Sunday, April 5, 2020

Comfort During Isolation.

Day 10, or is it 11…12, I have lost count, of quarantine.  Once again I have been asked to share a homemade meal, I posted about on Facebook.  I am sorry, but with my husband being an “essential” employee, we worry daily if he will become infected.  As much as I want to say yes to sharing, I do not know how I would handle the guilt, if someone became ill, due to being kind.

This is what life has come down to during the Covid-19 crisis.  Will the virus infiltrate our bodies; when will it be safe to go to a store or restaurant without worrying? Will the situation worsen to the point of having the military closing off highways, and nightly curfews?

My husband and myself post funny videos on Facebook, make up funny memes.  Laughter will lighten the mood, chase the tendrils of fear from lodging into the brain…we hope.  I encourage folks to watch my food vlogs on Youtube, few as they are.  I am a character, you will laugh while learning to cook and/or bake.

There are many articles being written about the virus; some with updated and factual information.  Some seem to be taken from a science fiction novel, and we wonder when the zombie apocalypse will be announced.  Health, state and other governmental agencies seem to have the best information.  Your cousin, coworker, neighbor down the street?  Not so much; do not take too much heed to rumors, especially when they seem to wallow in fear.  I am sure you have heard this many times, so off the soap box I descend.

So now to some comfort cooking that can easily be made at home; a savory soup for lunch or dinner.  This recipe almost became a product of the Progresso company, but it contained two, too many ingredients, so did not make the cut.  Cannot win them all, but you never know if you do not try, right?  The meatballs are a mixture of beef and turkey; the turkey actually gives a more tender texture to them.  An all-beef meatball has been tried, but seemed to be a bit too firm, when matched with the tender vegetables.  We have found that no other side is actually needed with this soup, no crusty bread or simple side salad; it is an all-in-one meal.

Once again, bored children at home; bored to insanity yourselves…be creative.  Write poetry or short stories; paint, draw or sketch pictures; stick figures count!  When it comes to meals though, become a master chef or baker, even if it is only in your own mind.  Children can be your sous chef, and who knows, one day they may even graduate from a culinary institute like the C.I.A.!  Never say never; chin up; especially when stirring the soup.  Yes, do not put your face into the pot, especially when the liquid is bubbling.

Meatball Soup

2 Tbsp. olive oil
3 medium onions, diced
6 cups beef broth
1 and ½ cups cold water
4 medium potatoes, cut into ½ inch pieces
1 (8 oz.) bag of baby carrots, cut in halves
2 lbs. lean ground beef
1 lb. ground turkey
1 tsp. each dried savory (or sage if you cannot find savory), garlic powder, onion powder
1 and ½ cups plain bread crumbs (dried, fine ground variety)
3 eggs, beaten
Grated cheese

Heat oil, on high, in a 6 quart stock pot; sauté onions till tender, about 3 minutes.  Add beef broth and water; bring to a boil.  Lower heat to medium; add in potatoes and carrots.

Preheat oven to 350F.  In a large bowl, combine beef, turkey, seasoning, bread crumbs and eggs.  Mix together thoroughly; form meatballs of about a 1 inch diameter; makes about 60 meatballs.

Place meatballs on baking sheet and bake for about 10 minutes; just to brown the meat, not cook all the way through.  Dab each meatball on a paper towel to remove excess grease before putting into the stock pot.  Cook for 30-40 minutes, or until vegetables are very tender.

When serving, sprinkle grated cheese on top of soup.

Makes 8-10 servings.

Mary Cokenour

Monday, March 30, 2020

Hoarders and Ramen Noodles.

Still trying to figure out why hoarders need, cases of paper towels and toilet paper, to ward off the Coronavirus aka Covid-19.  Then there are the food hoarders who obviously need Ramen noodles to survive the "Stay Home!" order.  I have to thank these hoarders, as they seem to have a craving for the chicken and beef flavored noodles.  The shrimp flavored?  Plenty of those on the shelf, and I can make some tasty meals with these.

That’s exactly what I did for lunch today; pulled together some things out of the seasoning cabinet, freezer and pantry.  As I added them to my Wok, I mentally figured out the amounts and what the combination would taste like.  After all my years of cooking and experimentation, I’ve gotten rather good at this method.

Technically, the recipe I made should give six to eight servings.  In my home, make that four to six; yeah, it’s that good, and very easy to create.

