Dear Heloise: I just got married and I’ve never been much of a cook. But now, I’m cooking a lot more because we can’t go out often. We’re saving for a house, so that means I usually prepare our meals here at home. I’ve tried to economize by buying cheaper cuts of meat, but they’re always so tough and stringy. How can I make those cheaper cuts a little less difficult to digest? — Tammy H., Farrell, Pennsylvania

Try stewing it. It’s a way of making tougher cuts of meat edible. Stewing is cooking the meat on a low, slow boil to make it tender and juicy. Add a little more liquid at the beginning, because the benefit of moist heat and slow cooking will be worth the effort. The more you cook meals at home, the better you’ll become at preparing tender meats.

A STICKY PROBLEM

Dear Heloise: When I try browning meat, it always sticks to the pan, and I usually have to take a spatula and scrap the pan to get the meat off before it burns. How can I avoid this situation? — Andrea V., Long Beach, California

Dry the surface of your meats before browning to keep the meat from sticking to the pan. This also helps to make your gravy better.

SUMMER MEALSDear Heloise: It’s summer and the last thing I want to do is spend time cooking when I’d rather be out by the pool with my children.

We’re having a pool party later this month and I need something easy to prepare that tastes good and doesn’t take up hours of time. As I recall, you had an olive-nut spread that was delicious and a big hit at a gathering we had last year. I can’t find the recipe, so would you be willing to repeat that recipe in your column? I read your column every chance I get, and I will cut it out and save it. — Judith W., Stanton, California

This is one of my most requested and most loved recipes. Here it is. You’ll need:

8 ounces cream cheese, softened

½ cup real mayonnaise

½ cup pecans, chopped

1 cup sliced salad olives (the jar usually says “salad olives”)

2 tablespoons juice from the olive jar

Dash of pepper to taste (but NO salt!)

Mix all the ingredients well and refrigerate for an hour or so before serving. If you are serving a large group, just double the ingredients.

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