Monday, October 31, 2011

First Time for Everything.

Yesterday I decided to try something for the first time - baking an upside down cake.  Roy had purchased several cans of pineapple to snack on, the pineapple that is, not the cans.  Since that seemed to be the typical fruit to use for this type of cake, I figured why not?  I printed out a few recipes and they all seemed exactly the same, some adding cherries to the center of the pineapple rings, some not.  Some using cake flour, others using all purpose flour; so I went with what was in the pantry.  Oh, and I had run out of milk, so used half n' half instead which made the cake itself very light and moist.  I like this trial and error stuff, it works out well most of the time, and I've noticed my attempts at baking are getting much better, or so the critics tell me.

So here's my attempt at Pineapple Upside Down Cake.

Pineapple Upside Down Cake


4 Tbsp butter, melted plus 4 Tbsp butter, softened
¾ cup brown sugar
10 slices pineapple canned in syrup; retain 2 Tbsp syrup
1 cup flour
½ cup sugar
1 tsp baking powder
¼ tsp salt
½ cup half n’ half
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla extract


Preheat oven to 375F; using a nonstick 9” cake pan, pour melted butter inside and sprinkle brown sugar over evenly. Drain pineapple, but retain 2 Tbsp of syrup. Arrange 7 slices over the butter and brown sugar; cut the 3 remaining slices in half and arrange around the side of the pan.

In a medium mixing bowl, sift together the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. In a small bowl, mix together half n’ half, egg, vanilla and retained pineapple syrup. Add liquid and softened butter to dry ingredients and beat until smooth; pour into cake pan and try not to shift pineapple slices.

Bake for 40-45 minutes; until cake is golden brown and pulls away from edge of pan. Let stand for 5 minutes; turn upside down onto serving dish, tap bottom and sides to release cake. Serve warm.

Makes 8 servings.

Mary Cokenour

Friday, October 28, 2011

Fig Newtons go Crispy.

Generations have grown up on Fig Newtons, the soft cakelike cookie surrounding a filling of mashed figs.  Well now Newtons have jumped into the realm of the crispy cookie with Fruit Thins.  A thinly delicate cookie loaded with small diced pieces of blueberry, fig or cranberry; and other flavors of  brown sugar, honey and citrus oat to compliment the fruit.

Each cookie is made of whole grain, five grams of fat, seven grams of sugar; real dried fruit is a minor ingredient though, since it's near the bottom of the ingredient listing.  Nutritional value is zero, except for the 4% of iron in each serving (three cookies); but you have to give Kraft Foods kudos for using natural ingredients instead of chemicals.

The cookies themselves are satisfying; good flavor and crunch.  The packaging keeps them from being crushed and keeps them fresh, so great for traveling.  While real fruit and veggies are the best snack, Newtons Fruit Thins are a good substitute, especially if you have finicky family members to make happy.

Good job Kraft!

Mary Cokenour

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Twin Rocks Cafe is buff in Bluff.

Twin Rocks Cafe

913 E. Navajo Twins Drive
Bluff, UT 84512-0330



Traveling south on Rte 191, on the way to Monument Valley, you'll pass through a little town called Bluff. Known for its artisans and history, be prepared to be tempted to spend the day here. The town is also surrounded by rock formations that will take your breath away; one such being "The Navajo Twins".

The Navajo Twins tower over the Twin Rocks Cafe, Gift Shop and Trading Post; and this is a must visit location while in Bluff. Entering the Cafe, dining is to the right while the gift shop is on the left. The Trading Post is another building next to the Cafe. Seat yourself and a friendly local will bring you your menus, place settings and take a drink order. There is also a patio area for outside dining.

The menu (American, Native American, Mexican and a few International dishes) is small which allows the items available to be done correctly; the Cafe serves breakfast, lunch and dinner; there are also appetizers and desserts available.

Since we arrived at 4pm, the lunch menu was still being served. I chose the Smoked Beef Brisket which came with fries and baked beans. I also had a house salad with honey mustard dressing. All the dressings and sauces are housemade and are quite delicious. The honey mustard dressing was a stone ground mustard which had a hardy, yet comforting taste; not the overly tangy taste normally associated with a mustard dressing. The Brisket, alone, was smoky and tender with very little fat on it. The BBQ sauce had the sweet taste of brown sugar and a mild spiciness; the mustard sauce was tangy and vinegar strong (great for chicken). The fries were crispy outside, fluffy inside and the fry sauce went so well with them. The beans were not in the traditional thick baked bean sauce, but a thinner sauce and had great flavor.

Even though the dinner menu did not start till 5pm, hubby had no problem ordering the Bluff Burrito from it. Loaded with chicken (or beef is desired), sauteed red onion, bell peppers, diced green chiles and Pepper Jack cheese, hand-rolled in a flour tortilla; served with salsa and sour cream on the side. It is a monster burrito and the vegetables were crisp and fresh; with or without the condiments, it was delicious.

Thankfully we did not order any appetizers, or we would not have been able to finish these delicious meals; and we were certainly too full to try any desserts.

Again, when traveling to Monument Valley, make sure to visit Twin Rocks Cafe.

