Dear Sara:

I want to make chili for hot dogs, but it needs to be thicker. Would adding flour or cornstarch change the taste? -- Donna M., email

Dear Donna:

You can thicken chili by cooking it longer, uncovered. Or you can add more of one of the ingredients, like diced tomatoes or mashed chili beans. Instead of adding white flour or cornstarch, which works well for stews, I'd add a cornmeal-and-water mix (1 tablespoon of cornmeal to 1/2 cup water) or masa harina.

Dear Sara:

Do you have any suggestions for other ways to use the ham glaze that comes with holiday hams? We don't use the glaze, so I have several packages of it in my refrigerator and dry mix in my cupboard. I hate to throw them out. -- Edie N., email

Dear Edie:

You can use the glaze on pork, beef, seafood, chicken or vegetables.

Dear Sara:

What cut of beef do I get if I want to start grinding my own beef for hamburgers? -- Sinopa, Virginia

Dear Sinopa:

You can use chuck, round or sirloin. If you come across a great sale, many stores with full-service meat counters will grind it for you free of charge.

Dear Sara:

How much bread can I put in ground beef to stretch it when making hamburgers? My husband won't give up meat, so I want to figure out a way to make my money go a little further while preserving that hamburger taste. -- A.G., email

Dear A.G.:

I would add roughly 25 percent bread to it. Rather than use pieces, I'd pulse the bread into crumbs or let the bread soak in a mixture of milk and eggs. Another option is using pureed vegetables, lentils and/or mushrooms, or other binders such as crackers, rice or oatmeal.

Dear Sara:

The price of applesauce is bugging me, so I think it is time to make my own. Do you have a super easy recipes? I don't want to can; I just want to make some applesauce and eat it. -- S.S., Indiana

Dear S.S.:

You can make it very easily. The cost depends on how cheap you can get apples, which means it's often more expensive than buying applesauce in the store. But your taste buds will thank you. The following recipe makes a small amount. It can be doubled.

Simple Homemade Applesauce
4 apples, peeled, cored and sliced
1/2 cup water
1/4 cup sugar (brown or white)
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

Put the apples and water in a saucepan. Cover and bring to a boil. Boil over low heat, stirring occasionally until it all cooks down. Stir in sugar and cook until it dissolves. Add cinnamon. If you don't like chunky applesauce, mash with a potato masher. Serves 4.

photo by jakeprzespo