Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Twin Rocks Gets a Facelift.

Twin Rocks Cafe and Gift Shop

913 East, Navajo Twins Drive
Bluff, Utah, 84512

Phone: (435) 672-2341


For a few weeks, Twin Rocks Café, down in Bluff, was closed for reconstructive surgery.  Seems this old established restaurant was looking for a younger, fresher look; so popular in today’s society of Botox and collagen injections.  After hearing they had reopened, we hightailed it down to Bluff to see the new do; but alas, the bandages still covered the façade.  The wintery weather, all of San Juan County was experiencing, was making the healing process go slow.
At one time, the interior dining area was “L” shaped, but now it was a three sectioned area; great for closing off a private party area when needed.  Where patio seating used to be, it was now enclosed with large picture windows to allow in more light, and outdoor viewing.  During cold weather, or rainy days, diners would be comfortably warm, and dry, while enjoying Twin Rocks’ fresh made meals.  The patio tables and chairs outside had been moved further down towards the gift shop; good strategy to entice those outside to come in and buy.

It was a Saturday night and the specialty was Prime Rib (12 or 16 ounce) with potato, grilled vegetables and choice of soup or salad.  Two of us went for this goodie; tender beef perfectly cooked to your desired taste; fluffy baked potato, or homemade, red skin, mashed potatoes; an assortment of grilled vegetables with just a touch of seasoning.  My husband, Roy, ordered the Country Fried Steak which he described as “just right”; breaded coating not too light, but not too thick.  A mildly peppered gravy which enhanced the taste of the steak and mashed potatoes, instead of hiding their flavor.  Our good friends, Amy, and her father, Richard Watkins were with us; he ordered the Fish and Chips which was lightly bread, flaky fish and crispy, fluffy French fries.  Dessert, not tonight, as we had pigged out on Twin Rocks’ deliciously addicting Chicken Wings and Onion Rings for appetizers.
Prime Rib
Country Fried Steak

Fish and Chips

Chicken Wings Appetizer
Onion Rings Appetizer
Homemade Chicken Noodle Soup
Dinner Salad with Honey Mustard Dressing
Service at Twin Rocks Café is always welcoming, friendly and with a smile; any concerns are taken cared of immediately.  Dining is leisurely; no one rushed out just to get a high turn around rate.  Happy diners are a must; no matter if the person is a local, or visitor from another area, the management wants everyone to come back!!!  Locals come from all over San Juan County to eat the mouthwatering American and Navajo cuisines offered on the menu.  Thrilled voices hailing greetings to friends and neighbors filled the air; even former mayor of Monticello, Doug Allen, and his family were there. 
Former Monticello, Utah mayor, Doug Allen and family.
The finished workmanship on the dining area will be a site to see; but truthfully, everyone goes for the great food.  Twin Rocks Café, now that’s good eats!

Sunset View from Dining Room.
Mary Cokenour

Gift Shop


Friday, February 5, 2016

Dessert Salads Go Green – Part Three.

Fruit salads have been making the rounds of recipe books, and personal recipe cards, since about 1910 thanks to the canning industry.  Depending on the author, some of these recipes began to pick up their names by location, such as “Golden Gate Salad” and “Watergate Salad”.  In 1922, Helen Keller published a recipe called “Golden Gate Salad”, consisting of canned diced pineapple, nuts, marshmallows, whipped cream, other fruits and celery.  The reason for the name simply being that the first time she tried such a salad was in California, probably the San Francisco area.  Helen’s recipe also appeared in a 1925 cookbook, “Favorite Recipes of Famous Women” (Florence Stratton, author) with a notation of, “It is best made with fresh fruits, but it can be made of canned fruit.  At home we often serve it instead of dessert, with a little more whipped cream.”

“Watergate Salad”, however, has rather an obscure pedigree; with a humble beginning of Ambrosia and the addition of chopped pistachio nuts; creating Pistachio Salad.  In 1975, Kraft Foods offered consumers a new flavor in the Jell-O pudding line, pistachio; a recipe for Pistachio Pineapple Delight appeared on the box.  This dessert salad picked up names, along its United States journey, such as Pistachio Delight, Shut the Gate Salad, Green Goop, Green Fluff or Green Stuff.  It was not until The Denver Post, in the Empire Magazine of June 27, 1976, published a recipe for Watergate Salad; stating that the recipe was developed by a sous chef at the Watergate Hotel in Washington, D.C.  When scandal hit the White House, and President Richard Nixon, the recipe took off like wildfire.  At the same time, a Watergate Cake was developed with “cover-up icing and full of nuts”; along with other satirically named recipes such as Nixon's Perfectly Clear Consommé and Liddy's Clam-Up Chowder.  Kraft even changed the name on the pistachio pudding box to Watergate Salad to keep up with the presidential scandal.

