Wednesday, October 9, 2019

The Pizza Trilogy - Sicilian Pizza


In a pizzeria far, far away from Utah, square pieces of pizza are being devoured; and I am full of envy and want.  This is the second installment of pizza making - Sicilian Pizza, also known as The Square.  For those of you who happen to travel to the New York City area, go into one of those older, authentic Italian pizzerias and make sure you order correctly.  If you want to try a slice of the Neapolitan, or round pie, you say you want “a slice”.  If you want to try Sicilian, you want “a square”.  If you just say you want a “piece of pizza”, you will be asked, “Youwana slice or a square?”   Capisce?  (pronounced cah-PEESHis - an Italian word that is used in American slang to say "got it" or "understand."?)  Now you are thoroughly prepared to order.


What exactly is Sicilian Pizza?  This type of pizza originated in the Palermo region of Sicily.  This is a thicker dough than used in the round type of pizza (Napolitano (for Naples)) and baked in a heavy aluminum rectangular pan.  In the United States, it is mainly seen in New York and New Jersey pizzerias, and whether the cheese goes under the sauce or on top is dependent on each individual pizza maker.

 “Tomato Pie” is a Sicilian pizza that has a thick layer of sauce over the cheese and is topped with a layer of diced or thinly sliced Roma tomatoes.   Why eat something so loaded with tomatoes?  Tomatoes have a wealth of vitamin and mineral content: Calcium, Potassium, Phosphorus, Vitamin C, Vitamin K1, Folate (Vitamin B9), Lycopene, Beta Carotene, Naringenin and Cholorgenic Acid  The last four are Antioxidants which have been found to be necessary for good heart, skin and joint health.

Enough with the lecturing, let’s get to making Sicilian and Tomato Pies.  Since the “crust” is very thick, like a nicely baked bread, I will also tell you how to make French Bread Pizza.  Now you can make it fresh at home, and not have to buy that frozen product at the store.


Sicilian Pizza

How to Make the Dough
Ingredients:

2 (.25 oz.) packages of active dry yeast
4 cups flour
½ cup warm water (about 110F)
1 tsp. salt
1 cup cool water
2 Tbsp. olive oil


Preparation:

In a small bowl, combine the yeast with a ½ cup of flour and the warm water; cover with plastic wrap and allow proofing for 15 minutes; stir afterwards to deflate.

In a large bowl, combine remaining flour, salt, cool water and yeast mixture.  Turn the dough out onto a floured board and knead for 15 minutes.   Clean the large bowl, lightly dust with flour and return dough to it; cover with plastic wrap and let rise for 1 ½ hours.

Preheat oven to 450F.  Brush the bottom and sides of a 17 ½” x 11 ½” x ¾” heavy aluminum baking pan.  Punch down the dough, return to floured board and roll out slightly.  Place dough into pan and stretch out to all sides, leaving a lip all around.  Let it rest for 15 minutes before adding toppings*.

Bake for 30 minutes or until crust is golden brown.
Makes 12 servings.

*Note: toppings would normally be a layer of sliced mozzarella cheese and an evenly spread layer of sauce; other toppings such as meats and/or vegetables can then be placed over the sauce.


Tomato Pie
Ingredients:

12 slices thinly sliced mozzarella cheese
2 cups homemade pizza sauce
2 cups diced or thinly sliced Roma tomatoes
1/3 cup grated cheese

Preparation:

Lay out the slices of cheese onto the pizza dough; evenly spread out the sauce and then the tomatoes.

Bake for 30 minutes or until crust is golden brown.  Remove pie from oven and sprinkle grated cheese over top of pizza.
Makes 12 servings.


Now I could have made this Pizza Trilogy into a quad, but why drag out a good thing, right?

French Bread Pizza can be found easily in the pizza section of the frozen food aisle; but making it from scratch is just as easy.  Honestly though, would you not rather make it yourself?  The frozen product has preservatives, oven needs preheating, let it bake for 20 minutes and it is sometimes an unsatisfactory product.   Monticello’s food market, Blue Mountain Foods, sells loaves of, what they label French bread, but looks like a very soft version of Italian bread.  I like to use it when in the mood for pizza, do not have the dough handy, but want it now!   When it comes to spontaneous cravings for pizza, sometimes you truly have to get creative.

