Wednesday, August 24, 2016

The Zen of Tortellini.

A favorite movie quote comes from 1984’s “Dune”, featuring Kyle MacLachlan, Patrick Stewart, Sting and more too numerous to mention; “Fear is the mind killer”.  Fear keeps us from completing goals, beginning new tasks, exploring the unknown, jumping head first into dangerous situations (that’s a good thing though).  However, if fear kills the mind, stress goes after the entire body inside and out.  It ages the skin, elevates blood sugar and pressure, leads to eating disorders and causes various organ diseases.  These two factors, stress and fear, are partners in crime as they both lead to unhealthy, unhappy lives.

Stress and fear appear in disguises; they slink into your life, and as Chef Emeril Lagasse would say, as he spices up a recipe, “Bam!!!” they destroy you.  I have to admit that I don’t like his recipes much; just seem to have too many ingredients and steps to the final result.  Very rarely do any of my personal recipes have many ingredients and/or steps, and that’s mainly due to my own lack of patience.  Actually, I’m much better at being patient than in earlier days, and that has attributed to helping to bring my stress level down.  Take a deep breath and count to ten, or more if needed; smile and nod; imagine yourself in a happier, quieter place…yes, these techniques all work a lot better now.  Not perfect, just better.

In cooking, I have, more and more, turned away from using premade, packaged meals; and found easier, tastier ways to make them from scratch.  Better for health to get away from all those preservatives and additives, and lots better for the ego, “Hey, look what I made!”  Yes, better seems to be the catch word for now; not perfect, just better.  Some recipes, that started out as just a side dish, found their way to becoming a meal of their own.  Just an additional ingredient here or there, or different technique; nothing long drawn, seems to make the difference.


A favorite pasta of mine is Tortellini; little pasta rings filled with cheese, spinach, chicken, just about anything nowadays; the larger version is referred to as Tortelloni.  It comes dried, frozen, and fresh; packages small enough to take up very little storage space in the freezer or pantry.  This pasta can be served with virtually any type of sauce, in soups, salads, as a side dish, or a main meal; you can’t go wrong with it.  If you haven’t tried it yet, give yourself a little taste adventure; play with ingredients to add with it.  Have fun playing in the kitchen, create something unique, smile and see how much better you feel.  Not perfect, just better…for now.

Simple Tortellini Salad


1 (16 oz.) package tortellini  
½ cup olive oil
2 Tbsp. white balsamic vinegar
2 tsp. garlic powder
2 tsp. dried Italian herb mix
4 Tbsp. Vidalia sweet onion relish (jarred or fresh made)


Cook tortellini according to package directions.

Place cooked tortellini into large bowl; add remaining ingredients and mix together gently so as to not break up the pasta.

Makes 4-6 servings; can be served warm or cold.

Or, for the more adventurous:

Tortellini Salad


2 Tbsp. olive oil
½ lb. asparagus spears, trimmed and cut into 1 inch pieces
½ cup mushrooms, chopped
2 Tbsp. (packed in oil) sundried tomatoes, diced
3 Tbsp. balsamic vinegar
1 tsp. minced garlic
1 Tbsp. fresh marjoram (if not available, use dried)
Dash each of sea salt and ground black pepper
1 lb. tortellini, cooked


In a large skillet, heat oil on high; sauté asparagus spears, mushrooms and tomatoes for 7 minutes.  Reduce heat to low, add in vinegar and garlic; let simmer for 5 minutes.

Add in marjoram, salt, pepper and tortellini; toss gently to coat and remove to serving dish.

Makes 4-6 servings; can be served warm or cold.
Mary Cokenour

Thursday, August 11, 2016

A Salad is a Salad, or is it?

First off, let me say that I am OPPOSED to the Bears Ears National Monument.  Taking almost half of San Juan County, making a monument which would destroy the lives, and livelihoods, of its resident is vile.  With my travel blog, The Southwest Through Wide Brown Eyes,  I have shown time and time again the beauty of San Juan County; and perfect examples of why it should be open to all.  The chosen few who believe themselves above the residents DO NOT LIVE HERE  AND ARE CLUELESS!!! 

