Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Patio Drive-In Wins First Place in Southeastern Utah.

Patio Drive-In

95 N. Grayson Parkway (Route 191)
Blanding, Utah, 84511

(435) 678-2177


Even though Patio Drive-In was voted third best in the state of Utah, but down in the Southeastern corner of Utah; it is rated number one.  The shop is small with booths lining the front and one side of the interior; the drive thru is around the back and it's not unusual to see a line of vehicles parked along the side of the road waiting their turn.  It's an old fashioned type of "burger joint", and the food is what makes it stand apart.  Each order is made fresh, no heat lamps keeping hockey puck patties warm; the shakes are hand crafted also and the sizes available (small, medium, large) are much larger than you'll think (small=medium, medium=large, large="how am I going to finish this!!!")

Patio Drive-In is open only six days a week (currently 10:30am to 9pm); they're closed on Sundays which is a big disadvantage to them during tourist season, and a large disappointment to locals and tourists alike.  Whether you eat in, sit outside at one of their patio tables, or take a "to-go" meal to enjoy elsewhere; the menu will have something you'll enjoy.  Three of us went there after the lunch rush and our meals only took about 15 minutes to get to us; piping hot and looking awesomely delicious.  When Patio Drive-In is busy, allow at least 30 minutes to get your meal; yes! they get that busy and remember, the food is made fresh.  You can always call their number, place an order and then pick it up if you don't want to wait.

The burgers are large, thick, nicely seasoned, juicy and delicious.  While you can order a burger or sandwich by itself, your best bet is the basket which comes with French fries and a drink.  The fries are crispy on the outside, fluffy on the inside and lightly salted, so that potato taste comes through clear.  Of course you'll get a little container of "fry sauce"; it's a Utah thing and you have to try it out.

Like Philly Cheese Steak, then try out the Chicken Philly.  This is not pressed, thin sheets of chicken; it's chunks of grilled chicken with strips of green bell pepper and red onion.  The cheese is melted onto the toasted roll with the chicken and veggies piled on top.  It is slightly salty, but it brings all the flavors of the other ingredients together so well.  This is one of my favorites from Patio, and I'm hard pressed to choose anything else when I go there.

Last, but certainly not least, the Grilled Ham and Cheese; served between slices of thick, toasted bread with a nice serving of ham that gives you full flavor without overpowering the cheese.  This is an adult grilled cheese that even a child would enjoy.

Whether you're on your way to a park or historical site, and need a picnic meal; looking for a lunch or dinner and live in the area; looking for great, old fashioned "drive-in" food, then Patio Drive-In is the place you're looking for when in the Blanding, Utah area.

Mary Cokenour

Patio Drive In on Urbanspoon

Thursday, July 18, 2013

How Do You Milk an Almond?

Now I have tried soy milk and honestly I do not like it at all.  I do not like the taste whether plain, vanilla or chocolate, and the after taste is even worse.  I kept seeing commercials for almond milk and this interested me somewhat.  Being diabetic, I knew that almonds, as a snack, reduce blood sugar and blood pressure levels; so could this almond milk do the same?  I purchased a carton of Silk brand Pure Almond, Vanilla Flavor, Unsweetened to try out, not just on cereal as the commercials suggest, but also for my coffee.  50% more calcium than milk, only one gram of carbs per a one cup serving, and loaded with vitamins; how bad could it taste...its almonds.

On cereal, it was pretty good; it enhanced the whole grain flakes with a subtle flavor of vanilla and almond.  My cereal already had a sweetener added to it and good thing. The almond milk alone is very bland tasting of watery almonds, and no wonder why!  I looked up how almond milk is made; basically almonds are soaked in water for 8-12 hours.  Strained (wouldn't that remove some of the nutrients?), then blended with filtered water until smooth.  It is strained twice more to remove any fibers or particles before it can be used.  During the blending process, sweeteners can be added, or not; and nutrients added in also; I guess to replace the ones that went out with the "bathe" water.   So yes, it is basically watery almond juice of sorts.  Oh, and my blood sugar reading afterwards was lower than if I used skim milk, so a plus in the "on cereal" column.

Next came the real test for me, how does it match up against coffee creamers (sugar free of course) or half n' half?  First I tried it without adding any sweetener to my coffee (regular, not flavored)...not good.  Again the subtle hint of vanilla and almond, but the bitter coffee taste was still strong.  I added two packets of stevia, much better, but not quite there.  I added two more packets and there it was, just the sweetness I liked and the vanilla and almond flavors were much stronger too. 


