There is absolutely nothing I hate more than slimy half vegetables.
Come on, you know them too. Dug out from the back of your veggie bin or found hiding behind leftovers on the fridge shelf. Their existence reminds you how useless you are at keeping your fridge organised or planning your meals properly or even storing things properly (why oh why didnt't I use a baggie?!?)
They are paragons of waste: wasted money, wasted resource and the time you'll now waste cleaning your fridge. Apparently Americans throw out about 14% off the food they buy - that doesn't include table scraps and includes just household wastage (not restuarants, businesses and farms).
But wait! Perhaps they don't need to be wasted!
Okay, if the vegetable you've uncovered is gone beyond soft sliminess and is a mold encrusted wrinkle of a former vegetable than yes, please, for the sake of all humanity - or at least your digestive tract - throw it out.
Otherwise you have something usable.
Here's what you do with gone soft vegetable remnants . . .
You cook them.
See once cooked they're supposed to be soft. So no one knows they were soft to begin with.
Then you puree them to erase all traces of your fridgely indiscretion.
Seriously, though, there's nothing like a good stock of vegetable purees on hand. Limp carrots, slimy eggplant (please rinse first), spotted cauliflower and soft potatoes are all great!
The best is to cook them almost as if you were poaching them. Use the minimum amount of water allowed and keep it covered. If you want to save energy, just bring your water to a boil, pop in the vegetables, cover the pot and let it sit on the burner. It'll take half the afternoon, but they'll cook.
Then you let them cool a little (or you can be impatient like me and plan for hot food explosions rather than a 10 minute wait) and pop them in the blender. Use as much of the cooking water as possible without making it too runny. The rest of the cooking water can be popped in an old ice-cream container in your freezer and elegantly called vegetable stock - into this same container you can throw the leftover pureed vegetables you don't use.
Now that you have your puree what do you do with it? Enrich your lives of course.
White vegetables with or without carrots make a lovely creamy base for a cheese sauce. My kids like their macaroni and pureed veggie and cheese dinner better than Kraft Dinner. Usually I use the tail ends of those bags of baby carrots, 1 soft potato, and some red pepper, cauliflower, or celery that's sitting around wilting. Cook, puree, return to the pot and grate in about 1 cup of cheese, a little milk and season.
Zucchinni, grated if fresh or pureed if soft, makes a great butter substitute in baking - as do most vegtables and fruits. The general rule of thumb is 3/4 vegetable puree to 1 fat or 1/2 fruit puree to 1 fat. You can also substantially reduce your sugar in the recipe, especially if using a fruit puree or a "sweet" vegetable like pumpkin or yam. I made chocolate chip cookie yesterday with 6 dates, about 1/4 cup pineapple and 3 Tbsp of margarine instead od the 1 cup of butter called for. Plus I cut the sugar from 1 cup of white and 1 cup of brown down to 1/4 cup raw.
You can use it as your standard soup base if you want to be boring about it. Or you can whip it into eggs for a great scrambled egg experience.
My kids' favourite, though is popsicles. Zuchinni fudgsicles are popular but their favourite is the butternut squash-sweet potato-orange-mangosicle I whipped up this summer. And in the winter, the same thing heated instead of frozen makes a lovely hot smoothie.
I'd post real recipes but it's best if you experiment. Seriously, the whole point is to use what you have and not waste it, so I don't really have recipes - just ideas put into action. A recipe would make you think there's something else you need when everything you need is already at hand.
Other Ideas to Eliminate Food Waste (especially with children around
My kids relish the thought of an apple all to themselves. A whole apple! Not cut up! And we don't have to share! They rarely get an apple all to themselves because when they do I find 1/4 and 1/2 eaten apples all over the house.
When I know I'm running low on applesauce - that's when they get their treat. Then I pick up the apples, rinse the dirt and germs from them and chop them up to make applesauce - or I just toss them in the freezer to make applesauce later.
I also allow my son the extravagence of crustless sandwiches. It really is better for me to just cut off the crusts (usually, I peel actually, less "bread" gets wasted that way) and save them than leave them on there and have him throw them out. Gourmet chefs will tell you croutons and breadcrumbs can't be made from breadcrusts, but they're just snooty know-it-alls. Keep a decent sized yogurt container on your counter and toss in the breadcrusts, uneaten pretzels and cereal (no, not the soggy stuff) and crackers - makes lovely breadcrumbs. Or bird food. Or breadcrumb beads.
Other than that, check expiry dates. Seriously if you can't use 10 lbs of cheese slices before Mar. 2012 admit that to yourself and realise it may not be such a bargain after all. Avoiding things like salad dressings when you can make your own on an as-needed basis is great too.