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Waste Not, Want Not

Written by Judy Thurlow on . Posted in Uncategorized

A quick egg and cheddar frittata uses up chopped kale stems and some leftover cooked spinach.

How to cut your food waste

by Melissa Pasanen

From the slimy green things in the back of your vegetable drawer to platters of sandwiches left after a lunch meeting, we waste as much as 40 percent of the food produced in the world. This is not only a waste of food but also of all the natural and human resources it takes to make that food, as well as valuable and scarce landfill space.

As Vermont moves toward the full roll-out of the Universal Recycling Law (Act 148), which prohibits all food waste from landfills by 2020, we need to shift how we think about food waste, turning it from trash into a resource. Much of the food we waste could be eaten or recycled in a constructive way. The state has created a hierarchy of how to approach food-waste recovery: 1) cut waste at the source, 2) redirect it to people, 3) feed animals and 4) compost/anaerobic digestion. Here are 10 tips to get you started on reducing food waste. Next week, we’ll dive into composting.

  • Do your own food-waste audit. Measure your food waste for one week and set a goal to reduce it. It might shock you; it will definitely inform you.
  • Shop smarter. Plan meals a week at a time if you can and shop with a list. When planning, always shop your own fridge/freezer/pantry first. Don’t succumb to deals on items you really won’t use. It doesn’t save you money if you end up throwing it out.
  • Appreciate imperfection. Push back against the insistence on blemish-free, identically shaped produce.
  • “Eat me!” It’s too easy to tuck things into the fridge and freezer and forget. Try a whiteboard on the front of the fridge to remind you what you have to use up. I love the idea of an “Eat me first!” box or shelf in the fridge. Get kids to make the sign, and they’ll be invested in using it.
  • Share the wealth. If you have just one portion of a dish left that does not lend itself well for lunch or other creative reuse, think about an elderly neighbor who might appreciate a visit and a home-cooked meal. If you are part of an event with more significant leftovers, volunteer to see if a local foodshelf or other nonprofit can put them to good use. (For Chittenden County, the Chittenden Solid Waste District has a good list. See link below.)
  • Try a weekly “reinvent leftovers” night. Pull all those random bits of leftover protein (meat, fish, cheese, tofu, etc.) and vegetables that are cooked or languishing in the fridge. Add staples like olives, toasted nuts, shredded cheese, canned chickpeas or beans, and maybe sliced hard-cooked eggs, and offer a salad bar, baked potato bar, omelet bar or “top-your-own” individual pizza bar (on English muffins or pita rounds). Look around the world for meal inspirations that happily use up all sorts of bits and pieces, like fried rice made with leftover cooked rice, cold sesame noodles with cooked spaghetti, quiches or frittatas.
  • Put an egg on it. A well-deployed egg can turn leftovers into a meal. Sauté up a quick hash of chopped veg and protein leftovers and top with a fried egg. Simmer homemade or packaged stock with leftover rice, noodles or grains plus vegetable and herb odds and ends to make a soup and finish with a poached egg. Add a crouton of stale bread, toasted or grilled and brushed with olive oil, as a raft for the egg.
  • Save crusts, stems and bones. Process crusts into homemade breadcrumbs and freeze. Freeze herb stems for soups or stews or process with olive oil or yogurt, a little lemon juice and salt and pepper to make a sauce or marinade. Freeze chicken or beef bones, mushrooms stems or shrimp shells to make homemade stock whenever you have time (the slow cooker is good for this).
  • Rebuff the yuck factor. Try refreshing limp chard, kale, spinach, beet greens and other greens by soaking them in cool water, which miraculously revives them. The good parts of bruised apples make great applesauce (use the microwave for super-quick sauce), and soft berries can be quickly simmered into a sauce too. (Both freeze well, too.) Chop limp carrots and celery and freeze in bags to throw into a stew or stock later when you have time to make it ― and don’t forget to write them on your whiteboard.
  • Share that you care. Let retailers, restaurants and other food providers know that you care about food waste and that you expect they should too.


  • FoodKeeper ( is a free mobile app and also an online database with food safety and storage advice created through the work of the Food Marketing Institute, Cornell University’s Department of Food Science, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).
  • Many Vermont solid waste districts offer lists of tips and resources for cutting food waste. Here are two: and
  • In the Burlington area, this new community website provides opportunities to share and swap extra food

We’re Just Mad About Saffron

Written by Judy Thurlow on . Posted in Uncategorized

By Melissa Pasanen
Photo by Ian Thomas Jansen-Lonnquist

One of the things I love about my work is how one story often leads to another. I was in a warren of small offices in the University of Vermont’s Entomology Research Lab reporting a short Vermont Life piece on growing saffron in Vermont with Arash Ghalehgolabbehbahani, an agroecologist from Iran, and Professor Margaret Skinner.

After the pair explained how saffron-producing crocuses could be grown here in unheated greenhouses, I asked how Iranians would cook with the expensive spice. For that, Arash responded, I should meet his wife. Agrin Davari. Conveniently, he added, her office was in the same building. A few weeks later, I was in the cavernous kitchens at UVM’s Davis Center where Davari and other members of the Iranian Student Association were cooking a Nowruz spring feast featuring saffron in almost every dish, which I reported for Vermont Public Radio. Listen here to the VPR Café episode.

