Friday, May 26, 2017

Blue Coffee Pot is for Settlers.

Blue Coffee Pot Restaurant 

US Highways 160 and 163
Kayenta, Arizona, 86033

Phone: (928) 697-3396

When I say this restaurant is for settlers, it's basically because the choices for dining, in Kayenta, are few.  The structure of Blue Coffee Pot resembles the female style Navajo Hogan; the interior is bright with rustic decor upon shelves (love the antique hutch in the entry way with the coffee pots).

Be warned, this restaurant only takes cash.

We went here after having a quick tour through Navajo National Monument, didn't want fast food, and wanted to try someplace different.  After being seated, we noticed other diners, but they were very quiet, looking down at their food and eating.  The atmosphere inside, though bright lighting, seemed a bit depressing.  Our party of three were very talkative about our day out, so we were making the most noise.  Upon leaving, we were laughing, held a door open for a Navajo woman, said a cheerful hello to her, and she seemed shocked at our behavior.
The menu is a combination of American, Mexican and Navajo cuisines; alcohol is not served on tribal land, but the fresh brewed coffee is a good choice with a meal.

After ordering, two of us got a trip to the very small salad bar; lettuce, tomatoes and dressings mostly; however I highly recommend the honey mustard dressing.

Our ordered meals came quickly.  First there was the Country Fried Steak with corn, mashed potatoes and loads of brown gravy.  The bread coating on the steak was overdone and tasted like oil used many, many times; mashed potatoes were instant, corn from a can.  I understand food products are trucked into this area, not much farming in desert, but spruce it up!

The Hot Turkey Sandwich was basically a mess of packaged cold cut turkey slices, bread, mashed potatoes and the same brown gravy served with the Country Fried Steak.

The Steak and Shrimp Kabobs were a little better; the steak was tender and juicy; the shrimp was double coated in breading and fried in the same old oil as the Country Fried Steak.   The baked potato was good, but again the corn was from a can; at least there was none of that brown gravy to ruin the kabobs.

We have eaten in Navajo run restaurants before, and it depends on the attitude of the owners and staff; some have great food, and others are just settling.  We wonder though, if we had ordered Navajo cuisine, would it have been prepared much better than the American platters?

Mary Cokenour

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Love Me Some Country Fried Steak.

My first introduction to Country Fried Steak, also called Chicken Fried Steak, was back in the 1980's. A new restaurant had opened up in Farmingdale, New York which served "Southern" food; after all these years, I don't remember the name of it.  It was a thin piece of steak which had been beaten into tenderized submission; deep fried with bread coating, served with white gravy, mashed potatoes and corn.  Personally, I thought the white gravy was pretty bland, so when I started to experiment with making this dish on my own, you know I was intent on jazzing it up.

Now when I first visited Utah in 2006, that's when I learned about black pepper gravy; still the white gravy, but packed with pieces of cracked, black peppercorns.  This was considered the traditional Southwestern version of Country Fried Steak.  My hubby Roy loved it this way which was understandable, since he grew up in the Southwest, but I wasn't too much of a fan of all those peppercorns.

Then there was another way I learned watching one of Paula Deen's many shows on Food Network; prepare the meat the same way, but finish cooking it off in rich, brown gravy packed with onions.  I love variety in preparing food, so knowing there were different types of Country Fried Steak was a boon for me.  Oh, the term "Chicken Fried Steak" just refers to the method of cooking the thin steak the same way you would a chicken cutlet.
Now what exactly is "cubed" steak?  The term "cubed" refers to the indentations left in the meat after the tenderizing process.  Originally the meat used was top sirloin and served in finer restaurants; however, the need to tenderize cheaper cuts of meat made the term "cubed" more generalized.  Nowadays you'll find cubed steak in the local supermarket and it can be made from chuck, round or flank steaks.  The steaks are cut thin, about a half inch, then pounded out to a quarter of an inch thickness; be prepared to pay for the privilege of having it prepped for you.  Same on cost by buying a roast on sale, place in the freezer for a half hour to firm it up (makes cutting much easier), cut up the roast into 1/2 inch slices.  These slices can be placed in freezer bags for later use, or start on them with the meat mallet for that night's dinner.
There is a variety of ways to prep the cubed steaks for frying: flour, dried bread crumbs, egg wash, milk wash, seasoning the meat, seasoning the flour or bread crumbs.  It is up to the cook how to prepare the dish overall, whether their own methods or following the old family recipe. For me, it depends on my mood; what you see in the one photo is the cubed steaks preseasoned on both sides(one tablespoon each of salt, ground black pepper and garlic powder, plus a half teaspoon of cayenne powder).  I lightly coat with flour, dip in an eggwash and then coat with the flour once again.  If I use dried bread crumbs, I will use preseasoned as it doesn't lose its flavoring during the frying process like seasoned flour typically does. My described flour method ensures that the seasoning stays on the meat rather than be leeched out into the oil during frying.

