Rescue your food, save the environment (and your student’s budget)

When I was a child, I always used to eat lunch at my grandma’s place. Now, my grandma is a lovely woman who is barely taller than 150 cm but there was one topic where she remained rigorously strict. If you do not eat up, then there is no desert for you. And eating up meant scraping your plate until it looked almost as clean as it came out of the dishwasher. 

The reason why my grandma was so concerned about any form of food waste was her experience of growing up in the post-war period where everything was scarce and rationed. Today, it is hard to imagine going into the woods and search for mushrooms and berries for dinner, while strolling through the broad aisles of Albert Heijn trying to decide whether to buy pineapple or mango as a snack. Now of course nobody would want to go these seventy years back in time, but there is one thing we might want to learn from our grandmas and grandpas: Knowing the value of every single food item. It is too good to be thrown away!

Did you know that the amount of food which is produced but never consumed makes up for 3.3 Gigatonnes (billion tonnes) of CO2e? To put this into perspective, that is about twice the size of the US transport system’s carbon emissions as you can read in this article. On top of that on approximately 30 percent of the world’s agricultural land area food is grown that will never be eaten. Admittedly, as much as 54 percent of this food already goes to waste in the early stages of the production chain. However, the remaining 46% of food waste can be influenced by us consumers as they are typically thrown away at the processing, distribution and consumption stages.

Now, just imagine how much we could reduce our carbon footprint if we simply produced the amount of food we actually ate!

Some of you might think now that Ill very well, but just claiming this won’t help them to actually change anything. Sometimes you just have that way too squishy banana, old broccoli or dry slice of bread nobody can possibly still enjoy. Sometimes you know you should feel bad for throwing your leftovers away, but if not knowing what meal to make of it with it you have to do it anyways.  

Instead of making you feel guilty for every time you did not save the food in your fridge, the Goodwill Committee is here to share some tips and tricks on how to turn that brown and squishy banana into something – and of course how to make your grandma proud! Here are some easy tricks and one of my favorite recipes for leftovers.

Disclaimer: Below you can look through a collection of tricks and recipes. You don’t have to read all of it – only what you are interested in making. But please keep scrolling and check out out. It will be worth it

Rescue that sad squishy banana!

Truth being told there is nothing I hate more than an overripe banana. Maybe, it is because of that time I took a banana on a class trip in my backpack. Long story short, I did not manage to clean my bag out properly and it smelled like rotten fruit for weeks until I finally gave up and threw it away.

 So, for everyone who is as little of a fan as I am of brown squishy bananas, this one is for you. Throw that sad fruit in a blender (or smoothie-maker or whatever you have at home) and add the juice of one grapefruit, a glass of soymilk (or your favorite plant milk) and some ginger to it. This makes up for a great breakfast to start the day with!

For those of you who feel less juicy and more like chocolate chips, you can check out this delicious banana bread recipe.

The oldest trick in the book: French Toast

Did you buy a whole loaf of bread and now on day five you just don’t know what to do with this dry stuff anymore? Just pour some milk, eggs, sugar, cinnamon and a pinch of salt (never forget that!) and let it soak until the bread has gotten soft again. Now, you can fry it in a pan with some oil or butter with not too much heat and you are good to go.

For our vegan friends out there I found this recipe, which worked out pretty well for me at least.

Saving all those leftover veggies by making curry with veggie balls or patties!

Veggie balls with delicious spinach-curry and rice

I like to experiment a lot in the kitchen and admittedly that does result in some accidents every now and then. However, there are two things I can confidently say that I am really good at. On some days I would even dare to claim that my veggie balls and my curry are the best in the world (probably not, but they are really good, nonetheless). 

So, why are veggie balls so great for rescuing your leftover vegetables? And what kind of vegetables can you put in them? Basically, anything you can shred that is not too moist. My favorite combination is making these with one raw beetroot and two carrots, but you can also substitute any of this with sweet potato, broccoli, cauliflower, sweet corn, cabbage or peas. Anything that needs to go – as long as you grate it or cut it fine enough. 

This is what you will need for the balls: 

  • 1 sweet potato
  • 2-3 carrots (depending on the size)
  • 2 small onions
  • 1 can of kidney beans (cooked lentils or chickpeas also work)
  • 1-2 tsp Ras el Hanout
  • 1 tsp cumin 
  • 1-2 pinches of cinnamon 
  • 1 tbsp salt
  • 1 cup of oats
  • 2-3 tbsp flour (or cornstarch)
  • A lot of cooking oil

First, you need to peal your veggies and then grate it into a big bowl. If you are using cauliflower or broccoli you can do this too and even use the stem as well. When you want to use something waterier such as tomatoes, bell pepper or eggplant, it is important that you put the washed vegetables on a kitchen paper and then rub it with salt. Put another kitchen paper on top and let this rest for about ten minutes, so that some of the water can be absorbed. However, you might still have to vary with the amount of oats and cornstarch used later, because these veggies may change the consistency. 

Now add the finely chopped onions (plus any fresh herbs you want to get rid of), the spices and the kidney beans. Either smash the beans with a fork and then mix it with the grated veggies or put all of this in a blender. 

Time to blend these beautiful fresh ingredients together!

Next you want to add the oats and two tablespoons of flour. You want to use your hands for mixing this, so that you can check the consistency. Can you already form small balls that do not fall apart, or do you need to add a little more flour?

Preheat the oven at 180°C.

To fry the balls you will need to fill a pan with so much cooking oil that it is covered with a 1 cm layer of oil. Now don’t be afraid that this will make your balls frowned with oil and super greasy. If you make the oil hot enough, then it will just stay on the outside and make everything super crispy. Also, you can fill the oil that is left over in the end in a small jar and store it. As longs as you use a sieve to fill it in the container and heat it enough you can use it to fry the next time as well. 

Now when is the oil hot enough? You can test this by putting a tiny but of dough in the oil and if the oil starts bubbling it is ready. However (and this is very important), you should never put your stove on full heat. Believe me: I did this once and my cooking experience ended with the fire alarm going off because of all the smoke. I usually put my stove on a 7 (out of 9). 

Two further side notes: Don’t use your French roommate’s crêpe pan if you don’t want her to kill you. And shower afterwards, because your hair will smell like oil!

Having said this, you can start forming balls with your hands (falafel size) and gently put them in the oil. Don’t make more than five at once. Now it is important that you refrain from moving them around with a flipper too much. That way they will just fall apart. Instead of a pancake turner you should use a small spoon to take some oil from the middle and gently splash it over the balls. After 1-2 minutes you can finally turn them and repeat the procedure until they are gold-brown (not burned black) and crispy. 

This is what it should look like …

When all the balls are fried bake them for five more minutes in the oven.

Meanwhile you can cook some rice and make a delicious curry sauce (with all your leftover baby spinach in it – trust me) and you have got a beautiful meal almost entirely from scratch. Did you know that when you are using your old veggies instead of throwing them out you are not just saving carbon emissions but also money? That student budget will thank you.

With that being said: Happy cooking and make your grandma proud!

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