How to Make French Bread Pizza



Basically there are three main ingredients: loaf of the wide French bread, a block of mozzarella cheese and pizza sauce. Cut the loaf in half lengthwise to create two half loaves; then cut these in half through the width.  If you want a rectangular look, cut off the heels first; save them to grind up and make bread crumbs.   Place the four pieces of bread, crust side down, on a large jelly roll pan.

Spoon sauce over the interior side of the bread; I use about 1/3 of a cup, but like a lot of sauce on my pizza.  While homemade sauce is best, use what you have handy.  Like I said before, sometimes when it comes to cravings, you have to be creative.   Now cut slices of the mozzarella, about 1/8" thick and lie them side by side until the bread is covered.  I find the sliced cheese melts better and creates gooey texture on the bread. 

Bake in a preheated 425F oven, center rack, for about 12-15 minutes.  Cut into thirds for easier picking up and eating, or just go for broke!  This will make four French bread pizzas.

Of course you can add other ingredients - meats, veggies, whatever you like, but make sure the meats are cooked thoroughly before using.  Also, mix the meats and/or veggies with shredded mozzarella cheese instead; that way the cheese will melt all around the pieces.

Whether you are making this for yourself, other adults and/or children; have fun with it!


Mary Cokenour

Friday, October 4, 2019

Cookies From Cake Batter, Who Knew!?!

With the holiday season beginning, ok, let me stop right here for a moment.  It is October, main holidays are Columbus Day (October 14) (even though everyone knows the Vikings actually discovered America), Samhain (October 31st) and Halloween (October 31st).  Why our local Family Dollar had Halloween candy displayed since the end of July, I do not know.  Think about it, that is 3 months the candy is sitting on the shelves, waiting to be purchased and given out to children trick or treating.  Glancing down one aisle, Thanksgiving decorations (sorry, the harvest themed decor is geared towards turkey day); which means Yule and Christmas decor should be available in about 1-2 weeks.  Ridiculous!  This is why many people get stressed out from October to January; the seasonal holidays are being rammed down our throats daily, and all at once!  Tell me, who actually has the time to welcome in the New Year after all that chaos!  Thank you for letting me rant, now back to baking and today's post on cookies,

Fall season has begun, the temperatures are cooling, leaves dropping or turning bright colors before doing so.  For me, this means experimenting with cookie recipes.  Each year I like to make little gift plates for those businesses I deal with often.  It's just a little thank you and holiday cheer to those workers dealing with all kinds of customers daily.  One advantage of being on Facebook is all the recipes, with photos, that pop up in advertising, or are shared by those on my Friends list.  One recipe I definitely decided to try out was making cookies out of cake mix; not due to being lazy, but it sounded intriguing.  Three main ingredients plus add-ins like chocolate chips, nuts, sprinkles, dried fruits; too good to be true, and how tasty were the cookies really.

I let my hubby, Roy, pick out the flavor of the cake mix for my first attempt, and he choose Red Velvet.  In case you didn't know, red velvet is basically chocolate cake with a dump load of red food coloring.  I have made it from scratch, but remember, I was looking for easy.  Oh, I did find a recipe for these cookies which claimed they were "made from scratch".  Going over the recipe, I would rename it, "Semi-homemade", as boxed cake mix is still a main ingredient plus the addition of instant pudding.   It was a complicated, many ingredient recipe which resulted in only 20 cookies at completion; simply not worth my time when I was looking for fast and easy.


Here is the basic recipe for Cake Batter Cookies (using a boxed cake mix) which I found listed on the internet many, many times.

Cake Batter Cookies

Ingredients:

1 box cake mix (15.25 oz./16.25 oz./18.25 oz.)
**oil (personally use a vegetable/canola oil blend)
2 eggs

** 1/3 cup is for 15.25 oz. + one ounce of flour, or 16.25 oz. total.
     1/2 cup is for 18.25 oz.

If you live in a high altitude area, like myself, add the appropriate amount of flour listed on the cake mix box.  I shifted the mix + flour, added the oil for the size mix used, and the 2 eggs; it all came together perfectly.

