Thursday, June 27, 2013

How to Prepare Spaghetti Squash.

Spaghetti squash is an oblong shaped (normally yellow in color, sometimes with an orange tint) winter squash which can be easily prepared.  After cutting the squash lengthwise, use a simple spoon to scoop out the seeds; the raw flesh is firm and the surprise comes after cooking.  This type of squash can be baked, boiled, microwaved or steamed; my personal favorite way is baking it in an oven.  I have tried the microwave way, but I believe the baking method gives the squash more flavor, especially if you allow the ends to brown slightly.  The squash in my photo is about seven inches long; what I would consider medium sized and gives up about four cups of cooked flesh.  Oh, when buying a spaghetti squash, be warned that it looks slightly like a honeydew melon, but the melon typically has a greenish tint to it, while the squash won't.

After cleaning the squash, preheat the oven to 375F; line a baking sheet with aluminum foil and place the squash cut side down.  Some folks say to rub oil on the rind, but it really doesn't do a thing for the flesh inside and the rind will soften with or without the oil.  Bake the squash for 40 - 50 minutes; the edges will begin to brown and the flesh can easily be removed with a fork.  Clean the squash while it is still hot; hold the rind side with a folded towel and lean the bottom against the edge of your bowl; with a downward scraping motion pull the strands of the flesh into the bowl.  See how it looks like spaghetti, and the texture is almost the same also; the taste however is different, it does taste like a vegetable.  You can easily use the strands in any dish you would use the pasta in; top with your favorite pasta sauce, make a frittata, or go completely vegetarian with your recipe.  Could you add a protein?  Why not!?!  Small meatballs, grilled and sliced sausages, crispy bacon; treat it like a pasta that just happens to have more vitamins and minerals than grains.

Mediterranean Spaghetti Squash
4 Tbsp olive oil
1 and 1/2 cups sliced mushrooms
1 and 1/2 cups cup sliced zucchini
1 Tbsp minced garlic
1 and 1/2 cups diced tomatoes
3/4 chopped fresh parsley
4 cups cooked spaghetti squash
salt and ground black pepper to taste
Option: grated Parmesan cheese on top


Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat; saute' the mushrooms, zucchini and garlic together until the mushrooms soften and begin to brown.  Keep stirring to keep the garlic from burning.
Add the tomatoes, mix and let them cook down for about five minutes, so the excess liquid can evaporate.
Add the parsley, but only cook for one minute to allow it to wilt a little.  If you want it to look more dramatic though, instead of chopping the parsley leaves; leave them whole.  Add the spaghetti squash and toss well to make sure it gets a good coating of the vegetables and parsley.  Add salt and pepper to taste; depending on how vegetarian you want this dish, you might want to sprinkle a little grated Parmesan cheese over the top of each serving.
 Makes 4 servings.
I served this to both my husband and his mother; neither had ever had spaghetti squash before, nor knew what it was.  They ended up splitting the four servings up between them.  Good thing I keep a jar of peanut butter in the house; made myself a sandwich for lunch while they chowed down on the squash.  Oh well, at least I know they enjoyed it...a lot!
Mary Cokenour

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Hunan in Cortez is Worth the Try.

Hunan Chinese Restaurant

2561 East Main Street
Cortez, Colorado, 81321

Fax: (970) 565-0266

Website: N/A

Having been told about Hunan and the buffet by friends, we decided to try it out; unfortunately what we did not know is that the buffet is only served at lunch time.  Arriving around 5pm, we found ourselves to be the only diners in the restaurant; the staff were seated at a back booth talking, but seated us as soon as we got their attention.  After that, service was very attentive; making sure our water glasses were filled and that we were happy with the dishes we had ordered.

We ordered two appetizers, Egg Rolls and Dumplings (choice of fried or steamed); these are made fresh every morning in house. The wrappers on the egg rolls was lightly fried and crispy; it was loaded with shredded cabbage, so much so, that it was difficult to bite apart, so it all came out of the wrapper in a chunk. I used a fork to break it into smaller pieces to dip in my mixture of sweet/sour sauce and hot mustard. The dumplings were not pan fried like other Chinese restaurants usually do; they were deep fried which made the wrappers hard and too crunchy.

Before the appetizers were served, we were given a bowl of Egg Drop Soup; it was amazingly delicious.  Thicker than usual, with little bits of carrot and so satisfying.  Next time we go back, I'll fore go the appetizers and just enjoy the soup.

We also ordered two main dishes; Combination Rice Noodles and Happy Family.  The Combination Rice Noodles did not have any sauce on it which allowed the freshness of the noodles, vegetables, pork, beef, shrimp and chicken to sing out loud.  A slight sprinkling of soy sauce enhanced this dish more; but it was delicious with or without the sauce.  If you think about comfort food, this is it Chinese style.

