Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Move Over Turkey, Elk Coming Thru.

Today my hunter friend, Charlie Helquist, brought me a most wonderful surprise...fresh Elk meat (roast, ground and steaks). Thank you, thank you, thank you are an awesome guy and you are appreciated!!!

I was definitely sick of turkey leftovers and was craving meat, so was going to make Philly Cheesesteaks for dinner. With the bonus of fresh Elk meat now in my grasp, I took this as a sign to make the cheesesteaks with the Elk steak.

Opening up the paper wrapped package, removing the meat from a plastic bag, I was still amazed at how beautiful Elk meat was; so lean, red and looking like something only a rich person could afford to indulge in. I sliced it into strips and mixed it with 2 tablespoons of light soy sauce (to bring out more of the rich Elk flavor) plus a half teaspoon each of fine sea salt and ground black pepper; also 1 teaspoon of garlic powder. I then placed the bowl containing the meat into the refrigerator for a half hour to settle. During that half hour, I also prepped a large green bell pepper by seeding it and cutting it into 1/4 inch slices; two large onions were cut into 1/4 inch slices.

Over medium-high heat, I heated up 2 tablespoons of canola oil and added in the peppers and onions. Giving them an occasional toss, I did not add the Elk into the skillet until they just began to soften. I spread the meat on top to allow the peppers and onions to start browning on their edges. Then I began mixing all three together, making sure to turn the strips of meat as they too browned. This all took about 20 minutes to accomplish and then the cheese was added - 16 slices of American Cheese plus 8 slices of Provolone. There was about 2 lbs of meat, so this followed my usual 12 slices of cheese for every pound of meat.

Once the cheeses were completely melted and mixed in with the other ingredients, I removed the skillet from the heat source and let it rest for 5 minutes. The cheese sauce thickened and all was ready to be served into sub rolls.

Spectacular! The Elk meat was so tender; all the ingredients had married so well that no one item overwhelmed in taste. Charlie, once again...THANK YOU!!!

Mary Cokenour

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

A Tale of Two Meatballs.

I have my favorite shows that I watch on Food Network and one such show is Guy Fieri's "Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives". Not only do I find places to try, but recipes to try out in my own kitchen. I like Guy too; he's funny, ridiculous at times, and knows how to draw you in to enjoy the show. Many of the places he features does Italian food, so I pay particular attention to those, since Italian is one of my favorite cuisines. I watched as one diner owner prepared meatballs, using sliced bread soaked in milk as the binder for the meat. Funny I thought, I'd heard of this method, but hadn't ever tried it myself; to make that is. If I'd eaten this type of meatball before, I really didn't know as I hadn't thought to ask about it.

Growing up in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn; I learned in my family, and other families, to use bread crumbs, mainly from loaves of Italian bread that had gone stale, ground into fine crumbs and then added to the meat mixture. After I got married, I learned that was the way my first husband's family, who were Italian, also did it, so who was I to question the norm? Then again, I've become a lot more adventurous in the kitchen since those days, and was going to try this other method of bread soaked in milk.

Back on March 18, 2011, I posted my recipe for Homemade Meatballs, but instead of making you search for it, I'll just repost it today and note what changes I made to try the new way.

Homemade Meatballs


4 lbs lean ground beef (90% or more)
2 lbs ground pork
1 ½ cups Italian seasoned dry bread crumbs
1/8 cup Italian seasoning mix
¼ cup grated parmesan cheese
2 Tbsp minced garlic
1 cup diced onion
¾ cup milk
2 eggs, beaten

Preheat oven to 350F. Spray jelly roll pans with nonstick spray.

In a large bowl, mix all ingredients together thoroughly; making sure all dry ingredients are mixed well with wet ingredients. Form the meat mixture into balls, about 2 ¾” (size of a tennis ball); place on jelly roll pans.

Bake meatballs for 20 minutes; dab on paper towels to remove any grease and immerse into sauce. Allow meatballs to cook in sauce until sauce is ready; 4-6 hours depending on cooking technique being used. Serve with pasta, or use meatballs for a sandwich.

Makes about 20 meatballs.

Out where I live now, you cannot find real, authetic Italian bread made with Semolina flour; it's all made with "enriched white flour" which, to me, is basically plain old white bread.

Instead of the dried Italian seasoned crumbs, I broke up slices of white bread, about 6, and soaked them in 1 cup of milk instead of the 3/4 cup called for in my recipe. I also increased my Italian seasoning mixture to 1/4 cup. Adding this to the rest of the ingredients, I found that you had to work the soaked bread into the meat more, making sure to break up any large clumps. Baking time was the same, but I only got 18 meatballs instead of the usual 20; not a big deal though.

