Tuesday, October 9, 2018

Autumn Equinox and Harvest.

On or near September 21st, the autumn equinox, or Mabon, is a celebration of equal day and night; as with its spring counterpart, March 21st, or Lammas.  This will be the last harvest of fruits and vegetables before winter blankets the landscape with frosty whiteness.  Or, as the southwestern states hope for, tons of snow upon the mountains to swell up the creeks, rivers and lakes come springtime.

Celebrating the autumn harvest is centuries old and spans many cultures worldwide.  In ancient Greece, Oschophoria was a festival held to celebrate the harvesting of grapes for wine, and in honor of Dionysus, the god of the vine.  Oktoberfest, a 16 day beer festival (September to October) originated in Munich, Germany, 1810, to honor the marriage of Prince Ludwig to Princess Therese of Saxe-Hildburghausen.  What better way to celebration the harvest of hops and grains?  Originally, the American Thanksgiving holiday was celebrated on October 3rd to celebrate the end of the fall harvest.

With the fall and winter holiday season fast approaching, many cooks and bakers are thinking about what creations will come from their bountiful harvest.  Apples, pumpkins and other types of squash will take center stage; while the last of the fruits and vegetables will be canned or frozen.

Apples; even though they are available all year long, there is just something special about the fall apple.  Maybe it’s all in the mind; the clear, crisp fall breeze upon the skin, as one bites into a juicy apple and a scent of spice suddenly wisps by.  The most delicious apple I have ever eaten was from an orchard on Mount Penn in Reading, Pennsylvania.  The “Mutsu” was a specialty apple with the most delightful taste of spice in every bite.  I have tried to find a similar type of apple, but nothing has even come close.  That is probably because what the orchard growers called “Mutsu” was a name used by other orchards as “Crispin”, “Pipkin” or “Liberty” apples; yet they were still not the same.  Well I might not find that apple ever again, but I sure do have very fond memories of it.

Now I’m going to ask all those wonderful made-from-scratch bakers to forgive me for the recipe I’m about to write out.  I came up with this semi-homemade recipe when, during a past holiday season, I had surgery on one of my hands.  The hand was immobilized for 6 weeks, so I was very, very limited to what I could do with one free hand.  So please feel free to use your own cake batter recipe and freshly spiced up apple slices instead of the packaged goods I mention.  I used a Super Moist Yellow Cake mix; yellow cake mix can also be bland, so I umpped up the flavor intensity by adding apple pie spice mix and a bit of ground ginger.  You could also think of this as a type of "upside down" cake where the toppings are baking in the pan underneath the cake layer, but when you flip the finished cake out, you see all the lovely apples and caramel.  I will consider myself redeemed by that little feature of the semi-homemade cake. 

Caramel Apple Cake


For the Caramel Layer:

8 Tbsp. butter, melted
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
4 cups brown sugar
1 Tbsp. ground cinnamon

For the Apple Layer:

1 (21 oz.) can apple pie filling

For the Cake Layer:

1 box Super Moist Yellow cake mix
1 tsp apple pie filling
Pinch of ground ginger


Preheat oven to 350F; spray two 9 inch cake pans with nonstick baking spray.  Cut out two circles from parchment paper to line bottom of cake pans; spray the paper with the nonstick baking spray.

In a medium bowl, mix together the ingredients for the caramel layer until it resembles coarse crumbs.

Divide the mixture up between the two pans pressing to the edges and 1/4 inch up the sides.
Divide the pie filling between the two pans, spreading it out up to one inch from the edges.

Prepare the cake mix according to packages directions, but add in the apple pie spice and ground ginger.  Divide the batter up between the two pans and use a spatula to smooth it out.

Bake for 35-40 minutes; cake will be golden browned and you might see some of the caramel oozing up the sides of the cakes.  Remove pans to a wire rack and let cool for 10 minutes.

When cooled, use a hot knife around the edges to make sure the caramel will not stick to the sides of the pan.  Carefully flip the cakes onto a serving plate and peel off the parchment paper.  Cut into 8 wedges and serve with a scoop of ice cream.

Makes 2 cakes, 8 servings each.

