Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Escaping Persecution Creates a Melting Pot of Foods.

Heads up, this will not be about the Mormons and their travels to Utah in 1847.  No, I am going ahead in time to 1914 with the establishment of “Russian Settlement”.  It is not known if the settlers there had another name of this now ghost town in the Park Valley area of Box Elder County.  By 1917, the residents had moved to either California, or towards Salt Lake City; continual crop failures, children sent to outside schools, supplies not shipped in as promised broke them.  The only remnant that the town ever existed is a little white fence built around two gravesites, Anna Kalpakoff, who was accidentally shot by her husband, and her sister-in-law, Mary Kalpakoff, who died during childbirth. 

These settlers were Molokans, a Russian Protestant-like Christian sect; this particular group belonging to a sub-sect called the “Jumpers and Leapers”.  These believed they were visited by a manifestation of the Holy Spirit, held revivals with intense zeal, reporting miracles that rivaled the stories from Christ's apostles.  Molokans were also pacifists; they refused to bear arms, or join with any of Russia’s military forces.  Life in Russia became exceptionally difficult, for any religious sect, after the publishing of Karl Marx’s “Communist Manifesto” (1848); with Lenin finally overthrowing the Emperor and his court in 1918.

As with any other persecuted religious groups (Amish, Mennonite, Puritans, Quakers, Mormons), moving elsewhere to find freedom was a very good idea.  As with any immigrants that came to the United States, they brought with them culinary goods they could carry and recipe books.  America is called “The Melting Pot”, a gigantic living, breathing, working version of the child’s book, Stone Soup.  Picture this, the country is the cooking pot being filled with ingredients from every ethnic, religious, racial populace that has settled its lands.  Our language which we call English, is a variation of Olde English, Spanish, French, German, Latin and a few others thrown in as seasonings.  While we are all American, sometimes we tend to forget where our ancestors truly came from; we have forgotten, or not bothered to learn ancestral histories.  We also tend to forget that our ancestors were not that welcomed by residents already well-established here; they had to fight for their, and your, rights.

There is your mental meal to chew upon, now something to prepare for dinner to make your stomachs happy.  Since I have brought up Russia, a popular meal prepared with either beef cubes, strips or ground is “Beef Stroganoff”.  The history behind this dish is vague: #1 – 1850s created by a chef for Count Grigory Stroganov who had rotten teeth and needed the meat to be very soft.  #2 – 1891 created by French Chef Briere for Count Pavel Alexandrovich Stroganov; using shallots.  #3 – 1871 Elena Molokhovets writes a cookbook for young housewives; her recipe uses mushrooms, onions, bouillon, allspice and mustard.  None of the recipes include the use of egg noodles, rice or ground beef; those are strictly American inclusions along with the invention of cream of mushroom soup and crock pots.

Personally I have made many versions of Beef Stroganoff using lean meat or ground beef; in a skillet or crock pot; sauce made of sour cream or cream of mushroom soup.  To avoid any disappointments, always make sure to drain any excess oil after browning the beef; who enjoys a slimy sauce really?  When using beef cubes or strips in a skillet, tenderize the meat overnight with a drizzle of red wine vinegar; breaks up the fibers and even Count Grigory’s teeth would   appreciate it.  Ground beef (90% or higher lean) is the quickest to brown in a skillet and this is the recipe I will now share.  Enjoy!


Beef Stroganoff
1 package (12 oz.) extra wide egg noodles.
1 lb. lean ground beef (90% or higher)
1 medium onion, diced
1 package (8 oz.) mushrooms, chopped
1 Tbsp. minced garlic
1 tsp. ground black pepper
3 Tbsp. beef stock
1 Tbsp. Worcestershire Sauce
1 container (16 oz.) sour cream
Prepare noodles according to package instructions; begin browning meat, medium-high heat, in 12 inch, deep skillet.  When meat is partially browned, add onions and continue to brown until no pink shows in meat; drain any excess oil.

Add mushrooms, garlic, black pepper, beef stock and Worcestershire; mix and let cook for 5 minutes.  Add cooked egg noodles and sour cream; mix thoroughly; remove from heat and serve.

Makes 4 servings.