I love using peanut oil for frying. Yes, it tends to be more expensive than canola, vegetable or corn oils, but whatever is fried in it is extremely less greasy and the taste is clean; you taste the food, not the oil.  I use a deep 12 inch skillet for frying, fill it about 1 and 1/2 inches with oil and use medium-high heat.  You'll know the oil is ready when you drip a couple of drops of cold water into the oil; it will sizzle.  If it's popping and splattering already, you let it heat up too long, so turn down the heat to medium and let it come down to the sizzle stage.  Turn the heat back up to medium-high and put your first two steaks in.  The dredged cube steaks will be large, so only frying two at a time will prevent crowding, and allow even browning. If you let the oil remain at that "too hot" stage, the meat would have browned very quickly, but be still raw inside.  Once browned, remove the steaks to a plate covered with paper towels to let them drain any excess oil.

Lets talk gravy. Now while the typical gravy you might see in restaurants or even make yourself is the white gravy, or the pepper gravy; I jazz it up with some browned, ground sausage.  A mildly seasoned, loose breakfast sausage works great.

Black Pepper Sausage Gravy


1/4 cup mildly seasoned ground sausage
1/2 cup flour
4 cups half n' half
2 Tbsp cracked black peppercorns
pinch of salt


In a large saucepan, brown the sausage making sure to break up the meat into tiny pieces. Stir in the flour thoroughly and cook until golden brown. Gradually stir in the half n' half, whisking constantly until thickened. Stir in cracked peppercorns and pinch of salt. Pour over steaks and serve.

This will make enough to cover six Country Fried Steaks, and with excess to spoon over mashed potatoes if desired.

The next gravy is called  "Onion Red Gravy"; I use regular white or yellow onions, but instead of a brown only gravy, I make it sing with a little tomato sauce.

Onion Red Gravy


3 Tbsp oil (oil from the skillet the steaks were browned in)
1 large onion cut into 1/4 inch slivers
3 Tbsp flour
1 (8 oz) can tomato sauce
1 (14.5 oz) can beef broth
1 tsp ground black pepper
1 tsp minced garlic


In a deep, 12 inch skillet, heat the oil on medium-high and saute' the onions until they just begin to soften. Stir in the flour thoroughly before adding the tomato sauce, beef broth, black pepper and garlic. Bring to a boil and immerse the steaks into the liquid. Turn the heat down to low, cover and let simmer for 30 minutes before serving.

This will be enough to simmer 6 Country Fried Steaks in.

Mary Cokenour

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Corn Flour as Social Media.

The term “social media” designates sites on the internet (MySpace, Facebook, Twitter to name a few) where people could keep in touch with friends, family, business associates, and even make new found friends.  It is a way to keep up with the latest news on the home front, as well as around this vast world; a way to learn about other cultures and places to explore.  The term “social media” has now become an oxymoron; a rhetorical device that uses a self-contradiction to illustrate a rhetorical point or to reveal a paradox; sometimes used to create some sort of drama.  Don’t understand what I’m referring to?  Think about it, while cooing over the latest baby photos, how many friends and/or family members were horribly bashed, then unfriended and blocked, because they didn’t agree over some political event?   Maybe it was a negative life experience, someone needed to be blamed; easy targets are those people who are nothing more than a name on a computer screen.

