Saturday, December 31, 2016

Happy New Year 2017....We Can Only Hope.

For the New Year, my husband and I have one resolution to keep; to maintain hope.

2016 has been one of the most horrendous years that either of us has ever experienced. 

With not being able to get decent health insurance through an employer, we were forced into "Obamacare".  Necessary prescriptions for our diabetes care were kept out of reach due to high, high prices healthcare refused to cover.  Even the pharmaceutical companies gave us difficulty in getting a cheaper price on prescriptions; or said "NO!" because Obamacare should cover it all, but it didn't.

Tax time, we were slammed with outrageous fines for not staying within the poverty level.  Even though we made monthly payments; we were told "Not Enough, we want more!!!"  We were punished for getting healthcare through the government, when we should have had private insurance from the beginning.  Can't pay...too bad, now we'll take the money anyway!

We both had to dip into our existing IRAs to make ends meet; thereby being fined even more.  By the time either of us finally reaches an age we can get into the IRAs without being fined; we might be dead by then.  The age requirement keeps getting raised higher and higher; as we walk forward, the long hallway gets longer and longer.

It simply was, no matter how we attempted to get out of a hole, we were punished for even trying.

Finding full time employment has been one rejection after another; primarily due to the main facts of #1 - not being born and raised in the area; #2 - not following the "correct" religion;  #3 - not being descendants of a particular group.  It is a well known fact that this occurs again and again to others as well; it is a sick cycle that needs to be completely repaired.  We still have hope for changes in where we live; we still have hope that finally someone will stand up and say "Enough is enough; we welcome everyone completely, and not with restrictions to life here!"

There are a few people who care for us just because.  They don't care about those three reasons above; they care because we are good, kind, caring, loving people.  It's so wonderful to know that some do have their eyes, ears, hearts open to us.

While we have been struggling hard not to file for bankruptcy; unless there are serious financial changes for us in 2017; there will finally be no choice.

I am 58 years old now; I have worked since I was 16 years old; 42 years and within one year, I have lost almost all my savings.  Roy is 44 years old, he has worked since 16 years old also; 28 years of employment and wondering where has it all gone.  Retirement?  Not for me, not anytime soon at all; perhaps never at the rate we're going.

Many will read this and say, "We're in the same boat; we understand and feel your pain."  Others will say, "We wish we could help you, but not right now".  Many others will say, "We have ours, you can't get yours; we certainly wouldn't help you for any reason."  It is what it is.

So, Happy New Year from the Cokenours.  May the coming of a new President bring prosperity back to all the American people, not the chosen few.  May Karma punish those who revel in the pain and suffering happening to others.  May Karma punish those who have caused the pain and suffering.  May Karma bless those who have helped us, whether we know them, or they were anonymous; they cared and that was all that mattered...the caring.

Roy and I will rise up again; it may take some time and doing, but we will prevail!!!  Currently I'm filled with despair and anger tied together like the double helix of DNA.  I would love to see that change to happiness and relaxation.

Mary Cokenour

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Holiday High Jinx.

The holiday season, the happiest of times for some; hell on earth for many.  I have to tell you that I am personally not a great lover of the holiday season.  Like the many, bad memories and extreme sadness creep up into my mind and heart.  They squeeze tightly, attempting to make me fall into a black hole of depression; sort of like those carpet gremlins who like to grab at my sneakers and trip me up.  Unlike the many, I have found a way to banish those monsters; laughter, pure, complete, fun loving laughter does the trick every time.

This year I decided to make folks think I had completely gone off the deep end; that I had decided to go into a life of crime.  To social media I typed, “Financially the hardship has become too much; I am now going to make crack.  First free samples to find out if the quality is acceptable.  Then I will begin to process, package and distribute….will I need to get a food handler’s permit for this I wonder?”  The reactions were few; laugh and like icons, but barely any comments; definitely not the reaction I was expecting.  I wondered if our new Chief of Police, Clayton Black, would be knocking on my door as people reported to him I was now a local drug dealer advertising on Facebook.

