Dear Heloise: To lessen the cooking time for BRUSSELS SPROUTS, I slice an “X’’ into the root end of each sprout. As I do this, I give the knife a little twist. You can hear the leaves in the core tear apart just a bit. This gives the hard core of each sprout more exposure to the boiling water. -- Dana F., Spokane, Wash.
Dana, fresh Brussels sprouts are tasty! This is the recommended way to prepare sprouts before cooking. Why? Because the leaves tend to cook faster. Cutting the core helps it cook more evenly with the leaves, but don’t overcook sprouts! -- Heloise
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TESTING BAKING POWDER
Dear Readers: Baking powder usually lasts six months to a year after being opened. However, when in doubt about whether it is still active, do this quick and easy test.
Take 1 teaspoon of baking powder and place it in a cup of hot water. If the baking powder starts to bubble, you will know that it is still good to use. -- Heloise
Dear Heloise: I have been sifting a 5-pound bag of flour and returning it to a canister or the bag all at one time. This saves a step when baking. -- Ellen in Florida
Ellen, a great way to think ahead. However, most all-purpose flours manufactured today are sifted before packaging. But once brought home, the flour may have condensed or settled, and if so, it will need to be sifted again.
You have to read the recipe carefully, because if it says “1 cup sifted flour,” then the flour needs to be sifted before measuring. However, if the recipe says “1 cup flour, sifted,” then the flour is sifted after measuring. You sift flour to get out any lumps and aerate it. Aerating dry ingredients, like flour, helps them accept liquids more easily and evenly. -- Heloise
Dear Heloise: I have learned that celery can be frozen. This is good for soups and stews, although I have put it in my turkey stuffing, too. I place the stalks in the blender with water, chop, then drain. After it is drained, I put it in a gallon freezer bag and flatten it out. This makes it possible to break off the amount you need when cooking. Again, I only do this for use in cooking. -- Pat H., via e-mail
This is one way to freeze celery, but by draining it you are losing a lot of nutrients. -- Heloise
Dear Heloise: Before putting pecans in a storage bag, place them in a colander and shake. You will be surprised what comes out. Your pecans will then be clean and ready to bag for use later. -- Patricia B., Pine Bluff, Ark.
Dear Heloise: My mom taught me to use COLD liquid to mix my flour or cornstarch and THEN whisk it into the hot liquid -- never a lump! -- Janet C., Ellicott, Colo.
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