Monday, October 16, 2017

Fusion Cuisine for Fall Harvest.

Fusion Cuisine has been around since the 1970s, a blending of culinary cultures and techniques which creates unique taste combinations. Those fajitas so well loved are a perfect example of fusion cuisine; Tex-Mex which is a combination of Southwestern United States and Mexican cultures.

With the last of the fall harvest coming in from home gardens, a question often heard is, “What can I do with all of these….?”  Pickling, canning, freezing and sharing with others are great options; so is playing with new recipes.  Tomatoes, that lovely, vine grown fruit that can be eaten raw and cooked; made into sauces; added to sandwiches and salads; mixed into skillet dinners or casseroles.  Green tomatoes can be sliced ¼ inch thick, dipped into egg wash, bread crumb coated, or batter dipped; deep fried into a delicious treat that brings sighs of delight.  Ah, but here comes the fusion part for tomatoes of reddish hue.

Stuffed tomatoes are not a novel idea; main form of stuffing being rice or bread.  My recipe calls for cubed bread stuffing  which is typically American,  veggies, cheese and herbs which are typically Italian, but some of those same veggies plus chili powder gives it a taste of Mexican cuisine; hence the fusion part.  To really boost up the taste and texture, to make this a complete meal, here comes more American influence…chicken!

I love using chili powder from New Mexico; it seems to have a heady aroma, a smokiness not found elsewhere.  As a rule of thumb, I typically use mild spice when cooking; the longer the cooking, the spicier it becomes.  Remember, you can always add, but cannot take away; that's always the best rule when working with spicy ingredients, and any other seasoning ingredients, especially salt.  If you like more heat, but this is your first time making this recipe, take a little advice; start with mild and add dashes of hot sauce as you eat to see what it will taste like to you.  This method not adventurous enough?  Then use three types of chili powder (mild, medium and hot); make three stuffed tomatoes and use one type of chili powder with each.  Stick a toothpick (one for mild, two for medium, three for hot) in the appropriate tomatoes; after they're baked do your taste testing.  Don't forget you can get others in on this too for a real judging.  Use firm tomatoes that can be easily gripped in the hand and won't squash or crack when being hollowed out.   

Fusion Stuffed Tomatoes


4-6 medium to large firm tomatoes (dependent on size)
2 cups herbed stuffing cubes
1 Tbsp. butter
¼ cup each small diced red onion, red bell pepper and mushrooms
1 tsp minced garlic
2 chicken breasts halves, boneless and skinless
½ tsp each salt, ground black pepper, mild New Mexico chili powder; mixed together
Additional salt to season tomato interior
Olive oil; 1 Tbsp. per tomato
Grated Parmesan cheese; 1 tsp per tomato


With a small knife, cut out hard center where stem was attached and discard. Cut ¼ inch off the top; use a spoon to hollow out tomato to ¼ inch inside. Rinse out tomatoes and invert onto a paper towel lined pan.  (I had two large and three medium which fit perfectly in my casserole dish.)  Strain tomatoes, but reserve ½ cup of liquid; dice tomatoes and set aside.

Place stuffing cubes in a medium sized bowl, pour reserved tomato liquid over and mix.

In a medium sized skillet, over medium-high heat, melt tablespoon of butter; sauté onion, bell pepper and mushroom until softened. Add in ½ cup of diced tomatoes and garlic; let cook another minute; add to stuffing cubes.

At same time vegetables are sautéing; season both sides of chicken with seasoning mixture; brown in skillet, with one tablespoon olive oil, over medium- high heat (3-4 minutes per side). I made several extra which I cut into 1/2 inch slices and froze for use later on; very convenient when doing a spur of the moment recipe.  Dice chicken and add to stuffing bowl; mix thoroughly.

Preheat oven to 375F; spray 2 quart round casserole dish with nonstick cooking spray. Sprinkle ¼ teaspoon salt inside each tomato, then stuff with mixture; place ¼ inch top back and place in casserole dish.

Drizzle one tablespoon olive oil over each tomato; bake for 25 minutes. Remove from oven and top with one teaspoon grated Parmesan cheese; return to oven for 5 minutes.

Makes 4-6 servings.

