Friday, September 30, 2011

Fungus Fun

A mushroom is the spore baring body of a fungus which grows in damp, dank soil in shaded areas.  You could cultivate your own mushroom crop by setting up an area in your basement which is kept dark and soil is moist.  I like mushrooms in salads and recipes, but growing them myself is just a hobby I don't need to get involved in.  Depending on how populated an area you live in, the local markets will carry the typical white button mushroom, but they will also carry other varieties (cremini, portobello, enoki, chanterelle, oyster, etc).  Not all mushrooms are the same as they each have their own flavor, texture, even scent and experimenting with the varieties is basically how you'll find out what works with the recipe you are trying to create.  For example, portobello mushrooms have a firm texture and beefy taste; a large grilled portobello can take the place of a beef hamburger for vegetarians. A good source for information about the varieties is <a href="">Cook's Thesaurus</a> which has photos and descriptions.

When having grilled foods, sauteed mushrooms and/or onions is a perfect accompaniment; providing not just added flavor, but moisture and texture. One way we enjoy steak, roast or London broil is with a sauce made with mushrooms, but not just a "cream of mushroom" sauce. First I marinade the meat overnight in a mixture of (1/4 cup)olive oil,(1 tsp each of)salt, ground black pepper and garlic powder. The next day I place the meat on a jelly roll pan, sprayed with nonstick cooking spray, and place it under the broiler(7 minutes per side). Then I finish cooking off the meat in a 375F oven until the meat thermometer reads medium rare. While the meat is finishing off, I begin working on the mushroom ragu; a simple side dish of salad and warm rolls or crusty bread is the perfect finish for this simple meal.

So jump into an adventure with mushroom varieties, but if you feel the urge to hunt for wild mushrooms, BE CAREFUL, as there are many poisonous varieties. Study up on them and if in doubt, leave them out...of your gathering basket.

Mushroom Ragu


¼ cup olive oil
1 large onion, diced
1 Tbsp minced garlic
1 lb mushroom mix (cremini, oyster, enoki), roughly chopped
1/8 tsp salt and pepper
½ cup port
2 cups beef broth**
½ cup heavy cream
1 tsp dry Italian herbal mix


In a large skillet, medium heat, saute’ onion till soft; add garlic and saute’ for 2 additional minutes. Add mushroom mix, salt, pepper; mix thoroughly. Increase heat to high, remove pan from stove, add port and return to heat; let alcohol burn off. Add broth and let simmer until liquid is reduced by half; stir occasionally to keep from sticking. Add heavy cream, herbal mix; mix thoroughly and spoon mixture over steak, roasted beef or pork.

**Note: if serving over chicken or other poultry, use chicken broth instead.

Makes 4-6 servings.

Mary Cokenour
September 22, 2008

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Going down Memory Lane to Russia.

St. Basil's Cathedral in Red Square, Moscow, Russia

In 1976, I was a senior in high school and one of the foreign languages I had been studying was Russian (the other was German), and I was lucky enough to be able to travel with other students in my class to this country. At that time Communism was in power and the entire area was named the USSR; we saw much propaganda and poverty; the country was way behind in the times (music from the 1960's was just making it to the airwaves)and there was a depressive aura everywhere. We were teenagers and we did what all teenagers do...have fun. The hotels we stayed at would serve Americanized food for our meals and we hated it. We were in this country that did not promote tourism; you needed special permission and visas to enter, and as American students studying the language and culture, we were allowed in. We wanted to interact with the Russian people and experience everything there, including the food. A small group of us would sneak out at meal times and seek out local restaurants.

Now the fact that we were foreigners was not a secret to anyone; we spoke differently, dressed differently and we showed no fear. We knew we were being followed everywhere by a couple of KGB agents (they all dressed alike - raincoats and fedora hats) and one day even turned around and confronted them...imagine their shock when we offered them cigarettes, bubble gum and candy (things the locals could not easily purchase, but we traded for pins and baubles). Oh yes, those were fun times indeed. The locals welcomed us and helped us with learning their language; they wanted us to teach them English so badly and tell them about our homeland. Good memories!

One of the meals I really enjoyed was Borscht or what we knew to be "Beet Soup"; it was primarily made with beets and onions, a dollop of sour cream on top and it was really, really good. Coming home to America, this was a dish that I couldn't find any place, unless I went to one of the few Russian restaurants in New York City, and they weren't cheap. As time went by, my interest in this soup faded with all the other culinary adventures I was having throughout life.

Unfortunately, most of my cookbooks dealing with Slavic and German cooking were destroyed when I moved to Utah. I was able to replace two of them, "Croatian Cuisine" and "The Best of Slavic Cooking" both by Alojzije and Ruzica Kapetanovic. and the second book contained 2 recipes for Borscht, one Ukraine, the other Russian. So while the Russian recipe was probably the one I wanted, I was curious as to how many versions were in the Slavic world. I went online to look it all up...holy moly!!!...there are hundreds of recipes online, and looks like almost every country has their own version. Since I was sharing this soup with my mom-in-law, and she doesn't eat pork, I had to go beef all the way; and this is what I came up with.....

BorschtThis recipe reflects more of the Ukraine style of Borscht.

4 cups shredded cabbage
6 cups shredded fresh beets
1 cup shredded carrots
1 cup slivered onions
2 Tbsp minced garlic
1 ½ lbs lean roast or steak cut into 1” cubes
2 cups diced tomatoes
1 Tsp ground black pepper
2 Tbsp lemon juice
6 cups beef broth
Sour cream and minced parsley for garnish.

In a 6 qt crock pot, set on low, layer ingredients in order of list, except for sour cream and parsley. Cook for 10 hours. Serve with dollop of sour cream and sprinkle of parsley.

Makes 8 servings.

Mary Cokenour

Monday, September 26, 2011

A Skillet Dinner doesn't always need the creamed soup.

I was feeling a bit down and angry all weekend, so wanted something quick to make for dinner, but comforting too; a one pan to make, one bowl to eat out of type of meal.  I had just purchased boneless, skinless chicken breasts on sale, but again, didn't want the same old, same old of potatoes or stuffing.  Actually, I wanted rice because I thought it would be a fun change.  Rice is fun, especially if you try eating it with chopsticks; trying to do the ultimate challenge of picking up one grain; but I digress.

