Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Sauceless Sauce is Simply Easy; now say that three times fast.

After defrosting a container of my Vegetarian Pasta Sauce to put over ravioli, I suddenly got a craving for Chicken Parmigiana. Big problem though, I was not in the mood for all the work and mess it encompassed. So what to do, what to do???

Heh, then it hit me; deconstruct the chicken parmigiana; and leave out all the frying and mess. Basically I created a fresh "sauce" from diced and lightly sauteed vegetables to go over seasoned chicken breasts that were baked in the oven. Hardly any oil used, no heavy breading; just a light, clean taste over moist and tender poultry. Now anyone who is diabetic, like myself, will love this recipe; and I can tell you that two hours after eating the meal, my blood sugar was only 98 which is tremendously good!

Now when cooking the tomatoes in the skillet, if there is still a lot of moisture left; turn up the heat to medium and let the liquid reduce by half. But watch it! You don't want the vegetables to brown or burn. Enjoy!

Sauceless Sauce Over Chicken


8 boneless, skinless chicken breasts halves
2 Tbsp Italian seasoning mix
1 tsp garlic powder
½ tsp each ground black pepper and salt
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 cup diced onion and multicolored red bell peppers (no green bell peppers)
1 cup diced mushrooms
1 cup diced tomatoes, drained
1 Tbsp minced garlic
¼ tsp each ground black pepper and salt
Shredded mozzarella cheese


Preheat oven to 375F and line jelly roll pan with aluminum foil. Season both sides of chicken with seasoning mix, garlic powder ½ teaspoon each of pepper and salt. Bake for 20 minutes.

While chicken is baking; heat olive oil in large skillet over medium-low heat; add in onion and bell peppers. When vegetables just begin to soften, about 7-8 minutes, add in mushrooms; cook for 5 minutes. Add in tomatoes, garlic and remaining pepper and salt; mix thoroughly and let cook till all is heated through. Vegetables will be ready at the same time the chicken is fully cooked. Serve vegetable mixture over chicken breasts; sprinkle shredded cheese over all.

Makes 8 servings.

Mary Cokenour

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Spice Exchange Coffee is Formaldehyde in a Bag..

Distributor's Website: http://www.figbros.com/

Now if you're a reader of this blog, you know that my coffee comes from Papa Nicholas, but every once in a while, another coffee brand will catch my eye. This was so with Spice Exchange Trading Company coffee which I found on sale for $4.00 for a 12 ounce package; flavors chosen were Butter Cream and Vanilla Cupcake. With names like those, how could I resist? I should have; oh, I should have.

In the store, I didn't notice any unusual odors coming from the bag; then again, there was no odor of coffee either, so only thought the packaging was very tightly sealed for freshness. Yeah, think again. After getting home, I opened up the first package of Butter Cream coffee and that's when the odor hit me...hard. A distinctive chemical smell very similar to formaldehyde; once you've taken biology and dissected a few animals, you know the smell. So I thought, maybe it's just me; perhaps I touched something and the smell was still on my hands; no, but I decided to brew up a pot anyway.

As the coffee brewed, the smell got stronger; I poured some in my cup, added my half n' half and stevia, brought it up to my lips, and whoa! that smell was awful. I was brave though and took a sip and all I tasted was chemicals; no coffee flavor, no delightful taste and aroma of Butter Cream; just foul chemicals. Down the drain the brewed coffee went, into the trash bin the package went. So what did I do? Decided to try the other package to see the results which were the very same. No enticing odor or flavor of Vanilla Cupcake; only the strong, foul odor and taste of chemicals. Disgusting!!!

The store where I purchased the coffee was 3 hours away from me, so I couldn't be bothered to return the packages there. $8 wasted, but a good lesson learned that good coffee is worth the price paid.

So if you happen to be shopping around and see Spice Exchange Coffee for sale; turn and run if you value your taste buds, sense of smell and money.

Mary Cokenour

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Chili that knows how to Party.

When Bill moved in with us in May, one of the first things he asked me was, "Mom, do you still make that great Chili? You mean the one with the sirloin beef cubes; yeppers and better than ever, I told him. But the summer time heat was moving in, and making chili was not on my list of things to do for the season.