Happy Family made us both very happy indeed; the brown sauce was out of this world in flavor; the vegetables were crisp; the BBQ pork slices, beef, chicken and shrimp were all cooked perfectly.  This is one of those dishes that, no matter how full you feel, you still want to keep on eating it.  It was served with white rice which we used to make sure we sopped up every bit of sauce.

Overall, the appetizers were a fail, but the soup and main dishes made up for it in spades.  In the mood for Chinese food and in the Cortez, Colorado area; Hunan Chinese Restaurant is a must try.

Mary Cokenour

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Monday, June 24, 2013

Pantele's Desert Deli is an Oasis of Freshness.

Pantele's Desert Deli

98 East Center Street
Moab, Utah, 84532

(435) 259-0200
Fax: (435) 259-0050

Facebook Page:

Several times I have tried to have a meal at Pantele's Desert Deli, but they've always been closed early; I have finally found out the secret why. The menu items are so good, they're sold out in mere hours; better get in there between 11am to 2pm; or place an order via phone or fax, otherwise you're out of luck.

The interior of Pantele's is simple; counter for ordering and simple tables and chairs for dining at.  The staff, however, make it special by being very friendly and welcoming; Mary is all smiles and very cheery; owner Bella is vibrant, and passionate about her food and the business itself.  Bella owns the business with her husband, Eric; but she is the tidal wave force behind it all.

Arriving at 2:30pm, there was a "Sorry, We're Closed" sign on the window and I thought we'd missed our chance to try Pantele's again.  However, there were diners inside, so I decided to try anyway; good thing I did!  Yes, they were sold out of most items, but ingredients for a Gyro were still available; yelling out to my hubby in the car, we both ordered the Gyro with a side of potato salad. 

After getting our drinks, it did not take long for our order to come to our table.  The potato salad was to die for!!!  Chunks of tender, real potatoes in a creamy, seasoned mixture of mayonnaise, salt, paprika....and I couldn't get Bella to give me her secret recipe.  I was so enjoying the potato salad, I almost forgot about the Gyro. die for!!!  The meat is cut into sections instead of long strips, and grilled to sizzling goodness.  The tomatoes, onions and herbs are so fresh, and the Tzatziki sauce was amazing; not a drop went to waste.  My hubby inhaled his meal; I had to keep swatting his hand away as he kept reaching for mine.

Perusing the menu as we ate, we saw many items we wanted to try out at another time.  For convenience, boxed lunches are available which is great for all the hikers and adventurers we get in the area.  Bella explained that Pantele's only creates about 20 servings of the menu items per day to keep the freshness scale at 100%.  Instead of buying cheaper ingredients in bulk, these smaller amounts of servings ensures freshness and high quality.  Impressive nowadays when fast food and frozen ingredients seem to be becoming the standard in too many eateries.

So here is the gist of Pantele's Desert Deli; get there or order early; owner and staff are friendly and let you know they want and appreciate their customers; the food is made daily with fresh, high quality ingredients.  It's a win situation!!!  Unfortunately, now that you know about Pantele's, it's going to be even harder to get a meal there in the future.

Mary Cokenour

Pantele's Desert Deli on Urbanspoon

Monday, June 17, 2013

Simply Quiche.

Whenever I need a deep dish pie crust (no, I don't usually make my own), I try and buy the Marie Callender brand; smoother crust, bakes evenly; a bit deeper than the no-name store brand types. This is perfect when making quiche as the egg custard tends to puff up while baking; I'd rather have more of it to eat, than cleaning it off the bottom of my oven.

Basic Quiche Recipe


1 ½ cups half n’ half
4 eggs, beaten
1/8 tsp salt (can be adjusted up or down dependent on ingredients added in)
1/8 tsp ground black pepper
1 – 9” unbaked deep dish pastry shell


Preheat oven to 350F. Combine half n’ half, eggs, salt and pepper. Pour into pastry shell; bake for 45-50 minutes, or until egg mixture is golden brown and set.

Roy Cokenour
Now here's a recap of my basic quiche recipe, very simple.  What I'm going to post today is a quiche using Swiss Cheese, mushrooms and bacon.  Swiss cheese usually comes in blocks and all you need is a hand grater and large bowl to shred it; oh, and lots of muscle would be very helpful.  Oh sure you can go out and buy a fancy food processor, but I've got something much better...a kitchen gnome.  Meet my hubby, Roy; and personal kitchen gnome; he does all the jobs I believe need more muscle than I'm willing to sacrifice.

I ended up making two quiches, one without bacon for my mom-in-law who does not eat pork products; both had the Swiss cheese plus sliced mushrooms.

