Thursday, November 7, 2019

Paca Pantry is Alpaca and More.

Paca Pantry

133 East Center Street (Hwy. 491)
Monticello, UT, 84535

Phone: (435) 419-0750

Website for Ordering and Shipping of Items:, or find Wild Mountain Meats at

Free Wifi is available.

Five years ago, Dorothy Pipkin-Padilla, owner of Peter Springs Alpaca Ranch, had a wild idea.  Doing research, finding resources that suited her needs, Wild Mountain Meats was born.  This new business features Alpaca meat in the forms of burgers, ground summer sausage, chops, and roasts.  Experimenting with dehydration techniques, a line of jerky will be added to the lineup. 

It was no wonder that a shop would open one year later, featuring, what else, Alpaca products.   Made from the fleece (fiber), Paca Pantry features scarves, hats, shawls, sweaters, gloves, head bandanas and yarn.  The bestselling item though are the socks which have dedicated repeat buyers from locals and tourists yearly.  “What is so wonderful about alpaca fleece?” you might be asking.  Each shearing produces roughly five to ten pounds of fleece per animal, per year. This fleece, often compared to cashmere, can be turned into a wide array of products from yarn and apparel to tapestries and blankets.

There are two different types of alpaca fleece.  Huacaya fiber grows and looks similar to sheep wool, causing the alpaca to look fluffy. The second type is Suri and makes up less than 10% of the South American alpaca population.  Suri fiber is similar to natural silk and hangs off the body in locks that have a dreadlock appearance.  At Peter Springs Alpaca Ranch, Huacaya is what you can see; simply ask Dorothy for tour information.  I have visited the ranch, while some of the alpaca can be a bit standoffish; several will gladly come forth to be petted, or simply “vogue” for the camera.  The Ranch and Paca Pantry are associated with | Vacation Rentals & More (‎‎) which helps to promote both businesses to those planning on visiting Monticello and the surrounding areas.

The alpaca fiber products at Paca Pantry come from the herd at the ranch; the fleece is sheared, carted, woven into skeins, and knitted into wearable and comfortable art.  Looking for something unique to hang over a fireplace?  A lovely, soft, full body alpaca hide can be purchased.

Now every business owner needs a right hand person; Sue Morrell, former award winning “31 Bags” demonstrator, is Dorothy’s.  Besides doing sales and making sure the shop maintains its eye tempting look, Sue helps to promote.  Currently there is a 50% off sale on all remaining “31 Bags” from Sue’s personal stock.  I LOVE the thermal insulated bags that keep items frozen or cold for approximately five hours!  Quilters and other crafters will adore the many pocketed bags made just for this purpose.

That’s right, Paca Pantry is not about alpaca only; expansion of stock is key to keeping a business interesting to the public.  85-90% of items offered for sale are sourced locally; either through consignment, or purchased outright.  The other 10-15% are Utah products; Dorothy and Sue believe in “Shop Local, Shop Utah”.

So, what else can be found to delight any shopper?  Beautifully handcrafted pottery pieces by Tony Wojcik, Otis Wright and Cedar Mesa Pottery.  Unpainted ceramic pieces are a best seller for the at-home crafter.  Essential Oils, postcards, photographs, jewelry, furniture, and I could go on and go, but I will not.  What I will do is ask you to stop in and see for yourself. 

Paca Pantry has a vision, “To provide items that will satisfy locals and tourists alike”.  Dorothy and Sue are community conscious by donating to, and attending, events such as the Parks and Beautification Gala, Rotary Club, San Juan Hospital “First Baby of the New Year”, Holiday Gingerbread House Tour, and the Pioneer Day Treasure Hunt.  Book signings, like local author Eric Niven, are an enjoyable event at the Pantry itself; along with classes on essential oils and alpaca education.  In future, cooking demonstrations will be offered on alpaca meat, so expect to get some nifty recipes for home use.  Also included will be the foods of local cultures such as Native American, Mexican and the Pioneers.

Speaking of food, in the summer, stop in for a childhood favorite, well of mine at least, a rootbeer float; or a cup of gelato which is sourced directly from the Moab Brewery.  If you have not tried their gelato yet, you will be in for a real treat!

Pet owners, do not feel left out, items geared for your furbabies will be offered in the future as well!  Before I forget, book readers; drop off used books for store credit, or come in and see what titles are a “must” purchase.

Winter hours allow for a little time off, Paca Pantry will be open Tuesday and Friday, from 11am-4pm, and Saturday, 10am to 2pm.  With the holidays looming ahead though, there will be extended hours Thanksgiving week, and the week before and during Christmas.  There will be a huge sale period beginning November 15th; 10% off ALL items in the shop, except for historically based pieces.  Looking for a special gift has now been made easier.

Whether a local or simply passing through Monticello; make a stop at Paca Pantry and shop!

Mary Cokenour

Thursday, October 24, 2019

The Pizza Trilogy – Chicago Style.

Chicago Style Pizza can be mistaken as a deep dish pan pizza.  While both are baked in a deep, round heavy aluminum pan, the crust and technique cannot compare between the two.  The dough is made differently from regular pizza dough; thicker and moister to keep from drying out and burning during baking. The assembly of the pizza itself is unique; the cheese on the bottom, additional ingredients in the center, and a tomato mixture on top.  With Chicago style pizza, the cheese goes beneath the sauce to create a barrier between the crust, sauce and additional ingredients.