Now texture wise I wasn't too happy; it was very thin, thinner than even skim milk.  It also looked like milk that had been watered down...a lot.  I like my coffee light, but the almond milk only achieved a muddy looking color.  I also had to use twice the amount of almond milk, as opposed to creamer or half n' half, to get it to that coloring.  While the taste, with the stevia added in, was fine; the coloring really turned me off.

Basically, using almond milk for cereal is fine, if you don't mind the watery texture.  Using it for coffee though gets a huge thumbs down from me.  Drinking it as a substitute for milk; well I won't give judgment on that as it was unsweetened, and milk has its own natural sugar to sweeten it. 

Mary Cokenour

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

An Experiment in Pizza Making.

Here's the basis of it; I wanted pizza, didn't want to wait to make dough; it was a Sunday, so the local stores in this town are all closed; and the two pizzerias in town suck big time anyway.  What's a pizza fanatic to do?  Well I could have driven all the way to Moab or Cortez to buy dough, or even get a pizza at one of their local shops.  Nope, I improvised and used this round, extremely flat bread I had in the fridge...a tortilla.  Nothing new you say;nope I've seen "Mexican pizza" advertised in many places, even tried one.  It's basically sauce and cheese baked between two tortillas; simple, fast and easy; I just decided to do my own take on it, as per usual.  Remember, I'm a Pizza Snob, so won't settle for just as is; I even went so far as to make a Mexican pizza into a casserole and folks loved it.

For this pizza, I used a finely shredded mozzarella; wanted it to melt quickly, but not be so gooey that it would act more like cement than a good cheese.  I like using Sargento brand cheeses; they taste so much fresher, and they've got a good variety of, not just mixtures, but the way the cheeses are sliced or shredded.  I used my homemade pasta sauce, since it already had a great infusion of garlic and Italian herbs in it; and the fresh tomatoes I used make it an out of this world sauce.  Sorry, not being humble when it comes to my sauce.  I only used one tortilla; I wanted a pizza, not a stuffed pizza (two layers of dough with toppings/sauce inside), nor a Mexican pizza which, to me, looks like a quesadilla.  I also used a nonstick pizza pan which I preheated in the oven; hot pan and oven ensures a crispy pizza.  The brushing of olive oil let the untopped edges crisp up golden brown; the hot pizza pan allowed the bottom of the tortilla to do the same.  It was a most enjoyable eating experience!!!

So here goes, and whether it is just for you or with another person; or even make it with your children; enjoy!

Tortilla Pizza

Tortilla Pizza


1 (10 – 12 inch) flour tortilla
½ tsp olive oil
1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese, divided in half
½ cup pizza sauce



Preheat oven to 450F; place inside a 12 inch nonstick pizza pan to allow it to preheat with the oven.


Place tortilla on a plate or board from which it can be easily transferred.  Brush the tortilla with the olive oil; spread half the cheese to within one inch of the edge.  Pour the sauce, starting in the center and work outwards; spread remaining half of cheese over the tortilla.


Remove the preheated pizza pan from the oven and carefully transfer the prepped tortilla to its center. 

Place pan back into the oven and bake for seven (7) minutes.  Transfer baked pizza to plate or board to be cut into fourths.


Makes 1 pizza (serves 1-2 people)

Mary Cokenour

Monday, July 15, 2013

Beans and Beef Doesn't Always Mean Chili.

There are too many times I stand and stare into the depths of the refrigerator and freezer wondering what to make for dinner. That's also how I come up with many of my spontaneous recipes; boredom, frustration and a "I wonder if..." attitude. Holding a two and a half pound package of stew beef (beef cubes) in my hand, I wondered what in the world to do with it. Not beef stew again, just did that two weeks ago; not chili, just not in the mood for it and then I would have to make a truly large batch to share with my mom-in-law which meant going out to the store for more meat. Too much effort! Then I remembered my Taste of Home winning recipe, "Beefy Barbecue Macaroni", but I didn't want to deal with the cheese sauce and wasn't in the mood for pasta. Sometimes I am just my own worst enemy, especially when it comes to cooking.