Preheat oven to 350F.  First mix up your egg custard using the recipe above, set aside.  Now spread out two cups of Swiss cheese over the pie crust; next spread out one cup of sliced mushrooms and one cup of chopped, partially cooked bacon.

Gently pour the custard mixture over the ingredients in the pie shell and use a chop stick to move it between items so there is no clumping; try to keep everything spread out as evenly as possible.

Now to avoid spillage, usually you can put a jelly roll pan into the oven while it is heating up to help temper it; it should not warp and tilt your quiche during the baking process.  I have found that that doesn't always work out the way you plan.  Instead take a sheet of heavy duty aluminum foil, make edges all around and place on the center rack of your oven.  Then carefully place your filled pie crusts inside, close up the oven and bake as usual.  The foil won't warp from the heat, but still grab any spillage.

Swiss Cheese and Mushroom Quiche

Once baked, let the quiches cool for at least two hours before serving; they may look done, but the center is still loose; cutting it would be a complete mess.  Refrigerating the quiche would help; it can then be served cold, or slightly warm it for 10 minutes in a 300F oven.  Eaten cold or warm, quiche is a complete meal in a slice of egg custard goodness.

Swiss Cheese, Mushroom and Bacon Quiche


Mary Cokenour

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Peace Tree Juice Cafe in Monticello, Utah.

Peace Tree Juice Cafe
516 S. Main Street
Monticello, Utah, 84535

(435) 587-5063

Website:  (Main focus is on the Cafe located in Moab, Utah)


Located on the Main Street of Monticello, Utah, sits the Peace Tree Juice Cafe.  A former residential home, the Cafe is brightly colored with their signature lizard on the front wall.  There is another Cafe located in Moab which was just newly renovated in 2012; the Cafe in Blanding closed about two years ago, so that location should be removed from their sign. Whether sitting on the patio or the interior dining area, you have a wonderful view of the flowering plants and herbs; hummingbird feeders attract the aviary jets; it is an overall soothing environment. 

One hardship about being located on a main thoroughfare; the view of the Abajo Mountains is obstructed by a car wash and Texaco station. 

Due to the high winds and dark clouds moving in from the mountains, we thought it better to dine inside.  The dining area is divided into two sections, "The Cave" which has room for three small tables; and the main area which is roomier and brighter due to the large windows.  There is also a small area for the Cafe's shop of t-shirts, postcards, mugs and various knick-knacks.

Upon entering we were immediately asked if we were there for dinner, and then seated at a table by one of the large windows.  The waitress did not introduce herself, and I only recognized the owner, Karen Whipple, who served us our drinks, because I had once been introduced to her.  Smoothies, coffees and fruit juices are not served during dinner, "It is too busy at dinner time to make them", I was told.  Didn't make much sense to us, since they are often packed for lunch, yet those drinks are available.  They would have made a better profit on the Chai Latte I was craving, instead of the diet Coke I ended up with.  They do serve beer and wine, so my husband was happy with his bottle of porter.

We both ordered the Fish Tacos; three Tilapia fish tacos on your choice of corn or flour tortillas, guacamole, salsa, cilantro lime dressing and green salad, was the description on the photocopied menu.   We were not asked our choice of tortilla, so received flour ones on both orders.  Instead of green salad, we received a salad of corn, black beans, tomatoes and cilantro (fresh, but cilantro was the only seasoning).  Pickled purple cabbage stuffed the small tortillas, so the two ounce (2 oz) portions of fish were overwhelmed.  The guacamole and salsa were both zesty and helped to give the vegetable salad a nice zip when mixed together.

On a side note, the menu states that all dinner entrees come with grilled vegetables and a choice of: coleslaw, potato salad, macaroni and cheese or a dinner salad.  We received, and were offered, none of those items (the vegetable salad was not grilled); I will presume that there was a lack of training and knowledge on the part of the waitress.

Now one thing you have to understand is that Utah is a landlocked state, so fresh fish is not going to be available.  It's either heavily packed in ice for same day delivery, or frozen and thawed out for use.  The fillets for our tacos were nicely browned on the outside, cut into 3 portions for the 3 tacos; however, the fish was a bit on the dry side.  The dressing from the pickled cabbage helped add the needed moisture; removing some of the cabbage and adding the vegetable salad gave a fish taco a whole fresh flavoring to it.

We finished out our meal sharing a slice of Chef Llew's cheesecake, made in house, creamy, yummy with a lemony sour cream topping and garnished with fresh fruit.

Overall, while the breakfast and lunch items, smoothies, fruit drinks and coffees are raved about; the dinner menu at Peace Tree Juice Cafe is not something I would recommend.  The lunch menu is offered through dinner time, but no smoothies, juices or coffees which is very disappointing.

