Tuesday, April 30, 2013

This Thai Restaurant is a Boon to New Mexico.

Boon's Family Thai BBQ                                             

321 West Main Street
Farmington, New Mexico, 87401


   (505) 325-5556

   Website: www.boonsthai.com

    If you are a fan of Thai cuisine, then you must try Boon's Family Thai 
   BBQ  whenever you visit Farmington, New Mexico.  While the storefront
   may not look exotic, it is what is inside that is exciting.  We were cheerfully
   greeted upon entering; our waiter was very attentive and friendly; we had
   fun while enjoying our meal.

The interior of the restaurant is small with booths lining the front and one side.  However, tables are spaced so that diners are not elbow to elbow; giving a sense of intimacy and privacy.  Even though there were other diners there, my husband and I felt like we had the place to ourselves.

The menu is five pages of appetizers, soups, salads, noodle dishes, curry, specialties, house favorites, seafood, desserts and drinks.  All the descriptions were enticing and we wanted to try almost everything.  There are five types of curry, and they sometimes offer a specialty curry such as mango. 


 The eggrolls are crispy, yet delicate with easily eaten shredded vegetables inside.  The sauce is sweet and light; and that will be the key word for sauces at Boon's - Light.

The Moon Cakes are a total surprise with a strong scent of shrimp, but large taste of chicken.  Again the sauce was sweet and light, but this time with crushed peanuts floating on top; it certainly enhanced the flavor of the Moon Cakes.  This is the type of appetizer that would make a wonderful snack while watching a late night movie.


 Normally I would order a Pad Thai, but the Rad Na caught my eye; the noodles are similar to those used in Mandarin style Chow Fun and were smooth and luscious.  The shrimp had that scrunch that shows it was cooked well; the vegetables had a slight crunch to them; the brown sauce was light and lended just enough flavor to enhance, not mask the other ingredients.  If you don't like shrimp, you can order it with chicken, beef or pork.
Hawaiian Delight is indeed a delight of a thin cutlet each of pork, beef and chicken; so tender, each could easily be cut with a fork.  The sweet plum sauce did not overpower, and here's that word again, light.
After all that, we had enough room left to share a dessert, the Homemade Coconut Ice Cream; light, airy, smooth and simply delicious.

Going to Boon's Thai Family BBQ is like taking a culinary adventure to Thailand; Take the Trip!!!

Mary Cokenour

Boon's Family Thai BBQ on Urbanspoon

Saturday, April 27, 2013

One-Two-Three-Four and Time for Coffee Too.

One new recipe.
Two families to cook for.
Three complete meals for a week.
Four hours to prep, prepare and clean up.

No, this is not a new nursery rhyme geared towards the kitchen, and it doesn't rhyme in the least anyway.  This was my accomplishment for this morning; can't decide if I'm leaning towards Super Woman status, or Totally Hot Culinary Goddess.  Besides providing meals for myself and my hubby, I also send meals down to my mother-in-law and her other son who live down in Moab...but I'm getting ahead of myself on the 1-2-3-4 scale.

One New Recipe.

                                                     Roasted Potato Wedges


3 lbs russet or red skinned potatoes, washed and patted dry (leave skin on)
1/2 cup crushed dried parsley
1 tsp salt
1 tsp ground black pepper
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/4 olive oil


Preheat oven to 375F; use a nonstick jelly roll pan (baking sheet with 1/4 inch lip around edges).

Cut the potatoes in half lengthwise, angle the knife to cut the first wedge; turn the potato half cut side down and repeat wedge cut with knife; repeat.  Depending on the size of the potatoes, there will be 3-5 wedges with each potato half; place in large bowl.  Add the parsley, salt, black pepper and cheese; toss to coat.  Add the olive oil and toss again making sure to mix in any ingredients that may have settled to the bottom of the bowl.

Spread the wedges on the pan; roast for 25 minutes; turn the wedges over and continue to roast for 20 minutes more.  The outside will be slightly browned and crispy while the inside will be fluffy.

Note:  the olive oil was added last to give the other ingredients a chance to better coat all the potato wedges, not just the top layer which the oil would cover first and make everything stick to it.