Mary Cokenour

Sunday, September 16, 2018

Presidential Mac and Cheese.

Macaroni and cheese has been around longer than 1937 when the Kraft Company put it inside a small blue and yellow box.  Traveling back in time to Italy again, remember, those Romans invented meatloaf, with two versions of the origin.

13th Century Neapolitan cooks were using a recipe called “de lasanis”, sounds a lot like lasagna and for good reason.  Fermented dough sheets were cut into two inch strips, boiled in water, drained and tossed with grated Parmesan cheese.  Whole sheets were also used as a layer between other layers of cheeses and spices, an early version of lasagna.

However, Thomas Jefferson’s daughter, Mary Randolph, is credited for making the American version of macaroni and cheese.  After visiting Italy, Jefferson brought back a pasta making machine, and a recipe for a pasta dish, using Parmesan cheese.  His daughter changed the recipe and substituted Cheddar, as Parmesan wasn’t readily available in Virginia.  Jefferson was fascinated with Italy’s culture and cuisine, and named his home Monticello (pronounced Mont-eh-chello (like the musical instrument – Cello).  Its translation is “hillock” or “little mountain; in 1888, founding residents of Monticello, Utah (there are 16 Monticello towns in the USA) adopted the name for their town, but its pronunciation is Mon-ti-sel-o.  What can I say, Americans are hooked on phonics!

Why do we love macaroni and cheese so much?  It goes back to basic needs for nurturing and comfort.  The taste, smell, texture allows our brain to remember memories long past of being held, comforted, protected.  Then again, put a load of chilies or hot sauce in macaroni and cheese to kickstart memories of wild times that felt just as good as the comforting ones.

Basic recipe for macaroni and cheese typically uses one cheese, but my recipes usually aren’t typical.  Depending on how creative I feel like being, it could be 2-3-4, even 5 cheeses; made in a pot on the stovetop, or baked in the oven for a slight browning and crisping on top.  No matter how many cheeses used, it always begins with the making of a roux (fat plus flour), adding milk to create béchamel sauce (white sauce), then the mixing in and melting of the cheese(s). 

The recipe I’m going to be giving is for the stovetop, but can always be spread into a baking dish for getting that browned, crispy topping.  I named this version of my mac n' cheese "Heart Attack Mac n' Cheese" for a very good reason; anyone who tried it said, "Eat this mac n' cheese every day, and you'll end up having a heart attack!"  I used a friend as a guinea pig, who shared some with her son; she asked if there was any way she could get more.  I considered that request a great complement in itself, so of course gave her another container full.  By the way, I break a rule on making the roux by not using equal parts fat with flour, but once you taste this, forgiveness is easily given.  One more thing, as I'm making the sauce I'm also cooking up the elbow macaroni; that way it all comes together piping hot and fresh.

Ready for a heart attack?

Heart Attack Mac n' Cheese


16 Tbsp. salted butter
1 cup flour
1 tsp ground black pepper
1 Tbsp. fine sea salt
1 tsp paprika
4 cups heavy cream
1 cup milk
1 cup shredded Monterey Jack cheese
1 cup crumbled goat cheese
2 cups shredded, extra sharp Cheddar cheese
6 cups cooked large elbow macaroni


In a large saucepan, melt the butter on medium-high heat (make sure to watch and not let burn or brown); begin whisking in the flour until well incorporated.  Continue whisking for five minutes as the roux begins to turn a golden color.  Add in the black pepper, sea salt, paprika, heavy cream and milk; bring to a boil. 

Immediately add in the Monterey Jack cheese and begin whisking until smooth; add in the goat cheese, whisk until smooth; repeat with the Cheddar cheese, but one cup at a time.

If you took my advice and cooked the macaroni while making the sauce, drain it, but put it back into the pot it was cooked in.  Once you begin adding the cheese sauce, the heat from the pot will keep it from clotting around the drained pasta.

Mix it all together gently; you don't want to smash or break apart the macaroni.  Now serve it up and enjoy; and we found out that even eaten cold, it was delectable!  Servings?  Good question and I'm going to estimate 12 to 16.  While I could only eat a half cup before going into "this is so good!!!" shock, Roy was able to eat a whole cup full and still want more.

