Put ice cubes in your meatballs

If your recipe file doesn't already have a section labeled ``helpful hints,'' it's time to make one. Over the years, you'll gradually commit most of the kitchen tips to memory, but until you do, you'll have a handy record. Start your collection with these: To keep washed salad greens crisp and dry, roll them up in a terry cloth towel and refrigerate until serving time.

Mix water with eggs when preparing an omelet to keep it fluffy. Adding milk makes the omelet watery because milk does not blend with the eggs.

Cook fresh vegetables with a bit of peanut oil in the water to keep them green. Use 1 tablespoon oil to 2 or 3 quarts of water.

Mushrooms should not be washed. Clean them quickly by wiping with a damp cloth. Or brush them clean with a small paintbrush.

Oil should always be put in a heated frying pan, not a cold one. That way, the oil will not burn and the food will not stick.

To cut down on salt, use other flavorings instead. Some suggestions are garlic, herbs and spices, and lemon juice.

Moisten meatballs by putting a small ice cube in the center of each meatball before browning.

Here are two ways to peel a tomato:

1. Place the tomato on the end of the fork and turn it over a gas burner. When the skin begins to darken and peel, you can take it right off.

2. Place the tomato in boiling water and remove from heat. After letting it sit for a minute, plunge tomato into cold water so it doesn't cook. It can then be easily peeled.

Store garlic out on the counter in a small basket. Never put garlic in the refrigerator; the peel will become moist, and the head will dry out.

Do not flour meat when you brown it for a stew. Browning floured meat means that you have browned flour, and the point is to brown and color the natural sugars in the meat.

These hints come from Jeff Smith, author of ``The Frugal Gourmet'' and host of a television show of the same name.

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