Saturday, March 31, 2012

Hunny! Make Me a Snack...Please?

So the conversation goes on Sunday, March 24th:

Roy: I'm hungry, but not alot hungry, just a little hungry.
Me: There's plenty of leftovers in the fridge, go heat something up.
Roy: I don't want anything big, just a snack.
Me: So just heat up a small portion.
Roy: What do we have again?
Me: *sigh* Chicken Tortellini Soup, Veal Parmagiana and the Venison Shepherd's Pie.
Roy: That's too much information, I can't deal. Do we have any mini quiches left?
Me: No; what do you mean you can't deal? Just pick something and heat it up.
Roy: Can't you do it for me? *pathetic pouty look*
Me: *bigger sigh* You are so lucky that I love you.

...and off to the kitchen I went; yeah, I'm a sucker when it comes to my hubby. Nine years together and our friends still tell us that we're "poster children for a truly real, happy marriage".

Opening the fridge door, the first container I spy is the Venison Shepherd's Pie and I posted that recipe here on March 20th. I also spotted a container of Pillsbury Grands biscuits and the image developed in my mind. I do that with many recipes I come up with, picture the ingredients in my mind, putting them together, even the taste comes through. Weird I know, but it works.

There are eight biscuits in the container and once separated in half, I now have 16. Pressing them into muffin tins, I formed little biscuit cups, or as I like to call them...baskets. Carefully I removed the mashed potato topping from a section of the Shepherd's Pie; spooned about a tablespoon and a half of the filling into each "basket". I then pressed a tablespoon of mashed potato over each filling. While I was doing all this, the oven was preheating to 350F and was ready for baking once I was done with the muffin tins. Baking took 20 minutes for the biscuits to brown perfectly and the filling to be warmed all the way through.

...and here you are, "Shepherd's Pie Baskets". Little hand held snacks, or use a fork, either way they are satisfying and tasty. Enjoy!

Mary Cokenour

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Miguel's Baja Grill Serves it Up Fresh.

Miguel's Baja Grill

51 North Main Street
Moab, Utah, 84532



After climbing and hiking around Arches National Park, a good meal in a relaxing atmosphere is most welcome. Miguel's Baja Grill may be small in size, but big on taste; based upon the cuisine of Baja California Sur (one of the Mexican States) Our waitress, Rafaela, was all smiles, welcoming and very helpful with the menu questions.

The Salsa was a type we had not tasted before; the taste of lime and cilantro was predominant which enhanced the flavor of the chunky tomatoes and diced onions; heat was medium.

The Guacamole was a chunky mixture of avocado, onion and tomatoes; sprinkling a little salt over it all helped to enhance the flavors.

An appetizer of Chicken Flautas started off this dinner adventure. Tortillas were tightly wrapped around slices of tender chicken, deep fried and served with what could only be described as a salad on top. Taking a bite of flauta with a bit of the salad was a taste sensation and fun to eat.

My husband had Steak Tampiquena for his main course; a nicely seasoned flatiron steak which is grilled; served with two chicken flautas (what can I say, they were good) and an enchilada. He chose mole sauce for the enchilada; however I did not care for it as the chocolate flavor was too overwhelming for me.

I enjoy Baja Fish Tacos, so definitely ordered that dish when I spied it on the menu. It must be popular, as I kept hearing people around me ordering it also. The batter on the deep fried Mahi Mahi was light and the fish was flaky. The "special sauce" served with it tasted like buttermilk ranch dressing, so I ignored it. Instead I used the shredded cabbage, salsa and sour cream; definitely yummy.

Miguel's Baja Grill opens for dinner only at 5pm; we arrived at 5:45; only a few tables were still open. By the time we left, it was packed and there was a waiting list; tourists and locals alike know a good place.  If you're looking for "not run of the mill" Mexican cuisine, try Miguel's.

Mary Cokenour

Miguel's Baja Grill on Urbanspoon

Miguel's Baja Grill on Restaurantica

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Feeling Welcomed at Iron Horse Pizza.

Iron Horse Pizza

400 S. Camino Del Rio, Unit B
Durango, CO, 81301

(970) 259-9089


When we first entered Iron Horse, we were welcomed by Ryan; a very friendly and personable man. We later learned that he originally came from Florida, lived in a primarily Greek area and brought many of the recipes and cooking techniques with him to Iron Horse.

