Monday, February 28, 2011

You have to post this recipe!

That's what Roy said after having his first helping of my baked salmon and stir fry vegetables. Hey, who am I to argue with a happy man? So, thank Roy for these recipes, and here they are:

Sunday Evening Salmon
Gave it this name simply because it is an easy recipe to make for a Sunday evening, and don’t want to make anything complicated.

2 lb side of salmon, skinless and bones removed
1 tsp Chinese 5 spice, divided in half
½ tsp sea salt, divided in half
6 Tbsp teriyaki sauce, divided in half
Preheat oven to 350F.  Spray a jelly roll pan with nonstick spray.
First side of salmon, sprinkle half Chinese 5 spice and sea salt over fish; pour 3 Tbsp of teriyaki sauce over fish and massage into flesh.  Flip over, repeat on other side.
Place fish onto jelly roll pan and bake for 20 minutes.
Makes 6 servings.
Possible side dishes:
Fried rice
Stir Fry vegetables in ginger-garlic sauce
Vegetable Ramen noodles

Ginger-Garlic Sauce for Stir Fry
1/3 cup vegetable stock
2 Tbsp fish sauce
1 Tbsp rice wine vinegar
1 Tbsp honey
1 Tbsp ground ginger
2 Tbsp minced garlic
2 tsp corn starch dissolved in 4 Tbsp water
*optional: 1 tsp of Thai chili sauce, or ¼ tsp ground cayenne
In medium saucepan, on medium-high heat, add stock, fish sauce, vinegar and honey.   As mixture begins to bubble, reduce heat to low; whisk in ginger, garlic and corn starch liquid (and chili sauce or cayenne pepper if using).  Mixture will thicken in about 1 minute; remove from heat.
Makes sauce to coat 3 cups stir fry, or dressing for 4 side salads.

Salad dressing – let sauce cool down to warm before using.
Add to hot ingredients such as vegetables or combination of meat, poultry or seafood with vegetables.  After adding sauce, let food cook additional 5 minutes before serving.

Mary Cokenour
February 27, 2011

Sunday, February 27, 2011

A busy day, but well deserved.

Yesterday was certainly a busy day, up at 6:30am, on the road by 8am, and not home again till 9pm. Every six months or so, we travel up to Grand Junction, Colorado and shop till we, literally, feel like dropping. The biggest stop is Sam's Club, where we can stock up on bulk items we use a lot of, especially pet foods. Borders is closing the store in Grand Junction; we found books for ourselves from 20-40% off, and picked up a few items for friends too.

We were also celebrating a personal triumph, so indulged by going to Red Lobster; and it was Lobster Fest!. The meals were terrific, and I'm sure we walked out of there with wings on, for we were both in pig heaven.

Today we are taking a break from everything; a pajama day you might say. Oh, a simple chore has been done here and there, but anything that would take hours will have to wait for another day. Dinner is going to be baked salmon with teriyaki vegetables as a side; nothing complicated.

Since we did have lobster yesterday, I'm going to leave you with a simple recipe to try out:

Lobster Newburg


3 Tbsp butter
½ cup each diced red bell pepper and onion
3 Tbsp all purpose flour
¼ tsp each paprika and nutmeg
3 Tbsp dry sherry
2 cups half n’ half
Pinch ground cayenne pepper
1 tsp crushed dry parsley
1 lb cooked lobster meat (if not available, use imitation lobster)
8 slices (1/4” thick) toasted Italian bread

In a large skillet, medium heat, sauté bell pepper and onion until softened. Stir in flour, paprika, nutmeg and sherry completely; continue stirring as half n’ half is added; bring to boil.

Add cayenne pepper, parsley and lobster meat; let cook for 5 minutes. Spoon mixture over toasted bread.

Makes 8 servings.

Mary Cokenour

Friday, February 25, 2011

There’s a Monkey in our house.

We have a Monkey in our house who wears a cat suit. Confused? Monkey is our orange and white Maine Coon cat; he’s 18 lbs, his most distinctive marking is the orange yin/yang symbol surrounding his nose, and he’s very mischievous and adorable. He’s a pure bundle of a loving and fun feline covered in layers of long, soft fur. Why the name Monkey? Well, he told us his name, and so that is what we call him. When he was first adopted, the folks that owned him before called him Pumpkin, but he never would respond to it. One day he was being a mischief maker, Roy said to him, “you are a little monkey, aren’t you”; Monkey stopped whatever he was doing, looked at Roy and gave this meow, as if saying, “why of course I am, that’s my name” We changed his name to Monkey, and he’s been happy with it ever since.

Here’s a bit of information on his breed: The Maine Coon is a breed of domestic cat with a distinctive physical appearance. It is one of the oldest natural breeds in North America, specifically native to the state of Maine, where it is the official State Cat.

Although the Maine Coon's exact origins and date of introduction to the United States are unknown, many theories have been proposed. The breed was popular in cat shows in the late 19th century, but its existence became threatened when long-haired breeds from overseas were introduced in the early 20th century. The Maine Coon has since made a comeback and is now one of the most popular cat breeds in the world.

Maine Coons are one of the largest breeds of domestic cat. Males weigh anywhere between 15 and 25 lbs with females weighing between 10 and 15 lbs. The height of adults can vary between 10 and 16 in and they can reach a length of up to 40 in, including the tail, which can reach lengths of up to 14 in and is long, tapering, and heavily furred, almost resembling a raccoon's tail. The body is solid and muscular, which is necessary for supporting their own weight and the chest is broad. Maine Coons possess a rectangular body shape and are slow to physically mature; their full potential size is normally not reached until they are around three or four years old.

So, in honor of our Monkey, here’s a recipe with a tropical flare. No, our Monkey doesn’t really like to eat fruit, but he does enjoy lettuce; his favorite is Romaine. Yep, he’s a strange one, and that is probably why he fits in with our family so well.

Tropic Fruit Dessert Pizza


1 (12”) premade pizza crust
1 cup powdered sugar
4 Tbsp banana extract
2 Navel oranges, peeled and cut into ¼” slices
1 small pineapple, peeled, cored and cut into ¼” slices
1 pint ripe strawberries, tops removed
1 banana, cut into ¼” slices


¼ cup powdered sugar
¼ cup toasted coconut
Vanilla ice cream


Preheat oven to 400F. Place premade pizza crust onto pizza pan, or nonstick cookie sheet.

In a small bowl, create a “sauce” by mixing together the cup of powdered sugar with banana extract; spread evenly on pizza crust almost to edge. Beginning near the edge, arrange alternating slices of oranges and pineapple; continue to the center. Bake for 15-20 minutes, or until fruit begins to caramelize; remove from oven.

Place a strawberry, cut side down, into center of each pineapple ring; place a banana slice in center of each orange slice. Sprinkle ¼ cup powdered sugar and toasted coconut evenly over pizza. Cut into 8 slices and serve with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.

Makes 8 servings.

Mary Cokenour
June 10, 1996

Thursday, February 24, 2011

We finally have a barbeque joint in Southeastern Utah!!!

Fattboyz Grillin'164 North Grayson Parkway (previously the Peace Tree Cafe)
Blanding, Utah, 84511


Facebook Link:

When I was planning to move to Utah, one aspect that excited me, hey....all the barbeque places I can visit. Wrong!!! The closest one was two hours away in Durango, Colorado (Serious Texas BBQ - good place too); there used to be one in Cortez, Colorado, only one hour away, but it closed down.

Reed Sampson must have been just as disappointed as I was, fore when he decided to open up a food place, he went barbeque! Thank you Reed!!!

The menu offers a good variety; it's posted on Fattboyz' Facebook page, and we decided to try a few items. Hint, hint Reed, offer a sampler platter on the menu; a little bit of most everything for one price. We'd pay good money for that. So lets get started with the low-down:

Ribs - done on site, meaty, juicy....drool. Nuff' said.

Burgers - meaty, juicy, we loved the charbroiled flavor.

Beef BBQ sandwich - thick, meaty (am I getting redundant?) and just plain ole delicious.

BBQ sauce - hit the Bullseye; nothing wrong with Bullseye, I use it in a pinch, and KC Masterpiece too, but I do wonder if Reed doctors it up a bit...but he won't tell.

