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Ask the Test Kitchen

"Sweet" Milk and Cream

I have a Mennonite cookbook that has a few recipes that call for sweet milk and sweet cream. What exactly are they referring to? Also, can you tell me what Beau Monde seasoning is? Thank you.…

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A Smoother Frosting

When I frost a layer cake, there's always a ridge in the frosting where the layers meet. This happens no matter what the consistency of the frosting. I've tried spreading it between layers to…

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Adjust Caps

Almost every recipe for jam seems to use the term "adjust caps" before processing in a boiling-water bath. What does "adjust caps" mean? —M.G., Lompoc, California

Recipes that use the…

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Advantages of Brining

I've seen a few recipes lately that call for brining poultry or meats. What exactly is brining and what are its advantages? —M.K., Brookfield, Wisconsin

Brining means to soak meat in a…

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Alum Not Needed

In my younger days, pickled cucumbers called for alum to keep the vegetables crisp in home canning recipes. But nowadays, recipes for pickled vegetables do not call for alum. Why is it no longer…

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Baked Spareribs

I have a recipe that calls for baking spareribs for 6 hours in a 200° oven and finishing on a grill. Does this sound safe at such a low temperature? —E.O., Parma, Ohio

According to…

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Banana Cake Cure

Every time I bake a banana cake from scratch, it falls in the center when it cools. The recipe I have calls for two 8-inch round baking pans, but I prefer to bake the cake in a 13-inch x 9-inch x…

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Banana Nut Bread

I've tried several recipes for banana nut bread, but in each attempt the center of the loaf seems wet and underdone. I've even doubled the suggested baking time, but the center remains mushy. I…

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Beef Stroganoff

I like to make Beef Stroganoff, but I'm never sure what cut of meat to use. Lately I've tried beef top round that the butcher cuts into cubes for me. My sauce is fine, but I think the meat should…

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Biscuit-Topped Casserole

How can I keep biscuits that are placed on top of a casserole from getting doughy? —L.S., Windsor, Vermont

It's true—biscuits that are baked on top of casseroles, stews and…

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Black Walnuts

I have seen several recipes calling for black walnuts. What is the difference between them and the walnuts that are usually found in grocery stores? —J.W., Niles, Michigan

The walnuts…

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Blackstrap Molasses

My daughter bought me a jar of blackstrap molasses. Can I substitute it for regular molasses? Is blackstrap molasses stronger? Thanks for your help. —D.F. Solvay, New York

Molasses is…

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Blanched Beans

I enjoy buying baskets of fresh green and yellow beans in summer. I blanch and freeze the beans according to my cookbook instructions and they seem wonderful. But once they're cooked, they get a…

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Blueberry Muffins

Whenever I try to make blueberry muffins, the blueberries settle at the bottom of the muffin. What am I doing wrong? —D.H., Akron, Ohio

Lightly coating your blueberries (or any other…

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Boiled Pretzels

In a recipe for soft pretzels, the directions say to boil the pretzels briefly in a mixture of water and baking soda. What is the purpose of doing this? —S.S., Loveland,…

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Boiling Corn on the Cob

For years I've been boiling fresh corn on the cob, but I'm never sure how long to cook it. How long do you suggest? —M.B. Apollo Beach, Florida

To boil fresh corn on the cob, first…

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Bone-In Chicken Breasts

I noticed a recipe that calls for bone-in chicken breast halves. We buy boneless chicken breasts in large quantities and are wondering why the bone-in variety is necessary. Thanks! —R.F.,…

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Bread Machine Features

Why do so many bread machine recipes say not to use a bread machine with a time-delay feature? —L.K., Romulus, Michigan

In Taste of Home, we say this in recipes that contain…

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Bread Machine Oil

I'm wondering what kind of oil or shortening to use in my bread machine. I currently use canola oil. Also, should canola oil be kept in the refrigerator? What is its shelf life? —E.B.,…

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Bread-and-Butter Pickles

Is it okay to replace white vinegar with cider vinegar when making bread-and-butter pickles? Thanks for your help. —K.F., Lisle, Illinois

Vinegar provides the tart puckery flavor in…

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Brining a Turkey

I would like to try brining a turkey but have heard that only all-natural turkeys can be used. What type of turkey should I look for? —S.R., Charleston, South Carolina

When choosing a…

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Broasted Chicken

During some of our travels, we've had broasted chicken. It was delicious. It tasted like fried chicken, but there was no grease and it was so tender! My question is—how is broasted chicken…

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Bundt Cake

Can I bake a bundt cake in an angel food cake pan with a removable bottom? —M.J., Spokane, Washington

Yes, indeed, as long as the cake batter fills the pan about two-thirds full. To…

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Butter Alternative

I rarely have butter in the house. Can you tell me what will happen if I use margarine in a recipe that calls for butter? Thanks for your help! —M.H., New Castle, Pennsylvania

Our Test…

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Butter and Shortening

When a recipe calls for both margarine and shortening, why can't I use just one or the other? —L.P., Arvada, Colorado

Butter, margarine and shortening all have different properties…

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Buttermilk Substitute

When a recipe calls for buttermilk, can I add vinegar or lemon juice to milk as a substitute? —A.C., New York, New York

There are a number of substitutes for buttermilk in baking. For…

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Cajun Seasoning

Where can I buy Cajun seasoning? I have looked in a couple of grocery stores and can't seem to find it. —K.J., Port Clinton, Ohio

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Cake Beating

When trying a new cake recipe and it doesn't specify "beat well" or "beat just until blended," which is the best method to use? —F.P., Newark, New York

