Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Arches Chinese Restaurant is so-so.


1770 E. 20th Street
Farmington, NM, 87401

(505) 327-1351

Website: N/A

As with other Chinese restaurants in the Four Corners area, the main cuisine of Arches is Mandarin cuisine based. However, I noticed that when it comes to sauces, this restaurant favors sweet and sour sauce; it seemed to be everywhere. It was available as a condiment.

At the buffet serving tables, it was included in such dishes as “Beef with Broccoli” and “General Tso Chicken”; the actual “Sweet and Sour Chicken” was so saturated in the sauce, it was a goopy mess. The first two dishes mentioned are normally in a brown sauce, but not at Arches.

The individual serving units were one quarter to half full with many other dishes, with the sauces congealing, and a skin forming over whatever dishes they covered; or the vegetables were obviously limp from sitting over the steaming tables. The fried rice and pork lo mein were kept piled high with fresh servings, as was the fruit table. The restaurant was busy, so there was no reason why the food was not refreshed as it ran low. For the dishes I tried, I found the food to be mediocre, at best, and lacking in seasoning.

The saving grace for Arches hot food was the spring and egg rolls; crispy on the outside and the cabbage filling was finely shredded, so easier to bite into and eat in small portions. The sweet and sour sauce plus hot mustard were a great accompaniment for these. The fruit table contained many varieties, all tasting and looking fresh.

All in all, the price for the buffet is reasonable, especially if you’re not picky about the quality.

Mary Cokenour

Arches Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Arches Restaurant on Restaurantica

What to do with Chicken Thighs?

I am not a big fan of chicken thighs; I don't like dark meat on poultry, and they are too fatty for my tastes. My hubby and his family though don't agree, so I usually make the thighs just for them...either fried or barbequed. His mom likes to pick up grocery items when they are on sale, and have me cook them up, and what did she buy....you guessed it, chicken thighs.

I didn't want to pull out the deep fryer; I didn't want to put the oven on to have them roast in barbeque sauce; I wanted something a bit more creative this time around. Southwestern....no, Italian....no; lets go a little Asian this time; but instead of the usual sweet and sour sauce, lets use up the apricot and pineapple jams in the pantry.

Sweet and Sour Chicken Thighs


2 lbs boneless, skinless chicken thighs, cut into pieces
3 cups dried seasoned bread crumbs
peanut or canola oil for frying
1 cup each sugar snap peas, chopped broccoli
1/2 cup each chopped onion, red, yellow and green bell peppers
3 Tbsp soy sauce
1 tsp ground ginger
1 cup each apricot, pineapple jams


In a large bowl, coat the chicken with the bread crumbs. Fill a large skillet with about 1-1/2 inches of oil and bring temperature up to 375F. Fry, about 5 minutes, 12 pieces of the chicken at a time and drain on paper towels.

When all the chicken is done, remove all the oil but 2 Tbsp; place into the skillet the vegetables, soy sauce and ginger; mix and cook for 7 minutes. Add back the chicken and mix in jams, making sure to coat all the chicken and vegetables. Reduce heat to low and cook for 5 minutes before serving.

Makes 8 servings.

Mary Cokenour

Monday, May 30, 2011

Kuchu's at Ute Mountain Casino; nothing to brag about.

Kuchu's Restaurant
- located at Ute Mountain Casino -

3 Weeminuche Drive at Yellow Jacket
Towaoc, CO 81334

Phone: (970) 565-8800 - or - 1-800-258-8007
Fax: (970) 565-6553

Website: http://www.utemountaincasino.com/kuchus.html

Being the Memorial Day weekend, we decided to do something different. I had told Roy about how, since the renovation of Atlantic City in New Jersey, I had gone to the casinos there once a year until 1994. He had never been to a casino; Ute Mountain Casino was only about an hour away, so why not? The casino itself is small compared to any at Atlantic City, and I had to keep in mind that this was certainly not Atlantic City. Any staff we dealt with were friendly and helpful, and we quickly found a couple of slot machines to play on. The slot machines here are all controlled via buttons; oh, some have pull arms, but not many; and you won't hear the clinking of money falling as you win. Coins aren't used to play, and a ticket is dispensed when you cash out on a machine. I found it to be equal to playing a video game, and rather boring. Roy said it was ok, considering it was his first time at a casino, and then again, he plays video games on his computer, so he could relate to this type of play.

We had heard pro and con reviews about Kuchu's, so tried the lunch buffet...and wished we hadn't. Kuchu's interior reminds one of a school cafeteria with white walls, and someone resembling a "lunch lady" behind the buffet.

The spare ribs were very fatty with little meat; the crust on the chicken pot pie was like paste; the macaroni in the dish resembling "hamburger helper" was so overcooked, it dissolved in the mouth. The vegetables were swimming in a cloudy water with an oily sheen on top. The soup was thin and tasted canned. The "hot" food was barely warm, and had the taste of prefrozen products that had been sitting in the freezer for months. The saving grace of this awful meal was the mashed potatoes which were creamy and buttery. If you don't mind having all you can eat mashed potatoes for $9.95, and nothing else, you'll do fine.