That's just the main menu items we tried; now the sides:

Mac n' Cheese - oh yes, it's cheesy and gooey, just the way mac n' cheese should be.

Beans - while they were a nice enhancement to the meat, I found them to be a little plain, but that's me. I would have liked to see them swimming in bbq sauce, diced onions, maybe a little chile pepper thrown in.

Potato salad - good flavor, potatoes were just right; not firm, but not too mushy.

Now I hear tell that the cole slaw is homemade, so next time we stop in, I intend on trying the pulled pork sandwich with cole there any other way to eat it?

So, all in all, this place is the bomb diggety, and if you live in the area, or are just visiting, go to Fattboyz Grillin!!!

Oh Reed, in case you want a homemade macaroni salad recipe, check out my "Amish Macaroni Salad" on the Jan 16, 2011 post entitled "A salad isn't a salad...yes it is".

...and here's my recipe for homemade baked lima beans. If you use either or both recipes, just give me credit on your Facebook page, and list a link to this blog...appreciate it.

Baked Lima Beans

1 (40.5 oz) can Butter beans (lima beans)
1 (4 oz) can chopped green chiles, mild
1 medium onion, chopped
1 (16 oz) bottle hickory smoked, brown sugar barbeque sauce
6-8 strips thick cut bacon, roughly chopped

Preheat oven at 350F. Spray a 2 quart casserole with cooking spray.

In a large bowl, mix together all the ingredients; spoon into the casserole dish. Bake for 2 hours.

Serves 8.

Mary Cokenour

Fattboyz Grillin on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Playing with Food.

Have you ever noticed the decorative items on a plate when you have ordered at a Japanese or Chinese restaurant? It’s an art form, and those items are actual foods and edible; a rose made from a radish, a bird made from a carrot, a lotus blossom from an onion. Not only can you eat the items, but it’s fascinating how such delicate art can come from a simple fruit or vegetable.

So, why is it we don’t encourage our children to play with their food, but just the opposite? Parents tell kids, “don’t play with your food, and just eat it”…how boring! A child is probably more willing to eat broccoli if you let him/her build a mountain, on their plate of course, of mashed potatoes, put broccoli trees on it, and then they can pretend to be a giant who eats it down. Telling them to eat it just because it’s good for them, or that people are starving somewhere else, is not an enticement.

Encourage their creativity, and yes, put limits on what they can and cannot do with their food; be a parent and a teacher at the same time. You could have a budding artist on your hands, or the next great chef; but overall, you’ll have a child who will enjoy eating their food, not going “yuck!” One other thing let your child help you in the kitchen; depending on the age, the smallest task would be something big to them.

Here are a few ideas for creating snacks with your children, and you’ll enjoy them too.

Rice Cake Snack Pizzas


24 large rice cakes (plain or butter flavored)
1 container whipped cream cheese
1 jar smooth peanut butter
1 jar marshmallow fluff
1 squeeze bottle caramel sauce
1 can pineapple rings; drain juice
1 bag shredded coconut
1 box raisins
1 bag shredded carrots
4 ripe bananas, peeled and cut into ¼” slices
1 bag miniature chocolate chips


Carrot Cake Pizza

Spread 2 Tbsp creamy peanut butter on rice cake. Cover with alternating rows of shredded carrot and raisins

Hawaiian Pizza
Spread 2 Tbsp whipped cream cheese on rice cake. Place a pineapple ring on top, fill the hole in the center with shredded coconut.

Elvis Pizza
Spread 2 Tbsp creamy peanut butter on rice cake. Starting ¼” from edge of rice cake, place banana slices in a circular pattern till the center is reached.

Ooey Gooey Pizza
Spread 2 Tbsp marshmallow fluff on rice cake. Sprinkle on chocolate chips and drizzle on caramel sauce.

Notes: The “Hawaiian”, “Carrot Cake” and “Elvis” pizzas are a great afternoon snack. When an after school event, sports practice or game, or music lessons, etc is scheduled; these become a great pick-me-up for children; or adults.

The “Ooey Gooey” pizza is an easy dessert or party treat.

Mary Cokenour
September 9, 1996

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

The Ultimate Italian Snack (Appetizer)

When you want to nosh, what kind of appetizer or snack would you have? Basic home snacks could be anything from crackers with a topping, veggies and dip, even cookies or a cupcake. If you're out at a restaurant, you might see on the menu: cheese sticks, nachos, tequitos, deep fried veggies, chicken fingers. Been there, done that, lets have something very different, romantic(hey, it's Italian), yummy and it's healthy (I know, I know, bad word, especially around kids, but not this snack!) It's Bruschetta, and while it might be a little difficult to pronounce the first time; you won't forget after you've had it.

Bruschetta (Italian pronunciation: [brus-ket-a]; American pronunciation: [bu-shetta], ignoring the “c” altogether ) is an appetizer from central Italy whose origin seems to date back to the 15th century, but possibly even older than that. It was a way to use stale bread by toasting or grilling it, then enhancing the flavor by rubbing with garlic and topping with extra-virgin olive oil, salt and pepper. Variations may include toppings of spicy red pepper, tomato, vegetables, beans, cured meat, and/or cheese; the most popular recipe outside of Italy involves basil, fresh tomato, garlic and onion or mozzarella. Brushchetta can be served as an appetizer, or simply enjoyed as a snack.

Bruschetta (Italian Style)


loaf of Italian bread, preferably day old, cut into ½” slices
2 cloves of garlic
olive oil


Grill both sides of the sliced bread; or place under a broiler for 1 minute, flip slices, place under broiler for another minute. Cut the cloves of garlic in half and rub cut sides over one side of bread; drizzle olive oil, sprinkle on salt.

Bruschetta Con Pomodori (Grilled Bread with Tomatoes)


half loaf of Italian bread, cut into ½ “slices
1 Tbsp minced garlic
4 Tbsp olive oil
6 Roma (plum) tomatoes cut into ¼” pieces
1/8 tsp each of salt and ground black pepper
¼ cup minced fresh basil leaves
2 Tbsp balsamic vinegar


Grill both sides of the sliced bread; or place under a broiler for 1 minute, flip slices, place under broiler for another minute. Smear one side of each slice with minced garlic.

In a small bowl, mix together olive oil, tomatoes, salt, black pepper, basil and vinegar. Top garlic side of each slice of bread with mixture.

Makes 6 servings.

1 – Shaved parmesan cheese can be placed on top of mixture.

2 – Thin slices of mozzarella can be placed on top of mixture; place under broiler for a minute to allow cheese to melt.

Mary Cokenour
September 1997
This recipe was published in Taste of Home Magazine, September 2007 issue. I had sent it to them way back in 1997, and then suddenly they contacted me in 2007 to say that they were going to publish it. Imagine my surprise!

Crab Bruschetta


1/2 cup finely chopped shallots
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 tablespoons plus 1/4 cup olive oil, divided
2 cans (6 ounces each) lump crabmeat, drained
1 cup chopped seeded plum tomatoes
1-1/2 teaspoons minced fresh basil or 1/2 teaspoon dried basil
3/4 teaspoon minced fresh oregano or 1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
8 slices Italian bread (1/2 inch thick)

In a large skillet, saute shallots and garlic in 2 tablespoons oil until tender. Add the crab, tomatoes, basil and oregano; cook and stir for 5-6 minutes or until heated through. Remove from the heat.

Brush both sides of each slice of bread with remaining oil. In another large skillet, toast bread for 1-2 minutes on each side. Cut each slice in half; top with crab mixture.

Makes16 appetizers.

Mary Cokenour
September 1997

Monday, February 21, 2011

To measure or not to measure.

When working with a recipe, I like to first make it using particular ingredients, and see how it comes out. Then I try the dish again, but this time trying different ingredients; maybe chicken instead of beef, or peanut butter instead of vanilla. Usually I end up with a complete recipe that allows for this or that, depending on the mood of the person making the dish.

With baking, that is a little more difficult, mainly because baking is more of a precise science. With cooking, you can use measuring devices, or just your hands and eyes; that's the way I enjoy doing it. However, with baking, if you put too much or too little, you could end with a mess. For me, not being able to "eyeball" amounts sort of takes the adventure out of a recipe; but I would rather end up with a delicious dessert, so I bite the bullet and use measuring cups and spoons.

