Wednesday, January 30, 2019

Ode to the Odiferous Onion.

Memories of the meals we’ve made before.  Misty, watering, burning eyes.  While dicing onions from the store.  If Barbra Streisand sees what I’ve done with her The Way We Were song lyrics, I am a dead woman.

Whether a home cook or restaurant prep cook, we all know the pain of dicing and slicing onions.  As a sharp knife begins the cutting process, the friction warms the onion, releasing its juice and sulfurous fumes.  Even though the fumes can be stemmed off for a very short time, by getting the onions cold in the refrigerator, as they warm up, they fight back with a skunk’s vengeance.  Alright kids, time for a little geeky science: Onions (Allium cepa) contain Amino acid sulfoxides that form sulfenic acids when the onion is cut into. These isolate enzymes are now free to mix with sulfenic acids to produce Syn-propanethial-S-oxide, a volatile sulfur compound gas. This gas reacts with the water in your tears to form sulfuric acid, and there’s the burn.

Now for some nutritional facts to round out our education on the onion: 3.5 ounces of raw onion are 40 calories, 1.7 grams of fiber, contain Vitamins B6, B9, C and the mineral potassium.  They are beneficial in blood sugar and pressure control, immunity boosting, cell growth and metabolism.  The benefits far outweigh a bit of temporary irritation to the eyes.

All onions are definitely not the same.  While yellow are strong flavored, white are milder and clear in color; purple and Vidalia do not release strong fumes like the yellow variety and are milder in flavor as well.  Shallots (eshallot) are a French variety mainly used in sauces or salad dressings; as with garlic, they can be roasted to a perfect candy-like sweetness.  Leeks are long onions with a good portion of the body growing underground; perfect for soups or a side dish all their own.

When I was teaching Adult-Ed cooking classes back east, I learned quickly that many of my students were clueless on onion cutting techniques.  While I could write it all out here, this is one of those cooking lessons that is best done visually.  Can’t do that in a written article though, so I’ve included photos of the lesson sheets I handed out to my class.  While my diagrams are crudely drawn, they do the job of teaching and that is what matters most.  This is also one of those, “Hey, this is how we made drawings before computers and Photoshop!” moments.

So class, I’m going to give two homework assignments, the first is how to Caramelize Onions; the second is how to create Sweet Onion Relish.  There will be a taste test and I expect you all to pass with deliciously flying colors!

By the way, I would like to dedicate this article to Rick Meyer of Blanding, Utah; San Juan County Health Inspector; loving husband to Jonna Lancaster Meyer, and he knows why. *wink*

How to Caramelize Onions

Caramelizing onions is simply giving long (one hour) cooked onions a deep brown color; and bringing out the sweetness of the onion itself.  Using medium and low heat temperatures ensures that the onions will attain a brown coloring from the caramelizing of their natural sugar. Higher heat temperatures will brown the onions, perhaps even burn them; however they may remain bitter from not releasing and utilizing the sugar. They can be used as an added ingredient (for example: quiche, frittata, macaroni and cheese) or accompaniment for meat, pork, poultry or seafood; and are the main ingredient for French Onion Soup.

There is no one particular type of onion that should be used when caramelizing; white, yellow, red; even sweeter onions such as Vidalia and Spanish work just fine.  Remember, we're letting the natural sugar of the onion do most of our work for us, so the sweeter the onion, the richer the caramelizing will be.  Also, while I prefer simply to use olive oil for the initial cooking process, some like to use butter, or a combination of oil and butter.  I don't personally like to add a dairy product into my caramelizing process; I don't believe it truly adds anything, but a greasy texture to it.  I've seen some recipes add brown sugar; I'm not sure why since brown sugar is caramelized sugar, and that's what we're trying to achieve with the onion's own sugar.  Confusing, isn't it?  I do, however, add a little balsamic vinegar for an extra richness, and it enhances the aroma of the onions.  Play around with the techniques and see what suits your tastes the best.

