We Americans throw away a lot of food. A lot. This observation is in addition to the food that simply goes bad in our fridge, a.k.a., the dreaded leftovers. Vegetables are a prime example. When we prep most veggies, we typically cut off the stems and roots and then peel them.
There goes a third of the money we just spent.
My strategy is the opposite. Prep your veggies as minimally as possible and don’t peel unless absolutely necessary, just wash and scrub. Put aside the stems and tips. There are many uses for them.
After you do your grocery shopping and once you return home, make it a habit to prep your veggies immediately. I know this goes against a lot of expert advice but we are a generation in a hurry. You are far more likely to use up produce if it is already prepped and ready to go. My tips below:
Carrots: Try not to peel, just wash and scrub. Cut the very tip and root off and set aside. These go in your veggie stock stash. You can also place the tops in a shallow bit of water and they will regenerate so you can eventually plant them again, a fun garden project with the kids. While you are at it, shred a few for salads and baked goods.
Potatoes: One of the few you should wait on. Don’t prep unless you are using them right away as they will oxidize and brown. What you can do, if/when you peel, is to set the peels aside. Dry well and sprinkle with a bit of oil. You can air fry them or fry in oil if you are feeling decadent. They are a delicious treat with a sprinkle of sea salt and will literally dissolve on your tongue.
Radishes: You can prep for snacks, rice bowls and salads and store in your crisper. I usually wrap diced radishes in a damp paper towel and place them in a plastic container. I always use them up within a week. The ends, well, I use the ends as well. If you happen to have bought radishes with the tops on, shred the green bits for salads and rice bowls, they are peppery and delicious.
Cucumbers: Some varieties require peeling, so use the peels in your composting pile. You can also toss them in a blender with some water and buzz until you have a liquid. Pour directly onto your garden. Easy liquid fertilizer.
Sweet Peppers: The stem and seeds are basically the only parts that are not edible. Treat the same as cucumber peels. I usually just slice them for snacking and for adding to any stir-fry on the menu. I also use them in rice bowls raw.
Broccoli: Peel the stems as lightly as possible and use in compost. Cut the heads off and use the flowerets as you usually do for broccoli. The stems make a great dip. Just dice them, cook briefly in the microwave and then blend them in the food processor with your favorite cheese sauce. I’ve used broccoli stems as the base for Game Day Dip and nobody has ever been the wiser. My grandbabies will actually eat broccoli this way and eagerly dip slices of crusty bread in the dip. Yummy. You can also run the stalks through your food processor to get shreds for a broccoli salad, easy and quick. When I am too rushed to use them up immediately, I freeze them whole and make broccoli cheddar slow cooker soup later, recipes below.
Onions: I have mixed feelings about onions being prepped in advance. On the one hand, they pretty pungent. On the other hand, I use them up far more efficiently when I prep them so I usually will dice up at least one onion and keep it in a zip like plastic bag which I’ve place inside a very tightly closed plastic container.
Cauliflower: Just separate the flowerets, rinse lightly and bag them. They steam or microwave quickly this way. The core can be used much the same way broccoli stems are, for a quick dip. You can also run small chunks of it through your food processor for instantly trendy cauliflower rice.
Beans: Cut off the very tips of the stems (or don’t) and wrap them in a damp paper towel for use later. I stir-fry fresh green beans in butter, lemon and garlic, easy and delicious. Top with a scattering of sliced almonds. I also use them raw as snacks.
Lettuce: Don’t. Buy much I mean. More lettuce is thrown away in this country in the name of salads that never were and it’s criminal. Wrap in paper towels and use up quickly. I avoid those giant bags of washed lettuce and spinach, kale, etc., because I know I will never use it up. Cabbage, however, keeps pretty well. Wrap in paper towels and keep in the coldest part of your fridge. I use the tough otter leaves for cabbage rolls and shred the inner leaves for coleslaw.
Game Day Dip
3-4 broccoli stalks, lightly peeled and diced very fine
1/2 cup prepared salsa
1-2 jalapeno peppers, cut into small chunks
1/2 onion, diced
3 cloves garlic minced
2 cups shredded cheese, mix of cheddar and Monterey jack is usually a good choice
1 cup low fat milk
1/2 stick of butter or margarine
1/3 cup flour
salt and pepper to taste
Method: Cook the broccoli stalks in the microwave in a bit of water until cooked through but still crispy, just 3-4 minutes ought to do it. As the broccoli cooks, melt the butter in a saucepan over medium heat on the stove. Whisk in the flour to make a paste and cook for a minute or two. Slowly whisk in the milk and cook over low heat until thickened and then add in the cheese and continue to whisk until the sauce is well combined. Meanwhile, sauté the onion and garlic in a bit of olive oil until cooked through. Toss in the hot peppers, reserving a teaspoon for garnish and season to taste. Drain the veggies and mix into the cheese sauce, stirring well. Cool the dip. Once cooled, mix in the salsa and the broccoli blending well. Top with the reserved hot peppers and serve with chips and raw veggies.
Slow Cooker Broccoli Cheddar Soup
5 or more broccoli stalks, lightly peeled and minced fine
1 onion, diced
5 cloves garlic minced
3 cups shredded cheese, mix of cheddar and Monterey jack is usually a good choice
3 cups low fat milk
1 stick of butter or margarine
1/2 cup flour
salt and pepper to taste
Method: Melt the butter in a saucepan over medium heat on the stove. Whisk in the flour to make a paste and cook for a minute or two. Slowly whisk in the milk and cook over low heat until thickened and then add in the cheese and continue to whisk until the sauce is well combined. Meanwhile, sauté the onion and garlic in a bit of olive oil until cooked through, toss in the minced broccoli stems and cook for a few minutes longer, seasoning to taste. Mix everything together in a slow cooker and cook on low for 4 hours.