~~ "She has so many aliases, you'd think she was a spy!" ~~

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Question for my foodie and health-conscious friends

I think I’ve mentioned here a few times that Ken and I have revamped (and continue to revamp) our eating habits, cutting out processed foods as much as we can, eating as clean as possible, etc. I’ve cut out sugar and am frequently dairy free (barring milk in my tea). And so on.

Another step in that direction was to send all our old nonstick cookware off to a charity shop and replace it all with Pyrex (charity shops, ebay, and one of my sisters have been fabulous in that regard). Now I’m frowning at all the plastic cooking spoons, spatulas, etc., and wondering what to replace those with (especially since they’re starting to flake off at the edges. Ew!). That’s where I need your advice, my pets!

Wooden? If so, are there some that are better than others? I have one set of wooden spoons and one of them is developing splinters. I don’t want to eat wood…

Stainless steel? Or would this scratch the Pyrex?


And what about food storage? Are BPA-free plastic containers really safe? Or should we switch to glass (which has the downside of being pricey)? Our current containers are old and also flaking, and I’ve already gotten into the habit of transferring contents to a glass bowl before microwaving. I’ve also been slapping plastic wrap over leftovers on a plate or in a bowl rather than transferring the contents into a container. I don’t use the plastic wrap when I re-heat in the microwave, but there’s a part of me that doesn’t like the waste of plastic wrap (i.e., use it and then toss it).

Bonus points to suggestions that are eco-friendly as well. Thanks! xo


J. Steven York said...

Here's the answer to all your food preparation and dietary needs. Organic, local, gluten-free:


Chris said...

Get some of those "shower cap" covers to use in place of plastic wrap. You can wash and reuse them many, many times before they wear out and have to be tossed and replaced.

J. Steven York said...

Okay, I was trying to be irreverent, but not THAT irreverent. Here's the actual link I was trying to post...


Teresa said...

I'm probably the wrong person to ask in some ways, but will attempt to answer since I was tagged. At this point, I have seen much contradictory info about what's "safe" that I'm in a bit of rebellion about it. We're using plastic for food storage in many cases, just because we store so much (standing freezer, large pantry, etc) it hasn't been practical to replace all the containers. We've been getting BPA-free containers as we've gotten new ones, but I'll be honest--we also reuse a lot of plastic containers (yogurt, etc) because we prefer reusing to buying new. I try to use use glass for anything where it's likely to be long-term storage, but leftovers are mostly in plastic.

We have some wooden utensils, some stainless, some silicone, and some plastic, because I'm more concerned about adding stuff to the landfill before its time than I am about possible leaching from plastic. I've had trouble finding wooden spoons lately that seemed sturdy enough to bother with. I like olive wood when I can find it. It seems sturdier and denser than most of what you find out there.

From all I've read, if you wipe wood with vinegar, it's actually more sterile than plastic.

I don't microwave a lot and when I do, I usually do it in the dish from which I'll be eating.

On the other hand, we just replaced most of our cookware with Calphalon professional, which isn't nonstick

Teresa said...

I realize I babbled a lot, but forget my actual useful suggestion: canning jars!

Canning jars are great for food storage. They're relatively inexpensive and sturdy as far as glass goes, since they're tempered to withstand both pressure canning and freezing. They're good sizes for storing leftovers in the fridge (or freezer if you're careful with them), as well as dried beans, etc, in the pantry, and you can often find them second-hand for next to nothing. New, they're about $10 for a dozen, which isn't bad.

Dayle A. Dermatis said...

First of all, thank you ALL for commenting! (This includes the folks on FB; I'm dragging some of their comments here so I have everything in one place, because it just took me way too long to find that post ON FB!). VERY helpful!

Ken's mom bought us Glasslock storage containers for Yule and we already love them - so much so that we just ordered a 20 piece set from ebay. Once that arrives, all of our icky old plastic containers are getting dumped in the recylcling bin.

Teresa mentioned re-using containers, and right now we do use a lot of the plastic tubs that lunch meat comes in for freezing, because they're the perfect size for 2-4 portions (depending on whether it's soup or stew or sauce). I've simply gotten into the habit of dumping them into a glass bowl to defrost.

Teresa, you mentioned not using the microwave much. How do you defrost and reheat things? Also, I love the idea of canning jars, and will keep an eye out for them on my thrifting expeditions!

Chris and Carolyn (via FB), I LOVE the shower-cap thingies idea! I'd never really thought about them before. They are now on my shopping list. :-)

Dayle A. Dermatis said...

On FB, Joe said: "Depending on what your intentions, wood may or may not work. Ultimately, even sealed, wood can (and often will) become a harbinger for germs and mold no matter how many times you wash. Now, this doesn't happen over night, obviously. But it does happen. Your option? Wood ain't expensive. You can just get into the habit of replacing on a regular basis. If you are looking for something more durable and regular, I might suggest stainless steal. I don't really see that as a problem with pyrex. Now... why pyrex per se? I'm a big ol' advocate for good ol' fashioned cast iron. You also mentioned food storage. Class containers can be expensive. But remember to hit goodwill and your local odds n ends antique stores. "Refridgerator glass" - the 'tupperware' of a bygone age, is fairly common to find and not often expensive since it isn't really highly "collectable" and fairly archaic nowadays. That might be a good thing for ya. (And it'll go with the house!)"