After cooking them in sauce came the taste testing; besides hubby and myself, I asked a couple of other folks to try them out against my regularly made mealballs, without telling them which was which. The conclusion: While the bread soaked in milk meatball had a firmer texture, the overall taste was the same as my original style meatball. Everyone liked both types and would willingly eat both without a problem.

Overall conclusion: it comes down to basically what you grew up on, are comfortable making and eating. At least I know now, that if I'm out of dried bread crumbs, I can use the milk soaked bread and still get a decent result, not a disaster.

Mary Cokenour

Monday, November 28, 2011

So Easy, a Caveman can do it.

Or so as my husband has entitled this blog post. I would have named it, "Not Another What to do with Leftover Turkey Blog Post", but since he cooked, he got the title rights. That's correct, my husband actually took the time to cook dinner once again for me and I bet women all over are jealous. After all the stress and demands of getting Thanksgiving dinner prepped, cooked and cleaned up after, I finally had a melt down. Saturday afternoon the headache and muscle cramping hit big time and decided to stick around until Sunday night. My hunny made me tea and fluffed my pillows, he cooked up scrambled eggs and biscuits as it made me feel calm all over.

However, I had promised him Pepper Steak with Onions for dinner, but I just couldn't find the energy. Who came to the rescue? My hubby and he once again did a great job with the prep work and the cooking of the dish itself. He did moan and groan though and several times gripe, "but it looks so much easier when you do it". Me? I snickered in smug satisfaction.

So kudos to my husband, Roy, and his amazing kitchen skills...when he is desperately hungry that is.

Pepper Steak with Onions


2 lbs London broil, cut into ¼ inch thick strips
2 medium green bell peppers, seeded and cut into ¼ inch thick strips
2 medium onions, cut into ¼ inch thick strips
2 Tbsp canola oil
½ cup soy sauce
½ tsp white pepper
1 tsp ground ginger


In a large skillet or Wok, on medium-high heat, brown the meat; remove to bowl and set aside. In same skillet or Wok, sauté the peppers and onions with the oil until softened. Add back the meat; add the soy sauce, white pepper and ginger; mix thoroughly. Let cook an additional 10 minutes before serving over white, fried or brown rice.

Makes 8 servings.

Mary Cokenour

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Traditional Thanksgiving Pies.

As long as I can remember, pumpkin and pecan pies were served for dessert after the huge Thanksgiving meal of turkey, stuffing and all the rest of the trimmings. Whether served plain, with whipped cream or ice cream; when finished with these yummy treats, a good nap was seriously needed.

With all the preparations needed for the feast, baking pies was always the farthest from my mind, so I would purchase pies from the local farmers' markets. This year though, I decided that I had the time to spare and made the pies. Of course everyone was given a steadfast warning, "disturb me while I'm baking and you take your life into your own hands". Yeah, I'm that serious when I'm in the kitchen and need to concentrate; baking takes concentration.

Anyway, the pies came out just fine and it was very hard to resist cutting a slice of each, just to try of course. So here are my recipes for pumpkin and pecan pies.

Pumpkin Pie


½ cup pecan halves (optional)
2 (9 inch) unbaked or frozen deep dish pie crusts
1 (29 oz) can pumpkin
1 ½ cups sugar
1 tsp salt
1 Tbsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp each of ground nutmeg, ginger and cloves
1 tsp vanilla extract
4 large eggs
2 (12 oz) cans evaporated milk (shake slightly before opening)
3 Tbsp brown sugar, divided in half

Preheat oven to 425F; place a jelly roll pan in oven to warm up. (this will keep the pan from warping while the pies bake). Divide pecans, if using, between the 2 pie crusts, pressing them down slightly into the bottom of the pie pans. (be careful to not go through the crusts)

In a large bowl, mix together the pumpkin, sugar, salt, spices, vanilla and eggs. One can at a time, beat in the evaporated milk until well incorporated into the pumpkin mixture. Remove jelly roll pan from oven and place pie pans on top; ladle pumpkin filling into each until it reaches the interior edge. Sprinkle 1 ½ Tbsp brown sugar over the tops of each pie. (as the pies bake, the brown sugar will produce a crème brule’ effect)

Bake pies at 425 F for 15 minutes; reduce heat to 350F and bake an additional 50-60 minutes; a knife will come out cleanly from center when done. Let pies cool for 2 hours before serving.

Each pie makes 8 servings.


Pecan Pie
(Recipe is from Karo Syrup with 2 changes: 1 Tbsp vanilla extract instead of 1 tsp.; 1 ¾ cups pecan halves instead of 1 ½ cups)

1 cup light or dark corn syrup
3 eggs
1 cup sugar
2 Tbsp melted butter
1 Tbsp vanilla extract
1 ¾ cups pecan halves
1 (9 inch) unbaked or frozen deep dish pie crust

Preheat oven to 350 F; place a jelly roll pan in oven. (warming the pan will keep it from warping as the pie bakes) Place crust into pie pan if it isn’t already done so.

