Friday, April 29, 2016

Asian Delights at Bangkok House Too.

Bangkok House Too

59 S. Main St., Suite  8 (Eddie McStiff Plaza)
Moab, Utah, 84532

Phone: (435) 355-0168


Hours of Operation: 11:00 am – 9:30 pm Monday thru Sunday

Owner/Operator of Bangkok House (located at the southern end of Grand County along Highway 191), Venus Varunum, has had such a huge success with her first restaurant, that she took a brave step in opening her second.  Bangkok House Too is located inside the main section of Moab, at Eddie McStiff Plaza, next to the brewery/restaurant itself.  Now at first we thought, won't the crowd be more enticed by the idea of drinking at a brewery, and bypass Bangkok House Too?  Truthfully, while we dined, we saw many begin a journey to Eddie McStiff's and then beeline to this newest addition of Thai restaurants in town.  Smart move on their part, and for their taste buds.  This version of Bangkok House is on a smaller, more cozy scale with lots of lighting, and tables spaced apart for more privacy.

Venus brought over some of her seasoned staff, including Sushi Master Chef, Chanchai Srisamer.  Skilled with the tools of his trade, he creates masterpieces of edible art.  Two examples we devoured were "Gotta Be Kiddin' Me" Roll (red snapper tempura, avocado, snowcrab topped with crabstick, shrimp and special sauce) and "Porcupine Rim" Roll (shrimp tempura topped with krab salad and masago).  Anyone, anyone who enjoys sushi, sashimi and specialty sushi rolls is an idiot for not going to either Bangkok House; theirs is perfection!

"Gotta Be Kiddin' Me" Roll

"Porcupine Rim" Roll

Lunch specials are offered on a daily basis, all come with choice of soup or salad, and an appetizer (Japanese Bento Box also comes with half a sushi roll).  We chose the salad with ginger dressing; crisp lettuce and carrot strips with the most delectable ginger dressing.  A great accompaniment with any Asian meal is a mug of hot Jasmine tea; soothing and refreshing.  Appetizers?  What do you think those wonderful Sushi rolls were!  From experience though, appetizers such as pot stickers, crispy spring rolls, steamed edamane, crab Rangoon and many more have always been a delicious beginning.

Main meals consisted of Green Curry loaded with tender, sliced chicken, red bell pepper strips, bamboo shoots, zucchini and Thai herbs; medium heat slowly flowing down the throat and bringing a smile of satisfaction to the face.  A Japanese Bento Box of Salmon Teriyaki (rich, thick sauce over flaky, perfectly cooked salmon fillet), half Shrimp Tempura Roll (always a favorite!), rice and fried pot sticker.

Green Curry Lunch Special

Salmon Teriyaki Bento Box

Somehow we managed a dessert, light and refreshing slices of juicy mango with sweet sticky rice.

We left full, comfortable and happy, just as it should be when a great meal has been finished. Watching the other diners, I believe they were feeling the same.  Good luck to Venus and the new Bangkok House Too!

Mary Cokenour

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Dos Amigos, Mexican Fast Food, Kind Of.

Dos Amigos

861 South Main Street (Located inside Shell Station)
Blanding, Utah, 84511

Phone: (435) 678-2991 (Main Number for Shell Station)

Originally, Taco Time resided inside the Shell Station in Blanding and Monticello.  After being taken over by the 7-11 Corporation, Taco Time was to be replaced with Dos Amigos; Blanding opened, but Monticello did not.  It has now been one year, so it was time to try out this new Mexican restaurant which is basically Mexican "fast" food of sorts.

Chicken Taquitos
The shredded beef, sweet pork and chicken are cooked up fresh each morning; while the vegetables are chopped and diced fresh as well.  However, several of the items, such as Taquitos and French fries, are purchased frozen; tortillas are also purchased in bulk.  Each order is cooked up as needed, so no premade items are sitting under a heat lamp all day long.  The menus are written on chalk boards over the counter; read them well as there are several choices on how you want your food cooked...plain, smothered or loaded.

Chimi Plate
The Grande Burrito and Chimi Plate are bursting with your choice of filling; the Tacos have just enough to keep the tortilla from falling apart in your hand.  All come with shredded lettuce and diced tomatoes; sour cream, guacamole and dressings are considered extras.  Now while we're used to burritos and chimichangas being deep fried, these were rolled and put through a rolling heat unit.  Therefore, it's recommended you get the smothered version for added texture and flavor; plain just doesn't cut it.  However, if you want something really different, order the Rolled Taco Plate; three tacos that are stuffed, rolled, then deep fried; now this is good stuff!  The Spanish Rice has a slightly spicy flavoring and is moist, while the Refried Beans are firm and served with melted cheese on top.
Grande Burrito - Smothered

Crisp Taco Plate

Taco Salad

Booths line the window side of the building for dining in, but your orders can easily be boxed up for picnicking in the park.  The staff are friendly; smiling while taking your order, or helping you decide what would satisfy your appetite the best.  Do not be dismayed by the idea of Mexican food being served out of a gas station; you might just be pleasantly surprised.

