Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Seven Layer Taco Dip

Last night we sat outside and had dinner at Dos Gringos (in Phoenix, not Minneapolis!). For a starter we had Seven Layer Taco Dip. It was served very attractively in a small cast iron skillet on a large platter surrounded with freshly fried tortilla chips. It would be very easy to recreate this popular appetizer. Spoon about 1 cup bean dip and 1 cup chile con queso into a 5-inch cast iron skillet without stirring. Sprinkle generously with queso fresco and as much chopped jalapeno peppers as you like. Heat this in a 350 degree oven about 20 minutes until hot. Top with a scoop of guacamole, a scoop of sour cream and fresh tomato pico de gallo. Surround the pan with tortilla chips. Of course, it tastes best if you make the guacamole and pico de gallo (or salsa) from scratch. Unfortunately tortilla chips at home never taste as good as in Mexican restaurants!

Friday, February 20, 2009

Take Advantage of Frozen or Canned Foods in Winter

This is the time of year that it is especially difficult to find quality fresh fruits and vegetables. We're eating lots of butternut squash, red cabbage, broccoli and sweet potatoes. These choices are packed with antioxidants. My favorite fruits right now are D'Anjou pears, kiwifruit, bananas (they always come from the same sources) and apples.

Don't forget about frozen foods. Because fruits and vegetables are frozen at their peak of freshness, this time of year they often are more nutritious that "fresh" foods that have traveled long distances. Dried fruits are good choices but be careful not to eat too much- without water they are less filling and you'll be tempted to eat several servings.

Canned fruits and vegetables can also be good choices but buy low-sodium vegetables and fruits packed in fruit juice with no sugar added.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Southwest Dinner for Two

Later this week I'm heading to Phoenix to visit my son's family. I had fish tacos for the first time at Dos Gringos in Gilbert. Their fish had a light coating and was fried then served in a homemade tortilla with a cabbage topping. I've lightened the fish by omitting the coating. Make the Lime Cilantro Cream as mild or a spicy as you like. A fresh tortilla makes a huge difference so it's is worth seeking a local source.

Fish Tacos with Lime Cilantro Cream

Makes 6 Tacos

1/2 cup reduced fat sour cream
2 teaspoons lime juice (or lemon juice)
1/2-1 teaspoon chopped chipotle chile
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon chopped cilantro

12 oz. mild flavored fish fillet (cod, tilapia, halibut)
2 teaspoons olive oil
1/8 tsp. ground cumin
6 white corn tortillas
3/4 cup shredded cabbage (cole slaw mix)

Chopped tomato
Sliced avocado

Combine the sour cream, lime juice, chipotle chile, salt and cilantro in a small bowl. Cover and chill.

Heat the oven to 400 degrees F. Lightly spray a 9x9 inch baking dish with nonstick cooking spray. Sprinkle the cumin over the fish. Season with salt and pepper. Brush with 1 teaspoon oil. Bake 8 to 15 minutes or until cooked through. (Baking time depends on the thickness of the fish.)

Brush top of each tortilla with a little olive oil. Wrap in aluminum foil and place in the oven for 6 to 8 minutes or until heated through.

Place about 2 tablespoons cabbage in each tortilla. Add fish and top with about 1 tablespoon of the sauce. Add tomato and avocado if desired. Fold over to serve.

Copyright Pat Sinclair 2008 www.PatCooksandBakes.com

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Lots of Italian Pasta

I'm in upstate New York and went to Price Chopper today. Did you know Rachel Ray started doing demos in Price Chopper? She's long gone and there were no demos today.

For fun I looked at dried pasta available in the pasta aisle. I took notes because there was so much available. Here's a partial list: tubetti, orecchietti, penne rigate, ziti, acini de pepe, melone, fusili bucati, gemelli, tri colore radiatore, orzo, cavatapi, campanelle, rotini, trumpets, stars, small shells, farfelle. Four different brands were available including types of organic, whole wheat and whole grain.

In addition there were several brands of sauces, tomatoes and beans. And in the deli they had lots of mozzarella, pecorino Romano, pasmesano and provoloe. I'm going to take some pasta home and experiment.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Valentine's Chocolate Dessert for Two

Here's one of my favorite dessert recipes for two the two of you- Chocolate Souffles. These desserts aren't difficult- just follow the directions carefully. Chocolate with 60- 70 % cocoa solids provide a deep flavor and lots of antioxidants. Separate the egg carefully so there is not yolk in with the white and the white will whip easily.

