Holiday Cocktail Party for (almost) 50

New Year's Tree

Last night we were excited to host our first big party at our house, and I promised Sara that I’d share the menu. It’s the first time I’ve hosted that many people (almost 50), and I have to say, we had a blast.

Artful arrangementWe spent a few nights slowly wrapping presents and decorating the tree and the mantels with holly, magnolia leaves, and hemlock branches from Mom & Dad’s yard, and we especially enjoyed these gorgeous red and white tulips, courtesy of Ryan and Sara. I never buy fresh flowers for the house and so they were such a treat.

The TableWe forgot to take pictures during the party, as we were busy filling drinks and socializing, but it reminded us of how many lovely people we’ve met in Knoxville, and how we’ve really started to make our home here. The only thing missing? My BFFs. I sure do wish we could’ve had you all there–I miss you guys, especially around the holidays.

I put some thought into making the menu budget-conscious and as easy as possible, so I’ll share below in case it helps anyone plan a big cocktail party in the future! I’ll post the recipes separately and link to them so they’re more easily searchable. Truly, you can spend a lot of time arranging items on a table, but none of these recipes took very much time, most of them could be made ahead, and you could take some additional shortcuts (buy already-baked rolls; store-bought hummus; etc.).

Happy holidays to everyone!

Cocktail Party Menu for 50

Tomatoes

Wedding planning, travel, visitors, and USAID have consumed my life making me not as diligent at updating on recipes. With summer in full swing Basel is a new city of eating on our porch, not getting dark till 10pm and floating down the Rhine with a beer afterward.

Summer also means that all of K’s hard work of having a nursery in our guest room for his seedlings are paying off! Tomatoes grown on your porch are so much better than in the store.

No recipe, just a photo of the delicious tomatoes K grew from tomatoes we bought at the store. He takes the seeds, dries them on a paper towel, plants them and a few months later – boom! Tomatoes.

My nomadic suitcase life starts next week without a moment to breathe as we put the final touches for the big day!

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Natural Cleaning Recipes

Natural Cleaning Supplies

Natural Cleaning Supplies

Happy Spring and spring cleaning… This post is a continuation of an earlier post looking into how the products we use on our bodies and in our homes are often filled with nasty chemicals. I don’t know about you, but there are multiple times in the past that I’ve been cleaning the tub or the sink with a store-bought cleaner and the fumes made me dizzy or stung my hands. Even on a base instinct level, this should tell you that you might not want these types of products in close contact with your skin and lungs everyday. Outside of common sense worries about the toxicity of cleaning products, scientific studies have emerged that address the problems with many cleaning products. For example, Lab tests done for the Environmental Working Group found that a typical assortment of cleaning products released 457 distinct chemicals into the air.

With this in mind, I started to look into the toxicity of common cleaning products on the GoodGuide–a product search engine that can help you find safe, healthy, and green products for your home. I encourage you to check out the GoodGuide to see how your cleaning products stack up–I’m guessing that you might be horrified. Taking a cue from my mom and grandmother, I decided to go the old-fashioned route with my cleaning products. For the most part, simple baking soda, vinegar, water, and soap do most of the work in our house. I love that these are products I would feel safe ingesting or putting on my skin, and they’re also so much cheaper than store-bought products! Other than these ingredients, I’d also add in some basic cleaning tools: a good brush or two, microfiber cloths, a few spray bottles, a container for your baking soda (may I suggest a cheese  shaker), and a mop with reusable microfiber attachments that can be washed in the washer. I love  Don Aslett Mop, which was given to me by my mother-in-law (thanks Sonya!), but there are plenty of other good choices out there.

Here are some of the cleaning “recipes” I’ve incorporated in our house, but I’d love to hear more about cleaners that you’ve made and liked as I’m still experimenting with a few of these.