Additions:  1/2 cup for chips - mint, vanilla, semi-sweet, milk chocolate, dark chocolate, butterscotch, peanut butter, cinnamon or toffee.

                   1/2 cup for nuts and dried fruits; large nuts and fruits should be chopped.

                   1/4 cup for sprinkles - they are tiny, so a little will go a long way.

Preparation:

Preheat oven to 350F; line jelly roll pans or cookie sheets with parchment paper (keeps the cookies from sticking and burning).

In a medium bowl, mix together cake mix, oil, eggs and any additions.  I used a heavy duty rubber spatula and it blended together without any issues.  A ball of dough will form (it can be wrapped in plastic wrap, refrigerated for use after an hour, in case several different flavors are going to be baked up).








Use a teaspoon to measure out the dough, roll into a ball with fingers and place onto parchment paper.  These cookies do not spread out wide, so the dough can be pressed down slightly and a crinkle effect will be created as they bake.









Bake the cookies for 12-14 minutes, let cool slightly before removing and plating.  Sprinkle powdered sugar to enhance the crinkles, or leave as is.

Makes 3 dozen cookies if using a teaspoon to measure out.  Want larger cookies, double the teaspoon amount, or use a tablespoon to measure out the dough.

Basically, I had 3 dozen delicious red velvet cookies, with semi-sweet chocolate chips, baked and plated.  I sprinkled half with powdered sugar, and the other half were left as is.  The whole process took 45 minutes as I had only have two racks in my oven; if I had a third, the time would have been 30 minutes.

Hint:  if you cannot decide what flavors of cake mix to purchase, stock up on "White", then you can add cocoa powder to create chocolate; vanilla, lemon, peppermint or other flavors of extract as well.  Consider the white cake mix to be a blank canvass, you're the artist, now create!

Mary Cokenour

Thursday, September 26, 2019

The Pizza Trilogy – New York Style


In my 60 years of this current life, I have eaten mounds and mounds of pizza.  I have tried all styles, different types of mediums (dough, tortilla, and breads), sauces, toppings, cheeses.  Anyone who knows me has heard me state, “I admit to it, I am a pizza snob.”  I have been asked several times to write an article on making pizza.  I am doing three better, I am doing a trilogy of articles covering this first style, New York; then Sicilian and finally Chicago style.

Being born and raised in New York, eating pizza is a staple of a true New Yorker. There are two basic types in any pizzeria: Neapolitan is round in shape with a reasonably thin crust (not wafer thin, around 1/4"), with sauce, aged mozzarella cheese, garlic powder, and various toppings. Usually made in a gas oven, the dough is stretched (occasionally tossed, but that is mostly a show for the tourists), covered with a sauce primarily made of canned tomatoes and Italian herbs cooked into a sauce, and liberally covered with cheese. The slices are large, filling one paper plate, and usually folded when eaten.


One slice takes up a full sized paper plate.


Thin crust, crispy and perfect.
The second most common style of pizza in New York City (that is the 5 boroughs; and Long Island) is the Sicilian, or “square” pie. Characterized by its thick crust, Sicilian pizza is baked in an oiled pan, giving the crust a completely different taste from that of its round counterpart. The crust of a Sicilian pie is much thicker (like a nicely baked bread) than the Neapolitan, and usually has a thicker tomato sauce as well.

Chicago pizza is a deep dish pie made in a reverse fashion than the New York style.  Not bad really, but that is for another day.

Here comes the complaint, there is not any place in the Four Corners area that makes a great New York pizza.  Some come close to a pretty decent pie (yes, we call it a pizza pie) like Thatzza Pizza in Monticello, or Zak’s in Moab.  Domino’s in Cortez, Colorado has come the closest so far, I am just not a huge fan of the over spiced sauce they use.  They have a pie called the “Brooklyn” pizza, and if they bake it for 25 minutes, instead of the usual 20, than it is pretty close to the real deal.

