Friday, January 30, 2015

Lasagna Without Using Your Noodle.

Now I've made traditional Italian lasagna using noodles; I've made vegetable lasagna, again, using noodles. What happens though when, instead of pasta noodles, vegetables themselves become the noodles?  While I did have large zucchinis which I could have sliced lengthwise thinly; I decided to try it out with eggplant; sort of as if lasagna and eggplant parmigiana decided to have a baby.

Eggplant is a spongy type of vegetable; when fried in oil, it will absorb a good deal of the oil.  However, I didn't want my lasagna to be a soppy, oily mess and made the decision to oven fry the eggplant slices.  If it works for potatoes, why not eggplant, right?  By the way, to make it a bit more interesting, I sautéed green bell peppers and grape tomatoes (look like miniature Roma tomatoes) together and made that one of the layers.  In my opinion, this addition made the entire dish come together into a delicious perfection; but then again, I'm biased.

Eggplant Lasagna


1 large eggplant
1 cup Italian flavored bread crumbs
2 eggs
½ cup milk
1 small green bell pepper
1 pint grape tomatoes
1 Tbsp. olive oil
½ tsp salt
½ tsp garlic powder
1 (32 oz.) container part-skim ricotta cheese
1 (8 oz.) package finely shredded mozzarella cheese; divided in half
3 cups homemade pasta sauce


Preheat oven to 350F; spray baking sheet with nonstick cooking spray, and a 2 and ½ quart baking dish.

Cut ends off the eggplant and peel off skin; cut into ¼ inch slices.  Place bread crumbs onto flat plate; lightly beat eggs and milk together in a wide mouth bowl.  Dip the eggplant slices into the egg mixture, then lightly bread on both sides; place on baking sheet.  Bake for 5 minutes on one side; turn over, bake for another 5 minutes; remove from oven, but keep oven at 350F.


While eggplant is baking; take seeds out of the bell pepper, cut into strips and then dice; cut the tomatoes into halves.  In a 10 inch skillet, heat olive oil on medium-high; add in the bell pepper, tomatoes, salt and garlic powder.  Sauté for 5 minutes, remove from heat.



In a medium bowl, combine ricotta and 4 ounces of shredded mozzarella; if using whole milk ricotta, add one egg when mixing to achieve smoothness. 


In the sprayed baking dish, spread one cup of sauce on the bottom; place 3 slices of eggplant on bottom.  Spread half the cheese mixture over the eggplant; spread half the vegetable mixture over the cheese.   Repeat process: one cup sauce, 3 eggplant, half cheese, half vegetables, one cup sauce and remaining eggplant slices.  Top the entire casserole with the other half of the shredded mozzarella; bake for 30-35 minutes (cheese is melted and sauce is bubbling up).  Remove from oven; let sit for 15 minutes before serving.


Makes six servings.

Mary Cokenour

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Wild Mountain Meats Serving Up Alpaca.

Wild Mountain Meats, LLC

15 East Peter Springs Road
Monticello, Utah, 84535

Phone: (435) 419-0750



The owner of Peter Springs Alpaca Ranch, LLC, Dorothy Pipkin-Padilla began a new venture in 2014, Wild Mountain Meats, LLC; purveyor of Alpaca meats featuring: burger, steaks, chops, ribs and sausage.  While Alpaca is a staple in South American countries, it is beginning to find a place on the palates of North Americans.  It has become available in, still existing, butcher shops for the residential kitchen; and making its way into gourmet restaurants.

The Alpaca for Wild Mountain Meats comes from Dorothy's ranch, so are locally bred  and raised.  The processing is done by Jerry's Custom Meats, located in Helper, Utah; and is certified safe by the State of Utah.  Nothing from the Alpacas is wasted; the hides are made into leather goods.  On the ranch, the Alpaca are sheared and their wool made into thread for weaving.  In February 2015, Dorothy will be opening a new store on Center Street in Monticello, Utah; "Paca Pantry: Everything Alpaca and More".  If you happen to be in the Monticello area, come visit the store, or call (435) 419-0750 to arrange a tour of the ranch and get to meet the Alpacas; the babies are adorable!

My recipe for today will be a Shepherd's Pie made with Alpaca sausage; though mainly ground Alpaca meat, there is a mixture of pork and spices added in.  The pork absorbs a good amount of the ground black pepper giving it a bit of heat; while the Alpaca maintains its unique sweet flavor.  Traditional Shepherd's Pie is made with ground lamb, but the Alpaca meat maintains the essence of this perfect comfort food.

Alpaca Shepherd’s Pie

1 lb. ground Alpaca meat, or Alpaca/Pork sausage
1 cup chopped mushrooms
1 Tbsp. butter
1 cup frozen peas, thawed
1 and ½ Tbsp. Worcestershire sauce
3 cups mashed potatoes
¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 tsp. garlic powder



Preheat oven to 350F; spray a one and one half quart baking dish with nonstick cooking spray.

