Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Lovin' from the Oven.

They're warm and comforting; moist and rich in flavor; satisfying as is, or more delicious with spread on butter, honey or jam. They are muffins and they are a treat no matter what time of the day or night they are eaten. Depending on what ingredients they contain, muffins are basically a miniature version of a bread or cake. If they become slightly stale, they can be broken up to use in another recipe, such as a trifle or bread pudding.

Besides being delicious, they are versatile; for a party, miniature muffins are cute; and folks won't think they're being little piggies if they happen to try one of every variety being served. No time for a sit down meal, a muffin on the go, since they are easily hand held. Children being difficult about eating a healthy meal...let them eat cake; that is a muffin made of healthy ingredients, but they don't know it. Back in the 1990's, I had a small business where I would cater breakfast business meetings; serving coffee, tea, juice and loads of muffins. I did well, that is until my business partner stole all my assests and equipment, but that's a whole other boring story.

The combinations for muffins are endless, so have fun experimenting and your tummy will love you for it.


Basic Batter


1/2 cup softened butter
¾ cup sugar
2 large eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup milk
2 cups all purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder

Preheat oven to 400F; spray 2-6 cup muffin tins with nonstick baking spray.

In a large bowl, cream together the butter and sugar; add in each egg separately, continuing to mix to incorporate well. Mix in the vanilla extract and milk until smooth.

In a medium bowl, sift together the flour and baking powder. Gradually mix in the dry ingredients into the large bowl of wet ingredients until all is incorporated and smooth.

Spoon the batter into the tins, filling 2/3 of the way up. Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean from the center of the muffins.

Let cool for 5 minutes before removing muffins from the tins.

Makes 12 muffins.


Banana Walnut

Reduce milk to ½ cup; add 1 cup of mashed banana to wet ingredients. Add ½ tsp ground cinnamon and ½ cup chopped walnuts to dry ingredients.


Into the completed basic batter, fold in 1 cup fresh or thawed berries (whole blueberries or cranberries, red or black raspberries that have been halved, diced strawberries or a mixture of berries).

Reduce the all purpose flour to 1 cup; add 1 cup cornmeal.

Fruit Preserves

Prepare basic batter; fill tins 1/3 full and place 1 tsp of jam, jelly or preserves in the center.
Finish spooning basic batter into cups to 2/3’s full mark.

Candy Chips
Exchange sugar for light brown sugar. Add ½ tsp baking soda and ½ cup of candy chips (chocolate, peanut butter, butterscotch, mint, vanilla or mixture) to the dry ingredients.

Mary Cokenour
September 1997

Monday, August 29, 2011

Coffee, Sour Cream and Cake.

The UPS delivery truck just delivered my newest order from!!! My favorite flavors were in the box: French Vanilla, Vanilla Nut Creme, French Caramel Creme and Toasted Southern Pecan; and I quickly filled up my Tupperware containers with this precious commodity. Now, what little tidbit can I have with my freshly brewed cup of Toasted Southern Pecan coffee? Looking round the kitchen, the answer was...nothing; no cookies, no cake for I did no fresh baking this past weekend. Shame on me, I know.

Quick scramble, what can I bake and it doesn't take a lot of work, nor time to make? Hmmm, cake!!! I'm making nachos this week, so have sour cream on hand, so let's put it all together, well without the nachos and make one such sweet dish; a sour cream coffee cake.

Nirvana is now mine...enjoy yours.

Sour Cream Coffee Cake


2 cups all purpose flour
1 ½ cups light brown sugar
½ tsp salt
1 cup softened butter
1 tsp baking powder
¼ tsp baking soda
¼ tsp each ground cinnamon and nutmeg
½ cup sour cream
1 large egg, beaten

Preheat oven to 350F; spray an 8” x 8” baking dish with nonstick baking spray.

In a large bowl, mix together the flour, brown sugar, salt and butter until crumbly; set aside 1 ½ cups. To the remaining crumb mixture, add remaining ingredients and mix well.

Spread mixture evenly into the baking dish; spread the 1 ½ cups set aside over top of the mixture. Bake for 50-55 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out cleanly from center. Let cool for 10 minutes before cutting into squares.

Makes 9 servings.

Mary Cokenour
September 1997

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Don't throw that sauce away!

Did you ever make a recipe that centered around some type of sauce or gravy? Did you ever have a lot left over, but didn't know what to do with it, so threw it out? At the time you probably thought, "what I am going to do with this; it's not like I'm going to use it again." Why not? Granted, sauces and gravies that have dairy in them will not freeze well and when reheated will separate and/or curdle. Not so with freshly made pasta sauces chock full of tomatoes and other vegetables; even if it's only as little as 2 cups worth. They freeze well and can be reheated easily for use as is, or incorporated into other recipes.

Take for example my recipe for Chicken Cacciatore; guaranteed there will always be extra sauce left over and I freeze it for future use. I might use it to create Chicken Cacciatore again; or do a simplfied quickie version. Today was one of those "I need something" quick days and it only took 3 main ingredients, plus a little olive oil and garlic.

First I put on a large pot of salted water, high heat,to bring to a boil. That was for the 1 lb bag of frozen cheese tortellini I was going to make. Secondly, I cut up 4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts halves into bite sized pieces and sprinkled a tablespoon of fine sea salt over the pieces. On the stove I had ready a large skillet with 3 Tbsp of olive oil and 1 Tbsp of minced garlic which was heating on medium heat. The chicken went into the skillet to brown in the oil/garlic mixture.

