Tip of the Day

If you want to make sure there are no weevils or insect eggs in your flour, freeze it for 48 hours before storing.  This will kill any of them already in flour.

Do not store your all-purpose flour near food or products with strong odors such as onions or soap powder.  Instead store in a container with a tight fitting lid in a cool, dry dark area.  If stored properly it will keep 10 - 15 months.  Whole Wheat flour will keep for 3 months.

You can store your all-purpose flour in the refrigerator and it will keep 24 months.

You can freeze your flour.  Repackage it in an airtight, moisture-proof container or bag and store in freezer at 0 degrees F.  It will keep for several years.  Whole wheat flour, on the other hand, will keep for 6 months.

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Would you like to try your hand at making your own noodles? Well, here's a few tips to keep in mind:

*Kneading is crucial.  Make sure the dough is smooth and elastic.

*A dough that is moister will be easier to work with; a drier dough will be more crumbly and can be more frustrating.  Be careful though. . . if it is too wet it will stick to the rollers in a pasta machine.

*Make sure once the dough has been kneaded, it is allowed to rest if that is what the recipe calls for. This usually takes anywhere from 10 to 30 minutes.  Don't skip this part!

*You will have better noodles if you just use egg yolks.  Whole eggs will make your dough a little bit tougher.

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If your coconut has turned hard, there is a way to soften it.  Just soak it in milk for 30 minutes and then drain it and pat it dry using paper towels.

You can then use the leftover coconut milk in your smoothies or baked goods.  Keep in mind that it should be used up within five days.

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When preparing eggplant, I just read that you really don't need to "degorge" them which means salting them and then rinsing the eggplant.  This was actually an old practice because the eggplants used to be more bitter.  However, if you do salt them, it will help them absorb less oil when you are cooking them.  So. . . the moral of the story is that it's up to you whether you decide to "degorge" your eggplants or not!

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When choosing your peppers at the grocery store, make sure they are firm and glossy. Also pick ones that feel heavy for their size.  If the peppers are soft or have cracks or wrinkles, don't put them in your cart.  The same goes for those that, of course, have black spots.

When you get the peppers home (or pick them from your garden), to keep their freshness as long as possible, wrap them in paper towels or paper bags.  They should keep up to five days in the refrigerator.

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Blueberries contain a protective bloom on its skin.  For this reason, do not wash fresh berries until you are ready to eat them.
Do the same thing if you plan on freezing them.  Just put the blueberries in freezer bags and place in the freezer.  (By not washing them first, it will aid in preventing them from sticking together.) When you are ready to use them, place the fruit in a colander and rinse them. This will also help them to thaw quickly.

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When recipes call for so many ounces of dry noodles or so many cups of cooked noodles, do you know how to figure this out?  Well, here is a good rule of thumb to follow:

4 ounces of uncooked pasta (i.e. noodles, penne, macaroni, ziti. . .) = 1 cup dried pasta = 2 1/2 cups of cooked pasta

For my Creamy Noodle recipe, it calls for 6 ounces of dry (or uncooked) noodles.  The equivalent of that is 1 1/2 cups.

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To keep your lemons lasting longer, store them in your refrigerator.  Put them in a jar with a lid and they will last for a couple of weeks.

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I recently posted a recipe for mini turkey meatloaves so I thought I would talk a little bit about ground turkey vs. ground beef.  You would automatically think ground turkey is better for you than ground beef, wouldn't you?  Well, that may not be the case.  It is important to read the labels.  If the ground turkey uses a lot of dark meat, there may be more fat and more calories than a leaner ground beef.   You have to read the labels and compare.

If you really want a good quality ground turkey you may want to grind your own.  Buy skinless turkey breast and put it in your food processor.  Pulse a few times and it's ready to go.  When cooking with it though, you might want to add a little bit of olive oil (about a tablespoon per pound) so it is not too dry.

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Whole cumin seeds are better than ground cumin because the whole seeds will retain its flavor longer.  The seeds will keep fresh for about a year but the ground cumin only keeps fresh for about half that.  It is best to store both in an airtight glass jar and keep them in a dark, cool  place.