Caramelized Onions


3 Tbsp. olive oil
5 large onions, peeled and julienned
½ tsp salt
2 Tbsp. balsamic vinegar


Slice the top and root off the onions. Cut the onions in half from top to bottom; remove peels and discard. Place half of an onion, flat side down, on a clean, flat cutting surface. Angle the knife towards the center to make ¼ inch slices from stem to root end. This method of slicing onions is called “Frenched onions”, French-cut, or Julienned.   

Heat oil on medium heat in a large skillet; spread onions in skillet and sprinkle salt over them.
Cook the onions until soft and translucent (10 minutes); stirring occasionally.  Reduce heat to low, cover and let cook for 40 minutes; stir after 20 minutes only.   This will make the onions sweat, drawing out the natural sugars that will coat the onion pieces and cause them to turn brown as the sugar itself begins to cook.
Do not keep removing the lid to check on the onions, or stir them; the heat will lower and you'll lose the accumulated moisture.  After 40 minutes, mix in the vinegar, cover and cook additional 10 minutes.

Makes 2 cups.

Note: if you want the onions to be darker colored than what is in my accompanying photo, let them cook down longer on the low heat.  For us, after one hour, the intoxicating scent throughout the home is just too much to bear, so we gobble them up. 

How to Make Sweet Onion Relish

Types of sweet onion which have a mild sulfuric, and higher water, content than regular onions  are Vidalia from Georgia, Walla Walla from Washington state, Sunbero from Nevada and Maui from the Hawaiian island of Maui; to name a few. Red onions, also called purple onions, are also mild and sweet; their coloring brightens up any dish.

One way to use sweet onions is to make a relish which can be spread on toasted bread, used as a condiment on sandwiches, or an enhancement for beef, pork or poultry.

Sweet Onion Relish


2 Tbsp. canola oil
6 cups chopped sweet onions
½ cup chopped celery
½ cup sugar
¼ tsp. salt
½ tsp. celery seeds
1/8 tsp. ground black pepper
½ cup cider vinegar
¼ cup water
¼ cup diced roasted red peppers


In a large skillet, heat oil on medium heat; add onions and celery; sauté until tender. Mix in remaining ingredients; bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer, uncovered, for 30 minutes, stirring often. Let cool. Spoon into a bowl; cover and chill for 8 hours.

Makes 4 cups.

Have fun on the onion journey and don’t be ashamed to shed a few tears of joy.

Mary Cokenour

Friday, January 18, 2019

Air Fryer Pros and Cons

2018 was the year of two new kitchen appliances, the Instapot and the Air Fryer.  For my birthday, my good friend Amy Watkins Kensley blessed me with one of these inventions, the Philips HD9220 Air Fryer.  Now here comes 2019 which I have dubbed, “The Year of Fresh Starts”, so what better way to start the year than to air fry instead of oil fry?

New Year’s Day meal was a roast beef with air fried fries; hand cut fries, not frozen.  The 2.5 pound roast was marinated overnight with a few splashes of red wine vinegar.  Why nothing fancier?  I often use red wine vinegar to tenderize meats – elk, venison, beef; it softens the fibers of the meat to make it more tender and succulent.  Oven preheated to 450F, meat lightly salted and peppered, laid upon a roasting rack and into the oven it went.

An hour later, I began prepping the fries.  Four medium sized Russet potatoes were washed, cut into two inch pieces and then immersed into cold water for a half hour.  By the way, the instructions for making hand cut fries is in the instruction manual; a first time try should follow instructions.  After a half hour, the fries were dried in paper towels, then mixed with a teaspoon of olive oil.  Now hold on you’re saying, why am I using oil in an air fryer?

Here is one of the pros and cons of oil frying – the usage of oil.  Generally, when frying potatoes, or many other items, in a pan of oil, the amount of oil used is large (1-3 cups!)  Even draining the food on paper towels does not remove all the excess, absorbed oil.  However, it’s essential to have plant-based oils, such as avocado and olive, in your diet to help maintain brain and hormone health.  An air fryer use of a teaspoon compared to a cup of oil, whether a healthy oil, or not, is still better than pan frying.