Also, when substituting ingredients in baked goods, you have to make sure that one can be equally measured out for another. The thickness and flavor of peanut butter won't equal the same measure called for when using vanilla extract; one is more solid, the other liquidy. So, don't be surprised if trial and error takes a major role when experimenting with ingredients.

One successful substitution I have found is to use ricotta cheese instead of mascarpone. Sure, you can always make a faux mascarpone (see recipe on Feb 8, 2011 blog post called "I don't miss the East coast, just the food"), but using whole milk ricotta will give you the texture you need, and measure out in just the correct portions. You'll understand what I mean by this when I tell you about a wonderful Italian dessert called Cannoli, and a pie that can be also made.


A single cannoli is called a cannolo, meaning “tube,” and this Sicilian dessert was created more than 1,000 years ago. It is a tube-shaped pastry, open-ended on each side, that is quickly fried, cooled and then filled with lightly sweetened ricotta, or mascarpone cheese. Bakers often add additions to cannoli filling like pieces of citron, tiny chocolate chips, or candied cherries at either end of the pastry. Less commonly pistachios may be chopped and used in cannoli filling. In Sicily, cannoli filling might be flavored with Marsala wine, vanilla extract or rosewater. In the US, vanilla extract is used most, but you can find the occasional Marsala wine flavored cannoli in very traditional Italian bakeries or restaurants. Whole cannoli are often decadently sprinkled with powdered sugar. The average size is 4 inches long by 1 inch wide, but they can be made larger or smaller, depending on whether they are being served as a whole dessert item (one average or large), or part of a buffet (smaller version).

Cannoli Pie

4 cups ricotta or mascarpone cheese
1 ½ cups confectioner’s sugar
1 Tbsp vanilla extract
1/3 cup roasted pistachio nuts
1/3 cup golden raisins or diced candied fruits
¼ cup semi-sweet chocolate mini-chips
1 ½ cups whipped cream
1 ( 9 oz) deep dish graham cracker or crushed chocolate cookie pie crust
¼ cup bittersweet chocolate shavings

In a large bowl, cream together the cheese, sugar and vanilla extract until smooth; stir in nuts, fruit and mini-chips.

Gently fold in the whipped cream; spoon mixture into pie crust, creating a mound. With the bottom of a metal spoon, quickly dab and pull up at the top of the filling to create peaks. Sprinkle the chocolate shavings over the top. Refrigerate overnight.

Makes 8 servings.

Mary Cokenour
September 15, 1996

Sunday, February 20, 2011

My brain is on idle today.

That's right, no great thoughts or ideas bouncing off the walls of my cranium. A day where I seem to be content with my life, my surroundings, and I have nothing to truly think about. These kind of days are rare, and when they come around I, at first, feel a bit lost. Me, the one that is always doing something, today has nothing to do that can't wait for another day. Laundry...done. Meals cooked...done. Mail sorted, bills paid, papers filed...done. Snow shoveled; that is Roy's job, so I don't care. Staring out the window and daydreaming; Ha!!! I've been doing that almost all day, and liking it.

So today's post is going to be very short, for I have daydreaming to do. I will, however, leave you with a recipe that will give you plenty of time to do some daydreaming of your own. Enjoy!

Chicken and Noodle Casserole


1 can (10 ¾ oz) each of cream of mushroom and cream of celery soup
1 cup milk
1/2 tsp each ground black pepper and onion powder
1 bag ( 16 oz) frozen mixed vegetables
3 chicken breasts halves, cut into bite size pieces (chicken has been previously cooked via browning in a pan, or grilling)
1 bag (16 oz) medium egg noodles, cooked and drained
1 bag ( 8 oz) shredded sharp Cheddar cheese
½ cup plain dried bread crumbs


Preheat oven at 400 F. In a large bowl, combine all ingredients, except bread crumbs. Spread mixture in a 2 ½ - 3 quart casserole dish; sprinkle bread crumbs over top of mixture.

Bake for 30-35 minutes; top will be slightly browned and mixture bubbling.

Makes 8 servings.

Mary Cokenour
Oct 20, 2008

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Snowing once again, so time to make something new.

Just as all the snow, from our last storm, was almost a memory, Monticello woke up to another batch of white covering the landscape, and our cars, and our lawns, and our...well, you get the picture. Snow here is unusual looking when compared to what I'm used to. It doesn't land as big fluffy flakes, but as tiny pellets, much like you would see in a stuffed toy. It's quite beautiful overall.

While Roy was outside shoveling the driveway, I started on breakfast; the big question being, "what to make?" Now I had attended an event and brought home some extra food, baked potatoes being one of the items. Trying to eat reheated baked potatoes is nasty; the cold has hardened the starch in the potato, and it's just nasty. However, by cutting up the potato, frying it with additional ingredients, you end up with something very tasty. So this is what I did:

Take two medium baked potatoes which have already cooled and cut them up into 1/2 inch cubes. In a 12 inch saute' pan (or skillet with curved sides), melt 2 Tbsp butter, add the potatoes and let them start to brown on high heat. Take one half of a small onion, dice it up and add to the potatoes with another 2 Tbsp of butter. Season with a dash each of salt, ground black pepper and garlic powder. Sprinkle a 1/2 cup of shredded Swiss cheese evenly.

While the potatoes were browning, whisk together 6 eggs, 1/4 cup half n' half, 1/4 tsp salt, 2 dashes of hot sauce. Pour over the potatoes, making sure the eggs cover evenly to the edges of the pan. Now leave it alone for 5 minutes. Cover with a plate and flip it over, so the contents of the pan simply drop onto the plate. Put the pan back onto the heat, slide the egg/potato "pie" back into the pan, and let cook another 3 minutes.

Slide it back onto your plate and you have just made a frittata. Take a sharp knife and cut it into 8 wedges, just like you would to a pie.

Next time you have extra ingredients around and think you can't do a thing with them; think again and make a frittata. Here's a little information on the frittata and another recipe.


Frittata is an egg dish similar to an omelet or a crustless quiche, containing ingredients such as meats, cheeses, vegetables or pasta, and can be flavored with herbs. A frittata can be baked, but in mainly made in a skillet. When started on a stove top the frittata can be finished off in an oven, under a broiler, or flipped and finished in the pan.

Frittata preparation differs from omelet preparation in that the eggs are beaten with water, milk or cream to incorporate more air where the eggs for omelets are less airy. The additional air in the frittata mixture allows for a deeper filling and a fluffier result. Additional ingredients are added to the pan after the egg mixture, and before the eggs are fully cooked.

A frittata is usually divided into slices, and while it can be served as a meal by itself, a salad or other side dish can be added.

Frittata with Asparagus, Goat Cheese and Tarragon


6 eggs
3 Tbsp half n’ half
2 Tbsp butter
½ lb asparagus spears, trimmed and cut into ½ inch pieces
½ cup crumbled goat cheese
1 tsp fresh tarragon (used dried if fresh not available)
¼ tsp salt
1/8 tsp ground black pepper


In small bowl, whisk together eggs and half n’ half; set aside.
In 10” skillet, on medium heat, melt butter and sauté asparagus, about 5 minutes; remove to another small bowl. In same skillet, pour in egg mixture and let eggs cook for about 5 minutes; do not stir. Distribute the asparagus, cheese, tarragon, salt and pepper evenly throughout the partially cooked eggs; let cook another 5 minutes.

Slide the frittata onto a plate, cover with another plate and flip over; slide it back into the skillet and let cook another 3 minutes. Slide frittata onto clean serving platter, cut into wedges, either 4 or 6, to serve.

Makes 4-6 servings.

Mary Cokenour

Friday, February 18, 2011

Yo Chicago, pass me a pizza.

In my January 21, 2011 post, I introduced you all to New York style pizza. I had said I would, at a later date, write about Chicago style and here it is. Chicago Pizza is a deep dish pan pizza, but not what you think you know it is. The dough is made differently from regular pizza dough; thicker and moister to keep from drying out and burning during baking. The assembly of the pizza itself is also different, with the cheese on the bottom, additional ingredients in the center, and a tomato mixture on top.

