Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Jackrabbit Ruminations.


This little story came about due to the posing of a single jackrabbit.  Normally they’re zipping back and forth across roadways, or racing through the desert trying not to smash into sage brush.  Photographing them is next to impossible, those buggers don’t sit still long enough, until that one day.  Sitting at the front desk of Canyon Country Discovery Center, well I have the best seat in the house.  Large window panes allow me to look across farmland and canyon rocks stretching eastward to Colorado; in the far distance are the majestic San Juans.  Typical wildlife that entertains are mule deer, wild turkeys, red fox, antics of chipmunks, aerodynamics of hummingbirds and the zipping of jackrabbits.  Then it happened, a jackrabbit stopped on a gravel path and began to “strike the pose…vogue” (Madonna song reference).  He (assuming it was a he, I didn’t actually check) sat back on those long, power punching legs; turned his head this way and that; then turned his whole body so that the mild wind pushed his ears back.  His eyes slowly closed and I swear that little bugger had decided to take a nap there and then.

So, back to the mention of a little story and let me put the disclaimer now, so those experts on wildlife won’t get all bent out of shape.   The story I’m about to tell about this jackrabbit is totally made up, a work of fiction from my mind; call me crazy and I’ll say thank you for noticing. 

Meet Jack, Jack the Rabbit; he’s not much on commitment; loves the ladies, but doesn’t stick around long enough for a lasting relationship.  He’s a bit of a cad, loves them and leaves them in a “delicate” condition.  Now the ladies, they have their own issues; so busy running to no place in particular that when the babe comes, it’s “pop it out, it fends for itself”.  Jackrabbits don’t build nests in the ground like the cute cottontails; nope, their babies are born wide eyed, bushy tailed and raring to go-go-go.  Jack has a sister, Jackie; who happened to meet one handsome hare from Wyoming.  The Wyoming Alope family are well known in those parts for slick dealing at the gambling table and serving up watered down liquor at their establishment.  Yes sir, Jackie married and became…Jackie ALope.

Then there is Jack’s uncle, Bob; the family don’t speak much about Bob, not since “the incident”.  Seems Bob got into a bit of a mess when he was hungry and decided that elderberries would make a great snack.  Well he was a bit lazy that day too, so instead of picking those berries fresh off the bush, he ate the ones sitting on the ground, not realizing they had fermented into wine.  That Cat was so drunk, didn’t realize that his neighbor’s third daughter was sleeping under that elderberry bush.  Nope, he had his way with her, No, not that way, get your minds out of the gutter; he done ‘et her!  Yep, Bob’s his uncle, but they don’t really talk about Bob in front of pleasant company.


Ah cooking, this column is supposed to focus on cooking, so let’s cook up some rabbit, aye?  In Native American cultures, the rabbit resides in legends from being a good luck charm to a parallel of coyote; the protector of witches and a trickster.  Mesoamerican belief was that a rabbit, not a man, resided in the moon.  No matter the legend, the rabbit was prized for its meat; its fur and tanned hide made into gloves, caps, cradle board cushions or padding.

In the cookbook, Pueblo Indian Cookbook by Phyllis Hughes, there is a kitchen tested recipe for Jackrabbit Stew.  While researching recipes for this article, I found that Native American cooking techniques/beliefs resembled ones I am quite acquainted with. Before serving the meal, a small portion is offered up to the spirits; similar to the offering of a piece of bread and meat to the Greek Goddess, Hestia (protector of the home and hearth; goddess of hospitality).  When it comes to measuring, it comes down to the senses; the feel of the grains, herbs and spices, a sort of knowing, in your heart, what amounts are correct.  That’s what cooking with love and passion are!

So here’s the recipe, and if rabbit or hare are not your type of fare; substituting chicken will be just as tasty.

Jackrabbit Stew
(Pueblo Indian Cookbook, page 39)

Ingredients:

1 jackrabbit (or domestic hare or 5 lb. baking chicken)
1 large onion, chopped
1 tsp. salt
2/3 Tbsp. chile powder (optional)
1 and ½ cups flour
2 quarts water
2 large onions
6 large carrots, halved
2 sweet peppers, halved and seeded
4 tsp. salt
2 cups cooked lime hominy
¾ cup melted lard or cooking oil

Preparation:

Cut rabbit (or other) into serving size pieces.  Dredge in flour.  Put oil in large kettle and heat until sizzling.  Brown all pieces of meat on all sides, drain and pour off excess oil.  Return meat to kettle, add water and simmer for two hours, add all vegetables and simmer until carrots are tender.