Ok, so chicken and rice, but I didn't want the same old recipes; no stir fry, no casserole that entailed using cream of "something" soup and cheese; I was so bored with all that.  I swear, I believe I do some of my best creations when I'm surrounded by negative energy. Times like these, Roy knows to stay out of the kitchen; I'm in the zone and don't mess with me, unless you want to end up on the cutting board. What he couldn't believe was that I could come up with a recipe, prep, cook and serve it all in less than an hour. Yeah, sometimes I surprise even myself, so here you go, Skillet Chicken and Rice without the creamed soup. The chicken is moist and tender; the seasonings enhance and bring together the veggies with the rice and chicken.

Skillet Chicken and Rice


3 Tbsp canola oil
1 tsp each salt, ground black pepper and garlic powder
6 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves
1 cup each diced bell pepper (red, yellow or orange) and onion
1 cup chopped Roma tomatoes
1 Tbsp each ground turmeric and minced thyme leaves
1 ½ cups long grain rice
3 cups chicken broth
minced parsley for garnish


In large skillet, heat oil on medium-high heat; season chicken with salt, black pepper and garlic powder; brown chicken on one side. Flip chicken over to brown other side, but add in diced bell pepper and onion to sauté as chicken browns.

Add tomatoes, turmeric, thyme, rice and chicken broth; bring to boil and let ingredients boil for 10 minutes before reducing heat to low. Cover and let cook for additional 20 minutes, or until rice has absorbed broth and is tender.

Garnish each serving with sprinkled parsley.

Makes 6 servings.

Mary Cokenour

Sunday, September 25, 2011

A Pizza Snob Does Domino's


2224 E. Main Street
Cortez, CO, 81321

(970) 565-7373


There is only one type of pizza I buy from here and it's the Brooklyn Pizza. The crust is between thin and regular, allowing it to not get too crispy and, therefore, keeping a slice from being folded. It is a large pie, but the slices are cut large, again to allow for folding which is typical of a New York style pizza.

The employees at this Domino's have always been pleasant, and don't mind when I ask them to undercook the pizza by 5 minutes. That way, since I live one hour away, when I put it in the oven, it finishes its cooking process perfectly; otherwise it would be very dry from over cooking. The amount of cheese and sauce is just right; toppings would overpower this pizza only if you requested them to.

It passes the cold and reheated test very well. Cold, the pizza is still moist and flavorful; the crust is soft and isn't dried out. Reheated (350F for 5-7 minutes), the slices come out pretty close to when it was made fresh; the crust still pliable enough to fold.

When you want a pizza to go, whether it's for home or a hotel room, this Domino's in Cortez, CO is the place to call.

Mary Cokenour

Friday, September 23, 2011

Another of Her Majesty's Faves - The Scone

Now I happen to be a fan of recipes originating from the United Kingdom, and I'm generally referring to England, Ireland, Wales and Scotland; not all the other countries that were invaded, annexed, etc while the Brits were out conquering the world. Many times I have heard that the food from these countries is boring and bland, but I don't happen to agree. One huge mistake many Americans make when traveling to foreign countries is to compare "American food" with that country's food. It's a big mistake because what we refer to as American food is a mixture of so many cuisines, so how can we really judge our food against the common food of another country. I have even met people who refuse to eat the food when in a foreign country and will only eat "Americanized" food prepared in their hotels. Ridiculous! They might as well have just stayed at home and gone to the local diner for vacation, and saved the money on airfare.

I have a friend who would make authentic scones for us whenever we visited her. How were they authentic? She's from Yorkshire, England, so I believe she knows what she's doing in the respect of English cooking. I'm also a big fan of many of the British chefs, so not only do I have cookbooks, but I watch their shows intently to make sure I get a recipe correct.

So, onto scones which originated in Scotland, were made from unleavened oats and cooked on a griddle. With the invention of baking powder, scones could now be baked; and the Brits sweetened them up a bit with the inclusion of sugar and fruits. Nowadays, scones can be sweet, savory, herbal and/or cheesy; they can be served at any meal, or just make a handy little snack. The traditional wedges are still popular, but they can also be baked much like a drop cookie; they aren't as pretty as the wedges, but still taste wonderful.

I'm going to be giving you a basic recipes for scones including a few ideas for different flavorings. What you do for your tastes is exactly that; for your taste, so play with the basics and enjoy the results.


Basic Mix


2 ¾ cups all purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
½ tsp baking soda
½ tsp salt
½ cup cold, unsalted butter, cubed
1 large egg, beaten
2/3 cup milk


Preheat oven to 400F; spray a large baking sheet with nonstick baking spray; or use a nonstick baking sheet.

In a large bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, baking salt and salt; work butter, with fork, pastry cutter or hands, into the dry ingredients until it becomes crumbly.

In a small bowl, mix together the egg and milk; make a well in the dry ingredients and pour liquid into the well. Mix together thoroughly until the dough can be shaped into a ball.

On a lightly floured board, roll out the dough to ½” thickness; cut out scones with a knife, pastry or biscuit cutters. Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until golden brown.

Makes 12 scones.


Add ½ tsp ground black pepper and a ¾ cup of shredded cheese (Fontina, Cheddar or Swiss) to the dry ingredients.

Sun-Dried Tomato
Add ½ cup diced sun-dried tomatoes and 1 Tbsp Italian herb mix to the dry ingredients.

Chocolate Chip
Add ½ cup chocolate chips and 3 Tbsp light brown sugar to the dry ingredients.

Mary Cokenour
September 1997

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

This Olde Tymer should be Dead and Buried...Deeply.

Olde Tymer Restaurant

733 S Main St
Blanding, UT 84511

(435) 678-2122

Website: N/A

I need to open this review with a warning to all diners: DO NOT GO TO THIS RESTAURANT, NO MATTER HOW HUNGRY YOU ARE, IF YOU VALUE YOUR TASTE BUDS AND CASH.

