Wednesday, December 31, 2008

New Year's Resolution: Healthy Lifestyle

I've been writing about health and nutrition and their interactions for the last couple of years and have resolved to make some important changes. I'm starting with small changes that I believe I will actually make.

Eating Healthy:

Eat fish once or twice a week.

Focus on eating more vegetables and concentrate on colorful vegetables that are high in antioxidants. This time of year sweet potates and winter squash add lots of antioxidants and fiber.

Eat more whole grains and increase fiber. A great way to start the day is with a bowl of oatmeal.

Drink a least 4 glasses of water a day.

Take a multivitamin everyday and a calcium supplement. (It is possible to get enough vitamins and minerals from your diet but very challenging on a daily basis.)

Increase exercise-this in the one that's hardest for me.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Holiday Desserts

Monday night we had our holiday party- dessert for 30. It was scheduled from 6 to 9 p.m. but most people came between 7 and 8. I was exhausted afterward but when I made a complete list of what was served I could see why1 My daughter's friend told me it was the best trifle she had ever eaten. The pumpkin cakeroll was also very popular. We've enjoyed the remaining desserts the last couple of days but I don't think I could had prepared any less.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

A Dessert Buffet

It takes me forever to finalize a menu, especially when it's for a dessert buffet. I try to balance flavors (chocolate required!), appearance and to me the most important, impressive desserts that are easy to do ahead. I have Chocolate Cherry Almond Clusters and Pecan Pie Bars (from Baking Basics and Beyond) already in the freezer and will set them on a pretty holiday plate.

So here's the menu:

Flourless Chocolate Tart with Sour Cherry Compote
Key Lime Cheesecake
Pumpkin Cakeroll with Mascarpone Filling
Holiday Trifle

I've made the tart and the pumpkin cakeroll and will freeze them until the day of the party. The cheesecake can be done two days ahead and I'll do the trifle and tirimisu the day before or the day of the party. I have also frozen Butter Rum Cake that will be the base for the trifle. Do you think we'll have enough?

Monday, December 15, 2008

Recipe Sources

I must admit although I have a room full of cookbooks, I often go to the web for recipes. For baking recipes, I always go to Baking Basics and Beyond first!

There are times when I know what I want to do but need some guidance with amounts. When you go to the web you can be overwhelmed with responses. It is important to evaluate the source of the recipes. I've found magazine web sites to be loaded with good accurate information. I recommend

I use a lot when I'm looking for classic recipes but it's important to remember that their recipes can be submitted by anybody and can be missing ingredients or other key elements. Usually there are several recipes that are very similar, so read them all before you choose one. And read the comments.

Food company web sites are also sources of great information. Try

Friday, December 12, 2008

It's Party Season

Because of all the entertaining that goes on during this time of year I'm trying to provide useful information when I write. I'm having Friends in for a dessert buffet which is something I enjoy doing.

But most people entertain with an appetizer party. Recently on Ina Garten's television show on the food network , The Barefood Contessa, she gave some guidelines on what to serve that I think are very useful.

She suggest serving 6 appetizers, allowing 3 appetizers per person and having a variety of hot, cold, meat and vegetable. Her advice: make three and buy three. I was surprised that she recommends 3 wine glasses per person but I agree once you set your glass down, you often forget where and take another glass.

Let me know if you are having a party this year.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Our Favorite Holiday Coookies

This is the time of year that I pull out my recipe box looking for the cookie recipes that are our family favorites. Baking cookies is one holiday task that can be done ahead because cookies freeze well and only take a few minutes to defrost at room temperature. Be sure you don't mix strong flavors, like gingerbread, with buttery cut-outs. It's also important to wrap carefully to prevent them drying out or breaking.

I try to bake an assortment that make a festive holiday plate. Variety is the key. In addition to frosted sugar cookie cut-outs, I usually make Pecan Puffs, Kolache Cookies with a cherry jam filling, Pecan Tassies, Chocolate Snowballs, Scottish Shortbread and always "Buckeyes" my family's all time favorite. This is the treat all three of my children chose one year when I tried to simplify baking. I had read that an easy way to save time was to let everyone pick one favorite. Needless to say I did do Buckeyes but still had to make lots of decisions on what else to include.
(Except for Buckeyes the cookies above are in Baking Basics and Beyond.)
A question that comes up a lot is what cookies are the best for shipping. Choose sturdy cookies that keep well. Shortbread is rich and buttery and easy to send. I also recommend candies like fudge (or Buckeyes)or peanut brittle. Bars like brownies are also good gifts.

In case you didn't know-Buckeyes are peanut butter balls dipped in chocolate. If the top isn't covered with chocolate they look like buckeyes as the peanut butter peaks through. I try to make them last as they are what tempts me the most!

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Everybody Loves Cookies

If you are planning to bake cookies for a holiday platter, try a winner from the Minneapolis Star Tribune Cookie Contest. Winners are posted in the Star Tribune today. In addition to your favorites, don't forget the American classic chocolate chip!

Here's my favorite from Baking Basics and Beyond. Happy baking!

Chocolate Chip Cookies Deluxe

Toll House, or Chocolate Chip, Cookies are definitely the most famous cookies in America. I use both butter and shortening in my recipe—a combination that gives the cookies a buttery flavor and a softer texture. Be creative and experiment with different combinations of “extras,” such as butterscotch chips, milk chocolate chunks, and crunchy macadamia nuts.


2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup solid vegetable shortening
1 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
1 egg
1 cup semisweet or milk chocolate chips
1 cup white chocolate chips
1/2 cup chopped pecans, if desired

Heat oven to 375°F with oven rack in middle (see Baker’s Notes below).
Mix flour, baking soda, and salt together in medium bowl.
Beat butter, shortening, brown sugar, and granulated sugar in bowl of a heavy-duty mixer on Medium-High speed until creamy, scraping down bowl once or twice. Add vanilla and egg and mix well.
Reduce mixer speed to Low and add the flour mixture. Scrape down sides of bowl and beat until dough forms. By hand, stir in chocolate chips, white chocolate chips, and pecans.
Drop dough in rounded tablespoons about 2 inches apart onto an ungreased cookie sheet.
Bake 8 to 10 minutes or until cookies are browned on edges. Let cookies stand on cookie sheet for 1 minute before removing them. Cool on wire cooling rack.
These cookies should be stored loosely covered at room temperature.

BAKER’S NOTES: For uniform cookies, I drop the cookie dough onto the cookie sheet using a 1-tablespoon scoop that I purchased at a specialty store.
I usually place my oven racks on the second and fourth levels and bake two cookie sheets at once. If the heat in your oven is uneven, rotate the sheets halfway through baking.
SECRETS TO SUCCESS: Line a cookie sheet with a silicone baking mat or parchment paper for easier clean-up.
If you like softer cookies, remove them from the oven when the edges are barely browned even though the cookies still look slightly moist in the center. They firm up as they cool.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Gifts from the Kitchen

This morning I was on Showcase MN doing a presentation on homemade gifts from the kitchen. My Chocolate Cherry Almond Clusters were a huge success with the KARE 11 staff. It was easy to put ideas together for a holiday set because I love decorating for the holidays. I did several gift baskets made up of something I prepared and something extra. Rob Hudson always makes it really easy to be LIVE! And Corbin Seitz is planning to make the candies for gifts this year.

Four of my recipes are posted on Here's the link to the video.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Turkeys Everywhere

We've just returned from a walk and spotted a flock of wild turkeys in our neighbors yard. Even from a distance you could see that they were really large birds. Obviously they survived Thanksgiving!

After a traditional holiday dinner at friends on Thanksgiving Day, I roasted a turkey breast yesterday. Last night we had hot turkey sandwiches with cranberry chutney.

Today I'm making a list of possible meals using turkey. Here are my favorites:

Turkey Tamale Pie
Turkey and Brie Paninis
Turkey and Wild Rice Casserole
Turkey Tetrazini
Turkey Quesadillas or Enchiladas

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Chocolate is Healthy?

I'm appearing on Showcase Minnesota (KARE 11 TV at 10 a.m.)on Monday December 1 so I'm busy preparing "Holiday Gifts from the Kitchen". One of my favorite candies contains bittersweet chocolate, semisweet chocolate, chopped dried cherries and almonds. Both chocolate and cherries are high in antioxidants and almonds have healthy fatty acids. Of course. I'm including Butter Rum Cake and Pumpkin Streusel Breads from Baking Basics and Beyond.

Most chocolate today is labeled with the percent of cocoa and higher content reflects higher antioxidants. As the amount of cocoa rises so does the bitterness of the chocolate. Dark chocolate must contain at least 35% cocoa but the better brands contain 60% and higher. I think around 70 % cocoa tastes best. As cocoa content rises so does the bitterness of the chocolate.

