Dear Heloise: I'm an older, experienced housewife who raised four children and took care of two husbands. I have several very useful hints to share with readers:

When cooking out on the grill, use a grilling basket. This saves you from standing over a fire and turning numerous small pieces of meat or sausage. One turn takes care of all of them.

To clean a grill basket easily, or the grids from the grill, get a large, strong, plastic bag — extra-size plastic bags work great. Thoroughly wet a thick section of newspaper and lay it inside the bag. Place the grill basket in there and spray generously with foaming sink cleaner (containing ammonia) and close up. Let stand overnight or several hours. Scrub with a plastic scouring pad. Burnt-on food and fats come off easily.

After draining potatoes to be mashed, do not mash them on the stove burner, as the mashing action can easily destroy the element on an electric stove. — A Reader, via e-mail

Dear Heloise: My husband doesn't like the crumbs in the bottom of the cereal box.

When it's bran flakes, I use a colander to strain the crumbs off and save them until I'm making bran muffins. If it's cornflakes, I crush them further for crumbs for coating fish or the top of casseroles. — Dolores Bartleson, Chino Valley, Ariz.

Dear Heloise: The last time I had an onion to chop, it occurred to me that if the range hood could suck up cooking odors, it might do the same for onion fumes. I set a large chopping board over the burners (they were cold — I hadn't cooked anything yet) and turned the fan on high as I worked. This trick worked better than anything else I've ever tried for avoiding eye irritation. — Rachel Marshall, Rome, Italy

Rachel, don't you just love onions? The flavor and aroma they add to many cooked dishes or "as is" in a salad, etc., are wonderful. A favorite family recipe is Mother's Original Italian Spaghetti Sauce with onions. This recipe and others, like Shrimp Dijon and Peking Roast, are available by sending $3 and a long, self-addressed, stamped (58 cents) envelope to: Heloise/Main Dishes, P.O. Box 795001, San Antonio, TX 78279-5001.

Chill onions before cutting, and cut into the root end last to help prevent "onion tears." Also, if you are chopping an onion and only need a little, do the whole thing, then freeze the rest. — Heloise

Dear Heloise: Here is how I make mashed potatoes: Prepare five to six large potatoes for mashing. Add 1/2 cup of sour cream and 1/4 of a block of cream cheese — no other liquid. Drop dollops of mashed potatoes onto a cookie sheet, making an indentation in the center for some butter. Freeze until solid, then store in freezer bags. Heat as needed in microwave. — A.M.S. in Akron, Ohio

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