Mary Cokenour

Twin Rocks Cafe on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Walking Sticks and Orange Rolls

Now if you happen to be picturing a posh gentleman wearing a tophat and carrying a fancy walking stick; sorry, wrong walking stick.  The walking stick I'm referring to is from the Phasmatodea species and it is an insect.  The most common colors are green and brown, so they are very adept at being unseen in their environment.  They don't bite, humans that is, and they can easily be kept as a pet and will thrive on organic lettuce.

Roy had often spoken about these little creatures that he remembers from childhood.  On Sunday, just after I had put a batch of orange rolls into the oven, Roy came up to me and said, "Hunny, remember when I told you about walking sticks?  Well lookie what I found outside."  From behind his back he brought his hand out and inside was a brown walking stick...I was mesmerized.  It looked like a 1/4 inch thick, 4 inch long twig with finer twigs branching out from the main body.   It was perfectly still and I immediately got the camera out; I was not missing an opportunity of photographing this wonderful creature.  After awhile, Roy transferred it to my hand and the little guy(gal?) got animated and started to walk was fascinating.  After a few minutes though, it wanted to keep wandering off, so I had Roy transfer it outside and into my herbal garden.

Then I remembered the rolls and ran for the oven; a little browner than I'm used to, but not hard as a stone or burnt.  I let the rolls cool a bit before slathering on the orange cream cheese frosting.  A perfect treat after such an experience with nature.

Orange Rolls with Cream Cheese Frosting


1(.25 oz) packet active dry yeast
1/4 cup white sugar
1 cup warm water (110 degrees)
1/2 cup cold butter
1 tsp salt
1 cup milk
1 egg, lightly beaten
3 cups all-purpose flour
8 Tbsp butter, softened
1/4 cup each white sugar and brown sugar
2 Tbsp fresh grated orange zest


In a small bowl, dissolve yeast and sugar in warm water. In a small saucepan, over medium heat, melt butter and dissolve salt in milk.

In a large bowl, mix the yeast, egg and flour with the milk mixture to form a sticky dough. Lightly butter a large bowl, place the dough in the bowl and turn to coat with the butter. Cover with a clean, dry linen cloth; let rise in the refrigerator for 8 hours or overnight.

Remove dough from the refrigerator 2 hours before baking. Divide the dough into halves; roll each half out on a lightly floured surface to 1/4 inch thick rectangular shape.

Mix the softened butter, sugars and orange peel in a small bowl. Spread half of the butter mixture over each rectangle. Roll up the dough short edge to short edge and cut one inch slices. Place in greased muffin tins, or 6 into a nine inch greased cake pan; let rise until doubled in size.

Preheat oven to 400F; place tins and/or pans on center rack; bake for 12-15 minutes, or until golden brown. Remove from oven and let cool slightly before putting on frosting.

Makes 2 dozen rolls.

Orange Cream Cheese Frosting


1(8 oz) package cream cheese, softened
8 Tbsp butter, softened
1 tsp orange zest
1 cup confectioner’s sugar
Orange juice

Cream the cream cheese, butter, and orange zest until smooth and well combined. Turn off mixer; add the confectioner’s sugar plus one tablespoon of orange juice. With mixer on low, combine till smooth; it may be necessary to add an additional tablespoon of orange juice till desired consistency is achieved.

Makes enough to frost 2 dozen rolls.

Mary Cokenour

Monday, October 24, 2011

Nature Valley adds Thins to Granola collection.

Hiking desert trails or climbing Red Rock formations doesn't make a person just thirsty, but a might bit hungry as well. I always make sure to pack granola bars with the bottled water. While they can be crunchy and have a little sweetness to them, they are boring.

Then there are the times you might want a granola snack, but eating just one of the 2 bars that come in a package is enough; but what do you do with the other bar? Nature Valley came up with a solution that solves the problems of boring and too much with Granola Thins. A two by two granola square, one side smeared with a dark chocolate or peanut butter coating; just the right size and loaded with flavor.

The granola square, however, is half the thinness of one regular granola bar, so that makes for easy crumbling. Taking a small bite, you will probably break off more than you intended. Opening up the little package, it's not surprising to see a part of the square broken off and crumbled, or even the whole square crumbled apart. The coating doesn't do much for keeping it together as it tends to melt and stick to the packaging.

It's sort of a 50-50 deal with these Thins, sometimes they are perfect and sometimes not. Might depend on how many times the employees at the grocery store dropped the boxes while putting them on the shelves. Overall though, they are a tasty treat, especially when you're looking for just a little something to snack on.

Mary Cokenour

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Cast Iron Skillets and Elk Burgers.

The last time I had made Elk Burgers was on July 4, 2011 and that was on the grill outside. Here I was again planning to make them for dinner, but Roy was going to be home late and I wanted them cooked up hot and fresh for him. While I would have liked to grill them again, I had no intention of standing outside in the dark, with a flashlight, flipping burgers.

I certainly didn't want them done up in the oven; just wouldn't get the caramelization that we liked, so the stove top was my last option. Stove top burgers require the ultimate in a skillet...the cast iron skillet. These little beauties cook evenly, retain high heat and last forever if taken cared of properly. I have had my skillets for over 25 years and they're still going strong.

Cast iron skillets do not come preseasoned, so prepare to do this before any attempt at cooking in them. Set the temperature on your oven to 450F, give the inside of the skillet a light coating of vegetable oil and leave it in the oven for 30 minutes. Turn off the oven and let the skillet cool down. Hold on though, you're not done yet; repeat this process two more times. Why? The baked on oil is sealing up pores in the skillet and developing its own nonstick surface.

