Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Resolve to go Coconuts for the New Year.

One of the most widely promised resolutions for the New Year is to become healthier.  It could come about through change of diet, more exercise, being proactive on a disease/illness, lifestyle change, or all of the above.  This resolution is also the most broken as a person seems to think there are just too many obstacles, or perhaps we set too high a goal and quit out of frustration.  Now, what if you could simply make one change that would equal several results?

Coconuts, first it was coconut water which, not only hydrated the body, but added enriched nutrients.  Then came oil, a high saturated fat which raised both good (HDL) and bad (LDL) cholesterol due to lauric acid.  However, a single tablespoon of virgin, unrefined coconut oil can replace large amounts of other oils or butter in cooking and baking.  Now we have flour, sugar, milk; coconut chips and low sugar coconut bars for snacking; all used accordingly can be more beneficial than harmful.  You also have to be careful about which coconut product is better than the next, for example, creamed coconut milk in the can is typically used for Thai cooking.  It contains more fat (14 grams) per serving than boxed coconut milk (4.5 grams); may contain thickeners and/or preservatives.  With oil, flour and sugar; unrefined means a better chance of a pure product with no chemical additives.

Now the big question, do coconut products make everything taste like coconut?  Surprisingly, the answer is slim to none; unsweetened coconut milk (I prefer the vanilla flavored) brings out the flavor more of any cereal it’s poured over.  Baked goods taste exactly as they would if using regular flour and sugar; while coconut chips are baked pieces of coconut, so yes, big time coconut flavor.  However, you get the full flavor of potato when potato chips are fried or baked in coconut oil.  Think of it this way, trial and error with the products you purchase will bring more enjoyment than trying to stick to a rigid diet, and then failing at it.

Still not convinced, than here’s a personal example of how beneficial cooking with coconut can be.  Pancakes, who doesn’t love pancakes?  Now I’ve mentioned before that I’m diabetic, so eating pancakes, even with sugar free syrup, can send my blood sugar sky rocketing.  However, with these coconut flour pancakes I’m giving you the recipe for, my number was in the normal range; I was in total shock.  Maybe it was a fluke, so I tried it again on another day; the same results!  The taste was amazing too; lightly sweet from the honey, barely a hint of coconut, crispy edges with fluffy interior and melt in the mouth goodness. 

So, for the New Year, make a resolution to go coconuts.  Ease it into your diet for a little goes a long way; make sure to have fun using the products.  Happy New Year!
Coconut Pancakes
(Dairy-free, Gluten-free, Crispy Edges, Fluffy Interior, Diabetic Friendly)
¼ cup coconut flour
½ tsp. baking powder
1/8 tsp. salt
3 Tbsp. coconut oil, plus 2 Tbsp. for grill pan
1 Tbsp. honey
3 large eggs
1/3 cup unsweetened coconut milk (do not use canned type)
1 tsp. pure vanilla extract

In a small bowl, mix together coconut flour, baking powder and salt; make sure to break up any lumps, set aside.

In a medium bowl, cream together coconut oil and honey until smooth; don’t worry if a few lump oil remain, they will melt on the grill pan.  Whisk the eggs in one at a time; whisk in coconut milk and vanilla extract.  Use a rubber spatula to mix in dry ingredients from small bowl; scrape down the sides to make sure all ingredients are mixed in.  Do not overmix; batter will look slightly lumpy.


On medium-high heat, melt one tablespoon of coconut oil on grill pan; coconut oil has a high smoke point, so will melt and burn very quickly.  Be ready, with a small ice cream scoop, to ladle out three scoops (each scoop equals two tablespoons) of batter onto melted oil; gently press out batter to 4 inch diameter.  After two minutes, flip pancakes and cook additional 1-2 minutes on other side; check for desired browning.

Repeat above step with remaining batter.
Makes 6 – 4 inch pancakes; Serves 2.
Condiment Options: Fruit Jam or Maple Syrup.

Mary Cokenour


Saturday, December 26, 2015

Mountain Oasis is a Comfy Stop in Flagstaff.

Mountain Oasis International Restaurant

11 East Aspen Street
Flagstaff, Arizona, 86001

Phone: (928) 214-9270      

Facebook Page:

It was a cold day with light snow when we ended up at Mountain Oasis; a kind of happy accident, since we didn't know what we wanted to eat for lunch.  As we walked from eatery to eatery, reading the menus posted in the windows, we only became more confused on which one to choose.  Then we happened upon Mountain Oasis, spotted "Gyro" on the menu, and knew this was the one.  Upon entering, you are immediately hit with the cozy atmosphere, greeted in a friendly manner, and given time to read the menu and take in all the décor.  This bistro, as it portrays this term perfectly, is about 14 years old; it reminded us of a favorite bistro in Cortez, CO we like to go to, but on a smaller scale.

