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Secret Ingredient

A Good Pinch of Sugar

“My mother always put a ‘good pinch’ of sugar in all her gravies and vegetables,” recalls Lona V. of Chino Valley, Arizona. “It takes away the starchy taste.”

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Add a Bit of Aniseed

Relates Jo Anne H. of Colorado Springs, Colorado, “I used to put sweet Italian sausage made with aniseed in my spaghetti sauce. I can’t find the sausage anymore, but my sauce gets raves when I add…

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Add Excitement to Mac 'n' Cheese

Plain macaroni and cheese is “blah” after trying it with a can of zippy tomatoes with green chilies blended in, conveys Susan P. of Republic, Missouri.

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Add Flavor to Cakes

For from-scratch flavor, Marcia C. of Toledo, Ohio adds 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract and one whole egg to a white cake mix in place of an egg white. “Everyone always tells me my cake has the best…

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Add Flavor to Canned Waxed Beans

Canned wax beans were lacking in flavor to Carole B. of Mount Forest, Ontario until her sister-in-law shared a secret: Brown a few tablespoons of butter in a hot skillet. Add the drained beans and…

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Add Flavor to Cooked Cabbage

Chicken bouillon in place of butter or bacon drippings adds great flavor to cooked cabbage, assures Mary Lou M. of Vernon, Texas.

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Add Flavor to Homemade Noodles

“When cooking homemade noodles, I put beef or chicken bouillon granules in the water and let them dissolve before mixing the dough,” reports Lila R. of Texarkana, Arkansas. “I then omit the salt.…

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Add Flavor to Slow-Cooked Beef Stew

“To add flavor and richness to my beef stew when I make it in the slow cooker, I stir in a can of tomato soup right at the start of cooking,” reveals Carol F. of Landers, California.

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Add Frozen Zucchini to Soup

“Every summer, I grate zucchini and freeze it for use in quick breads later,” notes Helen S. of Flint, Michigan. “Whenever I make vegetable soup, I always stir in a package of that zucchini. It…

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Add Lemon Juice to Chicken Soup

From her kitchen in Clearwater, Florida, Dorothy C. writes, “I give a batch of chicken soup a tasty spark by incorporating the juice from half of a fresh lemon.”

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Add Pickling Spices to Soups

In her Didsbury, Alberta kitchen, Sherry T. fills a tea ball with pickling spice and hangs it in kettles of soup and stew. “The deliciously different flavor keeps people wondering,” she says.

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Added Spark to Rhubarb Pie

“To add a spark to my rhubarb pie, I add grated orange peel,” conveys Florence V., a field editor from Story City, Iowa.

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Allspice and Beef

From Wisconsin Rapids, Wisconsin, Marjorie E. reports, “Allspice goes well with beef. I sprinkle it on beef roast and hamburger patties.”

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Another Use for Tartar Sauce

Field editor Flo B. of Gage, Oklahoma informs, “I stir tartar sauce instead of mayonnaise into my cold pea salad. Everyone likes the distinctive taste of this side dish.”

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Appetizing Egg Salad

“I spruce up egg salad with a tablespoon of lemon juice for every six eggs. It allows me to use a little less mayonnaise while enhancing the flavor,” notes Lee Levy of Tamarac, Florida. “I…

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Apple Chili

“When making chili, I add a teaspoon of sugar and a chopped peeled apple to the ingredients,” notes Dorothy Brown of Largo, Florida. “The chili has a delicious flavor everyone loves.”

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Avocado Chili

Top your favorite chili with thinly sliced ripe avocado for a unique flavor. —Arlene Deaver, Flint, Michigan

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Bakery-Style Muffin Mix

“When making muffins from a mix, I top each muffin with a teaspoon of brown sugar and a few slivered almonds before baking,” suggests Elaine C. of Warren, Michigan. “They taste like they came from…

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Banana Oatmeal Cookies

From Peculiar, Missouri, Velma Carpenter shares her secret to bringing a bit of down-home goodness to packaged oatmeal cookie mixes. “I simply toss in a chopped banana as I’m stirring together the…

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Barbecue Baked Beans

“To any canned baked beans, stir in about 1/4 cup barbecue sauce, 1/4 teaspoon each garlic powder and pepper and 1/2 teaspoon dried basil,” suggests Michelle A. of Knoxville, Ohio. “My husband…

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Batter Up

“When I make pancake and waffle batter, I like to add yogurt,” jots Bill Johnson of Fort Mill, South Carolina. “To give the pancakes or waffles a fruity taste, you can use a flavored yogurt such…

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Beef Stew Thickener

I add quick-cooking tapioca to my beef stew to get a nice thick consistency for my sauce. —Judi J., Spanish Fork, Utah

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Best Baked Beans

“As long as I can remember, I’ve added ground cinnamon to my baked beans,” writes Jean Newton of Omaha, Nebraska. “I get nothing but compliments on them.”

