Thursday, February 23, 2017

Valentine's Day at Arches Thai.

Arches Thai

60 North 100 West
Moab, Utah, 84532

Phone: (435) 355-0533


Arches Thai is celebrating the beginning of its second year in Moab; what better way to celebrate Valentine's Day at the same time.  Usually this restaurant is closed on Tuesday, but a special exception was made for the holiday of love.  Love there is for the owner, Bella Prucktrakhul, her friendly staff and, most especially, the wonderful Thai cuisine they serve.  Several more tables and chairs have been added to accommodate the reliable locals, and tourists that wander in; artwork of the area adorns the walls.

Unfortunately, we could not dine for dinner, but enjoyed a delicious lunch; our lovely waitress attempted to teach us a few Thai words.  While my husband picked it up immediately, I miserably failed; but then our soup came and I perked up.  A delicate clear broth filled with wide noodles and chopped vegetables; a great starter before the starters, appetizers I mean.

Samosa is a pastry puff with potato, carrot and seasonings; served with cucumber salad.  Thai Toast has a chicken/veggie spread between slices of bread, deep fried and served with cucumber salad.  Amazing and definitely a must have again!


Thai Toast

Our main entrees were 3 Taste Chicken; battered and fried chicken pieces with 3 taste sauce, vegetables and rice.  The sauce is a mild heat, sweet and savory all at once; a wild threesome in the mouth.

Lo Mein with Beef is always a treat; perfectly cooked noodles, beef slices so tender that they melt in the mouth; steamed veggies and rice.

Now Bella did warn us to not fill up, dessert was coming; we didn't listen of course.  It was all so good, how could we stop!?!  That included dessert, we finished up all of the Almond Coconut Ice Cream and Tempura Banana.  We absolutely LOVE this dessert!!!  Smooth, creamy ice cream matched with a lightly deep fried banana in tempura batter; sweet, crispy, creamy all eaten together. is such a treat.

Being on a tight budget, we saved a while to be able to enjoy this Valentine's Day lunch; it was worth every penny we spent!  So Congratulations to Arches Thai on the beginning on their second year in Moab; and a toast..Thai of course, to many years to come.

Mary Cokenour

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Escaping Persecution Creates a Melting Pot of Foods.

Heads up, this will not be about the Mormons and their travels to Utah in 1847.  No, I am going ahead in time to 1914 with the establishment of “Russian Settlement”.  It is not known if the settlers there had another name of this now ghost town in the Park Valley area of Box Elder County.  By 1917, the residents had moved to either California, or towards Salt Lake City; continual crop failures, children sent to outside schools, supplies not shipped in as promised broke them.  The only remnant that the town ever existed is a little white fence built around two gravesites, Anna Kalpakoff, who was accidentally shot by her husband, and her sister-in-law, Mary Kalpakoff, who died during childbirth. 

These settlers were Molokans, a Russian Protestant-like Christian sect; this particular group belonging to a sub-sect called the “Jumpers and Leapers”.  These believed they were visited by a manifestation of the Holy Spirit, held revivals with intense zeal, reporting miracles that rivaled the stories from Christ's apostles.  Molokans were also pacifists; they refused to bear arms, or join with any of Russia’s military forces.  Life in Russia became exceptionally difficult, for any religious sect, after the publishing of Karl Marx’s “Communist Manifesto” (1848); with Lenin finally overthrowing the Emperor and his court in 1918.

As with any other persecuted religious groups (Amish, Mennonite, Puritans, Quakers, Mormons), moving elsewhere to find freedom was a very good idea.  As with any immigrants that came to the United States, they brought with them culinary goods they could carry and recipe books.  America is called “The Melting Pot”, a gigantic living, breathing, working version of the child’s book, Stone Soup.  Picture this, the country is the cooking pot being filled with ingredients from every ethnic, religious, racial populace that has settled its lands.  Our language which we call English, is a variation of Olde English, Spanish, French, German, Latin and a few others thrown in as seasonings.  While we are all American, sometimes we tend to forget where our ancestors truly came from; we have forgotten, or not bothered to learn ancestral histories.  We also tend to forget that our ancestors were not that welcomed by residents already well-established here; they had to fight for their, and your, rights.

There is your mental meal to chew upon, now something to prepare for dinner to make your stomachs happy.  Since I have brought up Russia, a popular meal prepared with either beef cubes, strips or ground is “Beef Stroganoff”.  The history behind this dish is vague: #1 – 1850s created by a chef for Count Grigory Stroganov who had rotten teeth and needed the meat to be very soft.  #2 – 1891 created by French Chef Briere for Count Pavel Alexandrovich Stroganov; using shallots.  #3 – 1871 Elena Molokhovets writes a cookbook for young housewives; her recipe uses mushrooms, onions, bouillon, allspice and mustard.  None of the recipes include the use of egg noodles, rice or ground beef; those are strictly American inclusions along with the invention of cream of mushroom soup and crock pots.

