Saturday, December 31, 2016

Happy New Year 2017....We Can Only Hope.

For the New Year, my husband and I have one resolution to keep; to maintain hope.

2016 has been one of the most horrendous years that either of us has ever experienced. 

With not being able to get decent health insurance through an employer, we were forced into "Obamacare".  Necessary prescriptions for our diabetes care were kept out of reach due to high, high prices healthcare refused to cover.  Even the pharmaceutical companies gave us difficulty in getting a cheaper price on prescriptions; or said "NO!" because Obamacare should cover it all, but it didn't.

Tax time, we were slammed with outrageous fines for not staying within the poverty level.  Even though we made monthly payments; we were told "Not Enough, we want more!!!"  We were punished for getting healthcare through the government, when we should have had private insurance from the beginning.  Can't pay...too bad, now we'll take the money anyway!

We both had to dip into our existing IRAs to make ends meet; thereby being fined even more.  By the time either of us finally reaches an age we can get into the IRAs without being fined; we might be dead by then.  The age requirement keeps getting raised higher and higher; as we walk forward, the long hallway gets longer and longer.

It simply was, no matter how we attempted to get out of a hole, we were punished for even trying.

Finding full time employment has been one rejection after another; primarily due to the main facts of #1 - not being born and raised in the area; #2 - not following the "correct" religion;  #3 - not being descendants of a particular group.  It is a well known fact that this occurs again and again to others as well; it is a sick cycle that needs to be completely repaired.  We still have hope for changes in where we live; we still have hope that finally someone will stand up and say "Enough is enough; we welcome everyone completely, and not with restrictions to life here!"

There are a few people who care for us just because.  They don't care about those three reasons above; they care because we are good, kind, caring, loving people.  It's so wonderful to know that some do have their eyes, ears, hearts open to us.

While we have been struggling hard not to file for bankruptcy; unless there are serious financial changes for us in 2017; there will finally be no choice.

I am 58 years old now; I have worked since I was 16 years old; 42 years and within one year, I have lost almost all my savings.  Roy is 44 years old, he has worked since 16 years old also; 28 years of employment and wondering where has it all gone.  Retirement?  Not for me, not anytime soon at all; perhaps never at the rate we're going.

Many will read this and say, "We're in the same boat; we understand and feel your pain."  Others will say, "We wish we could help you, but not right now".  Many others will say, "We have ours, you can't get yours; we certainly wouldn't help you for any reason."  It is what it is.

So, Happy New Year from the Cokenours.  May the coming of a new President bring prosperity back to all the American people, not the chosen few.  May Karma punish those who revel in the pain and suffering happening to others.  May Karma punish those who have caused the pain and suffering.  May Karma bless those who have helped us, whether we know them, or they were anonymous; they cared and that was all that mattered...the caring.

Roy and I will rise up again; it may take some time and doing, but we will prevail!!!  Currently I'm filled with despair and anger tied together like the double helix of DNA.  I would love to see that change to happiness and relaxation.

Mary Cokenour

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Holiday High Jinx.

The holiday season, the happiest of times for some; hell on earth for many.  I have to tell you that I am personally not a great lover of the holiday season.  Like the many, bad memories and extreme sadness creep up into my mind and heart.  They squeeze tightly, attempting to make me fall into a black hole of depression; sort of like those carpet gremlins who like to grab at my sneakers and trip me up.  Unlike the many, I have found a way to banish those monsters; laughter, pure, complete, fun loving laughter does the trick every time.

This year I decided to make folks think I had completely gone off the deep end; that I had decided to go into a life of crime.  To social media I typed, “Financially the hardship has become too much; I am now going to make crack.  First free samples to find out if the quality is acceptable.  Then I will begin to process, package and distribute….will I need to get a food handler’s permit for this I wonder?”  The reactions were few; laugh and like icons, but barely any comments; definitely not the reaction I was expecting.  I wondered if our new Chief of Police, Clayton Black, would be knocking on my door as people reported to him I was now a local drug dealer advertising on Facebook.