Back to my fries, spooning them into the air fryer’s basket (don’t over stuff the basket!), I set the temperature to 355F and the timer for 25 minutes.  The air fryer does not need preheating; basically it’s a “set it and forget it” process.  However, it’s also a trial and error process, so here’s another pro vs. con.  Air frying produces high temperatures rapidly.  Following instructions in the manual makes sense as these are tried and proven instructions in a test kitchen.  Whether high altitude or not, this factor does not affect the cooking temperatures or times of an air fryer. 

Due to the high heat, use a thick wooden cutting board to place the air fryer on; it can crack countertops of tile, marble and even Corian.  Make sure to not have non-heat resistance items near the air fryer, give it lots of space!  Oh, another con is attempting to keep the air fryer on the countertop as one of your everyday appliances.  It’s large and takes up lots of space you might need, or not be willing to give up to one appliance.  I store mine in cabinet space within my microwave cart, just pull it out when needed.

Back to food and the high heat, food can easily be burned; a little char around the edges of ribs or steak might taste good, but who wants to eat a hockey puck, never mind the wasted money!  Recipe sites online, such as Cooking Light (, All Recipes ( and Taste of Home ( can give great ideas, and some recipes have notes to help prevent a ruined meal.  The manual that comes with the air fryer has basics such as fries, chicken wings, small meat and poultry items, onion rings, fish sticks and vegetables.  I found, online, a recipe for Aracini (Italian Rice Balls) and I am so looking forward to making these babies.  Breaded fish and chicken cutlets, even a small roast chicken (3 pounds) can also be made within an air fryer.  Panko (Japanese bread crumbs) are found in many of the recipes for breaded seafood, chicken and pork; helps to make a great crunch on the food.

3 lb. Seasoned, Whole Chicken (cut off wing tips!)

One hour only for a fully roasted whole chicken!  

Ding!  The timer announces my fries are done; spooning them onto a plate, sprinkling a bit of Utah’s Own Real Salt and YUM!  Browned and slightly crisp on the outside, fluffy potato on the inside and no oily residue!  Cleanup?  Let the air fryer cool down first, then remove the basket unit, soapy hot water and done; there was no oil inside the unit either.  The roast was done (medium-rare) at the same time as the fries, so time to sit down, celebrate the New Year with a tasty meal and relax.

This is just my experience with an air fryer and one model; here’s a link to a review site if you want to check out other models and see what people are saying:    Friend, family member, neighbor has one?  Get their advice, or maybe they’ll invite you over for a demo and taste test.  All I know is, thanks Amy for such a great gift, love it!

Mary Cokenour

Monday, December 31, 2018

Ending 2018 with Flour Power.

Well smack me upside the head with a bag of Blue Bird flour, I should have looked first!  With all the talk of gluten free, less carbs, more protein in flours made from coconuts and almonds, I experimented with less than edible results.  So why smack me upside the head?  I assumed…oh yes I did…that using the exact amount of other flours to all-purpose flour was the correct usage.  Talk about being a dumb bunny during a rabbit hunt!  Before I decided to make another attempt at substitution, this time I made sure to do a bit more research first and surely was surprised at the numbers.

First, some details about all-purpose, almond and coconut flours based on a ¼ cup measurement.  All-Purpose Flour: 114 calories, .3 grams fat, .3 grams protein, 4 grams carbs, and 2.5 grams fiber; not gluten free.  Needs to be sifted before usage as well to keep it from forming clumps in the batter.

Almond flour: 160 calories, 14 grams fat, 6 grams protein, 6 grams carbohydrates, and 3 grams of fiber; gluten free; people with nut allergies need to avoid!  Tends to be grainy and sifting will not alleviate this.

Coconut flour: 120 calories, 4 grams fat, 4 grams protein, 16 grams carbs, and 10 grams fiber; gluten free.  Sifting not necessary as the flour is especially fine in grain.

When it comes to the necessity of having gluten free and high protein products, almond and coconut flours are the best choices; however they’re not lower in fat and carbohydrates.

