Thursday, June 30, 2011

Ponderosa is no Bonanza.

Ponderosa Restaurant
108 S. 8th Street and Hwy 145
Dolores, CO, 81323

(970) 882-7910

Website: N/A

A year ago we tried the Ponderosa Restaurant; it was a typical small town diner, friendly service, decent food.  Funny how things can change in just a year, and last night was a perfect example.  We arrived around 5pm and found only one other table being occupied; the hostess told us to sit anywhere we liked and brought us menus.  I’d heard a commercial on the radio about the Country Fried Steak (salad, mashed potatoes with cream pepper gravy), so had already decided beforehand to order that; however, when we arrived we were told that the night’s special was Spaghetti and Meatballs.   My hubby ordered the Sirloin Steak with salad and mashed potatoes with brown gravy; the vegetable of the day was whole kernel corn. 

The Salad bar is small, but adequate if having a side salad with a meal; if ordering the salad bar as a meal though, it is rather lacking with choices.

Our meals came out quickly; we were only half way through our salads, so hurriedly finished them, so we could eat our meals while still hot.  The mashed potatoes were smooth, but utterly tasteless and we could tell they were from an instant, not homemade.  The cream gravy was either from a packet or a jar, very thick and was already congealing on top of the potatoes when served.  The corn was canned and overcooked; at least the roll was warm and soft.  The country fried steak was very thin and tender, and while the crust was nicely crisped, the meat itself did not taste fresh.

The sirloin steak was cooked properly and tender, but there was very little grill flavor; nothing to brag about.  The brown gravy was similar to a thin beef stock with no seasoning.  Mashed potatoes and corn were the same as those served with my meal.

Considering only one other couple came in after us, the waitress was very quick to remove our plates as soon as the utensils were put down.  We were given our bill and not even asked if we’d like anything else.  We asked for another cup of coffee though and it was the hostess who served us, not our waitress.

Now we overheard the waitress speaking with the other couple; twice the gentleman asked how many meatballs came with the special.  All the waitress would tell him was, “Quite a few”.  Now that is certainly not a proper answer, especially if on a portion restricted diet, or a person who cannot eat a big meal.  Then again, the word “few” refers to three or more, so what “few” means to one person may not be the same to another.  Later on the cook himself came out to chat with the couple who turned out to be locals.  He was relating to them how he had been working in the kitchen for 30 days straight without a day off.    Perhaps this would explain the substandard food; was he suffering from burnout?

On another note, the women’s restroom was not in a clean state; debris on the floor, black mold on the wall behind the sinks and no locks on the stalls.  Considering it was only 5pm and they close at 9pm, one would think the bathrooms would be checked regularly and maintained.

Our basic decision was, maybe we’ll go back in a year again, and see what has changed, if anything, or maybe not.

Mary Cokenour

Ponderosa Steakhouse on Urbanspoon

Ponderosa Steakhouse on Restaurantica

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Jalapeno - Chipotle; same chile, different adventures.

The Jalapeno is a small green chile pepper, but as it ages it turns a deep red color. Jalapenos are popular in Southwestern and Mexican cuisines where they can be incorporated into dishes, or be the main element themselves. This chile pepper can be stored in many way; air-dried then crushed or ground, frozen or smoke-dried(giving it the name "chipotle"). Once smoke-dried, the chipotle can be ground into a powder or stored in adobo sauce; then used to intensify the flavoring and seasoning heat of any dish.

With the 4th of July holiday coming up, barbeques and picnics are the popular choices of meal service. I have my own tried and true rubs, marinades and barbeque sauce, but play time called to me...and I just happened to have a small can of chipotle in adobo sauce. However, I just didn't want to develop a sauce that was spicy and nothing much else to it. One sauce I enjoy is a sweet and spicy Thai chili sauce, so I decided to follow that road.

Instead of using a rub, I covered six boneless, skinless chicken breast halves with one cup of the Chipotle Citrus Sauce; covered the bowl they were in with plastic wrap, and let them sit overnight in the refrigerator. After oiling up the grill, I let it heat up to a low setting (200F, and it reached 250F maximum during cooking). The chicken cooked on one side for about 5-7 minutes (depending on thickness), and 5-7 minutes the other side; brushed with more of the sauce.

The spiciness was equal to a medium heat, and it, and the flavoring reached all the way thoroughout the chicken, not just on the surface. I did cook a few other items on the grill at the low setting, and they came out wonderful: river trout (seasoned with dill, salt and lemon), beer brats, baby back ribs with a Kansas City style rub and barbeque sauce,  but I just want to focus this post on the chicken and the Chipotle Citrus Sauce.

The holiday weekend is just around the corner, so get those sauces simmering....and play with your seasoning!!!