Personally I have made many versions of Beef Stroganoff using lean meat or ground beef; in a skillet or crock pot; sauce made of sour cream or cream of mushroom soup.  To avoid any disappointments, always make sure to drain any excess oil after browning the beef; who enjoys a slimy sauce really?  When using beef cubes or strips in a skillet, tenderize the meat overnight with a drizzle of red wine vinegar; breaks up the fibers and even Count Grigory’s teeth would   appreciate it.  Ground beef (90% or higher lean) is the quickest to brown in a skillet and this is the recipe I will now share.  Enjoy!


Beef Stroganoff
1 package (12 oz.) extra wide egg noodles.
1 lb. lean ground beef (90% or higher)
1 medium onion, diced
1 package (8 oz.) mushrooms, chopped
1 Tbsp. minced garlic
1 tsp. ground black pepper
3 Tbsp. beef stock
1 Tbsp. Worcestershire Sauce
1 container (16 oz.) sour cream
Prepare noodles according to package instructions; begin browning meat, medium-high heat, in 12 inch, deep skillet.  When meat is partially browned, add onions and continue to brown until no pink shows in meat; drain any excess oil.

Add mushrooms, garlic, black pepper, beef stock and Worcestershire; mix and let cook for 5 minutes.  Add cooked egg noodles and sour cream; mix thoroughly; remove from heat and serve.

Makes 4 servings.

Bonus Recipe:  Beef Stroganoff for Crock Pot
3 ½ - 4 lbs. lean beef, cut into ½” cubes
½ cup flour
½ cup olive oil
1 bag (12 oz.) frozen, diced onions
1 can or jar (8 oz.) of sliced mushrooms
2 Tbsp. minced garlic
2 tsp. ground black pepper
3 beef seasoning packets or bouillon cubes
2 cups water
1 can (10 ¾ oz.) cream of mushroom soup
1 cup sour cream
1 ½ lbs cooked, broad egg noodles
Mix beef cubes and flour together; heat oil in large skillet, medium-high heat, and brown all sides of cubes; drain excess oil

Set 6 quart crock pot on low, place in all ingredients, except sour cream and egg noodles. Cover, cook for 8 hours, stir in sour cream.   Let cook for 15 minutes; serve over egg noodles.

Makes 8 servings.
Mary Cokenour

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Well Yes to New Campbells Soups.

When I began to see the advertisements for Campbell's new "Well Yes!" soups, I immediately thought, "Oh great, another product that is supposed to be healthier and tastes like garbage.  What a waste of money this will be."  I purchased two varieties, waited for a cold, snowy day which called for soup, and opened up the "Sweet Potato Corn Chowder".

After heating, I dipped the spoon into my bowl and gave it all a stir; thick yet creamy; diced vegetables yet generous; the taste?  Wow, simply wow; this was very like homemade, and absolutely delicious.  I ate the entire bowl full and...well, licked the bowl clean as much as I could.

While this soup does have salt added (590mg per serving); what I truly loved is that it's diabetic friendly.  Only 25 grams carbohydrates per serving (only 6 grams of sugar!)

Well Yes! Soups ( currently carry 9 varieties; and more than likely I'll be trying all of them; choosing my favorites to keep purchasing afterwards.  So long as Campbell's continues to make them tasting homemade, low in sugar and delicious; I'll be a loyal consumer.

Mary Cokenour

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Semi-Homemade with Knorr Rice Sides.

What can I say, I like the ease of preparation, taste, and variety of flavors using Knorr Products; whether Rice, Noodle, or Combo Sides.  Sometimes I can simply serve it as an actual side with whatever protein I've cooked up: pork, meat, poultry, seafood.  Then there are times I want to make it into a complete skillet meal which involves adding vegetables, maybe extra seasonings, sometimes a dairy product like cheese or sour cream.  It's my skillet and I'll cook in it if I want to!

For ground beef, beef strips or cubes; Knorr Beef Flavored, Asian BBQ or Teriyaki are three flavors we enjoy eating the best with meat.

One Skillet Beef and Sugar Snap Peas

1 lb. lean ground beef (90% lean or more)
1/2 cup sliced mushrooms
1/4 cup diced onions
1 package (5.5 oz.) Knorr Rice Side, beef flavored
1 and 1/2 cups hot water
1 package (10 oz.) frozen sugar snap peas


Partially brown beef, medium-high heat, in a deep, 12 inch skillet; add mushrooms and onions, continue to brown beef till no pink shows. 

Add contents of Knorr package and water; bring to a boil.  Add sugar snap peas, cover, reduce heat to low and cook for 10 minutes.

Remove from heat, stir contents of skillet together and serve.

Makes 4 servings.

Notes:  Do not add the oil/butter recommended on Knorr package directions; oil from the browned beef will complete that requirement.  Instead of 2 cups of water, only 1 and 1/2 cups is needed, the remaining 1/2 cup will come from the frozen vegetable.

This recipe is quick, easy and delicious.

Mary Cokenour


Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Cherries, Chocolate and Love.

Valentine’s Day is just around the corner; a day celebrating romance, love, passionate embraces and kisses.  For some, it is just another day on the calendar; either they have no one to lavish their love upon, and vice versa, or the spark has gone out of a romance altogether.  Many couples celebrate their relationship on a daily basis; while others make it a grand event, and it better be a perfect one!  Personally, during our lifetimes, Roy and I have experienced all of the above; we have blissfully been in the “celebrate on a daily basis” stage for fourteen years now.