Mary Cokenour

Monday, April 11, 2016

Heirloom Beans from the Anasazi.

Settlers of the Four Corners region discovered a wild bean growing amongst the ruins, but it was not until the 1950s that it was given a name.  Within an archaeological dig, of a cave in New Mexico, sealed clay pots gave forth a bounty, beans.  Carbon dating gave them the age of 1500 years, then again, carbon dating has been found not to be that accurate.  Since the ruin sites were attributed to the Anasazi (130 AD to 1200 AD), scholars played it safe and lowered the age to 750 years, or the last known sighting of the Puebloan people.  These beans were given the name, Anasazi, and planted to see if they were still viable; surprise is, they sprouted and grew!  Cultivation of the species continued and finally introduced to the American consumer in 1983; Adobe Milling in Dove Creek, Colorado is one of the largest distributors in the Southwest.

As with corn and wheat, beans are not indigenous to southwestern North America; they too were brought up from Mexico by Native tribes seeking trade, and Spanish explorers.  Anasazi beans fall under the botanical classification Phaseolus vulgaris which originated in Peru from a species simply referred to as “common beans”.  Other popular bean varieties stemming from the common beans include black, kidney, pinto, and navy beans.  Anasazi beans are a vibrant swirl of white and maroon coloring; being low fat, sweeter and mealier gives them a unique taste and texture that adds to any recipe.  Nutrition wise, they are high in protein and fiber; an excellent source of potassium, calcium, and iron; one cup has less cholesterol and calories than three ounces of beef.  Here is the really good news, remember that saying, “Beans, beans, good for your heart.  The more you eat, the more you *ahem* pass gas.”? They contain 75% less of the gas-causing carbohydrates compared to pinto beans! 

How to cook up Anasazi beans? I referred to two cookbooks, “Pueblo Indian Cookbook” by Phyllis Hughes (1972) and “Southwestern Indian Recipe Book” by Zora Getmansky Hesse (1973); it was not as easy as my cookbooks stated.  Two cups of beans went into a cooking pot, with enough cool water to cover and soaked overnight for 14 hours.  During soaking and cooking, do NOT add salt, vinegar or anything acidic, like tomatoes, or the beans will get tougher.  After draining, rinsing, just covering with more cool water, adding chopped onion, bacon, and a teaspoon of granulated garlic; they simmered on the stove for 4 hours…and remained as hard as when first purchased.  Let’s think logically about this, the Puebloans did not use a gas stove as I did, but they did cook using a wood fired adobe oven.  Nope, did not have one of those in the backyard, so back to the stove; I checked on them every hour for an additional 4 hours.  The result was not much better.
Cover beans with water, soak overnight.

Drained and Rinsed.

Add Bacon and Onions.

After 8 hours on stove top.
Instead of throwing out the beans in frustration, I decided to toss the entire mixture into a crock pot, put the setting on high and waited 4 more hours.  Yes, I have patience when I want to achieve a goal.  Eureka, the beans came out wonderfully; a semi-firm texture that had absorbed the flavors of both onion and bacon.  The water, with help from the bacon fat, had reduced down to a thickened sauce with a hint of garlic.  Seems the insulation of the crock pot acted in the same fashion as an earthenware pot within an adobe oven. Paired with the Pueblo bread I had made earlier in the day, it was a meal worth waiting for.   I am certainly enjoying my adventures into the world of Native American cuisines; who knows what will come next…mutton stew perhaps?

Mary Cokenour


Thursday, April 7, 2016

How to Make a Real Pizzeria Style Calzone.

What is a Calzone?

The Calzone originated in Naples, Italy; an oven-baked filled pizza, folded over itself. A typical calzone is made from salted bread dough, baked in an oven after being stuffed with salami or ham, mozzarella, ricotta, Parmesan and/or Pecorino-Romano cheese, as well as an egg. In the United States, the calzone is baked using pizza dough; often vegetables are found included in the filling.

Cheddar Cheese does NOT belong in Italian recipes; reserve that for grilled cheese sandwiches please!!!

Now when the definition says "stuffed", it means stuffed!  NOT hollow with a slice of cheese and meat; that's called a "rip-off".  It's NOT a turnover; that is a pastry using some type of sweet, pastry dough with sweet fillings.  Coming from old school, not yuppie-ville, Brooklyn, New York, we connaisseurs of pizzeria, and Italian, dishes are highly insulted when novice "pizza shop" owners try to fool their patrons. 