Chipotle Citrus Sauce
This sauce does double duty as a marinade and a barbeque sauce.
½ cup water
¼ cup each lime and orange juices
1 cup tomato puree
1 (6 oz) can tomato paste
1 Tbsp white wine vinegar
3 minced chipotle chilies in adobo sauce (add more if more spice heat desired)
1 tsp each of salt, ground cumin, crushed dried Mexican oregano and minced garlic
½ tsp ground black pepper
In a large saucepan, medium-high heat, mix together all ingredients and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat to low and simmer for 20 minutes; sauce will thicken.  If it becomes too thick add a tablespoon of water until desired consistency is reached.
Makes 2 cups.
Mary Cokenour

Monday, June 27, 2011

A good recipe for evil vegetables.

Personally, I cannot stand cauliflower or brussel sprouts; I don't like their look, texture, flavor; I like nothing about them. However, my hubby and his mom like the little devils, so I like to come up with different ways to serve them.

Cauliflower is in the same plant species as broccoli, but we can recognize it by its whitish coloring and “brainy” appearance. The white variety is more common, is high in dietary fiber, vitamin C and folate; and studies have related it to reducing the risk of prostate cancer. Producers of cauliflower have created hybrids: Orange (high in vitamin A), Green (combination of cauliflower with broccoli) and Purple (higher in antioxidants).

While cauliflower can be roasted, fried, steamed, microwaved or boiled; steaming and microwaving retain the nutrients better than the other methods of cooking, especially boiling. Cauliflower can be substituted for potatoes as it gives the same texture and mouth feel, minus the starch. However, this vegetable can be very bland and/or bitter, so it is usually served with a sauce of some type; butter or cheese being the most popular.

Brussel Sprouts are part of the cabbage family; growing on long thick stems and requiring cool weather. They are best harvested when the heads are small and compact. Nutritionally they are high in fiber, protein, vitamin A and C, folate and potassium; they are linked to reducing the risk of cancer. Most cooks boil brussel spouts and tend to overcook them, so they lose their bright green color and the nutrients. However, they can be roasted, or used in a stir fry if quartered. As with cauliflower, brussel sprouts can be bitter and are also served, usually, in a butter sauce.

Since I was barbequing yesterday, I did want to serve a vegetable dish with the meat and chicken, but wanted something different than the usual pototoes or corn on the cob. Instead of using potatoes to make a gratin, I used cauliflower and brussel sprouts. Considering I caught Roy eating the leftovers in the middle of the night, I would say that it came out well. He said that the tanginess from the goat cheese really set this apart from other cheese based dishes.

Evil Veggie Gratin


3 Tbsp butter
3 Tbsp flour
1 cup half n’ half
1 cup shredded Swiss cheese
¼ cup crumbled goat cheese
1 tsp each salt and ground black pepper
2 Tbsp diced fresh chives
1 lb cut up cauliflower
1lb small brussel sprouts; if large, cut in half
3 Tbsp finely grated dried bread crumbs


Preheat oven to 350F. Spray a 2 qt baking dish with nonstick spray.
In a medium saucepan, medium-high heat, melt butter and stir in flour till smooth; let cook for 5 minutes, but do not let burn. Gradually whisk in half n’ half; add Swiss and goat cheese and stir until melted; add in seasoning and chives.

Put cauliflower and brussel sprouts into casserole dish; pour cheese mixture over all. Cover with aluminum foil and bake for 45 minutes. Remove foil; sprinkle bread crumbs over top and bake additional 15 minutes. Let rest for 10 minutes before serving.

Makes 8 servings.

Mary Cokenour

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Leave the Lamplight on in the Four Corners Area.

Lamplight Restaurant and Catering

597 E. Center Street
Monticello, UT, 84535

(435) 587-2170

Website: and

Located just on the outskirts of the City of Monticello, Utah on Route 191, this restaurant might be medium sized, but is large on atmosphere, service and good food.  Scott and Alexa Laws have a classy place, but make sure to give everyone that hometown good feeling.  Scott is owner and chef, Alexa is head wait staff and their children all help out with the restaurant maintenance duties from service to bussing tables.  These are all around good people, and they make your dining experience pleasant.

Sadly, the restaurant has been put up for sale, due to personal reasons, and while we hope the sale never goes through; we certainly understand the reasoning.  Until a buyer takes interest though, the Lamplight will remain open for business. 

Upon entering the restaurant, one of the Laws children will greet and seat you; Alexa comes to the table, all smiles and menu in hand.  The menu is new for the season and while there are still some old favorites, they’ve added many new items.  We decided though to have a couple of old favorites: Alfredo with Chicken and the BBQ Ribs and Chicken Combo.  While I had the salad bar as my side; hubby chose salad bar, cole slaw and mashed potatoes with pepper gravy.

