Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Welcoming Spring with Bright Sweetness.

Ode to a Jellybean

Ovoid of bright, shiny color.
Taste buds salivating for more.
Rolling round in the mouth.
Swallow, there it goes, down south.

Fruity flavors, some not so.
Try the red one, give it a go.
Fan the tongue, boy that's hot.
Spit, hit the trash can, what a shot.

Buy a bagful, perhaps a pound.
Chew a handful, hear the lip smacking sound.
Grab a tissue, looking like a fool.
Wipe up that multi colored drool.

Who needs drugs with this candy treat.
Smiling as you slip out of your seat.
Oh the pleasure you think with a blissful sigh.
Oh the pleasure of a sugar high.

~Mary Cokenour – 2005~


Now what does the jellybean have to do with spring exactly?  Not much, except for the ovoid shape that closely resembles the egg.  Hmm, better give some history about eggs and spring before getting to the jellybean.  Ostara (also spelled Eostre) is a Germanic deity; a fertility Goddess whose festival centers on the Spring Equinox; her symbols are the egg and the rabbit. When Christianity began to make the rounds in Europe, there was no better way to have non-believers embrace it than to incorporate some of their beliefs; an assimilation. March 20th is the Spring Equinox; the Christian Easter falls in springtime; children are given multi-colored eggs and chocolate rabbits; even the name Easter closely resembles the name of the Goddess, Eostre.  This concludes our history lesson for today; now back to the jellybean.

Even though Turkish Delight (a jelly candy coated in powdered sugar) was around for centuries; it was not easily shipped and melted quickly.  In 1861, a Boston confectioner, William Schrafft, invented a jelly candy with a firm outer shell.  His biggest selling point?  Ship these candies to the boys and men fighting in the Civil War; give them a little sweet pleasure to get their minds off the horrors of war.   By the 1930s, the egg shaped candies were becoming incorporated into Easter celebrations with simple fruit flavors.  Not only were children fascinated by these confections, but parents loved that they were compact and didn’t melt too quickly in tiny hands.

The jellybean is now one of the most popular candies sold throughout the world; spiced, sours, Harry Potter influenced flavors of dirt, vomit and earwax (who did the taste testing for these!??!); Jelly Belly has 50 flavors, more than Baskin-Robbins has in ice cream.   Jellybeans are available all year long, in various sizes, even sugar free; they give a boost of energy; the bright colors and flavors even boost the mood.  Having a bad day and angry, why fight?  Let those little candies sweeten your mood, then you can look at things from a brighter perspective. 

Personally, there is a small bag of jellybeans in each of our vehicles.  Stuck in traffic, some idiot just cut us off, or the smallest thing just set one of us off; the bag of beans comes out and the world doesn’t seem so bad suddenly.  Does a simple candy snack really solve problems?  Of course not; just maybe though, it gives the mind a simple way out.   A momentary spurt of realization that what feels so terrible isn’t that bad at all.

Joyous Spring!!!

Mary Cokenour

Monday, March 14, 2016

Three Ingredients, Twenty Minutes, Dinner Done.

I am not immune to "I don't want to cook" moods; perhaps it was a lousy, and too long of a, day at work.  It could have been one of adventuring all day with my adorable husband, and food is the last thing on my mind; sleep sounds a lot better.  More than likely though, I'm just feeling lazy.  The convenience of packaged, canned, or premade meals is hard to resist at these times; it's the chemical additives that make me hesitate in purchasing them.  Then again, I do not resist buying those packages of rice and noodle side dishes; that convenience I'm not willing to give up.

It came to be, one evening, that I was staring into the freezer; spying a bag of frozen shrimp and a package of sugar snap peas, a stir fry seemed the answer for dinner.  *sigh*  I just didn't want to get out the Asian ingredients, and I know my hubby always wanted fried rice when we did Asian.  No, this wouldn't do; maybe I had some Knorr Rice Sides with an Asian flare; nope, I had already used the last package up.  Wait though, two packages of herb and butter sat behind the ones of Spanish rice. 

I used the microwave to carefully defrost the shrimp and snap peas; I didn't want them to cook before their time.  Getting out the five quart cooking pot, I began the rice according to package directions.  After it began boiling, I turned down the heat, added the shrimp and snap peas, covered the pot and waited the required seven minutes.  Testing the rice, it was still too firm, so covered the pot for two more minutes; turned off the heat, uncovered and within two more minutes, the entire dish was ready for eating.