Big deal you might be saying, so how is this all going to come together for something simple and tasty? What I had waiting on the side was a 2 cup container of leftover chicken cacciatore sauce which I had defrosted overnight. Ok, chicken is nicely browned in the skillet; tortellini is floating in the water; strain the pasta and put it into the skillet; add the sauce and let it all cook together for 10 mintues.

Four servings of absolute deliciousness; and took just a little effort. Between the prep work and the actual cooking; about 30 minutes; not bad I'd say. So next time you have a couple of cups of sauce left over, don't throw it out because it just might make that quickie skillet dinner you just needed to make.

Mary Cokenour

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Get Porked!!!

Back on March 9th, I did a post about pork called Pig Heaven and mentioned a technique called brining. Simply, the pork is placed in a salt water bath to help tenderize the meat, and to help open up the tissues of the meat to absorb seasonings. Pork roast itself can become tough when cooked and any flavor is usually on the outside of the meat itself. That is usually why the pork is cut up into slices or chunks before using; the smaller surface allows for greater coverage, and, therefore, flavoring.

I had found some small pork roasts on sale at the market, so decided to pick up a two pounder to try the brine method out on. The real test would be my husband, Roy, for I have not found a pork recipe he likes yet; well, except for my ribs that is; this was also another way for me to play with more Southwestern flavors. I am happy to say that hubby enjoyed this new dish and actually was looking for seconds - that is until he remembered we still had some bread pudding in the fridge.

Spicy Pork Stew


2 lbs boneless pork roast, trimmed of fat
2 Tbsp fine sea salt
3 medium potatoes, peeled and cut into ½” cubes
1 cup chopped yellow bell pepper
1 (15.5 oz) can whole kernel corn, drained
1 (15 oz) can black beans, rinsed and drained
1 cup green onion, ½ “pieces
1 (28 oz) can diced tomatoes with green chiles (medium heat)
1 Tbsp each minced garlic, dried crushed oregano and New Mexico chile powder
2 Tbsp paprika
1 cup beef broth
Sour cream


Place the pork roast in a plastic container, add enough water to cover and sprinkle the salt into the water. Cover the container and refrigerate for 24 hours.

Next day, set a 4 qt crock pot on low and place all other ingredients, except sour cream, on list inside; mix together. Take the pork roast out of the salt water and immerse into the crock pot. Cover and let cook for 8 hours. Before serving, take roast out, shred and return meat to the crock pot. Serve stew with a dollop of sour cream.

Makes 6 servings.

Mary Cokenour
August 24, 2011

Monday, August 22, 2011

Turkey is not just for special occasions.

Now Roy and I wander around what is called the Four Corners area; basically where Utah, Colorado, New Mexico and Arizona meet in some fashion. On our travels we like to try new places to have a meal and I'll write a review about it for my Restaurant Review page on this blog. While we love to try new dishes, we also test the merit of a restaurant by old favorites; in other words, if a restaurant can mess up something simple, then it's not worth the time nor money to go there.

Now I truly enjoy roasted turkey and my fave two ways of having it is either as a turkey club or a hot open face; both sandwiches in case you didn't know. I expect real roasted turkey just like the type you would get when carving up the turkey on Thanksgiving Day (American holiday that occurs in November). What am I getting though? Cold cut style pressed turkey...if I wanted cold cuts, I would have gone to the nearest Subway or purchased the meat from the deli section of the supermarket. I even ask the waiter or waitress, "is it made with real roast turkey or cold cut style turkey?" The response is always "real roasted turkey", but the item in the sandwich is always "cold cut style pressed turkey". So I have asked why and the answer is usually, "there's no call for it, folks are happy with what we serve or we don't have time to always serve the real stuff." Seriously? No call for real roasted turkey...I hate to think what they serve for the holiday itself then.

Sunday I decided to make a roasted turkey; a 12 lb beauty stuffed with our family's handed down through the generations stuffing. First I gave the turkey a bath in cold water making sure to pull out any missed feathers; and seasoned the inside and outside with a liberal amount of fine sea salt. After stuffing the turkey, I trussed it up, so the stuffing would not come out; and coated the skin with a mixture of melted butter and olive oil. Into the roasting pan it went with aluminum foil over top, so it would not brown too quickly and/or burn the skin. The oven setting was 350F and it would take 5 hours to get the turkey and stuffing to the properly cooked temperature and consistency.

The first 3 hours, the turkey was left alone, but then I took off the aluminum foil; gave it another basting of melted butter and olive oil; and left the bird uncovered. I repeated the basting an hour later and by the time the end of the 5th hour, the turkey was beautifully browned.

I served it with homemade mashed potatoes, gravy and mixed vegetables in a butter sauce. No, I was certainly not going the healthy meal route....I wanted a good old fashioned turkey dinner with all the trimmings.

The slices of turkey were so moist, you could see the juices flowing; the stuffing was also moist and so flavorful. Sorry though, I will not be sharing my stuffing recipe; it's a family secret that will be passed onto my son whenever he feels ready to have a turkey dinner of his own making.

