Thursday, December 28, 2017

Finding Your Connection in 2018.

“Mary, you are one of the most honest people I’ve ever met, and I admire that about you; but honest to a fault.  Living in San Juan County, especially Monticello, that part of your personality will earn you hardships, many you do not deserve.  However, I don’t want you to change, you are not the one that needs to change; the others need to change, start listening and doing.” This was said to me by a man who only lived in Monticello a short time, but was happy as a pig in a mud hole to move away to a more populated area of Utah.

With that I looked back at my life, not just in 2017, but in general and realized that I have changed many times, mainly to make others happy.  From an early age, I relished the thought of visiting museums, discovering the scientific worlds of archaeology, anthropology and paleontology.  In college, I took several of these courses and was at the New York Museum of Natural History (yes, the one from the Ben Stiller movies) so much, all the guards knew me by name.  However, I ended up putting these loves on the shelf, listening to advisors that said there was no money in these careers, no real future for a woman.  I dragged myself through jobs I hated, stayed in an abusive marriage as others kept telling me, “You’ll never do better.”  I figured, if everyone I knew was telling me this, then it must be true, right?

It wasn’t until I was in my 40s that I developed friendships with people who supported me mentally and emotionally.  I divorced the s.o.b., met my current husband, Roy, and even he too kept telling me, “Be who and what you want to be; don’t do things to make me, or anyone else happy.”  With our move to Utah, our adventuring around the 4 Corners region of the four states, I was able to enjoy those lost loves from my younger years.  That crazy woman jumping up and down on slickrock, off State Highway 95, near White Canyon?  Yeah, that was me as I just found dinosaur prints, put my foot next to one and imagined what creature, from millions of years ago, I was communing with.

In essence, what I am trying to communicate to everyone is, have hopes and dreams, hold onto them tightly, and get them done!  Don’t listen to naysayers and simply do as they say, put them on the spot and ask them “Why?  Why don’t you want me to pursue what will make me happy?  Why does it have to be only your way when I know you’ve never tried to do it yourself?”

Need a little inspiration?  Watch the original Muppet Movie (1979), about a little frog that had big dreams and pursued them no matter what.  Listen to the words he sings in “Rainbow Connection” and realize,

“Why are there so many songs about rainbows and what's on the other side?
Rainbows are visions, but only illusions, and rainbows have nothing to hide.
So we've been told and some choose to believe it.
I know they're wrong wait and see.
Someday we'll find it, the rainbow connection.
The lovers, the dreamers and me.”

Oh, I know I usually have a recipe for you, but I remember when a rainbow went over a particular ridge.  I want to climb that ridge and see “what’s on the other side?”  However, if you really need a recipe, go into the San Juan Record archives and reread my article on “Frog Eye Salad”, sort of fits the theme, doesn’t it?  Otherwise, you can find the link for the recipe right here on this food blog:  In 2018, find your rainbow connection and from the Cokenour family, Happy New Year!

Mary Cokenour

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

My Birthday Lunch at Bangkok House Too.

Bangkok House Too

59 South Main Street, Suite 8 (Eddie McStiff's Plaza)
Moab, Utah, 84532

Telephone: (435) 355-0168


Hours:  Monday – Saturday 11:30 AM – 10:00 PM, Sunday 5 PM – 10 PM

December 26, 2017 was my 59th birthday, according to my birth certificate that is; but I still feel young at 21.  That is, except, for my joints which are developing osteoarthritis, but thankfully there is Advil and Aspercreme with Lidocaine to help keep the annoying pain away.  I decided I would love to have Thai for my birthday meal, but there are 3 Thai restaurants in Moab that I love and I thought it would be a difficult choice.  Not really as one was closed on Tuesday, 168 Ramen has closed permanently (also owned by Bangkok House Too and some of the recipes will appear on their menu now), so my choice was then easy...Bangkok House Too. 

I messenged the owner, Venus Varunum, to let her know we were coming down to Moab, and she assured me that one of my very favorites would be on hand for my eating pleasure...BBQ Pork Buns.  These are the steamed version of Roast Pork Buns (pastry is baked) which I used to buy, 3 dozen at a time, from Chinese bakeries in New York City and Philadelphia.  They are delectable, 3 come with each order and I begrudgingly let my hubby, Roy, have one; oh yes, I ate the other two and savored every bite.  Oh, we also ordered the Thai dumplings which are, if you've ever gone to a Chinese Dim Sum restaurant, known as Shumai; ate those before I even thought of photographing them and they were purely delish!

Next on the craving list was sushi rolls and we each picked our favorites; Porcupine Rim for me and Superbowl for hubby; we only ate a half of each and took the rest home to have as dinner.