All-Purpose Spray/Floor Cleaner

modified version from Clean Up Your Act: All Natural Homemade Cleaners, Young House Love

  • 3 cups warm water
  • 1 teaspoon pure castile soap
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 10 drops of essential oil (tea tree is a disinfectant, but I like grapefruit)
  • 3/4 cup hydrogen peroxide (apparently, hydrogen peroxide loses its potency quickly, so no need to add it to a cleaner)
  • 20 drops tea tree oil
  • 20 drops of grapefruit essential oil

Combine all ingredients in a 32 oz. spray bottle and shake gently. I also use this as a floor cleaner: I first go over the floors with a microfiber cloth dampened with water on my favorite mop ever, then I spray this on the floor and go over the floor again with the mop. You can also use 50-50 water and vinegar on the floors too though, which works great.

PS. There are lots of all-purpose spray recipes out there that mix castile soap and vinegar, but don’t do this. It causes a chemical reaction between the acid and base that’s not dangerous, but creates a white goo that won’t be helpful for your cleaning. Read more here. Either castile soap cut with water or vinegar and water are good cleaners, but don’t combine the two!

Photo courtesy of Brian Snelson, CC BY 2.0.

Photo courtesy of Brian Snelson, CC BY 2.0.

Dishwasher Rinse Aid

Vinegar. That’s it. Really.

Most dishwasher manufacturers suggest, or even require, that you add rinse aid to the receptacle in your dishwasher in order to run it. However, many rinse aids are quite toxic and include cancer-causing agents or other harmful chemicals, plus the dreaded dye and synthetic fragrance. If you don’t want to use vinegar, which is the easiest, cheapest, and effective option, you can also look into some of the more natural rinse aid options on GoodGuide.

Researchers at U Texas, Austin have found that squirting hot water through a nozzle to produce a fine spray increases the surface area of water in contact with the air, liberating dissolved substances in a process known as “stripping.” Any chemicals that are in the water or substance are then distributed in the air, significantly contributing to indoor air pollution in your home. For that very reason, you want to make sure any substance you’re spraying on your shower walls, putting on your clothing, or putting in your dishwasher are as non-toxic as possible.

Daily Shower Spray

For the reasons mentioned above (chemical “stripping”), you want to make sure that the cleaners you use in your shower are non-toxic so that you’re not inhaling crazy fumes while taking a hot shower.

I do find that using a daily shower spray cuts down on mold in the bathroom, which is especially a problem when you don’t have good fans or vents in your bathroom. It also cuts down on the time you have to spend scrubbing, which I appreciate.

I’ve used simple half and half vinegar and water in the past to good effect, but I don’t like the strong vinegar smell right after, so I’m using this instead:

  • 1/3 C. rubbing alcohol
  • 3 1/2 C. water
  • 10-15 drops of tea tree oil (tea tree has natural antifungal properties, but you can use another essential oil if you’d like)

Combine all in a spray bottle and shake to combine. Spray all over shower walls and shower curtain or door each day to prevent mold.

Tub Cleaner

I’ve always been a huge fan of Bon Ami, which has no ingredients that raise health concerns, according to GoodGuide. However, I’ve since found baking soda and castille soap to be a cheaper alternative that keep me from having to have more specific cleaners around. I purchased a glass cheese shaker at the dollar store and simply filled it with baking soda. Baking soda alone is wonderfully abrasive, but mild and non-toxic at the same time.

I like to wet down the tub, sprinkle baking soda all over the bottom and sides of the tubs and then squirt a few drops of Dr. Bronner’s in. Mix it all into a paste with your scrub brush, and scrub the whole surface of the tub. This gets the job done as well as, if not better, than anything I’ve ever used and if you use the essential oil scented Dr. Bronner’s it leaves a nice scent in the bathroom. I like the Peppermint best for cleaning.

Toilet Bowl Cleaner

Similarly to the tub cleaner above, simply add baking soda and a bit of castille soap to your toilet and scrub away. Works great.

