Wednesday, May 23, 2018

What’s Black and White, and Found in a Bakery?

If you’re from the tristate area of New York, New Jersey and Connecticut, and let’s throw Philadelphia, PA in for good measure, you don’t even have to think twice about what the answer to this riddle is…Black and White Cookies.  While it was debated whether it is a cookie or a cake; in 1998, columnist William Grimes, of the New York Times, finally defined it as a “drop cake”.  In his article, “Look to the Cookie: An Ode in Black and White”, Grimes tells the tale of its origin, Glaser Bake Shop on First Avenue near 87th Street where they’ve been making black and whites since 1902.

Growing up, and working, in New York City, every bakery worth its flour made them; they’re as popular for breakfast as bagels with cream cheese and lox.  Moving out to Utah, well like I keep telling folks, the only thing I truly miss from the east coast is the food!   I tried ordering some online, but the shipping costs were just too high; so who came to the rescue, but my mother.  She was able to find a supply of them at her local supermarket (small ones in a plastic container; large ones individually wrapped), and send them via priority mail.  Receiving the box, opening it and discovering these treats; it was like hitting the lottery big time!  I ripped open one of the containers of small black and whites, and ate three; oh the pleasure was indescribable.

Now what the heck is a Black and White Cookie you are asking, if you’ve never had one.  Well, it’s a large round vanilla, as Grimes describes, drop cake made from a thickened cupcake batter; one side is white (vanilla) fondant, the other is black (chocolate).  If you’ve seen cakes that have those perfectly smooth sides, when cut the frosting barely moves away from the cake; yes, that’s fondant.  Fondant is a thick frosting that can be softened up enough to spread like frosting; then firms up to remain on the item it has covered. Or it is rolled out into a thin sheet, placed on a cake and pressed to form a seamless covering.  The fondant frosting, once dried and firm, will have the same shiny consistency that rolled out fondant has; it’s just easier to get on the cookie when spread as a frosting.  That’s the best way I can describe black and whites; you’ll just have to eat one to truly understand.

I know many readers are bakers, so here’s the recipe to try.  Fondant powder and fondant sheets can be found in larger supermarkets, in stores that supply cake decorating supplies or ordered online, if not inclined to make it totally from scratch.

Black and White Cookies

To Make the Cookie

1 cup granulated sugar
1 and ½ cups plus 1 Tbsp. vegetable shortening
1 tsp. melted butter
½ tsp. salt
½ cup plus 2 Tbsp. nonfat dry milk
1 tsp. light corn syrup
3 eggs
4 cups plus 2 Tbsp. cake flour
1 ½ tsp baking powder
2/3 cup cold water
1 ½ tsp vanilla


Pre-heat the oven for 350 degrees.

In a large mixing bowl, medium-high speed; beat together the sugar, shortening, butter, and salt; add in nonfat dry milk and corn syrup; cream together.  Gradually add in one egg at a time until mixture becomes fluffy.

In a large bowl, combine the cake flour and the baking powder in a separate bowl.  Add 1/3 of dry ingredients plus 1/3 cup of water to creamed batter.  When well incorporated, add 1/3 of dry plus other 1/3 of water; when well mixed, add last of dry ingredients and mix well.

Using two cookie sheets, nest one cookie sheet inside the other to make a double-thick cookie sheet; line the top cookie sheet with baker’s parchment paper.   Hint: For a guide, draw 3” circles on one side of the parchment paper with a pencil; place pencil side down on cookie sheet.  Spread batter over the 3” circles; make sure thickness is even (1/4” will puff up to ½” thickness).

Bake for 18 minutes; remove cookies to wire rack to cool.
Makes 18 cookies.

To Make the Frostings

Vanilla Fondant

2 ½ cups fondant powder   
¼ cup cold water
2 tsp vanilla

Put tap water in the bottom of a double boiler and bring to a simmer.  To the upper part of the double boiler, add the fondant powder, ¼ cup cold water and vanilla   Keep extra cold water nearby as fondant tends to be a dry frosting; without sufficient water the frosting will dry too fast, harden, and crack on the cookie. When the ingredients are well blended and thin (it should run slowly off of a spoon), frost one half of the cooled cookies; set aside to allow the frosting to harden.

Chocolate Fondant
2 ½ cups fondant powder
¼ cup cold water
2 tsp vanilla
½ cup semisweet chocolate chips 

Follow the directions for the vanilla fondant, but include the chocolate chips. When the frosting is melted and well mixed, frost the other half of the cookies. Make sure the vanilla frosting has set before starting to frost them with the chocolate frosting.