Bonus Recipe:  Beef Stroganoff for Crock Pot
3 ½ - 4 lbs. lean beef, cut into ½” cubes
½ cup flour
½ cup olive oil
1 bag (12 oz.) frozen, diced onions
1 can or jar (8 oz.) of sliced mushrooms
2 Tbsp. minced garlic
2 tsp. ground black pepper
3 beef seasoning packets or bouillon cubes
2 cups water
1 can (10 ¾ oz.) cream of mushroom soup
1 cup sour cream
1 ½ lbs cooked, broad egg noodles
Mix beef cubes and flour together; heat oil in large skillet, medium-high heat, and brown all sides of cubes; drain excess oil

Set 6 quart crock pot on low, place in all ingredients, except sour cream and egg noodles. Cover, cook for 8 hours, stir in sour cream.   Let cook for 15 minutes; serve over egg noodles.

Makes 8 servings.
Mary Cokenour

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Well Yes to New Campbells Soups.

When I began to see the advertisements for Campbell's new "Well Yes!" soups, I immediately thought, "Oh great, another product that is supposed to be healthier and tastes like garbage.  What a waste of money this will be."  I purchased two varieties, waited for a cold, snowy day which called for soup, and opened up the "Sweet Potato Corn Chowder".

After heating, I dipped the spoon into my bowl and gave it all a stir; thick yet creamy; diced vegetables yet generous; the taste?  Wow, simply wow; this was very like homemade, and absolutely delicious.  I ate the entire bowl full and...well, licked the bowl clean as much as I could.

While this soup does have salt added (590mg per serving); what I truly loved is that it's diabetic friendly.  Only 25 grams carbohydrates per serving (only 6 grams of sugar!)

Well Yes! Soups ( currently carry 9 varieties; and more than likely I'll be trying all of them; choosing my favorites to keep purchasing afterwards.  So long as Campbell's continues to make them tasting homemade, low in sugar and delicious; I'll be a loyal consumer.

Mary Cokenour

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Semi-Homemade with Knorr Rice Sides.

What can I say, I like the ease of preparation, taste, and variety of flavors using Knorr Products; whether Rice, Noodle, or Combo Sides.  Sometimes I can simply serve it as an actual side with whatever protein I've cooked up: pork, meat, poultry, seafood.  Then there are times I want to make it into a complete skillet meal which involves adding vegetables, maybe extra seasonings, sometimes a dairy product like cheese or sour cream.  It's my skillet and I'll cook in it if I want to!

For ground beef, beef strips or cubes; Knorr Beef Flavored, Asian BBQ or Teriyaki are three flavors we enjoy eating the best with meat.

One Skillet Beef and Sugar Snap Peas

1 lb. lean ground beef (90% lean or more)
1/2 cup sliced mushrooms
1/4 cup diced onions
1 package (5.5 oz.) Knorr Rice Side, beef flavored
1 and 1/2 cups hot water
1 package (10 oz.) frozen sugar snap peas


Partially brown beef, medium-high heat, in a deep, 12 inch skillet; add mushrooms and onions, continue to brown beef till no pink shows. 

Add contents of Knorr package and water; bring to a boil.  Add sugar snap peas, cover, reduce heat to low and cook for 10 minutes.

Remove from heat, stir contents of skillet together and serve.

Makes 4 servings.

Notes:  Do not add the oil/butter recommended on Knorr package directions; oil from the browned beef will complete that requirement.  Instead of 2 cups of water, only 1 and 1/2 cups is needed, the remaining 1/2 cup will come from the frozen vegetable.

This recipe is quick, easy and delicious.

Mary Cokenour


Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Cherries, Chocolate and Love.

Valentine’s Day is just around the corner; a day celebrating romance, love, passionate embraces and kisses.  For some, it is just another day on the calendar; either they have no one to lavish their love upon, and vice versa, or the spark has gone out of a romance altogether.  Many couples celebrate their relationship on a daily basis; while others make it a grand event, and it better be a perfect one!  Personally, during our lifetimes, Roy and I have experienced all of the above; we have blissfully been in the “celebrate on a daily basis” stage for fourteen years now.