The salad bar is not huge, but still has a nice selection of two types of lettuce (iceberg and mixed greens), fruit, vegetables, cheeses and mixed salads such as crab, macaroni and potato.

The Alfredo with Chicken had angel hair pasta (light and delicate) with a creamy, cheesy, garlicky sauce; the chicken was grilled perfectly – deep grilled flavoring and moist chicken. While the pasta was angelic, the sauce was certainly sinful – a perfect combination of texture and flavor.

The Rib and Chicken Combo was covered in a rich, spicy and tangy barbecue sauce; and if you weren’t covered to your elbows in it, you weren’t eating the meal right. The ribs are very tender and melt in the mouth; the chicken was juicy and also tender; mashed potatoes are homemade and covered in rich brown pepper gravy.

Though we were too full to eat dessert there, we did take home a portion of their fabulous Chocolate Cake – three layers of deep, dark, moist cake with delicious filling and frosting; certainly a treat to die for.

Rolls with butter are also served with the meals; the meal portions are large, so expect to be carted out in a wheel barrel if you manage to eat it all; or take some home. We needed to take half our meals home, but enjoyed them for lunch the following day…still just as yummy. Considering the size and quality of the portions; their pricing is reasonable.

Staying in or traveling through Monticello, Utah, make the Lamplight Restaurant a meal stop whether it’s for breakfast, lunch or dinner.

Mary Cokenour

UPDATE:November 2011 - The Lamplight Restaurant has officially closed; the restaurant is for sale and has an attached home. The owners, Scott and Alexa Laws, will be sorely missed in Monticello, as will their excellent restaurant.

Lamplight Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Lamp Light Restaurant & Lounge on Restaurantica

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Cassano's Italian Restaurant?

Cassano's Italian Restaurant

11 E. 100 North
Moab, UT, 84532

(435) 259-6018

Website:  and

This corner eatery is located in an adobe style building and the decor inside is Southwestern; not what one would expect in an Italian restaurant.  The seating area is small with a bar taking up one wall; ceiling fans circulate the cool air much wanted in the hot Moab area.  We were greeted by Roy, who came to be our waiter; he took our drink order and we then looked over the menu of offered Italian specialties.

Now back in 2008, while visiting Moab, we had eaten at Cassano's, tried the Pizza Margherita and Jersey Calzone and both were done very well...very close to what you would expect to find in an authentic New York pizzeria.  Since we now live in the area and were in the mood for pizza, we decided to once again visit Cassano's.  We ordered a large with meatballs and Roma tomatoes (15" for $19.99).

Unfortunately the goodness we expected was not to be this time. The crust on the pizza, while crispy was barely browned and very difficult to cut. The thick layer of cheese was not completely melted; the tomatoes and meatballs under the cheese were barely warm. My husband and I are still debating on whether the meatballs were freshly made on the premises, as Cassano's states they are. He felt that they used fresh bread and meat, but made them in a mixer instead of by hand. The ingredients were so fine and compacted that they did not crumble when sliced. I felt they were the typical frozen meatballs you can find in a supermarket freezer as they had a gritty texture and off taste, as if preservatives were used in their making.

We conducted two tests at home which the pizza failed. First, the cold pizza test: crust was very tough and the overall taste was not pleasant. Second test was reheating a slice in the oven; while the crust did get golden brown, it was even tougher and very difficult to bite into.

Roy, the waiter, told us the chef was Sicilian and had been experimenting on new desserts. We tried the Blood Orange Creamsicle Cheesecake and the Cannolis.

The Cheesecake was pretty, but nothing to brag about. After the bite you definitely tasted cheesecake, regular cheesecake and then, eventually, a hint of orange flavor. The Cannolis were, in one word, nasty. I believe the chef was trying to imitate traditional Cassata cream filling (made with ricotta cheese), but the filling was lumpy, dry and very, very bitter. I tried to get details of what ingredients were in the filling, but was only told "ricotta cheese".

Overall, it was not a very enjoyable meal, and with the many restaurants in the Moab area, we won't be trying Cassano's again any time soon.

Mary Cokenour

Cassano's Italian Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Friday, June 24, 2011

All I want is a simple cheeseburger.