Seriously, if you visit the casino, have fun; but if you want a good meal; go to one of the many restaurants in nearby Cortez, CO.

Mary Cokenour

Kuchu's Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Kuchu's on Restaurantica

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Stonefish Sushi and More is certainly more than expected.

Stonefish Sushi and More
16 West Main Street
Cortez, CO, 81321

(970) 565-9244

Website: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Stonefish-Sushi-More/129798563719697

Walking into Stonefish Sushi, you're immediately greeted by an open atmosphere of feeling good; the decor is a perfect fusion of East meets West. It's the type of place you want to sit in for awhile, talking, eating, and just having a good time. The wait staff is very attentive, don't mind answering any questions, and make sure you are pleased.

Happy hour(4:30 - 5:30)was in full swing when we walked in, and the place was 3/4 full. The tables are arranged along the walls, with cushions and pillows covering the bench that is against the wall, and chairs are in the main walking area. There is only a couple of feet between tables, so if you're looking for privacy, you won't accomplish that here.

We ordered sake, Calamari dinner entree, Volcano and Vegas rolls. While we waited for our meal, we spied on the neighboring diners to see what they were eating, and how were they enjoying themselves. We also had the bar (duel duty of sushi bar and alcohol bar), and watched the two preparers work. The two guys preparing the sushi were working fast and hard to get the orders out; from what we saw of the plates coming out, the menu items looked fantastic. We heard comments of "oh, this looks so good"; "this tastes great!"; I swear, I believe one guy would have picked up his plate and licked it clean, if he could.

First our Calamari arrived with a semi-spicy Thai sauce that was delectable; the Calamari, however, was a little disappointing; very thinly sliced and fried to such a crisp that it fell apart like potato chips. The pieces were difficult to pick up with chopsticks, dip and eat; most of the flavor came from the sauce. Ok, it was classified as a dinner item, but was more an appetizer.

Next came the Volcano roll (avocado, cucumber, krab), and it was quite pretty to behold; and tasted wonderful. The pieces were uniform and fit perfectly in the mouth for that one bite sushi should be; the spicy lobster topping with roe was awesomely good.

Then came the Vegas roll(salmon, avocado, cream cheese)lightly fried tempura style with spicy mayo and unagi sauce. OH MY!!! It melted in the mouth and was purely succulent; almost like an obscene dessert.

Which brings me to dessert, and we tried the Green Tea ice cream. If you haven't tried this item before, beware, it is not your typical ice cream; not overly sweet, more of a savory nature, but you just can't put the spoon down and stop eating it.

Overall...we can't wait to go back again, and try out some of the other menu items.

Mary Cokenour

Stonefish Sushi and More on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Copycat recipe for Stuffed Salmon

When I lived on the East Coast, there were two warehouse chain stores in the area, BJ's Warehouse and Costco.  The closest place now is Sam's Club, and that's about three hours to Grand Junction, CO, so I don't go there very often.  One item we really enjoyed eating was the stuffed salmon filets; of course it was stuffed with imitation crab meat, but we didn't care because it tasted so yummy.

Yesterday I wanted to make a romantic dinner for Roy and myself; and I just happened to have thick salmon filets and imitation crab meat on hand.  Time to get the brain cells going, remember how the stuffed salmon tasted and come up with a copycat recipe.  Well folks, it came out well, and very, very close to the actual product I used to purchase.

So, anyone looking for a copycat recipe for Costco or BJ's Warehouse stuffed salmon with crabmeat, try out my recipe, and I believe you'll be pretty impressed.

This is a copycat recipe I came up with for the stuffed salmon that is sold in warehouse chains such as Costco and BJ’s Warehouse.
4 Tbsp olive oil, divided in half
4 (1/2 lb each) salmon filets, at least 1 ½” thick; deboned and skin removed
1 cup flaked style imitation crab meat, pulled apart
1 cup hot, cooked long grain rice
1 Tbsp melted butter
1 Tbsp softened cream cheese
½ tsp minced garlic
¼ tsp each crushed, dried celery seed, basil, oregano, marjoram, rosemary and thyme
 1 tsp each salt and dill
Preheat oven to 400F.  Brush 2 Tbsp olive oil on bottom and sides of a 1.5 qt baking dish.
Make a cut lengthwise on each filet, leave ½” uncut space on each side, and on the bottom; create a pocket by gently running tip of sharp knife under each flap and leave ½” space each side.
In a medium bowl, combine crab meat, rice, butter, cream cheese, garlic and herbs (except salt and dill) well.  Spoon filling into each filet pocket; creating a small mound at the top.  Brush remaining olive oil onto salmon; sprinkle salt and dill over the salmon and place into baking dish.  Bake for 20 minutes; check for doneness (thickest part of filet will flake) about 2 minutes before allotted cooking time.
Makes 4 servings.
Mary Cokenour
May 24, 2011

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Adventures in Cheesecake.