Makes 6 servings.

Two Families to Cook for.

As I mentioned earlier, I cook for my husband's family also, so hence the two families.  My mother-in-law enjoys the meals I send down to her, and I enjoy doing it.  Simple as that...and yes, I have a mother-in-law that not only enjoys my cooking, but appreciates it and me as well.  Eat your heart out!

Oh, and don't let the upcoming photos fool you.  There are two trays of each complete meal.

Three Complete Meals for a Week.

Meatloaf with Roasted Potato Wedges


Four Hours to Prep, Prepare and Clean Up.
First off, I made sure to get a pot of coffee going; I love my coffee in the morning!
After getting the chicken and marinade in a bag and settled into the refrigerator, I began making the stir fry.  What made my time go faster is that I often buy extra vegetables that I use a lot of: bell peppers, onions, zucchini, yellow squash, broccoli and cauliflower.  I cut them to the sizes I need, blanch or steam if necessary and portion them out into sealable plastic freezer bags.  When I need them, there they are ready for the using.  The thin round steak was defrosting overnight in the refrigerator, but still slightly frozen when I pulled it out.  This made it so easy to cut thin strips which I mixed with a cup of Hoisin sauce; then I just followed the instructions as listed on my recipe (click  the link over the photo).  While everything was cooking, I had time in between to clean up and start the next meal which was the meatloaf.
Again, simply follow the recipe (click the link over the photo); 45 minutes after placing the meatloaves into the oven, I added the tray of potatoes and they finished up at the same time.  I cleaned up and sauteed the vegetables that would go with the chicken.  Fifteen minutes before the meatloaf and potatoes were finished, I began the initial cooking of my chicken which had marinated for the maximum time of four hours.  The chicken was on the baking tray and ready to finish up in the oven as the other items came out.
Basically, I began all this at 8am and was completely finished up, including cleanup and packaging up the meals, by 12pm...four hours!
During all this, I sipped on Vanilla Nut Creme coffee; dodged cats and dogs milling around my legs, hoping I would drop pieces of chicken or beef; and actually downed a muffin for breakfast.  So, I have decided that not only am I a Super Woman, but definitely a Goddess also.  I'm now going to take a well deserved nap; have a great day everyone!
Mary Cokenour

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Homemade Italian Dressing Chicken

You have probably seen the commercials that use bottled Italian salad dressing as a marinade; even seen it on recipe sites posted by many a home cook. You might even have that shaker bottle that you add oil, water, vinegar and a packet of dressing mix to; I still have mine and it comes in handy. First, lets that a look at what is in a typical brand name Italian salad dressing: VINEGAR, WATER, SOYBEAN OIL, CANOLA OIL, SUGAR, SALT, CONTAINS LESS THAN 2% OF GARLIC*, GARLIC, RED BELL PEPPERS*, ONIONS*, XANTHAN GUM, SPICE, OLEORESIN PAPRIKA, POTASSIUM SORBATE AND CALCIUM DISODIUM EDTA (TO PROTECT FRESHNESS). *DRIED.   Doesn't that look simply yummy...Not!

See the shaker bottle in the photo, told you it comes in handy, especially when creating your own homemade dressing.  Lets compare, the bottled brand uses vinegar, but what type?  I use balsamic which has a deep, rich flavor and scent.  Soybean and canola oils?  It's Italian dressing, so use extra virgin olive oil.  Dried garlic?  Nope, I used minced garlic that has been preserved in, what else, olive oil.  Where are the herbs?  While I use crushed rosemary, basil, oregano and parsley; the bottled brand uses...none?   While the manufacturer is using paprika to make the dressing "zesty", I use crushed red pepper flakes.  The onions and peppers, oh mine are coming later on darlings, and you will so love it.  Notice the manufacturer uses water; even when using that dressing packet mix, it asks for water...well how else are you going to rehydrate all those dried ingredients?

Lets get on to today's recipe and you'll certainly be able to see with all your senses why homemade is better than bottled.  Think about it, if you have the time to make that packet dressing, you most certainly can make it fresh from scratch.