Mary Cokenour

Wednesday, September 5, 2018

The Six Weeks of Farmers/Vendors Markets (Monticello, UT)

Tis the season, the harvesting season and the Monticello Farmers/Vendors Markets are in full swing once again.  The first market was on Saturday, September 1st, and will repeat for five more Saturdays from 10am to 1pm.  Neither rain, sun nor more rain deterred vendors from selling their wares at Veterans Memorial Park.

Lupe Simpson and husband, Billy featured homemade salsa from her business, Moab Salsa.  With recipes from her grandmother, Lupe uses locally sourced vegetables which helps, not just the local economy, but local farmers as well.  Her salsas are fresh made by fire roasting and peeling tomatoes, onions, tomatillos, and chiles; then mixing in herbs and spices for a tasteful combination.  Heats available are: mild, medium, hot, fire breathing, granny green (green salsa), and Moab sauce (sweet and spicy).  Whether as a dip for chips, topping for beef, chicken, fish or pork, or mixing into a casserole or one pan meal; the freshness of this salsa comes out true!

Small business owners Mandy Hoggard-Woodard and Jennifer Acox have teamed up together to offer the best of PS Petals and Sweet, Tupperware and Kitcheneez.  Mandy’s roses are large, lush, delightfully scented and beautiful; and can be ordered in any color, or a mixture of colors.  Need a special order, just get it to Mandy two weeks before needed, and she can seal the deal.

Jennifer is our local Tupperware distributor and buyers of this product can swear by it.  I’ve got Tupperware that I still use, and it was purchased during the 1980s!  Jennifer has all the newest colors, styles and uses available; order by catalog, or better yet, throw a Tupperware party!  But wait, we’re not done with the kitchen yet; Jennifer also offers products from Kitcheneez.  Cake and bread mixes, seasoning packets for meal creation and much more.  If you can’t get to the market, go to the Kitcheneez website (https://kitcheneez.com/), place your order, but make sure to put down Jennifer Acox’s name as your distributor when checking out.  Not only will she get credit for your order, but you’ll get a 5% discount!

Jasmine Anenberg, botanist for Canyon Country Discovery Center, featured “Back to School” sale items.  Microscopes for the budding scientist, or botanist like Jasmine; Kids telescopes and spotting scopes for star or wildlife watching; and 3D Chalk Making kits for sidewalk artists.  All items are 50% off, but teachers, simply show your school ID, and get a whopping 60% off!

Last, but definitely not least, Pam’s Jams; Pam Hanson, Operations Director at Canyon Country Discovery Center, is also a home gardener selling freshly harvested veggies, and homemade jams and jellies.  Ain’t nothing better than fresh from the tree or vine!

The Farmers/Vendors Market will be happening for five more weeks; this is a call out to all home based business owners, home gardeners, farmers or vendors in general.  Bring your own tables, tents and chairs, but most of all bring all your wares!

For more information, go to the Market’s Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/events/2142005322724434/

Mary Cokenour

The Granary Doing the Dukes Proud.

The Granary Bar and Grill

-located at The Grist Mill Inn-

64 South 300 East
Monticello, UT, 84535

Phone: (435) 587-2597

Website: http://www.thegristmillinn.com/granary-bar-grill/

Hours of Operation:
Sunday – Thursday; 5pm-10pm
Friday and Saturday; 5pm – 1am

The Dukes of Hazzard that is, referring to The Boar’s Nest, local watering hole of Hazzard County and owned by the Dukes’ nemesis, Boss Hogg.  However, the Granary Bar and Grill is located within The Grist Mill Inn, and owned by Monticello residents Ben and Crystal Breedlove.