Now before I forget, the turkey did come with the neck, heart, liver and kidneys tucked inside. Those were generously given to the garden shed cats, so they didn't have to worry about field mouse or bird hunting for awhile. Lets say that they had a very long and contented sleep in the grass after that meal.

Having a craving for real roasted turkey, don't deny yourself by waiting until Thanksgiving Day.

Mary Cokenour

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Red Lobster is a feast in New Mexico.

Red Lobster

3451 E. Main Street
Farmington, NM, 87401

(505) 325-5222


Main Street in Farmington is a busy and congested roadway on a Saturday; after all the shopping is done, a meal in a local restaurant is much desired.  Getting there by 4:30pm for dinner, there was already a wait list of approximately 30 minutes, but we were seated within 20 minutes.  Our waiter, Eddie, was quick to take our drink order and left us to look over the menu, including the new specials for "Crab Fest".

For appetizers, we decided on the Crab Stuffed Mushrooms; mushroom caps stuffed with chunks of crab meat and smothered in cheese.

Also the Parmesan Crab Dip; shredded crab in a creamy sauce and encrusted in a parmesan cheese layer; thin pieces of toast for either dipping in the crab mixture, or spread on with a knife.

Hubby and I were not in the mood for cracking crab legs, even though they looked very tempting, but opted for easier to eat meals. He had the Steak and Shrimp Oscar; a tender steak topped with shrimp and asparagus in a lobster cream sauce.

I decided to have the Wood Grilled Lobster Tail, Shrimp and Scallops; all perfectly cooked with the seafood succulent and seasoned well. The rice pilaf which came with the dish was moist and flavorful; the broccoli steamed, but still having a crunch to it.

Our waiter continued to be attentive, making sure our drink glasses were always filled, and that the food was very much to our liking. As much as we would have liked to have dessert, we were very content and happy with the appetizers and dinners we had just enjoyed.

Overall, the staff and atmosphere of this Red Lobster made us feel welcome and comfortable; a most definite "come back to" place.

Mary Cokenour

Red Lobster on Urbanspoon

Red Lobster Restaurants on Restaurantica

Friday, August 19, 2011

Remembering Childhood Comforts.

There is a thunderstorm brewing and I am suddenly taken back to a childhood memory. During such storms, I would put 4 chairs in a square formation, throw a large blanket over them and pretend to be camping outdoors. I would have my favorite stuffed animals as company, a flashlight to light the interior, books to read and a large bowl of one of my grandmother's home cooked meals. It could be spaghetti and meatballs, shrimps in sauce, or one of her many delicious soups. Whatever it was, it was wonderful and I would always sneak out of my tent (between thunderclaps) to get a second bowl.

Happy childhood memories are few for me and they almost all seem to revolve around food in some way. No wonder really, as food is comforting in itself. It fools you into believing that all is right with the world, well for that moment at least; and later on, if need be, the memory of it can soothe an unpleasant moment in time.

My grandmother's cooking was able to provide me with, not just comforting moments, but comforting memories to help me later on. One such dish was her Paste E Fagioli; a wonderful dish of beans, meat and pasta in a flavorful broth. The steam rising up from the bowl, so fantasy figures could be picked out, much like one would do when watching the clouds in the sky. The storm is passing as I write this, so I better get back to my Pasta E Fagioli before the wonderous memory passes also.

Pasta E Fagioli

A traditional Italian soup, its name meaning “pasta and beans”. While it is usually made without meat, ground beef or sausage can be used in the recipe.  My grandmother made this soup in a large soup pot on the stove, but I have converted it for cooking in a crock pot.


2 lbs lean ground beef
1 large onion, diced
3 medium carrots, peeled and diced
4 celery stalks, diced
1 (14 ½ oz) can diced tomatoes
1 (15 oz) can tomato puree
1 (28 oz) can crushed tomatoes
2 (16 oz) cans white kidney beans (Great Northern), drained and rinsed
1 qt beef stock
3 tsp oregano
2 tsp ground black pepper
4 Tbsp dried parsley
¼ tsp cayenne pepper flakes
8 oz ditilini pasta, cooked


In large skillet, brown meat till no pink shows; drain grease.

Spray 6qt crock pot with non-stick spray. Mix together meat and all ingredients except the pasta. Set on low heat and cook for 7 hours; add in pasta and cook another 15 minutes before serving. If desired, grated parmesan cheese can be sprinkled on top of each serving.

Makes 12 - 14 servings.

Mary Cokenour

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Classic Comfort - The Tuna Noodle Casserole

You can go back for generations and you'll find a recipe for this classic comfort food - the tuna noodle casserole. Tuna, egg noodles, peas (sometimes a peas and carrots mix), and a sauce made from scratch or using a cream soup such as celery, mushroom or a combination of both. It can be quickly mixed together, baked in no time and a real fill-you-upper kind of meal. It was especially found in households that practiced the "fish on Friday" requirement of some religions. While some children won't eat fish, the majority won't turn down tuna fish (the canned variety, not the fresh type).

The food companies even tried capitalizing on the love of this basic dish by selling a boxed skillet version which contained a packet of dry sauce and peas mix and a packet of noodles; just add tuna and, bango...tuna casserole in a skillet. No, sorry, I don't think so; it's not that hard to make it from a recipe and use the oven to make a proper casserole.

There's comfort food and then there's "I'm really lazy food"; for me, I'll go the comfort route any time.

