Sunday, January 24, 2016

Native Beauty of Cedar Mesa Pottery.

Cedar Mesa Pottery

333 South Main (Route 191)
Blanding, Utah, 84511

Phone: (435) 678-2241
            (800) 235-7687


Hours of Operation:  Monday thru Friday; 8am to 5pm

Joe B. Lyman, Owner

Warning!  When entering Cedar Mesa Pottery, via the gift shop, be prepared for a visual assault of the most beautiful Native American pottery collections.  Alright, now that you have been fully warned, let’s take the tour.  Cedar Mesa Pottery is located in Blanding, Utah with its beginning around 1981; owned and operated by local, Joe Lyman.  The work of his crafts people enable the factory to present to the world both Navajo and Ute artistry.  The glass and wooden display cases hold unique pieces signed by each artist; collective pieces so skillfully done that your fingers itch to touch.  Distinctive grey and black pieces containing true horse hair (a personal favorite); ceramics that resemble authentic etched wood; mesmerizing colors; striking designs based on themes.

The tour of the factory first brings you to the “closeouts and seconds” section; lovely pieces that simply did not make the cut through quality control.  Packing and Shipping comes next; aisles of plastic wrapped pottery ready to be picked, packaged and shipped to shops, trading posts, residential homes; even San Juan County’s own Welcome Centers carry Cedar Mesa Pottery.  All pieces are available at wholesale and retail pricing; opening an account is quick and easy.


Follow the Footprints.
All visitors to the factory are encouraged to take a map and descriptive guide which explains the various processes of pottery making.  Cedar Mesa uses a perfected mixture of clays from New York, California, Tennessee and Texas which is called “slip”.  The slip is poured into various molds until the correct thickness is reached; the balance is poured out and recycled.  The Kilns come next; pieces are fired within gas kilns at 2000 degrees Fahrenheit, for three to five hours.  Sealing is a cooling off period of several hours to ensure the pieces do not crack or warp.  After a twenty-four hour waiting period, the pieces have any excess clay removed carefully with sponges; the pieces are now ready to meet their individual artists.
Kilns and Sealing


Watching the artisans is fascinating; how each one can paint and/or etch each piece quickly, yet so skillfully.  Animal figures emerge: deer, elk, moose, bear, eagle, buffalo, raven and wolf (again, a personal favorite).  Themes vary from natural settings (forest, desert) to monumental locations (Monument Valley, Mount Rushmore, Devil’s Tower); petroglyphic designs; and the famous “End of the Trail” featuring the lone brave on his horse.
By the end of the tour, you will very likely have a shopping list in your mind.  Back inside the gift shop, there will be so much more to tempt you; candles, dream catchers, Kachina dolls; and the t-shirt collector has not been forgotten either.   Definitely, if visiting San Juan County, stop into Blanding, visit Cedar Mesa Pottery, and take the factory tour; you will be amazed!
Mary Cokenour


Thursday, January 21, 2016

Utahns’ Love of Dessert Salads - Part One

If you are a resident of, or frequent visitor to, Utah, something you will experience at meals are dessert salads.  What exactly are dessert salads?  Side dishes made with Jell-O (gelatin and/or pudding), whipped toppings, fruits, vegetables, mayonnaise, sour cream, even pasta. These salads are served at buffets, in cafeterias, potlucks, parties; basically any type of gathering where food will be served, even funerals. Easy to be prepared ahead of time, holding up well during transportation; even though there are sweet ingredients, these dishes are classified more as salads, but make great desserts as well.  Hence, the term, “dessert salad”.

Now I’ve read in personal stories, and heard personal tales, of Jell-O being the number one “food group”, not just for Utahns, but for Mormons in general.  It is not unusual for every good Mormon woman to have, in her recipe book, at minimum, ten Jell-O based recipes.  I am definitely not sure of the truth of this, so did some historical digging about Jell-O.  In 1845, industrialist, Peter Cooper (built the first American steam powered locomotive, The Tom Thumb) invented a powdered gelatin.  However, 1897 saw New Yorker (yay NY!) cough syrup manufacturer, Pearle Bixby Wait, trademark a gelatin product he and his wife, May, called “Jell-O”.  They added fruit flavoring to granulated gelatin and sugar; and a new dessert was given life.