As a general rule, cake…

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Cake Flour

What's the difference between cake flour and all-purpose flour? —V.K., Algonquin, Illinois

Cake flour is used in recipes where a fine, tender crumb is desired, such as in a layer cake.…

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Cake Instructions

The directions for making cakes often instruct you to alternate adding the dry ingredients with the liquid. How many times should you alternate for the best outcome? Thanks! —M.S., Puyallup,…

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Caramel Crystals

When making caramels, some recipes say to pour the candy into the prepared pan without scraping the saucepan. What is the reason for doing this? —L.P., Arvada, Colorado

The recipe…

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Centered Yolks

How do you hard-cook eggs so the yolk is centered when the eggs are cut in half? —J.N., Mead, Nebraska

As an egg ages, the yolk moves more freely and can become displaced as the white…

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Cheese Storage

After opening a block of low-moisture part-skim mozzarella cheese, I place it in a resealable bag and store it in the refrigerator. Unfortunately, it's not long before it begins to develop mold.…

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Chiffon Cakes

A few co-workers and I would like to know what makes a cake chiffon. —L.J., Warrenton, Missouri

Chiffon cakes are moist, light and airy, with a springy texture similar to a sponge cake…

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Chili Peppers - What's Hot?

When it comes to chili peppers, some are hotter than others. Can you please provide some guidance? TOH: When it comes to rating chili peppers' heat, looks don't help: It's the seeds and…

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Chocolate Candy

When a recipe calls for melted milk chocolate candy bars for dipping candy centers, can I use milk chocolate chips with the same results? They are quite a bit cheaper, but I don't want to waste my…

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Chopped Nuts

When a recipe calls for "1 cup nuts, chopped," what does this mean? Should I measure a cup of nuts first and then chop them? Or do I chop the nuts and then measure them to make a cup? —D.B.…

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Chopping Raisins

Do you have any easy suggestions for preventing raisins from sticking to the knife when chopping? —B.M., Marthasville, Missouri

There are several things that you can try to make the…

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Cinnamon Baking Chips

What are cinnamon chips? I recently saw them called for in a recipe. I've asked everywhere, but no one seems to have heard of them. Can you help? —P.H., Manchester, Georgia

Hershey…

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Citrus Substitute

My husband is allergic to citrus. So many wonderful recipes call for citrus of some kind. Is there anything I can substitute? —R.N., Port St. Lucie, Florida

Unfortunately, lemon,…

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Coffee Bean Storage

Help! I store coffee beans in the freezer and grind them as needed. Recently, I've heard that coffee beans should be stored in the cupboard or pantry. Wouldn't the beans become rancid in a short…

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Convection Ovens

I recently moved into a home with a convection oven and wonder if I should be modifying the cooking time or temperature when baking in convection mode. What do you recommend? —V.H.,…

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Converted White Rice

What is converted white rice? Is it regular long grain rice or instant long grain rice? —A.F. Lecanto, Florida

Converted white rice is neither regular long grain rice nor instant long…

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Cooked Bean Dishes

Is there anything I can add to cooked bean dishes to eliminate or reduce the gas problem they seem to produce? I've tried adding ground mustard, but it doesn't help. —M.S.,Kingston,…

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Cookie Container

I have a hard time keeping my home-baked cookies from getting soft. I stack them in an airtight container, but they tend to stick together. I tried using plastic wrap between the stacks, but that…

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Cooking Utensils

When cooking ground beef or other meats, I use a spoon to turn the meat over and help break it up. Can this same spoon be used to stir in other ingredients after the meat is cooked or to transfer…

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Cracked Cake Roll

My pumpkin cake rolls always crack when I roll them up. How can I keep them from doing this? —B.S. Macon, Mississippi

First, be sure the cake batter is spread evenly in the pan. This…

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Cream of Tartar

I've noticed that every recipe I've seen for lemon meringue pie calls for cream of tartar. Is it really necessary to use that ingredient? —J.D., Downers Grove, Illinois

Cream of tartar…

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Creamed Soup

Help! I have a problem making creamed soups. Most recipes call for melting butter, adding flour and stirring until smooth. My problem is that this mixture becomes a sticky, lumpy mess! What am I…

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Creating Chocolate Curls

My mother and I have been wondering how to make chocolate curls for garnishing dessert tops. We have tried to make them, but they always crumble and break. We'd appreciate your help. —M.M.,…

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Crispy Crust

How do you make a crispy pizza crust? I make mine from scratch with yeast, and it bakes completely but is not crispy. Is that what the new mesh pizza pans are for? I do use the bottom oven rack.…

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Crystallized Honey

I buy honey in a 5-pound jar and have found that it crystallizes before I can use it all. It's a nuisance to always have to heat it to dissolve the crystals. What can I do to prevent this from…

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Day-Old Bread Cubes

Some recipes call for day-old bread cubes. I'm not familiar with them. —L.D., Los Lunas, New Mexico

Day-old bread cubes are made from day-old bread that is sliced into cubes. They're…

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Diluting Low-Fat Milk

I buy 2 percent milk and dilute it by half with water to make my own 1 percent milk at half the cost. Is this smart, or am I just fooling myself? —V.M., Glenwood, Iowa

The difference…

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Double-Acting Baking Powder

I bought baking powder at the grocery store, but when I got home, I noticed that the can says it is "double-acting." Does this mean I need to use only half as much as a recipe calls for?…

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Doubled Cake Recipe

I have a cake recipe that calls for an 8-in. square baking pan. I would like to make a larger cake in a 13-in. x 9-in. baking pan. Can I simply double all the ingredients? —A.P.,…