So, how does all this fusion in a tomato taste? It was a cultural party going on in the mouth and it tasted so good! The chicken was tender, juicy and savory; the stuffing herbalicious with a mild tomato flavor from the tomato liquid used to soak the cubes. The tomato itself, while fully cooked, could be cut with a fork and still hold together its texture; it tasted with the Parmesan cheese, like a very chunky and rich tomato sauce.  

Mary Cokenour

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Death by Chocolate.

The term “Death by Chocolate” is so often used for extremely chocolate desserts, it made me wonder though, can it truly happen?  When it concerns dogs, the answer is yes, maybe not immediately, but eventually.  Chocolate contains substances known as methylxanthines, specifically caffeine and theobromine; canines cannot metabolize theobromine, so builds up and becomes toxic to their systems.  The darker and more bitter the chocolate, the higher amount of theobromine present.  For example: 8 ounces of milk chocolate may sicken a 50 pound dog, but it can be poisoned by as little as 1 ounce of Baker's chocolate!

Alright, we know for certain that chocolate can cause death in dogs, but humans are ok with major consumption of chocolate, right?  Hey, don’t shoot me, I’m just the messenger; yes, it can harm humans also.  First off, eating a severe poundage of anything can almost, or surely, kill us; secondly, diabetics can’t metabolize the high sugar content; thirdly, if a person has an allergy to theobromine, say hello to the Grim Reaper.  Dang, I’m so depressed right now; I love chocolate!  Moral is know your health and eat in moderation; don’t worry, the rest of the Hersey bar will be there…where you hid it.

Back to dessert, I have admitted that I'm not a big fan of baking; don't enjoy doing the precise measurements required for a perfectly baked item.  However, that doesn't mean I shy away from it altogether, and find ways of experimenting.  One cake I love to play with is cheesecake; using different types of cookies for a crust; pureed fresh, or chopped dried, fruits; candy pieces; various flavor combinations. It's almost as fun as making cookies, and there are hundreds of variations of those!

Time to follow me on a trail of chocolate, cheesecake, and dying from too much Chocolate Cheesecake; a completely decadent, all chocolate cheesecake: chocolate crust, chocolate cheesecake layer, topped with a chocolate ganache.  My version is not overly sweet, but the chocolate is so rich and flavorful, the extra sugar is not missed.  Folks have tried this cheesecake, loved it, but had to admit that eating too much would definitely be too much.  A normal slice of cheesecake has about a two inch width; but a one inch width slice will be about as much as you can eat of this cake.  Afterwards you will definitely want a nap as you experience blissful joy; eat any more of it and death by chocolate might just occur as you lapse into a coma of complete nirvana.

Chocolate Cheesecake


For the Crust:

 2 cups crushed chocolate graham crackers
 5 Tbsp. melted butter

For the Cake:

 2 (8 oz.) packages cream cheese
 1 (8 oz.) package mascarpone cheese (use regular cream cheese if not available)
 1 cup sugar
 2 tsp. pure vanilla extract
 3 large eggs
 1 (4 oz.) package Ghirardelli Bittersweet Baking Chocolate, melted and cooled

For the Ganache:

 ½ cup heavy whipping cream
 1 (4 oz.) package Ghirardelli Bittersweet Baking Chocolate, broken into pieces


Spray a 9 inch springform pan with baking spray; place a piece of parchment paper, cut to fit the bottom, inside the pan; spray also with baking spray.

Mix the crushed graham crackers with the melted butter; press onto bottom and halfway up sides of pan. Place in refrigerator for a half hour to set.  Preheat oven to 325F.

In a large bowl, beat the cream cheese, mascarpone, sugar and vanilla extract on high until well blended. Add the eggs and melted chocolate; on low speed mix until well blended.

(Note: melt and cool the chocolate just before adding to the cream cheese mixture and eggs; if the chocolate is too hot, it will cause the eggs to scramble)

Take pan out of refrigerator, set on top of a sheet of heavy duty aluminum foil and wrap foil up around the sides. Pour the cream cheese/chocolate mixture over the crust and smooth out with a spatula.

Place the pan inside a 3 quart baking dish, so that it sits flatly; pour cool water into the baking dish ¼ up the side of the pan. Be careful no water gets inside the aluminum foil. Place inside oven on center rack; bake for 50-60 minutes, or until the center is almost set. Turn off heat, prop open oven door and wait for 30 minutes before removing baking dish. Set pan on counter, run a knife around the rim of the cake to loosen sides; refrigerate for 4 hours.