We each ordered a lunch special too, knowing we would only eat a small portion, and take the leftovers home to enjoy as an evening meal; along with the sushi rolls of course.  I chose chicken teriyaki which has a thick and rich delectable sauce over grilled chicken.  Hubby chose Red Curry which is spicy, but you can have the spice anyway you want from mild to Thai Hot.  Lunch specials come with a crispy spring roll, white rice and choice of miso soup or side salad.

We both highly recommend the Thai Iced Coffee and Hot Jasmine Tea to enjoy along with the meals; refreshingly good.

The staff at Bangkok House Too are wonderful, from the servers to sushi master, kitchen staff to manager (Hi Sandy!!!); of course the owner, Venus, is a most lovely woman.  They all make you feel so welcomed, and you're not just a customer, you are a good friend who happened to stop by for a meal.  Thank you all for a most wonderful birthday lunch, and it ended up being one for dinner later on too!

Mary Cokenour

Friday, December 22, 2017

Foods of the December Holidays.

December is a month of many holidays, to name everyone would take about a full newspaper page, so here is a few most Americans may have heard of, or even practice.

Saint Nicholas Day (Christian)
Fiesta of Our Lady of Guadalupe (Mexican)
St. Lucia Day (Swedish)
Hanukkah (Jewish)
Christmas Day (Christian)
Three Kings Day/Epiphany (Christian)
Boxing Day (Australian, Canadian, English, Irish)
Kwanzaa (African American)
Omisoka (Japanese)
Yule (Pagan)
Saturnalia (Pagan)

By the way, the Twelve Days of Christmas are December 25th to January 5th, aka Twelvetide, a festive Christian season celebrating the Nativity of Jesus Christ; and the dates change dependent on which sect of Christianity you practice.  December 26th is known as Saint Stephens Day, or Boxing Day; all I know is that it is my birthday, and yes, I do expect presents…that’s a little hint right there.

For Hanukkah, potato latkes and doughnuts (sufganiyot) are requirements, while brisket is the traditional meat served.  Traditional Yule foods include festive meats, winter vegetables, and colorful preserved fruits.  Cookies and caraway cakes soaked in cider, fruits, nuts, pork dishes, turkey, eggnog, ginger tea, spiced cider, wassail, or lamb's wool (ale, sugar, nutmeg, roasted apples), apples, mulled wine, beans, and oranges.  Omisoka is the Japanese New Year’s Eve (celebrated December 31st); Toshikoshi soba is Japanese traditional noodle bowl dish eaten. This custom lets go of hardship of the year because soba noodles are easily cut while eating.

Depending on where you live in this massive world of ours, traditional Christmas main dishes are culturally inspired.  Roast goose or roast beef in Britain, whole roasted pig in the Philippines, Feast of the 7 Fishes in Italy, tamales in Costa Rica; and immigrants have brought these traditions to this United States as well.  Growing up, my family had roast turkey with all the trimmings, it was Thanksgiving all over again!  Later on, celebrating with other families, I experienced glazed ham with raisin sauce; Peking duck thinly sliced and layered onto Mandarin pancakes smeared with hoisin sauce; Sauerbraten (translated “sour roast meat”) and German potato salad.  Oh yes, my culinary palette has had an amazing educational experience when it comes to food.

Personally, my food philosophy, and Roy has embraced this too, is to try anything and everything once.  May not like something, might even find it to be totally disgusting, but at least can honestly say, “Yes, tried it, and no, do not like it.”  Or who knows, may simply love it to the point of craving it.  This is the point of this entire story, do not give up traditions, but do not give up on learning.  Also strive to try something new; this is, to me, the meaning of life, of existence, to learn something new each and every day.

So, from the Cokenour household, Happy Holidays to All, be it Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Joyous Yule, or whichever belief you hold dear.  Oh, and here’s my recipe for Prime Rib, in case you’ve never experienced it…enjoy!

Normally a prime rib roast comes with the bones attached.  You can do several things with the bones once removed; use them as a rack for the roast to rest on while roasting; cook them separately to eat later on; use them to make beef stock.  Or you can ask your butcher to remove them for you and not deal with them at all; to me, that's a complete waste.  Prime rib usually comes with a thick fat cap also; I removed a good portion of it so I could get the seasoning rub onto the meat itself, but left enough fat so the meat could self-baste while roasting.

