Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Casserole Topped with Crescent Dough.

I stopped buying boxed meal products a long while ago, mainly because I discovered I can make it better, without all the preservatives, and add more fresh ingredients.  So there I was, going to make one of my own "hamburger helper" type meals, when I spied the canister of Pillsbury crescent rolls.  I like keeping dough products like biscuits, crescent rolls, even pie crusts in stock for those spur of the moment ideas. If I have to suddenly make dough, chances are I'll get frustrated and give up the idea altogether.

Instead of making a regular cheeseburger skillet meal, I prepped the ingredients and pulled out a 4-quart casserole dish.  I layered items in the dish in a manner I thought would work; and yes it did!  What I really liked was the perforations of the crescent rolls helped with serving sizes.  I used a pie server, since the servings were in the form of a wedge; each held together without making a mess.

Over the weekend I made a chicken pot pie and a baked turkey broccoli casserole; once again used the crescent roll dough to see how it compared to pie crust.  Good stuff!  Same old, same old?  Nah, play with your food and have fun experimenting.

Cheeseburger Crescent Bake


2 lbs. lean ground beef
½ cup diced onions
½ cup diced red bell peppers
2 cups diced tomatoes
1 Tbsp. Worcestershire sauce
½ tsp. ground black pepper
¼ tsp. salt
6 cups cooked, large elbow macaroni
1 package (8 oz.) shredded, sharp Cheddar cheese
1 can (8 oz.) crescent roll dough


Preheat oven to 350F; spray a 4 quart casserole dish with nonstick cooking spray.

In a large skillet, medium-high heat, brown beef part way; add onions and peppers; complete browning the beef.  Add tomatoes, Worcestershire, pepper and salt; mix thoroughly and remove from heat.


In a large bowl, combine cooked macaroni with beef mixture; spread out into casserole dish.  Spread Cheddar cheese overall; bake for 20 minutes.


Remove dish from oven; remove crescent roll dough from can and unroll over mixture in casserole dish.  Do not separate the dough into individual pieces.  Return dish to oven and bake additional 15 to 20 minutes; until dough browns.  Remove from oven and let rest for 10 minutes before cutting along the perforations of the dough.  Use pie server to lift up wedge serving.


Makes 8 servings.

Mary Cokenour

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Frying Up Them Fritters.

These United States of America were founded on basic principles, one being Freedom.  It became a melting pot for immigrants, mainly from Europe, who were leaving poverty, or seeking sanctuary for religious and/or political beliefs.  This mixture of peoples from different countries also brought their tried and true recipes of the former homelands.  As families met, couples married, and created blended families, so did the recipes intermingle.  The East coast was becoming crowded; the streets were not paved with gold, but a new land was being shouted about…The West.  The Pioneers began the trek out to the West; to seek their fortunes on open plains, or in the hills and mountains laden deep with gold, silver and copper.

Along the way, there were no general stores or restaurants; perhaps a trading post a thousand miles or so.  Provisions were on the wagons; hopefully the men would be lucky enough to catch fish in the rivers, or shoot wild game for meat.  Now the pioneer women were resourceful themselves; every scrap of food, from flour to butter to fruit and vegetables, had to be used up; there could be no waste!  In other words, leftovers were not something to sniff at and turn the head away; they were used and reconstructed into something new and delicious.

Let’s take one of my old time favorites, mashed potatoes…a fluffy mass of potato goodness seasoned with salt, pepper, perhaps an herb or two; rich and comforting with milk and butter.  I can picture it now, sitting in front of the fire on a cold or rainy day; a steaming bowl of buttery potatoes, a spoonful resting on the tongue, then slowly slides down the throat.  The deep sigh of satisfaction as warm comfort envelopes, not just the stomach, but the entire body and mind.  Alright, you get it, I truly enjoy mashed potatoes when they are fresh and hot.  Ah, but what about when they become cold, not so nice then…and back to our women pioneers.

Potato Fritters, British and Irish Pancakes, Jewish Latke, Polish Placki; name a European ancestry and you’ll find a version of one of these.  Now while I was researching Utah pioneer recipes, I came across an article, “A Melting Pot of Pioneer Recipes” by Winnifred C. Jardina at the Official Website of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.  Let me quote one paragraph, “Thrift fritters were a combination of cold mashed potatoes and any other leftover vegetables and/or meat, onion for flavoring, a beaten egg, and seasonings, shaped into patties and browned well on both sides in hot drippings.”  However, there was no actual recipe within the articles, and I wondered, how was I to make these without a recipe?  I began searching and searching, and I had a “Duh!” moment; of course, this was what I knew as a potato pancake!

