Dear Heloise: What does the term “AL DENTE” mean when you are cooking pasta? -- Clark R., via e-mail

“Al dente” is an Italian term that translates as “to the bite” or “to the tooth,” and it means the pasta is firm when you bite into it, but still a little tender. Just a few seconds can make the difference whether pasta is overcooked!

And keep in mind, it will continue to “cook” (and soften up) after removing from the heat. So, if you are cooking it and it’s going to be a short while until it’s served, I think it’s wise to undercook it a little. Here’s how to tell:

When the pasta starts to soften, take out a piece and bite into it or pinch it in half. As soon as it is tender to bite through, with just a dot of the white starch showing in the middle, it will be al dente when SERVED A LITTLE LATER. If serving IMMEDIATELY, pinch a piece, and if you see NO white dot, it’s done!

Some may disagree with me about the cooking until done, but think about it — if you cook until done, wait a few minutes to drain, add hot gravy or sauce and serve in only five to 10 minutes, it’s still cooking! -- Heloise



P.O. Box 795000

San Antonio, TX 78279-5000

Fax: 210-HELOISE



Dear Readers: Which of the following fruits has the most fiber per serving?

A) One medium apple (with peel)

B) One medium orange

C) 1 cup blueberries

D) 1 cup raspberries

The answer is D, raspberries, with 8 grams of fiber per cup! Blueberries have 3.5 grams, an orange 3.4 grams and an apple 3.3 grams. Fiber is important in your diet, so grab your favorite fruits and add fiber plus great taste to your diet today! -- Heloise

P.S.: You may be getting your fruits and vegetables by drinking a liquid, but are you getting fiber? Check the labels, folks!


Dear Heloise: My 3-year-old grandson loves to bake with me. When making cutout cookies, I frost them, but I had to find something easy for him to put sprinkles on the cookies with. As I buy the sprinkles in tubs, I needed a shaker that he could use.

I tried salt and pepper shakers, but they had too many holes to make the cookies look good. I have a small, plastic toothpick canister with one hole in the top. It’s great, and if he drops it, no broken glass. He can shake the sprinkles, and just enough comes out, with minimum mess. We have had many wonderful baking days together, and he does a great job! -- Kathleen A. in New York


Dear Heloise: Here is a hint for when using microwave popcorn envelopes: Once the bag of popcorn has popped, cut the tip of the corner off at the bottom and let all the unpopped kernels drain out before opening. (Be careful of the hot steam when doing this. -- Heloise). -- Leola B. in Montana

Send a hint to Heloise, P.O. Box 795000, San Antonio, Tex. 78279-5000, fax it to 210-HELOISE or e-mail it to Please include your city and state.

, King Features Syndicate