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Best Meat Loaf Topper

“Just after I married a few years ago, I called my grandmother to find out what made her meat loaf so mouth-watering,” shares Jina N. of Lawton, Oklahoma. “Twenty minutes before it’s done, she…

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Better Box Mix Pancakes

Says Debbie L. from St. Charles, Missouri, “When I make my Sunday pancakes using a boxed mix, I stir in a dash of baking soda, lemon juice, vanilla and sugar. This combination really wakes up…

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Better Flavor Scramble

Relates Judi B. of Reinholds, Pennsylvania, “My children gobble up scrambled eggs when I add a pinch of curry powder.”

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Cabbage Coleslaw Kids Love

“My kids were never crazy about coleslaw, but I wanted them to eat cabbage,” remarks Marge B. of Bella Vista, Arkansas. “So now I add a chopped apple and some raisins to finely grated cabbage with…

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Cheesy Mushroom Meat Loaf

Relates Mary S. of La Junta, Colorado, “When making my meat loaf, I press three-quarters of the meat mixture on the bottom and up the sides of the pan. I fill the center with sliced mushrooms and…

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Cheesy Tuna Casserole

“My family used to complain when I made tuna casserole,” remarks Jean Centers of Crittenden, Kentucky. “So one day, I added shredded mozzarella cheese to the dish, and they loved it! Now, that’s…

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Cherry Flavor Boost

I add a little almond extract (or use it in place of vanilla) to my favorite cherry recipes to boost the natural cherry flavor. —Lorraine Caland, Thunder Bay, Ontario

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Chili Powder Perks Up Spaghetti Sauce

Reports Susan B. of Wellesley, Ontario, “I sprinkle 1 or 2 teaspoons of chili powder into a quart of my homemade spaghetti sauce. Everyone says it’s the best ever.”

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Citrus Twist for Pie Crusts

Conveys Loretta W. of Mercersburg, Pennsylvania, “A bit of orange or lemon peel mixed in with the flour makes my pie crust special.”

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Club Soda Cake

To ensure that her cakes turn out light and fluffy, Patty Steiner relies on a trick she says always works. “I substitute club soda for the water that’s called for on a cake mix package,” writes…

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Cobbler Seasonings

I enjoy trying different spices in my baking. Instead of using a teaspoon of cinnamon in my peach cobbler, I substitute a teaspoon of aniseed or 1/4 teaspoon of ground nutmeg or ground cardamom.…

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Cottage Cheese Strawberry Smoothies

Adding cottage cheese to my strawberry smoothies makes them thick and creamy and adds an extra measure of protein and calcium for my children. I like to serve smoothies on our family’s pizza…

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Creamy Lasagna

“When I make lasagna, I blend an 8-ounce package of softened cream cheese into the ricotta and egg mixture,” writes Donna M. from Newton Falls, Ohio. “Sometimes I also add a little chopped…

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Creamy Potato Soup

I like to add some grated carrots to my creamy potato soup. It complements the flavor of cream soup nicely and adds color. —Marie Westgaard, Prince George, British Columbia

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Cut the Bitterness of Peppers

“Put a teaspoon of grape jelly or strawberry jam inside the bottom of your green peppers before stuffing them,” advises Sherry D. of Hermitage, Pennsylvania. “I find this simple step cuts the…

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Dill Hash Browns

Frozen hash browns are a time-saving accompaniment to breakfast, brunch or even dinner mainstays. “I’ve found that adding a little dill seed to the potatoes before cooking makes them taste…

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Dressed Up Cake Mix

“Before baking chocolate cake from a mix, I add 1/2 cup of boysenberry jam to the batter,” relates Isabella C. of Gustine, California. “I also dot jam over the white frosting for a pretty effect.…

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Dust Cake Pans with Cocoa

When a recipe calls for dusting the pan with flour and the batter is chocolate, I “flour” with baking cocoa instead. The cocoa enhances the chocolate flavor and eliminates the white flour dust!…

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Easy Cherry Brownies

“For a delightful change, I mix a can of cherry pie filling into my brownie batter,” conveys Myrna A. of Idalia, Colorado.