Stovetop Shrimp Ramen


5 cups water
2 Tbsp. soy sauce
2 Tbsp. sweet chili sauce
3 packages Ramen noodles, shrimp flavor
1 lb. peeled & deveined shrimp (medium size)
1 (10 oz.) package sugar snap peas, thawed


In Wok, or large skillet, high heat, bring water, soy sauce, chili sauce and contains of Ramen seasoning packets to soft boil.  Add in Ramen noodles, shrimp and snap peas; stir together and bring back to a boil.  Reduce heat to low and let simmer for 10 minutes.

Makes 6-8 servings.

Mary Cokenour

Wednesday, March 25, 2020

Pie, No, Cake, No, What Is It?

What dessert is called a pie, but is truly a cake? The answer is Boston Cream Pie which is actually a cake which had its layers baked in pie tins known as "Washington Pie Plates".  This dessert was created by French Chef Sanzian to commemorate the opening of the Parker House Hotel in 1856.  Now the dessert he created was more elaborate than what we typically see in Boston Cream Pie or Cake, both names are commonly interchanged, today.

Instead of pie plates, a 9 or 10 inch springform pan is used to bake the cake which is then divided into two layers.  The Boston Cream Cake is not a dessert that can be made at the spur of the moment; there are four crucial steps.  First the sponge cake, denser and less crumbly than regular vanilla cake, needs to be mixed together and baked.  Secondly is the pastry cream; a thick, rich pudding containing corn starch to help it hold up under the weight of the top layer of cake.  Third, and oh so important, is the chocolate ganache; made from a cooked combination of chopped chocolate and heavy cream which cools quickly to make a rich, firm topping to the cake.  Typically for the ganache, milk or semi-sweet chocolate is used, but I prefer Ghirardelli Bittersweet Chocolate.  It melts quickly, the texture is smooth and the sheen is glossy; the bittersweet chocolate complements the pastry cream and sponge cake wonderfully.  Step four is the construction of the cake, not too difficult and the results are worth waiting for.

Why this dessert cannot be a spur of the moment decision to make is that the cake and cream should be cool before the layering process begins; otherwise you will be looking at one hot mess oozing off the plate.  Now wait, let me correct myself a bit; this can be made spur of the moment by using a premade pound cake and instant pudding; might look pretty, but it won't taste the same as the authentic cake.

Boston Cream Pie (Cake)

Step One: The Sponge Cake


3 Tbsp. melted butter, cooled to room temperature
6 large eggs
1 cup sugar
3 tsp. pure vanilla extract
1 cup flour, sifted
1/4 tsp. salt


Preheat oven to 350F.  Using parchment paper, cut a circle to line bottom of a 9 or 10 inch springform pan.  Smear a little butter onto bottom and sides of pan first, sprinkle a light dusting of flour; put parchment paper circle on pan bottom and lightly smear butter on the paper.

In a large bowl, mix the melted butter and sugar together until fluffy and a yellow color.  Add the extract and half the flour; mix for one minute before adding remaining flour and salt; mix to incorporate well. Pour batter into pan and bake for 25-30 minutes; top will be golden brown and spring back when lightly pressed. Remove from oven and let cool on a wire rack; do not attempt to remove the springform pan.

Step Two: The Pastry Cream


3 1/2 cups milk
4 large eggs
3/4 cup sugar
1/8 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. corn starch
3 Tbsp. flour
3 Tbsp. cold butter, cut into small pieces
3 tsp. pure vanilla extract


While the cake is baking, make the cream by first heating the milk, medium heat, in a large sauce pan till hot, but do not boil or scald.

While milk is heating, lightly beat together the eggs, sugar, salt; sift together the corn starch and flour and gradually mix into the wet ingredients till well incorporated.

Gradually begin mixing in the hot milk and mix together for a minute; place entire mixture back into the sauce pan.  On high heat, begin whisking the mixture; it will begin to thicken and boil; continue to whisk for 3 minutes.  Remove from heat, add the butter and vanilla and continue to stir until butter is completely melted and incorporated.  Place mixture into a large bowl, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 4 hours.

Step Three: The Chocolate Ganache

This step should not be done until you are ready to put the cake together; the chocolate cools very quickly and will harden in the pan if you wait too long to pour it onto the cake.


