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No safety in numbers

Dear Heloise: There’s one aspect of the coronavirus pandemic that I don’t see a lot of info on. When I go to the store, I follow the proper guidelines: I stay six feet away from others, wear a face mask, wipe down the shopping buggy, wash hands, use hand sanitizer, etc. I also go alone.

What I don’t understand is why in the middle of this public health crisis, do people go shopping with friends and relatives? Isn’t that unnecessary exposure?

When I go shopping, I make a list, I get in, I get what I need, I pay for my items and get out. And, of course, I wash my hands thoroughly when I get home.

Eventually we can go back to shopping, browsing, trying things on and making a day of it with friends for lunch and fun, but right now, safety is first. — Jackie in Texas

FRESH OR DRIED SPICES?

Dear Heloise: This might sound a little obsessive, but I organize and alphabetize my spices and condiments. This way, I know exactly what I have, and I can frequently and easily check the dates on each, too.

I’d be curious to know: Do your readers mostly use fresh parsley, oregano, chives, etc., or do they prefer dried? — Dawn in Indiana

Dawn, there’s nothing wrong with being organized. Readers, what do you say: fresh or dried spices and herbs? — Heloise

BAGGY PAINTING

Dear Heloise: My daughter taught me this cute idea for entertaining my 2-year- old granddaughter while she’s in her highchair. I take a bit of yellow, blue and red paint and squirt them into a zip-top freezer bag. I remove as much air as possible, close the bag and tape it down with heavy masking tape to the tray on her chair.

She loves to “finger paint” by squishing the paint around in the bag, and she’s learning that yellow and blue make green, and where purple comes from! We can also trace out numbers and letters.

Of course, I never take my eyes off her, but those freezer bags are hard to tear and the bag is taped down. Cleanup is a breeze. — Myrtle in Ohio

SOUTHWESTERN VEGGIE RICE

Dear Heloise: I love rice as a side dish. I’m looking for a healthy alternative to the boxed, flavored rice choices at the grocery store. They always have way too much salt, and I’m trying to cut back on my salt intake. Do you have a tasty rice recipe for me? — Carmen in Arizona

Carmen, this one is a favorite of my readers. It calls for 1/2 teaspoon of salt, but you can use less or a salt substitute. Hopefully you’ll enjoy it, too. You’ll need:

3 tablespoons salad oil

1 large onion, chopped

2 cloves garlic, minced or pressed

1/2 teaspoon salt (to taste)

1 can of mixed peas and carrots

1 can diced tomatoes or 1 1/2 cups peeled and chopped tomatoes

2 cups chicken broth (heated to boiling)

1 1/2 cups rice (brown or white)

1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper

Cook oil uncovered for 2 minutes on high in a 3-quart microwave-safe casserole. Add onion, garlic and rice. Cook uncovered on high for 3 minutes until onion is limp and rice is opaque. Stir once.

Stir in cayenne pepper and chicken broth. Cover tightly and cook on high for 4 to 7 minutes or until liquid begins to boil. Reduce power to medium and cook for 10-12 minutes, or until most of the liquid is absorbed and rice is tender.

Let stand covered for 5 minutes. Don’t peek! Let it set to absorb the moisture. At the end of the standing time, stir in the peas and carrots, and tomatoes and salt to taste.

For more tried-and-true recipes that have been reader favorites, order my pamphlet “Heloise’s Main Dishes and More” by visiting www.Heloise.com or by sending $3 and a long, self-addressed, stamped (70 cents) envelope to: Heloise/Main Dishes, P.O. Box 795001, San Antonio, TX, 78279-5001. If you’re not a big fan of brown rice, try mixing half and half with white rice. — Heloise

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