Compiled by Chuck Martin
I have a bag of white granulated sugar that is rock-hard. How can I soften it?
Your sugar became damp, then dried out. That's what caused it to harden. The Sugar Association recommends breaking it up with a rolling pin or other sturdy object, then whirling the lumps in a food processor to achieve a granular texture.
If the entire bag of sugar is welded into a brick, you may need to use a sledge hammer. Before you take a swing, though, make sure the sugar is wrapped in something that will contain the flying pieces.
Know your sugar: Many Southeast Asian recipes call for palm sugar, a thick, crumbly brown sugar made from the sap of palmyra palm and sugar palm trees. Palm sugar is available at CAM (10400 Reading Road, Sharonville) and other Asian specialties stores. But ordinary light brown sugar is a good substitute in most recipes.
By the book: Confounded by the variety and multitude of Chinese dim sum dishes? Kit Shan Li has written the book for you, Dim Sum (Chronicle; $7.95), provides photos and descriptions of the most common dim sum, arranged by method of preparation (steamed, deep-fried, etc.). The pocket guide, which is easily small enough to fit inside one of those steamer dim sum baskets, also explains how to order the little appetizers and how to use chopsticks.
Hot date: Get your hands dirty by volunteering at the Grailville organic gardens 8:30 a.m.-1 p.m. Saturday in Loveland. Volunteers earn free lunch, but reservations are required: 683-2340. Grailville's next volunteer day is March 27.
Tube food: The Japanese masters create competitively with tubers from the ground in "Battle: Sweet Potato," at 7 p.m. today on Iron Chef on the Food Network.
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