thin camas

Safe (and pretty) food covers

I admit it. I have a thing about food storage.

I am endlessly writing about containers (glass, stainless, silicone, thermos) for left-overs or lunchtime delicacies. I fear food that is inappropriately dried up/soggy/plastic-tasting and am scarred by childhood experiences of malodorous tupperware tumbling out of badly organized cupboards.

My friends seem to have cottoned onto this and so, for my birthday last year, I was given a Lily Pad.
lilypad

Not a real lily pad, but a delightful silicone lid in the shape of a lily pad that can be used in the fridge, freezer, microwave (though I am not a microwaver so can't vouch for that) and even the oven (up to 500 degrees). It can be washed in the dishwasher (without even a `top-rack-caution').
(NB. See this previous review for more details on silicone).

Being of French origin, the Lily Pad is well-designed and nice enough to hang on your wall from the built-in loop.
It creates a great seal on ceramic, glass or metal bowls, making it a good replacement for plastic wrap (for those of you who are still using this).

A quick word about plastic wrap: there is nothing good about it. Originally plastic wrap was made from PVC, `the most toxic plastic'. PVC off-gases terribly, plasticizers in it are probably carcinogenic (just ask those lab rats), poisonous dioxins are produced in its manufacture and it is not recyclable. In belated recognition of these hazards, wrap is now increasingly made from low density polyethylene (LDPE). This makes it less clingy and arguably a less effective food wrap, but it is somewhat safer. It still can't be recycled.

Anyway, let's assume that you want to avoid plastic wrap and that you don't always have to hand a lid of the perfect size to fit the salad bowl/mug/casserole that you wish to place in the fridge or oven.
lilypadset

Just reach for the Lily Pad. The Pads come in 3 diameters: 4" (10cm), nearly 10" (25cm) and just over 11" (about 29cm). They are designed by a French company, Charles Viancin, though made, of course, in China.

The drawback? I have not found a source in Canada. All sizes (plus other neat Charles Viancin cookware) are available on Amazon (prices are between $5 and $14). However, they are sold by third party vendors who do not ship to Canada.

So, for the moment we are Lily Pad-less, as a nation. Is there anyone out there who can solve this problem for me? My food cries out to be covered.
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Food storage: the final frontier

OK, that might be overstating things: more my final posting on this topic for a while. I hope that there is infinite innovation on (eco) food storage in my future.

So, I have posted on stainless steel containers (one of my my popular pages, by the way...) and I have posted on silicone containers. Now it is the turn of glass.

I have been using glassware to store my food for about 15 years. Glass containers used to be hard to come by, but now they are everywhere.
Trueseal 1

Glass has so many advantages: it is inert, so no nasty leaching; it goes in the dishwasher, no problem; it can go in the oven as well as the freezer; and it does not stain or retain flavours. The only downsides are that it breaks (of course), though do bear in mind that unless you buy the very cheapest containers you will be purchasing borosilicate glass, which is far more robust that regular glass. Having said that, I really only use glass for in-home storage, partly because it is quite heavy (I did try the lunch bag thing once...not again).

The French were ahead of us all on tempered glass (think about those Duralex glasses that I like so much), or maybe they were just the first who discovered how to make lids.

My oldest glass containers are from Luminarc. I bought them in the UK around 1998 and they are still going strong, though the lids are somewhat split at the edges (I do not always observe the `top rack only' instruction when it comes to my dishwasher, but since I always wash on the delicate setting to save energy, I figure I get a break).

But now everyone from the dollar store up seems to be making glass with lids (it is the lids which are key to food storage, of course).
trueseal 2
As noted, the cheaper the glass the less robust it seems to be (in my experience). It is also not clear to me what the plastic lids on the cheap containers are made from. There is little point in moving to glass if you are going to cover your food with an off-gassing, BPA-laden lid.

I have, as is my wont, tried most of the glass containers on the market today. I like the idea of the Glasslock type with the flaps that snap shut and make things water- and air-tight. But I don't like them in practice. You seldom need this degree of seal and I find it hard to get them to close completely. You are also limited to rectangular or square shapes .... I have a soft spot for circles.

My new favourite glassware comes from no further away than the US (yes, the glass itself is actually made there, though the lids do, I am afraid, come from China).

The TrueSeal range from Anchor has flexible (possibly partly silicone?) BPA-free lids with a see-through panel in the top to help you see what is inside. The lids are super-easy to put on and seem to last well. The manufacturer claims that by pushing down the lid to squeeze out air you can make things pretty water-tight. There are differing views on this in web reviews, but I put water in one of mine and turned it upside down and the seal did indeed seem to be true.

The range includes round containers (which nest) as well as square, loaf-shaped and taller containers.
trueseal set
They are all microwave, dishwasher, oven and freezer safe. And since I have a soft spot for lime green (did anyone guess that ?), I like the way these look in my kitchen. They are also fine for serving which cannot be said for plastic.

In the US TrueSeal glassware is available most everywhere, it seems (so Target, Walmart, etc.) and is good value at $25 for a 10 piece set (5 round containers with lids) at Walmart online. I am not sure whether Walmart stocks the TrueSeal range in Canada (I guess I should visit and check it out but I can't quite bring myself to do that, even for you, dear readers).

I bought the ones I have in a larger Loblaws store, but they certainly don't sell them in my local Loblaws. I found a better selection at Canadian Tire. Of course they are more expensive here in Canada, around $6 to $12 per container or $19.99 for a set of 3 round containers with lids.
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How to pack a peach

....so that it does not squash in your child's lunch bag? That is the question I ask myself every year as school kicks off at the peak of the domestic peach season.