The concept behind The Granary is 1920s Speakeasy, and there is a long history behind the term “speakeasy”.  1823 England, a “speak softly shop” or “smuggler’s house” referred to an illicit liquor shop; 1880s the word popped up in Pennsylvania to refer to unlicensed saloons.  It was the 1920s and Prohibition Era that most Americans relate speakeasies to.  Al Capone’s Chicago establishments; New York City’s 21 Club, and other popular haunts of the rich and infamous.  Watching “The Untouchables” with leader Elliot Ness, on television; tommy guns blazing during car chases, kegs of booze being smashed apart with axes, flapper girls doing the Charleston and sultry ladies singing the blues.  These were the speakeasies and metropolitan cities immortalized by the news media and Hollywood.

The Breedloves’ speakeasy concept, however, is based upon the southern backwater, small towns with stills hidden in swampy areas, gators for guard dogs, and a sheriff named Bubba.  It was the federal government crackdowns into these areas that helped create one of America’s favorite sports…NASCAR!  Drivers loaded down with cases of bottled moonshine, and kegs of hooch, maneuvered the back country roads at racing speeds to outrun the law.  After Prohibition was appealed, the drivers found themselves easing into stock car races; the need for speed being their new addiction.

Ben, why a speakeasy?  “We love the era and the hidden doors and rooms inside the Grist Mill call out for this idea.  The flour mill is a perfect disguise for a distillery and yes, we will be selling moonshine!”  Phase 1 of the plan has been completed, the bar (including karaoke area) and restaurant.  Phase 2 is the installation of a professional kitchen and a gift shop through which guests will enter the bar through one of the previously mentioned secret doors.

In 1920s speakeasies, “finger foods” were served; easy to walk around with and needed to soak up the alcohol in the system.  Very necessary for when the secret signal was given that the cops were about to raid the joint.  While The Granary has a two page Booze Menu, it’s the two page Food Menu that was more interesting to this foodie.

Local Patrons enjoying the offerings of The Granary Bar and Grill include Monticello's own Cindi Holyoak (hubby Michael was too shy to want a photo taken), Luke Lessner, and Jason Phillips of Canyon Country Discovery Center.

Luke Lessner

Ben and Crystal Breedlove with patron, Jason Phillips
Cindi Holyoak

There’s more to choose from than just finger foods, so be prepared to sit a spell and eat while enjoying a cocktail or icy cold brewski.  For a starter, we chose the Chicken Strips; 3 strips of hand cut chicken breast, deep fried with a coating of crispy, light panko (Japanese bread crumbs used for tempura).  These long strips were perfectly cooked, tender and moist, and the panko gave a delightful crunch to this appetizer.  House made sauces available are ranch, bbq, chipotle, buffalo, ketchup and that Utah favorite, fry sauce.

Main course was burgers, the Triple Bacon Bypass for myself; bacon combined with 6-ounces of  80/20 ground beef (sourced from Kanab Custom Meats, UT) bacon strips adorning the well cooked meat and a spicy chipotle bacon mayo slathered on the bun.  Hubby chose the Bacon Blue Mountain Burger which was highly recommended by my co-worker Jason Phillips, who had been dining at the bar.  This burger was topped with a mound of sautéed onions, caramelized mushrooms and melted bleu cheese.  Both burgers came with a side of red fries, red skinned potatoes lightly fried and seasoned with salt and cracked black pepper.

Dessert was a to die for Bread Pudding with a vanilla hard sauce; soft French bread is used; the sauce is cooked down with a mixture of cinnamon, nutmeg, vanilla and, depending on the chef’s mood, either brandy or rum.  This is no ordinary bread pudding, it is a slice of decadence on a plate.  Next time we’re ordering this first; life is short, eat dessert first!

…and let’s meet the chef of The Granary, Robert Lundell, but you can call him Rob.  Formerly of Harmon’s Station Park Cooking School, he was involved in recipe development with many originating via a “mother sauce”.  Sauces were originally invented to cover up the awful taste of rancid meats, but now they are used to enhance the flavors of many dishes, including desserts.  It’s no wonder the vanilla hard sauce on the bread pudding was so amazingly delicious!

The Granary Bar and Grill had its grand opening on Friday, August 31st; while the Breedloves are now working on Phase 2, we wish them good luck in all their endeavors.

Mary Cokenour

Virgin Limeade

Thursday, August 30, 2018

Feasts and Fun at Doug’s Steak and BBQ.

