Coal 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 theStoneware 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 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.