Every time you use your seasoned skillet, clean up is basically hot water and paper towels. Using soapy water, steel wool pads or scrubbing pads will just take off that seasoned coating and allow rust to form in the skillet. Clean up with hot water, use paper towels to scrape off any stuck food bits, dry thoroughly and then smear on a light coating of oil with a paper towel. When storing, place a paper towel inside the skillet to keep dust particles from sticking to the coating.  I might be redundant, but paper towels are a best friend for your cast iron skillets.

Time to make some Elk Burgers...

Cast Iron Skillet Elk Burgers


3/4 lb ground Elk meat
1/4 lb lean ground beef
1 cup diced tomatoes
1/4 tsp each sea salt, ground black pepper, garlic powder and chili powder
3 Tbsp butter
1 medium red onion, cut into slivers
1 large green bell pepper, cut into slivers


In a medium bowl, mix together the Elk, ground beef, tomatoes and seasonings. Form 4 patties which will be one inch thick.

On medium-high heat, melt butter in skillet and put in the onion and bell peppers slivers. Place the patties on top of the vegetables. Cook for 12 minutes on one side, lift up burger, mix vegetables up underneath and flip uncooked side of burger down on vegetables. Do this for each burger and continue to cook for another 12 minutes each. This will allow the vegetables and the meat to caramelize, and the meat will be cooked well, but still juicy.

Remove to plate and let rest 5 minutes before putting on buns. Serve with lettuce, cheese and condiments if desired.

Makes 4 burgers.

Mary Cokenour

Friday, October 21, 2011

Runner Up Turkey Recipe is still a Winner.

Back in February 2011 I posted my recipe for Four Cheese Chicken Pasta Bake which is a decadent blend of cheeses baked with penne pasta and chicken. Later on in the year, Taste of Home magazine was running a recipe contest featuring leftover turkey. Since my recipe featured poultry already, changing from chicken to turkey wasn't a big step. I submitted my recipe with the change and under the name "Four Cheese Turkey Pasta Bake".

While it did not win, it is being featured as a Runner Up recipe in Taste of Home's November 2011 issue; their photo is on page 71 while the recipe is on page 72. This recipe is a good example of comfort food and is versatile as it can feature not just poultry, but beef or seafood as well.

Taste of Home only made a couple of minor adjustments, but primarily kept my recipe as I submitted it. It's not available for viewing online yet, so I'm posting the recipe as I wrote it and with my photo.

Four Cheese Turkey Pasta Bake
(Runner Up Recipe, Taste of Home November 2011 issue, page 72.)


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


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

In a small skillet, on medium heat, sauté onion in butter till softened; add garlic and cook for 5 minutes more.

In a large bowl, mix together thoroughly the soup, mushrooms, all cheeses, cream, milk, black pepper, nutmeg, turkey, pasta and the onion-garlic mix. Spread evenly into the casserole dish.
In a small bowl, mix together bread crumbs and butter completely; spread over the mixture in casserole dish.

Bake for 30 minutes, covered with aluminum foil. Uncover and bake for additional 15 minutes, or until topping is golden brown. 
Makes 8 servings.

Mary Cokenour

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Home Run Inn's Frozen Pizza.

Home Run Inn is an actual pizza establishment in Illinois, so when they say real Chicago pizza, they mean it.  The pizza business itself started in the 1940's and has expanded into 8 restaurants and the frozen food market.

While shopping at City Market in Moab, Utah, I noticed a new display in the frozen pizza section; what really got my attention was the "Chicago's Premium Pizza" written on the box. I wondered if this was just an advertising ploy by another California chain, but no, the company is from Illinois. I purchased one of the cheese pizzas, went home and tried it out; the next day we went back and purchased a few more.

Home Run Inn does NOT use preservatives; check the ingredient label and you'll find you do not need a degree in chemistry to read it. After baking in the oven, you can better see all the cheese, sauce and other toppings, depending on which type you purchased, and the taste is awesome.

Our one big problem is the crust; we just can't seem to agree on it. Cheese pizza #1 - baked directly on rack in oven; the outer rim was very hard while the bottom was crispy, but it had an overall good taste.

Cheese pizza #2 - baked on top of aluminum pizza pan that had air holes in it - the outer rim was now crispy while the bottom was not as crispy as the first pizza we made; however it was cooked all the way through.

Sausage Deluxe - baked on top of aluminum pizza pan that had air holes in it - the outer rim was crispy while the bottom was not at all; it was very dense.

Now I'm not going to fault the crust on Home Run Inn; the directions do say to bake directly on rack, but I used a pan to avoid getting an overdone crust, but ended up with somewhat or heavily underdone. Will I make Home Run Inn frozen pizza again? Most definitely, but I'm following their directions; as a frozen pizza, it is the closest to fresh baked than any other on the market. The sauce, cheese and toppings are outstanding!!! I just have to get that crust baked correctly, but that's on me.

Mary Cokenour

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Chinese BBQ Sauce? Hoisin Sauce.

