Finding my favorite frozen spinach took some shopping

When I had the task of making 35 spinach souffles for a cooking class, I opted to use frozen spinach — just plain, frozen spinach with no butter sauce, no cream sauce and no steam-in-the-bag kind.

I headed to the grocery store in search of a 10-ounce box of my favorite brand, Birdseye, although I would have been satisfied with Green Giant.

But where were they? I couldn't find either brand in our local supermarkets. I did find the store brand, but had tried it before and found it unsatisfactory for my souffles.

Finally I discovered my favorite brand at a different store. I placed a dozen of the frozen treasures in my shopping cart and headed to the check-out lane. I guess I was an odd sight with nothing in my cart but a dozen boxes of frozen spinach, but my mission was accomplished and I was ready to tackle the souffles.

When I told my tale to the class, they, too, expressed concern that we have dozens of new products in our supermarkets but fewer brand choices. It left us wondering whether this is a local phenomenon or a national one.

Until we come up with an answer to that question, let's tackle one from our readers:

Lately when I purchase fresh garlic, it has a green sprout in the middle of it. Is the garlic still good? Is the green part harmful?

What you have purchased is old garlic and it is sprouting. It is not harmful, and the garlic is safe to eat. However, the green sprout has an unpleasant, strong taste; other than that, it is not harmful. Simply split the garlic clove in half, remove and discard the sprout and use the remaining part of the clove.

Whenever I bake in my oven, the top seems to get brown before the item has finished cooking. Do you have any suggestions for preventing that from happening?

When that happens to me, I usually place a piece of aluminum foil over the top to shield the top from the intense heat. Or I will move the item to a lower rack, away from the top element. I assume you are baking on the middle rack in the oven. Most items should be baked in the middle part of the oven for even cooking.

However, there are exceptions to that rule. Large items such as a turkey or an angel food cake should be placed on the bottom third of the oven. They will fill the middle space of the oven but still leave room for the air to circulate and not be too close to the oven ceiling. Also, fruit pies are typically baked on the lower oven rack so that the bottom crust will brown nicely. Items placed in the top third of the oven will tend to brown quickly on top.