Why do I feel I need to make this statement here?  A female restaurant owner, in Blanding, has slandered (said in front of witnesses) me by stating to others, "This woman from Brooklyn is an "environmentalist" and is pushing for the monument."  Really???  I would like to see proof of this, since I have written, on social media, many times that I am AGAINST the monument.  As to being an "environmentalist", that is way too much work for me to even learn how to spell correctly. Then again, this is the same woman who verbally attacked (again, witnesses) me at my first job in San Juan County and stated, "You are an outsider!  I don't want you touching my money, looking at my accounts, and you are not allowed inside my restaurant!"  

Well sweet cheeks, lets get something straight, you may think of yourself as royalty; but I'm a Goddess, and you need to begin bowing to me!!!  So, lets get off the topic of females with no brains, and onto today's topic; side salads.

The idea of, one day, owning one of those old fashioned roadside diners, and serving up a variety of comfort foods to traveling motorists, truckers, or folks just out for an adventure, is always on my mind.  Roy loves the idea, but finances are not our friend when it comes to the idea of starting, owning and maintaining a business.  With each new presidential election year I hear, “The tide is turning” which usually means we’re personally about to be hit with a tsunami. 

Ah, the true purpose of this post is, however, salads; not the greens and veggies type, but wondrous concoctions known as side salads.  It’s not just the main ingredients of pastas, rice, vegetables, grains that make a side salad, but the dressing which brings me to Miracle Whip.  It's called a salad dressing, but basically it is mayonnaise with sugar (and lots of preservatives) added in.  Personally, the taste of it is quite nasty, but then again, I wouldn't eat plain mayonnaise either.  Roy loves it on sandwiches, and I don't know how many times I have felt insulted by his putting a blob of it upon my luscious....yes, luscious, meatloaf, or freshly roasted beef. 

I do use the product in my macaroni salad, coleslaw and deviled eggs.  Why are deviled eggs called deviled in the first place?  I mean, if you really look at them, they should be called "bloody, mutilated chicken fetuses" with all that red paprika sprinkled over the yellow gob.  So, I make mine really "deviled" by adding ground cayenne pepper to the mixture, but this post is not supposed to be about all that.

All I’m saying is that Miracle Whip should stick to salad enhancing, and mayonnaise should be, as it has always been, versatile, all purpose.  Sort of like with elections; politicians should say what they mean, and mean what they say.  Don’t sprinkle it with sugar and hope no one notices.  That being said, here's my recipe for "Amish Macaroni Salad":


Amish Macaroni Salad


1 lb. elbow macaroni
½ cup each carrots, onions, red bell peppers, finely diced
5 hard-boiled eggs, diced
2 cups Miracle Whip salad dressing
¼ cup white vinegar
½ cup sugar
2 Tbsp. yellow mustard


Cook macaroni; drain, let cool in a large bowl.  Gently mix in the carrots, onions, peppers and eggs.

Whisk together Miracle Whip, vinegar, sugar and mustard to make the dressing; gently fold into the macaroni mixture, making sure all macaroni is covered by dressing.  Cover and let sit overnight.

Makes 10 – 1 cup servings.

Mary Cokenour - foodie, adventurer, photographer, writer.  NOT an environmentalist and definitely OPPOSED to the Bears Ears National Monument.

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Asian Gourmet from Haddon House.

Haddon House Food Products, Inc.

Asian Gourmet - Chinese, Japanese and Thai food products

When we lived on the East coast, visiting Chinatown in New York City or Philadelphia was simply a couple of hours of driving away.  We loved going into all the little groceries to find noodles, sauces, teas, vegetables (love Bok Choy), fruits and candies that a regular supermarket didn't have.  Then, of course, there were the Dim Sum restaurants that offered up a huge variety of delectables; oh how we miss those restaurants of authentic Chinese cuisine.  We didn't order from menus; the restaurant owner knew us and ordered for us; never a disappointment, and always something new to try.

Twice someone tried opening up a "Chinese" restaurant in the area.  The first time it was a person who purchased bulk pans of frozen, premade Chinese-like meals; heated them up and sold by the scoop full.  Disgusting!!!  The second time there were actual owners of Chinese descent; big mistake was hiring locals who knew nothing about the cuisine, didn't want to learn, and didn't want to do much work either.  Then again, it was the owners' fault for not insisting they be knowledgeable, or replacing them with those who wanted to learn and work.  If a restaurant wants to succeed, the owners have to make sure they have the best staff, attitude, training, atmosphere and products.