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Enhancing the Flavor of Blueberry Pie

To enhance the flavor of blueberry pie, Anne J. sprinkles the berries in the pie shell with a tiny bit of white vinegar. “It gives ordinary berries wonderful zest,” remarks this Toms River, New…

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Extra-Special Eggs

“Everyone in my family loves my grandmother’s deviled eggs. To the usual mayonnaise, mustard and egg yolk filling, she adds 2 to 3 teaspoons of crumbled bacon and 2 to 3 teaspoons of peanut…

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Fancy Twist for Bread Pudding

Ordinary bread pudding becomes a distinctive treat when Joyce W. of Houston, Texas uses angel food cake instead of bread, and substitutes dried cranberries for raisins.

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Favorite Flavor

Rosemary Best of Pittsfield, Massachusetts says, “I add ground cloves to a variety of dishes, including chili, cookies, eggs and chocolate or spice cake. I also mix it with cinnamon and sugar to…

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Flavor Boost for Instant Rice

“Everyone loves it when I make instant rice with a can of beef consomme instead of water,” says Marsha G. of Cass City, Michigan. “Since you use equal amounts of liquid and rice, I simply use the…

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Give Potato Salad a Bit of Zip

To give potato salad zip, Allen R. of Diboll, Texas stirs in prepared horseradish, grated Parmesan cheese and a few drops of hot pepper sauce.

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Half-and-Half Bread Pudding

Says Mary S. from Otley, Iowa, “To please everyone in our family when I make bread pudding, I put sugar, cinnamon and raisins on one half and chocolate chips and miniature marshmallows on the…

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Heavenly Ham

“A butcher once told me to add ginger ale to my ham, then make gravy with the drippings,” offers Joyce Grady of New Port Richey, Florida. “I’ve made it that way ever since. I also add cloves and…

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Hidden Chicken Livers

Elaine T. of Palmetto, Florida reports, “My daughter married into an Italian family. She learned to add a couple sauteed and grated chicken livers to all her Italian entrees. You don’t taste the…

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Hiding Veggies in Meat Loaf

If picky eaters in your family don’t like chunks of onion or green pepper in meat loaf, put those ingredients in the blender and blend before adding to the ground beef. Your meat loaf will be…

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How I Jazz Up Chili & Bean Soup

Suggests Maxine S. of West Lafayette, Ohio, “Sprinkle some grated or shredded Parmesan cheese in your chili for a delicious twist. I also sprinkle a few drops of vinegar in my bean soup.”

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Keeping Pork Chops Moist

To help keep pork chops moist while cooking, add a bit of ginger to the flour prior to breading. When I do this, I never have a dry chop. —Monica M., Willowick, Ohio

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Lip-Smacking Lasagna

“Add a tablespoon of fennel seed to your lasagna sauce (2 tablespoons for a 13 x 9 dish),” suggests Bonnie Blunk of Grand Junction, Colorado. “You’ll never make lasagna again without it.”

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Making Tuna Salad

“As a teen, I had a dear friend whose mother was a terrific cook,” recalls Nancy W. of Van Nuys, California. “She mixed in a tablespoon or two of Worcestershire sauce to tuna salad along with the…

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Meat Loaf with Sauerkraut

“When I make meat loaf, I place half of the mixture in a loaf pan, add a 14-ounce can of sauerkraut and top with the rest of the meat mixture. Then I bake as usual. It tastes great!” says Margaret…

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Memorable Meat Loaf

“Everyone who tries my meat loaf asks what’s in it,” pens Mel Terpstra of Didsbury, Alberta. “I always add about 1/2 teaspoon of ground nutmeg for each pound of hamburger. I also do this for…

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Meringue Magic

Making pie? For a high, firm meringue that’s not weepy and cuts smoothly, I mix a couple teaspoons of apple jelly into my beaten egg white mixture. —Joan M., Geneseo, Illinois

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Moist Salmon Cakes

When you’re making salmon cakes, applesauce is a pleasant substitution for the egg. The cakes must be turned carefully, but they taste great and stay moist in the center. —Maggie G., Atlantic…

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Molasses Flavors Green Beans

June E. of Benton, Kentucky adds molasses and sliced onion to her cooked green beans.