Prime Rib


1 (14.5 oz.) can beef broth
1/2 can of water
4 large shallots, peeled and split into sections
2 tsp. dried rosemary
3 tsp. dried thyme
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp. onion powder
1/2 tsp. ground black pepper
1 tsp. coarse sea salt
2 Tbsp. olive oil
8 lb. prime rib; bones removed


Preheat oven to 400F.  Line a roasting pan with aluminum foil; pour the beef broth and water in.  Place the shallot sections in the pan so that the prime rib will be located over them.  Spray the rack with nonstick spray and place into the pan; be careful not to tear the foil.

Mix together the rosemary, thyme, garlic and onion powders, black pepper and salt.  Brush olive oil over top of the prime rib; spread seasoning rub onto it.

Place the roast onto the center of the rack; make sure it is over the shallots.  Roast the beef for 45 minutes at the 400F temperature; turn the temperature down to 300F and roast to desired doneness.  A meat thermometer is going to be your best friend with this process as it will tell you the internal temperature and, therefore, how you like your meat cooked.  125F is rare, 135F is medium-rare, 145F is medium and 155F is well; anything over that, in my opinion of course, is shoe leather.  In the words of Doctor Who, it's a "wibbley wobbley, timey wimey" process.

Once you have the roast at the desired doneness, pull the entire pan out of the oven, remove the roast to a platter, cover with aluminum foil, and let it all rest for 30 minutes.  This lets the juices from the roast redistribute back throughout itself; then place the roast on a cutting board and cut one inch slices.

You're probably wondering about the beef broth, water and shallots?  This is what you'll use to make either an au jus or a gravy; first remove the shallots with a slotted spoon.  Then pour all the remaining liquids and solids into a freezer safe plastic bowl; put the bowl into the freezer for 45 minutes; the fat will rise to the surface, solidify and you can just remove it easily with a spoon.  Pour the fat free liquid through a strainer to remove any bits of missed solid fat or herbs.  That will give you a lovely clear, herbal flavored au jus; or you can put the liquid into a saucepan, add a tablespoon of corn starch, bring it to a boil and make a gravy.  The shallots?  I chopped them up finely and added them to the au jus, but they could just as well be served on the side of a prime rib slice.

Now what did I do with those rib bones?  Glad you asked.  I seasoned them up a bit differently by using my all-purpose seasoning rub.  After the prime rib was done, I popped them into the 300F oven, sitting on an aluminum foil covered rack in a pan; I let them roast for 3 hours.  They made a good snack for my hubby later on.

Mary Cokenour

Monday, December 11, 2017

A Sweet Tooth's Paradise - The Italian Bakery.

Basically, I often let it be known that the most I miss about the East Coast is the food.  Roy and I have discussed the question of "would we ever go back East?"  The answer is that it would have to be for a very, very good reason; and we probably wouldn't feel very comfortable.  Comparing the wide open spaces of where we live now to the traffic and people congested areas of New York City, Philadelphia and comparison.  Comparing the clean air, the blue sky, the overall feel good feeling to pollution that is quite visible, smells that would make a skunk gag and overall feeling of comparison.  Southeastern Utah wins hands down! What did Roy say to me the other day, oh yes, "hun, you may have been a city girl because you lived there, but deep down, you ain't no city girl"  He's right, I never was very comfortable living in large city areas; hating the pollution, noise, crowds; many are surprised when I tell them this truth about myself.

We did travel up to the Salt Lake City area once, and once was enough.  I have driven many of the highways of the East: Long Island Expressway, Belt Parkway, Schuylkill River Parkway, I-95; to just name a few and they didn't bother me.  The highways in the Salt Lake City area are terrifying!!!  Yeah, if they can scare me, then they must be bad.   Seeing a tiny Prius cut off an 18 wheeler with only a foot to spare speaks to me of having a death wish and not caring who is taken with the driver.   See, that's another reason I like the area we live in now; our version of a traffic jam is three pickup trucks in front of you as you're driving down either Highway 191 or 491; and the passing lane is a mile away. 

However, we are pro-economic development, not to the point where the area explodes like Moab, Telluride, even Flagstaff has done; but to the point where residents don’t have to worry about lack of employment.  To the point where there are so many benefits for residents, they don’t have to wonder why their children are leaving the area.  Visitors will be coming and they need amenities; better their monies go into the coffers of San Juan County’s various towns, then the pockets of others, is just common sense.

One business I’d personally love to see develop is Italian based, a combination of restaurant/delicatessen/bakery which would be a wondrous place to tantalize all the senses.  From the bakery alone, the smell of baking wafts throughout the air, the sight of decorated cakes, the taste of crispy cookies, hearing the workers speak in a romantic language, the feel of a loaf of real Italian bread and the overall feeling of contentment is intoxicating.   Of course if you’ve never experienced such a place, then you don’t truly know what you’re missing out on. 

