Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Safe Cookware

Someone asked about safe food storage containers and cookware in a group I'm in, so it inspired me to show you what I use regularly.

Part 2: Cookware

As for cookware, I regularly use stainless steel saucepans, ceramic lined skillets, a giant steel wok, lots of old Pampered Chef stoneware, and a I have 3 sizes of stainless steel pressure cookers. I have a stainless steamer basket, too.
I use the smaller pressure cooker at least once a week.

The pressure cookers save a lot of time when prepping for the week. Cooking time is cut significantly for beans and brown rice. The pressure cookers are also great as stock pots for soups and stews and can be used for canning and preserving.

10' braiser/baker comes with silicone handle grips

I recently invested in an Xtrema Ceramcor Braiser/Baker with cover. If you choose to go the full ceramic route, be prepared for a learning curve. These pots and pans heat up slowly, and retain heat well after the stove is turned off. They are versatile for the stovetop, oven and broiler and pretty enough to serve from at the table. Learn more about their products here: Ceramcor

While I do own a cast iron skillet, I rarely use it. I do use my wok regularly.  I use the stoneware for
baking, but if I were to buy new I might go with glass baking dishes to save money and be able to stick everything in my fancy new dishwasher. I  have a 13 x 9 x 2 glass baking dish and several of my glass dishes that I regularly use for storage are also able to go in the oven.

I have a wide range of stoneware, and it's lasted me 15-20 years so far. I have 3 sizes/shapes of flat stones, a loaf pan, a square pan, an oval pan, a muffin pan, a bar pan, a mini bar pan, and 2 sizes of round bakers. It sounds like a lot, but they were collected years ago over time when those Pampered Chef parties were all the rage.

The one item I don't think I could do without is my Vitamix. While technically not cookware, I feel the need to include it as I use it every day. I make my own nut butters, flours, hummus, dressings, smoothies, whole food juices, and more. I grind my own coffee beans and when my kids were little I made baby food in it. I've even cooked hot soup with it.

I had my machine for 22 years when I recently called for a blade replacement because it wasn't performing up to snuff. . For about $80 more than a new blade assembly, I got a refurbished new model, with a 5 year complete warranty, with their trade-in program. My “new” Vitamix ended up costing me half of what I could buy one for at Costco! While others may balk at the price, I feel like I got a great value and a product that served me faithfully for over two decades. Here's the model I currently own: C Series Vitamix

Friday, September 11, 2015

Food Storage

Someone asked about safe food storage containers and cookware in a group I'm in, so it inspired me to show you what I use regularly.

canning jars, vacuum canisters & snaptop glass storage containers

Part 1: Storage Containers

The storage container I use most often is the lowly canning jar. You can buy a case of them at almost any grocery store or Target, Walmart, etc. They come in a variety of sizes, ranging from tiny 2 oz jars all the way up to 2 quarts.

I use plastic reusable lids for them since I'm not using them for canning, and the regular lids and bands rust over time. You can get some here:Reusable Lids. There are also flip top lids available for pouring liquids. 

I also use glass storage containers with plastic snap lids. They are available at Costco, Target and similar stores. While all of my glass containers have lids, not all of them have lids that truly seal. Some of my glass dishes are suitable for the oven, which is a big plus.

I have a vacuum sealer that I use to extend the shelf life of many items. There are plastic vacuum bags which work great for freezing, flours, and things you don't open often. Meat will keep longer without freezer burn, if vacuum sealed in the bags. There are canisters of various sizes for things like rice, flours, beans, etc.

If I make a big batch of soup or vegan chili I freeze it in a vacuum bag that is clipped shut with a binder clip. Once it is frozen solid I seal it. I still cook meat for my husband, and one of his favorite dishes is beef stew. I brown stew meat and seal it in vacuum bags and then chop stew veggies and sealed them. I store a bag of meat and a bag of veggies together in a zipper bag in the freezer. Then when I want to make beef stew for him, I simply empty the bags into the crock pot with some liquid and spices and voila! I can prep several batches of stew at once and not have to deal with browning meat again for months.

I've bought nuts in bulk and vacuum sealed them in bags and stored them in the freezer. I've also used the bags for freezing firm fruits and vegetables. I freeze individual servings for hubby's dinners when I will be away. All he has to do is heat them up. (never microwave in plastic, btw)

The bottom line is that I use mostly glass for food storage. The plastic vacuum bags that I use are reused until they become too small to be useful, and I never reheat food in them.