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  • Pixabay Vegetable scraps such as onion tops can be saved to make stock.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017 1:00 am

Get scrappy in food-waste fight

COREY MCMAKEN | The Journal Gazette

Kitchen 101

Local chef and Dash-In owner Emily Underwood shares these ideas for repurposing food scraps at home:

• Keep vegetable scraps in your freezer until you are ready to make stock. A classic stock has a mirepoix of celery, onion and carrots. From there you can build whatever profile you want with the scraps you have on hand. Cabbage and beets aren't going to do well in a stock, and keep starches out because they will make the liquid cloudy.

• Bread can be used to make croutons. Dash-In tosses bread cubes in olive oil with salt and pepper then bakes them until crunchy. Add other spices to change things up such as Cajun croutons with garlic powder and cayenne pepper.

• A good egg custard recipe will help you create bread pudding from bread leftovers. From there you can experiment by adding spices and ingredients such as raisins, white chocolate, Oreos or fresh peaches. The same custard recipe can be adapted for rice pudding if you have leftover plain white rice. Add cinnamon and nutmeg to the mix.

• Fruits that are starting to go bad can also be put in the freezer. Bananas can be saved this way for banana bread. Apples can be frozen and used for applesauce or pie filling or to go with pork.

• Vacuum sealers come in handy if you buy a large portion of meat. You can freeze uncooked portions for later and leftovers you have already cooked.

• And don't go straight to the trash just because you don't see an idea here for your scraps or leftovers. It's as easy as asking Google what to do with, for example, leftovers from a roasted chicken. Here's a hint: Freeze the bones and juice for your next pot of stock.

– Journal Gazette

Share your recipes How do you reduce food waste? Share your ideas and recipes for possible publication in The Journal Gazette. Contact Corey McMaken at cmcmaken@jg.net or write to him at The Journal Gazette, 600 W. Main St., Fort Wayne, IN 46802.

Potato peels, chicken bones, apples that are about to turn – not only are we throwing away food we spent hard-earned money on, but most of it can still be used. All it takes is some creative thinking.

Owner Emily Underwood says the Dash-In, 814 S. Calhoun St., reduces as much food waste as possible.

“We save all of our bread scraps and turn those into croutons or bread pudding,” she offers as an example. “If there's ever any leftover veggies, (we turn) those into pasta salad or potato salad – something that repurposes the original product.”

Taking something that you would normally throw away and turning it into something else – that's the key, whether you are in a restaurant kitchen or standing in your home trying to decide if you will use the rest of that bag of carrots before they go bad.

“We pretty much use everything,” Underwood, who is also a chef, says of repurposing food. “We roast our own pork in-house and we always save the juice that comes off of that, and I'll make a soup out of that.”

A lot of food waste can be reduced or eliminated by how you shop. Plan ahead for leftovers, and don't buy what you won't use.

“We've gotten away from the fattier cuts of meat because there's not much you can do with grease and chunks of fat besides making suet for your birds,” she says with a laugh. But, hey, there's another use for food scraps if you have them.

Keep in mind that some foods that appear waste-free in the grocery store might be an illusion. Buying pre-cut vegetables may seem great because you don't have the waste of peels and skins, but those still produce food waste at the factory, Underwood points out.

“I feel a little bit more comfortable getting in whole products myself because I know that I will use every usable piece of that product,” she says.

Any scraps Underwood can't repurpose go into her compost bin – at home, at least.

“It's sort of a dirty, stinky process,” she says, laughing about the possibility of composting outside Dash-In. “The Downtown Improvement District wouldn't be so happy with me having that out in the alley.”

Compost bins can be set up for any size home, she says. Some small units are even sold for use indoors, and composting allows you to use even more food waste than you might think of as “scraps,” such as coffee grounds and egg shells.

Portion control can help cut down on leftovers and waste.

Underwood jokes that she's not so great with that at home. Sometimes she will start making soup and her husband will come into the kitchen and ask “Who's coming over for dinner?” as she stands over a two-gallon pot.

Leftovers aren't just a food-waste concern at home. The largest amount of food waste at restaurants is actually produced by customers, not kitchens, Underwood says.

Part of that is due to restaurants offering portions that are far too large to be eaten by the average customer. It's part of what Underwood calls an “odd perceived value” that makes diners think they are getting a great deal, even when they are leaving half of their meal on their plate.

“I can encourage people to take it home with them as much as I can, but it's really sad to see how much food goes into the trash,” she says.

cmcmaken@jg.net