Now while some folks consider baking a chore; I look at it more as a minor hobby. It's not something that I can say I like alot, but I can't say I dislike it, so keep trying it out. There wasn't much cooking I wanted to do over the weekend, so decided to play with cheesecake recipes. Usually I like to mix cream cheese with mascarpone cheese which I posted about on Feb 8, 2011, but not this time. Each recipe I created has two pounds of cream cheese in it, making the cakes denser, but still moist and luscious.

Now this first recipe is Lemon Curd Cheesecake, so it tastes very like eating a lemon meringue pie, but with cheesecake instead of lots of puffy meringue. When I like a little snack, I'll spoon lemon curd onto squares of shortbread, and it's a delightful treat. However, I wanted a little more snap, so used crushed ginger snap cookies for the crust.

Lemon Curd Cheesecake
Spray a 10” spring form pan with nonstick baking spray; cut out a circle of parchment paper to line bottom of pan; spray the parchment paper also.
1 (16 oz) package gingersnap cookies
6 Tbsp melted butter

Place cookies in plastic bag and crush into a semi-fine crumble.  Mix butter with crumble; press onto bottom of pan and up sides about ½ inch.  Refrigerate for half hour.


4 (8 oz) boxes cream cheese, softened
¼ cup lemon juice
2 tsp pure lemon extract
1 cup sugar
2 eggs, beaten

Beat cream cheese, lemon juice, extract and sugar together till smooth; add eggs; beat until well incorporated.  Pour into spring form pan.  Bake for one hour at 350F; turn off heat, partially open oven door and let cake rest for half hour.   


While cake is baking, make the lemon curd topping.

 1 cup lemon juice
1 cup sugar
4 large eggs
4 Tbsp unsalted butter, cut into pieces

In a large bowl, mix lemon juice, sugar and eggs together till sugar is dissolved.  Pour mixture into a large saucepan and cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until temperature reaches 175F, and mixture has thickened.  Remove from heat; add butter and stir until all the butter has melted.  Pour mixture through a fine strainer into a clean bowl.  After cake has rested, and curd is still slightly warm; pour curd over filling and spread evenly.  Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.

Makes 10-12 servings.

This second cheesecake is based on the fact that I had some coffee left over in the pot, but not enough for a full cup; throwing it out seemed such a waste.

Mocha Latte Cheesecake
Spray a 10” spring form pan with nonstick baking spray; cut out a circle of parchment paper to line bottom of pan; spray the parchment paper also.
1 (16 oz) package shortbread cookies
2 Tbsp melted butter
2 Tbsp chocolate syrup

Place cookies in plastic bag and crush into a semi-fine crumble.  Mix butter and syrup with crumble; press onto bottom of pan and up sides about ½ inch.  Refrigerate for half hour.


4 (8 oz) boxes cream cheese, softened
1/3 cup melted semi-sweet chocolate chips
¼ cup strong brewed coffee
1 cup sugar
2 eggs, beaten
2 Tbsp cocoa powder

Beat cream cheese, melted chocolate, coffee and sugar together till smooth; add eggs and cocoa; beat until well incorporated.  Pour into spring form pan.
Bake for one hour at 350F; turn off heat, partially open oven door and let cake rest for half hour.  Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.


1 Tbsp softened cream cheese
2 tsp sugar
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
2 tsp vanilla powder
1 cup whipped cream
coffee syrup

Beat cream cheese, sugar, vanilla extract and powder together till smooth; fold in whipped cream.  Spread over chilled filling; refrigerate for one hour.  Drizzle coffee syrup over top before cutting and serving.
Makes 10-12 servings.

Mary Cokenour

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Burgers and Slickrock; now that's a combo meal.

Milt's Stop and Eat

356 Millcreek Drive
Moab, UT, 84535

(435) 259-7424

Website: http://www.miltsstopandeat.com/

Established in 1954, Milt's is the place to go for great fast food. Now when I say fast I'm not talking about what is served at the typical fast food places like McDonald's, Burger King or Wendy's. I'm talking about really good food that is made to order, so yeah, you might have to wait a good 15-20 minutes for your order. It's worth it though, unless you enjoy reheated burgers from a microwave, or that's been sitting under a heat lamp. If that's your type of meal, then Milt's is not the place for you.

Milt's is not a big place; there are a few seats available inside, but most orders are placed at the window near the back of the place. Once your order is placed and paid for, you wait; there are some tables and benches underneath the trees, but they'll be packed with diners. Most folks take their food and go elsewhere; like the park or one of the many trails.

We indulged in "Milt's Melt", two beef patties with onions, mushrooms, Swiss cheese all grilled together between two slices of rye bread. A side of fries with fry sauce (a must to have when visiting Utah), and vanilla milk shakes. Delicious awesomeness!!!

