Food Waste

Waste not, want not

This phrase is as old as the hills! So is “eat your supper, there’s starving kids in China!”. My family were all members of the Clean Plate Club. If you cleaned your plate, you got dessert. Bottom line, whatever the era, we were taught not to waste food. 

In fact, close to a third of the world's food production is wasted each year, accounting for roughly 1.3 billion tons and nearly $990 billion dollars. In the United States alone, Americans waste $160 billion of that total, which is nearly 30 to 40 percent of the entire U.S. food supply. (Refrigerator Design Technologies)

As a home cook, I take food waste very seriously. In fact, it’s a sign I’ve made it in the kitchen, that I can turn wilting vegetables and random cans from the pantry into a delicious dinner. And so can you. Following are three recipes that can utilize any vegetables on their way out, or scraps of meat that aren’t quite enough to feed the whole family. One is a soup, one is a pie, and one is stuffed. Follow the basic structure of the recipe, but most ingredients can be changed up. Pat yourself on the back for being a responsible consumer. Bon appetit!

Tortellini Minestrone

Change out vegetables to what you like or already have in your kitchen. Just remember that harder vegetables need to cook longer. Then add in softer ones. Keep the tomato paste and diced tomatoes. Change out the beans for another type. Add more protein if desired. 

Serves 4-6


 2 tablespoons olive oil

 1 medium white onion, peeled and diced

 3 cloves of garlic, peeled and minced

 2 carrots, peeled and diced

 2 stalks celery, diced

 4 cups of chicken or vegetable stock

 1/4 cup tomato paste

 2 (14.5 ounce) cans fire-roasted diced tomatoes

 1 (15 ounce) can dark red kidney beans

 1 zucchini, diced

 1 yellow squash, diced

 1 teaspoon Italian seasoning

 2 handfuls fresh baby spinach

 1 (10 ounce) package of refrigerated or frozen cheese tortellini

 salt and pepper, to taste


Heat oil in a large stockpot over medium-high heat.  Add onion and sauté for 3 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add garlic, carrots, and celery, and continue sautéing for 5 more minutes, stirring occasionally.
Add the stock, tomato paste, tomatoes, kidney beans, zucchini, yellow squash, and Italian seasoning, and stir until combined.  Bring the mixture to a simmer.  Then reduce heat to medium-low, cover, and simmer for 10 minutes.
Stir in the spinach and cheese tortellini, and cook according to package instructions until al dente (usually about 5-6 minutes). Taste and season the soup with salt and pepper if desired.
Adapted from Gimme Some Oven

Vegetarian Shepherd’s Pie
Again, you can change out the vegetables. Keep the tomato paste for thickness.
Serves 4-6
For the filling:
1/2 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 onion, diced
2 cloves of garlic, minced
2 medium carrots, diced
1 stalk celery, diced 
Spice mix: 1 teaspoon onion powder, 1 teaspoon dried thyme (or 2 teaspoon fresh), 1/2 teaspoon dried rosemary (or tarragon), 1/2 teaspoon sugar (or maple syrup), salt and pepper to taste
2 tablespoons tomato paste
2 tablespoons soy sauce or coconut aminos
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1/4 cup vegetable stock
1/4 cup red wine OR more veggie stock
2 cups cooked lentils or beans
1/2 cup peas (frozen or canned)
1/2 cup corn fresh, frozen or canned
For the mashed potato topping:
2 pounds of potatoes
1/4 cup milk
2 tablespoons butter 
nutmeg, salt and black pepper (to taste)

Peel and chop potatoes. Put them in a pot with salted water and bring to a boil. Cook on medium heat for about 15 minutes or until tender. Drain. Transfer back to the pot, add butter, milk, nutmeg, black pepper and Kosher salt to taste and mash with a potato masher or fork.
Next, heat oil in a skillet over medium heat, add onion, garlic, carrot, celery, and all spices. Cook for about 3 minutes. Add tomato paste, soy sauce, balsamic vinegar and stir to combine. Add corn and peas and pour in the red wine and vegetable stock. Bring to a boil and let simmer for about 5-7 minutes or until slightly reduced.
Preheat oven to 350.
Spoon the filling into a 9 x 13” baking dish. Spoon the mashed potatoes over the filling. Drag a fork lightly across the potatoes in parallel lines. Bake for about 20 minutes, then broil for a few minutes to get it golden brown on top. Garnish with fresh herbs or chopped scallions. 
Adapted from Ela Vegan

Stuffed Green Peppers
Serves 4
If you don’t like green peppers, try red, yellow or orange. Use jasmine or wild rice if you don’t like cauliflower rice. For protein, use beans, ground seasoned meat, or both.
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
One head cauliflower, diced into florets, pulsed in a food processor, and sautéed for 5 minutes in a skillet.
1/2 yellow onion, diced
1/2 other color of bell pepper, or diced jalapeno (seeds and ribs removed)
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon chili or chipotle powder
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder or granulated garlic
Salt and pepper
1 can drained and rinsed beans of choice, or 1 cup cooked lentils, or 1 pound seasoned ground meat
8 oz shredded sharp cheddar or jack cheese, or jar of queso
1 10-12 ounce jar of favorite salsa
4 green bell peppers, tops cut off and any seeds and ribs removed
Cook onion and peppers in vegetable oil in a skillet for 5 minutes. Add spices, salt and pepper. Cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add cauliflower rice or cooked rice, stir and cook 3 more minutes. Add beans/lentils/meat. Stir in salsa. Simmer for 5 minutes. 
Preheat oven to 400. Grate 8 ounces of cheese. Freshly grated tastes best. Cut tops off green bell peppers and remove seeds and ribs. Spray a baking dish with cooking spray. Set peppers in the dish, cut sides up. Spoon filling into peppers half way. Add some grated cheese. Add more filling to top of peppers. Add more grated cheese. Tent aluminum foil across tops of peppers. The tent keeps the foil from sticking to the cheese.
Bake for 35 minutes. Remove tented foil. Bake for 10 more minutes or until cheese is golden brown. Broil if needed. To serve, add more salsa, cilantro, and sour cream.