Monday, January 30, 2012

Omelet Making 101

Making an omelet can be terrifying at first, but in this case, practice will make perfect, and so will the right tools.   While a skillet will work in a pinch, an omelet/saute pan has sloped sides making it easier for the spatula to work with the egg mixture, and to slide the finished omelet out of the pan.  Having a long, narrow spatula is a blessing as it slides more easily under the cooked egg mixture to help flip over one side and enclose the ingredients without breakage.

When purchasing your pan, look for a 10 inch heavy duty nonstick brand; remember that this will also work for sauteing, not just making omelets. You also don't want to go too large on the pan, as it will be more difficult to work with the egg mixture; more surface to fold will mean more chance of breakage.

When it comes to ingredients for the omelet, the basics are:

3 large eggs
3 tsp cold water
1/4 tsp salt
1 Tbsp butter for the pan

When it comes to seasonings and herbs, you have the choice of adding them to your egg mixture, or sprinkling them over the mixture once it's in the pan. Ingredients for inside the omelet can be just about anything you would enjoy with eggs; just make sure that meats and vegetables are at room temperature. Nothing worse than having a nice hot omelet loaded with cold ingredients in the center. Cheese should be thinly sliced or shredded to make sure it melts properly as the omelet cooks.

To get started, melt the tablespoon of butter in the pan over medium-high heat. While doing this, whisk together in a small bowl the eggs, water and salt. The butter will foam when first melting, but once it stops pour the eggs into the pan evenly and let them settle in the pan for about a minute. Gently lift an edge, tilt the pan and allow a little egg mixture to flow underneath and repeat this all the way around. Continue this procedure, lifting a little more of the solid egg each time, until all the egg mixture has been incorporated around the pan.  You are basically allowing the omelet to build up.

On one half of the omelet, begin adding your fillings; cheese first, so it can melt; next meat and finish with vegetables. Only do this on one half as you'll be flipping the other side over the ingredients you added into the pan. Let the omelet sit for two minutes, now gently slide your spatula under the egg only side of the pan and quickly flip it over the filling side. Don't think about it, just do it; otherwise you are giving the omelet a chance to break where the spatula is not holding it.

The above photo is of a Chili Cheese Omelet I made for my hubby. I had about 1 1/2 cups of my Sirloin Beef Chili left over and a cup of shredded Mexican mix cheese. Inside the omelet, I spread 3/4 cup of the cheese and then one cup of the chili over that. After flipping over the egg only side, I spread the remaining cheese and poured over the remaining half cup of chili. Not a bite was left on his plate.

So be a little adventurous and make that omelet you're craving; it might be messy at first, but it'll still taste yummy.

Mary Cokenour

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Don't Over Think the Comfort.

You want something to eat that gives you a warm, comforting feeling, but should the recipe be complicated or simple?  Depends on what you believe is a comfort food; while someone believes it's mashed potatoes with butter, someone else is looking for baby new potatoes topped with creme fraiche and caviar.  The one thing you need to remember is that you should be just as comfortable making the dish as you are eating it.

Italian food wraps itself around you like a blanket; while the pasta is your pillow, the sauce massages the aches and pains from the body.  Sounds nice?  Funny though how many folks I have met who are scared to death to make Italian recipes.  "It's too complicated or difficult.", "I'll never find all the ingredients I'll need", "How do I know I'm doing it right if I've never tasted it before?"   Answer to all three questions: "You're over thinking it!"  You can't make comfort food if you're putting such stress upon

Making homemade pasta sauce is relatively easy nowadays, especially since almost everyone and their mother owns a crock pot (slow cooker). Now lets make an Italian casserole that is so easy, you'll kick yourself for having self doubts on your ability to make it. Hints: if you cannot find ziti in the pasta aisle, use penne. If you want meat in your dish, grill up some Italian sausage or make meatballs. Please, please don't buy frozen meatballs, they are so full of fillers, that's why they can bounce. Remember, with my sauce and meatball recipes, you can half them, or make the full recipes and they can be frozen for up to six months. Oh, when cooking your pasta up, use a little olive oil in the boiling water instead of salt; still keeps the pasta from sticking together, but adds more flavor.

Baked Ziti


1(16 oz)box ziti pasta
6 cups homemade pasta sauce plus 2 extra cups
1(16 oz)bag shredded mozzarella plus 1(8 oz)bag shredded Italian cheese mix


Preheat oven to 350F; spray a 3 qt baking dish with nonstick cooking spray.

