Solutions & Substitutions by Reena: Keeping Mold off the Cheese and Cleaning Dust off the Ceiling

By Reena Nerbas

Vinegar from Herbs

Dear Reena,

Do you have a recipe for making vinegar from herbs? Pam

Dear Pam,

In a large re-sealable glass container combine: 1 large bunch of clean herbs such as, basil or tarragon with 3 cups white wine vinegar. Store in a cool, dry place, this can be used for up to one year and is great for vinaigrettes. Additionally, some herbs, such as parsley, chives and basil may be pureed with a small amount of water in a blender, and then frozen in ice cube trays. They can later be stored in plastic bags for use in flavoring soup and sauces. Herb butter can be made with the addition of about 4 tbsp. chopped, dried herb leaves and a dash of lemon juice to one quarter pound of butter softened at room temperature. The butter should then be stored in the refrigerator in a covered container.

Keeping Mold off Cheese

Dear Reena,

How do you keep cheese from going moldy? We always purchase cheese in the 900 gram brick. We have tried wrapping the cheese in plastic wrap tightly after each use. Somebody said that aluminum foil works well, but after trying it, I wouldn’t agree with them. We also had a friend who had one of those machines that would make bags to whatever size you wanted and then suck the air out and seal the food. This didn’t work that great either. There are only three of us in our household, but we use a fair amount of cheese; still mold continues to appear before we are half done the cheese. I have talked to other people and they have the same problem. Some people have gone as far as buying the small bricks due to the molding issue. The only problem with that is the price of cheese is then quite a bit more expensive. Can you please help us out with a solution that really works? We would be EXTREMELY grateful. Cathy.

Dear Cathy,

In order to prolong the life of cheese, begin by soaking a paper napkin or clean cloth with vinegar. Put the vinegar in the same airtight container as the cheese, doing this is one way of slowing down mold growth. However, if you really want to get the best bang for your buck, grate the brick of cheese using either a hand grater or a food processor with a grater attachment. With the help of a food processor, grating the entire brick of cheese will take less than 5 minutes. Next sprinkle 1 tablespoon white flour (or cornstarch) together with the cheese. Spread the cheese onto a baking sheet and place in the freezer. Leave for a couple of hours and then pour the cheese into a freezable container. Store in the freezer. Never buy pre-grated cheese; it costs up to 70% more than block cheese.
Just as a side note, reduce the time it takes for cheese block ‘ends’ to harden by storing a few lumps of sugar with cheese in an airtight container.

Dust Caught on a Stippled Ceiling

Dear Reena,

I have never seen a question on this before. We have stippled ceilings throughout our entire home. Additionally, we have a ceiling fan in our kitchen and 3 bedrooms. Over time, dust collects on the stippled ceiling around where the fan blades rotate. We have tried vacuuming, gently dusting with a feather duster and we have sprayed with mild bleach and water. However, we can never get a thorough job done in removing the dust specs. Would you have any solutions for this problem? Thanks. Peter

Dear Peter,

Begin by determining if the stipple has previously been painted (sounds like yours has not). If the stipple was painted with an oil-based paint, paint over the oil with latex or oil. If the ceiling was never painted, spray it with the following all-purpose cleaner recipe: 2-cups rubbing alcohol, half-cup household ammonia, 1 tsp. Dawn dish soap and enough water to fill the bottle. Spray, wipe and rinse (taken from Household Solutions 2 with Kitchen Secrets). If stains remain, hide them by using shellac before painting. The shellac seals the stain and prevents the stain from bleeding through. Or paint with an oil-based stipple paint, to harden the surface making it easy to wipe. Keep in mind that once stipple is painted it is extremely difficult to remove if you ever do decide to scrape it. Touching up stipple on ceilings can be difficult to color match, often the entire surface must be repainted. Other options in touching up stipple are to sponge on color matched grout or Stipple Fix which comes in a small container and is available at hardware stores.

Cleaning a Thermos

Dear Reena,

Please tell me how to clean my husband’s disgustingly stinky thermos. It is an expensive thermos and I can’t bring myself to throw it out. Love your new website, Lindey

Dear Lindey,

To clean a dirty thermos; simply drop a couple of denture tables inside and fill with water. Let set overnight and rinse well. Works just as well on tea and coffee stained mugs. Or fill the thermos half full with vinegar and sprinkle in a couple of tablespoons of raw rice. Fill with hot water and leave overnight. Shake in the morning and rinse. If the thermos is still dirty, clean with a baby bottle brush, baking soda and water.

Fabulous Tips of the Week:

• Use the holder (also known as a C.D. spindle) that C.D.’s are sold in as a carrier for your bagel sandwich. Rekha

• Sweeten whipped cream with confectioners’ sugar instead of granulated sugar. It will stay fluffy & hold its shape better! Kaley

I enjoy your questions and tips, keep them coming. Missed a column? Can’t remember a solution? Need a speaker for an upcoming event? Check out my website