Sunday, June 29, 2008

Beautiful Danish Pastry Braid!


This is my 5th Daring Bakers Challenge, and I have to say that this was my favorite! I've always wanted to try baking a pastry, so when I found out what this month's challenge was, I was pretty excited! After completing this challange, I've added a few new words to my baking vocabulary such as "butter-laminated dough", "Beurrage", and "Detrempe."

FYI:
Laminated Dough - layered dough created by sandwiching butter between layers of dough
Beurrage – butter block (this is the butter that is sandwiched in the dough)
Detrempe – ball of dough
Interesting, huh?
I only wish that the process of making these braids and pastries were faster...it ended up being a 2-day process. I can't complain though, because that only makes you savor the final product more! This was my first attempt at laminated dough. I found completing the "turns" and folds to be fun. My butter block stayed in place, which made the process pretty easy. It just takes a lot of patience.
The cardamom and orange zest added such a wonderful, authentic flavor to these danishes. The original recipe called for an apple filling, but we were allowed to choose our filling as long as it was homemade. I chose to make a mixed berry filling for the Danish Braid, and I drizzled a hazelnut-coffee glaze over the top. Both of these ideas came from this very helpful video:
Instructional Video - Just click on "Danish Pastry Braid" after following the link.
Another great idea would be to make a savory filling instead of sweet, such as cheese, spinach, etc.
Our gracious hosts this month were Kelly of Sass & Veracity and Ben of What's Cookin'?.

You can find the entire recipe HERE

I think I'm going to let these photos do the rest of the talking...this braid was SO good...I will no doubt be making this time and time again. Sorry there are so many photos...can you tell I had fun with this challenge??
After cutting the strips...
Close-up of the mixed berry filling (raspberry, blueberry, blackberry, and strawberry)
After completing the braiding...
After the final rise...ready for the oven!
A croissant ready for the oven...
Hot and fresh out of the oven!
With the hazelnut coffee glaze...my favorite! I made it by mixing a little coffee with confectioner's sugar.
Fresh croissant...
Just look at those layers inside!
A platter of goodies...

Friday, June 27, 2008

Purple Potato Gratin



So, I'm strolling the produce section at Whole Foods last week, and what do I see?...Purple potatoes! I didn't think twice...I snatched them up, excited about making some sort of fun, purple dish.

I googled purple potato recipes and a plethora of different things came up. I decided to not go too crazy...I mean, I was using PURPLE potatoes after all...haha. I chose to stick with a classic gratin recipe. I came across THIS recipe at "Eating Out Loud." It looked and sounded delish.

Sadly, I didn't have any bacon on-hand. I know...tragic, right?? This dish would have been so much better with the bacon. I also didn't have any shallots, but I used an onion instead.
DID YOU KNOW?
"Purple Potatoes also called Blue Potatoes or Delta Blues truly are naturally purple! This is from the same powerful antioxidant that give blueberries their brilliant color. Purple Peruvian Potatoes were some of the first potatoes harvested. They were saved for Inca kings. Used in Mexican cooking, purple potatoes are gaining popularity in the U.S. They have a naturally creamy flavor and texture and hold their shape well for salads."
Ingredients:
1 1/2 cups milk
1 tablespoon butter
2 tablespoons flour
2/3 cup grated cheese
2 lbs purple potatoes, unpeeled and sliced thinly
1 cup sliced shallots (I used one onion)
1 tablespoon olive oil
4 slices bacon
1/2 cup grated parmesan
Salt & Pepper, to taste

Directions:
To make the gratin sauce place the butter into a small pan and melt. Add flour and stir to combine, cooking over medium heat for about 1 minute. Whisk in the milk and stir until thickened. Stir in cheese, when melted remove from heat. Salt and pepper to taste.

In a frying pan, add the olive oil and shallots. Sautee until shallots are slightly brown and carmelized. Remove from the pan. Add bacon and cook until cooked through but not crispy (it will get crispy in a later portion of the recipe, don't worry). Cut bacon into 1 inch pieces.

