As a consumer, you have more power than you might think to influence what's stocked in the supermarket. We were struck by the ingenuity of Kim Burton of Wichita, Kan., whose blog complaints about the discontinuation of Sunshine Hydrox, her favorite cookie, has now sparked a resurrection of the century-old treat.

Our motto is, if you want to eat something — or cook with it — speak up!

We've heard from a lot of shoppers over the years who can't locate products we've mentioned in this column. If there's an easy substitute for a new or obscure ingredient, we make note of it. And we always research the manufacturer's Web site to be sure the product is available. Even so, sometimes we disappoint readers who really want to try a new recipe and can't find everything they need.

Here's our best advice: First, do a quick Internet search to see what the product looks like, and print out a picture to take with you to the store. If you still can't find it, give the printout to supermarket managers and ask them to order it. Nationally distributed products can always be ordered quickly, and most stores aim to stock what cooks insist they'll buy.

One favorite ingredient that can be tricky to locate is Del Monte brand Mexican Recipe Stewed Tomatoes. This is the secret to our easy homemade salsa, which pairs perfectly with today's Beef Tacos. With a quick pulse in the blender, a little cilantro and a shot of fresh lime, these tomatoes transform themselves into restaurant-worthy salsa.

If you can't find Mexican stewed tomatoes, we are offering a close alternative in our recipe notes. But these tomatoes are really worth asking for, so here's the link to find a photo on the Del Monte Web site: www.delmonte.com/products/tomatoitem.asp?id118.

Menu suggestion: Beef Tacos with So-Simple Salsa

Corn on the cob

BEEF TACOS WITH SO-SIMPLE SALSA

Start to finish: 20 minutes

12 taco shells

1 pound extra-lean ground beef

1 teaspoon chili powder

1/2 teaspoon ground cumin

1/2 teaspoon onion powder

1/2 teaspoon garlic powder

2 tablespoons ketchup

1/4 cup water

So-Simple Salsa (recipe follows), to taste

Shredded cheese of choice, such as Mexican blend or taco style, to taste

Additional toppings: shredded lettuce and reduced-fat sour cream, to taste

Preheat the oven according to the taco-shell package directions, and heat the shells accordingly.

Meanwhile, crumble the beef into a 12-inch skillet over high heat. Cook, stirring and turning until the beef is almost completely browned and thoroughly crumbled, about 4 to 5 minutes. Sprinkle the chili powder, cumin, onion powder and garlic powder over the beef, and stir to mix well. Add the ketchup and water, and reduce the heat to medium. Cook for about 5 more minutes, stirring occasionally.

While beef is simmering, make the So-Simple Salsa and prepare the other additional toppings.

When the shells are baked, fill each shell with about 2 tablespoons of beef mixture and toppings as desired, ending with So-Simple Salsa. Serve at once.

Serves 6

Approximate values per taco without toppings: 223 calories (39 percent from fat), 9 g fat (4 g saturated), 45 mg cholesterol, 17 g protein, 16 g carbohydrates, 2 g dietary fiber, 117 mg sodium.

· · · · ·

SO-SIMPLE SALSA

Start to finish: 3 minutes

1 clove garlic

1/4 cup fresh cilantro leaves, loosely packed

Juice from 1/2 lime

1 can (14 1/2 ounces) Del Monte Mexican Recipe Stewed Tomatoes (see Cook's note)

Cook's note: If you can't find Del Monte Mexican Recipe Stewed Tomatoes, substitute 1 can of Del Monte Diced Tomatoes Seasoned With Mild Green Chilies. Drain off a little of the juices from the tomatoes before pouring into the blender, and add 1/2 teaspoon sugar.

Peel the garlic, and drop it onto the moving blade of a food processor or blender. Process until finely chopped. Add the cilantro, and pulse to chop.

Add the lime juice and the tomatoes, and pulse several times to blend. Pulsing two or three times will produce chunky salsa, and blending longer will produce smooth, thinner salsa. Serve at once or refrigerate until ready to serve.

Makes about 2 cups. (Refrigerate leftover salsa in an airtight container for up to three days.)

Approximate values per tablespoon: 4 calories (0 percent from fat), 0 g fat, 0 g cholesterol, trace amount protein, 1 g carbohydrates, trace amount dietary fiber, 41 mg sodium.


Beverly Mills and Alicia Ross are co-authors of "Desperation Dinners!" (Workman, 1997), "Desperation Entertaining!" (Workman, 2002) and "Cheap. Fast. Good!" (Workman, 2006). Contact them at Desperation Dinners, c/o United Media, 200 Madison Ave., New York, NY 10016. Or visit the Desperation Dinners Web site at www.desperationdinners.com.