Friday, June 30, 2017

Not too Early to Dry Out.

Dry out herbs and vegetables that is.  Fresh herbs, from the garden or produce section of your local market, adds a huge burst of flavor to cooking whether in the kitchen or outdoors.  However, what happens to all those fresh herbs if they’re not used immediately?  Left in the refrigerator, they lose scent, flavor, shrivel and rot; there goes good money into the compost heap, or the trash bin.  There is an alternative that will save money, and provide you with herbs in months to come; dry them!  You've seen them in every supermarket or health food store grocery section; whether in bottles or bags there is a big advantage to using dried herbs.  First off, when stored in an air tight container, they can last up to six months; so check the expiration date when buying.  Secondly, when used in cooking, the aroma and flavor is much stronger than fresh; especially helpful when using a slow cooker for a recipe.

When it comes to vegetables, have you seen the prices for dried mushrooms, peppers and tomatoes (bagged or packed in oil)!?!  Why buy expensive brands of "sun-dried" tomatoes or peppers when you can make your own, and always have them at the ready in your own pantry?  A Food Dehydrator is one method of drying herbs by using a system of heat (average temperatures of 130F to 160F) and vented air to draw moisture out of thinly sliced foods, or herbs.  I bet you only thought they were good for making jerky.  For example, take a carton of baby portabella mushrooms, slice them 1/8 inch thin, the dehydrator will extract all the moisture; just put them into a zippered food bag to be used at your leisure.  The mushroom slices can be easily reconstituted by soaking them in plain water before usage.  Red bell peppers and Roma tomatoes; just slice, dehydrate and store them in an air tight jar with olive oil, or simply in an air tight bag.  Want to make your own potato or veggie chips?  Lightly season the slices (flavor gets stronger during drying) before you place them in the dehydrator; no frying, no oils; just the tastes you want.

You don't have to go to the expense of a dehydrator to dry herbs.  Herbs that are on long stems can be tied together with string (butcher’s twine is best), making sure to leave a loop at the top.  A simple "s" ring, or even a paperclip opened up to give it two "hooked" ends will work well as hanging tools.  Remember to label your tied bunches of herbs for many will look extremely different dried than they did as fresh; smell might help tell them apart, but why take the chance?  Hang the herbal bunches in an area of the home that doesn't have a lot of foot traffic; don't know how many times I've had someone knock them down with a swinging coat sleeve.

Don't want them hanging around the home; another method is to remove the leaves as much from the stem as possible.  Lay paper towels on a tray (aluminum or plastic); place the leaves on the paper towels and leave a little room between the leaves.  Cover the leaves with another set of paper towels to keep dust and dirt from landing upon them; store the trays in a dry area and the herbs should be dried out within two to three days, depending on their sizes.  This also works for celery leaves; you buy that large bunch of celery full of leaves, pull them off, dry the leaves and you'll have them available to be added to stuffing, rice or pasta recipes.

 Herbs with small and abundant leaves, such as Rosemary, can be left to dry on their stems. When completely dried out, you can either shake the leaves off which can be rather messy; or grab the cut end of the stem, hold it firmly with one hand while using fingers from the other hand to gently slide the dried leaves off right into an open baggie.  Whatever method you use for drying your herbs, remember to label and date your air tight containers or bags, so you'll know which is which, and when your six month expiration is up.

Italian Herb Mix - Fresh Leaves

Italian Herb Mix - Dried Leaves

One more method for storing herbs, but this concerns a non-drying method; freezing.  You can take a single herb, or a grouping for a particular need, chop them up fresh and place a good pinch in the bottom of each section of an ice cube tray.  Cover the herbs with 1 and 1/2 teaspoons of water and place the trays in the freezer.  Once frozen, pop the ice cubes into a freezer safe bag; don't forget to label them; when you need those herbs for a recipe, they're ready and waiting.  Remember to take into account the measurement of water that will be added when you pop those ice cubes in with your other ingredients.

Whichever method you use, or perhaps make use of all of them, you'll be in control of your dried herbal or vegetable stockpile; you'll know where they came from, and what has, or has not, been added.

Mary Cokenour

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Jackalope Trading Company Portrays the Southwest.