Note:  Not sure if the repeat of onion and salt are intentional or a misprint.  The majority of cookbooks also have ingredients listed in the order that they are used, while this recipe is a bit of a hodge podge.

Mary Cokenour


Wednesday, June 6, 2018

What is Fair About Fair Trade?

 
As long as I can remember, and that is a long time, the United States of America has been the unofficial “911” of the world.  Global disasters, whether brought about by human hands, or the displeasure of Mother Nature, the American government and its people were ready, willing and able to help.  It wasn’t until the 1980s that I personally took notice that when it came to America itself, we seemed to be failing the 911 calls from our own farmers.

The first Farm Aid Concert was held on September 22, 1985; organized by Willie Nelson, John “Cougar” Mellencamp and Neil Young.  The focus of the concert was to raise money for American farmers who were being threatened by foreclosure due to mortgage debts.  Now while Congress did pass, in 1987, the Agricultural Credit Act, to keep foreclosures at bay, the question remains, why, why was the farming industry in such dire straits?

Simply put, the cause is “dumping”, but an article, Global Trade can Make or Break Farmers, by Jennifer Fahy (Communications Director for Farm Aid) explains it in more detail.  Quote, “Agricultural dumping — the practice of exporting commodities at prices below the cost of production….encourages overproduction, trapping family farmers in a never-ending need for higher yields… forcing…farmers off the land, while damaging rural economies, public health and our environment.”

Jump forward to the 2000s – 2010s and the newest term to hit the food industry, “Fair Trade”; sounds similar to the term “barter”, no?  No, fair trade is, as defined by Fair Trade Certified aka Fair Trade USA, “a choice to support responsible companies, empower farmers, workers, and fishermen, and protect the environment. In other words, it’s a world-changing way of doing business.”  Formerly this applied to poorer countries, or what are referred to as “third world countries”; but recently the practice is being applied to American food industries, namely farmers.

Should you, as a consumer, make a conscious effort to purchase fair trade products?  Sadly, the answer is dependent on your, or your family’s, financial good or bad health.  Fair trade products are pricey; while a 12 ounce package of Dunkin’ Donuts (coffee beans from Latin America) costs an average of $6.99; Equal Exchange’s 12 ounce package will cost an average of $8.99.  Equal Exchange gets their coffee beans from a small town in Brazil, called Bahia, and, now hold on a minute, isn’t Brazil in Latin America!?!  The difference is large company growing and harvesting the beans as opposed to family farmers in a small village.  The product you decide to purchase is now dependent on what you can comfortably afford to pay.















In my humble opinion, the concept of fair trade is not unreasonable; we can apply it to the “small cottage” industry San Juan County is attempting to develop.   A huge corporation can make jams and jellies, selling cheaper in bulk.  At home businesses will have similar products, made fresh, by folks you personally know, just a bit more costly.  Which should you buy?  Again, it’s dependent on what you can comfortably afford; but I know I’d rather see a San Juan County, Utah, USA label on a jar of jam, then “Made in China”.  Again, that’s just my own opinion.

Mary Cokenour

Note: All photographs are of products available at Nature’s Oasis, Durango, CO

References:



Fair Trade Certification extended to USA farmers: https://www.npr.org/sections/thesalt/2017/04/19/524377647/not-just-for-foreign-foods-fair-trade-label-comes-to-u-s-farms

Fairness to USA Farmers: http://thehill.com/opinion/energy-environment/379554-global-trade-can-make-or-break-american-farmers

Farm Aid: https://www.farmaid.org/

Farm Aid’s mission is to keep family farmers on their land to guarantee an agricultural system that values family farmers, good food, soil and water, and strong communities.

 

































  

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

What’s Black and White, and Found in a Bakery?


If you’re from the tristate area of New York, New Jersey and Connecticut, and let’s throw Philadelphia, PA in for good measure, you don’t even have to think twice about what the answer to this riddle is…Black and White Cookies.  While it was debated whether it is a cookie or a cake; in 1998, columnist William Grimes, of the New York Times, finally defined it as a “drop cake”.  In his article, “Look to the Cookie: An Ode in Black and White”, Grimes tells the tale of its origin, Glaser Bake Shop on First Avenue near 87th Street where they’ve been making black and whites since 1902.

