Dear Martha: I just bought a deep fryer. How should I store the used oil?
Answer: Deep-frying requires a large amount of oil, so reusing it is economical. It's best to fry with oils that have high smoking points, such as peanut or vegetable oil.
After using the oil, let it cool completely in the pan. Then place cheesecloth or paper towels in a sieve, and strain the oil into the original container if it's empty; if not, use a clean glass jar don't mix old and new oils.
To keep any food particles that are present from going bad, store the oil, tightly sealed, in the refrigerator. Oil that has been refrigerated often turns cloudy, but that's nothing to worry about.
As a rule, you should only reuse the batch of oil to cook similar types of food. For example, oil used to fry fish shouldn't then be used for doughnuts.
Discard oil after cooking with it four times, or sooner if it develops a rancid odor or smells like the foods you've cooked with it. It should also be thrown away if smoke appears on its surface before the temperature has reached 375 degrees Fahrenheit; when this is the case, it won't fry effectively.
Dear Martha: What houseplants should I get to help reduce air pollution in our small apartment?
Answer: We value our homes as retreats from the pressures of the external world, but unfortunately the air we breathe there is not always as clean and pure as we'd like to believe. In fact, scientists estimate that indoor air pollution in modern houses may be several times greater than pollution outdoors.
Although plants can't cure major indoor pollution problems on their own, they are an ideal antidote to the minor contamination introduced into our environments through everyday household products and building materials. Plants produce oxygen, add precious moisture and remove toxins from the air through the tiny openings in their leaves. In fact, as few as 15 houseplants in an average-size home can offer a significant reduction in the number of indoor contaminants.
Look for plants such as philodendrons, spider plants (Chlorophytum comosum), and golden pothos (Epipremnum aureum) all have long been appreciated as houseplants for their decorative qualities and are highly effective in removing molecules of formaldehyde. This contaminant is present in many household items, including particleboard, carpet backings, some grocery bags, facial tissues, paper towels and permanent-press clothing.
Flowering plants such as gerbera daisies and chrysanthemums are excellent choices for removing benzene frequently present in gasoline, inks, oils, paints, plastics and rubber from the atmosphere.
Other hardworking and beautiful indoor plants include bamboo palm (Chamaedorea), Chinese evergreen (Aglaonema), English Ivy (Hedera helix), the indoor dracaenas (Dracaena "Janet Craig," D. marginata, D. massangeana and D. warnekii), mother-in-law's tongue (Sansevieria trifasciata laurentii), and peace lily (Spathiphyllum).When choosing houseplants, remember that many (including some of those above) can be toxic if ingested, so be extra careful if you have young children or pets in your home. Staff at the local garden center should be able to advise you on nontoxic choices; contact your local poison-control center for guidance (the phone number is listed in the front of your telephone book).
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