Dear Heloise: I wanted to use some raisins in a bread mix, and they were dried out. Is there a way to plump them back up? Dorian in Colorado
You bet there is, and it's really easy! A major raisin processor told us this: Put the dried-out raisins in a bowl, pour in boiling water and let them sit for 15 minutes. Pour off the water and pat the raisins dry. They should be plump and ready to add to any recipe.
Speaking of raisins, we often get the question about raisins sinking to the bottom of a cake or bread. To prevent this, cut the raisins into small pieces to help keep them suspended in the batter. Since raisins can be a bit sticky, spray the knife or scissor blades with some nonstick vegetable spray before you start cutting.
Raisins can be stored on the pantry shelf, but for maximum freshness, put them in the refrigerator in a container with a tightfitting lid. And did you know you can freeze raisins for an extended period?
You can add raisins to just about anything, so experiment a little. Heloise
Dear Heloise: Here is how my mother made condensed tomato soup special some 50 years ago. The day after our family would enjoy a pasta dinner made with her special sauce (another story), she would simply reuse the unrinsed, refrigerated saucepan for preparing the tomato soup for my soup-and-sandwich lunch. Her leftover seasonings, homegrown herbs and loving secrets made the school's version of tomato soup downright unpalatable.
My kids and their kids will have all been forever ruined by "Mom's Special, Day-After Tomato Soup!" Doug in Indiana
Speaking about tomato soup, did you know that it's an ingredient in my Easy Chocolate Tomato Soup Cake? I know it sounds yucky, but the cake is really moist and surprisingly delicious. The cake is topped with a cream-cheese frosting and is perfect for any get-together. This recipe can be found in my eight-page Cake Recipe Pamphlet. To receive a copy, please send $3 and a self-addressed, stamped (60-cent), long envelope to: Heloise/Cake, P.O. Box 795001, San Antonio, TX 78279-5001. This pamphlet also includes more unique cake recipes like Chocolate Sauerkraut "Surprise" Cake and War Cake, which is a cake made without eggs, butter or milk! How long has condensed soup been around? More than 100 years! How about that for a fun food fact? Heloise
Dear Heloise: Ever get tired of standing over the skillet with a spoon pounding the hamburger meat into smaller pieces for tacos or spaghetti? My kids don't like big lumps of meat.
The other night, when the hamburger was about half-done, I grabbed the pastry blender, and voila! Within seconds the job was done! Boy, I wish I would have thought of this sooner. Shelley in Texas
Dear Heloise: I wash my sponges and plastic dish scrubbers in the dishwasher -- keeps them fresh and clean. Margery O'Donnell, San Diego
Margery, just be sure that you attach the sponges and scrubbers securely to the top rack so they don't go "swimming" around in the dishwasher.
Also, this will clean them but not necessarily sanitize or disinfect them. Be sure to let them air-dry, too. Heloise
XSend a money-saving or timesaving hint to Heloise, P.O. Box 795000, San Antonio, TX 78279-5000, or you can fax it to (210) HELOISE or e-mail it to Heloise@Heloise.com.
King Features Syndicate