To waylay holiday sadness, I have, since moving to Monticello, created goodies to distribute to those establishments that I have dealt with happily.  The City Office, banking institution, Post Office were the beginning; imagine my surprise when I was told, “Mary, no one has ever done this for us before.  Thank you!”  I was enveloped with confusion; why would no one show appreciation for these places, especially during the holidays?  I have added a few more establishments during our eight winter seasons here; and surprise is still a reaction from them.

This year I was pleased by the reactions when I walked in, carrying a foil wrapped package, and exclaimed, “Happy Holidays, I’ve brought you crack.  Enjoy!”  There were raised eyebrows, hesitation in accepting the package, a slow unwrapping and then a peek; but best of all was the look of joy as they saw the Toffee and Peppermint Crack Candy.  That’s correct, Crack Candy, an obnoxiously sweet candy created with brown sugar, butter, saltine crackers, melted chocolate and a topping.  The toppings can be toffee bits, crushed candy cane, roasted/chopped nuts, even a combination of candy with nuts.  The name “crack” comes from the sound the candy makes when it has completely cooled and is broken apart.

Researching this candy, I found so many variations, including something called “Reindeer Crack” made with pretzels, M&M candies, Chex cereal and melted white chocolate.  Many of the recipes were very simple, some so complicated I would have needed a culinary degree to get through it.  My recipe is a simple one, but big hint, make sure to have all the ingredients lined up and ready to go; the process goes quickly!

Once again, Joyous Yule, Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Happy Kwanzaa and Brightest Blessings for the New Year.   Keep laughing and the future will look so bright, you’ve got to wear shades.

Crack Candy


40 saltine crackers
1 and ¼ cups salted butter, cubed
1 and ¼ cups brown sugar, packed (light, dark or combination of both)
1 (10 oz.) package dark chocolate morsels (milk, semi-sweet, or white chocolate morsels are options)

Options for Toppings

1 and ½ cups toffee bits
1 and ½ cups crushed peppermint sticks
1 and ½ cups roasted and chopped: pecans, walnuts, almonds, hazelnuts, peanuts
Or a 3/4 cup combination of two items, equaling 1 and ½ cups.


Preheat oven to 350F; line 18” x 12” x 1” deep jelly roll pan with aluminum foil; lightly spray foil with nonstick baking spray.


Place saltines on foil 5 down, 8 across; no spaces in between.  Make sure to leave a ¼ inch space from all four sides of the pan.


In a medium sauce pan, medium heat, melt butter.  Stir in brown sugar, bring mixture to a boil; cook and stir for 3-4 minutes until all sugar is dissolved and mixture thickens slightly.


Pour mixture over crackers; if crackers separate, push back together with rubber spatula.  Do NOT touch sugar mixture or it will burn the skin.  Bake in oven for 8-10 minutes, until bubbly. Remove from oven (turn oven off, no longer needed); again, if crackers have separated, push back together with rubber spatula.  Sprinkle chocolate morsels over crackers; allow to soften for a minute and spread melted chocolate evenly over the crackers.


Sprinkle topping (s) over chocolate; refrigerate for one hour.  Break apart; lifting the foil and folding it over the candy makes it easier to grab and “crack” the candy.

Peppermint Crack
Toffee Crack

Makes about 2 pounds of candy.

Mary Cokenour

Thursday, December 8, 2016

Birthday Party for Jesus, Gifts Optional.

Christmas Day, a celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ; a most holy day for all Christian sects.  Gifts, from the most humble to the most expensive, are exchanged.  Feasts the like of no one in Bethlehem saw unless they were of royal descent.  Glazed ham, roasted turkey or goose, stuffing, vegetables, potato dishes and the desserts, oh my, the desserts!  It’s like Thanksgiving all over again, but with gift exchanging.

