HELOISE: Microwave myth, busted
Dear Heloise: I have been told by a friend that microwaving food depletes all the nutrients from it and makes food unhealthy. Can you please confirm if this information is accurate? -- A Reader, via email
Well, it actually is not accurate. Any cooking will remove some of the nutrients from the food being cooked, but microwaving is considered one of the best cooking methods for retaining nutrients. Why? Because microwaving is fast and uses less heat and smaller amounts of liquid.
Here is an easy-to-understand example: cooking vegetables in water on the stovetop. We know, for example, that cooking broccoli in water will result in most antioxidants being pulled out of the broccoli and into the water during the time it takes to heat up and cook completely to the desired doneness.
In the microwave, cooking for less time and using less water means less chance of nutrient loss, making the microwave a much better cooking method, nutritionally. -- Heloise
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Dear Heloise: I've been using the same cornbread recipe for years, but my last batch of cornbread had such a bitter taste that I couldn't eat it. The only thing I had done differently was use a new brand of baking powder.
I did some research and found that the culprit was sodium aluminum sulfate in the baking powder. While most people might not notice the flavor at all (my husband didn't), others are more sensitive to the taste of aluminum.
Some baking-powder brands contain sodium aluminum sulfate, and some don't. If your baked goods have an unpleasant metallic tang, check the ingredients list on your baking powder. I'll definitely look more closely the next time I grocery-shop. -- L.R., via email
Dear Heloise: I wasn't using up my flour quick enough, and it would sit for months. Then, when I was ready to use the flour, it had bugs in it. I would throw it out and go buy new flour as I needed it.
Now, I freeze my flour. I put it in one plastic freezer bag, seal it and then put that in another plastic freezer bag and seal it again. Now when I go for my flour, it is always fresh, dry and, best of all, bug-free. -- Rita R. in Pennsylvania
Just remember to warm the flour to room temperature before using. -- Heloise
Dear Heloise: I always check egg cartons for broken eggs in the store, but sometimes there is a small crack that is not visible, causing eggs to stick in the carton. I found that pouring some lemon juice in the carton around the stuck eggs loosens them overnight. -- David D. in Virginia
This is a good way to loosen them, but know that you can even use plain water and they will loosen! -- Heloise