How to Cook with Food Scraps as Ingredients

Lindsay-Jean Hard is the author of Cooking with Scraps: Turn Your Peels, Cores, Rinds, Stems, and Other Odds and Ends into Delicious Meals. She's here to tell us how to avoid food waste with easy tips and tricks.

Kara Rota
6-minute read
Episode #214

US food waste makes up a whopping 133 billion pounds per year, and much of that is due to perfectly edible parts of ingredients being discarded. We've all thoughtlessly thrown out potato peels, carrot tops, cheese rinds, and other "discard pile" foods. In her new book, Lindsay-Jean offers up tasty recipes for smart, sustainable, and impressive meals out of unused bits of produce, stale bread, and other formerly-known-as-scraps ingredients.

"I think root vegetable tops are a really easy gateway," says Lindsay-Jean. "Carrot tops, beet greens, and some of the stems, like collard or swiss chard or kale stems. They're things that recipes say to cut off and discard, and it's just become habit for us that we read that in a recipe, and don't think they might have another use. So those are really easy ones to start sauteeing like other greens, or use in pestos or in hummus." Even the starchy water left over from cooking potatoes can be saved to use in making stocks or breads.

How you shop and store food can also help you reduce food waste. Planning meals ahead to avoid overstocking your fridge with too many items that will expire at the same time is key. And when you buy root vegetables with the greens on, separate and store the greens or stems seperately when you get home. 

One of Lindsay-Jean's favorite recipes is the Banana Peel Cake, below. Listen to the full episode using the audio player on this page. 

Banana  Peel  Cake  with  Brown Sugar  Frosting  

This  cake  is  lightly  adapted  from  my  paternal  grandmother’s  (G.G.’s)  banana  cake  recipe.  Well,  I  think  of  it  as  my  grandmother’s  recipe,  but  it  was  actually  her  mother’s  or  her  mother-in-law’s  .  .  .  either  way,  it  lasted  through  the  generations  for  a  reason.  It  was  a  special  cake  that  she  would  make  for  my  father’s  birthday,  as  it’s  his  favorite  cake  (and  mine,  too).  The  major  difference  between  this  cake  and  hers?  Mine  is  made  with  banana  peels  (yes,  really)  instead  of  bananas.  It’s  a  simple-seeming  cake  (no  vanilla?!  not  a  spice  to  be  found?!),  but  it  tastes  just    like  your  favorite  banana  bread. 

Makes  one  2-layer  cake  

For  the  cake

  • Peels  from  2  very  ripe  bananas,  stem  and  very  bottom  discarded  (about  100  grams)  
  • 1/2  cup  unsalted  butter,  softened,  plus  more  for  buttering  the  pans  
  • 1  1/2  cups  granulated  sugar  
  • 2  large  eggs,  separated  
  • 1/2  cup  buttermilk  
  • 1  2/3  cups  cake  flour  (210  grams),  plus  more  flour  (any  type)  for  flouring  the  pans  
  • 1  teaspoon  baking  soda 
  • 1/4  teaspoon  baking  powder 
  • 1/2  teaspoon  fine  sea  salt  
  • For  the  brown  sugar  frosting:
  • 1/2  cup  butter
  • 1/4  cup  milk,  2%  or  higher
  • 1  cup  packed  brown  sugar
  • 1  3/4  to  2  cups  powdered  sugar,  sifted


