Friday, December 30, 2011

Shoo Fly, Don't Bother Me.

In Pennsylvania Dutch cooking, there is a pie that would put anyone in a diabetic coma; that pie is called "Shoo Fly".  The name originates from the bakers having to "shoo" flies away from the pie, since the little buggers were very attracted to the molasses and sugar that are the two main ingredients.  "Shoo Fly" is a dense, sticky pie; extremely sweet and definitely an acquired taste.  It is best served warm with a scoop of ice cream, usually vanilla, on the side; strangely enough, the ice cream mellows out the pie's sweetness.

Farmers' Markets are the best places to find these pies as they are baked primarily by the Amish and Mennonite; and they make them fresh.  You can find them in most Pennsylvania supermarkets, but unless they are baked right there in the supermarket, chances are they may be full of preservatives.  Take the extra time, go to the local farmers' market and buy it freshly made; you won't regret the choice.

Finding Amish and Mennonite recipes can be easily done as there are many books available, and many sites online with recipes also.  Each book and site claims that their recipe is the authentic one, but basically every county has a recipe, nevermind every family.  Play around with recipes and see which one may be to your liking; or you may end up inventing your own after some trial and error.  That is how my recipe came about, so try it, change it or just keep looking for another recipe you like better.

Shoo Fly Pie



1 ½ cups molasses
1 ½ cups warm water
1 ½ tsp baking soda


4 cups flour, sifted
2 cups sugar
½ cup brown sugar
½ cup butter, melted

2 (9 inch) deep dish pie crusts


On low heat, in a deep saucepan, cook together the molasses and water for 10 minutes; do not let the liquid boil.

While liquid is warming, preheat oven to 375F; cover center rack with aluminum foil in case of dripping. In a large bowl, combine the flour, sugar, brown sugar and melted butter to form loose crumbs.

Add the baking soda to the liquid mixture; it will become frothy; stir well to dissolve all the baking soda. Divide the liquid between the 2 pie crusts; divide the topping between the two, slightly pressing some of the crumbs into the liquid. Bake for 10 minutes; reduce heat to 350F and finish cooking pies for 35minutes; let pies cool slightly before serving.

Serving suggestion: while still warm, serve with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.

Makes 8 servings.

Mary Cokenour

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

"Sex in the Mouth" for Dessert.

There comes a time when you try out a new dessert and it's so good; well it's almost like your mouth is having an orgasm.  My latest cheesecake recipe is one such sweet dish...completely decadent and luscious.

For the holidays, it's not unusual for me to be making cookies, brownies and cheesecakes to give as gifts.  Normally I stick to my two favorite cheesecakes, "Mint Chocolate" or "Toffee Shortbread", but I had several bags of white chocolate chips leftover from cookie making and felt inspired.  I perused several baking books and online recipe sites for ideas; common ingredients were kept on the list, unusual ones discarded.  Baking temperatures were anywhere from 325F to 450F, so I kept to my normal 350F and water bath (bain-marie)baking technique.  As to time within the oven, the 60 minutes allows the cheesecake to bake entirely while the center still looks jiggly; yet it firms up completely once it sets overnight in the refrigerator.

The taste, however, is absolutely, without a doubt, completely decadent.  Rich, creamy, smooth and just the yummiest concoction your mouth could experience.  Nevermind the holidays, this would make a great dessert for Valentine's Day or any other special romantic occasion.  Enough said, lets get to the recipe for an ultimate cheesecake experience.

White Chocolate Vanilla Cheesecake



2 cups ground graham crackers or Nilla wafers
8 oz unsalted butter, melted


2 (8 oz) packages cream cheese
3 large eggs
1 cup sugar
½ cup sour cream
8 oz white chocolate, melted
2 Tbsp vanilla extract


Spray the bottom of an 8 inch springform pan with nonstick baking spray; line the bottom of the pan with parchment paper and spray the paper with the spray also. Mix together the crust ingredients; press into bottom and slightly up sides of pan. Place in refrigerator while preparing the filling.

Preheat oven to 350F. In a large bowl, beat the cream cheese until smooth; gradually add one egg at a time until incorporated. Slowly add sugar and continue to beat until fluffy; mix in the sour cream, melted chocolate and vanilla extract well.

Take pan out of refrigerator and place on aluminum foil which can be drawn up sides of the pan. Pour the filling over the crust and spread out evenly. Place pan into a roasting pan and pour warm water halfway up outside of pan. Bake for 60 minutes; turn off heat and prop oven door open slightly. Let cool for 45 minutes before removing springform pan and place in refrigerator overnight.

Loosen sides of cheesecake with knife before releasing lock on pan; lift off ring. Put large round plate over cheesecake and invert; remove bottom of pan and parchment paper. Flip cake onto another plate to cut and serve.