Thank you! Your point about wood is good - Bed Bath & Beyond has some relatively inexpensive sets.

We went with Pyrex because that's what my ex and I used, and he loved to cook, and I always liked it myself. When Ken and I got together, we (a) didn't cook much and (b) didn't have a lot of money, so we bought a cheap set of nonstock cookware. That's what we just replace with Pyrex. The other plus of Pyrex was that I've been able to pick up pieces at charity shops, which helps keep the cost down.

As I said above, we've already been gifted with and purchased some glass containers, but I'll keep an eye out for refrigerator glass as well. I'm not famlliar with it so I'll have to do some research. I'm pretty sure I haven't seen any in our local charity shops, but I'm sure ours have very different things from those in your area!

Dayle A. Dermatis said...

Darren said (via FB): "Wood and silicone are great. I hate most metal utensils because they retain heat and do scratch soft metals (Pyrex should be fine). Not a big fan of Pyrex for cooking due to its bad heat conductivity, but it's safe and green, for sure. All my pots and pans are metal -- cast iron, anodized aluminum, and clad stainless/aluminum.

For storage I generally just use freezer bags. Keeps much longer than plastic wrap, but not the greenest option. Tried Tupperware and Gladware, but lids going walkabout ruined that.

As for food health, eh, I think if you cook from fresh and control portions you're pretty much going to be fine. Everything else is mostly noise. All the "you mustn't consume [x]" fads are generally pointless.

Nonstick coatings are fine as long as you don't use them over very high heat or have sensitive birds."

Thank you! Good points about metal utensils and heat; I hadn't thought of that. More to ponder!

I think we will use freezer bags for some stuff going forward; it's a great idea for certain things.

Re: Food health. That's exactly what we're trying to do. As one book says, "Eat food, not too much, mostly plants." (And when they say food, they mean real food, not processed crap.) Basically, we're trying to eat clean, cooking from scratch (or as close to scratch as our complete disinterest in and general dislike of cooking allows), eschewing highly processed foods, reading labels on the processed foods we do buy (avoiding preservatives, additives, etc.), that sort of thing. Adding more fish into our diet, eating less red meat, choosing hormone-free grass- or grain-fed meats, that sort of thing. I've chosen to pretty much give up sugar because I find I feel better without it. I've also chosen to cut back on dairy because cheese is my weakness and if it's in the house, I'll eat more than is healthy.

"Diet" means what you eat, not what you don't eat. I hate that it's become synonymous with fads and unhealthy "weight-loss" scams.

Dayle A. Dermatis said...

Linda (via FB) said: "I agree with the wood & silicon votes for utensils and I do use some stainless steel - whisks. If the wood's splintering toss it. To clean wood - in commercial kitchens they use a little bleach water on butcher blocks at the end of the day. That would kill any mold, but I've never done that for my wood utensils, just wash them and let them air dry and they live in a jar out on the counter. As for the BPA question - they're starting to sell plastic containers that are BPA free (Costco), but in a few years they'll probably find that whatever that's made of isn't safe either. Glass is great for storage, but fragile. Pros & cons to everything. As for cooking I use cast iron, pyrex and enameled cast iron. Scrambling eggs is awful though, I have to tell you. Horrible to clean up no matter how much fat is in the cast iron skillet. Congrats on taking the next step. But most of these are small worries. If your food sources are good and you're eating the right foods for your body, that's most important. (Not that I seem to be currently doing that!)"

Thank you so much for the tips on caring for wood! I try to avoid bleach when I can, but sometimes it's the only thing that'll work.

I have an enameled cast iron pan (another charity shop find!) for some recipes, which is great. You're right about things sticking - but I'd rather use a little more coconut or sesame oil, or even a little more butter, than cook w/nonstick.

Dayle A. Dermatis said...

Carolyn (via FB) said: "I have a set of shower cap style covers from Glad. I was and reuse them all the time.
As for utensils, a good hardwood should do fine. Be sure to oil it from time to time to keep its strength and durability."

I thanked you above, but I'm posting this here as well so I can refer back to it, and also to ask: Can you give me tips on HOW to oil wood?

Teresa said...

As long as I'm home, I normally reheat things in a pot on the stove. Old-school! I don't have much choice about microwaving at work, though I wish I did.

Teresa said...

We try to take stuff out of the freezer in plenty of time to let it defrost in the fridge, though we sometimes end up "nuking it." FWIW, I don't think microwaves are evil or anything, and they can certainly be convenient, but I find they often affect food texture in ways I don't like so I've gotten out of the habit when I have another option. When I bring leftovers for lunch at work, I always have to consider how well they'll survive microwaving.