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Everyday Cheapskate: Just cover up your cooking mistake

As the story goes, the local inventor invited the town’s pastry-makers to observe his latest invention: an automated pastry-making machine. To his dismay, the bakers deemed it unfit because it could not consistently turn out perfect pastries.

Not one to give up easily, the inventor took one of the chefs aside and asked, “What do YOU do when you make a mistake?”

“I cover it with chocolate,” he replied.

With that, the inventor went back to his workshop, made a few strategic changes to his machine and invited the testers to return. To his joy, the pastry-makers were so impressed that each of them commissioned a machine for their bakery. Little did they know he programmed it so that when something went wrong, it sent a signal to simply cover it with chocolate.

The moral of our little story: It’s only a cooking mistake if you can’t come up with a clever way to cover the mistake. And that goes for just about anything in life — but we’ll stick with covering up cooking mistakes.

If your Thanksgiving stuffing turns out dry as dust, don’t toss it out. Drizzle chicken broth over it, cover with foil, and allow it to sit for several minutes. It will become soft and moist, and no one will be the wiser.

When making homemade mashed potatoes, if you misjudge and add too much liquid, you can thicken it by adding a small amount of uncooked instant potato flakes. If the mashed potatoes still seem too thin, wait a few minutes before adding more, because the thickening occurs upon standing.

Gravy too salty? Don’t fret! If it’s only a slightly salty problem, add a pinch of brown sugar or 1/3 teaspoon white vinegar to counter the saltiness. For a more serious situation, drop a peeled raw potato into the gravy and allow it to sit for a few minutes, stirring gently. The potato will absorb much of the salt, leaving the gravy much improved.

If your homemade fudge refuses to set, put it back in the cooking pan over low heat, stirring constantly. Add just enough of the liquid you used in the recipe to bring it back to a simmer. As long as you can see large bubbles, keep simmering. When the bubbles reduce in size until they are almost nonexistent, the fudge will be ready to set.

If the cake gets stuck to the pan, turns out lopsided or too crumbly, make trifle. Place a layer of crumbled and broken pieces of cake into the bottom of a glass bowl. Cover with a layer of stewed fruit, canned pie filling, or fresh fruit like strawberries or peaches that you’ve mixed with a bit of sugar to release the juice. Pour custard sauce or vanilla pudding over the fruit. Garnish with nuts and jam. Top with whipped cream, and you’ll have a difficult time remembering this was not the original design.

And, of course, if all else fails, cover your mistake with chocolate.

Mary Hunt is founder of, a personal finance member website.

You can email her at, or write to Everyday Cheapskate, P.O. Box 2099, Cypress, CA 90630.

To find out more about Mary Hunt and read her past columns, please visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at


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