My main complaint is that most places under cook the dough, so the crust is pale and doughy, or the dough is so thick, that it is gooey in the center.  Instead of using good mozzarella, it is usually a mixture of mozzarella, cheddar and jack cheeses.  Why?  Mozzarella is the number one cheese used on pizza, but provolone, asiago and parmesan can be added as well.   Also, why so cheap with the sauce?  A smear just does not justify calling it a pizza.  At this point, might as well skip the tomato sauce, put a smear of ricotta cheese (NOT cottage cheese), then a layer of shredded mozzarella, sprinkled with Italian herbs.  There you have it folks, the White Pizza, and yes, such a pizza does exist.

Well thanks for letting me rant about pizza; I am a pizza snob and I do not intend to ever apologize for it.  Oh, and what is my absolute favorite type of pizza?  Pizza of course!

Basic Pizza Dough

Ingredients:

1 cup of warm water
2 tsp. sugar (to feed the yeast)
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. yeast
3 1/2 cups of all-purpose flour
2 Tbsp. olive oil

Preparation:

Put warm water (80 to 110°F) into a bowl. Add salt and sugar, mix with a spoon. Add yeast, mix and let it sit for about 10 minutes.  If the water is too warm, it will kill the yeast; too cold, and it will not awaken.

Start mixing, with a fork, by gradually adding flour and olive oil.  Once it is too thick to mix by fork, remove to a floured, wooden board; start kneading by hand.  Knead the dough until you have a smooth ball. If the dough cracks it is too dry. Add water bit by bit until if forms a smooth ball. If your dough feels more like batter, it is too wet and you need to add flour bit by bit. If you need to add water or flour, do it by small amounts; it is easier to fix too little than too much.

Coat the dough with olive oil, place it in a large bowl and cover it with a clean, cotton towel. Let the dough rise for about an hour at room temperature, then punch it down, so it deflates. Let it sit for about another hour. If you want to use it the next day, put it in a refrigerator wrapped in plastic wrap.

Put the dough on a lightly floured surface; a pizza peel (wooden board with a handle) is easier for transferring the pizza from surface to surface. Put a bit of flour on your hands; using the balls of your finger tips and hands, make it into the shape of a circle by stretching it out from the center outwards. If you’re having a problem stretching the dough by hand, use a rolling pin until the dough is about 1/4" thick.  

The average size of the pizza will be about 16” which can be transferred to a pizza pan or stone. You get better results when you use a pizza baking stone. The pizza stone should be preheated to 450F for an hour prior to baking, and should be placed in the middle of the oven.  

 Spread out evenly about 1-1 ½ cups sauce; then add favorite toppings such as cheeses, meats and/or cut up vegetables.

The oven should be preheated to 450F.  Bake for 20-25 minutes; the crust should be browned and crisp, but not dark.  Remove from oven, use a pizza cutter for easy slicing up and serve. 

Makes 8-10 slices, depending on how it is cut up.

Mary Cokenour

Cheesesteak Pizza


Before Baking
After Baking

Ground Beef Pizza

Before Baking
After Baking


One Slice

Wednesday, September 18, 2019

All That Sand is Seasoning.


Let me start with a quote from a local acquaintance, “This red dust covers everything, even food.  Might as well call it seasoning.”  True to its nature, when the desert soil/sand is disturbed, the wind picks up the particles and transports it everywhere.  Since moving to Monticello, I am on vacuum cleaner number 5.  Seems no matter how many times the filters and canister are washed, or canned air used on sections I cannot take apart; the electronic reaper pays a visit.  Ah-ha, thank goodness the company I purchased from gives a new two-year contract with each replacement vacuum!  Oh dear, that means vacuum number 5 may be leaving this earthly realm for its regularly scheduled death and reincarnation.

What got me thinking about the sand is looking at photos of sandstone, especially sandstone walls located at Sand Island.  The gist of the geology is Navajo sandstone; dating back to Early Jurassic, it formed while the Colorado Plateau was basically a “sea of sand”.  As the Plateau rose and formed new layers, Navajo sandstone tended to be dryer and less resistant to wind and water erosion.   Since this sandstone is softer, it is no wonder why ancient art work, or rock art, can be found destroyed.  Yes, there is the introduction of “modern man” who did not understand the value of this rock art, and many still do not.  However, the natural elements do take a heavy toll upon it.