In a 10 inch skillet, medium-high heat, brown the meat until no pink is showing; drain any excess oil. If using only Alpaca meat, add half teaspoon of salt plus one quarter teaspoon ground black pepper for seasoning.  While meat is browning, melt butter in another 10 inch skillet, medium heat, and sauté mushrooms for five minutes.

Into a medium bowl, mix together browned meat, mushrooms, peas and Worcestershire sauce.  In another bowl, mix together the mashed potatoes, cheese and garlic powder.


Spread out one cup of potatoes on bottom of baking dish and partially up sides.  Spoon meat mixture into bowl; cover completely with remaining two cups of potatoes.



Bake for 35-40 minutes; until potatoes are slightly browned.  Let rest for 15 minutes before serving.

Makes six servings.

Mary Cokenour

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Amish Pot Pie Done Up by An English.

Just to clarify something right from the start, my ancestry is not English; this is simply what the Amish call those outside of their faith and community. 

Being winter time, it can get pretty cold and snowy up here in the higher altitude of Southeastern Utah and comfort food is a must.  Depending on how this recipe is made, the broth can be thinner, almost like a soup; or thicker by the addition of flour or cornstarch.  It's all up to personal preference and we can take either/or.

Normally, when making the broth and cooking up the chicken; whole, cut up chicken (including bones and skin) are put into the stock pot.  This makes for a richer broth, true, but the broth I use is made after the whole chicken has been cooked; strained, put into the freezer for an hour and the fat scooped out.  Then I freeze the defatted broth for later usage.  Using boneless, skinless chicken doesn't add a significant amount of fat in making the leaner recipe.  An original recipe for Amish Chicken Pot Pie can be found Here, and I'm going to feature my own recipe in this post.  Try only one, try both and compare; then decide which you like could be both!

The pot pie squares?  No, I don't make my own; I'm pasta making challenged.  My mother lives in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, so when I need the squares, she sends me what I need.  Not so lucky?  They can be ordered through the internet, just about like anything can; and I'm giving you the recipe for them anyway.  The dried pot pie squares cook up just as tender as the fresh, and absorb the flavor of the chicken broth.

Amish Chicken Pot Pie
(Less fat version)

Pot Pie Squares


2 and ½ cups flour
2 eggs, beaten
1/3 cup water
1 Tbsp. butter, melted
½ tsp. salt



In the center of a large pastry board, mound the flour and make a well in the center.  In a small bowl, combine the eggs, water, butter and salt.  Pour the liquid into the flour well; gradually work the flour into the liquid from around the inside of the well; continue working around until all the flour is used.  Gather into a ball; knead until smooth and elastic.

Generously flour the board; roll out the dough to a 1/8 inch thickness; cut the dough into two inch squares.

Makes 1 and ½ lbs. of pot pie squares; enough for six servings.

Amish Chicken Pot Pie


2 quarts water
1 tsp. salt
½ tsp. ground black pepper
½ tsp. onion powder
3 lbs. boneless, skinless chicken breasts
½ cup diced celery
3 cups peeled potatoes, one inch cubes
6 cups chicken broth
1 and ½ lbs. (24 oz.) pot pie squares, divided into thirds
Fresh parsley, diced, for garnish


In a 7-quart pot, combine the water, salt, black pepper and onion powder; immerse the chicken into the water; cook on high heat for 15 minutes.  Remove chicken and rough chop; set aside.  Strain the liquid from the pot; place in a plastic container and into the freezer for a half hour; scoop out any fat that hardens at the top.  Use when preparing this recipe, or cover container, freeze for later use.


Into the pot, add the chicken broth, celery and potatoes; cook on high heat for 10 minutes. 

Reduce heat to medium, add in 1/3 of the pot pie squares; cook for 3 minutes and push down into the broth.  Repeat process with other 2/3s of pot pie squares; add chicken back into pot after the last third of squares has been pushed down.  Cook an additional 15 minutes; remove pot from heat and let rest for 10 minutes to allow broth to thicken.

Garnish each serving with a sprinkling of fresh parsley leaves.

Makes six servings.

Mary Cokenour

Monday, January 19, 2015

Why Fresh Tomatoes, Instead of Jarred Sauce?

Whenever Bountiful Baskets has cases of round or Roma tomatoes available, I make sure to jump onto the opportunity and purchase a case. They normally run about 20 to 25 pounds per case, and round out to one dollar per pound of tomatoes; usually cheaper than the local market, unless there's a sale.  Then I go through the process of giving them a hot water bath, peeling off the skins, and either making fresh sauce, or simply freezing the peeled tomatoes for a later use.