You can grind the seeds into powder by using a mortar and a pestle.  And if you really want to bring out the flavor, roast the seeds first before using them in your favorite recipe. (Just put them in a skillet and cook for about 5 minutes stirring constantly -- don't use oil or butter or anything.  When you see the seeds start to turn to a darker hue, they're done. Be careful not to over roast them as they will then taste bitter.)

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New Year's Resolutions

I know many of you have made New Year's resolutions that include eating healthier, eating less and saving more money by cooking more often at home.  Every year my objective seem to be about those very same things.  Since I started this blog, I am getting closer to keeping those resolutions.  So. . . I thought it might be fun to start a "mini series" on tips that have helped me achieve those goals.  Maybe these are things you already do but hopefully you'll find some new ideas that will inspire you.  I am still a work in progress (and always will be!) but I feel that at least I am moving in the right direction.  Feel free to add your comments and/or feedback.  Maybe we can all help each other!

Tip # 1

I am fortunate that I currently only work part-time but I remember a time when I was a single parent working full time and having a second job just so I could pay the bills.  That didn't leave a lot of money for eating out. I had to cook at home.  What truly helped me was that on the weekends when I had more time, I would make two big meals -- one for Saturday's dinner and again one for Sunday's dinner.  I made sure to make extra so that we would have leftovers for dinner on Monday and Tuesday.  That certainly made those two nights easier especially when my sons had a lot of homework or had some kind of practice (basketball, track, etc.).  I would just heat the food up and serve it with some fresh fruit (or canned) and bread (if I needed a little more to fill up our bellies).

Cook two big meals on the weekend so that you can have the leftovers for dinner on Monday and Tuesday.

Tip # 2

Okay, in Tip #1 I explained what I often do for Monday's and Tuesday's dinners so now I will tell you how you still can cook meals during the rest of your busy week.  Believe it or not, there truly are meals that take less time to prepare in your kitchen than it does to drive to your local fast food restaurant and bring it home.

On those nights when I know I am extremely busy, I will make meals like sloppy joes or even grilled cheese sandwiches.  No one says that your dinner has to be a huge meal like a roast with potatoes and vegetables.  It can be simple yet healthy and tasty.  You can serve vegetable soup or cut up fresh veggies along with some fresh fruit for both of the above meals. To boost the nutritional value serve on whole grain bread or buns.

Salads, stir fries and spaghetti can be made in a snap as well as eggs, bacon and toast. Fish is one of the fastest main dishes to cook.  The herbed baked fish bakes in 8 -12 minutes.  Other meals that can typically be made in 20 minutes or less include macaroni & cheesebarbecue chicken sandwichesblack bean quesadillascreamy turkey and ricemexican beans and ricequick pizza,and sausage topped baked potatoes.  Again most of your sides can include fruit (think sliced apples, canned peaches. . .) and vegetables (either fresh, canned or frozen -- the steamed vegetables cook in your microwave for just a few minutes).  There are also frozen sweet potato fries as well as regular frozen fries which are convenient to prepare.   There is even frozen brown rice (or white) available.   (See product reviews to see reviews of ones that I have tried).

Use your imagination too -- pizza can be as simple as putting some pizza sauce, cheese and toppings on top of a bagel.  Just stick under the broiler for a few minutes or until cheese is melted.  Baked potatoes can include any number of healthy add-ons like cooked vegetables and cheese, chili with beans, etc.  Get creative!

Start collecting recipes that can be made in 20 minutes or less for those busy weekday nights.  It may be quicker to cook at home rather than driving to a fast food restaurant.

Tip # 3

After a long day at work, wouldn't it be nice to come home to a hot meal already prepared?  Well, I imagine that for most of you that is a very real possibility.  What am I talking about?!  Well, if you own a crockpot, dinner can be waiting for you at the end of the day.  The slow cooker does most of the work.  Typically all you have to do is throw your ingredients in the pot and just plug it in. How easy is that?! 

There are other added benefits as well:

Time:  Clean up may be quicker because your whole meal can be served from just one pot.

Health:  If you are trying to lower your fat intake, many slow cooker recipes will allow for this.  Lots of recipes also include adding vegetables which we all know is a great health benefit.

Money:  Most recipes do just fine with less expensive cuts of meat.  Compared to using an oven, you will also use less energy with this appliance.

So, start finding your soup, stew and chili recipes.  Don't forget pulled pork, ribs, etc.  (Of course, you can also look under my slow cooker recipes to get more ideas!)

