Tasty recipes for reducing waste in your kitchen
Photos by Justin Fox Burks
Editor’s Note: The Mid-South is a wonderful and delicious place to live. However, we have a tremendous amount of food that goes to waste. Justin Fox Burks and Amy Lawrence—husband-wife team and authors of four vegetarian cookbooks—have compiled some tasty recipes to help you reduce the waste in your own kitchen as a part of the Memphis Transformed #901SaveTheFoodCampaign. To learn more about food waste and the changes you can make to help reverse the trend, take the Memphis Transformed Food Waste Quiz.
We don’t only want you to save the food—we want you to prepare the food, savor the food, enjoy the food, and share the food. To do that, we all need a few tools in our kit to ensure we have the skills to get the maximum out of our produce. In our home, we employ our freezer to save ends, scraps, and fresh food until we’re ready to whip it up into something delicious. All of the recipes that follow are “1,2,3 easy” and don’t require any prior cooking experience.
Vegetarian Compost Stock
Make the most of fresh herbs, celery ends, green onion roots, potatoes, mushroom stems, and even corn cobs to make a deliciously flavorful stock to create the soups, stews, and grits of your dreams.
2 quarts of the following in any combination: fresh herbs, tomato pieces, celery ends, green onion roots, potatoes, onion scraps, bell pepper pieces, mushroom stems, or corn cobs
4 quarts water
Kosher salt, to taste
1. In a large stockpot over medium-high heat, add the 2 quarts of scraps you have set aside in the freezer along with 4 quarts of water.
2. Once the mixture comes to a boil, cover, and reduce the heat to a simmer for about an hour.
3. Using a colander or mesh strainer, strain out the solid materials from the broth and compost them.
4. Uncover the stockpot and bring its contents to a boil until the liquid has reduced by half.
5. Taste the broth and season with salt, to taste.
6. Store the stock in the fridge if using right away or freeze for later use.
Tip: Use your stock to add flavor to soups, stews, and grits.
Scrappy Tomato Sauce
Soft tomatoes, half onions, carrots, mushroom stems, bell pepper pieces, celery leaves, garlic, withered basil leaves, and spinach with just a little life left in it all work together to create a silky sauce that will put that box of dried pasta noodles or your own homemade gnocchi over the dang top.
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 quarts of tomato scraps or soft tomatoes that need to be used
1 quart of a mix of the following scraps that you’ve saved in your freezer: onions, carrots, mushroom stems, bell pepper pieces, celery and celery leaves, peeled garlic, basil leaves, fresh herbs, eggplant, and greens such as spinach or arugula
2 cups of water
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1. In a large stockpot over medium-high heat, add all ingredients.
2. Stir often until everything is thawed and then reduce the heat to a simmer. Cover and cook the mixture for 40 minutes.
3. Let the sauce cool for about an hour. You never want to blend hot or even warm liquid!
4. Once sauce has cooled, blend it smooth using an immersion blender, blender, or food processor.
5. Serve over pasta, on pizza, or in your favorite lasagna recipe.
Vegan Greens, Any Greens
Greens are tricky. You either use them up right away or they meet an untimely demise at the bottom of the crisper drawer. We have learned to pick, blanch, and squeeze our greens for storage in the freezer to make use of them anytime as a savory side to cornbread and black-eyed peas, as creamed greens with coconut milk, or sautéed with some garlic and nuts to complement any Mediterranean meal.
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 medium onion, sliced
8 ounces sliced baby portobello mushrooms
1 large bunch greens, such as mustard, collard, or arugula, defrosted if previously frozen
1 teaspoon honey
Kosher salt and black pepper, to taste
1. In a 12-inch skillet over medium-high heat, add the olive oil, onion, mushrooms, and garlic and cook until the onion is lightly browned and the mushrooms have given off most of their water.
2. Add the greens, reduce the heat to low, and cover. Cook for 15 minutes or until tender.
3. Drizzle in the honey and season with salt and pepper.
We all know the joke about avocados—they go from unripe to rotten in a matter of hours. No lie detected there. We have pioneered a way to make and freeze our alligator-skinned, egg-shaped friends so that when Margarita Monday and Taco Tuesday roll around, you aren’t sitting there with nothing for your chips or tacos.
4 to 6 ripe avocados, peeled and seeded
Juice from one lime, about 1/2 tablespoon
1/4 cup chopped green onion
1 teaspoon honey
1/8 teaspoon kosher salt
1. Into a medium mixing bowl, add the avocados and lime juice and mash with a fork.
2. Fold in the green onion, honey, and salt.
3. Freeze for later in a container or enjoy with chips or your favorite Mexican-inspired meal.
Tip: Defrost guacamole by placing it from the freezer into the refrigerator overnight.
We love fruit and eat it every day, but still we miss that pint of strawberries that got a little too ripe or those blueberries that have lost their snap. No need to worry. Once you clean up the harvest, stick it in the freezer. Once you have about a quart of mixed berries saved, you’re ready to make some cooked fruit that will enhance many dishes.
1 quart mixed berries, such as strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, or blackberries
1/4 cup sweetener, such as honey, sugar, or maple syrup, or 2 teaspoons stevia powder
Juice from 1 lemon, about 1 tablespoon, and a thin slice of the peel (no white pith)
1/8 teaspoon kosher salt
1. Into a medium saucepan over medium heat, place all ingredients.
2. Stir occasionally to keep the sugar in the mixture from scorching.
3. After about an hour (and once the mixture has reduced by about a third), it’s ready.
4. Remove and compost the lemon peel.
Tip: Use the All-Berry Jumble as a filling for hand pies, top it with an oat streusel and bake it in a pie pan for dessert, serve it over ice cream, or use it to top oatmeal in the morning.
Banana Soft Serve
Old bananas are the best bananas. You see, the bananas start to brown because the starch is converting to sugar, which makes them sweet and tasty. The problem is that the texture is, well, off, let’s say. If your bananas journey over the hill into too-ripe territory, just peel them and stick them into the freezer. With just the addition of two ingredients along with some optional mix-ins, you’ll be munching on some vegan, gluten-free, refined-sugar-free, soft-serve ice cream straight from Mother Nature.
3 ripe bananas, peeled, roughly chopped, and frozen for at least 2 hours
2 tablespoons water
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/8 teaspoon cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon kosher salt
Add-ins, optional: roasted nuts, chocolate bar shavings or chocolate chips, peanut or cashew butter, berries
1. To a food processor, add all of the ingredients (except add-ins) and blend until smooth.
2. Fold in any preferred add-ins, if using.
3. Enjoy immediately as a soft-serve style treat or freeze for at least 2 hours and scoop it into a cone or bowl.
Husband-and-wife team Justin Fox Burks and Amy Lawrence are the authors of the cookbooks. The Southern Vegetarian (2013), The Chubby Vegetarian (2016), and Low-Carb Vegetarian Cookbook (2020), and Vegetarian Cooking for Two (June 2021). They own Justin Fox Burks Photo Studio in the South Main Arts District in downtown Memphis, Tennessee and share their inspirations on Instagram (@chubbyveg & @justinfoxburks) and on their blog, The Chubby Vegetarian.