Hark, not all is lost on social media; there are havens of sanctuary called “groups”; where folks of like mind can gather, talk, share and not have to put up with the negativity.  One such group I joined is “Navajo and Pueblo Cooking” (, administrated by Pauline Haines who runs her own bakery in New Mexico.  The members of this group are mainly Navajo, but anyone can join, so long as they have a love for cooking, and learning about new recipes and techniques.  This group is a good example of what social media should be, but we humans simply love the drama; sorry, not in this group.  Recently I learned about blue cornbread and a video on YouTube from “Navajo in the City” was featured; many gave their own take on the recipe, but overall it was met favorably.  I haven’t played with any Native American recipes lately, so here was my inspiration.

First the recipe:

Blue Cornbread
From Navajo in the City


1 and ½ cups blue cornmeal (roasted is best)
½ cup white flour
1 Tbsp. baking powder
2 Tbsp. sugar
1 tsp. salt
1 cup milk
2 eggs
½ cup melted butter


Preheat oven to 400F.  The cook used a 9 x 13 baking dish, but didn’t mention if it was pre-greased.  With cornbread, usually a smear of butter or baking spray is used to keep it from sticking to the pan.

Place all the dry ingredients into a large bowl (I sifted them).  Whisk together the wet ingredients in a small bowl, then pour into the dry ingredients; mix as you pour.  Place batter into baking dish, bake for 25 minutes.

However, and you know I do this from reading my articles, doing something different was in my plans.  After creating the batter, I divided it in half; the first half was spooned into a muffin tin with paper liners.  Into the second half of batter I added 1/2 cup of blueberries carefully folded in, so as to not break them.  Into another muffin tin with paper liners this went into; use an ice cream scoop as it gives the perfect portion for muffin batter.  Again, 400F for 25 minutes for 12 muffins, and a toothpick inserted into the center came out perfectly clean.  By the way, many don’t like baking with blueberries as they have a tendency to be too juicy, and their blue color leaks.  Not with this recipe, it’s already blue!

Pink liners get the batter with blueberries included.

Now for the taste testing (it was just hubby and myself), as is, the muffins weren’t anything to write home about, a bit bland, moist and not too crumbly. The cook on the video said she was primarily making the cornbread to create a “stuffing” later on.  However, she also stated this recipe is similar to making blue corn pancakes, just add vanilla. 

Let’s try out some typical muffin fixings: Cream Cheese – No; Butter – Meh; Honey – Yuck; Cactus Jelly – To Die For!  We both tried the cactus jelly combined with each of the other ingredients; while an improvement, the jelly alone was the huge winner.  Another item we both agreed on was the blueberry addition as a nice touch, but next time add more (2 cups for 12 muffins should do the trick).

There you have it, next time you’re on a social media site, and not feeling very social, learn to bake or cook something.  Challenge yourself, not antagonize others.

Mary Cokenour

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Give Mom a Big Quiche for Mothers' Day.

We all start out life as a simple, basic human being.  As we grow and learn, little facets of the world around us, including people, add to our own lives.  We accept or reject what we want to; allow ourselves to be molded into an independent individual, or we just become one of the crowd.  Each day we learn something new; that is, if we have open minds and want to see beyond our own little worlds.  Of the people who influence us the most, it is our parents, soon it will be Mothers’ Day; the woman in our lives who nurtures, cares for, molds, advises and sees us as small children the rest of our adult lives.  Don’t worry dads, your day will come in June.

Personally, I enjoy traveling down the road less taken.  That poem, by Robert Frost, has much meaning, if one cares to really read and understand the concept of being an individual, not just a clone.  This is something that I strove to teach my own son; surprise, I do have a child, well he’s a strong adult now, 27 years in age and living in Moab.  Wonders will never cease when it comes to me, I promise you that!