To waylay holiday sadness, I have, since moving to Monticello, created goodies to distribute to those establishments that I have dealt with happily.  The City Office, banking institution, Post Office were the beginning; imagine my surprise when I was told, “Mary, no one has ever done this for us before.  Thank you!”  I was enveloped with confusion; why would no one show appreciation for these places, especially during the holidays?  I have added a few more establishments during our eight winter seasons here; and surprise is still a reaction from them.

This year I was pleased by the reactions when I walked in, carrying a foil wrapped package, and exclaimed, “Happy Holidays, I’ve brought you crack.  Enjoy!”  There were raised eyebrows, hesitation in accepting the package, a slow unwrapping and then a peek; but best of all was the look of joy as they saw the Toffee and Peppermint Crack Candy.  That’s correct, Crack Candy, an obnoxiously sweet candy created with brown sugar, butter, saltine crackers, melted chocolate and a topping.  The toppings can be toffee bits, crushed candy cane, roasted/chopped nuts, even a combination of candy with nuts.  The name “crack” comes from the sound the candy makes when it has completely cooled and is broken apart.

Researching this candy, I found so many variations, including something called “Reindeer Crack” made with pretzels, M&M candies, Chex cereal and melted white chocolate.  Many of the recipes were very simple, some so complicated I would have needed a culinary degree to get through it.  My recipe is a simple one, but big hint, make sure to have all the ingredients lined up and ready to go; the process goes quickly!

Once again, Joyous Yule, Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Happy Kwanzaa and Brightest Blessings for the New Year.   Keep laughing and the future will look so bright, you’ve got to wear shades.

Crack Candy


40 saltine crackers
1 and ¼ cups salted butter, cubed
1 and ¼ cups brown sugar, packed (light, dark or combination of both)
1 (10 oz.) package dark chocolate morsels (milk, semi-sweet, or white chocolate morsels are options)

Options for Toppings

1 and ½ cups toffee bits
1 and ½ cups crushed peppermint sticks
1 and ½ cups roasted and chopped: pecans, walnuts, almonds, hazelnuts, peanuts
Or a 3/4 cup combination of two items, equaling 1 and ½ cups.


Preheat oven to 350F; line 18” x 12” x 1” deep jelly roll pan with aluminum foil; lightly spray foil with nonstick baking spray.


Place saltines on foil 5 down, 8 across; no spaces in between.  Make sure to leave a ¼ inch space from all four sides of the pan.


In a medium sauce pan, medium heat, melt butter.  Stir in brown sugar, bring mixture to a boil; cook and stir for 3-4 minutes until all sugar is dissolved and mixture thickens slightly.


Pour mixture over crackers; if crackers separate, push back together with rubber spatula.  Do NOT touch sugar mixture or it will burn the skin.  Bake in oven for 8-10 minutes, until bubbly. Remove from oven (turn oven off, no longer needed); again, if crackers have separated, push back together with rubber spatula.  Sprinkle chocolate morsels over crackers; allow to soften for a minute and spread melted chocolate evenly over the crackers.


Sprinkle topping (s) over chocolate; refrigerate for one hour.  Break apart; lifting the foil and folding it over the candy makes it easier to grab and “crack” the candy.

Peppermint Crack
Toffee Crack

Makes about 2 pounds of candy.

Mary Cokenour

Thursday, December 8, 2016

Birthday Party for Jesus, Gifts Optional.

Christmas Day, a celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ; a most holy day for all Christian sects.  Gifts, from the most humble to the most expensive, are exchanged.  Feasts the like of no one in Bethlehem saw unless they were of royal descent.  Glazed ham, roasted turkey or goose, stuffing, vegetables, potato dishes and the desserts, oh my, the desserts!  It’s like Thanksgiving all over again, but with gift exchanging.

Growing up in an Italian/Croatian/mainly Catholic neighborhood in Brooklyn, New York; Christmas Eve was a major deal when it came to food.   “The Feast of the Seven Fishes” symbolized several items from the Bible: 7 days of the week, 7 pilgrimage churches in Rome, 7 gifts from the Holy Spirit, and the 7 Sacraments.  This was an all week cooking experience; Salted Cod (Baccala), Shrimp Oreganata, Fried Calamari, Spaghetti with Shrimps in Sauce, Baked Whole Fish, Linguine in Clam Sauce and Baked Clams were the usual fare.


