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The many uses of cornstarch

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This week, let’s talk about a household superstar, cornstarch.

What is cornstarch? Cornstarch, sometimes called corn flour, is the starch of corn. It is ground from the endosperm, or white heart, of the corn kernel. Cornstarch is great for thickening gravy but that isn’t all it’s good for!

• Carpet Freshener Recipe: Combine three quarter cups baking soda, 2 tablespoons cornstarch, and one-quarter-cup perfumed talcum powder. Sprinkle on dry carpet, let stand five to 15 minutes, then vacuum.

• Extra shiny windows: Clean windows as normal, then put cornstarch in a pail with water, (enough to soak a cloth) wipe the windows, dry with a clean cloth. It really works, I’ve tried it myself.
Submitted by: Tina from Corner Brook, N.L.

• Shine your car. When buffing your car, sprinkle 1 tablespoon cornstarch onto a damp rag and buff.

• Cockroach Poison: Mix equal parts cornstarch and plaster of Paris. Sprinkle the mixture into cracks and crevices. Cockroaches will eat the mixture and won’t survive.

• Prevent or kill mildew in damp books: Sprinkle cornstarch throughout books to absorb the moisture from damp pages. Wait several hours and brush clean. If pages are mildewed, brush the cornstarch off outdoors to keep mildew spores out of the house.

• Cure athlete’s foot: Sprinkle cornstarch on feet and in your shoes to absorb moisture, deodorize and reduce friction.

• Water-free dog bath: Sprinkle cornstarch onto fur and rub vigorously. Brush your dog. The cornstarch will absorb dirt and oils from your dog’s fur. This works on human hair as well!

• To deal with a fresh grease spot on fabric, sprinkle cornstarch onto fabric and leave for a few hours. Wash with heavy-duty detergent and water. Make sure grease spot is gone before transferring fabric to the dryer.

• Make your own glue: Mix three teaspoons of cornstarch for every four teaspoons of cold water. Stir until a paste consistency is reached. Apply with fingers, a wooden tongue depressor or Popsicle stick.

• Fantastic face paint that works as well as the type that clowns use: Mix two parts cornstarch with one part white vegetable shortening to make a non-toxic grease paint. Add a few drops of food colouring to create an assortment of colours.

• Never-fail finger paint: Combine one-quarter-cup of cornstarch with two cups of water. Boil the cornstarch mixture on the stove until it reaches the consistency of paint. Remove the cornstarch mixture from the stove and pour into separate dishes. Create different colours by adding a few drops of food colouring to each dish, mix well until the desired colour is achieved. Finger paint made with cornstarch is non-toxic and edible.

• Inexpensive Body Powder Recipe: Put two drops perfume into a sealable bag with two cups of cornstarch. Shake and apply to face or body.

• What do you do when little Bobby just learned how to tie his shoes and the knots are impossible to undo? Stay calm and sprinkle a little cornstarch onto the laces to help work out the knots.

• When making gravy there are advantages of using cornstarch rather than flour. Cornstarch has twice the "thickening power" of flour, (you only need to use half as much). If a recipe calls for a quarter-cup of flour, you can use just two tablespoons of cornstarch. Cornstarch thickens with a satiny smoothness and glossy appearance. It adds no taste to mask the flavour of foods. Use one tablespoon of cornstarch to thicken every two cups of liquid to a medium consistency. Cornstarch mixed with a little cold liquid is stirred into hot food during the final stage of cooking, and must be cooked to 203F (95C) before thickening begins. At that point, it will quickly thicken and the sauce turns from opaque to transparent, (sauces will thin if cooked too long, boiled or vigorously stirred). Tip: If problems occur when using cornstarch, the best remedy is to add more liquid instead of additional cornstarch. In many cases, there may not be enough liquid to begin with, which does not allow the starch granules to enlarge to full capacity.

• Pour a small amount of cornstarch into a bag of stuck-together marshmallows and shake the bag so that the cornstarch coats the marshmallows. Gently pull apart marshmallows, once coated they will no longer be sticky. Tip: Icing sugar can be used in the same way.

I enjoy your questions and tips, keep them coming. Missed a column? Can’t remember a solution? Need a motivational speaker for an upcoming event? Check out my brand new website: reena.ca!

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