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Dough Cycles

I would like to make the Mini Maple Cinnamon Rolls in the April/May '06 issue of Taste of Home, but I'm unsure of when to…

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Drained Canned Beans

Many recipes call for canned beans that have been rinsed and drained, but also list water as an ingredient. Why can't the liquid in the can be used as part of this water? —D.G., Chula Vista,…

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Dry Cake Solutions

Whenever I bake a cake from scratch it turns out dry and crumbly. What am I doing wrong? —K.M., Reidsville, North Carolina

There could be several reasons that your cakes turn out dry…

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Dry Roast Beef

My daughter prepared a beautiful large cut of beef for a prime rib dinner. She seared it, placed it fat side up in a pan with 1/2 cup water and covered the pan. The roast baked to a nice, pink…

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Dutch Baby

I would like to make a Dutch baby recipe but do not have an ovenproof skillet. Is there some other type of baking dish I could use? Or could I make this in individual dishes? —J.R.…

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Eat Beets

Can raw beets be eaten? I have not seen a recipe in any of my cookbooks using them. —V.T., New Cumberland, Pennsylvania

Beets can be eaten raw, and they add a nice texture and color to…

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Edible Petals

Is it true that some flowers used to decorate cakes are edible? If so, what types are they? —F.R., Canterbury, Connecticut

Yes, some garden-fresh flowers are fine for decorating…

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Egg Substitute

I have a recipe for lemon bars that calls for 1/2 cup egg substitute. Can I use fresh eggs instead and how many? —E.O., Parma, Ohio

You can substitute 2 fresh eggs for 1/2 cup egg…

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Evaporated Milk vs. Sweetened Condensed Milk

What's the difference between evaporated milk and sweetened condensed milk? Sweetened condensed milk is a mixture of whole milk and sugar from which 60% of the water has been removed. Unsweetened…

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Falling Souffle

Every time I make a souffle, it looks beautiful when it comes out of the oven, but within 10 minutes, it falls. What am I doing wrong? —A.S., Estell Manor, New Jersey

Absolutely…

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Fennel Bulbs

What are fennel bulbs? I see them listed often in salad recipes. —B.S., South Bend, Indiana

Fennel is an aromatic herb and a member of the carrot family. It has a large pale green…

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Filling Cupcake Liners

Is there a simple way to fill cupcake liners? —M.J., Hales Corners, Wisconsin

Our Test Kitchen prefers to use a dry measuring cup if the batter is thin and a spring-loaded ice cream…

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Filling Cupcakes

Is there a mixture I can place in cupcakes before baking that will have a creamy consistency similar to the filling in Twinkies? Most fillings I've tried dissolve during baking, leaving an…

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Finding the Right Flour

I've asked several women this question and no one seems to know the answer. When a recipe calls for flour but doesn't specify self-rising or all-purpose flour, how do you know which one to use?…

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Flattened Chicken

I have a recipe that calls for flattening chicken breasts to 1/4-inch thickness. After I'm done with them, they look like they have been through the shredder. What am I doing wrong? —S.F.,…

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Flour Facts

I have a lot of bread flour that I use in my bread machine. Can I use this flour when a recipe calls for all-purpose flour? If not, how long will bread flour last if I store it in the original bag…

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Foaming Soup

I enjoy preparing split pea soup, but I've noticed that when the water comes to a boil, a foam forms over the water surface. I skim the foam off, but why does that happen? —L.B., Brevard,…

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Foiled Fudge

Some fudge recipes recommend using a foil-lined pan. If you spray the pan, is foil really necessary? —C.D., Shelby, Ohio

When making fudge, you can simply butter or grease the pan with…

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Fondue Flop

I recently tried a new fondue recipe that uses shredded Gouda and Edam cheeses. The recipe said to stir the cheese into simmering white wine, but I substituted nonalcoholic wine. I never could get…

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Freezing Garlic

What can I do with fresh garlic cloves that are left over from a recipe? Can I freeze them? —C.C., Spring Lake, North Carolina

You can store whole or partial garlic bulbs in a cool dry…

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Freezing Yeast Dough

I've just begun to try my hand at yeast breads. I'd like to know when is the best time to freeze yeast doughs, before or after the first rise? —S.D., Blanchardville, Wisconsin

Yeast…

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Fresh Cake Yeast

How many packages of dry yeast equal one package of fresh cake yeast? I prefer to use fresh, but it is not always available. —M.W., Naperville, Illinois

Yeast can be purchased in three…

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Fresh Cinnamon Rolls

My family loves fresh-baked yeast cinnamon rolls for breakfast, but they take so long to prepare. Is there a way to prepare the dough the night before and keep it in the refrigerator? —J.H.,…

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Fresh Eggs

Since I live alone, I sometimes have a hard time using up a carton of eggs. Is there a way to tell if the eggs that remain are still fresh? —B.J., Manitowoc, Wisconsin

Properly…

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Fresh Frozen Broccoli

After cooking fresh broccoli, I drain it and store some in the freezer for later use. Once thawed, it is always soggy. What can I do to prevent this? —G.S., Jersey City, New…

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Fresh Homemade Bread

Do you know a way to help homemade bread stay soft and moist for several days like commercial bakers do? Do they add an ingredient to keep it that way? —A.B., Niagara,…

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Fresh Rosemary

I love the fresh flavor of rosemary and grow it in my garden each summer. It's great to use fresh, but I find the sharp texture of dried rosemary unappealing. Is there any other way to buy or…

