Saturday, November 30, 2013

Bruschetta Without the Bread.

Whenever Bruschetta is on a menu, it is usually listed under "Appetizers"; an Italian antipasto made with grilled bread as the base ingredient. Recently I received an eggplant and figured I would make the same old, same old eggplant parmigiana; Roy and I don't like eggplant, so this dish usually goes to his mom. Then I saw a recipe on Facebook that used eggplant as the top and bottom of a sandwich type appetizer/main course item with spaghetti and sauce as the filling. While the photo looked pretty, I truly didn't see the point of it; but it did get my mind going into a creative direction.

To the refrigerator I went to look for ingredients that would work with the eggplant; Roma tomatoes and mozzarella cheese, but then I spied the chicken cutlets I had defrosted for another recipe.  Suddenly the picture of the recipe I was to make came into my mind like little photos, and I was off!  The eggplant would be the base ingredient, just as bread was for bruschetta; olive oil, garlic, , Italian herbs, tomatoes and cheese were a given.  The chicken, however, would give the entire dish a new dimension in flavor and texture; this would be one of those recipes that could be an appetizer or a main meal.

Enough chit chat and lets get to cooking...

Eggplant-Chicken Bruschetta


1 medium sized eggplant cut into 12 (1/4" thick) slices
3 tsp salt
1 tsp garlic powder
4 Tbsp olive oil, divided in half
1 Tbsp Italian herbal mix
6 pieces boneless, skinless chicken breasts (1/4" thick, cut to equal or slightly larger size than eggplant slices)
6 slices Roma tomatoes
6 slices mozzarella cheese
3 tsp grated Parmesan cheese


Line a platter or baking sheet with paper towels; lay out eggplant slices, sprinkle with salt and cover with additional paper towels.  Wait a minimum of one hour before pressing the paper towels onto the eggplant to remove excess water that has been drawn out by the salt. 

Heat 2 tablespoons of oil, medium-high heat, in a large skillet; place eggplant into skillet, brown one side, turn to brown other side and sprinkle garlic powder over first browned side.  Remove to paper towels.


Put remaining oil into skillet plus herbal mix; place chicken into skillet and brown both sides; remove to paper towels.  Preheat oven to 375F; line a baking sheet with aluminum foil.


Build a stack: eggplant slice, chicken piece, tomato slice, cheese slice, eggplant slice.  When all stacks are made, place on the baking sheet and top with 1/2 tsp of grated cheese.  Bake in oven for 5 to 7 minutes to allow mozzarella cheese to melt.


Makes 6 servings for an appetizer; Makes 3 servings for a meal.

Mary Cokenour

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Yes, I Do Enjoy Going to Hong Kong.

The Hong Kong Chinese Restaurant in Cortez, Colorado that is.

Hong Kong Chinese Restaurant

332 West Main Street
Cortez, Colorado, 81321

(970) 564-8423
(970) 564-8419


Since moving to Utah in 2009, the first Chinese restaurant we discovered as we entered Cortez was Hong Kong; and we still enjoy dining there.  We were just there recently and begged the staff to please open up a second establishment in Monticello.  The menu variety is large and we have never been disappointed in the quality or portions; the staff have always been friendly and attentive.  We usually dine in after having a shopping day in Cortez, and always notice that their take out service is busy.  While there are a few tables, the seating area is mainly booth which are comfy and clean.

There is a separate lunch menu (served 11am to 3pm), again with a large variety, and it includes soup, fried rice, egg roll and the very American fortune cookie.  In case you weren't aware, the fortune cookie is an American invention, but now it goes hand in hand with Chinese cuisine.  The prices vary from $6.55 to $7.55 and you will definitely not walk away hungry; the service is fast also for those with limited time for lunching out.

Now after a day of hiking the North Rim of Canyon de Chelly and visiting the rebuilt Four Corners Monument, we ended up at Hong Kong Chinese Restaurant starving!  We could not decide on appetizers, so ordered the PuPu Platter for Two: egg roll, paper wrapped chicken, bbq spare ribs, beef stick, fried shrimp, fried cheese wonton (filling so creamy!).  Everything was delicious and there was not a crumb left; well, ok, we didn't eat the bone on the spare rib.  My absolute favorite was the beef stick; a thin strip of steak on a wooden skewer; crisply seared edges and melt in your month tender, flavorful beef.  The usual sweet and sour sauce was served, but what we really like is that they put a dollop of Chinese hot mustard in that stuff!

PuPu Platter for Two

Main entrees are two of our favorites; oh lets be honest, everything we've ever had there is on our favorites list. Anyway, from the House Specialties list we ordered "Happy Family" - shrimp, beef, chicken, vegetables in a delectable brown sauce. We also asked for fried rice to go with this dish. Tender slices of beef and chicken; the shrimp has that fresh "scrunch" to them and the vegetables were crisp; oh so good!

From the Noodle section, we ordered "Beef Chow Fun"; not the broad noodle that we became so fond of in east coast Chinese restaurants, but just as yummy. Tender slices of beef, green scallions and those wondrous noodles; this is my idea of comfort food!

I'm giving Hong Kong Chinese Restaurant a huge recommendation to you; in the mood for Chinese cuisine, then give them a try.  You will be thanking me later on.

Mary Cokenour

Hong Kong Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Monday, November 18, 2013

Improving on an Alton Brown Recipe.

