Dear Sara:

Can I freeze whole strawberries? There was a great sale on strawberries recently at the local farm, but I didn't have much time that night to "put them up," so I passed. I usually wash, crush or slice my berries, add sugar and bag them in gallon-sized bags. But could I freeze the berries whole? I wonder if I could wash, pat dry, hull and lay them in a single layer on a cookie sheet and freeze them, then transfer them to a larger container with an airtight lid in the freezer. Have you done it this way with success? Most of our strawberries are used in smoothies, so texture after thawing is not an issue. -- Susan, email

Dear Susan:

Yes, you can freeze them whole, exactly the way that you're planning on trying. I prefer this method for freezing whole strawberries, but you can put them in a freezer bag immediately if your plans are to just use them for smoothies. I'd remove as much air as possible before sealing the bag. Not an ideal way to go about it because they tend to clump together, but it's better than losing out on the sale or having them rot because you don't have enough time.

Dear Sara:

How can I remove a bluish-green ring stain in my porcelain toilet bowl? I have tried Bar Keepers Friend, vinegar, baking soda and a combination of vinegar and baking soda, with no success. -- D.L., Virginia

Dear D.L.:

Sounds like mineral deposits. Try dropping a couple of Efferdent denture-cleaning tablets into the bowl. Leave overnight and then clean the toilet as usual.

Dear Sara:

I grew up on homemade bread, but my husband never had it until we got together. He likes it for buttered bread, but not much else. I need to find a recipe that's as close to store-bought as I can, as our local bread outlet has closed and I know it's cheaper to make at home. Any suggestions? -- S.B., Maine

Dear S.B.:

Use the following recipe from reader Sarah of Illinois. Once it's cool, place the bread in a plastic bag, which will help soften the crust and make it a bit more like store-bought.
Sandwich Bread
3 cups lukewarm water
1/2 cup plus 1 teaspoon granulated sugar
2 tablespoons yeast (or 2 packets)
1 tablespoon salt
1/2 cup butter (or shortening or salad oil)
10 cups of flour

In a large, warmed bowl, add 1 cup lukewarm water, 1 teaspoon granulated sugar and yeast. Let stand 10 minutes, then stir until yeast is dissolved. Stir in 2 cups lukewarm water, 1/2 cup granulated sugar, salt and butter. Beat ingredients, then stir in 9 cups of flour, adding them 1 cup at a time.
Use the last cup of flour to flour your countertop surface for kneading. Knead until dough becomes elastic, approximately five minutes.
After kneading, put the dough in a large, oiled bowl and flip to coat both sides with oil. Loosely cover bowl with plastic wrap and place in a warm place. Let it rise for 1 hour. Punch down dough to remove air bubbles and divide into three pieces. Shape into loaves and put into greased loaf pans. Cover pans with dishtowels and place in a warm area for another hour. Loaves should double in size. Bake in a preheated oven at 400 degrees F for 20 minutes.
It is ready when it turns golden brown and sounds hollow when tapped. Remove from pans and cool on a cooling rack.

photo by ewan traveler