Milt's can satisfy anyone's indulgence; and if visiting Moab, you have to make this place a must visit.

Which comes to the Slickrock part of this post's title; Sand Flats (435) 259-2444; this recreational area is beautiful, and a must see. There are biking and ATV trails, camp sites, and many places for hiking and climbing. From Milt's, just go down to Center Street, hook a right and just keep going till you arrive at the entry booth. A pass for the day is only $5.00; and it's a great place to have a picnic lunch with your food from Milt's.

Milt's Stop & Eat on Urbanspoon

Milt's Stop & Eat on Restaurantica

Friday, May 20, 2011

Bambi does it Italian style.

Thought this was going to be a porn video, didn't you?  Shame on you, but since I now have your attention, lets talk about deer meat, or, as it's also called, venison.  In our area we have a type of deer called Mule deer, simply because their ears have a shape similiar to those on a mule.  They are a larger sized deer where the bucks can get up to 300 lbs, and the does to 175 lbs.

Anyway, a little while ago, the hunter I know, Charlie, gave me some deer meat, and it can basically be cooked in the same manner as the elk I had made before.  Now I had only cooked deer meat once before, and it was a total disaster....very gamey and so tough, even the dogs wouldn't eat it.  So, of course, I was a bit concerned about messing this up again; but I didn't want to be boring either and cook it the same as the elk.  Remember, this blog is about food adventures; not doing the same old, same old.

Since the main cuisine I make is Italian based, I allowed myself some room for playing.  This time I was going to make sure I tenderized the deer meat.  I used balsamic vinegar to give the meat a more robust flavor, so the gaminess was gone, and it tasted as if wine had been infused into the meat; and alcohol wasn't even used.

...and here's the complete recipe, so try it, and enjoy!

Venison Ragu’

1 ½ lbs deer steak, cut into ¼” slices, no more than 2” long
2 Tbsp olive oil
3 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 Tbsp minced garlic
1 medium onion, slivered
1 (28 oz) can tomato puree
1 (14.5 oz) can petite diced tomatoes
1 (6 oz) can tomato paste
2 Tbsp dried Italian seasoning mix
5 cups uncooked rigatoni
shredded Parmesan cheese
In a medium bowl, combine the deer with oil, vinegar and garlic; cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 24 hours.
Remove meat from marinade.  In a large skillet, medium-high heat, brown the meat 5 minutes on first side, turn over and spread the onion over top; cook for 5 minutes.  Reduce heat to low and mix in puree, diced tomatoes, paste and seasoning; cover and cook for two hours, stirring occasionally.
After two hours, prepare rigatoni according to package directions, drain and add to skillet; mix and let cook for 5 minutes.  Turn off heat and serve with Parmesan cheese sprinkled over top.
Makes 4-6 servings.
Mary Cokenour

Thursday, May 19, 2011

A little change brings big benefits.

Yesterday was the two year anniversary of moving to Monticello, Utah; an uneventful day except it did rain, just as it did that day in 2009. Since moving here we have seen in the local paper, The San Juan Record, that the town's coffers are in dire straits; and no one seems to know what to do. Personally, I think the town is in between a rock and a hard place (no pun intended due to the geographic area); the old timers don't want any changes in the town; they're happy staying in the 1800's when the town was first founded. However, younger folks don't want the town to die and become another Thompson Springs or Cisco; and by the number of empty store fronts along Main and Center streets, it's not inconceivable.

So, how about a compromise? First off, develop the area to bring back tourism and get the town's tourism rating back with the state; the golf course just doesn't cut the mustard. Let people (that's right, let those outsiders in)develop new stores here and shop in them...boycotting is simply plain immaturity. Most active stores are owned, and it looks like someone bought a giant canister of paint and poured it over the town...the same drab color everywhere. Put some color in the town besides the pots of flowers out during the summertime.

Come on folks, we live in the Southwest...use that fact to the town's benefit, and give tourists a desire to come to Monticello.  We have talented people living here, and a wild west show is what many a tourist is looking for.  Nope, don't want the town to become another Moab; it overgrew too fast, but bring Monticello into the 21st century. That fact is not going away just because you play the three monkey game (see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil) because the winner in that game is the fourth monkey...have no fun!

Well that's my venting for today, and I sure do feel great getting it off my chest. Now to the topic of food; by making a minor change in a recipe, it has the possibility of becoming something even tastier than before. Take, for example, my recipe for Creamy Macaroni and Cheese which I posted on March 20, 2011.  Instead of using the Monterey Jack and mild cheddar, I substituted a cup of shredded Swiss cheese; it came out creamier than before and was an excellent catalyst between the bite of the sharp Cheddar and the tanginess of the Goat cheese.  So, a little change reaped a huge benefit.