Use your slow cooker -- it can be faster, healthier and even save you money!

Tip # 4

The previous tips focused on how it was possible to cook more meals at home even when time is limited.  These next few tips will give you ideas on how to save money and still eat well.  The most obvious way is to shop the sales.  I know this takes time but it truly can save you a lot of money in the long run.  Typically grocery stores will run sales on a particular item every 6 weeks so buy enough of that product to last that long.  Then you will only be buying it while it is on sale.  

Many times my grocery store will have buy one get one free sales on their meats.  That is the time that I stock up.  The pot roast we are having tonight is a good example of that.  Even the roasting chicken we had last week was a buy one get one free sale item.  In this way, I am never paying full price for my meats.

Also, don't always be brand  loyal.  I used to buy the same brands all the time, but now I will go for the best-priced item.  I have discovered that there are plenty of other brands that my family enjoys as well or even better.  Occasionally you'll find a brand that isn't to your liking.  You'll know for next time to avoid that one.  After all, throwing an undesirable product away doesn't save you money.  

In the same way, don't always be store loyal.  I used to shop only at one specific grocery store but not anymore.  If one grocer is having a huge sale on produce, I will shop there. Sometimes, I will even shop at more than one store.  (I'm fortunate that I have a Giant Eagle, Marcs, Buehler's and Aldi's all on one street so I am not wasting gas driving all over town -- that would not save me money because of the price of gas these days!)

If a store is out of a sale item, be sure to get a rain check if it is available.  Then don't forget to use it.

I know it takes time to look over the sales ad but it is worth your effort.  The key is to make this part of your weekly routine.  You can save fifty percent or more when you shop the sales and stock up.  You may want to keep track of your savings so you can prove it to yourself.  Sometimes your store receipt will do the work for you and show you your savings.   Let us know how much you are saving!

Shop the sales and stock up on items to last you until the next one comes along.

Tip # 5

This next tip is also somewhat obvious -- use coupons.  I know they can be a pain but you really can save quite a bit of money if you use them.  And, if you combine them with a sale, your savings will really add up.  

Just last week I bought two of the Swanson Flavor Boost boxes and only paid a quarter for each of them.  They were on sale for $1.25 (normally $1.99) and I had 50 cent coupons that doubled at my grocery store.  So, I paid .50 instead of $3.98.  That's a 47% savings. At another store Lindsay olives were on sale a few weeks ago.  I used my rain check last week along with a coupon and actually got them for free!  That's right. . . you can even get items for free.  They were on sale for .99 and I had a $1 off coupon.

Where do I get coupons?  The majority of them come in my Sunday newspaper.  My mom and mother in law also give me the ones they don't use.  You can ask your coworkers or even neighbors for their extras.  Many times when items go on sale at my grocery store, you get the best price if you buy four of that item.  So, it's nice to have four like coupons. Of course, if you are a small family or an individual,  four of one item may be too much for you (wasting food does not save you money).  Maybe you can split the items with someone else or maybe it's an item that can be frozen for you to use at a future date.

Other places to find coupons include using your computer.  The olive coupon I just told you about came off Lindsay's website.  Yes you can print coupons.  Just make sure your store takes internet coupons.  

Also when you're out shopping be on the lookout for coupons near products.  Many times a grocery store will have some available for you to use.  Just be kind and don't take them all!  They are meant to be shared.

Did you know that you may be able to find a site that tells you where to find specific coupons?  In my area, I have a site that I can look at to tell me in which insert a particular coupon is.  The coupon I used for the Swanson Flavor Boost was listed and told me which Sunday's paper it was in.  In that way, I am not using up all my  time cutting out each individual coupon.  I only cut them out at the time I am actually going to use them.

Do I spend a lot of time making my grocery list every week?  Actually, I don't.  I usually take a morning and make my list, then shop and then I'm done for the week.  But because I do this, I am saving a lot of money.  There are many fixed bills that I can't do too much about, but food is one in which I can.  Compared to the average family, I probably save about $1000 a month and you can see from my weekly menu that we're eating very well.

Use coupons!