Doug’s Steak and BBQ
496 North Main Street (Hwy 191)
Monticello, UT, 84535

Phone: (435) 587-2255

Website: http://www.dougssteakandbbq.com/

Hours of Operation:  Thursday thru Monday, 5pm – 10pm; Closed Tuesday and Wednesday

Knowing I was moving to the Southwest, my biggest thrill was, “Yes, all the barbeque I could ever want!” but that was not to be.  In fact, there was a severe lack of this type of culinary delight within San Juan County.  Karen and Doug Whipple, owners of the Peace Tree Café and Juice Bar restaurants decided it was time to rectify this atrocity upon diners.

Property for sale, across from the Monticello Peace Tree, had just dropped in price; and they pounced on this like a mountain lion had stalked an Abert’s squirrel.  Purchase the property they did, and the planning began.  While plumbing may have been in Doug’s, and son Eli’s, blood, so was food…good food, lip smacking, finger licking, I want more of this, food!  The Whipples are foodies, so is it any wonder they get along so well with other foodies, like the Cokenours!?!  Reading through books geared towards smoking (they and I agree that Smoke and Spice by Cheryl and Bill Jamison is the Bible of smoking foods), experimentation began. 

What is the best wood to use?  Eli states it’s dried hardwood of oak found on our beloved Abajo Mountains.  Any additives to the water used to soak the wood, like alcohol or carbonated beverages?  No!  Pure wood and water is all there should be for a perfect smoke.  Up at 3am, the smoker is stoked and by 5am a temperature of 225F is achieved; it must stay consistent for 12 hours to achieve meat nirvana.  For brisket, after it reaches an internal temperature of 175F, it is wrapped in a special butcher paper specific for smoking brisket.  By 3pm, the brisket has reached an internal temperature of 200F; out of the smoker, it is placed inside a “hot box” to rest for two hours.

Unwrapping the paper, setting the brisket onto a cutting board, the aroma assails the nostrils causing salivation immediately.  The crust of a secretive spice mixture is glistening; the ends cut off to be saved for other uses.  Eli begins slicing; a watchful eye keeps the hand steady for 1/8 – ¼ inch slices of heavenly goodness.  Cutting against the grain, never with, taking a bite out of the first slice, the flavorful, tender meat begins to dissolve inside the mouth.  Slight shivers as the angels sing the “Hallelujah” chorus; alright, so I’m exaggerating a tad, but it could happen.  Anyway, I have tried brisket at many a barbeque joint, and Doug’s has the most outstanding!

Oh, the ribs, the ribs could make the devil himself bow down to the Whipples.  These are St. Louis style ribs; again a secretive spice mixture, but it’s the honey glaze that makes you want to hug a bee and kiss its mandibles.  The ribs go through a similar smoking process as the brisket, sans the paper, and Doug does a basting of apple juice.  They are so tender, just the ever so slightest tug of the teeth, your mouth fills with yumminess so good, you won’t feel bad about stabbing someone’s hand if they reach for your plate.

Eli is also part of a dynamic duo; with Greg, they are the “Grill Masters”!  These two have made the term, “flipping burgers” into an art form.  Half pounders of a mixture of 1/3 beef short rib, 1/3 ground chuck and 1/3 ground brisket; even after cooking, they are easily a half-inch thick!  Oh, the char, the char brings to mind grilling in the outdoors, the lick of flames as moisture drips down.  Using a digital thermometer, internal cooking temperatures are checked to get the customer’s desired doneness.  From rare to medium-well, your wish is their command.  Don’t dare ask for well done, no hockey pucks served on a bun, just on the television screens depicting sports games of football, baseball, hockey and racing.

That’s right, Doug’s is not only a family friendly restaurant, but can double as a sports bar.  Want to see a big game, but no room at home?  Bring the gang down to Doug’s, order platters of Bacon-wrapped Jalapeno Poppers filled with smoked apple cheddar (sourced from Apple Beehive in Ogden, UT) and cream cheese, wrapped in a full slice of crispy bacon.  These poppers are smoky and sweet with heat; barbecue sauce and ranch dressing are your dipping sauces.  Then there is the Smoked Nachos, crispy tortilla chips piled high with pinto beans, melted cheddar cheese, pulled pork, chicken or brisket.; served with salsa and guacamole.  Get a wheel barrel; you’ll need it to get yourself out to your vehicle.

