Cook This: 3 affordable, low-waste recipes from Scrappy Cooking

Cook This: 3 affordable, low-waste recipes from Scrappy Cooking

Carleigh Bodrug explains the principles behind ‘scrappy cooking,’ or how to transform commonly wasted foods into kitchen magic

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Our cookbook of the week is PlantYou: Scrappy Cooking by Barrie, Ont.-based cook and content creator Carleigh Bodrug.

Jump to the recipes: Last week’s loaf breakfast casserole, confetti sheet-pan tacos with carrot top chimichurri and lemon peel pesto.

Carleigh Bodrug’s “scrappy cooking” series started with a statistic. It ended up taking on a life of its own with a viral recipe video for candied orange peels that taste like gummy worms. Fifty-eight per cent of all food in Canada is lost or wasted, while in the United States, 30 to 40 per cent ends up in landfills. The Barrie, Ont.-based cook and content creator was shocked by the scale of it and felt compelled to do something.

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Bodrug highlights that food waste takes a greater toll on the environment than the airline industry, yet people often seem unaware of the issue. She started eating plant-based in 2016, partly for environmental reasons, and launched the series because reducing food waste is a priority in her kitchen.

“It went crazy, and I had no idea the response would be like that. It was cool to see because ‘scrappy cooking’ is this idea that we can transform commonly wasted foods into magic. But in reality, what I love about it is that it initiates a great conversation about food waste that I feel is not being had.”

With the series’ online success, Bodrug knew almost immediately that “scrappy cooking” would be the subject of her second book. Amid high grocery prices, she recognized that sharing ways to reduce food waste had the added benefit of helping people save money. Like the series, the response to the book has been enormous. PlantYou: Scrappy Cooking (Hachette Go, 2024) hit No. 1 on The New York Times’s best-seller list less than a month after publication.

Even with the increasing cost of food, Canadian households toss 79 kilograms per capita per year, according to the UN Food Waste Index Report 2024. Second Harvest estimates that the average household spends $1,766 annually on avoidable food waste.

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Scrappy Cooking “isn’t about being perfect,” writes Bodrug. “In fact, it’s the opposite.” Becoming a vegan made her fall in love with being in the kitchen. She hopes to help readers feel more confident and excited about cooking through her recipes.

“My life is messy. I get so sick of seeing things on social media that are so curated and perfect when, in reality, we’re all so busy. We’re all going to waste a little bit of food. But if we can all work together to address this problem, save money and help the environment in an imperfect way, I would rather that than trying to be a monolith for being zero-waste. I still waste food. It’s a lot less than I used to, but it’s not perfect.”

Scrappy Cooking features more than 140 low-waste, plant-based recipes, all built on creative ways to use what you already have. The book’s visual index, “Got This? Make That!,” highlights some of the most commonly squandered items. Use leftover bread, the world’s No. 1 wasted food, to make Last Week’s Loaf Breakfast Casserole, Caramelized French Onion Soup or Brussels Sprouts Caesar Salad. Make Celery Leaf “Tabbouleh,” Scrappy Pesto or Green Goddess Soup with wilted greens.

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PlantYou: Scrappy Cooking book cover
PlantYou: Scrappy Cooking is Barrie, Ont.-based author Carleigh Bodrug’s second cookbook. Photo by Hachette Go

Bodrug developed the recipes to be flexible so cooks can turn to their fridges and pantries first to see what needs to be used up before shopping. Often-overlooked ingredients are also in the spotlight. Take broccoli stems, for example. A “huge broccoli eater,” Bodrug buys broccoli every week. Yet, she discarded the stems before she started her “scrappy cooking” journey. Now, she peels the tough outer layer and chops them for a stir-fry, grates them into soup or cuts them into batons for fries.

“They’re absolutely delicious, entirely nutritious, and really easy to prepare. So, they take your broccoli from this half-discarded food to eating the whole plant, and you’re getting more calories and bang for your buck. Especially if you’re paying for that by weight, you don’t want to be paying for the stem and not eating it.”

Though broccoli stems are Bodrug’s favourite example, the low-waste potential extends much further. Use carrot tops, “an amazing green reminiscent of parsley,” for garnishing or blitzing into a chimichurri to spoon on her Confetti Sheet-Pan Tacos. Chop beet and radish greens into a salad or toss them in olive oil and nutritional yeast to make a snack akin to kale chips.