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Frozen Berries

A friend gave me some fruit from her garden that she froze. How long can I store these frozen strawberries and raspberries in my freezer? —S.F., St. Charles, Illinois

Strawberries and…

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Frozen Blueberries

I freeze a lot of blueberries, but it seems that most recipes call for fresh. What can I do with all those frozen berries? —S.G., Lucedale, Mississippi

Frozen blueberries are perfect…

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Frozen Cream Puffs

My family loves cream puffs. Can they be frozen for use later? —J.B., Kettle River, Minnesota

Unfilled cream puffs can be frozen in an airtight container for up to 2 months. To thaw,…

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Frozen Shrimp

I love shrimp and always have frozen cooked shrimp on hand. However, many recipes list uncooked shrimp as the main ingredient. Can thawed or frozen shrimp be added instead if I adjust the cooking…

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Fruit Pectin

Some jam recipes call for liquid pectin and others call for powdered pectin. What is the difference and can they be interchanged? —D.D., Mapleton, Maine

Both powdered and liquid pectin…

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Fudge Flavors

I love making fudge for gifts and family gatherings. Can I substitute different flavors of baking chips for chocolate chips in my fudge recipe? —J.B., Kettle River, Minnesota

It…

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Garlic Infused Olive Oil

I love to infuse my olive oil with fresh chunks of garlic. How long can I keep it on my countertop? —T.B., Delray Beach, Florida

According to the Food and Drug Administration, you…

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Getting to Know Gnocchi

I am confused about the potato pasta called "gnocchi." I've seen recipes for making it that contain anything from farina to potatoes to flour. Why are there so many variations involved? Also, the…

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Getting to Know Kohlrabi

Recently, I've seen recipes that use kohlrabi, but I don't know what it is. It looks like it's related to the potato. Is it expensive? —A.R., East Point, Kentucky

Kohlrabi is that…

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Glazed Doughnuts

My husband and I made glazed doughnuts, but by the next day, all the glaze had soaked into them. How should they be stored so this doesn't happen? —D.C., Normal, Illinois

Doughnuts are…

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Golden Roast

When I roast a chicken or turkey, the skin always ends up looking pale. How can I get a nice golden-brown color? —H.H., San Jose, California

First, choose a shallow roasting pan, about…

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Goulash vs. Stew

What is the difference between goulash and stew? I thought goulash did not have any vegetables except potatoes, whereas stew had many vegetables. —M.V., South Bend, Indiana

Any dish…

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Greasy BBQ Sandwiches

How can I keep sloppy joes or barbecued beef from getting that greasy look? —L.H., Lebanon, Pennsylvania

When making sloppy joes, you can eliminate the greasy appearance by thoroughly…

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Great Grilled Brats

I have tried several different ways of cooking brats (a Wisconsin favorite!), but they always turn out too dry. What is the best method of grilling brats so that they stay moist and juicy on the…

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Grilling Over Indirect Heat

How do you grill over indirect heat when you have a charcoal grill? And should the meat be covered with foil…or do you just put the cover on the grill? —S.S., Milford, New…

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Ground Ham

Ham Loaf sound delicious. But I don't own a food processor or meat grinder. Will a butcher grind the ham? —R.S., Fairfield, California

Many meat departments will grind a ham for you if…

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Half-and-Half Substitute

When a recipe calls for half-and-half cream, what can you use in place of it if you don't keep half-and-half cream on hand? —S.H., Clear Spring, Maryland

For dishes that are cooked or…

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Hard-Cooked Eggs

It seems that no matter how I hard-cook eggs, they are always difficult to peel. Any suggestions? —D.P., Denver, Colorado

Very fresh eggs can be difficult to peel. The American Egg…

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Healthy Choice

I know olive oil is a healthier choice than corn, soybean and other vegetable oils, but can I use it in cake mixes and other baked goods that call for vegetable oil? —C.I., Grants Pass,…

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Help for Challah

I make a braided challah yeast bread. In the baking process, the braids always pull apart at the top. Do you have a solution? —C.R., Valparaiso, Indiana

When making braided breads, use…

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High Altitude Cooking

Is there any way recipes could be written for folks living at high altitudes as well as at sea level? Sometimes I'm not sure what recipes to adjust and how to adjust them. —P.W., Buena…

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Home-Canned Tomatoes

I would like to use my home-canned tomatoes in recipes that call for stewed tomatoes. What should I add to them to get the same flavor? —L.M., Lexington, Kentucky

Typically, stewed…

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Homemade Cake Flour

I'd like to make my own cake flour. What is the ratio of cornstarch to flour? —J.M.Wyalusing, Pennsylvania

For every cup of cake flour, use 1 cup minus 2 tablespoons bleached…

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Homemade Salad Dressings

I love to make the salad dressings in Taste of Home! How long do homemade dressings keep in the refrigerator? —J.D., Lino Lakes, Minnesota

The "shelf life" of salad dressings varies…

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Homemade Spaghetti Sauce

My homemade spaghetti sauce tastes wonderful, but when I serve it over spaghetti noodles, water always accumulates on the plate. How can I prevent this from happening? —J.P., Grand Blanc,…

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Homemade Stock

Is there an easy way to clarify homemade chicken or beef stock? I like to make my own basic soup stock for homemade soups, but it always comes out looking like dirty dishwater. —P.T.,…

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Honey Oatmeal Cookies

I would love to replace the sugar in my favorite oatmeal cookie recipe with honey. Is there a formula for converting sugar to honey in a recipe? —S.H., St. Paul, Minnesota

If you…

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Hot Pepper Warning

Why is it that we are warned not to touch hot peppers, yet we use them in our recipes? How do they affect our stomachs? —H.R., Hauppauge, New York

Hot peppers have been eaten in many…

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How Long Can Appetizers Sit Out?