Now comes the fun of figuring out how to substitute for all-purpose flour and how the batter and fully baked product comes out.  Almond Flour is heavier in texture, so do not press it down inside a measuring cup.  While it can be substituted measure to measure against regular flour, it is a moister flour, but still needs an extra egg to help with the binding process.  If a recipe call for 2 eggs, now you’ll have to use 3; if egg size is not specified, always use large eggs.   The batter is very thin, takes the same amount of time to fully bake as with all-purpose flour.  The texture is too moist to hold up on its own, almond flavor is very strong, but makes a nice bread pudding.

Coconut flour is extremely fine and absorbent; a ¼ cup is equal to one cup of regular flour!  It needs 2 eggs, plus what is called for in a recipe, for proper binding.  The batter is in-between, not thin like almond flour, but not thick if using regular flour.  Again it bakes the same amount of time as both almond and all-purpose; very moist, yet firm in texture.  The flavor though tends to be bitter, so add a half more portion of sugar than what the recipe calls for and use sweetened coconut milk.  Cakes/Quick Breads will also be a darker color due to the dark shade of the flour and coconut sugar; not over baked which the toothpick test affirms.

Is your head spinning yet?  Remember, you’re just reading about all this; try being me and figuring all this out!  Now you know I was looking stylish wearing three types of flour.  Basically it all comes down to trial and error when attempting to make substitutions in tried and true recipes.  While deciphering the measurements was a bit of a headache, in the long run, I had fun playing with food.

All this experimentation makes quite a mess for cleanup!

To save space, there will be the original recipe with the substitutions listed in parentheses.  Try out all three versions, or simply choose what suits your taste or medical need; just remember to have fun!  Now I’m off to stock up on Blue Bird, I’ve got holiday baking to do!

Vanilla Yogurt Quick Bread


For the Quick Bread:

1 and ¾ cups all-purpose flour (Almond uses same amount, Coconut = ¼ cup plus 3 Tbsp.)
1 tsp. baking powder
½ tsp. baking soda
½ tsp. salt
½ cup white sugar (Almond uses same, Coconut = ¾ cup coconut sugar)
2 eggs (Almond = 3 eggs, Coconut = 5 eggs)
2 Tbsp. pure vanilla extract
2/3 cups Greek vanilla yogurt
¼ cup canola oil
¼ cup 2% milk (use unsweetened Almond milk w/Almond flour, sweetened Coconut milk w/Coconut flour)

For the Glaze:

¼ cup powdered sugar
1/8 tsp. pure vanilla extract
1 Tbsp. water (or use milk product associated with the quick bread)


Preheat oven to 350 F and spray 1 and ½ quart loaf pan with nonstick baking spray.

In a large bowl, sift together flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt; add sugar and mix until combined.  In a medium bowl, whisk together eggs, vanilla extract, yogurt, oil and milk until fully combined; do not let wet ingredients sit or they will begin to separate.  Slowly add wet ingredients to dry continually mixing until fully combined.

Pour mixture into loaf pan; bake for 50-60 minutes, or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.  Place pan on cooling rack, use tip of sharp knife around edges of quick bread to allow it to release from pan’s sides.

Aluminum Foil under the pans just in case of overflow while baking.

After quick bread is fully cooled, remove from pan to plate; prepare glaze and drizzle over loaf.

Makes 12 servings.

By the way, the original recipe quick bread had a firm texture, an overall vanilla flavor with just a slight tartness from the yogurt; a most excellent combination.

Happy New Year!!!

Mary Cokenour

Wednesday, December 19, 2018

Tis the Season for Cheesecake

As many know, I like to bake up treats for the holidays and give them out to show my appreciation.  Appreciation of those who have made my life easier through their dedication to their business and customer service.  I still find it kind of, well, for lack of a better word, strange that I am still hearing, “Mary, you’re the only one who does this for us every year.”  I find it strange that I keep hearing, “Be kind” all year long, yet at a time when kindness and appreciation are paramount, it gets lost around Black Friday until the New Year.  Hey, don’t get me wrong, I’m sure kindness is in existence at this time of the year; probably just missing it while I’m in the kitchen baking.