Iron Horse looks like a typical small restaurant, but while red or green diamond patterned tablecloths remind you of a Italian pizzeria, the murals on the wall speak of the Southwest. There is a patio area for outside seating, but what we noticed inside and out was that everyone was laughing, talking and having a good time. The atmosphere at Iron Horse emits good feeling and no one was fighting it.

The menu contains items such as Subs, Gyros, Stromboli, Calzones, Pasta and most especially, Pizza - Neapolitan (round) and Sicilian (square). There is also an extensive salad bar which you can order slices of pizzas with or without, or as a side. I wished I had read the menu a bit more carefully before ordering, as I would have certainly gotten the Sicilian, but we ended up ordering Gyros.

The Greek Gyro is loaded...loaded with thin slices of a beef and lamb mixture, freshly diced tomatoes, sliced onions, delicious gobs of feta cheese and a fabulous tzatziki sauce. Make sure to have plenty of napkins for the sauce runneth over, but is oh so yummy...fresh and delicious are the key words for this and....

the Chicken Gyro. The same ingredients as the Greek Gyro except for large slices of tender and juicy chicken. Oh, and the pita bread for both were warm and tender; delicious bread pillows indeed!

Definitely hit up Iron Horse Pizza if traveling through Durango, Colorado and can't decide where to eat; you will not regret the decision!

They do have specials and the current one we saw advertised was called "Four Corners Family Pizza Special", $35 for 6 sourdough knots, large bowl of salad, 14 inch pizza up to 4 toppings, 4 soft drinks or a 2 liter bottle - take out or dine in.  Save $15 off regular prices.

Mary Cokenour

Iron Horse Pizza on Urbanspoon

Friday, March 23, 2012

Getting to the Greek.

While browsing at, I found that they were having a clearance sale on many cookbooks.   I had already decided that I needed to expand my knowledge base on certain cuisines, namely Thai, Indian and Mediterranean, so this was perfect.  I read reviews on many books and finally chose three which arrived on Wednesday of this week.

My first attempt is a dish I have renamed "Greek Chicken" or more commonly known as Lemon Garlic Chicken.  Why the name change?  Basically I changed a few aspects of the recipe, making it my own of course, and the name seemed to fit the concept better.  In the book, a Greek salad was used as a side course; I took out the lettuce component and ...well you see.

In case you don't know what it means to "butterfly", after cutting the chicken into two sections, turn each piece "skin side" down. Lightly run a sharp knife through the thickest part, but be careful not to cut all the way through. Carefully open it up, so it becomes thinner, larger piece of chicken.

For the tomatoes, make sure they are firm and meaty; a tomato with a lot of pulp just won't go very well with the dish.

Greek Chicken


4 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves
3/4 cup olive oil
1 Tbsp minced garlic
1 tsp each crushed dried oregano, rosemary, basil, thyme and marjoram
3 Tbsp lemon juice


2 firm, large sized tomatoes, cut each into 10 wedges
4 Tbsp sliced black olives
4 Tbsp crumbled feta cheese


Trim fat off chicken, cut each piece in half (shortways) and butterfly open. Place in plastic resealable bag, add olive oil, herbs and lemon juice; move chicken around to thoroughly coat. Place bag in refrigerator for 8 hours.

When ready to cook, heat a large nonstick skillet on medium-high heat; place chicken in skillet and cook each side for 7-9 minutes. Chicken will caramelize and juices will run clear.

Plate two pieces of chicken; place four wedges of tomato around chicken and one in center, scatter one tablespoon each of olives and cheese over chicken and tomatoes.

Makes 4 servings.

Mary Cokenour

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Chicken Soup for What Ails You.

My dear friend Heidi just had a little minor surgery, but unfortunately developed a slight cold afterwards. You know what they say about hospitals though; you're oft to catch something from there that you didn't have when you went in.

I've made her a chicken soup before, using egg noodles, but I wanted her to have something a bit more special. She deserves it for all the pain from the surgery anyway. So here's the recipe for my Chicken Tortellini Soup.