Italian Dressing Chicken
4 (1/2 lb each) boneless, skinless chicken breasts halves; or 8 (1/4 lb each chicken cutlets)
1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
2 cups olive oil
2 Tbsp dried, crushed Italian herb mixture
2 Tbsp minced garlic
1/4 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
1 each medium sized yellow, red and orange bell peppers; seeded and julienned
1 large red onion; peeled and julienned
If you are purchasing the chicken breasts halves, make sure they are partially frozen before slicing them.  Place your hand on top of the chicken and carefully draw your knife lengthwise throughout the piece to form two 1/4 lb cutlets.  Practice makes perfect, but your local butcher can do it for you if your hands are just too shaky.  Place the chicken cutlets into a large plastic, sealable bag.
To make the dressing, simply pour the vinegar, oil, herbs, garlic and red pepper flakes into your shaker bottle, or a small bowl; shake the bottle to mix or whisk in the bowl.  Set 1/4 cup of the mixture aside and pour the remainder into the plastic bag.  Work the dressing throughout the chicken, seal the bag and refrigerate for a minimum of two hours, but no more than four hours.

Preheat the oven to 350F; have a nonstick jellyroll pan ready (baking sheet with a 1/4 inch lip on all sides).   Heat a nonstick large skillet on medium-high heat; place 4 pieces of chicken into the skillet and sear for two minutes on each side; transfer the chicken to the pan.  Repeat with the next 4 pieces; wipe any residue out of the skillet.  Place the pan into the oven and finish cooking the chicken off for seven minutes.
Take the reserved 1/4 cup of marinade, place it in the skillet, medium-high heat again; and toss to coat the julienned bell peppers and onions.  This will continue to cook in the skillet during the seven minutes the chicken is finishing up in the oven.  Occasionally move the vegetables around as you're using minced garlic and you do not want to allow it to brown or burn.
Here comes the real fun, first choice is a piece of chicken with a side of the peppers and onions.  Second choice, slice up the chicken into strips, place on a sub roll with peppers and onions for a new take on the old favorite of sausage with peppers and onions.  This is a great substitute for people who do not eat pork or red meat, but do eat poultry.  The marinated chicken can be made completely on a grill, instead of partially in the skillet, then finished in an oven.  The chicken itself is so full of flavor from the marinade, fork tender and dripping with juiciness.  The balsamic vinegar truly brings out the sweetness of the bell peppers and red onion, so no need to add any sugar as they do in manufactured bottled dressings.
This recipe makes 8 servings, but can be easily cut down for lesser portions, but why would you want to?  Enjoy the homemade!
Mary Cokenour

Monday, April 15, 2013

Marie Callender's Brings Breakfast to a Low.

Convenience food; yes, sometimes I rely on a frozen product because I am in a rush to get somewhere and there's no time to cook up something fresh. When it comes to breakfast though, I really, truly should know better by now. I have tried many of the products out on the market: IHOP, Jimmy Dean, Special K, Pillsbury and now Marie Callender joins the ranks of the frozen breakfast sandwich. This new product comes in a three pack and good thing too; it will take three tries before you finally get it to a semi-decent, edible state.

The directions begin with "Open carton.  Position open sandwich to match image on left."  Since it is a frozen product, I have to wonder why this first direction?  While in transit from the distribution center to store, could it have been tampered with?  Were the eggs and bacon doing the rumba when no one was watching?  After checking to see it matched the photo, I closed up the carton and microwaved it for 90 seconds, then let it rest for 1 minute as instructed.

As you can see in the above photo, it looks almost exactly like it does on the box; but is it the same?  I needed a knife to pry the sides of the biscuit off the silvery lining it sat upon while microwaving; that's a negative.  The bacon was crisp; that's a plus.  The cheese was not totally melted and oozing all over the place like with other brands of breakfast sandwiches, but it was still on the cold side; that's a neutral.  The eggs were not frozen, but still too cold to eat and liquid oozed out when bitten into; that's a negative.

The second sandwich was microwaved an additional 15 seconds; eggs were warmer, but the biscuit was totally stuck to the silvery lining and hard as a rock.