We arrived around 5pm, dinner hour; the parking lot only had one vehicle in it and there was only one booth with diners in it. This should have been a sign of what was to come, but we didn't bother to read it. This was the first day for our waitress, Tori, and she was very untrained. Instead of asking for our drink order, we were asked, "You guys know what you want to eat?" Yes, after we read the menu, thank you, but until then, a rootbeer and unsweetened iced tea would be nice...only the first refill is free, after that you pay for any additional refills.

The dinner menu is small, but has an assortment of ribs, steak, chicken and Mexican entrees; not all dinners come with a salad, so if you want the soup/salad bar, it is an additional $3.99 for one trip of either soup or salad.
The soup/salad bar has a choice of two soups (made from a powdered mix and very watered down) and a minuscule salad selection of 7 items, 3 dressings and the lettuce. For $3.99, better pile up the items high to get your money's worth.

For an appetizer, we chose the Blooming Onion which became the most decent part of the entire dining experience.  The batter was crispy, but the onion itself could have been a little more cooked and it was served with ranch dressing.

The main meals were a total disaster.

The Full Rack of Ribs was described as succulent and fall off the bone good, but that was a complete misrepresentation.  The ribs were in a pepper rub that was so spicy, one bite and my mouth was on fire; they were very dry and it was a bit of a struggle to pull one off the bone.  The oven roasted potatoes were boiled potatoes dipped in oil and the fresh vegetable, corn, was from a can.  I sent the ribs back and was given two choices:  the cook would wash off the rub, reheat them and I would be charged half price; or pay for the meal with no discount.  Management policy: you pay for the meal whether you ate it or not, no discounts if you don't like the food...period.  I refused to eat it, so was made to pay full price for an inedible meal.

My husband ordered the 12 oz Ribeye which was mealy, mushy and tasteless; obviously frozen for a long time before being finally cooked.  The mashed potatoes were from a box and so thick, actual slices could be cut with a knife; the gravy was from a powdered mix; again, canned corn for the supposedly fresh vegetable.

Gordon Ramsay and Robert Irvine together could not save this restaurant.  The Olde Tymer needs to be put down, so diners don't have to go through the misery of eating here.

Mary Cokenour

UPDATE: This restaurant closed in November 2011 and was taken over by Fattboyz Grillin. The sign outside the building needs to be changed, but it is now Fattboyz Grillin.

Old Tymer Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Old Tymer Restaurant on Restaurantica

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

A Big Pot of Jambalaya.

Jambalaya is another Louisiana classic which, once again, can be claimed by the Creoles when it has tomatoes in it, or the Cajuns when it doesn't. Either way, Jambalaya consists of rice that has been cooked with shrimp, oysters, spicy sausage, ham, or chicken; seasoned with spices and herbs.

It is similar to Spanish paella, and is popular at fairs and social events, since it can be easily made in large quantities. It can be also equated to the children's story, "Stone Soup" where a little bit of this and that added to a large pot makes a wonderful meal for all. Anyway you want to look at Jambalaya, it's a classic feast that pleases everyone.



4 Tbsp peanut oil
½ lb spicy sausage (Chorizo, Andouille or hot Italian), cut into ½ pieces
½ lb boneless, skinless chicken breast, cut into ½” pieces
½ cup each of diced celery, onion, red bell pepper
1 Tbsp minced garlic
1 Tbsp each minced fresh leaves of sage, thyme and parsley
1 (28 oz) can diced tomatoes
1 (6 oz) can tomato paste
2 diced jalapeno peppers
2 cups chicken broth
1 cup long grain rice
½ lb large shrimp, shelled and deveined
¼ cup diced green onion


In a large, deep skillet; heat oil on medium-high heat; brown sausage and chicken pieces; about 7 minutes. Mix in celery, onion, bell pepper, garlic and herbs; let cook for 5 minutes.

Mix in tomatoes, paste, jalapenos, broth and rice; bring to a boil. Stir together, cover and reduce heat to low; let cook for 30 minutes. Add in shrimp and cook additional 5 minutes. Garnish with diced green onion.

Makes 6 servings.

Mary Cokenour
Feb 4, 1996

Sunday, September 18, 2011

When is Mexican Pizza not Mexican Pizza?

When it's a casserole! Corny, I know, but since corn tortillas are involved with today's recipe...yes, it's getting worse. So anyway, I was going through magazines and cookbooks looking for something Mexican. I found a catchy title, "Stuffed Mexican Pizza Pie" and thought it sounded interesting. I mean how could I go wrong? I know what stuffed pizza is and this sounded like it had a little Mexican flair to it, so I read the recipe. Hmmm, read it again; hmmm, still don't get it. It wasn't that it was very complicated, I just was not understanding how it was related to stuffed pizza, or how it was in the realm of Mexican cuisine.

The ingredients that made it Mexican were: tomatoes with green chilies and Monterey and Colby Jack cheeses...that's it. The ingredient that made it pizza dough; however, the preparation was for a casserole. I decided to stare at the items in my seasonings cabinet for awhile and then raid the pantry; a little of this and a lot of something else made this faux Mexican Pizza recipe into a dish that was worth all the thought.

The smell of it cooking got the taste buds salivating; my husband ended up eating one and a half portions. This was his review: medium spiciness; almost nacho like in taste, but meatier; loved the bright colors of the peppers and tomatoes; the crushed corn tortillas gave the pizza dough a nice texture and crunch; it also enhanced the flavors of the meat, veggies and seasonings. Could he be biased? Could be, but he knows I need honest opinions on my recipes, so he wouldn't dare lie or say something nice just to spare my feelings.

Well, without further ado, here is: Mexican Pizza Casserole.

Mexican Pizza Casserole


3 lbs lean ground beef, 90% or more
1 cup each diced green bell pepper and onion
1 Tbsp each onion, garlic and chili powder
1 tsp dried oregano
1 (28 oz) can diced tomatoes with green chilies
1 ½ cups quick cook rice
1 ½ cups hot water
1 (8 oz) bag Mexican cheese mix
1 lb homemade pizza dough or 1 (10 oz) canister refrigerated pizza dough
1 cup crushed corn tortilla chips


In a large skillet, on medium-high heat, brown beef; halfway through add in bell pepper and onion. When completely browned, add in seasonings, tomatoes, rice and hot water; mix and bring to a boil.