To make the ganache, in a small saucepan, medium-high heat, bring the heavy cream to a boil. Add in the chocolate and quickly begin whisking until chocolate is melted, incorporated well and has a smooth, shiny texture.

Let cool slightly; remove cake from refrigerator and pour ganache over the top, smooth out with a spatula. Return cake to refrigerator for 4 more hours or overnight; depending on when it is planned to be served.

Carefully open springform pan; use a long, wide spatula to get between pan bottom and parchment paper. Carefully lift cake onto serving dish; cut into 16 slices.

 *Makes 16 servings.

Mary Cokenour

Sunday, October 1, 2017

Cow Tipping.

The first time I’d ever heard the term “cow tipping” was in 1990 when first moving to Lancaster, Pennsylvania.  Our residential neighborhood was surrounded by Amish farmland, with local, bored teenagers bragging about this night time exploit.  What exactly is “cow tipping”? An activity of sneaking up on any unsuspecting, or sleeping, upright cow and pushing it over for entertainment. The practice of cow tipping is generally considered an urban legend, and stories of such feats viewed as tall tales.  Except if you happen to live in a rural area, with even adults bragging how they did this activity during teenage years.  Personally, I saw this as cruelty to animals; I certainly wouldn’t enjoy being hurt and/or frightened being pushed down onto hard ground in my sleep!

Spring forward to 2009 with the moving to Utah; cows here are “handsomer”, for lack of a better word, than the overworked black and white milking cows of Pennsylvania.  Where those East coast cows would back away if you stared at them; cows in the Southwest have, what I would definitely call New York attitude, as they stare back with “whatchalookinat?”  Asking about cow tipping, folks would ask, “What is that?” and once explained would proclaim, “Well that’s stupid!”  So much for cow tipping in the Southwest.

Which now brings my convoluted thought processing to “beef tips”.  Did you ever go to a restaurant where the special for the evening was beef tips?  The server explains how this is a special cut of tender beef, prepared in a rich gravy and served over, well something; rice, mashed potatoes, noodles, a pureed vegetable.  Sounds really good, and it has to be special, considering the price is almost equal to a T-bone steak.  Here comes the surprise, where exactly does this “special cut of tender beef” come from on the cow?  The tips are small, about one inch; is there only one tip in each cow!?!  Originally, a beef tip was the tip of a tenderloin or sirloin steak which was trimmed off to give the steak a smoother, rounder appearance.  Nowadays, while quality restaurants may perform the same trim job, beef tips could simply be a steak cut up into one inch pieces and called the same thing.  Depending on the quality of the beef itself, the cooking process is the same, but may take longer.

The recipe I’m giving uses a simple London broil cut, lean, with all excessive fat removed as the fat will only make the gravy greasy, not tastier.  A hint for all those hunters bringing home elk and deer this season; this recipe works very well for those meats also.  I use Portabella mushrooms as they have a meatier texture, yet mild flavor; they are often used, as a substitute, for vegetarians who want to partake of a “burger”, just not the meat part.

Beef Tips with Egg Noodles


2 lbs. lean London broil
4 Tbsp. flour
1 large onion, julienned
1 lb. portabella mushrooms, cut into one inch pieces
1 cup red wine (merlot or burgundy)
1 cup beef stock (not broth, too watery)
1 tsp. dried, crushed thyme leaves
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. ground black pepper
1 Tbsp. minced garlic
1 lb. wide egg noodles


Spray a 4-quart crock pot bowl with nonstick cooking spray.

Cut London broil into one inch pieces, mix with the flour to coat all sides; place in bottom of crock pot bowl.  Place onions over beef, mushrooms over the onions in a layering process.

Whisk together wine, stock, thyme, salt, pepper and garlic; pour over mushrooms.  Cover bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerator overnight (8 hours). 

Next day, remove plastic wrap, place bowl into cooking unit, cover with appropriate lid, set on low and let cook for 8 hours.  At 7 and ½ hours, prepare egg noodles according to package directions.  Serve beef tips over egg noodles

Makes 6 servings.

Note: If a thicker gravy is desired, stir in one teaspoon of corn starch, at a time, until desired consistency is met.

Mary Cokenour

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

A Chicken Named Dinner.