Jackalope Trading Company  

188 South Main Street
Monticello, Utah, 84535

Phone: (435) 459-1107

Hours and days of operation are Tues-Thurs (9am-6pm), Fri-Sat (10am-8pm), Closed Sun-Mon.

The Jackalope, aka The Warrior Rabbit, was first encountered by John Coulter, the first white man to set foot inside, what is now known as, the State of Wyoming.  By the 1940s, Douglas, Wyoming was known as the “Jackalope Capital of the World” being overrun by the pesky critters.  The legislators knew a good legend, and tourist draw, when they saw it, so in 2005, the Jackalope became Wyoming’s “Official Mythical Creature”.  These creatures are most definitely not on the endangered species roll, so the Douglas Chamber of Commerce issues thousands of Jackalope hunting licenses; despite rules specifying that the hunter cannot have an IQ higher than 72 and can hunt only between midnight and 2 a.m. each June 31st.

Now for those of you (yes, the two of you) who have no clue as to what a Jackalope is, it is a species of antlered rabbit, mostly brown in color (genetics does produce other colors occasionally), between 3 to 5 pounds in weight, and can travel up to a speed of 90…yes, 90, miles per hour.  They’re said to be a cross between a pygmy deer and a vorpal bunny (ala Monty Python and the Holy Grail), therefore, extremely aggressive and vicious.  This species is not North American specific, but has cousins in Germany (wolperdinger) and Sweden (skvader) with illustrations depicted in 16th century scholarly works!  Then, of course, there are those who have to take the fun out of the legend by stating a virus called papillomatosis, or Jackalopism, creates certain growths, caused by a parasite, to harden on the top of a rabbit’s head, resembling horns.

Local artisan, Melinda Redd (formerly of Michigan) and husband, Adam Redd (born and raised in Monticello, Utah) have taken the Jackalope, the historical concept of the trading post, and the aura of the Southwest to create a unique shop.  Jackalope Trading Company opened in June 2017 after many months of renovation, persistence and hard work.  Entering inside, you are greeted with warm, welcoming smiles; southwestern/blue grassy music plays in the background.  The wood plank flooring and log beams; antique furniture and goods for sale throw you back to the 1800s when the West was being won. 

Melinda Redd is a renowned photographer, artist and jeweler; her crafts are displayed around the shop and upon the walls.  This was her inspiration, to show and share her craftsmanship with locals and visitors alike.  However, Jackalope is not just all about Melinda; local artisans of San Juan County, or Utah, are seen, “Buy Utah” is the main theme in goods for sale.  Native American jewelry, with certificates of authenticity, are carefully watched over by one of the Warrior Rabbits.  The Free Trade program is exhibited in the beautifully crafted baskets from Africa and Vietnam; a good cause to help these countries develop business and employment.  There are food items also, such as dried sausage and sweetly delicious licorice (my favorite!).

Visiting Monticello and can’t carry all your purchases with you?  Melinda and Adam will gladly ship it to your home, or other location, even if they’re a gift.  Special orders are a pleasure to create!    A small town shop that will certainly succeed with the support of Monticello’s small town community, and visitors, like you!

Mary Cokenour

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Treat Dad Like a King on Father's Day.

Father’s Day, the celebration of a supreme male influence whether by birthright, adoption, remarriage, mentoring; or some other loving relationship in which a male figure is looked upon as a father.  It does NOT have to be by blood alone; sometimes the bond of, what some call “water” can be stronger than blood.  Nowadays the term “baby daddy” has various connotations; a man who proudly helps create a child he cherishes and cares for; or a man who is simply a sperm donor having no concern over the child or even the woman who carried  the baby.  I, however, still say that “anyone can be a father, it takes a special man to step up and be a daddy”.  Personally, I never knew my father; he went off to marry another woman, create three children with her, and never have any interaction with me.  Father’s Day, father/daughter dances, a powerful male influence and protector were for other little girls.  I don’t feel sorry for myself, I feel sorry for him; the loss of me and the wonderful woman I have become. 
A little history on Father’s Day; it was not an official holiday in the United States until 1972 when President Richard Nixon proclaimed it a holiday by law.  From 1908 until 1972, many attempts were made, but “Tricky Dicky” is the one who made it stick.  However, in Middle Ages, primarily Catholic, Europe, it was celebrated each year on March 19th (St. Joseph’s Day).  St. Joseph was viewed as the fatherly Nutritor Domini ("Nourisher of the Lord") or "the putative father of Jesus".  Nowadays, over 40 countries worldwide celebrate a Father’s Day, but its date could well be anytime from January through December.