Mary Cokenour

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Put on the soup pot, it's raining again.

Today's game plan was to finally get out the rototiller and prep the area, in the backyard, that I wanted the vegetable garden in.  Once done with that, we were going to fit in railroad ties and build a raised bed.  Hot and sweet peppers, tomatoes, zucchini and yellow squash are the priorities; and herbs of course, can't forget those.  That was the game plan, but it's cold and rainy once again, so working outside has to be shelved.

New plan: cleaning out old cooking magazines that I don't read or refer to anymore.  Flipping through them all, I wonder why I even kept them.  So far I've gone through two years of Gourmet and Fine Cooking, and copied maybe a dozen recipes that I want to try.  Now while doing this, soup has been cooking on the stove top...a nice, hearty Tuscan inspired soup called simply "Tuscan Soup".  So, break time will involve a bowl or two of this soup, and then back to the grind of going through magazines again.  Who knows, maybe I'll find a few more inspiring recipes to try.

Tuscan Soup

1 small red and white onion, chopped
½ cup olive oil
1 cup diced carrot
1 cup diced celery
¼ of a white cabbage, shredded
1 cup shredded swiss chard
1 cup diced zucchini
1 cup diced tomatoes
2 (15 ½ oz) cans cannellini or great northern beans
¼ cup julienned basil leaves
½ tsp salt
¼ tsp ground black pepper
cold water
In a large stockpot, heat oil on high heat; sauté onions till translucent.  Reduce heat to medium, add all vegetables, cover and let cook together for 30 minutes; or until cabbage softens.
Reduce heat to low.  Add beans, basil, salt, pepper and enough water to cover all ingredients in stockpot; cover and let cook for 1 ½ hours.
Makes 8 servings.
Mary Cokenour

Monday, May 16, 2011

A lazy day calls for a grilling bag.

After Saturday's day of hiking and climbing, Sunday was most definitely a day of resting. There was a wonderfully cool breeze blowing, and I didn't get my lazy self out of bed till 10:30am. The pets must have known I needed the sleep too, as they didn't wake me early as is their usual way. There were no chores or laundry to do, as I'd done them earlier in the week, so watching movies, or catching up on television episodes was my goal for the day.

For dinner, I had salmon filets to cook up, but didn't want the typical teriyaki sauce marinade; something different was called for. I remembered I had purchased a couple of boxes of Reynold's "Hot Bags", aluminum foil cooking bags for the grill, so figured, "why not?!?"

Putting it all together was easy and so was cleanup; so my lazy day ended up being a perfectly lazy day.

Grilled Salmon with Vegetables


1 each large red and orange bell peppers, cut into ¼ “strips
2 each small zucchini and yellow squash, cut into ¼ “slices
1 cup sliced fresh mushrooms
¼ cup olive oil
¼ tsp each salt and ground black pepper
1 tsp each onion and garlic powder
4 salmon filets, ½ lb each

Heat grill to 275F. Open up a Reynold’s large aluminum foil “hot bag” and spray insides with nonstick cooking spray.

In a large bowl, mix together vegetables, oil and seasonings; spread evenly inside bag; leave 2” of empty space from opening. Place filets on top of vegetables, leaving space in between each filet; close opening with ½” folds until layered food is reached. Slide bag onto flat tray or board, then slide onto hot grill; close lid and let cook for 30 minutes.

Do not open lid of barbeque, and make sure temperature stays at 275F.
Remove bag from grill (it would have puffed up like a pillow) by sliding onto flat tray or board; let bag rest for 5 minutes before cutting an X in the top; be careful as hot steam will be escaping. Use a spatula to remove the filets; spoon vegetables and sauce over each filet.

Makes 4 servings.

Mary Cokenour

Sunday, May 15, 2011

The Blu Pig - blues music, but awesome food!

The Blu Pig

811 S. Main
Moab, Ut, 84535

(435) 259-3333

Website: http://www.blupigbbq.com/

Saturday we spent hiking and climbing many of the off the road areas of Moab; by 4:30pm we were exhausted and just wanted cold drinks and hot food. We'd heard many mixed reviews about The Blu Pig, and decided to investigate it ourselves; and we are sure happy we did.

At that time, the parking lot was relatively empty; upon entering the restaurant we noticed the quietly playing Blues music. The indoor area is air conditioned, very clean and very inviting; and there is an outdoor patio area. We opted for the air conditioning. Mark, our waiter, had also been our greeter, and took our drink orders right away.

The menu items were described in an enticing way, and choosing was difficult. Roy opted for the Slider Sampler (an appetizer of beef brisket, pulled pork and bbq chicken), and I asked for the 2-Meat combo (beef brisket, 1/4 slab of Kansas City ribs, mac n' cheese and onion rings). Poor Mark, I was asking question after question, and he had to keep going to the kitchen for answers...ok management, that's a big hint; your wait staff need to know what they're serving.