Still had no clue what to create, so decided to trim the stew beef cubes and maybe an idea would come to me.  Now stew beef is essentially all the bit and pieces the butchers cut off steaks and roasts; sometimes there is a good bit of meat left, so they package it up for consumers to buy and make recipes such as chili, beef stew, maybe even kabobs.  However you should always examine the beef before just throwing it into your pot, as many pieces may need to be trimmed of fat; some might be pure fat themselves.  If you don't want to deal with this process, then go ahead and purchase a nice lean roast and just cut it up yourself.  With the beef I had, I needed to cut only a little fat off, but I finally decided to use the crock pot and made them as uniform to one inch as I could.

Alright, kind of use that recipe I mentioned, but in the crock pot; but no cheese, what am I going to do without cheese?  Looking around the pantry I found cans of red kidney beans; well just because I was adding beans didn't make it chili, right?  These are the ingredients I finally centered on: barbecue sauce, the beans, tomatoes, red onion and green bell pepper.  I was going to make a barbecue sauce based beef stew, but without the traditional vegetables of carrots and potatoes.

Let me tell you that this concoction of mine came out amazing.  The beef was so tender, it basically melted in the mouth; and absorbed the barbecue sauce flavor well.  The tomatoes did not break down into complete mush; the onion and peppers became very soft; usually green bell peppers are harsh in flavor, but they melded in perfectly.  The beans did not become too soft, or remain too firm; as Goldilocks would say, "They were just right".  The smell was intoxicating; the taste was just as equal.  This is the kind of meal you can enjoy as is, or with a side of mashed potatoes, rice, pasta or polenta.  I did not have to add lots of seasonings or even garlic as the bottled sauce I used had everything I needed - Jack Daniels Hickory Brown Sugar.  I didn't dredge the beef in the flour, then fry it; I didn't want to add anymore oil into this dish than the nonstick cooking spray added.  I also didn't want additional liquids like beef stock as I knew the beef and vegetables would exude their own moisture.  One thing I notice with recipes like this is that the home cook will add pasta to the pot; all well and good, but remember that pasta is like a sponge and will absorb all excess liquids.  I wanted a nice thick sauce with this meal, not anything watery, or so firm a fork would stand up straight in it.

Here's the recipe...

BBQ Beef Stew


2 ½ lbs beef cubes; trimmed of fat and cut into 1 inch pieces
¼ cup flour
1 ½ cups chopped red onion
½ cup diced green bell pepper
1 cup red kidney beans
2 cups chopped tomatoes
1 (19 oz) bottle bbq sauce (hickory brown sugar)


Spray a 4 quart crock pot with nonstick cooking spray; set on low heat.  Spread beef cubes on bottom and sprinkle flour over all.  Spread other ingredients out in layers: onions, bell pepper, beans and tomatoes.  Pour bbq sauce on top; cover and cook for 8 hours.

Makes 8 servings.

Mary Cokenour

BBQ Beef Stew with Elbow Macaroni

BBQ Beef Stew with Mashed Potatoes

Monday, July 8, 2013

Smoky Brisket...Hoisin Style.

If you're a fan of this food blog, you know many of my recipes come from simple experimentation. Well Saturday I was craving a fresh made burger for dinner, but while in the local market I noticed that beef brisket was on sale. Fresh brisket, a lovely red color to the meat, just a 1/4 inch fat cap on top; so I picked up a two pounder. Once home though, I had to figure out what I wanted to do with it.  Too small for the smoker; too pretty to cut up for use in a recipe; what to do was a good question.

The answer came while I was gathering up ingredients to make my burger for dinner.   I saw the bottle of Hoisin sauce (yes, I keep a bottle on hand) on the refrigerator door shelf.  Hmmm, a smoky sauce with a multitude of flavors on a pretty cut of brisket; and the brain kicked in with an idea.  Haven't had good fried rice in awhile either, so I knew that would be my side dish; now I just had to wait till the next day.

I spent Sunday going through tons of photos for my travel blog, "The Southwest Through Wide Brown Eyes", and knew full well it would work me up to an "I want meat!!!" appetite.  During one of my stretching breaks from the computer, the numbers on the clock let me know it was time to prep the brisket.  Oh, you might ask, once you read the recipe, why the vinegar massage?  Brisket is a tougher cut of meat than say, eye round or top round; the vinegar will help to tenderize.  Two hours later though, time to put on the oven and get this cooking show on the road.  The final result was a tender, smoky, so full of flavor brisket; and the fried rice was all that much better by adding a little Hoisin sauce to it during its cooking process.  Got the photos I needed for my travel blog posts this week; got one heck of an intense dinner in the deal; overall good day!