While researching various foods served at Christmas, I began to wonder, “If I threw a birthday bash for Jesus, what would I serve?”  First off, he was of Hebrew descent, so ham, and pork products of any kind, would definitely be out!  Turkey and goose did not roam freely throughout the deserts of the Middle East; ah, but a plentiful bounty of seafood resided in the Mediterranean Sea.  Upon the hillsides, shepherds raised and herded sheep; lamb would definitely have been served for a birthday meal.  Olive oil and vinegar used for cooking; olives and pomegranates as appetizers; nuts, figs, dates, grapes and honey would be tasty dessert treats; unleavened bread (flatbread) handy for grabbing hot meat off a skewer; and, of course, fish and lamb.


I can hear it, yes, I can actually hear it, “What is the purpose of all I’ve written?”  To make you think!  In this world of ours that has become so dependent on technology; when the price tag means more than the actual gift; why?  A most important question in Philosophy; Why?  Why get up at 3am, to be on line at some big name store at 4am, to bash others in the head if they lay so much as one finger on an item desired?  Why brag about how much was spent, or better yet, purposely leave the price tag on a wrapped gift?  Why go gaga over gifts when it’s not even your birthday!?!  How is this an actual celebration of the birth of God’s son, your savior; the one you pray to and constantly ask help from?  Think about it, no, actually sit in silence and think!

“And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son.  You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it."   John 14:13-14 

I fully believe that the way Christmas Eve and Day are celebrated, in these modern times, would be very disappointing to Jesus Christ.  Bickering over gifts, bragging over money spent, not sharing with those who have less, displaying a complete lack of kindness; nope, he wouldn’t be very happy at all.

So, in the spirit of the holiday season, I’m going to share with all of you a traditional Christmas recipe that even Jesus Christ might enjoy (well except for the ricotta cheese; not really supposed to mix protein with dairy in Hebrew tradition).  I will say, “Happy Birthday Jesus and Merry Christmas to All!” even though I do not follow the Christian sect.  Why?  It’s the kind thing to do, and that is what it’s all about…the kindness.


Tilapia Florentine
(Spinach Stuffed Tilapia)


2 Tbsp. diced red bell pepper
6 tsp. olive oil 
4 oz. fresh baby spinach
1 egg, beaten
1 tsp. minced garlic
1 tsp. Italian herbal mix
1/4 cup part-skim ricotta cheese
1 Tbsp. grated Parmesan cheese
2 (6 oz. each) tilapia fillets


Preheat oven to 375F; spray 1 quart baking dish with nonstick cooking spray.

In a small skillet, medium-high heat, sauté red bell pepper in two teaspoons of olive oil until softened; add in spinach, drizzle two teaspoons oil over leaves and cook until wilted. 

In a medium bowl, thoroughly combine egg, garlic, herbal mix, cheeses; gently fold in spinach mixture.  Cut slit into tilapia lengthwise (not all the way through); with tip of knife cut halfway into both sides of the fish to create a pocket.  Stuff half the mixture into each fillet; place into baking dish and drizzle remaining two teaspoons of oil over the fish.

Bake 20-25 minutes; until fish is flaky and filling is warm throughout.  (Higher altitude, baking time might be 15 to 20 minutes instead.)

Makes 2 servings.
Yule (origin Norse and/or Germanic), celebrated from December 21st (Winter Solstice - a fixed point in time) to January 1st (noting a season); 12 days of celebration where each night a candle is lit, a log burnt within the hearth, and a horn of mead (honey wine) is consumed.  Huzzah!
This is the origin of the "Twelve Days of Christmas", a popular carol sung during the month of December when Christians believe their savior was born on December 25th.  Historians though believe it was more than likely during the summer months of June or July; when travel throughout the Middle East would have been more suitable.
Yule Party Guest List 
December 21, 2016
Jesus Christ responded with, “Don’t worry about the wine, I’ll take care of that.  Just make sure to have several kegs of water available.”  He is such a neat guy, always brings to a party without having to be asked.

