Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Twin Rocks Gets a Facelift.

Twin Rocks Cafe and Gift Shop

913 East, Navajo Twins Drive
Bluff, Utah, 84512

Phone: (435) 672-2341


For a few weeks, Twin Rocks Café, down in Bluff, was closed for reconstructive surgery.  Seems this old established restaurant was looking for a younger, fresher look; so popular in today’s society of Botox and collagen injections.  After hearing they had reopened, we hightailed it down to Bluff to see the new do; but alas, the bandages still covered the façade.  The wintery weather, all of San Juan County was experiencing, was making the healing process go slow.
At one time, the interior dining area was “L” shaped, but now it was a three sectioned area; great for closing off a private party area when needed.  Where patio seating used to be, it was now enclosed with large picture windows to allow in more light, and outdoor viewing.  During cold weather, or rainy days, diners would be comfortably warm, and dry, while enjoying Twin Rocks’ fresh made meals.  The patio tables and chairs outside had been moved further down towards the gift shop; good strategy to entice those outside to come in and buy.

It was a Saturday night and the specialty was Prime Rib (12 or 16 ounce) with potato, grilled vegetables and choice of soup or salad.  Two of us went for this goodie; tender beef perfectly cooked to your desired taste; fluffy baked potato, or homemade, red skin, mashed potatoes; an assortment of grilled vegetables with just a touch of seasoning.  My husband, Roy, ordered the Country Fried Steak which he described as “just right”; breaded coating not too light, but not too thick.  A mildly peppered gravy which enhanced the taste of the steak and mashed potatoes, instead of hiding their flavor.  Our good friends, Amy, and her father, Richard Watkins were with us; he ordered the Fish and Chips which was lightly bread, flaky fish and crispy, fluffy French fries.  Dessert, not tonight, as we had pigged out on Twin Rocks’ deliciously addicting Chicken Wings and Onion Rings for appetizers.
Prime Rib
Country Fried Steak

Fish and Chips

Chicken Wings Appetizer
Onion Rings Appetizer
Homemade Chicken Noodle Soup
Dinner Salad with Honey Mustard Dressing
Service at Twin Rocks Café is always welcoming, friendly and with a smile; any concerns are taken cared of immediately.  Dining is leisurely; no one rushed out just to get a high turn around rate.  Happy diners are a must; no matter if the person is a local, or visitor from another area, the management wants everyone to come back!!!  Locals come from all over San Juan County to eat the mouthwatering American and Navajo cuisines offered on the menu.  Thrilled voices hailing greetings to friends and neighbors filled the air; even former mayor of Monticello, Doug Allen, and his family were there. 
Former Monticello, Utah mayor, Doug Allen and family.
The finished workmanship on the dining area will be a site to see; but truthfully, everyone goes for the great food.  Twin Rocks Café, now that’s good eats!

Sunset View from Dining Room.
Mary Cokenour

Gift Shop


Friday, February 5, 2016

Dessert Salads Go Green – Part Three.

Fruit salads have been making the rounds of recipe books, and personal recipe cards, since about 1910 thanks to the canning industry.  Depending on the author, some of these recipes began to pick up their names by location, such as “Golden Gate Salad” and “Watergate Salad”.  In 1922, Helen Keller published a recipe called “Golden Gate Salad”, consisting of canned diced pineapple, nuts, marshmallows, whipped cream, other fruits and celery.  The reason for the name simply being that the first time she tried such a salad was in California, probably the San Francisco area.  Helen’s recipe also appeared in a 1925 cookbook, “Favorite Recipes of Famous Women” (Florence Stratton, author) with a notation of, “It is best made with fresh fruits, but it can be made of canned fruit.  At home we often serve it instead of dessert, with a little more whipped cream.”