Mason Jar Soap Dispenser, Courtesy of Tess Shebaylo, CC BY-NC-ND 2.0.

Mason Jar Soap Dispenser, Courtesy of Tess Shebaylo, CC BY-NC-ND 2.0.

Hand Wash

I’ve talked before about all the reasons why we should really reconsider using antibacterial soap containing nasty stuff like triclosan. I used to just put plain Dr. Bronner’s cut with a bit of water in my soap dispenser in the bathroom, but I found it dried my hands out in the winter, so I modified the following recipe:

modified from Fancy Foaming Handwash on Healthy Vegan Blog

  • 1 C. water
  • 2-4 Tb. liquid castile soap (I use Dr. Bronner’s Peppermint or Almond, but you can use unscented)
  • 1 tsp. pure vegetable glycerine
  • 1 tsp. jojoba, almond, or apricot oil
  • a few drops of essential oil (my favorite is grapefruit), if desired

Combine all ingredients in a soap dispenser and shake gently. If you put this in a foaming soap dispenser, it will actually foam if you like that sort of thing–it is quite thin, so you might want to try this, but I don’t mind using it in my regular soap dispenser. You can make your own soap dispenser pretty easily out of a Mason jar, or buy them on Etsy. With this recipe, I shake it up every once in a while to keep it mixed up.

Miracle Stain Remover

from One Good Thing by Jillee

  • 1 part castille soap
  • 2 parts hydrogen peroxide
  • baking soda (optional)
  • laundry brush

Mix the soap and hydrogen peroxide in a bowl and use a spoon to pour it directly on stain. You may use the laundry brush and sprinkle some baking soda on the stain and scrub gently with brush if the stains are particularly stubborn. Let sit and then launder as usual.

This stuff really is miraculous. I cut myself and bled on one of my favorite white button-downs–a stain that simply wouldn’t come out. This fixed it! And it also fixed sweat stains on some white t-shirts. I will be pulling this out again and again.

I haven’t switched over to homemade dishwasher detergent, dish washing soap, or laundry soap yet, but there are a lot of recipes out there! In the meantime, I use Ecover products and Trader Joe’s options that get good scores on the GoodGuide. Chime in and let me know if you have any products that you love.

Natural Beauty Routine: Face and Body

I was speaking with Naomi and Aya on the phone the other night, and my natural deodorant recipe came up. Then we started talking about other natural beauty products and so I promised them I’d write this post on the other items that I use in my regular beauty routine.

I think that for a lot of people it’s difficult to make the switch from regular beauty products to non-toxic products–it’s easy to assume that the routine will be harder, or that the natural products won’t work as well. For me the experience has been just the opposite. I have fewer products in my cabinet, my morning and nighttime routine is shorter, and they work better than what I was using before. For me, there are two other aspects about using natural face and body products that I love: 1) just as with my food, I love being able to look at a product’s ingredients and understand exactly what it’s made up of and 2) skin is porous! I like putting things on my skin that I would be comfortable ingesting.

Okay, so all of that said, here are the products that I have been using for the past 6 months or so:

Jojoba Oil-

Close-up of male jojoba flowers, by Stan Shebs, Courtesy Wikipedia.

Close-up of male jojoba flowers, by Stan Shebs, Courtesy Wikipedia.

As you can see in the image above, I use Desert Essence 100% pure Jojoba oil, but I’m sure that there are plenty of other brands that would be great. The important thing is that it is 100% pure and not cut with any other oils. For complicated scientific reasons that I can neither understand or explain, jojoba is more similar in structure to human sebum than other synthetic moisturizers or vegetable oils, making it an extremely effective moisturizer.

As a moisturizer and eye makeup removerThis stuff is expensive, but I only use a drop or two on my fingertips to moisturize my whole face in the morning and the evening. It is also a wonderful eye makeup remover, and doesn’t sting (why do we put things that sting us in our eyes?) at all.

