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updated: 2/15/2011 11:49 AM

Frugal living: Clean and freshen your microwave

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Microwaves get dirty and smelly. It can be a pain to keep clean if you don't clean it immediately after splatters or spills. To clean your microwave with ease, simply add a microwave-safe bowl, a couple of tablespoons of lemon juice and 1 cup water (or cup white distilled vinegar and cup water). Cook on high for 3-5 minutes or until steam condenses. Wipe down with a cloth. The first reader shares another hint.

Microwave cleaner and simmering potpourri: There are no measurements. Simply mix according to your liking: crushed cinnamon, orange peel (I use my dehydrator for leftover peels, or dry on a cooling rack), cloves, crushed bay leaves and allspice berries if you have them.

Add 2 tablespoons of mix to a small pot filled with water, let simmer on stove. When finished flush mix down garbage disposal for a nice clean scent.

Add 1 tablespoon of mix to a bowl of water, microwave on high for about 3 minutes (keep an eye on the water so it doesn't boil over), let sit for about 5 minutes, remove mix and wipe down microwave with a towel. The steam loosens all the splatters and leaves a nice, fresh smell.

Mel, Massachusetts

Stained plastic: I use a mixture of about 1 part bleach to 3 parts water and keep it in a spray bottle. It is mild enough that it doesn't make everything taste or smell like bleach, but it is great for stained plastic. It gets out grape juice, tea/coffee, tomato sauce and turmeric.

Contrary housewife, Kansas

Help dough rise: I place a Mason jar full of boiling water wrapped in a towel in a cooler. Then in goes my dough.

Bridge, Indiana

(Q) OK, I got two rutabaga off the salvage shelf at my local market. We had squash/rutabaga soup the first time. Very filling, but neither of us liked the peppery taste from the rutabaga. So, is there a secret to cooking this root? Do you have recipes using it you like? I really want to use this stuff. It's got a lot of fiber and is hugely filling and very economical, but I've got to find a way around that taste!

Judi D., New Hampshire

(A) I'm not a big fan of rutabaga, but I'll share some basic and tasty ways you can get through two. You can mix it into your mashed potatoes (1:4 ratio). Try it grated and sauted in butter with brown sugar added, boiled and mashed with carrots and a bit of sugar, or add to a stew or a casserole.

I came across a recipe for glazed rutabaga; cubed rutabaga cooks in chicken stock. It has brown sugar, which helps sweeten it, too. The recipe looks great to me. You can get it at

Sara Noel owns Frugal Village ( Send tips, comments or questions to Sara Noel, c/o United Media, 200 Madison Ave., 4th Floor, New York, NY 10016, or