By the way, just as I thought I was finished baking, dang it, wouldn’t you know I missed someone in my rushing around.  So here is my baking quote for the holiday season, “I am finished baking for the holidays, said no one ever!”, and yes, you can quote me if it’s applicable to yourself.

This is the year of pumpkin cheesecake; being a huge fan of pumpkin and cheesecake, is it no wonder they needed to meet and marry?  The recipe I will share with you has been in my personal recipe book since January 2011.  However, this year I decided to try out different cookie crusts than plain graham crackers; and add toppings like sour cream or chocolate.  While Roy and I enjoyed this taste adventure, I can definitely say I witnessed the absolute ingestion of these treats by the staff of the San Juan Record.  Unfortunately for editor, Ryan Collins, we were so engrossed in conversation that I do not think he even got to taste any; or maybe a crumb or two could have survived for his tasting pleasure.  Personally seeing the staff’s smiles, hearing the “mmm”s and “yum”s gave me a very good feeling deep inside.  You’re all awesome people, thanks for a great year!

By the way, the recipe bakes up one-9 inch cake, but can easily be used to fill up four to six - 4 inch mini spring form pans.  Just remember to make sure you seal the pan bottoms with aluminum foil, they will leak!  Speaking from experience here, as one new pan I purchased stated, “Guaranteed not to leak”.  Maybe in their test kitchen, but my oven was a whole other ballgame; thank goodness for self-cleaning ovens!

Just another example of my favorite quote by Helen Keller, “Life is either a daring adventure, or nothing.”  So to everyone, everywhere, Happy Holidays, Happy New Year and enjoy the adventure that is life!

Pumpkin Cheesecake


1 and ½ cups graham cracker crumbs
¼ cup melted butter
3 (8 oz.) packages softened cream cheese
1 cup pure pumpkin
1 cup sugar
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
2 tsp. pumpkin pie spice
3 eggs, beaten


Preheat oven to 350F.  Prepare the 9 inch spring form pan by spray with non-stick baking spray; line bottom with parchment paper and spray paper with non-stick baking spray as well.  Place pan on aluminum foil and bring up halfway along sides, pressing to seal against pan.

In a small bowl, combine graham cracker crumbs with butter; mix together using a fork or pastry cutter until crumbly mixture forms.  Spread mixture evenly on bottom of pan and 1/3 way up the sides; place in oven for 5 minutes, remove and set aside.

In a large bowl, on medium speed, cream together cream cheese, pumpkin, sugar, vanilla, cinnamon, spice mix and eggs until well blended and smooth.  Pour mixture in pan, bake for one hour.  Turn off heat, open oven door slightly and let cake rest in oven for 30 minutes.  Remove cake, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight; use a warmed knife around sides of cake before releasing spring form pan.  Slide cake onto plate, removing parchment paper as it moves.

Makes 10-12 servings.

Options: Use shortbread, chocolate shortbread, honey or cinnamon graham crackers instead of regular graham crackers. 


Sour cream: 2 cups sour cream, 1/3 cup sugar, 1 tsp. vanilla extract.  In small bowl, combine all ingredients until smooth.  At 55 minutes of baking, spread over cake, sprinkle pumpkin pie spice over topping, bake for 5 minute before turning off oven and go into resting stage.

Chocolate Candy Shell:  After cake has rested, melt 1 cup of Ghirardelli dark chocolate melting wafers, spread over cake, and continue with overnight resting.

Chocolate Ganache:  1/4 cup heavy cream, 1 cup chopped chocolate (milk or semi-sweet is traditional; bittersweet is my personal choice).  In a small saucepan, medium heat, heat the cream until bubbles just begin to form around the rim of the pan. Add the chocolate and stir until partially melted; remove from heat and continue to stir until smooth.  Spread over cake and continue with overnight resting; the ganache will thicken as it cools.