One of my neighbors has chickens, not unusual in San Juan County; and the fresh eggs they lay are better than any purchased at a store.  The yokes are a deeper colored yellow, with a fuller richness and the whites seem to cook up fluffier.  However, due to a hole in their fencing, several of their chickens like to walk over to our front yard; pecking at goodies only a chicken seems to enjoy.  Usually they all run back home when we are outside, except one; light brown with dark brown tail feathers standing definitely clucking at us.  This one gained the name of “Dinner”, while we would never think of hurting the little devil, I like teasing it with the threat of becoming dinner.

For a long while I roasted chickens according to packaging directions; 350F for 20 minutes for each pound.  While the meat itself was moist, tender and very tasty, the skin was still pliable and fatty; we ended up pulling it off and feeding it to the pets.  Then I read a recipe where the cook roasted her chickens at 450F to 500F; the only seasoning used was salt.  The fat melted off the chicken, the skin was crispy, but she did warn that it caused a lot of splattering and smoking.  You know I had to play with this concept of roasting chicken….for dinner.

 After removing the organs from the cavity (the outdoor cats truly enjoyed that treat), the chicken was washed inside and out with cold water; then sprinkled a generous amount of salt also inside and out.  Prepping the roast pan is by lining with aluminum foil; one cup of water plus one can (10.5 oz.) chicken broth poured into the pan; sprayed a rack with nonstick spray and placed it inside the pan. Why the water/broth mixture? As the fat dripped into the pan, the liquid would keep it from splattering, burning and smoking from hitting the foil straight on; and it will become the base for a great gravy.  Placing the chicken on the rack, I drizzled a few tablespoons of olive oil over the top and just allowed it to slide down over the chicken. Now I have this Organic Salt less Seasoning that I enjoy using; 21 organically grown herbs and spices ground together; a generous portion was rubbed over the outside of the chicken, knowing the oil would hold it in place.

The oven temperature had been previously set at 450F; pan inside the oven and patiently waited for the internal temperature to reach 180F.  Where it used to take 2 1/2 to 3 hours for a 5 pound bird, it now only took 1 and 1/2 hours.  The fat had dripped into the pan, the skin was crispy; yet the seasoning mixture had only browned, not burned.  The flavoring permeated the meat which was tender, moist and very juicy. Removing the chicken from the pan onto a platter, I let it rest for 15 minutes before beginning to carve it.

I took advantage of the high temperature setting by mixing together chunks of potato and butternut squash, slices of onion, salt, Italian seasoning blend, minced garlic and olive oil. This mixture was placed in an aluminum baking pan and put into the oven at the same time as the chicken; it finished cooking while the chicken rested (an additional 15 minutes).  Actually, I made two chickens and one was given to my mother-in-law with a generous amount of the roasted veggies; she was very pleased.

As to the smoking and splattering the other cook warned about, I experienced none of that and all because of the liquid I had put into the pan.  To make gravy, I poured the after roasting liquid into a plastic container, placed it into the freezer until the fat rose and solidified (about one hour).  At a firm, but not frozen, stage, the solid fat was scooped off; placing the liquid into a saucepan, bringing it to boil on medium-high heat, I whisked in a little flour for thickening.

There you have it, roast chicken at a higher than recommended temperature, and it is so quick, easy and extremely delicious.  Enjoy!  …and no harm has come to Dinner, it’s still pecking away at our front lawn.

Mary Cokenour

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

No Wrong Way Touchdown with These ‘tizers.

First and ten, huddle; tension in the air as the players take the field; captain calls off numbers, “13, 9, 45…hut, hut, hut”, the ball is thrown, no…wait…hidden pass off to the running back, tight end guarding his flank down the field…..going, going…holy cow….TOUCHDOWN!!!  The crowd erupts in a roar; coach of the opposing team throws his clipboard, almost scalping a benched player. 

Its football season, American fans are pumped up and excited; faces painted with team colors, jerseys of favorite players freshly washed and worn with team pride.  At the stadium, beer, hot pretzels, brats on a bun might be the typical fare to be purchased at exuberant prices.  Then there are those who planned for weeks on going to the game; tailgating parties in the parking lot.  Tables filled with platters and trays of any food imaginable; and more cooking on the grill. 

