Dear Heloise: I have some plastic and melamine bowls I use in the microwave. They always have a hard substance around where the food is and I can't get it off. Could you tell me what to use on it?

— Ila V., Grant, Mich.

Ila V.: You no doubt have a residential brand of melamine instead of a commercial brand, which is expensive and not easy to find. That means you should never microwave anything in your melamine. The substance that you refer to as being stuck on the bowls has more than likely etched itself into the bowls. It’s not recommended for microwaving foods. In the future, always look on the bottom of dinnerware to see if it’s microwave safe.

Dear Heloise: I love flavored liquid dairy coffee cream, but when the liquid has been all used up, there always remains a fair amount of clotted cream stuck to the bottom of the bottle that cannot be poured.

When this happens, I pour several spoonfuls of hot coffee into the bottle and shake it until the remaining cream has melted into the coffee. I then pour it all into the rest of the coffee in my cup. I never waste a bit of it now. Thanks for all your hints.

— Gina P., Columbus, Ohio

Dear Heloise: When a recipe calls for minced onions, do I use dried onion or a fresh one?

— Janice G., Findlay, Ohio

Janice G.: Whenever possible, always use fresh. There is a different taste, and I think you’ll like it.

Dear Heloise: I made your pumpkin bread recipe last year, and it was a big hit with my family. Since my son is coming from California to spend a few days with us, I wanted to make it again for him, but I've lost the recipe. Would you reprint it?

— Claire D., Kenner, La.

Claire D.: This is a favorite at my house too. Here’s the recipe:

Pumpkin Bread

1 ⅔ cups flour

1 ¼ cups sugar

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon cinnamon

¼ teaspoon salt

2 eggs, slightly beaten

½ cup chopped pecans

½ cup salad oil

1 cup canned pumpkin

Sift together dry ingredients. Add nuts and mix well. Set aside. Combine remaining ingredients and add to dry ingredients. Mix just enough to blend. Pour into a 9-by-5-by-3-inch greased and floured loaf pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 60 to 75 minutes.

If you like easy-to-make recipes and the many uses of baking soda, you’ll love “Heloise’s Baking Soda Hints and Recipes” pamphlet. It’s filled with uses that might be new to you. To get a copy, send $5 along with a stamped, self-addressed envelope to: Heloise/Baking Soda, P.O. Box 795001, San Antonio, TX 78279-5001.

Dear Heloise: I do a lot of Italian cooking, and I use a lot of tomato paste. When I have some tomato paste left over, I place it in a plastic bag, push the air out and place it in the freezer. When I need a little I just break off a piece and use it. No waste and no fuss.

— Dorothy B., Billings, Mont.

Heloise’s column appears six days a week at washingtonpost.com/advice. Send a hint to Heloise, P.O. Box 795001, San Antonio, TX 78279-5000, or email it to Heloise@Heloise.com.

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