This week our Weekword is recycle. When The Distracted Cook first read that, she thought "how do I fashion that into a kitchen post?" Will this turn into a really boring post with no good pictures? Most likely - who wants to see pictures of landfill and stacked newspapers on a blog about the kitchen? But on second thought, what better place to think recycle than in the kitchen. After all, a cook does that almost every day. And The Distracted Cook is no exception. Just think of the ways that you can recycle in the kitchen:
1. Composting, of course ranks way up there.
2. Recycling all your paper boxes (cereal, crackers, grits, Cracker Jacks) and metal cans and glass jars is really neat.
3. WAIT - don't put those glass jars in the recycle bin yet. How about using them in the kitchen at least one more time before tossing them out? They are great for storing left-overs!
4. Left-overs! The original recycled goods. We refer to them as "use agains" instead of left-overs because we change them up a lot.
5. Soup-potting is another way to recycle all those scraps and peels from the vegetable drawer. Not exactly left-overs but definitely recyclables.
Let's talk about composting. If you are into gardening then composting should become your best friend. All those potato peels and coffee grounds and tea leaves have a place to go now, and important things to do. The Distracted Cook has a strange yard ornament sitting in the side garden that looks like a cement mixer. It is, however, a dirt mixer! Every other day I take my little pail out from under the kitchen sink and empty its contents into this dirt mixer. After giving the crank a few turns, I walk away thinking of all the great soil that will come tumbling out in a few months. I keep that pail in the kitchen to hold all the scraps, peels, and leaves from the fruits and vegetables that we cook. If it doesn't get used for soup-potting, it goes into the compost pail.
If your kitchen is anything like The Distracted Cook's kitchen, then you know what I mean when I say the kitchen is the place for recycling to happen. How many cans, bottles, jars, and boxes do you open in a week? And it is just so easy to flatten the box and fling it into the recycle bin in the laundry room right next door. And the metal cans? In they go too! The glass jars are another story, however. There are just too many good things that we can do with a glass jar before we aim it at that bin. A few good things to use them for are holding plant cuttings on your windowsill, keeping stands of parsley and cilantro in the refrigerator, using them for making salad dressings, or filling them with water to clean your paint brushes.
And then we have left-overs. It isn't hard for The Distracted Cook to end up with left-overs with only two of us here now. It is hard to scale back all your favorite "serves 4-6" recipes to just 2, so we keep on cooking the same old way. Using left overs is a fun thing when you really think about it. The first night's dinner is splendid with all the great side dishes and the main Star dish. Then the second time around you get to mix Monday's sides with Tuesday's Star and toss up a new salad and voila! it's Wednesday dinner. And there is always the added bonus of grabbing a bunch of condiments and dressing up sides and Star and getting some new tastes as a result. Now that is recycling in all its glory!
Another really good way to recycle is to keep the soup pot going on the back burner of the stove. I had never really thought about it before, but all those carrot tops and parsley stems and onion peels can be simmered in some water to make a really nice vegetable broth. The first time I did that I wasn't so sure about it. Sort of like the first time I made shrimp stock....didn't look all that good during the cooking stage, but the result was magic. I just read somewhere that you can collect all your clippings and scraps for about a week (aha! keep them in one of those large glass jars in the fridge!) and then put them in your soup pot and cover with water. Bring to a boil, and then simmer for about 45 minutes. Let the contents cool, then strain through a fine mesh strainer. Voila! Vegetable stock!
So that's the beginning of the Recycle Saga in the kitchen. Tomorrow we will explore the The Distracted Cook's best attempt at recycling and that is her Recycle Recipes. Every cook who has a recipe box is a recycler. I dare anyone to open a recipe box and not find a recycled recipe. Recycling recipes is one of the best ideas cooks have had in the last few centuries, I am sure. Recycling Recipes connect generations, families, cultures, and interests. Look in your recipe box and find the one that was your first recycled recipe. Let us know if you have sent it on to another recipe box to be recycled again!