Sunday, March 29, 2015

Wonderful Gourmet? Too Soon to Tell.

Wonderful Gourmet

733 South Main Street
Blanding, Utah, 84511

Phone: (435) 678-3388
Fax:     (435) 378-3488

A new, and much needed, restaurant has recently opened in Blanding, Utah; Wonderful Gourmet.  The owners of Ocean Pearl and Hong Kong Chinese restaurants, of Cortez, Colorado, pooled their resources together, and introduced San Juan County to Chinese and Thai cuisines.  The restaurant is housed in the former Fattboyz/Olde Tymer building located on Route 191; while the exterior had a face lift, the interior is relatively the same.  The booths are still in place while the salad bar is no longer around; the bar with western themed mural is the prep station for the wait staff.

Unfortunately, the wait staff are very unfamiliar with these cuisines, so cannot answer questions immediately, and have a tendency to forget ordered dishes.  Definitely more training is necessary in this regard, however, they do maintain a friendly attitude and can be easily forgiven.  Remember, the restaurant only opened in February 2015, and the wait staff are not used to the foods of these cultures.

Onto the foods; Egg Rolls (3) are crispy, packed full of shredded vegetables, served with a sweet and sour sauce; very tasty indeed.  The Fried Dumplings (6) are meat filled, served with a soy based sauce; and also a nice treat to begin the meal with.

Our first main dish was Mongolian Beef; thinly sliced beef, onions, green onions in a mildly spiced brown sauce.  The chili peppers used gave a nice heat to the dish and allowed the flavors of the beef and onions to come through.  It might look heavy, but it was surprisingly light.

The second dish ordered was the Sweet and Sour Triple Delight; chicken (all white meat), pork and shrimp in a light, crisp batter and not, thankfully, drenched in sweet and sour sauce.  Vegetables were slices of onion and green bell pepper; usually pineapple chunks come with this dish, and they were definitely missed.

The Fried Rice was a huge disappointment; simply white rice that has been doused with soy sauce.  No evidence of stir frying, no vegetables, no diced, fried egg, and no diced roasted pork which are standards in any Chinese restaurant.   While it was a much better choice than plain white rice, still, it was overall disappointing in quality.

Now comes the big question, would we eat there again?  While there, we noticed a steady influx of diners who all seemed to enjoy their meals; we also noticed the owner continuously carrying take-out orders to the front counter.  Obviously, Wonderful Gourmet is developing a following in the town of Blanding; and I believe that we are going to be jumping onto that band wagon.  While our first experience gets a rating of C+, we see a great potential for this new business; and hope to see it be successful in San Juan County.  Here's the biggest news yet, Wonderful Gourmet is open on Sundays which is wonderful news to the residents of the area, and visitors coming through the area.

Mary Cokenour

Menu Pages

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Jalapeno Peppers are a Popping!

One of my husband's favorite appetizers is the jalapeno popper; either made with cream cheese or cheddar cheese, but he prefers the cream cheese ones.  Not many restaurants use cream cheese, since it is softer than cheddar.  Then again, they also use smaller jalapenos, double batter to make them look huge, but have to cook them longer and cream cheese won't hold up.

I, in turn, find the largest peppers, stuff them with cheese, lightly batter; they fry up faster, the firm cream cheese melts to a perfect, creamy softness, and the peppers retain a certain amount of "scrunch".  By the way, with the light batter, the peppers put forth more of their "hotness"; whereas the thick double batter of restaurants tames the heat.

To each his/her own.  The light batter recipe I'll be giving you is great for any veggie you like to munch on after its been deep fried.

Batter for Frying Vegetables


1/2 cup  flour
1/4 cup cornstarch
1 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. ground black pepper
1/4 tsp. garlic powder
pinch ground cayenne pepper
1/2 cup + 1 Tbsp. water
1 small egg, beaten
1 Tbsp. canola oil


In a medium size bowl, combine the flour, cornstarch, baking powder, salt, black pepper, garlic powder and cayenne pepper.

In a small bowl, combine all the water, beaten egg and oil; add wet ingredients to dry and combine until well mixed and batter is smooth.

Makes 1 and 1/2 cups.