Odin and Freya are coming, bringing mead (honey wine) of course; they’re not partial to that, as they call it, “sissy French dishwater” that Jesus makes; but they sure know how to liven up a party.

Zeus and Hera will be bringing nectar and ambrosia; oh, they know how much Roy loves baklava, so they’ll be bringing a cartload of that too.  The bull pulling the cart, told them not to kill and roast it this year; it took me forever to get the blood stains out of the carpeting!

Jupiter and Juno, being from Rome, are doing the “feast of the seven fishes”; yeah, that’s a Roman Catholic thing, but they giggle like hell when they relate how pissed off Neptune was when they took the fish out of his sea.

Cernunnos, well it is his birthday and sometimes he acts all, “look at me, it’s my birthday!”, but once Odin gets him dosed up with a few horns of mead, yeah, Cernunnos simply sits in the corner and smiles a lot.  This year he won’t be bringing his stag, since Zeus tried to hunt and cook it last year along with the bull.

Mohammed sends his regrets, with all the “issues” going on in the Middle East, he doesn’t think it will all be settled by the 21st.  He makes the best hummus ever too!  I’m going to save him a seat at the table just in case.

That’s all the guests I’ve heard from so far; but I always make sure to buy extras for those who simply show up.

All are welcome, discrimination is a human fault, not for we Gods and Goddesses.

Mary Cokenour


Saturday, December 3, 2016

Asian, Hawaiian, Mexican...Well it's a Crock Pot Chicken Recipe.

As many recipes I keep seeing on Facebook about Asian Chicken in the Crock Pot, Hawaiian Chicken in the Crock Pot, Chinese Chicken in the Crock Pot, Mexican....well you get the gist of it.  There comes a point where it's simply, I've got these ingredients in the pantry and chicken; what do I do with it all to make a meal?

That's exactly what happened last week after I pulled out chicken and simply stared at it.  I was totally clueless as to what to make with it.  Do I fry it, bake it, make a casserole?  I saw a jar of pineapple chipotle salsa, cans of pineapple and a plan began to take form.  I pulled out green bell peppers and onion from the refrigerator and began dicing.  Then came the crock pot into which I dumped it all, set it on high and said to myself, "Good Luck!".  Four and one half hours later on, the chicken was tenderly cooked; the sauce looked thin, but was quickly fixed with an addition of cornstarch whisked in.  Served over white rice, it was amazingly delicious; score one for the "throw it all in and good luck" technique.

Pineapple Chipotle Chicken


6 frozen boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1 cup diced green bell pepper
1 cup chopped onion
1 (16 oz.) jar pineapple chipotle salsa
1 (15 ¼ oz.) can pineapple slices, drained  (drink the juice, it's tasty!)
2 Tbsp. cornstarch
3 cups cooked rice


Spray interior of 4 quart crock pot with nonstick cooking spray.

Line sides and bottom of pot with chicken; place bell pepper and onion in center.  Pour salsa over all; cover with pineapple slices.

Cook on high for 4-5 hours; until chicken is thoroughly cooked.  Carefully remove pineapple and chicken; mix cornstarch together with remaining ingredients in pot to thicken sauce.  Serve chicken breast and pineapple slice (s) over rice; spoon sauce from pot over all.

Makes 6 servings.

Mary Cokenour

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Original Recipe That Starbucks Copycatted.

Back in 1985, a coffee cake recipe came out in a woman's magazine "Woman's Day", "Good Housekeeping", "Better Homes and Gardens"; I don't know which one.  A friend, at that time, had made the recipe, the cake was delicious, so she passed the recipe on to me.  Somewhere in my many, many handwritten recipes books is the recipe, but I was too lazy to wade through all the paper.  So, I went online to see if anyone had posted the recipe somewhere; I found many versions, but not the one I truly wanted. 

