Always marinate meat when it is cold

Dear Heloise: We love to grill different meats all year long. I’ve found that marinating meat gives us numerous flavor options. My question is, Should I marinate foods on the kitchen counter or in the refrigerator? – Shelby W., via email

Food should always marinate in the refrigerator. Even if a recipe calls for marinating food on the kitchen counter, you need to ignore those instructions and place it in the refrigerator, because chances are you’re reading an older recipe. Bacteria grow more quickly at room temperature, so just plan on marinating the food for a longer period of time in the refrigerator. Also, do not refrigerate overnight, because the shelf life starts dwindling as soon as it is defrosted; marinating does not give food a longer shelf life. – Heloise


Dear Heloise: Wondering what to do with leftover ice-cream sticks? I found that they make great levelers for measuring spoons and small measuring cups. Just dip the spoon or cup into the dry ingredaient and run the edge of the stick across the top one or two times. This leaves the spoon or cup perfectly level, and it can be used over and over again with a quick rinse and air-dry. I keep several in the kitchen drawer in case I have multiple ingredients that need leveling and I don’t want to mix flavors together. You also can use wooden tongue depressors the same way for larger cups. – Fr. Carmen S., OFM, Sybertsville, Pa.


Dear Heloise: I love to cook certain foods, but they can require a lot of time and energy in the kitchen. Here is my hint: When making eggplant Parmesan, lasagna, chili or soup, I make a double batch. We eat one immediately, and I freeze the other one for a future meal. It’s so nice to have a home-cooked meal by just thawing and reheating it, especially after a long day. – Jenny D., via email



Dear Heloise: After installing a new kitchen faucet, with the sprayer in the actual faucet and a soap dispenser in the place where the sprayer was, my handyman showed me a hint for refilling soap from the top (instead of having to crawl under the sink to refill the dispenser from the bottom): When refilling from the top, lift the soap pump out, put a plastic straw down into the soap reservoir, push it to the side and begin to pour the soap into the reservoir. This allows for the air bubble to come up through the straw, and allows for easy refill of the soap. – Sue S. in Arkansas


Dear Heloise: Here is my hint when grating cheese using a cheese grater: For faster, easier cleanup, I start by spraying the grater with nonstick cooking spray. The cheese doesn’t stick to the grater, and washing is much faster, because I don’t have to soak the grater for hours in hot, soapy water anymore. – Helen W., Hammond, Ind.

Hints from Heloise run occasionally in Lifestyles. Readers may send a hint to Heloise, P.O. Box 795000, San Antonio, Texas 78279-5000, fax it to 210-HELOISE, or email: Letters won’t be answered personally.