Now I enjoy watching Alton Brown's show, "Good Eats", on Food Network, and, most recently, the Cooking Channel during its free preview on Dish Network. Seriously, I enjoy the Cooking Channel, but have no intention of paying more for an increased package deal when I don't want the other channels offered. Anyway, Alton did an episode on casseroles and pot pies, basically improving on the current versions that use many processed foods. I liked his newer take on the Broccoli and Cheese casserole, but not having broccoli in the vegetable bin was a deterrent. Instead, I did have a number of firm green zucchini and yellow squash and thought, "What the heck, lets try something different!".  Not only did I change the vegetable assortment, but several other ingredients like Greek yogurt instead of regular, ranch dressing instead of bleu cheese and French fried onion strips instead of Ramen noodles.  No need to use a seasoning packet from the Ramen noodles which is loaded with salt, when it's already in the French fried onion strips.

Now I'm not a big veggie eater myself, but I have to admit that this recipe came out pretty darned well.  I gave half to my mother-on-law and she loved it too, as well as my hubby.  It was not your typical broccoli and cheese casserole; the zucchini and squash picked up the flavorings from the sauce mixture and onion strips.  It is akin to a luxurious comfort food; the sauce coated the tongue and you simply wanted more.   Alton Brown was correct when he proved that using a popular processed product, Cream of Mushroom Soup, is obsolete; creating your own sauce is so much better!

Vegetable Casserole


16 oz. chopped mushrooms
2 Tbsp butter
1 Tbsp saltless seasoning mixture
3 medium sized zucchini, chopped
3 medium sized yellow squash, chopped
1/2 cup mayonnaise
3/4 cup plain Greek yogurt
3/4 cup ranch dressing
2 eggs, beaten
12 oz. package shredded sharp Cheddar cheese, divided in half
1 tsp ground black pepper
6 oz. package French fried onion strips


Preheat oven to 350F; spray a 2 quart casserole dish with nonstick cooking spray. In a large skillet, medium heat, sauté' mushrooms in butter for five minutes. Add seasoning mixture, zucchini, yellow squash; mix together, sauté' for additional minute and remove from heat. While mushrooms are cooking, mix together in a medium bowl the mayonnaise, yogurt, ranch dressing, eggs, half the shredded cheese, black pepper and onion strips.

Into a large bowl, put in the vegetable mixture; add the wet mixture from the medium bowl and mix to coat the vegetables evenly. Spoon all into the casserole dish; cover with aluminum foil and bake for 45 minutes.

Remove foil, sprinkle remaining half of cheese evenly over top and bake for an additional 15 minutes. Let cool for 10 minutes before serving.

Makes 8 servings.

Mary Cokenour

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Simple Chicken and Rice, but it's Not Average.

For about a 24 hour period, our little town didn't have any natural gas; human error had caused the lines to depressurize which meant no heat or hot water for many residents. It also meant no using the gas stove which meant no cooking up anything fresh for meals, except via the microwave. Yeah, that wasn't happening. Luckily the gas was back on before I went to work, and as soon as I came home I went to work on a very simple, comforting and delicious chicken dinner.  I call it "Simply Seared Chicken" due to that being the main method of cooking, searing; the side dish is "Risi e Bisi" or "Rice and Peas".  The side dish is a risotto which originated in Venice and goes very well with poultry or the other white meat, pork.

Now when picking out your chicken, I like using plump, boneless, skinless chicken breasts; however, they take a little longer to cook because of the thickness and usually need to be finished off in the oven.  Keeping them searing in the skillet is not a good idea for while they will finish cooking completely, the seasonings will end up burning.  A thinner cutlet can be used, or pound out the chicken breasts if you do not want to use the oven to complete the cooking.  Personally, once I cut into that thick section of chicken breast, the juices begin flowing out, mixing with the seasonings and olive oil; there is no need for any sauces or gravies!

Simply Seared Chicken
1 tsp each of medium sea salt, paprika and garlic powder
1/2 tsp ground black pepper
4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
3 Tbsp olive oil
Mix together the seasonings and sprinkle on both sides of chicken.
Heat the olive oil in a 12 inch skillet on medium-high heat; as it just begins to sizzle, add the chicken (skin side down) into the pan.  All four pieces will fit with a slight space in between each.
Sear the chicken for five minutes, turn over and sear the other side for another five minutes. 
Test the doneness by slicing open the thickest part of the breast.  If it is still undercooked, place the chicken into a baking pan and finish off cooking in a 350F oven for three to five minutes.

The Risi e Bisi can be cooking at the same time you are preparing the chicken; a main and side dish done at the same time!
Risi e Bisi (rice and peas)
1 Tbsp olive oil
2 Tbsp butter
1 Tbsp minced garlic
1 cup Arborio rice
4 cups warmed chicken stock
1 cup frozen peas, defrosted and warmed
3 Tbsp grated Parmesan cheese
In a deep, large skillet, medium-heat, melt the butter with the olive oil; add the rice and toast it for two minutes; add the garlic and mix thoroughly.  Add 1 and 1/2 cups of stock, bring to a low boil (just beginning to bubble); stir until the liquid is fully absorbed into the rice.  Continue adding in half cups of stock, letting it be fully absorbed by the rice before adding more; stir constantly.  The rice should be al dente within 20 minutes at which time the peas and cheese can be added and mixed in.
Both the chicken and side dish recipes are for four servings.  Simple, easy, comforting and very delicious; how can you go wrong!?!
Mary Cokenour