“In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, till thou return unto the ground; for out of it hast thou taken: for dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return.” — Genesis 3:19. 

“Nothing is forever, not even the strongest of rock, nor the Earth itself”, and you can quote me on that.

What does sand have to do with food?  Essentially it is a cooking tool; in China and India, a large wok is filled with black sand and heated to high temperature.  Chestnuts, peanuts and hard shell nuts are buried in the hot sand, occasionally turned with a spatula; the sand and nuts are separated through a wire-mesh screen.  Ever been to a real Hawaiian luau?  I was lucky to attend two which featured authentic cooking of Kalua pig (pork cooked in an underground oven called an imu).

The feel and texture of fine sugar can be likened to sand, and is much tastier, believe me.  Brown sugar comes from sugar cane or sugar beets, boiled down to extract a thickened liquid and that is how molasses is made.  The remaining crystals from the brown sugar are refined further and white sugar is the result.

Well now, I have taken you on a journey which began with the red dust/sand of the Colorado Plateau, rock art of Sand Island, cooking with sand itself, and ending with brown sugar.  Guess I better give you a yummy recipe to go with all that sand…I mean brown sugar.  Oh, it comes with how to make vanilla glaze, just think of it as edible sunscreen.


Cinnamon Coffee Cake with Vanilla Glaze

Ingredients:

For the Topping:
1 cup + ¼ cup sifted flour
9 Tbsp. butter, softened
¾ cup brown sugar, packed
4 tsp. cinnamon

For the Cake:
8 Tbsp. butter, softened
1 cup granulated sugar + 2 Tbsp.
2 large eggs
1 cup sour cream, plain Greek yogurt, or softened cream cheese
1 tsp. vanilla
1 cup + 3/4 cup flour (if high altitude, add 3 Tbsp.)
1 tsp. baking soda
2 tsp. baking powder

For the Vanilla Glaze:
1 cup powdered sugar
2 Tbsp. milk
½ tsp. vanilla

Preparation:

Preheat oven to 350F; spray an 8 or 9-inch, square or round, pan with nonstick baking spray (option: sprinkle 1 tsp. cinnamon throughout pan).






In a medium bowl, mix all ingredients for Topping until well incorporated and mixture is crumbly; set aside.

In a large bowl, cream together the butter and granulated sugar; add eggs one at a time to fully incorporate.  Mix in sour cream, yogurt or cream cheese plus vanilla.  In a medium bowl, sift together flour, baking soda and baking powder.  Add dry ingredients to wet ingredients and mix well.

Pour half batter into baking pan; sprinkle half topping mixture over all.  Pour in remaining batter and spread evenly.  Cover with remaining topping evenly.







Bake for 40 – 45 minutes, until a toothpick comes out cleanly.  While cake is cooling, prepare glaze by mixing all ingredients together in a small bowl.  Drizzle glaze over slightly warm cake.

Makes 8 servings.

Mary Cokenour

Want to do a bit of exploring?  Go to Sand Island and find the Mammoths.






Wednesday, September 11, 2019

Monticello, Utah Welcomes Ja-Roen Thai Sushi


Ja-Roen Thai Sushi

380 South Main Street
Monticello, UT, 84535

Phone: (435) 587-4000

Hours of Operation:  11am – 9pm; Monday thru Sunday

Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/Ja-Roen-Thai-Sushi-108275377221110/






Late one June afternoon, a gentleman from Moab, named Sam, made my acquaintance.  He asked me about living in Monticello, the types of businesses in town, but more importantly, what kind of restaurants.  Then he asked me, “What kind of restaurant would you like to see in Monticello?”  I told him point blank that we needed Asian Cuisine – Chinese, Japanese, Thai; heck, all three!  I made up a packet of information for him; map of the town indicating where all businesses, gov’t offices, schools, churches, etc. were located; local phone book; San Juan County guide book; and, of course, 101 Things to Do in San Juan County.  Politely he thanked me for all my help, and that I had given him much to consider and think about.