Tip # 6

Here is another easy, makes sense kind of way to save on money at the grocery store. Buy in season.  This time of year here in Northeast Ohio, it is more expensive to buy fresh fruits, vegetables and herbs that are typically grown in the summertime.  That is why you do not see a lot of honeydew, broccoli, etc. served with our meals in the winter. Occasionally, a local store will have a sale on produce and that is when I will buy berries or asparagus or fresh dill.  If you can get it grown locally, the taste is so much better as well as less costly. Here are a few links to give you a local seasonal food guide.



Another way that I save, is to buy more of the produce when it is a good buy and freeze it.  The peaches that I have on my menu this time of year was purchased last summer.  I just made a simple sugar syrup and froze them so we can enjoy them in the winter.  With herbs, dry them or freeze them so they are available to you year round.  Many vegetables also taste great frozen.  Of course, if you have the extra time, canning can also save you a lot of money while still enjoying local produce.

Buy in season! 

Tip # 7

These last set of tips will focus on suggestions of how to eat healthier.  I'm sure most of us know many of these tips but it still can be hard to change our "bad" habits.  I believe the key is to take small steps.  Trying to do it all at once can possibly lead to not accomplishing what you set out to do.  So. . . my recommendation is to try the following suggestions one at a time.  Succeed with one plan before moving to the next.  Keep in mind that the experts say that it takes 30 days to make a habit!

Replace juice with fresh fruit. . . I very rarely buy juice anymore.  I typically serve fresh fruit with our breakfast.  The reason being is that juice usually contains more sugar than whole fruit.  Also, there are more nutrients in whole fruit than in the juice because of the skin and the pulp. According to the USDA's MyPlate guideline, an adult woman needs 1.5 - 2 cups of fruits every day; a man needs about 2 cups.  I think it can be hard to get that much fruit into your diet so this is one way to get closer to that recommendation.

Choose beverages wisely. . . There's no way around it -- pop is bad for you.  There is no nutritional value in this beverage.  It has a lot of calories with no substance.  Water, on the other hand, has no calories and it is something that our bodies need.  I drink water throughout the day.  It keeps me hydrated and I'm not wasting calories.  

Want a little flavor with your drink, squeeze a little lemon or lime into your water.

I also drink milk with my meals.  According to research that was reported in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, drinking milk may actually help you lose weight.  Of course, it also has the benefit of adding calcium and Vitamin D to your diet

The bottom line is try replacing those unhealthy beverages with one that is healthier.

Get creative. . . No one says you have to eat all your helpings of fruit and vegetables in just one meal.  Try adding blueberries or bananas to your cereal in the morning.  Make a fruit smoothie for a snack.  Put lettuce and tomato on your sandwich to boost the amount of servings you need per day.  Even better add a bowl of vegetable soup along side your sandwich.  Grate some carrot into your spaghetti sauce -- the kids won't even know that you did.  If you must eat something sweet (like I do!!), try my butterscotch & vanilla granola bars.  They taste like a cookie but are a healthier snack than a piece of chocolate cake.   I know baked goods are certainly not the healthiest for us, but if you do bake use whole wheat flour, add nuts, etc. and stick to recipes like zucchini muffins or banana bread.  As the saying goes, every little bit helps!

Eat whole grains. . . Most of us don't get enough fiber in our bodies.  One simple way to add more fiber is to replace white bread with 100% whole grain bread.  Eat brown rice instead of white.  Eat whole grain pasta instead of white.  Just remember to add this to your diet slowly -- your body needs a chance to get used to all that fiber!  You can even mix some of the white with the 100% whole grain initially.  It will also give you and your family a chance to get used to the new textures and flavors.

Other suggestions to include more fiber in your diet include leaving the skin on your vegetables, eat some nuts for a snack (or add to your salad) and make dishes with beans (i.e. Black Bean Quesadillas, Minestrone Soup or Vegetarian Chili).  

Remember, the key is small steps.  Start with one small change and then build on that.

Choose canola or olive oil. . . Instead of butter (I no longer use margarine), I am starting to use more olive oil or canola oil when baking or cooking.  Sometimes I will add a little butter to the oil just for flavoring but the canola or olive oil is healthier for you.  These oils have healthy fats (polyunsaturated and monounsaturated) but not the saturated or trans fats that are bad for you.  As you may know, the healthy fats help your heart, lungs, brain and even your immune system.

From what I have read walnut, soybean and sesame oil are also among the healthier oils to use.