Little by little I have been learning to recreate recipes from the Italian Bakery; no folks, we don't have such a wonderland in our area.  If you do in your area, appreciate it!!!  Two previous articles I’ve written covered Tiramisu and Cheesecake, now I have decided to tackle cookies, not your typical chocolate chip or sugar cookies, but Italian cookies.  The first is a chocolate meringue cookie called "Brutti Ma Buoni" which translates to "ugly but good", containing nuts and Amaretto.  The second is a cookie made with ricotta cheese and is basically a simple cake like cookie, not overly sweet and putting a glaze or frosting on them is optional.

Brutti Ma Buoni


8 egg whites
1 tsp. white vinegar
½ tsp. cream of tartar
1 cup sugar
1 Tbsp. Amaretto
1 Tbsp. cocoa powder
1 cup each of chopped hazelnuts and almonds

Preheat oven to 350F; lightly butter and flour cookie sheets.

In a large bowl, beat egg whites, vinegar and cream of tartar until soft peaks form. Continue to beat, while adding 2 tablespoons at a time of the sugar, until stiff peaks form; beat in the Amaretto.

Gently fold in the cocoa powder and nuts, so as to not deflate the egg whites. Drop, by tablespoon, the mixture onto the cookie sheets; bake for 15-20 minutes; until cookies become firm. Remove to wire racks and let cool.

Makes 3 dozen cookies.

 Ricotta Cheese Cookies


1 cup sugar
¼ unsalted butter, softened
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 Tbsp. blackberry preserves
2 eggs
2 cups flour
½ tsp. salt
½ tsp. baking soda
1 cup whole milk ricotta cheese


Preheat oven to 350F.

In a small bowl, cream together the sugar and butter until fluffy; continue to beat in the preserves, then one egg at a time until all are incorporated fully.

In a large bowl, sift together the flour, salt and baking soda; add the mixture from the small bowl and mix together well; add the ricotta cheese and mix in fully. The dough will be thick, so can easily be measured out by rounded tablespoons onto nonstick cookie sheets.

Bake for 15-17 minutes or until tops are golden brown; move cookies onto wire racks to cool.

Makes 4 dozen cookies.

The cookies have a mild sweetness at first, but intensify as eaten. However, a glaze can be spread onto the cookies and sprinkles added immediately before it sets.

Recipe for Glaze

1 cup confectioners’ sugar
3 Tbsp. warm milk

Mix together until it becomes a spreadable consistency.

Makes enough to cover 4 dozen cookies.

Mary Cokenour

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Cookie Baking Season Begins; No License Required.

With the holiday season in full swing, it's that time of year for cookie baking in the Cokenour home.  Making up to, at least, 16 dozen, they’re usually placed on holiday themed plates, wrapped in colored plastic wrap and distributed out for pure enjoyment.  Surprisingly, some folks voice negative opinions on this little holiday tradition of mine, “Why are you wasting time, money and groceries?  They don’t appreciate you or your cookies!”  That may well be, but I do it mainly to follow the true meaning of the holiday spirit, and that is what matters most.  It’s the giving and seeing the smiles on faces that matters; the not caring if there is a price tag attached, or which big name store it all came from.  Many folks understand where I’m coming from on this, we grew up during the age of “giving, sharing, togetherness, homemade is from the heart”.

Now to flip the coin from happiness to sadness, since the holiday season is also known as the saddest time for many.  Death and grieving for the loss of loved ones, loneliness, broken and abusive home lives; it all exists, not just in large cities, but in the smallest of burbs.  The suicide rate increases as a person sees no way out of his/her situation.  Sadness is emotional pain associated with, or characterized by feelings of disadvantage, loss, despair, helplessness and sorrow. Clinical Depression is a mood disorder in which feelings of sadness, loss, anger, or frustration interfere with everyday life for weeks or longer. Here are the typical definitions for sadness and depression; while sadness can grow into depression, it is usually more easily dealt with.  Currently I'm in an extremely sad place, but my cooking, photography and writing help ease the pain...I can deal.  For others though, the pain of their sadness is so intense, they need a professional; no matter what, help them get the help they need.  National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: or call 1-800-273-8255.

Swinging back to a lighter note, when it comes to females mostly, there is the saying, "Chocolate cures everything" which is basically true.  I'm not going to get scientific here, but the gist of it is that chocolate stimulates the endocrine gland to emit hormones that make one happy.  It won't cure depression, but when it comes to stress and sadness, it helps to calm you down enough for a better assessment of a personal situation.  Another thing you can do is be active, even if it is the simplest of tasks, or even trying out a new recipe; it gets your mind off of your sadness, even if just for a little while.   What better way to deal with sadness then to combine a chocolate chip cookie recipe with baking in the kitchen?  You're up, moving about, concentrating on a task and you'll end up with a delicious snack that will lead you to your happy place.