"The Road Not Taken"
By Robert Frost

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
 And sorry I could not travel both
 And be one traveler, long I stood
 And looked down one as far as I could
 To where it bent in the undergrowth;

 Then took the other, as just as fair,
 And having perhaps the better claim,
 Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
 Though as for that the passing there
 Had worn them really about the same,

 And both that morning equally lay
 In leaves no step had trodden black.
 Oh, I kept the first for another day!
 Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
 I doubted if I should ever come back.

 I shall be telling this with a sigh
 Somewhere ages and ages hence:
 Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
 I took the one less traveled by,
 And that has made all the difference.

When it comes to independence, cooking was definitely taught to my son who continues to work in restaurants wherever he resides.  A complete, and easy, meal to create is Quiche, and yes, real men do bake and eat quiche.  A quiche is egg custard with savory additions, baked in an open pastry shell; usually served at room temperature or chilled.   It is quite simple to make with a variety of tongue teasing ingredients: cheese (Swiss, Gruyere, Cheddar, goat), meat (bacon, ham, sausage) and vegetables (raw or cooked).  

Asparagus and Cheddar Quich

Basic Quiche


1 ½ cups half n’ half
4 eggs, beaten
1/8 tsp. salt (can be adjusted up or down dependent on ingredients added in)
1/8 tsp. ground black pepper
1 – 9” unbaked deep dish pastry shell


Preheat oven to 350F.  Combine half n’ half, eggs, salt and pepper.  Pour into pastry shell; bake for 45-50 minutes, or until egg mixture is golden brown and set.

Once baked, let the quiche cool for at least two hours before serving; it may look done, but the center is still loose; cutting it would be a complete mess.  Refrigerating the quiche would help; it can then be served cold, or slightly warm it for 10 minutes in a 300F oven.  Eaten cold or warm, quiche is a complete meal in a slice of egg custard goodness.

Mushroom, Bacon and Swiss Cheese Quiche


The above is the simple egg custard; the adventure is what is added.  Add 2 cups shredded cheese (your choice) to the bottom of the pastry shell, before pouring in the egg mixture, for a simple cheese quiche.  Reduce the cheese to 1 cup if adding meat and/or vegetables to not overwhelm the custard.

Spinach, Mushroom, Goat Cheese Quiche
For meats, distribute a ½ cup of cooked meat (crumbled bacon, diced ham, crumbled ground sausage) with the cheese.  Depending on the salt content of the cheese and meat, salt can be adjusted prior to adding to the egg mixture.  Herbs, fresh or dried, can be incorporated into the egg mixture as well. 

For vegetables, ½ cup of sautéed onion, peppers, leeks, zucchini or yellow squash distributed with cheese, or cheese and meat.  If using a root vegetable (potato, sweet potato, Jerusalem artichoke), peel, dice, boil in water till tender and drain thoroughly before adding inside the pastry shell. A raw vegetable, such as spinach (wash leaves and dry thoroughly), should be chopped before adding.

To avoid spillage, a jelly roll pan placed into the oven while it is heating up helps temper it; it should not warp and tilt the quiche(s) during the baking process.  I have found that that doesn't always work out the way I planned it.  Instead take a sheet of heavy duty aluminum foil, make edges all around and place on the center rack of the oven.  Then carefully place the filled pie crusts inside, close up the oven and bake as usual.  The foil won't warp from the heat, but still grab any spillage.

Now you go ahead and give mom that huge bouquet of flowers and box of her favorite chocolates, but giving her a big quiche will truly make her smile.

Mary Cokenour

Thursday, May 4, 2017

Old Spanish Trail through San Juan County.

While the Hole in the Rock Pioneer Trail is seen as the most famous in Southeastern Utah, another trail paved the way, so to speak, through San Juan County.  The Old Spanish Trail began (1826) as a trading route between Santa Fe, New Mexico to California. In 1829, a second route developed to avoid the Mojave Desert, and travel through Death Valley instead. Either route, travelers had a miserable time of it; bandits loved it though, since California was getting rich. 1931 saw the development of a route through SE Utah to trade with the Ute tribes, and eventually end up in Salt Lake City before continuing to California.  This trail system was recognized as historical by Congress in November 2002 (Bill S. 1946); President George W. Bush signed the bill in December 2002. 