Growing up, and working, in New York City, every bakery worth its flour made them; they’re as popular for breakfast as bagels with cream cheese and lox.  Moving out to Utah, well like I keep telling folks, the only thing I truly miss from the east coast is the food!   I tried ordering some online, but the shipping costs were just too high; so who came to the rescue, but my mother.  She was able to find a supply of them at her local supermarket (small ones in a plastic container; large ones individually wrapped), and send them via priority mail.  Receiving the box, opening it and discovering these treats; it was like hitting the lottery big time!  I ripped open one of the containers of small black and whites, and ate three; oh the pleasure was indescribable.

Now what the heck is a Black and White Cookie you are asking, if you’ve never had one.  Well, it’s a large round vanilla, as Grimes describes, drop cake made from a thickened cupcake batter; one side is white (vanilla) fondant, the other is black (chocolate).  If you’ve seen cakes that have those perfectly smooth sides, when cut the frosting barely moves away from the cake; yes, that’s fondant.  Fondant is a thick frosting that can be softened up enough to spread like frosting; then firms up to remain on the item it has covered. Or it is rolled out into a thin sheet, placed on a cake and pressed to form a seamless covering.  The fondant frosting, once dried and firm, will have the same shiny consistency that rolled out fondant has; it’s just easier to get on the cookie when spread as a frosting.  That’s the best way I can describe black and whites; you’ll just have to eat one to truly understand.

I know many readers are bakers, so here’s the recipe to try.  Fondant powder and fondant sheets can be found in larger supermarkets, in stores that supply cake decorating supplies or ordered online, if not inclined to make it totally from scratch.





Black and White Cookies

To Make the Cookie
Ingredients:

1 cup granulated sugar
1 and ½ cups plus 1 Tbsp. vegetable shortening
1 tsp. melted butter
½ tsp. salt
½ cup plus 2 Tbsp. nonfat dry milk
1 tsp. light corn syrup
3 eggs
4 cups plus 2 Tbsp. cake flour
1 ½ tsp baking powder
2/3 cup cold water
1 ½ tsp vanilla

Preparation:

Pre-heat the oven for 350 degrees.

In a large mixing bowl, medium-high speed; beat together the sugar, shortening, butter, and salt; add in nonfat dry milk and corn syrup; cream together.  Gradually add in one egg at a time until mixture becomes fluffy.

In a large bowl, combine the cake flour and the baking powder in a separate bowl.  Add 1/3 of dry ingredients plus 1/3 cup of water to creamed batter.  When well incorporated, add 1/3 of dry plus other 1/3 of water; when well mixed, add last of dry ingredients and mix well.

Using two cookie sheets, nest one cookie sheet inside the other to make a double-thick cookie sheet; line the top cookie sheet with baker’s parchment paper.   Hint: For a guide, draw 3” circles on one side of the parchment paper with a pencil; place pencil side down on cookie sheet.  Spread batter over the 3” circles; make sure thickness is even (1/4” will puff up to ½” thickness).

Bake for 18 minutes; remove cookies to wire rack to cool.
Makes 18 cookies.

To Make the Frostings


Vanilla Fondant

2 ½ cups fondant powder   
¼ cup cold water
2 tsp vanilla

Put tap water in the bottom of a double boiler and bring to a simmer.  To the upper part of the double boiler, add the fondant powder, ¼ cup cold water and vanilla   Keep extra cold water nearby as fondant tends to be a dry frosting; without sufficient water the frosting will dry too fast, harden, and crack on the cookie. When the ingredients are well blended and thin (it should run slowly off of a spoon), frost one half of the cooled cookies; set aside to allow the frosting to harden.

Chocolate Fondant
2 ½ cups fondant powder
¼ cup cold water
2 tsp vanilla
½ cup semisweet chocolate chips 

Follow the directions for the vanilla fondant, but include the chocolate chips. When the frosting is melted and well mixed, frost the other half of the cookies. Make sure the vanilla frosting has set before starting to frost them with the chocolate frosting.