Hoisin Beef (Brisket)


2 lb beef brisket, trimmed of fat
3 Tbsp rice wine vinegar (or white vinegar)
½ tsp ground ginger
1 tsp white pepper
1 tsp salt
1 cup Hoisin sauce
1 Tbsp minced garlic
2 Tbsp diced red onion


Two hours before roasting the brisket; rub the vinegar over all sides of the meat, wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate. 


Preheat oven to 325F; line roasting pan with aluminum foil.  Score top and bottom of meat with diagonal cuts, creating one inch diamond marks.  Mix together the ginger, white pepper and salt; rub on both sides of meat.  Place meat in pan and roast for 15 minutes. 

Mix together sauce, garlic and onion; turn meat over in pan, baste top and sides of meat with sauce mixture making sure to get sauce into score marks.  Return to oven for 30 minutes; turn over meat, baste and roast for another 30 minutes for medium-rare.  For medium; repeat turn and baste process, roast for 30 minutes more.  For medium-well; repeat turn and baste process, roast for 30 minutes more.


Remove meat to cutting board; rest for 5 minutes before slicing; spoon sauce from roasting pan over meat.  Serve with fried rice; when making rice, add one teaspoon of Hoisin sauce for every three servings to boost the flavor.

Makes 6 servings.
Mary Cokenour

Friday, July 5, 2013

Doesn't Matter What Language You Speak, it's Still Stew.

Every now and then I pull out "Best of Slavic Cooking" and "Croatian Cookbook", both by Alojzije and Ruzica Kapetanovic, to learn more about the cuisine of my heritage. Unfortunately my maternal grandmother took ill when I was very young, so I did not have many years afforded to me to learn from her. On this adventure, I looked up chicken recipes and found three, "Chicken Perket", "Croatian Chicken Stew" and "Chicken in White Wine Sauce" that looked simple to make. No, I didn't make all three fore as I read along I noticed that they were very, very similar in nature; perhaps one or two ingredients differed, but that was about it. I did the next best thing, I combined them all together and came up with my own version; but the next question was, "What do I name it?" I looked up the meaning of "Perket" first off and found out it can be spelt and pronounced differently in many languages, "perkelt", "porkolt", "palca, "paprikas", but it all meant the same thing, "STEW"!!!

So there you have the origin of my "Chicken Perket" also known as "Croatian Chicken Stew"; the American version; and here comes the final recipe.  Instead of simmering away in a skillet though, I prepared it in my slow cooker using the high setting; only took four hours.  Initially I used too much liquid and the sauce ended up being a bit on the thin side; but it was still good on pasta.  I also pureed too many of the vegetables, so very little was left to bite into.  I've made the changes to my own recipe to take these facts into account.  By the way, I asked a friend to sample it and she enjoyed it so much, she left none for her husband to try.  Now that's a taste tester I can appreciate!

Now I have to worry over just one more item; that my relations in Croatia read the recipe, try it out, and give their approval.  Fingers crossed!

Chicken Perket

(Croatian Chicken Stew)


12 large plum tomatoes, chopped
1 large red onion, chopped
1 large green bell pepper, seeded and julienned
½ cup flour, divided in half
2 Tbsp minced garlic, divided in half
4 lbs boneless, skinless chicken breasts, sliced in half lengthwise
1 cup sliced mushrooms
1 tsp ground black pepper
1 Tbsp paprika
½ cup chicken stock
½ cup white wine
1 and ½ lbs angel hair pasta


Set a 6 quart crock pot on high; spray inside with nonstick cooking spray.

Begin layering ingredients inside – tomatoes, onion, bell pepper, ¼ cup flour sprinkled evenly over all, 1 tablespoon garlic.  Place in the chicken breast pieces and spread the remaining ¼ cup of flour over them.  Add the mushrooms, remaining garlic; then evenly sprinkle over the black pepper and paprika.  Pour the stock and white wine over the top.

