Saturday, November 28, 2015

Pumpkin is Not Just for Pie Anymore.

During the fall and winter seasons, pumpkins often make an appearance from the maniacal face carved into them for Halloween; to the slice of pie decorating a dessert plate at a holiday meal.  While the Jack o’ Lantern pumpkin might be perfect for carving and placing a candle inside; the seeds roasted and salted for a snack; for baking and cooking, not so much.  When the Pilgrims first settled the eastern coast of North America, they learned from the Natives living here that Crooked Neck pumpkins were best, not just in storage, but for eating.  A meaty interior without all the stringiness those hollow Jacks have; and I can attest to this.  While living in Lancaster, PA; every fall was a trek to the Amish markets to find the largest Crooked Necks we could find.  One huge catch was two - 35 pounders which gave us many a bread, pie and canned pumpkin for later use.   Then again, there was that 50 pounder that measured about five feet long, and took two of us to carry; we were certainly a sight to see that day.

Out of curiosity, I tried looking up pumpkin cookbooks; 14 on the first page of alone!  Who doesn’t have a family recipe for pumpkin pie passed down from generation to generation?  Nutrition wise, they are low in calories, fat, sodium and carbohydrates; high in potassium, vitamin A and C; add a little spice and they taste so good.  There are many varieties of pumpkin, besides the Crooked Neck, that are prized for their meat: Baby Pam, Autumn Gold, Ghost Rider, New England Pie Pumpkin, Lumina (which are white), Cinderella, and Fairy Tale. Ready for this, besides pie, you can create bread, muffins, cake, cookies, soup and side dishes (roasted with onions, potatoes and garlic for example).  Pumpkin is showing up in cocktails; and who hasn’t heard of pumpkin spice coffee, tea, hot chocolate and creamers?  You don’t even have to wait any longer till fall harvest; canned pumpkin is available as pure pumpkin, or processed for pie filling.  Let me add a small word of caution on this; canned pure pumpkin is just that…pure cooked pumpkin.  Pie filling goes through a different processing and has many added ingredients, so anyone allergic to pumpkin can ingest this type, not the pure.

So, am I going to share a pumpkin pie recipe with you?  Oh come now, I love to play with food, so the typical shouldn’t be expected from me.  Instead I’m giving you my recipe for Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Walnut Cookies; I bet you’re drooling already.  This is a cake like cookie with the dough being quite moist; I recommend using a small ice cream scoop for portioning it out on the cookie sheets.  While baking, it will not spread out much, so if you want a uniform, flatter cookie; use the rounded side of the scoop, or a spoon, to flatten it out to your desired appearance.

Living, Laughter and Love should be a year round mantra, not just in the holiday season. Perhaps nibbling on a pumpkin treat now and then will help remind us all of this.  Enjoy!


Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Walnut Cookies


1 (15 oz.) can pure pumpkin (not pie filling)
1 cup white sugar
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 large egg
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1 tsp. ground nutmeg
1/2 tsp. ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. milk
1 and 1/2 cups Ghirardelli Bittersweet Chocolate Chips
3/4 cup chopped walnuts


Preheat oven to 375F; line cookie sheets with parchment paper or lightly grease; Airbake sheets work well (do not need paper or grease).

In a large mixing bowl, combine pumpkin, sugar, vegetable oil, and egg.  In a separate bowl, sift together flour, baking powder, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves and salt.  In a smaller bowl, dissolve the baking soda in the milk; add both of these mixtures to the pumpkin mixture; mixing well.  Add chocolate chips and nuts; gently combine to not break up chips or nuts.


Drop by tablespoonful on cookie sheets; bake for approximately 13 - 15 minutes, or until lightly brown and firm.



Makes 3 dozen.
Mary Cokenour

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Karen Rose Smith, Cozy Mystery Author Full of Comfort Cooking.

Facebook, sometimes I have to thank it for helping me establish contact with some amazing people.  I had joined a page called, "Chatting About Cozies", and through it found out about so many authors I didn't know existed.  Now I've told you on here before that I love reading mysteries, and what has been termed, "cozy mystery"; just an average person solving mysteries while going about an average life.  I so want to do this!  I sort of do actually, on my travel blog where I give details about places to visit that aren't in a typical tourist guide, plus photos of course.