Option: puree mixed berries (strawberry, raspberry, black raspberry) and spread over top of cake; grate or shave white chocolate over puree.

Makes 8 servings.

Mary Cokenour

Monday, December 19, 2011

Bag of Chestnuts.

While grocery shopping at City Market in Moab, I happened to see a display for Galil Roasted Chestnuts. It is a product from China that is 100% organic, no preservatives, shelled and ready to eat, or use in a recipe. Looking at the photo on the package, it reminded me of childhood days of oven roasted chestnuts; peeling off the tough outer shell and hoping not to get splinters to get to that luscious nugget inside.

Warning, what you see on the package is most definitely not what you'll find in the package. The chestnuts are a dull grey color, wet with a slight slimy feel to them; that lovely brown color is only on the packaging. I was brave though and tried one; surprisingly it had that strong chestnut flavor that comes from oven roasting. It is recommended that the product be refrigerated after opening. The next day I tried another; the wet sliminess was gone and the full flavor was still there. Personally, I find they will take time getting used to snacking on due to the grey color; it's very unappetizing to look at.

Another use for these chestnuts would be in a soup, either for a holiday meal, or just for a cold, wintery warmup. The packages are 3.5 ounces, so you would need 4 packages for the soup recipe I'm going to post here which is mine, not from the Galil company.

Chestnut Soup


3 Tbsp butter
1 large leek, white part only, chopped and washed
1/2 cup each of diced celery and carrot
3 Tbsp flour
1 tsp crushed thyme leaves
1/2 cup half n' half
6 cups vegetable broth
4 (3.5 oz) bags roasted chestnuts
1/2 tsp paprika
1/4 tsp each nutmeg, salt and ground black pepper


In a large soup pot, melt the butter on medium-high heat; saute' leeks, celery and carrots until the leeks become translucent. Add in flour, thyme and half n' half; bring to a boil and stir till thickened. Add in broth, chestnuts, paprika, nutmeg, salt and pepper; bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and let simmer for 30 minutes; stir occasionally.

Using an immersion blender, or transferring to a tabletop blender, process soup until smooth.

Note: toppings such as a drizzle of sour cream or crumbled bacon can be served with the soup.

Makes 8 servings.

Mary Cokenour

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Eating Art, even if it is Simply Silly.

Yesterday morning I made one of my favorite breakfasts.  It's a simple meal of a toasted, buttered Thomas' Bagel Thins (everything flavor) and scrambled eggs; usually the eggs are plain (just added in half n' half, salt and pepper), but I wanted ketchup on them this morning.  I placed the bagel thins and eggs on the plate, went to get my coffee and came back to see...well here it is:

To me, it looked like the funniest face I have ever seen on a breakfast plate; I couldn't help but laugh at it.  I had to grab the camera and take a photo and name it the "Goofy Eyed Breakfast".  It tasted the same as usual, and yet I seemed to enjoy it more because of the fun of it.

Then I remembered a photo I had taken awhile back of a salad I had made. It was my team's turn to make a meal for our monthly meetings and I chose to do the salad. I asked if I should bring things separately, so everyone could make their's own up, but was told no, just mix it all together. I considered what items I knew most of my coworkers enjoyed and what was very disliked. However, as I mulled it over I knew I just couldn't throw it all into a large bowl and produce chaos. What I presented was, as quoted by some of the ladies, "too pretty to eat", but eat they did and it was very much enjoyed.

Basically this was "Salad Art" and consisted of:

2 bags of romaine mix (contained shredded carrot and purple cabbage)
1 bag of spring mix

These were mixed together before I topped it off with colorful rows of:

yellow cherry tomatoes
cucumber slices (peeled the cucumber)
shredded extra sharp cheddar cheese
light red kidney beans
wax beans

There was an assortment of salad dressings and once we finally dug into the salad; well it was quite delicious and satisfying to all.

Eating should satisfy the senses, not just the gnawing of the stomach.  So give your eyes a sight and create artwork with your food.

Mary Cokenour

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

True North Snacks are Nuts!.

True North Snacks


Nuts are a great snack in general; just eating 1/4 cup a day will help bring down blood sugar and blood pressure. Now when I say nuts, I'm talking about those little goodies that grow on trees: cashews, pecans, almonds, walnuts, Brazil nuts, hazelnuts, etc. Peanuts are not in the nut family, they grow underground and are part of the legume family. As a diabetic, eating a snack that is satisfying and helps with blood sugar and pressure is a big plus.