Sesame seed bun toasted, ketchup (sometimes a little mayo), crisp lettuce, American cheese and a perfectly cooked burger.  Or if I’m in the mood for something a little different: Swiss cheese, mustard with horseradish and lettuce.  Nothing complicated or haute cuisine about it; just a simple cheeseburger.  Since I form my own burgers, the weight is usually between ¼ and ½ lb and ½” thick; the meat is 90% lean, so I don’t have a lot of shrinkage as it cooks.  I hate, absolutely hate when a restaurant advertises ¼ lb burgers or ½ burgers and in small print it then says, “Weight prior to cooking”.  Excuse me!?!  How much weight exactly will it be after cooking?  If the fat content in the ground meat is high, the burger will be much, much smaller; if you’re offering me a ½ pounder, that better be what I get for my money!!!  The idea of adding more meat to the mix to offset the shrinkage is a completely foreign idea it seems.
When cooking the burgers, I only season with salt and pepper; what someone adds on afterwards is up to the individual.  I want to taste the beef most of all, so avoid masking it as much as possible with seasonings, sauces or condiments cooked in beforehand.
Cooking technique varies on time on hand, quantity being cooked, and/or weather conditions.  When it’s just hubby and myself; the gas grill works just fine when the weather is good outside.  I’ve barbequed in the winter, so long as it wasn’t snowing, sleeting or very windy.  If there are a lot of folks, the charcoal grill comes out of hibernation.  With either grill, I cook both sides of the burger for about 4-5 minutes; using an instant read thermometer to make sure the internal temperature reaches 160F.  I oil up the grill to avoid having the burger stick, have the heat temp at medium-high, and don’t play with the burger while it cooks.  All that poking and prodding is what makes it start to stick and/or fall apart.  When the weather is lousy, or I’m just cooking up a burger for myself; then it’s roasted in the oven (400F for 20 minutes).  Simple and uncomplicated, just the way I enjoy cooking in general.
Unfortunately my kitchen is too small for the stove I really wanted: 4 gas burners with a grill in the center.  Then I could have grilled indoors no matter how lousy the weather.  I keep hoping to win one of those redoing your home contests; or that HGTV just happens to pick my home for a remodel, but no such luck.  Is it so much to ask for a fabulous kitchen?

Anyway, when it comes to burgers, it’s the burger that should take center stage, not the accessories you pile on top of it.   
Mary Cokenour

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Red Robin – sometimes yum, sometimes yuck.

Red Robin Gourmet Burgers

2530 Rimrock Avenue
Grand Junction, CO, 81505

(970) 242-4101


Banzai Burger
Marinated in teriyaki & topped with grilled pineapple, Cheddar cheese, crisp lettuce, tomatoes and mayo.

Sauteed ‘Shroom Burger
Loaded with fresh, plump, sautéed mushrooms, a hint of garlic Parmesan butter and topped with melted Swiss.

Crispy Arctic Cod Sandwich
Premium cod fillets, hand-battered in a light tempura batter and crisply fried. Topped with fresh coleslaw, tomatoes, pickles and dilled and pickled tartar sauce.

For the many times we have been up in Grand Junction, sometimes we are in the mood for a burger and fries, and Red Robin is the place to go…but not on the weekend.  Seems that during the week they are not as busy as the weekend, and that makes all the difference between yum and yuck.

Usually there are three of us and we are creatures of habit; we each have a particular burger we enjoy, and that’s what we order.  The burgers in the Banzai Burger and Sauteed ‘Shroom are thick, grilled perfectly to order and juicy; the cod in the Crispy Arctic Cod Sandwich is thick, the tempura batter is crispy and the fish is flaky.  Each sandwich has an assortment of toppings that come with it, and they go perfectly in each sandwich.  Our drinks were always refilled quickly; the waitress ready with a refill pitcher even before we asked.  Red Robin…YUM!  That’s during the week though when they are not too busy.

A couple of times we were there on the weekend and the food items were very different than what we had before.  The burgers were overcooked and dry; the fish was undercooked and raw in the center.  We ended up packing up the sandwiches and feeding them to the dogs once we arrived home.  Why not send them back for a redo?  Try finding the waitress; an impossible task since they are so overwhelmingly busy on the weekend.  You can’t even get a refill on your drink.  Red Robin…YUCK!   

There is one item that is always perfectly cooked at all times; the bottomless Steak Fries.  Always crispy on the outside, fluffy on the inside and absolutely delicious.  We love these fries!   Once again though, during the week we get the endless fries; on the weekend be happy with what you received with your burger because you won’t be getting anymore.  Where is that waitress!?!

Overall, if you enjoy a good burger with fries, go to Red Robin, but during the week, not on the weekend; less aggravating that way.

Mary Cokenour

Red Robin Gourmet Burgers on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

The Third of the Pizza Trilogy - Sicilian Pizza

In a pizzeria far, far away from Utah, square pieces of pizza are being devoured; and I am full of envy and want.  Anyway, this is the third installment of pizza making - Sicilian Pizza.  In case you missed the first two; New York Style was done on January 21, 2011 and Chicago Style was done on February 18, 2011.