That was until this past weekend when I was in the mood for chili; roast beef had been on sale at City Market and I got to working on cutting it up into pieces for the crock pot. The only problem, I didn't want to use as many beans as I normally do, and didn't want it to be too monotone in coloring. I was in a great, happy mood and wanted colorful food to go with the mood. I cut back on the beans and added bright colors from whole kernel corn, and red and green bell peppers.

Another change I made was to use medium heat chile peppers, but mild New Mexico chili powder. I wanted the heat to come from the peppers themselves, but the rich smokiness of the chili powder. This combo made my mouth hot, but not burn; and the flavors of the ingredients came through. See, one thing I don't believe in is making your food burn your mouth to the point where you cannot taste anything. Might as well just eat raw habanero or ghost chiles and get it over with. Of course, you can adjust the type of chile peppers and chili powder you use when making this recipe because it is what makes you happy that matters the most.

I served Cornbread with the chili, but instead of the conventional oven method, I baked it in a cast iron skillet. The adjustments for this are: preheat oven to 425F, but place the skillet (which should already have been preseasoned)in the oven at the start of the preheating. When ready, carefully take out the skillet and coat the bottom and sides with a generous amount of butter. Pour in the batter (don't worry about the butter you see coming up the sides of the batter) and bake for 20 minutes. Cut into eight wedges and serve with the chili.

...and here's the recipe for Fiesta Chili.

Fiesta Chili


2 ½ lbs roast beef cut into ½ inch pieces; trim off fat
½ cup flour
1 cup beef stock
2 cups whole kernel corn
1 cup diced mixture of red and green bell peppers
½ cup diced chile peppers (medium heat)
2 ½ cups diced tomatoes
1 cup diced onions
4 Tbsp New Mexico chili powder (mild heat)
2 Tbsp cumin
1 Tbsp minced garlic
2 cans (15 oz) black beans; drained and rinsed
2 cans (15 oz) pinto beans; drained and rinsed

Note: if using dried beans instead, soak overnight in salted water and place into crock pot with remaining ingredients for the total 7 hour cooking time.


Set 6 quart crock pot on low. Toss beef pieces with flour; place into crock pot and pour beef stock over. Mix together remaining ingredients, except the beans (see Note), and spread evenly into crock pot. Cover and let cook for 4 hours; add beans to crock pot, mix thoroughly, cover and let cook another 4 hours.

Serve with sour cream, shredded Mexican Mix cheese and cornbread.

Makes 8 servings.

Mary Cokenour

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Serious Texas Bar-B-Q.

Serious Texas Bar-B-Q
650 S Camino Del Rio
Durango, Colorado 81301

(970) 259-9507
FAX: (970) 259-5460

Hours: 10:30am-9:00pm Summer
10:30am-8:00pm Winter

Website: http://serioustexasbbq.com/

With five locations (4 in Colorado, 1 in New Mexico), Serious Texas Bar-B-Q is making sure to please fans of smoked meats and poultry.

These restaurants are not fancy nor classy; they're meant for folks who want to park themselves down at a table and enjoy good barbecue. The food is placed on butcher paper and a tray; utensils are plastic and each table comes with a roll of paper towels and a large bottle of their signature barbeque sauce. Whether with family or friends, the atmosphere is very relaxed and comfortable for all.

The Durango, Colorado location has an outdoor patio that overlooks the Animas River. Directly attached to the restaurant is an outdoor miniature golf course; there is also a small bandstand for musical entertainment.

Now lets get to the food; first timers should try out "The Big Six" which comes with 1/4 pound each of beef brisket, pulled pork, pork loin and turkey; a link of sausage and two ribs. It also comes with a sample of each of there signature salsas: pineapple/jalapeno and cherry/chipotle plus relish. This is perfect for two to three people who want to try out a little of everything.

The ribs have a spicy, flavorful rub on them and are not doused in sauce; they're tender, but don't fall off the bone. They come in half or full racks; or you can buy per rib if you just want to sample one.

The Beef Brisket sandwich is piled high with tender, tender meat, pickles and onions; a simple sandwich with lots for your stomach and taste buds to love.