Pizza places, like Pizza Hut and Old Chicago, use basic dough and the assembly is the same as a standard pizza: dough, sauce, cheese, toppings (if any). If you want the authentic Chicago style, then you want to go to Pizzeria Uno ( or Lou Malnati’s ( No locations near your area, Lou Malnati makes it possible to order online and have pizza, and many other goodies, delivered to your front door ( Then again, my sister-in-law, Julie, is currently living in Chicago; and it would be so nice if she’d send us a few pies…hint, hint Julie; Roy and I are having cravings for pizza.

Now if you’re a daring type, like me, then you’ll take on the challenge of making this type of pizza yourself. Because the dough is thicker and moister than regular pizza dough, it’s best to use a stand mixer and a dough hook attachment for the kneading part of the preparation.

Here’s the basic information, so have fun:

Pizza Dough for Chicago Style Pizza
This type of pizza dough is thicker; it cooks in a deep dish pan and would burn if it was thinner like New York style pizza dough. However, the exposed dough, not covered with sauce, cheese and other ingredients, comes out crispy and light. This dough is best made using a stand mixer and the dough hook attachment due to the thickness and moistness of the dough.

Basic Dough
2 packages rapid rise dry yeast
2 cups warm water (about 110F)
½ cup vegetable oil
4 Tbsp olive oil
½ cup cornmeal
5 ½ cups all purpose flour

In the bowl of a stand mixer, dissolve the yeast in the warm water. When fully dissolved, add in the oils, cornmeal and half of the flour; mix for 10 minutes. Attach the dough hook, add in the other half of the flour and set on medium speed. The dough will be ready when it pulls easily from the sides of the bowl. Place the dough onto a floured board, cover with a large bowl; let it rise till it doubles in size. Punch the dough down, cover; let it rise again. Punch it down a second time; time to make the pizza.

The thickness of the dough will depend on the size of the deep dish pan being used; ¼” for a 10” pan; 1/8” for a 15” pan. Lightly coat the pan with olive oil; place dough in center of pan and push out evenly to edges, then up the sides of the pan to the top rim.

Basic Filling - for 10” deep dish pan
½ lb each sliced provolone and mozzarella cheeses
1 (10 ½ oz) can crushed tomatoes
1 (10 ½ oz) can diced tomatoes, drained
1 Tbsp minced garlic
¼ tsp salt
1 Tbsp each dried oregano, basil
¼ cup grated parmesan cheese

AssemblyCover the dough with alternating slices of provolone and mozzarella cheeses. In a medium size bowl, mix together crushed and diced tomatoes, herbs, garlic and salt; spread mixture evenly over cheese slices. Sprinkle grated cheese evenly over tomato mixture.

The pizza will be baked in a preheated 475F oven for 35-40 minutes; the exposed crust will be a golden brown; the tomato mixture will be bubbly.

Additional Ingredients
These can be added on top of the cheese slices, before the tomato mixture goes on top; in any combination; the choices are numerous.

1 lb of ground Italian sausage (mild or hot) or seasoned ground beef – the meat is uncooked; cooking the meat before using will toughen it.

1 cup sliced vegetables: onion, bell peppers, hot peppers, mushrooms, olives

1 cup pepperoni slices or thinly sliced prosciutto

Mary Cokenour
February 18, 2011

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Chocolate and Coffee - two lovely food groups

That's right, chocolate and coffee are food groups; ask any woman and she'll tell you it's a fact. I feel sorry for you if you try to argue the point; you'll lose and not well.

When a female feels, well anything really, chocolate and coffee are needed; doesn't matter if we're happy, sad, angry, feeling well or ill. In other words, we don't need an excuse to indulge in these beauties at all.

My personal favorites for chocolate are: Godiva ( ); a Belgian creation with its smooth, rich chocolate and luscious die for. I mean come on, how can you not love a chocolate that Hercule Poirot himself endorses; a connoisseur of chocolate himself. That's correct, in Godiva's newest television commerical, David Suchet, who plays Hercule Poirot (one of Agatha Christie's great sleuths)does the voice over.

The second is Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory ( ); I especially love their Caramel Apples (crisp Granny Smith apples covered in caramel and a range of decadent toppings).

The chocolate confections from these companies are not the type that you cram in your mouth, or eat at a fast pace. They are meant for savoring; if you want a mouthful of chocoate, grab a Hershey or Nestle Crunch bar.

Now to coffee, while a regular cup of coffee might be good in a pinch, I prefer the flavored coffees. They can be purchased in any grocery store and flavors available for any desire. I don't really care for the flavored creams offered in the dairy section. While they offer a mild taste of caramel, vanilla, chocolate, etc; I find that they tend to thin out the coffee, much the same using nonfat milk would do. I like my coffee creamy, so use half n' half; personal preference, that's all. My favorite flavor is Vanilla Nut Creme, and the best brand I have ever purchased for this flavor is from Papa Nicolas ( ). The French Vanilla and French Caramel Creme are very good too. They also offer a selection of Numi teas; I so recommend the Moroccan Mint.

So, chocolate and coffee can be drunk, eaten, and also cooked and baked with. I have heard of putting both into chili, and I have tried using unsweetened cocoa powder in chili, but I prefer baking and making desserts with them. Here is a cookie recipe that you might enjoy trying, especially if you love chocolate and coffee.

Coffee Kisses
These cookies can be made with espresso, a flavored coffee made strong, or Kahlua (the alcohol will bake off, and just leave the coffee flavor).

½ cup softened butter
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
5 Tbsp coffee or Kahlua
2 cups flour
2 Tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder
¾ tsp baking powder
Hershey chocolate kisses

Preheat oven to 375F. Use nonstick baking sheets, or spray with nonstick baking spray (contains flour).

In a large bowl, cream together the butter and sugar until smooth; add eggs one at a time, then the coffee; mix until smooth and creamy.
In another bowl, sift together the flour, cocoa and baking powder; add to the creamed mixture and mix thoroughly.

Use a teaspoon to place mixture onto cookie sheets; bake for 10 minutes. While still hot, insert a chocolate kiss into center of each cookie. Let cool.

Makes 2 dozen cookies.

Mary Cokenour

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

What is with all the rule books?

When I turned 30, then 40, finally 50; other women were constantly telling me that I needed to cut my long hair, and not only look, but act, my age. Ummm, why? I don’t look my age; I’ve been told I look anywhere from 10-15 years younger than I am. I remember being proofed for 18 until I was 27; I was even proofed twice when I was 35. Talk about an ego boost!!! Excuse me for feeling like I’m still in my 20’s; age is mind over matter, if you don’t mind, it don’t matter.

Then there was the time I decided to trade in my station wagon and get myself a sportier car. Suddenly I’m being asked, “How do you intend on driving your son to soccer practice and games?’. Well duh, in the car of course, and was told, “A soccer mom drives a van; everyone knows that, what kind of mom are you?” Guess not a very good one in their eyes, but guess what, my son got to his practice and games on time, every time; and he thought mom’s car was cool.

You see, when confronted by people with their kind of thinking, I can’t help but ask them, “Where is the rule book?” and yes, they do look at me like I’m some sort of nut job. It makes sense to ask though, I mean how am I supposed to know what the rules are if I don’t have a copy of the rule book? Right?

Technically, it’s habit; the same old, same old, and change or doing something completely different just doesn’t enter the mind. The same can be said for the way meals are eaten. Breakfast: eggs, sausage, ham or bacon, toast or muffin, waffles or pancakes, coffee and juice. Lunch: sandwich with chips or French fries, maybe a cup of soup, coffee, tea or cold soft drink. Dinner: meat, poultry or seafood, vegetables, potato, pasta or rice, side salad, dessert, coffee, tea, cold soft drink or milk. Very few restaurants will offer breakfast items all day, or let you order lunch or dinner items for breakfast. The night shift worker must have breakfast for a dinner if they go out to eat after work. Want to have something lighter for dinner, like a simple omelet; sorry, that’s for breakfast only. What I want to know is, who made up these rules, and where is a copy of the rule book?