How long can appetizers that require refrigeration sit out? - J.S., Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin. Test Kitchen: Party foods left out for too long offer the perfect environment for bacteria growth,…

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How to remove popovers without sticking.

I have found that it is hard to remove popovers from the pan without having them stick. Should I remove them when they are hot or cool? —H.B., Boston, Massachusetts

For best results,…

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Imitation Crabmeat

Can I substitute imitation crabmeat made with whitefish in recipes calling for crabmeat, such as crab cakes? Real crabmeat is just so expensive. Thanks for all your good advice. —K.C.,…

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Instant Pudding Mix

A lot of recipes call for a package of instant pudding mix. Can I use sugar-free instant pudding mix instead? —S.R., Indianapolis, Indiana

Our Test Kitchen has found that it can be…

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Is It Done Yet?

Some cheesecake recipes say to bake until the center is just barely firm. What is a good yardstick to use when judging that condition? —M.L., Walnut Creek, California

Judging the…

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Italian Sausage

When recipes call for Italian sausage, I'm not sure if they mean sweet or hot Italian sausage. Which should I use? —G.H., Monroe Township, New Jersey

When a Taste of Home recipe calls…

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Italian Seasoning

Some recipes call for Italian seasoning. I have not been able to find it. Can you help me?—E.G., Agawam, Massachusetts

Italian seasoning can be found in the spice aisle of most grocery…

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Jarred Minced Garlic

I've noticed minced garlic in jars in the produce department of my grocery store. How much should I use for one garlic clove, and does the flavor taste the same as fresh garlic? —N.G., Des…

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Keeping Meat Warm

Many recipes say to brown meat, then remove and keep warm. How do you keep the meat warm when you're using the skillet to cook other ingredients? - M.S., South Euclid, Ohio. Test Kitchen: Great…

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Layered Gelatin Salad

When I make a layered gelatin salad, the layers slide off one another. What am I doing wrong? —C.H., Orient, South Dakota

Our Test Kitchen has found that this happens when a layer of…

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Leftover Potato Salad

I was wondering if leftover potato salad could be frozen to enjoy later. The recipe I have in mind is a molded salad made with lemon gelatin, prepared potato salad, green peppers and cucumbers.…

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Lemon Curd

I have a recipe for lemon cream cake that calls for lemon curd filling. What is lemon curd? I can't find it anywhere and no one seems to know what it is. Can you help me out? —I.W.,…

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Light Versus Dark Brown Sugar

What is the difference between light brown and dark brown sugar? Can they be used interchangeably? —W.S., Middle Grove, New York

Both types of brown sugar are a mixture of sugar and…

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Lined Cake Pan

I make a Brazil nut cake that calls for lining the pan with waxed paper. I grease the pan and then put in the paper. But the paper sticks to the nuts at the top edge of the pan, and I have a…

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Lumpy Sugar in Blueberry Pie

Sometimes when I bake a blueberry pie, the sugar does not dissolve but crystallizes into lumps throughout the pie. The pie has plenty of juice, so I don't understand why this happens. —D.D.,…

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Make-Ahead Mashed Potatoes

My mom and I would like to know if we can make mashed potatoes ahead of time and keep them in a slow cooker until serving. —J.H., Quakertown, Pennsylvania

With the holidays just around…

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Mayonnaise Substitute

When a recipe calls for mayonnaise, there is sometimes an editor’s note saying that reduced-fat or fat-free mayonnaise may not be substituted. Can whipped salad dressing be substituted for…

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Measuring Shortening or Peanut Butter

I have a simple way to measure solid vegetable shortening and peanut butter. I found this method in a cookbook years ago: If you want to measure 1/2 cup shortening, fill a measuring cup with 1/2…

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Meringue Topping

Each time I make a pie with meringue topping, a clear liquid develops under the meringue that causes the crust to get soggy. What causes this and is there a solution? —A.E. Bossier City,…

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Mexican Vanilla

I've noticed large bottles of Mexican vanilla at an inexpensive price in my grocery store. Can I substitute this type of vanilla for regular pure vanilla extract? What is the difference in taste?…

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Microwave Dough

I read that it is possible to use a microwave oven to let dough rise but forgot to save the article. Could you explain how to do this? —H.T., Southampton, New York

Dough requires a…

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Microwave Wattage

If microwave recipes are tested in a 1,100-watt microwave oven, how do I adjust those recipes so that I can still use them in my 600-watt microwave oven? —E.S., Buhler,…

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Minced Garlic

Can finely chopped garlic be used interchangeably with garlic that has been put through a press? —M.K., Milwaukee, Wisconsin

Yes, minced garlic that you can buy, garlic that's been…

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Mini Muffins

How do you adjust the oven temperature and baking time when baking mini or jumbo muffins from a traditional muffin recipe? —N.I., South Kingstown, Rhode Island

Generally, the oven…

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Mom's Dash

My mother was a great cook and passed down many of her favorite recipes to me. But some call for a "pinch" of this and a "dash" of that. What did she mean by a "pinch" and a "dash?" I'd love to…

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Mother Knows Best

As a child, I asked my mom what the thick stuff in the vinegar jar was. She called it "mother." Is it harmless? —K.L., Mohawk, New York

Your mother was correct. The gelatinous…

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Neufchatel Cheese

I have a recipe that specifically calls for Neufchatel cheese. What's the difference between this cheese and regular cream cheese? Can one be substituted for the other? —A.K., Torrance,…