I get calls from many restaurants, in the area, to come visit and do a review on them.  They know I am honest, can't be bought off, nor bribed; they are also very confident that they have all the musts for success.  Now the ones that don't want me to visit know they are not up to par.  They don't care if tourists come in or not; their belief is that friends, family and locals, out of blind loyalty, will keep them going no matter how bad the food and service are.

...and so I have digressed from my original thoughts on Asian Gourmet products.

Since the closest Asian restaurants (Chinese, Japanese, Thai) are an hour away in either Moab, UT or Cortez, CO; I have had to learn to do some of my own cooking of these cuisines.  Being able to purchase some of the products to accomplish this is a huge help, and many of the major chain supermarkets are carrying Asian Gourmet by Haddon House Food Products, a food distributor on the, what else, East coast.  Owning a Wok is an even bigger help; tools of the trade do make a difference.

So, here's one of my latest concoctions...

Chinese Noodle Stir Fry
1 (8 oz.) package Asian Gourmet Chinese Noodles
2 Tbsp. Stir Fry oil (if not available, canola oil)
 and 1/2 lb. boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into 1 inch pieces
1 tsp. Chinese 5 Spice powder
1 (10 oz.) package frozen sugar snap peas, defrosted
1/2 cup chopped red bell pepper
1/2 cup chopped orange bell pepper
1/2 cup Hoisin sauce
1/4 cup soy sauce
Prepare Chinese Noodles according to package direction; set aside, but keep warm.
Heat oil, medium-high, in Wok or large, deep skillet.  Mix chicken pieces with 5 spice powder; brown all sides in the oil.
Add the sugar snap peas and bell peppers; mix thoroughly and let cook for 5 minutes together.
Add the kept warm, cooked noodles and sauces to the Wok; mix thoroughly and let cook until the bottom is sizzling.  Stir bottom ingredients up to the top, and repeat.
Makes 8 servings.
Mary Cokenour


Sunday, July 31, 2016

Ray's Tavern Since 1943..

Ray's Tavern

25 South Broadway
Green River, Utah, 84525

Phone: (435) 564-3511


Hours of Operation: Monday thru Sunday, 11am to 9pm

Patio Seating

We were told by friends, Joseph Venus and Dwane Cude (Utah Artists), about Ray's Tavern; let me correct that, they raved about Ray's Tavern.  Looking at it from the outside, it looks like any other bar establishment; inside is pretty much the same look.  The huge difference is everyone is there having a great time; from locals to tourists, family, friends, couples and solos.  The owners and staff of Ray's Tavern pride themselves on their service; fresh cooked, high quality foods; welcoming atmosphere...they have achieved restaurant nirvana.

Walking in, we were immediately greeted and told to sit anywhere we wanted.  We did the Southwest thing and "bellied up to the bar"; my hubby ordering a Polygamy Porter and fresh brewed coffee for myself.  The staff is very, very friendly; answering our questions easily and offering up tips on the food.  Now while we had heard the burgers were the best, we weren't in a burger mood; hey, it happens!  However, a lovely couple sitting in one of the booths had just received their burger and fries orders, and let me take a photo.  They were from Moab, but didn't think twice about taking a one-hour drive up to Ray's Tavern when in a burger mood.  They said they had been coming here for years, and no place could outdo them; and we quickly found out why.

My hubby ordered the Double Pork Chops; nice char on the bone-in chops, thick cut, juicy with an order of handcut fries.  The fries are cut fresh every morning, and it's not unusual to have to do a second batch of cutting between the lunch and dinner hours.
Carlos - Look at that Smile!!!

I ordered the New York Strip Steak, medium-rare, and I got it exactly the way I like it...medium-rare.  Again, that nice char on a perfectly cooked, juicy, meaty steak; along with those handcut fries, it was dinner heaven.

Before our orders we dived into the dinner salad; a large portion of chopped lettuce covered with sliced olives, red bell peppers, pickled beet and croutons.  While my hubby had ranch dressing, I went for the honey mustard; made in-house and so plate licking good!

The portions are not chintzy, so we took some food home; and had no room left for that fresh apple pie (ala mode is an option); maybe next time.  Oh yes, there will be a next time, and we want to be in a burger mood.

Mary Cokenour

Saturday, July 16, 2016

Another Asian Chicken in the Crock Pot Recipe.

First it was Hawaiian Chicken in the Crock Pot recipes that kept popping up on the sidebar or newsfeed of Facebook. Now it's Asian chicken recipes; just because you add soy sauce to a recipe, that doesn't necessarily mean its an Asian recipe.

