photo by cote
DEAR SARA: I warmed some smoked meat a couple of weeks ago, and the microwave still smells like smoke every time we use it. The inside has been wiped clean with kitchen cleaner, which helped some, but it is still a strong, noticeable smell. Any suggestions for removing the odor? -- Dawn, Kansas

DEAR DAWN: Fill a bowl with water, then cut a lemon into sections (or use lemon juice) and place them in the water. Boil the water and lemon in the microwave. Remove when cooled. Then wipe down the inside with a vinegar-and-water mixture (can combine in a spray bottle), and keep the door open for a couple of hours to air it out. If the smell remains, repeat the lemon and water, but add a couple of cloves to the mixture.

DEAR SARA: I like to serve sliced apples with caramel dip at parties. How do I keep the apples from turning brown? -- Belinda, e-mail

DEAR BELINDA: Normally, I'd suggest using lemon juice, but for a party I recommend using Fruit Fresh (www.fruit-fresh.com). You sprinkle it on. It can be used on bananas and vegetables such as potatoes, too. It's all-natural and won't change the taste like lemon juice does.

DEAR SARA: I had way too much sugar-cookie dough this year. For future reference, can I freeze it? Will it be OK? Thanks in advance. -- Tina H., Washington

DEAR TINA H.: Yes, you can freeze the cookie dough. It freezes well. You can roll it into logs and wrap with plastic wrap and then place into a freezer bag. When you're ready to use the dough, thaw in the refrigerator for a couple of hours. Then you can slice and bake. If it's for cutouts, form the dough into a ball, wrap in plastic wrap, and place it in a freezer bag or storage container. You can freeze baked cookies, too. Be sure that they're cooled. They can be put into a tin, plastic storage container or freezer bag. Use wax paper in between layers so they don't stick together. Use a cookie scoop or roll into balls and drop the dough onto a wax- or parchment-paper-lined cookie sheet. Drop them close together. Freeze for about an hour to harden so they hold their shape, then transfer them into plastic baggies and freeze. When you're ready to bake, you can thaw them for half an hour at room temperature, but there's no need to thaw them before baking.

DEAR SARA: What are your thoughts on the use of cloth hankies? -- S.M., e-mail

DEAR S.M.: They're softer on the nose and a good green option. They're great for those who suffer from allergies, too. I can't quite bring myself to replace facial tissues completely. If you're comfortable using them, I think it's awesome. I admit that using facial tissue, toilet paper and sanitary pads are my weakest frugal and green areas. I'm happy there are cheaper, greener cloth alternatives for people who opt to use them. I'm also happy being frugal and green isn't an all-or-nothing lifestyle. Any effort is beneficial.

What are your thoughts on cloth hankies? Do you use them?