In 2001, Jell-O was designated, by Utah Legislature, the number one snack food of the state; our tax dollars at work!  However, media food analysts found very little mention of the product between 1969 and 1988; in fact, it was written that Lutherans were the biggest lovers of Jell-O.  That changed in 1997 when Kraft Foods introduced “Jell-O Jigglers” to the market; sales figures revealed Salt Lake City to have the highest per-capita Jell-O consumption.  At that time, comedian Bill Cosby was the spokesperson for the much loved product and stated to the 2001 Utah Legislature, “I believe the reason people in Utah love Jell-O is that the snack is perfect for families -- and the people of Utah are all about family.”  …and this is how we get to the first sentence of this current paragraph.

The recipe I am giving you is for “Pretzel Salad”, a combination of fruit laden Jell-O with cream cheesy decadence over buttery, crunchy pretzels.  Actually, I will be doing the story about Dessert Salads in several parts to show the variations; and who knows, you might be serving a new creation at your next get-together.

Pretzel Salad
(This is a three step process of ingredients plus directions)

Step One:


2 cups crushed, salted pretzels
¼ cup sugar
1 (8 Tbsp.) stick butter, melted


Preheat oven to 350'F.

Combine pretzels, sugar and butter together; press into the bottom of a 9” x13” glass baking dish.  Bake for 10 minutes, remove from oven and cool completely.

Step Two:


1 (8 oz.) package cream cheese
1 cup sugar
1 (8 oz.) container of original Cool Whip


Combined the cream cheese with sugar; whip until smooth; fold in the Cool Whip. Spread this mixture evenly over the top of cooled pretzel crust, and seal all the edges.  Place in refrigerator for a half hour to slightly firm up.

Step Three:


1 (6 oz.) box of strawberry Jell-O
2 cups boiling water
2 (16 oz.) bags of frozen strawberries


Combine the Jell-O and water; stir until gelatin is dissolved; add in the frozen strawberries and allow to thicken slightly.  Pour mixture over the cream cheese layer; spread out berries if necessary.  Cover baking dish with plastic wrap and refrigerate a minimum of four hours if serving the same day; or overnight if serving the next day.
Makes 10 to 12 servings.

Note: This recipe can be created with other berry Jell-O flavors with accompanying berries such as raspberry, blackberry, cherry or blueberry.
Mary Cokenour

Saturday, January 9, 2016

Thai Cortez is a Mixture of Friendly and Delicious.

Thai Cortez

1430 East Main Street, Suite 2
Cortez, Colorado, 81321

Phone: (970) 564-3151

Facebook Page:

Hours of Operation:
Lunch (Mon-Sat) 11:30am to 2:30pm
Dinner (Mon-sat) 4:30pm to 9:00pm
Sunday - Closed

After reading many Trip Advisor reviews, my hubby and I decided to soothe our craving for Thai food while in Cortez, and try out Thai Cortez.  Adjacent to the parking lot of McDonald's, there is parking on the side and back of the restaurant itself.  Inside, we were immediately greeted in a warm manner and given a table for two.  The interior is small and narrow, so tables are close together; this is not the place if you are seeking privacy.  However, the staff are so very friendly and we truly didn't have just one server; all the servers took care of all the diners.  A couple sitting next to our table asked if we'd ever been to Thai Cortez; we told them no, and they informed us that they have been addicted to it since it first opened, and that we were in for a great meal.  They were not wrong in any way!

The menu is chock full of Thailand's cuisine, with a few Japanese inspired dishes thrown in as well.  The dishes have their Thai names, but are explained well, so you know exactly what you are ordering.  We began with Por Pia (Thai Vegetable Egg Rolls) and Kha Nom Jeeb (Thai Dumplings).  The Egg Rolls were deep fried to a golden brown with just the right about of shredded vegetables inside; sweet and sour was provided for dipping.  Before I could even take a photo, my hubby devoured one immediately!  The Thai Dumplings were packed with a pork and vegetable mixture wrapped in a delicate wonton wrapper; steamed and served with a special sauce very similar to Hoisin.  Both appetizers were delicious!

