Dear Barbara: I like using a basting or pastry brush during grilling season for meats and other foods. I hate the fact that the bristles come off on the food. I have tried replacing the brushes with new ones, but still have the same problem. — Adrianna from Lockeford
Dear Adrianna: I was having the same problem when I noticed on TV that some of the chefs were using silicone basting brushes. It seemed like they wouldn’t hold enough sauce, but they do! I couldn’t be without mine now. The one I use is by deXas, but there are many other brands. You will never again have to worry about having bristles getting stuck to the food.
They are also extremely easy to clean. The silicone basting brushes come very clean with a little soap and water. I think you can put them on the top shelf of the dishwasher, but I normally wash mine by hand.
You can also use them indefinitely and they don’t lose their shape. Grilling and basting will once again be a happy time!
Dear Barbara: Can you use evaporated milk in place of whole milk in a recipe? — Michaela from Lodi
Dear Michaela: Evaporated milk means that they have taken a good portion of the water out of it. However, that doesn’t mean you can’t use it. If you use equal amounts of evaporated milk and water, you can use it in place of whole milk in a recipe.
Evaporated milk should not be confused with sweetened condensed milk (with the little cow on the front of the can). This condensed milk is almost half sugar, which would ruin your recipe. It is used mostly for candy and very sweet desserts.
When my children were growing up, I always kept a box of powdered milk in the pantry, just in case someone had finished off the milk when I was baking or cooking. Then you know you always have milk on hand; just add water and stir.
Dear Barbara: I could use some help with my potato salad. The flavor is great and has wonderful ingredients; however, by the time I am done, no matter how careful I am, it looks like mashed potato salad. I use standard russets, which is pretty much what everyone uses. — Jamie from Lodi
Dear Jamie: There could be several reasons this is happening. It is possible that you are not cooling your potatoes enough before adding your dressing. It’s good if they are still a little warm, but not hot. Try mixing all your dressing and other ingredients in a separate bowl before adding them to your potatoes. You may just be overworking them.
Russets are great all-purpose potatoes, but some of the waxier potatoes, such as Yukon golds or red skinned potatoes, will hold up better to the chopping and mixing. They also make great potato salad because they hold more moisture and won’t crumble as easily as a russet potato.
Barbara Spitzer is a Lodi home cook who also develops recipes for specific consumer products. Do you have a cooking question? Send it to Barbara Spitzer at firstname.lastname@example.org. Please include your first name and city.