Friday, October 30, 2015

Kind of a Copy Cat Pork Recipe.

One of my coworkers decided to give me a sample of a crock pot pork stew his wife had made.  It was pretty good and I asked for the recipe, so I could give it a try; didn't get it though.  Anyway, I was trying to decide what to make for dinner one day and boneless pork loin chops were in the freezer.  Now the question was, how to prepare them?  I remembered the stew, so figured I'd attempt to recreate it by thinking about the ingredients I'd seen and tasted.  While my coworker's wife had used a pork roast, I was using the pork chops instead.

I thought it came out pretty well, but my husband was going to be the real taste tester as he is not a real fan of pork.  He loved it!  So here's my sort of copy cat version of the stew; working off memory instead of a real recipe.

Pork Chop Stew


6 (2 lbs.) boneless pork loin chops
5 small potatoes, peeled, cubed and parboiled
1 medium onion, chopped
½ tsp. ground black pepper
2 tsp. chili powder
½ tsp. garlic powder
2 cups red kidney beans, soaked overnight, drained and rinsed
5 plum (Roma) tomatoes, chopped
2 Tbsp. flour
2 cups beef broth


Spray a 4 quart crock pot dish with nonstick cooking spray.  Begin placing layers of ingredients inside:  pork chops; potatoes and onion mixed together; sprinkle spices evenly; kidney beans; tomatoes.


In a small bowl, whisk flour into the beef broth to create a slurry; pour over all ingredients in the crock pot dish.  Cover, set on low and cook for 6-8 hours; potatoes, beans and pork should be fork tender.

Makes six servings.

Mary Cokenour

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Bugs Bunny was Right, Eat Your Carrots.

Any of us who grew up watching Warner Brothers cartoons noticed that Bugs Bunny was always munching on carrots.  Now I’ve done loads of gardening in my time, harvested many a carrot, and the bunnies in my yard never touched a one of them.  So, what did Bugs know that my white tailed friends did not?  Nutrition wise, carrots contain beta-carotenes, falcarinol, vitamin A, minerals and anti-oxidants in ample amounts; usually orange in color, there are purple, red, white, and yellow varieties.  Bugs was one healthy rabbit!

As a snack, they’re crunchy and this is a satisfying texture; but they’re sweet, and this makes them perfect for other uses.  When making pasta sauce, for example, adding a little carrot puree will cut the bitterness of tomatoes, sweetening the sauce.  Love caramelized carrots, add butter, heat and let carrots’ natural sweetness do the rest of the work.  In baking though, use of carrot sugar is nothing new; in fact, it dates back to medieval times and a nice bit of steamed carrot pudding.  During the Middle Ages, sugar was a scarce and expensive commodity, so substitutes were found in carrots and sugar beets. 

Now where am I going with all this information on carrots?  Cake, of course!  The word “cake” has a long history; the origin is Viking, the Old Norse term, “Kaka”; no snickering.   A baked confection of flour, eggs, honey, milk, perhaps another type of sweetener, usually a vegetable sugar, and fat; rising up during baking to give a porous texture.  Now while many Americans believe that cake was “invented” here first, it was actually brought over by the British.  Historically, the Vikings did invade the British Isles, so…  Now cream cheese frosting, that’s an American culinary invention from the 1930s; and so perfect on carrot cake (pumpkin and spice cakes too).

The recipe I’m giving you is from, once again, “The Mormon Pioneer Cookbook” by the Daughters of Utah Pioneers; this carrot cake was served with Christmas meals.  One of the spices included is cardamom; a combination of plant seed pods from India and Malaysia.  Cardamom has a unique, distinctive flavor and aroma; sort of a cross between ginger and mint, and a little goes a long way.  While cardamom was seen in cookbooks throughout the 1930s to 1960s; its use faded, but reemerged during the 1990s and 2000s; thanks to the Food Network Channel I bet.  This recipe makes one cake; I doubled the recipe and created 24 muffins; much easier for giving out to my favorite guinea pigs.  Thank you everyone, you’re the best!!!

Carrot Cake


½ cup butter or margarine
1 and ¼ cups brown sugar
2 eggs
1 and ¾ cups sifted all-purpose flour
2 tsp. baking powder
½ tsp baking soda (if doubling, only use the ½ tsp., not 1 full tsp.)
½ tsp. salt
½  tsp. cinnamon
½ tsp. nutmeg
1/8 tsp. ground cloves
¼ tsp. ground cardamom
1 and ¼ cups grated raw carrots
1 cup raisins (I used half white/half black raisins)
1 cup chopped nuts (I used pecans; walnuts are good too.)