Let the cookies continue to set on a wire rack. When the frosting is no longer warm and pliable, you can store the cookies individually in food storage bags or wrapped in wax paper. 

Mary Cokenour

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Kane Creek, Oh Look Over There!

This is a food/travel combination article.  Spaghetti alla Puttanesca and Lone Rock in the Kane Creek Canyon Rim.

Spaghetti alla Puttanesca

Lone Rock

Next month, Roy and I will have been living in San Juan County, Utah for nine years.  These past years have been filled with joy, adventure, hardship, heart wrenching moments of loss, sometimes regret which becomes overwhelmed by a passion for the area itself.  Many times Roy has been amazed at how acclimated I have become to living in the great Southwest.  I tell him I must have been a pioneer in a past life; learned lessons eased me into this new life here.

Beginning a food blog to express a passion for cooking was a given, but beginning a travel blog ( of the 4 Corners region was a must.  How else to share the adventures of this outdoor historical museum, and immense playground of desert, mountains, plains, forests and open ranges?  How else to share my photographs that many have called amazing; yet do not truly do justice to the landscape.  To appreciate it all, you have to get out here, experience it and remember to breathe.  What better way to introduce readers to a delicious Italian recipe, than to integrate it into the story of a San Juan County site. 

Kane Creek Canyon Rim aka Lone Rock Road, is located between La Sal and Spanish Valley; the far northern end of San Juan County; entrance across from the Black Ridge Recreation Area.  Personally, I often think this region is forgotten about, since the main population of the county is in the central to southern regions.  It is a wondrous region of trails for ATVing, 4 wheel driving, hiking, climbing, camping and exploration.  On most maps, it’s indicated with a mention of the “Behind the Rocks” trail; no mention of the road name, or what sites are available to see along the way.  It’s usually a busy playground during the ATV and Jeep Safaris though.

Lone Rock is a long, red sandstone formation which houses two arches, Balcony and Picture Frame. Now for a little history of Lone Rock to understand the relationship to the recipe I’ll be giving you next.  Originally it was called "Prostitute Butte" by the white settlers; the Anasazi used the area for religious ceremonies dedicated to the "mother deity"; it is assumed that sexual practices were part of the ceremonies which offended the white people.  A mother goddess is a term used to refer to any female deity associated with motherhood, fertility, creation or the bountiful embodiment of the Earth; the goddess was referred to as Mother Earth or the Earth Mother.  The name change to "Lone Rock" now dedicated the area to the Anasazi male fertility god, the Kokopelli; usually depicted as a humpbacked flute player (often with feathers or antenna-like protrusions on his head).  Kokopelli presides over both childbirth and agriculture; he is also a trickster god and represents the spirit of music.   In other words, if a female deity was involved...prostitute; male deity...just a lonely guy; can you feel my eyes rolling around in their sockets?

Lone Rock aka Prostitute Butte

Other Side of Lone Rock

Picture Frame Arch

Balcony Arch

The Terra Cotta Warriors
Spaghetti alla Puttanesca (pronounced [spaˈɡetti alla puttaˈneska] has been loosely translated into "spaghetti in the style of a whore"; an Italian pasta dish invented in Naples in the 20th century.  The ingredients of tomatoes, olive oil, anchovies, black olives, capers, red chile pepper and garlic give it the sensations of sweet, salty, spicy, and savory.  In other words, the perfect pasta dish to satisfy the taste buds as well as the belly.  Supposedly, this dish was prepared at brothels in the hopes of attracting men to satisfy their hunger for food, and well, do I have to really spell it out?

Spaghetti alla Puttanesca


4 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
½ cup sliced, pitted black olives
4 anchovies, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 and 1/2 Tbsp. capers
1 tsp. red chile pepper flakes
1 and ¾ cups fresh, chopped Roma tomatoes (or use equivalent of canned diced tomatoes, drained)
1 lb. spaghetti
Salt to taste
¼ cup fresh, chopped parsley


In a large skillet, medium-high heat, heat oil and add olives, anchovies, garlic, capers and chile flakes. Sauté for 2 minutes, add tomatoes and cook for 15 minutes, or until the sauce has reduced.  At the same time, cook the spaghetti al dente.

Taste sauce and add salt to desired taste; add in drained spaghetti and continue to cook for 5 minutes.  Add salt to taste if necessary, and add chopped parsley after cooking.

Plate and sprinkle fresh parsley over all.

Makes 4 servings.

There you have it, a perfect combination of adventuring and dining.  Mangia!

Mary Cokenour

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Blue Mountain Foods Enters a New Age.

