Save Money, Add Flavor

DSC_1617When we’re craving something warm and have a lot of veggies on hand, Travis and I go for soup. Homemade soups make for quick and filling lunches/dinners and welcome almost any random assortment of vegetables, beans, lentils, or grains. The most satisfying soups have a strong stock base. I learned a lot of what I know about cooking basics from THE Rachael Ray, who always says that using a quality stock gives soups, stews, chilis, and sauces a slow-cooked flavor in a lot less time.

Today’s post isn’t focused on soup, but rather that essential stock base, located in my Basic Formuals. Purchasing stock in those cardboard cartons is expensive, and often unnecessarily ridden with added sodium. I’ve found a way to make veggie stock that is affordable, healthy, flavorful, and makes the most of vegetable waste.

If you tuned in for my post on fruit scrap candles, you know that I like to use every square inch of my fruits and veggies. My veggie stock utilizes the parts of your vegetables that you likely normally throw away. If you don’t plan on using your veggie scraps for composting, consider making them into a stock that you can later use in a variety of cooking applications.

What veggie scraps make for a yummy stock? While this list certainly isn’t exhaustive, I have used all of the following:

  • Carrot tops, ends, and peels
  • Potato (all varieties, especially sweet) and yam ends and peels
  • Bell pepper tops
  • Tomato tops
  • Celery ends and leaves
  • Broccoli stems*
  • Kale ribs*
  • Leek tops (the green part)
  • Root veggie (beets, turnips, radishes, etc.) tops and tails
  • Onion ends and peels
  • Zucchini and cucumber ends
  • Large mushroom stems
  • Garlic ends and peels

*Incorporating too many green veggies may leave your stock tasting a little bitter; use sparingly!

Many of these seemingly inedible vegetable parts, like the veggies themselves, are often dirty when first purchased or harvested. It’s imperative that you get in the habit of thoroughly washing your vegetables in entirety before you peel, chop, or otherwise break them down. Then, when it comes time for your scraps to become stock, you aren’t simmering dirt in the pot. 🙂

I accumulate veggie scraps for stock in a 4-quart Pyrex bowl in the freezer, pictured below. I’ve never had an issue with freezer burn, partly, I’m sure, because I go through veggie scraps so quickly. You can see that this batch has started thawing and has only a light layer of frost on parts that are still frozen.

DSC_1616It isn’t necessary that you thaw the veggies before making your stock. I usually let mine defrost on the counter top for just a little bit (maybe 20 minutes) so that they loosen up for dumping into the crock pot. If any of your veggies have frozen to their freezer receptacle, fill it with hot water and they should come right up. I place the veggies in my crock pot, fill it with water, put the lid on, and set it to low overnight or while I’m at work. I don’t add any salt, pepper, spices, or herbs so that the stock is a blank slate, ready for any number of dishes.

Don’t have a crock pot? Simmer low and slow for several hours on your stove top, or on medium high heat for just an hour or two, stirring occasionally to prevent sticking to the bottom of the pot.

After the veggie scraps have cooked through and the water has taken on a rich caramel color, drain your stock through a fine colander. If necessary, you can run it through paper towel to catch any small bits that remain. Discard your veggie scraps, once and for all. Store in the fridge for up to a week before using in cooking. Enjoy!

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Fruit Scraps Turned Scented Candles

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When it comes to expensive organic produce, I don’t like to waste a single scrap. If you have a compost pile, you can always put your fruit and veggie scraps there. Otherwise, I’ve come up with a few solutions to maximize every inch of your plants.

With my veggie scraps—which include items like carrot tops and kale ribs—I like to make my own veggie stock. You can read more about how I collect and transform the scraps under Basic Formulas.

Coming up with an edible use for fruit scraps—peels, cores, pits, etc.—has proved much more difficult. I was reminded of a time that I visited a candy factory in France. The chocolatiers had candied orange peels and they were pretty tasty. I figure I can experiment with candying other types of peels, but being that I like to keep my lifestyle low in added sugars, I’m not eager to do this any time soon.

I decided to go another route. My husband bought me a bouquet of winter plants on Christmas Eve and we thought that it would be neat to do something with the pine needles since they smelled so wonderful. We researched online how to make scented oil candles and then it hit me: If I could make candles out of pine needles, flowers, and herbs, why couldn’t I use my fruit scraps to do the same?

Alas, I started deliberately saving my fruit scraps (while still allocating many of them to my compost pile in the backyard). I placed a food storage container in the fridge and added to it every time I peeled or cored a new fruit. It took me only a couple of hours to accumulate the scraps that you see here, which include peels from oranges, lemons, grapefruit, kiwis, and mangoes, and the core of a Red Delicious apple.

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There was no rhyme or reason to this combination of scraps and a happy aromatic accident resulted. While my fruit scraps continued to marry their flavors in the fridge, I collected the necessary candle-making supplies: mason jars, oil wicks, and vegetable oil. I already had mason jars in several sizes, and you can find them many places, including the dollar store. For the wicks, I perused Amazon and found these pretty glass wicks; they are available in many metal varieties, too.

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As for the oil, I selected vegetable simply because it is economical and pale in color – I really wanted to be able to clearly see all of my colorful fruit scraps. Being new to candle making, I’m not sure if one oil is preferred over another for the best scent or longest burn time. In my limited research, I found that you can use just about any oil you’d like, but I imagine it will take me many an attempt to figure out which one is truly the best. For example, I made the candles you see in this post almost two weeks ago and upon lighting today, they are just starting to smell. The length of time it takes for different scents to infuse the oil probably has to do with their intensity and the oil selected. Only time will tell, but in the meantime, I am enjoying the appearance of my fruit scrap candles while I wait for them to smell even more delicious.  🙂

AT HOME FORMULA: FRUIT SCRAP CANDLE

What you’ll need:

  • Fruit scraps of any variety (accumulate in the fridge over the course of a day or two) –> I’m using citrus, kiwi, mango, and apple.
  • Oil –> I’m using vegetable.
  • Mason jars of any size
  • Oil wicks –> You can make your own or purchase in store or online. I’m using wicks with a glass covering.

How to make:

  • Puncture a hole in the lid of your mason jar. The size will depend on the type of wick that you are using. The lid of a mason jar is easy to puncture with just a screwdriver or other metal tool with a semi-sharp tip.
  • Fill the mason jar with your fruit scraps. Cram them in tightly, leaving a small gap in the middle to accommodate your wick. You can arrange them with your fingers or a variety of different kitchen tools. I squished the scraps down with an ice cream scoop myself.
  • Fill the remaining space in the mason jar with oil. Keep in mind that you will need to add the wick, so don’t fill it quite to the brim.

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  • Thread your wick through the hole you created in the lid and gently push the end of it into the candle itself. I used a skewer to do this.
  • Screw on the lid and wait an hour or two for the wick to absorb the oil before lighting.  Don’t expect the candles to be immediately scented, although it could happen.

Here, you can see my fruit scrap candles front and center, as well as the pine needle candles mentioned earlier, and some red rose candles made from dried roses from the hubby. Fresh would have been better, but I didn’t have this oil candle brainchild until long after they had been dried over the years. You can intensify and expedite the scent experience by adding complimentary essential oils (you can purchase these in many places that sell candles, oil burners, etc.), which I did with the roses since they weren’t fresh. Enjoy!

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