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The book’s 25 “Kitchen Raid Recipes” invite complete customization. Cooks can swap the vegetables, grains and beans depending on what they have in base recipes such as Any Vegetable Curry and Whatever Sheet-Pan Soup.

These “Kitchen Raid Recipes” reflect how Bodrug cooks at home. “My whole goal with the book is to empower people to learn to be more confident in the kitchen and to make these swaps. So they’re not having to head to the grocery store and buy these obscure ingredients without being able to customize a recipe themselves.”

Bodrug thinks “scrappy cooking” resonated with her more than 10 million social media followers primarily because of how prevalent food waste is. Most people can relate to the experience of buying a box of spinach at the beginning of the week with the best intentions, only to have it wilt unopened by the end.

On top of the money-saving potential and sustainability benefits is the satisfaction of using food to its fullest. “There’s something almost magical about taking something like orange peels and turning them into something reminiscent of gummy worms. There’s that point of entry that is shocking and cool — and maybe like something people have never seen before. So that makes the videos have this virality that I don’t think they would have if you just posted a regular recipe video.”

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Bodrug estimates that most of her social media followers aren’t vegan. “I love that because it’s a sign that people are open to eating more plant-based meals, which is what my whole thing is about. I want more plants on the plate. And the more we can move towards that, the better we all are.”

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LAST WEEK’S LOAF BREAKFAST CASSEROLE

Last Week's Loaf Breakfast Casserole
Bread is the world’s No. 1 most wasted food. Carleigh Bodrug uses last week’s loaf to make this crowd-pleasing breakfast casserole. Photo by Shahad Odah, Foodie’s Flare

Makes: 8 servings
Start to finish: 60 minutes

Custard:
1 1/2 cups unsweetened plant-based milk (soy, almond, cashew or oat)
3/4 cup homemade cultured vegan yogurt or store-bought coconut or soy yogurt
1/4 cup cornstarch or arrowroot powder
2 tbsp coconut or light brown sugar
1/4 cup pure maple syrup
1 tbsp ground flaxseed or ground chia seeds
1/2 tsp ground turmeric
1 tsp homemade vanilla extract or store-bought pure vanilla extract
2 tsp ground cinnamon
Juice of 1/2 lemon

5 cups torn, dry vegan sourdough bread, French loaf or gluten-free bread of choice (1-inch chunks)
1/2 cup crushed walnuts, for topping (optional)

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For serving:
Berries and more plant-based yogurt and maple syrup (optional)

Step 1

Preheat the oven to 350F (177C).

Step 2

In a bowl, prepare the custard by combining the plant-based milk, vegan yogurt, cornstarch, coconut sugar, maple syrup, ground flaxseed, turmeric, vanilla, cinnamon and lemon juice. Mix well, then let stand for 10 minutes, or until slightly thickened.

Step 3

Lightly oil or line a 7- x 11–inch (18- x 28-cm) casserole dish with parchment paper. Place the torn bread in an even layer.

Step 4

Pour the custard evenly over the torn bread, and use a spatula to make sure that the bread is covered. Sprinkle the crushed walnuts on top (if using). Allow the bread to soak for 5 minutes.

Step 5

Bake the casserole, uncovered, for 30 minutes, or until the bread is slightly crusty on top and the custard has thickened. Serve warm with berries and more vegan yogurt and maple syrup, if desired.

Storage: Store in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 4 days. Enjoy warm or cold.

Save the scraps: Lemon peels for Candied Citrus Peels or Citrus Peel Powder (recipes are in the book).

