– By Andrea Gaines
Americans love their refrigerators; big, giant “ice boxes” with more and more modern conveniences. We spend hundreds of dollars a week to stock them, a significantly high percentage of which goes into the trash in the form of uneaten food. The average American family tosses out $1,600 worth of produce per year; 50 percent of the produce we buy to the tune of $165 billion per year … is wasted.
November 15 is National Clean Out Your Refrigerator Day. So, let’s do it. Let’s save some food, save some money, and prepare for the food invasion known as Thanksgiving. Two other National days can help us out – National Pickle Day, Nov. 14 and National French Toast Day, November 28. Here’s how …
Pickled and Frozen Fruits
Traditional pickling takes four to six weeks. But, following basic food safety guidelines, you can do a quick refrigerator pickle on many vegetables, preserving them before they go the way of the garbage can. Fruits can be preserved in a similar way.
The basic vegetable pickling mixture is water, vinegar, Kosher salt and a flavoring mixture – garlic, minced onion, herbs and spices. Popular vegetables include whole red and green cherry tomatoes, carrots, cucumbers and squash cut into matchsticks, spears or slices, green beans and asparagus, shaved onions and corn.
For fruits – peaches, apples and pears as the most popular. For this, heat rice wine vinegar, honey or brown sugar, sweet spices and ginger in a pan on low heat for two to three minutes. Then, pour the cooled mixture into a jar over your sliced fruit and refrigerate. Ready to eat in one to two weeks, fruits will keep for up to a month.
New Age French Toast
Stale, unused sandwich bread, muffins, tortillas, rolls, etc. Our garbage cans are full of it. Instead of tossing it, why not turn it into a tasty classic with a twist – new age, sweet or savory French toast.
French toast can be made out of any left-over or stale bread product – tortillas, donuts, muffins, even bagels. It can also be sliced, cubed or cut into strips. It is easily frozen for later use, and it can be either sweet or savory.
Start with the basic French toast dip – milk and eggs. Make a sweet, inexpensive breakfast with peanut butter, that spotted banana, and that leftover cranberry muffin – sliced, dipped, sprinkled with cinnamon sugar, and made into a French toast sandwich. Or, try a savory variety – using minced garlic, chili flakes, or just salt and pepper in the dipping mixture – with leftover ham and cheese, or fajita-type fixings.
French toast cubes or strips can also be made into sweet and delectable muffins or a savory bread pudding with leftover vegetables and meats.
Anything Goes Soups,
Salads and Extras
What items in your refrigerator or pantry are likely to get tossed if not used in the next few days.
How many jars and bottles of mayonnaise, mustard, salad dressings or oils can be used or combined. Can you add some nutrition or pizzazz to your next salad, pasta dish, soup, sandwich, dessert or casserole with extra fruit and vegetables, leftover beans, rice or salsa? So many possibilities in that refrigerator.
* The USDA’s National Center for Home Food Preservation is a good resource.