Consuming dried beans is safe depending on storage

Dear Heloise: I found some dried beans that I must have stored in the pantry years ago. They were in the package, but seemed extremely hard to the touch. Are they still good? — Peggy E., Rockford, Ill.

You can try cooking them, and they may be all right. A lot depends on storage, and for how long. The following info comes from the United States Dry Bean Council: Stored longer than 12 months, beans can lose moisture or absorb moisture, which can make them rock-hard. When this happens, no amount of soaking will make them soft again — don’t waste your time.

In the future, store beans in airtight glass jars in a cool pantry or kitchen cupboard, out of direct sunlight. Label the jars with the date. — Heloise

Dear Heloise: I love coffee, and I thought I would share my hint: Put a pinch of salt in the coffee before you brew it to keep it from having any bitter taste. I learned this years ago, and it always works! — Heidi R., via email

Coffee tastes vary, and everyone has his or her personal preferences when making coffee selections. If a pinch of salt works for you, I say pinch away! This is a longtime Heloise hint, and sure can’t hurt! I also enjoy many different coffees, and I have my Heloise’s Flavored Coffees and Teas pamphlet available, which is filled with hints and recipes for coffee, and tea as well.

To order a pamphlet, go online to www. Heloise.com, or send $3 and a long, self-addressed, stamped (68 cents) envelope to: Heloise/Coffee, P.O. Box 795001, San Antonio, TX 78279-5001. Did you know that 37 percent of coffee drinkers like their coffee black, with nothing added?

If you are one of the others who adds sweetener, try dropping in a piece of your favorite hard candy. — Heloise

Dear Heloise: Here is a hint for tenderizing chicken or other meats: I used to use wax paper, place the meat between two sheets and use the meat-tenderizing hammer to pound the meat. However, the wax paper would always tear, no matter how careful I was.

Now I place the meat in a large (gallon-size), plastic freezer bag that I have pre-cut the sides of. The plastic is thicker than wax paper, and holds up to multiple poundings. — Chris M. in New Jersey

Ah yes, the old way and the new way. Try using plastic wrap — it does a good job too. — Heloise

Dear Heloise: My family enjoys stuffed peppers; however, we differ on whether we like them spicy or mild.

To avoid anyone getting the wrong stuffed pepper, I’ve started stuffing two colors of peppers. The green peppers I stuff with my mild ingredients, and the red peppers with the spicy ingredients. It is now easy for each family member to grab the preferred pepper! — Patricia H., Louisville, Ky.