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Timesavers [Short Cuts]

"Seized" Chocolate

Before melting chocolate chips, be sure all equipment and utensils are completely dry. Any moisture may cause the chocolate to stiffen or "seize." Chocolate that has seized can sometimes be saved…

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Baked Brats

I like to place fully cooked bratwurst in a deep pan and bake in a 350° oven until brown on one side, then turn and brown on the other side. We prefer these to grilled brats.—Peggy G.,…

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Baked Pancakes

My daughter-in-law, Lynn Gunderson, has a unique way of making pancakes for her family of six. She pours pancake batter onto a cookie sheet and bakes it at 400° for about 20 minutes. She then…

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Black Frosting

When I’m decorating cookies or cakes, I sometimes need black frosting. It comes together in no time when I start with a can of chocolate frosting. I simply add black paste food coloring until it…

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Blender Batter

I use my blender to make pancake batter. It pours onto the griddle nicely, and cleanup is a breeze since I don’t have to wash beaters, bowls and ladles. —Michelle Lindgren, Moorhead,…

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Canned Cherry Cobblers

It’s better to be safe than sorry when making pies and cobblers. When using canned cherries, I simply pinch each one to make sure that no pits sneak their way into the dish I’m preparing!…

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Canned Corn Beef

When using canned corned beef, I had trouble getting it out of the can in one piece. Now I fill a large saucepan with hot water and drop in the unopened can for about 30 seconds or so. When I open…

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Celery Leaves

When I have a bunch of celery with nice leaves, I cut off the leaves, wash and drain them, and place on a cookie sheet. I dry the leaves in my oven, then crush and store in a jar. They add nice…

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Chopped Chocolate Chips

I use my blender to finely chop chocolate chips when a recipe calls for them. It’s quick and easy. —Loretta Good, Goshen, Indiana

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Chopped Strawberries

To crush strawberries for a recipe, and still have some pulp and juice, I remove the stems, place the berries in a big bowl and chop them with a pastry cutter. You can chop them as fine as you…

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Cookie Crumb Topping

Instead of throwing away the cookie crumbs that fall through the rack while the cookies are cooling, I store them in an airtight container. The crumbs make a nice topping for ice cream, pudding…

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Cookie Floss

One reader asked how she could slice refrigerator cookies and keep their nice round shape. The answer is dental floss! Slide a piece (about 1 foot long) under the roll of dough, crisscross the…

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Cracker Crumbs

I don’t like cleaning up the mess that occurs when using a rolling pin or blender to make cracker crumbs. A great way to avoid it is to break the crackers into small pieces and put them in a…

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Cut Spaghetti

After cooking spaghetti, I run a pizza cutter across it on the plate to make neatly cut pieces of pasta. This makes it easier to cut small bite-size pieces for kids. —Anna Victoria Reich,…

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Cutting Fresh Basil

To quickly chop a lot of basil, stack several leaves and roll them into a tight tube. Slice the leaves widthwise into narrow pieces to create long thin strips. If you’d like smaller pieces, chop…

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Cutting Meringue Pies

When cutting meringue-topped pies or puddings, oil the knife or spoon. Then the meringue won’t tear or pull. —Dovie O., Fulton, Mississippi

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Diced Bacon

To dice bacon with ease, I cut the uncooked bacon with my kitchen shears and brown as usual.—Sue S., Valatie, New York

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Dicing Bacon

When making bacon bits (for sprinkling over a salad, etc.), use your kitchen scissors to cut uncooked bacon into small pieces. Fry in a skillet, stirring often as the bacon cooks. Drain and pat…

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Dot with Butter

I’ve always found it cumbersome and messy to “dot with butter.” So instead of cutting the butter into tiny pieces, I melt the required amount in the microwave and drizzle it on.…

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Easy Apple Peeling

In my 80 years, I've peeled tons of apples to make sauce. Now I halve and core the apples, then place them in my double boiler steamer. In 4 to 5 minutes, they soften, and the peel can be pulled…

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Easy Biscuit Doughnuts

“I turn refrigerated biscuits into doughnuts by cutting a hole in the middle of each,” says Anne Welter of Sher-idan, Wyoming. “I carefully fry the biscuits in hot oil until they’re golden brown,…

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Easy Cream Cheese Frosting

Pat Reis has a simple way to stretch a can of frosting. From Early, Iowa, she pens, “I combine a softened 8-ounce package of cream cheese with a can of frosting. It makes a light, less-sweet…

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Easy Lasagna Preparation

When preparing a pan of lasagna, I place the cheese mixture in a large resealable plastic bag with one corner snipped off. Then I squeeze the mixture out evenly onto the noodles. It’s easy, and…