Third sandwich was microwaved for the recommended 90 seconds; however I removed the eggs and microwaved them separately on a separate dish; so a two step cooking process.  Third time was the charm!!!

The package information states the product was tested in an 1100 watt microwave; mine is a bit more powerful, so you would have thought that it would have been just about perfect on the first try.  Nope!

Until I can find a breakfast product that cooks up perfectly and tastes great on the first try; I guess I'll be getting up earlier to cook up my own.  Sorry Marie Callender, but I'm considering this new product a fail.

Mary Cokenour

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Chicken Salad Should NOT Come Out of a Can.

Canned tuna, canned salmon, canned shrimp, canned clams, canned crab and canned chicken; has convenience just gone too far?  Or you go into the deli area of your market and see a "salad" in a plastic container; but where are the edible ingredients?  Usually there is so much mayonnaise, you wonder if that is exactly what is in the container and nothing else.  Mayonnaise for any type of "salad" should be a coating, a simple binder for ingredients, NOT the main ingredient.

Chicken salad - do you like it with shredded chicken or chunky?  I prefer chunky myself; I like to bite into a piece of chicken and know how it tastes combined with all the added ingredients.  The best way to prepare chicken for salad making is either Rotisserie or Boiled; yes I said boiled. Boiling the chicken does not diminish its flavor; it simply is a quicker way of removing any excess fat while ensuring the chicken is thoroughly cooked. You want to use either boneless, skinless chicken breasts or chicken tenderloins; nice and meaty! For a serving of two, use four tenderloins or one large breast half (chickens have two breasts, so you only need one); place in a small saucepan and add enough water to cover the chicken. Using high heat, boil the chicken until a thick layer of scum forms on the top; skim it off; then place the chicken under running water to rinse off any residue still hanging on. Put the chicken on a plate, cover with plastic wrap and let it cool down in the refrigerator; this will also help draw out any excess water the chicken may have absorbed.  Why get rid of the water?  To keep your mayonnaise from getting runny; nothing so unappetizing as scooping up salad and seeing watery residue at the bottom of the bowl.  Yuck!

When making your salad, don't get over complicated with ingredients as you want to taste that chicken. You're looking at my photo and saying, "Where's the salt?"; most mayonnaise brands have salt already as an ingredient. After making your salad, taste it and then decide if you'd like extra salt; remember, you can always add, but not take away. Diced red onion is sweeter than the regular white onion, less harsh on the taste buds. Diced celery will give you some color and added crunch, as will the red onion; two tablespoons of each will be just right. Ground black pepper is a flavor enhancer, but use it sparingly (a half teaspoon for two servings) as it can make your salad on the "hot" side of spicy. When cutting the chicken, first cut strips with the grain, then cut your chunks; otherwise the chicken meat will shred apart, unless you want shredded chicken that is.

Place the chicken, onion, celery and black pepper into a medium mixing bowl; add four tablespoons of mayonnaise and gently fold together. This is when you can now decide if you would like more mayonnaise or is it just right as it is. If you want more, only add one tablespoon at a time; you want to coat and bind, not overwhelm.

When it comes to making a sandwich with your freshly made chicken salad, well that's really up to personal preferences. Depending on my mood, and what I have in stock, it could be a sesame seed kaiser roll (as in the photo), a sub roll or two nice thick slices of whole wheat bread. Fresh, crispy lettuce is the bedding between the bottom piece of bread and the salad; I prefer a mild, thin slice of cheese like baby Swiss or Provolone.  Maybe you'd like Cheddar or American;  tomato or pickles; if that is what you'd like, but personally I don't want to add so many extras that I lose the essence of the chicken salad itself.

Basically, when it comes to buying canned chicken or premade chicken salad at the deli counter, consider buying fresh chicken and creating your own salad.  You'll thank yourself later on.  Enjoy!

Mary Cokenour

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

An Awesome Mexican Adventure.