Today's bounty (22 pounds of tomatoes) gave me two (6-quart) crock pots full of sauce making ingredients, plus one freezer container with five pounds of peeled tomatoes for later use.  That means that 8.5 pounds went into each crock pot; not bad!  So, why do folks ask me why I go to all this trouble?  Well I'm going to tell you...

In today's crock pots, I added to the freshly peeled tomatoes: a 1/2 cup of crushed, dried Italian herbal mix, 1/4 cup of minced garlic, 1 cup of diced onions, 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese...and that's it!  No sugar or baking soda to tame the bitterness of the tomatoes; the grated Parmesan cheese does that.  Think about it, why add processed sugar or a chemical additive when you can use a freshly grated cheese that does the work instead?  What about salt?  Hello, the grated Parmesan has that too; you don't need more salt!  By the way, using the immersion hand blender, I've found that I do not even need to add tomato paste; I can control the thickness myself.

Next question, but why toss the skin, doesn't that contain fiber and nutrients?  Yes it does, but unless you're buying guaranteed organic tomatoes; that skin has to go and here's why.  Many cases of fruits and vegetables come from foreign countries; the tomatoes I purchased came from Mexico, distributed via an Arizona state company.  How many times have we read about contaminated foods coming from Mexico?  Using the hot water bath destroys any bacteria sitting on that skin.

Next, here is an informational quote from the box itself, "May have been treated with O-Phenylphenol or Sorbic Acid to inhibit mold and coated with Paraffin waxes and oil, Mineral oil and/or Carnauba was."  You can wash them with cold or warm water, but those items listed will not simply wash off; enjoy the chemical and wax snacks along with your tomatoes.  No thank you!  If you need that skin, go organic.

Why is jarred sauce, purchased at the market, so bad?  Read the label; if you need a degree in science to be able to pronounce and understand all the chemicals listed, then why ask why?  Even products sold in "health food stores" need to have the labels looked at carefully.  Even though they state "all natural ingredients", the jars are sitting on shelves in warm environments; how are the ingredients kept from spoiling?

All I'm saying is, at least give it a try.  Yes it's work; yes it takes time and energy; but once you taste the results, you will so be thanking me for the push in this direction.  Click Here for my instructions on processing your own fresh tomatoes. 

Have fun!

Mary Cokenour

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Homemade Pizza With Both New York and Chicago Styles.

New York style pizza; thin, crispy crust layered with enough sauce, cheese and toppings to bake to perfection. Chicago style pizza; deep dish crust with layers of cheese, meats and sauce, so thick that a knife and fork are necessary.  Both are so deliciously awesome that it is extremely difficult to choose only one, especially when you are making homemade.  Ah, but what if you did a combination of both styles; how would it turn out?

Each style uses its own type of dough; each uses its own type of baking pan, but the toppings can be the same, just used differently.  Lets go play!

So, what exactly did I do for my pizza; I used New York style dough (click on the link above) and a deep dish pan (14 inch diameter) for Chicago style layers.

Preheat the oven to 450F; for a crispy bottom and thoroughly baked dough, the oven has to be hot.  NO!  you cannot use a convention oven!!!  We have a place in town that does that, and they continue to remain clueless to great pizza making.  Nonstick pans are the best to keep the dough from sticking and burning; spread the dough to the very edges of the pan, an even 1/4 inch thickness.  If you have excess dough on the sides, a simple roll of the dough makes a nice edge all around.

Now begin the layering; slices of provolone cheese covers the dough; then slices of mozzarella over the provolone, but not completely covering.

Depending on your tastes, now would come the meat layer; the meat should be cooked already as this pizza will not be in the oven long enough to thoroughly cook raw meat.  Instead of a layer of meat, I used meat sauce instead of a plain tomato sauce.  For this 14 inch, I used one and a half cups of sauce; oh no, I am not stingy on the sauce when it comes to my pizzas.

A generous sprinkling of an Italian herbal mix, grated Parmesan cheese and this baby was ready to go into the preheated oven.  Now the bad part...the waiting!

Normally, a pizza will take about 20 minutes; that's right, as long as one of those nasty, frozen pizzas you can purchase at your local supermarket.  Depending on your oven, and the altitude, it can take up to 25 minutes.  At 15 minutes, check it and see if the sauce is bubbling yet; then check at 20 minutes; if yes, it's done, if no, bake it for 5 more minutes.

Browned, crispy crust...Oh Yes!!!

Still not sure if you want to make homemade pizza; how about French bread pizza?  Just click on the link and find out how simple and easy this is; but you might want to make my homemade meatballs for a topping.

I bet you're drooling for pizza now, so go make some!

Mary Cokenour

Friday, January 16, 2015

Sun-dried Tomatoes Take Alfredo Sauce to a New Height in Flavor.