Grease a gratin dish or shallow baking dish. Add half of the sliced potatoes to the dish. Sprinkle the shallots over the potato layer. Add the remaining potato slices to the dish. Pour the gratin sauce over the top of the potatoes, spooning into any visible cracks and crevices. Top with parmesan cheese. As a final step, add the bacon over the top. Place into a preheated 350 degree oven for 40 minutes.

Source: Allen's Food Blog @ Eating Out Loud

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Giada's Chicken Piccata

***This dish is not only pretty...it is delicious! It had been awhile since I've made one of Giada's recipes, so I thought I'd give this one a go. I've been wanting to try capers...I'd never had them before making this. I was worried that Brad wouldn't like them, but this actually turned out to be one of his favorite meals! I'll no doubt be making this one again.


After reading the reviews on http://www.foodnetwork.com/, I found that a number of people thought the 1/3 cup lemon juice was too much. I only used the juice of 1 medium lemon...I'm not sure how that compares to 1/3 cup, but it turned out perfect! It had a mild, lemony (is that a word?) taste without being over-powering.***

In the skillet...



Ingredients:
2 skinless and boneless chicken breasts, butterflied and then cut in half
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
All-purpose flour, for dredging
6 tablespoons unsalted butter
5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1/3 cup fresh lemon juice
1/2 cup chicken stock
1/4 cup brined capers, rinsed
1/3 cup fresh parsley, chopped


Directions:
Season chicken with salt and pepper. Dredge chicken in flour and shake off excess.

In a large skillet over medium high heat, melt 2 tablespoons of butter with 3 tablespoons olive oil. When butter and oil start to sizzle, add 2 pieces of chicken and cook for 3 minutes. When chicken is browned, flip and cook other side for 3 minutes. Remove and transfer to plate. Melt 2 more tablespoons butter and add another 2 tablespoons olive oil. When butter and oil start to sizzle, add the other 2 pieces of chicken and brown both sides in same manner. Remove pan from heat and add chicken to the plate.

Into the pan add the lemon juice, stock and capers. Return to stove and bring to boil, scraping up brown bits from the pan for extra flavor. Check for seasoning. Return all the chicken to the pan and simmer for 5 minutes. Remove chicken to platter. Add remaining 2 tablespoons butter to sauce and whisk vigorously. Pour sauce over chicken and garnish with parsley.


Source: Giada De Laurentiis - http://www.foodnetwork.com/

Monday, June 23, 2008

Jazzed Up Greek Chicken Pasta


The "Greek Chicken Pasta" that I originally posted HERE has become one of my favorite, turn-to dinners. Maybe it's the combo of the pasta, chicken, and feta cheese. Either way, both Brad and I love Italian and Greek food, so this one is naturally one of our favs. I recently jazzed it up a bit by simply adding fresh baby spinach near the end of the cooking process. It's just a simple, easy addition that kicks it up a notch. Anyways, I just wanted to share this idea and a new photo. Enjoy!

Sunday, June 22, 2008

I "LOVE" Blueberry Pancakes!




Yes...MORE blueberries! Just look at these pancakes...they were so much fun to make!!! The recipe certainly isn't anything too fancy or complicated. I just whipped up some mix by following the pancake recipe on the Bisquick box...then I added beautiful, fresh blueberries. I love this time of year! There's a multitude of fresh produce at all the markets. I have a confession to make, though...I have yet to make it to the local Farmer's Market on Saturday mornings. I have GOT to go!

Until now, the extent of my pancake skills have been limited to Mickey Mouse ears...hah. I was able to make these pancakes into heart shapes by using a handy little heart-shaped pancake tool. I can't remember where I found them. They came in a pack of two. The pancakes turned out to be really thick. I was worried that they wouldn't be cooked all the way through, but they were. So yummy! This is a breakfast you won't be able to eat without a smile on your face.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Blueberry Scones



I have to admit, I saw THESE scones on Katie's blog a while back and I've been thinking about them ever since...haha. They looked SO good! Like Katie's husband, Brad loves the scones at Starbucks. Actually he loves Starbucks, period. Believe it or not, Brad and I first met while working together in a coffee shop. Pretty romantic, huh? Needless to say, we are big coffee fans. The baristas know Brad's order before he even rolls his car window down...lol. Lately, his orders usually include a scone...the flavor varies depending on what they have available. When I mentioned making homemade blueberry scones, he was in complete agreement!