First off, you need to have the basics down on pizza dough and sauce making.   While pizza dough needs to be made from scratch, homemade sauce does not; in fact, most places use canned goods which is fine so long as it's done correctly!  Now I have written about all this on separate blog posts, but now I'll be consolidating.

Step #1 - Dough

Pizza Dough:

Basic Dough


1 cup of warm water
3 1/2 cups of all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons of olive oil
2 teaspoons of sugar (to feed the yeast)
1 teaspoon of salt
1 teaspoon of yeast


Put warm water (80 to 110°F) into a bowl. Add salt and sugar and mix with a spoon. Add
yeast, mix and let it sit for about 10 minutes.  If the water is too warm, it will
kill the yeast; too cold, and it will not awaken.

Start mixing, with a fork, by gradually adding flour and olive oil.  Once it is too
thick to mix by fork, remove to a floured, wooden board; start kneading by hand. 
Knead the dough until you have a smooth ball. If the dough cracks it is too dry. Add
water bit by bit until if forms a smooth ball. If your dough feels more like batter,
it is too wet and you need to add flour bit by bit. If you need to add water or flour,
do it by small amounts; it is easier to fix too little than too much.

Coat the dough with olive oil, place it in a large bowl and cover it with a clean,
cotton towel. Let the dough rise for about an hour at room temperature, then punch it
down, so it deflates. Let it sit for about another hour. If you want to use it the
next day, put it in a refrigerator wrapped in plastic wrap.

Put the dough on a lightly floured surface; a pizza peel (wooden board with a handle)
is easier for transferring the pizza from surface to surface. Put a bit of flour on
your hands; using the balls of your finger tips and hands, make it into the shape of a
circle by stretching it out from the center outwards. If you’re having a problem
stretching the dough by hand, se a rolling pin until the dough is about 1/4" thick.

The average size of the pizza will be about 16” which can be transferred to a pizza
pan or stone. You get better results when you use a pizza baking stone. The pizza
stone should be preheated to 450F for an hour prior to baking, and should be placed in
the middle of the oven.

Spread out evenly about 1-1 ½ cups sauce; then add favorite toppings such as cheeses,
meats and/or cut up vegetables.

The oven should be preheated to 450F.  Bake for 20-25 minutes; the crust should be
browned, but not dark.  Remove from oven, use a pizza cutter for easy slicing up and
serve.  Makes 8-10 slices, depending on how its cut up.

Step #2 - Sauce

Homemade Sauce Using Canned Tomatoes:

Homemade Pasta Sauce


1 large onion, diced
3 Tbsp. garlic
3-28 oz. cans crushed tomatoes
1-28 oz. can diced tomatoes
1-12oz. can tomato paste
2 Tbsp. dried basil, crushed
1 Tbsp. each dried oregano, thyme and marjoram, crushed
1 tsp. ground black pepper
4 Tbsp. grated parmesan cheese


Add all listed ingredients into a 6-qt crock pot (previously sprayed with non-stick
spray); mix thoroughly.   Set on low heat; let the sauce cook for 8 hours.

Yields about 14 cups.

This recipe can be made on the stovetop, but should be stirred every 1-2 hours to keep
sauce from sticking and burning on bottom of pot. 

The long cooking time allows for the sauce to become richer and thicker.  If a thinner
sauce is desired, cut the tomato paste by half, leave out the diced tomatoes, and cut
cooking time in half.

Besides serving as a pasta sauce, this can be used as a dipping sauce for fried foods,
or as a pizza sauce.

If making a meat sauce, brown 2 lbs of lean ground beef mixed with 2 Tbsp garlic
powder.  Only use 2-28 oz cans of crushed tomatoes, instead of 3.  Only cook the sauce
for 6 hours, instead of 8.

One ingredients that is popular in calzones is meatballs; here is my basic meatball recipe, but if using them for a calzone, make them about 1 to 1 and 1/2 inch in diameter.  Or just make the large size and cut them into halves or quartered.



Lean ground beef (90% or more) is best for meatballs, since they are finished off
cooking in sauce.  Actually, meatloaf mix which is a mixture of beef, pork and veal is the absolute best for making meatballs, but is often difficult to find at the supermarket.  If a lesser lean meat is used, the fat would seep into the sauce, making it oily and unappetizing.  The meatballs are first baked in an oven to remove any excess grease.  These meatballs are the typical New York Italian style, about the size of a tennis ball, and while great with a pasta dish, they can also be used for
meatball sandwiches (subs, heroes, grinders, or whatever they are called in an area).


4 lbs. lean ground beef (90% or more)
2 lbs. ground pork
1 ½ cups Italian seasoned dry bread crumbs
1/8 cup Italian seasoning mix
¼ cup grated parmesan cheese
2 Tbsp. minced garlic
1 cup diced onion
¾ cup milk
2 eggs, beaten


Preheat oven to 350F.  Spray jelly roll pans with nonstick spray.