The stay-at-home fans do the same type of planning; who makes the best dish to bring, and who gets stuck buying all the beer.  Neighbors bring over extra tables and chairs, no walking room, so just start passing the food.  Keep the fried onions away from Uncle Harry, you know how badly he gets gas; geez Sam, get your elbow out of my tater salad!

What we know as football today was a branch off of British rugby in 1863, and it’s come a long way since then.  Playing with no protective gear gave birth to leather helmets thin as a glove which facilitated development of stronger, heavily padded, hard shell helmets.  Talk about a contact sport, at first, football was a free for all, similar to rugby, with all team players massing on top of the poor smuck who had the ball.  Debilitating injuries, deaths forced the development of rules, regulations, formation strategies, and the roles each athlete played within the game.

Throughout American football’s history, there have been moments of drama, sadness, and hilarity.  Take, for example, the 1929 Rose Bowl game between California’s Golden Bears and Georgia Tech’s Yellow Jackets.  Midway in the 2nd quarter, Golden Bears center, Roy Riegels picks up the fumble, bounces off a Georgia Tech tackler and begins running towards the wrong goal posts.  Georgia Tech ends up with a 2-0 leads which put them in the position to win the game; and Riegels obtains the nickname, “Wrong Way”.

Now here are a few appetizer ideas for your tailgate party, and you won’t be going the wrong way with these.



1 ½ lbs. lean ground beef
½ cup each of diced red bell peppers and onion
1 Tbsp. minced garlic
1 (15 oz.) can whole black beans, drained and rinsed
1 (14.5 oz.) can diced tomatoes with chilies
1 (1.75 oz.) package taco seasoning
1 (8 oz.) package shredded Mexican blend or Colby-Monterey Jack cheese
Tortilla chips
Sour cream


In a large skillet, medium-high heat, brown the ground beef and drain excess grease; set aside. In same skillet, sauté peppers and onions till soft, but not browned.

Return beef to skillet; add garlic, beans, tomatoes and taco seasoning; mix and let cook for 10 minutes; stir occasionally. Reduce heat to low; spread cheese over mixture, cover and let cook an additional 5 minutes.

Serve with chips, sour cream and/or guacamole.

Makes 6 servings.

Note: mild, medium or hot is the cook’s option for both the diced tomatoes with chilies and the taco seasoning.

Option:  Deep fry waffle fries until golden brown, top with meat mixture, sour cream and/guacamole.  Who says nachos can only be made with tortilla chips!?!

Sicilian Pepperoni Rolls


12 oz. homemade pizza dough or 1 canister of Pillsbury Classic Pizza Dough
1 cup olive oil
2 Tbsp. Italian herbal mix
1 cup Italian cheese mix
1/2 cup diced pepperoni
Grated Parmesan cheese


Preheat oven to 425F. Spray a jelly roll pan with nonstick cooking spray.

Lightly flour a wooden board and roll out the dough to a 14"x20" rectangle; mix the olive oil with the herbal mixture and lightly brush the rolled out dough. Sprinkle the cheese and pepperoni over the oiled dough. Starting at the top edge of dough, carefully begin rolling towards the bottom edge; make sure to keep the roll tight; the oil will help seal the roll.

Cut off a little of the far ends of the roll; cut the roll into one inch pieces. Carefully transfer each cut piece to the jelly roll pan, cut side up. Lightly dab the herbal oil mixture, and sprinkle a little grated Parmesan cheese, onto each piece.

Bake for 15-20 minutes; until dough is golden brown. Remove to serving plate and serve with dipping sauce.

Makes 20 pieces.

So, in the immortal words of coach, Vince Lombardi, “Football is a great deal like life in that it teaches that work, sacrifice, perseverance, competitive drive, selflessness and respect for authority is the price that each and every one of us must pay to achieve any goal that is worthwhile.”

Mary Cokenour

Thursday, August 31, 2017

Beautiful Evening for a Farmers Market.

After a three year hiatus, the Monticello Farmers Market has come back to this small town.  Bayley Hedglin, Executive Director of the San Juan Chamber of Commerce, organized the event which took place in the rear parking area of the Monticello Welcome Center.   Featured vendors did not consist of only farmers, but craftspeople and food trucks; fruits, vegetables, canned goods, handmade jewelry, crafts and Green River melons.  From the hours of 5pm to 8pm, locals and curious visitors were able to stock up on “Buy Fresh, Buy Local”; and get a free cookbook from San Juan Health.

