Friday, June 12, 2020

Twisted Dough

Hard or soft, salted or seeded, butter dipped or not, seasoned with herbs and/or spices, anyway it is made, is always a treat.  Can you guess what this baked goody is?  The Pretzel. 

The origins of the pretzel are dependent on which country is telling the story.  600s Italy, a monk created the “pretiolas” (little rewards) to give to good children who had memorized their prayers.  The shape represented the arms of the children, crossed while saying their prayers.  The French have a similar story referencing a monk, while Germany tells of bakers held hostage and forced to bake for royalty and high officials of the church.   However, the earliest documented (key word for historical evidence) is from 1185 Germany.  An illustration of pretzels appeared in the Hortus Delicarum, a manuscript compiled by Herrad of Landsberg, at an abbey in Alsace, which was, then, a region of Germany.  Bakers’ guilds displayed the pretzel within their crest.

By the 1400s, the pretzel had become a sign of the Holy Trinity, given out for the Christmas holiday, and even hung on trees.  In the 1700s, German immigrants followed William Penn to America, and his state of Pennsylvania (Pennsylvania Dutch aka Amish).  In 1861, Julius Sturgis opened his pretzel bakery in Lititz, PA which offered up soft and hard pretzels to consumers.  Story is that his factory was the first to develop hard pretzels, and no, it was not due to a baker falling asleep while pretzels overbaked.  The crunchy, salty snacks lasted longer in an air tight container, than soft pretzels did.  This allowed them to be sold in stores far away from Lititz, and kept on shelves much longer.  Roy and I have visited this historic place several times, and highly recommend, if visiting Lancaster County, PA, to put this on your touring to-do list.  Besides getting to feast on delicious pretzels, hands on experience in pretzel twisting is part of the factory’s tour.  (

Personally, I feel so lucky that I was able to experience, during childhood, getting a huge (as big as my head!) soft pretzel from a street vendor.  A pushcart full of soft baked pretzels, kept warm from the heat of glowing charcoal.  The saltiness mixed with a smoky aroma, the soft consistency giving comfort physically and mentally.  Talk about complete satisfaction!

Soft pretzels can be found in your grocer’s freezer; who has not heard of “Super Pretzel”?  However, I recently found a company called “Eastern Standard Provisions Co.” (, located in Maine, and the photographs on their website made my mouth crave soft pretzels.  The website describes their soft pretzels as, “a pretzel with the airy qualities of a brioche on the inside and a traditional Bavarian-style crust on the outside.”  Sold!

I purchased the “Love at First Bite” gift box which included five Wheelhouse pretzels and 3 types of salt.  Paying attention (see, I can!) to the instruction guide, the oven baked the pretzels to perfection.  Soft and blissfully chewy, the salt was a crisp bite which tickled the tongue, and the butter smeared on, before baking, had permeated the interior.

Spread butter onto pretzels

Press salt onto butter

After baking.

Inside, pretzel is hot, soft and buttery delcious!

Now whether you decide to try this product, or purchase the one from the market, here’s a huge hint; always bake them!  Microwaving ruins the entire experience.

Want to try your hand at making your own?  There are so many recipes located online, video demonstrations, and in baking books.  You will not know which recipe is right for your tastes, unless you try.  The San Juan Record Bookstore offers a variety of genre, including cooking and baking.  Stop in and see if one of their books has the right recipe for you.

Mary Cokenour

Thursday, June 4, 2020

Fish Without the Deep Fry.

I have to admit, with all the hoarding, due to Covid-19, I was able to score supplies that the hoarders ignored.  One such supply was bread crumbs - plain, Italian seasoned, and Japanese Panko.  Not only had the prices not gone up, but there was no limit, so purchasing six of each was easy.  Now some of you are thinking, "Wow, that's way too much to have in stock.".  Maybe for you, but not in my household, as we use them with many, many recipes.

However, the price of cooking oils has gone up dramatically, so the next best cooking technique is oven frying.  The coating still comes out crunchy when the bread crumbs used is the Panko.  The oil used is non-stick cooking spray; no oil absorbed by the fish, and it doesn't stick to the baking pan.

The fish recommended for this is a firm, white flesh fish such as pollack, haddock or cod.  Basically the same type of fish that could be battered, then deep fried.  I have done it with catfish, but the cooking time is longer with the fillets being very thick.  Or it could be cut in half lengthwise, but it's catfish, and who does that!?! 

