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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 restaurantwidow.com/2008/01/its-winter-you.html.

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

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