2014-02-11 / Columns

Hints From Heloise

COFFEE-GROUNDS DISPOSAL

Dear Heloise: In a recent Washington Post article, you stated that leftover coffee grounds should never be put down the garbage disposal. Why? – Al S., via email

Al, you and many readers were curious, so here’s the “scoop.” It’s not that the disposal won’t handle them; it does grind up all sorts of food. It’s when they go down the drain and supposedly disappear into the sewer system. That black hole in the kitchen sink is attached to the plumbing, and that’s where the problem might come up and, well, really stop things up!

Look under the kitchen sink, and you will see a P-trap (I say it looks like a bent elbow). If you don’t run enough water (and most folks don’t), the grounds can get stuck in there or in the plumbing farther down the line.

Then you add other foods scraped from plates, or you wash a pan that has grease or oil on it. Combine all of these factors, and you just might end up with a clogged drain. My mantra: It’s better to prevent a problem than to have to deal with one.

When in doubt, throw it out! If you live in a house, the plumbing can run a long way to the sewer or septic system.

Hope this helps “clear up” the coffee-grounds question. – Heloise

BEND IT

Dear Heloise: I bend my bobby pins to fit the curvature of my head. This not only hides the bobby pins better in my hair, but also helps them stay in better. – A Reader, via email

SLOW-COOKER SAFETY

Dear Heloise: I just bought a slow cooker, and I have a question about putting meat and vegetables in together. When a recipe says to put the beef (or whatever) in the cooker and then arrange the vegetables around it, add water, etc., shouldn’t the meat be seared first? Putting it in raw with the vegetables doesn’t sound right to me. – Bob, via email

I know it doesn’t sound quite right, but yes, you can put raw meat in the slow cooker with raw vegetables.

A slow cooker does just that – cooks the food slowly. It uses a lower temperature, but it also cooks the food for a longer period of time. The tightfitting lid and the steaming environment kill bacteria, so don’t worry. Also, don’t put a big old hunk of meat or chicken in there (like a pot roast). Cut the meat into big chunks so they can cook properly. Some slow-cooker recipes say to sear the meat before, so if you feel more comfortable, then do sear the meat first. – Heloise

CRAFTY REUSE

Dear Heloise: I wanted to share my crafty, easy hint. I wash out my decorative soap dispensers when they’re empty and use them as flower or plant holders. They go really well in the bathroom and give it some life. – Lynda in Missouri

KITTEN CLEANUP

Dear Heloise: I noticed that my cats’ hair was all over the side of the bed that I do not lie on. My solution was to use a lint roller. When I make the bed, I give it a quick roll. – Beth in El Paso, Texas

CAST IRON ON RANGE

Dear Heloise: Is it OK to use an old cast-iron skillet on a smoothtop range? – C.B. in Iowa

Maybe yes and maybe no! Some glass-cooktop manufacturers say it’s OK, depending on the skillet; others say no altogether.

Older cast iron usually is covered with rough areas and bumps on the bottom, which can damage the glass top. The damage (scratches) happens when the pan is slid across the cooktop rather than being lifted and moved. Older cast iron holds heat (which is why we love it to cook in), which may cause the element in the glass top to shut off.

Newer cast iron is made differently, and you can find many with smooth bottoms that are covered in enamel. These cast-iron skillets should be OK, but as always, do check with the manufacture to see what it suggests. – Heloise

P.S.: I love my old, old (mother’s and grandmother’s) cast-iron skillets to cook with, but I probably would not use it on a glass cooktop, just to be safe.

DARKENED ROOM

Dear Heloise: On a recent trip, the hotel-room curtains would not stay closed to keep the light from outside from coming through. I went to the closet and got one of the skirt hangers with the clips. After clipping it to the curtains, I could finally rest peacefully! – Claire D., via email

BEACH BUSINESS

Dear Heloise: When I go to the beach, I cover my car mats in a trash bag so that no sand gets on them, and the floor will be mostly protected from sand, too. – Sue in Florida

Send a money-saving or timesaving hint to Heloise, P.O. Box 795000, San Antonio, TX 78279- 5000, or you can fax it to 1-210-HELOISE or email it to Heloise@ Heloise.com. I can’t answer your letter personally but will use the best hints received in my column.

(c) 2014 by King Features Syndicate, Inc.

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