What exactly is the origin of Valentine’s Day?  We have to travel back in time to The Christians vs. The Romans; to the stories of three different martyrs who defied the emperors of Rome.  All were named Valentine (English) or Valentinus (Latin); their stories center on love; love between couples, love of freedom, compassionate love.  After the fall of the Roman Empire, and the rise of the Catholic Church, February 15th was chosen for Valentine’s Day to replace the now outlawed Pagan fertility celebration of Lupercalia.  However, this was not a great way to convince the Pagans to convert to Christianity; here is where the French come to the rescue.  February 14th was thought to be the day when bird mating season began; mating for people meant love and marriage.  Hence this was now a celebratory day of love, and that could not make anyone angry, right?

Well it seems to have worked out quite well, especially for greeting card and candy making companies.  One decadent treat very popular is chocolate covered strawberries; rich, sweet, lips colored ruby red, begging to be kissed.  However, that is more a late 20th century indulgence; and what was old, once again becomes new.  1915, The Black Forest (German: Schwarzwald), a large forested mountain range in the state of Baden-W├╝rttemberg in southwestern Germany.  Pastry Chef, Josef Keller, prepares a dark chocolate, four layer torte (made with ground nuts, not flour) with whipped cream, sour cherries and Kirsch (brandy made from cherries).  He names it after the region which is known for, what else, dark chocolate, Morello cherries, and Kirsch; oh and cuckoo clocks, but you cannot eat those.


Black Forest Cake is a beautiful cake that is perfect for birthdays, special occasions, holiday season, as well as the holiday of love.  This past season, I did make Black Forest Cupcakes, but they did not turn out the way I had wanted them to.  Into between the two layers of cake batter, I placed several cherries; after baking, the cherries had sunk through the bottom layer.  Still yummy, but very, very messy.  My fix for this will be to add chopped, dried cherries to the cake batter itself next time, making a sort of dark chocolate, cherry chip cake; keeping the vanilla frosting and cherries with glaze on top. 

On a side note, since 1915, many versions of this cake have been created; in America, white flour replaced ground nuts.  While I have nut flours to use, I hesitate as I have no idea if someone trying the cake has an allergy to nuts (grown on trees, peanuts are legumes grown underground).  Since the 1990s, I’ve noticed an increase in people, mainly children, developing this allergy, and must wonder if it is due to pesticides, processing methods or any other type of use to get the nuts to stores.  Therefore, my recipe for this article will be one containing basic white flour; no one you know have an allergy, then try a nut flour instead!

Another side note, the frosting is only meant to go on top of both layers of cake; the sides are left open so the layers can be seen.  I recently found out this is a new fad (been doing this, on various types of cake, for years myself) in the baking industry; it is called “Naked Cake”.  Guess the cakes sell better if they are “sexier”, go figure.


Black Forest Cake


Cake Batter:

1 ½ cups flour
3 Tbsp. baking cocoa powder
2 tsp baking powder
1 cup sugar
2 tsp chocolate syrup
¾ cup milk
¾ cup melted butter
2 eggs


12 Tbsp. butter, softened
3 cups confectioner’s sugar
½ cup baking vanilla powder
2 tsp vanilla extract
4 Tbsp. room temperature milk

Note: This is a buttercream frosting which holds up better over time (if there are any leftovers that is)


1 (15 oz.) can tart cherries in water; drain all water.
1 (21 oz.) can cherry pie filling


Cake Layers:

Preheat oven to 350F.  Cut out two circles of parchment paper that fit within two 9” cake pans; spray cake pans with nonstick baking spray; line bottom with paper circles.

In a large bowl, sift flour and mix in cocoa, baking powder and sugar.  In second bowl, beat together syrup, milk, butter and eggs; do not get mixture frothy by over beating.  Pour wet ingredients into bowl of dry ingredients; mix on medium speed till smooth.  Pour half of batter into each cake pan.


Bake for 35-40 minutes; until toothpick inserted in center of cake comes out cleanly.  Let cakes cool before flipping out of pans; remove parchment paper before frosting cakes.



While cakes are baking, make the frosting; cream together the butter and sugar; add vanilla powder, vanilla extract and milk; mix until smooth, but do not over mix.  Cover bowl with plastic wrap and allow to firm up; frost cakes after they have cooled.  There will be enough frosting for the tops of both cakes.


After making sure to drain all water from tart cherries, mix in small bowl with pie filling; keep cool until time to construct cake.

Cake Construction:

Place one layer of cake on plate; use half the frosting to spread over the top only; make frosting a little thicker one each in from the edge of the cake.  Place 1/3 of the cherries with glaze in center, spread out, but not over the extra thick frosting on the one inch from the edge.  The cherries and frosting will be even, so the second layer of cake will lie flush with them.


Place second layer of cake on top; spread remaining frosting on top only. Spread remaining cherries and glaze over top (if glaze drips over side, don’t worry, just makes it a little prettier).


Place in refrigerator for half hour to let it all firm up before slicing and serving.

Makes 12 servings.
Mary Cokenour