So I am going to share with you a recipe that can be made, and eaten, for any meal of the day. Enjoy, we certainly do…..yeah, hubby doesn’t like rule book thumpers either.

Home Fried Potatoes


1 tsp. olive oil
4 large red potatoes, cut into ¼ inch slices; leave skin on
2 large onions, slivered
Seasoning mix (4 Tbsp garlic powder, 2 Tbsp black pepper, ¼ tsp red pepper flakes, 1Tbsp dried basil, ½ tsp sea salt, 2 Tbsp paprika)
6 Tbsp butter (or margarine)


Grease the bottom and sides of a 2 qt 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 minutes.

Serve as a side dish with breakfast, lunch or dinner.

Makes 6-8 servings.

Mary Cokenour

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

My brain hurts!

Today is one of those days that I wished I could have stayed in bed, head under the covers, and hidden away from the world. Today is one of those days where almost everyone I spoke with made my eyes cross, and my brain hurt. Advil doesn’t help with this type of day; the synapses in the brain are just too dazed and confused.

So, I seek solace in working on updating my recipes once again. As I reread many, I wonder how in the world I was able to make ingredients listed come together and taste good. I try to think back, remember the outcome, and a choice needs to be made…discard, revamp or accept as is. While I keep many, the garbage can fills with crumpled paper as I think to myself…what was I thinking? Suddenly I realize that my brain doesn’t hurt as much as it had; the confusion had gone into the trash bin also. I wish all difficulties could be so easily solved.

With that said, I now intend on starting on a book that friend Heidi has lent me. It centers upon one of my favorite types of humans, the werewolf; for we all know that werewolves rule and vampires can only drool.

Not to forget the recipe part of this post, here’s a simple dish that uses wine as an ingredient, not just as something to drink on the side.


Chicken in Port Wine Sauce


4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts halves
2 Tbsp crushed, dried basil
¼ tsp each salt and ground black pepper
½ cup all purpose flour
¼ cup canola or peanut oil
¼ cup port wine
1 cup heavy whipping cream
3 Tbsp cream cheese
2 Tbsp diced, reconstituted sun-dried tomatoes


Place the chicken between plastic wrap and pound out to ¼” thickness. Season both sides of chicken with basil, salt and black pepper before lightly coating with flour.

In a large skillet, heat oil on medium-high heat; brown chicken about three minutes on each side. Remove to platter and keep warm.

Deglaze skillet with port wine; add heavy cream, cream cheese and sun-dried tomatoes, whisk together. Reduce heat to low and let simmer for 10 minutes. Spoon sauce over chicken.

Makes 4 servings.

Mary Cokenour
February 15, 2011

Monday, February 14, 2011

Happy Valentine’s Day; a celebration of love and affection.

Today is the day named after Saint Valentine, and while no longer considered a religious holiday, it is still celebrated round the world on February 14th. It celebrates the love and affection between partners, whether married, engaged, living together or apart, or just dating; whether the opposite or the same sex. Love doesn’t care, it doesn’t judge you and your lifestyle, love is just that…love.

Roy and I love each other above all others; that’s the way it’s supposed to be. Roy and I are deeply in love with each other; our souls are intertwined; that’s the way it’s supposed to be. People have commented on how happy we make them, just watching us together; we are examples are what a loving relationship is supposed to be. It took us both a second try at the marriage thing; both our first marriages were hurtful; but we learned from it. We took all that learning and applied it to our own relationship; NASA, we do NOT have a problem.

On the other hand, we have had people comment that it is “not fair” that we have such a relationship. They are bitter and angry that they do not have what we have. They have tried to interfere, break us up, but to no avail; and we have pushed these people so far out of our lives, we’ve forgotten what they look or sound like. We have wished them luck, but have no desire to know anymore about them.

Roy and I give each other little gifts often; we don’t wait for a special occasion. We say “I love you” often, everyday; my son would say “you guys look so cute” when he would see us hold hands. We kiss and cuddle; we sigh at the same time, finish each other’s thoughts; yeah, we’re disgustingly cute at times; and very, very happy with each other.

We decided not to go out for dinner tonight, we want something quiet. I’m going to make something very simple that can be made in the time it takes Roy to get home. No mess, no fuss, so more time for us.

So Happy Valentine’s Day, enjoy being in love.

Crab and Swiss Meltaways


1 ½ cups crab meat (claw or lump – pick through to remove any loose shell pieces), or flaked imitation crab meat (readily available and money friendly)
4 Tbsp mayonnaise
1 tsp mild hot sauce (mild will not overpower the taste of the crab)
2 Tbsp red onion, diced
1 Tbsp dill
½ cup shredded Swiss cheese plus 6 slices Swiss cheese (Sargento’s Baby Swiss is the best)
3 Tbsp butter, softened
½ tsp garlic powder
3 English muffins, split apart and toasted.


Preheat oven to 350F.

In medium bowl, combine crab meat, mayonnaise, hot sauce, onion, dill and shredded Swiss cheese.

In a small bowl, combine butter and garlic powder. Spread the garlic butter on each English muffin part (6 total).

Take crab mixture and form into 6 balls; press onto English muffins and top with a slice of Swiss cheese.

Place onto baking sheet and bake for 5-6 minutes; cheese will be melted and just starting to brown. Serve while hot.

Makes 6 servings.

Mary Cokenour

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Keeping busy, small comfort.

I get very attached to animals; they're my children, my friends, and when one passes away, it hurts...a lot. Even though Peanut lived outside with her feline family, we still remember when Momma Cat brought her kittens to us. So small they were, and eyes still closed; we built a shelter from a large Rubbermaid storage box, and an old beat up quilt we used to cover furniture in the shed. As they grew older, the kittens ventured out from under the garden shed, and began eating the food we put out for the cat family who had adopted us. Peanut had the most adorable face, so adorable, it should have been illegal. She learned the name I had given her very quickly, and came when called, even though I wasn't putting out food. She was smart, but she forgot one thing; she didn't pay attention to the lessons Momma and Daddy Cat were trying to teach her....beware the big monsters.

I am keeping busy today, so I won't sit outside and wonder where she is, or hope she'll suddenly appear. I know she is dead, and won't be back; reality sucks at times. Cleaning out closets, I wonder why I kept something, or why I didn't buy more of another; the garbage can will be full for tomorrow's pickup. Then I remember, tomorrow is Valentine's Day and wonder what to do about dinner. With Roy's job, we never know, on certain days, if he will get out at regular time, or have to work late...Monday is one of those days. He says, don't worry about it, just make something small, just enough for both of us to enjoy.

So here is the first recipe that I ever entered into a recipe contest, and it won. It appeared in the "Better Homes and Gardens" February 1995 issue, and the funniest part about the was all made up in my head. That's right, I had never cooked the recipe before; just looked around the freezer, fridge and pantry, saw what I had on hand, and thought up how to put it together. Sometimes I amaze myself.

Thyme Chicken Marsala
(Winning recipe which appeared in Better Homes and Gardens Magazine, February 1995 issue)


2 skinless, boneless chicken breast halves
1 tbs. flour
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. pepper
1 tbs. olive oil
1 medium carrot, julienne strips
1 small red or yellow pepper, julienne strips
2/3 cup dry Marsala
2 tbs. fresh or 1/2 tsp. dried thyme
1/2 lb. cooked Linguine or Angel Hair Pasta


Rinse chicken; pat dry. Lightly pound each chicken breast half to 1/4" thickness. Coat breasts lightly with flour; shake off excess. Set aside.

In a large skillet heat 1 tbs. oil. Add carrot strips; cook for 3 minutes. Add pepper strips, garlic, salt and pepper; cook and stir about 5 minutes or till crisp-tender. Arrange on 2 dinner plates; keep warm.

In same skillet heat remaining 1 tbs. oil over medium heat; add chicken. Cook chicken 2 to 3 minutes each side or till no pink remains. Drape vegetables over chicken.

Add Marsala and thyme to skillet. Heat for a few minutes, scraping up browned bits from skillet. Pour over chicken. Serve with hot linguine or angel hair pasta.

Makes 2 servings.

Mary Cokenour

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Can't save them all.....

I was going to wait till tomorrow to write this, but I want it off my chest now; my heart is broken, and it hurts so much.