As a face cleanser: I only use jojoba sometimes as a facial cleaner (I’m also a fan of Burt’s Bees Orange Essence Facial Cleanser), but I have used it to great effect as one. Simply wet your face, rub a pea-sized amount on your face, and exfoliate with a wet washcloth. The amazing thing about using jojoba as a cleanser or a moisturizer is that you would think that it would leave your skin oily, but it doesn’t at all. Most of us strip our skin of its natural oils daily by using harsh cleansers, making your skin going into repair mode by emitting more oil. Thus begins an awful cycle of dry skin followed by oily skin–I’ve found that using jojoba oil has eliminated this.

To combat skin conditions caused by harsh face productsAnother benefit of jojoba? I get milia, small white cysts, on my eyelids and around my eyes. I’ve found that by using jojoba oil, almost all of them have gone away. I’ve read in various places that the dyes, fragrance, and mineral oil found in many face products can cause these, and I’m assuming that’s what caused mine in the first place.

Coconut Oil-

The coconut palm.

Coconut oil is a wonderful moisturizer with anti-bacterial properties (which is another reason that it makes a great natural deodorant base). As with Sara’s recent post on using coconut oil for popcorn, many people love using it for cooking. I have started experimenting with it for cooking, but in the meantime, I like using food-grade products on my skin, and unrefined, or virgin, virgin organic coconut oil (you want it to be free of chemical solvents) fits the bill. It is solid when at room temperature, but turns liquid when warmed. Here’s a trick: look for it in the cooking aisle of the grocery and it will most likely be cheaper than the stuff in the beauty aisle–or at least that was the case when I checked at Whole Paycheck. Also, I go through this pretty quickly, but if you keep coconut oil around for a long time without refrigerating it, it can go rancid, just like any oil. It’s easier to use if it’s not solid though, so I keep mine at room temp and haven’t had any problems moving through it fast enough to keep it from spoiling.

As a body moisturizer: Coconut oil is cheaper than jojoba oil, making it a more cost-effective body moisturizer. In the mornings, after showering, I get a small bit in my hand, rub my hands together to melt it, and oil up. I sometimes add a few drops of grapefruit essential oil for a yummy scent.

As a shaving oil: Shaving causes nicks and opens up pores, and adding chemicals to the mix via shaving creams can create nasty razor burn or irritation. You can lather on a bit of coconut oil instead for shaving–you can see your leg easier while shaving and you have the added benefit of moisturizing and shaving at the same time.

Vitamin E-

What the what? The chemical structure of tocopherol, aka, vitamin e.

Vitamin E, or tocopherol, is a fat-soluble antioxidant. Health regulations require that this is listed as tocopherol on ingredient lists, so this is one of those cases where a hard to pronounce item in your beauty products is okay. So many people make claims that are hard to prove about Vitamin E, all of which I’m skeptical about. However, there is some agreement that Vitamin E is good for preventing fine lines and it might be able to help fight sun damage as well. Mainly, though, I wanted a thicker more heavy duty around-the-eyes moisturizer without chemicals and in that sense, Vitamin E fit the bill. I use a Vitamin E blend from Jason Naturals because that is what I could find easily with good reviews. It is 45,000 IU (International Units), and is Vitamin E blended with Sunflower Seed Oil, Safflower Seed Oil, Camellia Leaf Oil, Macadamia Nut Oil, Pistaschio Nut Oil, Borage Seed Oil, Black Currant Seed Oil, Evening Primrose Oil. Whew! I don’t know what all of those do, but they have a low toxicity rate, which is the important thing. I couldn’t find pure Vitamin E, but that might be better–I’ll have to do some more research.

As a wrinkle-fighter around the eye moisturizer: There’s so much conflicting research about what skin products will do what. However, I did want a heavier moisturizer for around my eyes to try and avoid wrinkles and to keep this skin supple as it’s the area on my face that tends to dry out first. The Vitamin E blend above isn’t cheap, but it isn’t as expensive as most of the pricey, chemical-filled eye creams that are marketed to women out there. The product above is very thick and viscous and so I only put it on before bed.