Blue Mountain Foods

64 West Center Street
Monticello, Utah, 84535

Phone: (435) 587-2727 or 2451

Hours of Operation:  Monday thru Saturday  8am – 9pm, Closed Sundays

In June 2017, the owner of Blue Mountain Foods, and former mayor of Monticello, Doug Allen, heard the call of retirement.  He heeded that call by handing the reins and ownership over to his daughter, Stacy, and her husband, Jeremy Young.  The Youngs are no strangers to Monticello or Blue Mountain Foods, as they grew up in this small town, and worked at the store.  As Jeremy puts it, “food markets are in their blood”.

By the way, Jeff Allen, Stacy's brother, is the third partner in the new ownership.  He is sort of the "silent partner" and enjoys being behind the scenes.

They weren’t always in Monticello and prior to moving back, had resided in the Lone Star State of Texas for 13 years.  However, Monticello was calling and it was, and always will be, home.  This hometown couple, married 22 years, raising a family, found another need to be “food aware”, food allergies affected, not only themselves, but family and friends.  As they talked more and more with, not just locals, but tourists visiting the area, food allergies and illnesses seemed to be becoming a major issue.  Label reading and researching became a must; as Jeremy states, “Blue Mountain Foods is a fun place to be a foodie”.  So no wonder, during my interview with this friendly, lovely couple, we hit if off so well, we were foodies!

Jeremy and Stacy also believe that listening to their customers is a key factor for a successful business.  New items and brands were introduced to Blue Mountain Food’s shelves, many gluten free and vegetarian/vegan friendly.  Jeremy acknowledges that, “In this time where online food shopping is easy, less costly and more convenient; it is hurting the supermarket industry which have to now find ways to compete to stay in business.”

Another huge change is the loss of the Western Family brand that had been on the shelves for over 50 years.  This brand pulled out of Associated Foods, the main supplier to Blue Mountain Foods, prior brand was Best Way, and it would have been too costly to switch suppliers to keep Western Family.  So the Youngs stayed with Associated Foods and have switched to the Food Club brand, which has been on supermarket shelves for over 100 years!  Beginning April 4th, a two week case lot sale of Western Family brand will be the ending of an over half century relationship.  Food Club brand will then be adorning the shelves with their green labeled products.


But wait, there’s more change in store (yes, pun was intended) for Blue Mountain Food’s loyal customers.  Online meal kits (Blue Apron, Hello Fresh and others) have become a huge seller, not just for guaranteed freshness, but ease of preparation.  Blue Mountain Foods has teamed up with Home Table to offer 3-4 weekly choices for your evening meal pleasure.  These meals can be ordered in advance or simply walk-in, make your choice and buy to try.  A few examples are: Chicken Fajitas, Chicken Pot Pie, Pork Yakisoba or Salmon Quinoa.  Currently the meals offered only offer a service of two at $15/kit.  Unlike the online meal kits that lock in consumers to a mandatory weekly delivery, Home Table will be buy as you need.

This foodie will definitely be trying out a couple of kits and will be reporting about the experience at a later date.

The Youngs are very interested in the “Shop Small, Shop Local” movement, especially the introduction of “cottage businesses” to San Juan County.  At home cooks will be licensed to prepare, package and sell to individuals, as well as small shops within the area.  For example, wouldn’t you rather have pure, delicious, locally produced honey than something shipped in from China?  Guess what, that product from China isn’t even real honey, it’s flavored syrup!  Another reason to join us foodies in reading labels and knowing for certain what you are truly consuming.

Expansion for Blue Mountain Foods is looming on the horizon, either for the current location on West Center Street, or the purchase of a larger property in Monticello.  For the Youngs, they are focused on hometown roots and loyalty; on bringing in products locally sourced, fresh and healthy; helping people deal with food allergies and illnesses; and most important of all, listening to their customers, whether local or visitor. 

Best wishes to Stacy, Jeremy and Jeff; let’s all of us help them achieve their goals!

Mary Cokenour

Sunday, April 8, 2018

Who Offed the Ham and Beans?

March came in like a lion, roaring with fierce winds; covering the landscape with snow that turned to ice under the hot rays of the sun.  Mid-month, March became a bipolar version of Mother Nature; some days warm enough to go without a jacket or long sleeved shirt; some days making us wonder if we could ever turn off the furnaces in our homes.  The question now is, with the end of March, will it end like a meek little lamb lying in a field scented with blossoming wild flowers?