In a large bowl, combine all the ingredients except the pie crust; pour into the pie crust and place onto center of warmed jelly roll pan. Bake for 50-70 minutes; pie will be done when pressing down lightly in the center, it springs back. Let pie cool for 2 hours before serving.

Makes 8 servings,

Mary Cokenour

Monday, November 21, 2011

Give Thanks to Those Cooking your Thanksgiving Meal.

I love Chinese food; I could go to a Chinese restaurant for days and never order the same thing twice.  One dish I enjoy is Sweet and Sour, but I always have trouble deciding between chicken, pork or shrimp; so I end up ordering the combination.  It's like getting a little surprise in every bite; ok, after a while you can tell what is what, but it's still fun to pretend.

Preparing for Thanksgiving entails a lot of work; cleaning the house from top to bottom, doing the shopping for groceries, baking the pies, and a few odds and ends.  Roy's mom and brother come up from Moab to eat with us, so I want everything as perfect as humanly possible.

So what in the world does Chinese food have to do with Thanksgiving Day?  I get worn out, so to spoil me, Roy decided to make dinner and he made me Sweet and Sour Chicken with Fried Rice.  All I had to do was sit on the kitchen stool and supervise, but he did all the work; and he did a damned great job!!! So for those of you busting a gut trying to get heaven and earth organized for Thanksgiving; step back and let a loved one cook a meal for you as their way of giving you thanks for being so wonderful.

Sweet and Sour – Chicken, Pork or Shrimp

¼ cup canola or peanut oil
1 cup each chopped red and green bell peppers, onions and drained pineapple chucks
2 cups flour
2 Tbsp canola oil
2 Tbsp cornstarch
1 tsp salt
½ tsp ground white pepper
1 egg
1 ¼ to 1 ½ cups of water
2 lbs of boneless, skinless chicken breasts or pork tenderloin, cut into 1 inch cubes; or medium sized shrimp, peeled and deveined; or a combination equally up to 2 lbs.
1 qt of canola or peanut oil for frying
2 cups homemade sweet and sour sauce; kept warm.

In a large skillet or Wok, heat oil on medium-high heat; sauté peppers, onion and pineapple until the edges just begin to caramelize. Remove from oil and set aside.

In a large bowl, combine flour, 2 Tbsp oil, cornstarch, salt, white pepper and egg; gradually add water until a thick batter forms. Add chicken, pork, shrimp or combination into batter making sure to thoroughly coat each piece. Heat the 1 qt of oil in the skillet or Wok over medium-high heat; when temperature reaches 360F, drop several pieces of battered pieces into the oil, but do not overcrowd. Pieces will be done when they are golden brown and float to top of oil; remove to paper towels to drain. Repeat until all battered pieces are done.

Combine sautéed vegetables and pineapple with battered pieces and warm sauce; serve over white, brown or fried rice.

Makes 8 servings.

Mary Cokenour

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Sorry Campbell's, My Recipe is Better.

The other day a link to a recipe popped up on Facebook and it referred to a recipe called "Angel Chicken".  Basically it was a crock pot recipe where Campbell's Golden Mushroom soup, a packet of Italian salad dressing mix, cream cheese and white wine cooked for about 4-5 hours and was then served over angel hair pasta.  Simple recipe and I was willing to give it a try, that is until I went grocery shopping.  At City Market, a Kroger store, they had 2 cans of the condensed soup for $3...that's $1.50 per can if you had a shopper's card.  Otherwise it was $1.79 per can...seriously, almost $2 for a 10.5 ounce can of condensed soup?  I don't think so!

I went home, got online and looked up the ingredient list for the soup; salt and sugar were the first two ingredients and the listing of preservatives and chemical additives was longer than the natural  ingredients.  I broke down the basic ingredients to beef broth which already has salt in it, tomato sauce, white wine, a roux of butter and flour, water and mushrooms.  Finding 8 oz packets of sliced mushrooms on sale for 2 for $3 and having the other ingredients at home; I was off to make my own golden mushroom soup.  But wait you're now saying, the price for the mushrooms was the same as if I'd just bought the 2 cans of soup.  I know, but the idea of deconstructing the processed soup and then recreating from scratch was a much better prospect than convenience.

As the cooking process of the soup commenced, the smell in the kitchen was heavenly; if the entire recipe tasted as good as it smelled, this would be one heck of an accomplishment.  Now unknowingly, I had run out of angel hair pasta, so served the chicken, mushrooms and sauce over linguine was amazing; simply amazing.  More work than opening a little can of soup...oh yes, but so, so worth all the effort.

So sorry Campbell's, but mine is better.