The shrimp was pink and had a lovely scrunch to it; the sugar snap peas popped in the mouth; the herb and butter rice was perfect in texture, the herbs and butter adding flavor to the shrimp and snap peas.  The naysayers who only make everything from scratch, and it better all be organic, will probably be saying how gross my meal was.  Guess what?  It was delicious!

Shrimp, Sugar Snap Peas and Rice
2 (5.4 oz.) packages Knorr Rice Sides, herb and butter flavor
1 lb. jumbo shrimp, peeled and deveined
1 (10 oz.) package frozen sugar snap peas, defrosted
Using a 5-quart cooking pot, prepare rice according to package directions; at stage where the pot is covered and heat turned down, add the shrimp and snap peas.  Check rice for doneness after 7 minutes; cook 2 minutes more if necessary.
Remove from heat, uncover and let rest for 2 minutes before serving.
Makes 6 servings.
Mary Cokenour

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

My Copycat Recipe Joins Taste of Home.

When we lived on the East Coast, there were two warehouse chain stores in the area, BJ's Warehouse and Costco.  The closest place now is Sam's Club in Grand Junction, CO, or Farmington, NM; we do not often go there due to the long travel time to either.  One item we really enjoyed eating was the stuffed salmon; of course it was stuffed with imitation crab meat, but we did not care because it tasted so yummy.

With salmon fillets and imitation crab meat on hand; time to get the little gray cells going, remember how the stuffed salmon tasted and come up with a copycat recipe.  Well folks, it came out well, and very, very close to the actual product I used to purchase.  It came out so well, that Taste of Home decided to feature it in their Christmas Recipe Book – 2015 (page 92).  My recipe appears in the “Entertainment Shortcuts” section; convenience products and quick ideas to impress yuletide guests.  Taste of Home changed my recipe a bit to create a service for twelve; I am going to give you the original recipe.  By the way, I served this dish to my hubby for Valentine’s Day, so it does not have to be just for a December holiday meal.

Just shows you, when you enjoy a certain food product, or even a dish served at a restaurant; do not immediately say, “I can’t make this myself.”  Never, say never!


Stuffed Salmon


4 Tbsp. olive oil, divided in half
4 (1/2 lb. each) salmon fillets, at least 1 ½” thick; deboned and skin removed
1 cup flaked style imitation crab meat, pulled apart
1 cup hot, cooked long grain rice
1 Tbsp. melted butter
1 Tbsp. softened cream cheese
½ tsp. minced garlic
¼ tsp. each crushed, dried celery seed, basil, oregano, marjoram, rosemary and thyme
1 tsp. each salt and dill


Preheat oven to 400F.  Brush two Tbsp. olive oil on bottom and sides of a 1.5 quart baking dish.

Make a cut lengthwise on each fillet, leave ½” uncut space on each side, and on the bottom; create a pocket by gently running tip of sharp knife under each flap and leave ½” space each side.

In a medium bowl, combine crab meat, rice, butter, cream cheese, garlic and herbs (except salt and dill) well.  Spoon filling into each filet pocket; creating a small mound at the top.  Brush remaining olive oil onto salmon; sprinkle salt and dill over the salmon and place into baking dish.  Bake for 20 minutes; check for doneness (thickest part of fillet will flake) about two minutes before allotted cooking time.

Makes 4 servings.

Options: add ¼ cup tiny shrimp to the mixture; or better yet, use real lump crab meat instead of the imitation.
Mary Cokenour

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Eat Like Family at Helgerson’s.

A new food stand has recently opened down in Bluff, Utah, across Main Street from Bluff Fort.  Helgerson’s Red Rock Chicken is owned by Steve and Tonya who only just moved to San Juan County in August 2015.  Why San Juan County?  As Tonya tells it, it was time to load up the family, pick a direction and wherever they ended up, that would become home.  Formerly of Wisconsin, this foray into food is a family affair; their three children (Amber, Brandon, Dylon) all help mom and dad out with the stand.
Tonya with daughter, Amber.


Steve and Tonya Helgerson.