Last Sunday, I finally had the blueberries and extra time to make these scones. The blueberries were calling my name! So, I gave in...it didn't take much convincing. Here they are!

Ingredients:
2 cups flour, plus 2 Tbsp, plus 1 Tbsp
1 Tbsp baking powder
3 Tbsp sugar
1/8 tsp salt
6 Tbsp butter, plus 1/2 Tbsp, chilled
1 Tbsp vanilla
1 c. half and half, chilled
2/3 c. frozen Maine wild blueberries (I used fresh blueberries...they weren't frozen, but I couldn't wait long enough to let them freeze!)

Directions:
Preheat oven to 425 degrees and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

In small bowl combine frozen blueberries and 1 Tbsp flour and toss to combine. Place blueberry mixture back into freezer.

In large bowl, combine flour, baking powder, sugar and salt. Take butter out of fridge, cut into chunks and add to flour mixture. Cut butter into flour until pea sized or smaller. Add vanilla and half and half and mix in with a spoon until just barely incorporated.

Take blueberries out of fridge and knead into mixture until mixture forms a ball of sticky dough. Turn dough out onto floured surface and pat down into rough 9-10 inch circle. Cut into 8 triangles and place triangles onto prepared baking sheet at least an inch apart.

Take 1/2 Tbsp butter and cut into 8 small pieces. Place one small piece of butter on top of each scone. Place in oven and bake for 15 minutes.

Let cool and enjoy.
Source: Katie's Blog @ Good Things Catered

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Tilapia With Zucchini and Tomatoes en Papillote

***I love cooking with tilapia...it's light, fresh, and doesn't have that strong "fishy" taste. I've made it a number of ways...broiled, fried, baked...pecan-crusted, lemon-flavored, etc. But, I have to say that this recipe from Cooks Illustrated is one of my favorite tilapia recipes I've prepared. The fish came out incredibly tender and moist, with a great flavor. This is certainly because of the way it's cooked...in a packet of aluminum foil. This is one of those dishes that won't leave you feeling too stuffed. It's light but very satisfying. I might be making it again tonight for dinner...it's that good!***

"En Papillote" (a.k.a. - foil packet)


Ingredients:
2 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
2 medium garlic cloves, minced or pressed through a garlic press (about 2 teaspoons)
1 teaspoon minced fresh oregano leaves
1/8 teaspoon red pepper flakes
Salt and ground black pepper
3 medium plum tomatoes (about 12 ounces), cored, seeded, and chopped into 1/2-inch pieces
2 medium zucchini (about 6 ounces each), sliced
1/4-inch-thick
4 haddock fillets, 1-inch-thick (about 6 ounces each)
1/4 cup minced fresh basil leaves



Directions:
Adjust an oven rack to the middle position and heat the oven to 450 F. Combine the oil, garlic, oregano, pepper flakes, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and 1/8 teaspoon pepper in a medium bowl. Measure half of the oil mixture into a separate medium bowl and toss gently with the tomatoes. Add the zucchini to the remaining olive-oil mixture and toss to coat.

Cut four 12-inch squares of heavy-duty foil and lay them flat on a work surface. Shingle the zucchini in the center of each piece of foil. Season the fillets with salt and pepper and place on top of the zucchini. Top the fish with the tomatoes, then tightly crimp the foil into packets.

Set the packets on a rimmed baking sheet and bake until the fish just flakes apart, about 20 minutes. Carefully open the packets, allowing the steam to escape away from you, and let cool briefly. Smooth out the edges of the foil and, using a spatula, gently push the fish, vegetables and any accumulated juices out onto warmed dinner plates. Sprinkle with the basil before serving.

Source: Cook's Illustrated - Light Recipes Special Issue

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Banana Bread with Pecans


Ingredients:
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
4 overripe bananas
1 cup sugar
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup pecans, finely chopped
Confectioners' sugar, for dusting


Directions:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F and lightly grease a 9 by 5-inch loaf pan.

In a large bowl, combine the flour, baking soda, and salt; set aside.