The Pulled Pork Sandwich is a large fistful of smoky goodness topped with cherry/chipotle salsa; several napkins are recommended.

While all the sides are good, we especially like the Cheesy Potatoes loaded with melted cheese and black pepper. A large order is a must!

Seriously hungry and in the mood for barbeque; seriously head out to Serious Texas Bar-B-Q.

Mary Cokenour

Serious Texas Barbeque II on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

A Misadventure in Chocolate.

Going through some older Gourmet magazines, I found a recipe from Ghirardelli for their Individual Chocolate Lava Cakes and wanted to try it out. I had all the ingredients; but only needed to purchase another set of custard cups (safe for oven use) as I only had a set of 4 and the recipe made 6 cakes.
Now mind you, I'm not a big fan of baking from scratch; all that measuring and calculating, but I was up for giving it a go. It was chocolate, so how wrong could that be, right? I followed the directions, made the chocolate that would go in the center of the cake and waited the two hours recommended. Then it was time to make the batter and assemble in the cups; easy peasy. Only problem is that, even tempering in the oven before hand, my metal tray decided to warp, so the cups couldn't sit on it. I ended up balancing the cups on the oven's metal rack; the oval cups I had had no problem; the round ones kept me on my toes to make sure they stayed up straight.

After 15 minutes I moved the cups to a rack on the counter for 5 minutes of cooling. I could see the cakes begin pulling from the sides of the cups as they cooled, so was happy no knife was required to help remove them.

I inverted one cup over a dessert plate, the cake easily came out.  The chocolate smell was incredible!!!

I sliced the single cake open expecting to see molten chocolate ooze out; and what did I see? Cake; super moist, decadently rich cake, but no melted chocolate center. The melted chocolate had been absorbed into the cake batter as it baked and gave me...cake!

Maybe it was just this one, so I tried another only to find the same result. To the computer I ran to read up on molten lava cakes; some recipes had higher temperatures and less bake time; some had higher temperatures with more baking time. Many recipes incorporated the melted chocolate into the batter and baked them at the same temperature and timing as I had done. Cooking forums were a little more helpful than straight recipes; the conclusion was to use the same temperature, but lower the baking time to 10 minutes instead of 15. Ovens are all different and I guess mine baked quicker which resulted in the chocolate ball melting and then being absorbed into the batter.

So alas, my family and I had to bite the cake bullet with a whipped cream topping and sliced strawberry. Oh the agony of defeat never tasted so deliciously sweet.

...and here is the recipe and directions from Ghirardelli:

Individual Chocolate Lava Cakes


1 1/2 60% Cacao Bittersweet Chocolate Baking Bars
2 eggs
1/4 cup heavy cream
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter
2 egg yolks
1/3 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 cup cake flour


To make centers, melt 2 ounces of chocolate (1/2 a baking bar) and cream in double boiler. Whisk gently to blend. Refrigerate about 2 hours or until firm. Form into 6 balls; refrigerate until needed.

To make cake, heat oven to 400°F. Spray six 4-ounce ramekins or custard cups with cooking spray. Melt 4 ounces of chocolate (1 baking bar) and butter in double boiler; whisk gently to blend. With an electric mixer, whisk eggs, yolks, sugar, and vanilla on high speed about 5 minutes or until thick and light. Fold melted chocolate mixture and flour into egg mixture just until combined. Spoon cake batter into ramekins. Place a chocolate ball in the middle of each ramekin.

Bake about 15 minutes or until cake is firm to the touch. Let it sit out of the oven for about 5 minutes. Run a small, sharp knife around inside of each ramekin, place a plate on top, invert and remove ramekin. Garnish with raspberries and a dollop of whipped cream.

Makes 6.

Mary Cokenour

Friday, July 13, 2012

Sandstone Tires - A Public Service Warning.

Sandstone Tires

138 E Center St
Monticello, UT 84535
(435) 459-0038

Website: http://sandstonetire.com

Two weeks ago I take my car to Sandstone Tires in Monticello, Utah because it would pull to the left, not a lot, but still it shouldn't be doing that; also it would shimmy between 50 to 60 miles/hour. They give me a wheel alignment and balancing, then tell me I need new rotors because that is what is causing the problems. Really? Anyway, not only does the car now pull to the left immediately, but the shimmy is constant.