Let the cookies continue to set on a wire rack. When the frosting is no longer warm and pliable, you can store the cookies individually in food storage bags or wrapped in wax paper. 


Mary Cokenour

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Kane Creek, Oh Look Over There!

This is a food/travel combination article.  Spaghetti alla Puttanesca and Lone Rock in the Kane Creek Canyon Rim.

Spaghetti alla Puttanesca

Lone Rock



Next month, Roy and I will have been living in San Juan County, Utah for nine years.  These past years have been filled with joy, adventure, hardship, heart wrenching moments of loss, sometimes regret which becomes overwhelmed by a passion for the area itself.  Many times Roy has been amazed at how acclimated I have become to living in the great Southwest.  I tell him I must have been a pioneer in a past life; learned lessons eased me into this new life here.

Beginning a food blog to express a passion for cooking was a given, but beginning a travel blog (http://southwestbrowneyes.com) of the 4 Corners region was a must.  How else to share the adventures of this outdoor historical museum, and immense playground of desert, mountains, plains, forests and open ranges?  How else to share my photographs that many have called amazing; yet do not truly do justice to the landscape.  To appreciate it all, you have to get out here, experience it and remember to breathe.  What better way to introduce readers to a delicious Italian recipe, than to integrate it into the story of a San Juan County site. 

Kane Creek Canyon Rim aka Lone Rock Road, is located between La Sal and Spanish Valley; the far northern end of San Juan County; entrance across from the Black Ridge Recreation Area.  Personally, I often think this region is forgotten about, since the main population of the county is in the central to southern regions.  It is a wondrous region of trails for ATVing, 4 wheel driving, hiking, climbing, camping and exploration.  On most maps, it’s indicated with a mention of the “Behind the Rocks” trail; no mention of the road name, or what sites are available to see along the way.  It’s usually a busy playground during the ATV and Jeep Safaris though.

Lone Rock is a long, red sandstone formation which houses two arches, Balcony and Picture Frame. Now for a little history of Lone Rock to understand the relationship to the recipe I’ll be giving you next.  Originally it was called "Prostitute Butte" by the white settlers; the Anasazi used the area for religious ceremonies dedicated to the "mother deity"; it is assumed that sexual practices were part of the ceremonies which offended the white people.  A mother goddess is a term used to refer to any female deity associated with motherhood, fertility, creation or the bountiful embodiment of the Earth; the goddess was referred to as Mother Earth or the Earth Mother.  The name change to "Lone Rock" now dedicated the area to the Anasazi male fertility god, the Kokopelli; usually depicted as a humpbacked flute player (often with feathers or antenna-like protrusions on his head).  Kokopelli presides over both childbirth and agriculture; he is also a trickster god and represents the spirit of music.   In other words, if a female deity was involved...prostitute; male deity...just a lonely guy; can you feel my eyes rolling around in their sockets?


Lone Rock aka Prostitute Butte

Other Side of Lone Rock

Picture Frame Arch

Balcony Arch

The Terra Cotta Warriors
Spaghetti alla Puttanesca (pronounced [spaˈɡetti alla puttaˈneska] has been loosely translated into "spaghetti in the style of a whore"; an Italian pasta dish invented in Naples in the 20th century.  The ingredients of tomatoes, olive oil, anchovies, black olives, capers, red chile pepper and garlic give it the sensations of sweet, salty, spicy, and savory.  In other words, the perfect pasta dish to satisfy the taste buds as well as the belly.  Supposedly, this dish was prepared at brothels in the hopes of attracting men to satisfy their hunger for food, and well, do I have to really spell it out?



Spaghetti alla Puttanesca

Ingredients:

4 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
½ cup sliced, pitted black olives
4 anchovies, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 and 1/2 Tbsp. capers
1 tsp. red chile pepper flakes
1 and ¾ cups fresh, chopped Roma tomatoes (or use equivalent of canned diced tomatoes, drained)
1 lb. spaghetti
Salt to taste
¼ cup fresh, chopped parsley

Preparation:

In a large skillet, medium-high heat, heat oil and add olives, anchovies, garlic, capers and chile flakes. Sauté for 2 minutes, add tomatoes and cook for 15 minutes, or until the sauce has reduced.  At the same time, cook the spaghetti al dente.