Some quality brands to look for are El Rey, Valrhona, Green&Blacks Organic Dark Ghiriadelli and Scharfen Berger. But remember chocolate also contains lots of calories.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Spice Up Your Holidays

Because Thanksgiving is late this year, only a few days before December 1, the day after Thanksgiving marks the beginning of Holiday Baking for many. I recently wrote an article for the Minneapolis Star Tribune for their Cookie Contest Winners section (December 4) so I'm really in the mood to bake. This is a good time to replace your spices. Spices should be replaced about every six months but I don't do it that often.

At the holidays I think cinnamon and nutmeg are used the most. A few years ago I got a nutmeg grater and started grating nutmeg as I needed it. It is one of the spices that actually provides more flavor when fresh, so grate it sparingly. A little from a jar goes a long way but when freshly grated all of its essential oils are released and it lifts your recipe to something unique. Nutmeg is a dried pit from a fruit and keeps a long time.

When you buy ground cinnamon look for cinnamon from Viet Nam. It has the strong spicy sweet flavor everyone recognizes. Cinnamon enhances the flavors of baked goods and can be used with abandon.

Although not a spice, I use vanilla in almost everything. I think it deepens chocolate and makes other flavors sparkle. Always use pure vanilla extract. I like vanilla that comes from Madagascar bourbon vanilla beans.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Winter Squash

This time of year there are a lot of different kinds of squash at the supermarket. My favorite is butternut because it has a slightly sweet nutty flavor and is very tender. I also like acorn squash but I've found that sometimes its texture is fibrous. I like to peel butternut squash and roast it at 400 degrees F. with a little olive oil and salt and pepper. Roasting concentrates the flavor and the sugar caramelizes adding sweetness. We don't eat a whole squash at one meal so for the second time around, I puree the squash and add a little honey and fresh or dried thyme.

Squash is high in vitamins A and C and has lots of fiber. Like all yellow vegetables it is also high in antioxidants that are part of a healthy diet.

I recently read a recipe for Roasted Acorn Squash in Chez Panisse Vegetables by Alice Waters. She places a clove of garlic and a spring of thyme under each half of squash before roasting and the flavors are infused into the meat of the squash.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

It's Turkey Time !

What kind of turkey will you serve on Thanksgiving? An online survery conducted by The Culinary Institute of America found that 43% of responders were serving frozen and 25% marked free-range. Most frozen turkeys are injected with a basting solution to keep them moist. Free-range turkeys roam outside and eat mainly grass which affects flavor. Organic turkeys by law must be raised on grass grown without genetic engineering, ioizing radiation or sewege sludge. These birds may not be given hormones or antibiotics. Free range turkeys are often organically raised. Unless you decide on frozen turkey which are usually in great supply, it is a good idea to order ahead. Then you can be sure you'll get what you want. Shop early for frozen turkeys or you may end up with a 26 lb. bird. That's a lot of turkey. To thaw safely, place the frozen bird in the refrigerator and allow about 24 hours for each 5 lbs. Plan ahead!

Friday, November 7, 2008

Try Some Sherry Vinegar

Last night I taught a class on Cookng for Two at Mothersauces, a local cooking school. My recipe for a simple salad of mixed greens had a vinaigrette made with sherry vinegar. Sherry vinegar is listed as one of the four vinegars no kitchen should be without by a chef instructor at the Culinary Institute of America. (The others are rice, wine, and balsamic). It has a nutty woodsy flavor and is not as sweet as balsamic vinegar. It's unique flavor is highlighted in dressings that use nut oils such as walnut oil. It is made from sherry grapes and comes from the Jerez region of Spain. In addition to salad dressing it also makes flavorful a pan sauce after sauteing chicken or pork. Like balsamic, as the cost increases so does the quality. Buy the best you can afford.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

November- Almost the Holidays

Now that it is November everyone is thinking about the holidays. I'm teaching a Cooking for Two class at Mothersauces Cooking School on Thursday night with ideas for special dinners for two. For a simple Thanksgiving dinner, roast a Cornish hen and serve it with this cranberry sauce and mashed potatoes. I like to use a whole package of cranberries and make enough cranberry sauce for several meals. I also serve it with ham and chicken. This sauce can also be frozen.

Tipsy Cranberry Sauce with Port

Makes 2 ½ cups

1 (12 oz) pkg. cranberries
2/3 cup sugar
¾ cup orange juice
½ cup orange marmalade
1 tablespoon grated orange rind
2 tablespoons port or orange juice

Combine the cranberries, sugar and orange juice in a medium saucepan. Bring mixture to a boil over medium high heat, stirring occasionally. Reduce heat to low and simmer 12 to 15 minutes, stirring occasionally and skimming foam from top. Cook until the sauce thickens and the cranberries burst.

Remove from the heat and stir in the marmalade, orange rind and port. Cool. Store in the refrigerator.

Copyright by Pat Sinclair, 2008

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Cranberry Walnut Bars

Baking Basics and Beyond has a recipe for Cranberry Walnut Tarts which are easy to make, and filled with the festive flavors of autumn. I've used the recipe when I've done classes and demos. Because in a class or demo there are time restraints and the need for numerous servings, I've developed Cranberry Walnut Bars. The bars are baked in a 13x9 inch baking pan. If you bake either recipe, be sure add a dollop of creme fraiche before serving. Creme fraiche is a thick cream, similar to sour cream but a milder flavor and very rich and creamy. (Locally it is available at Byerly's and Lunds.) When it is served with the Cranberry Walnut Bars the flavors sing.

The recipe for the bars was posted on October 11 in my blog titled Fall Baking at the Mill City Museum. Let me know if you like the flavors.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

660 Curries

Raghavan Iyer, author of 660 Curries, spoke last night at The Barnes and Noble near my home. I know very little about Indian cooking and he is a great teacher. His knowledge of his subject was all encompassing and as he wrote the book as a teacher, it very easy to use. He defines curry as any food with or without a sauce that gets flavor from a combination of spices and/or herbs. Surprisingly the heat that we associate with curries comes from hot chilies that came to India via the Spanish and Portuguese explorers in the 16th century. Masala means a wet or dry blend of seasonings and there are as many combinations as there are Indian cooks. The main spices used in Indian cooking are mustard seed, cumin seed, coriander seed, tumeric, fennugeek and black peppercorns. These seeds can be whole or ground, toasted or not, cooked with liquid, fried and manipulated other ways- which explains the infinite combinations. After his talk we tasted two Indian dishes that were well seasoned, with a kick, but not too hot. His web site is

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Dinner with Friends

Monday night I had dinner with friends at Cafe Ena, a casual neighborhood restaurant in south Minneapolis. The food was a new experience for me. It was called Latin Fusion Cuisine, a term that was new to me. But the combinations of flavors combined into a delicious whole. Jumbo shrimp were wrapped in prosciutto and grilled, then served with red pepper mashed potatoes, sauteed artichokes, grilled asparagus and surrounded with a lemon caper sauce. My only complaints were that I didn't find any capers which I love and the prosciutto was a little too salty for the shrimp. Two salmon entrees and a pork entree must have been delicious because everyone cleaned their plate. For dessert we shared Blueberry Empanandas, accompanied by creme anglaise and roasted corn ice cream. I couldn't taste any corn in the ice cream but it was rich and creamy. We shared a Portuguese vinho verde that had just a bit of a sparkle. I'll be back.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Lunch by the Sea

Two of our favorite meals in Ireland were very casual. One was at a picnic table at Loop Head- the sign at the pub said "last pub until New York". It was a beautiful day as we looked westward to the Atlantic. Another day we had lunch in a hotel pub at Killary Harbor during an incredible drive in County Mayo near Westport. In addition to glorious vistas we saw mainly black face sheep high, high up on precarious hills and a black lake. Yes, the water actually looked black. The food was simple- seafood bisque and a grilled cheese sandwich but we didn't need anything more.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

More About Ireland and Fabulous Food

Last night my daughter called to report on her trip to Montreal. She and her husband ate at two highly rated restaurants and had the tasting menus at each. One had a seven course and the other a five tasting menu.She had taken notes so she could describe both in detail. They have a wide variety of foods and several courses were developed to highlight contrast in flavors and textures. It reminded me of the fabulous food we enjoyed in Ireland.

At the Lemon Peel in Westport, I had a pumpkin risotto with red onion and a drizzle of balsamic. Mascarpone cheese in the sauce made is very creamy and rich. For lunch one day in Dublin, we ate at Davy Byrne's Pub. I had Dublin Bay prawns wrapped on phyllo, deep fried and served with a slightly sweet spicy chili sauce. My husband had deep-fried brie with cranberry coulis served on a wild greens salad. This is pub food? It was delicious.