Luckily, to justify the recipes I’ll be giving you; Greece just happens to celebrate on the same day as the United States does.  So, in honor of Zeus, and all the dads out there; let’s get them to the Greek!

Greek Inspired London Broil


1 tsp crushed dried basil, divided in half
1 tsp crushed dried oregano, divided in half
1 Tbsp. minced garlic
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
3 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice
2 lb. London broil, trimmed of fat
1 cup diced Roma tomatoes
1 large shallot, diced
1/2 cup sliced Kalamata olives
1/4 cup crumbled feta cheese


In a small bowl, whisk together half each of basil and oregano; the garlic, olive oil, vinegar and lemon juice.  Before placing the meat inside a resealable plastic bag, lightly score both sides with a sharp knife diagonally against the grain.  This will allow the marinade to seep more easily into the meat, and can be used as a guide for slicing later on.  Pour the marinade over the meat, massage it onto the meat, seal the bag and refrigerate for two hours; after one hour, turn bag over.

Also after one hour, prepare the "salsa" by lightly combining the tomatoes, shallot, olives and remaining half teaspoon of the basil and oregano; cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate.   Add the feta cheese to the mixture just before serving with the meat and potatoes.

The London Broil can be made three ways: under the broiler, in a roasting pan, or on the grill; the temperature should be 350F to 400F for the pan or grill methods; the broiler should be on high.  While the broiler and grill will take 7 to 10 minutes on each side; the roasting pan will require 15 to 20 minutes per side.  I chose the roasting pan method, and set my oven temperature at 375F, since the potatoes would be roasting along with the meat.

Line a roasting pan with aluminum foil, spray the rack with nonstick spray and insert into the pan.  Take the meat out of the bag (discard the bag and excess marinade), place on the rack and place the pan on the center rack inside the oven.  After 20 minutes, turn the roast over; after 15 minutes the meat will be rare, 20 minutes for medium-rare.  Remove to a cutting board and let it rest for 5-7 minutes to allow its juices to settle within itself before slicing; slice against the grain and thinly.  Serve with the Greek "salsa".

Makes 8 servings; or 6 generous servings.

Lemon-Parsley Potatoes with Parmesan Crust


 3 lbs. russet potatoes
 1/4 cup plus 1 Tbsp. melted butter
 1/4 cup olive oil
 1/3 cup fresh lemon juice
 1 Tbsp. minced garlic
 4 Tbsp. fresh chopped parsley
 1/4 tsp salt
 1/2 tsp ground black pepper
 1 cup vegetable broth
 3/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese


Peel the potatoes, cut into 2 inch chunks and soak in cold water for 15 minutes; this will help remove excess starch and allow the potatoes to better absorb the cooking liquid.

Preheat oven to 375F; brush the inside of a 2 quart baking dish with one tablespoon of melted butter.  Drain the potatoes and place inside the baking dish.  In a small bowl, combine all the remaining ingredients except the Parmesan cheese.  Pour over the potatoes, making sure to work the liquid between all the chunks.   Cover the dish with aluminum foil and bake for 40 minutes.

Remove the foil; mix the potatoes around and spread the Parmesan cheese evenly over them.  Return the dish to the oven and bake for 20-30 minutes; until the potatoes are fork tender.  Allow the potatoes to rest inside the baking dish for 10 minutes to let them absorb any remaining liquid.

Makes 6 servings.

There you have it, my Greek Inspired London Broil and Lemon-Parsley Potatoes with a Parmesan Cheese Crust.  Believe me, leftovers will be slim to none.  Enjoy, Happy Father’s Day to you and yours, and Happy Father’s Day to Bishop Richard Watkins of Blanding who adopted my husband, Roy, and me as his own children.  Love you dad! 

Mary Cokenour

Saturday, June 10, 2017

Essentially Ivy is Essentially Lovely.