Sun-dried tomatoes are just as the name sounds; Roma tomatoes (the best for this process) are cut 1/4 inch thin, laid out in the sun and dried to remove all moisture content.  The flavor of the tomato itself is now highly concentrated; they can be stored in an air tight plastic bag, or preserved in oil.  Now preserving in oil causes the dried tomatoes to absorb that oil of course, so use them only if you intend on adding oil to your recipe.  The dried tomatoes stored in a bag can be reconstituted by pouring hot water till they are covered; let sit for a half hour.  Don't throw away that water!  It's now full of flavor and can be used, for example, an addition to your pasta water; flavoring your dough when making focaccia, rolls or bread.

Since the Alfredo sauce will not be strictly a cream sauce (addition of diced sun-dried tomatoes), throw in a couple of tablespoons of diced green or red bell peppers for added color and texture.  Alfredo sauce begins with a basic recipe for Béchamel (white sauce); it's the addition of Parmesan cheese that creates Alfredo.

Basic Béchamel Recipe

5 tablespoons butter
5 tablespoons all-purpose flour
4 cups hot milk
2 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

In a medium saucepan, heat the butter over medium heat until melted; gradually add the flour, stirring until smooth. Cook, stirring constantly, until the mixture turns a golden brown color, about 6 to 7 minutes.

Add the hot milk to the butter mixture 1 cup at a time; whisk continuously to avoid burning or clumping. When mixture is completely smooth, remove from heat. Season with salt and nutmeg; set aside until ready to use.

Makes 3 cups.

For the Alfredo sauce, once the mixture is smooth, add one cup of grated Parmesan cheese and continue to whisk until smooth; add the salt and nutmeg as directed.

For the Sun-dried Alfredo sauce, after the butter has melted, add 1/4 cup of diced, reconstituted sun-dried tomatoes plus a teaspoon of minced garlic.  Once they begin to sizzle in the butter, then continue the rest of the sauce making process.  Add in two tablespoons of diced green or red bell peppers, if desired, after the sauce is finished.

Sun-dried Afredo Sauce with diced green bell peppers added.

Cheese Tortelloni; garnished with parsley.

Italian Sausage added.

Mary Cokenour

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Side Dish Turned into a Full Meal.

I was thumbing through "3 in 1 Books - Crock Pot" to get any ideas for something new to make, when I came upon this side dish, "Scalloped Tomatoes and Corn".  Sounded interesting, so read the recipe and said to myself, "Huh?"  Read it once more and said, "What the...?"

Here is the original recipe in the section called "Impress Your Guests".

Scalloped Tomatoes and Corn


1 (15 oz.) can cream style corn
1 (14.5 oz.) can diced tomatoes, undrained
3/4 cup saltine cracker crumbs
1 egg, lightly beaten
2 tsps. sugar
3/4 tsp. black pepper


Combine corn, tomatoes with juice, cracker crumbs, egg, sugar and pepper in crock pot; mix well.  Cover; cook on low 4 to 6 hours or until done.

Makes 4 to 6 servings.

My first question for the preparation is "What size crock pot?"  For the best cooking medium, a crock pot should be almost full (allowing for liquid produced during cooking); no way this would fill a 6-quart, not even a 4-quart.  Second question, "Why the sugar?"  The cream style corn would release sugar during cooking; isn't that why salt wasn't added, because of the saltine crackers?  Third question was "How is this scalloped?  Scalloped means a casserole with cream and cheese incorporated; ok, the cream style corn could act as the cream, but where was the cheese?

So, how was I going to work with this recipe, but make it even better.  First thing was to check out the freezer; and I struck gold!  After Thanksgiving, turkeys and turkey breasts have a tendency to go on sale.  I usually buy a turkey breast, roast it, and portion out the meat into freezer bags for future use; they last up to six months.  I also found a package of applewood smoked bacon; bacon makes everything better!

A little bit of this, a little bit of that; skip the sugar altogether.  All the ingredients fit inside a 2-quart crock pot, cooked in four hours and created a complete meal, for four, of delicious comfort food.

Come, see what I have created in my lab...umm  kitchen, I meant kitchen.

Scalloped Turkey with Bacon


1 lb. cooked turkey breast, chopped
½ cup diced celery
4 slices Applewood smoked bacon, cut into one inch pieces
6 slices Swiss cheese
1 (15 oz.) can sweet corn, cream style
1 (14.5 oz.) can diced tomatoes
1 cup crumbled saltine crackers
1 egg, beaten
1 tsp. ground black pepper
1 Tbsp. crushed dried thyme leaves



Spray inside of a 2-quart crock pot with nonstick cooking spray.  Layer the turkey, celery, bacon; cover with the Swiss cheese slices.


In a medium mixing bowl, gently mix together corn, tomatoes, crackers, egg, black pepper and thyme so as to not break up the crackers any further.  Spread over ingredients inside the crock pot.


Cover, set on low, and cook for four hours.


Makes four servings.
Mary Cokenour