Big plus though for The Blu Pig; all the menu food items are made in house; no boxes, frozen goods or reheated items. Big Plus!!!

Food arrived quickly and the tasting began; the pork was succulent, the beef brisket melted in the mouth, and the chicken was moist and flavorful. The meats and chicken are not sauced, so we needed to try out The Blu Pig's. They make three sauces: Chipotle (medium heat, sweet, smoky), Kansas City or KC (mild heat, sweet, bourbon taste, but Mark told us no bourbon is used), Texas (peppery hot, sweet, reminded us both of A1 steak sauce). The KC and the Texas work best with the beef and pork; the Chipotle is best with the chicken; and they enhance their flavors, not hide.

The Kansas City ribs were fall off the bone goodness; moist, succulent, lip smacking good. The mac n' cheese is made with Colby and white Cheddar; rich, creamy and a mild tang; the onion rings had a nice cripsy batter, the onions soft enough to bite through without pulling the whole onion through.

We made room for dessert, Pecan Pie made with pralined (caramalized)pecans. This is a wicked dessert, and each sinful bite was worth the $5.75. All in all, dinner for two, with tip came to $50, and in the Moab area, that is reasonable and average for a meal of this quality. I wish we had met the owners, I would have given them a big hug.

Unfortuately, we were so tired from our day's activity, I forgot to take photos, but will amend this next time we go...yes, we will most definitely be going back. Oh, upon leaving, there was a waiting line, and the lot was almost full.

Mary Cokenour

The Blu Pig BBQ on Urbanspoon

Friday, May 13, 2011

J. Fargo’s – Good Food, Service needs an Upgrade

J. Fargo’s Family Dining and Microbrewery
1209 E. Main Street
Cortez, CO, 81321

(970) 564-0242

Website: http://jfargos.com/

Before I get started, I have to say I’ve eaten at J. Fargo’s several times for lunch and dinner, and have experienced the same for both.

When entering J. Fargo’s, the reception podium is ahead of you, and usually unmanned. To the right is the pub area, to the left is the restaurant; and you will see employees walking about; but no one at reception. So you wait, and wait, until someone takes notice of you.

After being seated and reading the menu, you wait for someone to take your drink order; and that is slow in coming, especially if you order coffee; seems they never have any ready. Then you wait for your order; if you ordered an appetizer, soup or salad, don’t be surprised if everything comes at once. If you want a refill on your drink, good luck finding your waiter or waitress; they’re usually hiding in the kitchen.

Now there are televisions on the walls, so you can bide your time with watching one of those, or with conversation; but why you should have to is a big question. Ok, so that’s the big negative for J. Fargo’s.

The food though is very good; the burgers are half pounders which you can design to your own tastes; the sandwiches are stacked; the French fries and onion rings are awesome. Their barbequed brisket or pork sandwiches are to die for; and do try the chili.

Basically, if you have a lot of time on your hands, don’t mind waiting or being ignored, and are just looking for good food, then J. Fargo’s is your place to go. Good thing I have patience, and the seating is comfortable.

Mary Cokenour

J Fargo's Family Dining & Micro Brewery on Urbanspoon

J Fargo's Grill & Bar on Restaurantica

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Pancakes and Johnnycakes - the anytime meal

Light and fluffy, golden brown, moist with melted butter and syrup, sometimes with fruit cooked in, or just lying on top; these round flat cakes are a staple of breakfast time.  Or that's how it used to be, but pancakes or johnny cakes can be eaten as a meal anytime.  They are filling and oh so comforting.

Making these little beauties is not difficult; all it takes, for the most part, is a mixing bowl, a few utensils and a hot griddle.  You can add fruit, nuts, even chocolate chips to the batter; you can flip them easily, or get fancy and flip 'em high, so long as you're coordinated and can catch them too.  Whole grain flour can be used, and if cutting down on sugar, try using Splenda, a sugar substitute that holds up during the heat of cooking and baking.

So, when you're in the mood for pancakes or johnnycakes, and your favorite restaurant or diner isn't serving them, just pull up my recipes and make them yourself.  Why deny yourself the pleasure?

Pancakes and Johnnycakes
In America and Canada they are referred to as pancakes, flapjacks or griddlecakes; all containing a rising agent (baking powder), flour, milk (or buttermilk) and eggs.  In Europe, the French crepe is a type of pancake, but without the rising agent and made very thin, so a filling can be rolled in them.   Archaeological evidence shows that this is one of the earliest forms of cooking invented by man; the “flour” used being ground seeds and cooked on heated rocks.
The johnnycake (New England) and hoecake (Southern USA) are similar to pancakes, but made with ground cornmeal, salt, hot water or milk.   The johnnycake/hoecake originated with the Native Americans of newly founded America, and taught to the European settlers of this new country.
Buttermilk Pancakes
 1 ¼ cups flour
1 egg
1 ¼ cups buttermilk
¼ cup sugar
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
¼ cup canola oil
1/8 tsp salt
2 Tbsp butter

Preheat electric griddle, or stovetop griddle, to 300F.
In a large bowl, combine all ingredients, except butter, but do not over mix.  Melt the butter on the hot griddle; use a ladle to pour batter onto the griddle, forming 6 inch circles.
As the batter cooks, bubbles will appear and when the edges seem firm; flip over and cook other side.  Both sides will take 2-4 minutes each; and be golden brown.  Serve with favorite toppings or syrups.
Makes 6-8 pancakes.