Growing up in an Italian/Croatian/mainly Catholic neighborhood in Brooklyn, New York; Christmas Eve was a major deal when it came to food.   “The Feast of the Seven Fishes” symbolized several items from the Bible: 7 days of the week, 7 pilgrimage churches in Rome, 7 gifts from the Holy Spirit, and the 7 Sacraments.  This was an all week cooking experience; Salted Cod (Baccala), Shrimp Oreganata, Fried Calamari, Spaghetti with Shrimps in Sauce, Baked Whole Fish, Linguine in Clam Sauce and Baked Clams were the usual fare.


While researching various foods served at Christmas, I began to wonder, “If I threw a birthday bash for Jesus, what would I serve?”  First off, he was of Hebrew descent, so ham, and pork products of any kind, would definitely be out!  Turkey and goose did not roam freely throughout the deserts of the Middle East; ah, but a plentiful bounty of seafood resided in the Mediterranean Sea.  Upon the hillsides, shepherds raised and herded sheep; lamb would definitely have been served for a birthday meal.  Olive oil and vinegar used for cooking; olives and pomegranates as appetizers; nuts, figs, dates, grapes and honey would be tasty dessert treats; unleavened bread (flatbread) handy for grabbing hot meat off a skewer; and, of course, fish and lamb.


I can hear it, yes, I can actually hear it, “What is the purpose of all I’ve written?”  To make you think!  In this world of ours that has become so dependent on technology; when the price tag means more than the actual gift; why?  A most important question in Philosophy; Why?  Why get up at 3am, to be on line at some big name store at 4am, to bash others in the head if they lay so much as one finger on an item desired?  Why brag about how much was spent, or better yet, purposely leave the price tag on a wrapped gift?  Why go gaga over gifts when it’s not even your birthday!?!  How is this an actual celebration of the birth of God’s son, your savior; the one you pray to and constantly ask help from?  Think about it, no, actually sit in silence and think!

“And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son.  You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it."   John 14:13-14 

I fully believe that the way Christmas Eve and Day are celebrated, in these modern times, would be very disappointing to Jesus Christ.  Bickering over gifts, bragging over money spent, not sharing with those who have less, displaying a complete lack of kindness; nope, he wouldn’t be very happy at all.

So, in the spirit of the holiday season, I’m going to share with all of you a traditional Christmas recipe that even Jesus Christ might enjoy (well except for the ricotta cheese; not really supposed to mix protein with dairy in Hebrew tradition).  I will say, “Happy Birthday Jesus and Merry Christmas to All!” even though I do not follow the Christian sect.  Why?  It’s the kind thing to do, and that is what it’s all about…the kindness.


Tilapia Florentine
(Spinach Stuffed Tilapia)


2 Tbsp. diced red bell pepper
6 tsp. olive oil 
4 oz. fresh baby spinach
1 egg, beaten
1 tsp. minced garlic
1 tsp. Italian herbal mix
1/4 cup part-skim ricotta cheese
1 Tbsp. grated Parmesan cheese
2 (6 oz. each) tilapia fillets


Preheat oven to 375F; spray 1 quart baking dish with nonstick cooking spray.

In a small skillet, medium-high heat, sauté red bell pepper in two teaspoons of olive oil until softened; add in spinach, drizzle two teaspoons oil over leaves and cook until wilted. 

In a medium bowl, thoroughly combine egg, garlic, herbal mix, cheeses; gently fold in spinach mixture.  Cut slit into tilapia lengthwise (not all the way through); with tip of knife cut halfway into both sides of the fish to create a pocket.  Stuff half the mixture into each fillet; place into baking dish and drizzle remaining two teaspoons of oil over the fish.

Bake 20-25 minutes; until fish is flaky and filling is warm throughout.  (Higher altitude, baking time might be 15 to 20 minutes instead.)

