Saturday, May 24, 2014

Poblano, No Problem.

In one of my baskets, from Bountiful Baskets, I received a dozen Poblano peppers. Normally I would roast them, remove the charred skins and do whatever I wanted to afterwards; make green chile sauce, perhaps Chile Rellenos for my hubby.  Not this time however; I put them in a bowl, standing with the stem upwards, and promptly forgot about them for about two weeks.  They were in a cool, dry place and when I wandered in and found them, they had turned lovely shades of orange and red, but had not dried out.  Ruined?  Far from it; when Poblano peppers turn those lovely shades of color, they sweeten and get hotter.

Experimental cooking time!  Hmmm, chicken is always a good palette; hey, I've got some salsa and two boxes of yellow rice mix...chicken and rice, but lets spice it up a bit more...Oooo, cheese, have to have cheese on this!  Brought a portion over to a friend to try, love when friends don't mind being my guinea pigs; she enjoyed the dish, I enjoyed it, I would say this experiment was a success!!!  No more words, except for the recipe and let the photos do the rest of the story telling.

Poblano Chicken and Rice


12 Poblano peppers, aged to red/orange color
6 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
Seasoning mixture for chicken: 1 Tbsp each garlic powder, onion powder; 1 tsp each salt, ground black pepper
3 Tbsp olive oil
2 boxes (8 oz) Zatarain's Yellow Rice Mix
5 cups hot water
1 (16 oz) jar mild chunky salsa
1 (8 oz) bag shredded Mexican cheese blend


Cut off the tops of each pepper about 1/4 inch down.  Carefully cut down the two end seams of the peppers, but leave 1/2 inch uncut at the bottom.  Open the pepper up, careful not to split open the bottom; clean out the seeds and white pith.


Season both sides of the chicken with the seasoning  mixture.  Heat the olive oil in a large skillet, medium-high heat, and brown the chicken on both sides (about 2 minutes per side).  Remove to a paper towel covered plate to drain off any excess oil.


Preheat oven to 350F; spray a 4 quart baking dish with nonstick cooking spray.  Put in the rice mix from both boxes, add water and stir. 

The chicken is now cool enough to handle.  Place one pepper (opened up) onto a plate; place another pepper across to make an "X".  Place a chicken breast (skin side down) in the center; fold the peppers around the chicken and secure with a toothpick.  Place the bundle into the baking dish, pressing down slightly into the liquid and rice; do same for remaining chicken.

Top each bundle with salsa; cover baking dish with aluminum foil and bake in oven for 30 minutes.  Remove foil; spread cheese over all; return dish to oven and bake an additional 15 minutes.  Remove from oven and let rest for 15 minutes; remove toothpicks before serving.


Makes 6 servings.
Play with your food!  Don't be afraid to experiment!  Enjoy!
Mary Cokenour

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Just Another Baked Cod Recipe.

The other day I tried to fry up two one inch thick pieces of cod in a skillet.  A little olive oil over medium heat, seasoned with salt, black pepper and dill; lemon juice splashed over them at the last minute of cooking.  Sounds yummy, right?  Well, I don't know what went wrong, or maybe I do; while the fish did brown slightly on both sides and turn opaque, the middle did not cook through.  I don't think it was the cooking technique, it was because I used defrosted fish; unfortuately, frozen is all that is available for purchase around these parts.  Utah is a landlocked state, so if fish comes in, it was fresh at one time, but now is totally frozen.  Freezing fish changes its texture; even carefully defrosting and cooking, the outside may be flaky, but the deep inside tends to be rubbery.

That doesn't mean that I have given up entirely on fish; I still buy the frozen and still attempt to find ways to get it done right.  This post is another of those attempts; I needed to bake it a little longer than fresh fish, but the rubbery texture was almost...almost nonexistent.  So, while my recipe says to bake 25 - 30 minutes, that is based on defrosted fish; fresh fish should be about 10 minutes less in baking time.

Baked Cod with Squash


1 small zucchini, cut into 1/4 inch slices
1 small yellow squash, cut into 1/4 inch slices
1/2 cup olive oil, divided in half
2 Tbsp Italian herbal mix, divided in half
2 tsp coarse sea salt, divided in half
1 tsp garlic powder
2 (6 oz) cod fillets, one inch thick, bones and skin removed
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice


Preheat oven to 400F.  In a 1 and 1/2 quart glass baking dish, spread the squash slices over the bottom.  Drizzle 1/4 cup of olive oil over the slices; sprinkle one tablespoon of the herbal mix, one teaspoon of sea salt and the one teaspoon of garlic powder over them.


Lay the cod fillets (skin side up) on top of the squash; drizzle with remaining olive oil; sprinkle remaining herbal mix and sea salt; drizzle lemon juice over all.  Bake for 25 - 30 minutes; until cod is opaque and flakes easily.  Remove one fillet and portion of squash to plate; spoon liquid from baking dish over all.

Makes 2 servings.


Mary Cokenour

Friday, May 16, 2014

I Beat My Own Balls.