After writing my previous post, I went outside to see if I could find the missing kitten, Peanut, and I did. She was lying in the street, a vehicle must have hit her, and she was gone from our lives. Peanut was a spirited kitten, always into something, and so brave that she would walk into the house whenever you opened the door. She was not afraid of the dogs, and would swat at them as she walked her way to the kitchen. She had the sweetest little face, and the personality to match, and now she is gone.

Her bravery was her undoing. All the other cats and kittens that have taken up residence under our garden shed, for the most part, stay on our property, or on the empty lot next door to us. But she went into the street, and a big monster got her, one she just couldn't swat out of her way.

Not knowing what had happened to her bothered me, and even though I now know, it doesn't make the pain any less. Peanut will be dearly missed; bye, bye little one; we loved you very much. 

Treasures on my shelf and I didn't even know.

This morning the dogs decided that mommy needed to get up at 6AM; sure, why not? Once I'm up, that's it, I'm up; so got busy getting laundry into the washer, feeding the indoor and outdoor pets (however one of the kittens is missing, and I'm a bit upset over that, and then tackled the cooking. By 8am I had my 2-6 qt crock pots going, one containing Beef Stroganoff, the other Chicken Cacciatore. Yes, yes, I'll post the recipes, just hold your horses cause I'm not done telling you about my morning.

Anyway, I decide to take a break, so turn on the boob tube (that means television)to see if anything interesting was on. The movie, "Julie and Julia" which had inspired me to start this blog was on; really like the movie, so figured I'd watch it again. By now Roy was up, and decided to watch it with me. I wanted him to understand the book references, so went to my cookbook collection and pulled out my copies of "Joy of Cooking", and Julia Child's "Mastering the Art of French Cooking", volumes 1 and 2.

How I purchased these books was by antiquing; every year, on Black Friday (day after Thanksgiving), my mom and I would go to Hershey, Pennsylvania and browse the various antique shops. A 1943 "Joy of Cooking" - $1.50; both volumes of Julia's books - $8 each; and then I checked the print date on them. Stunned silence, and that doesn't happen often to me; volume 1 was the 2nd reprint from November 1961; volume 2 is a first edition (says it right inside the book) from 1970. Gold, I had golden books in my collection, and didn't know until now.

That's my thrill for today, and don't believe anything will top that; well, except if the missing kitten(named Peanut)returns. So, here are the two recipes I promised to post; revamped for the crock pot.

Chicken Cacciatore


4 lbs boneless, skinless chicken breasts, halved lengthwise
1 cup low sodium chicken broth
½ cup white wine
2 (28 oz) cans diced tomatoes with Italian herbs
1 (12 oz) can tomato paste
3 Tbsp. minced garlic
1 tsp. hot pepper flakes
1 and ½ cups each of red bell and Italian frying peppers, cut into 1 inch strips
1 cup sliced mushrooms
1 large onion, diced
Cooked rice or pasta


Set a 6-qt slow cooker on low, place chicken breasts on bottom. In a large mixing bowl, combine the remaining ingredients, except for the cooked rice or pasta; mix thoroughly. Spoon mixture over chicken, replace lid and let cook for 6-8 hours; chicken will be fork tender. Mix occasionally; making sure the chicken gets incorporated into the sauce-vegetable mixture.

Serve over the cooked rice or pasta.