The first time I'd had Hoisin sauce, or should I say knowingly had it, was at a Chinese restaurant in New York City's Chinatown.  I had been asked to a celebration dinner which consisted of many delicacies, one being Peking Duck.  There was a thick, dark sauce served with the duck; smearing just a small amount onto a Chinese pancake, a few slivers of duck and scallion were then wrapped within the pancake.  The first bite was a surprise, but the continuing bites lead to ecstasy; such a rich, heady flavor came from the sauce.

My next conscious experience with Hoisin was having Mhu Shu (also written as Moo Shu or Mu Shu) Pork; a pork and vegetable mixture which is eaten inside a pancake smeared with Hoisin. A most excellent dish and if pork is not to your liking, it can be prepared with shrimp, chicken, beef or a combination.

Hoisin sauce is the Chinese version of barbecue sauce which, besides grilling, can be used in stir fries, marinades, as a condiment or a thickener. It is a soy based sauce having the components of salty, sweet and spicy due to the additional ingredients of garlic, vinegar, sweeteners and chilies. The texture of the sauce is usually thick, but can be thinned with the addition of sesame oil or water until the desired consistency is achieved.

While Hoisin can be purchased in a store, it can just as easily be made at home. Having a mortar and pestle handy in the kitchen is an asset for creating the paste quality of some of the ingredients. Patience is also necessary as it needs a good amount of mixing to help the ingredients meet and marry together; using a blender is quite useful for this and easier on the wrist.

Hoisin Sauce

6 Tbsp soy sauce
1 Tbsp each creamy peanut butter and black bean paste
1 Tbsp each honey and dark molasses
2 tsp white vinegar
¼ tsp each garlic and onion paste
2 tsp sesame oil
1/8 tsp ground black pepper
Hot sauce – dependent upon how mild, medium or hot is desired, or add pieces of chopped chilies to the garlic and onion when creating the paste.


Add all ingredients into a medium bowl, or into a blender, and mix until smooth. The texture will be thick; if a thinner consistency is desired, add a teaspoon of sesame oil or water until achieved.

Makes ½ cup.

One item I like to use Hoisin on is salmon; giving the fish a rich, smoky flavor from the sauce and a mild sweetness and spice from the glaze it creates. As a side dish, I make up my Oriental Chicken, Vegetables and Noodle recipe, but leave out the chicken of course.

The salmon has the skin and bones removed and cut into 4 to 6 ounce portions; depending on how large the side of salmon is. Preheat the oven to 350F and line a jelly roll pan with aluminum foil. Use a pastry brush to spread a half cup of Hoisin sauce over the foil, wherever the salmon will be lying. Place the salmon on the foil and brush it liberally with sauce; sprinkle a little ground ginger over all. Bake the salmon for 20 minutes; test for doneness in the thickest part of the filets. While the salmon is baking, the side dish can be made.

Simple and quite delicious!

Mary Cokenour

Monday, October 17, 2011

These Shells you won't find at the seashore.

Last week I was going to make lasagna. I got out the 6 qt crock pot, placed in the ingredients to make homemade pasta sauce; but also browned a pound of lean ground beef with diced onions and minced garlic to make a meat sauce. After 6 hours of cooking, the sauce was ready to be used, but now I wasn't in the mood to make lasagna. So what do I do now after all that work, do I freeze it all to have ready for next time, or...? Until I remembered that I had purchased large shells to make stuffed shells sometime; guess this was that sometime.

The filling for stuffed shells is basically the one I would use for lasagna, but I use my immersion blender to make the cheese smoother. I also had no small curd cottage cheese on hand, so used ricotta, mozzarella and romano exclusively. If you don't have an immersion blender, a handheld mixer will do the trick of smoothing out the cheeses for easier filling.

Stuffed Shells


20 large shells
3 lbs ricotta cheese
2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese, divided in half
1 cup shredded provolone cheese
1 cup grated Romano cheese
1/2 cup mixture of minced fresh herbs (oregano, parsley, basil and thyme)
3 eggs, beaten
1 tsp ground black pepper
6 cups homemade meat sauce


Bring a large pot of salted water to boil on high heat; cook shells for 10 minutes, or until al dente. Strain shells out and place in large bowl of cold water to stop cooking process and keep shells from sticking together.

While waiting for water to boil and shells to cook, prepare the filling by place all remaining ingredients, except one cup of shredded mozzarella and the meat sauce into a large bowl. Use an immersion blender or hand mixer to smooth out the cheeses.

Preheat oven to 350F; spray a 4 qt baking dish with nonstick baking spray; spread 3 cups of sauce over bottom of dish. Use a teaspoon or piping bag to fill each shell, so there is just enough room for the edges of the shells to just touch. Place each shell, open side up, into the baking dish; when all shells are filled, spoon remaining 3 cups of sauce over them. Evenly spread the remaining mozzarella cheese over the shells; cover with aluminum foil.

Bake for 30 minutes and let rest for 5 minutes before serving; serve 2 stuffed shells per person.

Makes 10 servings.

Mary Cokenour
June 10, 1982

Friday, October 14, 2011

Meatloaf Again...Stuff It!

So there I was, staring at the package of ground beef and wondering, "what do I serve with the meatloaf this time?"  There was the leftover macaroni and cheese; wow, how original, can you tell I just wasn't feeling it?  I'm not really sure how it happened, but sometime during the ingredient gathering process, this idea popped into my head and wouldn't let go.  What if I wrapped the meatloaf around the mac n' cheese?  Could I even achieve such a thing; what the heck would it look like; more importantly, what would it taste like???  Ok, call me crazy, but I just had to try it, just to see if I could do it mostly.