Cream together butter or margarine and sugar; beat in eggs.  Sift in flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and spices; mix well.  Stir in remaining ingredients.  Turn into a greased 9-inch tube pan.  Bake in a 350F oven 1 hour.

Note:  I lined the muffin tins with paper cups; the baking time only took 30 minutes at 350F.
Mary Cokenour
Cream Butter with Brown Sugar

Creamed butter and Brown Sugar

Add Eggs

Liquid Mixture

Add Dry Ingredients


Add Grated Carrot, Raisins and Nuts

Final Batter

Use a Scoop to Portion Out

Batter in Paper Cups

Two Dozen Ready for Baking

20 Minutes, Not Ready Yet

30 Minutes, Just Right!

Friday, October 23, 2015

Meals Ring True at the Dinner Bell.

Dove Creek Dinner Bell

330 Highway 491
Dove Creek, Colorado, 81324

Phone: (970) 677-3420


Initially, the definition of a “dive” was, “A run down, cheap, unclean restaurant or hotel.”  Thanks to the Food Network Channel’s “Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives”, hosted by Guy Fieri, this definition has taken on a more modern meaning to food lovers.  “Dive restaurants are cheap little places that may not look very nice, but serve good, low priced food.”  So, if in Dove Creek, Colorado, stop into the Dove Creek Dinner Bell for that good, low priced food.

I became interested in the Dinner Bell by reading comments about it, first on Facebook, and then TripAdvisor.  Here’s a quote from one of the reviews, “The Dinner Bell offers basic diner foods in a charmingly cluttered and outdated atmosphere. One table, with a permanent "reserved" sign, seems to be available to the family and friends of the owners. Locals who frequent the restaurant are greeted by name.”  The first sentence caught my eye immediately, so after establishing the hours of operation (Mon-Friday 7am-8 pm, Closed Saturday, Sunday 7am-2pm), off to a Sunday breakfast my husband and I did ride.

Located on Main Street (Route 491), this small, white building is nondescript, but easily seen due to the large sign near the roadside.   We entered, looked inside; back outside we went, then returned inside; like companions of Doctor Who, Roy and I exclaimed, “It’s bigger on the inside!”.  A friendly staffer told us to sit wherever we’d like; picking a window table, we received our coffee (always a full cup) and water promptly.  The menus are tucked into the condiment holder; cute little cards listing breakfast, lunch and dinner.  Booths are along a side wall adorned with hunting trophies, flour sack aprons for sale, and the specials board.  Reviews were spot on when they said, “hunters flock to this location”, as many patrons were dressed for the occasion of deer and elk season.

While I enjoyed my three egg omelet with Cheddar cheese and real bacon; my husband hungrily dug into his “Plate of Crap.”  I bet your eyebrows just raised, didn’t they?  “Plate of Crap” is an actual breakfast item; a construction project of hash browns, ham, sausage, eggs (3), bell peppers and whatever items are on hand; covered in a delicious green chili sauce and topped with shredded Cheddar cheese.  I also indulged in the made from scratch biscuit; split open, steaming hot with pats of melting butter oozing down the sides.  We attempted to work off this meal by hiking around the Abajo Mountains afterwards, but still feeling full come lunch time.  Awesome breakfast!
Plate of Crap with Toast

Omelet, Hash Browns and Made from Scratch Biscuit

The owners, Stanley and Charlotte Daves, celebrated the five year anniversary of the Dinner Bell in September 2015.  Stanley holds reign in the kitchen, while Charlotte cheerfully greets, and waits, on the customers with other staff members.  The meals are prepared fresh, homemade; no time, nor patience, for prepackaged, heat in the microwave, get it out quick food.  We love that, so much so, that we were back the next week to try out lunch (same menu for dinner).

Half pound burgers with a luscious char on the outside; crispy French fries, and I even ordered those made from scratch biscuits to go.  The Special for Sunday is usually spaghetti with garlic toast and salad; seeing other diners enjoying this, I should have ordered it too.  Oh, and they do have a soup and salad bar.
Double Patty Melt with Fries

Cheeseburger with Fries

Made from Scratch Biscuits

Soup and Salad Bar
Dove Creek Dinner Bell is a small establishment, clean, homey and serving up real, homemade, fresh food.  In a world full of fast food brand names, or pretentious overpriced establishments; having a comfort food restaurant is a quiet haven.  Dinner Bell also offers in-town (Dove Creek) delivery, or call in your order and pick it up at their drive-thru window.
Mary Cokenour

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Chicken to Broth to Soup.

