Waste Not, Want Not

If you’re like me, once in a while there’s a day when you look in the fridge and say, “oh darn, the vegetables are starting to go soft and I might have to throw them away.”  I HATE wasting food.

I grew up mostly hungry.  My mother was on welfare and NEVER had much in the fridge.  She was a poor manager and really a bit of a space cadet when it came to household stuff.  Early on, my sisters and I learned that if we wanted to eat regularly and well, we’d have to do it ourselves.  My sister Wendy was the business manager.  It was she who would confiscate food stamps, make lists and handle the shopping with me (the oldest) to plan the menus and cook the food; and my sister Carol (the baby) to ride along in the shopping cart we would bring home.  Before we learned to do that, however it was either baloney in a tortilla, burnt beans (my mother was a horrible cook), and watery, unsweetened Kool-aid.  Blech.  I still can’t drink that stuff.

My Aunt Lupita remembers coming over and finding a very little me standing on a milk crate cooking something for my sisters.  I’ve been cooking for almost as long as I can remember and I can pretty much make a meal out of nothing, which in the current economy, is a darned good skill to have.

Visiting my grandparent’s house wasn’t just a holiday, it was salvation.  We’d walk in and there would be food EVERYWHERE.  The pantries were full, the fridge and freezers were full, the garden had food growing in it.  It was heaven to me, and if I could have lived there forever, I would have.

Once I had my own place, I made it my mission to always have food.  I’m a little obsessed with food and I hate waste.  So my vegetable drawer drives me crazy when I see things starting to soften.  That’s when I make soup and freeze it.

You can get some amazing soups out of the vegetables in your crisper that are starting to go soft.  Just the other day, I found broccoli that needed to be cooked immediately, some celery and carrots that were a couple of days away from being thrown out.  So I made soup.  I boiled the veggies with onion, garlic, a bit of fresh thyme then pureed it in the blender when it was cooled.  I used a can of evaporated milk in the vegetable puree, some salt, pepper, nutmeg and heated it through.  I served it with crusty brown bread and some grated cheese on top.  The rest, I froze and now can have some really great soup whenever I want.

It only takes a bit of time and the result it healthy, nutritious and cost effective.  Don’t throw the soft veggies away – make soup.  If you waste your vegetables, I just might throw a chancla at you.


Gina’s Creamy Broccoli, Celery and Carrot Soup

1/2 a head of broccoli, stems and florets – chopped into small chunks

1/2 a stalk of celery, leaves included – chopped


3 carrots – chopped

1/2 an onion – quartered

2 cloves of garlic

a few stems of fresh thyme


1 can of evaporated milk

salt and pepper to taste

Chop the vegetables and place in a saucepan with just enough water to cover.  Bring to a boil, then lower flame and cook covered, till the vegetables are very soft (about 15 minutes).

Let vegetables cool to room temperature, then strain, reserving the cooking liquid.

Puree in a blender or food processor until smooth.

Pour the puree into a heavy saucepan, add the milk and the reserved cooking liquid.  Whisk the mixture. Add salt and pepper to taste and heat through, stirring often to prevent the milk from scorching.

Makes about 4-6 servings.

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