Fresh mushrooms can add excitement and elegance to everyday meals. For peak flavor, however, they must be stored properly.

The Mushroom Council says pre-packed mushrooms should be stored in their original container in the refrigerator. Bulk mushrooms should be stored in a paper bag. Properly stored, mushrooms will keep for several days.To clean mushrooms, wipe with a damp cloth or rinse quickly in cold water. Be sure not to soak mushrooms; they absorb liquid quickly.

The following ideas for using mushrooms are provided by the Mushroom Council:

- Saute sliced mushrooms, chopped onions and garlic in olive oil. Stir in chopped fresh tarragon, Dijon-style mustard and a dash of balsamic vinegar. Serve hot on top of broiled steak or chicken.

- Cut a baguette in half lengthwise and hollow out. Spread cut sides with mixture of mayonnaise, finely chopped mushrooms, hot sweet mustard and red pepper flakes. Layer with sliced cooked turkey, provolone cheese, tomatoes, red onions and lettuce.

- For a fiery hors d'oeuvre or side dish, skewer whole mushrooms, onion wedges and bell pepper squares. Marinate 1 hour in mixture of olive oil, lime juice and minced jalapeno peppers. Grill or broil, brushing with marinade. Serve hot or at room temperature.

- Stuff mushroom caps with a mixture of minced garlic and green onions, softened butter, fresh bread crumbs, chopped fresh thyme and pepper. Top with grated Parmesan cheese; broil until lightly browned.

- Cut mushrooms in half. Saute halved mushrooms and sliced onions in butter. Add canned stewed tomatoes and chopped fresh basil and oregano; simmer 20 minutes. Stir in peeled shrimp and cubed haddock; simmer until fish flakes and shrimp are opaque.

- Saute finely chopped mushrooms, shallots and garlic in butter; cool. Mix with softened cream cheese, a little mayonnaise, chopped dill and grated lemon peel. Spread on crackers or French bread.