Grain and Nut Pancakes
¾ cup oats
¾ cup whole wheat flour
2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
½ tsp salt
1 ½ cups buttermilk
¼ cup canola oil
1 egg
¼ cup sugar
2 Tbsp each fine chopped almonds, pecans and walnuts

Preheat electric griddle, or stovetop griddle, to 300F.
In a blender or food processor, grind the oats till fine, like flour.  In a large bowl, combine the ground oats, wheat flour, baking soda and powder, salt.  In another bowl, combine buttermilk, oil, egg and sugar; mix until smooth.  Add wet ingredients and nuts to the dry ingredients and mix well, but do not over mix.
Use a ladle to pour batter onto the griddle, forming 6 inch circles.  As the batter cooks, bubbles will appear and when the edges seem firm; flip over and cook other side.  Both sides will take 2-4 minutes each; and be golden brown.  Serve with favorite toppings or syrups.
Makes 6-8 pancakes.

1 cup white cornmeal
3/4 tsp salt
1 cup water
1/2 cup milk
2 Tbsp bacon grease or butter


Preheat electric griddle, or stovetop griddle, to 300F

In a medium bowl, combine cornmeal and salt.

In a medium saucepan over high heat, bring water to a rapid boil; remove from heat.  Let the boiling water dribble onto the cornmeal while stirring constantly; stir the milk into the mixture (it will be somewhat thick, but should not be runny).

Melt the grease or butter on the griddle; drop the batter by spoonfuls and flatten the batter with a spatula to a thickness of approximately ¼ inch. Fry until golden brown, turn, and brown on the other side.  If needed, add more bacon grease or butter.

Serve hot with butter, maple syrup, or applesauce.

Makes 4 johnnycakes.

Mary Cokenour

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Comfort all rolled up.

It comes out of the oven piping hot; slightly crusty on the outside, soft and fluffy on the inside.  Tear it in half and spread it with butter, jam, honey or a combination; melting in your mouth, and finger licking good.  No, it's not the Colonel's fried chicken...it's the Crescent Roll.  This versatile little piece of rolled bread is more than just a side for mopping up gravy; it's the base for a sandwich, snack or dessert.

Before the dough wedge is rolled into its crescent form, fillings can be placed inside, then roll it all up, bake and enjoy.  For a dessert, try spreading Nutella, brown sugar and cinnamon, or peanut butter; press shavings or chips of chocolate, butterscotch or vanilla; after baking, sprinkle with powdered sugar.

Then there is the classic hot dog roll, and the dough can be cut up small enough to use Little Smokies to make snacks or party eats. Press shredded cheese into the dough before rolling; or diced onions. However, thinly sliced meats can be used to make a crescent roll "wrap"; making the classic sandwich a little less boring.

When making crescent rolls, think about the possibilities and you'll find yourself making double batches of this dough.

Crescent Rolls


2 (.25 oz) packages active dry yeast
¾ cup warm water (about 110F)
½ cup sugar
1 tsp salt
2 eggs, beaten
½ cup butter flavored shortening
4 cups flour
¼ cup butter, melted

In a small bowl, dissolve yeast in water; add sugar; yeast will be ready to use when it begins a bubbling foam.

In a large bowl, beat together yeast mixture, salt, eggs, shortening and 2 cups of flour until smooth. Gradually add in remaining flour; mix until smooth; remove to a floured board and knead dough for 5 minutes. Cover with a clean linen towel and let rise until doubles in size; about 2 hours.

Punch down dough; divide in half and roll out each half to a 12 inch circle; cut into wedges depending on size desired (10-12). Starting from widest side, roll up dough to the point and place on baking sheet (nonstick or sprayed with nonstick baking spray); point side down. Cover with towel again and let rise for 1 hour.

Preheat oven to 400F. Brush melted butter over rolls; bake for 10-15 minutes; until golden brown.

Makes 10-12 rolls.

Mary Cokenour
May 6, 2003

Monday, May 9, 2011

Wet and cold once again.

After a beautiful weekend of near 70 temperatures, our Monday started off with a mixture of thunder, rain and hail...welcome to Monticello, Utah.  Come May 18th, we'll have been living here for two years, and still can't get over the weird weather patterns.  As some of the townsfolk tell us, it's not unusual to be wearing winter coats and seeing snow well into June; and for a warmup, we just have to take a drive into Moab.  One thing I can honestly say, the weather here keeps you on your toes.