Now canisters of mixed nuts can be expensive and most brands have more than 50% peanuts in the mix. Since we have established that peanuts are not nuts, isn't that a form of false advertising or downright fraud? Now you can find canisters of mixed nuts that specify "no peanuts", but the price is inflated; so, in essence, taking the peanuts out makes the price go up. Not a winning situation from my point of view. One more point before I go on about True North Snacks; after awhile, those mixed nuts get pretty boring.

Ok, so now to True North Snacks; they make combinations of nuts, sometimes peanuts are included, dried fruit, sea salt, organic sugar into tasty, crunchy combinations. They are 100% natural, lower in saturated fat and contain mostly mono and polyunsaturated fats. The combinations are high in fiber and protein; many of the snacks are gluten free also. Recently they came out with a new combo called Chocolate Nut Crunch which contains almonds, pecans and cashews clusters dipped in milk chocolate; is that great or what!?!

If you're looking for a crunchy, delicious snack and love nuts, you have to tryTrue North products.  Anyone reaching for my bag is gonna lose a hand.

Mary Cokenour

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Fish Fry.

Depending on where you hail from, a fish fry can be via a variety of techniques; deep fried, pan fried, oven fried; battered, breaded or plainly seasoned. Luckily, I and my family enjoy seafood, so we can easily say we've had it any way we can, and are not afraid to try new recipes concerning creatures from the world's oceans.

When it comes to frying fish in a deep fryer or pan, the oil becomes one of the big considerations. Vegetable oils such as corn, soybean, palm and sunflower are too easily absorbed by the fish; making it too greasy and unappetizing. Olive oil, while being one of the healthiest oils, can have its flavor overwhelm the flavor of the fish itself. Canola and peanut oils are the best to use as they can withstand high temperatures while not having their flavor or greasiness absorbed by the foods being fried. This is great when thick pieces of fish, such as cod, catfish or bluefish, need to cook longer than say thin filets of flounder, trout or swai.

The batter method is used when making the traditional style English fish and chips which will use the thick pieces of cod or haddock. Becoming more popular though is the use of panko (Japanese) bread crumbs which gives a light, airy, crispy coating for not only fish, but shrimp, chicken and even in pork dishes. For pan frying, coating the fish in bread crumbs or simply seasoning with herbs means less oil is used than in a deep fryer. With a coating, a simple 1/4 inch of oil will do the job for thin (1/4 to 1/2 inch thickness)filets, cooking each side for 5-7 minutes to achieve a flaky, yet smooth texture to the flesh. Simply seasoned, just enough oil to keep the fish from sticking to the pan can be used; you just have to decide if you want to have the skin on and make it crispy, or forego the skin.  Basic seasonings can be lemon, ground black pepper, salt and herbs such as rosemary or thyme; using Italian flavored bread crumbs gives you the seasonings premeasured and premixed into fine crumbs.

When it comes to a fish fry, the process, no matter which you decide on, is easy; it's deciding the type of fish, coating and seasonings that makes the brain go into overtime.  Enjoy!

Mary Cokenour

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Holiday Baking means Cookies Galore.

With the holiday season in full swing, it's that time of year for cookie baking. This year I made 16 dozen cookies (that's 4 dozen each of 4 types of cookies): pumpkin chocolate chip, chocolate chip with walnuts, sugar lemon with ginger icing and peanut butter and blackberry preserves. I know I didn't break any records by making them all within a 3 hour period of time, but it's an accomplishment in my book. Divided up on holiday themed paper plates and wrapped in bright red plastic wrap, I made the rounds of the neighbors. On Monday, the City office, Post Office and two local banks will be receiving the annual goodies from hubby and myself. The folks there have treated us well since we moved to Monticello, so it's only fitting they get this treat for the holidays.

For the holiday season, cookies are a traditional treat and the sugar cookie is one such sweet dish. Usually rolled out thin, so cookie cutters can shape the dough into reindeers, trees, bells and other assorted shapes. They are iced and sprinkled, or designs are penned on with tubes of decorative, colored icing. I make the typically round cookie, but I usually add chopped up pieces of Andes mint candies; this year I tried something different. To my dough making process, I added a tablespoon of pure lemon extract. Making a simple icing from 1 cup confectioner's sugar and 3 tablespoons warm milk; I sprinkled powdered ground ginger over the cookies before the icing set. The smell of the lemon is intoxicating and the taste is very smooth on the tongue; the icing is sweet with the ginger spice just tickling the back of the throat. Simple and nice.

My personal favorite is pumpkin chocolate chip; whether it's pie, muffins, pancakes, bread or cookies, I enjoy the taste of pumpkin and the spices that go best with it.