Recently I purchased two cookbooks from the Monticello Welcome Center; "Authentic Southwestern Cooking" by Lynn Nusom and "Southwest Slow Cooking" by Tammy Biber and Theresa Howell.  Going through both, I found several recipes I wanted to try out, and enjoyed reading some of the stories and informational tidbits in both books.  I was watching Travel Channel's "Mexican Food Paradise"; then Food Network's "Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives" had an episode which featured New Mexico places; so you can see a pattern was starting to develop in what I was to cook next. 

Speaking with my hubby, he suggested I make a Mexican style casserole, but put rotini pasta in it.  I thought about it, but didn't like the pasta idea; pasta is Italian, I already made two Italian pasta dishes last week.  So, do I use one of the recipes out of the cookbooks, or look up recipes from the shows I had watched?  I did better than either choice, I combined both ideas plus my recipes for Chicken Enchiladas and Fiesta Salsa. To say that I came up with something absolutely amazing is to say too little. The taste and texture blew my mind; I wanted to just lay down on the floor and experience what I had just eaten with orgasmic pleasure. It is not often that I feel this way about a particular meal; but this was certainly a most excellent adventure!

Once again I'll be posting a load of photos, so I hope you'll enjoy the visual show as well as trying out this recipe.
Fiesta Chicken Enchiladas


8 chicken tenderloins
¼ cup lime juice
2 Tbsp chopped cilantro
½ tsp cumin
1 tsp New Mexico chile powder (medium)
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 (15 oz) can black beans, rinsed and drained
1 (15 oz) can whole kernel corn, drained
1 (15 oz) can diced tomatoes with green chiles, drained (medium)
8 (10 inch) flour tortillas
2 cups green chile sauce (medium)
8 Tbsp salted butter
8 Tbsp flour
1 cup heavy cream
1 cup milk
½ tsp ground black pepper
1 (8 oz) package shredded Mexican cheese mix


Trim the chicken tenderloins of any fat or excess ligament; place in a sealable plastic bag with the lime juice, cilantro, cumin and chile powder. Move chicken around in bag to make sure all is coated with the marinade; place in refrigerator for one hour. In a large skillet, heat olive oil on medium-high heat; sear chicken two minutes on each side and drain on paper towels. Chicken will still be raw inside, but will finish cooking during the baking process.

To Make the Enchiladas

In a large bowl, mix together the black beans, corn and tomatoes with green chiles.

 Place 4 tablespoons in the center of a tortilla; spread out far enough to be a half inch around the chicken.
Place a chicken tenderloin in the center of the “salsa”; fold the tortilla over both ends of the chicken, but leave 3 inches apart.

Take one side of the tortilla and fold over to make an “envelope”; slowly roll towards the open side, tucking in sides if necessary, to seal the “packet”.

Don't worry if each "packet" is not perfectly symmetrical or look exactly like each other.  Once the layers of sauce are on, no one will see the imperfections. If someone does, then feel proud that these are homemade; not bought at the supermarket's frozen food section and machine made.

Preheat oven to 350F; spray a 4 quart baking dish with nonstick spray. Place each packet, seam side down, inside the dish. Spread the green chile sauce over the packets and bake for 20 minutes.

To Make the Cheese Sauce

Melt the butter, medium-high heat, in a medium sauce pan; whisk in the flour as soon as tiny bubbles begin to form in the melted butter. Continue to whisk as the mixture begins to turn a pale brownish color; add the heavy cream, milk and black pepper and let mixture come to a low boil. Whisk in half the shredded cheese until melted; do same for second half of cheese and continue to whisk until smooth.

After 20 minutes, take enchiladas out of oven and spread cheese sauce completely over all. Return dish to the oven and bake an additional 10 minutes.
Remove from oven and let it rest for 10 minutes to allow cheese sauce to firm up around the enchiladas.  Let me tell you that the cheese poofs up into this wonderful fluffy layer of cheesy cloud.  The texture is so soft and smooth, not the typical chewy layer when cheese is just dumped on an enchilada and allowed to melt.

Cutting open the enchilada, you see the vibrant colors of the beans, corn and tomatoes; the chicken is tender and juicy; the flavors of the lime and cilantro pop; and the cheese sauce layer...a celestial cloud.  Enjoy!