Tuna Noodle Casserole

2 tablespoons butter
1/4 cup each diced celery, onion and mushroom 
1 can (5 oz) chunk light tuna in water; undrained and flaked
1 can (5 oz) albacore white tuna in water; undrained and flaked
1 can (10.5 oz) cream of mushroom soup
1 can (10.5 oz) cream of celery soup
1 cup milk
1 cup frozen peas or peas/carrots mix
8 ounces noodles, cooked and drained
1/2 cup bread crumbs mixed with 2 Tbsp melted butter

In a large skillet, medium-high heat, melt butter; sauté celery, onion and mushroom until tender.  Combine this in a large mixing bowl with all other ingredients except the buttered bread crumbs.  Spread evenly in the baking dish; top with the buttered bread crumbs.

Bake for 30-35 minutes; until bread crumbs are browned and sauce is bubbling.

Makes 6 servings.

Mary Cokenour
August 18, 1982

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Boredom plus Bread equal Bread Pudding.

Another boring evening of reruns, so I decided it was a good time to clean out the fridge once again. There were so many different bread products - hot dog, hamburger and sub rolls, pita pockets, English muffins and what did my wandering eye see, a forgotten loaf of Texas toast bread. Only slightly stale, therefore, still usable for some recipes: French toast, garlic toast, stuffing or something that I have wanted to make from scratch for a long while, but never got to it - Bread Pudding.

I had a few recipes, looked them all over to see what was similar and what was different, and then like Dr. Frankenstein in his lab, began to experiment. Making a vanilla sauce, so I don't want the bread pudding to be overly sweet; cut the brown sugar and granulated sugar down. Love the scent of baked items that have cinnamon, nutmeg and vanilla, so lets up that a little more. Milk is just too thin while heavy cream is too thick; I'm going with half n' half. Eureka!!! It's alive, it's alive!!! I mean, "it tastes good!, it tastes good!", and it did. The bread pudding by itself is not overly sweet, but once the vanilla sauce is poured on...perfect, not to the extent of being sickeningly sweet either.

The moral of this story is, " to conquer boredom, become creative".

Bread Pudding with Vanilla Sauce


6 slices thick white bread*, cut into cubes (16 per slice)
½ cup raisins
2 cups half n’ half
¼ cup salted butter
½ cup brown sugar
3 eggs
1 Tbsp cinnamon
½ tsp nutmeg
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 Tbsp granulated sugar


Preheat oven to 350F. Grease bottom and sides of a 1 ½ qt baking dish. Put bread cubes into dish and sprinkle raisins over top.

In a small saucepan, melt the butter in the half n’ half over medium-high heat; do not let it boil. While butter is melting, whish together brown sugar, eggs, cinnamon, nutmeg and vanilla. Slowly add in milk mixture to bowl, constantly whisking to keep eggs from scrambling. Pour this mixture over the bread and make sure to work the mixture between the bread cubes; press bread down to help it soak up liquid.

Sprinkle sugar over top; bake for 45-50 minutes; top will be browned and all liquid would have been absorbed. Serve with vanilla sauce**.

*Note: bread, usually called Texas toast style, should be slightly stale;

**Option: Whipped topping or vanilla ice cream.

Makes 6 servings.

Vanilla Sauce


½ cup each of granulated and brown sugar
½ cup half n’ half
½ cup salted butter
2 tsp vanilla extract


In a small saucepan, over medium heat, combine all ingredients and bring to a boil; stir occasionally while letting mixture continue to cook for 5-8 minutes to desired thickness. Pour over bread pudding.

Makes 6 servings.

Mary Cokenour

K & A Chuckwagon looking to hit the trail.

K & A Chuckwagon

496 N. Main Street
Monticello, UT, 84535

(435) 587-3468


Another local establishment is looking to sell which gives someone new the option of being a restaurant entrepreneur in Monticello, Utah.  The Chuckwagon has been a staple of Monticello for many years and seeing it close down for good would be a shame; especially in a town which has so few businesses as it is.

Currently the business is only open during the warm seasons as it is an outdoor establishment; barbequed foods and sides of beans, salads, warm bread with honey butter being the primary faire. The potential is there to build and make it an indoor/outdoor facility open all year round that is available to locals, tourists and the thousands of travelers who come through the area. So all you would be restaurateurs and entrepreneurs, this could be another notch on your belt, or your first big step.

The owners are looking to sell to the person who would agree to buy for "the right price", so anyone interested should call them at: (435) 459-4961.

Mary Cokenour

K & A Chuckwagon on Urbanspoon

K & A Chuckwagon on Restaurantica

Monday, August 15, 2011

Homemade Hamburger Helper is a big hit.

A couple of weeks ago I was feeling under the weather and the last thing I wanted to do was make dinner. Roy tries his best to help me out when I need it, especially if I'm not feeling well. I had nothing defrosted, so Roy went to the store and purchased one of those new "Cheesy Skillet Dinners" from Velveeta. It was one that required chicken, so he picked up a small package of Tyson Grilled Chicken Strips. He figured it would save time, since they were already cooked and he just needed to cut them into bite sized pieces.

Roy prepared the meal while I read the directions to him. One of the ingredients was barbeque sauce and the box contained a small package of about 4 Tbsp; not much in my opinion. Anyway, he completed the meal and we tried it out. After my first bite, I divided what was left on my plate between the three dogs. Roy was more diligent and finished off his own portion.

