To make your meals healthier, puree fruits and vegetables and incorporate them into your recipes. Some common ways to do this are adding pureed vegetables or fruits into baked goods, such as brownies or muffins (replacing oil with applesauce) or in ground beef dishes, spaghetti sauce, chili or soups.
The first reader tip shares her secret fruit addition:
Cantaloupe pancakes: Today I substituted a cup of pureed cantaloupe (I had a leftover cup of cantaloupe chunks, so I just pureed them in the food processor) for the milk in the pancakes, and they were delicious. You couldn't taste the difference. They were moist, light and fluffy. Next time I'll try sweet potatoes. My son would never touch a cantaloupe, so I'm pretty happy he liked these pancakes.
Reuse magnets: I take the magnets that are used for advertisements on phone books and cut them in half and glue them on the back of stationary pads to use on the fridge.
Harvey H., email
Copycat mascarpone cheese: Use this when making tiramisu. I also love this spread on bagels. Whip 16 ounces cream cheese with 1/3 cup sour cream and ¼ cup heavy cream until well blended. Enjoy!
Margarine product (survival food): A while back I was given a survival-type large can of something called Margarine Product. Directions were to add water to make margarine. I just opened it and was surprised to see it is a powder. So far I have used it in bread and pancakes. I want to make either biscuits or piecrust for a chicken potpie, so I will see how it comes out. I may just make dumplings.
Note from Sara: This product can be found at honeyvillegrain.com. It's wonderful for long-term storage.
Easy meatless meal: Make portobello mushroom burgers. Brush them with olive oil and grill them. Serve exactly like hamburgers using the same toppings. They're so good, and very filling. Yeah, I know, we didn't believe it either. But then we tried them!
Muffin tin pies: Rather than make big pies, you can use a muffin pan. Grease it and press in pie dough -- you can make your own crust or cut prepared crust with a 4-inch round glass or cookie cutter to make it fit into each muffin cup. Don't forget to score the bottom of the crust. Then fill each crust with pie filling.
Cindy, New York
Treat the underside of countertops:I read your recent column in which a reader had a problem with the laminate countertop over the dishwasher being ruined because of opening the door to dry the dishes. When I remodeled my kitchen and had new countertops installed, the installer told me that it's very important to seal the underside of the countertop, because most dishwashers have a steam vent at the top of the door, and the steam ruins the underside of the countertop. I varnished that area when the dishwasher was being installed, and 10 years later the countertop remains in perfect condition.
• Sara Noel owns Frugal Village (frugalvillage.com), a website that offers practical, money-saving strategies for everyday living. To send tips, comments or questions, write to Sara Noel, c/o Universal Uclick, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO, 64106, or email email@example.com.