Read labels. . . that's what I have begun doing.  You will be amazed at all the chemicals in that can of soup or that frozen dinner.  Be aware of the saturated fat, sodium and sugar that is in the food.  I know it is easier and more convenient to use these products, but it is not always healthier.  Believe it or not, there are many things you can make from scratch that don't take as long as you may think.  Soup is one of them and homemade tastes so much better.  For those of you with a bread maker instead of buying your bread that has additives in them that you can't even pronounce, make your own bread.  It really doesn't take that long to make -- all you have to do is add the ingredients and the machine does all the work.

Use whole foods and less processed foods. . . This goes along with reading labels. Once you start to see what is in the processed foods, you may want to try eating more whole foods.  If you are having rice with dinner, make it without using a boxed or pouched mix.  Try the oregano rice recipe to add your flavoring.   It doesn't have to be complicated.  You can make simple lunches and dinners.  For example, throw some chicken, vegetables and seasonings into a foil packet and grill.  Add some sliced fruit and you have a healthy dinner.  Use the leftover chicken and put in a salad for your lunch the next day.  Treat your tastebuds to fresh, unprocessed food.

Eat more vegetarian meals, less meat. . . If you look at my What's For Dinner posts over the past year, you will see that I have slowly started to serve less dishes with meat in them.  I usually serve meat no more than three times a week and believe it or not, my family has been fine with this.  Even I who never was much of a vegetable eater have been enjoying these meatless dinners.  I try to have some type of fish once a week and the other meals may include pasta or one of my other vegetarian recipes (such as a veggie hero sandwich, veggie rice medley or toasted ravioli).  Plus some of the meals that do have meat in them have more vegetables in them than the meat like my chicken stir fry.  

Try doing this by eliminating one meat dish a week; then try two and so on.  You may find that it is not as difficult as you think!

Cut down on sweets. . . Now, I have mentioned on more than one occasion that I have a sweet tooth! I really do like cakes and pies and cookies!  But as we all know, sugar is not good for us.  I recently read that research shows that a lifetime of overindulging in sugary sweets, can actually give you wrinkled, dull skin -- now that's a reason to cut back!  Of course, there are many other reasons like it can lead to cancer, compromise your immune system and even cause brittle nails just to name a few.  

So how do I satisfy my sweet tooth?  What I started to do was to allow myself something sweet as a snack at night time.  In that way, I don't feel deprived.  If I try to have it any time sooner in the day, I just crave more sugar so night time works best for me.  I also found that my sugar craving lessened over time.  

If you can eliminate sweets from your diet all at once, that is wonderful!  However, if you are like me, indulge but try to do it on a smaller scale.

Take small steps! 

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If you plan on making Heaven Delights (or any kind of meringue), be sure your bowl is grease-free and that there is not a speck of egg yolk.  Even a small amount can cause your meringue to collapse.

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No one says that you're only allowed to eat turkey on Thanksgiving or Christmas.  However, it is a great time of year to buy an extra turkey or two if you have the room in your freezer (they can be kept frozen up to a year). During the holidays, grocery stores will  typically sell turkeys at their lowest price.  In my area, many stores (Marc's, Buehler's, Giant Eagle) are advertising their turkeys for $.79 a pound which is a fairly good price.  Some grocers will also price match.

The reason that I  like to have an extra one or two is because I can get a lot of meals out of one turkey.  Like I have mentioned before, the bones can be made into soup and the meat can be used in dishes like the Turkey Dinner Muffins recipe I just posted.  I feel with the rising cost of food, this is one way to get more for your money and eat well too.

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Cooking Fresh Pumpkin

You need to first choose a pie or sugar sweet pumpkin.  Wash it and then cut in half crosswise.  Remove the seeds and the strings.  (This is where your children might want to help!)  Place it in a pan, shell side up.  Bake at 325 degrees F. for 1 hour or more, depending on size, until it is tender and begins to fall apart.  Scrape the pulp from the shell and put it through a ricer, strainer or blender.

Here is another way to cook fresh pumpkin and it is the only way that I have tried.  Wash your pumpkin first.  Then cut the top off and scrape out the pulp and seeds.

Cut pumpkin into about 4" pieces and place in a large pot of boiling water.

Cover and cook until tender, about 20 to 25 minutes.