Makes 2 servings.
Yule (origin Norse and/or Germanic), celebrated from December 21st (Winter Solstice - a fixed point in time) to January 1st (noting a season); 12 days of celebration where each night a candle is lit, a log burnt within the hearth, and a horn of mead (honey wine) is consumed.  Huzzah!
This is the origin of the "Twelve Days of Christmas", a popular carol sung during the month of December when Christians believe their savior was born on December 25th.  Historians though believe it was more than likely during the summer months of June or July; when travel throughout the Middle East would have been more suitable.
Yule Party Guest List 
December 21, 2016
Jesus Christ responded with, “Don’t worry about the wine, I’ll take care of that.  Just make sure to have several kegs of water available.”  He is such a neat guy, always brings to a party without having to be asked.

Odin and Freya are coming, bringing mead (honey wine) of course; they’re not partial to that, as they call it, “sissy French dishwater” that Jesus makes; but they sure know how to liven up a party.

Zeus and Hera will be bringing nectar and ambrosia; oh, they know how much Roy loves baklava, so they’ll be bringing a cartload of that too.  The bull pulling the cart, told them not to kill and roast it this year; it took me forever to get the blood stains out of the carpeting!

Jupiter and Juno, being from Rome, are doing the “feast of the seven fishes”; yeah, that’s a Roman Catholic thing, but they giggle like hell when they relate how pissed off Neptune was when they took the fish out of his sea.

Cernunnos, well it is his birthday and sometimes he acts all, “look at me, it’s my birthday!”, but once Odin gets him dosed up with a few horns of mead, yeah, Cernunnos simply sits in the corner and smiles a lot.  This year he won’t be bringing his stag, since Zeus tried to hunt and cook it last year along with the bull.

Mohammed sends his regrets, with all the “issues” going on in the Middle East, he doesn’t think it will all be settled by the 21st.  He makes the best hummus ever too!  I’m going to save him a seat at the table just in case.

That’s all the guests I’ve heard from so far; but I always make sure to buy extras for those who simply show up.

All are welcome, discrimination is a human fault, not for we Gods and Goddesses.

Mary Cokenour


Saturday, December 3, 2016

Asian, Hawaiian, Mexican...Well it's a Crock Pot Chicken Recipe.

As many recipes I keep seeing on Facebook about Asian Chicken in the Crock Pot, Hawaiian Chicken in the Crock Pot, Chinese Chicken in the Crock Pot, Mexican....well you get the gist of it.  There comes a point where it's simply, I've got these ingredients in the pantry and chicken; what do I do with it all to make a meal?

That's exactly what happened last week after I pulled out chicken and simply stared at it.  I was totally clueless as to what to make with it.  Do I fry it, bake it, make a casserole?  I saw a jar of pineapple chipotle salsa, cans of pineapple and a plan began to take form.  I pulled out green bell peppers and onion from the refrigerator and began dicing.  Then came the crock pot into which I dumped it all, set it on high and said to myself, "Good Luck!".  Four and one half hours later on, the chicken was tenderly cooked; the sauce looked thin, but was quickly fixed with an addition of cornstarch whisked in.  Served over white rice, it was amazingly delicious; score one for the "throw it all in and good luck" technique.

Pineapple Chipotle Chicken


6 frozen boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1 cup diced green bell pepper
1 cup chopped onion
1 (16 oz.) jar pineapple chipotle salsa
1 (15 ¼ oz.) can pineapple slices, drained  (drink the juice, it's tasty!)
2 Tbsp. cornstarch
3 cups cooked rice


Spray interior of 4 quart crock pot with nonstick cooking spray.

Line sides and bottom of pot with chicken; place bell pepper and onion in center.  Pour salsa over all; cover with pineapple slices.

Cook on high for 4-5 hours; until chicken is thoroughly cooked.  Carefully remove pineapple and chicken; mix cornstarch together with remaining ingredients in pot to thicken sauce.  Serve chicken breast and pineapple slice (s) over rice; spoon sauce from pot over all.

Makes 6 servings.

Mary Cokenour