I have to give kudos to the hoarders.  Being a bunch of selfish low lives, has definitely forced home cooks to become creative.

Oven Fried Fish


2 lbs. firm white fish (haddock, cod, Pollack), about 6-8 pieces
2 cups milk
2 eggs
4 cups flour
1 Tbsp. salt
1 tsp. cracked black pepper
1 Tbsp. crushed dried dill
1 Tbsp. crushed dried parsley
4 cups Panko


Preheat oven to 400F; spray jelly roll pan with nonstick cooking spray.

3 wide shallow bowls

#1 – whisk milk with eggs
#2 – mix flour with salt, pepper, dill and parsley
#3 – Panko

Coating sequence

Immerse fish into #1.
Coat both sides of fish with #2.
Immerse into #1 again.
Coat both sides of fish with #3.
Place on sprayed baking pan.

Repeat sequence with each piece of fish.

Bake in oven for 20-30 minutes, dependent on thickness of fish.  After 20 minutes, insert fork into center to test for doneness (flakes up easily).

Makes 6-8 servings of approximately 4 – 4.5 ounces each.

Add a simple side salad for a complete meal.
 Mary Cokenour

Good Day Sunshine

“Good day sunshine.
I need to laugh, and when the sun is out.
I've got something I can laugh about.
I feel good, in a special way.
I'm in love and it's a sunny day.”

(Good Day Sunshine – The Beatles)

June, sun is shining and a cool breeze drifts down from the mountains.  Soon the summer solstice will arrive, the longest day of the year, and the official start of the season.  Prediction for June is, “Welcome to the 6th level of Jumanji”.  Father Time is certainly giving everyone an interesting 2020 year, and personally, I am wondering if Godzilla will be making an appearance in July.

Happily, Roy and I have been, once again, adventuring.  Our latest was following trails off of Lisbon Valley Road, close to the town of La Sal, and discovering long abandoned mining facilities.  Packing a picnic lunch of tuna salad sandwiches, Amish macaroni salad and a sun-shiny dessert, we found a lovely spot, on a ridge, overlooking the valley.  It is the absolute quiet, with the occasional call of a bird, or the whooshing sound of its flapping wings.  Yes, that is how quiet it can be, and it is a wonderful lack of sound.

Taking over 200 photographs, I, of course, have a new goal to research the mining industry of La Sal.  From what I have already read, there were over 19,000 mining claims!  The remains, of the mining facilities, we found have stories to tell, and I intend on sharing them on my travel blog.  Well, depending on how I do on this new level of Jumanji.

Now to that sun-shiny dessert I mentioned, Creamy Lemon Squares.  It is a takeoff on traditional lemon bars, but with a crispy crust and thicker filling.  Besides using lemon juice, I played (did you expect I would not!?!), and used a combination of orange and vanilla to create Creamsicle bars.  Sugar was played with as well as the crust has added sugar, and it was just too sweet for our tastes.  Using graham crackers which are already sweet, the additional sugar, in our opinion, was unnecessary.  However, try this recipe yourself, and see what your taste buds think about it.  The squares cut easily and can be packed up nicely to take on a picnic, or just as a snack when riding out through the countryside.

 Creamy Lemon Squares
(Easy Recipes Blog:

For the Crust
4 tablespoons butter, melted and cooled, plus more for pan
1-1/2 cup graham cracker crumbs
1/4 cup sugar

For the Filling
2 large egg yolks
1 can (14 ounces) sweetened condensed milk
1/2 cup fresh lemon juice (3 lemons)


Preheat oven to 350F / 180C degrees.
Brush a square baking dish with melted butter.
Crush graham crackers

Then add in sugar and butter and blend to mix.
Press mixture into bottom of prepared pan.
Bake until lightly browned, 8 to 12 minutes.
Cool crust, 30 minutes.

To Make the Filling

*In a large bowl, whisk together egg yolks and condensed milk.
*Add lemon juice; whisk until smooth.

*Pour filling into cooled crust; carefully spread to edges.
*Bake until set, about 15 minutes.
*Cool in pan on rack.


After Baking and Cooled
*Chill at least 1 hour before serving.
Serve with whipped cream.

Makes 16 squares.