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Easy Sweet Dill Pickles

Alyce W. of Pembina, North Dakota makes delicious sweet dill pickles from a 48-ounce jar of kosher dills. “I drain the juice, remove the stem ends, cut the pickles into 3/4-inch pieces, then put…

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Easy-Pour Syrup & Molasses

When a bottle of syrup or molasses is almost empty, I warm it in the microwave for a few seconds. This thins the remaining liquid so it runs out better. You can get almost every drop if you tip…

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Extract Dropper

Flavoring extracts are difficult to pour from small bottles. So I use an inexpensive medicine dropper I bought at the pharmacy. It fits nicely into the bottles, prevents waste and is easily…

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Fast Twice-Baked Potatoes

When making twice-baked potatoes, use a melon baller to scoop the cooked potato out of the shells. It will come out quickly and neatly without tearing the skins. I once did 40 potatoes this way in…

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Fast Way to Fill Cupcake Cups

I can whip up a batch of cupcakes in no time with this tip I learned from a friend. Pour the batter into a large resealable plastic bag, snip off a corner and squeeze the batter into tins. It’s…

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Fennel Seed Sausage

I flavor my Italian sausage with fennel seed. I crush the seed, then heat it in a small amount of water and mix it into the sausage. It permeates the meat quicker that way and gives it a rich…

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Filling Canisters

Here’s how I transfer flour (or sugar) to a canister without a mess: When I get a new bag of flour, I completely cut off the top of the bag. Then I place a plastic bag over the flour bag and turn…

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Filling Manicotti Shells

Spooning a cheesy filling into manicotti shells can be time-consuming and messy. To avoid the trouble, I put the filling into a cake decorating bag and easily pipe it into the pasta tubes.…

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Freeze Meat Before Slicing

I like to use flank steak (London broil) for stir-fry dishes and fajitas. It can be difficult to cut the meat into thin, uniform slices when it’s fresh, but I’ve found it’s much faster and easier…

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Freeze On-Hand Soup Ingredients

I keep a heavy-duty resealable plastic bag in the freezer to store soup ingredients. When we have corn, beans or other vegetables left over at dinner, I put them in the bag. I do the same with…

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Freezer Shredded Cheese

Shredded cheese always spoiled before I had the chance to use it all. My dad taught me to buy a 5-pound bag of shredded cheddar, put small amounts in resealable freezer bags and freeze…

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Freezer Tape

Ordinary masking tape makes wonderful freezer tape. You can write on it with anything, it stays on the containers in the freezer and it peels off easily without scrubbing. —Bobby Langley,…

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Freezer Treats

To save time, I frequently prepare a double batch of cookies, brownies or other treats. I freeze the second batch so I have something on hand for a family dessert, housewarming or whatever…

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French Toast Sticks

One morning, my children requested French toast, but I was out of bread. I improvised with leftover hot dog buns, splitting each roll in half before dipping it in the egg batter. They resembled…

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Frozen Bread Cubes

Once a loaf of white bread is down to the last few slices, I cube the bread, put it in a freezer bag and place in the freezer. I keep adding to the bag, so when I want to make bread pudding (or…

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Frozen Bread Dough Tips

Frozen bread dough is quite a time-saver for busy cooks. If you take it out of the freezer at lunchtime, set it on the counter and cover it with plastic wrap coated with nonstick cooking spray, it…

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Frozen Cake Mixes

I think measuring dry ingredients is the most time-consuming chore when baking a cake from scratch. So when I bake, I set several resealable bags on the kitchen counter. After I measure a dry…

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Frozen Shredded Cheese

I like to buy shredded cheddar cheese in bulk. Then I divide it up, place in heavy-duty resealable plastic bags and freeze. When it’s time to use the cheese, there’s no need to thaw a solid clump…

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Frozen Zest

I grate the rind from oranges, lemons and limes before I use them. Then I either freeze or dry the rind, so I have zest on hand when I need it. —Rebecca Baird, Salt Lake City, Utah

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Grating Glove

My husband loves carrot cake, but I never seem to be able to grate the carrots without scraping my fingers. So I decided to wear a new garden glove while grating. It was just the thing to grasp…

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Grilled Bacon

To avoid the lingering odor of fried bacon in the house, I cook it on the outdoor grill. I place the bacon strips in a disposable aluminum pie plate and place it on the grill. Not only does this…

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Grilled Hot Dogs

If you like the taste of grilled hot dogs but don't have time to fire up the grill, brown them on the stove in 1 tablespoon of melted butter. They'll taste like they came straight off the fire!…

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Grocery Car Cooler

Keeping a small cooler in my car trunk allows me to keep meats, ice cream, milk and other perishable items cool after grocery shopping. That way, I can make other stops without having to rush home…

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Ground Beef Tip

When I’m browning ground beef or other ground meat, I use a pastry blender to break up larger pieces shortly before the meat is completely cooked. This makes it much more suitable for chili,…

