Tips on how to waste less food

Couscous with Roasted Vegetables, Feta & Chickpeas. (Courtesy of Foodnetwork.ca)

Couscous with Roasted Vegetables, Feta & Chickpeas. (Courtesy of Foodnetwork.ca)

ELIZABETH BAIRD, Special to QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 9:02 AM ET

Waste not, want not. Sounds old-fashioned, but still an excellent guideline when it comes to food, especially as research shows Canadians are known to waste a lot of edible food. In a country of plenty, with eyes bigger than stomachs, it seems that we buy too much, cook too much, let food sit in the cupboard/fridge/freezer until it’s past its due date or has developed a furry green coat that has nothing to do with keeping warm. So, it’s appropriate, after our holiday splurge, to take control of our food, and cut back on waste. But still have enjoyable and satisfying meals. Here are some tips, with recipes to put the idea into action.



PLAN: Organize recipes and grocery list for the week based on seasonal recipes your household likes. Keep a binder or file of favourite do-again recipes.



SHOP SEASONALLY: Frozen vegetables are a good buy, create no waste and are easy to portion out.

MAKE YOUR FOOD LAST: Back from the store? Wash and dry fruit, ready for lunches. Remove elastics and other bindings from salad greens and vegetables. If you’re not using the vegetables right away, wrap in clean tea towels, the ones too thin for drying dishes, but perfect to absorb moisture from produce. Enclose in plastic bags. When you have a moment, wash and store greens as described, but wash vegetables just before using.



MANAGE YOUR FOOD: Check best-before dates. Incorporate leftovers as much as possible into upcoming breakfasts, lunches and suppers. Pop leftover vegetables into soup, salad, stew or pastas. If you know you can’t use a leftover within a day or two, freeze in a labeled, dated freezer container. Keep track of this precious fare on a list by the freezer, checking it off as it’s eaten. But, keep in mind that the only things that improve on freezing are ice cream, sorbet, ice cubes...and vodka.



CUT BACK: Lots of leftovers? Chances are portions are too generous. Buy and cook less the next time. 



Tomato and Chickpea Pasta


Here’s a dish, first introduced to me by writer/editor Donna Paris, into which a wily cook can add up to a cup (250 ml) of leftover cooked carrots, onions, mushrooms or broccoli.



Ingredients:

  • 2 Tbsp. (30 ml) olive oil

  • 1 onion, diced

  • 3 cloves garlic, minced

  • 1/4 tsp. (1 ml) hot pepper flakes

  • 1 tsp. (5 ml) dried basil

  • 1/4 tsp. (1 ml) each salt and pepper

  • 1 can (28 oz/796 ml) tomatoes

  • 1 can (19 oz./540 ml) chickpeas, drained and rinsed

  • 1 cup (250 ml) vegetable broth

  • 2 Tbsp. (30 ml) diced sun-dried tomatoes or tomato paste

  • 2 Tbsp. (30 ml) minced fresh basil or parsley, optional

  • 12 oz. (375 g) short pasta like shells or penne


Directions:

Freshly grated Romano or Parmesan cheese

In heavy saucepan, heat oil over medium heat. Add onion, garlic, hot pepper flakes, dried basil, salt and pepper; cook, stirring, for 5 minutes. Stir in tomatoes; crush with fork. Add chickpeas, broth and sun dried tomatoes. Cover and simmer, stirring often, for 20 minutes.
Simmer uncovered over low heat until thickened, about 20 minutes. Meanwhile, in boiling salted water, cook pasta until tender but firm to bite, 8 to 10 minutes. Drain, reserving 1/2 cup (125 ml) of cooking water. Add pasta to sauce; toss well, adding fresh basil, if using, and a little cooking water if needed to loosen pasta.
Scoop into warm bowls; sprinkle cheese overtop. Makes 4 servings.


Friday Frittata


This ingenious use of leftover pasta and eggs is from the Calabrian heritage of home economist Emily Richards. Serve with sliced tomatoes or salsa. If leftover ham, cooked sausage or other cured meat are in the fridge, saute up to 1 cup (250 ml) diced, with the onion. Potatoes add depth.



Ingredients:

  • 1 Tbsp. (15 ml) olive oil

  • 1 onion, diced

  • 1 sweet red or green pepper, trimmed and diced

  • 1 tsp. (5 ml) dried oregano

  • 1/2 tsp. (2 ml) each salt and pepper

  • 2 1/2 cups (625 ml) cooked pasta such as rotini or shells

  • 6 large eggs

  • 1/4 cup (60 ml) Parmesan cheese

  • 1/4 cup (60 ml) milk

  • 1 cup (250 ml) croutons, optional

  • 1 cup (250 ml) shredded Provolone cheese



Directions:

In ovenproof skillet, heat oil over medium heat. Saute onion, red pepper, oregano, salt and pepper for 5 minutes. Stir in pasta; heat through, about 4 minutes.
Meanwhile, whisk eggs with Parmesan cheese and milk. Pour over pasta mixture, stirring gently to combine. Cook without stirring until bottom is set and golden, about 5 minutes. Sprinkle croutons, if using, and cheese overtop.
Bake in 350F. (180F) until golden and puffed, about 25 minutes.
Makes 4 servings.

 Subsitution: No Provolone? Try Cheddar, Gouda, Fontina, Mozzarella...
Leftover Tip: Do as Emily does, slice the frittata and slide between toast for breakfast, or into a bun for lunch.



Couscous with Roasted Vegetables, Feta & Chickpeas

This “clean out the crisper” dish is slightly adapted from the award winning Spilling The Beans by Julie Van Rosendaal and Sue Duncan (Whitecap Books, $29.95). The authors note that you can use other vegetables in coarse chunks.

Ingredients:

  • 1 medium sweet potato, peeled and cut into chunks

  • 1 red or yellow bell pepper, seeded and chopped

  • 1 zucchini, halved lengthwise and thickly sliced

  • 1 garlic bulb, separated into cloves and peeled

  • Canola oil for roasting

  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 can (19 oz./540 ml) chickpeas, drained and rinsed

  • 1 cup (250 ml) couscous, regular or wholewheat

  • 1 cup (250 ml) crumble feta cheese



Directions:

Spread vegetables and garlic on large, rimmed baking sheet. Drizzle with oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper and toss to coat evenly. Spread out into single layer.
Roast in 450F. (220C.) until vegetables are almost tender, 15 minutes. Add chickpeas; stirring to combine. Roast until vegetables are tender, 5 to 10 minutes longer. Meanwhile, put couscous into medium bowl and pour 1 1/4 cups (300 ml) boiling water overtop. Cover and let sit until plump, 5 to 10 minutes.
Fluff couscous with fork; scrape chickpeas, vegetables and feta over couscous. Toss and serve.
Serves 6 as a side, 4 as vegetarian main.


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