Chicken Tortellini Soup


2 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves
1 tsp salt
1-32 oz can of chicken broth (low sodium)
2 cups water (if using dried pasta, increase to 4 cups)
½ cup each diced onions, celery and red bell pepper
1 cup frozen crinkle cut carrots, thawed to room temperature
¼ tsp ground black pepper
1 tsp crushed, dried thyme leaves
½ tsp paprika
1 tsp crushed, dried marjoram leaves
1 lb package of either frozen or dried cheese tortellini


Place the chicken in a small pan, sprinkle on the salt and cover with water; on high heat, let the chicken cook for 7 minutes. Remove from pan, rinse with cold water and dice up the chicken; set aside. If chicken is slightly undercooked, it will finish cooking in skillet later on.

In a large stock pot, combine broth, water, onions, celery, bell pepper, carrots, black pepper and thyme; cook for 20 minutes on medium heat. Raise heat to high and bring to a rolling boil.

While waiting for broth to boil, place diced chicken in a large skillet, over high heat and add paprika and marjoram leaves; cook for 2 minutes, more if slightly undercooked from before. Add the tortellini to the now boiling broth; if frozen, cook 7 minutes; if dried, cook 11 minutes. Add the chicken and let cook another two minutes.

Makes 6 servings.

Mary Cokenour

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Shepherd's Pie Goes Wild Game.

Having ground venison(deer) in the freezer, I wanted to do more than just make burgers, meatloaf or a meat sauce for pasta; but what? I had not made Shepherd's or Cottage Pie in a long while and the thought of mashed potatoes with meat was too tempting.

Normally, a
traditional Shepherd's Pie
is made with ground lamb; if it's made with ground beef, that is called Cottage Pie. Now why would I call this dish with venison Shepherd's Pie; simply it's based on taste. Lamb has a strong, gamey flavor even though it is an animal basically raised for its wool and meat. Venison, on the other hand, is a creature hunted in the wild; with a strong, gamey flavor. Yes, it's convoluted thinking, but I know for a fact the solution is a great tasting meal.

One thing I knew for sure, to smooth out the flavor of the venison, I needed to marinade it overnight. I placed one pound of the ground meat in a plastic container and added two tablespoons of red wine vinegar, 1/4 teaspoon each of salt and ground black pepper and mixed it thoroughly. Sealing up the container, I placed it in the refrigerator until I would use it the next day.

In a large skillet, I began browning the meat over medium-high heat. After a couple of minutes, I added in one tablespoon of Worcester sauce and 1/2 teaspoon of onion powder; mixed thoroughly and let it cook until no more redness in color showed.

Now in a large mixing bowl, there was already waiting 1 and 1/2 cups of a pea and diced carrot mixture, a 1/2 cup of sliced mushrooms and 1/2 cup of beef broth. Of course I already had the mashed potato topping waiting for its grand entrance. Here's how to make that just in case you haven't followed the link to Shepherd's Pie:

The topping:

6 large potatoes, peeled and cut up
4Tbsp butter
1/2 cup milk
6 Tbsp grated parmesan cheese
1/2 tsp ground black pepper

Boil the potatoes in salted water until tender. Drain and mash the potatoes, add butter, milk, grated cheese and pepper to the potatoes.

Preheating the oven to 375F, I sprayed a 2 quart casserole dish with nonstick spray. First I spooned in the venison filling, then spread the mashed potatoes over the filling; finishing with the sprinkling of paprika over the topping. 40 minutes later it was ready to eat.

The ground venison had the taste of fine steak with the underlying flavor of red wine; the vegetables were tender, not mushy; the mashed potatoes were smooth with a buttery, cheesy flavor. The scent however was heady with a mixture of meat, potato, cheese and wine; you knew what you were in for and you wanted it.

Don't be afraid to try out wild game such as venison. Begin with a simple recipe, such as one of the many recipes I've posted on this blog concerning venison and elk. You will be surprised how easy and flavorful it is.

Mary Cokenour

Monday, March 19, 2012

Winter's Last Hurrah.

Crazy weather here in Monticello; after having temperatures reaching to almost 70 degrees, it is now windy, cold and snowing. We're expecting about 3 to 4 inches tonight and then the temperatures will be going back up into the 60's.

With the spring like weather last week, I was planning out my vegetable and herbal gardens; making lists of plants to buy, soils, etc. Suddenly Mother Nature decides to slap us in the face with another dose of winter; sort of letting us know that she wasn't finished with that season just yet.

