Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Go Green: Earth Day 2014

Growing up, I remember my dad always stressing the importance of recycling.  Whether we separated the different plastics, cardboard, paper, aluminum and put it in the different bins to take to the recycle station or we simply re-purposed an item that could just as easily been thrown away.  It's no surprise to me that he knew the importance of making the most of items around the house, because that's something his mother did and re-enforced in her kids.  That made an impression on my dad, and in turn an impression on me.

Today, my parents still have a huge recycle bin that all of the plastics, paper, cardboard, and aluminum go into.  Every week they empty it and take it to their local recycle station.  That's something that has stuck with me, as well.  Where I live, we don't have to separate each item, we simply throw it all in the recycle bin and the recycle truck comes and picks it all up every couple of weeks.
Tucker, even as young as he is, recognizes the importance of recycling.  One of his favorite things is separating the trash from the recycle and he takes so much pride in that.  He knows with these small acts he's helping to keep the earth happy and healthy.

Since I started staying at home Tucker and I have been able to enjoy more outside time than we previously have, as well as take various trips around our beautiful state and country.  Through our various travels we have enjoyed our time not only at conventions about keeping America beautiful and the different things we can do to protect our earth for generations to come, but we've also enjoyed time hiking, fishing, and seeing the beauties of nature.
Since we've been able to really enjoy nature more, going green, and helping the earth has become that much more important to me.  This earth day I am taking some time to reflect on what we are already doing in order to help the environment, as well as the areas that could use improvement.

One area that is so simple is plastic grocery and produce bags.  You don't realize just how many of those plastic bags you use on a weekly basis; just take a step back and look at how many sacks you pull from the back of your car.  Once small way is to use those handy green bags.  Those are readily available at all of the grocery stores as well as on-line.  Some communities even off free reusable bags, that they will gladly exchange when the bags get worn out.  Along with the grocery bags, we also use tons of produce bags.  I know there are times when I've come home with about 10-15 produce bags.  Luckily I have tons of the re-usable grocery bags and produce bags that I use all the time.
Another area that we've worked on over the past year is reducing paper waste.  Grabbing a paper napkin or paper towel to use for a meal, clean up a mess or wipe the counters is so easy, it's like second nature but, like the plastic bags, if you just take a step back and look at how quickly you go through napkins and paper towels it will make you think twice the next time you go to grab one for a quick spill.  We've purchased reusable versions that have help us drastically cut down our paper waste.  I am beyond happy about this change.

One thing I would like to focus on more this year is using local produce.  We have a garden, and in the past I've tried my best to utilize all the fresh vegetables and herbs but never really had the time to use them to the fullest extent or to preserve any of them for future use.  This year I am going to try to get the most out of our garden; using the items while they are fresh as well as preserving some for future use.  We also have several farmer's markets that will soon be popping up, and I want to try to utilize that fresh produce as well as support our local farmers.  There are other areas that could use improvement, but I need to step back and look at these areas and figure out the best way to improve them.
One small change at a time is all it takes to help make the earth a better place.  If you try to make too many changes all at once it gets very overwhelming and discouraging.  Don't get discouraged, just take baby steps.  Look at one thing you do now that you want to change or improve.  Focus on that one area, work on ways you can improve it and make it stick.  Once that is mastered move on to another area.  You can make a difference, I guarantee it.  Maybe when others see you changing they'll follow suite.

Small things you can do to make a difference:

  • Use reusable grocery and produce bags.  The amount of plastic grocery and produce bags that leave the store everyday is unfathomable.  Invest in reusable produce and grocery bags and keep them in your car.  When you come home from the store, unload them and immediately place them back in your car for the next use.  (be sure to wash them on a regular basis)
  • Pack your own lunch for work or school.  Taking your own lunch, or packing or kids lunches, not only cuts down on unnecessary waste but it's also a healthier alternative than running out for some fast food or buying something in the lunch line.  Take an extra 5 minutes at night, pack your lunch and pop it in the fridge.  
  • Reduce paper use.  Purchase clothe alternatives.  They will cost a little more initially, but they will last a while and cut the paper waste immensely.
  • Plant a garden.  It doesn't have to be huge; even if you don't have a back yard you can you various size pots.  Plant a few of your favorite fruits, vegetables and/or herbs and eat local and fresh.  
  • Utilize the farmer's markets.  This not only ensures you are eating fresh and local fruits and vegetables, you are also supporting your locals farmers. Not sure if there are farmer's markets in your area?  Check out this list to find one's near you.  
  • Recycle.  This is something so small and so easy, but makes a huge difference.
  • Don't use plastic water bottles.  Find a cute insulated cup or mug, take it with you and refill it.  
  • Give up your morning stops at the coffee shop.  Brew your own coffee and flavor it according to your preference.  This will not only cut down on wastes, it will also give your wallet a break!
  • Can and preserve.  It's nearly impossible to use up all the fresh vegetables and herbs from your spring and summer garden.  Don't waste those excess vegetables; preserve them and put them up for later use.