Anyway, one author I discovered was Karen Rose Smith; I learned about her books and bought all the "Caprice De Luca" ones; a bonus, besides a good mystery, are the recipes included.  One day I received a friend request from Karen and gladly accepted; at the same time I became a little sad.  Karen lives in Hanover, PA; I used to live in Lancaster, PA; basically about an hour away from each other.  She and I have so much in common, and I have the feeling that if we'd met when I was in PA, we possibly would have become good friends in person, not just on Facebook.  Such is life, at least we finally met, in a fashion.

Once in a while Karen will post a recipe she's developed for the Caprice series, and one of these was from her newest, "Gilt by Association".  I decided I wanted to try it out, and write about it on this food blog.  However, I went one step further; from her recipe, I was able to develop one of my own, so thank you Karen for the inspiration.  Hint...maybe Caprice would like to make these in one of her stories one day?

Here goes, first will be "Caprice's Cran-Orange, White-Choco Cookies" which are light, airy, crispy and so delectable.  I told Karen that these were like a little piece of heaven.  Then will come my recipe for "Mary's Very Cherry Cocoa-Chip Cookies", again light, airy and crispy, but with a cocoa-cherry flavor and semi-sweet chips.  Now these I described to Karen as being a devilish style of cookie, while Caprice's were more angelic.  Now who doesn't enjoy a little heaven vs. hell in their baking?

Caprice's Cran-Orange, White-Choco Cookies
(Gilt by Association)

1/2 cup margarine (softened)
1/2 cup butter (softened)
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups flour
2 tablespoon grated orange peel  (I use one tablespoon fresh--   about 2 navel oranges grated--and 1 tablespoon dried.    Adjust for your taste!)
1/2 cup Rice Krispies®
1 cup dried cranberries (I use Ocean Spray Craisins®)
1 cup white chocolate chips


Preheat oven to 375̊

Mix softened margarine and butter.  Cream with sugar.  Add eggs and mix well.  Add baking powder, baking soda, salt and vanilla.  Mix in.  Add flour 1/2 cup at a time.  Mix in orange peel.  Stir in Rice Krispies®, dried cranberries, and white chocolate chips.
Cream butter, margarine, sugar

Add Eggs
Add flour 1/2 cup at a time

Smooth Batter

Add Rice Krispies, Craisins, White Chocolate Chips

Drop by rounded tablespoonful onto lightly greased cookie sheet.  Bake about 12-13 minutes until golden brown and set. 

Ready to Bake

After Baking
Cooling on Baking Rack

Makes 3 dozen.

Karen Rose Smith

Now comes my new recipe...

Mary’s Very Cherry Cocoa-Chip Cookies
(Inspired by Karen Rose Smith, author of “Gilt by Association”, and her recipe, “Caprice’s Cran-Orange White-Choco Cookies”)

1/2 cup margarine (softened)
1/2 cup butter (softened)
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs
2 tsp.  baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
2 tsp. unsweetened Dutch cocoa
1/4 tsp. salt
2 cups flour
1/2 cup Cocoa Krispies®
1 cup dried cherries
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
 Preheat oven to 375̊
 Mix softened margarine and butter; cream with sugar.  Add eggs, mix well.  Add baking powder, baking soda, cocoa powder and salt; mix in.  Add flour 1/2 cup at a time.  Stir in Cocoa Krispies®, dried cherries, and semi-sweet chocolate chips.

Cream butter, margarine, sugar

Add powder, soda, salt, cocoa powder

Smooth Batter

Add Cocoa Krispies, Dried Cherries, Semi-Sweet Chips
Drop by rounded tablespoonful onto lightly greased cookie sheet, or Airbake sheets.  Bake about 12-13 minutes until golden brown and set. 

Ready to Bake

After Baking

Cooling on Baking Rack
Makes 3 dozen.
Mary Cokenour
Now on a side note, I love giving out new creations to my favorite guinea pigs; unbiased opinions are a great help.  Everyone loved both of these cookies, but the overall winner was my "Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Walnut Cookies" which I had made on the same day.   So Karen, you might want to try out this recipe too.  *wink*  It will be posted on another day soon.
Mary Cokenour



Thursday, November 19, 2015

Good Food, not Fast Food, at the Patio Drive-In.

Patio Drive-In

95 N Grayson Pkwy. (Route 191)
Blanding, Utah, 84511

Phone: (435) 678-2177

Hours of Operation: Monday-Saturday, 10:30am – 9pm; Closed Sunday

In the late 1950s, an A&W opened up in Blanding, Utah; with a secondary franchise in Monticello.  While the Monticello location went bust after only two years due to lack of business; the Blanding location was holding strong.  Not wanting to be reigned over by A&W overlords, the owner left the franchise in the mid-1960s and the Patio Drive-In was born.  Since then, as told by Steve Bronson at the Blanding Visitors Center, “The list of people who didn’t own it at one time is far shorter than those who did.”

