Sunday, December 30, 2007

Shell Game

As part of my New Year's goals (not resolutions, those flimsy promises made to be broken), I avowed my hope to reduce my kitchen waste even before I take it to the compost pile.

So far, I've looked at making small changes:

--When I've used up all the florets from a head of broccoli, I peel and chop the stems and use them as well, instead of tossing them into the compost. That's sometimes a hard thing to do, just because it takes more effort, but I'm reminding myself that the stems have just as much flavor and nutrition and shouldn't be wasted.

--As I made vegetable stock for soup late last week, I used some of the parsnip greens I had tucked in the freezer a couple months ago. I also pulled out the rest of the bok choy sitting in the vegetable crisper, rinsed it, and sliced it down to the knob, tossing it into the pot, too. Though my stock recipe warns against using brassicas (cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower) in the pot because of the infernal stink, the bok choy stems seemed more like celery, imparting a gentler flavor.

I've also been looking into ways to use spent eggshells, given the quantity of eggs I've gone through in baking season. I know that ground eggshells are useful in the garden to keep slugs from attacking growing vegetables, but until I get a chance to plant a garden this coming year, I need to find other uses. So here are a few I've gleaned from the Internet:

--Add ground eggshells to your coffee grounds to counteract some of the acids in coffee, resulting in a slightly smoother taste. (I did actually notice a small difference the first time I did this.)

--According to one online advice page, crushed eggshells placed into a dampened tea pot can remove tea stains. Since both of my teapots have been, ahem, well loved and used, I thought I'd give it a try. I sloshed a bit of water around the pots before adding the egg shells.

I let the pots sit overnight, and in the morning, I scrubbed the pots just a little, using the eggshells as an abrasive. I rinsed out the pots, poured the eggshells out, and...

OK, it's not a miracle cure, thanks to the years of tea stains layered on the pots. But there's a slight difference, so I'll probably have to try this trick again and again to get more of the stains out.

--And if you're wondering what I did with the eggshells rinsed out of the teapots, that same site indicates that you can dump the shells down the drain -- or just leave a bunch in the drain basket, to filter through as you run the water -- in order to clean the drain of grease and other yucky stuff. Worth a try!

--You can also use eggshells to clarify meat stock, but as I never make it, I haven't given it a try. (This tip comes from Splendid Table, one of my new favorite podcasts.)

As you might guess, trying to figure out new ways to use up kitchen scraps before they become "waste" makes for a fun guessing game.

And if you've got other ideas, let me know!


At 12/31/2007 4:33 PM, Blogger Ed Bruske said...

Jennifer, I've had mixed results with broccoli stems. Sometimes I end up with tough fibers.

Don't you compost your egg shells?

At 1/01/2008 11:17 AM, Blogger The Baklava Queen said...

Ed, sometimes the broccoli stems I have are tough, too, but if I slice off the edges and steam the chopped bits long enough, they're usually pretty good. (I'm tougher than they are!)

Yes, I do compost the egg shells, but I'm trying to find ways to use and reuse things before they end up the compost. Mind you, the ones that go down the drain don't make it to the compost heap, but the ones in the teapot and the coffee can.

At 1/02/2008 12:19 AM, Blogger Bri said...

Noble commitment, Jennifer. I just made my first (I say sheepishly) fresh veggie stock with leek and celeriac and carrot ends. It worked out great. I don't know why I thought it was such a big deal before.
It takes me forever, but I always peel my broccoli with a paring knife so I get all the fibrous bits off. It works great and they are never tough. So much less waste that way. But, I did throw my stems away for years before I figured it out.
I also find that when I bring veggies home from the farmers market, it's best if they are in clear bags. That way I remember what they are and they are more likely to be eaten in a timely manner and not end up in the compost.
Happy New Year!

At 1/02/2008 2:44 PM, Blogger The Baklava Queen said...

I felt the same way about my first vegetable stock, too, Bri... how could I not have known how easy it was??? Well, we all learn sometime, right? :-)

Clear bags do help, but my downfall is always buying more produce than I can usually get through in a week... when the clear bags are piled on top of each other, you can miss a lot. Oops!

Happy New Year to you as well... and to everyone!

At 1/02/2008 4:44 PM, Anonymous Laura said...

Ed, if you cut out the center core of the broccoli stems they're better. Took me years to figure it out and now I can't remember where I finally learned it. Someone's blog I'm sure...


Post a Comment

<< Home