Another meal of not occurred at The Winding Stair (it really was a winding stair to the restaurant on the second floor). I sat facing the window looking across the Liffey to Temple Bar and watched the lights slowly twinkle on as the sky darkened. We started with Potted Crab, a classic dish, that really wasn't to American tastes or at least, not exciting to us. I had fresh lake trout from Lough Nenagh that was meaty on flavorful. Everywhere our entrees were served with fresh vegetables. Unfortunately we end the meal with Mixed Fruit Trifle- I asked about the fruit and was told it was apples, pears and plums but it actually was canned fruit cocktail. A massive (we'd say huge) disappointment.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Fall Baking at the Mill City Museum

This afternoon I did three baking demos at the Mill City Museum. I adapted two recipes from Baking Basics and Beyond for samples. I baked the Chocolate Zucchini Bread in mini-muffins pans and baked Cranberry Walnut Tarts as bars (13x9 inch pan) so it was easy to give samples. It was hard to get the bars done for each demo but we made it, although the samples were warm. That's not necessarily a bad thing. Here's the recipe for the Cranberry Walnut Squares.

Cranberry Walnut Squares

As soon as I see fresh cranberries in the fall I can’t wait to start baking. Because they are easy to freeze you can bake with them year round but they always seem to taste best in the fall. These impressive squares are easy to make- and the crust doesn’t need to be rolled. Be sure to try them with crème fraiche- the flavor combination is incredible.

Makes 15 squares

2 cups all-purpose flour
½ cup powdered sugar
1 cup butter, softened
2 cups firmly packed brown sugar
¼ cup all-purpose flour
2/3 cup light corn syrup
2 teaspoons vanilla
4 eggs, beaten
¼ cup butter, melted
1 cup chopped walnuts
2 cups chopped fresh cranberries
Crème fraiche

Heat the oven to 350 degrees F. Place the oven rack in the center of the oven. Place a piece of aluminum foil across bottom and up long sides of a 13x9 inch pan. Lightly spray foil with nonstick cooking spray.

Combine the flour, powdered sugar and salt in a large bowl. Cut in the butter with a pastry blender until coarse crumbs form and butter is coated with flour. Press the dough into the bottom and slightly up sides of pan. Extending the dough above the sides helps prevent the filling from sticking. Bake 14 to 16 minutes or until crust is slightly browned.

Combine the brown sugar and flour in a medium bowl. Add the corn syrup, eggs and vanilla. Whisk until the mixture is smooth. No lumps of brown sugar or flour should remain. Add the butter, walnuts and cranberries. Stir until the butter is incorporated. Pour the filling into the pan. Gently even out the surface so that the nuts and cranberries are evenly spaced.

Bake 35 to 40 minutes or until a knife comes out clean in the center. Crust should be golden brown. Center will no longer jiggle when the pan is shaken. Cool to room temperature on a wire rack. Carefully loosen the bars from the short sides of the pan. Lift the all of the bars from the pan using the foil. After placing on a work surface, cut into 15 squares using a large sharp knife. Serve the squares with crème fraiche. Be sure to remove foil after cutting the squares.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

All About Apples: KARE 11 Showcase Minnesota

Tuesday I appeared on KARE 11 Showcase Minnesota with apple recipes from Baking Basics and Beyond. I prepared Caramel Apple Crisp, Apple-Pear Brown Betty, Apple Blondies, Apple Praline Coffee Cake. As soon as the show ended, everyone from the station cam into the studio for samples. I also demonstrated how to use an "apple peeler" that pares, cores and slices in one step. Once it's attached to the counter it is very easy to use. They're actually on sale this week at a local discount supermarket. Rob Hanson, the host, said they loved having me and I should come everyday. My response "Maybe not every day, it's a lot of work!". After I said can we edit that, but "no"- it's live TV.

Here's the link to Showcase MN web site.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Roly's Bistro in Dublin gets Four Stars from us!

My husband and I had the best meal of our trip at Roly's Bistro. When we arrived the restaurant was full but fortunately we had booked ahead.Besides great food, Roly's is known for their 3 course pre fixe menu with choices from the main menu. The best part of pre fixe is that I don't have to debate whether or not to have dessert!

I started with Colin's Prawn Bisque (Dublin bay prawns) that was a deep red color with a blend of seafood flavors. It was served with a shot of brandy that sparked the flavors. Duncan had a Cashel Blue Cheese and Oven Dried Tomato Salad with Organic Rocket,Tomato and Basil Relish. Thinking about the large chunks of creamy blue cheese still makes my mouth water. Dinner was Roast Breast of Corn Fed Chicken with Coriander (cilantro) Cream Potatoes in a Lemongrass Scented Broth, and Traditional Kerry Lamb and Vegetable Pie with Roasted Parsnips and Thyme. Here is a link to the Lamb Pie Recipe. My chicken was moist and tender but the "cilantro mash" was a new taste. As always we had two side dishes served family style- the ubiquitous combination of zucchini and carrots was the best I've had. The thin slices of carrots were cut like scalloped flowers. The second side was a salad of mixed greens, tomatoes, cucumber and olives in a delicate pastry cup.

But dessert! I had "Raspberry Cheesecake" which sounds ordinary but was unique and delightful. The cheesecake was a 3-inch round of what Americans would call a Bavarian, thickened with gelatin and topped with a raspberry juice glaze. It was accompanied with Meringue Ice Cream, vanilla bean ice cream with crispy bites of meringue. Duncan went for the Chocolate Trio dessert which included a brownie, sorbet and a small malt. The brownie was very dry but, as I learned on a recent recipe project that's the European style.

Our service but attentive but not intrusive. We agree that Roly's Bistro is one of Dublin's top restaurants. If you are reading this Monday, check back for photos tomorrow.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Sunny Ireland and Soup Weather in MN

We returned from Ireland on Monday night and are still readjusting from jet lag. It's been cold since we've been home, but I have a new Aran wool sweater that I'm happy to wear. We were so fortunate in Ireland- 6 sunny days, no rain anywhere. Everyone said we brought the sunshine with us as they had a rainy, rainy summer.

I had done my research and we had fabulous meals at great restaurants. Especially in Dublin, even pub lunches were good. My husband drank Guiness in the pubs and I discovered Bulmer's Hard Cider. Ireland has gained a well-deserved reputation for high quality restaurants and fresh local food. The seafood was usually caught the same day. Every meal had fresh steamed vegetables on the side or the entree was served with a salad of fresh greens- sometimes both. In the next few days I'll describe our meals in detail.

For now, I'm posting a soup recipe I taught in a class last winter. As the leaves change colors and the days become cooler, soups are one of my favorite meals.

Italian Wedding Soup

Fresh vegetables, especially spinach, contain lots of antioxidants which are important for good health. Ground turkey is a good substitute for ground beef because it is much lower in fat and cholesterol. I look for lean ground turkey and use low sodium chicken broth. Most soups taste even better the second day but the orzo soaks up much of the broth, so I just add a little water.

Serves 4 to 6

¼ cup olive oil, divided
1 cup chopped onion
1 cup chopped carrots
6 cups chicken broth
¼ tsp. salt
¼ tsp. pepper
1 (15 oz.) can diced tomatoes
½ cup orzo pasta
2 cups fresh spinach leaves, torn
1 tbsp. chopped fresh basil
Grated Parmesan cheese

10 oz. ground turkey
1/3 cup milk
1 egg
¼ cup dried breadcrumbs
2 tbsp. grated Parmesan cheese
½ tsp. kosher salt

Heat 2 tbsp. olive oil in a Dutch oven or large saucepan. Add the onion and carrots and cook until softened and tender, about 5 minutes. Add the salt, pepper and broth and cover. Simmer 10 minutes. Add the tomatoes and orzo and cook until the pasta is tender, about 8-9 minutes.

Meanwhile make the meatballs. Combine all the ingredients for the meatballs in a medium bowl and mix until well combined. Shape into small meatballs, about ¾ inch across.

Heat the remaining oil in a large nonstick skillet and add the meatballs. Cook 3 to 4 minutes until browned, turning once. Drain on paper towels.

Add the meatballs and the spinach to the soup and simmer 5 minutes. Just before serving stir in the basil. Sprinkle each serving with grated Parmesan cheese. Copyright Pat Sinclair, 2008

Sunday, September 21, 2008

A Busy October

It's almost 80 degrees today so it's hard to believe it's almost October. We're going to Ireland tomorrow for a week and it will be fall when we return. I have a very busy schedule starting when I get home

October 4 Fall Baking at The Kitchen Window
October 7 Showcase Minnesota- Fall Favorites from Baking Basics and Beyond
October 11 Baking demo in the Baking Lab at the Mill City Museum
October 29 at Byerly's in St. Louis Park from 6-7 p.m with a book signing.

Now that it's baking season again it's good to be busy.

In October my recipes are appearing in Chicagoland's Senior News and on their online edition. I'm really excited about it!

