Dear Heloise: I love to cook and eat HARD-BOILED EGGS. Sometimes the yolks are a beautiful yellow color; other times, there is a green or gray color. What causes the green/gray color? -- Laurie J. in Wisconsin

The color in hard-boiled eggs (technically called “hard cooked”) is caused by overcooking the eggs, cooking at too high a temperature, or too much iron in the water. The color may be a little off-putting, but it is harmless and safe to eat.

Try this method for making hard-cooked eggs: Place a single layer of eggs in a saucepan with enough water to cover 1 inch above the eggs. Cover and bring to a boil. Turn off the heat, keep the pot covered and let the eggs stand for 15 minutes for large eggs (12 minutes for medium eggs). When the time is up, run them under cold water or place them in ice water to stop them from continuing to cook. -- Heloise


Dear Heloise: A great way to instantly thicken soups, gravies and stews without the raw-flour taste is to use instant mashed-potato flakes. Just stir in, and it is done, and it adds a wonderful, subtle taste. -- Jerome G. in Colorado Springs, Colo.

It’s great to know what to substitute or add to a dish in a pinch. I have a great pamphlet that is a must for every cook. It has recipes for seasonings, sauces and substitutes. Keep it handy in your kitchen, where you will use it often. To receive a copy of the four-page Heloise’s Seasonings, Sauces and Substitutes pamphlet, send $3 and a long, self-addressed, stamped (66 cents) envelope to: Heloise/SSS, P.O. Box 795001, San Antonio, TX 78279-5001. If you are out of coffee creamer, don’t fret — just add a teaspoon or so of ice cream to your coffee. Yummy! -- Heloise


Dear Heloise: I wanted to drop you a line and tell you about an easy way my mom and I have found (quite by mistake) to peel a plum.

I tried using a tomato-slicing knife, and it worked pretty well. However, my mom tried a potato peeler, and it worked perfectly.

Hope this helps some other people who do not care for the skin on plums. -- P.J. and S.D. in Ohio


Dear Heloise: Baking is a hobby of mine, and I am always experimenting with new ways to decorate and finish my cakes and cupcakes. One of my favorite hints is to use a citrus zester to make chocolate curls. Just pull the zester across a chocolate bar for even, perfect curls. -- Anna W., via e-mail


Dear Heloise: I place small items like plastic lids and other small parts and pieces in a mesh zippered laundry bag, then place it in the top rack of the dishwasher. The bag keeps these small items from getting lost or breaking in the dishwasher. Just attach the bag to the rack with clothespins. -- Jennifer G. in Pennsylvania

Heloise’s column appears six days a week at Send a hint to Heloise, P.O. Box 795000, San Antonio, Tex. 78279-5000, or e-mail it to

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