Sicilian Pizza  
This type of pizza originated in the Palermo region of Sicily.  This is a thicker dough than used in the round type of pizza (Napolitano), baked in a heavy aluminum rectangular pan. In the United States, it is mainly seen in New York and New Jersey pizzerias, and whether the cheese goes under the sauce or on top is dependent on each individual pizza maker.  In Chicago style pizza, the cheese goes beneath the sauce, the crust is sweeter and the pizza is baked in a round pan.  “Tomato Pie” is a Sicilian pizza that has a thick layer of sauce over the cheese and is topped with a layer of diced or thinly sliced Roma tomatoes. 
How to Make the Dough
2 (.25 oz) packages of active dry yeast
4 cups flour
½ cup warm water (about 110F)
1 tsp salt
1 cup cool water
2 Tbsp olive oil
In a small bowl, combine the yeast with a ½ cup of flour and the warm water; cover with plastic wrap and allow proofing for 15 minutes; stir afterwards to deflate.
In a large bowl, combine remaining flour, salt, cool water and yeast mixture.  Turn the dough out onto a floured board and knead for 15 minutes.   Clean the large bowl, lightly dust with flour and return dough to it; cover with plastic wrap and let rise for 1 ½ hours. 
Preheat oven to 450F.  Brush the bottom and sides of a 17 ½” x 11 ½” x ¾” heavy aluminum baking pan.  Punch down the dough, return to floured board and roll out slightly.  Place dough into pan and stretch out to all sides, leaving a lip all around.  Let it rest for 15 minutes before adding toppings*.
Bake for 30 minutes or until crust is golden brown.
Makes 12 servings.
*Note: toppings would normally be a layer of sliced mozzarella cheese and an evenly spread layer of sauce; other toppings such as meats and/or vegetables can then be placed over the sauce.

Tomato Pie
12 slices thinly sliced mozzarella cheese
2 cups homemade pizza sauce
2 cups diced or thinly sliced Roma tomatoes
1/3 cup grated cheese
Lay out the slices of cheese onto the pizza dough; evenly spread out the sauce and then the tomatoes.
Bake for 30 minutes or until crust is golden brown.  Remove pie from oven and sprinkle grated cheese over top of pizza.
Makes 12 servings.
Mary Cokenour

Monday, June 20, 2011

Don't drink it!

It's not unusual to find out that some type of alcoholic beverage might be used in a recipe.   Whether it is baked, cooked, roasted or fried; the alcohol burns off, but the flavor remains which is what you were trying to achieve.

On Feb 17, 2011, I posted my recipe for Coffee Kisses, and while strong coffee can give you the flavor you need; I have found that using Kahlua makes these cookies taste twice as good.  Now using rum in coffee cake or fruitcake is not unusual, but what about an entire cocktail?   Back in the 1970's, my mom's friend Frances would make this awesomely moist and delicious cake called "Harvey Wallbanger Cake", and it was named after a popular cocktail.  When the cocktail itself was invented is a slight mystery as claims go from the 1940's to the 1970's, and the story is that a man had some guests over, but an under stocked bar.  So, he just threw what he had together and came up with a sweet alcoholic drink that everyone couldn't get enough of.  One guy in particular, named Harvey, got so drunk on this cocktail that he started to bang his head on the wall; hence the name "Harvey Wallbanger".  Guess this could be considered an urban legend of sorts.

The Harvey Wallbanger Cocktail


1 oz. vodka
4 oz orange juice
1/2 oz Galliano


Pour vodka and orange juice into a collins glass filled with ice cubes and stir. Float galliano on top by pouring slowly over a teaspoon turned bottom-side up.

For your eating pleasure however, I give to you the recipe for Harvey Wallbanger Cake.

Harvey Wallbanger Cake
Based upon a popular cocktail of the 1970’s; the origin of this recipe is unknown, and has been passed on from friend to friend for years.
1 box yellow cake mix  
1 box (3 oz) instant vanilla pudding
 ¼ cup Galliano
¼ cup vodka
4 eggs
1 cup canola oil
¾ cup orange juice
1 cup confectioner’s sugar
1 Tbsp Galliano
1 Tbsp orange juice
1 tsp vodka

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

In a large mixing bowl, mix together for 3 minutes, on medium speed, the cake mix, pudding, liquors, eggs, oil and orange juice.   Pour batter evenly into the pan.  Bake for 45-50 minutes; a toothpick will come out of the center cleanly.  Let cake cool for 10 minutes before removing from pan.
To prepare the glaze, mix together the sugar, liquors and orange juice until smooth and creamy.  Drizzle over the still slightly warm cake; let it reach room temperature before serving.
Makes 10-12 servings.
Mary Cokenour

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Mr Happy's Bakery and Cafe

Mr. Happy's Bakery and Cafe

332 E. Main Street
Cortez, CO, 81321

(970) 565-9869


Mr. Happy's is located in a bright yellow building; is small inside (about 12 tables - each seat 2-4 persons), and has a covered patio for outdoor dining. Upon entering, you seat yourself and a waitess will bring a menu and take your drink order. We were there for breakfast, so ordered coffee (supplied by the Durango Coffee Company) and tried to decide what to order: Cinnamon Roll French Toast, Frittata, Omelets, Waffles and more to choose from.

