JOPLIN, Mo. —
What a difference a week makes. While I wasn't a fan of the recent snow, it was such a pretty sight looking out the window and seeing a gorgeous red bird against the solid white background.
As pretty as it was, walking and driving were not fun. The older I get, the less I like it.
Today let's talk a little about salt. At work and home during the winter weather, we tried to stay upright on the sidewalks by sprinkling blue salt mixture to melt the ice.
But what about the salt in the kitchen cabinet? My dad always salted his food before even tasting it, sure that another dose of salt could only improve the flavor. My mother's choice for snacking? Anything salty. She was especially fond of plain potato chips, able to eat a bag in a single sitting. Now, she's taking new medicine that makes food taste too salty, no matter what it is. It's sad that one of her few indulgences has become something she can't bear to eat.
While the most common uses of salt are in food preservation, flavoring and baking, my friend Crystal Jones sent me other reasons for keeping lots of salt on hand:
Rust remover: Make paste out of 2 tablespoons lemon juice and 6 tablespoons of salt. Apply it to the rusty area with a cloth. Rub thoroughly then rinse and dry.
Improves coffee flavor: Adding a pinch of salt to your ground coffee before turning on the coffee maker will reduce the beverage's acidic taste.
Eliminates bad odors: Pour 1/2 cup of salt into the garbage disposal, then run it according to manufacturer's directions. Get rid of fish odor from your hands by rubbing them with a lemon wedge dipped in salt, then rinse with water. For smelly wooden cutting boards, remove the bad odor by gently rubbing a generous amount of salt over the surface using a damp cloth, then wash it with warm, sudsy water.
Soothes sore throats: A mild sore throat can be remedied by gargling several times a day with a mixture of 1/4 teaspoon salt and 1/2 cup warm water. I remember my mother passing along this saltwater-gargling option, but I was never able to accomplish it.
Test egg freshness with salt: Add 2 teaspoons of salt to a cup of water, then put the egg in the. If the egg sinks, it is fresh. If it floats, toss it.
Clean greasy pans with salt: Greasy iron pans are no match for salt. Use a bit of salt on the greasy surface, then wipe with paper towels.
Remove coffee or tea stains on cups: Simply rub them with salt.
Calm that rogue barbecue fire: Sprinkle some salt on flames in barbecue grills to minimize smoke without cooling the coals. Also, throwing salt on a kitchen fire will extinguish it.
Prevent mold on cheese: Wrap the cheese in a cloth dampened with saltwater before putting it in the fridge.
Make it easier to scale fish: Soak the fish in saltwater before descaling.
Make nonstick pancakes: Rub salt on your pancake griddle before fixing the pancakes. Go extra easy with the salt or this might give an unwanted salty taste to your food.
Keep cut flowers fresh: Add a dash of salt to the water in the vase.
Discourage ants from invading your home: Sprinkle salt in places where ants can sneak in, such as doorways and window sills.
Clean your teeth with salt: Mix 1 part fine salt with 2 parts baking soda, dip your toothbrush in the mixture and brush your teeth. Added benefit of this mixture: The baking soda also helps whiten teeth. Saltwater mouthwash will treat sore gums, canker sores and bad breath: Just add 1 teaspoon of salt to a glass of warm water for an effective oral hygiene treatment.
Fix small holes in plaster: Make a salt and cornstarch paste by mixing 2 tablespoons each of salt and cornstarch. Add enough water to make a thick paste.
Keep windows from becoming frosty during the winter: Rub windows with a rag dampened with saltwater.
Reduce boiling time: Adding a dash of salt to the water will reduce the boiling time, especially in high altitude.
I never knew salt was so versatile, but there's only one use for it in which I am interested right now: I wish for my mom to simply be able to sit down one more time and enjoy a bag of salty potato chips the way she used to do.
Today's first two recipes are from "Taste of Home." The sweet potatoes are a nice change of pace for a side dish, and the Canadian bacon entree is something different that's super quick to prepare. For dessert comes a recipe from Keebler, which calls for cherry pie filling, but you could use your favorite filling. You might want to make 6 servings instead of 8 out of this luscious pie. Enjoy the warmer weather and happy eating.
Twice-baked sweet potatoes
3 small sweet potatoes, baked and cooled
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons plain low-fat yogurt
1 tablespoon plus 11/2 teaspoons skim milk
1/8 teaspoon curry powder
Cut potatoes in half lengthwise and scoop out pulp, leaving a 1/8-inch-thick shell. Combine pulp and remaining ingredients in a medium bowl; beat until fluffy. Stuff potato shells with potato mixture; place on baking sheet. Bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes or until thoroughly heated. Yields 6 servings.
Honey-glazed Canadian bacon
8 slices Canadian bacon, cut 1/4-inch thick
1 tablespoon honey
2 teaspoons vinegar
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
Dash of ground cloves
Place bacon slices in large skillet coated with cooking spray. Combine remaining ingredients and drizzle over bacon. Cover and cook over medium heat for 15 minutes, turning once. Place bacon on warmed serving platter, and spoon remaining glaze over slices. Yields 4 servings.
Cherry dream pie
3 egg yolks
1 (14-ounce) can sweetened condensed milk
1/3 cup lemon juice
1 graham cracker pie crust
1 (12-ounce) can cherry pie filling, chilled
In medium bowl, beat egg yolks. Stir in condensed milk and lemon juice. Pour into crust. Bake at 325 degrees for 25 minutes. Cool 1 hour. Refrigerate at least 3 hours. Before serving, top with pie filling. Store in refrigerator. Yields 8 servings.
Address correspondence to Cheryle Finley, c/o The Joplin Globe, P.O. Box 7, Joplin, MO 64802.