My low waste kitchen: muffins

Whether it is the result of growing up poor or being culturally Scottish, my family has always hated waste. My mother used to say, “Don’t throw away anything you are about to buy, or buy anything you are about to throw away.”


So instead of buying “bread crumbs” while composting stale bread, we make one from the other.

Have you noticed that good restaurants are beginning to serve meat loaf and banana bread and crab cakes? These are foods which, in my childhood, represented frugal use of leftovers. Maybe because more of us watch the food shows than actually cook, leftovers are now on menus, but I just can’t bring myself to pay restaurant prices for a crab cake.

Banana bread is, of course, what you do with over ripe bananas. Did you know that almost any fruit and many veg can be made into quick breads? To be on the safe side, I usually make muffins. With the differing chemical properties and water content of various fruits, I find muffins less likely to “fall,” more likely to be successful, than quick breads.

Small fruits, such as blueberries and raspberries, can be mixed in without much prep.  Larger fruits, such as commercial strawberries or grapes or peaches or apples, should be chopped fine. Do not peel the apples. The skin, when chopped very small, has a nice texture and adds color to the muffins.

Oranges and lemons–all citrus–should be whirled in the blender.

You can use any fruit that is squishy but not moldy.  (By the way, to ward off mold and squishiness, wash your fresh fruit in a bath of vinegar and water before putting it in the fridge. You don’t even need a lot of vinegar, just enough to have the scent of it in the water is fine.)  If you have even a quarter cup of squishy fruit you can put it in the freezer for later use if that use is baking. You don’t have to add sugar, or blanche it, or prepare it in any way but washing, as long as you intend to bake with it.

Since carrot cake, zucchini bread, and tomato cake are pretty yummy, I tried to made cucumber bread once. DO NOT DO THIS. Baked cucumbers taste like clams. I like clams fine, but not for dessert.

Depending on the water content of the fruit, you may need to add more flour and/or more leavening.  The rule for baking soda and baking powder is use twice as much soda as powder.

If you are hesitant to make your own muffins, you can just add fruit to an instant cake mix. You’ll want to start your experiment with at least one half cup but no more than a cup of fruit to a box of cake mix; make sure to drain off excess juice.


EDIT: Oh dear, I forgot to mention breakfast cereal.

I am not a fan of it, it being more expensive, per pound, than a fine steak, but I do buy it sometimes because it allows my young child the independence of getting her own breakfast without using the stove (a 1950s gas number you have to light with a match).

You can substitute many cereals, cup for cup, for flour. Since I usually get a whole grain, this increases the nutrition of the muffins when substituting for white flour. Flakes, crisped rice, or granola you can just pour in with no prep. Puffed rice or cheerio things need to be made into a flour; you can either use the blender or put it in a plastic bag and crush with a rolling pin. I like that latter option because it is very gratifying to crush things.


Next week, butter substitutes!










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