AUTHOR: Julia TITLE: Reduce, Reuse, Recycle: Black Bean Dip DATE: 12/16/2008 09:48:00 AM ----- BODY:
It was only in the past few months, as I’ve been reading about sustainability and participating in the Cambridge Recycling Committee, that I finally understood the dictum, “Reduce, Reuse, Recycle.” You can see it on grocery bags at Whole Foods, or any sort of green initiative. Reuse and recycle are obvious – for example, the plastic water bottle you purchased – reuse it by refilling it with filtered water, instead of purchasing a new bottle, and when you are done with it, recycle it. People often justify wasteful behavior by explaining that they will recycle. “Yes, I took more paper napkins than I need, but I will recycle them, so it’s okay.” Reduce was a harder concept for me to grasp. Reduce means only taking as many paper napkins as you need. Sure, it’s great that you’ll recycle, but we must also consider the energy expended and the chemicals used to create the napkins – the tree that was cut down, the plant that processed the paper and packaged it, the truck that shipped the napkin to the supermarket, etc.

When it comes to food and entertaining, the mantra would be “Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, Compost.” With cooking, I find it much more challenging to reduce. In terms of shopping, the stores often dictate the quantities I purchase: I must buy a 1 cup container of sour cream, even though I will only use 2 tablespoons. I’ll admit it’s getting better: I can now buy chicken broth in one cup packages instead of one quart. Most grains are sold in bulk bins. Even celery is sold by the stalk. Most challenging is gauging what quantity to prepare for dinner parties, especially buffets.

So it happened when Dina and I hosted Mole cannoli – a feast of two of our favorite foods. The final guest count was a moving target – between the quest for finding a babysitter or the new boyfriend we didn’t realize would be coming. And we wanted a nice variety of moles, salads and garnishes. Needless to say, we did not do a very good job of reducing – there were ample leftovers. The best I could do was reuse and recycle. We ate leftovers for a few days, and the excess of black beans and mole sauces went into the freezer.

Last week, inspired by Lydia’s black bean dip post, I pulled the black beans out of the freezer. I intended to make the dip for a friend’s party, but as I set out to make the recipe, I realized I didn’t have most of the ingredients on hand. But! I did have ½ cup of leftover green mole from that same evening that generated the black beans. I pureed the two together and, Voila! Black Bean dip. (P.S. The sour cream on top was leftover from another dinner the previous week)

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----- COMMENT: AUTHOR:Anonymous noble pig DATE:12/17/2008 12:05:00 AM ...and sometimes it's very expensive to buy the smaller quantity. Meal planning has to be carefully planned to use up larger sized ingredients...but that can also be fun! ----- COMMENT: AUTHOR:Anonymous Lydia (The Perfect Pantry) DATE:12/17/2008 01:21:00 AM I'm becoming quite adept at reusing -- today's effort, which also involved black beans (I love them!) was leftover bean and sweet potato stew combined with some chopped onion and roasted butternut squash, cooked down with orange juice and pureed into soup. Now if only I could get my photos to look as appetizing as the soup tasted... ----- COMMENT: AUTHOR:Anonymous limeduck DATE:12/17/2008 08:45:00 AM I'd say that "Reduce, Reuse, Recycle" is stated in order of preference. If you don't use it in the first place, that's best. If you used it, then REusing it is better (cheaper and more environmentally sound) than recycling, which is sometimes nearly as expensive and dirty as making a new one. In fact, I knew a guy who insisted that recycling paper was actually dirtier and more expensive than making new paper.

And while I'm soapboxing, I think you should consider locavorism a form of "reduce" -- you don't reduce the *amount* of food necessarily, but you reduce the total cost and environmental footprint by *reducing* food miles. ----- COMMENT: AUTHOR:Blogger Psychgrad DATE:12/17/2008 05:48:00 PM Good post. I get quite frustrated with non-rsvping habits these days, but I won't go on about that.

Even better for water is drinking from the tap. Buy a bottle (e.g., Nalgene, metal container, etc.) and drink from the tap. I can't wait to start composting. At the moment, my apartment living makes all options unrealistic. But, as soon as I get a backyard, I'm going to buy a composter. I can just imagine how much garbage that would cut down. ----- COMMENT: AUTHOR:Blogger Elra DATE:12/18/2008 10:05:00 AM Black bean dip sounds really delicious.

I like the concept of reduce,reuse, and recycle. And this will be a great give for our future generation. ----- COMMENT: AUTHOR:Blogger Julia DATE:12/18/2008 01:02:00 PM Noble Pig, indeed it's a carefully woven plan.

Lydia, I certainly know that challenge, and your soup does sound delicious!

limeduck, I like the notion of reducing food miles. Good point.

Pyschgrad, Good reminder about *reducing* the number of water bottles we use.

Elra, exactly! ----- COMMENT: AUTHOR:Anonymous Kristen DATE:12/18/2008 09:57:00 PM I love black beans so much! What a great idea to be creative with this one. ----- --------