1/4 cup heavy cream
1 cup chopped chocolate (milk or semi-sweet is traditional; bittersweet is my personal choice)


In a small saucepan, medium heat, heat the cream until bubbles just begin to form around the rim of the pan. Add the chocolate and stir until partially melted; remove from heat and continue to stir until smooth. The ganache will thicken as it cools.

Note: to make a dipping sauce for fruit, use 1/2 cup chopped chocolate to 1/4 cup heavy cream; it will still be thick, but not harden as it cools.

Step Four: The Construction

Remove the cake from the springform pan and the parchment paper from bottom of cake; cut cake horizontally to make two separate layers; place one layer on serving platter.  Evenly spread the pastry cream over this layer of cake.  Place the second layer of cake over top.

The ganache should have just been made, so be ready to use a spatula to scrape it out of the pan onto the top of the cake and spread it evenly over the top.  Do not worry if some of it oozes down the side; it just adds more character to your cake.  The ganache will become firm quickly, so you can serve the cake immediately, or refrigerate it, so the flavors will meld together.  It would be better to place a few toothpicks in the top before wrapping the cake in plastic wrap; otherwise the ganache will adhere to the wrap.

Servings can be 8-12, depending on the size of the slices you are cutting.  For us, bigger is better.

As we are all aware, we are in a national medical crisis; people are at home, worrying over the situation, many with children.  This is a time in which you can help yourself, and your family, by being creative and learn things together.  Cooking and baking teach math, logistical, constructive, and creative skills; things that children will need as they mature, and grow into independent adults.  Maybe you are by yourself, then do things special for yourself; things that will make you smile and feel happy.

Fear is the mind killer, and as with all things, this too shall pass.  Be safe.

Mary Cokenour

Wednesday, March 11, 2020

Hash Browns vs. Home Fries

With St. Patrick’s Day just around the corner, what better way to honor the Irish then to write about the potato?  In August, 2017, my article on the Four Corners Potato Project appeared in the San Juan Record.  The potato was first domesticated in an area of South America which is now known as Peru and Bolivia, between 8000 and 5000 BC.  Makes sense that it traveled upwards into Mexico, and the southern section of North America.  Now how did it get to Europe, and most especially, Ireland?  Explorers, adventurers, and conquerors of course.

Sir Walter Raleigh brought potatoes, from the New World, to Ireland in 1589; planting on 40,000 acres of land, near Cork.  About 40 years later, the potato had spread across Europe, being found easier to grow and cultivate than other staple crops, such as wheat and oats.

While the potato became a main food source in Ireland, it also became a major reason for the Irish to board ships, and sail to America.  “The Irish Potato Famine, also known as the Great Hunger, began in 1845 when a fungus-like organism called Phytophthora infestans (or P. infestans) spread rapidly throughout Ireland. The infestation ruined up to one-half of the potato crop that year, and about three-quarters of the crop over the next seven years.”  (Source:

While there are hundreds of varieties of the potato sold within the United States, there are more varieties worldwide.  In the Andes, there are approximately 4000 (!) Native varieties, but unfortunately not all are edible.  In the United States, the ways to cook a potato are just as diverse as the varieties: steamed, boiled, roasted, fried, mashed, shredded, sliced, diced, plain, seasoned, mixed with vegetables, in a casserole, as a side, and so on, and so forth.  In this article, I will be focusing on two methods: hash browns and home fries.

Now why these two particular styles?  Long story short, a waitress at a restaurant served me hash browns, when the menu clearly stated home fries.  I questioned her about the “mix up”, to which she stated, “They are the same thing!” and walked away.  As much as she had poked my ire, Energy can neither be created nor destroyed; energy can only be transferred or changed from one form to another.  The energy of my ire, was exchanged into a lesser tip. 

Hash browns are typically potatoes that are shredded, then fried (butter or oil) in a skillet, or on a grill top, until both sides are browned, and crisped.  My husband and I do find this style to be, well, boring.  When I make hash browns, it is on the same morning I have fried up bacon in the skillet.  The shredded potatoes, diced green and red bell peppers, diced red onion (sweeter), and black pepper go into the bacon fat sitting in my skillet!  Five minutes on one side before flipping it over, five more minutes; another flip and then I just let it sit and brown away for 5 minutes; flip, another five minutes.  20 minutes (on high heat) and the most awesome hash browns!  That's right, I am a kitchen doctor; I doctored those shredded potatoes until they were ready to jump out of the skillet and join a conga line.