Golden Mushroom Chicken


8 Tbsp butter
8 Tbsp flour
1 (8 oz) package, cut into cubes and softened
1 (14.5 oz) can beef broth plus ½ can water
¼ cup white wine
1 (8 oz) can tomato sauce
½ tsp garlic powder
1 tsp each crushed, dried basil, thyme and marjoram
¼ tsp ground black pepper
8 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves, trimmed of fat
1 lbs sliced white mushrooms
1 ½ lbs angel hair pasta


In a large saucepan, medium-high heat, melt butter and whisk in flour; add cream cheese and stir until cream cheese begins to combine with the roux. Add beef broth, water, wine, tomato sauce, garlic powder, herbs and black pepper. Bring to a boil and reduce heat to low; let simmer for 5 minutes.

Set 6 qt crock pot on low; place in chicken breasts, mushrooms on top of chicken; pour the sauce over all. Cover and let cook for 5-6 hours; until chicken is moist and tender.

Prepare pasta according to package directions; place a chicken breast on top a serving of pasta and spoon sauce over all.

Makes 8 servings.

Mary Cokenour

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Bring it to the Party!

Last weekend hubby and I were invited to a "Twilightathon" party at friends', Sean and Heidi, home. While not big fans of shiny vampires, the chance to get out and socialize with other adults was the real treat. Anyone attending was asked to bring a snack to share which is only fair and I had planned on making my Mexican 4-layer dip. Heidi though was hankering for a 7 layer dip and who was I to deny her? Now I'm not going to claim that 4 or 7 layer dip was originally started by me; there are just so many different versions out there, so I'm just posting my take on them.

Anyway, then I was thinking about this little snack treat that I've been dying to make, but it makes so many that it's only good for a party. Hello, did someone say party? I first had this treat way back in 1997 when a coworker brought them in for a Christmas party. They were great and the recipe, only 3 ingredients, was passed around to everyone. Now you can find it on the internet everywhere, so if anyone is declaring they were the inventor....well who really knows by now? Anyway, at Heidi and Sean's party, they went faster than the dip, that's for sure.

So here come the recipes and next time you need a party snack idea, you've got a couple of more recipes to choose from. Enjoy!

Mexican 4 or 7 Layer Dip

4 Layer Dip


1 (8 oz) container French onion dip (Helleva Good is the best)
1 (8 oz) jar medium, chunky style salsa
2 cups shredded lettuce
2 cups shredded Mexican cheese blend
Tortilla chips

Using a 12 inch round aluminum pizza pan, spread out the onion dip evenly out to the edges; next spread out the salsa over the dip. Evenly spread out the lettuce, then the cheese blend.
Serve with tortilla chips for dipping.

7 Layer Dip


1 (14.5 oz) can refried beans
1 (8 oz) jar medium, chunky style salsa
2 cups shredded lettuce
1 (12 oz) bag shredded Mexican cheese blend
1 ½ cups sour cream
1 ½ cups guacamole
1 cup each sliced black olives and diced onions, mixed together
Tortilla chips

Using a glass or plastic 2 quart rectangular dish, evenly spread out each ingredient, in order, over the next. Refrigerate for an hour to let the layers settle together. Serve with tortilla chips.

Note: For either dip, using a spatula to spread ingredients allows for smoother, more even layers.


3 Ingredient Pretzel Chocolate Snack


1 (10 oz) bag square or round waffle pretzels
2 (13 oz) bags Hershey’s Kisses (any one type or a mixture), unwrapped
1 (14 oz) bag plain chocolate M&M’s

Preheat oven to 180F; line a jelly roll pan with parchment paper.

Spread pretzels onto parchment paper; place an unwrapped Hershey kiss in center of each pretzel. When all pretzels have a kiss on them, carefully place on center rack of oven, so they do not shift about.

Within 5 minutes the chocolate will get a glossy sheen to it; carefully remove pan from oven. Gently press an M&M candy in the center of each kiss; the chocolate will squash down and adhere to the pretzel.

Place pan in a cool place to let the chocolate firm up and set. The snacks can be stacked inside a plastic container; place a piece of waxed paper between each layer.

Makes about 75 - 100 pieces; dependent upon using whole pretzels only, not broken pieces.

Mary Cokenour

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Pies Aren't Always Sweet.

When you hear the word pie, often times your mind thinks of something sweet such as fruit pies or perhaps a rich cream pie with a mile high meringue topping.  Pies can be savory too containing some type of meat and vegetables like Shepherd's or Cottage Pie or even sausage with peppers and onions can make a great filling in a pie crust.