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Noodle Soup

When making soup, how do you keep noodles from absorbing all the liquid and becoming big and soggy? My soup gets really thick the next day or sometimes after just sitting awhile. I add the…

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Oatmeal Bread

When I make oatmeal bread, the risen dough in the pan looks like it would yield a nice-size loaf. But after it bakes, it seems smaller. I wait until the dough won't rise anymore before I bake…

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Oil Explanation

Will you explain the difference between olive oil, virgin olive oil and extra-virgin olive oil? —P.G., Killeen, Texas

With all of the different olive oils on grocery store shelves…

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Okra Alternatives

I've often seen recipes that call for okra, but I have not been able to find it in any Canadian stores. What is it? What might I substitute for it? —S.M., Peace River, Alberta

Okra is…

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Old-Fashioned Pound Cake

I have a recipe for an old-fashioned pound cake that calls for Snowdrift and butter. What is Snowdrift? —R.K., Franklin, Tennessee

Snowdrift is a brand name for vegetable shortening.…

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One Part This, One Part That

I'm confused when recipes call for 1 part of an ingredient like oil and 2 parts of another ingredient like sugar. Does one part mean 1 ounce? —R.C., Miami, Florida

Parts refer to the…

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Parchment Paper

When I'm baking cookies on parchment paper, which side of the paper should I use? And can it be used more than once? —D.P., Willowick, Ohio

Parchment paper is a heavy paper that's…

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Parmesan Shrimp Fettuccine

I tried making shrimp fettuccine that called for grated Parmesan cheese. It clumped and gummed up immediately. What happened? I did everything the recipe said. —P.S., Hope,…

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Pasta Pointers

When cooking pasta, should you add oil to the water? Also, should you rinse pasta before serving? I have heard conflicting answers to these questions. —J.A., Dartmouth, Nova…

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Peeling Kiwi

I've heard there's a way to peel kiwi with a spoon. Could you explain how to do this? —N.M., Bloomington, Minnesota

There is a quick and simple way to peel kiwifruit with a teaspoon.…

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Peeling Pumpkins

I'd like information on peeling pumpkins and easily preparing them for freezing. I'm fairly new at this and would appreciate any advice you can give me. —L.S., West Baldwin, Maine

I…

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Perfect Pizza Crust

I love to make homemade pizza, and my family loves to eat it. How do you get a chewy crust that's crispy on the outside? Are any special ingredients needed? —L.D., Shelley, Idaho

You…

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Pickling Onions

I recently came across a recipe for pickling onions. I have never heard of them and could not find them in the grocery store. What is the difference between pickling onions and regular onions?…

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Popover Do-Over

I recently made popovers that tasted great but didn't rise very high. What am I doing wrong? —S.S., Maynard, Massachusetts

You could get a higher return on those popovers by following…

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Popover Problem

When I make popovers, they rise so nice in the oven. When I take them out of the oven they soon shrink to nothing. Can you help me? —E.H., Beloit, Wisconsin

Popovers can fall after…

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Popping Popovers

I have found that it is hard to remove popovers from the pan without having them stick. Should I remove them when they are hot or cool? —H.B., Boston, Massachusetts

For best results,…

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Potato Skins

Is it safe to eat baked potatoes when they have a hint of green in the skins? —L.P., Cleveland, Ohio

It's best not to. The green tint comes from high levels of solanine, which can be…

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Pre-Melted Unsweetened Chocolate

I have a brownie recipe that calls for three envelopes of pre-melted unsweetened chocolate. I can't find it in the grocery stores and would like to substitute baking cocoa. How much should I use?…

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Prepared Meals

I have noticed that busy cooks often freeze meals ahead of time. I'm wondering how to do this. Any help you can give me would be greatly appreciated. —T.H., Oakdale,…

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Preventing Soggy Pie Crusts

Could you please tell me what to do to keep my pie crusts from getting soggy? Thanks for your help. —M.Y., Midland, Texas

There are several tricks you can try to prevent soggy…

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Processed Cheese

When a recipe calls for process American cheese, what exactly is it referring to? Does it mean Velveeta? —D.K., Sterling, Virginia

Process cheese is a blend of different cheeses that…

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Proper Egg Size

What is the proper egg size to use in recipes? - C.B., Bloomington, Minnesota. Test Kitchen: We use large eggs as the standard size in all our recipes.

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Puff Pastry Vs. Phyllo Dough

What's the difference between puff pastry sheets and phyllo dough? Can they be used interchangeably? —E.H., Washington, Utah

Puff pastry dough is a rich dough made by placing chilled…

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Pure Vanilla Extract

Is pure vanilla extract equal to double-strength imitation vanilla? Are they interchangeable? —P.R., Burt, Michigan

Actually, it's just the reverse. Double-strength imitation vanilla…

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Quick-Cooking Oats

What is the difference between quick-cooking and old-fashioned oats…and can they be used interchangeably? —J.M., Wauwatosa, Wisconsin

Quick-cooking oats and old-fashioned oats…

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Ranch Dressing Mix

I love the taste of salad dressing mixes but am sensitive to the MSG (a chemical flavor enhancer) they contain. Is there a recipe for a dry ranch salad dressing mix that does not contain MSG?…

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Raspberry Iced Tea

I'd like to make Raspberry Iced Tea. Is it okay to use frozen raspberries instead of fresh? —J.L., Wheeling, West Virginia