This recipe will give you about 2 and 1/2 to 3 dozen cookies depending on how large you make them.  I usually make balls of dough about 1 and 1/2 inches in diameter and get about 2 and 1/2 dozen; less cookies, but larger cookies...less does equal more!  The cookies are soft and chewy; if not kept in an airtight container, they will get dry and crumble easily.  I also use Ghirardelli 60% Cacao Bittersweet Chocolate Chips; much larger than those morsels, more chocolate flavor and when they're all melty, you feel no pain, just pleasure.  The recipe is similar to the original Toll House recipe, but you all know I simply cannot do “as is”.  Bake up a little happiness today!

Chocolate (Ghirardelli) Chip Cookies


2 and 1/4 cups flour
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1 cup unsalted butter; softened, but not melted
1/2 cup white sugar
1 cup light brown sugar
1 tsp. salt
3 tsp. pure vanilla extract
2 large eggs, beaten
1 and 1/2 cups Ghirardelli 60% Cacao Bittersweet Chocolate Chips


Preheat oven to 350F; I recommend using AirBake baking sheets instead of regular nonstick, or ones that need to be sprayed.  Whether it is cookies or biscuits, no sticking and cleanup is with a damp, clean cloth.

Whisk the flour and baking soda into a large bowl, set aside.  In another large bowl, cream together the butter, white and brown sugars until smooth.  Add the salt, vanilla extract and eggs; on medium speed for one minute.  Continue to beat while gradually adding the flour mixture; scrape the sides occasionally.  When well combined, stir the chips in with a heavy duty spoon being careful not to break them.

Create balls of dough from 1 inch to 1 and 1/2 inches in diameter; place on the baking sheets 2 inches apart.  Bake cookies for about 10 minutes; edges will be browned, but still slightly soft in the center.  Let the cookies rest for about 2 minutes before transferring them to a wire rack for complete cooling.  When completely cooled, place in an airtight container.

Makes 2 and 1/2 to 3 dozen cookies.

Mary Cokenour

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Mexican Trifecta.

What happens when you can't decide if you want to make Burritos, Enchiladas or Fajitas?  You make all three in one main dish, three Mexican recipes in one, a Mexican Trifecta.  Ok, fajitas are technically classified as Tex-Mex, a recipe developed within the United States with Mexican influence, so it sort of counts as part of the trifecta.

I tried looking up the differences between burritos and enchiladas, but American influences (mainly California and Texas) have blurred the line between authentic and invented.   On one question/answer site, a man stated they were invented in California because, "he's eaten so many of them there for the past 6 years"...ummm, ok.  Authentic Mexican burritos are usually small and thin, with flour tortillas containing only one or two ingredients: some form of meat or fish, potatoes, rice, beans, asadero cheese, chile rajas, or chile relleno.  Authentic Mexican enchiladas are rolled maize (corn) tortillas stuffed with meat, covered with a tomato and chili sauce; this food practice can be dated back to the time of the Mayans.  Nowadays, burritos can be served up in a casserole dish, covered in cheese and sauce; or heated and browned on a grill as is to make it easier, and less messier, to walk around with.  The tortillas for burritos are closed ended, enchiladas are open ended; fillings are basically "anything goes".

Usually the tortillas are long length after rolling, even for the burrito; mine became square shaped packets, not intentionally, just ended up that way.  The taste, after complete cooking, was pretty awesome as is, but add a little sour cream and/or guacamole and they became exceptionally awesome!  There were so many textures and flavors, and they all worked so well to enhance each other.



2 Tbsp. olive oil
1 and ½ lbs. lean meat (sirloin or London broil), cut into 1” strips
1 and ½ cups yellow bell pepper, cut into 1” strips
1 and ½ cups onion, cut into 1” strips
1 can (15 oz.) whole kernel corn, drained
1 can (15 oz.) black beans, rinsed and drained
1 can (15 oz.) diced tomatoes, drained
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. garlic powder
1 tsp. cumin
1 Tbsp. chili powder
1 Tbsp. dried, crushed cilantro leaves
Pinch ground cayenne pepper
12 (10”) flour tortillas
1 (14 oz.) can green chili enchilada sauce (mild/medium)


In a large skillet, heat oil on medium-high heat, partially brown meat strips; add bell pepper and onion, continue to brown meat till no pink shows.  Add in corn, black beans, tomatoes and all seasonings; mix well and let cook 5 minutes before turning off heat.

Preheat oven to 350F; spray 2-4 quart baking dishes with nonstick cooking spray.