I'll be taking careful notes on the food and restaurants we experience on our trip as Ireland has gotten a fine reputation for the quality of thier food lately.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Dinner at Heidi's

Tuesday night Duncan and I had dinner at Heidi's, a new restaurant in south Minneapolis, that has been getting rave reviews. It's a small restaurant and most tables were filled during our dinner enen on a Tuesday night. One complaint that I have is that it is very loud, an unfortunate trend I'm finding in many restaurants.. but onto the food.

I had an appetizer- the only salad on the menu- Marinated Beets on Goat Cheese Parfait. It was a delightful combination of textures and flavors, with a light vinaigrette. The beets were sliced wafer thin and cut out with a delicate scallop. They were arranged on top of a strip of a light and airy goat cheese. It looked like a caterpillar with two antennae on one end. For an entree, I had a moist pork chop with orange mashed potatoes and an orange thyme au jus. My husband had the meltingly tender lamb shank which fell off the bones. Dessert was an apple clafouti and was dense and heavy with little flavor. It garnished with peanuts which were unusual but added nothing.

The menu had a nice selection of items and was moderately priced. We'll go back!

Friday, August 22, 2008

Guest Cook in Bemidji and on TV

Last week when I was in Bemidji to teach a couple of cooking classes with my friends Sue Doeden and Carmela Hobbins, I taped a segment with Sue for her cooking spot on PBS, Lakeland Cooks. You can view it using the following link. I made Lemon Mascarpone Tarts and the segment went well, mainly because Sue is a gracious host and easy to chat with. The tarts were also a hit at the lunch class topped with fresh fruit and berries from the farmer's market. You can view it with the following link:

Monday night I attended a class at The Kitchen Window in Minneapolis. I will be teaching a baking class there on October 4 and this was a good way to get familiar with the kitchen. The class was "Pizza on the Grill" with Dan Darnell, their executive chef. We made two pizza doughs and baked them several ways on the grill. The thin crust dough was baked in the grill and served with hummus and a yogurt dip. Other possibilities were topping it with a marinara sauce or a slightly sweet tomato sauce. The sweeter sauce was then topped with dates and goat cheese for a dessert pizza. I think I'd prefer a dessert pizza without a tomato sauce but I really like the combination and it was unusual.

We also made a pan pizza which was fabulous and cooked quickly on the grill. (I'm going to develop a recipe for two individual pan pizzas because deep pan pizza is my favorite.)The "secrets" to success were preheating a pizza stone on the grill, having the grill very hot and not loading too many toppings on the dough. I will definitely do pizza on the grill at home. It would be fun for a casual supper with friends- everyone could pick their own favorite toppings and we could visit while dinner bakes!

Friday, August 15, 2008

Stars of the North

I returned yesterday from Bemidji, MN, which is about 250 miles north of the Twin Cities. Carmela Hobbins (Carmela's Cucina) and I were invited to teach a class with our friend Sue Doden (All About Food). She lives in Bemidji and writes a column for the Bemidji Pioneer. Three cooks in the kitchen makes for a lot of fun, a lot of confusion and a lot of dishes! We were lucky to have Sue's friend, Diane, as an assistant. The students in our two classes (lunch and dinner) made us feel very welcome and a little like celebrities.I demonstrated Honey Orange Scones,Lemon Mascarpone Tarts with Fresh Berries, Easy Herb Dinner Rolls and Tres Leches Cake. I think the biggest hit was the Tres Leches Cake because it is perfect for entertaining and can be made ahead. In the summer fresh berries are the ideal garnish and Sue had gone to the Farmers' Market to purchase local berries, greens and tomatoes.It was fun to observe two other teachers and sample their food, and I think we all learned something from each other.

Friday, August 8, 2008

Stars for Porter & Frye

This week my husband and I had dinner at Porter & Frye in the Hotel Ivy. The hotel lobby is very modern, filled with white marble and shiny surfaces. The restaurant has high ceilings and exposed pipes but still is intimate and comfortable. Seated in a comfy booth, we had outstanding service. On a Monday night the restaurant had few customers, and we could probably have had a little less service and been happy. We started with Tuna Sliders to share. A curried tuna salad with mango chutney was served in small buns and fragrant with curry. Both of us ordered seafood and weren't disappointed. My striped sea bass had a Parmesan crust and was served with lobster risotto. In addition there was a lobster foam in keeping with hot trends, but I didn't think it added anything. My husband had the prawns and they were fabulous, tender and sweet, and served with pear ravioli. They were the highlight of the evening- small pockets of tender pasta filled with a pear puree. The only sweetness was the from the pears and it complimented the prawns. After ordering (and eating dessert) the waiter brought a tray of tiny bites. It included a raspberry jelly, chocolate truffle, blackberry financier and chocolate cake. I love it when restaurants do the unexpected- these bites were better than the desserts.

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Three Cooks in Bemidji

On August 13 I will be teaching in Bemidji with two friends who are also cooking teachers. The classes sound great and it will be fun for me to learn from my friends but I am also looking forward to seeing the Bemidji area and going out on my friend Sue's pontoon and floating lazily on the Mississippi. Since I grew up in Pennsylvania I haven't seen many parts of MN so in this steamy month I'll be going up north along with many Minnesotans.

Both of the desserts I will be preparing take advantage of summer berries which will be at their peak. Not only will they add color and freshness, but I am reading more and more of the many ways berries contribute to good health.

Three Cooks in the MJB Kitchen

Join Sue Doeden, Bemidji Pioneer food columnist
and television cook on Lakeland News at 10
along with cookbook authors and cooking instructors
Carmela Tursi Hobbins, “Carmela's Cucina”
Pat Sinclair, “Baking Basics and Beyond”

2 cooking classes
Wednesday, August 13, 2008
Attend one or both

Noon to 1:00
“Fast, Fresh and Fabulous”
$20 per person
Cantaloupe and Italian Prosciutto
with Black Pepper Vinaigrette
Italian-Style Chicken Salad
Honey Orange Scones
Lemon Mascarpone Tarts with Fresh Berries

6:00 to 8:30
“Dining Around the World”
$40 per person
White Wine Sangria
Fresh Greens, Herbs and Summer Berry Salad
in a Peppered Parmesan Basket
Pasta with Fresh Summer Herbs in Rosa Sauce
Sage-Stuffed Chicken Breasts
Roasted Asparagus
Herb Dinner Rolls
Tres Leches Cake with Fresh Berries

Sit back and relax as the three cooks demonstrate preparation of the meal. Then eat and enjoy the complete meal. Go home with all the recipes. Carmela and Pat will have their cookbooks available for purchase and will be happy to sign them for you.

Register at MJB Home Appliance Center, 418 Beltrami Avenue, Downtown Bemidji, 751-2420

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Taste of the Twin Cities

Last night we attended the Taste of the Twin Cities. It is sponsored by a group of local restaurants as a part of the Aquatennial. Looking at the list of restaurants I discovered I only missed two. The food is served in very small portions, sometimes just a bite, and that works well because there are SO many bites! My favorites were the Grilled Shrimp with Fresh Tomatoes and Pesto from Luci Ancora and the Beet and Cherry Gazpacho with Tarragon and Black Pepper Creme Fraiche from Solera, a tapas restaurant. The unusual flavor combination was amazing- a little sweet and a little beet flavor contrasted by the tang of the creme fraiche and a cool velvety texture. I think that was my favorite. Mini Beef Wellingtons from Murrays were hard to resist. For the event, they served a slice of beef and a little pastry puff filled with minced mushrooms. It was a beautiful night and after sampling as much as we could we sat at a table along the Mississippi River in downtown and went back later for a few last tastes!

Monday, July 14, 2008

Strawberry Summer

The local strawberries have been yummy this summer. Every time I bite into one it reminds me of the fresh berries I had as a child. When I bite into local berries they have a similar taste to the large commercial ones but the flavor explodes in your mouth in triple intensity and just thinking about them makes my mouth water. It's easy to tell locally grown organic berries they have uneven shapes and come in many sizes! Tonight we're enjoying them in a simple salad (made with Farmer's Market leaf lettuce)and for dessert topped with whipped organic cream. It's been a Farmer's Market Summer. This Saturday I'm doing my cake demo at the Mill City Farmer's Market for the celebration of the 150th Birthday of Minnesota Statehood and hope to top miniature pieces of Tres leches Cake with the first fresh raspberries of the season!