Now how about taking an American classic sandwich, such as the Cheeseburger, and making that into a pie? Yes, it can be done; just check out online recipe sites or basic American cookbooks such as those put out by "Taste of Home" magazine.  Trying to come up with something new for dinner one night, I decided to try my own version of a cheeseburger pie.  Roy and I discussed what we like on a typical cheeseburger; simple items like cheese, of course, lettuce, tomatoes, ketchup, mayonnaise, horseradish mustard, grilled onions and/or mushrooms.  Now how to make this into a pie of some sort and have it be edible; however we both didn't like all the items on one burger, so needed to compromise.

The first attempt wasn't very successful, too bland and if reheated, it was worse.  The filling was also too mushy, so the addition of a binder was needed.  The second attempt came out much better by adding some leftover ingredients from an Italian meal I made, plus using eggs as a binder...sort of like you would with a quiche.  I do intend to play more with this recipe eventually, so don't be surprised if you see an update at a later time.

Cheeseburger Pie

2-9 inch, deep dish pie crusts (frozen in pans, refrigerated or homemade)
2 lbs lean ground beef
2 Tbsp Italian herbal mix
1 Tbsp minced garlic
1 medium onion, diced
1 (4 oz) can sliced mushrooms, drained
1 cup diced tomatoes
1 (8 oz) can tomato sauce
1 cup ricotta cheese
1 (12 oz) bag shredded sharp cheddar cheese, divided into thirds
3 eggs, beaten
½ tsp each salt and ground black pepper
1 can Pillsbury Grands biscuits

Preheat oven to 350F; if refrigerated or homemade crusts, place in 9 inch pans; place pie crusts in oven for 5 minutes to set dough.

In large skillet, medium-high heat, brown beef; add Italian herbal mix, garlic, onion and mushrooms halfway through browning. Drain excess grease.

In large bowl, mix together beef mixture with tomatoes, tomato sauce, ricotta, 2/3 of the cheddar cheese, eggs, salt and pepper; mix thoroughly. Divide between two pie pans. Divide 6 of the Grands biscuits to form 12 thinner biscuits; press the 1/3 of the remaining cheddar cheese onto one side of the halved biscuit dough. Place 6 on top of each pie (1 in center, 5 around), cheese side up; bake for 20 minutes; let rest for 5 minutes before serving.

Makes 2 pies; 6 servings in each.

Mary Cokenour

Monday, November 14, 2011

Golden Dragon Reigns over Farmington, New Mexico.

Golden Dragon

2324 E. Main Street
Farmington, NM, 87401

(505) 325-5100

Website: N/A

Located directly next to Fresh for Less on Farmington's Main Street is the Golden Dragon Chinese Restaurant. This restaurant is open seven days a week and offers lunch and dinner buffets besides the regular ala carte menu. While it boasts the typical Oriental art upon its walls, the restaurant is open and welcoming, as is the staff.

We were seated at a booth and our drink orders were taken immediately. Unfortunately, we were late for the lunch buffet and too early for the dinner buffet, so needed to order from the ala carte menu. There was much to choose from and the choice was difficult as we wanted to try so much. Next visit, a buffet is a must to experience the variety Golden Dragon offers.

The Wonton Soup is a rich broth filled with vegetables and delicate wontons.

The Eggdrop Soup has a broth similar to the Wonton Soup, but thicker and it also contains vegetables, but cut finer.

Either soup would be an excellent choice as a meal alone, or for comfort if hit with a cold or flu.

Main courses were Chicken with Broccoli and Chicken Chop Suey; Fried Rice and Egg Rolls (served with sweet and sour sauce). Both chicken dishes were loaded with thinly sliced white breast meat and vegetables with light sauces, but flavorful. The fried rice was moist and tender; the egg rolls were crispy and absolutely delicious. This meal was for four people and we still ended up taking food home; and the bill did not break our wallet at all.

If in the mood for Chinese cuisine, the Golden Dragon's cave is where you want your table set.

Mary Cokenour

Golden Dragon Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Golden Dragon on Restaurantica

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Briskets and Gravy.

As much as I love to grill and smoke meats, I am not one of those extreme die hards who are out there in any type of weather manning the grill and/or smoker.  What a quandry though when you are craving a good brisket, but don't want to deal with the cold weather outside.  That's where the crock pot comes in and becomes a best friend; always willing to help out and never complaininng.

After defrosting a four pound beef brisket and trimming excess fat off; I gave it a good massage with my All Purpose Rub. Sealing it inside an airtight container and popping it into the refrigerator, the preparations for Funeral Potatoes was begun. I didn't have any corn flakes on hand though, so a nice layer of shredded sharp cheddar cheese became my topping. Covered with plastic wrap, into the refrigerator that went to keep the brisket company overnight.

Next morning I got the crock pot out; the brisket went inside with all the other ingredients needed. I knew that the onions, tomatoes, chilies and garlic would not just help enhance the flavor of the brisket, but tenderize and moisturize. The rub on the brisket would help season those ingredients also, so the resulting gravy would be awe inspiring.