Home fries, aka Country fried, are potatoes that have been sliced (1/4 inch thickness), or roughly chopped (size consistency though gives uniform cooking); again, fried in a skillet or grill top.  However, this is where the experience of a cook truly shines with the taste, texture and consistency.  Butter, oil, or a combination of both plus seasoning, and added vegetables, usually onions and garlic, sometimes bell peppers.  Sort of like what I do with my version of hash browns.  Now for those who have gotten a version of home fries that is simply fried up, bland potatoes; allow me a moment to shed a tear for your loss.

My version of home fries can be eaten as a side with any meal; breakfast, lunch or dinner.  In fact, the evening, of the previously mentioned breakfast, we had grilled steak with home fries, and we were quite sated.

Home Fried Potatoes


1 tsp. olive oil
4 large potatoes, cut into ¼ inch slices; leave skin on (red skinned are best, but any potato will do)
2 large onions, slivered (aka Frenched)
Seasoning mixture: 4 Tbsp. garlic powder, 2 Tbsp. black pepper, ¼ tsp red pepper flakes, 1 Tbsp. dried basil, ½ tsp. sea salt, 2 Tbsp. paprika
6 Tbsp. butter (each Tbsp. sliced into 4ths) (or margarine, if you must)


Grease the bottom and sides of a 2 quart microwave safe casserole dish with olive oil. Start layering potatoes, onions, seasoning mix and 1 Tbsp. butter; should make 4 layers of each, total.  Reserve 2 Tbsp. of butter to use for frying later.

Cover dish, microwave, on high setting, for 8 minutes. Mix contents, microwave for additional 8 minutes.

In a large skillet, on high heat, melt reserved butter. Place contents from microwave dish into skillet; fry potatoes until browned, about 10 - 15 minutes.

Makes 6-8 servings.

There you have it, hash browns vs. home fries, or my version of this tournament that will, most likely, never air on pay-per-view.

…and now for a little self-promotion, I am now doing Food Vlogs.  That’s right, you get to see my crazy self, teaching you how to cook recipes such as Lasagna, Homemade Pasta Sauce, Cream Puffs, Garlic Bread and more.  Also included are Food Shorties – Kitchen Tips, Tricks and Hacks.  My Youtube Channel can be found at:  which is really long to type in, so just go to Youtube ( ), type my name, Mary Cokenour, into the Search box, and there I am!  Please Subscribe, and you’ll be notified every time a new food vlog is uploaded.

Food Vlogs scheduled for the future are Meatballs, Ham and Bean Soup, Copycat of Papa John’s “Papadias”, and lots more!

Mary Cokenour

Wednesday, February 26, 2020

Copycatting Papa John.

Time to copycat another food item, this time from Papa John's.  Papadias are inspired by the ‘piadina,’ an Italian folded flatbread sandwich from Northern Italy, but Papa John's uses their original pizza dough instead of flatbread.  Sort of like making a calzone, but not sealing the ends.

There are four varieties, each hand-stretched, oven-baked and hand-folded to order. 

1 - Italian: Italian flatbread-style sandwich made with Alfredo sauce, spicy Italian sausage, salami, real cheese made from mozzarella and banana peppers; served with a pizza sauce dipping cup.

2 - Philly Cheesesteak: Italian flatbread-style sandwich made with sliced Philly steak, fresh-cut onions and green peppers, real cheese made from mozzarella and "Philly" sauce; served with a garlic sauce dipping cup.

3 - Grilled BBQ Chicken & Bacon: Italian flatbread-style sandwich made with grilled chicken, bacon, fresh-cut onions and real cheese made from mozzarella, drizzled with sweet and smoky BBQ sauce; served with a BBQ sauce dipping cup.

4 - Meatball Pepperoni: Italian flatbread-style sandwich made with spicy meatballs, pepperoni, pizza sauce, real cheese made from mozzarella and classic Italian seasoning; served with a pizza sauce dipping cup.

With the name ending with "dia", you can't help but think, "quesadilla"?  Normally made with tortillas, a quesadilla has a filling (yes, you can use what's listened up above), placed on a grill; the tortilla is browned, folded, cut into sections, and ready to eat with a favorite dipping sauce, salsa, and/or guacamole.

When in the mood for pizza, but no fresh dough available, having a package of tortillas comes in handy for a quick, crispy pizza on the fly.  We keep Naan bread in stock as well, and it makes a pretty tasty, spontaneously in the mood for, pizza.

