Dear Heloise:

Your slow-cooker hints prompted me to offer one of my favorite timesavers. My slow cooker is an older model with a nonremovable bowl. I line the bowl with an oven roasting bag, and when the cooking is over, so is the cleanup! Just lift the bag out and toss it in the

garbage.

Janet, McAllen, Tex.

Janet, glad this hint worked for you. However, we did a little research and contacted a roasting-bag manufacturer. A representative said they don't recommend using the bag in a slow cooker, because the bag might come in contact with the heating element, melt and damage the cooker. Also, the bag should not be used on an oven rack (only in a pan), in a roaster oven, in a convection oven or on the stovetop.

An easy way to keep food from sticking is to spray the slow cooker well with some nonstick cooking spray. These sprays also come in flavors like butter, olive oil, garlic and roasted garlic. So, give them a try. And as soon as you remove the food, fill with warm, soapy water to soak. This way, when dinner is over, the pot should be easy to clean.

Dear Heloise:

I was baking the other day and forgot to get the butter out, so it was frozen solid. I just needed a little for the top of a loaf of bread. So, I got out my potato peeler and peeled away. This made it easy, and I got the butter I needed without waiting for it to thaw.

Ginny in Arizona

You could also try this if you need more butter: Fill a bowl with some boiling water, pour the water out and then set the container upside down over the butter dish. The butter will soften and won't melt.

Dear Heloise:

If you need an extra pair of hands to hold open a trash bag when you're raking leaves or doing cleanup work in the garden, use spring-clip clothespins to fasten it to the back of a folding lawn chair.

The aluminum frame of the chair back holds the bag open, it's lightweight and easy to move, and you have a handy place to sit when you're ready to take a break!

Joyce Lock, Lerna, Ill.

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