I took photos of the process to go along with the recipe.  The aroma in the kitchen was awesome, but the taste of the final product was out of this world.  Now I can't wait to try out other types of fillings, but don't worry Roy, I will make my regular meatloaf from time to time as I know how much you like the original.  Trial and error...who would have thunk it?

Stuffed Meatloaf


3 lbs lean ground beef
1 (12 oz) bag dried stuffing cubes
1 cup milk
1 (15.5 oz can) diced tomatoes with sweet onions
1 cup diced green bell pepper
2 Tbsp saltless seasoning mix
1 tsp ground black pepper
5 cups macaroni and cheese (see Note)
Ketchup for glazing

Preheat oven to 375F; line a 4 qt baking dish with aluminum foil and spray foil with nonstick cooking spray. Line a large jelly roll pan with parchment paper, wax paper or aluminum foil.

In a large mixing bowl, mix together all ingredients except the macaroni and cheese and the ketchup. Invert bowl over center of jelly roll pan and deposit mixture onto it. Flatten mixture out to edges of pan. Cut macaroni and cheese into 3 sections and line up edge to edge down lengthwise center of flattened meatloaf mixture.

Put hands under lining and carefully lift mixture over filling, press down firmly and carefully peal back lining; repeat with other long side. Seal the seam over the filling and the sides of the meatloaf; smooth the meatloaf mixture over to create a firm seal.

Turn the baking dish over the meatloaf; with one hand hold down the baking dish while lifting the jelly roll pan with the other hand; flip over and let the meatloaf drop into the baking dish. Remove the lining off the meatloaf; make sure to position the meatloaf down the center of the baking dish; smooth over any cracks that may have opened. Brush ketchup over top and sides of meatloaf to create the glaze.

Place baking dish on center rack of oven and bake for one hour; brush a second layer of ketchup over the top and sides and bake for one additional hour.

The meatloaf will be too large to remove from the baking dish, so cut slices and use a narrow spatula to remove to a plate.

Makes 12-14 servings depending on how large the slices are cut.

Note: (The Macaroni and Cheese used should have been made previously and refrigerated in a rectangular container to make for easier slicing.)

Mary Cokenour

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Pillsbury Grands Breakfast Sandwich Doesn't Satisfy.


When I saw the television commercial for Pillsbury's new Grands Biscuit microwaveable sandwich, I thought, "great, something I can make quick when I'm in a rush.  Yes, it's quick to make, but disappointing when it comes to taste and texture. 

Inside the box are two packages; within each package is an open biscuit with chopped up pieces of scrambled egg and bacon on top of each.  There's supposed to be cheese, but it is very hard to see.  The instructions on the back of the box state the product should be microwaved while still frozen, and gives heating times dependent on the power of the microwave itself.

Test number one:  as stated on box, took product out of plastic wrapper, set on microwave safe dish, heated at the appropriate temperature and time.  Conclusion: so this is what hockey pucks taste like with eggs, bacon and cheese on them.  The biscuits did not fluff up and become flaky as insinuated on the commercial; the eggs and bacon were hard and tasteless, but a good dose of ketchup gave it flavor.  However, after the second bite, the rest of the sandwich ended up in the trash.

Test number two: let the second package defrost in the refrigerator; followed rest of the instructions but cut the cooking time in half due to its not being frozen any longer.  The biscuit was softer, but wet and mushy; however the eggs, bacon and cheese cooked up better; it still needed a good dose of ketchup though.

Overall opinion: this product is something I would not purchase or try again; I certainly would not recommend it to anyone.

Conclusion: best to give myself extra time in the morning and cook up my own all American breakfast of scrambled eggs, crisp bacon and buttermilk biscuits.  For the scrambled eggs, add one tablespoon of half and half for every two eggs, a dash of salt and pepper and some shredded sharp cheddar cheese.

Here you go Pillsbury, a breakfast worth all the time and work to prepare it. As to something quick when I'm in a rush, still working on that one.

Mary Cokenour

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

More from the Italian Bakery.

In Italy, nothing goes better with a cup of espresso than a sweet, crunchy cookie, and the best cookie for the job is Biscotti. Loosely translated, Biscotti are twice baked cookies; the dough is first baked in an oval or log shape, sliced into individual pieces and baked again to achieve the crunchy texture. Variety is certainly the rule for Biscotti; dipped in chocolate or not, candied fruits or chocolate bits, nuts or spices such as ginger, nutmeg, cinnamon or cloves.

At one time, you really couldn't find Biscotti unless you went to the local Italian bakery; but now these crispy gems can be found in any coffee establishment such as Starbucks or Seattle's Best; even in the cookie aisle of the local supermarket.  Of course, making them yourself gives you the control over taste and ingredients.  To get comfortable with the idea of baking Biscotti yourself, I recommend buying a book on them; the one I used to get started, and still do, is "Biscotti" by Lou Seibert Pappas. While I might change ingredients around to get a different variety of Biscotti, using the recipes from this book is a basic starting point.

