Dear Heloise: I am thrifty in the kitchen. I rarely discard cooking water from any vegetables and even save pasta and potato water. In the fall, I make tasty vegetarian soup from all these liquids; add tomatoes, vegetables, beans and or grains/pasta.
When my carrots got a little too old, I cooked them in enough water to cover, drained and pureed them in a blender, using the cooking liquid to get consistency. I froze the carrot puree in ice cube trays. I added several cubes to soup, stews, sauces, etc. Other things to freeze in ice cube trays: pesto, pimentos in their liquid, mashed bananas for smoothies, broth and tomato paste. -- Reader in Ohio
Dear Heloise: After family gatherings we find ourselves with small portions of various crackers, pita chips, etc. I grind them up in my blender and use them for breading pork chops, chicken or topping on casseroles. There is generally enough salt and spices for a great taste. No more waste. -- Marlene P., Riverside, Calif.
Dear Marlene, using those leftover bits of snacks for breading, etc., is a great idea. -- Heloise
Dear Heloise: I used to make your spiced tea and loved it in the evenings while I read a book by my fireplace. It was so relaxing for me. When we moved to a cooler climate again, I remembered how much I enjoyed those evenings, but in the move your recipe was lost. Could you reprint that for me and for people who enjoy tea? -- Rita in Nebraska
Rita, this is a favorite of many people and a great gift idea!
Wrap six (2-inch long) cinnamon sticks, 1 teaspoon whole cloves and a whole nutmeg in a double thickness of cheesecloth; crush with a mallet. Combine the spices with 2 cups of tea leaves, 2 tablespoons grated orange peel and 2 tablespoons grated lemon peel. Mix well. Store in an airtight container or pack into jars with tight-fitting lids. When you want a cup, heat the teapot by rinsing it with boiling water and then spoon in a teaspoon of the mixture for each teacup of boiling water. Let the tea stand for two to five minutes, then strain into teacups. Enjoy! -- Heloise
Dear Readers: Shallots are a member of the onion family, but their flavor is somewhere between onion and garlic. Substituting regular onions or garlic for shallots won't give you the same flavor in a recipe as shallots do. If a recipe calls for the shallots to be browned first, do so quickly. They become bitter if over-cooked. -- Heloise
Dear Heloise: I like to make my favorite snack of yogurt a little healthier by adding fresh fruit or oatmeal for extra fiber. Sometimes I'll flavor plain yogurt with granola or honey, and occasionally put almond pieces in my yogurt. -- Summer in California