The waste of it all

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Here’s some stuff that makes me madder than the near-sighted snake who married a garden hose:

Shoe sales that never have any size 10’s.

Evil incarnate Carmen, who keeps calling about lowering my credit card interest rate.

Those ridiculous choreographed pantomimes that NFL players have started doing after a touchdown.

And finally, waste — opportunities, potential, passion, and, worst of all, food.

You wanna hear some horrific facts? Forty percent of the food produced in the U.S. is never eaten. It’s thrown away. That’s around 250 pounds per person per year. Globally, 4 billion tons of food is wasted each year. More than half of all shoppers buy more food than they need. What’s almost criminal is that fact that they know they’re doing it at the time of purchase.

You may think that the little bit you throw away doesn’t add up to very much. But the average family of four loses at least $1,500 a year this way.

It’s actually not that hard to reduce the amount of waste each household produces. The biggest tip I can give you is to stop making more food than you need. When I was first married, I had no idea how to cook for two. I was used to cooking for an Italian four, which is an anyone else’s 12. I couldn’t understand why that five-pound meatloaf didn’t get eaten up before it got furry.

If the food doesn’t make good leftovers, you don’t want it hanging around. If, on the other hand it reheats well, and would make a lunch that you’d actually take to work and eat, go for it. When you’re cleaning up after that original dinner, portion it out and wrap it for brown bagging. If you won’t get to it for more than four days, label then freeze it.

And your freezer is your best ally in the quest to quell waste. Don’t throw out old crackers, chips and bread. Dump it all into a zip-top bag, throw it in the chill chest, and when you need breadcrumbs, breader or such, take it out, season it according to food and mood, grind it finely in a food processor, then toast it at 300 degrees for 15-20 minutes. Only make as much as you need, and if it’s touched raw meat, toss it.

Have another bag for leftover veggies. When you have enough, make soup or use it for stuffing peppers, or pork chops, or any other stuff-able stuff. Freeze extra pancakes, cooked pasta, rice, or potatoes. Once you have a nice assortment in suspended animation you could make a meal solely from the Frigidaire.

If Thanksgiving’s at your place, you’re going to have leftovers. The turkey can be used in place of chicken in any dish. Make tacos, or pot pie, or white chili. I’ve included a recipe that I invented when I had more leftover turkey than a small village should have. And don’t forget the mandatory sandwich before bed (well, mandatory for me, anyway).

So, think about how you shop, cook, how your family eats, and figure out workable methods to eliminate food waste.

Then next year, instead of losing sleep getting up before dawn and losing your mind in the Black Friday Thunderdome to score a Barbie dream house for 25% off, you’ve saved enough money to pay for all the Christmas gifts, plus shoes for yourself (you’ve earned them).

And instead of retail mayhem, you get to sleep.

Thanks for your time.

Contact me at dm@bullcity.mom.

Turkey, Pea & Kale Lasagna

For the Lasagna:

15 no-boil lasagna noodles, or more, if necessary

3 to 4 cups shredded turkey

12 ounces frozen peas, thawed and drained

¾ cup grated Parmesan cheese

1 cup coarsely grated Swiss or Gruyere cheese

1 cup chicken stock

¾ cup panko breadcrumbs

For the sauce:

6 tablespoons butter

4 large cloves of garlic, diced finely

1 shallot diced

1 tablespoon fresh rosemary, minced

1 teaspoon dry thyme

¼ teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg

6 tablespoons all-purpose flour

1 ½ teaspoon kosher salt (or to taste)

1 teaspoon pepper

5 cups dairy (I use 4 ½ cups skim, and ½ cup heavy cream)

1 cup frozen chopped kale thawed, with the water squeezed out.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Melt butter in a large saucepan over medium heat.

Add garlic and shallots, sauté about 1 minute stirring frequently.

Whisk in flour, herbs and salt. Cook for 1-2 minutes.

Add the milk, a cup at a time, whisking smooth after each addition and allowing it to thicken before adding next cup. When all the milk is in, and it starts to gently bubble, remove from heat, and stir in kale.

Grease 9×13 pan with cooking spray (or 2-8X8’s).

Cover bottom of pan with lasagna noodles (if needed, use broken pieces to fill), half of the chicken, peas, and Parmesan, 1/3 cup stock, and 1½ cups sauce (if using 8X8’s just cut all measurements in half and fill both dishes at the same time).

Repeat this layer once more.

Lastly, top with third layer of noodles, the rest of sauce and stock, and all the cheese.

Spray underside of a piece of foil with cooking spray. Cover casserole with foil and bake 40 minutes.

Remove foil. If you need to at this point, use paper towels and blot up any grease on top. Sprinkle evenly with breadcrumbs, and bake until top is golden brown and bubbly and internal temp in center is 165 degrees (approx. 15-25 minutes).

Let stand 15 minutes before slicing. Serves 8.

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