Tonya’s grandfather loved to cook and passed on many recipes to her; she has revamped some, but most retain grandpa’s flair.  Now why a food stand, not a restaurant?  Freedom of movement, plain and simple.  With a food stand, the Helgerson family can take their delicious food and bring it to County events.  Diners can sit underneath tents, have the outdoor feel sitting at picnic tables; almost like being at a family function.  Those who are off to hiking and exploring can grab a boxed lunch of tasty grilled chicken or hotdogs, sloppy joe sandwich, and awesome side dishes.

Bluff Fort is just across the road.

Steve mans the grills.


So, how is the food?  The leg quarters of Chicken are parboiled before going on the grill, to help ensure quick, yet proper, cooking.  A special seasoning (it’s a secret blend) goes on which infuses the meat itself, not just the skin.  The Sloppy Joes may be your typical sloppy joe, but who doesn’t love those!  The Macaroni Salad is a mixture of elbow macaroni, chopped celery and hard boiled eggs, Cheddar cheese chunks and shredded tuna fish.  This may sound like too much, but it was light and refreshing.  The Baked Beans are cooked with slices of bacon over the top; the killer side though is the Bacon Fried Macaroni.  The cooked pasta is mixed on the grill with bacon, bell peppers (yellow, red, green), chopped egg and hotdogs.  The smoky flavor is intense, yet goes perfectly with the grilled chicken meal.  Portions are generous, so large appetites will be extremely pleased.

Bacon Fried Macaroni and Garlic Toast.

Baked Beans with Bacon.

Grilled Chicken Meal.

Sloppy Joe.



Sloppy Joe Mixture waiting to be served.

The Works!!!

Red Rock Chicken does not have any firm days or hours of operation; the best way to find out when they’re open is to go to their Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100010377071659&fref=ts).  Currently the name is Bluff Utah, which shouldn’t be confused with Bluff, Utah’s own Facebook page.  Since the tourist season is not in full swing yet, keeping an eye on Main Street will help determine set days and hours.  The opening day, the stand was busy with locals; besides our own positive comments, we heard, “Oh yeah!, Mmm!, Love the sloppy joes!, Pretty Good!, Thumbs Up!”. 



Helgerson’s Red Rock Chicken; a family run food stand that treats their customers like family.

When you spot those bright orange tents, you know good food is waiting for you.

Mary Cokenour

Saturday, March 5, 2016

Arches Thai is a Must Try in Moab.

Arches Thai

60 N 100 W
Moab, Utah, 84532

Phone:(435) 355-0533

Website: http://archesthai.com/

Former owner/operator of Pantele's Deli has opened up a new restaurant in Moab catering to her first love, Thai cuisine.  Let me sum up in a few words how my husband and I feel about the dishes served at Arches Thai, "delicious and amazing!!!"  Now I could simply end my review right here, but let me explain why we find her food to be delicious and amazing.

First, the interior of Arches Thai is a rustic, open setting with loads of room; diners can feel private while surrounded by others.  There is also room to hold parties, or cater to a large group event.  The staff are so friendly and welcoming; anyone walking out not feeling pampered was already set on being a grouch from the getgo.  Water glasses are constantly filled; "How is everything?" and "Can I get you anything else?" are also constant questions; you are not ignored in any way.

We began our Thai journey with two appetizers: Crab Rangoon is made with a thinner wonton wrapper giving it a lighter, crispy texture; the interior is full of luscious cream cheese and shredded crab meat.  Fresh Garden Roll is soft rice paper crammed full of fresh vegetables and served with a smoky Hoisin sauce. 

Crab Rangoon.

Fresh Garden Roll.

With our meals, we received a cup of Veggie Soup; fresh chopped vegetables and tofu in a light broth; so refreshing!

My husband ordered Broccoli with Beef; fresh broccoli sautéed lightly with thin slices of tender, melt in the mouth beef.

My very favorite, and I order it every time whether eat-in or take-out is Pad Se Eew; this is very similar to my favorite Cantonese dish, "Chow Fun"; and this Thai version puts me into food heaven.  Broad noodles, broccoli, carrots sautéed in a sweet soy sauce; chicken was my choice of meat this time; thinly sliced and tender.

Dessert was Tempura Fried Banana with Ice Cream; a banana cut lengthwise, dipped in tempura batter and deep fried to a golden brown, served with a scoop of vanilla ice cream and a drizzle of chocolate sauce.  Decadence at its best!!!  We are both not fans of the banana in its plain form, but this dessert wows us.