That evening I knew when Roy would be coming home from work, so I put the Funeral Potatoes in the oven, so they would be ready at the same time as the brisket and gravy. Result? Between the "Hmmm's" and "Oh my's", Roy was able to tell me that this was one of the best meals he'd ever enjoyed. The gravy was stupendous and the threat to eat a bowl of just that was made; he absolutely could not believe how deliciously awesome it was. He kept telling me that the brisket just melted in his mouth, and I have to agree that it was the tenderest brisket I've ever eaten. The Funeral Potatoes were a perfect accompaniment; the flavors melding so well with the beef and gravy.

Ain't that a kicker though, a crock pot giving a grill a run for it's money.

Crock Pot Beef Brisket and Gravy


4-5 lb beef brisket, trimmed of fat
½ cup all purpose rub
1 (10.5 oz) can French onion soup plus ½ can water
1 (14.5 oz) can diced tomatoes with green chilies – mild
1 ½ Tbsp minced garlic
4 Tbsp flour

Thoroughly coat, and massage in, all sides of brisket with rub; place in airtight plastic container or bag and refrigerate overnight.

Set 6 qt crock pot on low; spray inside with nonstick cooking spray. Place soup, water, tomatoes and garlic in crock pot; whisk in flour until incorporated well. Immerse brisket into liquid, cover and cook for 8 hours.

Remove brisket to rest before slicing. Set crock pot to high; using an immersion blender in the crock pot, or placing liquid into stand blender, puree tomatoes and onions. Let pureed liquid cook for 15 minutes to thicken. Serve over sliced brisket; also good for a gravy over mashed potatoes and/or biscuits.

Makes 8-10 servings.

Mary Cokenour

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Native American Foods - Navajo Fry Bread

The first time I ever had Navajo Fry Bread was in October 2008 at the Moab Farmers' Market.  Deep fried with cinnamon and sugar over it; it was awesomely delicious.  It reminded me very much of the zeppoli I used to get when I lived in New York, just a flatter version. 

My apologies to the Navajo Nation and my Navajo friends if I get the information too sketchy or not totally correct regarding Fry Bread.  The Navajo dinetah (homeland) is bordered by the four sacred mountains, from northeastern Arizona, western New Mexico and north into Utah and Colorado.  In 1863, Kit Carson was sent to meet with the Navajo to arrange surrender to the United States Army, but that was not to be.  So, their lands were burned and those that were captured were forced to march (what became to be known as "Long Walks") to Fort Sumner.  A 300 mile walk where many of the Navajo died from exhaustion and starvation.  At the Fort, as many as 9000 Natives were forced to live in deplorable conditions; the government supplies of lard, flour, salt, sugar, baking powder or yeast, and powdered milk were often rancid.  Fry bread came from these few foods provided during the 4 years of captivity. 

The above photo is of Fry Bread made by a friend here in Monticello, Anita Hathale. Anita is Navajo and a marvelous weaver which she learned from her mother; she also makes a wonderful Fry Bread. As you can see though, it is not totally flat, like a tortilla or pita would be and it can be eaten many ways. Fresh and hot just out of the fryer; coated with cinnamon and sugar, drizzled with honey; or as a Navajo Taco - seasoned meat, salsa, guacamole, grated cheese and sour cream. The Twin Rocks Cafe in Bluff also uses it to make pizza, and I know I'm trying that next time I get down there.

Now living in Southeastern Utah, it is part of the area known as "The Four Corners", and there is a monument area commemorating this.  The monument is located 6 miles from Teec Nos Pos, AZ on the Colorado Plateau.  While visiting the monument, one of the vendors there was making Fry Bread, and I was able to obtain a copy of his recipe. I am going to reprint the recipe as he had it written.

Navajo Fry Bread


4 cups all purpose flour
2 Tbsp baking powder
2 tsp salt
1 1/2 to 2 cups very warm water
2 cups oil


1 - Mix dry ingredients together very well.
2 - Add water to dry ingredients and kneed well until dough is soft.
3 - Let it sit for 10-15 minutes (or longer).
4 - Break off golf ball size pieces of dough and pat or roll out to 1/4 inch thick.
5 - Heat 2 cups of oil and carefully place dough into the hot oil.
6 - Fry it to a golden brown and carefully turn and fry the other side.
7 - Drain on a paper towel. Sprinkle with powder sugar, cinnamon or other toppings to your liking.

Makes 8 servings.

Mary Cokenour

Monday, November 7, 2011

Another Adventure in the Realm of Baking.

The first time I ever saw and tried Red Velvet cake was in Pennsylvania. It was being sold at one of the many farmers' markets: slices, whole cakes, half a cake and whoopie pies. I tried a slice and while it was good, I still preferred my old fashioned yellow cake with milk chocolate frosting. Call me a creature of habit, but I like what I like.