So it came to pass, on Thursday, September 5, 2019, Sampas Janhom, or Sam, had the grand opening for Ja-Roen Thai Sushi.  Located at the old Horsehead Grill, or many remember it as the old MD Ranch House, the southwestern atmosphere was kept intact to match the aesthetics of Monticello.   Inside was abuzz with many a local savoring the Asian specialties, laughing, conversing and having an overall good time.  It was not unusual to hear, “We have been so looking forward this”, “This is so exciting!”, and “We love sushi, and don’t have to go all the way to Cortez or Moab any longer”.  I told several the story of how Sam and I had met, and one response was, “Well Monticello needs to thank you!”, and you are quite welcome Monticello!

Sushi Chef "Aussie with Owner, Sampas Janhom
Sam is quite an interesting man, born and raised in Thailand, he worked for the U.S. Embassy there in the Immigrant Visa Department.  He was in charge of documenting and approving all Indochina refugees wishing to travel to the United States.  After immigrating to the United States himself, Sam found employment at Miami International Airport as a driver.  Not being fond of American sandwiches, he began cooking meals for himself and this attracted the salivary glands of fellow coworkers.  He began cooking for them as well, and before he knew it, Sam was working his way through restaurants.  Starting at the bottom, he worked up the culinary ladder until reaching status of chef.  Upon moving to Moab, he and his wife, Kloichai Kracha, worked as a chef team at Singha Thai.  He began a great friendship with Kent Somerville, and they became golfing buddies as well.  It was no wonder then, when Sam told Kent about his dream of becoming a restaurant owner that Kent decided to help fulfill this dream.
 
"Aussie"


Manning the knife and bamboo rolling mat is Sushi Master, Sornsawan Chaichan, nicknamed Aussie.  He has been creating masterpieces of Sushi, Sushi rolls and Sashimi for 15 years.  A simple Shrimp Tempura Roll winds its way upon the plate, dragon head in the lead.  Insane Eel Roll resembles pool balls ready for play, and no one will mind pocketing the 8 ball into the mouth.

Shrimp Tempura Roll











Insane Eel Roll
Our lovely waitress, Shaile Beh, juggled table service, and a continuous ringing in of phone orders.  She is knowledgeable on the menu items, sweet in personality and willing to make sure customers have the best dining experience.

Crab Rangoon

Appetizers are a tantalizing beginning; Crab Rangoon lightly deep fried, stuffed with a cream cheese and crab mixture, and served with a light sweet and sour sauce.  Thai Dumplings are a meat/vegetable mixture, each steamed in a thin noodle skin and served with a hoisin dipping sauce.  At the next table, we heard the oohs and aahs over an order of Chicken Satay; tender grilled chicken strips with a peanutty dipping sauce.

Thai Dumplings
Chicken Satay

Pad Se Eew with Shrimp
Noodle dishes such as Pad Thai and Pad Se Eew; vegetarian delights, curry of various flavors and heat, and fried rice to pleasantly satisfy.  Oh so many choices!  


Veggie Delight with Chicken

Dessert - Ice Cream
Ja-Roen Thai Sushi offers authentic Thai and Japanese cuisines plus Sushi and Sashimi specialties to please the eye as well as the palate.  Thank you for coming to Monticello, you are exactly what the dining doctors ordered!


Mary Cokenour


Menu






Wednesday, August 28, 2019

Blue Corn Cake and Juniper Ash.


There I was, scrolling through my Facebook newsfeed, attempting to find posts of interest.  Share a positive quote or two, the heart toughing moment of an animal being rescued, and that post that gives you laughter right from the belly.  Of course I enjoy reading the foodie posts, recipes that I would not touch with a fork, literally, and desserts that make my sugar soar just looking at the photos.

One popped up from the admin, Pauline Haines, from a favorite page, Navajo and Pueblo Cooking; blue corn cakes which included juniper ash.  Ash, in a cake?  Oh, I had to know more about this.  She, and several others, explained how the branches from junipers (trees or shrubs dependent on the altitude) are burned, shifted and the ash collected.  The ash adds calcium, magnesium and Vitamin A to the diet; mainly used for baking, it intensifies the coloring of blue corn meal.