I finally ordered the Slow Roasted Corned Beef and Hash with 2 eggs over easy and English Muffin.

Shredded corned beef mixed with chopped potatoes, onions and green bell peppers; the seasoning was very light, so a little ground black pepper was called for.  My over easy eggs were more semi-hard, but still mixed well into the corned beef and hash.  The English muffin was toasted well, came already buttered and tasted yummy with a little strawberry jam.  Truthfully, I have had more awesome corned beef and hash elsewhere, and for the price of $9.75, I expected something more inspiring.

Hubby ordered Chicken Fried Steak and Eggs with 2 eggs over easy, whole wheat toast and shredded potatoes.

The chicken fried steak was nicely cooked and tender; the pepper gravy was thick and peppery.  His eggs were cooked perfectly and mixed well with the shredded potatoes which were crisped just right, but no seasoning was detected.  The whole wheat toast was thickly sliced and had a deep flavor.   However, hubby stated that for $9.75 he had expected something to brag about, but in all honesty, can't.

Mr. Happy's Bakery and Cafe does serve lunch and dinner also, and we are willing to go back to see how they fare at burger and sandwich making.  They use real butter and potatoes; Black Angus beef for their burgers, and all the pastries (ranging from $2.75 to $3.75 each) and breads are baked on the premises.  The staff is friendly, and our waitress made sure to keep our coffee mugs full.

So, while Mr. Happy's would not be our first choice for breakfast; knowing they use fresh ingredients and bake on premises gives them a big advantage over other places.

Mary Cokenour

Mr. Happy's Bakery and Cafe on Urbanspoon

Friday, June 17, 2011

Chicken and Waffles

Chicken and Waffles

Waffles are made from a batter (usually pancake batter) which is baked inside a hot iron device. The device is basically two iron plates connected by a hinge which have a distinctive square indented pattern, and comes in either a round or a square shape itself. The waffle originated in the Medieval Ages where the device was heated over a fire, and the batter created a light and crispy “wafer”. With the invention of baking powder, the modern waffle could be created; and it can go beyond being a breakfast item. A solid square of ice cream between two small waffles squares becomes the “waffle ice cream sandwich”; an excellent treat anytime.

Or it can be served as a lunch or dinner item, and mainly paired with chicken. In the Southern United States, fried chicken was often paired with waffles; the typical breakfast accessories of syrup and butter accompanied the waffles. There is really no set recipe for the fried chicken used in this dish; it can be homemade by using your own tried and true recipe; or purchased.  In Pennsylvania, the Amish and Mennonite serve the waffles covered with chicken and vegetables that have been cooked in gravy.

How to Make Waffles
2 cups flour
1 tsp salt
½ tsp baking powder
2 eggs, separated
1 ¾ cups buttermilk
4 Tbsp melted butter
Preheat waffle maker.
In a medium bowl, mix together flour, salt and baking powder; set aside.  In a small bowl, beat the egg whites until they just start to hold a peak; not stiff; set aside.
 In another small bowl, whisk egg yolks with buttermilk and melted butter; gradually whisk this mixture into the dry ingredients, but not till completely smooth. Gently fold in the beaten egg whites and the batter will thicken.    
Follow the manufacturer’s directions on amount of batter to use for each waffle and cooking time.
Makes 4-6 waffles depending on maker used.

Pennsylvania Dutch Chicken and Waffles
1 small roasting chicken
2 Tbsp butter
1 cup mixture of diced onion, carrot and celery
5 cups chicken broth
¼ cup flour
½ tsp ground black pepper
Roast and shred chicken meat.  While chicken was roasting, melt butter in small skillet, over medium heat, and sauté vegetables until softened; set aside.
In a medium stockpot, over medium-high heat, bring chicken broth to a boil; whisk in flour quickly and incorporate well.  Reduce heat to low, add in chicken, vegetables and black pepper; cook for 20 minutes.
Ladle over prepared waffles.
Makes 8-10 servings.
Mary Cokenour

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Homestead Steak House is more than steak.

