When I think of “Household Hints,” I always think of the original Heloise. She was the one who introduced us to the multiple uses of vinegar and commons sense house cleaning. Well, all of us have little tricks that we use in the kitchen and around the house. And the bushel basket of ideas that I’m sharing today is largely courtesy of you, the reader, who have shared your tips with me.
We’ll start first with a lesson that I learned last year. Be very careful in the kitchen when handling hot glass baking dishes such as Corning or Pyrex. Most of us think that they are indestructible unless dropped. Wrong! Twice last year I suffered explosive situations with glass baking dishes. One snapped and shattered in the oven and another as I was removing it from the oven.
To put it mildly, I was absolutely shocked to have a pan of piping hot lasagna break apart in my hands and fall to the floor. Why? I don’t know. According to Urban Legends there are lots of theories. You can check them out at http://www.snopes.com/food/warnings/pyrex.asp.
Personally, I think that my dishes were old and weakened by years of exposure to high heat both in the oven, microwave oven and dishwasher. So be careful. Remember that all brands of glassware are subject to breakage. Use common sense and avoid temperature extremes at all cost. Don’t transfer a glass dish from the freezer to the oven or vice versa. Allow the dishes to sit until they are nearly room temperature before changing their location. Not even the venerable brand names (which mine were) are indestructible.
I hope you find at least one or two treasures from the following variety of household helpers. One caveat: most of the following cooking tips I have authenticated, some of the others I haven’t.
Banana tips: Peel a banana from the bottom and you won't have to pick the little "stringy things" off the fruit. Take your bananas apart when you get home from the store. If you leave them connected at the stem, they ripen faster.
Moldy cheese? Store your opened chunks of cheese in aluminum foil. It will stay fresh much longer and not mold!
Peppers with 3 bumps on the bottom are sweeter and better for eating. Peppers with 4 bumps on the bottom are firmer and better for cooking.
Greasy meat? Add a couple of teaspoons of water when frying ground beef. It will help pull the grease away from the meat while cooking. Drain well.
To make scrambled eggs or omelets really rich add a couple of spoonfuls of sour cream, cream cheese, or heavy cream and then beat them up.
For a cool brownie treat, make brownies as directed. Melt Andes mints in double broiler and pour over warm brownies. Let set for a wonderful minty frosting.
Add garlic immediately to a recipe if you want a light taste of garlic and at the end of the recipe if your want a stronger taste of garlic.
Reheat Pizza: Heat up leftover pizza in a nonstick skillet on top of the stove, set heat to med-low and heat till warm. This keeps the crust crispy. No soggy micro pizza.
Measuring cup mess: Before you pour sticky substances into a measuring cup, fill it with hot water. Dump out the hot water, but don't dry cup. Next, add your ingredient, such as peanut butter, and watch how easily it comes right out.
Expand Frosting: When you buy a container of cake frosting from the store, whip it with you mixer for a few minutes. You can double it in size. You get to frost more cake/cupcakes with the same amount. You also eat less sugar and calories per serving.
Reheating Refrigerated Bread: To warm biscuits, pancakes or muffins that were refrigerated, place them in a microwave with a cup of water. The increased moisture will keep the food moist and help it reheat faster.
Newspaper Weeds Away: Layer newspapers around new plants, overlapping; wet the paper, cover with mulch and forget about weeds. Weeds will get through some gardening plastic but they will not get through wet newspapers. I need to try this!
Flexible Vacuum: To get something out of a heat register or under the fridge add an empty paper towel roll or empty gift wrap roll to your vacuum. It can be bent or flattened to get in narrow openings.
Reducing Static Cling: Pin a small safety pin to the seam of your slip and you will not have a clingy skirt or dress. Same thing works with slacks that cling when wearing panty hose. Place pin in seam of slacks and — hopefully—the static is gone.
Foggy car windshields? Buy a chalkboard eraser and keep it in the glove box of your car. When the windows fog, rub with the eraser!
Goodbye Fruit Flies: To get rid of pesky fruit flies, take a small glass fill it 1/2" with Apple Cider Vinegar and 2 drops of dish washing liquid, mix well. You will find those flies drawn to the cup and gone forever!
And finally, our recipe idea for the day is this yummy dessert that uses leftover holiday Snickers that you must get rid of to start your new diet! It’s a new twist on candied apples that calls for a generous layer of apples topped with candy:
Preheat oven to 350° F. Spray an 8-inch square baking dish. Coarsely chop the candy (a food processor is good for this). Peel, core and slice a few apples. Place apples in the prepared baking dish and sprinkle the chopped candy bars over the apples. Bake 15 minutes. Serve alone or with vanilla ice cream.