So, why not make one of these "Papadias", but using the original bread type, a flatbread, and that is what Naan is.  By the way, I named my version, MamaMiadias.

To keep ingredients from falling onto my oven bottom, I preheated (tempered) a 16 inch pizza pan, in the oven, at 425F.  Just in case any oils happen to leak through (holes in the bottom of the pan for air circulation), I also have a sheet of heavy duty foil on the oven's bottom.

American (left), Italian (right)
While preheating was going on, I prepped the Naan bread.  One was an American cheeseburger style, with seasoned, and cooked, ground beef (salt and cracked black pepper only), slices of bell peppers, onions and shredded Cheddar cheese.  

The second was an Italian style, with the cooked ground beef containing an Italian herb blend, the bell peppers and onions, diced tomatoes, but shredded mozzarella and provolone cheeses.

Once the oven hit 425F, I placed the prepped breads onto the pizza pan, popped it back into the oven (on the center rack), and let it bake for 15 minutes.  Once out of the oven, I quickly folded the breads and cut them in half.  

Holy Dias Batman!  They were so full of flavor and texture; no need to dip into a sauce, or add anything else.  We did try a couple of sauces, but they actually took away from the initial flavor instead of  enhancing.  This was a truly satisfying sandwich!

...and so, the MamaMiadia was born in the Cokenour kitchen.  Of course, Papa John's gets credit for introducing the idea, to us, via television commercials.

Mary Cokenour

Saturday, February 15, 2020

Valentine's Day Lunch at Ja-Roen Thai Sushi.

Ja-Roen Thai Sushi

380 South Main Street
Monticello, UT, 84535

Phone: (435) 587-4000

Hours of Operation:  11am – 9pm; Monday thru Sunday

Facebook Page:

Valentine's Day, usually paired with a romantic dinner, but alas, some folks have to work during the dinner hours.  That was our situation this year, and we decided to have lunch out instead, at Ja-Roen Thai Sushi.   We didn't mind too much, as we knew that owner, Sam, and his son would take fine care of us.

We began with two appetizers, first Veggie Tempura (sweet potato, zucchini, onion rings, broccoli) in a crunchy tempura batter, served with a lightly sweetened dipping sauce.  Now if you're really looking for a small, but satisfying lunch, pair this with one of the many soup offerings available.  Our second appetizer was Thai Dumplings; a pork/veggie minced mixture wrapped in a soft and totally yummy wonton wrapper, steamed to absolute perfection.

As in the name, Thai Sushi, no meal is complete without ordering one of the many specialty sushi rolls.  California Roll paired well with the other dishes we chose; crab, avocado, cucumber and masago with accompanying pickled ginger and wasabi.  This roll is cut into eight sections, so four for each of us, and gone in a flash before the main dishes arrived.  So good!

BBQ Pork Noodle is served with rice noodles; it can come wet (in a soup broth), or dry (pork and noodles only).  The pork is very similar to Chinese Cantonese Char Siu which is cooked in a mixture of soy sauce, honey, brown sugar, rice wine, hoisin sauce, red bean curd, and Chinese five-spice powder.  We have been cravings this pork dish, since moving from the east coast, and here it was, just Thai style!

Gai Kua is similar to, again Chinese Cantonese Chow Ho Fun, except using Thai herbs and seasonings.  It normally comes with chicken mixed with lettuce and bean sprouts.  However, Sam remembered how we love seafood, so added shrimp and calamari (squid) to the mix.  It was so tempting to eat every little bite, but wait, there's more!

Sam had purchased enough elk meat to offer only four plates of Spicy Elk, and we snagged one!  The elk meat is sliced thin and so, so tender; paired with bell peppers, zucchini and green beans.  The brown sauce is rich in flavor, and the spiciness doesn't hit until swallowing.  It begins at the tip of the tongue and travels along the edges; white rice is served to help tame the spiciness.  If you enjoy elk meat and spicy heat, then make sure to order this when Ja-Roen has it in stock; you snooze, you lose!

No room for dessert, and we did have take home for a late night snack, or lunch the next day.

Traveling through Monticello, Utah?  Hungry for Asian cuisine?  Don't think you like Asian cuisine?  Stop in at Ja-Roen Thai Sushi, and become pleasantly surprised with this food adventure.