Considering how many types of candy bits, candied fruits and chopped nuts there are available nowadays; the possibilities are endless.   One other idea, consider savory ingredients for a Biscotti which can then be used for dipping in soups or stews.  Happy Baking!

Mary Cokenour

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

The BBQ Chicken Sandwich is as Easy as you want it to be.

Now if you have been reading this blog from the beginning, you know how much I enjoy creating and eating barbecue. Barbecue doesn't necessarily have to be made on a grill though; sometimes you just don't have that option. Now you could always go to the local market and buy one of those premade varieties you see in the refrigerated section. I'm not a fan of those as they seem to be so saturated with sauce, you actually wonder what kind of meat or poultry you're supposed to be eating.  Then you could look up recipes online, in cookbooks or magazines, but there are so many of those, how do you choose?  It's basically what your cooking style is and how easy or difficult you want it to you roast, then sauce; do you roast in the sauce; do you use a crock pot, stove top or oven method; chicken with bones and skin, chicken without; homemade sauce or store bought?

Many recipes suggest buying a roasted chicken from the supermarket deli, removing the skin and bones, shredding the chicken and mixing it with a bottled sauce.  You could do that yourself of course; roast a whole chicken or parts, remove the skin, etc, etc.  Don't want to mess with all the slimy skin and bones, then purchase boneless, skinless pieces (usually breasts and thighs); but you still have to decide if you're roasting with or without sauce.  Or use a 4 quart crock pot for 6 to 8 pieces, one cup of chopped onion, pour 2 cups of sauce over all and cook for 8 hours; shred the chicken and serve on buns.

I'm going to give you my simplest recipe. I use my homemade barbecue sauce which I posted on June 1, 2011 and serve my creamy macaroni and cheese, posted on March 20, 2011, as a side dish. This meal can be fully prepped, cooked and served within two hours.

BBQ Chicken Sandwich


2 cups homemade barbecue sauce
6 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves
1 cup chopped onion
6 sandwich buns


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

Spread 1/2 cup of sauce over bottom of dish.  Before placing chicken into dish, prick all over with a fork to allow absorption of sauce.  Spread onion over chicken and pour remaining sauce over all.

Cover with aluminum foil, place on center rack and bake for 1 and 1/2 hours. Remove chicken to large bowl and shred; pour only half of sauce from baking dish into bowl and mix together. Serve on buns; spoon on extra sauce from baking if desired.

Makes 6 sandwiches.

Serve with a side of creamy macaroni and cheese, cole slaw (hot or cold style), macaroni or potato salad.

Mary Cokenour

Monday, October 10, 2011

Oh Deer, a new twist on Chili.

This past week the temperatures around here were wintry and it rained every day. There were reports of a winter storm hitting us, even though we were barely in the embrace of fall. Since Monticello is at 7100 feet above sea level and the Blue Mountains loom over us, the chance of getting 6 to 18 inches of snow was nothing to sneeze at.

Luckily, we survived a light dusting of snow and the temperatures rose somewhat, so planning out hot meals to enjoy while nestled in cozy blankets was still on the agenda. Rooting around in the freezer, I found a one pound package of deer steak that Charlie had given to me. I still needed to prove to myself that I could master this creature and I wanted to see what it would taste like in a typical chili.

I knew I had to get rid of the wild game taste of the meat, so I chose the standby method of letting it marinade overnight in red wine vinegar; this also helped to tenderize the meat. After cooking in the crock pot with all the other ingredients for 8 hours, being served up with shredded sharp cheddar cheese, sour cream and honey cornbread...I am proud to say I have mastered venison!

Venison Chili


1 lb venison roast or steak, cut into ¼” slices
3 Tbsp red wine vinegar
1 (15.5 oz) can tomatoes with diced chilies (medium heat)
½ cup diced onion
1 cup chopped red bell pepper
½ cup shredded carrot
1 (15 oz) can each red kidney and pinto beans
1 (10.5 oz) can French onion soup
2 Tbsp ground cumin
4 Tbsp ground chile powder
1 Tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder
1 tsp each garlic powder and crushed, dried oregano


Rinse venison in cold water, place in plastic container and drizzle vinegar over meat; cover and refrigerate overnight.

Set a 4 qt crock pot on low; spray with nonstick cooking spray. Cut venison into ½ inch pieces; place into pot and layer tomatoes, onion, bell pepper, carrot and beans over meat. Do not drain liquid from beans as this will act as a thickener for the chili.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the soup, cocoa, seasonings and herbs; pour over ingredients in crock pot. Cover and let cook for 8 hours.

Makes 6 servings.

Mary Cokenour

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Thinking Indulgence...Think Jeffrey's Steakhouse.

Jeffrey's Steakhouse

218 North 100 West
Moab, UT, 84532

(435) 259-3588

Open daily at 5:00 PM


October 8th is our wedding anniversary and we always make sure to go to a restaurant where, if only for one night, we can be pampered and absolutely spoiled rotten. Jeffrey's Steakhouse did the job and did it quite well.

While there is a beautiful patio area for dining, the cool October weather did not permit this. Inside, the atmosphere is quiet and intimate; jazz or ballads playing in the background; the decor is modern with a rustic feel. There are about 12 tables which can accommodate 1-4 diners, helping to maintain that intimate feeling. Upstairs is an area named "The Ghost Bar" due to a local story and eye witness claims of a young woman, from the past, frequenting the area.

