Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Goodbye 2013 and Hello to 2014; Wonder What's in Store for the New Year?

Wish List for the 2014 New Year

Every New Year, it's a tradition to make a list of "resolutions" that most people end up not keeping. It's a good concept, but unfortunately we tend to make goals for ourselves that are more wishful thinking than practical. Then there is the "wish list"; concepts or ideals that we hope will get resolved for the New Year, but is dependent on others, not just ourselves; for instance, "World Peace". Back to being practical, this will more than likely not happen in our current lifetime, perhaps not at all in the lifetime of mankind itself. War is profitable, oh not to those fighting, losing their lives and leaving loved ones without them; but for those who are either greedy or need to prove that they are right. Politics and Religion do not go hand in hand, they are Siamese Twins joined in such a manner that any type of "surgery" guarantees death. The leaders of these groups have been raised up to the status of "omnipotent gods" instead of being recognized as simple human beings with flaws and capable of being wrong. Until the populace develops "common sense" and refuses to hold these humans in higher regard than their own lives, the business of war will always be more profitable than life itself. The popular quote from Rodney King is, "Why can't we all just get along?", but we cannot so long as the majority of human beings meekly follow along as "sheeple" those that they consider "right". If each political and/or religious leader is right, than how can anyone be wrong, and what is all the fighting truly about?

So for the New Year of 2014, I'm not going to waste my time making resolutions that I probably will not keep, perhaps not even begin. I am going to make a wish list that is dependent on others. Why? I want to see if anyone is listening, not just hearing; I want to see if anyone cares about a stranger and wants to help her obtain her "wish list" for a very simple reason...just because.

Wish #1: All loans and credit card debts are paid off in full. Start the New Year off free of all old debts; begin at zero and build upwards instead of being held down.

An old fashioned "comfort food" diner; yeah, that's my dream.

Wish #2: My food blog, Food Adventures of a Comfort Cook, becomes so popular that an entrepreneur actually wants to invest money into the restaurant idea I dream about.

Wish #3: My travel blog, The Southwest Through Wide Brown Eyes becomes so popular that a company actually gives me a brand new Jeep or SUV (with their advertising printed on the vehicle) for my use in furthering my excursions.


Wish #4: For my husband, Roy, that his Artwork becomes so high in demand, he can finally afford to build his own art studio and do what he went to school to study for, and loves. Or he gets that high paying job with a studio, either way he would be doing what he loves. The picture I've posted is one he did by taking one of my photos of Agathla Peak and doing "photo manipulation" to it; Roy's passion is graphic arts and digital artwork.

"El Diablo Towers" - a photo manipulation of Agathla Peak

Wish #5: This wish is for the town I live in, Monticello, Utah and has several parts.

A: That common sense finally prevails, more businesses are allowed into the town limits, allowed to flourish and, thereby, providing more funds for the town itself.

B: That the housing market has an upsurge; all properties are finally purchased, homeowners have, or receive, the finances to upgrade their homes; that Monticello, Utah makes it into the "Top 100 Places to Live in the USA" list.

C: That the town becomes a tourist mecca; employment will be non-existent due to the need; businesses of all types will, again, flourish.

Wish #6: That the medical professions and pharmaceutical companies stop jerking everyone around and finally release the cures for cancer, diabetes, AIDS and other diseases/illnesses that are so very profitable for them. I have Type 2 Diabetes and am so sick and tired of pills and insulin shots; I'm sick of pharmaceutical companies putting out commercials saying that as soon as you're diagnosed, you must use their products or suffer the consequences, including death. I'm sick of organizations asking for research donations, and they're the same organizations I've been seeing begging for money for over 50 years. What are they doing with all that money, over all those years, that they haven't developed a cure yet!!??!!

Six wishes, I'm not going to be greedy; then again, I'm not a politician or religious leader. Not all the wishes are about me either, they're about my husband, the town I live in, and for those suffering medically. I have lots of wishes inside my head, but I'm sticking to these six, since they're the most important of all to me.

Have fun at your end of the old year parties; don't drink till you end the year looking like a total ass; the next day is a whole new year and people will be remembering. Most especially do not drink and drive; don't end the year by ending your own life and/or the lives of others.

A Happy and Healthy New Year to everyone, everywhere; and for my wish list...bring it on!!!

Mary Cokenour

Friday, December 27, 2013

My Birthday Dinner.

Yesterday, December 26th, was my birthday and I am 21...again.  You know how some women, when they're about to turn 30 decide to be "29 again"; nope, not me, I'm 21.  Someone on Facebook posted one of these quizzes, one about your mental age; well mine came out to 28, so see, I still don't even qualify to be 29 again anyway.  If you're a reader, and hopefully a follower, of my travel blog, you can tell from my adventures that becoming and feeling "old" is not on my agenda. 