“Watergate Salad”, however, has rather an obscure pedigree; with a humble beginning of Ambrosia and the addition of chopped pistachio nuts; creating Pistachio Salad.  In 1975, Kraft Foods offered consumers a new flavor in the Jell-O pudding line, pistachio; a recipe for Pistachio Pineapple Delight appeared on the box.  This dessert salad picked up names, along its United States journey, such as Pistachio Delight, Shut the Gate Salad, Green Goop, Green Fluff or Green Stuff.  It was not until The Denver Post, in the Empire Magazine of June 27, 1976, published a recipe for Watergate Salad; stating that the recipe was developed by a sous chef at the Watergate Hotel in Washington, D.C.  When scandal hit the White House, and President Richard Nixon, the recipe took off like wildfire.  At the same time, a Watergate Cake was developed with “cover-up icing and full of nuts”; along with other satirically named recipes such as Nixon's Perfectly Clear Consommé and Liddy's Clam-Up Chowder.  Kraft even changed the name on the pistachio pudding box to Watergate Salad to keep up with the presidential scandal.

Perusing through my Utah based cookbooks, lime Jell-O made many an appearance in recipes; pudding, not so much.  Even the use of pistachios was kept to the more garden type salads, or as a main ingredient for salad dressing.  Various bloggers, from Utah, mentioned family reunions in which Pistachio Salad was present; the recipes being variations of the original Jell-O pudding recipe.  Does that mean Utahns aren’t cracked up about pistachios?  Au-contraire!  Located in Hurricane, Utah, Red Rock Ranch Pistachio Orchards ( has been producing a unique variety of pistachios for over ten years.  The dry climate of the desert gives the nuts sweeter flavor and greener coloring; while high in fat, they are low in carbohydrates.


Here is the original recipe for Pistachio Pineapple Delight (1975), later renamed as Watergate Salad (1976).


1 can (20 oz.) crushed pineapple in juice, undrained
1 package (3.4 oz.) Jell-O Pistachio Flavor Instant Pudding
1 and ½ cups thawed Cool Whip Whipped Topping
1 cup Jet-Puffed miniature marshmallows
½ cup Planters chopped pecans


Combine Ingredients.  Refrigerate 1 hour.

Makes 8 – about ½ cups servings each.

Mary Cokenour

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Dessert Salad Saga – Part Two.

Nectar and Ambrosia, the drink and food of the Gods; the Ancient Greek Pantheon that is.  Sitting upon celestial thrones high upon Mount Olympus, these gods and goddesses played the humans upon the Earth as pieces on a giant chessboard.  My interest in their mythology began in elementary school; in high school though is when an English teacher asked us to make recipes of the Grecian culture.

Nectar is quite easy to create; a mixture of whole cow’s milk, honey and the stigmas (only 3 per flower) of Crocus flowers aka saffron threads.  Crocus, being a plant of the mountains is sacred to the Gods; it gives a golden color to the drink, with extraordinary rejuvenating and energizing powers.  Ambrosia, in its original form, is a honey cake laden with apples and figs; the modern version is a simple mixture of fruits, honey and Greek yogurt.

Ah, but now we come to the Americanized version of this simple Greek recipe; we’ve all seen it in any salad bar.  That wondrous mixture of fruits, coconut flakes, marshmallows and whipped topping; looking like a total mess, yet tasting so cool and refreshing…Ambrosia salad.  This is one of those recipes where almost anything can be added, and it doesn’t go wrong; even pasta!  That’s right, pasta, which brings me to a popular dessert salad that dates back approximately 40 years to a recipe on a box.  Acini di Pepe, also spelled Acini de Pepe (pronounced ah-CHEE-nee dee PAY-pay); "Acini" means "berries", "Pepe" means "pepper", so "pepper berries" or “peppercorns”.  If you are a fan of Italian Wedding Soup, then you have eaten Acini di Pepe; and it gives Frog Eye Salad its unusual name.

The original name of the recipe was “Ambrosia Salad with Acine di Pepe”, but as it made its rounds through home kitchens, it picked up the name of “Frog Eye Salad”.  How is a good question, but the only guessed at reasoning was that someone’s child must have said, “Yuck, that looks like frog eyes in there!”  As the recipe was passed along, the nickname stuck as it traveled throughout the United States, and to the dessert salad loving state of Utah.  The first time I’d ever heard of, or tasted, it was at an annual holiday party; the pasta being a chewy addition to the salad.  The consensus is, some love it, some hate it; some don’t care, its food, so just eat it.  Personally, I didn’t see the point of adding the pasta while my husband enjoyed it; so to each his/her own.