Our waitress, Tricia, made our evening very enjoyable; she was very pleasant to talk with, very knowledgeable about the restaurant itself and the menu, and quick to find out an answer if the information was unknown to her. Any recommendations she made were spot on.

We opened with Calamari; lightly battered large slices and tentacles which were tender, served with a delectable tomato and balsamic sauce.

Dinner for my husband was the Wagyu New York Strip with a side of crispy fried zucchini. Jeffrey's is known for their Wagyu, also known as American Kobe; the crust on the steak was perfect; it was cooked perfectly, tender, succulent and it needed no accompaniments. The zucchini was lightly battered, like the calamari, melt in the mouth soft on the inside while the skin had a crispy snap to it.

I opted for the Duck special; a roasted duck breast in a light sauce which was not greasy and had a hearty, yet comforting mouth feel to it. The candied carrots were tender and not overly sweet; but the stuffing was to die for. Jeffrey (chef/owner) had purchased the ingredients from the local market that morning...delectable bread with a mixture of carrots, mushrooms, garlic, herbs and seasonings. I would have had a bowl of this stuffing for dinner and been a very happy woman.

For dessert, we chose the Lemon Tulle special; an almond, caramel tulle bowl filled with lemon ice cream and whipped cream. The lemon ice cream was refreshing, the bowl was a candy treat, and we had absolute fun eating this dessert.

At Jeffrey's, the majority of items on the menu and the specials are made in house; if it is not, like the New York Cheesecake, they will let you know. Jeffrey's is quality fine dining; the type of establishment that is perfect for a special occasion, celebration or party event. Jeffrey's is for indulgence, to be pampered and to have a memorable day made more memorable. Definitely make reservations as this establishment fills up quickly with diners looking for an ultimate meal.

Mary Cokenour

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Wednesday, October 5, 2011

The Enclosed Sandwich.

Now while the Earl of Sandwich gets the credit for giving this one handed meal of bread, cheese and/or meat its official name; the concept was around for centuries before his birth. What's Cooking gives a history going back to the 1st century, and the Earl certainly wasn't a spark in anybody's eye at that time.

While the sandwich is an "open ended" meal, there are many cultures which have the "enclosed" sandwich, or meat pie. The Italian Calzone, the Cornish Pasty, the Mexican Empanada, Chinese Roast Pork Buns, and dare I say it...the American "Hot Pocket" are just a few.  A crusty pocket of dough containing a filling of meat and perhaps cheese and vegetables, depending on the culture's tastes. A one handed meal, like the sandwich, but very unlikely the filling will fall, or be squashed, out from between the bread. The versatility of the meat pie is that it can be made with any type of dough, including pie or phyllo doughs which make a flakier pastry shell.

In my family's culture, Croatian, there is a meat pie called Burek containing beef, lamb, vegetables and seasonings. Sold in bakeries, this is their version of "fast food"; an on-the-go meal that can be eaten with one hand and quickly. I like to make mine with phyllo dough which I can find in the frozen food section of most supermarkets; otherwise I use pie dough, as I enjoy the flakier crust more.

Recently, via Facebook, I found relatives in Croatia that I never knew about, but we're all finally getting to know each other. So, I'm dedicating this blog post to them, and hope I've got the recipe correct and am doing them proud.

Burek(Won Second Place for Better Homes and Magazines Recipe Contest – Appeared in January 1998 issue.)

1 lb lean ground beef
1 lb ground lamb
1 cup chopped onion
½ cup chopped pickled beets
1 Tbsp snipped fresh parsley
1 tsp paprika
¼ tsp black pepper
1/8 tsp ground red pepper
1 egg, beaten
¼ cup butter
¼ cup flour
1 ½ cups beef broth
9 sheets frozen phyllo dough, thawed
½ cup butter, melted

In a large skillet, cook beef, lamb and onion over medium-high heat until meat is browned and onion is tender. Drain excess grease; stir in beets, parsley, paprika, black and red pepper, and egg; set aside in large bowl.

In small saucepan, melt the ¼ cup of butter, stir in the flour to make a paste; gradually add in the beef broth, stirring constantly; mixture will thicken. Add this to the meat mixture, stir, cover and refrigerate for 1-2 hours, or until completely cooled.

Preheat oven to 400F; spray a 15” x 10” x 1” jelly roll pan with nonstick cooking spray.

To assemble: stack 3 of the phyllo sheets, brushing each one with the melted butter; cut stack in half, crosswise Repeat with remaining phyllo sheets to get 6 large rectangular stacks. Spread ¾ cup of meat mixture at one end, leaving a one inch margin; begin rolling the phyllo towards the other end, tuck in the ends to seal and place seam side down on the pan. Bake 20-25 minutes, or until internal temperature reaches 180F.

Makes 6 servings.

Mary Cokenour
August 1997

Monday, October 3, 2011

There's something Fishy about these Enchiladas.

One entree I enjoy ordering at Mexican restaurants is the Seafood Enchiladas. Usually a combination of shrimp, scallops, crab and octopus with mild seasonings, rolled in a flour tortilla and baked in a creamy tomato sauce; it's just lusciously delicious. However, I don't always have the time to travel to find a Mexican restaurant and lack of funds is a drawback also. Solution? Homemade of course.