What exactly is the origin of Valentine’s Day?  We have to travel back in time to The Christians vs. The Romans; to the stories of three different martyrs who defied the emperors of Rome.  All were named Valentine (English) or Valentinus (Latin); their stories center on love; love between couples, love of freedom, compassionate love.  After the fall of the Roman Empire, and the rise of the Catholic Church, February 15th was chosen for Valentine’s Day to replace the now outlawed Pagan fertility celebration of Lupercalia.  However, this was not a great way to convince the Pagans to convert to Christianity; here is where the French come to the rescue.  February 14th was thought to be the day when bird mating season began; mating for people meant love and marriage.  Hence this was now a celebratory day of love, and that could not make anyone angry, right?

Well it seems to have worked out quite well, especially for greeting card and candy making companies.  One decadent treat very popular is chocolate covered strawberries; rich, sweet, lips colored ruby red, begging to be kissed.  However, that is more a late 20th century indulgence; and what was old, once again becomes new.  1915, The Black Forest (German: Schwarzwald), a large forested mountain range in the state of Baden-W├╝rttemberg in southwestern Germany.  Pastry Chef, Josef Keller, prepares a dark chocolate, four layer torte (made with ground nuts, not flour) with whipped cream, sour cherries and Kirsch (brandy made from cherries).  He names it after the region which is known for, what else, dark chocolate, Morello cherries, and Kirsch; oh and cuckoo clocks, but you cannot eat those.


Black Forest Cake is a beautiful cake that is perfect for birthdays, special occasions, holiday season, as well as the holiday of love.  This past season, I did make Black Forest Cupcakes, but they did not turn out the way I had wanted them to.  Into between the two layers of cake batter, I placed several cherries; after baking, the cherries had sunk through the bottom layer.  Still yummy, but very, very messy.  My fix for this will be to add chopped, dried cherries to the cake batter itself next time, making a sort of dark chocolate, cherry chip cake; keeping the vanilla frosting and cherries with glaze on top. 

On a side note, since 1915, many versions of this cake have been created; in America, white flour replaced ground nuts.  While I have nut flours to use, I hesitate as I have no idea if someone trying the cake has an allergy to nuts (grown on trees, peanuts are legumes grown underground).  Since the 1990s, I’ve noticed an increase in people, mainly children, developing this allergy, and must wonder if it is due to pesticides, processing methods or any other type of use to get the nuts to stores.  Therefore, my recipe for this article will be one containing basic white flour; no one you know have an allergy, then try a nut flour instead!

Another side note, the frosting is only meant to go on top of both layers of cake; the sides are left open so the layers can be seen.  I recently found out this is a new fad (been doing this, on various types of cake, for years myself) in the baking industry; it is called “Naked Cake”.  Guess the cakes sell better if they are “sexier”, go figure.


Black Forest Cake


Cake Batter:

1 ½ cups flour
3 Tbsp. baking cocoa powder
2 tsp baking powder
1 cup sugar
2 tsp chocolate syrup
¾ cup milk
¾ cup melted butter
2 eggs


12 Tbsp. butter, softened
3 cups confectioner’s sugar
½ cup baking vanilla powder
2 tsp vanilla extract
4 Tbsp. room temperature milk

Note: This is a buttercream frosting which holds up better over time (if there are any leftovers that is)


1 (15 oz.) can tart cherries in water; drain all water.
1 (21 oz.) can cherry pie filling


Cake Layers:

Preheat oven to 350F.  Cut out two circles of parchment paper that fit within two 9” cake pans; spray cake pans with nonstick baking spray; line bottom with paper circles.

In a large bowl, sift flour and mix in cocoa, baking powder and sugar.  In second bowl, beat together syrup, milk, butter and eggs; do not get mixture frothy by over beating.  Pour wet ingredients into bowl of dry ingredients; mix on medium speed till smooth.  Pour half of batter into each cake pan.


Bake for 35-40 minutes; until toothpick inserted in center of cake comes out cleanly.  Let cakes cool before flipping out of pans; remove parchment paper before frosting cakes.