While I had roasted some chicken breasts to use to add into leafy salads; the idea of having soup popped into my mind. Not just any soup though, I wanted a chowder; thick, hearty, stick to the ribs chowder. There is something about soup, but chowder especially, that makes one feel so warm and comfortable when it is cold outside. A picture enters the mind of sitting in front of a lit fireplace, blanket wrapped around the shoulders, sitting in a rocking chair and cradling a bowl of chowder.

Now I usually have biscuits as an accompaniment for chowder, but this time I used one as a centerpiece in my bowl. A nice grind of freshly cracked black pepper over the biscuit and chowder was the final touch to perfect comfort.

Chicken Corn Chowder


2 lbs boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1/8 tsp salt
¼ tsp paprika and ground black pepper
4 large potatoes, peeled and cubed
2 carrots, peeled and large diced
2 stalks celery, large diced
1 small onion, diced
6 Tbsp butter
4 Tbsp flour
3 cups milk
2 cups cooked whole kernel corn
2 hardboiled eggs, diced


Preheat oven to 350F; spray roasting pan with nonstick spray. Season chicken with the salt, black pepper and paprika; roast for 15-20 minutes; juices in chicken will run clear. Remove and cut into cubes. While chicken is roasting, place potatoes, carrots and celery in a large pot, cover with salted water; cook on high heat until potatoes are fork tender. Drain, but retain 1 cup of water.

In the large pot, melt butter on medium-high heat, add onion and cook for 5 minutes; add in flour and mix thoroughly. Continue to cook for another 5 minutes, stirring to make sure the flour is well incorporated. Add in milk, retained water and corn; bring to a boil, stir and continue to cook for 10 minutes. Mix in diced eggs and serve.

Makes 6 servings.

Mary Cokenour

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Coffeebark is Energizing Sweetness.


332 Summit Avenue
Center City, MN

(651) 335-0189


While on Facebook, an advertisement came up on the sidebar for Coffeebark and I was curious. I clicked on the page and was presented with details about a candy which contained three classic food groups, ok, flavors: chocolate, toffee and coffee. Now I was even more curious and I tried ordering a sample through the link available. I know it was me, but I had some difficulty getting the ordering done through Facebook, so I went to Coffeebark's homepage instead.

Besides the sample size, you can also order 1/4 lb, 1/2 lb, 1 lb or bulk sizes of the regular or decaf. I decided to order the "Why Not" or 1/4 lb bags of both; wanted to give it a good try and let others take a nibble too.

After opening my Priority Mail box, I put the packages to my face and inhaled; oh my, the coffee scent was enticing. Opening the packages, the scent becomes more intense, sort of like when you open that vacuum sealed package of fresh, roasted coffee and get that first whiff.   The crushed coffee layer on the decaf is slightly lighter in color and less bitter than the regular, but that is where the differences ends.  The toffee is nicely sweet and balances with the bitterness of the coffee; the chocolate keeps the layers together.  Actually the chocolate gets a bit lost between the flavors of the toffee and coffee, but as you're eating the candy, you simply don't care.

Here's the warning, if strong coffee effects you, eat the regular Coffeebark sparingly, or stick to the decaf.  I did get a slight headache after eating the regular Coffeebark, but I knew I would, since that happens when I eat regular chocolate covered coffee beans.   That's the breaks when trying out products, but I've no regrets on this one.

Basically, if you enjoy coffee or just want to try a new type of candy treat, then go to Coffeebark's website and order a sample; you'll be back for more.

Mary Cokenour

Monday, March 12, 2012

Wok It!

Recently I purchased a new Calphalon Wok, and being in the mood for Chinese food, well how could I deny my Wok? I have to say that not one of my new Calphalon purchases has disappointed yet. Food cooks easily, without much addition of butter or oil, and slides out just as easily, but would my Wok stand up to my expectations? Oh yes it did!

