Silicone for you?

I’m keen to know what you think about using silicone bakeware, muffin cases in particular, so I have set up a simple poll today.  I have quite a few silicone items in my kitchen; spatulas, a whisk, cake and jelly moulds and so on. I like them but when certain friends come around I feel strangely guilty, unethical, unhealthy and want to hide them!  Yet I don’t get the feeling that they are directly unhealthy and I love the fact that they last a really long time and that I can use them for a variety of functions. I can also squash them into small containers and when released, they bounce right back in to shape.  The mini muffin forms in the photo save on paper cake cases, are really handy for making tiny sugar-free cakes, treats, omelette and are a great reusable way to keep foods separate in a lunchbox. Also, and quite importantly, they look cute and almost any food placed in them will be tried by my toddler daughter.

So why the health and ethical concerns?  Well, silicone is synthetic, we managed quite well before it came along and it takes a lot of energy and resources to make it. There also seems to be a lot of controversy about just how inert and thus healthy, it really is.  Apparently it sometimes contains “fillers” which may turn white in time and discussion points to a lack of scientific research into it’s safety. Many of the negative claims appear to be unsubstantiated.  I can’t find any respected scientific research either way. I’d be very grateful for links to well researched findings about the safety of silicone in cooking.

So what do you think – Yeah or nay to silicone and silicone baked goods or holders in your lunchbox?  Please take the poll and let me know what you think.

Zoo Lunch For Two

My little girl went to the zoo this morning, and took a lunchbox to share with her friend.  She’s almost two and I’m pleased to say that at present, she is as excited by food as her mother.  Today’s Zoo Lunch For Two contained the majority of a two egg, bacon, cheese and herb omelette, cut into small heart shapes, two sugar-free muffins, some homemade bread cut into teddy bear and flower shapes and also a small cluster of grapes.

Low impactwise…  The sturdy plastic bento box cuts throw away packaging down to a minimum but it is made of plastic. Though the muffin cases will be thrown out, the rest of the lunch is unwrapped, so that’s an improvement on buying a sandwich and other snacks at the zoo.  All ingredients are organic, except for the grapes.

Cheese & Chives Omelette

Todays lunchbox contained a cheese and chives omelette, a little green salad with dressing, some leftover barley and pea kitchari, dressed in a little homemade kombucha vinegar, an apple and a banana.

Unfortunately I ended up eating it over two sessions, firstly on a bus stop and later leaning on a trolley of planters outside of a garden centre (due to travelling to stock up the school edible garden at lunchtime).  Nonetheless my omelette, in particular, drew admiring glances from hungry passers-by so here is the recipe:

Cheese & Chives Omelette
2 organic free range eggs
1 teaspoon chopped dried chives (or 2 teaspoons fresh)
Splash of water
Grated cheese (preferably hard goat’s cheese)

1. Use a fork or small whisk to whip up the eggs, water, chives, salt and pepper in a jug or small bowl.
2. Heat a little cooking oil, preferably olive oil, in a medium or small non-stick frying pan and pour the omelette mix all over the base of the pan.
3. Gently, moderately heat until the underside can be easily detached from the pan. Sprinkle the grated cheese all over one half of the omelette, reduce the heat to minimum and flip the other half of the omelette over the cheesy half.
4. Cook for a further minute or two, until the cheese melts into the omelette.
5. Remove from heat, slide out of the pan and cut the omelette into two to four pieces to allow it to be stacked in your lunchbox.

So how lowimpact was today’s lunchbox?
Well, the fruit, eggs, salad and chives were organic so that’s a good start. The apple was grown here in Holland and sold loose in the local healthfood shop so compared to the supermarket it saved a little packaging. The banana came from somewhere a long way from here so that was probably not a good choice, although from a fair trade angle it may not be all bad.  The eggs were from the supermarket and I don’t know how far within this country they travelled.  I can try to source eggs from a local farmer in future – we eat a lot of eggs in my household so this would make an impact. I made the kitchari the day before from scratch so that saved throwing out the leftovers. The Kombucha vinegar was the surprise outcome from my first attempt at making the allegedly healthy drink from a peculiar looking jelly-like “scoby”. I left it to brew a little too long (three weeks too long…) and vinegar was the result, but what a delicious vinegar!  I made it from some left over green tea flowers and it used the passive heat in our boiler room.  Chives are so easy to grow, even in an apartment but as I forgot to look in our roof garden, these were purchased from a shop, with plenty of plastic packaging so I can do a lot better there.  The cheese was from a supermarket and not organic.  There is a goat farm on the outskirts of Amsterdam so perhaps I could stock up there from time to  time instead.

I’m rather pleased that I didn’t dive into the garden centre cafe for a lunch when I realised that my day was a little different from usual, instead I stuck to my plan and delved into my pink bento box!  It saved me money, I felt a little virtuous and I know exactly what I ate. Overall, not a bad lunch but definitely room for improvement!

lunchbox love

Like many others, I like to think that I’m fairly environmentally conscious but I know well that I can and should do better. So I am trying to do just that; specifically to make a greater effort to cut down on waste and generally to be more aware of the impact my choices make to the planet. I’m a Permaculture Design student, living in an Amsterdam apartment, teaching part-time at an infant school and trying hard to be a good mum. I also love to prepare and eat great food!  I figure that a good starting point for lowering my impact on the environment is to take a close look at my lunchbox. It’s something that happens everyday so even small changes should make a difference.

You are very welcome to join me as I journey through the land of more-sustainable bento boxes, sandwiches, soup flasks and locally sourced food. I’ll be considering food security, reducing, reusing, recycling and of course -taste!

Perhaps I am mistaken but I don’t think I am alone in my quest to make small positive changes to my life whilst feeding my family well.  I would love to hear your feedback, your experiences and your tips for healthy, low impact lunches so please do send me your comments.