While cakes are baking, make the frosting; cream together the butter and sugar; add vanilla powder, vanilla extract and milk; mix until smooth, but do not over mix.  Cover bowl with plastic wrap and allow to firm up; frost cakes after they have cooled.  There will be enough frosting for the tops of both cakes.


After making sure to drain all water from tart cherries, mix in small bowl with pie filling; keep cool until time to construct cake.

Cake Construction:

Place one layer of cake on plate; use half the frosting to spread over the top only; make frosting a little thicker one each in from the edge of the cake.  Place 1/3 of the cherries with glaze in center, spread out, but not over the extra thick frosting on the one inch from the edge.  The cherries and frosting will be even, so the second layer of cake will lie flush with them.


Place second layer of cake on top; spread remaining frosting on top only. Spread remaining cherries and glaze over top (if glaze drips over side, don’t worry, just makes it a little prettier).


Place in refrigerator for half hour to let it all firm up before slicing and serving.

Makes 12 servings.
Mary Cokenour

Friday, January 13, 2017

San Juan County’s First Eating Contest.

Before I begin, I better put the disclaimer; this is a work based on historical fact and historical fiction (which means not exactly fact).  Why the disclaimer?  Recently, a new documentary about the Hole in the Rock Expedition was aired on PBS.  Hosted by Gerald Lund, it was based upon the actual event and on his historical fiction novel, “Undaunted”.  As a writer of fiction, Lund took several facts of the expedition, did a twist on them, and presented a livelier version.  Seems a few folks were a bit bent out of shape on Lund’s playing with the facts.  That’s called “poetic license”; I’ll sort of be doing the same by calling it an “eating contest”.

On December 17, 1879, four pioneers, George Morrell, George Sevy, George Hobbs and Lemuel Redd (they ran out of men named George apparently), set out as a scouting party.  They were hoping to find, not just an easier route for the over 200 waiting, but the pioneers that had stayed on from a previous expedition group from Salt Lake.  Rations for six days were taken, however, they were gone by December 22nd; the men were lost, hungry, weary and very cold.  Should they go back, should they go forward?  Forward it was and on the morning of December 25th, Salvation Knoll was crested; the beautiful blue of the Abajo Mountains only ten miles estimated.  Four days later, the men finally reached the encampment at Fort Montezuma which wasn’t really a fort-like fort, just a few cabins and wagons.

Salvation Knoll
Much of the information about this adventure came from the journals of George Hobbs.  On Route 163, there is a memorial plaque on a red rock which his descendants dedicated to him.  Originally, George had carved his name upon a rock once the four men had reached the San Juan River area.  However, this rock was eventually removed by the BLM; that rebel, George Hobbs, had vandalized BLM land even before its institution!  There is a geocache nearby, before the fenced off area, for those interested in this hobby.

In Saga of San Juan (DUP of San Juan County, 1957), and later on, Hole in the Rock (David Miller, 1959); a section of Hobbs’ journal is quoted, establishing San Juan County’s first eating contest (my contribution of historical fiction). “Food enough cooked for three families and set for us.  After eating 5 biscuits and the meat all being consumed, I thought I would quit, as it might injure me.  …couldn’t resist the temptation of taking another biscuit.   In all I believe I ate 22 biscuits.”  While he mentions that the other men also ate more, Hobbs kind of infers that he was the big winner.  “I thought this would be a happy death…”

(George Hobbs Photo Courtesy of The Hole in the Rock Foundation)

Gerald Lund’s version of the story had the men eating “Johnny Cakes: which is made from cornmeal; biscuits are made from white or wheat flour.  Guess what?  It is not unlikely that both may have been served, since the Mormon pioneers did bring the recipes for both from wherever they originally hailed from.  Now as the amount eaten, I tend to wonder if George Hobbs was either being exaggeratory, delusional or doing his own version of historical fiction. His journal of the Hole in the Rock Expedition was written sometime after settling at Bluff Fort.