As a cuticle treatment: Especially in the winter, I get awful hangnails and dry hands. I massage this into my cuticles before bed or mix a drop of it into my coconut oil for a heavy duty hand lotion, and I find it really does help.

K.I.S.S.- Keep it simple, stupid

When you travel, do you carry a face wash, face lotion, body lotion, and eye makeup remover? I used to! Now, I just fill a little Nalgene travel container with jojoba oil and take that with me (I’m willing to use jojoba as a body moisturizer when I’m traveling to save space). SO much easier than lugging all of those darn liquids through security (I refuse to check luggage). So, in other words, using natural skin care products makes your life easier and your luggage lighter. It’s all about keeping it simple.

Another important thing to remember? Just because something is “natural” doesn’t mean its hypoallergenic, so if you have sensitive skin, be sure to test any product in small amounts before taking it on as a part of your daily regimen.

Don’t buy into the hype-

Yet another reason to go with the natural stuff? Because I resent all of the magazines, advertisements, and cosmetic companies telling me that my skin is going to hell in a handbag, that if I don’t lather my skin with this, that, and the other that I will have irreparable damage to my skin, and nothing will be able to save the crap show that my face has become as I march on towards the inevitable death of my body. That is all a bunch of BS. And it’s depressing. And the sad thing is that I read it so often everywhere–my need for these products–that it’s easy to believe! Defy them all by just using the simple stuff, not buying their junk, keeping your skin comfortable to you, and not worrying about the rest.

Okay, that’s my very long spiel. Sorry for rambling on. More natural home cleaning recipes to follow in the not-so-distant future!

Tricks for Eggs

Naomi wrote about rice bowls with veggies and tofu – I wholeheartedly agree with her. Left over rice (or barley, quinoa etc) + veggies = the best.  Since Basel has no real edible tofu, for the extra source of protein I love gooey, runny eggs.  I know some people are opposed to runny eggs. I am not one of them.  Perhaps it’s from growing up in Japan where they often eat eggs raw or when the yolk covers each kernel of rice..mmm.  After a long hike in Neuchatel with Naomi last Sunday and on the train ride back, I was reading Bon Apetit and came across great articles on eggs.  Here are some fun pointers:

– Fresh test: drop an egg into water and if it 1) sinks = fresh and delicious; 2) bobs in the middle = not as fresh, but probably better for baking and fully cooked eggs; and 3) floats = garbage time!

– Poaching per esteemed chef Thomas Keller (French Laundry/Per Se) crack the raw egg in distilled vinegar before cooking to tighten the white. Boil water and instead of dropping the egg in, create a whirlpool by stirring then place the egg in.  Simmer for 2 minutes. Not 3 minutes or 5 minutes. TWO minutes.

Anyway, I tried these methods out on a farm fresh egg I bought when Nat was here at a Funfschilling in Germany. Had no idea what a Funschilling was, but a friend took us to lunch there and it was DELICIOUS farm to table food and great produce etc from the farm.

Note the beautiful yolk – you can also tell a fresh egg by the color/firmness of the yolk. The mass produced eggs have yolks that are pale yellow and break easily which I am sure shows the lack of nutrients and freshness:

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End product – I had it with left over black forbidden rice.  As Naomi said in her last post, I often also put seaweed (from Japan), soy sauce, and fresh scallions if I have them.

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PS – Totally forgot the timeliness of writing about eggs with Easter coming up.  Here are some tips for natural eggs coloring:

– Blue/purple: Red Cabbage

– Yellow: Saffront

– Red: Red Beets

– Green: Red Cabbage and Tumeric

Simmer ingredients with 1/4 cup distilled white vinegar and place eggs in it for 30 min!

