Save More of Your Green: Veggie and Herb Tips, Ideas, & Kitchen Hacks
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You’ve herb it here, first!
It’s happened to all of us. You waltzed right into that grocery store or farmer’s market and bought those leafy green veggies and fresh herbs, and you had every intention of doing something with them.
And then, life happened.
You forgot about that head of lettuce and now it’s looking pretty pitiful.
How to revive romaine 🥗
Just remove the leaves, discard any brown parts, and give them an ice water bath in your kitchen sink. After 10-20 minutes, they should pep right up!
Extend life in the freezer
Freeze herbs in butter, water, broth, or olive oil. This really is as simple as chopping the herbs and removing their stems, adding them to ice cube trays, and covering with your liquid or butter of choice. For the cubes frozen in oil or butter, these are great to pop into a skillet to grease and flavor the pan when sautéing.
Or if you prefer, you can mold the butter into a log shape and double wrap it in plastic wrap and/or parchment paper before freezing. Simply thaw when it’s ready for use! Pads of the flavorful butter go great over cooked veggies or a sizzling steak.
When you’re freezing leafy greens, blend with just enough water or olive oil, add to ice cube trays, and freeze. This method is by far my favorite, and it’s one I’ve used for many years. Once the cubes are frozen, pop them into a sealed bag or container and keep frozen for later use.
The uses for these frozen herbs and veggies are endless. I’ve used herb and veggie cubes to cool off soups, stews, and chili. They can be stirred into pasta, rice, mashed potatoes, and couscous. I’ve even blended them up into smoothies and juice. I’ve also added a layer of veggies in casseroles, stir-frys, stocks, and to make over-the-top grilled cheese sandwiches and countless other things.
For heartier leafy greens you plan to cook, like kale, spinach, collard greens, and chard, just place them in a large, resealable bag and toss them right into the freezer. I’ve experimented with freezing the leaves flat on a sheet tray first and then bagging them, which turned out to be pretty pointless.
Another option? Just cook these greens and freeze them so they’re ready to go when you are.
You can also place herbs and most leafy green veggies, stems and all, into a resealable bag, squeeze out all the air, and freeze.
Or, if you plan to use them within a couple of weeks, just store them in water like flowers in your fridge. You can also cover them loosely with the produce bag they came in or a plastic baggie.
Think outside the box for more use.
Want to really get creative with your veggies? Try making gummies! This requires a little more effort on your part, but it basically consists of making juice using your blender or juicer (like the baby greens and blueberry juice pictured above), adding gelatin powder, and allowing enough time for things to firm up in silicone molds. Check out Pinterest for tons of ideas!
Another resourceful method is pickling past prime vegetable. If you have leftover pickle juice from a jar of pickles, add the stems of the greens of veggies you’d normally throw out, and after they brine for a day or two, they’ll be ready to eat! I suggest first boiling these stems for 30-60 seconds and then plunging them in ice water to stop the cooking (aka blanching). This makes them absorb the salty pickle juice better and a little more palatable.
Greens powder is so expensive. Why fork over all that cash when it’s so easy to make your own using your oven or food dehydrator?
To dehydrate herbs and greens in your oven:
- Set your oven to 175° – 200°.
- Lay your leaves out on a sheet pan lined with parchment or a baking mat.
- Prop your oven door open slightly.
- Start checking after about 30 minutes or so until the greens feel crisp and crumble between your fingers.
*Note that heartier greens and younger lettuces will take much longer to dehydrate.
Once the herbs or greens have completely dried, pulse a few times in your blender or food processor, and press through a fine mesh strainer. Store in an airtight container at room temperature.
Want some more ideas?
Make herb vinegar, olive oil, or salt by adding fresh herbs. Toss in citrus zest and your favorite spices to create a customized blend! The salt will be good to go right away, but for the best flavor, let the oil or vinegar infuse for a week or two before using.
Herb paste is a great way to extend the life of your herbs, and it’s much cheaper to make at home than buying those tubes you find in the produce department. Add a handful or two of fresh herbs to your mortar and pestle, food processor, or blender, along with a little olive oil. Pulse or mix by hand until the mixture forms a paste.
Side note: add cheese, garlic, and nuts, and you’ve got pesto! This mixture can be stored in the fridge for a couple of weeks or, yep… you guessed it, frozen for later use.
Freeze herbs with sliced fruit in water to cool down and add flavor to beverages.
Freeze rosemary, sliced citrus, and white vinegar to use as garbage disposal refreshers.
Make an herbal tea by steeping fresh herbs like mint or oregano in hot water with lemon and ginger. Then, freeze in ice cube trays or resealable baggies so when a cold or stomachache sneaks up on you, all you have to do is pop into a mug and reheat. You can also add honey and freeze in Popsicle molds or blend into a slushie to soothe sore throats.
Add fresh herbs with or without fruit to vodka, gin, tequila, rum, or whiskey. Let sit in a cool spot until it reaches the level of potency you’re looking for.
Infused sugar is as easy to make as adding fresh herbs to sugar. Just give the mixture a little shake whenever you walk by for a week or two – that’s it. Mint, lavender, lemon balm, thyme, and rosemary are perfect for this. I made lavender vanilla sugar and lemon thyme sugar a few years back to use in shortbread cookies, and they were a HUGE hit.
Make an infused simple syrup by simmering equal parts water and sugar until the sugar has dissolved. Remove from heat, add herbs, and let steep until cool. You can then remove the herbs, or leave them in. Be sure to toss them if they turn brown.
Make a body scrub by combining salt or sugar, coconut, avocado or olive oil, herbs, and your favorite essential oils.
And yes, while you can usually regrow herbs and vegetables right in your own kitchen, that hasn’t worked so well for me thanks to this furry lady who can’t seem to keep her paws off of them.
So, there ya go! Giving new life to herbs and veggies is no big dill. 😏Just a few simple ways to make your hard-earned green go a little further.