My husband decides to take it to Chip's in Moab for another opinion; I need a new caliper disc to stop the shimmy, so the part was ordered. My two rear tires were so worn down, the metal was showing; I had already traveled to Cortez, Blanding and Moab since going to Sandstone. I could have blown both tires and who the heck knows what would have happened to me. Oh, and the rotors, they were fine and didn't need replacement.

Sandstone Tires brags about being the best tire place around...and they didn't notice the extremely poor condition of both tires!?! Looks like they were more interested in bilking me, than in doing a professional job. Avoid Sandstone Tires like your life depends on it....actually, it does.


Mary Cokenour

UPDATE: On several occasions I called Sandstone Tire to speak with someone about the rotors, but was told each time "to call back later". When I called later, I was told the same thing again; since I was getting no satisfaction, I was forced to write this review.

Now someone has been trying to bully me into removing the review. Apparently this person is showing their lack of integrity by making threats. Is this supposed to be an example of maturity? Why is this person even getting involved in a situation that has nothing to do with him/her? That is correct, "him/her", as they do not have the, again, integrity to even sign their full name to the threat. As to Sandstone Tire, who are they to then go and give out personal information from my vehicle record to this person at all?

Sandstone Tire made a mistake that could have caused me an injury; they will not own up to it or take responsibility. The mistake was VERIFIED by an independent mechanic, so I have written only truth and facts in my review. As Jack Nicholson said in A Few Good Men, "you can't handle the truth!".

Update March 10, 2013 On March 9, 2013, the owner Scott S. posted this response on Yelp.com: Scott S. of Sandstone Tire 3/9/2013 Information was given correctly, Customers wish to get second option. I am glad to help those who need it and appreciate it. Its too bad that there are a few out there that can just never be happy. We offered to do the exact same work that was "done else where" but we only can only suggest if customer wants to go else where then that is there business. We offer only the best customer service possible, and all employee have professional training.

...and here was my response back to him: March 10, 2013 - The owner finally decides to speak up!?! Too bad he couldn't be bothered to speak with me when I called three times BEFORE the vehicle was taken elsewhere. Each time I called I was told, "We're busy and can't take a message now". Stop making excuses Scott; especially 7 months after the issue. The response of a good and responsible owner should have been, "I am so, so sorry this happened. I was not made aware of the problem by my employees; what can I do to rectify it?" But no, you're just pushing the blame onto the customer, displaying further unprofessional behavior, and proving my review is truthful. Thanks!

Mary Cokenour

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Fusion Stuffing

So why am I calling this post "Fusion Stuffing"?  Basically it's the best way to describe the combination of ingredients for today's recipe....Stuffed Tomatoes.  I'm using cubed stuffing and chicken which is typically American,  veggies, cheese and herbs which are typically Italian, but some of those same veggies plus chili powder gives it a taste of Mexican cuisine; hence the fusion part. 

Now let me warn you now about the heat in the Mexican spice factor; I used mild, since this is the first time I'm doing this dish.  Remember, you can always add, but cannot take away; that's always the best rule when working with spicy ingredients.  If you like more heat, but this is your first time making this recipe, take a little advice; start with mild and add dashes of hot sauce as you eat to see what it will taste like to you.  Not good enough?  Then use three types of chili powder (mild, medium and hot); make three stuffed tomatoes and use one type of chili powder with each.  Stick a toothpick (one for mild, two for medium, three for hot) in the appropriate tomatoes; after they're baked do your taste testing.  Don't forget you can get others in on this too for a real judging.

I thought this dish would be difficult and sure that I would mess it up terribly; but it wasn't that bad.  The trick is to use firm tomatoes that you can easily grip in your hand that won't squash, or crack when being hollowed out.  Have a game plan for all the tomato meat and liquid you'll gather as you won't be using all of it for this recipe.  I was planning on making Vegetarian Pasta Sauce anyway, so what better to put fresh tomatoes in?