Now to be fair, my man tried his best and that is more than some people do for their sick spouses. Unfortunately, he picked a product that was below standard, but for a good reason, it sounded very much like a recipe that I had made from scratch. I called it "Gravy Train", namely because my ex-husband, who wouldn't know good food if it stood up and danced a jig, said it looked and tasted like dog food. Just to prove him wrong, I sent the recipe into "Taste of Home" magazine and they liked it. They renamed it "Beefy Barbecue Macaroni", printed it twice in two separate issues and in two of their recipe books. Online, you can find it plagiarized all over recipe sites and forums; but it's my original recipe, so lets get that clear.

For yesterday's dinner, I finally made the recipe for him and he was in food lovers' heaven. So when it comes to boxed dinners, he won't be making that mistake again. Then again, I'm not allowed to get sick anymore either. So here is the original recipe; Enjoy!

Gravy Train (my name for this recipe) - or -
(Beefy Barbecue Macaroni – renamed by Taste of Home Magazine)


3/4 pound ground beef
1/2 cup chopped onion
3 garlic cloves, minced
3-1/2 cups cooked elbow macaroni
3/4 cup barbecue sauce
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
Dash cayenne pepper
1/4 cup milk
1 tablespoon butter
1 cup (4 oz) shredded sharp cheddar cheese
Additional cheddar cheese, optional


In a large skillet, cook the beef, onion and garlic until meat is no longer pink; drain. Add the macaroni, barbecue sauce, pepper.

In a small saucepan, heat milk and butter over medium heat until butter is melted. Stir in cheese until melted. Pour over the macaroni mixture; gently toss to coat. Sprinkle with additional cheese if desired.

Makes 4 servings.

Mary Cokenour

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Dreary Days are great for Cookie Baking.

Woke up this morning to a very dark sky and cool breezes coming down from the mountain; it smelled of rain. This was the perfect weather for cookie baking; nothing like a cool breeze to cool a hot kitchen, and carry the scent of baking cookies throughout the house. Nothing fancy, just two types of cookies that Roy and I enjoy; we deserved a bit of a treat.

The first is an oatmeal cookie, but I don't just use raisins, but also another dried fruit...very comforting. In the recipe I usually use dried dates, but today I decided to use dried cherries; that's how flexible this recipe is. The second is a sugar cookie with tiny pieces of mint candy dispersed throughout...sweet but refreshing. Also a flexible recipe as toffee bits can be used, or no candy at all.

Double Fruit Oatmeal Cookies


1 cup softened butter
1 large egg
¾ cup brown sugar
¼ cup sugar
1 ½ cups all purpose flour
¼ tsp salt
¾ tsp each baking powder and soda
1 tsp cinnamon
¼ tsp nutmeg
½ cup each diced dates and golden raisins
1 tsp vanilla extract
3 cups Old Fashioned Quaker Oats


Preheat oven to 350F. Use nonstick baking sheets, or spray with baking spray (contains flour).

In a large bowl, cream together butter, egg and sugars. In another bowl, sift together flour, salt, baking powder and soda, cinnamon and nutmeg. Mix dry ingredients into creamed mixture.

Add dates, raisins, vanilla and oats; mix thoroughly. Place tablespoons of batter 2” apart on baking sheets. Bake 12-15 minutes; until cookies are golden brown; remove to wire baking racks to cool.

Makes 3 dozen.


Sugar Mint Cookies


2 ¾ cups flour
1 tsp baking soda
½ tsp baking powder
1 cup salted butter, completely softened, but not melted
1 ½ cups sugar
1 egg
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup Andes Candies mint pieces


Preheat oven to 375F (350F if using dark or nonstick baking sheets).

Into a large bowl, sift together the flour, baking soda and powder; set aside.

In another bowl, cream together the butter and sugar; gradually beat in the egg and vanilla. Add creamed mixture and candy pieces into the large bowl of dry ingredients and mix together thoroughly.

Measure out the dough by teaspoon, roll into a ball and place on ungreased (or nonstick) cookie sheets 2 inches apart. Bake for 10 minutes, remove from oven and let rest on cookie sheet for 3 minutes before transferring to cookie wire racks for final settling (about 5 minutes).

Makes 4 dozen cookies.

Mary Cokenour

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Another successful attempt with Apricots.

While picking apricots the other day, I spied a very colorful bird in the tree pecking at one of the fruits. It had a yellow underbelly, dark blue top and wings and a bright red head; very tropical looking indeed. One of the outdoor cats began to climb the tree and suddenly a small flock of these unusual looking birds took off to safety. I looked up Utah bird species online and discovered it was a bird that lived in mountainous areas, mostly in evergreen trees, and rarely seen. It is called the "Western Tanager" and here I had a flock of them in the apricot trees; astounding.

But I digress from what this post is actually about...the apricots.  As I had planned, I was able to make an apricot crumble today. Now I am one of those people who doesn't really like cooked fruit. While I will cook and bake with fruit for other people, I will not eat it myself; just call it my little quirk.  I was brave and took of taste of it; sweet and tangy, but still not my cup of tea.  Roy, on the other hand, enjoyed it and praised me for an experiment in baking well done.

So here is my experiment...ummm, recipe and I hope you enjoy it too.