Perusing through my Utah based cookbooks, lime Jell-O made many an appearance in recipes; pudding, not so much.  Even the use of pistachios was kept to the more garden type salads, or as a main ingredient for salad dressing.  Various bloggers, from Utah, mentioned family reunions in which Pistachio Salad was present; the recipes being variations of the original Jell-O pudding recipe.  Does that mean Utahns aren’t cracked up about pistachios?  Au-contraire!  Located in Hurricane, Utah, Red Rock Ranch Pistachio Orchards ( has been producing a unique variety of pistachios for over ten years.  The dry climate of the desert gives the nuts sweeter flavor and greener coloring; while high in fat, they are low in carbohydrates.


Here is the original recipe for Pistachio Pineapple Delight (1975), later renamed as Watergate Salad (1976).


1 can (20 oz.) crushed pineapple in juice, undrained
1 package (3.4 oz.) Jell-O Pistachio Flavor Instant Pudding
1 and ½ cups thawed Cool Whip Whipped Topping
1 cup Jet-Puffed miniature marshmallows
½ cup Planters chopped pecans


Combine Ingredients.  Refrigerate 1 hour.

Makes 8 – about ½ cups servings each.

Mary Cokenour

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Dessert Salad Saga – Part Two.

Nectar and Ambrosia, the drink and food of the Gods; the Ancient Greek Pantheon that is.  Sitting upon celestial thrones high upon Mount Olympus, these gods and goddesses played the humans upon the Earth as pieces on a giant chessboard.  My interest in their mythology began in elementary school; in high school though is when an English teacher asked us to make recipes of the Grecian culture.

Nectar is quite easy to create; a mixture of whole cow’s milk, honey and the stigmas (only 3 per flower) of Crocus flowers aka saffron threads.  Crocus, being a plant of the mountains is sacred to the Gods; it gives a golden color to the drink, with extraordinary rejuvenating and energizing powers.  Ambrosia, in its original form, is a honey cake laden with apples and figs; the modern version is a simple mixture of fruits, honey and Greek yogurt.

Ah, but now we come to the Americanized version of this simple Greek recipe; we’ve all seen it in any salad bar.  That wondrous mixture of fruits, coconut flakes, marshmallows and whipped topping; looking like a total mess, yet tasting so cool and refreshing…Ambrosia salad.  This is one of those recipes where almost anything can be added, and it doesn’t go wrong; even pasta!  That’s right, pasta, which brings me to a popular dessert salad that dates back approximately 40 years to a recipe on a box.  Acini di Pepe, also spelled Acini de Pepe (pronounced ah-CHEE-nee dee PAY-pay); "Acini" means "berries", "Pepe" means "pepper", so "pepper berries" or “peppercorns”.  If you are a fan of Italian Wedding Soup, then you have eaten Acini di Pepe; and it gives Frog Eye Salad its unusual name.

The original name of the recipe was “Ambrosia Salad with Acine di Pepe”, but as it made its rounds through home kitchens, it picked up the name of “Frog Eye Salad”.  How is a good question, but the only guessed at reasoning was that someone’s child must have said, “Yuck, that looks like frog eyes in there!”  As the recipe was passed along, the nickname stuck as it traveled throughout the United States, and to the dessert salad loving state of Utah.  The first time I’d ever heard of, or tasted, it was at an annual holiday party; the pasta being a chewy addition to the salad.  The consensus is, some love it, some hate it; some don’t care, its food, so just eat it.  Personally, I didn’t see the point of adding the pasta while my husband enjoyed it; so to each his/her own.

One recipe I found was supposedly from the original box of pasta put out by the Ronzoni Company.  I contacted them for verification, but, as yet, they have not bothered to respond with an answer.  So, I’m using a recipe from The Salt Lake Tribune’s “What’s Cooking in Utah Kitchens” cookbook (no date) which is extremely close to the other recipe I found.  It also makes a quantity that could feed a small army (about 20 servings), so cut the recipe as needed.

Frog Eye Salad
(page 66, by Donna Kastler)


1 and ½ cups (12 oz. box) Acini de Pepe (macaroni product)
2 quarts boiling water
1 tsp. salt
½ tsp. oil
1 cup sugar
2 Tbsp. flour
½ tsp. salt
2 eggs, beaten
1 and ¾ cups pineapple juice
1 Tbsp. lemon juice
2 cans (11 oz. each) mandarin oranges, drained
1 can (20 oz.) chunk pineapple, drained
1 cup miniature marshmallows
1 cup coconut
1 carton (9 oz.) frozen whipped topping


Cook Acine de Pepe in boiling water with the 1 teaspoon salt and oil for 8 to 10 minutes.  While macaroni is cooking, combine the sugar, flour, ½ teaspoon salt, eggs and pineapple juice; cook until thick, stirring constantly.  Stir in lemon juice.  Cool and pour over well drained macaroni.  Stir and refrigerate overnight.

Several hours before serving, add the mandarin oranges, pineapple, marshmallows and coconut.  Stir well; add frozen whipped topping.  Fold together.
Mary Cokenour