Prepare ziti according to package directions. In a large bowl, mix together thoroughly the cooked ziti, 6 cups of sauce and shredded mozzarella cheese.

Spread out mixture into baking dish and top evenly with the shredded Italian cheese mix. Bake for 30-40 minutes; until cheese on top is melted and just starting to brown at the edges.  

Serve with the extra two cups of sauce for anyone wanting more sauce with their pasta, or to dip bread (preferably toasted garlic bread) into.
Makes 6-8 servings.

Mary Cokenour

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Calphalon - It's All That and Made in the USA.



For the holiday season of 2011, Roy received a very nice bonus from the new company he was now working for.  While he went off to purchase new video games for his PC, I decided to finally buy new cookware that I have wanted for a long time...Calphalon.

The Calphalon company was founded in 1963 by Ronald Kasperzak in Perrysburg, Ohio.  He wanted to make a cookware product that was heavy duty, easy to handle and clean, up to the standards of any professional chef, but affordable by the public.  Calphalon is lightweight, nonstick and the handles stay cool to the touch; how many of us have burned ourselves on pot handles or needed a forklift to take a overly heavy skillet off the stovetop?  Recipes can be cooked at lower temperature settings as the heavy gauge metals used in the cookware distributes heat evenly and more quickly.  Not only does this save gas or electric, depending on your stove type, but it saves on cooking time.

No more using nonstick cooking sprays as they have a chemical within them that makes the cookware remain sticky and discolor.  Basically you do not need to use any oils or butter to keep food from sticking; they can be primarily used for flavor enhancement if needed.  Cleanup is hot, soapy water and a simple sponge; no scratchy pads, harsh cleansers or most certainly do NOT put the cookware into the dish washer.

Is Calphalon expensive?  Yes and no.  Most definitely yes if you're on a very tight budget, but sales and clearance sales can be found just about anywhere nowadays, especially online.  No if you want a product that will last for years and you're tired of throwing out pans that only last 6 months to a year because they were cheap to buy and made even more cheaply.  If you have a passion for cooking and want cookware that expresses that passion, choose Calphalon.

Above is a photo of my kitchen hanging rack with my new pans, and yes, I have a wishlist for further purchases.

Mary Cokenour

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Snow on the Driveway, Chowder in my Bowl.

All week the weather here in Monticello had been quite steady; cold at night, but sunny, clear and comfortable during the day.  The weather forecast for the weekend initially called for snow showers, but changed to rain showers.  My friend Heidi and I had made plans for today; I was to come down to her home and finally meet her mother Trish and Heidi's brother.  Trish, Heidi and I are friends on Facebook and we can get quite silly at times.  I had just purchased two Calphalon skillets and I had promised Trish that I would let her touch them.  Like I said, we get quite silly at times.

That was the plan until the snow began; first light flurries which didn't worry me too much.  My car doesn't like wet roads, but a light flurry wouldn't hinder her, yes my car is a her, and me.  Then the snow flakes got thicker and fell more heavily; it was sticking to everything and accumulating.  As much as I would have still liked to go to Heidi's, finding myself down in a canyon was not on my game plan, so had to cancel out on her.

With the wind blowing the snow here and there, it looked, and felt if you ventured outside, like a typical day for soup.  Ah, but what kind; a brothy soup would be nice, but a thicker soup would be more comforting I think.  Looking through the pantry, I find cans of whole baby clams which would go great with the shrimp I had defrosted the night before.  I originally was going to make a Thai dish with shrimp for dinner, but the snow just about changed everything  for the day.  So, to make it all better, I ended up making a shrimp and clam chowder chock full of shrimp, clams, potatoes and other yummy ingredients.  I've already had a bowl, and another bowl seems to be calling to me, so let me finish up and answer that call.

Shrimp and Clam Chowder


3 large Yukon gold potatoes, peeled and cut into bite sized pieces
1Tbsp salt
2Tbsp butter
½ cup each diced onion and celery
½ cup shredded carrot
½ cup sliced mushrooms
¼ cup partially cooked, chopped bacon
1 tsp each fine sea salt, ground black pepper and paprika
½ cup flour
1 (10 oz) can whole baby clams; drain, but reserve juice
2 cups milk
1 cup half n’ half
1 Tbsp minced fresh thyme
1 lb medium sized, uncooked shrimp, tails removed


Place potatoes in large pot, cover with water, add one Tbsp salt and cook until fork tender; remove from heat. In another large pot, melt butter on medium-low heat, add onion, celery, and carrot; cook until just beginning to soften. Add mushrooms, bacon, sea salt, black pepper and paprika; cook additional 3 minutes. Add flour and mix until fully incorporated; raise heat to medium and add clam juice, milk and half n’half; cook until bubbles begin to form around edges of pot, about 10 minutes.