The book Wild Plants and Native Peoples of the Four Corners, by William W. Dunmire and Gail D. Tierney, have a section on the juniper.  Found among the pinion pines of the Colorado Plateau is the juniper which happens to be of the Cypress family.  An evergreen whose needles (leaves), branches and berries have various uses – medicinal, culinary, household and ceremonial.  Traditional sweathouses were constructed with juniper wood, and the bark was floor covering.  Now I have used sage myself for indigestion, but the Hopi added juniper.  This mixture dates back to Ancestral Puebloan times, proven with residue found in coprolites (that is poop in layman’s terms).  For creating dye, the Navajo boiled together leaves, twigs and berries to produce a yellow, orange or tan coloring.  Juniper leaf ash was used to fix (mordant) other colors, so they would not run or fade.  Oh, I could go on and on about the uses for juniper, but I have a better idea, buy the book!

I just happened to have all the ingredients for the cake, except for the juniper ash.  Looking online, I found Shima (https://shimaofnavajoland.com/) and here is their mission statement: “We are artists, farmers, protectors of our precious and sacred way of life on the Navajo Nation in the Four Corners of the Southwest and the land of our ancestors. The land of our shimas. We are growing sovereignty and self-reliance with each bar of soap, every bag of stone-ground cornmeal, every spoon of juniper ash and every jar of honey. Help us protect the precious. Share in the sacred with us.”  Part of Good Shepherd Mission, and the Episcopal Church, Shima is associated locally with San Juan County – St. Christopher’s Mission in Bluff.


Receiving my order very quickly, happily off to the kitchen I went to play.  The recipe can give you two – 8” x 8” cakes, or one – 9” x 13”; I chose the latter, and frosted half of it with cream cheese frosting.  One of the Facebook members suggested adding cinnamon to the mix; the smell, while baking, was intoxicating!  After cooling came the tasting; slightly moist, yet tender, very akin to red velvet cake, but blue in color.  The half with frosting was very good also, but I suggest just a smear of frosting, or the cake itself gets drowned out.  “Seriously”, you’re asking, “how can a cake made with blue corn meal be as good as red velvet?”  Let me put it this way, “Hunny, put down the fork.  Hunny, hunny, stop eating the cake.  Hunny, you’re going to get sick.  Yes, I know it’s good, but stop!”  That was me talking with my husband, and he’s not a huge fan of cake.

Recipe time!


Blue Corn Cake
(Recipe by Pauline Haines – Navajo and Pueblo Cooking Facebook Admin)

Ingredients:
 
1 and ½ cups flour (Blue Bird, of course)
1 cup roasted blue corn meal
1 and ½ tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. juniper ash
1 cup sugar (Truvia Baking Blend works too)
1 cup vegetable oil
3 eggs
1 cup milk

Option: Add 1 and ½ tsp. ground cinnamon (thanks for the suggestion Lisa Bellison)

Preparation:

Preheat oven to 400F. (I used a non-stick baking pan, or spray with nonstick baking spray)

Mix together all ingredients until smooth, pour into baking pan.  Bake for 20 minutes. (Did the toothpick test and it is perfectly timed)

(Personal Note here:  I shifted all the dry ingredients into a large bowl. Otherwise my cakes come out with floury lumps, so it has become a habit to shift all the dry first. Then whisked the oil, eggs and milk in a small bowl, before adding to the dry ingredients.) 



Fully Baked After 20 Minutes.
Cream Cheese Frosting (this is a basic recipe)

Ingredients:

8 oz. heavy whipping cream
8 oz. cream cheese, softened
½ tsp. vanilla extract
3 Tbsp. powdered sugar

Preparation:

In a cold, metal bowl, whip the cream until firm.  Add cream cheese and whip until smooth.  Add vanilla and powdered sugar, whip until thoroughly incorporated.

Makes enough frosting for 2 – 8” x 8” cakes, or 1 – 9” x 13” cake.

Going to a social gathering, potluck, or any event that you want to bring a dessert to?  Make this cake, but do not tell anyone what it is until it is all gone.  It will be all gone, and everyone will be pleasantly surprised at what your creation was.  Be prepared to give out the recipe.  Enjoy!

Pile of dried juniper berries found at Mule Canyon's Cave Towers.
http://www.southwestbrowneyes.com/2017/01/return-to-mule-canyon-cave-towers.html
Mary Cokenour