Mash 2 of the bananas with a fork in a small bowl so they still have a bit of texture. With an electric mixer fitted with a wire whisk, whip the remaining bananas and sugar together for a good 3 minutes; you want a light and fluffy banana cream. Add the melted butter, eggs, and vanilla; beat well and scrape down the sides of the bowl. Mix in the dry ingredients just until incorporated; no need to overly blend. Fold in the nuts and the mashed bananas with a rubber spatula. Pour the batter into the prepared loaf pan. Give the pan a good rap on the counter to get any air bubbles out.

Bake for about 1 hour and 15 minutes, until golden brown and a toothpick inserted into the center of the loaf comes out clean. Don't get nervous if the banana bread develops a crack down the center of the loaf; that's no mistake, it's typical. Rotate the pan periodically to ensure even browning.

Cool the bread in the pan for 10 minutes or so, and then turn out onto a wire rack to cool completely before slicing. Toast the slices of banana bread, dust with confectioners' sugar, and serve.

Source: Tyler Florence - http://www.foodnetwork.com/

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Italian-Style Chicken with Sausage, Peppers, & Onions


***Here's yet another delicious recipe from Cook's Illustrated. It's definitely a little spicy, and I even left out the hot cherry peppers. I served it with mashed potatoes and French bread. M'mm, M'mm Good!***

Ingredients:
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
8 ounces sweet Italian sausage , casings removed
2 pounds bone-in, skin-on chicken breast halves , trimmed of excess fat and skin and cut crosswise into 2 or 3 pieces
Table salt and ground black pepper
1 medium onion , halved and sliced 1/4 inch thick (about 1 1/4 cups)
1 large red bell pepper , stemmed, seeded, and cut into 1/4-inch strips (about 1 1/2 cups)
3–5 pickled hot cherry peppers , stemmed, seeded, and cut into 1/4-inch strips (about 1/4 cup)... (I left these out)
3 medium cloves garlic , minced or pressed through a garlic press (about 1 tablespoon)
2 teaspoons granulated sugar
1/3 cup white wine vinegar plus 2 additional tablespoons
3/4 cup low-sodium chicken broth plus 1 tablespoon
1 teaspoon cornstarch
1 teaspoon minced fresh thyme leaves
1 tablespoon minced fresh parsley leaves

Directions:
1. Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 350 degrees. Heat 1 teaspoon oil in 12-inch skillet over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add sausage and cook, stirring to break sausage into 1/2-inch pieces, until browned, about 3 minutes. Transfer sausage to plate lined with paper towels. Remove skillet from heat; pour off fat into small bowl and reserve; wipe out skillet with paper towels.

2. Return skillet to medium-high heat and heat remaining 2 teaspoons oil until smoking. Pat chicken dry and liberally season with salt and pepper. Add chicken, skin side down, and cook without moving until well browned, 3 to 5 minutes. Using tongs, turn chicken and brown on other side, about 3 minutes. Transfer chicken to large plate. Remove skillet from heat and pour off fat into bowl with sausage fat; wipe out skillet with paper towels.

3. Return skillet to medium-high heat and heat 1 tablespoon reserved fat until shimmering. Add onion and cook until beginning to soften, about 2 minutes. Add bell pepper and cherry peppers and cook, stirring occasionally, until bell pepper begins to soften, about 4 minutes. Add garlic and cook, stirring frequently, until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add sugar, 1/3 cup vinegar, and 3/4 cup broth; bring mixture to boil, scraping up browned bits from pan bottom.

4. Add sausage and chicken (with any accumulated juices) to skillet, arranging chicken pieces in single layer, skin side up, on top of peppers and onion. Transfer skillet to oven and cook until instant-read thermometer inserted into thickest part of chicken registers 160 degrees, 18 to 22 minutes, removing smaller pieces sooner if necessary. Meanwhile, combine cornstarch, thyme, and remaining tablespoon broth in small bowl.

5. Carefully remove skillet from oven (handle will be very hot) and transfer chicken, skin side up, to platter or individual serving plates. Place skillet over medium-high heat and stir in cornstarch mixture. Simmer sauce mixture until slightly thickened, 2 to 3 minutes. Off heat, taste sauce and add up to 2 tablespoons vinegar. Adjust seasonings with salt and pepper. Spoon sauce around chicken, being careful not to pour it directly over chicken. Sprinkle with parsley and serve immediately.