Beauty Recipe: Natural Deodorant

ToxicI’m on the road currently, and traveling quite a bit over the next few weeks, so I thought I’d do a natural health care “recipe” since I’m not cooking so much at the moment.

I came from a family of doctors who took a hands off approach in my own family’s health care–my parents gave us no antibiotics or other meds unless absolutely necessary because of resistance and side effects, and thought that drinking water and resting could fix most things. Needless to say, though I know everyone might not agree with me (and of course many serious health issues necessitate supplements or other drugs), I adopted this hands off approach myself. To this day (knock on wood!) I find conscious, healthy, varied eating along with exercise and other types of stress relief keeps me healthy and gives me the vitamins and nutrients I need.

The problem with this approach is that while I was thinking about what was going into my body food-wise, I wasn’t giving a lot of consideration to what I wasn’t keeping out, especially with the products I spread on my body. We’re at the mercy of the stores we shop at and the lenient laws of the US (except for some of us, Aya!), which allow lots of chemicals to get in our bodies. At the risk of sounding crazy, around the same time the information about plastics led me to try and get rid of some of the plastics in our home, I also starting researching my body products on the incredible website created by the Environmental Working Group (EWG), Skin Deep, and getting really freaked out about it. Skin Deep is a database where you can learn (and get terrified) about the toxic ingredients in your cosmetics, soaps, toothpaste, and other toiletries.

I could go on and on about the crazy things that are in our toiletries, but here are a few gems:

  • Sodium Lauryl Sulfate- This chemical may seem innocuous if you look up its properties in Skin Deep–only a 1-2 EWG toxicity rate depending on how its used. It is listed as a skin irritant though. In fact, laboratories throughout the world use it to irritate skin on test animals and humans so that they may then test healing agents to see how effective they are on the irritated skin. So why is it in my toothpaste, shampoo, and skin wash, and why am I spreading this sh*t all over my mucous membranes!?! It’s so hard to find toothpaste without it, but once we made the switch my husband Garriy’s mouth ulcers went away almost immediately, and since switching to shampoo without it, we both have a much less itchy scalp in the winter.
  • Synthetic Fragrance- Listen, I like my Mrs. Myer’s awesome smelling dish soap, those fancy botanical-sounding candles, and my L’Occitane perfume as much as the next gal, but the problem is that “fragrance” is a catch-all term that can include hundreds of chemicals that have harmful contaminants and/or trigger allergic reactions. So, even if you’re buying a so-called natural product, if it contains synthetic fragrance, it could cause health issues. For that reason, as a start, I’m forgoing cleaning products (which have their own separate issues) and making my own scented with essential oils, and using Dr. Bronner’s soap for our hands and bodies. I’m slowly working on the rest of it, and of course, you also have to be careful when using essential oils. This is a hard one to tackle though…
  • 1992 Safeguard Advert: Um, yeah, I guess I would?

    1992 Safeguard Antibacterial Soap Advert: Um, yeah, I guess I would?

    Triclosan- Our parents just used a bar of soap back in the day to wash their hands and get rid of germs. Today, we’re obsessed with everything antibacterial. Many soaps and toothpastes now contain triclosan, a hormone-disrupting pesticide that according to the EWG, “poses potential toxicity to fetal and childhood development,” concentrates in breast milk, and breaks down into toxic chemicals. Both the American Medical Association and the FDA advise against its use, noting that good ole soap (not the antibacterial kind) and water are equally effective at getting rid of germs. So why the hell is it still in your Dial hand soap, Arm & Hammer “natural” deodorant, and Colgate (it’s banned or restricted in many countries, including the EU)? I don’t know, but it’s a wonderful question.

Okay, so I could go on and on, but basically I was upset that I was smearing my body and living with toxic chemicals that I’d brought home myself. After all, shouldn’t we be confident that the substances we rub on our bodies, and which are absorbed through our skin are things that, for the most part, we’d be comfortable ingesting?