Los Tacho’s authentic Mexican held center stage, patrons waiting patiently in line for enchiladas, chile rellano, tacos, burritos and more.  Instead I hula’d down to Benyaki’s to take my taste buds on a Hawaiian vacation; Kalua pork (shredded, moist pork with a sweet, savory taste), fried noodles, white rice and a thick, rich teriyaki sauce.   So I went home with a passenger seat full of veggies for slicing and dicing; refreshing melon for dessert, after a delicious Hawaiian inspired dinner.  …and to boot, I was able to order a 25 pound box of tomatoes from one of the farmers (name of Morgan); it’s homemade sauce making time!

The Farmers Market will occur twice more before the end of the fall season.  Go to the Facebook page (, Like and make sure to Follow to get notices on your Newsfeed.  Looking to become a vendor?  Contact Bayley at (435) 459-9700 for more information.   “Buy Fresh, Buy Local” is showing support for our local farmers, it just makes perfect sense! 

Mary Cokenour

Sunday, August 27, 2017

Difference a Change Can Create.

Change, change can be quite annoying at times.  Rattling around in a purse or pocket, those elusive pennies never there when needed; or too many taking up precious space.  For many years there has been consideration of doing away with the penny.  Has not happened yet as that would lead into another type of change altogether.

Change, “the act or instance to make or become different”, “to alter, vary or modify to make or become different”.  Change is evolution, growth, development which goes hand in hand with making or creating something different.  This is often sort by some, but feared by the majority; it is comforting to be one of many, then alone on an unsure roadway.  I believe there lies the rub; to be different, unique, in a smaller grouping where one can stand out.  Why be different when the “same old, same old” has always been good enough?  Why, why be good when there can be better!?!

When it comes to recipes, a first attempt will be following word for word, measure by measure, ingredient by ingredient; no changes or differences.  The resulting culinary creation might be liked, even enjoyed so much to spark the word love; pretty close to perfection.  However, I am an adventurer in, as well as out of, the kitchen; my pantry is a wonderland of spices, herbs, seasonings and sauces from around the world.  The second, third, even more attempts are play time; changing original designs to make/create different tastes, textures.  The ultimate goal is to be better, not just good!

As an example, let’s use Campbell Soups’ recipe for One-Dish Chicken & Stuffing Bake, a simple dish to make and very tasty too.  (Recipe from:


4 cups Pepperidge Farm® Herb Seasoned Stuffing
1 3/4 pounds skinless, boneless chicken breast halves
1/4 teaspoon paprika
1 can Campbell's® Condensed Cream of Mushroom Soup or Campbell's Condensed 98% Fat Free Cream of Mushroom Soup
1/3 cup milk
1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley or 1 teaspoon dried parsley flakes

How to Make It

Step 1

Heat the oven to 400°F.  While the oven is heating, prepare the stuffing according to the package directions.

Step 2

Spoon the stuffing across the center of a 3-quart shallow baking dish. Place the chicken on either side of the stuffing. Sprinkle the chicken with the paprika.

Step 3

Stir the soup, milk and parsley in a small bowl. Pour the soup mixture over the chicken.  Cover the baking dish.

Step 4

Bake for 30 minutes or until the chicken is cooked through.

Made it once or twice as is, very good and no leftovers, but not good enough, so I made it again and again; changing ingredients like cream of celery, instead of cream of mushroom; using cut up, precooked chicken instead of raw chicken breasts; adding frozen or canned vegetables to see which tasted better.  Each time it went from good to better, better to betterer to betterest; yes, yes, I know I am not using proper English and I can hear the groans of teachers everywhere.  Each time though, it was a delicious concoction devoured by all who tasted it; success in making different!

So now I will share with you my latest changes to Campbell’s most basic recipe.  Do not fear change my friends; accept, embrace and remember most of all; Fear is the Mind Killer.

Chicken Corn Stuffing Bake


1 box (10 oz.) Mrs. Cubbison’s Herb Seasoned Cube Stuffing (personally like this brand)
2 cups homemade chicken broth (or used canned)
2 cups precooked chicken, cut into small pieces
1 can (15 oz.) whole kernel sweet corn (do not drain liquid)
1 tsp. each ground black pepper, garlic powder, onion powder
1 can (15 oz.) sweet cream styled corn
1 bag (8 oz.) shredded, medium Cheddar cheese


 Preheat oven to 350F; spray a 9” x 13” baking dish with nonstick spray.

