Dear Barbara: I have been thinking of different things I could make as a side dish for Thanksgiving. I found a great recipe for a cranberry type sauce. I have tried to make cranberry sauce in the past, but no matter how simple the recipe, mine just has this bitter taste. Adding more sugar does not fix it. Did I miss something? — Evelyn from Acampo
Dear Evelyn: I had the same problem when I first started making my own cranberry sauce. I found out that you should cook them just until they pop. Further cooking will make them bitter; once that happens, you will need to start again. I don’t think people would buy the canned cranberry sauce as often if they knew how easy it is to make. You can add wonderful things to it like orange zest. It can also be made days ahead, which is a big time saver.
Dear Barbara: I plan to make a shrimp dish that says in the recipe to sauté the shrimp. I’m new at this and would like to know if you sauté them with the shell on or off. — Sarah from Lodi
Dear Sarah: If you are putting it in a recipe that you have, you would want to remove the shell and the tail. Don’t throw the shells out! You can make a quick shrimp stock that would enhance the flavor of your dish. If you go to Google on the Internet, they have several easy to make recipes for shrimp stock. There is a lot of flavor in the shells so you might as well take advantage of it!
Dear Barbara: I’ve been making my own noodles for years. All of a sudden they are not working; they are tough. We haven’t moved to another location and I made them exactly the same as I always do. — Emily from Lodi
Dear Emily: I have never made my own noodles, but I did take a class about noodles, however, we used a pasta machine. It could be so many things that I don’t know where to start!
Do you measure your ingredients? Are the eggs the same as before? Did you change the brand of flower that you use? Are you rolling your dough thicker/thinner?
If nothing has changed, you could be over working your dough.
Marcella Hazan has written a book entitled Essentials of Italian Cooking. She recommends 1 cup of unbleached all-purpose flour for every two large eggs. It is possible that the humidity in your kitchen is increased came with the warmer weather.
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 email@example.com. Please include your first name and city.