Mary Cokenour

Origination date: January 14, 2011
Updated version: December 2, 2018

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Another 60 Years at Patio Drive-In

Patio Drive-In

95 N Grayson Pkwy (Hwy 191)
Blanding, UT, 84511

Phone: (435) 678-2177

Hours of Operation: Mon thru Sat: 11am-9pm, Closed Sunday

In the early 1950s, A&W opened two franchises, one in Blanding, the other in Monticello.  While Monticello’s franchise went bust due to lack of business, Blanding’s was booming; so much so, that the owner decided to cut ties with A&W.  In 1959, Patio Drive-In was born and while it has changed hands countless times, it has remained an icon of Blanding life. 

I first met current owners, Lana and Ricky Arthur, in 2015, but they have owned Patio since 2009.  The concept for the food at Patio has, and always will be, “We are not a fast food restaurant”, no, it’s a good food restaurant with proud owners and employees.  

On December 3, 2018, the Grand Re-opening of the newly remodeled Patio, community support displayed evidence of the pride locals felt about, not just the restaurant, but the Arthurs.  As we all gathered inside to say hello to Lana, Ricky, their employees, friends and neighbors, the swell of excited anticipation could be felt building.  Lana got her ribbon cutting scissors, borrowed from a local flower shop, but Lana was willing to do free haircuts that day, if anyone was brave enough.  Outside to the new entrance to the newly built dining area we followed; standing together while Lana, Ricky and Lana’s mom smiled at us.

Not being too fond of making speeches, Ricky let Lana do all the talking, just like a good husband should.  Lana’s voice cracked, her eyes moist with emotion, “I made it perfect for you.  My goal theme, “Another 60 Years!”  …opened in 1959…a desperate need to be redone and I knew I was the person privileged to do it and grateful I was able to do it.  …Another 60 Years!”  Lana also thanked her mom for all the support she had given them, in so many ways, and it just couldn’t have all been done without her.  Cutting the ribbon, being hugged and kissed by Ricky; we all cheered and then it was, “Come on it and eat!”

While many of us strolled around checking out the new décor, reupholstered bench seats and upgraded kitchen, there was Robert Turk at the register…the Patio’s first customer of the day.  Hey, he had his priorities correct, food first, then stroll it off afterwards.  

While the collection of license plates paneled one wall, another wall held a special memorial for local hero, Jason Workman.

Of course I had to check out the kitchen first and drool over the professional stove/oven/grill and deep fryer.  Ah, but I was not alone in my venture, along with hubby Roy, San Juan County was represented by Natalie Randall and Andy Platt from Economic Development and Tourism office, and Bayley Hedglin of the Chamber of Commerce.  We all know where the good food is!

Now let me get to the food.  Still sourcing as local as possible, Patio’s burgers come from a coalition of ranchers in nearby Colorado.  No more frozen burgers that needed to be marinated in au jus before grilling to perfection; oh no, now it’s fresh, and we all know fresh is best!  Which brings me to a menu item reserved just for locals; it won’t be listed on the menu board, but we can order it any time we want.  I am speaking about…The Houston, that specialty burger developed by former employee, Dallas Hall.  A juicy bacon cheeseburger on grilled bread topped with Swiss and Cheddar cheeses, lettuce, tomato, pickles and mayo.

Roy ordered the Big B, but added toppings of made fresh on the grill mushrooms and onions, oh you can taste the difference of freshly grilled.  My choice was the Chicken Ham and Swiss; the chicken tenders used are awesomely crispy on the outside, with tender, juicy chicken within; this sandwich takes two hands with all the toppings it comes with!  Who am I kidding, all the sandwiches at Patio need two hands…no regrets!

Ordering the combos, we both love those curly fries, more like waves of potatoes, deep fried, full of fluffy potato goodness and so yummy; 32 ounce fountain drinks come with combos and Utah’s all-time favorite, fry sauce, for your choice of potato side.  We were so stuffed, ordering shakes or ice cream cones will just have to wait for a return visit, a soon to occur return visit.  By the way, Patio may contain two dining areas inside now, but they are still servicing customers with a drive up window.  What I’d like to know is, how can anyone drive when needing two hands to eat one of Patio’s burgers???

