Wednesday, March 6, 2013

5 Thrifty Things

Here are five thrifty little ways to use what is in your house, right now, to eat better.

 1. STEMS--

  Don't toss the stems of parsley, cilantro or mint. Tie them with kitchen string or throw them onto a tea ball and let them simmer in whatever you're cooking, to infuse with their flavor after you've used all the leafy parts. In fact, cilantro stems are so tender to start with, you can chop them very fine and use as you would celery, to add flavor and a slight crunch to soups, sautes, chili.

2. ZEST--

 I may have said this before, but I'll repeat it now: citrus fruits are precious and wonderful, especially to those of us in cold climes, so don't throw out the rind. Peel off the washed skin of any and all citrus in irregular sections with a paring knife, and freeze in a ziploc bag or (my choice) freezer container, for up to 6 months. You can take it out of the freezer and use as you would fresh, without thawing. Whether you're making a salad dressing, a sauce, baked goods, a drink, etc., it works perfectly.

3. GO NUTS--

 When you're down to the end of the bag of almonds: a couple handfuls of nuts are just the thing to grind and use to thicken a stew, add to a sandwich filling, use in a dressing for fruit salad. Chop instead and mix with a dash each of cinnamon and cumin, and scatter over chili, curry, rice, a smoothie. Use whole in pasta sauce (sauteed first for a nuttier punch), or to change up your usual fajita vegetables or burrito fillings. Or simply toast in a dry pan with a pinch of sugar or salt and shake of dried spice, then top your next salad with more flavor and nutrition than croutons provide.

4.  POT of GOLD--

 As in lentils (really the red ones cook up as golden-orangey). Or try black, navy pea, dark red kidney, pinto, or some of Rancho Gordo's exotic items, but cook up a big pot of beans on the weekend or any time. Using a slowcooker makes it convenient to cook them while you're busy living, and having them on hand in the fridge means you have a meal starter, adaptable to nearly any ethnic cuisine. You'll be able to whip up an Indian feast of lentils and spinach, pinto and potato curry, or Tex-Mex, Greek, Italian or Southern meals. Coming home to prepped beans makes dinner at least 60% easier for me, and usually has the benefit of making me feel more creative, too, knowing I'm not starting from zero.


 The brine or oil leftover from your last jar of olives, pickles, marinated peppers or artichokes, is NOT garbage-- it's flavor you've already purchased. Don't toss it! Instead, trim and shred/julienne carrots or zucchini, or cukes, or slice onions or peppers, and immerse them in the fluid for several hours to overnight. Now you have homemade pickled veg to perk up a salad, saute or salsa. If using pickle juice, add extra vinegar to lower the overall salt content, and to make it go farther. Also, don't hesitate to try hard pears, lemon rind, or lightly cooked root vegetables. Flavor-boosted veg, almost instantly. It keeps for a week or more before it starts to be visually unappealing. Diced, these tasty gems are nice on top of hot or cold soups, in stews, mashed into a topping for crakers or bruschetta, or simply served on a plate for a pre-meal nibble.

 It's been a weird winter, but I feel Spring rising up. Good eating to you, friends.



  1. I love your hints. I used to put hard boiled eggs in my "leftover" beet juice or pickle juice. But I like your suggestion of carrots or other veggies. Definitely will be trying that.

  2. The Odd Essay-- Liked your blog quite a bit!

    Last night I took my own advice and chopped about half a cabbage into small dice, and stuffed that into the last of my dill juice for a quick, light kraut-like topping for veggie hotdogs. It was perfect, a nice crunchy addition.

    The vinegar, as you likely know, shrinks the vegetables so you can really push a lot more than it seems like into those leftover jars!