Tuesday, October 29, 2013

The Economical Kitchen



 So, economy. Something I've not really been great at in the past, but as I've gotten older, not only am I more aware of my family's finances, I also spend a lot of time thinking about how to lessen our environmental footprint. This week, I've been thinking about how to stretch what I buy and let less go to waste. Maybe this is a result of all the guilt I have over the trees that died so my dissertation could be born. Who knows, but I just don't want to be eighty, and look back only to think, "Wow. I sucked at life."

It seems that economy is all about the little things. So I started small. When I made last week's tomato jam, the recipe called for a little bit of fresh grated ginger. I bought a small knob and used about a third of it. I hated to put the other 2/3 back to moulder away in the veggie drawer, so I grated the rest up and put it in an ice cube tray to freeze. The next day, I had two tablespoon-ish servings of ginger to use in a future recipe! I know, I know, this is basic kitchen economy, but for a recent graduate, having time for this kind of thing is pretty revolutionary.
I was careful to label and date the baggie. I'm working on building a collection of various size freezer-safe jars so I can avoid using the plastic bags.

While we were at the lake house this weekend for the great Salad Challenge of 2013, my dad called and asked if I would trim the herb garden a bit. The man has a fabulous herb garden. No really; it makes me swoon a little bit. Here's the corner with sage, oregano, thyme, and basil. His enormous rosemary bushes are not pictured.

So I cut a giant amount of herbs off these gorgeous bushes. I always take some home to use and to feed the bunnies for treats, but I looked at these two garbage bags worth of trimmings and decided it would be criminal to throw it away. So, much to my husband's chagrin, I hauled home trashbags full of herbs. But what to do with them?

About half this basil was run through the food processor with some olive oil.

It got the same ice-cube tray treatment as the ginger and then plopped into a large jar in the freezer. "Basil for the world" is my new motto. But I still had a ton of herbs left. So I (sort of unwisely, as I needed to head to work in about two hours) embarked on another save-the-herbs campaign.

I loaded another bunch of rosemary, thyme, and sage into my handy Oster food dehydrator. It really dried out pretty fast (about an hour and 45 minutes, which was delightful, but I was standing in my kitchen, playing with crunchy herbs when I desperately needed to be finding something business casual to climb into).
I refilled all my existing herb jars and had this leftover (I know. I said I was working toward a plastic-free environment. I really am.) I still have about 2/3 of the herbs I brought home left over, but I'm off tomorrow and going to dry some more and try to devise some new methods of preservation. I'm thinking some blackberry-thyme jam or jelly might be in order.

Someday, I hope to have some readers. Until then, I'll just throw out questions into the ether. What do you do with leftover veggies and herbs?