Wednesday, August 24, 2016

The Zen of Tortellini.

A favorite movie quote comes from 1984’s “Dune”, featuring Kyle MacLachlan, Patrick Stewart, Sting and more too numerous to mention; “Fear is the mind killer”.  Fear keeps us from completing goals, beginning new tasks, exploring the unknown, jumping head first into dangerous situations (that’s a good thing though).  However, if fear kills the mind, stress goes after the entire body inside and out.  It ages the skin, elevates blood sugar and pressure, leads to eating disorders and causes various organ diseases.  These two factors, stress and fear, are partners in crime as they both lead to unhealthy, unhappy lives.

Stress and fear appear in disguises; they slink into your life, and as Chef Emeril Lagasse would say, as he spices up a recipe, “Bam!!!” they destroy you.  I have to admit that I don’t like his recipes much; just seem to have too many ingredients and steps to the final result.  Very rarely do any of my personal recipes have many ingredients and/or steps, and that’s mainly due to my own lack of patience.  Actually, I’m much better at being patient than in earlier days, and that has attributed to helping to bring my stress level down.  Take a deep breath and count to ten, or more if needed; smile and nod; imagine yourself in a happier, quieter place…yes, these techniques all work a lot better now.  Not perfect, just better.

In cooking, I have, more and more, turned away from using premade, packaged meals; and found easier, tastier ways to make them from scratch.  Better for health to get away from all those preservatives and additives, and lots better for the ego, “Hey, look what I made!”  Yes, better seems to be the catch word for now; not perfect, just better.  Some recipes, that started out as just a side dish, found their way to becoming a meal of their own.  Just an additional ingredient here or there, or different technique; nothing long drawn, seems to make the difference.


A favorite pasta of mine is Tortellini; little pasta rings filled with cheese, spinach, chicken, just about anything nowadays; the larger version is referred to as Tortelloni.  It comes dried, frozen, and fresh; packages small enough to take up very little storage space in the freezer or pantry.  This pasta can be served with virtually any type of sauce, in soups, salads, as a side dish, or a main meal; you can’t go wrong with it.  If you haven’t tried it yet, give yourself a little taste adventure; play with ingredients to add with it.  Have fun playing in the kitchen, create something unique, smile and see how much better you feel.  Not perfect, just better…for now.

Simple Tortellini Salad


1 (16 oz.) package tortellini  
½ cup olive oil
2 Tbsp. white balsamic vinegar
2 tsp. garlic powder
2 tsp. dried Italian herb mix
4 Tbsp. Vidalia sweet onion relish (jarred or fresh made)


Cook tortellini according to package directions.

Place cooked tortellini into large bowl; add remaining ingredients and mix together gently so as to not break up the pasta.

Makes 4-6 servings; can be served warm or cold.

Or, for the more adventurous:

Tortellini Salad


2 Tbsp. olive oil
½ lb. asparagus spears, trimmed and cut into 1 inch pieces
½ cup mushrooms, chopped
2 Tbsp. (packed in oil) sundried tomatoes, diced
3 Tbsp. balsamic vinegar
1 tsp. minced garlic
1 Tbsp. fresh marjoram (if not available, use dried)
Dash each of sea salt and ground black pepper
1 lb. tortellini, cooked


In a large skillet, heat oil on high; sauté asparagus spears, mushrooms and tomatoes for 7 minutes.  Reduce heat to low, add in vinegar and garlic; let simmer for 5 minutes.

Add in marjoram, salt, pepper and tortellini; toss gently to coat and remove to serving dish.

Makes 4-6 servings; can be served warm or cold.
Mary Cokenour

Thursday, August 11, 2016

A Salad is a Salad, or is it?

First off, let me say that I am OPPOSED to the Bears Ears National Monument.  Taking almost half of San Juan County, making a monument which would destroy the lives, and livelihoods, of its resident is vile.  With my travel blog, The Southwest Through Wide Brown Eyes,  I have shown time and time again the beauty of San Juan County; and perfect examples of why it should be open to all.  The chosen few who believe themselves above the residents DO NOT LIVE HERE  AND ARE CLUELESS!!! 

Why do I feel I need to make this statement here?  A female restaurant owner, in Blanding, has slandered (said in front of witnesses) me by stating to others, "This woman from Brooklyn is an "environmentalist" and is pushing for the monument."  Really???  I would like to see proof of this, since I have written, on social media, many times that I am AGAINST the monument.  As to being an "environmentalist", that is way too much work for me to even learn how to spell correctly. Then again, this is the same woman who verbally attacked (again, witnesses) me at my first job in San Juan County and stated, "You are an outsider!  I don't want you touching my money, looking at my accounts, and you are not allowed inside my restaurant!"  

Well sweet cheeks, lets get something straight, you may think of yourself as royalty; but I'm a Goddess, and you need to begin bowing to me!!!  So, lets get off the topic of females with no brains, and onto today's topic; side salads.

The idea of, one day, owning one of those old fashioned roadside diners, and serving up a variety of comfort foods to traveling motorists, truckers, or folks just out for an adventure, is always on my mind.  Roy loves the idea, but finances are not our friend when it comes to the idea of starting, owning and maintaining a business.  With each new presidential election year I hear, “The tide is turning” which usually means we’re personally about to be hit with a tsunami. 