Apricot Crumble

6 cups quartered apricots (previously washed and pitted)
1 tsp vanilla extract
¼ cup sugar
2 Tbsp cornstarch


½ cup flour
¾ cup oven toasted old fashioned oats
¾ cup brown sugar
1 tsp ground cinnamon
½ cup plus 1 Tbsp softened salted butter


Preheat oven to 375F.  Grease a 4-qt baking dish with the one Tbsp of softened butter.

In a large bowl, mix together the apricots, vanilla, sugar and cornstarch; set aside.  In a medium bowl, use a pastry cutter, fork or hands to mix together all ingredients listed under Topping until it forms a loose crumble.

Spread the apricots into the baking dish; use a rubber spatula to get all the juices that have formed at the bottom of the bowl.  Next, spread the crumble over the apricots and spread as evenly as possible.

Place dish on center rack of oven and bake for 40 minutes; remove from oven and let it rest for 15 minutes before serving with a scoop of ice cream or whipped topping.

Makes 9 servings.

Mary Cokenour

Friday, August 12, 2011

It must be good if it's printed twice.

A long time ago, while still living in Pennsylvania, I submitted a recipe to "Taste of Home" magazine for one of their contests. I didn't hear anything back from them, so knew I hadn't won. Then, in 2010, I heard from them and they wanted to print the recipe in one of their issues. I was thrilled and, of course, agreed to it. Unfortunately, I forgot to tell them to change my last name, as I had gotten remarried, and to change my city and state for I had moved. Oh well, at least I was getting one of my recipes published again and that was an honor for me.

Well I just heard from "Taste of Home" again and they are going to republish the recipe again in a new cookbook they will be putting on the market. Now that is an honor...published once is one thing, but to have the same recipe chosen for a second!

So here is a reprint of the recipe as it appeared in the magazine:

Balsamic Pork Scallopine
“I developed this delightful dish by tweaking my veal scallopine recipe- thinly sliced pork is an economical alternative and a tasty success!” —Mary Petrara, Lancaster, Pennsylvania

12 Servings Prep: 25 min. Cook: 30 min.

• 3 pounds pork sirloin cutlets
• 1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
• 1/2 cup olive oil
• 2 tablespoons butter
• 1 medium onion, chopped
• 1/2 cup chopped roasted sweet red peppers
• 6 garlic cloves, minced
• 1 can (14-1/2 ounces) reduced-sodium chicken broth
• 1/2 cup minced fresh basil or 2 tablespoons dried basil
• 1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
• 1/2 teaspoon pepper

• 1 package (16 ounces) egg noodles
• 1/2 cup half-and-half cream
• 1/4 cup grated Romano cheese
• 1/4 cup butter, cubed
• 1/2 teaspoon pepper
• 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder

• Dredge pork cutlets in flour. Heat oil and butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat; add pork and brown in batches. Set aside.
• Add onion and red peppers to the pan; sauté until onion is tender.
• Add garlic; cook 1 minute longer. Add the broth, basil, vinegar and pepper.
• Return pork to the pan, layering if necessary.
• Cover and cook over low heat for 15-20 minutes or meat is no longer pink.
• Meanwhile, in a Dutch oven, cook noodles according to package directions. Drain; stir in the cream, cheese, butter, pepper and garlic powder. Serve with pork.

Yield: 12 servings.

Prep Time: 25 minutes; Cook Time: 30 minutes.

Nutrition Facts: 3 ounces cooked pork with 3/4 cup noodles and 2 tablespoons sauce equals 533 calories, 25 g fat (9 g saturated fat), 122 mg cholesterol, 280 mg sodium, 43 g carbohydrate, 2 g fiber, 32 g protein.

© Taste of Home Oct-Nov 2010, page 37.

Mary Cokenour

Thursday, August 11, 2011

The Shake Shack - Monticello's little secret

The Shake Shack

364 N. Main
Monticello, UT, 84535


The Shake Shack is reminiscent of those old fashioned diners where you can still get a burger, fries with a drink and not leave your wallet empty.  The new owners did a lot of fixing up and while it is not one of the fanciest places, it is open every day (except Sunday).  It's the type of place where you can sit down with friends and/or family, enjoy a good meal or just dessert; not feel rushed out or unwelcome. 

The Shake Shack is small inside with a few booths along the side and back walls, and some old fashioned cast iron tables and chairs in the corners.

The menu is not huge in variety, but that is fine because it gives them the benefit of getting things done right, and tasting good.

It had been a hot day on Wednesday, so we indulged in a large soft serve cone for me, and a pineapple malt for hubby.

I guess I should have asked how large was was huge, and my hubby had to help me eat it.

His medium sized pineapple malt was not just flavored with a pineapple syrup like some places do; it had actual pieces of pineapple in it.

So if you're traveling through Monticello, Utah and have the hungries, or just looking for a cold treat, stop at The Shack Shake. It's right on Main Street, so you can't miss it.

Mary Cokenour


Shake Shack on Urbanspoon

Shake Shack on Restaurantica

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

It's just a sandwich, so get over it!

A while ago a new fad hit the food scene...the Panini. People went crazy over the concept of putting cheeses, sometimes meats and/or veggies too, onto bread, into a "panini press" and toasting it. News Flash!!! Panini is Italian for the word "sandwich", and what I just basically described was the good old American Grilled Cheese sandwich. I laughed my butt off when a member of a reality show (Real Housewives of New Jersey) was going on and on about needing her Panini. In other words, call a simple comfort food a fancy name, give it a fancy price, and that makes it something more worthwhile? No, sorry dear, it's a grilled cheese sandwich, so get over it now.