Is this type of pizza Italian or American in origin?  The answer is both.  In 1880, while the Hole in the Rock pioneers were traveling to, and settling in, Bluff; Italian immigrants were moving to Chicago from the east coast.  Like other ethnic groups before and after, they were being subjugated to economic, political, social, and religious discrimination.  By 1920, Chicago housed the third largest population of Italians, and American born descendants; and I bet many are hearing in their minds…Mafia.  With the Prohibition Era (1920-1933), Al Capone and many of his cohorts were able to come into power; but this article is about pizza, not alcohol and crime lords.

1940s, World War 2 in full rampage, food being rationed; concerns over “bringing our boys home safe” and “how do we feed our families here at home”.  Wheat flour, corn oil, salt and yeast were not as severely rationed as meats, fruits and vegetables.  The first four ingredients were necessary for making dough; adding the few bits of meats and vegetables, a complete meal could be created…pizza!  However, to feed hungry laborers, it had to be more substantial than a thin crust Naples slice, or breadier Sicily square.  At home, to ease some of the tension of war, families ate meals together; at the set table, plates, utensils, linen tablecloth and napkins.  The dough was covered with thick cheese, the minimal meats and vegetables chopped and layered next, a rich tomato sauce poured over all; baked and served in a deep pan, like a casserole.   Bellies became full, stories were told of daily events at school and work; war was forgotten about, if only for a brief time.

So, you go to pizza places, like Pizza Hut and Old Chicago (Grand Junction, CO), that use basic dough and the assembly is the same as a standard pizza: dough, sauce, cheese, toppings (if any). It is baked in a deep dish pan, called “Deep Dish” or “Chicago style”, but are you getting the real deal?   If you want authentic Chicago style, then travel to Chicago!  Cannot fit that into your travel plans, order online for home delivery.  No, I am not kidding, a few Chicago restaurants will deliver all over the USA! 

Uno Pizzeria and Grill, established 1943 ( or Lou Malnati’s, established 1971 ( are two of the best when it comes to pizza.  The pizza is assembled, frozen, shipped and each comes in oven ready, aluminum lined paper baking pans.  Intrigued with other delicacies of the Chicago, Illinois region?  Tastes of Chicago ( makes it possible to order online to have pizza, and many other goodies, delivered to your front door.   While supermarket shopping, check the pizza frozen section; once in a great while, Chicago pizza can be found and that is definitely a treat.

Now if you are a daring type, like me, then you will take on the challenge of making this type of pizza yourself.  

Here is the basic information, so have fun:

Pizza Dough for Chicago Style Pizza

This type of pizza dough is thicker; it cooks in a deep dish pan and would burn if it was thinner like New York style pizza dough. However, the exposed dough, not covered with sauce, cheese and other ingredients, comes out crispy and light. This dough is best made using a stand mixer and the dough hook attachment due to the thickness and moistness of the dough.

Basic Dough


2 packages rapid rise dry yeast
2 cups warm water (about 110F)
½ cup vegetable oil
4 Tbsp. olive oil
½ cup cornmeal
5 ½ cups all-purpose flour

In the bowl of a stand mixer, dissolve the yeast in warm water. When fully dissolved, add in the oils, cornmeal and half of the flour; mix for 10 minutes. Attach the dough hook, add in the other half of the flour and set on medium speed. The dough will be ready when it pulls easily from the sides of the bowl. Place the dough onto a floured board, cover with a large bowl; let it rise till it doubles in size. Punch the dough down, cover; let it rise again. Punch it down a second time; time to make the pizza.

The thickness of the dough will depend on the size of the deep dish pan being used; ¼” for a 10” pan; 1/8” for a 15” pan.   The depth of a deep dish pan is typically 2 inches; some are 1.5 inches, but I personally like the extra depth in case of overflow.  Lightly coat the pan with olive oil; place dough in center of pan and push out evenly to edges, then up the sides of the pan to the top rim.

Basic Filling - for 10” deep dish pan

½ lb. each sliced provolone and mozzarella cheeses
1 (10 ½ oz.) can crushed tomatoes
1 (10 ½ oz.) can diced tomatoes, drained
1 Tbsp. minced garlic
¼ tsp. salt
1 Tbsp. each dried oregano, basil
¼ cup grated parmesan cheese


Cover the dough with alternating slices of provolone and mozzarella cheeses. In a medium size bowl, mix together crushed and diced tomatoes, herbs, garlic and salt; spread mixture evenly over cheese slices. Sprinkle grated cheese evenly over tomato mixture.

The pizza will be baked in a preheated 475F oven for 35-40 minutes, on the center rack; the exposed crust will be a golden brown; the tomato mixture will be bubbly.

Additional Ingredients

These can be added on top of the cheese slices, before the tomato mixture goes on top; in any combination; the choices are numerous.

1 lb. of ground Italian sausage (mild or hot) or seasoned ground beef – the meat is uncooked; cooking the meat before usage will toughen it.

1 cup sliced vegetables: onion, bell peppers, hot peppers, mushrooms, olives

1 cup pepperoni slices or thinly sliced prosciutto

The deep dish pans can easily be found online for purchase.  Do not get frustrated if the pizza does not come out perfectly the first time.  Trial and error are all part of the learning experience which only becomes more fun as time and practice go on.

Mary Cokenour

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

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


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

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


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


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.


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


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


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


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


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

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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.

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