Actually, I have my life pretty much planned out to the age of 200.  "Impossible!", you say, but why; why shouldn't we all have expectations of a very long life and do what we can to make it all worthwhile?  For my first 50 years of life, I lived on the East Coast, primarily in New York and Pennsylvania; at age 50 though, I moved to Utah.  For the next 50 years I intend on enjoying life in the Southwest, exploring Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico and Utah; maybe even get to a few other states out here.  That takes me to age 100 where I intend on going to Europe and spending 50 years exploring England, Scotland, Wales and Ireland.  I've been a "ghost hunter" since about 1999, so experiencing the haunted castles of these countries is number one of the to-do list.  Roy and I, oh yes, my hubby plans on doing all this with me, want to also visit all those places from our favorite British mysteries: Midsomer Murders, Miss Marple, Hercule Poirot, Sherlock Holmes, Morse.  Our biggest thrill would be to meet Doctor Who, and Captain Jack Harkness (Torchwood); perhaps a Cyberman and Dalek too.  "Ridiculous!", you say; but then again, you're the old becoming old with the nay saying, not me.  Which takes me to age 150 when Roy and I intend to head off for Australia, New Zealand and whatever other lands are in that area.  "Why?", you ask..."Why Not!!!"", I say.

You have to admit these are pretty adventurous goals for a woman who wasn't supposed to have even been born, or continued on living after being born.  No, no; I was not planned; I was supposed to be born a male and named Stephen.   Oh I got the day of birth correct, December 26th, Saint Stephen's Day, but I got the sex all wrong, born with the wrong genitals and all that comes with it.  I did get very sick after I was born, doctors thought I would die, but nope, I lived; and messed up the plans and lives of family members...or so I was led to believe for so many sad years.  With the help of a couple of friends, and most especially Roy, I accepted myself, developed love for myself, and realized that these family members brought their own misery upon themselves; and missed out on a wonderful chance to enjoy a wonderful female...ME!  I didn't quit, I didn't give in, I didn't commit suicide; I knew my death would make others happy and I'd be damned before I'd allow that satisfaction.  That past, however, is past and cannot be changed; now I'm living everyday to its fullest and having a great time!!!  I truly hope what I've just written inspires someone else to pick themselves up and say, "Yes, I am worth every bit of living!!!"

Anyway, last night I cooked up one of the most delicious steak dinners I've ever eaten.  "What!?!  You didn't go out for your birthday?"  No, Roy was out of town on business, but promised to take me to one of our favorite Mexican restaurants when he returns; so it was up to me to treat me.

Steak; I purchased two Rib Eye (one for my birthday, and one for a weekend meal) that were a half pound each, 1 and 1/2 inches thick and very little fat.  I seasoned both sides simply with cracked black pepper and crushed sea salt.  First I preheated the oven to 425F and sprayed an aluminum baking dish with nonstick spray.  For ten minutes I seared one side of the steak in the oven; ten minutes for the other side; I reduced the heat to 350F and let the steaks cook to medium-rare for another 10 minutes.

While the steaks seared, I sautéed sliced mushrooms (8 ounces) and a julienned onion (large) in a large skillet; three tablespoons of olive oil on medium-high heat; again simply seasoned with the black pepper and sea salt, with a dash of garlic powder.

Once the steaks were done, I added a baked potato and a small side salad (Green Goddess dressing and shredded Cheddar cheese).  For dessert, a slice of New York Style Cheesecake with whipped creamed and chocolate sauce.  "Holy Moly Mary, you're not supposed to eat all that!!!"  Hey, it was my birthday, and I deserved every bit of it.  ...and now to make you even more jealous, my blood sugar two hours after was only 97...97!  Another three hours later, I was ready for bed, took my blood sugar and it was only 112.  Next morning, I found I had lost a half pound....oh yeah, you're all jealous and you know it!

Overall, I had a happy birthday; yes, my past still rears its ugly head at times and overwhelms me with sadness.  I find a way to deal with it, to overcome; as the saying goes, "What doesn't kill you, makes you stronger" and I am living proof of this.  Next birthday you have, do not push yourself down by saying, "I'm old", lift yourself up and say, "I AM all that, and the whole potato chip factory too!"

Mary Cokenour

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Breakfast in Under 15 Minutes, Thanks Hamilton Beach.

When I first saw the commercial for Hamilton Beach's newest electric kitchen gadget, I knew I had to have one. The Breakfast Sandwich Maker does all in one little machine what takes me a toaster, skillet on the stove, and mixing bowl to do. Not only does it save me all the hassle and cleanup, but the food is still done my way and I know what ingredients are going into my breakfast sandwich. I don't have to buy premade breakfast sandwiches which never cook correctly no matter how closely you follow the directions.  No more I'm in a rush, so get a breakfast sandwich at the convenience store; like the store bought type, are not cooked correctly and what is in them exactly?

