Dear Barbara: One of my fondest memories of my mother is the chicken and dumplings that she lovingly made every Sunday. Try as I may, my dumplings come out heavy and soggy. Could it be the dough or is it something I am doing? - Jill from Lodi
Dear Jill: It could be the dough, but most any good biscuit mix or biscuit recipe can be used to make dumplings. The liquid needs to be at a good constant simmer, but not boiling. The mistake that a lot of people make is not covering the pot while the dumplings are cooking. The pot should be covered and the lid remain on until the dumplings are almost done. This way they can cook from both the bottom and the top. You have a much more evenly cooked dumpling that will not be heavy or soggy. If you feel the need to watch them cook, use a pot with a glass lid. Your mother would be proud of you!
Dear Barbara: I love the whipped cream and horseradish sauce that is served with the carved beef at most of the buffets, especially in Reno and Tahoe. I would love to make it at home but I don't want all the calories. Can I use a sugar free whipped topping instead of the regular whipped cream? - Theresa (Tess) from Lockeford
Dear Tess: Sugar free whipped topping does not mean unsweetened. An artificial sweetener is used to give it a sweet flavor. You would not be happy using it for your horseradish sauce! You could, however, use a light whipping cream whipped with no sweeteners and then add the horseradish to taste.
Dear Barbara: I was told to put my olive oil in the refrigerator. It turned very cloudy and almost solid. Does this mean that it is not good anymore? It is the cloudy part that really bothers me. - Sally from Lodi
Dear Sally: If you haven't used the oil for awhile, you should smell and taste it. You don't want to spoil a dish by using rancid oil. As far as it being cloudy and solidified, that is perfectly normal when olive oil is refrigerated. If you take it out and set it on the counter, it will come back to its liquid state and will no longer be cloudy or partially solid. It is a good idea to keep the oil in the refrigerator. It will keep longer.
Tip of the week! Never pour used oil down the drain. It can solidify in the pipes and plug up the plumbing. Let the oil cool and pour it into a zip lock bag and discard.
Barbara Spitzer is a Lodi home cook who also develops recipes for specific consumer products. Do you have a cooking question? Send it to Barbara Spitzer at firstname.lastname@example.org. Please include your first name and city.