Source: The Best of America's Test Kitchen - Best Recipes and Reviews 2008

Monday, June 9, 2008

Chocolate Kahlua Cake


***It's definitely not a birthday around this house without a scrumptious, homemade birthday cake! My sweet mom-in-law recently celebrated her birthday. Her request?...A cake with chocolate and coffee flavors reminiscent of the groom's cake at our wedding. I searched and searched, determined to find the perfect recipe. I hit the jack-pot with one of my Southern Living cookbooks. The cake was a tremendous success! The Kahlua adds the perfect little "something" to the cake, without being overpowering. The cake was so good, that I just made it again for Jessica's birthday.

When making this cake, or any other cake for that matter, a good tip is to always have all of your ingredients at room temperature before starting. This includes eggs, cream cheese, milk, etc.***


Chocolate Kahlua Cake
The Ultimate Southern Living Cookbook

Ingredients:
3/4 cup butter or margarine, softened
1 3/4 cups sugar
4 large eggs
1/4 cup Kahlua
2 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. salt
3/4 cup milk
2 (1 oz) squares unsweetened chocolate, melted and cooled (I used 3 squares!)
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1/3 cup Kahlua
3/4 cup chopped hazelnuts or pecans, toasted and divided (I used pecans)
Chocolate Kahlua Frosting (below)
Garnish: chocolate-covered coffee beans

Directions:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease three 9-inch round cake pans; line with wax paper. Grease and flour wax paper. Set aside

Beat butter at medium speed with an electric mixer until creamy. Gradually add sugar, beating at medium speed 5 to 7 minutes. Add eggs, one at a time, beating after each addition. Add 1/4 cup Kahlua; beat until well blended.

Combine flour and next 3 ingredients; add to butter mixture alternately with milk, beginning and ending with flour mixture. Mix at low speed after each addition until blended. Stir in chocolate and vanilla.

Pour batter into prepared pans. Bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool in pans on wire racks 10 minutes; remove from pans. Peel off wax paper. Drizzle layers evenly with 1/3 cup Kahlua. (I brushed the Kahlua onto the layers with a pastry brush.) Cool completely on wire racks.

Combine 1/2 cup hazelnuts or pecans and 1 cup Chocolate Kahlua Frosting; spread between layers. Spread remaining frosting on top and sides of cake. Sprinkle remaining 1/4 cup hazelnuts or pecans on top. Garnish, if desired. Store in fridge.

*************************************************


Chocolate Kahlua Frosting

Ingredients:
1/4 cup butter, softened
1 (8 oz) package cream cheese, softened
1 (16 oz) package powdered sugar, sifted and divided
3 (1 oz) squares unsweetened chocolate, melted and cooled
1/4 cup Kahlua or strongly brewed coffee

Directions:
Beat butter and cream cheese at medium speed with an electric mixer. Add 1 cup powdered sugar and chocolate; beat until smooth. Gradually add remaining powdered sugar and Kahlua, beating at low speed until spreading consistency.

Source: The Ultimate Southern Living Cookbook

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Italian Pot Roast



***Pot roast is one of those comforting, yummy meals that you look forward to on a lazy Sunday afternoon. Growing up, my Mom always made a traditional pot roast. You know...roast, potatoes, carrots, onions...slowly cooked in a Crock Pot all afternoon long. So good! I've never even thought to cook a pot roast any other way until opening the recent "The Best of America's Test Kitchens - Best Recipes and Reviews 2008." There it was...Italian Pot Roast a.k.a. stracotto. I never would have thought to put this twist on a roast, but let me just tell you...it was probably the best pot roast I've ever had. It's absolutely PACKED with flavor, and the meat is so tender that it just melts in your mouth. It was such a nice change from what I'm used to. Don't get me wrong, I still love our traditional roast, but this one has earned a spot on my favorites list. I will no doubt be making this recipe for years to come!***


Italian Pot Roast
Serves 4 to 6
Ingredients:
1 boneless chuck-eye roast (3.5 - 4 pounds)
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 onion, chopped
1 celery rib, chopped
1 pound cremini or white mushrooms, quartered
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 (14.5- ounce) can diced tomatoes
1/2 cup tomato sauce
2 teaspoons sugar
1/2 cup water
1 cup red wine
1 large garlic heat, outer papery skins removed, then halved
1 large sprig fresh thyme
1 sprig fresh rosemary

Directions:
Adjust an oven rack to the middle position and heat oven to 300 degrees. Pat the roast dry with paper towels and season with salt & pepper.