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Popovers That Pop

Last night we had popovers for dinner with a chicken pasta salad. It was a perfect summer meal. I was practicing on the popovers because this morning Sue Doeden and I discussed what we thought made good popovers. She recorded the interview and it will be placed online with her column. Go to for our conversation. The main thing we decided is that popovers don't always pop but there are certain steps that are important. My advice is to find a recipe that works and buy a popover pan. In addition, have your ingredients at room temperature and allow the batter to rest about 20-30 minutes. Even popovers that don't pop taste delicious. I love the heavy eggy center with the crisp golden brown crust. Because I really like popovers and they are so easy to prepare I purchased a popover pan. Most supermarkets carry them. I generously spray the cups with nonstick cooking spray before adding the batter.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

The Mill City Farmers Market- and More Butter

Today we went to the Mill City Farmer's Market to celebrate the strawberry festival. I purchased 2 quarts of locally grown berries with a strawberry flavor I haven't taste for a long time- sweet and natural and nothing like the flavor of a Driscoll berry. I'm going to make freezer jam because it is so easy to make and it captures the sweet and juicy freshness.

We also brought home Alaskan wild salmon that was frozen at sea and freshly churned organic butter.

Tasting the butter alone it is was much saltier than Crystal salted butter but we both thought is had a better flavor. Now, I'm going to use it to bake a cake and practice for my July demo at the market.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Scotch Shortbread with Danish Butter

Today I volunteered at the Mill City Museum in the baking lab. When groceries were delivered one of the items received was Lurpak butter from Denmark. Of course we had to do a taste test. Several of us had a little bit of the butter alone and on bread. The flavor was very similar to Land O'Lakes unsalted butter (which we had as a comparison)but the Lurpak had a creamier texture. Lurpak is the brand used on all butter exported from Denmark. It is made from fresh cream that is pasteurized and soured with lactic acid. This creates a fresh aromatic taste. The manufacturer says it is considered the best butter in the world due to rigorous taste testings and rigid standards.

I made Scotch Shortbread to try it for baking. The shortbread had a delicate flavor and seemed to be flakier than with unsalted butter. Unfortunately I haven't been able to find any notes about the % butterfat in Lurpak but the nutritional information on the package is the same as Land O'Lakes.

Scottish Shortbread from Baking Basics and Beyond (copyright 2006)

Shortbread is the most basic cookie—made only of flour, sugar, and butter. Traditionally, the dough was pressed into a circle and cut into wedges before baking, but I like to cut it into bars because they are smaller and easier to eat.


4 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup powdered sugar
2 cups unsalted butter

Heat oven to 350°F with oven rack in middle.
Beat flour, sugar, and butter in bowl of a heavy-duty mixer on Medium speed until crumbly and evenly mixed, scraping down sides of bowl once or twice.
Press dough, about 3/8 inch thick, into an ungreased 15 x 10 x 1-inch baking pan. The dough will not fill the whole pan. I usually press to fill the width and about 3/4 of the length. Cut into 3 x 1-inch bars, using a pizza wheel. Prick well with a fork.
Bake 20 to 25 minutes or until edges are just beginning to brown. Classic shortbread is very pale. While bars are still warm, cut again. After cutting, the bars can cool in pan on wire cooling rack.

Friday, June 20, 2008

The Tastes and Trends of Baby Boomers

Yesterday I participated in a teleforum sponsored by the Marketing Communicators Section of IACP. Dana McCauley, owner of Dana McCauley and Associates, a firm that tracks food marketing trends, was the speaker. Her survey found that 48% of people without kids find it difficult to find recipes for two. Empty nesters and families use recipes the most often. One of the other participants commented that because of the downturn in the economy it's possible that people will be eating at home more often. In addition Dana also provided suggestions for recipe and new product development specifically targeted at boomers. All this information is very encouraging to me as I work on The Ultimate Empty Nesters Cookbook.

Dana has a newsletter on trends and an interesting blog that I've added to my links.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Joe's Farm Grill as Advertised

Last week we had lunch at Joe's Farm Grill in Agritopia, AZ. It's close to Gilbert where my son and his family live. With the boys in school, we were off to a fresh and fabulous lunch. Joe's had recently been featured on Food TV on Drive-Ins, Diner's and Dives. This exposure has greatly increased the lines and wait for food- great for Joe but less so for customers. It's is a very casual restaurant. Food is ordered at a window and you are given a number. When you food is ready, your number is called. Everything is freshly prepared after it is ordered but the lines are constantly moving. We ate outside on a picnic table near the misters which kept the flies away.

I must admit that my favorite items was the Sweet Potato Fries- why has it taken the food world so long to start frying sweet potatoes? The fries were warm, with crispy edges, lightly salted and slightly sweet from the concentrated sugars of the raw potatoes.

Joe's emphasizes local ingredients- fruits, vegetables and herbs are produced at the Farm in Agritopia. In addition they search for healthful ingredients such as transfat free oils for frying.

The rest of our menu consisted of BBQ Bacon Blue Burgers and an Ahi Tuna Sandwich. It was as advertised- fresh, flavorful and simply prepared. We're going to make it a regualr when we are in Gilbert.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Fresh Lively Flavors in Rick Bayless' Recipes

At IACP (the International Association of Culinary Professionals) in New Orleans recently I attended a class taught by Rick Bayless, considered the country’s foremost authority on Mexican cooking. Chef Bayless has a warm friendly manner and prepared two seafood dishes, one with Alaskan salmon and another with Alaskan black cod. Since Alaska Seafood sponsored the session the salmon and black cod was obviously of the highest quality.

Bayless shares his enthusiasm for supporting local farmers and buying directly from them, along with his knowledge of Oaxaca, Mexico. Fresh locally produced food is one of the most important trends appearing across the country today and translates easily to Mexican cooking. I am always concerned about how spicy Mexican food will be but what I tasted that day was bursting with the briny flavor of recently caught fish and lively herbs, but very little heat.

After making a fresh tomatillo sauce he added fresh herbs- epazote and hoya santa- before serving. I am familiar with epazote, a punguent herb that has a flavor similar to fresh coriander, but had not heard about hoya santa. Fortunately he gives substitutes. Although it seems like all we do at this conference is eat, I finished every bit of both samples because of the blended flavors dancing on my tongue.

Based on this introduction to Rick Bayless’ Mexican cooking I took advantage of the opportunity to eat lunch recently at his Chicago restaurant, Topobolobampo. It was a rainy Friday lunchtime and I was amazed by the packed and noisy restaurant. The walls displayed museum quality modern oil paintings in vibrant primary colors. The tables were set with amber colored plates on hammered copper chargers and votive candles and the room glowed. The main wall in the entry highlighted photos from the staff’s annual trip to Oaxaca. It was obvious that they were having fun experiencing Mexican culture and translated to a pleasant and knowledgeable waitstaff.

It was a very expensive lunch because we wanted to try everything and the food was extraordinary. Lunch started with a freshly made guacamole, bursting with chunks of ripe avocado and ending with chiles burning in the back of my throat. For an entrée I had a moist and tender pork chop gently simmered in mole sauce and surrounded by tiny chicken enchiladas and baked balls of rice. Everything tasted unique with zesty Mexican notes. Did I mention that I started with a signature margarita that was smooth and fruity? Maybe that ‘s why everything tasted wonderful, but I doubt it. It was just great food.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Looking Ahead to Summer Salads

It is a beautiful spring day here finally. As late as it is in the year I have seen more snow that tulips (none) recently. But summer is coming and it is a great time to take advantage of locally grown fruits and vegetables. The Mill City Farmers Market opened for the season on Saturday and we are anxiously awaiting fresh rhubarb and strawberries. I've added my column for the Best of Times below and a summery salad that's full of antioxidants.

I've also added the link to my appearance on Showcase MN. I don't know how long my clip will be shown.

Color Your Diet Healthy

Increasing the amount of colorful fruits and vegetables in your diet has many health benefits. Chemical compounds called antioxidants are high in this brightly colored group of foods and more and more studies are finding a positive relationship between antioxidants and reduction in diseases such as cancer and heart disease. Antioxidants also help us age gracefully. Fruits and vegetables are also high in fiber and low in calories and are such an important part of our diets that the USDA and the National Cancer Institute recommend 5 to 9 servings a day. In the summer when fruits and vegetables are at their peak, go to the farmer’s market and load up with the best and brightest local produce.

How Antioxidants Work

All cells need oxygen to function properly and this process, called oxidation, produces harmful by-products called free radicals. Environmental pollution and exposure to certain chemicals such as pesticides also creates free radicals. An excess of free radicals can lead to cell structure damage. Damaged cells and damaged DNA contribute to degenerative diseases such as heart disease, cancer and cataracts. Some studies have shown antioxidants to slow the effects of aging. The positive effects from antioxidants may result from their interaction with free radicals.

Some of the most powerful antioxidants are vitamin C, vitamin E, beta-carotene, selenium and the hundreds of phytochemicals that are found in plant foods. Several studies have proven people who eat fruits and vegetables high in antioxidants have a lower incidence of some diseases but no one has been able to pin down specific factors. It is possible that these nutrients have the most positive effect in combination, but that hasn’t been proven. That’s all the more reason to plan your meals using a wide variety of fruits and vegetables.