Chinese Beef with Broccoli


1 lb sliced round steak, ¼ inch thickness
1 lb broccoli florets, cut apart
2 Tbsp sesame oil (substitute canola or peanut oil if not available)
1 tsp minced garlic
1/8 tsp ground black pepper
1 tsp cornstarch, dissolved in 1 Tbsp water


1 tsp soy sauce
1 tsp Chinese rice wine (substitute dry sherry if not available)
1/2 tsp cornstarch
1/4 tsp ground ginger


2 Tbsp oyster sauce
1 tsp Chinese rice wine (substitute dry sherry if not available)
1 Tbsp soy sauce
1/4 cup beef broth


Mix together the ingredients listed under Marinade; pour over beef, mix and refrigerate for 15 minutes. In a small bowl, mix together ingredients listed under Sauce, set aside.

In a large saucepan, bring salted water to a boil; cook the broccoli for 3 minutes. Remove the broccoli to a bowl of cold water to stop the cooking process; drain and set aside.

Heat a large skillet or Wok on high heat; it will be ready for use when droplets of water sizzle; add the oil and move the pan so the oil coats the interior. Add the beef in a single layer and let it cook for 1 minute without moving it around. Flip the beef slices over and fry for an additional 1 minute; mix in the garlic and black pepper. Pour in the sauce; add the broccoli, mix well and let cook for 3 minutes. Pour in the dissolved cornstarch; bring to a boil and stir until sauce thickens, about 1 minute.

Makes 4 servings.

Though this is delicious with white rice, I couldn't fight the desire to have the Beef with Broccoli with fried rice.

Indulge your taste buds.

Mary Cokenour

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Fort Collins Wine Fest 2012

With a little less than 2 weeks left until Fort Collins Wine Fest, don’t miss your chance to reserve your spot at one of the largest wine tasting events in Colorado. Since 1982, Wine Fest has been inspiring wine connoisseurs, food fanatics and local philanthropists alike. In its 30th year providing funding for Disabled Resource Services, this event fundraises thousands of dollars each year for those living with disabilities.

The 2012 event will be held on March 23 at the Fort Collins Hilton. Featuring 150 vineyards and 500 wines from around the world, Wine Fest has a full roster of activities to keep you entertained throughout the evening. Wines and beers are complemented by an assortment of delicious food items from local restaurants.

More importantly, the proceeds from Wine Fest ticket sales and auction items provide services for nearly 6,000 individuals living with disabilities in Larimer and Jackson Counties. Disabled Resource Services provides support to those living with a disability, enabling them to navigate the world without isolation. As one of ten centers for independence in the state of Colorado, Disabled Resource Services provides resources to empower individuals with disabilities to achieve their maximum level of independence through advocacy, awareness and access to the community.

Tickets for this exciting event are available for purchase at Pringles Fine Wine & Spirits, Wilbur’s Total Beverage, Supermarket Liquors, The Melting Pot (Fort Collins), at the door or online at:

If you enjoy fine wines and foods, do not miss out on this event; and it will feel even better knowing your presence and funding are helping those in need.

I'd also like to thank Anne Farrell of A-Train Marketing for providing me with the information and logo needed to get this event out to the public.

Mary Cokenour

It's a Pie, No, it's a Cake.

What dessert is called a pie, but is truly a cake? The answer is Boston Cream Pie which is actually a cake which had its layers baked in pie tins known as "Washington Pie Plates". This dessert was created by French Chef Sanzian to commemorate the opening of the Parker House Hotel in 1856. Now the dessert he created was more elaborate than what we typically see in Boston Cream Pie or Cake, both names are commonly interchanged, today.

Instead of pie plates, a 9 or 10 inch springform pan is used to bake the cake which is then divided into two layers. The Boston Cream Cake is not a dessert that can be made at the spur of the moment; there are four crucial steps. First the sponge cake, more dense and less crumbly than regular vanilla cake, needs to be mixed together and baked. Secondly is the pastry cream; a thick, rich pudding containing corn starch to help it hold up under the weight of the top layer of cake. Third, and oh so important, is the chocolate ganache; made from a cooked combination of chopped chocolate and heavy cream which cools quickly to make a rich, firm topping to the cake. Typically for the ganache, milk or semi-sweet chocolate is used, but I prefer Ghirardelli Bittersweet Chocolate. It melts quickly, the texture is smooth and the sheen is glossy; the bittersweet chocolate complements the pastry cream and sponge cake wonderfully. Step four is the construction of the cake, not too difficult and the results are worth waiting for.