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Ground Beef with Refried Beans

To keep ground beef from falling out of your burritos or enchiladas, add a can of refried beans to the meat mixture and heat thoroughly. The filling not only stays in place—the beans stretch…

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Hash Brown Mashed Potatoes

When I’m in a hurry, I use frozen hash browns to make mashed potatoes. There’s no need to peel or cut the potatoes. And because the pieces are small, they cook very quickly. —Pamela W., St.…

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Homemade Lunch Treats

To have homemade treats ready for my husband’s lunch or a quick snack, I make extra cookies, dessert bars, etc. and keep them in a plastic container in the freezer. When I pack my husband’s lunch,…

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Ice Cream Floats for a Crowd

Ice cream floats can be an easy and fun make-ahead dessert for a large crowd. Prior to the event, place two scoops of vanilla ice cream into 8-ounce clear plastic drink cups. Set them on cookie…

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Instant Mashed Potatoes

Instant mashed potatoes taste almost as good as fresh if you replace some of the milk with mayonnaise when whipping them. —Arlene Lenhart, Boulevard, California

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Jarred Garlic

To avoid having leftover fresh garlic, rely on bottled minced or chopped garlic instead. It's available at most grocery stores. You'll love the convenience—just open the jar and scoop out…

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Make Quick Breads Quicker!

I make zucchini bread and other quick breads every week for snacks and lunches. To save time, I pre-measure four batches of salt, baking powder, baking soda and cinnamon and store them in small…

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Marshmallow Creme

To easily remove marshmallow creme from a jar, place the jar in a pan of very hot water. Repeat this once or twice, and then spoon out the creme with a wooden spoon. —Mary French, Port…

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Menu Planning

When I cut out recipes that I want to try, I paper-clip them to the grocery list kept on my refrigerator. When it’s time to plan the week’s menu, I have my new meal ideas handy and just transfer…

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Microwave Glaze

When visiting my mother-in-law, I learned a quick foolproof way to make glaze. Simply spoon out the amount of store-bought vanilla frosting from its can and place it in a microwave-safe measuring…

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Microwave Mashed Potatoes

When I fix mashed potatoes, I speed up the process by cooking the potatoes in the microwave. I peel them, cut them into quarters, put them in a microwave-safe bowl with water, then cover with…

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Pickle Juice Copper Cleaner

Save your dill pickle juice to clean the copper bottoms of your pots and pans. It works wonders! —Agnes Ground, Sullivan, Illinois

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Pie Crust Cover

I like to bake frozen pies, but I don’t like using the store-bought aluminum rings that protect the edges of the crusts from burning. I soon became tired of arranging aluminum foil over the…

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Pre-Seasoned Frozen Chicken

When I buy chickens, I immediately cut them up and coat them with my family’s favorite seasoning mix. I freeze the individual pieces on waxed paper-lined baking sheets. When the pieces are frozen,…

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Preparing Jalapeno Peppers

When handling jalapeno peppers, always wear plastic gloves. If you have to cut a large number of peppers, try this: First cut off the tops of the peppers, then slice them in half the long way. Use…

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Quick and Easy Chopped Onions

Looking for a speedy way to chop onions without a lot of tears? Consider your blender! Quarter the onions, place them in the blender and cover with water. Put the top back on the blender and…

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Quick Chopped Carrots

To chop carrots coarsely for soup, I peel, remove the ends and cut the carrots into quarters. Then I let the food processor do the chopping! —Marion K., Waterloo, Iowa

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Quick Cut Gumdrops

Oatmeal cookies with gumdrops are a popular treat in our house. But I’m the first to admit that chopping the little spicy gumdrops with a knife can be a sticky and lengthy job. So I came up with a…

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Quick Mushroom Slicing

My husband and I love fresh mushrooms with our steaks, but slicing them took a lot of time. Then I discovered how quick and easy the task is when I use an egg slicer.—Jennifer I., Brookhaven,…

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Quick Way to Dot with Butter

To dot a casserole or pie with butter, use a coarse grater to shred cold butter over the dish. It’s quick and effective. —Lois F., Nelson, Wisconsin

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Quickly Clean Green Peppers

I’ve found that a melon baller works great to scoop out the seeds and membranes from green peppers. —Charline S., San Diego, California

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Recipe Filing System

I have a large collection of cooking magazines and books. To help locate a recipe quickly, I rely on a simple system. Instead of writing down the entire recipe and filing it, I grab a recipe card…

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Recipe Hanger

I keep a hanger designed for pants (the kind that pinches together to hold the pants by the bottoms of the legs) in my recipe cabinet. When I’m following a recipe, I just fold the magazine over to…