The saffron they were using in all of their dishes, including the main course of chicken (recipe below) is not locally grown yet, but some day it might be. 

Recipe for Saffron Rice With Barberries and Chicken
(Zereshk polow ba morgh)

Adapted from Maman’s Kitchen’s recipe.

Note: Please see the original recipe for the specific way to cook Persian rice that creates a crispy and highly prized bottom layer known as tah dig. To simplify, I simply cooked 2 cups of rinsed long grain basmati with a couple of tablespoons of neutral cooking oil and a couple of tablespoons of butter and salt. After it was cooked and still hot, I stirred in about ½ cup lightly sweetened, local dried cranberries in place of barberries and 1 teaspoon ground saffron dissolved in ¼ cup hot water. Barberries can be ordered from

For chicken:

¼ teaspoon ground saffron (this will be about 1 teaspoon saffron threads; place threads in a small bowl and crush them with the back of a spoon) 

6 pieces (about 3 pounds) bone-in, skin-on chicken pieces, preferably dark meat such as thighs

Salt and pepper to taste

1 tablespoon neutral cooking oil

1 medium onion, chopped

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 teaspoon turmeric

1 teaspoon Persian advieh spice (can be ordered from or substitute ¼ teaspoon each ground cinnamon, cardamom and nutmeg plus 1/8 teaspoon ground cumin)

Pinch chili powder

1 tablespoon tomato paste

1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice

Place ground saffron in a small bowl and add 1 tablespoon hot water. Set aside until needed. Pat chicken pieces dry and season well with salt and pepper. Put a heavy-bottomed sauté pan over medium-high heat and add oil. When oil is shimmering, place chicken, skin-side down, and cook for about 6 to 8 minutes, until skin is golden-brown. (It might spit fat, cover pan if desired.) Turn chicken and cook on other side until golden-brown, about another 5 minutes. Remove chicken to a plate and pour off all but 1 tablespoon fat.

Reduce heat to medium and return pan to stove. Add onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 4 minutes. Add garlic and cook, stirring, 2 minutes. Add turmeric, advieh (or substitute), chili powder, tomato paste, 1 teaspoon salt and stir together. Add lemon juice and ½ cup water. Stir and scrape up any bits from bottom of pan. Return chicken to pan, turning to coat in sauce. Reduce heat to low and cook, covered, checking to make sure chicken is not sticking, about 20 to 25 minutes until meat is cooked through. Serve with saffron-barberry (or cranberry) rice. Serves 4–5.

Recipe: Gilfeather Turnip and Winter Squash Bhaji

Written by Judy Thurlow on . Posted in Recipes

Gilfeather Turnip and Winter Squash Bhaji

Adapted from Lini Mazumdar,
Anjali Farm and Lini’s Indian Tiffins, South Londonderry

At one point, Lini Mazumdar and her husband, Emmett Dunbar, grew Gilfeather turnips at Anjali Farm, but over the years, they have focused on a few specialty crops like pick-your-own blueberries, chili peppers and heirloom tomato plants. In addition, Lini, who grew up all over India, started offering vibrantly flavored, nourishing, home-cooked Indian meals made from seasonal ingredients. Customers order ahead and come to the farm to pick up their multidish tiffin meals packed in round, stacked, metal lunch containers. This curried vegetable dish could be one of several in a meal or simply served with rice and perhaps the spiced lentil stew known as dal.

Note: The Bengali Five Spice mixture called panch phoron contains black mustard, cumin, fennel, nigella and fenugreek seeds; you can substitute whole cumin seeds.

3 tablespoons coconut oil, divided

1 medium (about 1 pound) Gilfeather turnip, peeled and cut into ½-inch cubes
yield about 2 generous cups

1 pound winter squash, such as pumpkin, delicata or butternut,
peeled (no need to peel delicata) and cut into ½-inch cubes
to yield about 2 cups

1 teaspoon coarse salt, plus more
to taste

1 tablespoon turmeric powder

1 tablespoon panch phoron spice
mixture (see note above) or
cumin seeds

3 cloves garlic, minced

1 tablespoon fresh, finely grated
ginger root

1 small dried Thai red chili, crushed, or ¼–½ teaspoon crushed red
pepper, to taste

2 cups firmly packed ribboned kale

1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

Preheat oven to 350 F. Put one tablespoon of coconut oil in a rimmed sheet pan or large baking dish and place in oven to melt coconut oil. In a medium bowl, toss turnip and squash cubes with 1 teaspoon salt and turmeric powder. Spread in melted coconut oil and toss to coat. Bake 25–30 minutes until a fork easily pierces vegetables and they are slightly colored.

In a medium cast-iron frying pan or other heavy-bottomed sauté pan, set over medium-high heat, toast panch phoron or cumin just until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add remaining 2 tablespoons coconut oil and lower heat to medium. Stir in garlic, ginger, and chili or crushed red pepper. Cook, stirring, about 2 minutes until colored. (Add a splash of water if ginger sticks to bottom of pan.) Add roasted turnips and squash along with kale and lemon juice. Stir to combine and toss for 3 to 4 minutes until kale is wilted. Taste and add more salt or hot pepper as desired. Serves 4–6.

Original article by Melissa Pasanen from the Spring 2017 issue of Vermont Life 
Photo by Oliver Parini

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