At one point medical professionals were promoting dietary supplements as sources of beneficial antioxidants but this is no longer true. High doses of fat-soluble vitamins such as vitamin E and beta-carotene can be harmful and there is a risk of overdoses when supplements are taken. In addition, it is unclear to what degree the phytochemicals also present in fruits and vegetables contribute to good health. Researchers don’t feel that all the plant phytochemicals have even been identified and haven’t been able to determine specific amounts needed for benefits.

Add Color to Your Plate

Take advantage of the deepest colored fruits and vegetables in the produce aisle and brighten your dinner plate. Research shows that eating several brightly colored foods together boosts their impact. Fruits and vegetables with the most saturated colors are also the highest in phytochemicals. Refer to the following list and brighten your diet.

Green- Spinach and broccoli contain high amounts of antioxidants such as lutein and carotenoids that protect eyes from cataracts and macular degeneration. These vegetables and other green vegetables may also reduce cancer risk.

Blue/ purple –The color of blueberries, red cabbage and plums is created by anthocyanins, chemical compounds that protect against carcinogens and heart disease.

Red fruits and vegetables include tomatoes, strawberries, cherries, watermelon, pomegranates and pink grapefruit. Lycopene and anthocyanins in these foods help fight heart disease and some types of cancer, including prostate cancer. Pomegranates are often in the news because they have the highest levels of antioxidants. Cooked tomatoes actually contain more lycopene so even canned tomatoes provide protection.

Orange / yellow include sweet potatoes, peaches, carrots, oranges and mangos and are rich in beta-carotene and vitamin C. Beta- carotene is converted in the body to Vitamin A and is thought to boost the immune system. Vitamin C helps reduce the risk of heart disease.

Research shows that there is a definite relationship between diet and health- a more nutritious diet leads to better health. Eating a wide variety of foods provides essential nutrients that are the key to fighting off infection and boosting immunity and the most colorful fruits and vegetables can make the greatest difference.

Chicken and Strawberries Salad

Sweet berries at their peak of freshness and tender baby spinach leaves contribute lots of healthy antioxidants to this salad. Although I’ve used strawberries, blueberries and raspberries work equally well. Nutritious almonds have more fiber than any other nut and are rich in magnesium and vitamin E. I’ve added orange juice (and a little vitamin C) to the dressing because I like the sweetness it adds (and it reduces calories) but you can omit it and increase the olive oil by 1 tablespoon if you prefer.

Serves 2

2 tablespoons cider vinegar
2 tablespoons honey
2 tablespoons orange juice
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon pepper
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

4 cups baby spinach leaves
2 cups cubed cooked chicken
2 cups sliced strawberries
½ cup sliced celery
2 tablespoons toasted slivered almonds
2 green onions, chopped

Combine the vinegar, honey, orange juice, salt and pepper in a jar with a tight-fitting lid and shake until the salt is dissolved. Add the olive oil and shake again. Chill the dressing until serving.

Combine the spinach leaves, chicken, strawberries, celery, almonds and green onions in a medium bowl. Add about half of the dressing and toss until well mixed. Serve any remaining dressing with the salad or save for another time.

Sidebar: On a busy night, the easiest dinner I know starts with a roasted chicken direct from the supermarket. I even serve it with refrigerated mashed potatoes! But a whole chicken is too much for the two of us. Use the remaining meat for this salad and you have another easy meal.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Edesia Cookbook Review

Last night I partipated in the Edesia Cookbook review at Barnes & Noble in Edina. Klecko , the founder of the St, Paul Bread Club was also there. Kim Ode,Minneapolis Star Tribune writer, lead the discussion. Our topic was "beginners". Although Klecko is a master baker, he is just learning to cook. His favorite cookbook is "Big Red"- Betty Crocker's Cookbook. He like the specific information it features such as how to hold a knife and chop correctly. This was very helpful to him as a beginner. I discussed "Baking Basics and Beyond" and emphasized the "Baker's Notes" and "Secrets to Success", that provide a lot of basic information. Kim Ode brought her copy of "The Victory Garden Cookbook" that was tattered and torn because she uses it so much. Because the topic was "beginners" I provide a list of the characteristics of a good recipe- list of ingredients in order used, specific measures (not 1/2 onion but 1/2 cup chopped onion), size of pans needed, times for the steps and cooking/baking times and number of servings.

Next month we will meet May 19 because of Memorial Day. Two professional pastry chefs are the speakers.

I served Chocolate Chip Cookies Deluxe and have added the recipe here. They always disappear quickly
Chocolate Chip Cookies Deluxe

Toll House, or Chocolate Chip, Cookies are definitely the most famous cookies in America. I use both butter and shortening in my recipe—a combination that gives the cookies a buttery flavor and a softer texture. Be creative and experiment with different combinations of “extras,” such as butterscotch chips, milk chocolate chunks, and crunchy macadamia nuts.


2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup solid vegetable shortening
1 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
1 egg
1 cup semisweet or milk chocolate chips
1 cup white chocolate chips
1/2 cup chopped pecans, if desired

Heat oven to 375°F with oven rack in middle (see Baker’s Notes below).
Mix flour, baking soda, and salt together in medium bowl.
Beat butter, shortening, brown sugar, and granulated sugar in bowl of a heavy-duty mixer on Medium-High speed until creamy, scraping down bowl once or twice. Add vanilla and egg and mix well.
Reduce mixer speed to Low and add the flour mixture. Scrape down sides of bowl and beat until dough forms. By hand, stir in chocolate chips, white chocolate chips, and pecans.
Drop dough in rounded tablespoons about 2 inches apart onto an ungreased cookie sheet.
Bake 8 to 10 minutes or until cookies are browned on edges. Let cookies stand on cookie sheet for 1 minute before removing them. Cool on wire cooling rack.
These cookies should be stored loosely covered at room temperature.

BAKER’S NOTES: For uniform cookies, I drop the cookie dough onto the cookie sheet using a 1-tablespoon scoop that I purchased at a specialty store.
I usually place my oven racks on the second and fourth levels and bake two cookie sheets at once. If the heat in your oven is uneven, rotate the sheets halfway through baking.
SECRETS TO SUCCESS: Line a cookie sheet with a silicone baking mat or parchment paper for easier clean-up.
If you like softer cookies, remove them from the oven when the edges are barely browned even though the cookies still look slightly moist in the center. They firm up as they cool.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Spring, Finally

Today it seems like spring in Minnesota. The snow has melted and last night it rained. A few days ago I saw some petite crocuses popping up. When I was in New Orleans at the IACP conference, we saw lots of shrubs in bloom, including delicate pink roses.

One of the sessions I attended, Local on the Plate, was a panel discussion by Raymond Blanc, whose hotel restaurant, Le Manoir, has maintained Michelin two star status for 21 years, Mark Hix, an award winning journalist, and Donald Link. Donald Link is the owner/chef for Herbsaint and Cochon that both are focused on using local organic ingredients in season. That is a lot easier to do in New Orleans that it is to do here.

As consumers we have to demand change but also realize that it will cost more. Only consuming locally grown or produced foods has its limits so we must rely on importing foods from other areas. Chef Link believes we have to teach people how to cook and what to buy, especially people with lower incomes.

In honor of spring approaching I am posting an easy recipe for Blueberry Rhubarb Crumble. Rhubarb is one of the first local fruits to appear but blueberries take a lot longer. This time of year I use fresh rhubarb and frozen blueberries. This recipe is from Baking Basics and Beyond.

Blueberry Rhubarb Crumble

Fresh, sweet blueberries tame the tartness of rhubarb in this British crumble. Rhubarb is traditionally a sign of spring, and I always buy extra when I go to the farmers’ market or find it at the supermarket. It can be frozen without washing or trimming but should be tightly wrapped.

Makes 8 servings

1 1/2 cups sugar
3/4 cup all-purpose flour, divided
1 teaspoon cinnamon
6 cups chopped fresh rhubarb
1 1/2 cups fresh blueberries
1/4 cup orange juice, or water

1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1/4 cup cold butter, cut-up

Heat oven to 350°F with oven rack in center. Spray bottom of a 9 x 9-inch baking dish or 1 1/2-quart casserole with nonstick cooking spray.
Mix granulated sugar with 1/4 cup of flour and cinnamon in large bowl. Add rhubarb, blueberries, and orange juice and stir until fruit is well coated. Be careful not to break the blueberries. Spoon into prepared baking dish.
Bake 30 minutes or until juices are starting to thicken and bubble.

Mix remaining 1/2 cup of flour with the brown sugar. Cut in butter with a pastry blender until mixture resembles coarse crumbs with some pea-sized pieces. Crumble over the hot fruit.
Bake 25 to 35 minutes longer or until juices are bubbling and rhubarb is fork-tender. Cool on wire cooling rack.
Serve warm or at room temperature. Store any remaining in refrigerator.