Makes 8 servings.

Mary Cokenour


The Chicken Chick

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

My Version of Five Ingredient Fix - Italian with an Asian Guest.

Anyone who is a home cook has been in this situation: need to make a meal for the family, not in the mood to cook, don't want to order take out or go to a restaurant, have no clue what to prepare.  You look in the freezer, the refrigerator, the pantry and think if you should tear your hair out or just serve cereal with milk.  Breathe in...breathe out...breathe in...breathe out...calm...calm...now think.  Suddenly you see an item in the freezer and remember another one from the pantry; yes, they'll work together, but what else?  Back to the refrigerator, oh my, what you just found that would compliment the other two ingredients; the next thing you know, you have five ingredients sitting on the counter and a recipe formulating in your mind.

Not only did I play this game with myself over the weekend, but I ended up playing it with my friend Heidi.  I don't truly like calling it "five ingredient fix", after the show on Food Network Channel; instead I've given it my own title that befits more the home cook, "What the Hell is in My Pantry!?!"  While Heidi ended up making a delicious meatloaf with mashed potatoes - American comfort food; I ended up making a pasta dish with shrimp and edamame - Italian comfort food with a little Asian undertone (the edamame), but I would not call this "fusion" cuisine.

Here are my five ingredients:

Lets go over each one separately before putting them all together as a skillet dinner.

Tortellini are little circles of pasta dough filled typically with a ricotta cheese filling; however nowadays they can be filled with spinach and cheese, chicken, roasted peppers, mushrooms, ground beef, even Italian sausage.  This pasta is usually found in three forms: dry, frozen or fresh.  Here's a little tip about cooking, not just tortellini, but any pasta; you do not have to add salt or oil to the boiling water to keep the pasta from sticking.  Say what!?!  That's correct, as soon as you put the pasta in the boiling water, immediately begin to stir it for one minute in a circular motion.  When you add the pasta, it decreases the temperature of the water slightly and the boiling diminishes; by stirring, the friction will help the water get back to the boiling point much faster than if you just let it stand.  After the pasta is cooked to your desired doneness, then you can season it with salt, herbs, olive oil, or add it to whatever recipe you're making immediately upon draining.  After I cooked my one pound package of frozen tortellini, it was drained and then mixed with three tablespoons of olive oil.

During the week I had made a different pasta dish using a homemade sauce I had made from processing fresh tomatoes, but had two cups leftover in the fridge.  If you have never had a sauce made from fresh tomatoes, then you have surely missed out on an experience. The taste, smell, texture is simply incredible; much better than using canned tomatoes and most definitely nothing, NOTHING, you'll get from a brand name jarred sauce.  I also used two cups of diced tomatoes to add further texture to the dish, and all those little pieces of tomato just looked so pretty too.  Remember, you eat with your eyes as well as your mouth.

In the freezer were a 12 ounce bag of steamed shrimp and a 16 ounce bag of edamame which had been purchased for a different recipe.  However, they just begged to be used now; the shrimp was already cooked, so needed no work done to it.  The edamame was put into a boiling pot of water for five minutes, then drained.  Now it was time to put it all together in one skillet.

In a 12 inch deep skillet, heat the sauce and diced tomatoes on medium-high heat, add the tortellini as soon as the sauce begins to form bubbles.   As you can see, the tortellini was not sticking together because of the oil I had mixed with it before hand.  Let cook for two minutes before adding...

...the shrimp and edamame.  Mix all the ingredients together and continue to cook for five minutes; taste to make sure everything has been thoroughly heated before serving, continue to cook additional minutes if necessary.  Be careful though, you don't want to overcook that shrimp and turn it into rubber bands.

There you have it, my own version of "Five Ingredient Fix" or "What the Hell is in My Pantry!?!"; isn't that so pretty, all those colors just popping out from the dish.  I did not have to add any seasoning as the grated cheese and herbs from the pasta sauce, and olive oil on the tortellini, did all the work.

Next time you're in a fit about what to fix for dinner; remember breathe, calm and think.

Mary Cokenour