So here I go creating my own version, but while the others use boneless, skinless chicken breasts; I used bone-in chicken legs and thighs.  I tried to remove as much skin as possible, but the 10 hours cooking time took care of what did remain.

Savory Pineapple Chicken
8 chicken legs, skin removed
8 chicken thighs, skin removed
1/2 cup light soy sauce
1 (15 oz.) can pineapple chunks, reserve juice
1 Tbsp. minced garlic
1 tsp. ground ginger
2 Tbsp. Hoisin sauce
Spray the inside of a 6 quart crock pot with cooking spray; layer the chicken legs and thighs inside.
In a small mixing bowl, combine soy sauce, reserved juice from pineapple chunks, garlic, ginger and Hoisin sauce.  Pour over the chicken; top with pineapple chunks; cover, set crock pot on low and cook for 10 hours.

If the sauce is too thin, remove the chicken and whisk in a tablespoon of cornstarch; add more until your desired thickness achieved.  I left mine just the way it was after cooking; next day's leftovers, the sauce had thickened on its own.  The chicken does come right off the bone, so makes it easier to serve over rice.

Makes 8 servings.

Mary Cokenour


Thursday, July 14, 2016

Mexican Night at R & F Restaurant.

R & F Restaurant

149 East Center Street (Route 491)
Monticello, Utah, 84535

Phone: (435) 587-2440

Serving Breakfast, Lunch& Dinner
Wednesday is Mexican Food Night

Parking lot full, parking on the street stretches from the corner and past the restaurant, patient patrons sit or stand inside the entry way waiting.  That’s right, it’s Mexican Night at the R & F Restaurant!  Locals plan on this special night of dining, tourists are very lucky they were directed here, or just stopped in.


Ray and Fana Arballo, with the help of Gen Atencio, have been serving up their version of diner comfort food for nine years now; but Wednesday has always been the special night.  Fana admits that they tried doing the specials twice a week, but then it just was not very special anymore.  Knowing the fresh made, stupendously delicious Mexican delicacies were only available once a week is what the locals enjoyed most; the planning to go out, and looking forward to it.  Families, couples, even solos greet each other cheerfully; catch up on local and county news.  Fana works her way around the tables greeting everyone, asking everyone is doing, are they enjoying the food.  Ray likes being back in the kitchen, but took a moment to come sit with us and talk about R & F.


Ray and Fana were both born and raised in Monticello, Utah.  Being of Mexican descent (Ray’s mother is from New Mexico of Spanish/Apache descent; his dad from East LA, but originally Mexico), this trio know how to do it up homemade and authentic.  All meats are purchased locally through Blue Mountain Meats; Utah’s Own products are delivered via wholesalers Nicholas and Company; potatoes are pure Idaho born and raised.  Tortillas are cut up and deep fried for the chips; or lightly deep fried to get the shape for a taco, then finished up on the grill.  Salsa, served with the chips, is freshly made.   Clean, pure taste of the tomatoes, onions and chile peppers comes on strong, with medium heat that makes the back of the tongue do the cha-cha.

The Smothered Burrito is a good one pounder packed with shredded beef or chicken, or ground beef.  While both the red and green chile sauce (medium heat) are delicious on their own, I particularly enjoy the “half and half” or “Christmas style” which is a generous topping of both sauces.  Sides are Spanish Rice, Refried Beans; moist, flavorful, and the garnish of chopped lettuce and tomatoes simply adds more texture and flavor.  Sour cream is by request.


Combo Meal
The Enchiladas are topped with melted cheese which makes a delicious meal even yummier!  As I stated before, the Tacos are finished up on the grill and packed with meat, freshly chopped lettuce and tomatoes.  Make sure to ask for more of the salsa that came with the chips if you want to punch up the flavor combinations even more.


Sopapilla, a deep fried tortilla that puffs up, comes with each meal, along with a packet of honey.  I always make sure to leave room for this treat!  Along with the Mexican specialties, R & F offers its regular menu as well; a salad bar packed with fresh vegetables and dressings.  Homemade pies are available featuring cherry, blueberry and apple.

Salad Bar
R & F Restaurant; friendly owners and staff, welcoming atmosphere, comforting food at reasonable prices.  Oh, for Pioneer Week, veterans will be offered meals at special discounts; so make sure to ask about this.  Thank you for serving in the military and protecting our country.
Mary Cokenour




Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Lickity Split Bakes Up Fine Character.