Makes 8-10 servings.

~~~~ and ~~~~

Beef Stroganoff


3 ½ - 4 lbs. lean beef, cut into ½” cubes
½ cup flour
1-12 oz bag frozen, diced onions
1-8 oz can or jar of sliced mushrooms
2 Tbsp minced garlic
3 beef seasoning packets or bouillon cubes
2 cups water
1-10 ¾ oz can cream of mushroom soup
1 cup sour cream
1 ½ lbs cooked, broad egg noodles


Set crock pot on low, and place in all ingredients except the soup, sour cream and egg noodles. Cover and cook for 3 hours; stirring occasionally. Add the soup and cook for 4-5 additional hours; until meat is very tender. Stir in sour cream; let cook for 10 minutes; serve over egg noodles.

Makes 8 servings.

Mary Cokenour

Friday, February 11, 2011

Aren’t we all a little obsessive-compulsive?

Think about your day; all the habits and rituals you feel the need to do each morning, afternoon and evening. Whether you chose to create your life this way, or outside factors helped to create it; we all experience it.

The Encyclopedia of Mental Disorders defines Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) as an anxiety disorder marked by the recurrence of intrusive or disturbing thoughts, impulses, images or ideas (obsessions) accompanied by repeated attempts to suppress these thoughts through the performance of certain irrational and ritualistic behaviors or mental acts (compulsions). The obsessions and compulsions take up large amounts of the patient's time (an hour or longer every day) and usually cause significant emotional distress for the patient and difficulties in his or her relationships with others.

However, OCD should not be confused with Obsessive-Compulsive Personality Disorder even though the two disorders have similar names. Obsessive-compulsive personality disorder is not characterized by the presence of obsessions and compulsions; rather, it is a lifelong pattern of insistence on control, orderliness, and perfection that begins no later than the early adult years. It is possible, however, for a person to have both disorders.

So, we’re either OCD or OCPD, or both; lovely, why not throw a little more confusion into our lives? No wonder so many people are on some sort of medication to help them deal with everyday life in general.

This relates to cooking how you may ask; well I’m going to tell you. Take, for example, the simple sandwich: 2 slices of some sort of bread (toasted, grilled or left soft), layers of meat, cheese and vegetables; perhaps a condiment or two. The contents might be warmed up, but usually they’re cold. Basically constructed the same exact way every time, picked up and eaten with the hands…sounds boring, doesn’t it?

So, break routine; no, no, no, don’t give up sandwiches altogether, just think up ways of making them different, more exciting. Go messy and don’t worry about the neatness factor. Eat it with a knife and fork if you really, really have to, but try being daring, pick it up and make a total mess…your mouth and stomach will thank you for it.

Beef Dip Sandwich


½ tsp salt
1 tsp ground black pepper
3 lb lean roast beef (not chuck)
2 Tbsp red wine
4 cups beef broth
2 Tbsp minced garlic
¼ tsp red pepper flakes
2 large bell peppers (red, yellow or orange), cut into ¼” strips
2 large red onions, cut into ¼” strips
3 loaves of crusty Italian bread, cut in half, then cut lengthwise (if soft Italian bread is only available, toast bread in oven before serving)


In a medium skillet, high heat, sear all sides and ends of the beef; remove beef to 4 qt crock pot; set on low heat. Deglaze skillet with wine and ½ cup beef broth; scrape up any stuck bits into the liquid; pour over beef in crock pot. Add remaining broth, garlic, pepper flakes, bell pepper and onion.

Let cook for 6 hours; remove beef to carving board and let rest for 10 minutes. Slice beef into ¼” slices.

To make sandwich, dip top and bottom halves of bread into crock pot liquid to let bread absorb flavorful, beefy liquid; place on plate. Layer slices of beef on bottom bread half; top with peppers and onions, top with other half.

Makes 6 servings.

Mary Cokenour
January 8, 1993 (creation date)

Thursday, February 10, 2011

If you haven’t tried it, how do you know how it tastes?

In my area, there are three Chinese restaurants; we’ve tried two, haven’t tried the third place yet, and we’re a bit hesitate. Why? The experience of the first two restaurants has jaded both of us. The cuisine is so very different from what we are accustomed to, namely Cantonese style. Out here, the Chinese cooks come mostly from San Francisco’s Chinatown, and cook mainly in the Mandarin style; while the Chinatown of New York City and Philadelphia is primarily Cantonese. So, not only two different dialects, but two different cooking styles. When I ask for a particular dish, well, it’s not exactly what I’m used to, and sometimes, extremely different.

Take for example “Chow Fun”, also referred to as “Ho Fun”; a dish made by stir frying a wide rice noodle (about ½” wide) with beef, bean sprouts, Chinese broccoli and, sometimes, onion. I have asked the owners of the restaurants here if they make this dish, and the answer was yes. However, the dish I received, both times, was made with lo mein noodles which are more tubular, like spaghetti, and starchier. Not the same as what I am used to, and very different indeed; and I didn’t particularly care for the taste or texture.

My goal, find an online site that makes the wide rice noodle and ships it out. I have the recipe and a wok; now just need the correct ingredients.

But it hasn’t been just this dish that is different; the fried rice is not, fried that is, but steamed and has very little flavor to it. The sauces are thinner, less flavorful; the various dim sum are drier. Now maybe it’s the cooks in the restaurants; I really can’t be sure since I have never been to Chinatown in San Francisco and experienced the restaurants there. Then again, what if I had lived most of my life in California, and then gone to Chinatown in New York City and Philadelphia…how would I react to the difference in cooking style?

I already know that restaurants out East, that say they serve Southwestern/Mexican cuisine, are far off the mark of the real cooking styles. I know that the Cuban style, very predominant in Florida, is very different from Puerto Rican which is very different from Mexican. I have tried it, so can speak from experience. But what if someone hasn’t tried the different styles; how can they know the difference, appreciate it, and know when they’re being served something completely different? Simple answer is, try it, or you’ll never really know. If you have the opportunity to travel to a place which has a completely different cuisine than you’re used to…try it. Please, stop with the “ewwww”s, or the “not gonna put that in my mouth”; why deny yourself a pleasure because of a little fear and/or ignorance? If you don’t like it, at least you tried it, and don’t have to try it again, unless you’re feeling brave enough for another chance at it.

Beef Chow Fun (Ho Fun)


8 ounces bean sprouts, about 4 cups, rinsed and drained well
1 pound Chinese broccoli
1 pound flank steak, well trimmed
2 tablespoons soy sauce
3 teaspoons cornstarch
3 teaspoons rice cooking wine
2 tablespoons Chinese dried black beans
2 pounds fresh broad rice noodles
4 tablespoons vegetable oil
5 slices of ginger
1 1/2 tablespoon garlic, minced
1 teaspoon fine sea salt
4 scallions, cut into 2-inch sections
3-4 tablespoons oyster sauce


1) Cut the broccoli stalks in half lengthwise if more than 1/2 inch in diameter. Cut the stalks and leaves into 2 inch-long pieces, keeping the stalks separate from the leaves.

2) Halve the flank steak with the grain into 2 strips. Cut each strip across the grain into 1/4-inch-thick slices. Place in a shallow bowl, add the soy sauce, cornstarch, and rice wine, and stir to combine; set aside.

3) Rinse the black beans in several changes of cold water and drain. In a small bowl, mash the black beans with the back of a wooden spoon. Leaving the noodles as a slab, cut noodles crosswise into 3/4-inch-wide strips.

4) Heat a large wok or skillet over high heat. Add 1 tablespoon oil, ginger and garlic to wok, and stir-fry about 15 to 30 seconds, until fragrant. Add the beef, spreading it in the wok. Cook, undisturbed, 30 seconds to 1 minute, letting the beef begin to brown. Add the mashed black beans and stir-fry 1 to 2 minutes, or until beef is browned but still slightly rare. Transfer to a plate and set aside. Add 1 tablespoon oil into the wok and stir-fry the broccoli stalks for 30 seconds. Add the leaves and 1 teaspoon salt, stir-fry 1 to 2 minutes until the stalks are bright green and the leaves are limp. Transfer to a plate and set aside. Rinse wok and dry it thoroughly.

5) Re-heat wok over high heat, add 2 tablespoons oil to the wok with the noodles, spreading them in the wok. Cook undisturbed for 1 minute, or until slightly crusty. Add the bean sprouts and stir-fry 1 to 2 minutes. Return the broccoli and beef with any juices that have accumulated to the wok, add the oyster sauce and scallions, and stir-fry 1 to 2 minutes, or until heated through and well combined. Adjust seasonings to taste and serve immediately.

Makes 4 servings

[Adapted from "The Wisdom of the Chinese Kitchen" by Grace Young]

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Happy Birthday William Petrara, wherever you are.

Today is my son’s birthday; he is now 21 years old, a legal adult in every way, shape and form. I can’t really tell you much else about him, as I haven’t been in his life since he was 18 ½ years old; his choice, not mine. I have heard through the grapevine that he is finally realizing the mistakes he’s made. That’s sort of amusing, considering he was always saying, “I refuse to learn from my mistakes”, and “I know I make bad choices, and don’t care”. If you happen to know William, or just want to wish him a Happy Birthday, he does have a Facebook page:

I can relate stories of him before the estrangement between us; the sort of embarrassing stories a mom relates to a son’s friends or girlfriend. I can tell you how he loved to have broccoli and cheese for dessert when he was a little boy. That he thought the Power Rangers were great, especially the White Ranger and his Tigerzoid; he had action figures and accessories galore. That I was “Momma Wolf”, and he was my little gray wolf pup. How we celebrated his 18th birthday in Florida, two weeks of hitting the Disney and Universal Parks; his birthday dinner at Jimmy Buffet's Marguaritaville Restaurant. The best was that I was the coolest mom of all the moms, a 9 ¾ rating; he couldn’t give me a 10 because, well heck, I was a mom, but if I wasn’t, then I’d rate a 10 in coolness.

William wasn’t big on desserts until he was older, not so much on cake as he was on brownies, cookies, and, especially, my Rice Krispie treats. Don’t really know why they were so special, except maybe they were made just for him, and with love.

So, Happy Birthday William; I do hope you are very happy, healthy, and getting wiser. Love, Mom.

…and if you were around, I’d make these for you to celebrate this big day in your life.


Black Forest Brownies 


Brownie Layer

4 oz bittersweet chocolate
4 Tbsp butter
¾ cup all purpose flour
¼ tsp salt
2 eggs, beaten
1 cup brown sugar
2 Tbsp cherry preserves

Frosting Layer4 Tbsp butter, softened