Baker’s Note: Because frozen rhubarb and frozen blueberries are available throughout the year, this dessert can be baked any time. When you are using frozen rhubarb, I suggest chopping the largest pieces. Use the rhubarb and blueberries while still frozen. After adding the topping, you will need to bake about 60 minutes longer.
Secrets to Success: When I serve this dessert warm, I offer it with a little cream.

Baking Basics and Beyond by Pat Sinclair (Copyright 2006- Surrey Books)

Monday, April 14, 2008

Off to New Orleans and IACP

I'm off to IACP (International Association of Culinary Professionals) tomorrow. I'm looking forward to visiting New Orleans (my favorite place is the Cafe du Monde and my mouth waters just thinking of beignets!). Since it is a food conference everyone is seeking the best restaurants and there are so many choices. Our opening night event and Gala both feature local specialties and jazz music. So far we have dinner reservations at Bayona and Herbsaint. One of the sessions I'm attending about blogging so I expect I'll have lots of new ideas. And lots of new recipes.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Kids in the Kitchen in New Orleans

We're still waiting for spring this year in Minnesota. It's another dreary and cold day and I'm really looking forward to my trip next week to New Orleans for the IACP (International Association of Culinary Professionals) conference. Every year in the city where the conference is being held IACP sponsors a "Kids in the Kitchen" project. For New Orleans the project has been a recipe contest. Local chefs gave demos at 6 schools and talked about food and family heritage. I was a judge and evaluated recipes from 6 children. All of the judges were encouraged to give the kids positive comments and increase their interest in cooking. One of the things I noticed was that their recipes were something they enjoyed as families. Some of the recipes had passed through several generations. One finalist from each school has been selected and they will participate in a cook-off next week during the conference. Everyone was aware of the disaster of Katrina but this reminds link us as our memory fades. But New Orleans is definitely coming back and I'm willing to do my part in supporting their fabulous restaurants! Pat

Monday, March 31, 2008

An Author Talk in Shakopee

On Saturday I gave a presentation at the Scott County Library in Shakopee. They had e-mailed me about being videotaped and I agreed but then forgot about it. I was reminded as we got out of the car and a man with a video camera preceded us into the building. I think it went well but you do feel differently when a camera with a red light is focused on you! It will be shown on cable in Shakoppe and I am getting a copy so I'm hoping Edina will run it, too.

Fortunately when I had spoken at the Edina Library last spring, I had written good notes. As I reviewed my notes, they brought back many memories. Like when my published suggested a needed a writer for the copy (My response: No! I'll learn to write better. ) and another, once again from my publisher ,"I sold the business!".

Well, I did learn to write better, after going through the manuscript three more times. And the new publisher was great but I can't describe my feelings at first. I felt abandoned. As I read the headnotes, there were many happy memories- especially of my mother, and my family and friends and what they taught me about consumers- and recipe directions!

I'm finishing up a recipe project and finalizing my cookbook proposal for "Cooking for Two" this week but will post a recipe later. Pat

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Southern Mediterranean Cooking

Monday night I went to the Edensia Cookbook Review at the Barnes and Noble near my house. My daughter is working in Minneapolis this week and she went with me. We both liked the caponata they served although it is different from mine. It had raisins which added a sweet note.

Edensia cookbook review was started by Kim Ode, a food writer for the Minneapolis Star-Tribune. Monday's topic was the Mediterranean Diet. One of the presenters was Brenda Langton, a local restaurant owner and chef who is known for her committment to local, fresh and organic foods and healthy eating. She founded the Mill City Farmer's Market ( She reviewed "Arabesque" by Claudia Roden and loved the book. Randi Roth who has been cooking southern Mediterranean foods (mostly with Paula Wlofert's books) and using a tagine ( also talked about how basic and simple this diet is. I'm now going to try charmoula, a Morrocan sauce and marinade, on fish- maybe halibut now that it's back in season and learn more about this cuisine. Check back for the recipe!

Oh, yes. Next month's discussion is on baking basics. Of course I'm going to talk about "Baking Basics and Beyond" but thought I'd also review "Martha Stewart's Baking Handbook". Her style is much more elaborate than mine and not very basic. Although the books are ususally shelved together, she's not my competition! It's April 28 at 7 P.M. at the Barnes & Noble in the Galleria, Edina.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

KARE-11 Appearance

On March 4, I was featured on Showcase Minnesota. The clip will be available for a short time, so view it soon.

They have posted my Cinnamon Streusel Muffin recipe, but you can find it here:


Streusel Topping
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
3 tablespoons cold butter

2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup milk
1/2 cup butter, melted
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 egg, beaten

Heat oven to 400°F with oven rack in middle. Lightly spray 12 cups in a standard muffin pan with nonstick cooking spray.

Streusel Topping
Combine flour, brown sugar, and cinnamon in a small bowl. Cut in butter with a pastry blender until mixture resembles coarse crumbs with some pea-sized pieces.

Combine flour, sugar, brown sugar, baking powder, cinnamon, and salt in a large bowl. Make a well in center of the flour by pushing ingredients out toward sides of bowl.
Combine milk, melted butter, vanilla, and egg in a medium bowl. Pour milk mixture into the flour mixture, and stir only until the flour is moistened even though the batter is not smooth. Scrape down sides of bowl.
Divide batter into prepared muffin cups, filling them about 2/3 full. Sprinkle about 1 tablespoon of streusel over each muffin.
Bake 18 to 20 minutes or until golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the center of a couple of muffins comes out dry. Cool slightly and remove from the pan.
Run a small metal spatula around edge of each muffin to loosen it, and lift gently from the pan. Serve muffins warm with butter or jam.

BAKER'S NOTE: For muffins, I prefer spraying the muffin cups instead of using paper liners because the muffins usually stick to the paper.
SECRETS TO SUCCESS: Muffins are at their best served warm from the oven. Any uneaten muffins can be wrapped and stored at room temperature. I reheat them in the microwave before serving.

Copyright 2006, Baking Basics and Beyond

Friday, March 21, 2008

Serving Fish Twice a Week Has Healthy Benefits

My article from the Spring edition of The Best of Times:

Food experts agree that eating fish twice a week is an important part of a healthy diet because of the many benefits it provides. Studies show that omega-3 fatty acids present in fish reduce the risk of heart attack, the build-up of plaque in arteries and the incidence of strokes in people with cardiovascular disease. Possibly its most important effect is reducing the risk of dying from a heart attack. Omega-3 fatty acids have also been significant in reducing hypertension and preventing cancer. In addition to being high in omega-3 fatty acids fish is high in protein and naturally low in fat. Salmon, tuna, halibut, rainbow trout, sardines, mackerel, herring and anchovies contain significant amounts these healthy fats. Salmon, which is readily available has the highest amount of omega-3 fatty acids.

Fish can be contaminated with PCB’s and heavy metals such as mercury and lead that occur as pollutants in water. Pregnant woman, women of child bearing age and children should limit their exposure to heavy metals because they can cause birth defects and slow development, but most health professionals agree that for the older population benefits outweigh risks. As with any food, moderation and variety are the best approach.

Adding Fish to Your Diet

It’s easy to add fish to your diet since its available fresh, frozen or canned. Mild flavored fish easily picks up other flavors. Try substituting a mild flavored fish such as tilapia for a boneless skinless chicken breast in a favorite recipe but be sure to reduce the cooking time.

Fresh salmon has a flavor that requires little enhancement. Farmed Atlantic salmon is what is usually served in restaurants. Many people prefer wild Pacific salmon because it has a more distinctive flavor. Salmon can be served simply with a little fresh dill and a squeeze of lemon.

Tilapia is a mild flavored fish, perfect to serve with a flavorful sauce. Halibut is moist and meaty with a mild flavor.

Canned tuna can be found in most pantries and is perfect for a tuna salad sandwich or a summer pasta salad. Experts recommend buying light tuna, not albacore, because light tuna has lower levels of contaminants.

Buying Fish

Your best guarantee of fresh high quality seafood is to find a fishmonger that you can trust. Educate yourself by asking lots of questions. Ask for the best fish available and recommendations on how to prepare it. Fresh fish should have a mild briny odor but no “fishy odor” and have a firm and elastic, not mushy, texture. Fresh fish should be displayed on crushed ice and kept well chilled.

Fish fillets are cut lengthwise from the fish and are usually boneless but may contain a few thin bones that can be pulled out with pliers. Steaks are cut crosswise and contain the backbone but are a good choice for grilling because they are easier to handle.

Because fish can be flash frozen at sea, frozen fish that has been vacuum packed can be a good choice. The term F.A.S. stands for “frozen at sea” and ensures the excellent flavor and texture when cooked. Select packages that have no evidence of freezer burn and show no evidence of previous thawing. Always thaw frozen fish in the refrigerator to maintain the best texture.