Por Pia - Thai Vegetable Egg Rolls

Kha Nom Jeeb - Thai Dumplings

For main dishes, my hubby ordered Pad Hed Horm; a Japanese inspired stir fry of vegetables in a special house sauce, and he chose beef for the protein addition.  The vegetables were perfectly cut for bite sized pieces and fresh; the beef was so tender and cooked medium-rare.  I ordered Mee Grob Rad Nah Ta Lay; deep fried egg noodles topped with a seafood mixture of shrimp, scallops, squid and mussels; vegetables and in a savory brown sauce.  All the seafood was cooked to perfection, especially the squid and scallops which were tender, NOT rubbery.  The entire dish was outstanding!

Pad Hed Horm

Mee Grob Rad Nah Ta Lay

All the while we were dining, the servers were so attentive filling our tea cups and asking how was the food, and did we need anything else.  The entire atmosphere is welcoming, we were not rushed, and we knew we would be coming back again.  So, if in Cortez, Colorado and in the mood for Thai, go to Thai Cortez for lunch and/or dinner and you will NOT be disappointed.

Mary Cokenour

Friday, January 8, 2016

A Published Bon Appetit Recipe aka Tooting My Own Horn.

I have been entering recipe contests since 1994, and my first win was February 1995 for "Better Homes and Gardens" magazine.  I've won many times with them; had recipes featured in "Taste of Home" magazine, and its recipe books.  Heck, I've even been on television several times cooking up one of my recipes (local station, WGAL, in Lancaster, PA).  Then there was Bon "Appetit" magazine, now that's a coup, since this is a high end food magazine; but I had a few published.

After awhile, I started to enter less and less; Food Network Channel was teaching everyone and their mother how to be a celebrity chef.  Contest entries were looking for more unusual, and five star restaurant quality, recipes; home cooks, like myself, were falling to the wayside.  Good news though, I have been writing a food column for the local paper, San Juan Record, for a year now.  Besides being read throughout the entire San Juan County of Southeastern Utah; subscribed readers reside throughout the United States as well.  Besides my own recipes, I've been able to write about foods from the various cultures in the area (Native American and Mexican), as well as delve into recipes brought to the region by Pioneers, Cowboys, and travelers along the Old Spanish Trail.

So, for the start of the New Year, I'm going to share with you one of those published recipes from "Bon Appetit"; Shrimp in Fontina Cheese and Dried Tomato Sauce.  Fontina cheese originated in Italy; cows fed a type of rich grass gives the cheese a mild, nutty flavor with a strong, distinctive aroma.  Danish Fontina is pale yellow, semi-soft with a mild slightly sweet flavor and less of an aroma; it is also much cheaper in price and more easily found in US supermarkets.  Either variety melts smoothly and easily, so perfect when making a cheese sauce.  Sun-dried tomatoes are just that; plum (Roma) tomatoes sliced thin and air dried in the sun (4-10 day process) which are then packaged, as is, in cellophane packets, or in jars of olive oil.  The tomatoes in the packets can be reconstituted in water, or crumbed up before adding to a recipe; the ones in olive oil can be used as is, but will add a little oil to your dish.  Which to use is distinctly up to the cook.

Shrimp in Fontina Cheese and Dried Tomato Sauce
“Bon Appétit” magazine published my recipe in their January 1997 issue, in the section called “Too Busy to Cook”.


2 Tbsp. butter
½ cup white onion, diced
1 Tbsp. flour
3 cups half n’ half
½ lb. Fontina cheese, crumbled
½ cup sundried tomatoes in olive oil, diced (or dried tomatoes – rehydrated)
½ tsp. ground black pepper
1 lb. large shrimp, shelled and deveined
1 lb. hot, cooked linguine or angel hair pasta
¼ cup freshly chopped parsley


On medium heat, melt butter in a large skillet; sauté the onion until translucent; add the flour and mix thoroughly.

Add the half n’ half, Fontina cheese, sundried tomato and black pepper.  Bring to a boil; reduce heat to low.  Add the shrimp; simmer for 5-7 minutes; stirring occasionally.  Add in the pasta and parsley; toss to coat.

Makes 4 servings.


2 large shallots for the white onion.
Provolone cheese for the Fontina cheese.
Oysters, clams or scallops for the shrimp.

Mary Cokenour