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CONFETTI SHEET-PAN TACOS

Confetti Sheet-Pan Tacos
“Bright and bursting with flavour, these confetti sheet-pan tacos are a weeknight showstopper,” writes Carleigh Bodrug. Photo by Shahad Odah, Foodie’s Flare

Makes: 4 to 6 servings, 12 tacos
Start to finish: 45 minutes

Tacos:
2 medium-size sweet potatoes, cubed, or potato of choice
1 1/2 cups corn, frozen and thawed or fresh
1 bell pepper, seeded and sliced into strips
1 small head cauliflower, broken into florets, leaves sliced into 1/2-inch bites, or broccoli florets
2 tsp chili powder
2 tsp paprika
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp salt
12 tortillas, flax wrap or pita bread, to serve as tacos
1 1/2 cups Carrot Top Chimichurri (recipe follows; optional)
1/2 cup store-bought vegan sour cream

Taco toppings (optional):
Tomatoes
Red cabbage
Fresh cilantro
Red onion

Step 1

Preheat the oven to 425F (220C), and line a baking sheet with a reusable baking mat or parchment paper.

Step 2

Place the sweet potatoes, corn, bell pepper, cauliflower and leaves in a bowl, along with the chili powder, paprika, cumin, garlic powder and salt. Toss until coated.

Step 3

Transfer to the prepared baking sheet and bake for 35 minutes until the corn, cauliflower and sweet potatoes are starting to char, tossing halfway through.

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Step 4

While the vegetables bake, prepare the Carrot Top Chimichurri, if using.

Step 5

Assemble the tacos: Place the vegetable mixture in the centre of each wrap, followed by 2 teaspoons of chimichurri sauce (if using), and a tablespoon of the vegan sour cream. Finish with your desired toppings.

Storage: Store the taco filling in a sealed container in the fridge for up to 4 days, or freeze for up to 2 months.

Save the scraps: Onion peels for Onion Peel Powder, Scrappy Broth or Bouilliant Bouillon Powder (recipes are in the book).

CARROT TOP CHIMICHURRI

Makes: 4 to 6 servings (about 1/4 cup per serving)
Start to finish: 5 minutes

1 cup fresh parsley
1 cup carrot tops, or 1 cup fresh additional parsley if you don’t have carrot tops
1/2 cup fresh cilantro
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1 tbsp freshly squeezed lime juice
2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil (optional)
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes, for heat (optional)
1/2 tsp salt

Step 1

In a blender or food processor, combine all the ingredients and blitz until a sauce is formed.

LEMON PEEL PESTO

Lemon Peel Pesto
“This easy recipe utilizes the low-waste magic of pasta water (a.k.a. liquid gold) and two entire lemons to create the creamy plant-based sauce of your dreams,” writes Carleigh Bodrug of her lemon peel pesto. Photo by Shahad Odah, Foodie’s Flare

Makes: 4 servings
Start to finish: 25 minutes

16 oz (454 g) fettuccine or gluten-free pasta of choice
2 whole lemons, preferably organic
1 1/2 cups raw cashews, sunflower seeds or pine nuts, soaked overnight or boiled for 10 minutes
3 cloves garlic
3 tbsp nutritional yeast
1 1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp pepper

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For serving:
Chopped parsley, vegan parmesan cheese and black pepper, if desired

Step 1

Cook the pasta according to package directions. Drain, reserving 2 1/2 cups of the pasta water. Set the pasta aside.

Step 2

While the pasta cooks, peel the lemons, discarding as much of the white pith as you can, as it is bitter. I like to use a potato peeler for this.

Step 3

In a blender or food processor, put in the cashews, lemon peels, juice of the lemons, garlic, nutritional yeast, 1 3/4 cups of the reserved pasta water, salt and pepper. Blend until a smooth sauce is formed, adding more pasta water as needed to thin the sauce.

Step 4

Put the pasta back into the pot it was cooked in, and pour the sauce over the top, as well as the remaining pasta water to thin if needed. Toss gently with tongs over medium heat until the sauce is evenly dispersed and the pasta is warm. Serve with chopped parsley, vegan parm and black pepper, if desired.

Up the veggies: Sauté 1 head of broccoli, 1 cup of cherry tomatoes and 1/2 cup of green peas for 5 minutes over medium heat while the pasta is cooking and mix them into the pasta with the sauce at the end. This is also delicious with baked tofu.

Storage: Store in a sealed container for up to 4 days.

Recipes and images excerpted with permission from PlantYou: Scrappy Cooking: 140+ Plant-Based Zero-Waste Recipes That Are Good for You, Your Wallet, and the Planet by Carleigh Bodrug. Copyright ©2024 by Carleigh Bodrug. Published by Hachette Go, an imprint of Hachette Book Group, Inc.

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