Dear Heloise: This is a hint on how to cook vegetables: If they are grown underground, put them in cold water and then cook. If they are grown above ground, put them in boiling water and cook.

 — V.J. in North Carolina

Pan problems

Dear Heloise: I would like to know how to clean the dark burnt spots off the inside of fry pans without scratching them.

 — Dennis Y., Ventura

Dennis, try one of the following:

1. Pour white vinegar in the bottom of the pan and soak for 30 minutes or longer, then scrub and rinse.

2. Put 3 tablespoons of baking soda in enough water to cover the bottom of the pan. Simmer on the stove until the gunk starts to lift. With a little scrubbing, the pot should be sparkling clean.

— Heloise

Cutting boards

Dear Heloise: Plastic or wood cutting boards — which is the best to use when preparing food?

 — Maria G. in San Antonio

Maria, plastic cutting boards are considered safer because they aren’t as likely to harbor bacteria. If you use a wooden board, you can clean it with a mixture of 2 teaspoons of chlorine bleach plus 1 teaspoon of vinegar in a gallon of water. Re-season the wooden cutting board by rubbing it with mineral oil. Do not use a salad oil, as it might become rancid.

— Heloise

Hamburger secret

Dear Heloise: I have a recipe for the best hamburgers for people who make them at home. Take two parts of lean hamburger meat and one part of ground sausage, mix well and shape into patties. Barbecue on the grill, fry or broil.

We were on vacation near Austin, Texas. At a cafe, we stopped and ate a hamburger, and it was good. The owner told me what they used.

 — Opal A., Garden Grove

Cookies from cake mix

Dear Readers: Here’s a fun recipe your family will love: Preheat the oven to 350 F. Mix 2 eggs and 1/2 cup of vegetable oil with the box of your favorite cake mix. (Use only the above ingredients, not the ingredients listed on the box.) You can add other things like nuts, raisins or chocolate chips to make your cookies special. Drop the dough by teaspoonfuls onto an ungreased cookie sheet, spacing them about 2 inches apart. Bake for 8 to 10 minutes and let cool before serving.

The family gets homemade cookies without a lot of fuss or mess. And anytime you need to bake a lot of cookies for some function, this is the easy way to do it.

— Heloise

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