½ cup cream cheese, softened
1 tsp cherry liqueur
1 ¼ cups confectioner’s sugar

¼ cup shredded bittersweet chocolate
¼ cup chopped candied cherries

Preheat oven to 350F. Spray a 9” x 9” baking pan with nonstick baking (contains flour) spray.

On low heat, melt together the chocolate and butter in a double boiler till smooth and shiny; set aside and keep warm.

Into a small bowl, sift together the flour and salt; set aside. In a large bowl, mix together the eggs, brown sugar and cherry preserves; add the flour and salt to the large bowl, mix thoroughly until smooth. Spread batter evenly into baking pan; bake for 20-25 minutes, or until toothpick comes out of center cleanly. Let cool before frosting.

While brownies cool, prepare frosting by creaming together butter, cream cheese, cherry liqueur and confectioner’s sugar. Spread over top of cooled brownies. Sprinkle the shredded chocolate and chopped cherries over top.

Makes 16 brownies.

Mary Cokenour
February 9, 1993 (created this recipe for William's 3rd birthday)

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

I don’t miss the East coast, just the food.

For the first 50 years of my life, I lived in New York and Pennsylvania; probably already said this a couple of times, but just in case…

Sure, I miss my family and the few close friends I have out there, but the locations themselves…not at all. I don’t miss the overbuilt residential areas, or the numerous strip malls with half empty storefronts. I don’t miss wondering if someone was going to crash into my car every time I went to the grocery store, work, or wherever I was headed to. I most certainly don’t miss sitting in the ever constant traffic jams, not just on highways, but on the city roads themselves. I don’t miss the noise, the dirt, the skies so polluted that they were a sickly green-blue; nor the stench that was also ever present in the air.

No, I don’t miss the East coast at all; but I do miss the food. Italian bakeries with delectable desserts and pastries; Chinese restaurants with an unending variety; Italian and Jewish delis with a vast selection of meats, cheeses and breads. I miss the Farmers’ markets where you could buy anything and everything; all fresh. All the wonderful food stuffs that cannot be purchased in supermarkets out here in the Southwest, or if you can, they cost an arm and 2 ½ legs. Or, there are online sites that can ship the items to you in 1-2 days, and most of the prices are not unreasonable; but the shipping costs will force you to get a loan at the local bank or credit union.

I miss the food…oh to have a potato knish, crispy outside, soft mashed potatoes inside with spicy brown mustard; or a Sabrett hotdog covered in that wonderful spicy onion sauce; real country sausage from the Farmers’ market, grilled and it snaps when you bite into it. This could make a person cry, but I’ll hold back for now; don’t want to get the keyboard wet.

I am learning to do without for certain recipes, or how to create or use substitutes; while good, it’s still not the same. One of these items is mascarpone cheese which I often used for making desserts like cheesecake or tiramisu’; but I’ve learned to make a close substitute. So, for those of you who have wanted to try mascarpone, or, like me, cannot find it, here’s a substitute recipe, and a dessert that can be made with it…Tiramisu’.

Mascarpone Cheese
Mascarpone originated in the area between Lodi and Abbiategrasso, Italy, southwest of Milan, probably in the late 16th or early 17th century. It is a fresh, very rich cow’s milk cheese; double or triple cream (60% to 75% milk fat). Its texture resembles a sticky pudding and it is the color of cream. While it is widely used in desserts, such as the Italian cake called Tiramisù; it can be used in a variety of recipes. In Italy, a favorite preparation is savory, mixing the cheese with anchovies, mustard and spices as a spread for breads. By itself, it can be served as an enhancement for fruits, coffee or cocoa; or added to such Italian dishes like lasagna, stuffed shells or manicotti.

While it can be purchased in stores or online, it can also be pricey. However, there is a way to make a suitable substitute.

Substitute for Mascarpone Cheese
Combine 16 oz. softened cream cheese, ½ cup heavy whipping cream and 5 Tbsp. sour cream; mix thoroughly until smooth and creamy.


A classic Italian cake made with mascarpone cheese and lady fingers. This is a layered dessert which could be compared to an English Trifle.

3 large eggs, separate yolks and whites
½ cup sugar plus ½ tsp
1 cup espresso coffee, cooled
2 Tbsp cognac or brandy
16 oz mascarpone cheese**
1/8 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
60 lady fingers, toasted

In a large mixing bowl, combine egg yolks, 1 Tbsp espresso, ½ cup sugar and liquor. Use mixer to beat ingredients together for 2 minutes; add cheese and beat until mixture is smooth.

In another bowl, combine egg whites with ½ tsp sugar; beat on high with mixer until egg whites can hold a peak. Gently fold the egg whites into the cheese mixture.

Pour remaining espresso into a rimmed dish; lightly dip the lady fingers into the espresso, making sure to coat both sides. On the bottom of a 2 qt round dessert bowl, place 15 of the lady fingers (rounded side down), put another 15 (rounded side outward) around the sides of the bowl. Begin layering by spreading 1/3 of the cheese mixture on top of the lady fingers on bottom of the bowl, 15 lady fingers (rounded side upward), 1/3 of mixture, final 15 of lady fingers (rounded side upward), final 1/3 of cheese mixture. Sprinkle the cocoa powder over the final cheese layer.
Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.

Makes 8-10 servings.

** If mascarpone cheese is not available, create a substitute by mixing together 16 oz. softened cream cheese, ½ cup heavy whipping cream and 5 Tbsp. sour cream until smooth and creamy.

Mary Cokenour

Monday, February 7, 2011

Thinking outside the box.

As I’ve posted previously, I don’t like the idea of labeling, boxing and filing away…people that is. The same goes for ideas and techniques; just because something is done the same way all the time, doesn’t mean change is impossible. Think outside the box; the possibilities could be endless.

Take, for example, changing your hair color; products are a lot safer now than they used to be. Instead of harsh, stinky ammonia; now you have the choice of not using it. Sure, the coloring doesn’t last as long, but your hair will last on your head a lot longer. Natural ingredients are being added to help keep the hair healthy; and colors are no longer a standard black, brown, red or blonde…there are shades to please anyone. So who says you have to keep what you were born with, and not change it…it’s your hair, isn’t it?

So, let’s get to cooking, and thinking outside the box. Fettuccine Alfredo is a classic Italian pasta dish made with primarily three ingredients: fettuccine, butter and Parmesan cheese. As the cheese melts, it combines with the butter and makes a thicker sauce which coats the pasta. Simple and easy; purists don’t like to mess with the original.

I’m far from being a purist, so let’s expand on the recipe; add cream to make it richer, chicken or shrimp for an added protein; how about peas or broccoli…you now have a complete meal of dairy, starch, protein and vegetable. We won’t talk about the fat, just keep it between us, ok?
When I go out of the box, I go all out, so here’s my expanded recipe on an original idea, and it’s awesomely good!!! Never said I was humble.

Four Cheese Chicken Pasta Bake


4 Tbsp butter
1 small onion, diced
1 Tbsp minced garlic
1 (10 ¾ oz) can cream of mushroom soup
1 (4 oz) can or jar sliced mushrooms, cut mushrooms in half
1 (8 oz) package cream cheese
½ cup each of shredded parmesan, mozzarella and Swiss cheese
1 cup each heavy whipping cream and warmed milk
¼ tsp each ground black pepper and nutmeg
2 cups cooked chicken breast ( ½” cubes)
½ lb cooked penne, ziti or small rigatoni
½ cup Italian seasoned dried bread crumbs
3 Tbsp melted butter


Preheat oven to 350F. Spray a 2 qt casserole dish with nonstick spray.
In a small skillet, on medium heat, sauté onion in butter till softened; add garlic and cook for 5 minutes more.

In a large bowl, mix together thoroughly the soup, mushrooms, all cheeses, cream, milk, black pepper, nutmeg, chicken, pasta and the onion-garlic mix. Spread evenly into the casserole dish.

In a small bowl, mix together bread crumbs and butter completely; spread over the mixture in casserole dish.

Bake for 30 minutes, covered with aluminum foil. Uncover and bake for additional 15 minutes, or until topping is golden brown.

Makes 8 servings.

Mary Cokenour
February 7, 2011

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Take time to do it well.

It's that time of year again; when the tax man comes a calling, and the piper wants to be paid his due. Or, if you're lucky, he ends up owing you.

My day began as any typical day, the dogs waking me up at 7am to tell me it was potty time; they know not to bother with my hubby as he sleeps like the dead. After feeding all the indoor and outdoor pets, making coffee and getting dressed; decided it was a good time to get all my papers organized for taxes.

Four hours later, all relevant papers are together for both of us; all papers that need to be stored have been gathered, put into large manila envelopes and placed in a storage box. The filing drawers in my roll top desk are less crammed; amazing how much paperwork can be accumulated during a 12 month period.

While 4 hours may sound like a lot of wasted time, I got the job done the way I wanted it done, and don't have to worry about doing more's a done deal.

Sometimes, a recipe for a great meal can be similiar; taking a lot of time to prep, put together and cook; but oh, it is certainly worth the time and the waiting. For example, my "Country Beef Stew" takes 3 days to make, but is most definitely worth the wait. So, take the time to do the work, and enjoy the reward of a meal done well.

Country Beef Stew


2 lbs. lean roast beef, cut into 1” cubes
2 medium red onions, sliced
2 large carrots, peeled and cut into ½” pieces
1 tbsp. garlic, minced
½ tsp. salt
1 tsp. ground black pepper
2 Tbsp. canola oil
1 Tbsp. balsamic vinegar
1 cup all purpose flour
¼ cup canola oil
¼ cup burgundy wine
1 ½ cups beef stock
cooked egg noodles


In a large bowl, mix together thoroughly the beef cubes, onions, carrots, garlic, salt, pepper, 2 Tbsp. canola oil and vinegar. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for two (2) days; occasionally turning ingredients.

Remove cubes and place in a large plastic bag. Add in flour, close the bag and shake; coat cubes thoroughly. In a 12” non-stick skillet, heat ¼ cup of oil on high heat and brown the cubes on all sides. Drain on paper towels; remove to a 2-quart round casserole dish and mix in the marinated vegetables.

Drain oil from the skillet; deglaze the pan with the wine and gradually stir in the beef stock. Pour over the meat and vegetables. Cover with the plastic wrap and put back into the refrigerator overnight.

Preheat oven to 300 F. Cook for three (3) hours, stirring occasionally, and serve over the cooked egg noodles.

Serves six.

Mary Cokenour
February 27, 1995 (when I came up with this recipe)