Coconut oil, by kattebelletje, Creative Commons: BY-NC 2.0.

Coconut oil, by kattebelletje, Creative Commons: BY-NC 2.0.

Since I’ve written a book here, I’ll refrain from going through the various chemical reasons why I decided to switch over to a natural deodorant (I’ve not been using anti-perspirant for years), but you can read about possible risks of many deodorant ingredients online. In the meantime, what follows is a simple recipe made from things I always have around the house anyway, and which are food safe: coconut oil, baking soda, and cornstarch. I like to add in grapefruit essential oil because it smells so awesome. I’ve tried lots of regular drugstore and natural deodorants in the past, and I’m a pretty sweaty girl, and none of them ever worked for me. I can promise you that this does the trick amazingly.

I’ve seen people put it in old “click-up” deodorant containers or plastic push-up containers, but it seems like a hassle to me, especially since it warmer weather it can be pretty melty because of the coconut oil. We just use a glass jar (a shallow one, not a tall narrow one, so you can get at all of it), or a small Nalgene container when we travel. If it melts and needs to be re-solidified, simply stir and let it sit in the fridge to chill. Note that some people can develop skin irritation or rashes from the baking soda even though it’s not a toxic ingredient, so you can cut back to a ratio of 1 part baking soda to 3 parts cornstarch, instead of the 1:1 ratio below.

Coconut Oil Deodorant

Natural Coconut Oil Deodorant

  • 1/4 C. baking soda
  • 1/4 C. cornstarch or arrowroot powder
  • coconut oil (virgin organic, if possible)
  • 10 drops grapefruit essential oil (Optional: or another scent that you like: tea tree oil is recommended by many for its natural antibacterial properties, but I’m not a huge fan of that scent)
Mix together the baking soda and cornstarch and add in the 10 drops of essential oil. Whisk or stir all together to distribute the oils. Add coconut oil to powders until they reach the consistency of cake frosting or a bit thicker. Store in a glass container. Apply a tsp. or so with fingertips to each armpit. You may want to make smaller batches or store in the fridge if you don’t use it very quickly as coconut oil, as with any oil, can go rancid if it is left at warm temperatures for months and months.

How to Avoid Plastic Wrap

Plastic Tupperware containers in my kitchen.

Plastic Tupperware containers in my kitchen.

Some years ago there were a series of forwarded emails that many people received about the dangers of plastic water bottles and heating meals in Tupperware containers because of “chemical leaching.” At the time, I tried to brush most of the concern off–I mean who can truly get rid of plastics in their household? Everything comes in plastic–look through your pantries! Even the bulk goods that I buy from the Middle Eastern store and the co-op come in plastic bags or plastic bins.

Since then multiple studies have been release about BPA–or Bisphenol A–a compound used to make many plastics, and found in containers, water bottles, can liners, jar lids, receipts, and even recycled toilet paper! Many have argued that the chemical may be partly responsible for cancer, fertility issues, behavioral issues, neurological disorders . . . you name it.

In the past few weeks, even more evidence has mounted that  the chemical may contribute to obesity and diabetes, as well as heart disease. Pretty damning stuff.

Steam things by covering with a plate

Avoid plastic wrap by covering items you want to steam with a plate.

Needless to say, I’ve been trying to slowly replace my Tupperware with glass containers with glass lids, and to wean myself off of plastic wrap (even while many plastic wraps don’t contain BPA, heating up plastics can release dioxins or phthalates  that are also harmful).

One simple solution? Simply cover your bowl with a plate in order to steam things in the microwave (a technique used in the Microwave Peas & Rice recipe), or to avoid splattering when re-heating. This trick also works outside of the microwave. I often roast eggplants or peppers, and steaming them after broiling them helps to remove the skin. Simply put the vegetables in a bowl and cover securely with a plate. Easy, cheaper than buying plastic wrap, and keeping harmful chemicals from entering our bodies!