I don’t mention it as often as I should, but the truth is that I’d be lost without you, my loyal, encouraging and responsive audience. Thank you for being there every day and for filling my email inbox to overflowing with your comments, questions and outpourings of love and gratitude. Please don’t stop. Ever.
Speaking of questions, let’s take a few from the audience …
Q: I am having a problem with slow-cooker cooking. I got a new cooker and now everything—even pot roast—is turning out dry! Any ideas on what I’m doing wrong?
A: Slow cookers cook at a much higher temperature now than they did say 20 years ago. It is due to food safety concerns, but in reality and in my opinion, that has taken the advantage of the slow cooker away—the advantage for working families to start meals before work and come home to tasty, properly cooked food even if it’s been cooking for 8 hours or longer. All too often results are mushy, dry and flavorless.
Things to try: Opt for the Low setting whenever possible. Instead of boneless skinless chicken breasts, use bone-in chicken. Select cuts of meat that have more fat instead of those that are super lean. Reduce cooking times, too. Instead of 6 to 8 hours check after 2 to 3 hours. Last, use the size slow cooker called for in the recipe you’re following, if at all possible.
By the way, I’ve recently all but given up on slow cooking because I’ve fallen in love with my Instant Pot, about $92. I can do in 15 minutes what it used to take 6 hours in a slow cooker. And the results? Off the charts (and never dry). Learn how and why here: Why a Pressure Cooker May Be Better Than a Slow Cooker.
Q: Can you tell me the best inexpensive slow cooker to buy? Mine finally just up and died!
A: Knowing how important it is to use the right size slow cooker for your needs, here are the two best, inexpensive options:
Crock-Pot SCCPVL600S Cook’ N Carry 6-Quart Oval Manual Portable Slow Cooker, about $30, is perfect for 7 or more people.
Proctor-Silex 33043 4-Quart Slow Cooker is ideal for a smaller family of 4 to 6, about $20.
Q: Do you have any recommendations on the best inexpensive home safe that’s both fire and waterproof? I need one large enough to hold small valuables, two small firearms and our important documents.
A: Take a look at SentrySafe SFW123DSB 1.23 Cubic Feet Combination Fire-Safe, about $180 at Amazon with Prime (free) shipping. It is fireproof and also water resistant up to 8 inches for 24 hours. This model is hefty, weighing in at 90 lbs., and enjoys excellent reviews and ratings. It certainly will meet your needs both now and for many years to come.
Q: We have a very bad chemical smell in our car. I remember reading about Nok-Out and that it may be the only thing that will work to fix this. Where can I purchase this product?
A: If you have a really difficult odor situation, which is sounds like you do, Nok-Out is likely your only reasonable option to eliminate that odor once and for all. Nok-Out isn’t cheap but it’s worth every penny because it works (see The Simple Science of Eliminating Bad Odors). I’m happy to let you know that you can get Nok-Out online—about $38 for one gallon.
Q: Do you have any thoughts as to why my dishwasher isn’t getting things clean anymore? Glasses and silverware come out cloudy.
A: I do. Just like a car, a dishwasher needs routine maintenance. From time to time you need to get rid of lime scale, soap scum, iron and grease that builds up in your dishwasher—stuff that could be causing these problems you’ve encountered. You may be able to see stains and other crud when you look in the machine, but much of this is hidden in the hoses and other out-of-sight places. It needs a monthly “acid bath.” You can do this with unsweetened lemonade Kool-Aid, Tang powdered drink mix, a product called Dishwasher Magic (about $9 or $13 for 2-pak) or Affresh (about $6). All of these products contain citric acid. Dishwasher Magic and Affresh safely and effectively removes lime scale, iron, soap scum, grease and food stains that build up inside the dishwasher. Unlike the drink powers, Dishwasher Magic also kills 99.9% of germs and extends the life of your dishwasher while improving its cleaning performance. If you use the drink powders, fill both detergent cups with Tang or pour one package of the lemonade powder into each of the cups. Run the empty dishwasher through a complete cycle.
Q: Why suddenly do I have to run each load in my dryer twice to get things dry?
A: If the clothes dryer is heating, I’m going to guess that you have a big lint clog somewhere. Pull the dryer out so you have access to the vent (check the owner manual for specifics) and take a look. That needs to be clear and clean for the machine to operate properly.
A clothes dryer also needs to be cleaned from the inside regularly, to remove all kinds of lint than can build up around the lint trap and in various crevices. I use this VaccuFlex vacuum attachment (about $22) with my Shark vacuum cleaner (about $155) to pull out all of the trapped lint and it works like a charm. Without the VaccuFlex the vacuum hose just can’t get into the tight spots.
Q: I just got a new washer and dryer. Do I HAVE to use laundry detergent that is labeled HE like the salesman advised? Why?
A: Yes! High-efficiency (HE) clothes washers use less than half the amount of water as a standard machine. Too much detergent will clog up the machine because the amount of water it uses is not sufficient to rinse it out. That build up can cause the machine to malfunction and to eventually create an offensive odor.Read more here: Using Regular Detergent in a High-Efficiency Washer is Risky Business.
Q: I need a recipe for homemade grout cleaner. Thanks!
A: Mix liquid hydrogen peroxide with baking soda to make a thick paste. Add a few drops blue Dawn and mix well. Spread onto grout and let it sit for about an hour. Scrub the grout with the scouring side of a sponge to remove the dirt. Wipe or mop away the paste.
Q: How do I make the magical tub and shower scum remover, again? I did it once and it is fantastic! But now I can’t remember.
A: You need a spray bottle, blue Dawn dishwashing liquid and white vinegar. Pour one cup blue Dawn into a 32-ounce spray bottle (1/2 cup Dawn if you are using a 16-ounce bottle). Fill the bottle the rest of the way with white vinegar. Apply sprayer top; shake gently to mix. See How to Make Ugly Soap Scum, Mildew and Water Marks Disappear Like Magic for more details.
Q: My question has to do with the snow and salt residue I track into my car. It melts and gets on the carpeting and is very hard to get off. Do you have any suggestions about how I might be able to clean the hardened salt residue off my carpets?
A: First vacuum the carpet to remove much of the dried on salt as possible. Combine 1 quart hot warm water and 1 tablespoon blue Dawn in small bucket or other container. Dip a bristle brush into the mixture, then scrub over the carpet to scrape and remove the salt. Leave the mixture on the stained areas of the carpet for a while. This allows the detergent to work its way into the fibers, softening the salt’s hold on the carpet. Dab at the area with a soft cloth to remove the solution and the remainder of the salt. Dry off the carpet with another clean cloth.
You can do this by hand, but you’ll have much better results if you can borrow or invest in a machine like my Bissell 3624 SpotClean Professional Portable Carpet Cleaner. I use mine on upholstery too, and it works fabulously, as long as I make sure that I rinse really well to remove all traces of soap and detergent.
Q: My daughter is on my checking account in case I get sick and need her to take care of things. My question is if I were to die unexpectedly and she’s on my bank account will she be responsible for my credit-card debt?
A: No she will not be responsible personally, unless she is also an account holder on your credit-card account in which case yes she would be responsible. However, your estate—the money and assets that remain upon your death—is responsible to pay that debt. If you die leaving money in that account on which she is an account holder, those funds most likely will be tapped to satisfy your debts before anything is distributed to your heirs. You’d be wise to consult with an attorney who specializes in estate issues to learn more.
Thanks, everyone, and keep those messages coming!