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Thursday, May 19, 2016

You know this, right? the tough ends of asparagus

Asparagus is a rather pricey vegetable. So I like to make sure that I use as close to every last bit that I can.

But those tough ends can be a problem, just as they are. I do the thing I think we all do, snap the stems to break off the tough ends, then steam or roast the tender parts.

I hang on to the tough ends to use in soups and casseroles. I use a vegetable peeler to remove the tough skin on the those ends. Without the skin, the asparagus ends are tender enough for chopping and adding to casseroles or soup. And the amount of waste is reduced to a small amount of skin from the bottom ends of the stalks.

And I even save the liquid from steaming the long stalks. I pour it into my fridge jar of veggie liquids to add to the next pot of soup. (The liquid in this jar, above, is a combination of asparagus steaming liquid and the liquid from a can of green beans. It was added to a soup that I made on Monday.)

Anyways, I splurged a bit on Sunday, and bought 2/3 pound of fresh asparagus at $1.88/lb, to have with dinner, and I was reminded of peeling the tough ends.


  1. That's such a good idea, but I think we're either too lazy or bohemish that we simply cut a tiny bit off the ends and peel up a bit if the skins look tough. Same with broccoli, we eat the stalk too. But I never thought of saving the liquid from steaming to make soup. I already have a bottle in the freezer for keeping salmon oil, now I'll have another bottle for vegetable water. I think we need to freeze it because our soups are eaten over three days, so I don't think we can keep the water in the fridge for a few days before use. When boiling 10# of carrots for my dad every other week, I use the water for as many uses as I can think of, to blanch green onions and kangkong, and cook our pinto beans. If there is any water left, I should make soup. Since reading your blog, I've been suggesting to my husband we should make our own soup, which other than using bought dashi to make wonton soup, we have usually relied on canned soup (yes some very bad habits developed when we did not take care of ourselves - post kids and pre retirement). Now that we have more time, I remind myself that our no.1 and only requirement during retirement is to take very good care of ourselves, because before we know it that opportunity will pass and like our parents we would no longer be able to do it for ourselves. After years of self neglect, having the opportunity to do this is so gratifying.


    1. Hi YHF,
      I keep veggie liquids in the fridge for up to 4 days, then add to something I'm cooking. Have you also tried adding the carrot cooking water to rice for cooking?

      I think you'll really enjoy making your own soup from scratch, especially for the frugal-nature of it. I made a pot of soup the other day that was enough for 2 nights for us. It had veggie liquids, canned olive juice, scraps from celery (the ends and leaves), radish greens from the radishes that didn't form much root, onion powder, garlic powder, salt, pepper, sausage fat (saved in freezer from last time cooking breakfast sausage), homemade chicken stock, the rinsings from the roasting pan the last time I roasted chicken (I pour the fat off, save, then pour water into the roasting pan, heat on stove, then pour into a container and keep in freezer for soup or gravy -- the stuff most folks would throw away, wash down the drain), part of 2 carrots left from shredding the carrot (the part I have to hang onto, while shredded), and the ends of the asparagus that I saved and peeled, and about a cup of macaroni. The first night, I added a few meatballs, cut in halves. The second night, I used the stick blender to puree the soup. I think I liked the pureed version best, even though it didn't have the meatballs. Outside of the meatballs, macaroni and seasonings, the bulk of the soup was made from things most folks would toss.

      You have the right attitude about taking care of yourselves at this point. You'll be able to really enjoy your years because of it. Keep up the good work!

    2. I was discussing soup making with my husband, and told him what you do....that by pureeing it with the stick blender it is possible to add an assortment of ingredients that otherwise would look odd together in a soup, the ends of this or scrapings of that. Such a very good idea. I'm going to have to be more diligent about using all our leftovers, Your soup sounds delicious!! Just a few meatballs and macaroni gave it substance.

      The papaya gelatin came out OK, it could have been more jelled, but I did not increase the gelatin powder to compensate for the pulp. I made coconut gelatin using cow's milk and coconut extract. I liked it but my husband still insisted that coconut milk would be better. Cow's milk, dated on clearance, costs only .10 per cup, whereas canned coconut milk would cost 4-5x more, and not have as much nutrition as cow's milk.

      Have a nice day!!


    3. YHF, have you tried to "make" coconut milk, using unsweetened coconut and water, run through the blender?

      For just under 1 cup of coconut milk, you'd use about 1 cup water and 1/4 cup unsweetened coconut (not the heavily sugared stuff in the baking aisle -- you'd find the unsweetened stuff at a health food store or bulk bin section of the grocery). After blending you can add 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract, if desired.

      The process -- run the coconut through the blender with half of the water, on high for about 3 minutes, strain through cheesecloth, squeeze all liquid out. Run the strained coconut through blender with the other half of the water, on high again about 3 minutes. Combine both parts of the liquid. Then add vanilla to all. (You can sweeten it if you like, too.)