Now comes the fun part, and you'll need to wear plastic gloves for and stuffing the peppers.  Find 6 to 8 large jalapeno peppers; slice off the tops about 1/8 of an inch down, discard; cut a slit lengthwise down the pepper; carefully remove the seeds and white pith without cracking or splitting the entire pepper. 

If you didn't already know, using the plastic gloves will keep your skin from absorbing the oil of the seeds.  If you decide to go gloveless; do NOT touch your face, especially the eyes.  The oil will not wash off, and you might have a burning or tingling sensation on your skin for a couple of days.

If using a deep fryer, follow its instructions on putting in the oil, and temperature setting.  I use a deep skillet, so fill it two inches with either canola or peanut oil; whichever I have on hand at the time.  Turn the heat to high, and it's ready when you flick a few drops of cold water into the oil, and you can hear it sizzle and pop.

To stuff them with the cream cheese, use about 2-3 tablespoons of firm (not whipped) cream cheese.  It's easier to simply use your fingers to stuff them; don't over stuff; you want to make sure the cheese is not coming out of the top, and that the sides of the lengthwise slit can close together.

Put each stuffed pepper into the batter individually; use a fork to lift the batter coated pepper out and let the excess drip off.  Then place into the deep fryer or oil filled skillet; don't do more than two at a time, or the oil temperature will go down too fast.  If you need to, turn the peppers after 3-5 minutes to brown the other side.  Remove from the oil and drain on paper towels.

Now enjoy as is, as dip into your favorite sauce...ranch, southwestern ranch and bleu cheese work the best.

Mary Cokenour

Friday, March 13, 2015

Hellmann's Parmesan Crusted Chicken Done My Way.

You know the commercial, mom makes a dish with chicken slathered in mayonnaise, some type of coating added, baked and her kids go ga-ga over it.  I finally decided I was going to try it out.  I printed out a copy of the recipe and looked it over; I didn't understand why the seasoned Italian bread crumbs.  Then at the bottom there were options mentioned, and one was, ""Omit Parmesan cheese for magically moist chicken".  Now I'm really confused, how can it be named "Parmesan Crusted Chicken" without the Parmesan cheese?  Or was the name now, "Magically Moist Chicken" because the cheese was omitted?  You have to love advertising people and the things they come up with to confuse the heck out of us.

First off, I'm going to post the Hellmann's recipe with the options; then I will post my recipe which is straight forward and without confusion.  I call my recipe simply "Parmesan Chicken" as these are the two main actors; the other ingredients are the supporting cast.

Hellmann's Parmesan Crusted Chicken


• 1/2 cup Hellmann's or Best Foods Real Mayonnaise
• 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
• 4 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves
• 4 tsp. Italian seasoned dry bread crumbs


1.Preheat oven to 425°.
2.Combine Hellmann's or Best Foods® Real Mayonnaise with cheese in medium bowl. Arrange chicken on baking sheet. Evenly top with Mayonnaise mixture, then sprinkle with bread crumbs.
3.Bake until chicken is thoroughly cooked, about 20 minutes.

SMART TIP: For the Hellmann’s taste you love with the goodness of olive oil, substitute Hellmann's or Best Foods Mayonnaise Dressing with Olive Oil.

Time saving Tip: Try making this dish with thin-cut boneless skinless chicken breasts! Prepare as above, decreasing bake time to 10 minutes or until chicken is thoroughly cooked.

TIP: Omit Parmesan cheese and have "Magically Moist Chicken" on the table in less than 30 minutes.

Now for my recipe:

Parmesan Chicken


1 (6 oz.) bag shredded Parmesan cheese
1 tsp. ground black pepper
1 tsp. garlic powder
3/4 cup mayonnaise with olive or canola oil
6 (4 oz.) portions of boneless, skinless chicken breasts


Preheat oven to 350F; spray baking sheet with nonstick cooking spray.

On a large plate, combine cheese, black pepper and garlic powder.  Brush mayonnaise on underside of chicken, press onto cheese mixture.  Turn chicken to skin side up, brush with mayonnaise, press onto cheese mixture; lay on baking sheet with underside down.  Repeat with remaining chicken.

Bake for 30 minutes.

Makes 6 servings.

Side Dish:  Prepare 2 (4.4 oz.) packages of Knorr Pasta Sides - Pasta Alfredo; decrease
water needed by one cup.  Instead, add one (8 oz.) package of frozen broccoli cuts; cook according to Knorr directions.  The moisture from the frozen broccoli will substitute for the one cup not added.