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Refreshed Coconut

If flaked coconut has been frozen or becomes dried out, you can make it fresh again by placing the amount you need in a bowl and sprinkling with a few drops of water. Cover and microwave until…

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Reheating Lasagna

I have a tip you can use if you need to reheat one serving of lasagna (or other cheese-topped leftovers) in the microwave. I put the lasagna into a microwave-safe dish and stick a toothpick into…

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Removing Corn Silk

I use a crumpled paper towel to gently brush the silk from corn. This works better for me than a vegetable brush…and the towel isn’t abrasive to the kernels. —Hilda Newcomer,…

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Saucy Wings

Cleanup is a snap when you follow this handy tip. Line a baking pan with foil and grease it before baking saucy chicken pieces. After you have eaten the chicken and the pan has cooled, carefully…

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Serving-Size Ice Cream

Here’s a trick I used when my grandchildren were little and visited me often. When I bought ice cream, I’d let it sit in the refrigerator until soft, then I scooped servings into several 6-ounce…

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Shaping Croquettes

When making salmon or tuna croquettes, I use a metal ice cream scoop for shaping them. I pack the scoop, turn the croquettes out into the hot cooking oil and press each one down with the scoop. It…

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Shaping Yeast Dough

Try this technique for shaping the yeast dough. It eliminates air bubbles, which results in evenly textured loaves without holes. After the dough has doubled in size and been punched down, divide…

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Short Spaghetti

We have children who love spaghetti. To save time when serving it, I rely on this trick before cooking the pasta. I break the long strands into quarters before adding them to the boiling water.…

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Skinless Salmon

Peeling the skin from fresh salmon can be difficult, but not with my method. I bring 1/2 inch of water to a slow boil in a frying pan. I put the salmon, skin side down, in the water for a minute.…

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Slow Cooker Applesauce

Here’s an easy way to prepare homemade applesauce without heating up the kitchen. I peel, core and slice apples into my slow cooker until it’s about three-quarters full. Then I add about 1/4 cup…

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Slow Cooker Ham

When entertaining, I like to prepare a boneless ham in my slow cooker. I drizzle honey and pineapple juice over the ham before piercing it with some whole cloves. I then cook it on low for 6-8…

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Slow Cooker Mashed Potatoes

My mom came up with a great idea to beat the clock when hosting a large dinner. She mashes her potatoes early in the day and keeps them warm in a slow cooker. She simply covers the cooker and sets…

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Soft Microwave Tortillas

If your flour tortillas are too stiff to roll into burritos, enchiladas or veggie wraps, place them between two damp microwave-safe paper towels and warm them in the microwave oven. Check the…

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Speedy Biscuits

When making baking powder biscuits, I roll the dough into a log and slice it rather than drop it by spoonfuls. This speedy method creates nicer-looking biscuits. —Lou W., Rockford, Illinois

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Spreading Butter

If your butter is too cold to spread well on rolls or bread, slice it thinly with a potato peeler, then spread. —Theresa Langston, Hessmer, Louisiana

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Sticky Marshmallows

To separate sticky marshmallows, I place a spoonful of powdered sugar in the bag and shake it well. A few stubborn marshmallows might still need to be separated by hand, but this generally works…

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Sun Tea

I brew sun tea indoors all year long. I have a 1-gallon glass jar that I fill with hot water. I put in six individual tea bags and let it sit on the counter for 3-4 hours. Then I remove the tea…

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Table Setting Tip

Here’s a simple but time-saving tip. When I set the table for a meal, I take the clean dishes right out of the dishwasher instead of taking the clean ones out of the cupboard. It saves me the step…

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Thawing Frozen Peas

I discovered this trick when making recipes that call for thawing frozen peas before using them. To save time, I place the frozen peas in the colander before I drain the pasta. When I drain it,…

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Tortilla Dumplings

If I want to make easy dumplings for chicken soup, I use flour tortillas. I use a sharp knife to cut a stack of tortillas into strips. I add them to the simmering chicken mixture and let them…

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Tortilla Pie Crust

Need a pie crust but don’t have time to make one from scratch? Spray a pie plate with nonstick cooking spray, then drop in a 10-inch flour tortilla. Pour in the pie filling and bake according to…

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Use Canned Beans Instead of Dried

When a recipe calls for dried kidney beans, which must be soaked, cooked and drained first before being added to the other ingredients, you can substitute canned beans. One pound of dried kidney…

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Using Frozen Bread Dough

Frozen bread dough can help you turn out beautiful breads in less time. Thawed bread dough should be soft, warm and pliable before it's rolled out. If it springs back when rolled, cover and let it…

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Whole Fresh Pineapple

I enjoy fresh pineapple. When I buy a whole pineapple, I cut off the outer shell, then use a grapefruit spoon to remove the eyes. It works beautifully. —Sally Mathews, Denver, North…

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