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Green Family Values: Have You Met the Muffin Man?

Photo Courtesy of petcaretips.netCoal Mining Canary: Photo Courtesy of petcaretips.netTen years ago, I first became aware of the dangers of nonstick cookware from a student who had a pet bird. Apparently, when you cook with nonstick cookware, it gives off a gas that can be fatal to pet birds. If nonstick cookware is fatal to pet birds, isn't this the canary in the cave for human use of nonstick cookware?

I have since given away all of our nonstick cookware, except the muffin pans. I could find no alternative material for muffin pans in any store. My children love to make and eat muffins. They are quick and easy to make, and you can pack them full of whole grains, nuts, and fruit. Cooking with your child is fun and ensures they will eat healthy foods. Children love to eat what they have made, and cooking provides an opportunity for authentic measuring tasks.

Failing miserably in the cooking stores, I began to search the Internet for a safer muffin pan. All I could find were cast iron pans, but the muffin cup size was very small. I didn't want to make mini muffins. So, I posted a question on Debra Lynn Dadd's Green Living Q & A Blog. Debra has been called thePhoto Courtesy of Pampered ChefStoneware Muffin Pan: Photo Courtesy of Pampered Chef "Queen of Green," and she is very responsive and helpful. One of her readers suggested the stoneware muffin pans from the Pampered Chef, which brought to mind modern day tupperware parties where rich housewives buy expensive cookware. Not exactly the green company image I was expecting to solve my problem; however, I decided to put aside stereotypes and order the 12 cup stoneware muffin pan at $32.50. The first pan arrived broken, but Pampered Chef quickly sent me another pan. The pans are heavy and similar to the stone pizza pans. Stoneware does stain, and it is recommended that you clean stoneware without soap, as the stone will absorb the soap and your food will take on this flavor. Silicone offers another alternative to nonstick cookware, however anything chemically made scares me. Debra writes about silicone cookware, "Silcone bakeware and other kitchen utensils are safe to use. Silicones are made chemically by creating a "backbone" of silicon from common sand and oxygen molecules, a combination that does not occur in nature. Then various other synthetic molecules are added branching off of the main silicon-oxygen line to create hundreds of different silicones that range from liquids to rubbery solids. Though this is a completely manmade product, it is completely inert and will not transfer to foods." I feel safer baking with stoneware.

Here is our favorite muffin recipe, adapted from the cookbook How It All Vegan!. OfHow It All VeganHow It All Vegan course, organic ingredients are best!

1.5 cups cornmeal
1.5 cups flour (I combine whole wheat pastry with unbleached white)
dash of salt
.75 cup sweetener ( I use Sucanat)
.75 tsp baking soda
.25 cup oil
.75 soy milk
.75 cup orange or apple juice (really, any juice will work)
1 tsp vinegar (I use apple cider)
1 cup raspberries (I use blueberries or mixed berries sometimes, but fresh raspberries from the garden is best!)
flax seeds (my addition)

Preheat oven to 400 F. In a large bowl, stir together cornmeal, flour, salt, sweetener, flax seeds, and baking soda. Add the wet ingredients: oil, milk, juice, and vinegar. Mix together gently until "just mixed." Add berries. If you use frozen berries, they will not change the color of the dough. Spoon into muffin pan (I line my muffin pans with Unbleached Baking Cups, although I know using oiled cups is more eco-friendly). Cook for 25 minutes, then check with a toothpick or knife. Makes 14-16 muffins.

Comments

  1. I actually had a pet cockatiel who died from Teflon poisoning. It was very sad! I left a pot of boiling water on the stove, the water all boiled off and the nonstick surface started to smoke, and even halfway across the house, my pet dropped off her perch. I happened to live just blocks away from a vet clinic, so I raced her there, but she was dead before I arrived. That was a bit of a wake-up call for me, and we swore off Teflon long before the “official” and indisputable studies came out that really buried that product. Of course, we do still have some non-stick cookware I hadn’t thought about, even though all of our pans are aluminum or cast-iron… thanks for the reminder!

  2. Jennifer Lance says:

    I am so sorry about your pet cockatiel. It really makes you wonder why these products are allowed to be sold.

  3. Jennifer,

    What do you mean you can find no alternatives to non-stick coated muffin tins other than stoneware (a fragile choice), too-small iron, and silicone (a terrible choice for performance reasons)?

    As pointed out in the replies to your inquiry on Green Living, it is easy to find uncoated aluminum (an obvious choice) at restaurant supply stores and websites (and for the reuse-minded, uncoated aluminum products can also be an easy find on eBay). Are you afraid of aluminum because of the unexplained ‘Alzheimer’s connection’? Even non-reactive anodized aluminum?

    Uncoated steel is not a great performer, but you don’t explain why you ruled it out either. If you don’t want the aluminum of aluminized steel, what about tinned-steel? Not the easiest to care for, but neither is cast iron.

    If sticking, or concerns about reactivity, is an issue with some of the options you are ignoring, what about paper liners?

    I’m also surprised you find Lodge’s muffin pan too small. With impressions of 2-1/2″ diameter that are 1-1/2″ deep, I don’t see it as a ‘mini muffin’ maker.

  4. Hi, like muffins trays I also am having difficulty with finding a no teflon coated sandwich press or jaffle maker. Have you or anyone else found any brands that stock this that are not hundreds of dollars?

    Thanks

  5. Jennifer Lance says:

    Good luck!  I think I have seen cast iron waffle makers.  I used to have my grandmother's waffle iron.  Check second hand stores, you may find an old one before the days of teflon. 

  6. can you use the stoneware from pampered chef on the top of the stove?

  7. Jennifer Lance says:

    Thank you for your comments.  I do fear aluminum, and I have not been able to find the steel, nor do I have any experience baking with it.  All the sites I searched had only nonstick versions, but if you know of a site for steel muffin pans, please post a link.  I did mention paper liners in my post.  I have not personally tried the cast iron muffin pans, but I based my conclusion on reviews I had read from other consumers regarding their size.  The point is, in my opinion, we all need to search for the alternative to nonstick cookware that works for our families and concerns.  Happy baking!

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