Another 60 Years!  A concept that speaks about love of a business, love for a community and a future full of hope and the fulfillment of dreams. 

Mary Cokenour

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Rolling Out the Holiday Cakes

November, December, January; three months full of holidays that bulge the waistline and begin a new year of promises to get back into shape.  Thanksgiving is the first holiday; we give thanks for our lives full of family, friends, good times and what else…food!  Of course, since October we have seen in the stores displays for, not just Halloween, but Thanksgiving and Christmas as well.  Sorry retailers, I am still one of those consumers who deals with one event at a time.  So, back to the Thanksgiving feast featuring, what was almost America’s national bird, the turkey.

Prices on turkeys seem to have sky rocketed in the 20-teens; with all the turkeys in the frozen section of supermarkets, this doesn’t seem to make sense with supply and demand.  According to the USDA National Retail Report on turkeys, whereas the retailer buys the turkeys at 47 cents per pound, consumers pay an average of $1.62 per pound.  Hold on, while I get the calculator and figure out this markup…Wow, almost a 250% markup!  Now add in the cost for stuffing, vegetable side dishes, biscuits and desserts; you would almost need a part-time job to pay for all of it. 

Honestly though, do we care about the cost?  When it comes to the holiday season, whether it is out of one pocket, or the cost shared by many, it doesn’t matter.  What matters is the coming together to celebrate, not just a Hallmark card moment, but the joy and love of being together.  Not everyone is so lucky to be able to do this; it is not unusual to hear about people inviting strangers into their home to share the feast.  Food banks and shelters hopefully get the donations and volunteers they so desperately need to help the unfortunate.  Yes, this is certainly a time to give thanks, “There, but for the grace of God, go I” might come to mind.  Then again, this isn’t mid-16th century England, you’re not sitting in the Tower of London and watching prisoners being sent to the chopping block.

Now that I’ve given your conscience a little nudge in the generosity department, let me liven up this article with a bit of sweetness.  Most typical Thanksgiving desserts revolve around the pumpkin, its delectable flesh obtained the canned goods in a store, or Halloween jack o’ lanterns cooked down.  Pumpkin puree is pure pumpkin, while pumpkin pie filling is presweetened pumpkin plus measured out spices.  The former is denser, while the latter is smoother and contains a higher liquid content.  If a recipe calls for puree, best to use it, or you’ll have to adjust for the extra liquid in pumpkin filling.  By the way, if a recipe simply states “canned pumpkin”, it requires puree.

No, not giving a pumpkin pie recipe, I’m rolling out Pumpkin Roll.  Making a rolled cake takes patience, and a batter that produces a cake which is not too firm, but not crumbly either; you need it to be pliable without falling apart.  You also need a jellyroll pan (a 15"x10"x1"); it sort of looks like a rectangular baking sheet, but with an edge around it. The name comes from the original cake that was made in it; a thin yellow cake with a fruit jelly spread onto it, then rolled...the jellyroll cake.   Another popular jellyroll style cake is made with a dark chocolate cake and a white cream filling, or what is typically called the Swiss Roll cake.  With this cake, there is the option of giving it a coating of chocolate or not.  For Christmas, a Yule Log cake is a Swiss Roll cake, covered in a dark chocolate ganache and decorated with a wintery theme.

Definitely use wax paper with this cake, not parchment paper, as it will peel off much more easily.  Also, use a lint free linen towel to help with the rolling; nothing is more unappetizing than to find cloth fibers in your cake or filling.  Thirdly, make sure you give yourself room to work like a large area of counter space, or even a table.  So let’s get to it....