Quick and Easy

Fish cooks quickly and can be prepared simply because of its natural flavors. Mild flavored fish are often interchangeable so purchase whatever is freshest. Most fish can be cooked with the same methods used for boneless skinless chicken breasts, but require less cooking time.

Because fish cooks quickly it is easy to overcook. When it is cooked too long, it becomes dry and tough. A good guide to perfectly done fish is to broil, grill or sauté it about 3 to 5 minutes per ½-inch thickness. As the fish protein cooks it changes from translucent to opaque. Lift a small portion near the center of the fish with a knife—it should be opaque but not dry.

Salmon and tuna are often served “rare” in the center but this is a matter of personal preference. Always ask in a restaurant how the chef serves the fish and state your preferences. At home, just cook it 1 to 2 minutes longer.

Because fish contains significant amounts of omega-3 fatty acids that have been shown to provide many healthy benefits, it makes good sense to serve fish twice a week. Keep frozen fish or canned tuna on hand so readily available. Experiment with different kinds of fish and try new recipes and you’ll see how easy it is to take a step toward better health.

The appearance of tender pale greens stalks of asparagus in the supermarket is always one of the first signs of spring. Fresh halibut, available from March to November, starts to appear about the same time. Select a thick piece of halibut so it isn’t overcooked when it’s baked. This recipe is easily doubled- double the ingredients and bake two packets

Halibut and Asparagus in Parchment

Makes 2 servings

8 stalks asparagus
1 (8 ounce) halibut filet, about 1 inch thick
1 teaspoon minced shallot
1 teaspoon grated lemon rind
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon white wine or water
2 lemon wedges

Heat the oven to 400 degrees F. Snap off the bottoms of the asparagus stalks and place them in a microwave safe dish. Add 2 tablespoons water and microwave on high 1 ½ to 2 minutes. By precooking the asparagus it will be cooked tender crisp when the fish is cooked.

Place a 15-inch square of parchment paper on a baking sheet and fold in half. Place the halibut along the fold and cover with the asparagus. Sprinkle with the shallot, lemon rind, and lemon juice. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Dot with the butter and add the wine. Seal the parchment by folding the edges together several times. It’s important that you get the packet sealed so that the fish can cook in the steam inside.

Bake 18 minutes or until the paper is puffed and browned. Remove the packet from the oven and open carefully, allowing the steam to escape. Check the center of the halibut to be sure it’s cooked through. If it isn’t place the packet back in the oven for 2 to 3 minutes longer. Divide in half and garnish with lemon wedges.

SELECTING AND PREPARING ASPARAGUS: Select crisp pale green asparagus with tight firm buds. It will be fresher of it is stored with the stalks in ice. Whether you prefer thin stalks or fatter stalks it is important that they are uniformly thick. To prepare--just snap off the bottoms of the stalks and rinse well. I usually peel the bottom of fatter stalks but this is just a personal choice.

Autumn Apple Pear Tarts

Tart apples and sweet pears bake under a flaky crust in a perfect fall dessert for two. I have baked this using only apples but I like the sweet-tart flavor combination from both fruits. I’ve also added a handful of dried cranberries on occasion. Use an apple variety recommended for cooking such a Gala, Golden Delicious, Rome Beauty or Granny Smith. My favorite pear is the D’Anjou because I like the texture, as it’s not as soft as a Bartlett. Frozen puff pastry shells are the perfect size to cover individual tarts. After removing two shells from the package you can refreeze the remainder.

Makes 2 tarts

2 puff pastry shells, thawed (from a 10 oz. package)
1 Granny Smith apple, peeled, cored and sliced
1 D’Anjou pear, peeled, cored and sliced
¼ cup firmly packed brown sugar
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon lemon juice

Heat the oven to 400 degrees F. and place the oven rack in the center. Roll each pastry shell out to a 5½-inch circle on a lightly floured surface. (Thaw the shells in the refrigerator.)

Combine the apple, pear, brown sugar, flour, cinnamon and lemon juice in a medium bowl. Mix gently until the flour is thoroughly blended. Divide the mixture in half and place in two 8-ounce ramekins or custard cups.

Center a pastry over each dish and press firmly to the edges. Sprinkle the tops with a little sugar and cinnamon and cut 3 slits in each to allow the steam to escape. Bake 30 to 40 minutes or until the crust is golden brown. I also test the fruit with a fork to be sure that the apples are tender.

Serve the tarts warm with a little ice cream if you are feeling indulgent.

MORE ABOUT PEELING AND SELECTING FRUIT: I don’t feel like I have to have every gadget out there but last summer I discovered a “soft fruit peeler”. It looks just like a vegetable peeler but has a serrated blade and is perfect for peeling pears, peaches and tomatoes. I now consider it an essential!!

A pear is ripe if it gives slightly when you gently press on the stem end. Because pears ripen from the inside out if the pear is soft to the touch it is too ripe. Pears can be used before they are fully ripe as they soften in baking.

Copyright by Pat Sinclair 2007,

Wild Mushroom Tart

Dinner in front of a blazing fire is one of my favorite cool weather activities. Especially during this busy time of year, I try to take time out and have a quiet meal by the fire with someone special. This rich and earthy tart makes a light meal when served with assorted greens tossed that are tossed with a simple vinaigrette or a complete dinner when accompanied with a perfectly grilled filet. Crème fraiche is similar to sour cream and has a unique tangy flavor and adds a silky richness to the filling. Spoon any remaining over a warm fruit dessert or cobbler.

Serves 2

½ cup all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons cold butter
Pinch of salt
2-3 tablespoons sour cream

2 teaspoons butter, divided
1 tablespoon chopped shallot
2 shiitake mushrooms, stem removed, sliced
2 ounces cremini or portabella mushrooms, sliced
1 dried porcini, soaked in hot water, chopped
1 teaspoon sherry vinegar or white wine vinegar
¼ cup crème fraiche
1 egg yolk

Heat the oven to 400 degrees F. with an oven rack in the center.

Place the flour, cold butter and salt in the bowl of a mini-processor and process until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Add the sour cream and process until the mixture comes together, about 10 seconds. Shape dough into a disk, wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate at least ½ hour. Divide dough in half and roll out each half on a well-floured work surface to a 6-inch circle. Fit each into a 4-inch tart pan, pressing dough firmly up the sides of the pan. Chill while preparing the filling.

Melt 1 teaspoon butter in a small skillet and add the shallot. Cook over medium heat until tender. Add the remaining 1 teaspoon butter and mushrooms. Increase the heat to medium-high and cook, stirring constantly, until the mushrooms are tender and liquid has evaporated.

Add the vinegar and scrape to loosen any browned bits from the bottom of the pan. Season with salt and pepper.

Combine the crème fraiche and egg yolk in a small bowl and mix well. Spoon into the tart shells. Add half of the mushrooms to each tart. Place the shells on a small baking sheet.

Bake 20 to 25 minutes or until the filling is set.

MORE ABOUT MUSHROOMS: Dried porcini mushrooms can be expensive but they keep indefinitely and add amazing flavor to any dish - just reheat in hot water before using. Shiitake mushrooms must have their woody stems removed before chopping because the stems do not soften with cooking. Break the stems off close to the cap. I never use water to clean mushrooms because they can absorb the water- just brush off any dirt with moist paper towel.

Copyright by Pat Sinclair 2007,

Thursday, March 20, 2008

A Little About Me...

Pat Sinclair is a food consultant with over 20 years experience. Her first cookbook "Baking Basics and Beyond", published by Surrey Books, has been presented the Baking Cookbook Award for 2007 by the Cordon d’Or- Gold Ribbon Award International Annual Cookbooks and Culinary Arts Program.

Throughout her career she has worked for high-profile corporate clients who target American home bakers such as Land O’Lakes, General Mills and Pillsbury. She was the recipe editor for two Pillsbury Classics Cookbooks and also one for Land O’Lakes.

Pat has played a major role in the production of several community cookbooks, including “Breakfast in Cairo, Dinner in Rome” and "Cooking with KARE- KARE 11 News". "Breakfast in Cairo, Dinner in Rome" was the 2000 Midwest Regional Winner in the prestigious Tabasco Community Cookbook Awards. As the food editor of this cookbook, Pat incorporated changes to the recipes as a result of kitchen testing. Pat also made the decision as to which recipes from over 450 were to be included, named the chapters and arranged recipes in the chapters.

Pat is currently teaching cooking classes in the Twin Cities at Cooks of Crocus Hill, Mothersauces, and Byerly’s Cooking School. Her emphasis is on recipes that are easy, fast and practical for the home cook.

Pat holds a bachelor’s degree in Food Research from Purdue University and a master's degree in Foods from the University of Maryland. She is a member of the International Association of Culinary Professionals.