Mary Cokenour

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Florentine or Italian for Spinach Involved.

When a recipe has the name "Florentine" (pronounced "FLOR-en-teen"), or the term "à la Florentine", as part of its name, it refers to a dish that is prepared in the style of Florence, Italy. In other words, it involves spinach as a main ingredient in the recipe; a sauce and/or cheese may also be used in the full creation of the dish.

So it came to pass that I found tilapia on sale, and as much as I enjoy simply baking it with lemon and dill, it was time to experiment.  I remembered having a Florentine type dish at a restaurant once, so decided I was going to make it from scratch.  Personally, I think I did a bang up job on it; with simple ingredients and prep work to boot.  Now I wonder, tilapia is such a mild flavored fish; how would this recipe work with salmon?

Tilapia Florentine
(Spinach Stuffed Tilapia)


2 Tbsp. diced red bell pepper
6 tsp. olive oil 
4 oz. fresh baby spinach
1 egg, beaten
1 tsp. minced garlic
1 tsp. Italian herbal mix
1/4 cup part-skim ricotta cheese
1 Tbsp. grated Parmesan cheese
2 (6 oz. each) tilapia fillets


Preheat oven to 375F; spray 1 quart baking dish with nonstick cooking spray.

In a small skillet, medium-high heat, sauté red bell pepper in two teaspoons of olive oil until softened; add in spinach, drizzle two teaspoons oil over leaves and cook until wilted. 

In a medium bowl, thoroughly combine egg, garlic, herbal mix, cheeses; gently fold in spinach mixture.  Cut slit into tilapia lengthwise (not all the way through); with tip of knife cut halfway into both sides of the fish to create a pocket.  Stuff half the mixture into each fillet; place into baking dish and drizzle remaining two teaspoons of oil over the fish.

Bake 20-25 minutes; until fish is flaky and filling is warm throughout. (Remember, I live at a higher altitude, so your baking time might be 15 to 20 minutes instead.)

Makes 2 servings.

Mary Cokenour

Friday, February 27, 2015

Bangkok House Serves Up Fresh Thai and Sushi.

Bangkok House

2728 South Highway 191
Moab, Utah, 84532

Phone:  (435)355-0899

Facebook Page:

2.5 miles north of the San Juan/Grand County border, a new restaurant opened up recently serving up fresh and delicious Thai cuisine, Japanese specialties and Sushi.  Located a quarter of a mile from Spanish Trail Road (Moab Golf Course, The Moab Man Rock Art Site, Steel Bender ATV Trail), Bangkok House sits high on a hill with a grand view of the La Sal Mountains. 

The owner,  Venus Varunun, and her staff immigrated from Thailand to Salt Lake City, Utah and introduced Utahns to Thai cuisine.  Now they have brought the recipes of their homeland to the Moab area (Grand County); and San Juan County residents would enjoy the experience as well, since it's right across the border.  The restaurant has table seating in the center, while booths line the walls; the ever busy Sushi station is in the rear.  The staff are very friendly with bright smiles and attentive attitude; your happiness is their goal.  I was there for lunch and felt very pampered and well cared for; a culinary spa experience in a way.

A skilled Sushi Chef who loves his artistic work.

Open seven days a week, at 11am (4pm on Sunday), the lunch menu consists of Thai specialty items or a Japanese style Bento box.  The Bento box consists of a main menu item, choice of Sushi roll, Gyoza (a type of fried dumpling) and choice of Miso soup or green salad with ginger dressing.  I chose Pad Thai with Shrimp as my main meal item; stir fried rice noodles with ingredients including egg, peanuts, shallots, sprouts, tofu, and a choice of meat.  The Shrimp Tempura Roll was so good, if I had had room, I would have eaten two of those easily.  I did order two Sushi Rolls to go, the Rainbow and the Playboy, which I highly enjoyed at home for my dinner.

Playboy Roll

Rainbow Roll

The dinner menu is more extensive with appetizers, soups, salads, huge variety of Sushi rolls, Thai and Japanese specialty dishes.  There is something on the menu to please anyone’s taste preferences; even a grand dessert such as deep fried ice cream, or deep fried bananas with ice cream…oh so decadent!