While ingredients in skillet are waiting to boil, preheat oven to 425F; spray a 3 qt baking dish with nonstick cooking spray. Place ingredients from skillet into baking dish; spread cheese evenly over mixture.

Spread pizza dough over top, cut several slits to release air; spread tortilla chips evenly over dough and lightly press into the dough. Bake for 15-20 minutes, dough will rise and brown on edges. Remove from oven and let rest for 5 minutes before serving.

Makes 9 servings.

Notes: a dollop of sour cream and/or guacamole can be added to each serving, if desired.

Mary Cokenour

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Put the Lime in the Coconut and call it Delicious!

I enjoy watching the show "Bones", but for some reason I missed last season's final episode. I know, I know, I could have watched it online, but just never got around to it. This past week I got the chance to watch a rerun of it and at the end of the show, the characters sang Harry Nilsson's classic song "Coconut". For those who don't know the song, where the heck have you been? It's available on YouTube and even the Muppets did their version of the song on The Muppet Show.

It got me to thinking, why not put the lime in the coconut? How would it taste anyway...a weird Pina Colada? I didn't go down the drink route, instead I decided to make cupcakes. A dumb downed version of a vanilla cupcake with lime curd mixed in, topped with a ginger frosting and either sweetened or toasted coconut. Num Yummy!!! is all I can say.

So put the lime in the coconut and the only doctor you'll be calling is the dietitian.

Lime in the Coconut Cupcakes
(with Ginger Frosting)


2 cups sugar
1 cup butter
3 eggs
¾ cup lime curd
1 tsp vanilla extract
3 cups flour
3 tsp baking powder
¾ cup milk
1 cup shredded, sweetened coconut
1 cup shredded, toasted coconut
¼ cup additional lime curd


Preheat oven to 350F; line muffin tins with cupcake liners.

In a large bowl, cream together sugar and butter until fluffy; beat in one egg at a time, then the lime curd and the vanilla extract.

In another bowl, sift together the flour and baking powder; stir into the creamed mixture. Add the milk and stir until batter is smooth. Use an ice cream scoop to fill the cupcake liners up halfway.

Bake for 20-25 minutes; until toothpick comes out of center cleanly. Remove to wire racks to cool before lightly frosting; put coconut into separate bowls and dip frosted cupcake into one or the other. Spoon a dollop of lime curd into center of each cupcake.

Makes 24-26 cupcakes.

Ginger Frosting


1/3 cup unsalted butter, softened
3 ½ cups confectioners’ sugar
1 ½ tsp fresh ground ginger or 3 tsp dried ground ginger
½ tsp vanilla extract
2 Tbsp cold milk


In a large bowl, beat the butter and sugar together until fluffy; add in ginger, vanilla extract and milk; continue to beat until smooth and spreadable.

Makes 2 cups.

Mary Cokenour

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Cookin' Cajun.

Back on Saint Patrick's Day, I got a bit cheeky and wrote about Creole Cuisine instead of jumping onto the Irish bandwagon. Today I figured I would cover the other cuisine that is a staple of Louisiana, Cajun. Now while Creole is a hodgepodge of different backgrounds, Cajuns hail from their Canadian ancestors, the Acadians.

So, what is the big difference between Creole and Cajun cuisines? Not much really, but the rule of thumb is: if it has tomatoes in it, it's Creole, no tomatoes, it's Cajun. However, that point is still debated today, even amongst the fine folk of Louisiana, and it's an argument I have no intention of getting involved in. I just know the cuisines are good and that is all that matters to me and my taste buds.

I was introduced to Cajun Cuisine by a former neighbor of mine, David Prudhomme, who happens to be a nephew of the famous chef, Paul Prudhomme. David, and his wife Sharon, own The Lost Cajun Kitchen located in Columbia, PA. This is where I first tried a dish that I never thought I would ever have, alligator. Alligator, if cooked properly, is tender, and I believe it tastes like shrimp. If you're ever in Lancaster County, PA, take the time to go to the Prudhomme's restaurant and judge for yourself.

Here's my take on a Cajun dish, Etouffee, which means "smothered. Normally is it made with crawfish, but they are no where to be found in my area, so I used shrimp instead.


(A Cajun dish normally done with crawfish, but works well with shrimp, scallops, langoustines or lobster; only one type of shellfish or scallops should be used for this dish.)


8 Tbsp butter
½ cup each diced green bell pepper and onion
¼ cup diced green onions, including tops
5 Tbsp flour
1 Tbsp paprika
1/8 tsp ground cayenne pepper (add more if more heat desired)
¼ tsp each salt, ground black pepper, dried oregano and thyme
2 cups hot water
2 Tbsp chopped parsley
2 Tbsp minced garlic
1 lb of shellfish (peeled and deveined) or scallops (foot removed)


Melt butter, over medium-high heat, in a large skillet; sauté bell pepper and onions until peppers are soft and onions translucent, about 10 minutes.

While vegetables are sautéing, in a small bowl mix together flour, paprika, cayenne, salt, black pepper, oregano and thyme. Stir this mixture into the skillet and continue to stir as it bubbles to keep from clumping or burning.

Add one cup of water and mix thoroughly; repeat with 2nd cup of water. Stir in parsley and garlic; bring to boil. Reduce heat to low, add in seafood, cover and let cook for 7-10 minutes, depending on seafood used.

Serve over rice.

Makes 4 servings.

Mary Cokenour

Monday, September 12, 2011

Remake of a Classic Favorite - Yankee Pot Roast

I was going to write about this yesterday, but changed my mind, as it being the 10th anniversary of September 11th, I thought it would be insulting to think about food more than the heroes, and all those who died from the tragedy.

Today is another day and what better recipe to write about than an American classic, the Yankee Pot Roast. Now originally the pot roast was brought over by the British; a meal of corned beef and vegetables which were boiled or stewed. This became known as the colonial era "New England Boiled Dinner. However, with the availability of fresh game in the "New World" or what is now called the United States of America; and some cooking tips from our neighbors, the Native Americans, roasting the meat and vegetables together opened up a new culinary world for us. The name Yankee refers to the recipe coming from New England, or the Yanks as the British referred to us.