Our waitress was named Grace which seemed so perfect for her; she so reminded us of the actress, Bailee Madison who plays Grace on "Good Witch", the TV series.  She was very sweet, but also knowledgeable about the entire menu; we wanted something warm to drink and could tell us all about the various teas.  Now Mountain Oasis serves tea just the way we enjoy it, in huge cups that require two hands to hold them.  I had the Peppermint Tea which was so soothing, while my hubby had the Organic Kukicha Twig which was a stronger, slightly bitter tea perfect for warming the body.

I chose the Pork Lettuce Wraps for an appetizer, since my hubby had never eaten anything like this before.  The sauce is vinegar based and was sweet, spicy, but a mild heat; it made our mouths hum, and it was very difficult not to lick the plate clean.  The pork was tender and the vegetables, especially the lettuce, had that freshly picked from the garden taste.

For our main lunch courses, I went with the Gyro; the meat was juicy with a slight char on the edges, fresh vegetables and a delectable tzatziki sauce; on the side was a cup of the tomato vegetable soup which was very herbal and savory.  Hubby had the Cheesesteak with a perfect blend of peppers, onions, cheese and meat on a warm, crusty roll; pumpkin soup was his choice and it was sweet with a rich, pumpkin flavor.  By the way, all the sauces and soups are house made; no bottled or canned stuff loaded with preservatives; Mountain Oasis is proud of being fresh!

Gyro and Tomato Vegetable Soup

Cheesesteak with Pumpkin Soup.

No matter what time of year it is, if you are looking for cozy and comfort in your dining, and just happen to be in the Flagstaff, Arizona area; definitely check out this little bistro...Mountain Oasis International Restaurant.

Mary Cokenour

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

The Sweet Shoppe and Nut House of Flagstaff.

The Sweet Shoppe and Nut House

15 East Aspen Avenue
Flagstaff, Arizona, 86001

Phone: (928) 213-9000


Strolling through historic, downtown Flagstaff, AZ, is an adventure for the senses; smells from the various restaurants, old and new sites to see, all manner of small shops to explore.  One shop that calls to everyone's inner child is "The Sweet Shoppe and Nut House" with its candy like sign, and all those wonderful caramel apples displayed in the window. 

Walking inside, you are immediately hit with the sweet, sweet smell of candy and chocolate.  To the left are rows of Jelly Belly jellybean canisters to fill up bags with your very favorite flavors.  Baskets of old fashioned candies; rows of chocolate bars are stacked in the center of the shop, or along the walls.

On the opposite side are two display cases full of the most delectable chocolates; caramels, chocolate covered pretzels and cookies, and so many more; but our very favorites are the truffles, especially the butterscotch and mint.  By the way, these chocolate delights are large, double the size of any I've ever seen inside any candy box.

Next to this wondrous display is fudge, blocks and blocks of the one flavor to multi-flavored swirls of the most luscious fudge.  The fudge is sold in 1/4, 1/2 and 1 pound chunks, so you can mix and match to your sweet tooth's content.  Not sure if you like a particular flavor, the friendly and happy sales people will give you a sliver to tease the tongue.  Hint:  try out the turtle butter....amazing!

At the very back of the shop is a gelato counter full of Italian ice creams; silky smooth and here's a great excuse to eat it, less fat than regular ice cream.

Can't get to Flagstaff and try out this wonderland of candies, chocolate, nuts and various goodies; go to the website, place an order for home delivery, and be prepared to be amazed!  Oh, and what caramel apples did we end up with?  Heath Bar Heaven and, what else, Tiger Butter!

Mary Cokenour

Monday, December 14, 2015

From Farm to Table; the Freshness at The Farm Bistro.

The Farm Bistro

34 West Main Street
Cortez, Colorado, 81321

Phone: (970) 565-3834


Hours: Mon thru Fri, 11am to 5pm; Closed Sat and Sun

 On The Farm Bistro's website, this is how they describe the restaurant's concept, "Since 2009 we’ve been serving the best produce and meat from right here in Montezuma County. Award winning burgers, salads and sandwiches highlight our menus. Our “comfort food with style” offers homemade simplicity with great flavors in a warm and lively atmosphere."

Guess what?  It's all true!!!  I'd heard about this restaurant from several friends and was finally able to get there myself.  Once you enter, you are hit with the most awesome scents of herbs and food; and herbs are definitely a featured décor throughout, including on the table tops.  There is a Welcome stand instructing diners how to order from the menus situated in a basket on top.  This is a great way to find the table you want, peruse the menu and get comfy before ordering; looking confused, a staff member will gladly help you.

There is a lounge area in the back of the restaurant with a fireplace; what a lovely place to sip on tea or coffee and just relax!


After ordering and collecting our drinks (I was there with a friend), we received a gold colored candle stick as the "designated number" for our table.  What a unique idea!  Instead of a stark number, the markers simply match the warm, rustic décor of the restaurant.

I had the Turkey Pita (turkey breast, Swiss cheese, red onions, radish sprouts, lettuce and avocado aioli); slices of real roasted turkey, freshly shredded Swiss cheese and the veggies....a fresh clean taste as if they just came in from the garden!  The tortilla chips were warm and tasted as if they had just been made.