  1. Preheat  the  oven  to  350°F.
  2. To  make  the  cake:  Cut  the  banana  peels  into  1-inch  pieces  and  place  them  in  a  small  saucepan  with  1  cup  of  water.  Bring  to  a  boil  over  medium-high  heat,  then  reduce  the  heat  and  simmer  for  10  minutes.  Remove  the  pan  from  the  heat  and  allow  the  mixture  to  cool  slightly,  then  strain  the  banana  peels,  reserving  T  cup  of  the  cooking  water.  
  3. Meanwhile,  butter  and  flour  the  sides  of  two  8-inch  round  cake  pans  and  line  the  bottoms  with  parchment  paper.  Butter  and  flour  the  pans  again  to  coat  the  paper.  
  4. Transfer  the  peels  and  the  1/4  cup  of  cooking  water  to  a  tall,  narrow  container  and  puree  until  completely  smooth  with  an  immersion  blender  (a  mini  food  processor  would  do  the  trick,  too!).  
  5. Cream  together  the  butter  and  sugar  using  an  electric  mixer  (or  a  wooden  spoon  for  an  arm  workout)  until  pale  and  fluffy,   about  3  to  5  minutes.  Add  the  egg  yolks  one  at  a  time,  mixing  until  incorporated,  and  scraping  down  the  sides  of  the  bowl  after  each  addition.  Mix  in  the  banana  peel  mixture,  then  stir  in  the  buttermilk  until  well  combined.    
  6. In  a  separate  medium-size  bowl,  whisk  together  the  flour,  baking  soda,  baking  powder,  and  salt.  Add  the  dry  ingredients  to  the  bowl  with  the  butter  mixture  and  stir  gently,  just  until  combined.   
  7. Put  the  egg  whites  in  another  bowl  (make  sure  it’s  clean  and  dry!)  and  whisk  until  soft  peaks  form—either  by  hand  or  with  the  whisk  attachment  on  an  electric  mixer.  If  using  an  electric  mixer,  start  slowly  and  gradually  increase  speed  to  medium-high.  You’ll  know  you’re  done  when  you  pull  out  the  whisk  or  beater  and  a  soft  peak  is  formed,  but  immediately  collapses.  Gently  fold  the  egg  whites  into  the  batter  and  divide  the  batter  evenly  between  the  two  prepared  pans.     
  8. Bake  for  about  25  minutes,  rotating  the  pans  halfway  through,  until  the  top  is  golden  and  a  toothpick  inserted  into  the  center  of  the  cake  pulls  out  with  dry  crumbs  rather  than  wet  batter.  Let  the  cakes  cool  completely  in  the  pans.  
  9. When  the  cakes  are  completely  cool  and  you’re  ready  to  assemble  it,  make  the  frosting.  Melt  the  butter  in  a  medium  pan  over  low  heat.  Stir  in  the  brown  sugar  and  cook,  stirring  constantly,  for  2  minutes.  Stir  in  the  milk,  raise  the  heat  to  medium-high,  and  cook,  stirring  constantly  until  the  mixture  boils.  Remove  from  the  heat,  and  let  cool  until  lukewarm.  Gradually  whisk  in  1  3/4  cups  powdered  sugar,  beating  until  smooth.  Add  the  additional  1/4  cup  powdered  sugar  if  the  frosting  is  too  loose.  Use  the  frosting  immediately,  as  it  will  begin  to  thicken  and  stiffen  as  it  sits.
  10. When  the  cakes  are  completely  cool,  remove  from  the  pans  and  peel  off  the  parchment.  Put  one  layer  of  the  cake  on  a  serving  platter  and  spread  about  one  third  of  the  frosting  evenly  over  the  top.  Set  the  other  layer  on  top,  and  spread  the  remaining  frosting  over  the  top  and  sides  of  the  cake. 

Recipe excerpted from Cooking with Scraps: Turn Your Peels, Cores, Rinds, Stems, and Other Odds and Ends into Delicious Meals. Copyright © 2018 by Lindsay-Jean Hard. Published by Workman.

About the Author

Kara Rota

Kara Rota headed children’s programming at Chicago’s Green City Market and studied food politics at Sarah Lawrence College. Kara has been a featured speaker at numerous venues including Food Book Fair, the Roger Smith Food Conference, and the Brooklyn Food Conference. She has written about food for Irish America Magazine, West Side Rag, Recipe Relay, and Food + Tech Connect, and is the former Director of Editorial & Partnerships at Cookstr.com.