This is Asian cuisine at its finest; you will find yourself making excuses just to go back and try another dish.  By the way, all the menu items are made up fresh; sit back, relax and enjoy the experience! Thinking of something exotic for your next reunion, reception, birthday party or family celebration; Bangkok House can accommodate you.  Give Bangkok House a try and expand your culinary horizons.

Mary Cokenour

Bangkok House on Urbanspoon

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Pan Sear When You Can't Barbecue.

As much as we enjoy barbecuing outside, when it snows or the cold wind blows, you won't find us outside doing much.  So how do I get that grilled look and flavor on the steak without the barbecue?  Pan searing is the answer; a cast iron skillet is great for this, but a top of the line pan, like Calphalon, will do the job just as well.

The meat I used was round steaks (one inch thick) which I tenderized with the indented side of a meat mallet.  Just a few good whacks to open up those meaty tissues and allow the steaks to absorb the seasonings better.  To season them, I mixed together a teaspoon of fine sea salt, a half teaspoon of ground black pepper, and a quarter teaspoon of garlic powder.  I keep it simple, if anyone wants extra seasoning once they taste it, then they can add.  Use half of the seasoning mixture on one side first.

Into my 12 inch skillet, I only add one tablespoon of oil (canola or peanut), heat on medium-high heat, and place the seasoned side of the steaks down into the pan.  I then sprinkle the other half of the seasoning mix onto the side facing upwards.  Now leave that steak alone fore a good five minutes before flipping it over; another five minutes and the steaks will be a tender, juicy medium-rare.  Not playing with the steaks allows the exterior of the meat to caramelize.

What goes better with steak than a topping of mushrooms and onions?  Not much.  Before I began the steaks, I had already sliced up those mushrooms and onions; placed them in a medium heated pan with two tablespoons of olive oil, one tablespoon of balsamic vinegar, a little salt and ground black pepper.  It will take about a good 20 - 30 minutes for those beauties to caramelize to a sweet, yummy goodness.  Give them a stir now and then to make sure the pan isn't too hot and they're sticking or burning.

Now top those steaks!  I also sliced some potatoes up (1/4 inch thick) and fried them up to a crispy on the outside, fluffy on the inside texture.  Steak, mushrooms, onions, potatoes...a sincerely winning combination!!!

Mary Cokenour

Monday, February 16, 2015

A Belated Thank You to a Fine Houston, Texas Gentleman.

Back in September 2014, I met a man passing through town that needed directions; not a problem for me and I happily gave him the information he needed. We struck up a conversation about the area and, per usual, food and restaurants came up. I lamented on how, when I had moved here, I was under the illusion that barbecue and smoked meats would be the norm, not the holy grail. How I had learned the techniques myself, owned two smokers, but time was not always on my side when in the mood for this most excellent type of food.

He then halted the conversation with a, "I'll be right back", went to his vehicle and began rooting around inside. He then returned with a plastic bag, handed it to me, and said, "This is for you." Inside was an approximately two pound beef brisket; he explained that it should be wrapped in foil and cooked for two to three hours at 200 to 225 degrees.  I was in shock and, at first, reluctant to take this man's food from him; he was going camping and hunting and this was one of his provisions.  He insisted, explaining how nice and helpful I had been; and he wanted to share something with me that he knew I would enjoy.

Since my hubby would be home for dinner that night; of course I was going to prepare this treat for us.  Wrapped in foil, oven preheated; it was the waiting that would be the worst.  Roy arrived home just as I had finished preparing red skinned mashed potatoes, a vegetable medley and the brisket.  The aromas wafting throughout the home were intoxicating!

The brisket had an evident smoke ring around it; you could taste the smokiness and I don't know what he used in his rub, but it was awesomely flavored!  It was very tender and melted in the mouth as we chewed; talk about food heaven!  As much as we wanted to eat the entire brisket in one seating, we did save enough for one more wonderful meal.

I allowed so many things to get in the way of my writing this blog post immediately, and I apologize deeply for the lateness of this thank you.  THANK YOU Travis Staudt (hope I spelled your name correctly) of Houston, Texas for your own kindness, and this generous gift you gave to my hubby and myself.  You are a fine gentleman, and this gesture will not be forgotten.

Mary Cokenour