Why this dessert cannot be a spur of the moment decision to make is that the cake and cream should be cool before the layering process begins; otherwise you'll be looking at one hot mess oozing off the plate. Now wait, let me correct myself a bit; this can be made spur of the moment by using a premade pound cake and instant pudding; might look pretty, but it won't taste the same as the authentic cake.

Boston Cream Pie (Cake)

Step One: The Sponge Cake


3 Tbsp melted butter, cooled to room temperature
6 large eggs
1 cup sugar
3 tsp pure vanilla extract
1 cup flour, sifted
1/4 tsp salt


Preheat oven to 350F. From parchment paper, cut a circle to line bottom of a 9 or 10 inch springform pan. Smear a little butter onto bottom and sides of pan first, sprinkle a light dusting of flour; put parchment paper circle on pan bottom and lightly smear butter on the paper.

In a large bowl, mix the melted butter and sugar together until fluffy and a yellow color. Add the extract and half the flour; mix for one minute before adding remaining flour and salt; mix to incorporate well. Pour batter into pan and bake for 25-30 minutes; top will be golden brown and spring back when lightly pressed. Remove from oven and let cool on a wire rack; do not attempt to remove the springform pan.

Step Two: The Pastry Cream


3 1/2 cups milk
4 large eggs
3/4 cup sugar
1/8 tsp salt
1/4 tsp corn starch
3 Tbsp flour
3 Tbsp cold butter, cut into small pieces
3 tsp pure vanilla extract


While the cake is baking, make the cream by first heating the milk in a large sauce pan till hot, but do not boil or scald.

While milk is heating, lightly beat together the eggs, sugar, salt; sift together the corn starch and flour and gradually mix into the wet ingredients till well incorporated.

Gradually begin mixing in the hot milk and mix together for a minute; place entire mixture back into the sauce pan. On high heat, begin whisking the mixture; it will begin to thicken and boil; continue to whisk for 3 minutes. Remove from heat, add the butter and vanilla and continue to stir until butter is completely melted and incorporated. Place mixture into a large bowl, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 4 hours.

Step Three: The Chocolate Ganache

This step should not be done until you are ready to put the cake together; the chocolate cools very quickly and will harden in the pan if you wait too long to pour it onto the cake.


1/4 cup heavy cream
1 cup chopped chocolate (milk or semi-sweet is traditional; bittersweet is my personal choice)


In a small saucepan, medium heat, heat the cream until bubbles just begin to form around the rim of the pan. Add the chocolate and stir until partially melted; remove from heat and continue to stir until smooth. The ganache will thicken as it cools.

Note: to make a dipping sauce for fruit, use 1/2 cup chopped chocolate to 1/4 cup heavy cream; it will still be thick, but not harden as it cools.

Step Four: The Construction

Remove the cake from the springform pan and the parchment paper from bottom of cake; cut cake horizontally to make two separate layers; place one layer on serving platter. Evenly spread the pastry cream over this layer of cake. Place the second layer of cake over top.

The ganache should have just been made, so be ready to use a spatula to scrape it out of the pan onto the top of the cake and spread it evenly over the top. Don't worry if some of it oozes down the side; it just adds more character to your cake. The ganache will become firm quickly, so you can serve the cake immediately, or refrigerate it, so the flavors will meld together. It would be better to place a few toothpicks in the top before wrapping the cake in plastic wrap; otherwise the ganache will adhere to the wrap.

Mary Cokenour

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Pizzelle or Italian Waffle Cookies

Pizzelle, also known as Italian Waffle cookies, can trace their origin back to ancient Roman times. They are simply made with sugar, eggs, flour, butter or oil; personally I believe using butter gives the cookies a better flavor and texture.  Flavorings are generally vanilla, anise, lemon, caramel or chocolate. As with Black and White Cookies, a pizzella (singular)can have a combination of half vanilla, half chocolate. You can always be daring and add mint extract to the chocolate batter or finely crushed hazelnut meal to the flour. Think of this as using a basic cookie dough, or in this case, batter, recipe and adding your imagination.