Now it just happened I had made a roast beef dinner including mashed potatoes and peas; gee, can you guess what I did with the leftovers?

 Pioneer Thrift Fritters


2 eggs, beaten
4 cups leftover mashed potatoes
1 Tbsp. dried parsley leaves, crushed
Salt and pepper to taste.
1 cup cooked beef, diced
½ cup cooked peas
¼ cup sautéed diced onion
1 cup plain, dried bread crumbs
4 Tbsp. canola oil
4 Tbsp. unsalted butter


n a large bowl, mix together the first seven ingredients, combine well.  From the mixture, use an ice cream scoop to make balls (if using hands, golf ball size); flatten to ½ inch and press both sides into the bread crumbs.

In a large, deep skillet, melt the butter in the oil over medium-high heat.  Put 4 fritters into the pan; reduce heat to medium low and cook for 15-20 minutes.  Carefully lift a fritter to check for brownness before flipping them over.  Fry other side for 15 minutes; drain on paper towels.  Repeat frying the fritters in batches of 4 as instructed for the first batch.  Add more oil and butter as needed.

Makes 16 fritters.
Mary Cokenour
Note:  Just because I used a Mormon site to obtain this recipe, does not mean I am Mormon.  I don't discriminate; I accept people for who and what they are, and I expect the same treatment; regardless of, well just about anything.  Now, of course, if the person is a complete smuck, well then that goes towards the personality, not against race, religion, politics, ethnicity, yada, yada, yada.


Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Miracle Noodles?

Since I post links to my food and travel blogs on Facebook, I often gets ads on the sidebar for these subjects. One day the ad for "Miracle Noodles" showed up, I was curious, so clicked on the link. Lowers cholesterol and blood sugar, improves digestion; well now, this is something I could definitely benefit from. On the official website ( ) there is a special offer for a variety pack of six types of noodles and rice, each contains two servings.  Personally, I wasn't too fond of several of the flavors, and purchased what I really wanted to try out elsewhere.

So, what is this "miracle" stuff anyway?  Glucomannan which comes from the root of the Asian yam-like plant called Konjac (full name Amorphophallus konjac). And this means what to me?  Glucomannan is a water-soluble polysaccharide that is considered a dietary fiber. It is a hemicellulose component in the cell walls of some plant species. Glucomannan is a food additive used as an emulsifier and thickener. Products containing glucomannan, marketed under a variety of brand names, are also sold as nutritional supplements for constipation, obesity, high cholesterol, acne vulgaris and type 2 diabetes.  You know that commercial for's glucomannan, and you can buy it more cheaply as a supplement than as a diet aid.  Now you know!

The first packet I chose to cook up was the "Miracle Rice" which look more like tiny pearls (round) than actual grains of rice.  I followed the directions for cleaning and wondered why it had such a fishy smell to it; seems it's just a natural smell of the plant fiber.  I had already planned to make an Asian style dish with shrimp and sugar snap peas; how appropriate was the shrimp with the fishy smelling "rice"!?!

Simple recipe, took out my Wok and sautéed one pound of shrimp in two tablespoons of oil until they were a nice pink color.  I then added in one and one half cups of the peas, a quarter cup of hoisin sauce and the Miracle Rice; tossed till all was coated and hot (about seven minutes) and dinner was done. 

I divided it in half with my hubby; his reaction about the Miracle Rice was, "Eh, not great, but not lousy.  It absorbed the taste of the hoisin sauce well, so it's not bland."  I felt basically the same way, nothing special taste wise, but than the miracle happened.  I'd eaten only half of my serving and felt full; and that is what the glucomannan is all about.  It swells up and gives you a full feeling, so you don't overeat, or even eat an entire portion.

The claim to "aid digestion"; well that's when the second miracle happened, spending time in the bathroom as it makes you GO!  So my warning for this product is, if you have somewhere to be the next day, make sure spending time in the bathroom won't be a problem for you.  ...and there's the rub, as much as I'd like to use this product for its benefits, my schedule doesn't allow for me to live in the bathroom every morning.  I use it occasionally, that's fine, but on a daily basis simply can't be.

My opinion for this product is, for the benefits, I will use it when I can.  For others, I say read up on the product and make sure this can be beneficial, and you don't mind being in the bathroom several times in the morning.  It's definitely NOT Ramen noodles, so don't make that mistake.