History lesson over, let's get to cooking up this simple and tasty dish. Now originally I used a recipe handed down from my mom and she made it on the stove top. Being busy, I didn't have time to babysit a Dutch oven on the stove, so did some changing of the recipe for cooking in the crock pot. I also made the recipe a little more health friendly by cutting out browning the meat in oil and sauteing the vegetables in butter.

Another tip, at least 3-4 cups of extra liquid is produced during the cooking process. Spoon it out, strain it and put it in the freezer for an hour; any excess fat can then be scooped out before it is stored back in the freezer. This liquid can now be used as a starter for the next time Yankee Pot Roast is made, so the step concerning mixing the beef broth, soy and chili sauces together can be skipped. As you continue doing this, your starter liquid will become more rich and flavorful, making your pot roast sensational.

Yankee Pot Roast


1 lb small red potatoes, quartered
1 (16 oz) package frozen crinkle cut carrots, thawed
1 (28 oz) plus 1 (14.5 oz) can diced tomatoes
1 cup each chopped onion and celery
2 Tbsp sliced garlic
1 tsp each ground black pepper and fine sea salt
¼ cup flour
4 lb chuck roast trimmed of exterior fat
1 cup beef broth
¼ cup soy sauce
¼ cup chili sauce


Spray a 6 qt crock pot with nonstick cooking spray; put the setting on low. Layer the ingredients following the list of Ingredients (sprinkle the salt, pepper and flour over the vegetables) until the roast is placed in last.

In a small bowl, mix together the beef broth, soy and chili sauces; pour over the roast. Lift roast slightly to allow liquid to get underneath. Cook for 10 hours.

Makes 8 servings.

Oh, to go with this classic, I made a peach crumble dessert using my previously posted recipe for Apricot Crumble. Num Yummy!

Mary Cokenour

Sunday, September 11, 2011

My Remembrance of Sept 11th.

I got up that morning excited as I was going to be leaving my position as a Check Processor and begin a new one as a Computer Operations Specialist in the Pennsylvania bank I worked for. I put on the television to watch the news and then the Today show as was my usual routine, but it wasn't usual that morning. There was a news report being broadcasted about a severe fire in the upper stories of one of the Twin Towers. Smoke was billowing out of the building and the reporter just kept saying that they didn't have much information to go on. While I watched, well all you could do is watch it happen, an airplane flew into the other Tower and there was a massive explosion. Dumbfounded, stunned, shocked, I'm not really sure how I felt about it; then I thought, oh, it must be a stunt of some sort, something they're doing for a movie.

It wasn't....

As the morning unfolded, I just watched the chaos, the smoke, the flames erupting from the Towers...and then the falling of one Tower and then the next. Heard about the plane that crashed into the Pentagon, but it didn't really register...the Towers were gone and that is really all that mattered.

My new boss called to find out if any family and friends I had in New York were ok, and they were; also told him I would be in for work. Why not? I'm a stoic New Yorker and nothing stops electrical outages, no winter storms, no union strikes and especially no terrorist action. This was just another day in the life...

First I had to work my normal day shift in the old department. There was another ex-New Yorker there and we hugged and said, "It will all be alright." Her son worked at the Twin Towers, but he felt sick that day and didn't go in; lucky for him as he worked in the upper floors and probably would have been killed that day. One of our coworkers, who must have been severely mentally deficient remarked, "What is the big deal? It was just a couple of buildings that came down." Luckily for her, our manager and supervisor were there when she said it, for I truly believe that I and the other woman might have committed murder that day.

During the evening, while learning my job, my new coworkers and I watched CNN during down times. Still couldn't get my head around it all; that took several days as the story of it all unfolded.

Oh, I don't know, maybe it was weeks, probably months, but there was a television broadcast for the heroes of New York...police, firefighters, EMTs, etc. Billy Joel sang his two of his most famous songs, "New York State of Mind" and "Seen the Lights go out on Broadway", and he was the best of all the singers there, in my opinion. But the very best of the entire broadcast was one firefighter who summed it all up, and I can't quote him verbatim, but it was sort of like, "You don't mess with the United States of America, and you most especially don't F**K with New York." He was from Brooklyn, my birthplace and yeah, we got 'tude.

Like Pearl Harbor, this will be a day that goes down in infamy, and we, not just as New Yorkers, but as citizens of the greatest country in the world, the United States of America, will remember our fallen this day for they are all heroes.

Mary Cokenour
Proud New Yorker living in Utah.

Friday, September 9, 2011

I Ache too much to Cook something from Scratch.

Way back in May 2011, I wrote a blog post about Monticello, Utah and how it needed to spruce itself up, and get more business in town. It was even reprinted in the local San Juan Record, and while I expected some sort of response to my opinionated post, no one wrote a pro or con about it. Well someone must have been paying attention because tomorrow is a cleanup campaign for Monticello, and the theme is "Neighbor Helping Neighbor" where, not only should we spruce up our own properties, but help those who can't do it on there own.

I decided to get a head start on the property; a section of the front yard had all kinds of loose wood and gardening supplies piled around. I stacked the wood by the garden shed, just a small pile for our fire pit, but it shouldn't be on the front lawn. I have an herbal garden by the dining room window, so finally finished off the rock wall I had started to build around it. I piled up bags of red mulch and large rocks I had collected from the canyon areas to complete the garden area on the living room side of the house. Did a bit of weeding too, but now I'm too pooped to pop.

Dinner? I really don't want to do anything really, but something needs to be made. I should have started something earlier, before all the manual labor, but it was a spur of the moment thing, so didn't really give it much thought. Ok, so I'm gonna go into "make it quick" emergency mode. I've got packaged noodles, imitation crab meat and frozen peas....crab alfredo!!!

Basically, I took one package of Knorr Alfredo noodles and made them according to package directions. I added 8 oz. of imitation crab meat, broken apart and one cup of thawed frozen peas; mixed it all together; covered and let it all cook together for about 5 minutes just to let the crab and peas warm up. It makes four servings and considering all the make shift ingredients, tastes pretty darn good.