Patio Drive-In is an example of the 1950s drive-in diner; not as large as “Al’s” on Happy Days, but just as busy with both happy customers and employees.  The current owners, Lana and Ricky Arthur, have owned the restaurant since 2009; they have developed a strict vision statement, “WE ARE NOT A FAST FOOD RESTAURANT. We are a food establishment reminiscent of a bygone era where the quality of the food meant more to America than how fast it could be served.”  Anyone visiting the Patio can see, and experience, the truth of this statement; people talking, laughing and eating without worrying about the time; no one is rushed out.  Warmer weather can find visitors and locals alike sitting under covered umbrellas at the tables outside, or even sitting on the grassy lawn. 

Where's Waldo and Carmen Sandiego; probably at Patio Drive-In.

Order Area

Menu and Server, Heidi

 At Patio, the food is made to order; there are no heat lamp units, the one microwave is for employee personal use only; the food is freshly prepped and freshly cooked…period!  To make the quarter, or half, pound burgers (dependent on type ordered), the meat is partially cooked on the grill, then take a bath in house made au jus before going back onto the grill.  Did you ever wonder why they tasted so beefy and juicy? Now you know the secret, and here’s one more; the grilled chicken soaks in Sierra Mist soda, and another ingredient I swore not to reveal, before hitting the grill.  Do you love melt in the mouth onion rings?  Thinly sliced, separated and soaked in a buttermilk bath; hand dredged through a seasoned flour mixture; then deep fried to a golden brown.  Excuse me while I wipe the drool off the side of my chin.

Cheddar Melt

Chicken Ham and Swiss

Chicken Philly

Lil Buff Burger - 1/4 pound real Buffalo meat

Buttermilk soaked, hand dredged Onion Rings


Orders can be called in for pick up, or use the drive-thru window, but be prepared to turn off the engine and wait.  Freshly cooked means freshly cooked; this ain’t no McDonald’s and everyone is so happy for that!  Welcoming atmosphere, friendly owners and staff, fresh made to order food; there is no way I could not put a positive perspective on Patio Drive-In.  Visit them, if you have not already, and I bet you will feel the same as I do.
Mary Cokenour

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Ramen Noodles Can Make a Meal.

Ramen noodles are more than just a soup; they are versatile enough to help create a hearty meal for the family.  This is especially true when it's a spur of the moment meal, or you're just entirely clueless as to what to cook that day.  Rummaging around the pantry and refrigerator completes two tasks; you find items to make a meal with, and you find items that should have been tossed ages ago.

In this recipe, I had two portions of seared chicken breasts already staring at me from the fridge.  I knew vegetables had to be included in the meal, so thank the gods that I always keep a stash of frozen veggies...sugar snap peas and baby carrots were my pick this time.  We have a storage draw full of Ramen Noodles - beef, shrimp, chicken, roasted chicken, vegetable; if I only use the noodles, the seasoning packets are saved for other uses.  For an Asian twist, soy sauce does the job well; light soy sauce is lower in sodium too.

5 Ingredient Ramen Noodle Fix


1 (8 oz.) package frozen baby carrots
2 (3 oz.) packages chicken flavored Ramen Noodles
2 cups cubed, cooked chicken breast
1 (8 oz.) package frozen sugar snap peas, defrosted
3 Tbsp. soy sauce


Place carrots in microwave safe container with 2 tablespoons water; cover and heat for 4 minutes.  Prepare Ramen Noodles per package directions, saving seasoning packets for later use; drain noodles. 

In a large skillet, on medium heat, add carrots, drained noodles, contents of seasoning packets, snap peas and soy sauce; mix thoroughly.  Let cook for 5 minutes, mix to keep items from sticking; cook additional 5 minutes.

Makes six servings.
Mary Cokenour

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Went Back to the Branding Iron and Loved It.

Susie's Branding Iron

2971 South Highway 191 (across from Shell Station)
Moab, Utah, 84535

Phone: (435) 259-6275


Hours of Operation: Monday - Sunday, 11am to 10pm

On July 22, 1989, Karl Tangren opened up The Branding Iron; a place where locals could get good food, and play music.  Now we had visited this place about four years ago, and truthfully, we weren't that impressed.  It was only open for dinner and it didn't seem worth the travel, so wrote it off as a to-go place.  After being closed for a little while, and undergoing major renovation, it reopened on September 3, 2012 with new management of sorts, Karl's daughter, Susie Taylor.  The name was slightly changed to Susie's Branding Iron, now open for lunch and dinner.  We kept remembering our first experience there, so didn't rush to try it out; that was a major loss on our parts.