Stuffed Tomatoes


4-6 medium to large firm tomatoes (dependent on size)
2 cups herbed stuffing cubes
1 Tbsp butter
¼ cup each small diced red onion, red bell pepper and mushrooms
1 tsp minced garlic
2 chicken breasts halves, boneless and skinless
½ tsp each salt, ground black pepper, mild New Mexico chili powder; mixed together
Additional salt to season tomato interior
Olive oil; 1 Tbsp per tomato
Grated Parmesan cheese; 1 tsp per tomato

With a small knife, cut out hard center where stem was attached and discard. Cut ¼ inch off the top; use a spoon to hollow out tomato to ¼ inch inside. Rinse out tomatoes and invert onto a paper towel lined pan.  (I had two large and three medium which fit perfectly in my casserole dish.)  Strain tomatoes, but reserve ½ cup of liquid; dice tomatoes and set aside.

Place stuffing cubes in a medium sized bowl, pour reserved tomato liquid over and mix.

In a medium sized skillet, over medium-high heat, melt tablespoon of butter; sauté onion, bell pepper and mushroom until softened. Add in ½ cup of diced tomatoes and garlic; let cook another minute; add to stuffing cubes.

At same time vegetables are sautéing; season both sides of chicken with seasoning mixture; brown in skillet, with one tablespoon olive oil, over medium- high heat (3-4 minutes per side). I made several extra which I cut into 1/2 inch slices and froze for use later on; very convenient when doing a spur of the moment recipe.

Dice chicken and add to stuffing bowl; mix thoroughly.

Preheat oven to 375F; spray 2 quart round casserole dish with nonstick cooking spray. Sprinkle ¼ teaspoon salt inside each tomato, then stuff with mixture; place ¼ inch top back and place in casserole dish.

Drizzle one tablespoon olive oil over each tomato; bake for 25 minutes. Remove from oven and top with one teaspoon grated Parmesan cheese; return to oven for 5 minutes.

Makes 4-6 servings.

So, how does it all taste together? It was a cultural party going on in the mouth and it tasted so good! The chicken was tender, juicy and savory; the stuffing herbalicious with a mild tomato flavor from the tomato liquid used to soak the cubes. The tomato itself, while fully cooked, could be cut with a fork and still hold together its texture; it tasted with the Parmesan cheese, like a very chunky and rich tomato sauce. I will most definitely be making this recipe again!

Mary Cokenour

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Southern Fried Bottom Feeder

...or what is more popularly known as Catfish.  A long while ago I did a blog post about Utah being a landlocked state and basically finding fresh fish is like finding a honest politician.  They're out there somewhere, just good luck finding one easily.  Anyway, I have several packages of frozen fish in my freezer and the bag of catfish is the one that caught my eye.  Usually I make Cajun Catfish, however I wanted to do something slightly different with that recipe.

First, instead of coating the fish in an egg wash, I used plain milk; I also cut out the paprika and lessened the heat a bit by not using ground cayenne. I used crushed red pepper flakes instead which aren't as hot in spice temperture due to the difference in bulk and add a bit of "decor" to my dry mixture. Technically, I should have served up the fish with hushpuppies, but I was craving my grandmother's potatoes. The potatoes are basically her version of what is typically called "German potato salad".

Southern Fried Catfish


4(8 oz) catfish fillets
1 cup milk
2 cups cornmeal
¾ cup sifted flour
2 tsp fine sea salt
2 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
1 tsp each ground black pepper, garlic powder and onion powder
2 cups canola oil


Place fillets in shallow container and pour milk over them; turn fillets over twice to fully coat with milk.

In a second shallow container, mix together the cornmeal, flour and seasonings.

One fillet at a time, remove from milk and coat both sides with the dry mix. Shake off excess and set on plate until all are done; lay side by side, do not overlap coated fillets.

In a deep skillet, heat oil on medium-high heat until temperature of 350F is reached. Place two fillets into oil; let them fry for 4-5 minutes before turning over; let fry for additional 4-5 minutes; until golden brown. Remove from oil and drain on paper towels.

Makes 4 servings.

Note: a sauce made of 1 cup ketchup, ½ cup mayonnaise, two tablespoons grated horseradish mixed together thoroughly can be served as a condiment for this dish.

Mary Cokenour