Depending on the variations in ingredient amounts and cooking times on the pizzelle press, the cookies can be either hard and crisp or soft and chewy. They are seen often at Italian weddings, rolled into a cone and filled with cannoli cream (ricotta cheese mixed with sugar). As a sandwich cookie, a filling of cannoli cream or hazelnut spread can be smeared between two cookies. However, the hard and crisp variety is too delicate to withstand a layer of firm ice cream for a sandwich; but is delicious as a crushed topping instead.  Although, a thicker made pizzella is exactly what is used to make those waffle cones you get at the local ice cream shoppe.

The press itself costs approximately $50 and can create 2-4 pizzelle, depending on the size in diameter being "baked". There is also a variety of designs that can be pressed upon the batter; the most popular being a snowflake or star.  If you're not inclined to buy a press and make your own pizzelle; they are usually available in the bakery section of major supermarkets; or at online stores.

A serving of six (4 inch) cookies is about 140 calories, containing 6 grams of fat and 19 grams of carbohydrates. Pair this with fresh fruit and it makes an excellent meal in itself.  If this doesn't entice you,  then I don't know what will.  Enjoy!

Basic Vanilla Pizzelle


3 large eggs
3/4 cup sugar
8 Tbsp unsalted butter, melted
1 Tbsp pure vanilla extract
1 3/4 cups flour
2 tsp baking powder


In a large bowl, beat the eggs and sugar together until fluffy and a yellow color. Make sure the butter has cooled to room temperature before adding into the egg mixture; this will keep the eggs from curdling. Add the vanilla extract; do not over mix.

Sift together the flour and baking powder and gently fold into the wet ingredients until well incorporated.

Follow the instructions on the pizzelle press for batter measurements and proper cooking time. When done, remove to a wire rack for cooling.

Makes 2-3 dozen depending on size made.

Mary Cokenour

Monday, March 5, 2012

Crispy Fries from the Oven.

Fried, the very name indicates that a food item has been dropped into a deep skillet, or deep fryer contraption, filled with sizzling oil. To be cooked until done, drained upon paper towels, seasoned and enjoyed while hot. Unfortunately, once the fried food begins to cool down, any oil within tends to ooze out and it doesn't taste so yummy anymore.

There is an alternative method and that is to make the "fried" food in a very hot oven with minimal fat used. Whether using butter, margarine, oil or combination, the amount used is enough to coat the food, let it cook to crispiness, but not get soggy once it begins to cool down. The recipe I'm posting contains a basic seasoning mix, but try mixtures that would complement a total meal, such as an Italian herbal mix. However, try to avoid using olive oil as it does not get hot enough in the oven to give a good crisp to your potatoes.

Oven Baked Potato Wedges


3 large baking potatoes, unpeeled
2 Tbsp butter, softened
2 Tbsp canola or peanut oil
1 tsp each fine sea salt, garlic powder and paprika
½ tsp ground black pepper
¼ tsp ground cayenne pepper


Preheat oven to 450F; spray a large jelly roll pan with nonstick cooking spray.

Rinse the potatoes and pat dry; cut each potato lengthwise in half and then cut each half into four long wedges.

In a large plastic bag, combine the potatoes, butter, oil and seasonings; make sure to coat the wedges thoroughly. Place in a single layer onto the sprayed pan; bake for 35-40 minutes, turning once; until tender inside and crispy outside.

Makes 4 servings (6 wedges per serving)

Mary Cokenour

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Ribs and Potatoes Redone...again.

If you love to cook, you know yourself that you are always looking for new recipes, ways of redoing recipes, even redoing your own recipes. Good cooks have not just a passion for food, but imagination and creativity in the kitchen; we're not settlers, we're doers.

From previous posts, I've already established that I enjoy grilling and smoking meats, but in winter time, that's rarely an option. Instead, I work on ways of obtaining a good barbequed item using the oven or a crock pot....yes, I said crock pot. Barbeque does not always refer to charred meat; it's a technique, not a standard.

Lets talk about boneless ribs and your question is, "How can ribs be boneless?" Boneless pork ribs are essentially a pork loin that has been cut into sections to imitate the shape and look of actual pork spare ribs. This type of boneless rib is commonly known as "Country Style Boneless Pork Ribs". They are meatier and leaner than the typical slab of pork spare ribs. For those who like the knife and fork method of eating ribs, they're the perfect choice of cut; that is unless you enjoy sucking sauce off the actual bones.

