DEAR HELOISE: Years ago, I recall a column you had about microwaving. The reader was drying herbs, I think. If I recall correctly, you stated that you should not use any paper towels with designs when microwaving, just plain white ones. Am I remembering correctly, and why only white paper towels?
Tina D. in Kentucky
DEAR TINA: You remembered correctly! And thanks for the reminder that it’s time to reprint this safety hint again. Only use plain white paper towels when putting anything in the microwave, especially if cooking or reheating food. The dyes in paper towels with designs are not approved for use with food when microwaving if the paper towel will be touching the food. Also, paper towels made of recycled material (typically not white in color) may cause “arcing” if there are tiny flecks of metal in the material. You don’t want to start a fire!
DEAR HELOISE: I needed 1 cup of raisins and sunflower seeds for a salad recipe. I was going to use the bulk section at the grocery store and didn’t want to get too much or too little.
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I took my measuring cup from home and lined it with the plastic bags in the bulk section. This way, I could get exactly 1 cup of the ingredients I needed, and there was no waste. I lined the cup because I didn’t want to dip my cup in the bulk bin, as this probably would be against health-department rules.
Carol G., Fort Wayne, Ind.
DEAR CAROL: I’m not sure about the health laws, but since they are bulk bins, you can always ask someone at the store. A little over or a little under for a salad recipe will not affect the dish. “Guess-timate,” and enjoy any overage as a snack.
DEAR HELOISE: I sometimes use cutting boards that are thin and plastic. I put a disinfectant wipe underneath. This not only keeps the cutting board from slipping, but I can use it to wipe up the counter when I’m all done cutting up the ingredients.
Lola W., Knoxville, Tenn.
DEAR HELOISE: Frequently, a recipe may call for liquor. As an infrequent imbiber, not much is kept in my house. I recently needed 1/4 cup of rum for baking; I did not want to spend the money on a full bottle. The liquor store had “airline-size” bottles of everything for $0.99. Problem solved!
Myrna W., Ventura County
DEAR MYRNA: Good hint. You do need to check the recipe for the amount of alcohol needed. Some of the little bottles called a nip contain 50 ml of liquor. Some are larger or maybe smaller.
DEAR HELOISE: When they stopped making small-size steel-wool pads, I started cutting the large pads in half. Large pads tend to hang around longer, getting smelly and rusty.
Mary D., via email
Send a money-saving hint to Heloise P.O. Box 795000 San Antonio, TX 78279-5000.