I make meals from scratch as a rule, but even I break my own rules. Now it's time for some Advil and much deserved sleep. Night all.

Mary Cokenour

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Shiloh Steakhouse and Bakery

Shiloh Steakhouse

5 S. Veach
Cortez, CO, 81321

(970) 565-6560

Traveling east on Rte 160 through Cortez and just past the entrance to WalMart is the entrance to Shiloh Steakhouse; the bakery is located just next door to the restaurant at number 76 S. Veach. The exterior and interior of this restaurant just shows what surprises can be found in this city. Outside, the building is surrounded by beautiful landscaping with patio seating in a secluded setting of greenery.

The interior shows the diner that this building was once a fine country home, and the owners have retained this setting well. After being cheerfully greeted, we were seated in one of the interior dining areas. It was windy outside, so decided not to enjoy the patio area, but promised ourselves we would at another time.

Jane, our waitress, was very attentive, and her knowledge about the food was excellent; she answered all our questions easily. We started with ice tea which arrived with a slice of lemon and sprig of mint; and were served warm bread, from the bakery, with creamy butter and a berry rhubarb conserve...absolutely delicious. The bread was soft and yeasty; the conserve was not sugary sweet and was perfect smeared with the butter.

We chose the Smothered Steak Fries for an appetizer; large steak fries covered in cheese, served on a sizzling fajita platter and garnished with chopped Anaheim peppers.

For a main course, I chose the Grilled Swordfish served with a flavorful and moist rice pilaf. Instead of a potato side, since we had the smothered fries, I had the salad; mixed greens, purple cabbage, cherry tomatoes and croutons with house made Thousand Island dressing. The swordfish was grilled perfectly, moist, flavorful and while it came with a dollop of avocado butter; it didn't need anything extra as it was tasty as it was.

Hubby chose the Country Fried Elk with peppered gravy and mixed vegetables; he too had a salad as a side with house made Ranch dressing. The Elk, from a local Elk ranch, was excellent; and the sauteed mushrooms and onions that hubby ordered with the steak was a perfect accompaniment. The gravy was good, but we both preferred the taste of the Elk as it was; the gravy only served to cover up its wonderful flavor. The mixed vegetables were a bit over steamed, but that seems to be a norm in many restaurants and didn't think too much about it. Another couple sitting next to us had also ordered the Elk as one of their meals, and they too raved over it...nice folks too by the way.

After eating our meals we were very comfortable indeed and did without dessert. Next time I believe we'll skip the typical appetizer and eat dessert first, just to make sure we try one.

Shiloh is not for the extreme budget conscious, it is a place to go when you want to splurge and feel pampered. However, whether you are dressed to kill or in jeans and t-shirt, you will be very welcomed.

Mary Cokenour

Shiloh Steak House on Urbanspoon

Shiloh Steak House on Restaurantica

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

A sweet tooth's paradise - The Italian Bakery

Basically, I let it be known that the most I miss about the East Coast is the food. Roy and I have discussed the question of "would we ever go back East?" The answer is that it would have to be for a very, very good reason; and we probably wouldn't feel very comfortable. Comparing the wide open spaces of where we live now to the traffic and people congested areas of New York City, Philadelphia and comparison. Our area wins. Comparing the clean air, the blue sky, the overall feel good feeling to pollution that is quite visible, smells that would make a skunk gag and overall feeling of comparison. What did Roy say to me the other day, oh yes, "hun, you may have been a city girl because you lived there, but deep down, you ain't no city girl." He's right, I never was very comfortable living in large city areas.

We did travel up to the Salt Lake City area once, and once was enough. I have driven many of the highways of the East: Long Island Expressway, Belt Parkway, Schuylkill River Parkway, I-95; to just name a few and they didn't bother me. The highways in the Salt Lake City area are terrifying!!! Yeah, if they can scare me, then they must be bad; must be all the pollution because of the Salt Lake; it has eaten holes in the brain of the basic driver. See, that's another reason I like the area we live in now; our version of a traffic jam is three pickup trucks in front of you as you're driving down either Rte 191 or Rte 491; and the passing lane is a mile away.

So what has this all to do with the Italian Bakery, nothing really, I was just venting. Anyway, the Italian Bakery is a wonderous place to tantalize all the senses. The smell of baking, the sight of decorated cakes, the taste of crispy cookies, hearing the workers speak in a romantic language, the feel of a loaf of real Italian bread and the overall feeling of contentment. Little by little I have been learning to recreate recipes from the Italian Bakery; no folks, we don't have such a wonderland in our area. If you do, appreciate it!!!

I'm already quite adept at making Tiramisu and Cheesecakes; and finding a place in Durango, Colorado that sells mascarpone cheese is a big plus.

Now I have decided to tackle cookies, not your typical chocolate chip or sugar cookies, but Italian cookies. The first is a chocolate meringue cookie called "Brutti Ma Buoni" which translates to "ugly but good". The second is a cookie made with ricotta cheese and is basically a simple cake like cookie, not overly sweet and putting a glaze or frosting on them is optional.

Brutti Ma Buoni
(In Italian, it means “ugly but good”; this is a meringue cookie which contains nuts and Amaretto.)

8 egg whites
1 tsp white vinegar
½ tsp cream of tartar
1 cup sugar
1 Tbsp Amaretto
1 Tbsp cocoa powder
1 cup each of chopped hazelnuts and almonds

Preheat oven to 350F; lightly butter and flour cookie sheets.

In a large bowl, beat egg whites, vinegar and cream of tartar until soft peaks form. Continue to beat, while adding 2 tablespoons at a time of the sugar, until stiff peaks form; beat in the Amaretto.

Gently fold in the cocoa powder and nuts, so as to not deflate the egg whites. Drop, by tablespoon, the mixture onto the cookie sheets; bake for 15-20 minutes; until cookies become firm. Remove to wire racks and let cool.

Makes 3 dozen cookies.

Ricotta Cheese Cookies


1 cup sugar
¼ unsalted butter, softened
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 Tbsp blackberry preserves
2 eggs
2 cups flour
½ tsp salt
½ tsp baking soda
1 cup whole milk ricotta cheese

Preheat oven to 350F.

