Wash bagged salad
Do you wash bagged lettuce? At a recent dinner, the host poured lettuce from a bag and served it with salad dressing. Is this normal practice, or should people be concerned about the possibility of germs or worse? — Shoiji, email
I wash bagged lettuce, not really from fear of germs, but because I find bagged salad has a smell and taste that I don’t like unless I wash the lettuce. Plus, washing will remove any small amounts of dirt or the occasional bug that might be remaining. Washing, spinning and drying makes me feel like the produce has been freshened up, too.
Consumer Reports recommends washing bagged salads:
consumerreports.org/cro/magazine-archive/2010/march/recalls-and-safety-alerts/bagged-salad/index.htm. Make sure your hands and your work surface are clean to avoid cross contamination.
Overall, I prefer buying my produce from the bin and mixing my own salads.
Do you let your kids eat all of their Halloween candy? If not, what do you do with it? How long do you let it hang around before getting rid of it? — Jennifer, Ohio
I let my kids have a few pieces the first night, roughly the equivalent of a full-sized candy bar or small box of candy. The next day, I will put a piece in their lunchbox as a treat or let them have a piece or two after dinner. I save some of it for later (sometimes to use in baked goods) and send some to work with my husband. Candy has a pretty long shelf-life, so I have no problem with it hanging around for six months to a year. Some of it can be frozen, too. Visit frugalvillage.com/2010/11/03/use-up-halloween-candy/ for more ideas.
Are clay cookers really good for making artisan breads? Could I cook a duck in one? — Sindi, New Jersey
Only some bread shapes work well for a clay cooker (baker). You can make artisan breads without one. Simply hand-shape your loaves and use parchment-lined baking sheets, a baking stone or shaped baking pans. Clay cookers are wonderful for roasts and poultry (including duck and Cornish hen). They can be used to steam vegetables, poach fish or make soups, casseroles and lasagna, too. Make sure you soak the clay cooker, don’t preheat your oven and don’t set a hot cooker on a cold surface, or it could crack.
To use one for bread, you could make a homemade cloche with a clay pot, eye hook/bolt, washer, hex nuts and a pizza stone as the base. Visit flavorsoftheumpqua.blogspot.com/2009/01/homemade-clay-pot-cloche-for-baking.html for a photo and description of how to make one. This would allow you to see if you like the resulting bread without a bigger investment in a clay baker. The benefit of using the clay cooker is the steam that is created. The bread crust will be golden without having to spritz it.
photo by paulswansen