The one thing about growing older and hopefully wiser is seeing many things from the past return. So when my antique dealer friend from CO, Brenda Bratina, gave me Mary Ellen's Best of Helpful Hints dated 1979, I knew I'd find some gems for my readers. Thus, here are my Frugal Household and Kitchen Tips #1 from Mary Ellen and beloved readers. Bet you'll find some new ideas too.
1. Wilted Vegetables
Perk up soggy lettuce by adding lemon juice to a bowl of cold water and soak it for an hour in the refrigerator. And to crisp up celery and lettuce, place them in a pan of cold water and add a few slices of raw potatoes, if handy.
2. Old Bananas
Throw them into the freezer, peel and all, and when ready to use in a banana bread recipe. Cut the end and let the banana and juice slime out. It makes for flavorful banana bread or muffins, and you use up all your purchased fruit. (see the DEAD BANANA BREAD recipe below)
3. Cream That Will Not Whip
If the cream doesn't stiffen, whip in 3 to 4 drops of lemon juice.
Cream whipped ahead of time will not separate if you add a touch of unflavored gelatin (1/4 teaspoon per cup of cream).
4. Brown Sugar as Hard as a Rock
Soften by placing a slice of soft bread in the package and closing tightly. In a couple of hours, the brown sugar will be smooth again.
5. Salty Salt
Keep 5 to 10 grains of rice inside your shaker to prevent clogging.
6. Ripe Ideas
Place green fruits in a perforated plastic bag. The holes allow air movement yet retain the odorless ethylene gas, which helps promote ripening.
Exposure to direct sunlight softens tomatoes instead of ripening them. Leave the tomatoes, stem up, in any spot where they will be out of direct sunlight.
Ripen green bananas or green tomatoes by wrapping them in a wet dish towel and placing them in a paper sack.
Bury avocados in a bowl of flour.
Or try ripening 2 to 3 peaches, tomatoes, or avocados by placing them in a paper lunch bag for a few days.
7. Removing Excess Fat
Eliminate fat from soup and stew by dropping ice cubes into the pot. As you stir, the fat will cling to the cube. Discard the cubes before they melt. Or, wrap ice cubes in a cheesecloth or paper towel piece and skim over the top.
When broiling meats in your oven, place a piece of bread in the broiler pan to soak up the dripping fat. The bread eliminates smoking fat and reduces the chances of the fat catching fire.
8. Stopping Spattering and Sticking
When pan-frying or sauteeing, continually heat your pan before adding the butter or oil; not even eggs stick with this method.
9. Preventing Boil-Overs
Add a lump of butter or a few teaspoons of olive oil to the water. Rice, noodles, or spaghetti will not boil over or stick together.
10. Measuring Sticky Liquids
Before measuring honey or other syrups, lightly oil the measuring cup with cooking oil or spray PAM.
ll. Fruit Flies
If plagued with these pesky creatures, Laura Hendrickson, from Charlottesville, Virginia, advises us to "Pour apple cider vinegar into a small bowl and cover the bowl with plastic wrap. Then poke holes into the clear wrap, and hopefully, by the following day, you will have a pool of dead fruit flies trapped in the vinegar."
12. Clothing Stain Removal
Kathy Edwards from Nashville, Tennessee, brings us this NO-FAIL, NO-DRYCLEANING TIP. Make a thick paste of baby powder to get grease stains out of clothes. Rut it into the grease stain thoroughly. Let dry overnight, then rub it out of the fabric the next day. No dry cleaning is required.
DEAD BANANA BREAD by Martha Wild King, M.Ed.
Three blackened frozen bananas, thawed and cut open with juice
1/4 cup butter
1/4 cup yogurt
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 and 1/2 cups flour (can use Gluten-free)
One teaspoon of baking soda
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Mash up the bananas with beaters in a mixing bowl. Add butter, Then add egg, yogurt, and brown sugar. Next, blend flour, soda, and salt into this batter. Add walnuts and stir well. Pour mixture into a greased loaf pan—Bake for 1 hour or until done, as tested with a toothpick. Let cool and remove from pan. Keeps nicely in the refrigerator for healthy snacks.
Every moving thing that lives shall be food for you; and as I gave you the green plants, I give you everything. Only you shall not eat flesh with its life, that is, its blood.
Martha Wild King, M.Ed., Author
The Frugal Catholic: Learn to live on less to give and save more.