DEAR HELOISE: When using store-bought broth, I add 1 teaspoon of unflavored gelatin to give it a more homemade taste. I use 1 teaspoon for each cup of broth.
-- Carol of Powell, Wyo.
DEAR READER: That is a good idea, and while you're at it, it's also a good idea to add a few spices and finely chopped vegetables (onion, garlic, etc.). You can change the flavor of stews and homemade soups this way.
DEAR HELOISE: If there is one dish my husband and sons dearly love it's meatloaf. I got tired of adding just breadcrumbs and instead thought I'd sort of jazz up my menu by adding some instant mashed potatoes. I've also tried cheese flavored crackers and even oats on a couple other occasions. My family loved it because it added to the flavor.
Sometimes I "frost" the meatloaf with tomato paste before baking, and it helps keep the juices in so my meatloaf isn't dry.
-- Cindy T., Shelton, Wash.
DEAR HELOISE: I love orange juice in the morning or as an afternoon "pick-me-up." I buy about six to eight cans when it's on sale and keep it in my freezer. My only problem was getting it to thaw in the morning. Finally I figured that if I use a pastry cutter or a potato masher, I could break it down into smaller pieces, add the right amount of water and let it sit in a glass bowl in my refrigerator overnight, and by morning all I had to do was stir or shake it and everything blended perfectly.
-- Karen S., Lakewood, Colo.
DEAR HELOISE: I bought some sturdy plastic "silverware" that we have used several times. I place the utensils in a mesh bag and put it in the dishwasher. After the dishwasher cycle is done, the plastic ware is clean and ready for reuse. There is just too much plastic in our oceans and landfills. This is one way to use plastic until it's no longer usable.
-- Helen D., Humboldt, Tenn.
DEAR HELOISE: I found that when making gravy, you should always add powder to a liquid rather than the other way around. I like to pour the liquid (water, milk, etc.) into a blender then add the flour or cornstarch and blend completely at a high speed. This way you avoid lumps in your gravy.
I also tried a hint I found in your column when someone said to put gravy in a teapot because it was less messy and the handle made it easy for everyone to use. It also keeps the gravy warmer for longer periods.
-- Ellen N., Great Falls, Mont.
DEAR HELOISE: One of my children spilled something sticky in the refrigerator, so I tried to clean it up. Unfortunately, no matter what I did I seemed to just smear the sticky substance around instead of cleaning it up. Finally, I put a wet paper towel in the microwave for about 30 seconds and warmed it up. It removed the spill in only a minute.
-- Toni W., Montgomery, Ala.
Send a money- or time-saving hint to Heloise, P.O. Box 795001, San Antonio, Texas 78279-5000; fax to (210) 435-6473; or email