In center of each tortilla, place one cup of meat/vegetable mixture.  Fold up long sides of tortillas over each other, fold up short sides to create a square packet; place 6 packets inside each baking dish.  Top each packet with 2 tablespoons of enchilada sauce; bake for 30 minutes.

Makes 12 servings.

Mary Cokenour

Friday, November 24, 2017

Extending the Comfort of Thanksgiving Turkey.

Here we are, another holiday season has been reached with many of us wondering, “Where did the year go!?!”  It has been a difficult year for Roy and myself, so much loss and disappointment; just as the brass ring was to be grasped, it was snatched away too quickly.  While material things can be replaced eventually or simply done away with, it was the loss of our 12 year old Doberman Pinscher, Jenna, which still has me reeling with grief.  However, a New Year will be here soon enough, and we greet each year with a hearty “Welcome!” and think, “This year will be better, you just watch and see!”

For Americans, Thanksgiving is a time to come together with friends and family; to forgive and forget; to remember that life will go on, and better together, than at odds with each other.  Days ahead of cooking has commenced within kitchens around the nations; those who have more, share with those who wonder where their next meal will come from.  Personally, I still pray to a higher power that we will come together as a human race; put aside “holier than thou” attitudes and finally form a cohesive bond of togetherness.  Yes, I am a dreamer, for I know that it is more difficult to “give up” than to “give to”.

Thanksgiving is more than just a day of sharing, it’s a day full of comfort which often disappears as soon as the last slice of pumpkin pie is served.  Why?  Why not extend the comfort?  When it comes to leftovers, some cooks package it up, give it all away and think, “Thank goodness that’s over with!”  I would prefer to think, “Let me freeze some of this, and bring back that comforting meal another day.”  One recipe my husband loves, simply loves, is Turkey Vegetable Strata.  When we lived in Pennsylvania, my mother would make several trays of this dish just for him; we would freeze the trays for when he felt the desire for it.  Well, she is 2700 miles away in Pennsylvania; we're in Utah, so I needed to make this dish on my own for him; of course I tweaked the recipe.  No, I just can't leave recipes as is; have to keep playing with new ingredients.  While he does enjoy my take on my mother’s recipe, he still states afterwards, “Yours is good honey, but your mom still makes the best!”  Guess what?  I still feel the comfort and that is all that counts.

Turkey Vegetable Strata is one of those casserole dishes that takes two days to prepare.  The first day, the body of the casserole needs to rest in the refrigerator, so moisture and flavor can soak into the bread stuffing.  The second day is the baking process and to be truthful, the casserole is even better the next day after that when all the flavors have melded together...but who can wait!?!

Enough teasing, let’s get to baking and eating!

Turkey Vegetable Strata


1 medium onion, diced
1 small red bell pepper, seeded and diced
1 cup diced mushrooms
2 Tbsp. butter
1 (10 oz.) bag herb seasoned, cubed bread stuffing (white or cornbread)
1 (16 oz.) bag frozen white corn
1 and 1/2 lbs. cooked turkey, white meat, cut into 1/2 inch pieces
2 cups shredded sharp Cheddar cheese, divided in half
2 eggs
1/2 cup mayonnaise or plain Greek yogurt
3 cups milk, divide into 2 cups and 1 cup
1/2 tsp. ground black pepper
2 (10 3/4 oz.) cans cream of mushroom soup
1 (10 3/4 oz.) can cream of celery soup
1 tsp. crushed dry sage


In a 12 inch skillet, melt butter on medium heat; sauté onion, bell pepper and mushrooms for 10 minutes; do not let brown, just soften.

With nonstick cooking spray, spray a 4 quart baking dish.  In a large mixing bowl, combine cubed bread, corn, turkey, one cup cheese and sautéed vegetables; spread out into sprayed baking dish.

In a medium bowl, whisk eggs, mayonnaise (or yogurt), two cups milk and black pepper until smooth.  Pour evenly over contents in baking dish; cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 12 hours.

Next day, bread stuffing is moist and double in size.  Preheat oven to 350F.  In a large bowl, mix together soups, sage, one cup milk and one cup cheese till well combined; spread evenly over top of contents in baking dish.  Bake covered with aluminum foil for 50 minutes; uncover and bake an additional 20 minutes.  Let casserole rest for 15 minutes before serving.

Makes 12 servings.

From the Cokenour Family, to you and yours, Happy Thanksgiving and let us keep the spirit of comfort throughout the years.

Mary Cokenour

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Daylight Savings Blues.