We finally went there on a Saturday night and it was an amazing experience.  After being warmly greeted and seated, our waitress, Melena, took our drink orders.  Melena is a doll, very efficient, attentive and makes sure you are enjoying your meal.  More and more diners kept coming in, some greeted by name; talking and laughter filled the air.  The restaurant is more open now, southwestern/cowboy d├ęcor; there is a bar that opens at 4pm every day, and a beautiful patio area.

Wednesday, Friday and Saturday nights is the Prime Rib special; 16 ounce slab (about 1 to 1 and 1/2 inches thick) of the most delicious beef we've tasted.  This Prime Rib was tender, juicy, perfectly cooked, and I swear it did melt in the mouth...chewing was optional.  It came with choice of potato (mashed potatoes are two scoops and homemade!), gravy and Navajo Fry Bread.  It also came with a generous side salad; the salad dressings, as well as the gravies, are house made; no bottled stuff.

I decided to try out the Country Fried Steak; a meal that no restaurant should mess up, and Susie's does a most excellent job.  The breading on the steak is one I've not tasted before, lightly seasoned, yet hearty; crispy, yet combines with the meat to create a wonderful mouth feel.  I too had the mashed potatoes, and corn for my vegetable; the gravy was peppery, but didn't take flavor away from the meat or potatoes.  Honey is a basic condiment on the table, so we saved our fry bread for was a perfect finish to a perfect meal.

The atmosphere and staff are both welcoming and friendly; the food is top notch; whether for lunch or dinner, you must try out Susie's Branding Iron when in the Moab area...and they do take out service too.

Mary Cokenour

Friday, November 6, 2015

Fill Yourself Up at Wild Coffee.

Wild Coffee

434 US-491 (next to Frosty Liquors)
Dove Creek, Colorado, 81324

Phone: (970) 677-3000

Hours: Mon thru Fri, 6am-2pm; closed Sat and Sun
For nine years, Greg and Francie Wild have provided Dove Creek residents, and visitors, with outstanding coffees, breakfasts, lunches, breads, yogurt and cakes.   Their current location, next to Frosty’s Liquors, is the third incarnation of Wild Coffee; the third time being the true charm for this charming couple.  While there is seating outside, the interior is cozy with the walls lined with paintings or photographs from local artists.  The bread, yogurt, croissants and cakes are made daily; orders are cooked up fresh and quickly; nothing sits under a heat lamp.

 Breakfast choices are Burrito or Bowl; Sandwiches made with Croissant, Bagel or English Muffin (meat choice is ham or sausage); French Toast (sticks or sandwich), Waffle Wedges, Yogurt, even a Veggie Burrito.  My personal favorite for breakfast is the croissant sandwich; again, the croissants are baked fresh daily, soft, flaky and deliciously buttery.  Two fried eggs and a thick slice of ham (none of that thin cold cut nonsense) tucked inside a large croissant; so yummy!  My will power was surely tested, as I really wanted to eat another one.  Drink choices include coffee (hot and cold varieties), teas, smoothies, even blackberry lemonade.  A piping hot 16 ounce cup of fresh brewed coffee plus hearty sandwich; what a way to begin the day!  

Wild Coffee’s lunch specialty is the Panini; meats, cheeses, vegetables and condiments layered between four, not two, but four slices of homemade bread; perfectly browned and served with two little cookies for dessert.  Depending on your appetite, you might just have a Panini for snack later on.  Names of the sandwiches all relate to areas in and around Dove Creek; you can also order a “Choose Your Own” (cold or Panini style) to create your own grand concoction.  Orders can be made to eat in or take out, in case you need a packed lunch for your hiking, climbing or ATVing adventure.  By the way, if you’re addicted to lemon bars, like myself, Francie makes ones to simply die for…sweet, tart and so lemony.  They are an extremely popular item at Wild Coffee. 

Pines Panini

Pumps Panini
Greg and Francie will do catering for any special event; breakfast or lunch orders can also be called in and ready for pickup, often a choice for many staff members at San Juan Hospital.  The atmosphere is relaxing; owners are the friendliest of folks; food is simple and delicious.  When you dine in at, or take out from, Wild Coffee, you have hit the trifecta!
Mary Cokenour