Frugal Foodie

Use it or lose it

Wednesday, June 3, 2020

If the pandemic has taught me anything, it’s to commit wholeheartedly to making use of whatever I can forage from my garden, pantry and refrigerator before donning a mask for a trip to the grocery store.

Part of my effort to consume what’s on hand before it spoils or suffers a slow death from freezer burn comes from practicing the art of frugality for decades, but during this uncertain time I’m also hyper-focused on not wasting food—whether it’s bitter spinach I harvested just after it bolted and added to an omelet, leftover taco ingredients transformed into fancy mac-and-cheese, a quarter-tub of yogurt a few days past its “use by” date included in a smoothie, crushing the oddly sized remnants from a bag of tortilla chips to add in place of croutons to a bowl of canned clam chowder, or making banana bread from browning fruit destined for the compost pile.

Last week, I also whipped up pesto with chopped-up garlic scapes harvested and frozen last spring, along with the tops of carrots that were planted last fall. The veggies themselves were inedible after a winter spent underground, but the parsley-like tops were still growing and robust and made for a zesty sauce. (Side note: Keep pine nuts, olive oil, Parmesan cheese and garlic on hand at all times, and it’s possible to make pesto out of a variety of garden greens. I’ve experimented with arugula, chives, spinach and yes, even basil, and am convinced that once you add the finished product to pasta, marinades, pizzas and more, it all tastes delicious.)

In a similar vein, menu items from this past week have also featured the roasting of the final garlic bulbs from last summer’s crop to make a giant vat of creamy salad dressing, open-faced brie-and-tomato sandwiches toasted on top of hardening French bread, fruit smoothies made with plums frozen in 2017 and raspberries from 2019, guacamole utilizing two rapidly softening avocados and the final few tablespoons of a jar of pico de gallo, and a rhubarb custard cake featuring stalks picked more than a week earlier that were beginning to droop in the crisper drawer. It was “use it or lose it” time, and I chose the former option.

I’m not a great baker, so I looked for a recipe that didn’t require approximately one million steps. It also had to be doable with the ingredients I had on hand, and I searched the internet for a good 30 minutes before finding the recipe on Bon Appetit’s website.

I didn’t have any dark rum in my liquor cabinet—I’m assuming there are people who regularly do, but I’m not one of them—so I followed advice from one of the recipe reviewers and substituted vanilla extract and lemon juice in place of the booze. I also only added a cup of sugar, and it didn’t appear to affect the final product.

The custard cake is designed to be mixed by hand in order to keep the batter denser so the fruit doesn’t sink into it, and the recipe also suggests leaving the stalks whole for a similar reason. I followed the directions to the letter, and the finished product was a thing of beauty. It was still warm and ready by 9am, and my resident taste tester added a small scoop of vanilla ice cream to his serving.

“It tastes like a donut with rhubarb in it,” he declared. “And that’s a very good thing.”

Sustainable Connections will host a Virtual Watch Party of Wasted! The Story of Food Waste at 6:30pm Thurs., June 4. Don your jammies and view the free movie, and consider ordering a dinner and drink special from your favorite local restaurant that donates to the organization’s Food Recovery Program. Details can be had at


Rhubarb Custard Cake


4 tbsp. melted unsalted butter, cooled, plus more room-temperature for pan
1 cup all-purpose flour, plus more for pan
¾ tsp. baking powder
½ tsp. kosher salt
2 large eggs
1 large egg yolk
1½ cups sugar, plus more for sprinkling
¼ cup sour cream
2 tbsp. dark rum (can substitute with one tbsp. vanilla extract and one of lemon juice)
2 tsp. finely grated lemon zest
13 oz. rhubarb stalks, halved lengthwise if thick


Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter and flour a nine-inch springform pan. Whisk baking powder, salt and one cup all-purpose flour in a medium bowl. Whisk eggs, egg yolk, and 1½ cups sugar (I used one cup) in a large bowl until very pale and thick, about one minute. Whisk melted butter, sour cream, rum and lemon zest in a small bowl. Whisk butter mixture into egg mixture just to combine. Add dry ingredients and fold in until batter is smooth; scrape into prepared pan. Chill 10 minutes to let batter set.

Arrange rhubarb over batter however you like, trimming as needed. Don’t press fruit into batter—just place on top and let it rest on the surface. Sprinkle with more sugar and bake until cake is golden on top and browned around the sides, 45–55 minutes. Transfer pan to a wire rack and let cake cool in pan 10 minutes. Slide a knife around sides of cake to loosen and un-mold. Slide directly onto rack and let cool completely. Serves eight.


[Wed., June 3]

SEDRO MARKET: The Sedro-Woolley Farmers Market will open today from 3pm-7pm at Heritage Square. Health and safety protocols are in place in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, but the market is still committed to bringing fresh, local food and products to residents and neighbors Wednesdays through Oct. 14.
For more info:

[Fri., June 5]

FERNDALE MARKET: The Ferndale Farmers Market opens today from 2pm-6pm in the parking lot next to the Grocery Outlet. If you’re interested in helping them grow, head over—and don’t forget your safety standards.
For more info:

[Sat., June 6]

ANACORTES MARKET: The Anacortes Farmers Market is open from 9am-2pm at the Depot Arts Center, 611 R Ave. Their rules include following and obeying all signs, markers, barriers and instructions from market staff and volunteers. For now they’re only selling “food and flowers,” but those who want to support the market’s artists and crafters can purchase their products online, then pick them up at the market’s information booth.
For more info:

MOUNT VERNON MARKET: The Mount Vernon Farmers Market takes place from 9am-2pm Saturdays through Oct. 20 at Riverwalk Park, 501 Main St. Only 25 customers at a time are allowed in to peruse the goods.
For more info:

TWIN SISTERS MARKET: The Twin Sisters Market will kick into gear for its fifth season today from 9am-3pm at Nugent’s Corner, and 10am-2pm in Maple Falls at the North Fork Library. In addition to having new protocols in place to keep the community healthy, opening day will also include a plant sale from Sunseed Farm at the Nugent’s Corner locale. The markets continue Saturdays through Oct. 23.
For more info

CONCRETE MARKET: The Concrete Saturday Market takes place from 10am-1pm at the Concrete Community Center, 45821 Railroad St. Posted signage will direct shoppers to follow safety guidelines, and, for now, it’s a drive-in, farmers-only market.
For more info:

BELLINGHAM MARKET: Attend the Bellingham Farmers Market from 10am-2pm Saturdays at the Depot Market Square, 1100 Railroad Ave. At the modified market, social distancing is strongly enforced, patrons are not allowed to touch the food, and only 20 vendors are allowed on site to sell farm produce and grocery staples such as bread, meat and cheese. Entertainment, music and eating areas have been suspended until further notice, and masks are encouraged. Please stay home if you are sick, and be prepared with small bills to offer exact change to vendors when possible.
For more info:

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