Pitchers of Moab Brewery beer will make it all slide down your gullet so smooth and easily; that is until the opposing team gets a touchdown.  Hankering for a mixed cocktail, bartender and mixologist Nicole will put a punch in your punch, a dance in your step and bring a smile to your lips.  This sassy sweetheart knows her liquors and how to mix them up just right.  Fancy a margarita, that salt around the rim is Holyoak Smoked Salts (pure vanilla extract and bath soaps as well) located right here in Monticello.  Now that’s local sourcing!

Remember those burgers I mentioned before, indulge in a Greg’s; juicy meat topped with grilled Anaheim chile peppers, bacon, pepper jack cheese and chipotle mayo.  First you taste the char, oh that wonderful char; the heat from the peppers tickle the taste buds, but the creamy cheese and mayo snap a whip to tame the heat and then it’s bacon!   Even though it comes with fresh lettuce, tomatoes and onions on the side; to add these would be a blasphemy to the burger; makes a nice side salad though.  Joe’s has luscious grilled mushrooms and onions, bacon, yes I said bacon again, and melty cheddar cheese.  Eli’s is provolone cheese, red onion slices, bbq sauce and that mouth-watering brisket sent down from heaven itself.  Hungry yet?

Want the other white meat?  The pulled pork is out of this world; smoky, tender, juicy; the perfect pairing for the platter is rich and silky mac n’ cheese with a drizzle of barbecue sauce (well that’s what I put on them).  Then there is the half chicken; the flavorful seasoning on the skin permeates the meat of the chicken right down to the bone.  Pair this baby with au gratin potatoes chock full of cheddar, mozzarella and parmesan cheeses, or baked pinto beans with maple syrup and another secret seasoning mixture.

Doug, Eli and Greg, Doug, Eli and Greg; poor Karen, I bet she’s feeling a bit left out by now.  Working closely and diligently with her head chef, Michael Pipkin (35 years of culinary experience and of the Moab Pipkin clan), and assisted by cook Tyler.  They are inventing house made salad dressings, sauces and side dishes.  Think sweet potatoes are only good for Thanksgiving casseroles and pies; not when tenderly cooked, diced and mixed with diced sweet apple, honey, mayo, ginger and diced celery.  Another to die for item, Karen’s corn muffins; these are not typical corn muffins that are usually dry and crumbly to the touch.  Oh no, these are less dense, light, stay together as creamy butter is spread and then drizzled with honey.  Oh Lordy, there goes those singing angels again!

Doug’s Steak and BBQ does a good amount of their food sourcing from local businesses, but if they cannot find an ingredient they must have, then it’s Utah only, like Applewood Beehive. 

Doug and Karen Whipple love what they do; they love food.  The camaraderie of the staff is wonderful; they’re more like a huge family.   Their pride shows through the atmosphere they portray to their guests; sincere and outright friendliness; quality in the food products.  Wait staff RJ, Lucinda and Jens are amazing and go out of their way to give guests the best experience.  It’s not unusual though to see owner Karen and bartender Nicole carrying platters to hungry patrons, or filling up water glasses.  Everyone gives a helping hand and no one stands alone.  This ain’t no ballet company full of divas, each vying to be prima ballerina.  Oh no, this is a TEAM with a unified goal…SUCCESS!!! 

You might be asking why, why do they all care so much?  Simple really, the sustainability of a small town relies on its businesses.  From locals to visitors, showing passion encourages people to come, and come often; it encourages visitors to Monticello to stay, play, eat and have a grand time.  

Let’s put it all in a nutshell, Doug’s Steak and BBQ is family friendly, casual dining, perfect for sports enthusiasts, large groups are always welcome, and catering is available for parties and events.  If you have not visited Doug’s yet, here’s your invitation; what are you waiting for, get on over there and eat up!?!

Mary Cokenour