Sunday, February 24, 2019

Solutions and Substitutions with Reena

Reena Nerbas

Dear Reena, I baked a cheesecake for friends last weekend; I thought the cake was thoroughly baked because the sides were solid, and the middle jiggled a little. I iced the cake and placed it in the fridge. Hours later, I sliced the cake and was mortified when I saw the inside was liquid. What is the best way to check a homemade cheesecake for doneness? B. 

Dear B., While the jiggle method is a popular indicator for whether a cheesecake is thoroughly baked, it isn’t foolproof. Consider purchasing a cooking thermometer; gently insert it into the cake. When the temperature reads 150-155 degrees, the cake is ready. 

Dear Reena, I want to share with you a handy tip to remove orange colored stain from the toilet bowl, due to iron in well water. Drop a couple of denture tablets in the bowl in the evening and by morning the bowl should be clean. Repeat if needed. Also, do you have a home remedy for cleaning an oven? Reynold 

Dear Reynold, For people who do not own a self-cleaning oven, the oven mess does not have to become a dreaded chore. The world's easiest way to clean an oven is to sprinkle the bottom of the oven with baking soda. Pour white vinegar over the baking soda, let bubble and soak for 30 minutes. Wipe and rinse with water. In the meantime, put an old towel on the bottom of your bathtub, fill it with hot water and 1-cup of washing soda. Let oven racks soak overnight and, in the morning, (while wearing gloves) rinse the racks and wipe with vinegar. Clean as a whistle! Note: Do not leave water in the tub if small children live in the home. 

Dear Reena, A friend has given me a bottle of vanilla which she bought in Mexico; it's much stronger than the product we normally buy in our grocery store. Is there a secret to diluting or toning down the essence beyond merely using less of it? Thanks, Noreen

Hi Noreen, This is a great question! I really enjoy using real vanilla as opposed to vanilla extract. Let’s begin with proper storage, vanilla doesn’t typically "go bad" but if stored in a warm place it will deteriorate and lose flavor. Refrigeration is not recommended, but if it's a choice between a hot storage area and refrigerator, opt for the fridge! Pure vanilla extract is made by "percolating" chopped vanilla beans with ethyl alcohol and water. In order to lessen the vanilla flavor, your best bet is to reduce the amount of vanilla just as you suggested. Another option is to add water to the bottle as this will lower the concentration by lessening the flavor strength.

Dear Reena, You’re the only one I can think of who might be able to answer this query. Is it possible to remove name labels that institutions like personal care homes, iron on or glue on the back of residents’ clothing? Thanks, Glen

Dear Glen, Have you tried lifting a corner and heating it with a hairdryer? Often this is all that is required to soften the glue, allowing the label to peel off. Other options are: Goo Gone, WD-40 or rubbing alcohol.

Dear Reena, I spilt some red wine on my white leather kitchen chair I wiped it immediately, but it is stained in the grain of the leather, and the seams. Please help me. Trista

Dear Trista, The faster you work the better. Blot the area using a white cloth, dish soap, baking powder and water. Make a paste and gently scrub. Wipe with water, or if the spill is new, sprinkle the wet area with salt or a little white wine to absorb the color. Do not use hydrogen peroxide as some sources advise, this may permanently discolor the leather. Sunlight bar soap is another great option although it is becoming increasing difficult to find.

Dear Reena, Can you please provide me with a recipe for ‘Chocolate Chip Cookies’ in a jar? Alice

Dear Alice, You will need a large 1-quart jar. Combine: 2-cups flour, 1 tsp. baking soda, half tsp. salt. Into the jar layer half-cup brown sugar, followed by half-cup white sugar and then another half-cup brown sugar, and then add 1-cup chocolate chips. The last layer is the flour mixture. Close the jar and attach a note with the instructions. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Empty cookie mix into a large mixing bowl. Add 2-eggs, 1 tsp. vanilla and one-cup margarine, or butter, stir to combine. Drop spoonful’s onto a baking sheet covered with parchment paper. Bake 11-13 mins. Cool and enjoy!

Tips That Really Stink
  • Chopped or sliced onions can be stored in a sealed container in your refrigerator for up to 7 days. 
  • Regarding tearing up while slicing onions, I peel onions before I slice them, and then place the onion in the freezer for 30 mins. The cold slows the conversion of the sulfoxides which is what makes your eyes sting. Submitted by: Lucille 
  • The best way to store garlic is in an open basket for air circulation at room temperature. Don’t remove the papery outsides until just before use, as it protects the garlic. Submitted by: Lucille 
  • Don’t store potatoes and onions near each other, as gases from the onions can hasten sprouting in potatoes. Submitted by: Roy 
  • I find that roasting garlic turns it into a spreadable paste; this tastes great on toasted bread. Submitted by: Lucille
  • Remove the smell of garlic and onion from fingers, take the knife you were cutting with and hold it under running water. Submitted by: Jana
Vacuuming Tips That Don’t Suck 

The following is a list of areas that many people neglect to vacuum regularly: Inside drawers, blinds/curtains, ceiling fans, brooms, under furniture, mattresses and furniture cushions, accent cushions, computer keyboard, clocks and window sills.
Vacuuming in all directions helps lift carpet fibers and increases the amount of dirt and dust sucked up by vacuums.
Dust before you vacuum. This reduces the amount of dust that flows into the air, and lands on the floor.
Empty your vacuum canister regularly. Waiting until the canister is almost full reduces suction from the vacuum, resulting in a less effective clean.
Sprinkle the carpet with a light drizzle of baking soda to help absorb some of the day-to-day odors.

Feedback from Wise Contributor re: Watermarks on wood 

Dear Reena,  I read your tips about removing watermarks on wood furniture, and they really work. Here is another suggestion: Heat the watermark using a hairdryer on the HIGH setting. Hold the hairdryer in place, and watch the mark disappear!

Note: Every user assumes all risks of injury or damage resulting from the implementation of any suggestions in this column. Test all products on an inconspicuous area first. 

  • Reena Nerbas is a popular motivational presenter for large and small groups; check out her website: Ask a question or share a tip at

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