Ah, the true purpose of this post is, however, salads; not the greens and veggies type, but wondrous concoctions known as side salads.  It’s not just the main ingredients of pastas, rice, vegetables, grains that make a side salad, but the dressing which brings me to Miracle Whip.  It's called a salad dressing, but basically it is mayonnaise with sugar (and lots of preservatives) added in.  Personally, the taste of it is quite nasty, but then again, I wouldn't eat plain mayonnaise either.  Roy loves it on sandwiches, and I don't know how many times I have felt insulted by his putting a blob of it upon my luscious....yes, luscious, meatloaf, or freshly roasted beef. 

I do use the product in my macaroni salad, coleslaw and deviled eggs.  Why are deviled eggs called deviled in the first place?  I mean, if you really look at them, they should be called "bloody, mutilated chicken fetuses" with all that red paprika sprinkled over the yellow gob.  So, I make mine really "deviled" by adding ground cayenne pepper to the mixture, but this post is not supposed to be about all that.

All I’m saying is that Miracle Whip should stick to salad enhancing, and mayonnaise should be, as it has always been, versatile, all purpose.  Sort of like with elections; politicians should say what they mean, and mean what they say.  Don’t sprinkle it with sugar and hope no one notices.  That being said, here's my recipe for "Amish Macaroni Salad":


Amish Macaroni Salad


1 lb. elbow macaroni
½ cup each carrots, onions, red bell peppers, finely diced
5 hard-boiled eggs, diced
2 cups Miracle Whip salad dressing
¼ cup white vinegar
½ cup sugar
2 Tbsp. yellow mustard


Cook macaroni; drain, let cool in a large bowl.  Gently mix in the carrots, onions, peppers and eggs.

Whisk together Miracle Whip, vinegar, sugar and mustard to make the dressing; gently fold into the macaroni mixture, making sure all macaroni is covered by dressing.  Cover and let sit overnight.

Makes 10 – 1 cup servings.

Mary Cokenour - foodie, adventurer, photographer, writer.  NOT an environmentalist and definitely OPPOSED to the Bears Ears National Monument.

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Asian Gourmet from Haddon House.

Haddon House Food Products, Inc.

Asian Gourmet - Chinese, Japanese and Thai food products

When we lived on the East coast, visiting Chinatown in New York City or Philadelphia was simply a couple of hours of driving away.  We loved going into all the little groceries to find noodles, sauces, teas, vegetables (love Bok Choy), fruits and candies that a regular supermarket didn't have.  Then, of course, there were the Dim Sum restaurants that offered up a huge variety of delectables; oh how we miss those restaurants of authentic Chinese cuisine.  We didn't order from menus; the restaurant owner knew us and ordered for us; never a disappointment, and always something new to try.

Twice someone tried opening up a "Chinese" restaurant in the area.  The first time it was a person who purchased bulk pans of frozen, premade Chinese-like meals; heated them up and sold by the scoop full.  Disgusting!!!  The second time there were actual owners of Chinese descent; big mistake was hiring locals who knew nothing about the cuisine, didn't want to learn, and didn't want to do much work either.  Then again, it was the owners' fault for not insisting they be knowledgeable, or replacing them with those who wanted to learn and work.  If a restaurant wants to succeed, the owners have to make sure they have the best staff, attitude, training, atmosphere and products.

I get calls from many restaurants, in the area, to come visit and do a review on them.  They know I am honest, can't be bought off, nor bribed; they are also very confident that they have all the musts for success.  Now the ones that don't want me to visit know they are not up to par.  They don't care if tourists come in or not; their belief is that friends, family and locals, out of blind loyalty, will keep them going no matter how bad the food and service are.

...and so I have digressed from my original thoughts on Asian Gourmet products.

Since the closest Asian restaurants (Chinese, Japanese, Thai) are an hour away in either Moab, UT or Cortez, CO; I have had to learn to do some of my own cooking of these cuisines.  Being able to purchase some of the products to accomplish this is a huge help, and many of the major chain supermarkets are carrying Asian Gourmet by Haddon House Food Products, a food distributor on the, what else, East coast.  Owning a Wok is an even bigger help; tools of the trade do make a difference.

So, here's one of my latest concoctions...

Chinese Noodle Stir Fry
1 (8 oz.) package Asian Gourmet Chinese Noodles
2 Tbsp. Stir Fry oil (if not available, canola oil)
 and 1/2 lb. boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into 1 inch pieces
1 tsp. Chinese 5 Spice powder
1 (10 oz.) package frozen sugar snap peas, defrosted
1/2 cup chopped red bell pepper
1/2 cup chopped orange bell pepper
1/2 cup Hoisin sauce
1/4 cup soy sauce
Prepare Chinese Noodles according to package direction; set aside, but keep warm.
Heat oil, medium-high, in Wok or large, deep skillet.  Mix chicken pieces with 5 spice powder; brown all sides in the oil.
Add the sugar snap peas and bell peppers; mix thoroughly and let cook for 5 minutes together.
Add the kept warm, cooked noodles and sauces to the Wok; mix thoroughly and let cook until the bottom is sizzling.  Stir bottom ingredients up to the top, and repeat.
Makes 8 servings.
Mary Cokenour