 Now for the fun part, a couple of giveaways!  There will be two giveaways; one winner will receive a set of 5 reusable produce bags, and another winner will receive a set of 5 RuMe reusable shopping bags.  To enter, use the rafflecopter below to enter.  The giveaway starts today and will go through Sunday, April 27th.  The winners will be announced on this post the following week, so be sure to check back!  If the winners have not responded within 48 hours a new winner will be chosen.


a Rafflecopter giveaway

Monday, April 21, 2014

Browned Butter Mashed Potatoes

If you've been reading for any length of time now, then you know that I'm slightly obsessed with brown butter.  It's one of my favorite things to cook with.  If something tastes good with plain butter, then brown butter will make it even better...and that's a fact!  Well, in my opinion at least.

While I love using brown butter in sweets; I just think it adds another layer of flavor and a slight nuttiness.  I enjoy it just as much in savory dishes.  It lends a slightly different flavor to a recipe, giving it that slight change you just might be looking for.

Mashed potatoes are a classic, and hands down, one of my favorite sides.  I love dressing them up by adding cheese, sour cream, bacon and various other add-ins; but sometimes classic, buttery mashed potatoes are just what the doctor ordered.  There's just something so comforting, so satisfying about creamy, buttery mashed potatoes.  Don't you agree?

Friday, April 11, 2014

Carrot Cake Monkey Bread

It is not news to you all that myself and my family have a thing for monkey bread.  Plain, salted caramel apple, and even samoa; I don't discriminate.  We love it for breakfast, a snack or dessert.  Another thing that I enjoy immensely is carrot cake.  That deliciously moist cake studded with bits of shredded carrots and amazing spices like cinnamon, cloves and allspice and it's all wrapped up in a delicious cream cheese frosting.  Oh. My. Goodness.  Yum!
So, since we are smack dab in the midst of carrot cake season, I decided to combine two of my loves; carrot cake and monkey bread.  The end result is a delicious monkey bread with candied carrots and cream cheese drizzle.  My knees go week just thinking about this stuff.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Edible Easter Topiary Trees

I am so excited to share this recipe with you today!  Not only because how easy it is but because of it's cuteness! Well, it's not so much a recipe as a cute Easter craft that can also double as Easter decorations.

Every time a holiday comes around I find myself wondering aimlessly up and down the seasonal isle.  Looking at the cute nick-nacks that I truly don't need, the fun little crafts and the candy.  Oh, the candy.  My Achilles heel.  There's just something about that candy that reels me in and makes me grab one bag after another.


Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Oreo Truffle Bunny Tails

Oreo truffles are not new to the scene by any means, but they are still as addicting as ever.  I can't remember the first time I actually tasted one, but the first time I made a batch was for Tucker's 1st birthday party.  Once I figured out how incredibly simple they were to make I knew I was in trouble.

I've made these countless times for different parties, events and gifts.  Just a few simple ingredients, that I typically always have in my pantry, a little time and that's all it takes before  you have an abundance of delicious little truffles.  They can be easily customized to fit any holiday or even.  Coat them in red with some white or green sprinkles for Christmas, shape them in hearts and coat in pink for Valentines, green for St. Patrick's day, the options are endless.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Salted Caramel Chow Mein Bird's Nest

These chow mein noodle bird's nest have been around as long as I can remember.  When Spring appears and Easter is around the corner these nest start making appearances.  They are so cute, delicious, filled with colorful eggs and scream spring.

I know there are a multitude of varieties floating around out there; some just like rice krispie treats but with the chow mein noodles instead of the rice krispie cereal, some coated in a combination of peanut butter, chocolate and butterscotch, and some coated in the white candy bark.  The options and variations are endless.

Monday, April 7, 2014

Bird's Nest Chocolate Stirring Spoons

Tucker always enjoys helping my in the kitchen.  It doesn't matter if it's scooping flour, pouring vanilla, or making pigs in a blanket; he loves it all.  As much as he enjoys those different tasks, I am always trying to think of different ideas and activities to let him take the reigns in the kitchen.  There's nothing better than seeing his face light up after he finished a fun project.  He is beyond proud.
So while this is not really much of a recipe, it is a fun and festive activity that you can do with you kids and helped them get involved in the kitchen and the Easter season.  The process of these spoons is really simple; dip the spoon in chocolate, add some sprinkles and then put some eggs in the center.  Viola!  You have a fun stirring spoon that is so cute and so simple.

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