One recipe I found was supposedly from the original box of pasta put out by the Ronzoni Company.  I contacted them for verification, but, as yet, they have not bothered to respond with an answer.  So, I’m using a recipe from The Salt Lake Tribune’s “What’s Cooking in Utah Kitchens” cookbook (no date) which is extremely close to the other recipe I found.  It also makes a quantity that could feed a small army (about 20 servings), so cut the recipe as needed.

Frog Eye Salad
(page 66, by Donna Kastler)


1 and ½ cups (12 oz. box) Acini de Pepe (macaroni product)
2 quarts boiling water
1 tsp. salt
½ tsp. oil
1 cup sugar
2 Tbsp. flour
½ tsp. salt
2 eggs, beaten
1 and ¾ cups pineapple juice
1 Tbsp. lemon juice
2 cans (11 oz. each) mandarin oranges, drained
1 can (20 oz.) chunk pineapple, drained
1 cup miniature marshmallows
1 cup coconut
1 carton (9 oz.) frozen whipped topping


Cook Acine de Pepe in boiling water with the 1 teaspoon salt and oil for 8 to 10 minutes.  While macaroni is cooking, combine the sugar, flour, ½ teaspoon salt, eggs and pineapple juice; cook until thick, stirring constantly.  Stir in lemon juice.  Cool and pour over well drained macaroni.  Stir and refrigerate overnight.

Several hours before serving, add the mandarin oranges, pineapple, marshmallows and coconut.  Stir well; add frozen whipped topping.  Fold together.
Mary Cokenour

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Native Beauty of Cedar Mesa Pottery.

Cedar Mesa Pottery

333 South Main (Route 191)
Blanding, Utah, 84511

Phone: (435) 678-2241
            (800) 235-7687


Hours of Operation:  Monday thru Friday; 8am to 5pm

Joe B. Lyman, Owner

Warning!  When entering Cedar Mesa Pottery, via the gift shop, be prepared for a visual assault of the most beautiful Native American pottery collections.  Alright, now that you have been fully warned, let’s take the tour.  Cedar Mesa Pottery is located in Blanding, Utah with its beginning around 1981; owned and operated by local, Joe Lyman.  The work of his crafts people enable the factory to present to the world both Navajo and Ute artistry.  The glass and wooden display cases hold unique pieces signed by each artist; collective pieces so skillfully done that your fingers itch to touch.  Distinctive grey and black pieces containing true horse hair (a personal favorite); ceramics that resemble authentic etched wood; mesmerizing colors; striking designs based on themes.

The tour of the factory first brings you to the “closeouts and seconds” section; lovely pieces that simply did not make the cut through quality control.  Packing and Shipping comes next; aisles of plastic wrapped pottery ready to be picked, packaged and shipped to shops, trading posts, residential homes; even San Juan County’s own Welcome Centers carry Cedar Mesa Pottery.  All pieces are available at wholesale and retail pricing; opening an account is quick and easy.


Follow the Footprints.
All visitors to the factory are encouraged to take a map and descriptive guide which explains the various processes of pottery making.  Cedar Mesa uses a perfected mixture of clays from New York, California, Tennessee and Texas which is called “slip”.  The slip is poured into various molds until the correct thickness is reached; the balance is poured out and recycled.  The Kilns come next; pieces are fired within gas kilns at 2000 degrees Fahrenheit, for three to five hours.  Sealing is a cooling off period of several hours to ensure the pieces do not crack or warp.  After a twenty-four hour waiting period, the pieces have any excess clay removed carefully with sponges; the pieces are now ready to meet their individual artists.
Kilns and Sealing