In a small bowl, cream together the sugar and butter until fluffy; continue to beat in the preserves, then one egg at a time until all are incorporated fully.

In a large bowl, sift together the flour, salt and baking soda; add the mixture from the small bowl and mix together well; add the ricotta cheese and mix in fully. The dough will be thick, so can easily be measured out by rounded tablespoons onto nonstick cookie sheets.

Bake for 15-17 minutes or until tops are golden brown; move cookies onto wire racks to cool.

Makes 4 dozen cookies.

The cookies have a mild sweetness at first, but intensify as eaten. However, a glaze can be spread onto the cookies and sprinkles added immediately before it sets.

Recipe for Glaze
1 cup confectioners’ sugar
3 Tbsp warm milk

Mix together until it becomes a spreadable consistency.

Makes enough to cover 4 dozen cookies.

Mary Cokenour

Monday, September 5, 2011

Rewarded for doing something out of love.

This weekend I baked, not because I had to, but because I wanted to. I cook and bake out of love and passion; love for the art, love for my family and friends; passion for cooking and baking, passion for making others feel good with my successes in the kitchen. Occasionally someone has the nerve to tell me I must bake cookies for, not just themselves, but for others; and I refuse. You cannot tell someone to perform in the kitchen; you must respect their love and passion.

So tomorrow, since today is Labor Day and a holiday, others will enjoy what I worked so hard on for the past two days; cookies and cupcakes. It will make me happy, not because I had to do it, but because I wanted to do it. Roy recognizes my efforts, and he decided to reward me for them; he actually cooked dinner for me last night. I don't mean he ordered take out; he didn't take something out of the freezer and just reheat it; he didn't make something from a box or can; he actually cooked and used a recipe.

He made Nachos and with the nachos, we watched a DVD on the television, "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 1". Now you might be thinking that nachos are more of an appetizer or snack, but if you break them down, they are a complete meal made in a skillet. Meat, beans, vegetables and cheese; sounds like four of the basic food groups right there. The recipe I had was originally given to me by my mom, but living out in the Southwest, we made a few changes to it. Instead of red kidney beans, we used whole black beans; instead of plain diced tomatoes, we used diced tomatoes with green chilies. Might not sound like a big difference, but taste and flavor wise, it was.

So here is our updated version of Nachos; enjoy it with a movie.



1 ½ lbs lean ground beef
½ cup each of diced red bell peppers and onion
1 Tbsp minced garlic
1 (15 oz) can whole black beans, drained and rinsed
1 (14.5 oz) can diced tomatoes with chilies
1 (1.75 oz) package taco seasoning
1 (8 oz) package shredded Mexican blend or Colby-Monterey Jack cheese
tortilla chips
sour cream


In a large skillet, medium-high heat, brown the ground beef and drain excess grease; set aside. In same skillet, sauté peppers and onions till soft, but not browned.

Return beef to skillet; add garlic, beans, tomatoes and taco seasoning; mix and let cook for 10 minutes; stir occasionally. Reduce heat to low; spread cheese over mixture, cover and let cook an additional 5 minutes.

Serve with chips, sour cream and/or guacamole.

Makes 6 servings.

Note: mild, medium or hot is the cook’s option for both the diced tomatoes with chilies and the taco seasoning.

Mary Cokenour

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Bacon - it's "what's for dessert?"

Bacon, whether it is flavored with maple or honey, seasoned with hickory or apple wood, bacon is yummy goodness and ups the anty on taste for anything it is included in, even dessert. That's right, I said bacon for dessert; even I had my doubts about trying out dessert recipes with bacon in it, but I had to try nonetheless. I'd seen bacon cupcakes on a few shows featured on Food Network, and one of the ladies at a local bank told me about a site that had a recipe for candied bacon. Well I couldn't remember the name she had given me, so decided to search the net for recipes, and I cannot believe how many hundreds of bacon dessert recipes I found. Which one to choose was a total mystery, so I printed out a few, compared notes, and came up with my own concoctions.

Now Roy was not happy about the whole experiment thing at all...bacon is bacon and shouldn't be made into candy or cake. He still doesn't like the idea of it all, but he did have to agree that my recipes came out pretty well, and he was impressed at my accomplishment. I likened the taste to French toast in syrup, but without the bread; and it was the perfect garnish for the cupcakes.

Candied Bacon


1 lb regular bacon
½ cup sugar
1 Tbsp vanilla extract
1 Tbsp ground cinnamon


In a large nonstick skillet, on high heat, cook the bacon until it is browned, but still flexible; drain on paper towels.

Drain grease from skillet, set heat on low; place bacon, in one layer, into skillet. First sprinkle sugar over the bacon, then the vanilla and finally the cinnamon. Let the bacon cook for 10 minutes before turning over and let cook an additional 5 minutes.

Remove the bacon to a wire rack (paper towels under the rack to catch drippings) and let it air cool for 30 minutes before snacking on, or using for garnish on baked goods.

Alternative: instead of ground cinnamon, use ½ Tbsp of ground chipotle powder

Then came the cupcakes, the fat from the bacon gives the cake a moister and richer consistency. The meat of the bacon does cook during the baking process, and it is like a little chewy surprise within the cake...think bacon gummy bear. There is not an overpowering taste of bacon, you know it's there, but it all comes together well.

Chocolate Bacon Cupcakes


1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
¼ tsp baking soda
2 tsp baking powder
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/8 tsp salt
3 Tbsp unsalted butter, softened
1 ½ cups sugar
6 egg yolks
1 cup milk
½ lb regular uncooked bacon, chopped


Preheat oven to 350F; line muffin tins with paper liners.

In a large bowl, sift together flour, baking soda and powder, cocoa powder and salt; set aside.

In another bowl, cream together butter and sugar until light and fluffy; beat in the egg yolks one at a time. Mix in half the dry ingredients with half the milk; when well incorporated, repeat with remaining dry ingredients and milk.

Add in the bacon and mix well with spoon, not mixer. Fill each paper liner 2/3 with the batter; bake for 20-25 minutes; check for doneness by inserting toothpick in center; cupcakes are done if it comes out clean. Let cupcakes cool before removing from tins and frosting.

