zero based cooking

Zero Waste Dinner: Chinese Hamburger by Brohgan Dieker

Once,  I listened to a podcast about a working lunch which was served to a group of 40 world leaders who were gathering at the UN. Sam Krass, who had served as the Obama family's personal chef, along with a team of other chefs, served these world leaders, most of whom were presidents of their respected countries, a dinner made of trash. That's right, the entire meal was made out of perfectly good food that was intended to be thrown away out of NYC restaurant kitchens.

We, as a culture, waste a lot of food. This includes my own kitchen.

This week, I have been noting ways to use Zero Waste Cooking strategies in my kitchen.

Are you familiar with Zero Waste Cooking? This is an term I encountered while pre-reviewing Erin Odem's book, More Than Just Making It, which will be released in bookstores in September (affiliate link).

As far as I know, I haven't encountered this exact term before, but the idea behind it is very familiar to me. Zero Waste is a strategy that my mother and grandmother often used in their kitchens to stretch the weekly food budget. It's actually very common in kitchens around the world, although not so much in the U.S. these days.

The idea behind Zero Waste Cooking is to use every food to its fullest potential.

For instance, this lettuce. It's not bad or rotten, but it's wilted after spending several long days in the fridge. It would make a very sad salad.

What do you normally do with lettuce like this? Do you just chop it into a chewy salad?

I normally just do what my mom did: make Chinese hamburger for dinner. And soon, before the lettuce goes bad!

The really nice thing about this dish is that it's easy to keep the other ingredients on hand. Frozen ground turkey, a box of beef Rice-A-Roni, butter, and water.

Isn't it nice to have a back up plan for wilted lettuce??!

Of course, there are considerations to be made when trying to elimate wasted food in your kitchen. The first consideration is food safety. (And, food safety has changed over the years as the bacteria changes. For instance, you can't rely on your grandma's method for thawing meat on the counter anymore, folks.)

But, at least you can stretch some overlooked lettuce from the back of the fridge instead of throwing it away!

One-Pot Chinese Hamburger

This easy recipe is a great Zero Waste Cooking strategy for using wilted lettuce!

  • 1 lb ground turkey
  • 1 box Beef Rice-A-Roni
  • 2 tbsp butter
  • 2 1/2 cups water
  • 1 head lettuce
  • reduced-sodium soy sauce (optional)
  1. Heat ground turkey in large skillet over medium heat until cooked.

  2. Add butter and rice-vermicelli mix and sauté over medium heat until vermicelli is golden brown, stirring frequently.

  3. Slowly stir in water and 1/2 bag seasonings (to lessen sodium), and bring to a boil.

  4. Cover and reduce heat to low. Simmer 15-20 minutes until rice is cooked.  Chop lettuce into bite sized pieces.

  5. Turn off burner, but keep pot on stove. Stir lettuce into pot and cover. Leave 1-2 minutes to allow lettuce to wilt.

  6. Plate, sprinkle with soy sauce, and enjoy!

This easy recipe is a great Zero Waste Cooking strategy for using wilted lettuce!