So, it’s no wonder that on a wind chilled weekend, I would find myself prepping beans for an overnight soaking.  The next day pouring them into a crock pot with water, vegetables and chopped up, baked ham to make a hearty ham and bean soup.   During the long wait, my mind began to wander over the origin of this soup.  Warning, my mind is a huge game of trivial pursuit; constantly full of questions and the gathering of answers.  Is it any wonder that my favorite genre of reading is mysteries?  The gathering up of clues to answer the questions of “Who Done It?”, “Why?”, “How?” before the reveal in the final chapters.

John Egerton, a historian and writer of Southern foods, based the origin on the African slaves in the Appalachian Mountain states of Kentucky, Tennessee, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia and Alabama.  To survive, they made due with whatever foods their “owners” grudgingly bestowed on them, namely white beans, ham hocks, collard greens, onions.  After the Civil War and the freeing of all slaves, many fled to the northern states, finding employment as cleaning and cooking staff.  On the menu of the United States Senate, even served today, is a ham and bean soup credited to the black Southerners.  Of course, the House of Representatives could not be outdone, so have their own version, without onions.

There you go, through brilliant deduction (Sherlock Holmes would be so proud!) the mystery of “Who Offed the Ham and Beans?” has been solved, and now for the recipe.  I chose to make this soup in a crock pot for convenience; that way it could cook, I could get chores and assignments done, and not worry over the pot.  I soaked the beans in cold water overnight which would allow them to cook up nice and tender, but also make them less gassy.  Now that’s a good thing!

 Ham and Bean Soup (Crock Pot)

1 and ½ cups white beans (aka Great Northern)
1 and ½ cups pinto beans
Cold water to cover
8 additional cups cold water for cooking. (see note)
1 cup each chopped onions, carrots, celery and potatoes
1 tsp. salt (see note)
½ tsp. ground black pepper
1 tsp. each dried basil and oregano
2 cups chopped cooked ham (leftover spiral sliced ham is what I used)


Place beans in a large bowl, add water to cover them, cover bowl with plastic wrap and let soak overnight (minimum 12 hours).

Next day, drain beans and add to 6-quart crock pot; add in all other listed ingredients.  Cover, set on low for 8- 10 hours (beans are tender), or high for 4-6 hours.  Taste and add additional salt and pepper is needed.

Note:  if using vegetable broth instead of water to cook, do not add in 1 teaspoon of salt; taste after cooking and add if needed.

Makes 10 servings.

Mary Cokenour

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Make Mine a Pop’s Burrito.

Pop's Burritos

148 South Main Street (Hwy 191 South)
Blanding, Utah, 84511

Phone: (435) 678-2413


Hours of Operation:
Monday - Thursday 6AM–8PM
Friday - Saturday 6AM–9PM
Sunday Closed

In 2016, David E. Seiter opened up Pop’s Burritos with the idea of bringing fresh flavors and tastes of Mexico to San Juan County, namely in Blanding.  Now his small shop, Pop’s Burritos, has become the go to place for “Good Food – Good Friends – Good Times” as one of his many plaques read.

Stepping inside gets you an immediate “Welcome, and How can we help you?” from the friendly staff.   Breakfast offers up tasty burritos and bowls of meat, eggs and potatoes; or that all-time favorite, biscuits and gravy.  Lunch and dinner is a, what else, burrito; made any way you like it with a variety of meats, rice, vegetables and condiments.  The most popular with the locals are chicken and sweet pork, so we tried both and fully understand why.  The burritos are packed, and I’m talking loaded, with yummy goodness; succulent meats, a fresh assortment of vegetables, white or brown rice and beans.  Beans, beans, they’re good for your heart, the more you eat, the more you…let’s leave the ending to the imagination, shall we?

Smothered Chicken Burrito

Sweet Pork Burrito

We had a luncheon threesome with our buddy, Andy Platt, and he says when he’s needing a burrito, he’ll drive on down from Monticello to Pop’s.  Why not!?!  The sweet pork, chicken and steak are so tender, juicy and full of flavor; combined with a variety of fixings makes the eating experience out of this county!  Seating is available at tables, or counter and stools by the windows; we people watched as we, literally, stuffed our mouths.

The shop was busy with diners eating in, or taking out; while we decided on meals, a long line formed behind us.  Does Pop’s only offer up burritos?  Oh no, cheesy quesadillas, salads with your choice of ingredients, nachos and even a menu for the kids.  Vegans don’t distress, you will also enjoy the offerings available. 

Owner, David is a hands on guy in the kitchen and prep areas, but also makes the rounds with customers.  He is quite proud of his accomplishment and kudos to him on the success of Pop’s Burritos.  So, stop on by and pick one up, but be careful, they can be quite a handful.

Mary Cokenour