HELOISE: Simmer down stains
Dear Heloise: I have an expensive dutch oven (enamel over cast iron, I think), and I have been unable to clean the food stains inside. Please help. -- Marilyn W., via email
If you have already tried soaking it with dish detergent and warm water without good results, then try this recommended (from a leading manufacturer) method next: Place warm water and a powdered laundry detergent (about 2 teaspoons in 2 pints of water) in the pan and mix to dissolve. Clean with a nylon or soft abrasive pad (no abrasive cleaners or metallic pads). If stains still remain, set the pan on the stovetop, heat to boiling, then simmer for just a few minutes. Scrub, rinse and dry.
In the future, try not to let the food dry before adding water and detergent to it. This will make cleanup easier. -- Heloise
Dear Heloise: Our local paper, the (Geneva, N.Y.) Finger Lakes Times, recently published your hint about cutting spaghetti prior to serving it to children.
In my experience, three out of four children refused to eat spaghetti after it was cut even if they did not see me cutting it. Thus, I switched from spaghetti to pasta shaped like elbows, shells, wheels, etc., with the spaghetti sauce.
The kids always enjoyed having different shapes of pasta. Strictly speaking, it wasn't spaghetti, but it was less messy! Thanks for all your hints! They are very helpful! -- Sue W., Geneva, N.Y.
Dear Readers: Here is a hint for making bouquet garni (a French term that literally means "garnished bouquet"). A "garni" (different herbs tied together) is added to a dish while cooking but removed before the dish is served.
To make a garni, gather thyme, bay leaves, parsley or other herbs. Wrap them in cheesecloth and tie at the top so the leaves and stems stay wrapped in the bag. Drop the bag of herbs in soup, stew or stock for added flavor, removing the bag when the dish is done cooking.
You can buy bags to put your herbs in or purchase premade garnis that can simply be added to your dishes. -- Heloise
Dear Heloise: I was getting out the makings for egg-salad sandwiches and discovered I had no celery. With no time to go to the store, I cut the long center ribs out from the lettuce leaves (Heloise here: Romaine lettuce is what I use) and diced them as I would celery. Nobody even noticed the difference. -- A Reader, via email
Dear Heloise: I buy salads in hard, plastic containers. When I'm down to the last serving, I add all my extra fixings and use the container for my actual salad. -- Tom D., via email
Dear Heloise: Having grown up with Houston humidity all of my life, you learn to put raw rice in your saltshakers to keep them shaking. A small amount of rice works nicely. -- Connie Thompson in Texas