      Some people heat the water, first, claiming it extracts more of the fats. Some people say heating the water or cooking the coconut milk would reduce nutrients.

      It may not be as thick as the commercial coconut milk you're used to, as homemade won't have carrageenan or other thickeners added. But maybe that's a good thing.

      The cheesecloth minimizes grittiness in the coconut milk. You can use the strained coconut pulp in baking or rice gruel/hot cereal, or stirred into curry sauces.

      As for cost, it would still be more than cow's milk, bought on markdown. But homemade coconut milk could be as little as half the cost of commercial coconut milk, if you wish to make the gelatin as your husband would prefer.

      Thinking back to that pot of soup I made, I remembered that I also added about 1/2 cup of pumpkin puree. And like I said, blending it really improved the flavor. (However, it was a rather unattractive shade of brownish green.) I'm thinking you could add heaps of Kang Kong to your homemade soups, and make some really nutrient-dense soup meals.

      Have a great day, yourself, YHF!

    4. Lots of good information...I never thought of making my own coconut milk. And never heard of carrageenan before, but reading about the health risks is scary. The canned coconut milk on our shelf doesn't list this as the ingredient. I should take better care reading ingredients.

      Making coconut milk reminds me of making soy milk, except we cook the ground soy beans to extract the milk. We have always used coconut milk in curries, puddings, etc. that requires cooking, so I am not concerned about heating loss of nutrition too much.

      I bought a small bag of soy beans from the store this week and next week we are going to make our own soymilk. Hope my husband will like it, then we can return the rather spendy Kirkland brand soymilk, case still unopened. Since I'm in the mindset to make our own soymilk, I might as well look into making our own coconut milk too. Coconut gelatin goes very well with tropical fruits, so I anticipate using lots of it. Or I can make my own coconut extract. I found a recipe on the internet that sounds so easy, just pour vodka over freshly grated coconut, soak for 5-7 days, then strain.

      Kangkong is a good addition in soups, especially the stems have a delightful taste and crunch in a soup. The leaves taste and resemble spinach. It grows like a weed and we are never in short supply.

      Thanks so much for your continual help and inspiration!!


  2. Since I'm trying to cut out carbs in my diet, I twice boil a pot of rice for myself to expand volume (therefore a bowl of rice has fewer carbs). We cook rice more often than soup, so that is a wonderful idea, thanks Lili!!

    Funny, we agree on most things but literally argue about what should be saved and not thrown away. I'm more of the saver type and really hate to throw anything away, whereas he looks upon saving residuals as ridiculous humbug, "just throw it away" he says. But through your blog, I've learned to think out of the box. Canned liquids, for example, contain the same ingredients as the solids in the can, if the solids are good enough for eating, why not the liquids? After all, we're paying the same price for the liquid as the solid by weight (remember the discussion about pineapple canned liquid?) And cooking liquid is rich in flavor and nutrients, why throw it away?

    You're very correct, I love the frugal nature of cooking as this will help lower our budget consistently more than any other activity. I feel it is not a matter of whether we have to or not, more that if it can be done why not? Money is a resource never to be wasted, in my opinion, there is always a day when someone could benefit from having money at their disposal to make better choices for themselves in life.


    1. My family humors my saving every last bit and drip. They're used to me. When we finish a jug of milk, I add about 1 tablespoon of water to the jug, shake it well, then pour that little bit into whatever I was using the milk for in the first place (usually someone's glass). I fear I must look half-mad to any outsider who happens to be in the kitchen when I do this. I've found that a lot of residue remains in the soy milk cartons. I can rinse those things 3 or 4 times, with a couple of tablespoons of water each, before the water comes out clear. It's usually enough for adding soy milk to my tea or coffee, a couple of times. And ketchup bottles that look empty are great for rinsing out with water and adding to anything savory that I'm cooking. The way I look at it is we paid for every last bit in the container, not just the part that came out easily. And I have to rinse out recyclables, anyways, so I might as well rinse and use the rinsings. Okay, so maybe I am half-mad.

    2. That's a very good idea, to use the rinsing out water from bottles somewhere (oh the fun to think this one through) instead of into the drain. Usually I cringe when I have to waste water washing out the bottles and jugs for recycling, now I will do it with glee, knowing I am saving money. I guess I am just as mad as you are lol Same reason I eagerly offer to wash all the dishes, because I think I am able to use less water than my husband. Now dishwashing is no longer a chore but battle to be won. I think I got our dishwashing to 2-3 gal/meal.


  3. I just picked some asparagus out of Uncle Billy's garden and hopefully I snapped it off at the right place so I won't have many woody ends. I sometimes peel the ends and sometimes I don't. Asparagus is a pretty strong flavor. So even though everyone likes it, it doesn't always blend well with other things. Do you ever make soup you don't like when you add all of the odds and ends because some of the ingredients just don't taste good together? I have done that.

  4. Oooooo... fantastic tip! I usually just freeze them with other veggie scraps and toss them into the stock pot, but this is a better (if somewhat more labor intensive) idea. Thanks!


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