Chocolate Soufflés

As soon as they come out of the oven, whisk these delights to the table. Although they are fabulous on their own, for added impact, make a small opening in the puffed center and pour in a little Chambord liqueur.

Makes 2 servings

2 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped
½ cup whipping cream
3 tablespoons sugar, divided
1 egg yolk
1 egg white, room temperature
Pinch of salt

Heat the oven to 350 degrees F. with an oven rack in the center. Butter a 2-cup baking dish generously and sprinkle with sugar.

Place the chocolate and whipping cream in a small saucepan and cook over low heat until the chocolate melts. Stir once or twice until chocolate is melted.

Whisk the egg yolk and 1 tablespoon sugar in a small bowl until it lightens. Slowly whisk about ½ of the chocolate mixture into the egg yolk. Whisk the warmed egg mixture into remaining chocolate mixture. Cook over low heat, stirring constantly until mixture thickens. Add vanilla and cool to warm.

Beat the egg white and salt in a small mixing bowl until soft peaks form. Add the remaining 2 tablespoons sugar and beat until stiff peaks form when the beaters are lifted. Fold into the chocolate mixture.

Spoon the soufflé into the prepared dish.

Bake 23 to 30 minutes or until puffed and the center is set and no longer looks moist. Sprinkle with powdered sugar. Serve warm.

Tip: The soufflé can also be baked in two buttered and sugared ramekins or custard cups

Copyright by Pat Sinclair, 2009 www.PatCooksandBakes.com

Friday, February 6, 2009

Valentine's Dinner for Two

When I think of a special Valentine’s dinner, my first choice is often beef tenderloin but this year when everyone has budget concerns I'm substituting pork. Pork tenderloin, a lean, healthy cut of pork is just the right size for two servings. Let it stand 5 minutes after roasting so that the juices are absorbed. The pork and the sweet potatoes bake at the same temperature and require about the same time. Add a simple salad and dinner is complete.

Pork Tenderloin with Cinnamon Scented Sweet Potatoes and Apples

Makes 2 servings

1 (3/4 lb.) pork tenderloin
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons maple syrup
2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar
½ teaspoon salt

1 sweet potato (about 12 oz.), peeled and sliced
1 apple, peeled, cored and sliced
2 tablespoons orange juice
2 tablespoons firmly packed brown sugar
1 tablespoon flour
½ tsp. cinnamon
¼ tsp. salt
1 tablespoon cold butter

Combine the mustard, maple syrup, vinegar, salt and pepper if a food storage bag and mix. Add pork. Seal the bag and let stand 30 minutes or up to 4 hours. Heat the oven to 375 degrees F.

Remove the pork from the marinade and pat dry. Place on a rack in a small baking pan. Bake 40 to 45 minutes or until meat reaches 160 degrees F. Loosely cover with aluminum foil and let meat stand 5 minutes before slicing.

While the pork is baking, lightly spray a 1-quart casserole with nonstick cooking spray. Arrange the sweet potatoes and apples in the bottom. Sprinkle with the orange juice.

Combine the brown sugar, flour, cinnamon and salt in a small bowl. Cut in butter until it resembles coarse crumbs. Sprinkle over the sweet potatoes. Cover and bake 30 minutes. Uncover and continue baking until fork tender, about 20 minutes. Keep warm.

A digital thermometer with a probe is the easiest way to have perfectly cooked meat and well worth the investment. Because the incidence of trichinosis is almost nonexistent, pork no longer needs to be cooked until well done. Insert the probe into the center of the meat. Cooking to 160 degrees F. results in juicy tender pork.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Ask for Sustainable Fish

Last night we had fish for dinner. It was a combo I had prepared from Let's Dish and included a piece of fish, two scallops, shrimp and some vegetables that had been wrapped in foil and frozen. It was seasoned with dried dill and was very convenient since all I had to do was bake it.

I have no idea what kind of fish was included which brings up the point of sustainable seafood. As consumers we must ask questions of our fishmonger and of chefs in restaurants as to the source of fish and make choices to promote sustainability. One a fish becomes popular such as sea bass, hi8gh demand by consumers depletes the oceans. Mercury in fish from the polution of local waters is also a health concern.

I'm trying to serve fish at least once a week and am asking more questions before I buy.

A good source of information is the Monterey Bay Aquarium seafood watch. Go to www.montereybayaquarium.org