In a large bowl, mix all ingredients together thoroughly; making sure all dry
ingredients are mixed well with wet ingredients.  Form the meat mixture into balls,
about 2 ¾” (size of a tennis ball); place on jelly roll pans.

Bake meatballs for 20 minutes; dab on paper towels to remove any grease and immerse
into sauce.  Allow meatballs to cook in sauce until sauce is ready; 4-6 hours
depending on cooking technique being used.  Serve with pasta, or use meatballs for a

Makes about 20 meatballs.

Now to the calzone making part; preheat oven to 450F and place the pizza pan (nonstick is best) inside; the dough has been worked out to a 16 inch diameter.  Along one half, layer thin slices of mozzarella and provolone leaving 2 inches of dough untouched from the edge.  I use the Sargento brand as they melt slowly and evenly; creating a seal against the dough to keep juices from making the baking crust not brown, or get soggy.  Next top the thin slices with thicker slices of fresh mozzarella; spread 2 cups of ricotta cheese over the mozzarella.  Evenly spread out 1 and 1/2 cups of sauce and add 5-6 small meatballs.

Dab the dough edge all around with water, carefully fold the other half of the dough over the fillings, bring the edges to touch and roll them together to form a seal.  Brush the top with a little olive oil, with the tip of a knife, poke 4-5 air holes in the thickest part of the calzone.  This will allow steam to release during the baking process; otherwise it would build up inside the dough and cause it to fully crack open.

Carefully remove the preheated pan from the oven and place the calzone in the center; return to the oven and bake until crust is browned (about 25-30 minutes).  Again, carefully remove the calzone to a cutting board to rest for 5 minutes.  Cut in half and enjoy!

So there you have it, a New York style calzone stuffed, and I mean stuffed, with cheeses, sauce and meatballs.  If you begin seeing this little baby at your local pizza shop, I bet they're copying my recipes; and they better name that calzone after me!!!

Mary Cokenour

Sunday, April 3, 2016

21, Cottonwood Steakhouse is a Winner.

Cottonwood Steakhouse

409 West Main Street (Route 191)
Bluff, Utah, 84512

Phone: (435) 672-2281

Hours of Operation: Monday thru Sunday, 5:30pm to 9:30pm

Rick Reeb
April Fools – Not!  Cottonwood Steakhouse reopened its doors on April 1, 2016 and began their 21st season in Bluff, Utah.  Owners, Rick Reeb and Diana Davidson, along with their amazing staff, had a rush filled week to make sure all was perfect for opening night.  Let me tell you that when you dine at the Steakhouse, you are welcomed in as if it’s family dinner night.  Everyone is all smiles, friendly, talkative and very attentive; the owners want you to come back again and again.

Kevin - The Chef

Reed Sampson - Waiter Extraordinaire

There will be a couple of changes, menu wise, this year.  New specials like Bison Meatloaf, and side dishes of mashed sweet potatoes or a new take on the already scrumptious grill roasted potatoes.  Barbequed Ribs, Steaks, Grilled Chicken and Seafood will still be offered; why change greatness!?!  Manning the grill station is the ever happy Kevin; ninja master of grilling utensils.  The special offered currently is “The Duke”, 16 ounce Bone-In Ribeye Steak, cooked as you wish, served with Bread, Salad or Coleslaw, Ranch Beans, Western Potatoes and Glazed Carrots.  Smaller appetite?  Try “The Marshall”, 8 or 10 ounce New York Strip Steak; again, served with all the fixings and grilled to perfection.

The Duke - 16 ounce Bone-In Ribeye Steak

The Marshall - 10 ounce NY Strip Steak

For the buck, you get a big bang of a meal, but how is the food, is what you might be wondering?  The steaks are specially ordered from Colorado; grass fed beef, nicely marbled.  Whether a dinner or menu salad, the vegetables are fresh and crisp; dressings and soups house made and bowl licking good.  Beans are slow cooked in a Dutch oven with just a hint of spicy heat; the potatoes parboiled before roasting on the grill and lightly seasoned.  One of the items visitors want, when visiting the Southwest, is a cowboy meal, and Cottonwood Steakhouse serves up the finest in San Juan County.  The red bandana that serves as napkin is even given to all diners to take as a souvenir.  Oh, how could I forget, the desserts!  House made pies, brownies and bread pudding so delicious, the transcendence into five extra pounds becomes meaningless.

Homemade Bread, Fresh Salad

Brownie Sundae

Key Lime Pie

Raspberry Cheesecake

Now don’t just take my word that Cottonwood Steakhouse is worth the visit; ( voted it #5 on their 2015 listing of best steakhouses in Utah.  Couples, families, locals, visitors passing through, and for special occasions, the folks at Cottonwood Steakhouse will welcome you all.

Mary Cokenour


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Story of Bluff, Utah.