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updated: 11/21/2010 8:05 PM

Chard and celery tips

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Q. Just wondered if there's any tips out there on saving soggy celery. I think it's just passed the cusp of being forever soggy, but I may be able to revive it. I am going to try cutting off the ends and standing it up in ice cold water or soaking it in water with a bit of vinegar. Should I dice it up and freeze it for the next time I make soup? What are your tips for saving celery?

Libby, Canada

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A. In the future, when you buy celery, wrap it in foil and it will stay crisp longer. I've had limp celery that crisped back up after soaking in cold water with ice. It's surprising how far gone it can seem and still crisp again. Dicing and freezing it for soup or using it to make a soup stock is a great idea. You can freeze it as is or blanch it for three minutes before freezing. You can use it in spaghetti sauce, stuffing, stew or a beef roast. If you have a dehydrator, you can dry it, too.

Q. Swiss chard help! I've been told I can go and cut swiss chard from a friend's field. There's a lot of chard there. I usually stir fry it. I have only got a top freezer, no dehydrator and a regular fridge. I have been drying corn in my oven and could preserve some that way. Also, I don't can. What would you do with a bushel (or more?) of swiss chard?

Judi D., New Hampshire

A. I'd blanch it and freeze it flat in freezer storage bags. It will shrink when cooked and not be as large of an amount as when it's raw. It's wonderful in potato or vegetable soup, omelet or pasta dishes. Reserve some raw for sandwiches and salads. It's delicious heated in a skillet with tomatoes and chick peas or mushrooms and green beans, too. Use it in dishes that you'd normally use spinach.

Q. I wanted to try hanging a load of laundry to dry instead of using the dryer. I hung it in my bathroom over the shower rod and some small things (socks, underwear) just draped over the tub. When I figured they would be dry, I went to pick them up and they were so stiff! I had to put them in the dryer after all. Now I don't use too much soap. I know I got the soap out, so why the stiffness, do you think?

H.D., Massachusetts

A. Air-dried clothes do get stiff. You can use liquid fabric softener or vinegar in your washing machine. Many people either get used to the stiffness or they toss their laundry in the dryer for a few minutes to soften it. Hanging it outside on a windy day helps clothing to be softer, too. For laundry hung indoors, try giving them a hard snap (shake) to soften them a bit.

As far as finding space to dry indoors, try a retractable clothesline. They work well in a basement or bathroom, but you can add it almost anywhere. There's also an AirDry (airdry.org) drying rack that hangs from the ceiling, so it doesn't take up precious floor space. It works on cords and rods that raise and lower. It can hold a full load of laundry and 30 pounds of clothing.

• Sara Noel owns Frugal Village (frugalvillage.com), a website that offers practical, money-saving strategies.

for everyday living. Send tips, comments or questions to Sara Noel, c/o United Media, 200 Madison Ave., 4th Floor, New York, NY 10016, or sara@frugalvillage.com.

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