No matter what your age, you have probably had a grilled cheese sandwich sometime in your life. People just love it and you can make it as simple or special as you want it to be. I usually use potato or oatnut (Oroweat brand), 3 slices of cheese and soft spread butter to create mine...simple and quick. I use a stove top flat grill pan, melt a couple tablespoons of butter on high heat; place the buttered sides of the bread on the grill. Then I place 2 slices of cheese on one unbuttered side, 1 on the other unbuttered side. When I see the cheese beginning to melt on the bread, then it's time to flip them together to make a sandwich. I press the bread down, so the ends will seal together and the cheese won't ooze onto the grill.

When it comes to cheese, American is the best, but sometimes I enjoy using different types. A combo of American with Swiss or Provolone; Colby Jack with Provolone; Pepper Jack with get the picture. Maybe I want something more filling, so add bacon or thinly sliced Black Forest Ham; maybe some spicy mustard, maybe not. One of Roy's favorites is oatnut bread, 3 slices of American, thick cut applewood bacon and thinly sliced tomato. I enjoy tuna melts, so American cheese and tuna that is yummy!

So, if you want to be snooty, go get yourself a Panini. If you want to be real, have an old fashioned grilled cheese sandwich. Whatever floats your little boat.

Mary Cokenour

Monday, August 8, 2011

Apricots, apricots everywhere.

On our property is a large apricot tree overloaded with fruit.  The birds and ground animals will eat a good portion, some I will give away to folks and some I will cook with.  While Roy enjoys snacking on these little fruits that look like miniature peaches, I don't actually care for them; but I will make dishes for Roy to enjoy.

Asian Apricot Chicken


1 1/2 lbs boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into 1" pieces
1/2 cup Hoisin sauce
1 Tbsp ground ginger
2 Tbsp orange marmalade
2 lbs frozen stir fry vegetables
1/2 cup soy sauce
3/4 cup hot water
1 tsp sea salt
2 dozen apricots, halved and pits removed


Place the chicken, Hoisin sauce, ground ginger and marmalade in a plastic bag; mix together to coat chicken, seal bag and refrigerate overnight.

Heat a large skillet on medium-high heat and brown chicken.  Add in vegetables, soy sauce, water, salt and apricots; bring to a boil and let cook for 5 minutes before reducing heat to low.  Let mixture simmer for 15 minutes; sauce will thicken.

Makes 6-8 servings.

Mary Cokenour

Note: I do intend to attempt an apricot crumble with some of the fruit; if it's a success, you'll be reading about it.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

A Tale of Two Dogs.

Last weekend was the one year anniversary of the death of our beloved Doberman Pinscher, Bonnie. I had written a blog post about her and her loss to us hoping that it would bring closure. Letting go is hard to do; it's easier said than done. To say that last weekend was hard to handle is an understatement as I was an emotional mess. Losing one of my pets is equal to someone losing a human child as they are as children to me.

Luckily, we were able to get in contact with Utah Doberman Rescue and the strange thing was that a female Doberman had been given up the same weekend that our Bonnie girl had died. Coincidence...I don't believe in coincidence; Bonnie left us knowing that there was someone out there who needed us badly. That someone was Jenna, a 5 1/5 year old female black and tan Doberman Pinscher that had been given up by her family.

At first Jenna was shy, afraid to come up on the bed or couch, and did not bark. Now I had had experience with another dog like this, Lili, who had been beaten every time she barked, so knew how to handle this. We simply treated her as a member of the family, as if she had always been with us. Slowly, but surely, she began to understand that it was all right to act as her natural self. When she barked at a noise or a stranger near the home, we rewarded her; she doesn't excessively bark, only when she feels the need to warn and protect. She loves her comfort whether it is sleeping on the bed with us, on the couch while we watch television, or on the large dog pillow that is next to Roy's computer desk. Jenna loves to play with the cats and is quite gentle with them; and playing with Nefi and Tippy outside is a big thrill for her. Whether it is "chase me" or "soccer", they all get along great, share toys and love when they get treats.

So we have gone from a weekend of remembering sorrow and loss to a weekend of knowing joy and love. To help in the celebration of Jenna I planned a nice barbeque meal.

Sweet Bourbon Marinade


1/4 cup each of bourbon, olive oil and honey
1 Tbsp garlic powder
2 lb London broil
6 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves


Mix together the bourbon, oil, honey and garlic powder; reserve 1/4 cup in plastic container and refrigerate.

Place meat and chicken in separate plastic bags or containers and pour remaining marinade over them. Seal and refrigerate for 24 hours; this will allow the marinade to not only flavor the meat and chicken, but to tenderize.

Day of barbeque, remove reserved marinade from refrigerator and allow to come to room temperature. Spray grill with nonstick spray and heat to 350F. Place meat and chicken on grill; cook until internal temperature on chicken is 180F and London broil is medium-rare. While they were cooking, baste with the reserved marinade. Set chicken on a plate; set meat on cutting board to rest for 5 minutes before slicing.

Makes 6 servings.

Mary Cokenour

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Comfort doesn't need planning.

