Healthy Food Bites To-Go: Cooking up Something From Something That Was Almost a Nothing Throw-Away
When you are trying to make healthier food choices, there is nothing more exasperating than finding fruits and vegetables in your refrigerator that are past their peak.
The joy of finding fresh seasonal produce at the market turns quickly into resentment when good money is wasted on produce that has to be tossed.
Home food waste can be largely reduced if you have a sure plan on how to use overripe produce.
Prime berry season is short and sweet, but a variety of berries are available fresh practically year round. Unless you are freezing fresh berries, they can turn quickly in the fridge. Blackberries outlast raspberries, strawberries and blueberries, but they too will spoil if left for too long.
No-Cook Blackberry Jam (recipe from www.FoodUnderground.com)
- 1 cup fresh blackberries
- Juice of ½ small lemon
- 1 tablespoon ground flax seeds
In a bowl, mash the berries with a fork or spatula. Add the lemon juice and ground flax seeds and mix together until well blended. Pour into a glass jar with a lid, and let thicken for 20 minutes before using. If you want the jam a bit thicker after it sets, add more flax seeds. Store jam in the refrigerator.Eat it within 2-3 days while it is fresh. Are your fresh raspberries about to turn? On occasion, when you open the berry package at home, you will find that many are mushy. Rinse them gently under slow running water and freeze them. When frozen, add them to a high performance blender or food processor with sliced frozen bananas* and freshly chopped mint. Boom! Instant, healthy ‘nice cream.’
*Don’t throw out those unsavory looking brown bananas that ripened for too long on the countertop. Peel them and freeze. They are perfect for smoothies, cooking in oatmeal and turning into soft serve creations.
Harder than eating an abundance of leafy greens (spinach, kale, collards and lettuces) or preparing them, is managing their shelf life. The flash-frozen option is a good one, since the greens are usually picked at their nutritional peak. There is something alluring about taking home fresh greens and incorporating them into hot and cold dishes. However, after a couple days in the fridge, greens get tempermental. They wilt. Or perhaps, they give off an unpleasant scent which asks for them to be disposed of quickly. Be proactive. Anticipate the shelf-life of your greens, rather than discovering the crime scene too late!
- For greens that look like they cannot live another day, add them to soup. Buy or prepare a vegetable broth from carrots, celery, mushrooms and an onion. Add a bag of frozen mixed vegetables, along with the fading leafy greens to the broth. Spinach specifically, will cook down instantly. In fact, you can place raw spinach in a soup bowl and simply pour hot soup right over it. Kale will take a few more minutes to relax and tenderize. Do not throw out those corn cobs when you remove corn from them. Corn cobs add immense flavor to soup stock and naturally sweeten it.
- Blend cooked and cooled spinach into prepared hummus.
- Split a baked potato and add sautéed greens with onions and sliced avocado.
The early watermelon season is upon us. Choosing a ripe, choice melon can be tricky. Some are not sweet enough. Others are mushy when you cut them open.
What to do with your disappointment?
- Watermelon Cooler – Toss watermelon chunks into a blender with fresh lime juice, a couple Medjool dates (or honey to sweeten) and ice.
- Toast shelled pistachio nuts in a pan. Cut chilled watermelon chunks and arrange on a platter. Squeeze lime over then melon. Sprinkle lightly with cayenne pepper and nuts.
- Soak cut melon in water overnight with ice in fridge. To add more melon flavor, mash the melon with a potato masher and then strain the water into a pitcher or water bottle.
Produce which has peaked or is nearing its inevitable de-cline is just begging to be salvaged. The goal is to get all of the intensely health-promoting nutrients these have to offer. Fruits and vegetables are not cheap, so consider the actual cost of sending them to the compost pile. Take stock of what’s going into your fridge after you shop. Keep sensitive items in view and maximize their use.
The delight of late spring-early summer season is biting into amazingly just-picked produce. Fruits and veggies keep their antioxidants longer than their looks. While it’s best to consume produce as soon as possible, the greater good is to just consume it. A bit of proactive care will go a long way to prevent waste, save money and turn what was almost a nothing throw-away into something really special.