Meatballs that is.  Now my softball sized meatballs have always been yummy, but I wanted something different; I needed a change of pace.  Instead of that huge one meatball on top of my spaghetti or pasta, how about two to three smaller ones; same amount of meat, just a different look for the eye.  Another change is mostly due to supply and demand; finding a simply ground pork that hasn't been preseasoned for use as a breakfast sausage is almost next to impossible around here.  Oh, and one more minor change, the onions; instead of dicing them up and putting them into the meat mixture raw, I added a can of diced tomatoes with sweet onions.  The onions are steam processed with the tomatoes, so are softened; sometimes the raw onions don't soften up when added raw and not everyone likes to bite into raw onion.  In our tiny store which acts as the local "supermarket", the Western Family brand is sold and they carry diced tomatoes with sweet onions.  I've looked in supermarkets and Walmart, but haven't found anything to its equal as yet; so if you can find some, stock up!

Of course the meatballs are parbaked in the oven before adding them to a pot of homemade sauce to finish off cooking.  Taking out all that excess grease from the meat makes a big difference on how your sauce will turn out.

Meatballs - 2014 Version
3 lbs lean ground beef
1 (14.5 oz) can diced tomatoes with sweet onions
2 eggs, beaten
1 and 1/2 cups Italian flavored bread crumbs
3 Tbsp grated Romano cheese
1 Tbsp garlic powder
Preheat oven to 350F; spray a large jelly roll pan (aluminum sheet with edge) with nonstick cooking spray.
In a large bowl, combine all the ingredients thoroughly; use a 1/3 cup to help measure out the mixture portions.  Roll between palms of hands; place on pan about a half inch apart.
Bake for a half hour; dab each meatball onto a paper towel to remove any excess oil.  The meatballs are only partially cooked, so do not eat yet; place into pot of sauce to finish off cooking.  If stovetop cooking, two hours; if slow cooker (crock pot), four hours.
Makes 20 meatballs.

Mary Cokenour

Saturday, May 3, 2014

Alpaca, the Next Other Meat?

Recently I received a roast from the owner, Dorothy, of Peter Springs Alpaca Ranch to try my culinary hand at.  Alpaca is a very lean meat, so figuring out how to cook it best would be an experiment, but experimentation was the key reasoning behind it anyway.  Dorothy is considering selling meat from her alpaca, as well as their soft wool, but what recipes would work well?  What I should have done before cooking the roast was some in depth research; my big mistake was thinking that this lean meat would cook up the same as another lean meat, Elk.  I was very wrong, but she and I both learned from the mistake, and as I said before, this is an experimentation process.

First off, I'm going to post some information I found which I should have looked up before.
Nutritional Information
Nutrient-100g  Beef  Pork  Lamb  Alpaca
Calories  210  191  156  150
Protein  20.0   29  20  23.1
Fat 15   7.5  7.7  5.7
Cholesterol 12.1  9.1
Iron 15%  9%
Vitamin A


Approximately 50% of a carcass is used as prime cuts, such as loin cutlets and steaks, which are sold in either the fresh or frozen meat market. Secondary cuts are processed into sausages, hot dogs, ground meat and processed alpaca hams. Alpaca meat should be cooked quickly on a high heat, to retain its natural tenderness.  For the best results, alpaca meat should be served rare or medium and allowed to rest before serving.

Now the last two lines of the above paragraph is definitely where I went very wrong; I ended up slow cooking the meat to the point that it was tough to cut and too chewy to eat.  The roast I received happened to have rib bones and a thin plate of cartilage going through it.   I thought the alpaca meat would separate from the bones and cartilage, but it did the exact opposite.  I also cooked a sirloin tip roast with the alpaca meat to see how the both compared.  

Alpaca Roast in front, Sirloin Tip Roast in back.

I'm going to give you the original recipe which is "Beef and Mushrooms in Wine Sauce"; then I'll tell you what I really should have done in the first place.  Live and learn!

Beef and Mushrooms in Wine Sauce


6 small white onions, peeled and quartered
3 and 1/2 to 4 lb. sirloin tip roast
1/3 cup flour
1 tsp ground black pepper
1 lb. portabella mushrooms, sliced
1/4 inch thick 1 cup beef stock
1 and 1/2 cups cabernet sauvignon


Spray inside of a 6 quart crock pot with nonstick cooking spray. Place onions inside crock pot and place roast on top of onions; the onions will act as a "rack" for the meat.

Mix the black pepper and flour together; sprinkle over the top and sides of the meat. Cover the meat with the mushrooms; mix the stock and wine together and pour over all.

Set the crock pot on low and cook for 8 hours. Remove roast; with a slotted spoon remove as much of the mushrooms as possible, but leave the onions. To make the sauce, use a hand blender in the crock pot, or pour the onions and liquid into a stand blender; puree till smooth.

Makes 6-8 servings

Now here are photos of how the alpaca meat looked; the meat did absorb the flavorings of the wine sauce, but alas, was too tough and chewy to truly enjoy.  Again, live and learn.

So, here is what I should have done from the get-go: If the Alpaca roast contains bones and connective tissue, it would be best to roast it like a Prime Rib.


In a large skillet, medium-high heat, melt 2 tablespoons butter; add the mushrooms, toss to coat, reduce heat to low, cover and let mushrooms cook down till softened.  Remove mushrooms from skillet, wipe skillet clean.

Wine Sauce

In a large skillet, medium-high heat, melt 3 tablespoons butter; add 3 tablespoons flour and one teaspoon ground black pepper; continue to whisk until all flour is incorporated and turns to a golden color.  Whisk in one cup beef stock plus one and one half cups cabernet sauvignon wine.  Bring to a boil and let cook for 5 minutes; whisk occasionally to make sure it is not becoming too thick.


Serve mushrooms as a side to the meat, or add to the gravy and ladle both over meat.


Mary Cokenour