Anyway, between the birthday party on Saturday and going out for Mothers' Day, I was able to get a favorite meal cooked up, Chicken Parmigiana.  Acutally, my favorite is Veal Parmigiana, but the price of veal is so outrageous!!!  This is an easy dish to make though, and using Homemade Pasta Sauce insures it's a meal to savor over. Whether you add a side of pasta, or make a sandwich; it's a meal you won't forget, and one you'll crave in the future.

Chicken Parmigiana
Canola or Peanut oil
4 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves
1 egg, beaten
1 cup Italian style dried bread crumbs
4 slices provolone cheese
1 (8 oz) package shredded Italian cheese mix
4 cups homemade pasta sauce
In a large skillet, pour in oil to reach 2 inches; heat on medium-high heat.  While oil is heating, prepare chicken for frying; trim away any excess fat or ligaments, dip into beaten egg and lightly coat with bread crumbs.  Oil is ready when a drop of water sizzles in skillet; carefully place breaded chicken in skillet.  Fry each side for 3 minutes; drain on paper towels; chicken will not be thoroughly cooked through.
Preheat oven to 350F.  Spray a 2 qt baking dish with nonstick spray and spread 1 cup of sauce over bottom.  Place fried chicken into dish; sprinkle 2 Tbsp of cheese mix over each and cover with a slice of provolone.  Pour remaining sauce over the chicken, sprinkle remaining cheese mix over all; cover with aluminum foil and bake for 45 minutes.  Remove from oven, remove foil and let rest for 5 minutes before serving with favorite pasta; or place on toasted Italian bread to make a sandwich.
Makes 4 servings.
Mary Cokenour
May 5, 1982

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Happy Birthday Kaiya!!!

Yesterday we celebrated the 14th birthday of Kaiya, my friend Heidi's daughter, down at Fattboyz Grillin. It was a small gathering of family, parental friends and Kaiya's friends; and everyone had a good time talking, eating and just enjoying the afternoon together. Kaiya is a lovely young lady, and the happiness and pride she gives her mom was quite evident upon Heidi's face. Kudos go to Heidi's hubby Sean too for being a good stepdad, keeping all the little kids corralled, and the lighting of the birthday candles without setting the place on fire.

Our meal at Fattboyz consisted of a barbeque sandwich with two sides, and soft drink; all awesome as per usual.  Heidi and I both made cakes for the occasion, and everyone seemed quite pleased with them.  I have to admit that the cake I made was from scratch, and it actually gave me nightmares for several nights in a row.  I plotzed over screwing it all up, but everyone seemed to enjoy it, so I must have done well. 

The cake was huge, and it was compared to one of the Red Rock formations in our area.  It consisted of three tiers, two single layers and one double layer; chocolate pudding sat in the middle of the bottom double layer and single middle layer; a layer of mini-marshmallows sat between the middle and top layers.  There were two types of frosting, first a vanilla buttercream, and after refrigerating the cake, I covered it with a vanilla whipped cream frosting.  Sprinkled cocoa powder went over the tops and sides; a sprinkle of chopped Andes candies and a few Oreo cream cookies finished off the topping.  Roy made a banner which I attached with wooden skewers.

So, Happy Birthday Kaiya, may you have many, many, many more, and always be happy and healthy.


Here's the cake and frosting recipe, but for the vanilla frosting, I used vanilla powder instead of the cocoa powder.

Chocolate Cake with Buttercream Frosting


Cake Batter:

1 ½ cups flour
3 Tbsp baking cocoa powder
2 tsp baking powder
1 cup sugar
2 tsp chocolate syrup
¾ cup milk
¾ cup melted butter
2 eggs


12 Tbsp butter, softened
3 cups confectioner’s sugar
½ cup baking cocoa powder
2 tsp vanilla extract
4 Tbsp room temperature milk


Preheat oven to 350F.  Cut out two circles of parchment paper that fit within two 8” cake pans; spray cake pans with nonstick baking spray; line bottom with paper circles.

In a large bowl, sift flour and mix in cocoa, baking powder and sugar.  In second bowl, beat together syrup, milk, butter and eggs; do not get mixture frothy by over beating.  Pour wet ingredients into bowl of dry ingredients; mix on medium speed till smooth.  Pour half of batter into each cake pan.

Bake for 35-40 minutes; until toothpick inserted in center of cake comes out cleanly.  Let cakes cool before flipping out of pans; remove parchment paper before frosting cakes.

While cakes are baking, make the frosting; cream together the butter and sugar; add cocoa, vanilla extract and milk; mix until smooth, but do not over mix.  Cover bowl with plastic wrap and allow to firm up; frost cakes after they have cooled.  There will be enough frosting to frost the tops and sides of both cakes; stack cakes on top of one another; total height should be about 3 inches with frosting.

Makes 12 servings.

Mary Cokenour