Think about it, he’s starving, yet his stomach had probably shrunk due to lack of food and water; how did he consume all that food in one sitting?  Whether biscuits or Johnny cakes, they would have been slightly dry; maple syrup was not available, so butter and/or honey might have helped get them down.  Nowadays, eating contests are serious, money making business; oh, but there are still the small hometown contests at the local fairs and celebrations.  Which brings me to a GREAT suggestion for Pioneer Day Weekend…two eating contests, one for biscuits, the other for Johnny cakes.  Contestants would have some type of liquid available for drinking; honey, syrup, butter for slathering on, so the food slides down the gullet easier and quicker.  The person who can eat the most in say, one hour (typical length of a starving pioneer’s meal) wins!  Someone pass this article onto the Chamber of Commerce people, in charge of Pioneer Day activities, right away!

Guess I better warn my boss now, I do intend on being off that day from work.  I am not missing this event (which I truly hope will take place) for anything; and of course would do a bang up job of an article for the San Juan Record.  It’s only January, let the planning begin; and here are two pioneer recipes that should be used in preparing the biscuits and Johnny cakes.


Buttermilk Biscuits
(Favorite Utah Pioneer Recipes by Marla Rawlings)


2 cups flour
4 tsp. baking powder
½ tsp. salt
2/3 cup lard or shortening
Up to ¾ cup buttermilk (available for baking since the 18th Century)


In a large bowl, combine flour, baking powder, and salt.  Cut in shortening until crumbly.  Stir in just enough buttermilk to moisten.  Turn biscuits out onto floured surface and roll to ¼ inch thickness.  Cut with “recipe” cutter (round instrument of some type) and bake at 425F for 10-15 minutes or until golden brown.

Note: more than likely, the biscuits were laid inside a cast iron skillet or pan, then baked over a fire.


Johnny Cakes
(A Melting Pot of Pioneer Recipes by Winnifred C. Jardine of DUP)


3 cups cornmeal
1 cup flour
2 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
2 Tbsp. molasses
3 cups buttermilk
2 well-beaten eggs


Sift together dry ingredients.  Slowly stir in molasses and buttermilk, mix well.  Add beaten eggs and beat hard for two minutes.  Pour into shallow, well-greased pans and bake at 400F for 30 minutes.  (A favorite dish of Prophet Joseph Smith)

Note: Johnny Cakes originate with the Native Americans; introduced to the white man as the founding of North American (1500s-1600s) began.  They would have resembled a tortilla, or a cornmeal flat bread.

Mary Cokenour

Saturday, January 7, 2017

Jalapeno Jelly is Not Cream Cheese Exclusive.

The first time I ever tasted Jalapeno Jelly was at the wondrous Kitchen Kettle Village located within Gordonville, PA. the store itself produces and sells hundreds of jarred jellies, jams, relish, salsa, pickled vegetables, and contains a bakery creating the most delicious baked treats.  Visitors are encouraged to sample from miniature jars with pretzels and crackers to munch on; recipe cards are available for use ideas.  Within the Village itself are all manner of small shops and restaurants; on the main street is a Quilt Shop full of fabrics to make any quilter(and I am one)faint in ecstasy (purchased my quilter’s frame there!)

Besides sampling the products au natural, some of the recipes were created, so you can taste why you needed (yes, needed) to have the item.  The Jalapeno Jelly was mixed together with cream cheese to make this delectable spread for crackers or vegetable sticks such as celery and carrot.  Ah, but I have a creative mind when it comes to the kitchen; and somehow knew this jelly would be a wonderful accompaniment to chicken or pork.  After trying out several cooking techniques, the best were either baking in the oven, or grilling on the barbecue.  Slathering on the jelly as another might do with barbecue sauce; the flavors were drawn in by poultry and meat alike.  Sweet, savory, mildly spicy; it paired with sides mild, medium or hot quite well.

This past holiday season, a lovely woman, Leslie Hyde Kelley,  gave me a jar of Jalapeno Jelly.  “Oh”, I exclaimed in joy, “this will be so wonderful on chicken!”  To which she answered, “Finally, someone who doesn’t just mix it with cream cheese!”  Now as much as I and hubby do enjoy this spread as a treat (instead of fish fingers and custard while watching “Doctor Who” on BBC America); having it on chicken is a lovely meal.  So Leslie, thank you again for the jelly, and here’s what I did with it.  Unfortunately, with all the rain, ice and snow we’ve experienced over the last few weeks, barbecuing outside was not an option; the oven had to do.