Homestead Steak House
121 E. Center Street
Blanding, UT, 84511

(435) 678-3456

Website: N/A

Located next to the busy Four Corners Inn, Homestead Steak House has a prime location when entering the city of Blanding, if traveling south on Rte 191.  Not knowing the area, you might not notice this little restaurant unless you see their sign advertising specials.  Inside, the décor is country kitchen with about 12 tables (6 seat 2 persons, 6 seat 4-6 persons) and a soup- salad bar area.  The kitchen entrance is blocked from the main dining area by a blue marble tile wall, but our table was situated nearby, and we were able to see the kitchen.  From a distance, it looked clean, and the cooking staff was busy, not standing around and making diners wait.

We arrived around 5pm, only about 6 other diners present, so seated ourselves while the waitress gathered up menus and utensils for us.  She was a very friendly person, and even though it got busy afterwards, was still smiling, and took time to answer any questions I had about the food items.  I need to note that by the time we left at 6:20 pm, the place was packed, there was another waitress working, and a line was beginning to form.  This is the type of small restaurant where you’re not rushed out, but don’t expect a quickie meal either, so make sure you’re going there with time on your hands.  Also, the portions are on the large size, so go there hungry or expect to take some home.

I ordered the Catfish dinner with corn on the cob, sweet potato fries and the soup-salad bar came with the meal.  We both chose the creamy potato-bacon soup which was packed with chunks of potatoes and shredded carrot; I saw no bacon, but could taste it.  The salad bar has a large and fresh selection; so if one wanted to order just the soup-salad bar as a meal, they certainly would not go hungry.  The catfish was encrusted in a lightly seasoned cornmeal which enhanced the taste of the fish itself.  The fish had been frozen and while it was mostly flaky, the center was on the mushy side giving the clue to its once frozen state.  The fries were crispy and tasty, but they too had once been frozen.  However, the food was cooked well, so not being totally fresh and homemade could be forgiven.

My husband ordered the Steak and Shrimp dinner with red skinned mashed potatoes and steamed mixed vegetables; soup-salad bar came with his meal also.  The steak was a good size, about 1 inch think and the grill taste was excellent; the steak was so tender, he didn’t even need a knife to cut it.  Only flaw was that he had ordered it medium and it was cooked medium rare instead. The shrimp was two skewers (5 grilled shrimp on each), lightly seasoned and also an excellent grill taste.  The mashed potatoes were the real deal; vegetables were the typical medley and nothing to write home about.

We also received a basket with hot biscuits, butter and sweet raspberry jam; very, very good.   The jam is yummy, and would go well over a nice slice of plain cheesecake.   Homestead is also known for their Navajo Tacos and Pizza (which does a large carry out service).

All in all, even though they call themselves a Steak House, Homestead reminds me more of a small town diner…decent food, large portions, friendly service and reasonable prices for what you receive.

Mary Cokenour

Homestead Steak House on Urbanspoon

Homestead Steak House on Restaurantica

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Where's the beef? In new businesses for Monticello Utah.

For the past three days I have been running a one woman letter writing campaign to retail stores and restaurant chains; I must have sent over 100 emails so far. Why? To bring business, and revenue, to Monticello Utah. Heck, I've even written to places in New York about opening up an authentic deli here

My email is simple and to the point: "Monticello Utah is located at the intersection of two major roads (191 and 491)that connect 4 states: Utah, Colorado, New Mexico and Arizona. Our town desperately needs new businesses to open up to provide services for residents, and the thousands of tourists and truckers that come through here."

So folks, if you, or someone you know, is looking to open up a new business; why not consider Monticello Utah? It's a beautiful area, lots to see and do, and ripe for tourism.

Ok, advertisement done with, so lets get onto cooking, and as the title suggests, it concerns beef. This is a one baking dish and leave it alone type of meal; very simple and very comforting.

Roasted Beef and Potatoes with Onions


4 large baking potatoes, washed, leave skin on
1 large onion, chopped
1 Tbsp minced garlic
1/2 tsp ground black pepper
pinch of cayenne pepper
1/2 cup olive oil
3 lb chuck roast, trim off excess fat
1/2 tsp each salt, ground black pepper, onion powder and paprika


Preheat oven to 350F.

Cut potatoes into 1" pieces and place into large bowl with onions, garlic, 1/2 tsp black pepper, pinch of cayenne and olive oil; mix together thoroughly.  Spread potato mixture onto bottom of a 2 qt rectangular baking dish.

Mix together the salt, 1/2 tsp black pepper, onion powder and paprika; rub all sides of roast.  Place roast on top of potato mixture, centering it.  Roast in oven for 2 hours and leave it be for the 2 hours; roast will be medium when removed from oven.

Remove roast to cutting board to rest for 5 minutes before slicing; serve with potato mixture.

Makes 6-8 servings.

Mary Cokenour

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Please open a real Italian deli here…I’m dying from withdrawal !!!!