When it is cool, peel the outer skin and then mash it with a potato masher or you can put it through a ricer, strainer or blender.

If not using within a day or two, freeze it.  I typically will freeze it in half or full cup size servings and put in a baggie or sealed container.  Just unthaw before using.  My particular pumpkin made 4 - 1 cup servings.

I told you it wasn't very complicated!  :)
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If you want your apples to ripen faster, then keep them at room temperature.  They will ripen six to ten times faster at room temperature than if they were refrigerated.

Source:   http://urbanext.illinois.edu/apples/facts.cfm

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Do you know the best way to cut an angel food cake?  I have found that if you use a serrated knife, it slices much better than when using a cake knife.

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Did you know that you can freeze zucchini?  According to the Will It Freeze book by Joan Hood, it is best to use young zucchini about 3 in. (7.5 cm.) long.  Wipe zucchini with damp cloth, trim ends and then cut into 1/2-in. (1 cm.) slices.  You can either blanch* for 1 minute, cool in ice cold water for 1 minute, drain and open-freeze or you can saute in butter for 1 minute.  If you use the saute in butter method, cool in fridge afterwards.  Once these processes are done, pack into rigid containers leaving 1/2-1 in. (1-2 cm.) headspace or put in freezer bags.  Can freeze up to one year.

When ready to use, cook the blanched, frozen zucchini in boiling water or thaw in a colander so they remain firm (and not soggy).  You can then prepare the zucchini as your recipe dictates.  If the zucchini was sauteed in butter, finish cooking in butter until tender and golden brown. 

*Blanch:  means to bring the water to a boil.  Add vegetables to the water.  Start timing from the minute the water has come back to a boil (it is best to not add a lot of vegetables because it will take longer for the water to come back to a boil; plus the vegetables can move around more easily)Watch your timing because this needs to be precise.  When finished, immediately drain vegetables and put into ice cold water for the same amount of time that vegetables were blanched (for example, with zucchini you blanch for 1 minute and then immerse in cold water for 1 minute)This stops the cooking process.  

The purpose of blanching is to help maintain the color and flavor of your vegetables. 

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Marsala wine will last a long time.  In fact it will not go bad; it just will lose some of its flavor over time.  For that reason, it is best to use within three to four months.  Marsala does not need to be refrigerated because of the brandy in it.  Just store it in a cool, dark area.

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The dates you see on egg cartons are usually a guide for the stores to know how long they can sell their eggs.  It is typically not the expiration date.  Eggs will be at their best quality three to five weeks after you bought them provided you refrigerate them.  Just make sure they are not cracked or otherwise damaged.

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Remember that no matter how you prepare your fish, always rinse the fish under cold water and pat dry with a paper towel before cooking.

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Lemons have many uses.  For example, if your whipping cream doesn't get stiff, you can add a few drops of the juice of a lemon.   Per Reader's Digest, here are some other uses for lemon:

Polish chrome

Keep rice from sticking 

Refresh cutting boards

Make soggy lettuce crisp

Deodorize your garbage disposal

Check out more at  http://www.rd.com/home/34-reasons-to-load-up-on-lemons/.

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It is best to store potatoes in a cool, dark place.  The reason is because the leaves, stems and sprouts have high levels of toxic compounds called glycoalkaloids.  A cool, dark place helps keep the glycoalkaloid content low.  

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One pound of fresh apples is about 3 medium apples.

One pound of fresh apples yields 3 cups after being sliced.

Two cups of dried apples is equivalent to 6 ounces.

Two cups of dried apples measure 2 1/2 cups after cooking them.

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I know this takes away some of the nutritional value of your Homemade Applesauce, but try throwing in some cinnamon red hot candies the last 2 minutes of cooking your applesauce.  It will make your sauce a pretty pink (nice for Christmas or Valentine's Day) and actually give it a great flavor.
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When making Roast Chicken, be sure to save the bones or parts that your family does not eat.  Throw them all in a freezer bag, label and put in your freezer.  Some time in the future, I will tell you how you can make delicious chicken soup from them!

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When I make cookies, many times I will bake extra and freeze them because they freeze well.  I just put them in a covered airtight container with either wax paper or foil in between the layers and freeze.  This will keep in the freezer for up to 12 months.  (I have never kept cookies this long -- we always eat them up way before then!!)