Watching the artisans is fascinating; how each one can paint and/or etch each piece quickly, yet so skillfully.  Animal figures emerge: deer, elk, moose, bear, eagle, buffalo, raven and wolf (again, a personal favorite).  Themes vary from natural settings (forest, desert) to monumental locations (Monument Valley, Mount Rushmore, Devil’s Tower); petroglyphic designs; and the famous “End of the Trail” featuring the lone brave on his horse.
By the end of the tour, you will very likely have a shopping list in your mind.  Back inside the gift shop, there will be so much more to tempt you; candles, dream catchers, Kachina dolls; and the t-shirt collector has not been forgotten either.   Definitely, if visiting San Juan County, stop into Blanding, visit Cedar Mesa Pottery, and take the factory tour; you will be amazed!
Mary Cokenour


Thursday, January 21, 2016

Utahns’ Love of Dessert Salads - Part One

If you are a resident of, or frequent visitor to, Utah, something you will experience at meals are dessert salads.  What exactly are dessert salads?  Side dishes made with Jell-O (gelatin and/or pudding), whipped toppings, fruits, vegetables, mayonnaise, sour cream, even pasta. These salads are served at buffets, in cafeterias, potlucks, parties; basically any type of gathering where food will be served, even funerals. Easy to be prepared ahead of time, holding up well during transportation; even though there are sweet ingredients, these dishes are classified more as salads, but make great desserts as well.  Hence, the term, “dessert salad”.

Now I’ve read in personal stories, and heard personal tales, of Jell-O being the number one “food group”, not just for Utahns, but for Mormons in general.  It is not unusual for every good Mormon woman to have, in her recipe book, at minimum, ten Jell-O based recipes.  I am definitely not sure of the truth of this, so did some historical digging about Jell-O.  In 1845, industrialist, Peter Cooper (built the first American steam powered locomotive, The Tom Thumb) invented a powdered gelatin.  However, 1897 saw New Yorker (yay NY!) cough syrup manufacturer, Pearle Bixby Wait, trademark a gelatin product he and his wife, May, called “Jell-O”.  They added fruit flavoring to granulated gelatin and sugar; and a new dessert was given life.

In 2001, Jell-O was designated, by Utah Legislature, the number one snack food of the state; our tax dollars at work!  However, media food analysts found very little mention of the product between 1969 and 1988; in fact, it was written that Lutherans were the biggest lovers of Jell-O.  That changed in 1997 when Kraft Foods introduced “Jell-O Jigglers” to the market; sales figures revealed Salt Lake City to have the highest per-capita Jell-O consumption.  At that time, comedian Bill Cosby was the spokesperson for the much loved product and stated to the 2001 Utah Legislature, “I believe the reason people in Utah love Jell-O is that the snack is perfect for families -- and the people of Utah are all about family.”  …and this is how we get to the first sentence of this current paragraph.

The recipe I am giving you is for “Pretzel Salad”, a combination of fruit laden Jell-O with cream cheesy decadence over buttery, crunchy pretzels.  Actually, I will be doing the story about Dessert Salads in several parts to show the variations; and who knows, you might be serving a new creation at your next get-together.

Pretzel Salad
(This is a three step process of ingredients plus directions)

Step One:


2 cups crushed, salted pretzels
¼ cup sugar
1 (8 Tbsp.) stick butter, melted


Preheat oven to 350'F.

Combine pretzels, sugar and butter together; press into the bottom of a 9” x13” glass baking dish.  Bake for 10 minutes, remove from oven and cool completely.

Step Two:


1 (8 oz.) package cream cheese
1 cup sugar
1 (8 oz.) container of original Cool Whip


Combined the cream cheese with sugar; whip until smooth; fold in the Cool Whip. Spread this mixture evenly over the top of cooled pretzel crust, and seal all the edges.  Place in refrigerator for a half hour to slightly firm up.

Step Three:


1 (6 oz.) box of strawberry Jell-O
2 cups boiling water
2 (16 oz.) bags of frozen strawberries


Combine the Jell-O and water; stir until gelatin is dissolved; add in the frozen strawberries and allow to thicken slightly.  Pour mixture over the cream cheese layer; spread out berries if necessary.  Cover baking dish with plastic wrap and refrigerate a minimum of four hours if serving the same day; or overnight if serving the next day.
Makes 10 to 12 servings.

Note: This recipe can be created with other berry Jell-O flavors with accompanying berries such as raspberry, blackberry, cherry or blueberry.
Mary Cokenour