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My Chicken Salad Secret

To make chicken salad, Mary H. of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania dices boneless skinless chicken breasts that she’s grilled over mesquite wood chips. “Then I add chopped cucumber and celery seed to the…

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My Stuffed Pepper Addition

Says Linda B. of Griffin, Georgia, “When making stuffed peppers, meat loaf or any dish with ground beef, I stir some brown sugar into the meat mixture. It brings out a delightful yet subtle flavor…

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Pecan Delight

“Instead of using a cup of corn syrup in my pecan pie, as the recipe indicates, I use 1/4 cup corn syrup and 3/4 cup maple syrup,” says Marsha Hiebert of Kitchener, Ontario. “It adds a wonderful…

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Pepped Up Mac 'n' Cheese

“I add peeled tomatoes that have been drained and cut up, chopped onion and garlic powder to my macaroni and cheese, just like my grandmother does,” reveals Debbie M. of Pasadena, Maryland. “Just…

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Perfect Pairing for Peas

“Peas are perfect mixed with Parmesan cheese and chopped onion sauteed in butter,” says Diane S. of Spring Hill, Florida.

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Perfect Soda Pancakes

"Instead of using milk when you're making pancakes from scratch or a mix, substitute club soda," suggests Betty Kassteen, Morris Plains, New Jersey. "You'll be amazed at how light and fluffy they…

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Perky Potato Salad

“A dash of garlic powder gives mayonnaise-based potato salad a wonderful pick-me-up,” notes Stephanie Smith from Wetumpka, Alabama.

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Pineapple Applesauce

In Palmyra, Pennsylvania, Sharon M. mixes crushed pineapple with applesauce for a quick refreshing salad. “It’s a good combination,” she assures.

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Pineapple to Tuna Casserole

“I add a small can of drained pineapple tidbits to my tuna casserole,” says Mary T. of Tigard, Oregon. “It gives the popular dish a refreshing tang that we enjoy.”

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Pleasing Pizzelles

“At Christmastime each year, I make pizzelles (Italian cookies prepared with a pizzelle iron, similar to a waffle iron). I add some almond paste to the recipe to make them extra special,” says…

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Pleasing Pork Chops

“When I make pork chops, I brown the meat and add 1 cup of orange juice,” describes J. Caterbone of Lancaster, Pennsylvania. “To this, I add onion and red and green pepper strips and let the…

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Quick & Crunchy Dessert

“To make a terrific dessert, pour a thin layer of GrapeNuts cereal into dessert bowls and slowly add your favorite prepared pudding,” recommends Diana D. of Rockland, Maine. “In 2 hours, the…

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Quick Fix for Tuna Salad

From her Edgartown, Massachusetts kitchen, Diane A. writes, “I reduce the fishy flavor of tuna salad by sprinkling a bit of red wine vinegar on the tuna before stirring in the mayonnaise.”

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Raisins in Green Salads?

“A friend brought us a meal that included a green salad with raisins in it,” recalls Carol K. of Sioux Center, Iowa. “We liked it so much that now I always sprinkle raisins on my tossed…

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Ranch Dressing Is Key Ingredient

Sherry H. admits to spoiling her family by preparing mashed potatoes using ranch dressing instead of milk. “They’re so good,” says this Essexville, Michigan reader.

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Refried Chili

Adding a can of refried beans to your chili is a great way to get more protein in your diet, plus the beans make a great thickener. —Vienna Williamson, Neodesha, Kansas

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Saucy Macaroni Salad

“For extra moisture and added flavor, I pour some bottled barbecue sauce into my macaroni salad,” notes Dorothy Brown of Lodi, California.

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Saucy Meat Loaf

“If your favorite meat loaf recipe calls for ketchup or tomato sauce, try substituting spaghetti sauce,” suggests Margie Samek of Monroeville, Pennsylvania. “You’ll be pleasantly surprised.”

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Savory Spaghetti Sauce

“I add one or two pork neck bones to my simmering spaghetti sauce when I drop in my meatballs,” remarks Joyce P. from Wellsville, Ohio. “The neck bones give the sauce marvelous flavor.”

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Seasoning for Steamed Veggies

From Nokomis, Florida, Betty H. says, “We particularly enjoy Greek or Italian seasoning sprinkled on steamed broccoli and cauliflower along with margarine and lemon juice.”

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Secret Spaghetti Sauce Ingredient

Says Diane W. of Morgan Hill, California, “My family enjoys my tangy spaghetti sauce. My secret ingredient is ground mustard.”

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Secret to Robust Chicken Soup

“A dear friend shared with me the secret to robust chicken soup,” relates Penny F., from Ferndale, Maryland. “Scrub a sweet potato well, then drop the whole potato with the skin into your broth…

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Simple Coleslaw Substitution

“For a really delicious coleslaw, substitute your favorite bottled French dressing for the traditional dressing,” recommends Sue L. of Eagan, Minnesota. “Even folks who don’t like coleslaw like…

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Special Additions to Mashed Potatoes

When making mashed potatoes, Helen B. of Northridge, California uses a bit of sour cream instead of butter, then mixes in chopped and sauteed mushrooms and onions. “They are scrumptious!” Helen…

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Special Ice Cream Sundaes

“For special ice cream sundaes, I blend 1/4 teaspoon each of ground cloves and ground cinnamon into a 12-ounce jar of hot fudge topping,” notes Sharon M. of Lockport, New York.

