Food waste is a significant problem. Americans throw away approximately $165 billion worth of food each year, according to a recent study by the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC). The good news is that we can implement changes that can make a big difference.
During the month of September, SPU will be featuring tips to prevent food waste. This week, we are putting the spotlight on our very own, “Love Food, Stop Waste.” Food waste makes up 29% of Seattle’s waste stream, so if we all make small changes we can prevent a lot of waste. That’s exactly what Seattle Public Utilities’ “Love Food, Stop Waste” program seeks to do.
We asked the passionate and smart people who run the “Love Food, Stop Waste” program to share some timely fall food waste prevention tips. They said, “with a little creativity, you can make the most of fall produce, and combat waste at the same time.” So without further ado, here are three “Love Food, Stop Waste” staff favorite recipes that celebrate fall and cut down on food waste.
Pumpkins are synonymous with fall. A fun fall activity is pumpkin carving; it’s a great way to showcase your creativity and carving dexterity. One of the first steps to making jack-o’-lanterns is to scoop out all that pumpkin goo and seeds. Most people absentmindedly throw these away, but this year make sure to save pumpkin seeds to roast for a crunchy snack, and save the innards for soup!
Roasted Pumpkin Seeds
These make a great snack on their own, or add on top of soups and salads for a bit of crunch.
1 medium pumpkin
1 tablespoon olive oil or melted coconut oil
Preheat the oven to 250°F. Cut off top 3 to 4 inches of pumpkin; scoop out seeds onto a clean work surface. Compost any pumpkin fibers left on the seeds, and then transfer to a strainer and rinse.
Bring a medium pot of water to a boil. Add seeds, lower heat and boil gently for 10 minutes. Drain well, then pat dry with paper towels.
Transfer seeds to a medium bowl, toss with oil and spread out in a single layer on a large baking sheet. Roast seeds, stirring every 10 minutes or so, until just golden brown, about 1 hour total. Set aside to let cool completely. (They will become crispier as they cool.)
Feel free to flavor the seeds how you like. For spicy pumpkin seeds, mix 1/2 teaspoon each garlic salt, cumin, coriander and cardamom with seeds and oil before roasting. For sweet pumpkin seeds, mix 1 teaspoon each ground cinnamon, cloves and ginger and 1 1/2 tablespoons dark brown sugar with seeds and oil before roasting.
Butternut Squash Soup
This recipe, adapted from Cooks Illustrated, highlights autumn squash without using heavy cream or milk. To make this recipe entirely dairy free, substitute coconut or olive oil for butter.
2.5 pounds butternut squash (or any squash/pumpkin you have on hand)
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 (about 1.5 cups) leek, white and green parts only, quartered lengthwise, sliced thin and washed thoroughly
Salt and pepper to taste
4 cups vegetable broth
1 to 2 cups water
2 sprigs fresh thyme (or substitute dried)
1 bay leaf
Pinch of cayenne pepper
Peel and seed the squash (be sure to compost the peel and save the seeds for roasting). Cut it into 2-in. chunks and place into a microwave-safe bowl. Cover the bowl and microwave for about 14 to 18 minutes, or until you can easily put a knife through the flesh, stirring halfway through.
Let stand for about five minutes, and reserve the liquid. Meanwhile, melt butter in a Dutch oven or large pot over medium-high heat and add squash, leek and salt. Cook 10 to 13 minutes, stirring occasionally, until squash pieces begin to break down and fond (brown/ caramelized portions of squash) forms at the bottom of the pot.
Add 2 cups of broth, and scrape bottom of pot to loosen and dissolve fond. Add remaining 2 cups of broth, reserved squash liquid, 1 cup of water, thyme sprigs, bay leaf and cayenne. Increase heat to high and bring to a simmer. Reduce heat to medium and simmer for 6 to 7 minutes, until leeks are fully tender. Remove and discard bay leaf and thyme sprigs.
Working in batches, process soup in blender for about 1 to 2 minutes, until smooth.
Return soup to a clean pot and bring to simmer, thinning with up to 1 cup of water to your desired consistency. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve with roasted seeds, nutmeg, or more cayenne for some spice!
Beets and Greens
Less popular but just as great fall produce are beets and greens. Did you know you can use the stems of your fall greens? They’re perfect for pickling.
Quick Pickled Stems
Use the stems on your beets, kale, chard, broccoli, etc. You can also use this quick pickling recipe for anything you want to pickle-not just stems! Adapted from vibrantandpure.com.
One 16 oz. mason jar’s worth of stems (can be whatever you’d like: kale, chard, beet etc.)
1 tsp dill (fresh or dried)
1 cup water
1/2 cup of white vinegar, rice vinegar, or apple cider vinegar
2 garlic gloves sliced
sliced jalapeno pepper (optional)
sliced shallot (optional)
1 tsp sea salt
2 tbsp sugar
Wash and cut your stems. Pat dry and pack into 16 oz mason jar with jalapeño, shallot, peppercorn, garlic, and dill (all optional flavors, use all, some or none — it’s up to you).
Meanwhile, heat the water, vinegar, sugar, and salt in a pot until boiling and then pour the liquid into your jars over the stems. If you find that the liquid does not cover the stems add more water to top the jar off.
Screw on the lid and leave in the refrigerator for 24 hours before eating. These pickled stems will last a month in the refrigerator.
What if I still end up with food waste?
As we mentioned in our previous blog posts, food waste can be prevented by storing food correctly, shopping for what we need, and getting creative with recipes. However, sometimes we still end up with extra food that we won’t be able to eat. The food waste hierarchy (pictured to the left) is a great guide to decide what we should do with leftover food. The next step after reducing or preventing food waste, is to share food with others. Animals are next, if possible. Finally, compost is the last resort because when you throw away an apple, you’re also throwing away all of the water, energy, and other resources used to grow that apple and get it to your plate.
An excellent example of embracing the food hierarch is City Fruit, a local nonprofit that works to preserve and harvest our urban fruit trees. They do a great job at using apples to their fullest potential. City Fruit takes apples that would normally go to waste and harvests them for different uses like making delicious apple cider. Any apple scraps leftover from making cider are fed to community members’ chickens. You can learn more about their program here, including volunteer opportunities, orchard tours, and free cider and canning classes.
Many don’t know that a food waste hierarchy exists and that preventing or reducing food waste is only one tier, though an important tier to be sure, out of many. When most people think of food waste, they think of composting. While composting is fantastic and keeps food out of landfills, our first priority should be to avoid waste whenever possible. The staff at “Love Food, Stop Waste” hope that more people and organizations will come to embrace a “waste less” perspective, rather than merely managing or sorting our different streams of waste.
With that being said, composting food scraps is still great (and required in Seattle). Next week, we will wrap up our month long feature on food waste by talking about composting at the curbside and in the backyard.