Yes, frozen raspberries can be substituted for fresh without…

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Raspberry Sauce

When I want to make a clear raspberry sauce, I puree the raspberries in my food processor and let the mixture drip through cheesecloth. Is there a faster, easier way to do this? —M.W.,…

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Refrigerated Butter

Is it necessary to keep butter refrigerated? I know people who just leave it on the counter. Is this safe and how long can it be kept unrefrigerated? —J.M., Walled Lake,…

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Reheated Pot Roast

When I first make beef pot roast, it is tender and juicy. After it is refrigerated then reheated, it tends to be dry and tough. What am I doing wrong? —Q.K., Lakeland, Florida

The…

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Reusing Oil

Can oil be reused after frying and, if so, how many times can it be reused before it should be discarded? —A.M., Calgary, Alberta

We do not recommend reusing cooking oil since both…

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Rhubarb Pie Thickener

I love rhubarb pie but don't like the cloudy appearance I get when using flour as a filling thickener. Can I substitute cornstarch or tapioca? If so, how much should I use in relation to the…

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Rice Rescue

I would like to substitute brown rice for white rice in some recipes because I know it is healthier for us, but I have trouble getting it as tender and fluffy as white rice. Do you have any…

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Roasted Meats

When cooking two different meats in the oven that require two different temperatures, how do I adjust the recipes? For instance, if I cook a small turkey breast and a 7-pound ham, at what…

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Roasting Lamb

Could you explain how a leg of lamb is roasted? I've tried three times, and every time it gets worse. It has a strong odor and is tough. Please help! —K.L., Columbus, Ohio

Leg of lamb…

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Seasoned Bread Crumbs

Many recipes call for seasoned bread crumbs. How can I make them? —T.B., Fulton, Illinois

It's a snap to make seasoned bread crumbs. Unless a recipe specifically calls for soft bread…

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Seeded Tomatoes

Can you tell me the correct way to seed a tomato? I've been told to cut the tip off and squeeze the tomato…and all the seeds will come out. I've tried that, and all I was left with was the…

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Self-Rising Flour

Can all-purpose flour be substituted in recipes calling for self-rising flour? —M.H., Menomonee Falls, Wisconsin

No, all-purpose flour cannot be substituted for self-rising flour…

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Separating Alfredo

I make a yummy Alfredo sauce with butter, cream, Parmesan cheese and a touch of ground nutmeg. It's great when you first make it, but after putting it in the fridge, the sauce separates and the…

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Serving Cheesecake

I love to make cheesecakes, and they turn out great! I'm just not sure how to serve them. When I remove the sides of the springform pan, do I place the cheesecake with the pan bottom attached on…

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Shelled Chestnuts

Please tell me how to get the membrane off chestnuts after removing the shell. Thanks! —R.S., Allentown, Pennsylvania

Sometimes the thin inner skin (membrane) can be difficult to…

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Shoepeg Corn

I have several recipes that call for shoepeg corn. What type of corn is it? I'm having a hard time finding it in grocery stores. —J.H., Hart, Michigan

The term "shoepeg corn" dates…

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Shortening or Oil?

The Peter Peter Pumpkin Bars in the Oct/Nov 2004 issue of Taste of Home call for 1/2 cup of shortening in the cake and 3…

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Shortening Substitute

Can I substitute butter for shortening in a cookie recipe? If so, do I use the same amount? Thanks for your help! —J.G., Quanah, Texas

Butter can be substituted for shortening in equal…

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Shortening Substitution

Many of my older recipes for cakes and cookies call for shortening. It seems that today's recipes use mostly butter or margarine. Can these be substituted for shortening? What changes will I…

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Simple Sifting

I have a recipe for angel food cake that is out of this world. However, it calls for sifting the cake flour and sugar 8 to 10 times—a time-consuming and messy process. Is it possible to do…

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Sinking Sheet Cake

What causes a sheet cake to sink in the center after it has baked and starts cooling? How can I prevent this from happening? —J.B., Lombard, Illinois

A sheet cake may rise and then…

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Slow Cook, Save Energy

Do meals made in slow cookers use a lot of electricity when they cook for 8-10 hours? —M.K., West Allis, Wisconsin

One of the advantages of using a slow cooker is that it uses very…

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Softened Ice Cream

Could you please tell me how to soften ice cream? —L.G., Wiscasset, Maine

Ice cream is often softened before being used in recipes or when it is too hard to scoop for eating. To…

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Spaetzle

I have a recipe that calls for spaetzle. I've never heard of it, and none of the stores in my area carry it. Where can I find it? —M.D., Phoenix, Arizona

Spaetzle is a German noodle or…

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Spice Beef

I am planning to make spice beef, but I'm having trouble finding a retailer who sells crocks. If I can't get a crock, can I use a large plastic bucket instead? —J.S., Surrey, British…

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Springform Pan Crust

Each time I make a dessert with a graham cracker crust using a springform pan, the butter leaks out into the oven. What might I be doing wrong? Should I line the pan with parchment paper?…

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Stew vs. Soup

What's the difference between soup and stew? In theory, a soup is a combination of vegetables, meat or fish cooked in liquid. A stew is any dish that's prepared by stewing - that is, the food…

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Sticky Banana Pudding

Whenever I make banana pudding, it sticks to the bottom of the pan and burns. Am I using too much heat, or is my saucepan too thin? —T.S. Lake Charles, Louisiana

Pudding, whether made…

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Storing Lettuce

What is the correct way to store iceberg lettuce in the refrigerator to keep it crisp? —D.L., Elm Mott, Texas