Drain potatoes and add with clams, thyme and shrimp to pot, cover and let cook for 10 minutes.

Makes 6 servings.

Garnishes: crumbled bacon, shredded white cheddar cheese or sliced green onions.

Mary Cokenour

Thursday, January 19, 2012

The Delicatessen

Beginning in the 1840’s, Germans began immigrating to the United States; they brought with them many of their preserved, pickled and canned foods, and their family recipes. Delicatessen (also known as “deli”) is a combination of words which roughly translates into “delicacies to eat” or “to eat delicious things”. Within these palaces of eatery, authentic German and/or Americanized versions of foods were offered a variety of sausages (or “wieners”), beef frankfurters, sauerkraut, hamburgers, meat loaf, liverwurst, cold cuts, noodle dishes, dill pickles, herring in cream sauce, lager beer, seltzer water, pretzels (hard and crunchy or the big, doughy New York-style soft pretzels), potato salad, muenster cheese, rolls, pastries, rye and pumpernickel breads.

During the 1890’s to 1920’s, Eastern Europeans of Jewish descent started to flock to the United States, bringing not only their language (Yiddish) and religion, but their own foods and recipes. Kosher and kosher-style delicatessens were established and New Yorkers were introduced to bagels, bialys, smoked salmon and white fish, Matzo and Matzo ball soup, pastrami, corned beef, tongue, borscht, chopped liver, pickled herring and potato pancakes.

When it came to a smorgasbord, the delicatessen was the place to indulge. New York not only personified the concept of the “melting pot” with the variety of ethnic cultures and religions, but also with the food items available to the public. As the United States developed, these cultures moved across the states and introduced the concept of the deli to many an area. In the 1950’s, supermarkets were introduced around the country which offered many of the same items as found in the neighborhood deli. This caused many a deli to close its doors, since they could not compete with the lesser prices a supermarket could charge due to bulk purchasing; but not a complete death.

Growing up, and living in, New York for a good part of my life, I was fortunate enough to experience the neighborhood deli. I miss delis and their uniqueness; the familiarity of the workers behind the counter, the smells of meats and cheeses, the yeastiness of the breads and rolls; it was a complete feast for all the senses.

I can, however, make a mean deli sandwich of my own and here is one of my husband’s favorites.

Roy’s Fave Deli Sandwich


2 slices rye bread
4 Tbsp Thousand Island salad dressing
2 slices Swiss cheese
¼ lb each sliced turkey breast, corned beef and pastrami
1/3 cup cole slaw
Pickle spear
½ cup each potato and macaroni salads


Spread 2 Tbsp of salad dressing on one side of each slice of bread; place one slice of cheese on each slice. Layer on the cold cuts, top with cole slaw, close up sandwich, cut in half; serve with pickle spear and salads.

Serves one.

Mary Cokenour

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Stephanie's Sweet Treats.

Stephanie's Sweet Treats

Owner: Stephanie Hayes
Location: Monticello, Utah
Contact Number: 435-587-3381

Stephanie Hayes is a sweet lady who knows how to make a person smile with her sweet treats. All homemade with natural ingredients and loads of love and passion, Stephanie's stand at the local market is always a sold out spot. Her collection of products includes candies, fudge, brownies, cookies, jams and jellies; but she's not one to be afraid of attempting a new treat.

One of her newest items is the Buckeye candy pictured above; a center loaded with butter and peanut butter and covered in rich chocolate. Smooth and decadent; just one will have you in a complete candy high for the day.

A favorite of mine is her Peanut Brittle, also pictured above. Stephanie uses Spanish peanuts, so the Brittle has a deep peanut flavor which is not lost in the caramelized sugar. The Brittle is not as sweet as store bought, but has an overall satisfying flavor for any sweet tooth.  As you can see from the photo, the brittle is honeycombed, giving it a light, airy texture that doesn't, and here's the really great part, stick to your teeth.

Looking for a special treat to give for a special occasion; give Stephanie a call and get those sweets for your sweet.

Mary Cokenour

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

A Tale of Two Fish Sandwiches.

This is the tale of two seafood companies that provide frozen products to the public; the yellow box of the fisherman versus the blue box of the golden outlined fish.

Gorton's Fish Sandwich Fillets

Inside the yellow box of this fisherman you'll find eight frozen Alaskan Pollack squares (2 3/4" x 2 3/4") at 150 calories each. At 425F they will cook anywhere from 18-22 minutes (mine took 20 minutes) and reduce to a size of 2 1/2" x 2 1/2". The fish is moist and flaky with a mild flavor while the crunchy coating does not overwhelm. You can see the layers of the fish, so when the box says it is a cut fillet, you can see it.

While regular hamburger buns are 3 1/2" round and sandwich buns are 4" round, these little squares would fit better on slider buns which are 2" round. Looking at the picture on the box, a slider bun was most probably used to depict the fish fillet edges extending over the bread.

Van de Kamp's Fish Sandwich Fillets

Inside the blue box with the golden outlined fish at the top you'll find 6 frozen Alaskan Pollack rectangles (4" x 3") at 190 calories each. At 425F they will cook anywhere from 28-30 minutes (mine took 30 minutes) and reduce to a size of 3 3/4" x 2 3/4". Upon taking a bite, you can smell the fish, but it is not easily seen; no flaky layers, it looks minced, but the box states it is a cut fillet. The coating is crunchy, but has an oily sheen and tastes oily; not a pleasant eating experience.

Overall conclusion, while the Gorton's Fish Fillets are smaller than Van de Kamp's, it is greater in taste and value. Sail on with the Gorton's Fisherman, he knows what he's doing.

Mary Cokenour

Monday, January 16, 2012

Someone's Soup is Another's Stew.

Chili, is it a soup or a stew?  It all depends on geographical location, for the most part, and what recipe the cook grew up on.  I am used to chili which is thick and hearty; that's the way I make it, that's the way my family enjoys it. However, I have been many a place where the chili is thinner and called a soup.  Is the soup that different from the stew?  Yes and no, sometimes it is very brothy, sometimes it is thick like a stew, but still called a soup.  Confused?  Welcome to the crowd and enjoy the chili.  

Even though I have a standard recipe that I follow, I have played with it from time to time; substituting ground beef for the sirloin steak pieces, using a different mixture of beans, different chilies.  The absolute best chili so far was when I used ground New Mexico chilies instead of the regular ground chili powder which has six varieties of chilies.

So this is all leading to?  Taco Soup.  Taco Soup?  Yes, Taco Soup and yes, depending on your point of view, it can be considered chili, but it is purposely made brothy, so it is a soup.   For the first time I tried taco soup; it was absolutely fantastic!!  Now here's the funny part, just that day I was going through a Paula Deen cookbook and saw her recipe for taco soup.  I'm not one to believe in coincidence, so I got the message clear...another recipe to play with and it was for taco soup.

As I ate the soup, I consciously considered the ingredients and while I thought it was so close to chili, someone voiced the thought and there was a brief discussion on chili being a soup or not.  Anyway, the next day I read the recipe in Paula's book again and then went online to see what other recipes I could find.  What really amazed me most of all is how many recipe sites had taco soup listed and most of the "cooks" had Paula's recipe listed word for word; yet they listed the recipe as their own "original" recipe.   So I have "cooks" in quotes to show my sarcasm as they aren't real cooks, just copycats who don't have the manners to give credit where credit is due.  Back to the recipe...I didn't want to follow Paula's recipe word for word as the soup I had at the Credit Union was different than hers ingredient wise.  I also didn't see the point of adding a packet of dry ranch salad dressing mix and water; I wanted the soup to taste like tacos, not ranch dressing.  However, I did see it mentioned on some recipes that using dressing from the bottle could give the soup a mild, creamy texture without loading it down with heavy cream and not overpower the overall flavor.  That's an idea I could go with; so while my recipe is not an exact copycat of one particular recipe, it is a mixture of ideas and wouldn't call it a completely original concept.

Ok, enough's the recipe I came up with and it was perfect for the cold, windy weather that invaded our area over the weekend.

Taco Soup


1 lb ground beef (85%), browned, drain excess grease
1 (28 oz) crushed tomatoes
1 (14.5 oz) can diced tomatoes with green chilies
1(14.5 oz) can beef broth
1 (15 oz) can great northern (white) beans
1 (15 oz) can whole black beans
1 (11 oz) can Mexican style whole kernel corn
1 (1.25 oz) packet taco seasoning mix
¼ cup bottled original ranch dressing, not buttermilk


Set 4 qt crock pot on low; spray with nonstick cooking spray. Put in all items from ingredients list; do not drain beans or corn. Cover and cook for 4 hours.

Makes 10 (2 cup) servings.

Mary Cokenour


Chopped fresh cilantro
Avocado slices
Diced red onion
Sour cream
Shredded Mexican cheese blend
Crumbled Queso Fresco cheese
Tortilla chips or strips

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Happy Blogaversary to Food Adventures of a Comfort Cook

One year ago today, the movie "Julie and Julia" inspired me to create this food blog.  Funny to think how often I had had the desire to write a cookbook, but no publisher would consider my work as deserving.  Yet, with this blog, I have done exactly that, written a cookbook online and through a popular media format...the blog.  Within my "cookbook" I have shared many a recipe from my life and explored new cuisines to share with my readers.  The year itself, as with any life, was full of ups and downs, happiness and sadness, gains and losses; there are no regrets and happy memories overshadow any negativity which tried to invade my life.

I increased my own culinary knowledge and potential by adding restaurant and product reviews to my lineup of posts.  While many enjoyed, and found helpful, these reviews, I found that many a coward tried to bash me with anonymous comments.  These cowards, of course, caused me much laughter at their sheer stupidity, so I must thank them for their lack of manners and intelligence.

Another adventure I started a journey on was the world of baking.  I must admit that I have not ever truly enjoyed baking due to the strictness of measuring and preciseness required.  However, by daring to learn I have acquired a new talent.

All in all, I have loved this journey, this series of culinary adventures.  I must however give thanks to those who were my guinea pigs, the many people who were often called upon to try my experiments and were required to give critiques.  I give thanks to all those people who have been reading my blog and hope that they will eventually join the rank of "Follower".  I especially thank my husband Roy who has had to taste, eat and critique every recipe; who has had to duck and cover when complete chaos erupted in the kitchen.  I love you dear and my life is totally complete with you in it.

To celebrate this day, a fine feast was prepared of roast chicken, cornbread stuffing and a steamed vegetable medley; simple and oh so comforting.  I hope you will make it yourself and join in the celebration of "Food Adventures with a Comfort Cook".  Thank you and Bon Appetit'!!!

Roast Chicken with Corn Bread Stuffing


1 (5 lb) chicken
1 Tbsp butter
¼ cup each diced onion, celery and carrots
¼ tsp ground black pepper
2 Tbsp fresh minced parsley
2 ½ cups coarsely crumbled corn bread
1 (14.5 oz) can chicken broth, divided in half
¼ cup olive oil
1 tsp each coarse sea salt, ground black pepper, onion and garlic powders; mix together
2 cups water
1 Tbsp flour


Preheat oven to 350F. Spray roasting pan and rack with nonstick cooking spray.

Wash chicken with cold water and make sure to remove any organs stuffed inside; discard or use for gravy making. Tuck wings over neck opening and skewer skin flap over to close opening and keep wings from over browning; set chicken aside.

In a small skillet, medium-low heat, melt butter and sauté onion, celery and carrots until softened; mix in ¼ teaspoon pepper and the parsley. While vegetables are sautéing, combine corn bread and half can of chicken broth in large bowl; add in softened vegetables and mix thoroughly. Stuff chicken with corn bread mixture and seal opening with skewer; tie legs together with butcher twine. Rub olive oil over all of the chicken and sprinkle seasoning combination all over; place chicken on pan rack (breasts side up). Pour remaining broth and water into roasting pan; place pan in oven and roast chicken for 2 ½ to 3 hours, or until internal temperature reaches 165F and juices run clear.

Remove chicken to platter to rest; pour drippings from pan into small saucepan, set on high heat; whisk in flour and bring to boil. Carve chicken and serve with gravy.

Serves 4-6.

Mary Cokenour

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

How Authentic is this Chinese General?

For dinner the other night, I made General Tso's Chicken over steamed white rice and wondered...who is General Tso anyway; was he a real person?  Not having any books on China's history, it was to the internet I turned for research.  From what I could find, there was a general named Tso Tsung-tang or Zuo Zongtang, not sure why two different names, who lived from 1812 to 1885.  He came from the Hunan Province and was a general during the Qing dynasty.  There is no record of his inventing a recipe named after himself; nor can any living relations now trace back this recipe to him.

Seems that a Taiwanese chef named Peng Chang-kuei (or Peng Jia) made up the recipe in the 1970's.  He opened up a restaurant in New York City and introduced his updated versions of Hunan cuisine, including General Tso's Chicken.  Normally Hunan cuisine is spicy, but not sweet.  Peng Jia altered his original recipe by adding sugar to make it more appealing to American taste buds.  He did open up another restaurant in Taiwan in the 1990's which featured his altered recipes; it failed as the diners were not too keen on the sweetness of many of the dishes.

General Tso's is similar to Sesame Chicken or Crispy Orange Chicken with slight alterations in ingredients and taste; sometimes it is served with sesame seeds, sometimes not; depends on the person making it.  Another difference is the hot peppers; they may be finely diced before addition, or the entire pods can be seen in the dish.  The chicken is cut into bite sized pieces and batter fried; once again, depending on the cook, I have seen the chicken (same for Sesame and Orange) in thin slices and unbattered.  The original version is battered fried chicken and whole hot pepper pods, no sesame seeds and the only other vegetable is broccoli or scallions.  Nowadays you can order General Tso's with pork, shrimp, even tofu and a variety of vegetables will be incorporated into the dish.

General Tso’s Chicken


4 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves, cut into 1” pieces
¼ cup cornstarch
2 large eggs, beaten
1 ½ tsp minced garlic
1 ½ tsp minced ginger
1 cup soy sauce
½ cup rice vinegar (if unavailable, substitute white vinegar)
½ cup sherry
2 tsp sugar
canola or peanut oil (1/2 cup if using Wok; 2 cups if using skillet)
2 dried cayenne peppers, seeded and minced (2, 3 = mild, 4, 5=medium, 6 or more=hot)
1 cup each red bell pepper and carrots, sliced
1 cup snow pea pods or sugar snap pea pods
1 cup broccoli, chopped
white, brown or fried rice

Option: substitute Thai chili paste for the sugar and cayenne peppers; 1 Tbsp=2 peppers


In a large bowl, mix together the chicken, cornstarch and eggs. In a small bowl, mix together the garlic, ginger, soy sauce, vinegar, sherry and sugar.

Heat the oil in a Wok, or large skillet; fry the chicken pieces (7-8 at a time) until crisp (4-6 minutes); drain on paper towels. Discard oil, except for 2 Tbsp; pour in mixture from small bowl plus chicken, cayenne peppers, and vegetables. Mix and cook for 3-4 minutes; until all vegetables are heated through. Serve over rice.

Makes 4-6 servings.

Mary Cokenour

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Sorry Elvis, Your Sandwich is not King for Me.

Now lets get something out of the way before you start trying to post hate comments or emails to me; I love Elvis Presley.  He is the King and there will never, ever be anyone who can top him.  I just don't like his "fried peanut butter and banana sandwich", but with good reason...I don't like bananas.  No, I don't like bananas; as a small child, I would spit them up; I've tried them in cereal, with ice cream, pudding, cake, even bananas foster and have not been able to tolerate the taste.  My husband likes bananas, so buy them for him; when he eats one I will try a bite and can't get it out of my mouth fast enough.  So, if you must hate this post of mine, hate it because of my banana phobia.

The recipe for this sandwich is located on thousands of internet sites, has been featured on culinary based television shows and mentioned in probably every book ever written about Elvis.  So the recipe I'll be posting is nothing original and I am most certainly not claiming it as my own; just another item I'd like to get straight, so thank you, thank you very much...the sandwich has left the kitchen.

Elvis Presley's Grilled Peanut Butter and Banana Sandwich


2 slices of white bread
2 tablespoons of smooth peanut butter
1 small ripe banana mashed
2 tablespoons butter


Spread the peanut butter on one slice of bread and the mashed banana on the other. Press the slices gently together. Melt the butter over low heat in a small frying pan. Place the sandwich in the pan and fry until golden brown on both sides.

Makes one sandwich.

Mary Cokenour

Saturday, January 7, 2012

This Recipe is a Crossdresser.

I was going through one of my many cookbooks (I have enough to fill a 4 shelf bookcase) and came upon a recipe for "Beef Tips".  As I read the ingredient listing, I noticed how similar it was to beef stroganoff, but without the sour cream.  So I got to thinking (that can be a dangerous thing when it comes to cooking) that I have a package of beef cubes, but, don't want stroganoff, just made chili two weeks ago, stew would be nice, but I don't have too many veggies on hand this week.  Alright, lets go with the beef tips idea and play with that; what if I take part of the ingredients from beef stroganoff plus part from pepper steak with onions and create a monster?

The monster ended up being a tasty beast of beef, peppers, onions, mushrooms over egg noodles which sopped up the rich brown sauce. The scent throughout the home was drool making. However, I did do a little more experimenting by adding some sour cream to a cup of the creation...yep, just what I thought it would become; beef stroganoff with peppers. So there you go, how to take a couple of basic recipes and create a classy, sassy impersonator.

Beef Tips over Egg Noodles


3 lbs beef cubes, about 1 inch pieces
3 Tbsp flour
1 large onion; cut into strips, cut strips in half
1 large bell pepper (red, yellow or orange); cut into strips, cut strips in half
1 (8 oz) carton of sliced fresh mushrooms
1 (10.5 oz) can beef broth
2 (10.5 oz) cans cream of mushroom soup
1 Tbsp minced garlic
1 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce
1 Tbsp crushed dry thyme
2 tsps ground black pepper
1 lb cooked extra wide egg noodles


Spray a 6 qt crock pot with nonstick cooking spray; set on low heat. Coat the beef cubes with the flour; layer the beef, onion, bell pepper and mushrooms inside the crock pot.

In a large bowl, mix together the broth, soup, garlic, Worcestershire, thyme and black pepper; pour over ingredients in crock pot. Cover and cook for 8 hours; serve over cooked egg noodles.

Makes 8 servings.

Mary Cokenour

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Rotisserie Chicken from Your Oven.

We've seen the oval shaped containers in the supermarkets, better yet, we've smelled the contents and started to drool. Rotisserie chicken is placed on a spit and rotated in a special oven, so the dripping fat can basically baste and moisturize the chicken. Besides selling the chicken as whole or in pieces, many places will shred the meat, mix it with mayonnaise and sell it as chicken salad at a high price per pound. Is it worth it? Not always; there might not be enough seasoning, or too much; same goes for the mayonnaise; and the extra benefits of veggies is iffy.

Besides the local supermarket, a rotisserie chicken can be done on the home barbeque. Just purchase the rotating spit, set it up, plug it in; yes you'll need an electrical source, and start cooking. Not everyone wants to do this though, but there's another alternative...your own oven.

While the recipe I'm going to post focuses on boneless, skinless chicken breasts, bone in chicken can also be used, but you just have to up the cooking time to 55-60 minutes, or until the internal temperature reaches 165F. Coating the chicken with mayonnaise and covering with foil ensures that the chicken will stay moist inside as well as outside. Yes, light mayonnaise can be used if you're watching the fat content. For the veggies, I use diced onion and celery, but a little shredded carrot or diced bell peppers work too.

So if you're in the mood for rotisserie chicken, don't stress out over where to buy it, or on setting up your barbeque; just make it in the oven and enjoy an easily done meal.

Rotisserie Chicken Salad


6 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves; trimmed of fat
3 Tbsp mayonnaise

Seasoning Mix

2 Tbsp paprika
1 Tbsp onion powder
1 Tbsp garlic powder
1 Tbsp crushed dry thyme
1 tsp ground black pepper
1 tsp fine sea salt
1 ½ Tbsp brown sugar
pinch of ground cayenne pepper

Salad Mix

¼ cup diced red onion
¼ cup diced celery
¼ cup mayonnaise


Preheat oven to 400F; line a roasting pan with aluminum foil and place rack on top of foil.

Mix together seasonings and spread out on large plate. Using a pastry brush, lightly coat both sides of the chicken breasts with the 3 tablespoons of mayonnaise; lightly press both sides of chicken onto seasoning mix. Place chicken on rack; cover pan with aluminum foil. Bake for 30 - 35 minutes, or until chicken reaches an internal temperature of 165F.

Let chicken cool before cutting into one inch pieces. Place in large bowl; add onion, celery and mayonnaise; mix completely. Serve on rolls, breads, inside pita pockets, rolled in tortillas or as the center piece of a green salad.

Makes 6 servings.

Mary Cokenour

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Stouffer's Sautes for Two not Impressive.

A growing trend in the frozen food aisle is "Meals for Two". I'm not sure if this is geared towards young married couples where cooking is still a mystery, or just couples in general who don't feel like cooking or going out to dine. Since it is just my husband and myself, and we like trying out new products, it was decided to give Stouffer's Sautes for Two a try.

The chosen meal was "Grilled Chicken and Asiago Tortelloni" and as you can see from my photo, what is pictured on the package looks quite different from the made at home meal. The tortelloni on the package has a lovely golden egg yolk color, but my photo shows stark white. In fact, there was so much cream sauce, that it drenched all the ingredients in whiteness. Their photo also shows grill marks on the chicken slices, but none of the pieces in my package had any marks. The few mushrooms were lost in creamy whiteness, but the green of the spinach certainly stood out.

I have a problem with one of the ingredients listed on the package - brown sugar. Why would brown sugar be in Alfredo sauce? I believe the brown sugar was probably used to obtain the grill marks on the chicken and make them stand out more. A good grilled piece of chicken doesn't need brown sugar. Then there was the cooking instructions - first step was to put the Alfredo sauce pouch in a bowl and run cold water over it until it thawed. I am perplexed on why gallons of water should be wasted in thawing a sauce pouch, when leaving it in the refrigerator overnight (which I did) would achieve the same goal, and save water. In my opinion, this instruction is one of the stupidest, and most wasteful, I have ever seen.

As the ingredients cooked, the scent of the butter and cheese within the sauce was enticing; it took 15 minutes to come to a completely heated state. The taste however was disappointing; I found it to be bland and too oversauced. A dash of nutmeg and ground black pepper helped it to be a true Alfredo sauce. The chicken had no grill flavor; no marks either, so why should I expect the flavor? The tortelloni was made and cooked very well though, and while the spinach flavor was lost in the cream sauce also, it was a nice touch.

Overall, I would have to give this product a "C" rating; not totally horrid, but not something I would like to spend good money on.

Mary Cokenour

Monday, January 2, 2012

Pizza Dough - There's an App for That.

Now put away those cell phones; I'm talking appetizer, not a networking application. Saturday night, New Year's Eve, we spent with friends Heidi and Sean, their children and another couple. Nothing fancy, just good people getting together to celebrate the end of the old year; and looking forward to lots of laughter. Oh, we laughed and laughed till our sides hurt; it felt great!

Even though it was a small get-together, it was an opportunity to do a little showing off in Heidi's kitchen. No dips or prepackaged appetizers to end the year; I was going to make something yummy to remember. First thing I did was get a 4 quart crock pot of homemade pasta sauce going. Actually, I did that on Friday, so besides having a dipping sauce for my appetizer, I made stuffed shells for dinner that night. No, it wasn't the typical meat sauce I use with stuffed shells, but they came out yummy just the same.

So Saturday rolls around and it was a lazy kind of day. Roy was engrossed in "SkyRim; The Elder Scrolls 5" and I watched reruns of "The Marx Brothers" movies. When it was time to make the appetizer, I was raring to go. I got all the ingredients together in order of preparation; set up the jelly rolls pans and went to work. By now you're wondering, "what the heck are you making anyway?" Thanks for reminding me to tell you...Sicilian Pepperoni Rolls similiar to those served at "Old Chicago".

To get two trays of rolls together, 20 on each, only took about a half hour; they are that easy and quick to make. It takes a lot longer though when someone is carrying one of the trays to the refrigerator and drops it. No Roy, you are not going to be hearing the last of this for a long while. "But it just slipped out of my hands" he says and since I did not see him do it, I can't really say how it happened, but I can imagine. He was doing the Italian accent thing as he carried them and I could picture him carrying the tray one handed like a waiter when suddenly.....all over the floor.

What to do, what to do, since I'm out of pizza dough and off to the store, which was luckily still open, to get a roll of Pillsbury Classic Pizza Dough. It worked out fine and while the Pillsbury dough baked up thinner than my dough, the rolls tasted amazing and the dipping sauce went great with them. There was not one left and Heidi has requested the recipe, so here you go girl.

Sicilian Pepperoni Rolls


12 oz. homemade pizza dough or 1 canister of Pillsbury Classic Pizza Dough
1 cup olive oil
2 Tbsp Italian herbal mix
1 cup Italian cheese mix
1/2 cup diced pepperoni
grated Parmesan cheese


Preheat oven to 425F. Spray a jelly roll pan with nonstick cooking spray.

Lightly flour a wooden board and roll out the dough to a 14"x20" rectangle; mix the olive oil with the herbal mixture and lightly brush the rolled out dough. Sprinkle the cheese and pepperoni over the oiled dough. Starting at the top edge of dough, carefully begin rolling towards the bottom edge; make sure to keep the roll tight; the oil will help seal the roll.

Cut off a little of the far ends of the roll; cut the roll into one inch pieces. Carefully transfer each cut piece to the jelly roll pan, cut side up. Lightly dab the herbal oil mixture, and sprinkle a little grated Parmesan cheese, onto each piece.

Bake for 15-20 minutes; until dough is golden brown. Remove to serving plate and serve with dipping sauce.

Makes 20 pieces.

Mary Cokenour