photo by Andrew Petro
DEAR SARA: Do I really need to cook pasta shells beforehand when making stuffed shells? I never cook my lasagna noodles when I make lasagna. — Julie, Florida
DEAR JULIE: Pasta shells are fragile. Sometimes you’ll discover some are broken in the box. They would be too hard to stuff without breaking. They won’t bake up as easily as lasagna noodles if they aren’t partially cooked before stuffing them. Boil a pan of water, making sure there’s plenty of water for the amount of pasta, and add a bit of salt and oil. Carefully place the shells into the boiling water to prevent breaking. You want your shells to be firm and not overcooked, or they’ll fall apart when you’re stuffing them.
DEAR SARA: My husband and I have an opportunity to buy Shaw laminate flooring inexpensively, which is a big deal to me considering we need to replace almost 1,000 square feet of carpeting. If you have laminate flooring, do you like it? Does it seem durable? — Melody, Arkansas
DEAR MELODY: I have hardwood floors through the majority of my home, but have laminate flooring in the kids’ playroom. I have been happy with it. It’s easy to clean, and I can barely tell it’s laminate by looking at it. It’s beautiful. It’s durable and looks just as great as when we moved into this home six years ago. It can be a little slippery, but it doesn’t scratch, dull or dent like hardwood can. It’s kid- and pet-proof. Don’t forget to ask about the length of the warranty on the flooring if you do decide to buy it.
DEAR SARA: When I was 14 years old, the Home Economics teacher ran a holiday store out of the classroom. The money went toward projects and other stuff. They sold a drink mix that was awesome. I have been thinking about it for the past eight years. The funny thing is, the drink mix had the recipe included, and I threw it away at the time thinking that it wouldn’t matter. What is the recipe? I can describe a few details. I know that one of the ingredients was Tang. It was instant, and I think served warm, but it could have been cold. There was the taste of cloves, but that could have been another powdered drink mix thrown in. — D.S., Minnesota
DEAR D.S.: Sounds like Russian tea. You can adjust the ingredients to suit your taste.
2 cups orange powdered breakfast-drink mix
2 cups granulated sugar
1 cup instant powdered tea
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1 package (3 to 4 ounces) sweetened lemon-flavored powdered drink mix
Combine all ingredients. Store in airtight container. To serve, place 2 tablespoons mix in mug, add 3/4 cup boiling water, and stir well.
DEAR SARA: How do I keep stockpiled cans from rusting? I do not have space for a stockpile inside our living space. We tried setting up shelves in the basement, but the canned goods rapidly rusted. So we started using a shelf my husband cleared off in the garage. The cans rusted there, too! They were continually rotated, and some were there for only a few months before they started rusting. — Polly, Pennsylvania
DEAR POLLY: The humidity is too high. For the basement, I’d run a dehumidifier and add a couple of boxes of baking soda to absorb moisture. I wouldn’t store canned goods in a garage because of extreme temperatures. According to USA Emergency Supply (www.usaemergencysupply.com), you can prevent corrosion by wiping the outside of the can with food-grade mineral oil. But you have to remove the labels to coat the entire can.