Mary Cokenour

Saturday, February 8, 2020

The Old Fashioned Country Breakfast.

A Country Style Breakfast for Two.
Now I have never lived, nor worked, on a farm, so cannot truly attest to farm life.  I have gone to Amish homesteads that served family style meals, and the money paid was highly worth it.  Another reason I miss living in PA, the variety of foods, not found here in Utah.  Oh, the attached links, or long loops, of country sausages filled with beef, pork, or a combination of both.  Some containing apple, sage or others types of fruits and herbs; grilled or pan fried, they were always sought after.  Closest we get out here is from the local, or super, markets; way overpriced and just not right; the taste and texture are just not right. Oh, then there were the farmers markets, the butchers who sold those sausages, also sold thick cut, yet lean, bacon.  I have tried so many brands that are packaged, but, once again, nothing seems to come close to the taste and texture of bacon from the butcher.

Country Sausage, King's Meat Market, Green Dragon Farmers Market, Ephrata, PA
Bacon, Lancaster Farmers Market, Lancaster, PA

Recently I tried a new brand of bacon, Buckley Farms, and their price was pretty reasonable, compared to others.  It wasn't until I began preparing it that I noticed, up in the far right corner, a rectangle red box with the words, "Gluten Free".  'cuse me, what!?!  Bacon is meat from a pig, there is no gluten in meat, poultry,'s from grain!

Oh, I just had to find out what the heck this was about.  Bacon is only made out of pork belly, pepper, salt, sugar, spices, smoke flavor, and nitrates: no gluten products.  However, some companies cannot make any guarantees, due to the potential of cross-contamination, between equipment used at processing facilities that also process products that do have gluten within.  You know, sort of like buying a product that has a warning of, "equipment used may also be used for peanuts, nuts and soy".  It's not in the product you purchased, as an ingredient, but might have slipped in during processing, due to the equipment having trace elements still within it.

Buckley Farms' marketing team is smart with this.  Now folks, especially those with a true allergy to gluten, will know, for a fact, that this product won't make them sick.  Those, of course, who jumped onto the gluten free bandwagon, will snatch up the product as well.  Buckley Farms guarantees there is no gluten, no how, no way, in their bacon.  The other brands?  Well, you'll just have to take your chances, right?

Me, I like packages that allow you to see exactly what you are buying.  If it has lots of meat, and little fat; that's what I want!  Some packages, you don't know till you get home, and it's often disappointing.

So all this leads me to my version of a country style breakfast...bacon, country sausage, eggs, toasted bread of some sort, or biscuits, and potatoes, hash browns or home fries.  In other words, the works!

While the coffee is brewing, I begin frying up the bacon; we like it crispy, not wimpy.

Then comes the shredded potatoes, diced green and red bell peppers, diced red onion (sweeter), and black pepper...into the bacon fat sitting in my skillet!  Five minutes on one side before flipping it over, five more minutes; another flip and then I just let it sit and brown away for 5 minutes; flip, another five minutes...20 minutes (on high heat) and the most awesome hash browns.  That's right, I am a kitchen doctor; I doctored those shredded potatoes until they were ready to jump out of the skillet and join a conga line.

Bread is a mood thing, maybe I want to make biscuits, and maybe I don't.  I'm the cook, my choice, so there.  I had some nice rolls that I cut in two, toasted and slathered with butter.  Sometimes I even splurge and serve breakfast with toasted bagels, again, slathered with butter.

Now while the biscuits might be baking, or bread item is toasting, the eggs take up residence in the skillet.  Could be scrambled, could be over easy; this day, it was over easy with a dash of ground black pepper over each.  In PA, they call these "dippy eggs", cause they are cooked just right to dip the toast into that yummy yolk.  So good!   We like to put the "dippy eggs" over the hash browns and then mix them in.  A diner we enjoyed going to called this, "Irish style" and served corned beef hash with it...drool!!!

A Country Style Breakfast fit for King and Queen Cokenour.
All cooked, plated and ready for eating; busy day ahead and we need to get stuffed as we're not sure when we'll have time for another meal.  Wow, I remember when folks would come over to help us with a project, and I think they volunteered just to get breakfast.  True friends still in Pennsylvania and we miss them a whole lot!

Mary Cokenour

Thursday, February 6, 2020

Breads From Betsy's Kitchen - A Book Review.