Red Velvet cake gets a good dose of its flavor from cocoa powder. A myth is that the red coloring in the cake comes from a chemical reaction between the cocoa powder and the baking soda, but that only creates a brownish-gray color. The red comes from either red food coloring or beetroot juice; frosting for this cake is usually a white frosting or cream cheese. Origins are pretty iffy; the Waldorf Astoria in New York claims to be the inventor of this cake. However, in the Southern United States, a Red Velvet cake was commonly the groom's cake at weddings. Then there are the Amish and Mennonite in Pennsylvania who are known for their outstanding baked treats.

A few weeks ago I purchased some Red Velvet cupcakes at a supermarket and they were absolutely delicious. Being adventurous, I decided it was time for me to tackle this cake. I found many a recipe in books and online, narrowed it down to three, saw what ingredients were listed exactly alike and averaged out the rest. Not bad really and while the cream cheese frosting was pretty good, I found it a bit too sweet for my tastes. Next time I'm going with a plain white frosting.

Red Velvet Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting(makes 8 servings)

2 ½ cups cake flour (or finely sifted all purpose flour)
1 tsp baking soda
3 Tbsp cocoa powder
1 cup softened butter
1 ½ cups sugar
2 large eggs
1 cup buttermilk
2 Tbsp canola oil
1 tsp distilled white vinegar
3 oz. red food coloring
2 tsp vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350F; spray 2-9 inch round baking pan with nonstick baking spray; or a light coating of oil with a dusting of flour.

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

In a small bowl, cream together the butter and sugar until smooth; set aside. In another small bowl, whisk together the eggs, buttermilk, oil, vinegar, food coloring and vanilla. Add liquid mixture to creamed mixture, beat until smooth.

Add the creamed mixture to the large bowl; mix until smooth scraping down the sides as batter is mixing. Divide batter between the 2 baking pans; bake for 30 minutes, or until toothpick comes cleanly out of center of the cakes. Let cool before frosting.

While cake is baking, prepare the Cream Cheese Frosting:

2 (8 oz) packages cream cheese, softened
1 cup unsalted butter, softened
4 cups confectioners’ sugar
1 ½ tsp vanilla extract

In a large bowl, begin mixing the cream cheese and butter together. Add one cup of confectioners’ sugar at a time, until each cup is well incorporated. Once the entire mixture is smooth; mix in the vanilla. Place in the refrigerator to firm up before frosting the cooled cakes.

Makes enough to cover sides, top and in-between 2-9 inch cakes.

Mary Cokenour

Saturday, November 5, 2011

French Cuisine is a fail at home.

I have only eaten French food a few times and I have to admit I am not a big fan. Can I explain why? Not really, perhaps it was the atmosphere of the restaurants and the pretentious attitudes of the staff that turned me off to it. Perhaps it was the dishes I tried, drenched in sauce and too sweet; not being an expert in French cooking, maybe they weren't cooked correctly in the first place? I don't know.

I am a comfort cook, so more than likely the dishes I had were just too on the frou-frou end of the French cooking spectrum. Now I had heard of French peasant cuisine, so did a little reading about that. That seemed geared more towards my liking for comfort style food, so I came up with a recipe called Rustic Chicken. Earthy flavors with a mild sweetness coming from tomatoes and a just as mild tang from Dijon mustard.

I happen to like the result, but Roy, my hubby, doesn't agree with me. His assessment was, "it tastes too foreign". Now this was confusing to me considering I cook Italian, Slavic, Mexican and Asian cuisines for him. So I pushed for a more specific critique and got, "I don't know, it tastes odd and I just don't like it". Not much to work with there, so I will just say that Roy and I do not like French cuisine, plain and simple.

But here is my recipe, you might like it, you may not, let your palate decide for you.

Rustic Chicken


2 lbs. boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into 1 inch pieces
½ cup shredded smoked ham or thin sliced beef kielbasa
1 can (14.5 oz) diced tomatoes
1 can (15 oz) artichoke hearts, quartered
1 can (8 oz) whole mushrooms
1 ½ cups chicken broth
¼ cup dry red wine
2 Tbsp flour
2 Tbsp Dijon mustard
1 cup long grain rice.


Combine all ingredients, except rice, in a 4 qt slow cooker, set on low. Cover and cook for 6 hours; add the rice, mix, cover and let cook for an additional 30-40 minutes; until rice is tender.

Makes 8 servings.

Mary Cokenour

Thursday, November 3, 2011

This is Dedicated to the One I Love.