 Recently, most of the United States, and the world over, fell backwards one hour in time due to the observance of Daylight Savings.  The idea for it was first offered up by Benjamin Franklin in 1784, but it wasn’t until London builder, William Willett, caught the attention of Parliament in 1907 that it was taken seriously.  In his pamphlet, "The Waste of Daylight", he wrote, "Everyone appreciates the long, light evenings. Everyone laments their shortage as Autumn approaches; and everyone has given utterance to regret that the clear, bright light of an early morning during Spring and Summer months is so seldom seen or used."  In 1975, the Department of Transportation did a study on energy usage on summer lighting usage vs. winter usage indicating less electricity was used for lighting during long lit summer days, while more was used in winter due to longer darkness.  While this study makes me say, “Thank you Captain Obvious”, it kept the Daylight Savings process running strong, exceptions being Arizona (except for the Navajo, who do observe daylight saving time on tribal lands), Hawaii, the overseas territories of American Samoa, Guam, the Northern Mariana Islands, Puerto Rico, and the United States Virgin Islands.

I don’t know about most people, but I know several, including my husband and myself, where this travel backwards, or forwards, into time does not do a body good.  Waking up at 7am, opening the curtains to have sunlight glaring into the eyes definitely shocks me into full consciousness!  Then there are the pets who normally would still be sleeping while I happily have my first cup of coffee in peace and quiet.  Oh no, the second they see the first glimmer of light it’s, “Mommy, mommy, mommy; feed us; it’s been forever since we last ate.”  Remember, animals cannot tell time via a clock on the wall.  Then there is night which happens to show up around 5:30pm, just in time for dinner; yet the darkness only makes me want to put on pajamas and dive into bed.  Oh, in about a month I’ll be used to this new routine, but for now I find it hard to rely on artificial light when sunlight is much more stimulating.

Ah, well speaking of coffee, and with the holiday season always requiring luscious desserts after over indulgent feasts, I’d like to share a recipe for Tiramisu.  Tiramisu (Italian meaning “pick up me”) is a coffee flavored custard dessert; a layered dessert which could be compared to an English Trifle, made of ladyfingers dipped in coffee, layered with a whipped mixture of eggs, sugar, and mascarpone cheese, dusted with cocoa.  Ladyfingers are crisp cookies, sometimes called biscuits, similar in form to Pepperidge Farm Milano cookies. They are made from a sponge cake batter, but more flour is added to make the batter firm enough to hold its shape after being piped onto cookie sheets for baking.  While they can be found in most supermarkets, an excellent recipe for baking them at home comes directly from one of the best sources of baking know-how, "The Joy of Baking".

Mascarpone originated in the area between Lodi and Abbiategrasso, Italy, southwest of Milan, probably in the late 16th or early 17th century. It is a fresh, very rich cow’s milk cheese; double or triple cream (60% to 75% milk fat). Its texture resembles a sticky pudding and it is the color of cream. While it is widely used in desserts, such as the Italian dessert called Tiramisu; it can be used in a variety of recipes. In Italy, a favorite preparation is savory, mixing the cheese with anchovies, mustard and spices as a spread for breads. By itself, it can be served as an enhancement for fruits, coffee or cocoa; or added to such Italian dishes like lasagna, stuffed shells or manicotti.  While it can be purchased in stores or online, it can also be pricey. However, there is a way to make a suitable substitute.

Substitute for Mascarpone Cheese
Combine 16 oz. softened cream cheese, ½ cup heavy whipping cream and 5 Tbsp. sour cream; mix thoroughly until smooth and creamy.

Now to put these two ingredients together and make a dessert which makes all right with the world, even Daylight Savings blues.



3 large eggs, separate yolks and whites
½ cup sugar plus ½ tsp
1 cup espresso coffee, cooled
2 Tbsp. cognac or brandy
16 oz. mascarpone cheese (or substitute from above recipe)
1/8 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
60 lady fingers, toasted


In a large mixing bowl, combine egg yolks, 1 Tbsp. espresso, ½ cup sugar and liquor. Use mixer to beat ingredients together for 2 minutes; add cheese and beat until mixture is smooth.

In another bowl, combine egg whites with ½ tsp. sugar; beat on high with mixer until egg whites can hold a peak. Gently fold the egg whites into the cheese mixture.

Pour remaining espresso into a rimmed dish; lightly dip the lady fingers into the espresso, making sure to coat both sides. On the bottom of a 2 quart round dessert bowl, place 15 of the lady fingers (rounded side down), put another 15 (rounded side outward) around the sides of the bowl. Begin layering by spreading 1/3 of the cheese mixture on top of the lady fingers on bottom of the bowl, 15 lady fingers (rounded side upward), 1/3 of mixture, final 15 of lady fingers (rounded side upward), final 1/3 of cheese mixture. Sprinkle the cocoa powder over the final cheese layer.  Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.