Mary Cokenour

Peace Tree Juice Cafe on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Remember that Garlic Butter Sauce?

You remember, don't you?  The packet of Garlic Butter Sauce I had stashed in the freezer from the Buitoni Shrimp and Lobster Ravioli box. Well I found another way to use it, and to try out a little more fusion cuisine while I was at it. Once again this pasta making challenged woman used a Buitoni product, Cheese and Roasted Garlic Tortelloni; but mixed it with stir fry vegetables...a little bit Italian with a little bit Asian.

I purchased two (9 ounce) packages of the tortelloni and one (16 ounce) package of frozen stir fry vegetables.  I opened up the package of vegetables and put them in a colander, so the water could drain away as they defrosted.  That way I could also defrost the packet of sauce at the same time.  When ready, I first cooked the pasta only to the halfway point, not even to al dente; it was going to finish cooking with the vegetables and the sauce later on.

In a large skillet, set on medium-high heat, I melted two tablespoons of butter with two tablespoons of olive oil; the defrosted vegetables went in plus a teaspoon of minced garlic.  I let them cook for five minutes, stirring occasionally to keep them from sticking or burning.  Just before I added the pasta, the contents from the sauce packet got mixed in; squeezed out every drop of the creamy, garlicky, buttery goodness.

Reduce the heat to low, mix in the tortelloni and cover.  Let this cook for seven minutes; basically the pasta will be steamed to desired doneness while absorbing the flavors of the sauce.  You'll end up with four generous portions, or stretch it to six with an added side dish; sprinkling grated or shredded cheese over top is optional.

Here's the completed dish, Garlic Pasta Stir Fry.  Quick, convenient, easy to make and yummy; it looks pretty too, so you'll be sure to impress someone.    Enjoy!

Mary Cokenour

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

G'Day Mate at the Outback Steakhouse.

Outback Steakhouse

4921 E. Main Street
Farmington, New Mexico, 87402

(505) 324-2122


Outback Steakhouse is mainly open for dinner, after 4pm, but this one in Farmington, NM is open Saturday and Sunday at 11am; starting July 1, 2013 it will be open for lunch everyday.  We were immediately greeted upon entering, and while the host wanted to seat us in the bar area, we insisted on a booth in the dining area.  Our waitress, Heidi, was friendly, took our drink and appetizer order quickly; brought warm bread and butter to nosh on; and made sure to keep our drink glasses filled.  Several times the General Manager, Chris, stopped at booths and tables nearby us; for whatever unknown reason, he didn't bother to stop by ours to introduce himself, nor ask how our meal experience was.  Another gentleman wearing a red shirt came by later on, stopped at each table and booth, asked how everything was before moving on; didn't introduce himself, so he could have been just some friendly guy.

We chose two appetizers, the new Crab Stuffed Mushrooms and a half order of Aussie Cheese Fries.
The Crab Stuffed Mushrooms were cooked well; moist, delicious stuffing with mushrooms that could easily be cut with a fork.  The lemon butter sauce served on the side was thick, yet creamy and went so well with this appetizer.

The Aussie Cheese Fries were deep fried shoestring potatoes covered in melted cheese and just a smidgen of bacon; definitely would have appreciated more bacon with this appetizer.  It was served with a spicy ranch dipping sauce, but nothing to rave about.

For the main entree, we both chose 6 ounce sirloins; The Bloomin' Sirloin which came topped with "petals" from Outback's Bloomin' Onion appetizer and the Sirloin with Wild Mushroom Sauce (new item on the menu); both came with a choice of potato, steamed vegetables or side salad.  If you wanted the choice of potato and a side salad, it was an extra $2.99 for the salad (lettuce, croutons, cherry tomatoes, red onion, shredded cheese).  While we both enjoy our steaks medium-rare, we ordered medium and surprise!, the steaks both came out medium-rare anyway.  I enjoyed the garlic mashed potatoes with The Bloomin' Sirloin; they were not only creamy and delicious, but stayed hot throughout the entire meal. 

My husband had ordered the side salad which was served after the appetizers, so his steak looked so lonely on that large dinner plate all by itself.  Perhaps if the large slices of mushroom had been served on the side of the steak, the presentation would have been better; the sauce was creamy though.

We shared one dessert, Carrot Cake with a Cream Cheese Frosting which is not house made, but brought in from an outside source.  However, the cake itself was moist with plenty of diced pecans and raisins; the frosting was not overly sweet and went so nicely with the cake.  It was a pleasant ending to the overall meal experience.

Normally I don't give ratings, but with a chain restaurant like Outback Steakhouse, I would give this one in Farmington, NM a B minus (B-).  Not overly bad, not overly good and just a touch above average.

Mary Cokenour

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