Iceberg lettuce should be washed before storing. First, remove the core by…

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Storing Nuts

Can peanuts be frozen? For how long? Also, how long before the holidays can I start making the brittle, and how should I store it so it stays fresh? —D.C., Stockbridge, Michigan

Raw…

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Storing Sweet Onions

Is there any way to store Vidalia onions? I would like to buy them in quantity when they're in season. —L.L., Brick, New Jersey

Vidalia and other sweet onions are mild-flavored onions…

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Stuffed Cabbage Leaves

I have a wonderful recipe for stuffed cabbage leaves. How do I peel the leaves from the head without ripping them into pieces? My husband loves this dish, but it always seems to fall apart when I…

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Substitute for Peach Filling

I’d like to make the Creamy Fruit Delight in the April/May '05 issue of Taste of Home, but I haven't been able to find the…

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Sunk in the Center

What causes a cake to sink in the center after it has baked and starts cooling? How can I prevent this from happening? —J.B., Lombard, Illinois

There are several factors that may cause…

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Sweet Potatoes or Yams?

What is the difference between sweet potatoes and yams? I make a sweet potato pie with yams. I don't think I have actually tasted a sweet potato. Can they be substituted for each other?…

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Tempered Chocolate

A few days after I make chocolate candy, little white spots appear on the top. I'm embarrassed to set it out for company. Why does this happen? —C.D., Little Chute, Wisconsin

While…

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Testing Yeast

Is there any way to test yeast to see if it is good? I always keep yeast in the fridge but am wondering if the freezer would be better. Thanks for any advice you can give me. —A.S., Bella…

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Toasted Pecans

Most recipes for cheese balls and cheese logs call for rolling the finished product in toasted pecans. What is a good way to toast the nuts? —B.B., Birchwood, Tennessee

While you can…

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Transparent Pie

What is transparent pie, and do you have a recipe for it? —S.J., Anaheim, California

Transparent pie is popular in the South and has a glossy sweet filling based on brown sugar,…

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Turkey and Beef Burgers

To cut down on last-minute prep time, as soon as I come home from the grocery store, I mix ground turkey and ground beef for burgers and meat loaves. Then I freeze this mixture until needed. Is it…

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Uncooked Egg Alternative

With the current warnings not to eat raw eggs, could you please tell me how to convert my favorite recipes for Key Lime Pie and French Chocolate Silk Pie? Both recipes call for mixing in uncooked…

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Vinegar Advice

When not specified, how do I know whether to use white or cider vinegar in a recipe? I usually just guess on whether I want a sweeter taste or not. —S.H., Madison, Alabama

Recipes…

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Vinegar Options

What is the difference between white wine vinegar and distilled white vinegar? Can they be used interchangeably? —E.K., Roseville, California

Distilled white vinegar is made from a…

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Watery Whipped Cream

When I beat whipping cream, I can get it to form only soft peaks—then it starts breaking down and gets thin and watery. Am I doing something wrong? —M.M., Santa Maria,…

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What is Polenta?

Polenta is a popular Italian dish made from cornmeal. It has a mild flavor and can be eaten as a hot side dish, hearty breakfast, or cooled, cut into squares and fried. Precooked or quick-cooking…

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What Is Whole Grain Mustard?

Whole grain mustard is prepared mustard with visible mustard seeds. Look for coarse-ground mustard or stone-ground mustard if you can't find whole grain. Whole grain mustard is sometimes difficult…

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What's Imitation Crabmeat?

I'd like to try making crab cakes with imitation crabmeat. What exactly is imitation crabmeat? Does it contain ingredients that are not healthy? —S.P., Brooklyn, New York

Imitation…

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Which Foods Stick to the Grill?

Foods most likely to stick include those with a sugary marinade, fish and lean meats such as pork, chicken (especially without the skin), turkey and turkey burgers. To prevent sticking, oil the…

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Whipped Cream on the Go

Is there a way I can make whipped cream that's spread on a pie stiff enough to travel well? —J.K., Sleepy Hollow, Illinois

To stabilize whipped cream, try adding a little gelatin.…

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Whipped Topping Substitute

I am not able to eat commercially prepared whipped topping products but have no problem with whipped cream. Is there an easy way to figure out how much cream to whip to equal the amount of topping…

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White Kidney Beans

Would you please tell me where I can find white kidney beans (cannellini beans)? I have searched all over Georgia and cannot find them. —C.R., Putney, Georgia

Cannellini beans are…

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Whole Wheat Bread

I've noticed that most recipes for whole wheat bread call for water. Would I have trouble with the bread dough if I used milk instead? Also, does it make a difference if the whole wheat flour is…

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Whole Wheat Flour

As my family becomes more health-conscious in our cooking, we've tried incorporating more whole grains into our diet. Can we substitute some whole wheat flour for all-purpose flour in our favorite…

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Why Chop Chocolate?

How important is it to chop chocolate when the recipe directs you to do so? —J.R., Vacaville, California

Chocolate is sometimes chopped before melting. This will ensure more even…

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Why Should You Let Meat Stand?

Letting meat stand for 10 minutes before carving makes it juicier. As meat cooks, juices are concentrated in the center. When large cuts of meat or roasts are pulled from the oven, the internal…

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Yeast Alternatives

When a recipe calls for quick-rise yeast, can active dry yeast be used in its place? —C.D., Shelby, Ohio

For best results, use the type of yeast called for in a recipe. But in a pinch,…

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Yeast Breads

When making yeast breads and rolls, I spray the shaped dough with cooking spray and cover it with a damp cloth before setting it to rise. The dough always sticks to the cloth, then falls when I…

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