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Don’t melt cookie chips alone

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Dear Heloise: I tried to melt some chocolate the other day using chocolate chips, and what a disaster! What did I do wrong? I don't want to try it again until I figure out what happened. — Mary J., Denver

You didn't really do anything "wrong." We took your question to a leading manufacturer, and here's the information company officials shared with us:

Cookie chips are designed to hold their shape in heat, so if you want to use them for melted chocolate, you probably will need to add some solid shortening.

Put a package (12 ounces) of chocolate chips in a microwave-safe dish and microwave on high for about one minute. Stir the chocolate, and if it looks clumpy — and it probably will — you will need to add 2 tablespoons solid shortening to the chips and microwave for 30 seconds. Check again, and then microwave a minute or so longer if needed. Watch carefully so the chocolate doesn't burn.

Chocolate other than the chip type usually melts easier and smoother. — Heloise

Dear Heloise: This is for the reader who wrote that spaghetti sauce spoils before she can finish the jar.

Here are two hints:

Storing the jar upside down might help keep it longer.

The sauce freezes well — keep out what you need and freeze the rest in a plastic container. — K.Z., Magnolia, Ark.

Dear Heloise: When preparing rhubarb, try cutting it into pieces with your household shears rather than with a knife. This does a neater and easier job. — Jack, Tulsa, Okla.

Dear Heloise: Whenever I take food to a potluck dinner following a funeral, I try to also take a clean, disposable container in which the leftover portion of my food can be taken home by the bereaved family — with no obligation on their part to return the container. — B.M.L., Denton, Mont.

Dear Heloise: Here is a quick and easy way to use the items in your freezer in the appropriate order.

Put a colored dot on them to correspond to the month before which they should be used. Each month in the year should be designated by a different color: red for January, yellow for February, etc.

That way, there is no doubt that a package of hamburger with a red dot gets used before a yellow one, and so on.

It not only keeps your freezer in order, but small children love to help put the dots on and retrieve items for you to show you that they know their colors. — L.C. from Canada

Dear Heloise: Substitute pineapple or orange juice for water when making quick-cooking rice. It's delicious with stir-fry vegetables, pork or poultry dishes.

Many thanks for the valuable hints you and your readers provide for free! — Dorothy L. Knorr, Laurel, Md.

Many thanks for this yummy hint — I'm making some flavorful rice right now! — Heloise

Dear Heloise: I have discovered several uses for a grapefruit spoon. Cut a kiwi in half horizontally and use the spoon to scoop out the fruit. It gets right to the skin!

It's also great for scooping out melon left close to the inside of the rind after cutting. — Penelope S., Pittsford, N.Y.

© King Features Syndicate Inc.