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Speedy Tomato Soup

After browning 1/2 pound of ground beef in a Dutch oven, Wilma Wood turns it into a speedy soup. She adds two cans of tomato soup, diluted with milk, and 1 cup of cooked macaroni. “I also like to…

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Spice Up Your Lentil Soup

Reports Myriam P. of Sandwich, New Hampshire, “I spice up my lentil soup by substituting salsa for half of the tomatoes.”

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Spiced Up Navy Bean Soup

Sarah H. of Muncie, Indiana relates, “My mother spices up navy bean soup with a couple whole cloves, which she removes just before serving. People notice the special taste but can’t identify the…

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Stewed Pork Chops

Sylvia S. of Salisbury, Maryland writes, “After pan-frying pork chops, I pour a can of stewed tomatoes over them and place provolone cheese on top. Then I place the chops in the oven until the…

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Stuffed Pepper Substitutes

For a quick substitute for rice in stuffed peppers or cabbage rolls, try leftover cooked barley or whole kernel corn. Adding a tablespoon or two of quick-cooking oats will help keep the dishes…

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Sweet Dough

Vaunda Box of American Fork, Utah relates, “I used to work in the kitchen of a school cafeteria, and my supervisor taught me to add just a little vanilla to sweet roll dough. It adds interest to…

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Sweeten Up Your Chili

“A bit of brown sugar really rounds out the flavor of my chili,” remarks Marie C. of Mt. Vernon, Illinois.

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Sweetened Sauerkraut

“People say my sauerkraut tastes so good,” notes Debbi Barate of Dilltown, Pennsylvania. “To a package of prepared kraut, I add a diced sweet onion that’s been browned in butter and one to two…

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Tasty Add-In for Sloppy Joes

“I add a can of chicken gumbo soup to my sloppy joes,” reports Sandy S. of Hayward, Wisconsin. “It gives them a special tangy flavor just like the ones I enjoyed at the fair years ago.”

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Terrific Rice Krispies Treats

"For colorful and more flavorful Rice Krispies treats, I add 2 or 3 teaspoons of cherry or strawberry gelatin powder to the marshmallow mixture before adding the cereal," says Brenda Sheets of…

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Terrific Tuna Dish

“To tame the fishy taste of canned tuna, I add a bit of sugar before stirring in the mayonnaise and other ingredients for tuna salad,” shares Shirley R. of Ft. Collins, Colorado.

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Thickening Baked Beans

Says Vicky P., Kerrville, Texas, “To make baked beans with a thick sauce, combine a few teaspoons of quick-cooking tapioca with the beans before baking.”

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Vanilla Oatmeal

“Add a few drops of vanilla to oatmeal,” relates Christine Arter of Crestline, Ohio. “It perks up the flavor. Your children might even ask for seconds!”

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Vanilla Pudding Cake

From Butte, Montana, Cindy Shehee shares an easy way to dress up a box of super-moist cake mix. “I prepare the batter as directed, then stir in a small package of instant vanilla pudding mix,” she…

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What I Add to Grilled Cheese

“To make an ordinary grilled cheese sandwich special, I include green pepper rings and a slice of tomato before grilling,” says Marjorie F. of Reynoldsburg, Ohio.

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What I Add to Peach Pie

Comments Marie G. of Sebastopol, California, “When I make a peach pie, I squeeze half of a freshly cut orange over the filling. Eating a piece of this pie makes me feel like I’m standing in an…

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What I Add to Potato Salad

Sue L. of Green Bay, Wisconsin makes a creamy-tasting potato salad by adding a bit of milk and sugar to the mayonnaise dressing. “This salad is so good that my family even requests it in winter,”…

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What I Add to Tuna Casserole

When Rosalie L. is preparing tuna casserole in her St. Ann, Missouri kitchen, she adds some sour cream to the standard tuna, noodles and cream of mushroom soup.

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What I Add to Tuna Salad

When Nancy I. of Newburyport, Massachusetts stirs up a batch of tuna salad, she shakes in lemon-pepper seasoning and a dash of garlic powder.

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Yummy Addition to Oatmeal Cookies

“Oatmeal cookies are extra special when I make them using chocolate-covered raisins instead of plain raisins,” says field editor Clarice S. of Sun City, Arizona.

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