Then I noticed "Copycat of Starbucks Coffee Cake", clicked on the link and there was the recipe I'd always used; but with two minor changes.  See, when it comes to recipes, you can make someone else's recipe your own by simply changing two ingredients; so Starbucks used sugar instead of brown sugar, and added a sprinkling of powdered sugar.  Or so I think they did, since this is a copycat recipe, so the blogger basically thinks this is how it's made.  The blog is "Your Homebased Mom", and here is the link to her recipe:

I made the appropriate changes, typed the recipe up on the computer, and now I have it in a more convenient place.  I made four cakes and the one mistake I made is to forget I live in a high altitude location (7100 feet above sea level), so forgot to add extra flour, and reduce the oil, to the cake mix.  The cake batter bubbled over the topping and was tacky on top of three of the four cakes; but they were still delicious.  Well at least I hope they were; I gave those away, but I haven't heard any complaints, or they're just being nice.

Anyway, here is the original recipe from 1985, so now you can copy me instead of Starbucks.  Of course to get the four cakes, I doubled up on the recipe; and used 8" x 8" aluminum pans; instead of two 9" x 13" ones; easier to give away that way.  By the way, at that time, moist cake mixes were just coming onto the market, so this recipe called for those original "non-premoistened" mixes.  Women began adding extra ingredients such as buttermilk, yogurt or sour cream to get the cake to be moister and richer.  No need for that now!

Coffee Cake Made From Cake Mix


1 box yellow, moist cake mix (plus ingredients on back of box)
2 sticks cold, salted butter, softened
2¼ cups flour
1½ Tbsp. cinnamon
1¾ cups brown sugar
1½ Tbsp. vanilla


Preheat oven to 350, spray 9 x 13 pan with non-stick spray.

Prepare cake mix in large bowl according to directions on box; pour batter into pan.  Bake at 350 for 15 minutes; batter will still be liquid.

While cake is baking, prepare crumb topping; in large bowl combine butter, flour, cinnamon, brown sugar and vanilla until all crumbly (use pastry cutter or hands).

Add remaining ingredients to softened butter.

Use hands to work ingredients together.

Cinnamon streusel topping.

15 minutes, batter is giggly, so be careful removing from oven.
Immediately after cake is removed from oven, break crumb topping into marble size pieces with fingers, sprinkling over top.  Put back in oven and bake an additional 15-20 minutes;  topping will begin to look less wet, toothpick inserted into cake will come out clean.   Let cool before cutting into squares.

Add the crumble topping.

This one came out perfect, the other three weren't so pretty.
(Note: for high altitude baking, add 1/3 cup flour, reduce oil from 1/3 cup to ¼ cup in cake batter preparation) 
Makes 12 Servings.

Mary Cokenour

September 1985 (original date I began using this recipe)


Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Squash the Holiday of Thanks.

Thanksgiving Day; a full day devoted to giving heartfelt thanks for family, friends, good health, prosperity, and, in general, the full bounties of life.  These aspects of life should be thanked for on a daily basis, so why the need for an established National holiday?  Let’s take a brief walk down history lane to find out, shall we?  (From The Thanksgiving Book by Jerome Agel and Jason Shulman)

1610 – Only 60 survivors, of 490, remain of the English settlement in Jamestown, Virginia.  A day of Thanksgiving, in the spring, is dedicated to prayer, and praise for the ships that arrive from England carrying supplies.

1621 – Only 55 survivors, of 102 Pilgrims, have a three day celebration for the first autumn harvest (corn, squash, fish and meat from hunting (no turkey!).  The Wampanoag Indians are invited, and this is cited as the first unity between Native Americans and white English settlers.

1789 – President George Washington declares a “National Day of Thanksgiving” to be November 26th to celebrate the ratification of the Constitution.  He left it to each State to decide if it should be celebrated or not; it failed to be an annual event due to lack of interest.

1863 – President Lincoln declares the last Thursday of November to be a “Day of Thanksgiving and Prayer”, believing it would help bring an end to the Civil War; all government departments must be closed.  Sometimes it was the 4th week of the month, sometimes the fifth week until 1941.

1941 – President Franklin D. Roosevelt declares Thanksgiving to be the 4th Thursday of November and that’s the way it’s been since.

