The sparkling wine is good for poaching, deglazing a pan or cooking risotto and the dry variety is best for savory dishes. (Tony Cenicola / New York Times)
Q. I often have leftover Champagne after holidays like New Year’s Eve and Valentine’s Day. What can I do with it?
A. You can substitute an equal amount of flat bubbly for white wine in most recipes that call for it, such as a pot of mussels with wine and garlic (see recipe below).
The food editors at Martha Stewart Living also recommend using the sparkling wine for poaching, deglazing a pan or cooking risotto. A dry variety is best for savory dishes. Keep the extra Champagne stored airtight (with plastic wrap) in the refrigerator until you need it, for up to a month.
Mussels in White Wine and Garlic
Be sure to buy live mussels. Any open mussels that do not close when you press their shells a few times are dead, and you should discard them.
2 cups dry white wine
4 large shallots, finely chopped
4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
˝ teaspoon salt
4 pounds live mussels
1⁄3 cup mixed fresh herbs, such as flat-leaf parsley, chervil or basil, chopped
6 tablespoons butter, cut into pieces
Rinse and scrub mussels under cold running water. Using your fingers or a paring knife, remove beards (strings that hang from the mussels’ shells), and discard.
In a large stockpot set over medium heat, combine wine, shallots, garlic and salt. Simmer 5 minutes. Add mussels.
Cover, and increase heat to high. Cook until all mussels are open, about 5 minutes. Stir in herbs and butter. Remove from heat. Divide mussels and broth among four bowls. Serve immediately.
Q. My dog and cat are scratching a lot and shedding flakes of skin. What should I do?
A. During the colder months, pets can suffer from dry skin, says Kate Spencer of the American Animal Hospital Association. First visit your vet to rule out diseases (such as liver or thyroid issues) that could be causing the problem. Then, at home over an old towel or outside, brush your animal every few days to remove dead hair and dander so the skin can repair itself. Bathe it only when necessary with a moisturizing shampoo and conditioner made specifically for pets. Supplementing your pet’s diet with fish oil, which contains both omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, can also help make its skin and coat healthier.
Tip: To combat dry winter air indoors, invest in a few houseplants. Their moist soil is a natural humidifier, says Michael Holcomb of the U.S. Green Building Council.
Q. How should I stack a cord of freshly cut wood so it will season?
A. Freshly cut wood has a high moisture content, and burning it creates excess smoke that contains harmful chemicals. If you stack the wood properly, though, air can circulate around the logs and dry them out. Stacked, a full cord of quarter-split wood should measure 4 feet high by 8 feet long. You’ll want to start with a level, dry base — make one by laying a piece of plywood over cinder blocks. Then stack two columns of wood at the ends of the platform. Lay the logs in an alternating pattern, which will hold each stack in place. Fill in the space between columns with the remaining logs, all facing the same direction. Loosely cover the stacks with a tarp for protection against rain and snow.
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