You can also freeze the cookie dough.  You can freeze the entire amount  -- just form dough into a ball and wrap it with plastic wrap and put in a covered airtight container.  When ready to use, unthaw and bake.   Another option is to round and roll the dough into balls, put on a cookie sheet and freeze until balls are hard.  Once the individual "cookies" are frozen put in a covered airtight container.  (I like to still cover mine with plastic wrap as an extra protection against freezer burn.)  You can also put them in freezer bags making sure to get as much of the air out as possible.  Then you can just pull out what you need, unthaw and bake.  Keep in mind that cookie dough can be frozen for up to 6 months.

It is always a good idea to label the containers with content and date.  It takes the guesswork out of figuring out what's in your freezer and how long it's been there!

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I buy my cherry pie filling at Marc's.  Their everyday price is $1.29 which is the lowest that I have seen in the Northeast Ohio area.

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When I have extra frosting I freeze it.  I put several tablespoons of frosting on a piece of waxed paper and freeze until set.  Then I will store the small scoops in an airtight container.  The frosting comes in handy when I need just a little bit for desserts like Blondie Pizza.  Once melted in the microwave for a few seconds, you have an instant glaze.

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When I have leftover rice and we cannot eat it up fast enough, I will freeze it.  Then when I am making the Chili Soup or the Lazy Way Stuffed Cabbage, I just pull it from my freezer and add it the dish.  It saves me time which I could always use more of!

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I'm going to tell you a little secret. . . I never buy bread crumbs.  It is so easy just to make your own and another good way to save a little money.  I just break up the ends of breads into medium size pieces (stuffing size) and let sit in a dish for a few days until it is totally dry.  Then I throw them in a food processor (or you can put them in a baggie and use a rolling pin) and process into crumbs.  Store in an airtight container and voila, you have your own bread crumbs.  You can add seasonings too if you like such as oregano and basil.

Besides using end pieces of loaves, I have also used other types of  bread (i.e., bagels, rolls, buns, etc.) that are going stale or we just can't eat up fast enough.

Another option is to just keep the bread in medium-size pieces for stuffing.  Either way, you're going green!

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My local grocery store (Giant Eagle) will occasionally have the fresh baked Italian pizza shells on sale for $1.  I will buy several and freeze them and then when I want to make pizza I will just unthaw them.  So, look for these and grab them when they are on sale.

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Another great way to use up that leftover ham, is to dice it up and add it to your homemade pizza.  If you still have too much, freeze some of it in small containers.  Then the next time you make pizza, pull it out and add it with your other favorite toppings.

Remember, diced ham is also great in soups, omelets and even casseroles.

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Did you know that Key Lime Pie is yellow, not green.  The key lime is a tiny, yellowish lime native to Florida.  If you wish to make yours green, add a few drops of food coloring.

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You can add extra ingredients to the Potato Soup recipe to give it other flavoring.  Next time I will be adding diced celery and carrots. I would cook them separately and add to the soup once it's been blended.  You could also add crumbled, cooked bacon or diced ham as well after blending.

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Leftover ham is great to use in the Ham Potato Casserole recipe.  So, at Easter when you have leftover ham and don't want to eat another bite, dice it up and freeze.  Then when you want to make this recipe just unthaw the ham and it's ready to go.

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The Lime Dessert recipe can be used for other holidays as well. Just change the color of the jello to match the festivities (e.g. orange jello for Halloween, strawberry jello for Valentine's day, etc.)

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Make a full size crockpot of the Lazy Way Stuffed Cabbage because this freezes well. Just unthaw and heat up. This is great on those days you are busy or too tired to cook! Just have some bread or rolls with some fresh fruit and you have a quick, filling meal.

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Sometimes I will use frozen fruit when making fruit pies or cobblers. I will buy the fruit (or pick it) in the summer when prices are lower and freeze it. Then when I need the fruit, I unthaw it and drain it well (can blot with paper towel if needed). If it is too "wet" your pies will be soggy.

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When I have leftover chicken or turkey, I will chop it up and freeze it. Then when I make recipes that call for cooked chicken or turkey, I just bring it out of the freezer and add it to my recipe (like Chicken Pot Pie). It saves me time and money because I am not throwing leftovers away.