My friend had the Harissa Grilled Chicken Sandwich (grilled chicken breast, harrisa (slightly spicy) sauce, lettuce, onion, pickles and melted Swiss cheese); a plump chicken breast, those fresh tasting veggies; and she had the French fries on the side and they tasted like my own homemade ones!

Impressed?  We were both blown away by the décor, the staff, the food and the overall uniqueness of The Farm Bistro.  Price wise, for the amount of food you receive, and knowing how fresh it all is, it is extremely reasonable.  We both have gone to worse places that were pretentious, overpriced, and had lousy food; The Farm Bistro would put them out of business in a New York minute!

If in the Cortez, Colorado area and looking for a great meal; definitely put The Farm Bistro as a to-go place.

Mary Cokenour


Friday, December 11, 2015

Paleo, New Fad Diet; Old Lifestyle Change.

“The Paleo Diet”, a new fad diet that became famous in 2013, when Hollywood big names “discovered” its benefits.  Stars such as, Jack Osbourne (son of Ozzy and Sharon), Matthew McConaughey, Megan Fox, Jessica Biel, Uma Thurman and Gwyneth Paltrow swore it made them more fit and vibrant.  What is the Paleo Diet exactly?  It is a diet based on the types of foods presumed to have been eaten by early humans; consisting mainly of meat, fish, vegetables, fruit, nuts, seeds and fats; excluding dairy or grain products, legumes (beans), starches and processed food.  What about poultry?  Well, the Dodo bird may have been in existence, but very little evidence proves it was eaten by early man.

A diet of meat, fish, vegetables fruit; avoid dairy and high carb foods….hello, welcome to the eating lifestyle of the diabetic.  That’s correct, what celebrities made famous as a “diet” is actually the lifestyle that the typical individual, with diabetes, has to live by.  Factually, if every individual ate this way, those who are pre-diabetic, or possibly at risk, may just be able to avoid the disease.  Give it a fancy name and celebrity endorsement though, folks will jump on the bandwagon without even knowing why.  Remember the “cabbage soup diet”; that didn’t last long after people became very sick from it.  Point?  Don’t do things just because a famous person (actor, athlete, singer) says to; they are not trained nutritionist or dieticians!

Author, Dana Carpender, began her career as a newspaper food columnist, with many a published cookbook under her belt.  Two recommended are, “500 Paleo Recipes” and “200 Low-Carb High-Fat Recipes”; and the recipe I’ll be giving you is from the latter.  I am not attempting to push the “Paleo Diet” on you; I am giving you information about an alternative eating lifestyle.  Being a Type-2 Diabetic myself, I fully understand the frustration, anger, fear and confusion this disease causes a person; perhaps this will ease the pain a little.

“Winter Night Short Ribs” uses a marbleized, tough, meaty section cut from the ribs of cattle or pigs; hence the name.  Unless it is cooked carefully, it will end up being a chew bone for your dog.  Personally, I find this recipe perfect for a lovely meal for two (leftovers for later, of course); holiday, anniversary, birthday, or a celebration of some special event.  The sauce created is rich and full bodies, the vegetables so tender that they actually melt in the mouth, and the meat….mind blowing in taste and texture.  After cooking, the rib bone easily falls away; the fat has melted into the meat to tenderize into that mind blowing perfection.

Perhaps a change in lifestyle is far down on your to-do list, at least make this meal for yourself and that special someone.  This is major pointage you’ll be making in their eyes.

Winter Night Short Ribs
(from “200 Low-Carb High-Fat Recipes” by Dana Carpender, page 127)


2 pounds beef short ribs
2 Tbsp. bacon grease
½ large onion, or 1 small onion
1 turnip, size of a baseball
1 cup beef broth
2 Tbsp. tomato paste
½ tsp. ground black pepper
\½ tsp. ground cinnamon
¼ tsp. ground nutmeg
2 cloves garlic, crushed
Optional: Guar or xanthan (for thickening, but you won’t need it, believe me!)


In a heavy skillet, medium-high heat, sear the short ribs all over in the bacon grease.  While doing this, slice the onion into 1-inch pieces; peel the turnip and cut into 1-inch cubes.  Place these into bottom of a 4-quart slow cooker (crock pot).  When the short ribs are browned all over, place on top of the vegetables.


Pour the broth into the skillet and add the seasonings; scrape up the browned bits (called “faun”) and mix well, including all the fat.  Pour over the ribs in the slow cooker; cover, set to low and cook 8 to 9 hours.  (Note: at 6 hours the sauce was bubbling a lot; checked the meat and veggies, they were done!)


The recipe states it yields six servings, but it ended up only being four for us; hence the meal for two plus leftovers.  A suggestion, a nice roasted and mashed sweet potato as an addition to the other vegetables.  The sweet potato is naturally sweet, so simply add butter and cinnamon for taste, or spoon the sauce from the short ribs over it.  Sweet potatoes are also low in carbs, so fits well with this meal.  
Mary Cokenour