Lickity Split Bakery
87 South Main Street (Hwy. 191)
Blanding, Utah, 84511

Phone: (435) 459-9455

Hours of Operation:  Monday thru Friday, 8am to 1pm; Seasonal
Nowadays, the American economy is full of unemployment; federal and state funds being consumed by teenagers living on welfare due to unplanned pregnancies; an American school system that does not provide skills for adulthood.  Small towns can no longer expect their children to live on the laurels of their ancestors; this does not bring food to the family table, nor put savings in the bank to reach financial goals.  In fact, small towns will eventually shrink smaller and become ghost towns; adult age young people are leaving for the big cities where the jobs, and money, are.

How about a concept that is not novel, but might save the future of a small town?  A business that employs youths between the ages of 10 to 18; teaches them business and life skills; manners and customer relations; teaches them skills that provides a platform to grow in life???  Yes, such a business does exist, right here in Blanding, Utah; established in 2004 by Elaine Borgen, a volunteer with AmeriCorps Vista.  Currently, she resides in Henderson, Nevada where she runs an Artisan Bakery for homeless women; teaching them skills to go forth in life with goals.  At first the shop was known as “Lickity Split Chocolates”, homemade chocolates that were so delicious and scrumptious; however, it became too well known and successful.  Orders for locals, and for shipping to other areas, simply became too much to handle.  The youth worked primarily just to fill orders; education was becoming second best.

Back to the drawing board, and “Lickity Split Bakery” was born in 2008; baked in the shop cakes, cookies and pies; breakfast fare such as quiche and crepes; lunch specials all locals love, Navajo Tacos.  2016 and the bakery is going strong, and I was able to stop in one Wednesday to speak with Chef Leon Sampson; one of the instructors and mentors of the children.  This gentleman beams with pride as he talks about “the little bakers”; while mainly Navajo, any child between the age of 10 to 18, who resides in San Juan County, is welcomed to come to the shop to learn and work.  He shows off the goods they have created and explains, “Lickity Split Bakery provides a community service for young people; they become skilled in business/work ethics, nutrition in food, life in general.  After high school graduation, they now know where their next step in life leads; whether to college or business directly, they can make a choice on their own.”


Leon’s own son, Trevor Sampson, is currently a CEO of Lickity Split Bakery…he’s only 16 years old!  Elysia is one of the Navajo young ladies who has worked at the Bakery for five years now; she is not only adept at baked goods, but runs the front counter with ease.  Her favorite part of the entire experience, well the baking of course!


Two items tried out that morning were the, and this was literally a mouthful, “Pumpkin Almond Cinnamon Roll with Orange Scented Cream Cheese Frosting”; try saying that three times fast.  As with any cinnamon roll, the outside layer had a crispness, but the inside layers were pillowy soft and moist; the frosting silky smooth with the correct hint of orange to tease the senses.  Then there was the Biscuit Crusted Bacon Cheddar Quiche; rich, eggy goodness full of onions, bacon and cheddar that slapped the taste buds up one side and down the other.   It was difficult, oh so difficult, not to buy and try the Blueberry Scone (I swear it was about 5” x 7” large); colorful Ice Box Cookies; or chocolate drizzled Chocolate Almond Cookies.

Pumpkin Almond Cinnamon Roll with Orange Scented Cream Cheese Frosting
Inside the Cinnamon Roll

Bacon Cheddar Quiche with Biscuit Crust
Blueberry Scones
Chocolate Almond Cookies

Icebox Cookies


New Ice Cream Shoppe
Currently, Lickity Split Bakery is open Monday thru Friday, 8am to 1pm; it is also only open seasonally, due to the fact the children must attend their regular schools during the year.  On July 4, 2016, a second shop was opened on Main Street, next to the San Juan Theatre, which will serve ice cream, cookies and crepes.


Imagine though, if a work study program could be established; where these wonderful, bright, imaginative 10 to 18 year olds could gain school credit for the skills learned at the bakery.  Imagine if such a program could happen in all the small towns, not just within San Juan County, but throughout the United States.  No, not a novel concept; perhaps a scary one to those who hold on tightly to the laurels of their ancestors; but then again, this is the 21st century and the universe is infinite.

Mary Cokenour