The unit comes in two parts, a molded plastic main section with nonstick plates, and a removable section of nonstick plates where most of the food cooking is done.  Warning: the entire unit gets very hot, so make sure to use an insulated mitt or pad when touching any part of the device.  Cleanup though is very easy, all food particles wipe up in a second with a wet cloth, paper towel or soft sponge.  Or remove the inner section for a thorough washup; use soap, water and soft sponge; no harsh chemicals or abrasive sponge.

Besides the unit itself, the only other main utensil you'll need is a small spatula to help push the cooked sandwich through the cooking rings and onto your plate, or napkin if you're on the go.

When it comes to the ingredients, your own taste and imagination will be your guide.  The choices for a bread are diverse; English muffin, roll, biscuit, flatbread, bagel thin, etc; whole grain, wheat, rye, seeded, unseeded, etc.  The rule for size is that the total two layers (top and bottom combined) should be no more than a half inch thick; each layer should be 1/4 inch maximum in thickness.  Now while an English muffin will fit inside perfectly, other breads may have to be trimmed slightly to fit the round cooking sections.  With thick items such as rolls and biscuits, a center section will have to be removed; save it for bread crumbs, feed it to the birds, or just nibble on it while waiting for your sandwich to completely cook.

Meats, cheeses, condiments and vegetables can be added according to your taste and desire.  The meat items must be precooked; cheese slices might have to be folded, or buy the rectangular brand that you can cut into square slices.  Condiments and vegetables can be added in the bottom section with the cheese or meat, or if using just a little, with the egg.  You can use a whole egg, egg whites only, or egg substitute; remember, you're making your breakfast sandwich your way.  Do not overload the cooking rings, pressing down the plates or lid will cause leakage and/or not having the food cook evenly.

Lets make a sandwich, so you can see how simple this little machine is...

As soon as you plug in the device (cooking plates are inside the unit and the lid is down), the red light will come on; it takes about five minutes to warm up and in that time you can get your ingredients all together.

Once the unit is ready to go, the green light will come on; carefully open up the lid and the first section of cooking plates.

Place your bottom layer of bread inside, the side you want toasted facing downward.

Place your cheese on top of the bread, then your meat or veggies; if using a bagel thin, place the meat first, then the cheese, or the cheese will ooze out of the bagel's opening once it melts.  Or you can plug the opening up with the part you needed to trim off, so the bagel thin would fit.

Put down the next section of the cooking plates, this is where your egg or egg product will go; if using a whole egg, puncture a hole in the yolk to allow it to cook evenly. 

Add any condiments, it's a half teaspoon of ketchup for me, but you can spice it up with salsa or green chili.  Then put on your top layer of bread, the side you want toasted facing upward.

Close the lid, do NOT press down and wait for five minutes; at higher altitudes, add one more minute to your cooking time.  Now pour yourself another hot cup of coffee or tea, maybe a tall glass of juice and relax; make sure though that you're keeping track of the time.

Once done, carefully lift up the lid; slide the disk out of the egg section; you'll see the bread drop down a little, but use a spatula to press it down slightly.  

As you lift up the bottom cooking ring, keep pressing the sandwich through to the bottom.  Use the spatula to slide it onto a plate or napkin.

There you are, a piping hot sandwich (wait about a minute before biting into it, it's that hot!) and the whole process took less than 15 minutes.  It probably took me a lot longer to write this post up, and maybe just as long for you to read it.

Now the only concern I have about the Hamilton Beach Breakfast Sandwich Maker is the plastic molded sections; will they continue to hold up to the high heat this device generates?  I have been using it for two weeks now, making one to two sandwiches daily depending on if hubby and I both want one.  So far, so good; but only time and continued usage will give me the answer.

Until then, if you enjoy delicious, hot and quickly made breakfast sandwiches...buy this!!!

Mary Cokenour

Friday, December 20, 2013

Bernardone's Family Pizzeria in New Mexico

Bernardone's Family Pizzeria

933 West Main Street
Farmington, New Mexico, 87401

(505) 325-0303

Website: http://bernardonesfamilypizzeria.com/

Now being a former New Yorker who has grown up on Italian food, a good amount of it pizza, I was excited about trying out the cuisine at Bernardone's.  While I do judge pizza by New York standards, the use of a wood burning brick oven is pretty impressive; and it does a nice job on the dough.


Bernardone's has a sort of fancy look on the outside, but the interior is rustic with booths lining most of the walls while tables and chairs take up the central space.  There is a menu over the ordering area, but it does not have the entire menu listed, so go by the paper version.  Basically you order at the counter, pay and then a waitress will bring your drinks, appetizers and main dishes later on. The staff are friendly and will explain menu items; you will get things your way and with a smile.