So, I was watching “Real Housewives of New Jersey”, yes, I admit to watching the “Real Housewives” shows, all of them, so get over it now.  It was the episode where they were celebrating Thanksgiving, Caroline and Albert are at a real Italian deli.  Seeing all the meats and cheeses hanging from the ceiling; all the antipasti items behind the deli counter; the cans and boxes of Italian food items….the bread; that wonderfully crusty bread made from Semolina flour.  I couldn’t take it anymore; I broke down and cried…I miss it all so much.  Remembering the smells, tastes, textures; the absolute comfort; for good Italian food is a true comfort.

One restaurant review I did of a place in Colorado stated that they served real New York style Italian food….they didn’t have a clue!!!  They couldn’t make real New York pizza or calzone; their sandwiches were packed with hot sausage as if that is what makes a sandwich really Italian.  That’s like pouring salsa over a hamburger and saying, “Look, I can cook Mexican”.  Puh….lease!!!  Yes, making counterfeit New York Italian food puts my knickers into a fierce twist; especially when it is done so badly.

So, here’s just a short list of what you would find at a typical Italian deli: Mortadella, Prosciutto, Pancetta, fresh Mozzarella and Ricotta, Mascarpone, Parmigiano-Reggiano, Pecorino Romano, Boars Head brand cold cuts (the absolute best brand), dried sausage, fresh sausage, loaves of crusty bread made with Semolina, Antipasti (olives, mushrooms, peperoncini, artichoke hearts - all cured in olive oil; cured meats, cheeses), Torrone candy, Biscotti, cans of imported tomatoes, olive oils, boxes of pasta.  Remember, this is just a short list for a deli; if you wanted to talk about cakes, cookies and pastries, then we have to enter the world of the Italian bakery….that’s a whole other post.

Basically this is a twofold post; a minor rant, but most of all it is a plea; a hope that someone from New York, even New Jersey, will come out here to Monticello Utah and open up a real, pass the sausage please, Italian deli.

....and now for something Italian to feed the stomach and soul.

Baked Pasta Casserole
This recipe can be made with any type of shaped pasta such as ziti, rigatoni, shells, rotelle (spiral), farfalle (bow ties), etc.
2 lb container ricotta cheese
2 cups shredded mozzarella, divided in half
½ cup grated parmesan cheese
2 eggs, beaten
2 Tbsp each garlic powder, dried basil, dried parsley
6 cups homemade pasta sauce
1 lb cooked pasta
Preheat oven to 350 F; spray a 2 qt baking dish with nonstick spray.
In a large bowl, mix together ricotta, 1 cup mozzarella, parmesan, eggs, garlic powder, herbs and 2 cups sauce till well incorporated.  Add pasta, mix in gently so as to not break up the pasta.
In the baking dish, spread out evenly 2 cups sauce, the pasta/cheese mixture and top with final 2 cups of sauce.  Bake for 45 minutes, spread remaining cup of mozzarella over top, bake another 15 minutes to melt cheese.  Let rest for 15 minutes before serving.
Makes 8-10 servings.

Mary Cokenour
July 24, 1995 (creation date)

Kuniko’s Teriyaki Grill

Kuniko’s Teriyaki Grill

1133 Patterson Rd Ste 11
Grand Junction, CO 81506

(970) 241-9245


Located in a small shopping center, almost indiscernible from all the other small stores nearby, Kuniko’s is a rare find for those who enjoy Japanese cuisine. Going in, one would think they are in a typical takeout joint, and they do a good amount of takeout business, but there are tables to sit at. So don’t let this little “hole in the wall” place fool you, the food out does the décor; as it should. Kuniko’s serves Japanese cuisine; none of the Fusion cuisine that has become a fad in many Asian influenced restaurants.

For the appetizer, we tried the Tempura Shrimp and Vegetables; very lightly battered, shrimp and vegetables cooked well, only slightly greasy; and a flavorful sauce for dipping.

We shared a main entrée of Salmon Teriyaki; a nicely cooked, large salmon filet upon a layer of slivered onions; the teriyaki sauce was delectable. It was served with rice and a small lettuce salad with ginger dressing.

Then came the sushi rolls; expertly rolled, cut perfectly and delicious. Tempura Shrimp roll – the tempura shrimp was cooked well, just as it had been with the appetizer. Samurai roll - crunchy breaded cutlet and cheese with a deliciously sweet and spicy miso paste. Tokyo roll -
crab meat and cucumber on the inside with avocado and tuna on the outside; a decadent pleasure for the mouth.

When it comes to Kuniko’s, don’t judge a book by its cover; judge it by the quality and flavor.

Mary Cokenour

Kuniko's Teriyaki Grill on Urbanspoon