“Winter is coming, Jon Snow”, and that means snow, ice, freezing winds; chilled bodies seeking warmth. Living in San Juan County, especially at the high altitude of Monticello, there are times when conditions can leave you shivering from the inside to out. Those commercials that feature chicken soup are not lying when they imply it cures what ails you. While the nutrition from the ingredients can help the immune system fight off colds, it’s the inner peace and comfort that makes the mind and soul strong as well.

So, we’ve only just entered fall and here I am writing about winter, and for a good reason. Pay attention to the smallest of creatures, squirrels, prairie dogs, chipmunks; watch as they pack themselves up with edible items and scurry back to their dens. They are hoarding for the winter, since they know finding food in snow and ice packed land is near to impossible. Oh, we think it’s just so simple to go to the store and buy what we need without giving necessity another thought. What about when the stores are closed, or what you need has already run out? In this new age, we take for granted, well, just about everything nowadays; we assume all we need will always be available.

Let’s travel back to 1847 and imagine how life was, for the pioneers coming out West, 168 years ago. From the East Coast to the Mississippi River, immigrants from all over Europe had become citizens of the USA; bringing their culture, and recipes, from their homelands. One ingredient that had become a main staple in almost every home was the chicken, so those wagon trains included crates full of egg laying, flightless birds. Now and then, one of those chickens gave up its life to feed the many; nothing was wasted, not even the bones.

I’m going to be referring to the article, “A Melting Pot of Pioneer Recipes”, by Winnifred C. Jardina, at the Official Website of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, once again. No, I'm not Mormon, but that doesn't stop me from using recipes from their sites; I do NOT discriminate against food! A recipe for “Velvet Chicken Soup” definitely caught my eye; rich with butter, cream and eggs; yet a perfect recipe for a seasoned broth as well. For those adept at cooking, or even just starting out, the techniques used in this recipe are simple and useful. For example, when one cup of the seasoned broth is slowly mixed into the beaten eggs that is called “tempering the eggs”. If the eggs were dumped into the hot broth, it would cause the eggs to scramble which is how Chinese Egg Drop Soup is made. Instead, the eggs are brought up to a warmer temperature with the slow edition of the broth, so when fully added to the soup pot, a rich, creamy soup is created instead.

As I stated already, the recipe creates a deliciously seasoned broth that can be stored in freezer containers; or in ice cube trays where the broth is portioned out in tablespoons when that is all that’s called for. The meat from the chicken can also be portioned out in freezer bags for use in other recipes during the winter months. Take a clue from our little creatures and remember, “Winter is coming”.

Velvet Chicken Soup


3 or 4 pounds chicken
3 quarts cold water
1 tablespoon salt 6 peppercorns (or 1/4 teaspoon white pepper)
1 small onion, chopped
2 tablespoons chopped celery
2 cups rich milk or cream
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1 tablespoon butter
Salt and pepper
2 eggs, well beaten


Thoroughly clean chicken and cut into pieces. Put in covered kettle with cold water and salt. Bring to boil quickly and simmer until chicken is tender. Remove chicken from stock and remove meat from bones (saving meat to use in croquettes, pie, etc.)

Return bones to soup stock and add peppercorns (or white pepper), chopped onions, and chopped celery. Simmer together until a little more than a quart of stock remains in pan; strain, cool, and remove all fat. (Stop here if you intend on storing for future uses.)

Add rich milk or cream, bring to a boil, and thicken with cornstarch that’s been mixed smooth with a little cold water. Add butter and season to taste.

Beat eggs with a little cream. Pour 1 cup soup over egg mixture, stirring well, then pour egg-soup mixture back into soup, stirring constantly, and cook 2 minutes.

Serve hot in soup dishes, adding bite-size croutons if desired.

Note: after cutting up the chicken, I removed as much of the skin and fat layer as possible. The flavor was still intense, and there was not that much fat to remove later on. In the cooling process, I placed all the broth into a large plastic bowl, covered and put into the freezer for one hour. The fat rises to the top and can be easily scooped off; this technique is also great when using pan drippings to make gravy.

Mary Cokenour