Oh oh, another problem; while Roy and I will enjoy any type of shellfish, mussel and octopus; his mother will not. As I have mentioned before, I cook meals for us and for his mom too who lives in Moab. Cooking one dish two ways is not always an easy solution, so compromise is essential, and a bit of ingenuity. Utah is a landlocked state and getting fresh fish is not easy, so I try and keep a few packages of different frozen fish available in the home freezer. I just happened to have Mahi Mahi on hand and I knew everyone, even Roy's mom, liked this denizen of the deep.

To give myself an idea on how to prepare these enchiladas, I did a little research on various cooking sites. Frustration! Recipes were too complicated, relied on canned and processed foods or used a store bought enchilada sauce; I wanted homemade, easy and as close to the restaurant taste as possible. From all the Mexican/Southwest cooking I've been doing, I sort of knew what spices, herbs and such to play around with.

Seriously, I wish Roy would have written a review of these enchiladas; he raved on and on, and I agree, they were fantastic!!! Well, I'll let you be the judge for yourself once you try this recipe; Enjoy!

Mahi Mahi Enchiladas

Mahi Mahi

2 lbs filets, skinned and deboned
1 Tbsp each salt, ground black pepper, New Mexico chili powder, crushed dried oregano; mixed together.

Set broiler on high; spray jelly roll pan with nonstick cooking spray. Season both sides of fish with seasoning mix; place on pan and broil for 7 minutes. Remove fish to large bowl and chop into small pieces.

1 cup each diced onion and red bell pepper
2 Tbsp canola oil
1 ½ cups shredded Mexican cheese mix

In a medium skillet, medium-high heat, sauté onion and bell pepper in oil until softened.
Mix veggies, fish and cheese together.

1 (8 oz) can tomato sauce
1 ½ cups half n’ half
½ cup sour cream
2 Tbsp butter
1 Tbsp minced parsley
½ cup shredded Mexican cheese mix

In a large saucepan, medium heat, mix together all ingredients and let cook for 10 minutes; stirring occasionally to keep from boiling and over thickening.

Final Preparation
10 (8”) flour tortillas

Preheat oven to 350F; spray a 4 qt baking dish with nonstick cooking spray.

Spoon filling down center of each tortilla; leaving 1 inch space from top to bottom. Fold top and bottom of tortilla just over filling; fold one side over filling and begin rolling; place in baking dish with crease side down. Continue until all 10 are completed; rolled tortillas will all fit together snuggly. Pour sauce over all and cover with aluminum foil. Bake for 30 minutes; let rest for 5 minutes before serving.

Makes 10 enchiladas.

Mary Cokenour

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Kiss My Grits!!!

Remember the show "Alice" and that feisty waitress named Flo whose catch phrase was "Kiss my grits!". No, too bad, it was a pretty good show; and it made folks who had not experienced grits to wonder, "what the heck is she talking about?" In Southern USA, grits are a staple and they are made from a coarse cornmeal.

While perusing one of my many cookbooks, I came upon a recipe called "Grillades and Grits" and wondered myself, "what the heck?" A Louisana dish to help stretch cheap cuts of meat by slicing them thinly, broiling the slices and serving with a rich, spicy gravy over grits. Instead of broiling the meat, I browned them in the skillet, so the juices from the meat could be incorporated into the roux. Also, instead of plain grits containing only butter, I upped the taste by adding sharp cheddar cheese.

Separately, both dishes are enjoyable, but combine them together and Ooooo, doggy, them's good eats! Rich, spicy, melt in the mouth and oh so comforting; just the way we like it round here. So let me introduce you to Louisana Grillades and Grits.

Grillades and Grits

For the Grillades:

2 lbs rump roast, 2 inch slices x ¼ inch thick
3 Tbsp canola oil
5 Tbsp flour
1 cup each diced onion and green bell pepper
1 (14.5 oz) can diced tomatoes with green chilies (mild, medium or hot)
1 ½ cups beef broth
1 Tbsp minced garlic
2 Tbsp minced parsley
2 tsp salt
1 tsp hot sauce
1 tsp minced thyme leaves


In a large skillet, high heat, brown the meat in the oil, about 2 minutes per side. Remove meat; add flour to liquid in skillet, quickly stirring to form a brown paste, Add the onion, bell pepper and tomatoes; stir and let simmer for 2 minutes.

Add in remaining ingredients, mix; reduce heat to low, cover and let cook for 2 hours; stirring occasionally. If gravy is too thick, add a tablespoon of broth until desired thickness achieved. If gravy is too thin, add a tablespoon of flour until desired thickness achieved.

Makes 6 servings.

Tip: Partially freeze roast, cut in half lengthwise to attain two separate pieces that can be easily sliced into the 2” x ¼” thick pieces.

For the Grits:

2 ½ cups water
½ cup quick cook grits
2 Tbsp butter
½ cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese
dash each garlic and onion powders
optional: salt, add to taste


In small saucepan, high heat, bring water to boil; slowly stir in grits. Reduce heat to low and let cook for 10-12 minutes or until thickened; stir occasionally.

Stir in butter, cheese and seasonings; continue to cook until butter and cheese melt, about 2-3 minutes. Add salt to taste if desired.

Makes 4 servings.

Mary Cokenour