Quick fixes for common annoyances

Talk about annoying! How about buying a pineapple that never seems to fully ripen? Or having a wrestling match with a piece of Saran wrap? Here are fixes for these and other common kitchen annoyances…

Unclinging cling wrap: Keep your roll of cling wrap in the refrigerator. It will keep it from sticking to itself, making it much easier to use. But it still will stick to whatever you put it on.

Prolonging the life of uncut lemons and limes: Lemons will stay fresh for weeks if you place them in a glass jar, fill it with water and cover tightly.

Limes just need to be placed in a jar, covered and kept in the refrigerator.

Corn-shucking magic: Microwave an ear of corn, with the leaves and silk still on, for three to four minutes. It will be hot, so use gloves or a potholder when you remove the corn from the microwave. Cut off about an inch from the stem end. Next, hold onto the silk and top leaves, and shake out the corn. It should come out easily and completely clean. If it doesn’t, help it along by squeezing the top and forcing it out. Even if you have to help the corn along, when you remove it from the husk, it will be free of silk.

Preventing leftover cake and cookies from getting stale: Place a slice of bread up against each already-cut-and-exposed side of the cake. Keep the slices in place with toothpicks. The bread will probably get stale, but the cake will be moist and taste fine.

A slice or two of bread in a container of cookies will soften stale cookies.

A place for plastic bags: Plastic bags—the kind you get from the supermarket—can be stuffed into an empty tissue box and kept in your kitchen. A cube Kleenex box will hold about 15. A rectangular—160-tissue size—box will hold about 25 plastic bags.

Unwilting vegetables: When vegetables’ cell walls lose moisture, they wilt. Rehydrate them by soaking them in a big bowl of cold water and ice for about 15 minutes. They’ll be crisp again.

Cutting fresh bread: The softer the bread, the more difficult it is to cut. Using a warm knife will make it much easier. Warm the knife by dipping it in just-boiled water. Dry the knife, and while it’s still warm, slice the bread.

Reviving stale rolls: Place stale rolls in a paper bag, moisten the bag and twist the bag closed. Place the bag in a 300°F oven for a few minutes until the bag is dry. The rolls will seem like just baked.

Making better pancakes or waffles: Fill a ketchup bottle with the batter, and use it for better batter distribution.

Softening hard brown sugar: Put the hardened brown sugar in a microwavable dish, put a moist paper towel on top, and cover the dish with ­plastic wrap or a microwavable plate. Zap the sugar in the microwave for 20 ­seconds. If that doesn’t do the job, give it another one or two 20-second zappings to have ready-to-use brown sugar.

Preventing brown sugar from hardening in the first place: When you open a new supply of brown sugar, keep two or three marshmallows in the container to prevent the sugar from hardening. When the marshmallows dry up, it’s time to use the sugar or replace the marshmallows.

Life extension for berries: What good is buying strawberries on sale if they wind up in the garbage before you’ve had a chance to finish them? The bacteria on all kinds of berries cause them to rot rather quickly. As soon as you get berries home, bathe them in a bowl of three parts water to one part distilled white vinegar. After about 30 seconds, rinse them in cold water, dry them thoroughly and refrigerate them. The vinegar mixture will kill off the bacteria and give you a few more days to enjoy them. No need to rinse them again before eating—there is no hint of vinegar taste whatsoever.

The best pineapple ever: Twist off the leaves, being careful not to expose the flesh. Then stand the pineapple on a plate upside down, resting it on the surface where the leaves used to be. The idea is to allow the sweetness to be distributed throughout the fruit and not just stay in its lower half. When the ­entire pineapple turns a light-toasty golden brown, the pineapple is ripe.

Natural oven cleaner: The self-cleaning option on ovens can take its toll—the high temperatures have been known to cause fuses to pop and control panels to burn out. And popular commercial oven cleaners warn of inhaling fumes and possible eye and skin irritation. And then there’s the unpleasant residual smell next time you use the oven. Here is a nontoxic do-it-yourself formula from a woman with asthma who refuses to risk using a cleaner that may be detrimental to her health. Blend two cups of baking soda, one cup of distilled white vinegar and one-half cup of liquid dish detergent (Dawn is her choice). Pat a thick coat of the mixture on the entire inside of the oven, including the door. Let it sit for at least 15 minutes, then with a damp rag, microfiber cloth or sponge, wipe the oven clean. If the oven has been neglected for some time, it may take some elbow grease to make it spotless and/or you may have to repeat the process a second time.