffles

Leave the Skin on Cucumbers, Apples, and Potatoes

The skin on cucumbers, apples, and potatoes is actually quite good for you. They’re full of vitamins and nutrients and tasty too. Try using these without peeling them first.

Make Corn Cob Jelly

Tennessee Red Cob Dent Corn

It may sound odd but corn cob jelly is actually really good and certainly makes good use of an otherwise waste product.

Eat Your Beet Greens

Beet greens are just as tasty as other greens and they come free with a beet! Don’t let them go to waste.

Pickle Your Rinds

Squash, pumpkin, and melon rinds can all be pickled. Just like corn cob jelly, pickled rind recipes used to be very common but fell out of use in modern cooking. They may sound a little odd at first but they’re actually pretty good.

Save Your Tomato Skins When Canning

Next time your canning tomatoes or making sauce set the tomato skins aside instead of in the compost. These can be dehydrated and powdered to be used in soups and stews. This tomato powder is wonderful for adding flavor and thickening.

Eat Your Broccoli Stems

The stems are just as good as the florets! They also contains slightly more calcium, iron, and vitamin C than the florets. If you really dislike them you can use them for stock or try searching for broccoli stem recipes.

Make Fabric Dye

From cabbage scraps to black bean water there’s many ways to dye fabric with just food waste!

Planning a Dye Garden: 15 Plants to Grow

Make Fruit Vinegar

Making your own vinegar is actually really easy and can be done with all fruit scraps like peels and cores after a canning or juice making day.

Use Soft Fruit in Smoothies or Baking

Fruit that’s soft but isn’t truly bad can still be delicious in smoothies or baked goods.

Toss Soft Veggies in Soups

Don’t throw out vegetables that aren’t truly bad. Use up produce like soft carrots and potatoes, limp celery, and wilted greens in homemade soups like this Vegetarian Tortilla Soup.

Dehydrate or Can Your Food Rather than Freeze It

While freezing garden produce is an easy way to preserve your harvest for winter it does come with one major downfall, the freezer requires constant electricity. If you live in an area that experiences a lot of storms and power outages it may be worth putting up your harvest in other ways. Canning and dehydrating food is a great way to ensure it stays good.

Feed Produce to Animals

If you truly can’t eat something consider animals. Backyard chickens eat a lot of scraps as do pigs. If you don’t have any yourself talk to your local animal rescue or farmer. They might be interested in produce scraps or even that old jack o’ lantern!

Compost

Produce scraps should never go to the landfill. Composting creates wonderful soil for your garden and keeps produce out of the landfill which releases methane.

Reducing food waste is so important. It helps the environment and your wallet. Let us know if you try any of these tips and how it works out.

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DIY Natural Food Coloring from Garden Vegetables

Many people are starting to turn away from heavily processed foods toward more wholesome natural diets. While whole grains, fruits, and vegetables are great sometimes you just need to make cupcakes with bright pink frosting. Thankfully you don’t need to turn to artificial colors to make fun, colorful food. These easy, natural, DIY food colorings can brighten up a homemade birthday cake or help you craft a colorful smoothies without chemical additives.

Beets (pink/red)

Peel and slice beets as thinly as possible and place on a single layer on a dehydrator tray. You can dry them at about 135°F or on your dehydrator’s fruit or vegetable setting. Dehydrate your beets until they’re fully dry and brittle.

Then it’s time to powder your beets. This can be done with a food processor, blender, or even a mortar and pestle. Whatever you choose you’ll want to get the powder as fine as possible so it blends well with the food you’re trying to color.

As with many vegetable based dyes the color may not be as strong as you’d expect. Beets may give you more of a pink color than darker red. You can use more beet powder however it will be a balance between adding enough for the color and adding too much powder to your recipe.

Unfortunately with beets and many vegetable dyes they can be affected by baking so you may want to stick with non-baked items like frostings.    

Spinach (green)

Winter Bloomsdale Spinach

Spinach should be rinsed and then dehydrated. For the best color it should be dehydrated as soon as possible after harvest. Place it on a single layer on a tray. It won’t take nearly as long to dry as the beets but once again you’ll want to ensure its fully dried so it can be powdered and stored without molding.

Turmeric (yellow)

As many canners and fiber artists will know turmeric can be used to create a vibrant yellow color. It’s often used in bread and butter pickle recipes giving them their yellowish appearance.

Turmeric is not a commonly homegrown spice but it can be done. It is a rhizomatous plant in the ginger family. Check out How to Grow Your Own Turmeric Indoors from Rodale’s Organic Life.

Carrots (orange or purple)

Carrots can be processed almost exactly like beets to offer an orange or purple color depending on the variety. However carrots do not need to be peeled like beets but you’ll want to wash them well before processing.

Sweet Potatoes (orange or purple)

All Purple Sweet Potato

Like carrots sweet potatoes will give you either a purple or orange food coloring depending upon the variety you choose. Unlike carrots and beets you’ll want to use cooked sweet potato puree not powder. Simply peel, chop, boil and then puree your potatoes.

Blue Butterfly Pea (blue or purple)

Like turmeric this plant isn’t super common in backyard vegetable gardens but it is easy enough to grow. It’s commonly grown in Asia and the flowers are used as an herbal tea. The tea can be used to make beverages blue or you can add a touch of lemon juice to turn the tea purple. For other recipes the dried flowers can be powdered and added as food coloring.

Red Cabbage (blue)

Surprisingly red cabbage juice makes a blue food coloring. You can use a juicer or just blend the cabbage up, place all the cabbage into some cheesecloth and squeeze as much juice out as possible. For a more vibrant blue baking soda can be mixed into the juice. Start with adding just a little until you see results.

No one eats a perfectly healthy diet but by utilizing your backyard vegetable garden and spice cabinet you can have fun, colorful food while avoiding artificial colors. They may not be perfect matches for artificial food coloring but vegetable food colorings are surprisingly easy to make and use. So try your hand at homemade colorful pasta or add icing to some cookies for Halloween!

Have you ever used a natural food coloring?