DEAR MARY: I have been making and using your concentrated laundry detergent for several years now and love saving money with it. But sometimes I end up with white chunky solids at the bottom of the container. Am I doing something wrong? Jean


DEAR JEAN: This “crystalization” that forms after awhile is perfectly normal and harmless. I usually go through a gallon of this concentrate so fast, that doesn’t have a chance to happen. But when it does, I use it up just as if it were still fully liquified. No harm, no foul. I find that if I shake it well each time I use it, the crystallization is less pronounced. If this is a huge problem for you, you could easily halve the recipe to make 1/2 gallon of liquid laundry detergent concentrate at a time.

And now, even though you did not ask but because others will, our homemade laundry detergent is HE compliant, meaning suitable for use in high-efficiency (HE) washing machines. It is completely sudsless which is required for use in low water volume machines, provided you are using a very small amount—2 tablespoons to 1/4 cup maximum. Remember it is highly concentrated.

DEAR MARY: I was totally shocked to read in your recent post, Cast Iron Skillets Making a Healthy Comeback, that the best oil to use to season a cast iron skillet is flaxseed oil. Flaxseed oil has a smoke point of 225 F, after which the oil begins to produce harmful free radicals. What is author Ellen Brown’s reasoning for using flax seed oil? Debbie

DEAR DEBBIE: Ellen Brown, author of The New Cast Iron Skillet Cookbook, explains on pages 9-10 that while there are a dizzying array of methods for seasoning a skillet, flaxseed oil is the most ideal. Flaxseed oil, which is high in heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids, is the only edible cousin of linseed oil, which has a similar chemical structure. Linseed oil is what woodworkers and sculptors have used for centuries to give wood a lovely patina. Artists also mix it into pigments of oil paint. Linseed oil and flaxseed oil are termed “drying oils,” which means they harden into a hard and polished finish. Again, flaxseed oil is the only drying oil that is edible. Free radicals are actually what enable the polymerization.

Drying oils produce the hardest polymers are characterized by high levels of polyunsaturated fatty acids, especially the omega-3 fatty acid, alpha-linolenic acid (ALA).

Flaxseed oil is not shelved in most supermarkets with the cooking oils. It’s sold as a dietary supplement because of its high content of omega-3 fatty acids. Chances are you’ll have to go to a health food store to buy it, or you can find the best at Amazon. It is fairly expensive, but you don’t need very much of it. One bottle, devoted to maintenance of your cast iron skillet, will last a very long time. I suggest you make the effort if you are serious about turning your cast iron skillet into your most beloved piece of cooking equipment.

By the way, not every brand of flaxseed oil has the same smoke point. It depends on how it is extracted and filtered. I suggest you take a look at Alligga Flaxseed Organic Cooking Oil, which has a high smoke point of 482 F. Alligga has no additional chemicals, additives or preservatives, which allows that high smoke point. You can safely use Alligga Flaxseed Cooking Oil to season cast iron; sauté, bake and roast, too.

One last thing and a big CAUTION: I mentioned linseed oil above. Do not under any circumstance assume you can run to the garage and grab that dusty can of linseed oil that’s been sitting there for decades—and use it to season your cast iron skillet or fry up some eggs. LINSEED OIL IS NOT EDIBLE. Take the time to find certified organic, food-grade, cold-pressed, unrefined flaxseed oil.

DEAR MARY: Thank you for telling us about DentalPlans. Is there any possibility that something like this exists for vision care? Carl

DEAR CARL: There is and a very good possibility, at that! Actually, many of the insurance companies now offering these Dental Savings Plans, which I wrote about in Put a Big Smile on Your Face offer companion savings plans for vision care, hearing and pharmaceuticals, many of which are included in the Dental Savings Plans. Remember this is not dental insurance, nor would it be vision insurance or prescription medication insurance. Dental Savings Plans are membership plans, similar to the memberships we know (and love) at warehouse discount clubs like Sam’s Club and Costco. To learn more, go to the DentalPlans website, and click on any of the available plans. From there look at that plan’s specific details to learn more about what is included.. Or you can call (844) 239-7927. You can use the discount code DPL10 to get 10 percent off a membership fee plus 2 months free on any Dental Savings Plan through DentalPlans.