In a large bowl, mix together cube stuffing, broth, precooked chicken, whole kernel corn and seasonings.  Spread out evenly in baking dish; spread creamed corn evenly over all; spread Cheddar cheese evenly over creamed corn. 

Cover with aluminum foil and bake for 30 minutes; remove foil, bake another 20 minutes; cheese will be completely melted and browning at dish edges.  Remove from oven, let rest 10 minutes before serving.

Makes 8 servings.

Mary Cokenour

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

So, What's with the Potatoes?

Thank Your Farmers!

On Saturday, August 5, 2017, I attended another lecture at Edge of the Cedars Museum; topic being, "The Four Corners Potato".  This interesting and informative lecture was delivered by Dr. Lisbeth Louderback, Curator of Archaeology and Dr. Bruce Pavlik, Director of Conservation; both of University of Utah in Salt Lake City.

Drs. Bruce Pavlik and Lisbeth Louderback

During an excavation of ruins in the Escalante Valley (aka Potato Valley and now you'll find out why the nickname), residue was found on manos and metates (used for grinding grains).  After carefully wrapping the artifacts, individually in plastic, to avoid contamination, the residue was genetically tested.  Imagine the surprise of finding starch granules, not of wheat or corn, but from a species of potato!  Sorry Idaho, but looks like the ancestral Puebloans of Utah were one up on the potato industry approximately 11, 000 years ago. 

Question though, were the potatoes always here or brought up through Mexico and traded for?  Exploring the landscape surrounding the ruin site, plants of Solanum jamesii were found growing and thriving.  To answer the question just asked, studies were done extensively throughout the 4 states of Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico and Utah; this species seemed to be only growing in the 4 Corners region.  San Juan County, Utah?  Correct!  Thriving plants can be still found in the Newspaper Rock area, so stay on the path when hiking around and don’t trample the plant life.

Newspaper Rock

Macaw Shawl found by Kent Frost, housed at Edge of the Cedars Museum

Let me get back to the question of, "So, What's with the Potatoes?"  This was asked of me by another attendee of the lecture who didn't understand why I was there.  First off, it concerns a food item, not just of this region, but potatoes, and who doesn't enjoy those?  Secondly, being able to input historical information into food articles gives the reader more "brain food".  These tubers may be tiny (average size equal to adult thumbnail), but they are powerful in growth and nutrition; think of them as little superheroes.  Drought and disease resistant; the plants are intelligent as they wait for monsoon season to provide needed moisture.  In one experiment, a plant placed in a ten gallon container produced over 100 delicious spuds.  S. jamesii has twice the amount of protein, zinc and manganese; and 3 times calcium and iron of the common potato (S. tuberosum) sold in markets all over the USA.  Slight evidence has been found of a compound within the potato that may effectively be used as a preventative and/or curative for cancer.

How did the ancestral Puebloans process, store and eat S. jamesii?  Roasted (residue found in cooking pots), boiled unpeeled and eaten as is, sometimes raw, or placed into niches of the pueblo walls, dried, then ground into flour.  Need more modern day techniques and recipes?  San Juan Record carries a book to help you out, The Forgotten Skills of Self-Sufficiency used by the Mormon Pioneers by Caleb Warnock.  Interacting with the local Natives, the pioneers needed to learn from them; what was safe to eat, how to grow and harvest; definitely how to cook and store for the harsh winter ahead.  At Edge of the Cedars Museum, Wild Plants and Native Peoples of the Four Corners by William Dunmire and Gail Tierney is a wonderful guide of the knowledge the ancestral Puebloans passed down to their modern descendants.

Which brings me to the 4 Corners Potato Stewardship Program (yes, the Cokenour family did sign up) to help propagate and grow these wild potatoes.  While Solanum jamesii thrives in the other three states, often on Navajo, Hopi and Zuni reservation land, it is at a critical point of extinction within Utah.  Whether a small space gardener, like our family; major landowners; even farmers with ample fields, stewards are needed to keep this food source viable.  Here is another way for the stewards of San Juan County to show how residents protect our land!

To read a full report of the founding of the 11,000 year old potato, or sign up to become a steward, go to:

Mary Cokenour