Makes 16 cupcakes.

Alternative: divide batter in half between 2-8 inch cake pans which were sprayed with nonstick baking spray. Bake time will be the same as for the cupcakes.

Topping: Vanilla frosting works best with a garnish of candied bacon.

Vanilla Frosting


1/3 cup unsalted butter, softened
3 ½ cups confectioners’ sugar
2 tsp vanilla extract
2 Tbsp cold milk


In a large bowl, beat the butter and sugar together until fluffy; add in extract and milk, continue to beat until smooth and spreadable.

Makes enough for 12 - 16 cupcakes depending upon how much is spread on each cupcake. To make enough to cover the top, sides and in-between 2-8 inch cakes, double the recipe.

Mary Cokenour

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Vietnamese Dish with Antlers.

Now before you get too excited over the title of this blog post, I didn't really use antlers in the recipe, but the meat I used did have them at one time. That creature is the Elk and after getting a new supply from hunting buddy Charlie, I knew it was time to play once again in the kitchen. Originally I was going to try Philly Cheesesteak, but then I thought about a dish I hadn't tried since moving from Pennsylvania. In the Lancaster area, we had a few Vietnamese restaurants and one of our favorite meals was "Beef with Crispy Potatoes". I learned to make a version of this dish to have when we couldn't afford to go out and have a restaurant make it for us.

Now to prep the Elk, I placed the steaks in a plastic container and drizzled a little red wine vinegar over them, sealed the container and placed it in the refrigerator for 6 hours. This was to tenderize the meat and take some of the gamey flavor out of it. After that, I rinsed off the meat with cold water and cut it into strips, as the recipe required, and just followed the directions thereafter.

The conclusion? There weren't any leftovers; it was simply amazing! There was one very difficult part of the meal preparation though and that was the homemade potato chips. The problem? To not eat them all before the entire recipe was completed, they were so good and I may never buy bagged chips again. As they were draining on the paper towels, I sprinkled a little fine sea salt on them and tried one, then two, then another and another....STOP!...or there would have been none left.

So here is the recipe for "Beef with Crispy Potatoes" made with beef, but substituting another meal, like Elk, can be just as awesome.

Beef with Crispy Potatoes


1 lb sirloin or round steak, cut into 2” slices, 1/8” thick
½ cup each of diced red bell pepper and onion
1 tsp fresh grated ginger
1 tsp minced garlic
1 Tbsp chili sauce
¼ cup teriyaki sauce
2 large red skinned potatoes; cut into 1/8” slices
Peanut oil
¼ tsp ground black pepper
¼ cup diced green onion


Place steak, red bell pepper, onion, ginger, garlic, chili and teriyaki sauces in a large zippered plastic bag; seal, mix together well and refrigerate for 2 hours.

After 2 hours, fill a deep skillet halfway with peanut oil; bring oil to 350F. Put ¼ of potatoes into skillet, fry for 7 minutes, turn slices over and fries another 5 minutes. Remove to paper towels to drain; repeat process with remaining potatoes.

After all potatoes are fried, remove all but 4 Tbsp of oil from skillet. Place marinated ingredients from plastic bag into skillet; cook steak till browned. Add fried potatoes and black pepper to skillet; mix with steak and cook another 5 minutes. Garnish with green onion.

Makes 6 servings.

Mary Cokenour
September 11, 1998

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Redo a Classic - the Green Bean Casserole

Holiday time is coming upon us and soon we'll be seeing the television commercials that try and define the season for us. Unfortunately the holiday season has become very commercialized, so the original true messages of the season may not get through to many.  I'm not getting into all that, but what I'd like to address is a holiday classic recipe, the Green Bean Casserole.  Now my family, and most people I know have not ever served this recipe for Thanksgiving, Christmas or New Year's Day, so I'm not really sure why it's a "holiday classic".  I mean you never really see any commercials for it from Campbell's or French's until the holiday season, so it's, to me, a classic recipe because these companies say so.

Anyway, my hubby and his mom like this dish, so I make it for them whenever I feel like it, not just because a holiday dictates it.  I was a good girl and prepared the dish using the Campbell's recipe verbatim; nope, didn't play with it at all.; that is until now.

Here is the original recipe from the Campbell's Kitchen website:

Classic Green Bean Casserole


1 can (10 3/4 ounces) Campbell's® Condensed Cream of Mushroom Soup (Regular, 98% Fat Free or Healthy Request®)
1/2 cup milk
1 teaspoon soy sauce
Dash ground black pepper
4 cups cooked cut green beans
1 1/3 cups French's® French Fried Onions

Stir the soup, milk, soy sauce, black pepper, beans and 2/3 cup onions in a 1 1/2-quart casserole.

Bake at 350°F. for 25 minutes or until the bean mixture is hot and bubbling. Stir the bean mixture. Sprinkle with the remaining onions.

Bake for 5 minutes or until the onions are golden brown.

Serves 6

...and now here is my recipe and my hubby says it is better than the original by far; it has a headier flavor from the Worcestershire, is creamier and just has an overall better flavor.  The French fried onions are crispier, since they are entirely on top of the casserole, not mixed inside and getting soggy. Try my version and judge for yourself, but it's ok if you still prefer the original.

Green Bean Casserole
(An old classic redone)


2 Tbsp butter
1 small onion diced
1 (4 oz) can sliced mushrooms
3 (14.5 oz) cans French style green beans, drained
2 (10.75 oz) cans cream of mushroom soup
1 cup milk
1 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce
½ tsp each ground black pepper and paprika
2 cups French fried onions


On medium heat, melt butter in small skillet; sauté onion and mushrooms till the onions just begin to soften; do not brown. Remove from heat.

Preheat oven to 350F; spray a 2 qt casserole dish with nonstick cooking spray.

In a large mixing bowl, combine the sautéed onions and mushrooms with all other ingredients except the fried onions. Spoon into the casserole dish and spread the fried onions evenly over the top.

Bake for 30 minutes; remove from oven and let settle for 5 minutes before serving.

Makes 6-8 servings.

Mary Cokenour