Creamy Creamsicle Squares (Orange Juice plus Pure Vanilla Extract)
Juice Options: Substitute orange, lime or pineapple; also use fresh juice or concentrated.  Combinations like lemon-lime, use ¼ cup of each juice to create ½ cup combo.  For orange, add 1 Tbsp. pure vanilla extract to create old fashioned Creamsicle flavor.  Never use premixed juice from a carton or bottle, it contains water and will ruin the filling.

Garnishes: Powdered sugar and/or add fresh fruit.

Mary Cokenour

Wednesday, May 13, 2020

Kabobing with the Greeks

According to the calendar, the season of spring began on March 19th this year, a day earlier than usual, and in a leap year as well.  Overall, the year 2020 has been a challenge for its first four months, and we’re all wondering where the reset button is.  Weather wise, many states, including Utah, were still seeing cold temperatures, snow and hail.

Then May 1st came, Beltane, the midpoint between the beginning of spring and summer.  The ancient Celtic meaning is “bright fire”, so what better way to celebrate then to barbecue!  With the pandemic continuing, rules of engagement constantly changing, and challenging; it can be difficult to cope in a positive way.

Go outside!  Yes, you can still be safe, at home, but outside in your own backyard, or on the front lawn, on the balcony or patio.  But, go outside!  Look up, see the clouds, what forms can you imagine?  Look at the plant life, flowering buds on the trees, small leaves unfolding to capture dew drops and shafts of sunlight.

This is personal mental and emotional nourishment; food for the mind and soul.  With the body itself, time to fire up the grill and imagine the culinary possibilities.  Of cooking food…not your body!  Come on now, no one can possibly be at the point of cannibalism yet!?!

Let’s take it to the Greeks, and grill up kabobs, or what they refer to as Souvlaki.
Souvlaki (plural is Souvlakia) is a diminutive of the Greek souvla (spit), and there is evidence that cooking with skewers originated in Greece.  One excavation of the archaeological site Akrotiri, on the Greek island of Santorini,  revealed stone sets of barbecues for skewers (Greek: krateutai) used before the 17th century BCE.  Alright kiddies, quiz time, Akrotiri was a Minoan Bronze Age settlement on the volcanic Greek island of Santorini (Thera).  What mythological creature lived in a maze, underneath the king’s palace?  (Insert Jeopardy theme music)  Time is up!  The Minotaur.

Back to Souvlaki, small pieces of meat or poultry, sometimes vegetables are included, which are grilled on a skewer.  The grilled food can be eaten right off the skewer or pulled off onto a warm pita bread to make a sandwich.  If you are looking more for a dinner entree, place the souvlaki over rice or orzo (pasta shaped like rice).  The warm pita bread, broken into pieces, can act as a utensil.

This is a simple and easy meal that can be prepared for sports oriented children (once it begins again).  Get them home after their event and while they are cleaning up, you can be getting together this healthy meal for them.  Chicken, firm cuts of seafood, and pork can be used instead of beef.  Vegetarians can indulge by substituting tofu, or chunks of beefy tasting, Portobella (also spelled Portabella or Portobello) mushrooms, for the protein, plus adding a larger variety of vegetables.

The marinade for the Souvlakia is simply lemon juice, olive oil, salt, pepper, parsley and garlic. The lemon juice helps to break down the connective tissue in the proteins; tenderness is assured after grilling or oven roasting.  For my recipe, I added capers for a little twang on the tongue.

Beef and Vegetable Souvlaki


1 lb. beef cubes, trimmed of fat
1 lb. mini sweet peppers, cut in half and seeded
1 large onion, chopped
½ lb. small button mushrooms
¼ cup lemon juice
½ cup olive oil
2 Tbsp. minced garlic
½ tsp. each of fine sea salt and ground black pepper
2 Tbsp. minced parsley
1 tsp. capers


In a large plastic container, combine all ingredients thoroughly; seal and refrigerate overnight.

If grilling, alternate beef cubes and vegetables on skewers. Soak wooden skewers in water for 30 minutes first to avoid burning.  Place on medium-high preheated grill; cook for 6 minutes before turning skewers; cook another 6 minutes before serving.

If roasting, preheat oven to 450F. Place beef, vegetables and remaining marinade into a large roasting pan, or onto a large jelly roll pan, in a single layer.  Cook for 3 minutes, turn beef; repeat; on 3rd turn of beef, also turn vegetables (this will allow for beef and vegetables to caramelize); turn beef a 4th time, cook for 3 minutes.

Makes 4 – 6 servings.