Makes 8-10 servings.

Mary Cokenour

Monday, November 13, 2017

Prepping for the Winter Chill.

Tis the season! Tis the cold and flu season that is, and while flu shots are available at doctor offices and pharmacies, not so for colds. What to do to battle a cold; why chicken soup of course! Chicken soup is comfort food and a folklore cure for whatever ails you. In 2007, the University of Nebraska analyzed research studies to find that chicken soup's medicinal properties were "inconclusive". You ask anyone who doesn't feel well, depressed, tired or just all around blah; they'll tell you to take all the research and shove it where the sun don't shine.

Here in Monticello, Utah the weather has finally taken a turn towards the cold; several times it has gotten very windy, darkly clouded over and snow was anticipated. Then my son calls me up one day and says, "Mom, I don't feel well, you have anything I could eat?" Regretfully I had no chicken soup made, but he said that my Paella made him feel so much better; he did a three hour workout at the local gym. Well of course it would, it had chicken in it!  Anyway, I took no further chances, decided to make soup and took out a container of chicken stock from the freezer.   

Homemade Chicken Stock is an essential main ingredient for this soup; you want all the richness of flavor from the chicken, vegetables and seasonings, cooked together to create perfection. When I say "chicken carcass" in the recipe, basically you want to buy a whole chicken, remove the legs, thighs and breasts; what is left is what goes into the soup pot and remove as much skin as you can too.   

Why make your own stock?  You know exactly what is in the stock, it’s clear, not cloudy because of preservatives added in.  When making your stock, besides the bird carcass, you'll be adding in the "holy trinity" of cooking: carrots, celery and onion.  With the onion, leave the skin on to add a more golden color to the stock; it will all be strained later on, so no need to worry about onion skin floating in it.  I also add salt, ground black pepper and cloves of garlic for aroma and taste; so when making soup later on, be careful adding more of these ingredients.  Taste!!!  You can always add, but you can't take away if you add too much before tasting.

With the Thanksgiving holiday coming up fast, remember to keep the turkey carcass (leave a little meat on) and transform it into a wonderfully roasted turkey stock.  The carcass can be wrapped in plastic, placed into a freezer bag and frozen for later use, but don’t go past three months.  You don’t use it, you’ll lose it! 

Homemade Chicken Stock


3 to 4 lbs. of chicken carcass (legs, thighs and breasts removed)
3 large celery ribs, chopped
3 large carrots, peeled and chopped
1 large leek, washed thoroughly and chopped; include most of the green section as well
2 medium onions, unpeeled, but remove the root end
1 (8 oz.) container whole mushrooms; dirt brushed off
6 cloves of garlic, unpeeled
2 whole bay leaves
1 Tbsp. whole black peppercorns
1 Tbsp. Kosher salt
5 quarts cold water


Place all ingredients in a large stock pot (10-12 quart); bring to a boil on high heat and skim off any frothy residue. Reduce heat to low and simmer for 3 hours. 

Secure cheese cloth inside a large plastic bowl and strain the stock into the bowl; discard all the solid material captured in the cheese cloth.  Place the plastic bowl inside the freezer for one hour; the fat will solidify and then can be easily removed.   The stock is now ready to be used, can be refrigerated for up to 3 days, or stored in the freezer for up to 3 months. 

Makes about 4 1/2 quarts.

Now for the Chicken Noodle Soup itself; personally I use only the meat from the breasts; the legs and thighs I save for other recipes.

Chicken Noodle Soup


4 qts. of turkey, chicken or combination of both stocks
1 cup diced onion
1 cup diced carrots
1/2 cup diced celery
1 cup diced red bell pepper
5 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves; trim off fat
Pinch of salt and ground black pepper
1 tsp. crushed, dried thyme leaves
12 to 16 oz. homestyle egg noodles (dependent on how much noodles you like in your soup)


Add the stock, onion, carrots, celery and bell pepper to a tall stock pot; set on medium heat to begin simmering.

In a large pan, add the chicken, cover with water and set on medium-high heat.  Let cook for 10 minutes, any fat will foam at the top; rinse off chicken and cut into 1 inch pieces.  In a large skillet, medium-high heat, sauté the chicken pieces until no pink is showing.  Sprinkle the salt, black pepper and thyme leaves during the cooking; mix well.

Add the chicken, and any juices in the skillet, to the stock pot.  Turn the heat up to high and bring the soup to a boil.  Add the egg noodles; they will be ready once they plump up and double in length; about 15 to 20 minutes.  Turn off heat and serve in bowls.

Makes 12 servings.

Mary Cokenour