Comfort food recipes usually are not planned ahead, they're spontaneous. Think about it, how do you know when you're going to need to eat something that comforts and soothes you? Maybe you had a lousy day and you know that a bowl of a particular recipe will make you feel all better. Or a memory came into your mind that made you smile, and you remember a particular food in that memory. Heck, it might just be a sudden craving for a comfort type food.

I experienced that yesterday when I suddenly wanted a meatball parmigiana sub....toasted sub roll with melted provolone and mozzarella cheese, sauce dripping and those softball sized meatballs. Going to someplace local, I knew...knew that I would end up with rubber meatballs, jarred sauce and that was totally unacceptable. So off to the market I ran to throw together my homemade pasta sauce and meatballs. No store around here sells real Italian bread, so had to do with regular sub rolls, but once toasted...delicioso!

By the time Roy was home from work, the sauce and meatballs were ready to create my subs. Preheating the oven to 400F, I sliced open the rolls, placed them on the center rack of the oven (open side up) and toasted them for 10 minutes. Then came the assembly: rolls placed in center of aluminum foil; 2 slices of provolone cheese on each side of the roll and overlapping on the crease of the roll. Two meatballs into the roll with some sauce poured over each; shredded mozzarella cheese spread over the meatballs. Fold the aluminum foil over the top of the sub and seal the ends; place onto the center rack of the oven and leave it alone for 15 minutes.


So when you need some comfort, forget about what you had originally planned to make for a meal and seek out the comfort food that will make you feel the best.

Mary Cokenour

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Simply Fried Fish and the bountiful veggies mutiny.

While shopping, I was lucky to come upon Whiting ( a mild white fish) in the frozen fish section; remember now, I live at the end of the world, so fresh fish isn't available often, if at all.  Now when I lived back East, we would always buy whole fresh Whiting and bake it; the meat of this fish is so sweet and succulent.  The side dish served with it was my grandmother's potatoes which were similiar to hot German potato salad.

However, since the frozen fish were filets, I decided that frying them would be a better justice for them.

In the above photo you'll see the fish dredging station I set up.  The blue rimmed bowl contains Panko (Japanese bread crumbs), the plate is the 2 lbs of Whiting seasoned with salt and crushed dill, and the white bowl contains a mixture of 2 eggs mixed with a cup of whole milk.  There were 9 pieces of fish altogether, so I planned on frying 3 at a time.  On the stove, I had 2 cups of peanut oil heating up on medium-high heat.

The simple process was to soak 3 fish filets in the egg/milk mixture until the oil was hot enough to fry in (a flick of cold water into the skillet made the oil begin to sizzle).  I then placed each filet into the Panko, making sure to press it into each side of the filets and then slide them into the hot oil.  I let them fry for 3 minutes on each side before removing to a paper towel covered plate to drain the excess oil.  Also, while the first 3 were frying, I had the next 3 filets soaking in the egg/milk mixture, and I just repeated the whole process for the remaining 6 filets.  Simple done fried fish with a crispy crust, but moist, flaky flesh.

So where does the bounty of veggies come into play?  It all started before I began frying up the fish of course.  One of Roy's coworkers had an excess bounty of veggies from her garden and Roy brought some bell peppers, banana peppers, eggplant, green beans; and I just happened to have a head of cauliflower in the fridge....Evil Vegetable Gratin!!!. Cutting all the veggies up into bite sized pieces, mixing with the cheeses and other listed ingredients from the recipe; it was placed in the oven and timed to be ready at the same time as the fried fish.

My grandmother's potatoes is another simply made dish:  boiled potatoes cut into chunks or slices (your choice - leave the skin on!), mix in a bowl with olive oil, red wine vinegar, ground black pepper and salt.  I'm not putting any measurements here because it is all according to taste.  I like the tang of the vinegar and snap of sea salt, so add more than someone else might.

Comfort cooking can be simple or it can be complex; it's all up to the cook in the kitchen.

Mary Cokenour

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Lou Malnati's Tastes of Chicago

When I first started Food Adventures of a Comfort Cook one of my earliest posts was about pizza. Now that was all about New York style pizza which I still feel is the best overall in the United States.

Part two of my three part pizza series was about Chicago pizza, and one of Chicago's famous pizza places is Lou Malnati's. While I cannot go to one of the locations in Illinois, I can still order online at their site: and feed my craving for Chicago pizza. However, Tastes of Chicago is not all about pizza; oh no, you can get ribs in a delectable barbecue sauce, Vienna hotdog kit with all the fixings for an authetic Chicago style hot dog, cheesecake to die for, cookies that are absolutely awesome with milk and much, much more to satisfy any craving.

My favorite is the pizza though; all set up to just pop in the oven and devour when done. The crust is buttery and light, the cheese gooey, packed with sauce and fillings of sausage, pepperoni or vegetables. While it is not as good as a pizza cooked fresh at the pizzeria, it is as close as I can come to when living at the end of the world in Utah.

When ordering from Tastes of Chicago, the prices include shipping; there is a pizza of the month club; a specialty package for holidays and special occasions, and if you join their email club you'll be notified of any sales. Have never had a Chicago style pizza, well no excuse now when you can have it shipped directly to your door. So try Lou Malnati's Tastes of Chicago; I don't think you'll be disappointed.

Mary Cokenour