I have posted a similar recipe for crock pot boneless ribs called Sweet and Sour Pork Ribs using an Asian style sauce to cook them in. Today's recipe will be using a typical barbeque sauce, and you can use homemade sauce or bottled. Now when I make my homemade sauce, I do make enough to be able to freeze some for future use. However, when I decide to do something spontaneously and want to cut corners, heck yeah, I cheat and use a good bottled brand such as Sweet Baby Ray's, Jack Daniels or KC Masterpiece. These brands provide a thick sauce, loaded with flavor and hold up in long time cooking, such as with a crock pot.

Crock Pot Boneless Pork Ribs


3 lbs boneless (country style) pork ribs
2 Tbsp flour
1 large onion, chopped
1(14.5 oz)can diced tomatoes
1 Tbsp minced garlic
2 1/2 cups barbeque sauce


Set a 6 quart crock pot on low; layer the ribs inside and sprinkle the flour over them. (The ribs will exude liquid during the cooking process; the flour will help keep the sauce thick.)

Layer the onions, tomatoes and garlic over the ribs; pour the sauce over and make sure to cover evenly. Cover and let cook for 10 hours.

Makes 6-8 servings.

Now a great side dish for these ribs is Funeral Potatoes. Hubby and I don't like the typical corn flakes topping, so I changed my recipe a little and put a good layer of shredded cheddar cheese on top, besides within the casserole itself. I also add chopped, partially cooked bacon for that smoky flavor. Everything is better with bacon, right?

What is really great with this side dish is that you can refrigerate it for 8 hours, let it come up to room temperature for a half hour; let it bake for 1 and 1/2 hours and it will be ready at the same time as the ribs. When the barbeque sauce mixes with the oozing cheese and sauce of the potatoes, your mouth will be in orgasmic delight!

Enjoy the pleasure!

Mary Cokenour

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Move over Chicken Noodle Soup.

Chicken Noodle soup is the classic comfort soup and cure all for anything that ails you from the common cold to depression. Not sanctioned by the American Medical Association, but what do they really know about home remedies anyway? While a huge believer in the powers of herbal and homemade remedies, this post is more about soup.

This week alone I was emailed three advertisements, from three foodie sites, and they all featured "Chicken Tortilla Soup" as the soup of the week. Surprisingly, I have not ever eaten nor made this soup before, so looked at the recipes and they were basically almost all the same ingredients and directions. Strange I thought. So I started to surf the web and look up more of this type of recipe and guess what? Either almost everyone invented this soup first, or almost everyone is copying a basic recipe and claiming it as their own. There were a few other versions here and there, but when I read the word "tortilla" in a recipe name, I expect Southwestern/Mexican flavors and ingredients. Items like carrots, brussel sprouts and edamame, or making a classic chicken noodle soup and putting slices of avocado on top, just don't do it for me,

I had already figured out my own variation on Taco Soup, and that is what I was going to base this new soup on; consider it copying myself. Going to my well stocked pantry, the soup process began and the results were quite, quite pleasing. The soup was colorful with ingredients, flavorful from the seasonings and a mild warming sensation from the chilies exemplified the essence of comfort.

The tortilla chips? I wondered about them myself, basically why put something crunchy in a soup, just so it can get soggy?  I was surprised though, the softened tortilla chips gave the illusion of noodles or dumplings enhancing the feeling of comfort overall. Oh, while I do list some possible garnishes at the end of the recipe, you'll find you don't really need them. The soup is delicious as is and a garnish would just be nothing more than a decoration.

Chicken Tortilla Soup


6 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves
1 (15 oz) can black beans, do not drain liquid
1 (15 oz) can pinto beans, do not drain liquid
2 (11 oz) cans Mexican corn, do not drain liquid
1 (14.5 oz) can diced tomatoes with green chilies
1 Tbsp dried cilantro
½ tsp dried oregano
½ tsp ground cumin
¼ tsp ground black pepper
2 (14.5 oz) cans chicken broth
Tortilla chips


Set a 6 quart crock pot on low; place inside the ingredients in order of listing. Cook for 6 hours; remove chicken and shred. Return chicken to crock pot and mix thoroughly. Line bottom of soup bowl with tortilla chips; ladle soup over chips.

Makes 10 servings.

Garnishes: sour cream, shredded cheese, avocado, chopped fresh cilantro

Mary Cokenour