Map from Moab Happenings Article:

There is a lot of attention focused upon the more central to southern ends of San Juan County, mainly Blanding to Monument Valley.  What happened to the northern sections?  Oh yes, there is Canyonlands National Park, but as editor Bill Boyle, of the San Juan Record, pointed out recently, Moab gets most of that attention.  Whether the Bears Ears National Monument continues as is, sized down, or totally rescinded, the world now knows about San Juan County, Utah.  Travelers will be wanting to see what all the hoopla is about; human curiosity will win out and they will come.  So, what does Bears Ears have to do with the Old Spanish Trail?  People are reading up on the area, whether via travel guides, or online, and they are asking about both.  Being in the tourism industry, I talk with people, so can verify this statement from personal experience.  For those who have no idea where the Old Spanish Trail can still be followed in San Juan County, let me give you a few hints.

Peters Wash Road (County Road 108) parallels the Old Spanish Trail; the trail eventually continues across Lisbon Valley Road.  CR 108 is also the route to find beautiful Macomb Arch which was not named after a local rancher.  This arch of Entrada sandstone was named after Captain John N. Macomb of the Corps of Topographical Engineers; sent to Utah in 1859 to create maps of San Juan County, determine the potential for mineral mining and survey the course of the San Juan River.  The area around Macomb Arch offers plentiful hiking, ATV-ing and 4 wheel driving; staying on CR 108 will eventually bring one to White Rock and Lisbon Valley Road.  Lisbon Valley Road has a formation called Big Indian Rock which looks like a brave with his squaw and child; Lisbon Valley is also an anticline similar to San Rafael Swell.

 My dog Jenna and I sitting below Macomb Arch.
White Rock
Big Indian Rock on Lisbon Valley Road

However, following the Old Spanish Trail will keep travelers going north on Highway 191 until they reach Kane Springs Rest Stop, just around the corner from Hole N’ the Rock tourist attraction; and yes, we’re still in San Juan County.  Kane Springs was a major water stop on the Old Spanish Trail; pioneers would fill up on water, while cowboys moving cattle could provide water to the animals and themselves.  While hiking around the area, I found a set of brackets set into the sandstone; could this have been part of a water system from long ago?

Time to be aware of the entire County of San Juan, not just 1.35 million acres; the world knows and it will come.

Since Cinco de Mayo is just around the corner, and this article is of the Old Spanish Trail beginning in Mexico; how about a simple recipe.  Why is May 5th a huge celebration in Mexico?  It is actually not Independence Day for Mexico; that occurred on September 15, 1810 when Mexico told Spain to go "stick it"; just like the United States told England back in 1776.  France decided it wanted to invade Mexico and were told, "I don't think so!” and that is what Cinco de Mayo is truly about.

Tamale Stuffed Peppers


4 bell peppers (red, yellow, orange or green) – tall and wide
1 ½ lbs. lean ground beef
1 (8 oz.) package cornbread mix
½ cup whole kernel corn
½ cup canned black beans, rinsed and drained
2 Tbsp. chili powder
1 Tbsp. cumin
1 cup salsa
½ cup milk
1 Tbsp. salt
1 cup water


Preheat oven to 400F. Cut tops off of peppers; remove stems; remove pith and seeds from inside peppers. Either keep tops to place on top of stuffed peppers, or dice up and add to filling.

In a large mixing bowl; combine ground beef, cornbread mix, corn, beans, chili powder, cumin, salsa and milk. Stuff each pepper, leaving ¼” space from top.

Place the stuffed peppers inside a round baking dish; they should be able to stand, and hold each other, upright. Combine salt with water and pour into bottom of dish, but not over the tops of the peppers; cover with aluminum foil. Bake for 40 minutes; uncover and bake additional 10 minutes. Remove from oven and let rest for 5 minutes before serving.

 Makes 4 servings.

Mary Cokenour