I love peaches, my kids love peaches (sadly for them, they only get them at this time of year as I fret about peaches' constant appearance on the dirty dozen list of the most pesticide-drenched fruits). But nobody loves a brown mush at the bottom of the lunch bag.

Help is at hand! I was sent some Kinderville bigger bites storage jars, by my friends at Rockpretty Baby. I had never heard of or seen these `jars' before, but it turns out they are ideal for peaches (and a number of other things too).
big bites large


They are made from silicone. This seems to be the material of choice for flexible food grade products these days. It is more or less natural (being a product of the abundant silicon in sand and rock) although I'm not so sure the same can be said of the lovely primary colour dyes. It is also chemically inert, tolerant of a wide range of temperatures (so can be boiled to sterilise) and is apparently resistant to bacteria. Health Canada reassures me of its safety and other sites seem to concur.

The silicone is soft enough to cushion your peach and the neat thing about it is that because it is flexible, when you push the lid down, it creates a vacuum seal and your jar becomes almost watertight. Yet little hands can remove the lid with ease (and have fun at the same time, sealing and popping the top off).

Now, when I say `almost water-tight' I sound a note of caution. I sent a slightly oily salad to school in my jar the other day and found everything scattered around the lunch bag on return. I think things had been fine until the kids tried to replace the lid. Maybe the oil interfered with the seal. Or maybe it was recess that did.

Anyway, for really messy stuff in lunchbags, I would still opt for the clamp sealed stainless containers that I wrote about before. But I do love these bigger bites containers for awkward shaped items; they are appreciably taller than most stainless jars. And, for those of you who might be toting your own (or a baby's) snack, food can be microwaved directly in the container and the jar itself won't get hot. I just wouldn't carry, store or heat anything too smelly in them as all plastic-type materials tends to hold smells after a while.

Kinderville is a US company that specializes in squishy silicone products, mostly targeted at the baby end of the spectrum (e.g. silicone plates, freezer cubes for baby food).
little bites
The items themselves are made in China and Korea (apparently responsibly, exceeding all safety standards).

Bigger bites jars are not cheap @ $17.99 for two, or $22 - or more - in Canada (sigh). This is about the same price as stainless. The company also makes smaller jars - little bites - which are half the price (4 instead of 2 for the same price) and they are currently 30% off on the US site (though shipping to Canada is ruinous). I would be interested to know if these minis would pack a peach too (can anyone tell me?).

Kinderville products are available at a variety of bricks-and-mortar and online retailers in the US and Canada. The best online price in Canada is through rockprettybaby.ca.

If you like this posting, you might also like:
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Stainless steel food containers

In my post on litterless lunches I promised to revisit the topic of stainless food containers. Now seems as good a time as any, especially as summer means picnics and picnics require robust food containers.

I am pretty much plastic-free in my kitchen these days and I do enjoy that. It is when I see the orange staining on plastics from tomato sauce, that I fully appreciate how deeply food penetrates plastic (and how little I like that thought). So I use glass/pyrex for storing food at home and stainless steel for my kids' lunches and picnics.

The downside of stainless is mainly the up-front cost. Until recently, it has also been hard to find good stainless containers, but that has all changed of late.
SM small


For a long time now, I have been using containers made by Sanctus Mundo (a local, Wakefield, Quebec company) which are sold through the website Life Without Plastic, as well as in various retail outlets.

My favourite Sanctus Mundo products are the round airtight/watertight containers in various sizes. These have three clips and a silicone seal which together really do stop leaks, even if the containers tumble around in a lunch bag. Yet they are still easy - and satisfying - to open and close.

Hand washing is recommended: I am good about this but still find a few of my seals showing a bit of mildew. However, this does not affect their performance (and replacement lids are available through the website for about $5). The bad news: these containers cost between $15 and $20 each, depending upon the size, so this might be a gradual investment.

Round containers are great for fruit and small items, but if you are thinking about sandwiches or looking at storing leftovers in the fridge, they are not always the best option.

If you are more of a square person, or want a somewhat larger capacity, another great product comes from a Canadian website, Earthly Bound.

Earthly Bound sell sets of 3 square containers in high quality, shiny stainless for $30.
earthly small
These containers are dishwasher-safe, though hand washing is advised for lids (made of #5 polypropylene plastic which has no bisphenol-A and is generally considered among the safer plastics). If you are an anti-plastic purist the lids could bother you, but I don't worry too much since the food rarely touches them anyway.

The advantage of the flexible plastic lid is that it stays on well and is easy for small and big hands alike. This is not the case with some containers. For example, Kids Konserve stainless containers have lids that are REALLY hard to get on and off (and hence often leak or fall off, since they were never on properly in the first place). LunchBots containers are nice as they have dividers in them, but they have metal lids - without clips - which are also tricky.

Overall, the Earthly Bound sets are good value and straddle the lunch box/fridge divide. I like the versatility. I should mention that I received a set of these for testing, but this has not affected my review.

A final note on provenance: almost all stainless containers are made in Asia. Surprisingly China is not the main source. Many - including Earthly Bound's containers - come from India (the home of the tiffin box), while others are from Thailand or South Korea (Sanctus Mundo). Life Without Plastics has a note on its website about ethical sourcing of its products.

N.B. If you like this posting, you might also like my two pieces on litterless lunches.
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