April 07, 2023
Upcycling is the term for reusing something you might otherwise throw out. It’s been popular with clothes and household items for a while, and recently has caught on with food. Here are some foods and food scraps you can upcycle.
Uses for overripe bananas include banana bread and muffins, as well as smoothies and milk shakes. And if you don’t feel like using the bananas immediately, just peel, mash, and freeze them.
Banana peels can be turned into faux bacon. Just marinate them in seasonings you’d use on meat, such as Worcestershire sauce, and garlic or onion powder, then sear them in a hot pan.
Banana peels also can be used to give hot chocolate a gourmet touch. Just put them in the hot chocolate while you’re making it on the stove, and take them out before you serve it.
Watermelon rind can be pickled. Cut it into pieces; simmer them in a mixture of vinegar, water, sugar, and salt until they soften; and put them in the refrigerator until they harden.
You can make apple and orange peels into jam. Cook them in water for 25 to 30 minutes, strain the water to remove them, add sugar and lemon juice to the remaining liquid, boil it, and pour it into sterilized jars or cans. You can also use a slow cooker to make jams or butters from such fruits as apples, pears, and peaches when they’ve gotten a little soft, but haven’t turned rotten.
You can also candy orange and lemon peel, chop it, and use it in muffins, fruit cakes, and other pastry. It will keep for six to eight weeks in an airtight container.
Citrus fruits can be used to freshen everything from your sink to your house. For instance, to deodorize your garbage disposal, put some citrus peels down it. Simmering the peels with water and spices, such as cinnamon or cloves, can remove smells from your kitchen. And if you’re doing something that requires you to scrape the flesh out of grapefruit, oranges, or limes, you can turn their rinds into air fresheners by filling them with a mixture of sea salt, herbs, and essential oils.
You can literally give green onions a second life. After you use their tops in food, place their bottoms in clear glass containers, fill the containers with enough water to cover the roots, and put them on a windowsill.
You can also do that with romaine lettuce. When you use the lettuce, rip off the leaves in a way that leaves the core intact. When all that’s left is the core, put it in a glass jar, cover it with water, and put the jar in front of a sunny window.
Vegetable scraps can be turned into soup or broth. Simmer them with herbs, salt, and pepper in a pot of boiling water for around an hour, then use a colander or clean kitchen towel to remove them and put the liquid in clean screw-top jars. You can use carrot and cucumber peels, onion skins, broccoli stalks, cauliflower leaves and stalks, and the cut-off ends of celery, cucumbers, and zucchini.
You also can use those vegetable scraps, along with bones from meat you’ve cooked, to make a master stock that you can turn into a soup, or use as an ingredient in other dishes. Save the scraps and bones in the freezer until you have enough to make the stock. If you don’t have any immediate uses for the stock once you make it, you can freeze it.
Roasted bones can be used to make bone broth. Just add them to a large pot, fill it with water until they’re submerged, bring it to a simmer, cover it and cook it for 24 to 48 hours. You can sip the bone broth instead of coffee or tea; use it to make soup, a stew, or gravy; or add it to such dishes as stuffing.
Stale bread is an upcycling staple. Just by ripping it apart, you can make it into breadcrumbs. To make them into croutons, just toss them with olive oil and some seasonings, then bake them for 10 to 15 minutes at 400 degrees. Sweeter uses for stale bread include bread pudding and French toast.
Crumbs are as easy as bread to upcycle. Chip or cracker crumbs can provide crispy toppings on casseroles, or coatings for chicken and fish. The crumbs from some cereals, such as corn flakes, can be used the same way. The crumbs fom sweeter cereals and cookies can be used as a topping for ice cream or cupcakes.
Upcycling food is easy, can be fun, and reduces how much waste you send to landfills. Give it a try today!