Heat the oil in a Dutch oven over medium-high heat until just smoking. Brown the roast on all sides, 8 to 12 minutes. Transfer the roast to a large plate. Reduce the heat to medium and cook the onions, celery, mushrooms, and tomato paste until the vegetables begin to soften, about 8 minutes. Add the diced tomatoes, tomato sauce, sugar, water, 1/2 of the wine, garlic and thyme. Return the roast and the accumulated juices to the pot and bring to a simmer over medium-high heat. Place a piece of foil over the pot, cover with the lid and transfer the pot to the oven.

Cook until the roast is just fork-tender, 2.5 to 3.5 hours, flipping the roast after 1 hour. Uncover the pot and let the roast rest in its juices for 30 minutes, skimming the surface fat after 20 minutes. Transfer the roast to a carving board and tent with foil. Remove and reserve the garlic head and skim the remaining fat from the pot. Add the remaining 1/2 cup wine to the pot, bring to a boil over medium-high heat, and cook until the sauced begins to thicken, about 12 minutes.
Meanwhile, carefully squeeze the garlic from the halves and mash into a paste. Add the rosemary to the pot and simmer until fragrant, about 2 minutes.

Remove the rosemary and thyme springs, stir in the mashed garlic, and season the sauce with salt and pepper to taste. Cut the meat against the grain into 1/2 inch thick slices, or pull it apart into large pieces.

Source: The Best of America's Test Kitchens - Best Recipes and Reviews 2008

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Roasted Fresh Asparagus with Hazelnut Butter


***Here's another great recipe from my new Biltmore Estate cookbook. One of our favorite veggies is fresh asparagus, so selecting this recipe from the book was a no-brainer. I also just so happened to have the Frangelico from the Giandua Souffle that I made a while back. It was delicious...and we have most of the Hazelnut Butter left over to add to other dishes. It would be good added to something like mashed potatoes. YUM!***


Roasted Fresh Asparagus
Ingredients:
1 lb. green asparagus, trimmed and peeled
2 tbsp. EVOO
2 tsp. lemon juice
1 tsp. kosher salt
1 tsp. pepper
3 tbsp. Hazelnut Butter (below)



Directions:
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Toss the asparagus with the olive oil, lemon juice, kosher salt and pepper in a bowl, coating well. Spread on a baking sheet and roast for 10 minutes or until tender. Serve with the Hazelnut Butter.

***************************************************


Hazelnut Butter
Ingredients:
1/3 cup crushed toasted hazelnuts
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, softened
1 tbsp. minced shallot
2 tbsp. chopped parsley
1/2 tsp. grated lemon zest
2 tsp. lemon juice
1 tbsp. Frangelico Hazelnut Liquer
1 tbsp. honey
1 tsp. kosher salt
1 tsp. pepper

Directions:
Combine the hazelnuts with the butter, shallot, parsley and lemon zest in the bowl of a small tabletop mixer. Add the lemon juice, liquer, honey, kosher salt and pepper. Beat at low speed with a paddle attachment until well mixed, scraping the side of the bowl occasionally.

Shape into a log about 1 inch in diameter on plastic wrap or baking parchment. Wrap and chill until firm. Cut into 1/4-inch slices to serve.

Source: "Biltmore - Our Table to Yours - Chef's Selection Cookbook"

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Live, Eat, Shop, REUSE


"Would you like paper or plastic?"
"Umm...neither!" has been my answer recently. One day as I was patiently waiting for the cashier to scan my goodies at The Fresh Market, I spied a trendy looking, reusable grocery bag. I mean, how smart is that? I quickly snatched one up and added it to my loot. At under $1, it was a bargain. Plus, who could resist the cute carrot graphic on the front? Now I wish that I had bought more, because the particular Fresh Market that I frequent hasn't gotten anymore in.