Mary Cokenour

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Salsa Can Be Fresh and Fast.

There I was, cooking up sirloin steaks and sweet potato rounds, thinking about a garnish to serve with the steak. Sautéed mushrooms and onions were becoming a bore, and I didn't want to use anything from a jar or can. I dove into, well not literally, the vegetable bin, pulling out cherry tomatoes, Anaheim chiles and a small onion.  Inside my herb and spice cabinet, the dried cilantro leaves just happened to fall out as I opened the door.  That's right, I was going to be making a salsa; whereas most folks use jalapeno peppers, I was using the Anaheim which is a mile chile pepper. 

Roy and I like mild to medium heat for one good reason, we want to be able to taste the food.  What is the sense of eating chiles so hot, the mouth, even the face goes totally numb; you're sweating, tears streaming from the eyes, snot dripping from the nose, your insides are on fire and you are doubled up wondering if you're going to die?  Doesn't that all sound appetizing...Not!!! Sorry, but this pain does not out weigh the pleasure of tasting the food.

This salsa was also going to be cooked, not simply diced into small pieces; the juices of the tomatoes would be reduced by more than half, intensifying all the flavors of the ingredients.  Must of been a true success, as Roy couldn't stop eating it whether it was hot or had gone cold!

Quick Cook Salsa


1 Tbsp. olive oil
1 pint cherry tomatoes, cut into halves
1 small onion, diced
1 Anaheim pepper, seeded and diced
¼ cup dried cilantro leaves
¼ tsp. salt


In a medium skillet, or small Wok, heat oil on medium heat; add tomatoes and cook for five minutes to release juice from the tomatoes.

Increase heat to medium-high, add remaining ingredients, mix well and let cook until the liquid reduces by 3/4s.

Sirloin Steak, Sweet Potato Round, Quick Cook Salsa.

Use as garnish for meat, pork or chicken; use as dip or condiment.

Makes 2 cups.

Mary Cokenour

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Move Over Gandalf, I Need the Crock Pot.

Did you ever simply stare into the refrigerator wondering what to do with anything inside? It's like that with creative people, you simply hit a wall; a road block saying, "You shall not pass!" We home chefs, or cooks, depending on your attitude about the titles, hit road blocks; we are artists in our own right. Our studio is the kitchen, the palate is the plate, and the tools used to put the artwork onto the plate our pots, pans, skillets, crock pots, utensils of all shapes, sizes and forms. We are also writers, putting down onto paper our recipes; all the ingredients and precise measurements for the next person to understand; directions so it can all be done the way we intended.

Like an author would add to, or revise, a book, so does a cook revise recipes.  Trial and error has a lot to do with this, but it's also the creative side of "wonder if" that has the home cook saying, "I wonder if okra would be better in this recipe, than peas?"  Then there is the ever popular, "I don't want to cook today, but we need something to eat, and I don't want take out...again!"  All hail the crock pot, a kitchen deity unto itself; put all the ingredients inside, cover, and as an ever popular infomercial shouts out to us when surfing the channels, "Set it and forget it!"

So let's get to this adventure, another version of a crock pot favorite, "chicken and stuffing" and the good old can of cream of mushroom soup.  It would be so easy to simply put those three items inside, set it and forget it; but oh no, we can't forget those veggies.  Goodbye broccoli, as it gets chopped and dropped, inside the pot that is. Wow, I better do something with that package of sliced mushrooms in the vegetable bin too, before they turn black and moldy.  Funny isn't it that fungus, yes, mushrooms are fungi, would be so gross after turning moldy; sort of ironic really.

Oh, by the way, for all you out there with picky eaters in the family; the broccoli and mushrooms become completely incorporated into the dish, so you can't tell they're in there!  Also, by cutting the chicken breasts up, the cooking time is greatly decreased, so you can have this ready for lunch or dinner is no time at all.

Crock Pot Chicken Broccoli Stuffing Bake – Version 2


4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into 1 inch strips
2 cups chopped broccoli
1 and ½ cups sliced mushrooms
1 (6 oz.) package stuffing mix
1 (26 oz.) can cream of mushroom soup
1 cup milk


In a 4 quart crock pot, mix together chicken, broccoli and mushrooms.

Spread stuffing mix over all. In a medium bowl, mix together soup and milk; pour over top of stuffing mix.

Cover, set on low for 3 hours.

Makes 8 servings.

Mary Cokenour

Friday, August 28, 2015

Rana - Pasta Made with Passion.