When Roy and I lived in Pennsylvania, one restaurant we enjoyed eating at was the LoneStar Cafe.  It was a chain restaurant, but that had great steaks, baked sweet potatoes that needed their own dinner plate to be served on, and amazing appetizers.  The Cheese Fries was the best thing ever; seasoned steak fries smothered in melted cheese and crispy bacon bits; served with a Southwestern Ranch sauce.  Heart attack on a plate and we didn't care.  Then one day we discovered that the restaurant had closed; we knew a couple of the waiters who said they had reported to work, only to find a sign on the door saying it was closed for business.  Talk about a shocker!

Poor Roy, I think he was the most disappointed of both of us, so I decided to come up with a copycat recipe.  Took me a while to get it right, but I did it; and making the sauce was super easy.  While shopping for groceries, I discovered that Hidden Valley Ranch had a Southwestern Ranch dressing.  I purchased a  bottle and discovered it was exactly what was served with the cheese fries.  However, it wasn't always available at the supermarkets, so I learned to make my own by mixing regular Ranch dressing, not the buttermilk type, with Cholula sauce.

Copycat Recipe for LoneStar Cheese Fries


peanut or canola oil
1 (16 oz) bag seasoned steak fries, frozen
1 (8 oz) bag shredded Monterey Jack and cheddar cheese mix
1 cup real bacon pieces
Hidden Valley Ranch Southwestern Ranch Dressing, or mix Regular Ranch Dressing (not Buttermilk) with Cholula sauce till desired flavor and heat is achieved.


Fill a large skillet halfway with peanut oil, heat on high till a drop of cold water sizzles in pan. Fry the frozen fries one third of a bag at a time; use a slotted spoon to put the fries into the hot oil. Caution: the oil will sizzle and pop from the cold fries. Let cook for 4 minutes, drain on paper towels and repeat till all the fries are done.

Preheat oven to 350F; spray a 2 qt baking dish with nonstick cooking spray. Layer one third of the fries into the dish, spread one third of the cheese and bacon pieces over them; repeat two more times. Bake for 15 minutes; serve with sauce while hot.

Makes 4 servings.

But I'm not finished yet, another one of Roy's joys is the Patty Melt; a diner classic that is rarely found in diners anymore. This is a grill top special - grilled onions, hamburger, rye bread with melted Swiss cheese. I make mine in a cast iron skillet which ensures even cooking, good flavor and a crisp texture to the rye bread.

The Classic Patty Melt


1 large onion, cut into slivers
2 Tbsp butter
dash of salt and pepper
1 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
4 (1/4 lb each)hamburger patties (80% lean)
8 slices marbled Rye bread
4 Tbsp butter, softened
8 slices Swiss cheese


Melt 2 Tbsp butter in skillet on medium-high heat; add onions, salt, pepper and vinegar; mix and let cook for 15 minutes, occasionally stirring. Once the onions are browned, remove to small bowl and add the patties into the same skillet; cook each side for 6 minutes. Remove to plate to rest.

Liberally smear softened butter onto one side of each slice of Rye bread; place butter side down in skillet. Depending on size of skillet, you may have to do each sandwich individually. Place a slice of Swiss cheese on each slice of bread; let cook for 2 minutes. On one slice of bread, place a hamburger patty and a layer of onions. Flip over the other slice of bread on top of the other, press down with a spatula for one minute. Flip sandwich over in skillet, press down with spatula again for an additional minute. Remove to plate, slice sandwich in half and serve.

Makes 4 sandwiches.

So there you go Roy; a meal just for you cause I love you so very much.

Mary Cokenour

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Soup battles the Cold Weather.

After I came home yesterday, I noticed that the wind was beginning to pick up and the temperature was starting to drop a bit.  It had been a sunny day, but suddenly it darkened and I noticed the large dark clouds moving into the area.  The weather reports out of Salt Lake City were reporting a cold snap moving in, but the news media never seem to cover our area, so would it reach us?

I like to run on the side of caution, so the crock pot came out and soup was in the making.  I knew it had to be something hardy and filling, just in case snow shoveling became a factor later on.  Beef Barley Vegetable soup does the trick; shredded lean beef with loads of vegetables, plump barley and a rich, thick broth...oh so good and full of comfort, especially on a cold day or night.

Beef Barley Vegetable Soup


1 cup each chopped carrots, onions and celery
1 cup shredded white cabbage
2 (14.5 oz) cans diced tomatoes
1 tsp each dried, crushed basil, parsley and thyme
1 tsp ground black pepper
1 cup barley (NOT quick cook)
6 cups beef broth
2 lb sirloin roast beef, trimmed of fat


Set a 6 qt crock pot on low heat; spray with nonstick cooking spray. Place all ingredients inside in order of listing. Cook for 7 hrs; take out beef and shred; place back into crock pot, mix and let cook for an additional half hour.

Makes 8 servings.

Mary Cokenour