To start off the dining experience, we chose the Baked Mushrooms alla Toscana; button mushrooms coated in olive oil, fresh bread crumbs, herbs and garlic.  It came to the table just as described on the menu, "piping hot from the oven".  The bread crumbs were crispy and flavorful;  the mushrooms were not soaking in olive oil, but had a mild flavor of it which was a nice touch.

There were four of us present, and since it was lunch time, kept the dishes simple; two pizzas, a calzone and a pasta (from the gluten free section).  Yes, I said "gluten free"; Bernardone's created this section of the menu to let diners indulge in pasta, but not suffer for it later on.

The Cheese Calzone contains Ricotta, Romano and Mozzarella cheeses; I did a little "create my own" by having meatballs added in.  I notice that calzones made out in the Southwest are definitely not like New York calzones.  I'm used to them being so stuffed with cheese, they're ready to explode; while the ones out here have thin layers of cheese in an airy pocket of dough.  Don't get me wrong, this calzone was delicious; but I missed all that cheese.  The marinara sauce served on the side was also delicious and I enjoyed the chunks of tomato it contained.  Being baked in the wood burning oven also gave the calzone a unique flavor overall.

Fusilli Campagnola was the gluten free pasta dish ordered; pasta sautéed with garlic, chicken, sun-dried tomatoes, calamata olives and mushrooms; topped with fresh basil and Romano cheese.  The portions at Bernardone's are generous and the diner who ate this dish merely stated that it was good.  It surely must have been because she basically left her plate clean...no leftovers!

Pizza Time!

First pizza ordered was the "Pizza Ultimo" 10 inch Personal size; pepperoni, Italian sausage, green bell peppers, red onions, black olives and mushrooms.  Second pizza was a "Create Your Own" 10 inch Personal size consisting of ground beef, green chiles, white onions, feta cheese and fresh basil.  Once again the wood burning oven gave the dough a crispy crust and unique flavor; overall the pizzas were delicious and certainly should be tried when you visit Bernardone's.  Did they live up to the standard of a New York pizza?  Of course not, this pizza was made in New Mexico, not New York; but I still would order one and enjoy it at Bernardone's.

Pizza Ultimo

A "Create Your Own" Pizza

When looking for an Italian eatery in Farmington, New Mexico, I would definitely recommend Bernardone's Family Pizzeria over some chain restaurant that imitates Italian cuisine.  Bernardone's makes their food the true Italian way...with love.

Mary Cokenour

Bernardone's Family Pizzeria on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Something New with Asparagus and Mushrooms.

Asparagus is not one of our favorite vegetables; its taste is harsh and overwhelms, even with baby asparagus. If I happen to receive baby asparagus with my Bountiful Basket, I usually make quiche or cream of asparagus soup; the last two bunches though I froze after blanching them in water. I still needed to figure out what to do with them, and the recipe I created was influenced by a mushroom appetizer we recently enjoyed at Bernardone's in Farmington, New Mexico.

Even though I had cut off the "woody" ends that had developed even on baby asparagus, the freezing process caused the ends to stiffen up, so they needed to be trimmed once again.  I had missed a few and it was immediately evident once hubby tried to chew on those tough ends.  Other than that, the asparagus flavor was still overwhelming when the dish was freshly cooked, but mellowed once it sat in the refrigerator for 24 hours and was reheated.  If you're an asparagus lover, you'll like this recipe with added mushrooms and a bread crumb and cheese topping.  Me?  No, I'm still not fond of asparagus, but at least I tried it to see how it tasted.

Baked Asparagus with Mushrooms


2 lbs baby asparagus, ends trimmed
1 cup sliced mushrooms
1/2 cup olive oil, divided in half
1 cup plain bread crumbs
2 Tbsp Italian herbal mix
1/4 cup grated cheese


Preheat oven to 350F; spray a 3 quart baking dish with nonstick spray.  Spread the asparagus in the baking dish and drizzle 1/4 cup of olive oil over it.

Spread mushrooms over asparagus.

Mix bread crumbs with the herbs and spread evenly over the vegetables.

Drizzle remaining olive oil over the bread crumbs; place dish in oven and bake for 45 minutes.


Spread grated cheese over bread crumbs and bake for an additional 15 minutes.

The asparagus and mushrooms will absorb the flavor from the olive oil and be tender.  The bread crumbs will only crisp up slightly.  If you want a crispier topping; sauté the bread crumbs in the olive oil for 3 minutes; top the vegetables and bake for only 30 minutes before adding the grated cheese and baking the additional 15 minutes.

Makes 8 servings.

Mary Cokenour