15 Ways to Use Kitchen Scraps and Leftovers
From eggshells to vegetable stock, simplify your life and reduce waste with these clever ideas.
Before you toss common kitchen scraps or leftovers out, know that there are plenty of ways to give them a second life. One tip that you're probably familiar with is using a butter wrapper to grease a cake or brownie pan. The residual butter on the wrapper helps to provide a nonstick surface for batter; dust the interior of the pan with flour or cocoa powder (our secret for brownies or chocolate cake!), then fill it with the batter and bake. This promotes less waste and makes good use of every bit of the rich dairy product.
We have several ideas for using up leftover or stale bread. Whir cubes of bread in a food processor to make breadcrumbs for breading chicken cutlets or sprinkle over roasted vegetables and casseroles. Store breadcrumbs in an airtight zip-top bag or container for up to two months. And whatever you do, don't underestimate the power of vegetable scraps, fish shells, or meat bones. All of these are essential to creating a fabulous, flavorful stock. Cook the bones, vegetables, and even some herbs in water and simmer until the ingredients have released all of their flavor and the aromatic stock fills your kitchen. Store it in quart containers in the freezer so you have homemade stock have on hand whenever you need.
We also have clever ways for using a Parmesan cheese rind (Bolognese sauce, anyone?) and citrus fruit whenever you need a little bit of fresh zest.
Ahead, we're sharing 15 good things that reduce waste and make use of common kitchen scraps and leftovers.
Do as the Italians do and add the rind of a hard cheese to a stock, soup, or sauce. Freeze leftover rinds, such as Parmigiano-Reggiano or Pecorino Romano, and you'll have them on hand to add one to a simmering minestrone soup or Bolognese sauce to thicken it and impart a rich, savory flavor. Remove the rind just before serving.
To give a broth or soup base a deeper, more amber hue, leave the skin on the onions after you've cut them into halves or quarters. The skins will beautifully color the stock; strain before using.
If you have a recipe that only calls for egg whites, save the yolks for recipes like lemon curd, chocolate mousse, or spaghetti carbonara. To prevent the yolks from gelling, add a pinch of salt (for main dishes) or a heaping teaspoon of sugar (for desserts) per every four yolks. Store in the refrigerator for up to two days.
On the other hand, if you have leftover egg whites, whip them up for Swiss Meringue Buttercream that you can use for frosting a cake or cupcakes, pavlova, or turn them into a healthy egg breakfast.
After you've squeezed all of the juice from a lemon or lime, freeze the spent halves in a resealable plastic bag (for up to three months). Grate the desired amount of frozen peel the next time you are using a recipe that calls for fresh zest.
You can instantly elevate any dessert with fresh chocolate curls made using extra blocks of chocolate. For longer curls, melt the chocolate, then pour it onto a flat, smooth surface and spread it to a thin, even thickness. Once cool, slowly scrape the chocolate up with a bench scraper.
Rather than discarding stale bread, turn it into croutons or breadcrumbs with the simple work of a sharp, serrated knife or food processor.
Use eggshells as pots to start seeds (plus, coffee-stirrer tags to keep track of them). Plant seeds according to package instructions, and nestle planters in an egg carton on a sunny windowsill, where they can be watered easily. The first leaves to sprout will be the cotyledons or seed leaves, which supply nutrients to the young plant until the first true leaves (resembling those of the parent plant) appear. When plants have grown to about three inches and have at least two sets of true leaves, they are ready to be transplanted to the garden.
When your recipe calls for just a small amount of tomato paste, the rest of the can may go to waste. Instead, open both ends of the can with a can opener. Remove one metal end and discard it. Wrap the entire can in plastic wrap and freeze overnight. The next day, use the metal end to push the frozen paste out the open end. Discard the can, tightly rewrap the unused portion, and store it in freezer for up to three months, slicing off just as much as you need each time you cook.
The next time you bake a cake, don't toss the trimmings into the trash. Instead, keep them to use as building blocks for another dessert, such as a trifle layered with whipped cream and fresh raspberries. Freeze cake morsels in an airtight container for up to one month.
After brewing a fresh pot of coffee, make a coffee body scrub, oil, or soap using the grounds. It works wonders as a natural exfoliant for your body or lips.
Vanilla Bean Pods
Once you've scraped the beans from the pods of fresh vanilla, stick the pods in a container of granulated sugar, which will infuse the sweet stuff with natural vanilla flavor. Or make your own vanilla-infused simple syrup to mimic the sweetener used for an iced coffee or latte at your favorite coffee shop.
Bones and Shells
Save carrot tops, celery leaves, onions, garlic, and herbs for a quick vegetable stock. First, pulse the vegetables in a food processor until finely chopped. Then fill a saucepan with about twice as much water as you have vegetables, bring to a boil, and stir them in.