And the mystery muffin is...

I owe you all TWO FULL WEEKS of food waste reporting.  Sorry about that — I have been keeping track, as promised, and I haven’t forgotten that I need to publish the results for weeks 3 and 4.  It’s just that stuff got busy, and then there was this thing, and then I, well, you know, I….

Oh, forget it.  I just didn’t do it.  I was taking care of other stuff instead.

But here I am, fashionably late, ready to unveil the many ways in which we improved our food waste tally in weeks 3 and 4!  Except that we didn’t.  Improve, that is.  I think, rather, that we’re experiencing what I feared would happen — a food waste rebound.

Oh, I don’t think it was all that horrible, but our weekly tally certainly didn’t go in the direction I’d hoped.  Maybe it’s just that once you get a few weeks into something like this, the project isn’t as fresh and it’s hard to be as motivated to save, repurpose, and account for each and every little scrap of food; or maybe it’s that we were doing so well right out of the gate that we were bound to have some off moments.  And then, of course, there’s always the variable of the kids — fickle as they can be about eating.  I try to console myself with the reassurance that at least we continued to monitor ourselves and to be mindful of the issue, whether we successfully improved our results or not.  Awareness is half the battle, right?

Anyway, here are the results:
Week 3:
1 salmon cake
.  I just missed it, seriously.  We had leftovers, we put them in the fridge, we ate them, and the next day I went to polish off the last one and didn’t see it.  I figured J. had eaten it when I wasn’t paying attention, but I later found it hiding in plain sight…a few days after what I’d consider safe for leftover fish.

1/2 cup veggie chips.  We made them, we ate them, we stored them, they got soggy and sad.  Whoops.

3/4 cup of beef and broccoli stir-fry.  Because this was actually made with leftover beef, I suppose I can’t be as upset about the waste as I want to be.  We sent it to school with the boys for lunches; neither of them finished the portions they were given.

3/4 cup miscellaneous raw vegetables.  This is a rough calculation and would include carrots, grape tomatoes, green beans, and peppers, primarily.  L., my veggie-eating champ, has suddenly started leaving behind the very vegetables he asks me to pack in his lunchbox.  He’s generally starting to act fussier about food, but I’m chalking it up mainly to his age — five-year-olds are notoriously weird.  Truthfully, he’s still such a great eater that I’m not overly concerned, but I am relatively chafed by the wasted veg.  (Some of this tally, by the way, belongs to P., the fickle vegetable consumer — I can’t chalk it all up to his big brother).

1 chunk (about 3 ounces) of fontina cheese.  Don’t wrap fontina cheese in a piece of unlabeled aluminum foil and shove it to the bottom of the cheese drawer.  Unless, that is, you’re looking to begin a home chemistry experiment.

1/2 bunch fresh parsley.  The fresh herb problem continues.  It’s not that I don’t know what to do with them…it’s just that I’m not DOING it in time.  The parsley was peaked.

1/2 lemon.  I cut it in half, I squeezed the juice out of one half, and the other half was on the counter while we ate dinner.  It was also there the next morning.  It was not quite the lemon it had once been, that’s for sure.

1/3 banana.  We often break pieces off bananas in the morning for P., who may or may not consume an entire banana at a sitting (though he usually will, these days).  J. or I generally eat whatever’s left, but we forgot about this one.  Day-old peeled banana = disaster.

Week 4:
2 portions tamale pot pie.
  Ugh.  We had it for dinner on Wednesday night and had planned to eat it for weekend lunches, but my folks came into town and everything sort of got busy.  Other lunch arrangements were made; the tamale pot pie was sacrificed.

1/4 of an avocado and a few grape tomatoes.  They were supposed to go with a serving of the tamale pot pie.  They didn’t make it.

1/3 cup yogurt and sunbutter parfait.  Leftover from one of P.’s lunches.

1 portion West Indies chicken.  We ate it…and ate it…and ate it…and mutiny began to set in, so when J. asked “Are we REALLY going to eat the rest of this?” I was more than happy to give it the ax.  I’m only human.

About 1 1/2 cups couscous.  It was mixed in with the chicken.

1/4 cup grapes.   Slightly squashed and sitting in the bottom of the lunchbox.

1/4 cup banana chips.  They came home in L.’s lunchbox and probably could have been salvaged, except for the fact that they seemed sort of…damp.

1 cup salad greens.  Yup, they just got away from me.  I had a plan to use them, but they weren’t obliging to my timeline.

Okay, looking at it…maybe it’s not SO bad.  I think what feels frustrating to me about these two weeks in particular is that there were more MEALS wasted, carelessly.  To a certain extent, I can forgive us the odds and ends…but when we’re talking about whole portions of prepared, perfectly good food, I feel less excited about our outcome.

However, I should point out that I DID still take some steps towards repurposing things in ways I might not have ordinarily tried.  For example, I omitted the beans that are ordinarily in the tamale pie in favor of mixing leftover brown rice with the beef; and instead of opening a whole bottle of tomatoes and only using part of them, I used the last bit of a jar of salsa.  (J. said these changes were improvements to the recipe.)  On DIY salad night, I allowed only leftover items onto the platter — no preparing of new options to make it more “full.”  And, realizing that I was going to lose an avocado if I didn’t think fast, I used it in a baking experiment that was a true revelation to all of us: the Avocado Muffin.

They’re not green, they’re not savory, and in fact, J. assured me that he would never have known what was in them unless I’d told him first.  The kids devoured them and begged me to pack them for their school lunches the next morning — a request I could happily honor.  These muffins are whole-wheat, they’re packed with healthy fats, and they don’t contain any refined sugar.   I won’t tell if you won’t.

Avocado Olive Oil Muffins (makes 18 muffins)

2 medium Hass avocados
1 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 cup honey
Zest of 2 lemons
1/4 cup lemon juice
2 eggs
1 cup milk
4 cups white whole-wheat flour or whole wheat pastry flour
2 tablespoons baking powder
1 tsp. salt
1 tablespoon cinnamon

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.  Beat together the flesh of the avocados, olive oil, honey, lemon zest, and lemon juice, until smooth.  In a separate bowl, whisk together the dry ingredients.  Gradually add the dry ingredients to the wet mixture, stirring just until combined.  Scoop the batter into prepared muffin cups and bake at 375 degrees for 20-25 minutes, until golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.