Chef Giovanni Rana

Rana - Pasta Made with Passion


I have mentioned many a time that I am "pasta making challenged", so buying pasta products at the supermarket is a given for me.  It's what I do with it that makes the total difference where someone cannot tell if it's homemade, or from the store.  So it was no wonder that, having a "Buy One, Get One Free" coupon for Rana Fresh Pasta found me at the store buying two bags of ravioli to try out.  "How was it?", you might ask.  The next time I was at the store, I purchased several more bags of different varieties (ravioli and tortelloni); yeah, it's that good!

Now I'm not one to buy sauces though; I make my own killer ones, so I cannot tell you about Rana's pasta sauces that are sold next to the pasta products.  I'm thinking though, if the pasta is that good, perhaps the sauces are as well?  Maybe, just maybe, if I get another of those "buy one, get one free" coupons, I might break down and try the sauces out.

Why do we like this pasta?  First off, it cooks more quickly than other brands, within three minutes of adding it to boiling water.  The texture is outstanding; the pasta itself is thin, light and feels good in the mouth; but it holds up in the boiling water and doesn't split apart.  Fillings are exceptional; a good sized portion in the ravioli or tortelloni without taking it to the point of busting.  Packed with flavor, and the cheeses are so smooth and, shall I say it again, a feel good experience in the mouth.  The pasta also holds onto the sauce well; add a good, grated Pecorino Romano cheese for the perfect touch.

We've become big fans of this product, and we'd much rather buy Rana, than other brands we've tried.  By the way, it can be frozen and the cooking time only increases by two minutes, so five minutes until a happy Italian meal...not bad!

Mary Cokenour

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Paca Pantry - Alpaca Products and Unique Gifts.

Located on the corner of East Center Street and 100 East is a small, red colored building sharing the parking lot of the R & F Restaurant. The proprietor of Paca Pantry is Dorothy Pipkin-Padilla; owner of “Peter Springs Alpaca Ranch”, north of Monticello, on Route 191.  The concept is to offer locals and visitors the opportunity to purchase all that is Alpaca; and a whole lot more.  Come on inside and take a look at the multitude of items this little shop offers. 


Let’s start with the Alpaca itself, a domesticated species of South American camelid; with a slight resemblance to a small llama in appearance.  After shearing, their wool can be spun into thread for weaving of rugs, socks, shawls, hats, shoe inserts, even the warmest of gloves.  The spun wool is extremely soft, so can be worn by those with the most sensitive of skin.  Want to feel baby soft after a shower, use the loofah pouch your soap can be contained within.  All of these items are available for purchase at the Pantry; even skeins of wool for your own knitting, crocheting or weaving pleasures. 


Dorothy’s other business venture, “Wild Mountain Meats”, is also available for sale; Alpaca ribs, steaks, chops, ground and sausage.  Extremely lean and healthy, the meat has a mild sweetness to it; and needs to be cooked quickly due to the low fat content.  No clue on how to use the meat?  Don’t worry, Dorothy will happily provide you with recipes, like “Cheese Filled Burgers”, “Sweet and Sour Meatballs” and “Shepherd’s Pie”; along with cooking tips.


But wait, there’s more!  Consider Paca Pantry for that special and/or unique gift for any celebration.   Displays of various local artisans adorn the walls and counters throughout the shop.  Melinda Redd Photography and Fine Jewelry; Tony Wojcik Glazed Pottery; Roy Cokenour Digitally Painted Prints; and the always popular Thirty-One Bags with Sue Morrell as your ever perky and vigilant consultant.

Melinda Redd Fine Jewelry

Melinda Redd Photography

Roy Cokenour Digital Paintings
Roy Cokenour Digital Paintings

Tony Wojcik Pottery; Thirty-One Bags

Other assortments of handmade articles for purchase are crocheted hats, vests, gloves for looking stylish; afghans for keeping warm and cozy on chilly winter nights.  African Market hand woven baskets for adorning the home; purses to carry all your on-the-go needs.  There are even items for the adventurer in you; hunting knives, haversacks and old time lanterns.  Wow, I better get my photographs framed up quickly for sale at the Paca Pantry; I’m missing out!

Currently the hours are Monday thru Sunday, 12 to 6pm, as available; but give Dorothy a call at (435) 419-0750 and she’ll make sure she’s there for your buying needs, even that last second, “I need a gift now!”  Paca Pantry – Alpaca and More; how can you go wrong!?!

Mary Cokenour