Dear Heloise: I enjoyed meeting you at an event in Houston. I love fresh COCONUT, but after I drain the coconut and crack the shell, it takes major surgery to get the meat out. There has got to be an easier way to do it. Any suggestions? I saw a Samoan in Hawaii use a pointed stick in the ground, but I don’t think I can keep one around for just that! -- Ann S. in Houston
I enjoyed meeting you and your daughter; please give her a hug for me! Trying to crack a coconut can drive you “nuts”! The coconut needs to be baked before the meat is removed.
Put the coconut in the oven (on 350 F) for 15-20 minutes. Remove carefully and wrap in a heavy towel. Use a hammer to whack the heck out of it. Just keep hammering away, and it should break into pieces, which makes it easier to remove the meat.
Next, use a flat-head screwdriver, nut pick or a paring knife to pick out the meat. -- Heloise
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THE FOILED TOUCH
Dear Heloise: When I cook with aluminum foil, I sometimes notice that there are black specks left on the food after cooking. What causes this, and is it something I need to worry about? -- Rachel T., via e-mail
Don’t worry. These specks can be caused when aluminum foil touches food that contains vinegar or salt or that is highly acidic or spicy. It’s a reaction between the foil and the food. It’s not harmful, and you can safely eat the black specks. But if you would rather not, then just remove them. -- Heloise
Dear Heloise: While visiting a friend, I asked where she had found the big, wide rubber bands that are so handy for large extension cords, boxes in the pantry, etc. She said that when her rubber gloves develop holes, she cuts across the cuffs to form the wide bands. Not only handy, but a great way to recycle.
Another hint is that after dropping a piece of eggshell into a light-colored batter and not finding it, I now keep a stack of disposable, clear plastic cups in the kitchen. When a recipe calls for eggs, I break the eggs into the plastic cup, and if there is a problem, I can solve it and then toss the cup. -- Zelda W. in Missouri
Dear Readers: I love to eat pickles, and I always save the juice after finishing a jar. When I eat a cucumber, I score the sides with a fork and make a design in the skin. This is nice if the skin is a little tough to eat. Remember, the skin is where all of the vitamins and nutrients are! Then I cut it into slices and place them in the pickle juice. The cucumbers stay crispy for a day or two, but still are a delicious treat days after placing them in the pickle juice. -- Heloise