Jalapeno Chicken with Rice Side


4 chicken breasts, cut in half widthwise
1 Tbsp. salt and paprika
1 tsp. ground black pepper
1 (8 oz.) jar jalapeno jelly
2 (5.6 oz.) packages Knorr Rice Sides – White Cheddar Queso Flavor or Spanish Rice Flavor
1 cup diced green bell peppers
½ cup diced onions


Preheat oven to 350F; spray 9” x 13” baking dish with nonstick cooking spray.

Mix together salt, paprika and ground black pepper; rub onto both sides of chicken and place chicken inside baking dish.


Spread half the jar of jalapeno jelly over the chicken; place in oven and bake for 10 minutes.  Remove dish from oven, spread remaining half of jelly over chicken again; return to oven for 10 additional minutes.

Place baking dish on top most rack in oven, turn on broiler and broil for 5 minutes to give chicken a “barbecued” look.


While chicken was baking, prepare Rice Sides per package instructions, but add in bell pepper and onion to cook with package ingredients.

Makes 8 servings.

Mary Cokenour


Friday, January 6, 2017

Another Easy Chicken Recipe.

When it comes to bone-in chicken, there is only two ways I usually use it; deep fried or baked in barbecue sauce.  So, when I received a ten pound bag of chicken leg quarters, all I could think was, "That's a lot of chicken to fry up."  Yes, when it comes to bone-in chicken, I don't have much imagination for its use; Roy and I are more prone to eat boneless, skinless chicken breasts.

Ah, then an idea hit me, why not make the chicken and stuffing crock pot recipe, but use this chicken instead.  I layered the chicken on the bottom of a six quart crock pot, covered it with whole kernel corn, stuffing mix and a soup mixture.  Six hours later, on low heat, the meal was done; miserable part was, the chicken came off the bones.  As I spooned out stuffing with chicken, included were pieces of bone that had to be picked out before serving.  Talk about a mess and nuisance!  The chicken was parboiled to remove skin and fat, so I wonder if I should have simply cooked it for four hours instead, to keep the chicken intact.

Alas, I have no photos of that cooking mishap; hint, do NOT allow your spouse to use a camera without taking photos off of it first!  He doesn't know how he did it, but all my photos had been deleted while he was recording a snowfall outside.  Fortunately, I used the loss of the photos as an excuse to make the dish again, but in a different fashion.

After parboiling, skin and fat removal, seasoning, the chicken was placed into a baking dish.  Corn, stuffing and soup mixture went into a separate baking dish.  The corn stuffing finished 10 minutes earlier than the chicken, but this gave it time to settle.  Now this meal was so much better; the chicken came easily off the bone, but didn't have to be picked out of the stuffing.  Roy brought over some to his mother and brother to try; they cleaned their plates and wondered if more was available.  I'd definitely say it was a huge hit!

Trial and error; sometimes cooking is a fail, but it spurs you on to try again and find a delicious solution.

Baked Chicken with Corn Stuffing


8 chicken leg quarters
2 tsp. each salt and ground black pepper
2 Tbsp. paprika
2 cans (14.5 oz.) whole kernel corn
4 Tbsp. butter
2 boxes (6 oz.) chicken flavored stuffing mix
1 can each (10.5 oz.) cream of chicken and cream of celery soup
1 and ½ cups milk


Parboil the chicken for 15 minutes; let cool slightly before removing skin and any remaining pieces of fat.  Preheat oven to 350F; spray inside of two 9” x 13” baking dishes with nonstick cooking spray.

Mix together salt, black pepper and paprika; split mixture in half and sprinkle over both sides of chicken.  Place chicken, bone side down, into one baking dish; place inside preheated oven.

In second baking dish, pour corn (with liquid) inside and place butter in four corners of dish; spread stuffing mix over corn.  In a medium bowl, mix together soups and milk; pour over stuffing and spread out evenly.  Place in oven alongside baking dish with chicken.


Chicken will take about 40-45 minutes to bake (internal temperature of 185F); corn stuffing will take about 30-35 minutes to bake (soup mixture firmed up, liquid from corn entirely absorbed by stuffing).

Makes 8 servings.

Mary Cokenour