Dear Heloise:

I have found a way to cook great baked potatoes in 20 minutes or less.

I first wash the potatoes, then put them in the microwave on high heat for 3 minutes (turning them over after 11/2 minutes).

I then place them in the oven for the remainder of the cooking time.

This produces great oven-baked potatoes in one-third the time.

Ken Hanba, via e-mail

Ken, we decided to check with the experts at the U.S. Potato Board, and your hint is a good one. Here's a little addition: With a fork, pierce the skin of a potato in several places.

Bake in a preheated 400-degree oven for 20 to 30 minutes or until tender when tested with a fork, or pierce a potato in several places and microwave on high 3-4 minutes or until tender when tested with a fork (adjust time according to the wattage of your microwave).

Let's test your Heloise Potato Hint IQ. Can you freeze leftover potatoes? Yes or no? According to the experts, freezing isn't recommended. Potatoes tend to become watery upon reheating. A potato is 80 percent water, and when frozen, the water separates from the starch and nutrients, causing the reheated potato dish to be watery.

The Potato Board is offering a free brochure, "The Healthy Potato," to educate consumers about the healthful, versatile and delicious potato. To receive a copy, please visit the Web site at www.healthypotato.com or send a self-addressed, business-sized, stamped (37 cents) envelope to: Healthy Potato Recipes, 5105 E. 41st Ave., Denver, CO 80216.

Dear Heloise:

My electric mixer just passed on to the big kitchen in the sky. However, I saved the beaters -- they work great when used by hand for whisking eggs or mixing up a batch of brownies.

Pat, Derry, N.H.

Send a money- or time-saving hint to Heloise, P.O. Box 795000, San Antonio, Tex. 78279-5000, fax it to 210-HELOISE or e-mail it to Heloise@Heloise.com. Please include your city and state when faxing or using e-mail. I can't answer your letter personally but will use the best hints received in my column.

(c)2004, King Features Syndicate