Mary Cokenour

By the way, we had this on May 12, 2020, and here are a few photos of that delicious meal.

Kabobs ready for the grill, Greek marinade for basting.
After Grilling

Kabobs, Squash cooked with salt, cracked black pepper and butter, Naan Bread, Feta Cheese

Roy's dinner plate is full.

Monday, May 4, 2020

Ways to Murder a Chicken.

Why did the chicken cross the road?  While many will answer with, “To get to the other side.” it might be to save its own life.  Think about it, someone is usually trying to put a rotisserie spit up that poor chicken’s butt.  Or there is the crazy guy attempting to choke it behind the barn.  The poor chicken knows to stay away from the same crazy guy’s wife though; she wants to smother it!  That poor chicken, what could it possibly have done to have so many trying to murder it?

Blue Collar Comedy comedian, Bill Engvall, gives us an answer, “Many moons ago, millions of chickens roamed this land.  Then along comes Colonel, wiped them out.”  (Bill Engvall – Free Range Chicken -  Chickens are not native to North America.  They did roam freely across Southeast Asia before becoming domesticated about 5400 years ago.  Eventually, as European countries developed, traders brought chickens back; along with silk, precious gems and other culinary oddities.  Chicken meat and eggs were considered a delicacy for the rich and the royal.  By the 16th – 17th centuries, chickens, which are prolific breeders, became common place; food for the rich and poor alike.  Dutch and Portuguese slave traders brought them across the Atlantic, stored in cages, as were their human cargo.   The only freedom the domesticated chicken now knew, was the barnyard; and the slaves were their caretakers.

Also, along with the chickens, came recipes and cooking techniques from various countries and cultures.  In French, the word "étouffée" means "smothered", a popular cooking technique in Louisiana’s Cajun and Creole cuisines.  A protein (meat, poultry or seafood), plus a minimal amount of liquid, is slow cooked over low heat, in a covered pan; similar to braising.  The protein, and the ensuing “gravy”, were ladled over rice, with vegetables as a side dish.  Eventually, it became easier to put all the ingredients into a stock pot, cooking together until the protein simply became “smothered” in rice, vegetables and gravy.

The Campbell’s Soup Company took advantage of this type of cooking and created casserole dishes, with recipes on the backs of soup cans.  Popular is the use of cream of mushroom soup, poured over chicken and rice, baked in the oven, and 20 minutes later…dinner!  I have made this recipe myself, but over the years, experimentation has given me many delicious versions.

My newest version is called “Creamy Smothered Chicken”, with the chicken baked alone and smothered in a rich, creamy sauce; rice is served as a side dish.  Very similar to the original technique developed by Louisiana residents.  While I put diced and chopped vegetables into my sauce, another vegetable, steamed broccoli for example, can be another side dish.  The chicken will bake longer than the Campbell’s recipe, as I do not precook the chicken in a skillet.

When I mention, for the chicken, “cut in half laterally”, place the chicken breast on the cutting board and place your palm on top.  Carefully run a sharp knife, sideways, along the length of the breast, creating two “cutlets” of equal length and thickness.

With the sauce, do not work it down between the chicken breasts.  The underside of the chicken, exposed to the nonstick spray, will develop a crispy crust.

Creamy Smothered Chicken


4 chicken breasts, cut in half laterally
2 large eggs
2 cups 2% milk
2 cups Italian flavored bread crumbs
1 (10.5 oz.) cream of mushroom soup
1 cup 2% milk
1 (4 oz.) can sliced mushrooms
1 cup diced bell peppers (green, red and yellow in equal proportions)
½ cup diced red onion
1 cup shredded mild cheddar cheese


In a large bowl, whisk together eggs and 2 cups milk; immerse chicken breasts and let soak for 15 minutes.

Preheat oven to 350F; spray a 4-quart baking dish with nonstick cooking spray.

Coat sides and edges of the chicken with the bread crumbs, place inside baking dish.

In a large bowl, mix thoroughly mushroom soup, 1 cup milk, mushrooms, bell peppers, onion and cheddar cheese.  Pour over chicken and spread out evenly.

Cover with aluminum foil, bake for 30 minutes; remove foil and bake additional 30 minutes.

Let rest for 10 minutes before serving.  Suggested accompanying side dishes: steamed broccoli, rice pilaf, buttered egg noodles or garlic toast.

Makes 8 servings.

Mary Cokenour

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