I am going to make a random guess, and say that I have over 100 books regarding cooking and baking.  Many I have purchased, some given as gifts, I have even won a few via Goodreads Giveaways.  Over the years, I have used many religiously, let others gather inches of dust, and given many, many away...just to receive more in kind.

I love the smell of baking, especially when it comes to yeast.  There is something so comforting in the smell of baking yeast breads and rolls.  Maybe it relates to childhood memories of going to the local Italian bakery.  Entering into a warmth of friendly greetings and overwhelming smells of breads, rolls, pastries and cookies.  Hugging loaves of crusty, sesame seed covered Italian bread, and the anticipation of munching on that goodness, slathered with melting butter.

So, when Breads From Betsy's Kitchen, by Betsy Oppenneer, was displayed in a Barnes and Nobles bookstore, it was the cover which naturally called to me first.  It was a kitchen scene that I have always wanted for my own, and still covet to this day.  Yes, I am one of those women who dreams of owning a farm type home, with a large country kitchen; wooden rafters on the ceiling, counters and cabinets all around, room for table and chairs, and a professional stove with gas burners, oven, and grill.  This would be heaven for me!

I'm still young (61 going on 21), it could still happen!

Anyway, it's been only recently that I was able to finally pull out this baking book, and begin playing with the recipes.  I have to state that our favorite is "Country Fair Egg Bread", and it very much reminds me of, well if Challah Bread married Italian Bread, and had children.  Just don't have a better way of describing it.  My hubby, Roy, simply says, "it tastes better than that stuff at the store", and uses it for everything...breakfast, lunch, dinner, snacking, sandwiches, and loves when I make French toast with it.

So, I will post a photo of the recipe, and then additional photos of making the recipe, and how it came out.  Even if you are a beginning baker, I would recommend trying out this recipe.  It is easier than it might look, and I bet you'll love the results which would include an ego boost to your confidence.

Oh, this was supposed to be a book review, ok, well, this is a great book from beginner to age-old baker.  The recipes have little stories, complete ingredient lists, and easy to understand instructions.  There are no photos of the baked goods, just a few drawings; but that means no pressure to be perfect, and I like that.  Interested in baking, or just want one for your collection, then this book will be just right for you.

Recipe for Country Fair Egg Bread
(page 34 in Breads From Betsy's Kitchen)

Proofing the Yeast.

Braided and Left to Rise

After Rising

Brushed with Egg Wash

After Baking

Crusty on the Outside; Tender and Fluffy on the Inside

If you need to see more photos, for help, please go to my article on making Challah Bread, and you will see the braiding technique.

Mary Cokenour

Tuesday, February 4, 2020

Edible Puffs of Love.

Oh puffy, puff,
Full of whippy stuff,
How do I love thee?
Let me count and see.

Crispy, yet light,
Oh such a lovely sight,
Pudding and cream,
Floating sugar a dream.

When it comes to spontaneous poetry, I am not your go-to gal.  However, when it comes to, “What dessert will fill my love’s heart with joy?” I might just have the answer to that.

Valentine’s Day is almost upon us.  A day when expressing undying love to your chosen one is, basically, mandatory.  Gifts, expensive dinner out, chocolates, cards full of sappy poetry.  It can be too much pressure for some; but to others, a wish that does not seem to ever come true.  While I do have someone I love dearly, in my life; I do remember those lonely times of wishing and wanting.  So, may I ask, if you do not mind, that if you know of anyone, who will be alone for this holiday of love, give them a surprise.  Whether it is a simple card stating, “You are not alone and are loved.” Or a little gift given with the same sentiment, well, you never know, but you might even save someone’s life with that small gesture.  

I began this New Year, with a declaration of conquering fear, especially when it comes to baking.  First fear was making Cinnamon Rolls, and it was more fun than I thought it would be.  Well, I have another recipe which I conquered, and it makes the perfect treat for Valentine’s Day, or any special occasion.  That edible puff of love I wrote about in my short, but sweet, poem…The Cream Puff!

The cream puff was invented in 1540 by Catherine de Medici's pastry chef, Pantanelli, for Catherine’s husband, Henry II of France.  Now here is a little tidbit that sort of points out the king as being a bit of a lecher.  He wanted the pastry puffs to resemble the full breasts of a voluptuous woman.  The chef, being from Florence, Italy, had no problem fulfilling the king’s request. 