After some additional research, I found out exactly how bad plastic bags are for the environment. I've always been one to recycle, especially after purchasing our first home and having the option to put a recycling bin next to the curb every Sunday night. I have no excuse now...just toss the assorted cola cans, plastic bottles, cereal boxes, etc. in a bin and someone comes to collect the contents every week. It makes me feel good to do a little something extra for the environment. It may not be much, but all the little acts people do add up!!!

The purpose of this post is to try to persuade you to buy a reusable grocery bag...or two, or three, or ten!...and use them!

One problem I have is simply remembering to take the bag with me. I've solved this problem by keeping it in the back of my car (most of the time). I've found that even though it has a Fresh Market logo on it, other grocery stores don't seem to mind. In fact, the bag boy at Winn-Dixie made the comment the other day that he wished more people would use them. Apparently they make it easier to bag all the items.

So why not? Why not buy a reusable grocery bag? I really can't think of a good reason. Mine folds easily and fits right down into my purse. I pull it out at the register and say "fit as much as you can in it!" I need to buy a few more...that's definitely on my to-do list. After all, I only have one. The Fresh Market is supposedly going to get some new bags in stock with sunflowers on them...let's hope those come in soon!
Did you know:
* The average American uses between 300 and 700 plastic bags per year.
* Each time you use a reuseable grocery bag, you save 4 plastic bags, on average!
* Single-use bags made of high-density polyethylene (HDPE) are the main culprit. Once brought into existence to tote your purchases, they'll accumulate and persist on our planet for up to 1,000 years.
Photo courtesy of www.reusablebags.com


Why Use Cloth Shopping Bags?
- Plastic bags, first introduced in 1977, now account for four out of every five bags handed out at grocery stores.

- Plastic bags tend to "fly away" out of cars, trashcans, and landfills, littering our roadways, land and sea. In fact, did you know that plastic bags are the fifth most collected item during coastal clean-ups? Yuck.

- Most plastic bags are made from polyethylene, which is made from crude oil and natural gas, nonrenewable resources. The US alone uses about 12 million barrels of oil every year just to keep up with the demand for plastic bags (current annual demand tops out at about 100 billion bags).

Photo courtesy of www.reusablebags.com

Sounds like paper bags are the favored option, right? Read on:
- The US will cut down 14 million trees each year to satisfy our demand for paper grocery bags.

- 2000 plastic bags weigh 30 pounds while 2000 paper bags weigh 280 pounds. So it requires a lot more fossil fuel to transport paper.

- In the landfill, paper bags generate 70 percent more air and 50 times more water pollutants than plastic bags.

- It takes more than four times as much energy to manufacture a paper bag as it does to manufacture a plastic bag.

- Energy required to produce bags (in British thermal units): Plastic bags: 594 BTU; Paper bags: 2511 BTU.

- Research from the year 2000 shows 20 percent of paper bags were recycled, while one percent of plastic bags were recycled. Quite frankly, both of these numbers stink.

Photo courtesy of www.reusablebags.com

- Current research demonstrates that paper in today's landfills does not degrade or break down at a substantially faster rate than plastic does. In fact, a lack of water, light, oxygen, and other elements that are necessary for the degradation process inhibit complete degradability.
Statistics from http://www.epa.gov/

"Using reusable grocery bags is simple. It's easy to "BYOB"; keep a few cloth grocery bags in your car and a few by the front door. Just one cloth bag, during the course of its long and prosperous lifetime, will eliminate the need for more than 1000 plastic bags!

So just think how many trees and resources you'll save by utilizing just one bag let alone a four-pack of them.While any old bag will do to help stop the unnecessary waste of disposable grocery bags, utilizing tote bags made from 100% cotton, a renewable resource, is best. There are many reusable cloth bag options available, including recycled cotton, organic cotton, and natural hemp. But experts agree that using any reusable cloth grocery bag will do the trick."

Photo courtesy of www.reusablebags.com

Helpful links: