Saturday, February 25, 2012

Italian Tubular Feasting.

If you think about it, many food items come in a tubular form; examples are hotdogs, bratwurst, taquitos, burritos, rolled crepes. In Italian cuisine, examples would be cannoli and many pastas such as ziti, penne and manicotti. I guess if you were a Freudian psychologist, you could come up with some type of fantastical sexual reasoning behind the use of this form, but I'm not even touching that here.

So lets get down to the main focus of this blog post...Manicotti; a large tubular form of pasta, usually stuffed with cheeses, meats, veggies or a combination; covered in sauce and cheese, baked in the oven till tender. Hungry yet? Manicotti can be a bit difficult to make as you have to be careful to not split the pasta when stuffing it. Package directions say to cook until tender, but as with shells, I pull them out of the boiling water when they are al dente. That way they are still a little firm, but flexible enough to stuff without breaking them open; they'll become tender after the baking process is done.

Ok, lets get to the recipe and directions for this yummy meal.

Baked Manicotti


1 (8 oz) package dried manicotti (depending on the brand, there will be 12-14 pieces)
3 lbs ricotta cheese
2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese, divided in half
1 cup shredded provolone cheese
1 cup grated Romano cheese
1/2 cup mixture of minced fresh herbs (oregano, parsley, basil and thyme)
3 eggs, beaten
1 tsp ground black pepper
6 cups homemade meat sauce

Note: you can add 1 cup of crumbled, cooked meat such as Italian sausage, or chopped raw spinach to the mixture.


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

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

Preheat oven to 350F; spray a 4 qt baking dish with nonstick baking spray; spread 3 cups of sauce over bottom of dish. Use a teaspoon or piping bag to fill each tube; place into the baking dish. Spoon remaining 3 cups of sauce over them; evenly spread the remaining mozzarella cheese over the manicotti; cover with aluminum foil.

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

Makes 6-7 servings.

Mary Cokenour

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Spur of the Moment Pizza

French Bread Pizza can be found easily in the pizza section of the frozen food aisle; but making it from scratch is just as easy. Honestly though, wouldn't you rather make it yourself? The frozen product has preservatives, you have to preheat the oven, let it bake for 20 minutes and it's usually an unsatisfactory product. The local Maverik (gas station/convenience store) puts out a pretty good French bread pizza, but it goes very quickly. I like to have it when I am in the mood for pizza, don't have the dough handy, but I want it now! To satisfy my craving, I finally decided to just make it myself.

Basically there are three main ingredients: loaf of the wide French bread, a block of mozzarella cheese and pizza sauce. Cut the loaf in half to create two smaller loaves; then cut these in half through the inside. Place them crust side down on a large jelly roll pan.

Spoon sauce over the interior side of the bread; I use about 1/3 of a cup, but I like a lot of sauce on my pizza. I try to use my homemade pasta sauce, but if that's not handy, then I'll use Contadina's Pizza Squeeze sauce. Now cut slices of the mozzarella, about 1/8" thick and lie them side by side until the bread is covered.  I find the sliced cheese melts better and I like the gooey texture it creates on the bread.

Bake in a preheated 425F oven, center rack, for about 12-15 minutes.  Cut into thirds for easier picking up and eating, or just go for broke!  This will make four French bread pizzas.

Of course you can add other ingredients - meats, veggies, whatever you like, but make sure the meats are cooked thoroughly before using.  Also, mix the meats or veggies with shredded mozzarella cheese instead; that way the cheese will melt all around the pieces.

Whether you are making this for yourself, other adults or children; have fun with it!

Mary Cokenour

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Going Up to the Sunset Grill

The Sunset Grill

900 North Main Street
(Highway 191, north end of town)
Moab, Utah 84532

Phone: 435-259-7146


The Sunset Grill is the former home of Charlie Steen, who put Moab, Utah on the map when he found uranium.  The restaurant opened in 1993, serving casual fine dining to locals and tourists alike.  To reach the restaurant itself, prepare yourself for a winding climb 250 feet up into the Red Rocks.  From its location, one can see for miles the city of Moab and the stunning Red Rocks; at night, the stars shine brightly overhead.

My husband and I found ourselves at The Sunset Grill for Valentine's Day; it was a wonderful choice.  We were warmly greeted by the hostess and our waitress was a charming young lady.  We were seated at the topmost dining area, so were able to see the city lights of Moab from our table.

We began the evening with a popular appetizer, Artichoke Gratin Baguettes; diced artichoke in a rich cheesy mixture, topped with mozzarella cheese, spread onto French bread slices and grilled; they are served with a marinara sauce.  I say popular as it seems that almost every couple ordered this appetizer and understandably; it was absolutely decadent and delicious.

For a main course, I had the Prime Rib; a Texas style cut that was cooked medium-rare, tender, juicy and flavorful. The baked potato was fluffy and the steamed vegetables still had a crisp texture.

Roy chose one of the Valentine's Day special; Bacon Wrapped Filet Mignon with a Balsamic Peppercorn Sauce; I had a taste and wished I had ordered it also. The beef was so tender and juicy; the sauce was sweet, tart and tangy with a hint of the peppercorns; just perfect.

The main entrees were not small in portion, so we had to forego regrets though.

The Sunset Grill has a warm, welcoming atmosphere and the staff reflect this well; no pretentious attitudes here. Whether it's for a special occasion or just a dinner out; dress fancy if you like, but jeans and a nice shirt would do just as well; The Sunset Grill will make your night. Better make reservations!

Mary Cokenour

Sunset Grill on Urbanspoon

Sunset Grill on Restaurantica

Saturday, February 18, 2012

The Legend of the Chipotle.

It is said that long ago there once was a Jalapeno who lived alone in the fields west of the Rio Grande. The Jalapeno kept to itself, coming into the nearby town for supplies such as herbs and spices, before returning to its resting place. The townsfolk grew curious, none could find its home; rumors of Jalapeno magic and tales of hidden treasures were told. The townsfolk tried to question the Jalapeno, but it would not speak and came into town less and less.
One day a sickness took the town, however the Jalapeno remained unaffected. The people feared a curse upon them, blaming the Jalapeno and seeking vengeance upon it.  As the Jalapeno tried to leave the town, they surrounded it and bound the Jalapeno to a Ribeye steak. Slowly they roasted it over a pit of mesquite embers, till its skin blackened and burned. Not once did it scream nor utter a single sound, that is until it began to blacken, then some say the Jalapeno laughed.

The people say that on that night a curse was truly laid upon the town. The vengeful spirit of the Jalapeno, the natives call a Chipotle, haunts the land.  Any who dare to challenge the spirit of the Chipotle will burn, burn from the inside out.  This, my friends, this is the legend of the Chipotle.


Now the above is a story that my husband Roy made up after he had eaten a roasted jalapeno, called a chipotle, at Tequila's.   He felt it stirring in his stomach and had a deep appreciation for the burn.  More so the next morning when I could hear him singing "Burning Ring of Fire" while in the bathroom.  Enough about that.

Roasting vegetables such as peppers is not difficult; however you can find chipotle in adobo sauce in any international section of a supermarket.

The basic methods are to first make sure the peppers being used are firm to the touch; if soft, they are old. If the stove is gas, turn the burners on low and place the peppers directly on top. Use tongs to turn the peppers as the skin blackens. The peppers can also be blackened on a barbeque grill, or under the broiler. Once blackened on all sides, place the peppers in a paper bag and seal the bag; this will cause a steaming process. Once the peppers are warm to the touch, the skin will easily peel off, and the seeds can be removed. Chop, dice, slice up the peppers for salads, dressings, sauces, or added to a recipe.

Mary Cokenour

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Flatbread - New York vs. The Keebler Elves

Flatbread is simply unleavened bread and almost every culture has some type.  Examples of soft flatbread are Pita (Greece, Arabia) and Tortilla (Mexico); crispy would be the Hebrew Matzo; however, it is not unusual to see the soft types baked or fried to compliment a recipe.  Is Flatbread healthier?  While it is less fattening, it contains very little in nutrition value; unless it has been made from a whole grain such as wheat. 

While Flatbreads are often used for sandwich making, baking or frying pieces into "chips" or crackers makes for a tasty and quick snack.  Herbs, spices and cheeses can be incorporated into the dough giving extra flavor for eating alone, or along with a topping (softened cheese, salsa, dips).

New York Flatbreads

New York Flatbreads come in many flavors: Sesame Seed, Garlic, Pumpernickel, Everything, Honey Cinnamon and Roasted Vegetable to name a few. They're an all natural ingredient, extra thin and crispy flatbread made from wheat flour. Each flatbread is cholesterol free, 1.5 grams of fat, 7 grams of carbs and 50 calories; the size is equal to about 3-4 average boxed crackers.

Eaten alone, these flatbreads are full of flavor. They tend to crack easily if using a spread that is thick such as regular cream cheese, cold butter or cheese spread. Either allow the spread to come to room temperature before using, or use an already cremier version such as dips, whipped cream cheese, whipped butter or one of the softer versions of cheese spreads available in the market.

Town House Flatbread Crips


This product is part of the Kelloggs family and made by those little elves that live in a tree, the Keebler Elves. The label on the box is a bit redundant, "Flatbread Crisps Crackers"; yes, flatbread becomes crisp when oven baked and has the consistency of crackers; just like Matzo. These however are denser and harder, so expect your mouth to be doing some exercise when eating them.

Six crackers are cholesterol free, 2 grams of fat,12 grams of carbs and 70 calories; they contain wheat and rice flours, and soy products. There are two flavors available: Italian Herb and Sea Salt-Olive Oil. I tried the Italian Herb - using regular cream cheese, the cracker held together while spreading the cheese; the herb flavor came through strongly and balanced out well with the cream cheese.

Overall I enjoyed both products; determining which to use depends on if I'm looking for thin and crispy, or dense and crunchy; also if I'm using any spreads or dips. Try both and see what fits your taste buds.

Mary Cokenour

Friday, February 10, 2012

PF Chang's Mandarin Style Goes Frozen.

PF Chang's


The first PF Chang's China Bistro opened in 1992 in Scottsdale, Arizona and now has over 200 locations worldwide. In one episode of  "Gene Simmons Family Jewels", his daughter goes on a date to one of the restaurants; which makes me ask, "What makes this restaurant so special, it created meals to sell in the frozen food aisle?" Something tells me it's because it is so popular with celebrities. I've never eaten in one of their locations, but understand that it is Mandarin cuisine which is the Chinese staple for the West coast.

If you've read my blog before, and why shouldn't you have, you know I'm from the East coast, so Cantonese is what I enjoy. Also, that one of my very favorite dishes is Chow Fun (Ho Fun). So when I saw a commercial for PF Chang's new Meals for Two containing noodles, and Chow Fun was one of the noodle dishes; I had to try it. Remember, when I go to Chinese restaurants here in the Southwest and ask for Chow Fun, I usually get a strange look from the waiter, or they serve me lo mein.

Cooking instructions are pretty simple; put all ingredients into a skillet, turn heat to medium-high, cover, stir occasionally, and within eleven minutes your meal will be done. After eleven minutes though, my little nests of noodles were still in a semi-frozen state and no amount of mixing separated them. So the cover was back on again and I gave it another four minutes; the noodles separated and became coated in the sauce.

This meal was called "Pepper Steak with Chow Fun Noodles"; the steak pieces were tender and it was loaded with chopped yellow and red bell peppers and onions. The sauce was dark, rich and a surprising medium spice heat which you don't expect in pepper steak. The noodles were a little disappointing; they took longer to cook than the directions called for and they were chewy. However, it was the closest to Chow Fun that I have had out here.

PF Chang's frozen meals run from $6.99 to $9.99 depending on the store you buy it from. Would I buy this meal again? The answer is yes, this is one product I'm willing to give a second chance to. Since I know what to expect when cooking it, I'll adjust the cooking time further to make sure the noodles come out better.

Mary Cokenour

Monday, February 6, 2012

Not All Chili Sauce is Red.

You've seen the Heinz Chili Sauce bottle in the condiment aisle of every supermarket; it might even be a staple in your own home cooking. Its base ingredient is tomatoes and the thickness of the sauce makes it a good enhancement for soups, stews, barbeque sauces and marinades.

However, when dealing with Asian cuisine, tomatoes are not high on the list of ingredients, if at all. The sauces tend to be thin to medium thickness and colors range from yellowish to a deep brown. Seeing many of the ingredients such as garlic and hot peppers lets one know what may be in store for the taste buds.

Thai Chili Sauce is a versatile condiment that can be used for dipping cooked foods into or as a marinade before cooking, mainly grilling. It awakens four tastes within the mouth: sweet, sour, spicy and salty; basically enhancing a food four ways.

Thai Chili Sauce


1/2 cup rice vinegar (if not available, use white wine vinegar)
¼ cup sugar
½ cup water
¼ cup fish sauce (if not available, use light soy sauce)
2 Tbsp soy sauce
1 Tbsp minced garlic
dried hot pepper flakes (1 tsp=mild, 2 tsp=medium, 1 Tbsp=hot)
2 Tbsp corn starch


Mix together all ingredients, except corn starch, in a small sauce pan and bring to boil over high heat. Reduce heat to medium and continue to cook until liquid reduces by half.

Reduce heat to low; whisk in corn starch; continue to cook for 2 minutes to allow sauce to thicken..

Makes about ¾ cup.

When frying foods, use Panko (Japanese bread crumbs) as it holds onto sauces without losing its crunchy texture.

Cut up chicken, pork, vegetables or firm fish like cod or halibut no larger than two inches. Seafood such as shrimp, oysters, clams and scallops can be fried whole.


1/2 cup flour
1/2 cup corn starch
1 tsp salt
2 large eggs, beaten
2 cups Panko
2-3 cups canola or peanut oil for frying
1 lb cut up food items


Prepare dredging station; bowl one is the flour, corn starch and salt; bowl two is the beaten eggs; bowl three is the Panko.

Heat oil on medium-high heat; amount is determined by what kind of pan or skillet being used for frying; oil should be 1 1/2 to 2 inches deep.

Dredge food into bowl one, shake off excess before coating with egg; thoroughly coat with Panko. When oil is ready (water drops will sizzle), carefully place 6 to 8 pieces in the oil. Cooking time will depend on what foods are being used; chicken takes about 3-4 minutes. Drain on paper towels and repeat until all food is cooked.

The fried foods can be served with a bowl of the Thai Chili Sauce on the side and dipped at your leisure.

- OR -

You can dip the food into the sauce and serve it up on pieces of lettuce and make lettuce wraps. By the way, the sauce is so good, you might even consider using it as an Asian style salad dressing.

However you serve it up, you'll make a great impression.

Mary Cokenour

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Fattboyz Grillin' kicks out the Old Tymer.

Fattboyz Grillin

733 South Main Street
Blanding, UT, 84511

(435) 678-3777

Facebook Link:

On December 26, 2011, Fattboyz Grillin officially opened at its new location, the former Old Tymer restaurant. First, let me inform you that while the Old Tymer sign is still displayed outside, that will be taken down in due time. Don't bypass that location any longer for Fattboyz has taken it over and are serving up awesome barbeque.

The interior of the building is still the same decor and that will be changing also. The bar area is still going to be a bar - a dessert bar! Unfortunately, Blanding is a dry town, so alcohol cannot be served, but don't pass Fattboyz over on that account; you want to go there for the food. The majority of the menu items are now housemade due to the fact that a larger kitchen facility is available with the take over of the restaurant.

For an appetizer, we ordered onion rings; now don't go by the photo on the amount served. My friend and I lost our heads and drove into those rings before I could take a photo. Even though the rings are purchased from an outside source, the onions were tender and sweet while the batter was crispy with a slight smoky flavor. They came with the infamous "fry sauce" which is a Utah thing, but the rings were tasty with or without the sauce.

Fattboyz has a different lunch special daily costing around $5.

Saturday's special was a cheeseburger loaded down with veggies and a mountain of fries. My friend had that and ended up wishing for enough room in her stomach to have another. It was that good!

Fattboyz has an extended salad bar with many choices available. Whether you choose the one trip for $5.99 or the all-you-can eat dinner for $9.99; you will not be disappointed by their salad bar. Also, with the sandwich and burger items, the choice is 2 sides or one trip to the salad bar. As much as I like the sides, that salad bar is worth foregoing the fries.

Now as much as I like Reed's barbequed ribs, I believe my new favorite is his BBQ Chicken Sandwich. The sauce is sweet, tangy and smoky; the chicken was not swimming in it, so you could get a full taste of the chicken. I don't know what Reed does to the chicken, but it was tender and juicy and oh so delicious...just looking at the photo is making me start to drool for another one.

When you go to Fattboyz Grillin, expect friendly service and a happy atmosphere. Need a party place for a special event, they can do that for you too. Remember, when you are traveling through Blanding, Utah and feeling hungry, you want to stop at Fattboyz and get your grub on. Ignore that Old Tymer sign, there's a new sheriff cooking inside and his name is Reed Sampson.

Mary Cokenour

UPDATE: Reed Sampson has announced plans to expand to Monticello, Utah by opening up a second Fattboyz Grillin on Center Street, located across from the new Maverik Station. The grand opening is scheduled for March 16, 2012.

Fattboyz Grillin on Urbanspoon

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Yoplait Light - To Crunch or Not to Crunch.

Yoplait Light with Granola


Yoplait Light is a blended yogurt which averages 100 calories per serving. While there are many fruit flavored yogurts to choose from, there are also enticing names such as Raspberry Cheesecake and Key Lime Pie. Unfortunately, while you may find bits of fruit in these dessert named yogurts, there won't be any bits of the actual cake or pie. While smooth and creamy in texture, lets be honest, yogurt is boring, so Yoplait decided to make it more interesting.

Yoplait Light with Granola comes in two packs of strawberry, cherry, peach or blueberry. Each serving has two parts to it, the lower plastic cup being the yogurt (fruit blend on the bottom with plain yogurt on top of the cup) and a second plastic cup section containing the granola. Just pour the granola into the yogurt section, mix and enjoy a crunchy mouthful of fruity goodness. The calories do jump from the average 100 to 170-190 per serving, as do the carbs from 14-19 grams to a whopping 35 grams

The prices also take a jump; where you could buy two containers of regular strawberry Yoplait Light from 50 to 99 cents each; adding the granola ups the price from $2.50 a package and maybe more.

My overall opinion is, nice concept Yoplait, but the costs doesn't justify the effect. If you need some crunch in your yogurt, save by buying a package of granola and adding a spoonful or two yourself. Worried about the carbs? Crushed peanuts or some type of nut will give you the crunch you want while keeping the carb count down.

Mary Cokenour