DEAR HELOISE: One of my favorite hints is very simple: When trying to open a bottle that’s hard to open, I use a NUTCRACKER to grip the cap and twist it off. Most grocery stores sell metal nutcrackers.

— Shirley L., Locust Grove, Va.

Baked Italian chicken

DEAR HELOISE: Please reprint your recipe for Baked Italian Chicken. My husband had this recipe before we married last year, but now he can’t find it. I want to surprise him on his birthday by making this dish.

— Carmela E., Wolcott, Conn.

Carmela, this is an easy and tasty recipe for any occasion:

Baked Italian Chicken

1 chicken, cut up or equivalent in parts

1 (8-ounce) bottle nonfat (or regular) Italian salad dressing

1 medium onion, peeled and sliced

4 medium potatoes, sliced (peeled or not) into bite-size pieces

Preheat the oven to 350 F. Spray a casserole dish with nonstick spray. Place the chicken in the dish and cover with Italian dressing. Top with onions and potatoes. Bake for about 1 hour or until done. If you like this easy dish, you can enjoy more tasty and simple recipes in my pamphlet Heloise’s All-Time Favorite Recipes. To get one, send $5, along with a stamped (71 cents), self-addressed, long envelope, to: Heloise/All-Time Favorites, P.O. Box 795001, San Antonio, Texas 78279-5001. Or you can order it online at www.Heloise.com. FYI: Too often new cooks are afraid to adjust recipes. Playing with the recipe often yields something better than the original, so be creative!

— Heloise

Crushed fruit

DEAR HELOISE: I discovered that when I buy soft fruit (such as berries or fresh peaches), if I put it in a plastic bag and trap as much air in the bag as possible before closing it, I can cushion the fruit to prevent it from being damaged.

— Georgia J., Casselberry, Fla.

To refrigerate or not?

DEAR HELOISE: I was recently married, and in the household I came from, we always refrigerated ketchup after it was opened. My new husband came from a household where they didn’t like anything cold, so they did not refrigerate ketchup. So, my question is: Should we refrigerate ketchup or not?

— Stella V., Napa, Calif.

Stella, all ketchup and mustard should be refrigerated after opening to retain flavor and freshness.

— Heloise

A nonstick situation

DEAR HELOISE: My son put three of my nonstick pans in the dishwasher three or four times while my husband and I were on a cruise. Needless to say, they’re ruined! Can these pans be re-coated to make them nonstick pans again?

— Susan M., Jonesboro, Ark.

Susan, I checked with a few manufacturers, who said placing a nonstick pan in the dishwasher is a “no-no.” Once you do that (especially if you do it more than a couple of times), the pan is ruined and cannot be re-coated again. Nonstick pans need to be washed by hand with a gentle soap and a soft sponge. Don’t use abrasive or caustic cleaners.

— Heloise

Soft and sweet

DEAR HELOISE: When I buy a new bag of brown sugar, I need to place the sugar in a glass jar. After that, I put half a slice of bread in there with the sugar and put the lid on the jar.

Even when the bread dries out, it still keeps the brown sugar soft and easy to use.

— Colette W., Sedalia, Mo.

Send hints to Heloise, P.O. Box 795000, San Antonio, Texas 78279-5000, or Heloise@Heloise.com