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies


1 cup salted butter, softened
1 cup sugar
1 cup brown sugar
2 eggs
1 ½ tsp vanilla extract
1 cup canned pumpkin puree
3 cups flour
2 tsp baking soda
3 tsp pumpkin pie spice (store bought, or homemade – see note)
2 cups milk chocolate chips
*optional parchment paper or non-stick baking spray depending on type of cookie sheets used


Preheat oven to 350F. If using non-stick cookie sheets (AirBake brand is best in my opinion), no preparation is needed. If using a dark non-stick cookie sheet, lower the oven temperature to 325F. Otherwise, use a non-stick baking spray (flour in the spray) or parchment paper on the cookie sheets.

In a large bowl, on medium speed, beat the butter till smooth; slowly add in the sugars till fluffy (also known as “creaming” the butter with the sugar). Add in the eggs one at a time till well incorporated; add in the vanilla and pumpkin.

In a second large bowl, sift together the flour, baking soda and spice mix. On a slower speed, gently add in the dry ingredients, to the wet ingredients, a cup at at time. Make sure the dry mixture is incorporated well before adding the next cup. Stir in the chocolate chips.

Scoop out the dough with a tablespoon onto the cookie sheets; bake 15-20 minutes, or until cookies are browned. Let rest on the sheets for 5 minutes before removing to wire racks for final cooling.

Makes about 4 dozen cookies.

Note: Pumpkin pie spice can be purchased premade in the store, or made at home.

Pumpkin Pie Spice Blend

¼ cup ground cinnamon
1 Tbsp each ground ginger, nutmeg and cloves
Stir together well and store in an airtight container.

Mary Cokenour

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Chicken Thighs ala Campbell's.

Campbell's soup has a recipe for a chicken stuffing casserole consisting mainly of boneless, skinless chicken breasts, stuffing and soup, baked in the oven.  It's a simple recipe, but I find that the stuffing and chicken tend to get on the dry side, so I don't make it very often.  Now my mother-in-law found boneless, skinless chicken thigh strips on sale again, and even though we told her not to buy them anymore, she did anyway.  The thigh strips usually have a lot of fat attached to them and after trimming the fat away, the pieces are so small.  Tyson either needs to make larger pieces or stop making the product altogether.  Anyway, I have that recipe for  Sweet and Sour Chicken Thighs, but believe it or not, I wasn't in the mood for Asian food. What the heck do I do with them?

Looking through the pantry, I found cream of mushroom soup and Stove Top stuffing; I also found a bag of chopped broccoli in the freezer and knew I could make this work. Knowing that the original recipe usually comes out dry, I opted to use the crock pot instead and hoped it would produce a moister dish.  I also thought that the fat would melt off the chicken and help to add moisture to the stuffing.

Now I have to warn you that the dish is not a pretty sight, but the taste was pretty darned good. I'm still not a fan of chicken thighs, but my hubby and mother-in-law liked the results which leads me to wonder, "Will she be buying chicken thigh strips again?"

Crock Pot Chicken Stuffing Broccoli Bake


2 1/2 lbs boneless, skinless chicken thigh strips
1 bag (10 oz) Stove Top stuffing
1 bag (16 oz) frozen chopped broccoli
2 cans (10.5 oz) cream of chicken soup plus one can of milk
1 tsp each ground black pepper, onion powder and garlic powder


Set 4 qt crock pot on low; spray interior with nonstick cooking spray.

Place chicken strips on bottom, spread stuffing over chicken and then the broccoli over the stuffing. In a medium bowl, mix together the soup, milk and seasonings; pour over the broccoli. Cover and let cook for 5 hours.

Makes 8 servings.

Note: boneless, skinless chicken breasts can be used instead of thigh meat.

Mary Cokenour

Monday, December 5, 2011

Stretching the Elk.

So after getting the craving for cheesesteak out of the way, there were still about four servings of the Elk cheesesteak I had already made remaining. Meat, cheese, onions, peppers and I needed to think about what to do with it; then a commercial for Hamburger Helper came on the television and a lightbulb went off in my own mind.

Getting out the pasta pot, filling it with water and setting it on high heat to bring to a rolling boil; I took out the leftovers, placed them in a large skillet and set that onto low heat. Once the water was ready, I added 3 cups of penne pasta to cook plus a sprinkling of salt; the leftovers though were heating up nicely and the cheese was melting. I added to the skillet a 14.5 ounce can of diced tomatoes, draining them first, and this helped the cheese to become a thinner sauce. Draining the cooked pasta, I added that to the skillet also, tossed to coat it all and let it remain on the low heat for an additional five minutes.

All in all, it took about 30 minutes to complete this extremely easy and delicious meal from simple leftovers and the addition of two ingredients; diced tomatoes and cooked pasta. Sorry Hamburger Helper, but you've got nothing on my elk. Wow, could I go so far as to say I've invented "Elk Helper"?

Mary Cokenour