The pastry dough used for cream puffs, and eclairs as well, is called pâte à choux.  The basic ingredients are water, butter, flour and eggs; there is no leavening, or rising, agent.  So what makes them puff up?  The high moisture content of the dough creates internal steam which rises, and bakes, them into round, or oblong, puffs.  Once baked, they must be poked with a sharp instrument (knife, fork tine, or toothpick), so the steam can be released.  Otherwise the puff will deflate, and you will be left with a flat pancake, of sorts.

Once baked, poked and cooled, the puff can be cut open with a sharp knife.  Lengthwise, about one quarter of an inch from the bottom is best.  Once open, there will be a layer of unbaked dough that must be removed, before filling.  Now, can you simply poke open a larger hole, and fill using a pastry bag?  Of course!  But removing the uncooked dough will give a larger empty space which means…more filling!

A typical filling for puffs and eclairs is whipped cream which is made by whisking together two cups heavy cream, ¼ cup confectioner’s sugar and ½ teaspoon vanilla extract.  Yes, different flavors of extract can be used; even a variety of flavors if making a display for an event like a wedding reception or birthday party.  However, a rich custard can be made instead by simply using a one ounce package of instant pudding mix.  While pudding mix asks for two cups of milk, substitute two cups of half and half or heavy cream; whisk for two minutes, and refrigerate for five minutes.  The pudding will be light, airy and resemble whipped cream; use any flavor you like, or a mixture as I suggested for the whipped cream.  Whatever filling you make, it will be enough for 8 to 9 large puffs.

Hint, you can also use these to make elegant sandwiches for a tea or brunch.  Make up chicken, ham, or tuna salads; do not over use the mayonnaise as you do not want your puffs to get soggy.

Measuring for a large puff is about ¼ cup, but you will have to use a spatula to get the filling out of the cup.  Instead, use a 2-inch diameter ice cream scoop which will release the filling easily, and retain the roundness.   I also suggest using an ice cream scoop for portioning out your dough before baking; again, it retains the roundness.  For miniature puffs, use a 1-inch diameter scoop for the dough, and then the filling.

Will there ever be times when your dough will not rise?  Sure will; too much humidity; did not mix the liquid and flour over the heat long enough; added the wrong size eggs; used cheap margarine (too oily) instead of pure butter; did not pay attention to the directions (very guilty of this one); kept opening the oven to check on the puffs.  If at first you do not succeed, do it again!  First time I made these, perfection; next two times were an embarrassing fail; then perfection again as I figured out why I was flubbing.

Now for the recipe as I am sure you are raring to begin baking.

Choux Pastry or Pate a Choux


1 cup water
½ cup butter
½ tsp. salt
1 cup all-purpose flour, sifted (add 2 Tbsp. for high altitude)
4 large eggs
2 Tbsp. milk (personally use 2%)
1 large egg yolk


Preheat oven to 400 F; line baking pans with parchment paper.

In a large saucepan, bring the water, butter and salt to a soft boil, over medium heat (no roiling boil!).  Immediately add the flour and begin stirring until it forms a smooth ball.  Remove from heat and let cool for 5 minutes.

Add one egg at a time and fully incorporate into the dough ball.  Continue mixing until it forms a smooth and shiny dough.  The dough will be wet, but will retain its shape when measured out. 

Drop by ¼ cup (or 2-inch ice cream scoop) onto parchment lined baking pans, 2-inches apart.  Beat together the water and egg yolk with a fork; brush lightly onto the tops of the dough mounds.

Bake for 30-35 minutes, or until golden brown.  Remove from oven and immediately poke a hole into each puff to release steam; remove each puff to a wire rack to cool.

Makes 8-9 large puffs.

Fill the puffs before serving.  If not using the same day, place in an air tight container for up to two days.  Or, place inside a freezer bag and freeze for up to two months.  To crisp up the puffs, preheat the oven to 300F, place on a baking sheet and heat for 5 to 8 minutes.

Garnishes:  Powdered sugar; fresh fruit (raspberries (black or red), blueberries, strawberries slices and fanned out); drizzled with chocolate or caramel syrup or honey; melt chocolate and dip tops of puffs in, let harden; dollop of fruit jam on top of puff.

Now that you have these edible puffs of love down pat, make them whenever you would like to have them.  Special occasion, sure; because you are simply feeling special, definitely!

Mary Cokenour