Pumpkin Roll


1 tsp. each ground nutmeg and cinnamon
½ tsp. each ground cloves and ginger
1 cup sugar
3/4 cup flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1/8 tsp. salt
3 eggs
3/4 cup canned pumpkin
1 cup plus 2 Tbsp. confectioners' sugar (powdered sugar)
1 package (8 oz.) cream cheese, softened
3 Tbsp. butter, softened
1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
Confectioners' sugar to sprinkle over finished cake


Preheat oven to 350°F. Spray a 15 x 10 x 1 inch baking pan (jellyroll pan) with nonstick baking spray; line pan with wax paper and spray paper. In a small bowl, mix together spices. Mix sugar, flour, baking powder, 2 and ½ teaspoons of spice mixture and salt in large bowl. Beat in eggs and pumpkin until well blended and smooth; spread evenly into pan.

Bake 15 to 20 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Place clean linen towel on kitchen counter or table; dust with 2 tablespoons confectioners' sugar. Loosen cake around sides of pan with sharp knife. Turn out onto towel, wax paper-side up (do not remove wax paper); fold side of towel over one short side of cake, and then roll up cake jelly-roll style. Cool cake completely.

Beat cream cheese, 1 cup confectioners' sugar, butter, vanilla and remaining half teaspoon of spice mixture in medium bowl until well blended and smooth. Unroll cake onto towel; peel off wax paper and spread cream cheese mixture evenly over cake. Using towel, roll up cake and place seam-side down on serving platter. Trim ends of cake. Refrigerate 1 hour or until ready to serve. Sprinkle cake with additional confectioners' sugar just before serving.

Makes 12 servings.

Mary Cokenour

Sunday, November 25, 2018

Is Thanksgiving Just a Reminder of How to Act?

Sometimes I get in a rut; same old main meals, side dishes and desserts.  This past Thanksgiving though, I got my brain in gear and made a dessert I haven't made in years...Peanut Butter Cream Pie.  See, for Thanksgiving, we've been going down to the home of our friend's dad, Richard Watkins.  It simply became a family tradition; yes, we're considered family and we consider the Watkins clan our family as well...a natural progression of sorts.  Dad loved that pie, as soon as I said the name of it, he was, "I want that peanut butter pie!"

No long, drawn out story about the pie; the source is Amish and it was an easy recipe to find back in 2011.  Since then I've seen more variations on the recipe, most adding cream cheese, basically to make the filling firmer.  I'm sticking with the vanilla pudding mixed with whipped topping; ooey gooey goodness!

I know Thanksgiving is the holiday of being grateful, thankful and full of sharing which we practice, in our lives, throughout the year anyway.  However, I've come to the opinion that the holiday has become a reminder holiday for a vast majority.  A vast majority of those who forgot where they came from, the hard work and diligence for simple survival, and how they were thankful when helped by others.  The attitude of the descendants is, "We got ours, we're not letting anyone else get their's."  Gee, and they wonder why people dislike them intensely and make fun of them...hint, you're acting like complete fools, and fooling no one.  Karma can be a "roll right over you and hard" bitch, so to those people a little advice, stop pissing off Karma unless you enjoy being punished.  Now that's going into the realm of S&M, and I'm not going there!

So, enjoy the holidays, be kind to everyone no matter what imaginary resentment you were trained to feel, and Karma might just give you a smile instead of a slap upside the head.

Happy Holidays!

Peanut Butter Cream Pie

1 and ½ cups powdered sugar
1 and ½ cups chunky peanut butter
2 cups vanilla pudding (made with whole milk, do not use soy, almond or coconut milks)
1 (8 oz.) tub whipped topping (do not use light or fat free)
1 (9 inch) prebaked deep dish pie crust


In a small bowl, cut together the powdered sugar and peanut butter until it becomes crumbly.  Spread out half of the crumbs in the bottom of the pie crust.

Mix 1 cup of whipped topping with vanilla pudding, spread out evenly in pie crust over peanut butter crumbs.  Top pudding mixture with other half of crumbs, but reserve ¼ cup of crumbs for topping.  Spread out remaining whipped topping and sprinkle reserved ¼ cup of crumbs over.

Refrigerate for one hour before serving.

Makes 8 servings.

Mary Cokenour

January 19, 2011 (origination of recipe creation)