Cover and cook for 3 and ½ hours; remove chicken and 1/4 of the vegetables.  Use a stand or immersion blender to puree the remaining vegetables, and thicken the liquid.  Return the chicken and reserved vegetables to the pot; cover and cook for another half hour before serving.   Also during that last half hour, prepare the pasta to desired tenderness; place a serving into bowl and top with sauce, chicken and some vegetables.

Makes 8 servings.

Mary Cokenour

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

The Mein Idea.

Growing up, if we were in the mood for Chinese food, my mother would open up those blue cans of La Choy Chicken Chow Mein; heat the ingredients and top with the crispy "chow mein" noodles. I didn't like it; mushy and hardly any chicken, but living in a strictly Italian/Croatian neighborhood didn't give easy access to Chinese take out. As I grew older, finding a Chinese take out place or restaurant became easier as neighborhoods changed and developed; but I had a phobia about chow mein and refused to order it. Once, someone I was dining with ordered chow mein; it looked just like the canned stuff I abhorred, but served over white rice and no crispy noodles topping it. Yes, I was a bit nauseated by the sight, so made sure to keep my eyes on my own plate of chicken and broccoli; so much better by the way.

As I moved around and found different places to dine, I became more and more educated on Asian cuisine.  Thai, Japanese, Chinese, or Vietnamese became my first choice whenever asked, but my vote always lost out to American or Italian.  I purchased my first Wok back in 1982 and practiced making recipes as often as possible; I became pretty adept at stir frying.  Chow Mein though still remained my foe.  Moving to Utah, ingredients for Asian dishes, and good Asian restaurants, became almost impossible to find; my mother sent me "care packages" filled to the brim with packets of noodles, spices and bottles of sauces.  A favorite dish was Lo Mein which I posted on this blog a little over a year ago; and I'm reposting due to the nature of this current writing.

Seafood Lo Mein

Lo Mein


1 lb lo mein noodles (thin or flat)
4 Tbsp peanut oil, divided in half
½ cup each thinly sliced bell peppers and onion
¼ cup green onion, cut at an angle
1 ½ cups bite sized pieces chicken, pork, beef, shrimp, scallops, crabmeat (or any combination)
1 cup stock (chicken, beef or vegetable depending on protein used)
6 Tbsp oyster sauce
6 Tbsp dark soy sauce
4 tsp cornstarch
2 tsp sesame oil
1 Tbsp each minced ginger and garlic
½ tsp ground white pepper
1 cup straw mushrooms
1 cup bean sprouts


Cook lo mein noodles according to package directions; set aside, but keep warm.

In a large Wok or skillet, heat 2 Tbsp peanut oil; add bell peppers, onion and green onion; sauté till softened.  Remove and set aside.  Add remaining 2 Tbsp peanut oil; sauté protein for 2 minutes before adding 2 Tbsp each of oyster and soy sauces; cook another minute, remove and set aside.

In same Wok or skillet, mix together 4 Tbsp each oyster and soy sauces, cornstarch, sesame oil, ginger, garlic and white pepper.  Bring to a boil and let cook 2 minutes to thicken; add back sautéed vegetables and cooked protein; add mushrooms, sprouts and lo mein noodles.  Mix together thoroughly and let cook together for 3 minutes; tossing frequently to coat and heat through.

Makes 6 servings.

Mary Cokenour
June 6, 2012

What about my Chow Mein phobia that I've been writing about?  Well one day I decided to be brave, order it and see if I could eat it without the gag reflex kicking in.  Surprise, surprise though; the place I was at served it an entirely different way than I'd ever seen before.  It was not mushy vegetables, microscopic shredded chicken swimming in sauce....there were noodles in it, the same type of noodles used in lo mein.  The waiter assured me that this was indeed Chow Mein, so you know I had to research it a bit and find out the why of it all.

Here's the gist of it, those crispy noodles that came with the LaChoy canned stuff were a substitute for real Chow Mein noodles.  Basically they are the same as those used for Lo Mein; however, after boiling them, they are then fried in oil into a solid mass; the remaining ingredients and sauces are cooked together and then poured over the fried noodles.  It's a texture thing really; soft lo mein noodles absorb the sauces more quickly; while fried chow mein noodles are simply coated, yet come apart easily to combine with the other ingredients.

Chicken Chow Mein

"Fear is the mind killer", is a classic line from the movie "Dune", and it is such a statement of truth.  In this instance, "Fear was the appetite killer"...key word "was".

Mary Cokenour