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Bug off, pesky critters

By on July 14, 2008

photo by Dave Melbourne
balcony plants
DEAR SARA: I had a recipe for a plant spray that was comprised of garlic, water and maybe soap or vinegar. I can’t find it. It was very effective and kept the insects away from all my plants that I move outdoors during the summer. Do you know of this recipe? — Audrey, Pennsylvania

DEAR AUDREY: You can use water and soap, water and garlic or water, soap and garlic. Ingredients: 2 tablespoons liquid soap, 1 quart water, 2 heads chopped garlic and boiling water. Combine soap and 1 quart water in a bucket. Set aside. Put garlic in the bottom of a jar and cover with boiling water. Put a lid on the jar and set it aside overnight. Strain and add garlic water to the soap water. Pour into a spray bottle and apply to plants.

DEAR SARA: I have a question about powdered milk. After it is reconstituted, how long does it last. Does it spoil like regular milk? I just bought some for the first time and mixed up a pitcher last night. It actually tastes pretty good — a pleasant surprise. — P.P., New Jersey

DEAR P.P.: It does spoil. Store it in an airtight container and keep it refrigerated. My experience has been that it doesn’t taste right after three to four days. It’s still good, but it doesn’t taste the same. I haven’t stored it longer than that, so I did some homework. According to Carnation, once mixed, it’s good for five to seven days.

DEAR SARA: Can cooked macaroni be frozen? We love macaroni salad during the summer, but our apartment becomes a humid sardine can once it gets to be about 75 F. I got to thinking about ways to cook ahead for the summer. Have you frozen cooked macaroni successfully to later thaw and use in a salad or for anything else? — L.M.H., Maine

DEAR L.M.H.: Yes, you can freeze cooked macaroni. For salad, I would freeze it plain and not in a prepared recipe. Mayonnaise and salad dressing don’t freeze well. Cook your pasta al dente, drain and let it dry a bit to prevent ice crystals from forming when it’s frozen. Toss a bit of olive oil with it to prevent sticking. Place it into an airtight container or zipper-type bag and freeze it. When you’re ready to use it, you can rinse it under warm tap water or boil it again to reheat it.

Thicker pastas such as penne work best. I don’t like to freeze plain pasta for long periods of time, though. It tends to get mushy. I suggest using it within a couple of weeks after freezing it. For recipes such as spaghetti or lasagna, I prepare the recipe and then freeze it.

DEAR SARA: How do you make fresh creamed corn? My ex’s father had a huge garden, and he grew corn. He would freeze his corn in freezer bags, and it was so good! He says he just scraped it off the ear, but no real whole kernels came off. It was more like creamed corn, and I’ve really been craving some lately. — Jessica, Washington

DEAR JESSICA: You can buy a tool called a corn creamer. They’re not expensive. They run about $10. I’ve seen some on eBay for even less. You can also use a sharp knife, hold the cob vertically and cut downward. You want to cut the tops of the corn kernels off during the first sweep and then cut the remaining part of the kernel in the second sweep. You can use a spoon or the back of your knife for the second sweep to avoid cutting into the cob, so you’re only getting the milk and pulp.

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