There are three Thai restaurants in Moab now; we already have one favorite (Bangkok House), but Arches Thai has quickly become our other favorite. 

Mary Cokenour


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Thursday, March 3, 2016

Comfort Cooking, British Style.

Now I happen to be a fan of recipes originating from the United Kingdom, and I am generally referring to England, Ireland, Wales and Scotland (some areas that the Utah pioneers were from); not all the other countries that were invaded and/or annexed while the Brits were out conquering the world. Many times I have heard that the food from these countries is boring and bland, but I do not happen to agree. One huge mistake many Americans make when traveling to foreign countries is to compare "American food" with that country's food. It is a big mistake for what we refer to as “American food” is a mixture of so many cuisines, so how can we really judge our food against the common food of another country? I have even met people who refuse to eat the food when in a foreign country and will only eat "Americanized" food prepared in their hotels. Ridiculous! They might as well have just stayed at home and gone to the local diner for vacation, saving money on airfare.

I have a friend who would make authentic scones for us whenever we visited her back in Pennsylvania. How were they authentic? She is from Yorkshire, England, so I believe she knows what she is doing in the respect of English cooking. I am also a big fan of many of the British chefs, so not only do I have cookbooks, but I watch their shows intently to make sure I get a recipe correct.  While they may often delve in the realm of “haute cuisine”; the basis of their recipes is the comfort cooking they were raised on.

Onto scones which originated in Scotland, made from unleavened oats and cooked on a griddle. With the invention of baking powder, scones could now be baked; the Brits sweetened them up a bit with the inclusion of sugar and fruits. Nowadays, scones can be sweet, savory, herbal and/or cheesy; they can be served at any meal, or just make a handy little snack. The traditional wedges are still popular, but they can also be baked much like a drop cookie; they are not as pretty as the wedges, but still taste wonderful.
Pumpkin Cranberry
 Cold weather, while invigorating, also brings images of being bundled up in a warm blanket, perhaps a mug of hot chocolate soothing the trembles. For hubby and me though, we enjoy hot cups of tea with warm scones to munch on at our leisure. We put on our English accents, which we do quite well, and pretend to be in our lovely cottage in a quaint little village. Oh, you might be saying, "that is too silly for me" or "seriously?", but for us, the role play keeps the relationship fresh, new and adventurous. If more married couples indulged in each other, instead of everyone and everything else around them, the rate of divorce would certainly decline.  However, I digress once again, this post is about scones, not relationship counseling. 

Cinnamon Oatmeal with Raisins
I am going to be giving you a basic recipe for scones including a few ideas for different flavorings. What you do for your taste is exactly that, for your taste; so play with the basics and enjoy the results.

Basic Mix


2 and ¾ cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp. baking powder
 ½ tsp. baking soda
½ tsp. salt
½ cup cold, unsalted butter, cubed
1 large egg, beaten
2/3 cup milk


Preheat oven to 400F; spray a large baking sheet with nonstick baking spray; or use a nonstick baking sheet.  Parchment paper works well is you do not want to use the spray, or do not have nonstick baking sheets.

In a large bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, baking salt and salt; work butter, with fork, pastry cutter or hands, into the dry ingredients until it becomes crumbly.

In a small bowl, mix together the egg and milk; make a well in the dry ingredients and pour liquid into the well. Mix together thoroughly until the dough can be shaped into a ball.

On a lightly floured board, roll out the dough to ½” thickness; mark out wedges with a knife or use pastry or biscuit cutters for rounder scones.  An ice cream scoop can also be used with the dough for a more rustic look to the scones.  Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until golden brown.

Makes 12 scones.

Chocolate Chip Before Baking.
Chocolate Chip After Baking


Cheese: Add ½ tsp ground black pepper and a ¾ cup of shredded cheese (Fontina, Cheddar or Swiss) to the dry ingredients.

Sun-Dried Tomato: Add ½ cup diced sun-dried tomatoes and 1 Tbsp. Italian herb mix to the dry ingredients.

Chocolate Chip: Add ½ cup chocolate chips and 3 Tbsp. light brown sugar to the dry ingredients.
Chocolate Chip Wedge Scone
Mary Cokenour