Taste sauce and add salt to desired taste; add in drained spaghetti and continue to cook for 5 minutes.  Add salt to taste if necessary, and add chopped parsley after cooking.

Plate and sprinkle fresh parsley over all.

Makes 4 servings.

There you have it, a perfect combination of adventuring and dining.  Mangia!

Mary Cokenour







Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Blue Mountain Foods Enters a New Age.


Blue Mountain Foods

64 West Center Street
Monticello, Utah, 84535

Phone: (435) 587-2727 or 2451


Hours of Operation:  Monday thru Saturday  8am – 9pm, Closed Sundays


In June 2017, the owner of Blue Mountain Foods, and former mayor of Monticello, Doug Allen, heard the call of retirement.  He heeded that call by handing the reins and ownership over to his daughter, Stacy, and her husband, Jeremy Young.  The Youngs are no strangers to Monticello or Blue Mountain Foods, as they grew up in this small town, and worked at the store.  As Jeremy puts it, “food markets are in their blood”.

By the way, Jeff Allen, Stacy's brother, is the third partner in the new ownership.  He is sort of the "silent partner" and enjoys being behind the scenes.

They weren’t always in Monticello and prior to moving back, had resided in the Lone Star State of Texas for 13 years.  However, Monticello was calling and it was, and always will be, home.  This hometown couple, married 22 years, raising a family, found another need to be “food aware”, food allergies affected, not only themselves, but family and friends.  As they talked more and more with, not just locals, but tourists visiting the area, food allergies and illnesses seemed to be becoming a major issue.  Label reading and researching became a must; as Jeremy states, “Blue Mountain Foods is a fun place to be a foodie”.  So no wonder, during my interview with this friendly, lovely couple, we hit if off so well, we were foodies!

Jeremy and Stacy also believe that listening to their customers is a key factor for a successful business.  New items and brands were introduced to Blue Mountain Food’s shelves, many gluten free and vegetarian/vegan friendly.  Jeremy acknowledges that, “In this time where online food shopping is easy, less costly and more convenient; it is hurting the supermarket industry which have to now find ways to compete to stay in business.”





































Another huge change is the loss of the Western Family brand that had been on the shelves for over 50 years.  This brand pulled out of Associated Foods, the main supplier to Blue Mountain Foods, prior brand was Best Way, and it would have been too costly to switch suppliers to keep Western Family.  So the Youngs stayed with Associated Foods and have switched to the Food Club brand, which has been on supermarket shelves for over 100 years!  Beginning April 4th, a two week case lot sale of Western Family brand will be the ending of an over half century relationship.  Food Club brand will then be adorning the shelves with their green labeled products.

 















But wait, there’s more change in store (yes, pun was intended) for Blue Mountain Food’s loyal customers.  Online meal kits (Blue Apron, Hello Fresh and others) have become a huge seller, not just for guaranteed freshness, but ease of preparation.  Blue Mountain Foods has teamed up with Home Table to offer 3-4 weekly choices for your evening meal pleasure.  These meals can be ordered in advance or simply walk-in, make your choice and buy to try.  A few examples are: Chicken Fajitas, Chicken Pot Pie, Pork Yakisoba or Salmon Quinoa.  Currently the meals offered only offer a service of two at $15/kit.  Unlike the online meal kits that lock in consumers to a mandatory weekly delivery, Home Table will be buy as you need.

This foodie will definitely be trying out a couple of kits and will be reporting about the experience at a later date.

The Youngs are very interested in the “Shop Small, Shop Local” movement, especially the introduction of “cottage businesses” to San Juan County.  At home cooks will be licensed to prepare, package and sell to individuals, as well as small shops within the area.  For example, wouldn’t you rather have pure, delicious, locally produced honey than something shipped in from China?  Guess what, that product from China isn’t even real honey, it’s flavored syrup!  Another reason to join us foodies in reading labels and knowing for certain what you are truly consuming.

Expansion for Blue Mountain Foods is looming on the horizon, either for the current location on West Center Street, or the purchase of a larger property in Monticello.  For the Youngs, they are focused on hometown roots and loyalty; on bringing in products locally sourced, fresh and healthy; helping people deal with food allergies and illnesses; and most important of all, listening to their customers, whether local or visitor. 























Best wishes to Stacy, Jeremy and Jeff; let’s all of us help them achieve their goals!

Mary Cokenour