As you’ve read, the true meaning behind Thanksgiving depended on life, death, governmental achievements, or the attempt to end war.  Even the Mormon pioneers of 1847 did not celebrate Thanksgiving until October 1848.  The Salt Lake Valley was burnt due to the harsh July sun; the desert was barren, alkaline, with sparse sage brush and cottonwood trees.  Much time and energy was devoted to irrigating and cultivating the soil before a real bountiful harvest could be achieved.  “…the pioneers rejoiced with a Thanksgiving harvest festival, literally giving thanks for their continued survival. (Mormon Pioneer Cookbook by DUP)

One item at the harvest table was Acorn squash which gets its name, not only, from the acorn shape, but from the nutty flavor of the flesh inside.  Acorn squash (Cucurbita Pepo) is low in calories, fats and carbs, since it contains no simple sugars; it is high in fiber and digests easily.  A single serving contains vitamins A, C and B6; also thiamin, folate, pantothenic acid, manganese, magnesium and potassium. The squash itself can be cooked by baking, steaming or microwaving; it can be eaten right out of its shell or stuffed, pureed for soup, added to mashed potatoes, or frozen for later use. If you were thinking that butternut or spaghetti squash were the only versatile ones, aren't you surprised now?

One of the typical ways to make acorn squash is by baking it in the oven and then coating the flesh with a butter and brown sugar mixture (the pioneers used molasses salt, cinnamon and nutmeg).  Reading my food related articles, you know I don’t follow typical recipes. Oh, I did bake it in the oven, but then stuffed it where it could be eaten as a meal in itself, or as a side dish.  Vegetarians would be happy with this dish, and while I add Romano cheese to it, it would be their choice depending on how strict a regime they follow.

From the Cokenour family to you and yours, Happy Thanksgiving; and eat up for tomorrow we diet!  Well, not really until the New Year, but it’s the thought of losing pounds that counts.


Baked Stuffed Acorn Squash


2 large or 3 small acorn squash
2 Tbsp. plus 4 tsp. olive oil
¼ each diced onion and red bell pepper
1 Tbsp. minced garlic 4 cups wilted and chopped spinach, kale or broccoli rabe leaves, stems removed
¼ tsp. salt
1 tsp. Italian seasoning mix
4 tsp. shredded Romano cheese


Preheat oven to 350F; line a baking sheet with aluminum foil.

Rinse squash in water and pat dry; cut in half and scoop out seeds and stringy pulp with a spoon. Place on baking sheet cut side down; bake for 30 minutes.

While squash is baking, heat 2 tablespoons of oil in a large skillet, over medium-high heat; sauté’ onion and bell pepper for 3 minutes. Add in garlic, let cook for another minute before adding the leaves, salt and Italian seasoning. Mix thoroughly and let cook for 5 minutes before removing from heat; keep warm.


After 30 minutes, remove baking sheet from oven, turn over the squash halves and place together to help hold each other upright.  Drizzle a teaspoon of oil and sprinkle a teaspoon of cheese inside each half.  Stuff with the leaf mixture; return to oven and bake for 5 minutes before serving.

Serves 4-6 depending on size used.
Mary Cokenour

Friday, November 11, 2016

Fajitas, an Authentic Mexican Dish?

The answer to that is sort of yes, and sort of no. The Spanish word “faja” means belt or girdle; and refers to the cut of meat known as “skirt steak”. The word “fajita” means a smaller version of the skirt steak itself, or the thin strips cut to create the fajita filling. Grilling meat was not a new style of cooking for the Mexican culture, nor for America; but Mexican vaqueros (cowboys) introduced their American counterparts to their style. Many parts of cattle were discarded, such as the skirt, or given to the ranch hands in lieu of monetary compensation for their work. The meat needed to be grilled to remove the membrane, or “silver skin”, from both sides; it helped keep juices in, but was still too tough to ingest.  Even today, many cuts of beef from the market retain the “silver skin” under that layer of fat left attached.  That price per pound you just paid for includes the section you’re going to throw away.  Marinating the meat all day, or night, guarantees tough beef will be tender and flavorful, but that came later on in culinary history.

A historical piece called “Fajitas, South Texas Style”, done at Texas A&M University by Mary K. Sweeten and Homer Recio, established that this could be traced as far back as the 1930’s in Texas; hence the beginning of what is called “Tex-Mex” cuisine.  (Go to: for the full story.)

While the fajita originally contained beef, nowadays it can contain chicken, pork, seafood, or a combination of these items. Other typical ingredients served with the fajita are onions, shredded lettuce, bell and/or hot peppers, Spanish rice, refried beans, cheese and condiments such as sour cream, salsa and guacamole. Wrapped in warm tortillas, the fajita becomes the perfect little type of sandwich; packed with food and flavors.  Personally, I’m a minimalist, I want to taste the grilled meat, chicken or seafood, and vegetables; so I typically add a little cheese and sour cream.  However some fajitas I’ve seen have been so packed with extras, the tortilla could barely have the ends meet.  Hmm, does that make it a “taco” now, instead of a fajita?

While delving into the history of cuisines might be a bore to most, I see it as knowledge gained.  With all the stories I write, about San Juan County, in my travel blog; many residents have outright stated that I’ve become a bit of a historian in my own right.  Basically, I’m keeping the knowledge of history, whether food or geographically related, alive; and we all know that knowledge is power.





2 lbs. sirloin or round steak, cut into 2” x ¼” strips

2 lbs. boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into 2” x ¼ “strips
2 large onions, cut into ¼” strips
1 large each red, yellow and green bell peppers, cut into ¼” strips
1 tsp ground black pepper
1 Tbsp. garlic powder
2 Tbsp. canola oil
1 dozen 8” tortillas (corn or flour)


½ cup canola oil

½ cup white wine vinegar
2 Tbsp. minced garlic
2 jalapeno peppers, seeded and diced
1 ½ Tbsp. minced fresh cilantro
1 Tbsp. ground cumin
1 tsp ground black pepper



Refried Beans
Sour Cream
Shredded Mexican Blend or Sharp Cheddar Cheese


Put steak and chicken strips in two separate sealable plastic bags. Prepare marinade by placing all ingredients listed under Marinade into small bowl and whisking together. Divide marinade between the two bags; seal and refrigerate overnight. In a third plastic bag, place the onion and pepper strips, black pepper, garlic powder, 2 Tbsp. oil inside; gently shake to mix together and also refrigerate overnight with steak and chicken.


When ready to make fajitas, separately cook steak, chicken and vegetables in a medium skillet on medium-high heat. Cook steak and chicken until no pink is showing; cook vegetables until tender. For the tortillas, heat a 10” skillet or stove top griddle on medium-high heat; warm tortillas for 30 seconds on each side.

Serve steak, chicken, vegetables and tortillas with items listed under Garnish, so each serving can be made as desired.

Makes 12 servings.

Mary Cokenour


Friday, November 4, 2016

Better Than the Box Macaroni and Cheese.

As much as I enjoy making recipes from scratch, time constraints necessitate using boxed, canned, frozen or prepackaged food sources.  When it comes to macaroni and cheese, my recipe for Creamy Macaroni and Cheese is better than any packaged brand.  Four different cheeses melted into a heavy cream mixture before drenching perfectly cooked elbow macaroni...heavenly!  But, it takes time to create, and sometimes that isn't convenient, so I go to the box.  We prefer the Velveeta Shells and Cheese; it's the "rather have liquid cheese than powdered" principle.  As to whether Velveeta is really a cheese, I'll leave that to those who have the free time for this debate.

I made meatloaf to go with my Shells and Cheese casserole.  As a joke, I took a photo of my meal next to the picture on the box.  Personally, I think my meal photo looks much more appetizing.

Shells and Cheese Casserole


1 (24 oz.) box Velveeta Shells and Cheese
1 (10 oz.) can cream of mushroom soup
1 (12 oz.) package frozen corn, thawed
1 (14.5 oz.) can diced tomatoes, drained
½ cup diced onion
½ tsp ground black pepper
¾  cup crumbled bacon


Prepare Velveeta Shells and Cheese according to package directions.

Preheat oven to 350F; grease 3 quart baking dish with butter.

In a large bowl, mix remaining ingredients, except bacon, with the prepared shells and cheese.  Spread evenly into butter baking dish; sprinkle bacon over top.


Bake for 30-40 minutes; top will be browned and firm to touch.

Remove from oven and let rest for 10 minutes before serving.

Makes 8 servings.

Mary Cokenour