Essentially Ivy




Winter Moon, Christmas Orange, Chocolate Mint

The Essentially Ivy brand of handmade, homemade, artisanal soap is the brain child of Green River, Wyoming wife, mother and spectacular woman, Ivy Kropf.  The best way for me to introduce my readers to Ivy is via an interview we did through Facebook messaging; in other words, by her own words.

Who is Ivy Kropf and Why begin her business?

Ivy: "About me. Well, I've been married for almost 20 years to my best friend! We have 5 kids; 4 girls and the lone boy. I could talk about my kids for days, but I won't.  My son has Aspergers and this led me to search out more natural, less chemical ways of life in hopes that it would help.  I started with essential oils, which led me to make my own lip balm and body butter.  I dabbled in homemade shampoo, toothpaste, house cleaners, etc. so it was a fairly easy jump to soap.  I've actually always wanted to make soap, just so when the world comes to an end, I'd at least be clean!  I researched soap making for about a year before I actually made my first batch.  It was as thrilling as the first time my homemade yogurt set up!  It kind of felt like a miracle.  I also like to make desserts involving chocolate, bake bread, and eat good pizza!  In my "spare" time, I teach at a private Christian academy, teach voice lessons, scrapbook, and do custom sewing.  I also belong to the largest charitable women's organization in the world, called the Relief Society.  I'm a councilor in the presidency of our local chapter, which means I help plan and organize a monthly meeting aimed at helping women strengthen their homes, families, and personal lives through provident living and following the Lord Jesus Christ."

Note:  As a pizza lover myself, I appreciate that Ivy likes to eat good pizza!

How and Where does Ivy get her inspiration for soap combinations?

Ivy: "Food, mostly.  I once gave my son a bar of soap for his face, and he took a bite out of it before he realized it wasn't fudge!  I make soap that I like, and hope that other people like it too. Sometimes I'll get a request; sometimes I'll borrow an idea from another soaper and put my spin on it.  I'm always trying new techniques, always pushing myself to learn and improve. Even if a batch of soap doesn't turn out how I imagined, I don't count it as a fail, because I learn from that too. I love soap making because it's part science experiment, part craft. '

A perfect example of of "fail but learn" is the Winter Moon soap Ivy made for me.  

Ivy: "Winter Moon was supposed to be purple mint, but the purple turned grey!  It was so successful that I made a second batch like it on purpose!  Like I said, no real failure; just an education in marketing skills."

I like the color of the greenish-grey personally as it reminds me of the wonderful sage we have growing in the desert areas of Utah.

What makes your soap better than average store bought products?

Ivy: " Most grocery store soaps have the moisturizing agents stripped out to be sold separately; they also use detergents for sudsing.  As a result, they're a lot harsher on your skin.  Homemade soaps are customizable.  I've made soap formulated to help with eczema, acne, dry skin, etc.; adding herbs and essential oils can add many health benefits.  I've never found a lemon yarrow soap in the grocery store! Homemade soaps can have whatever fun colors, scents, swirls, embeds, herbs, you want!

Down to basics, What ingredients do you find work best?

Ivy: "Soapers are a pretty friendly group, and with few exceptions, are eager and willing to share recipes with each other, much like home cooks and bakers.  Basically you need two things to make soap: Fat and Lye.  Types of fats have different saponification values, and provide different benefits; the holy trifecta of oils are: Coconut - bar hardness, Olive - lather and Palm - moisturizing.

However, I avoid palm as it's not super environmentally sustainable, but if I have a vegan customer, I'll use it.  I usually substitute with lard or shortening.  Depending on what I want my soap to do; I'll add oils like jojoba, hemp, grape seed, castor, sweet almond, safflower.  Basically just about any fat or oil you can think of can be turned into soap!  I've also dabbled a bit making my own herbal infused oils. Which makes me feel part hipster part pioneer!"

I tried a homemade soap that used soy in it; it didn't lather up as fast as yours did, and it left a brown stain on my skin.  So, I had to use my regular soap, Dove, to wash it off.  Have you used soy in your soap making, and if yes, what results did you get?

Ivy: "It was probably soy milk. Milk is tricky, because when you mix it with lye, the temperatures get up to 180F, which burns your milk if you don't do it right. You probably had scorched milk in your soap."


Homemade soaps aren't just pretty and pleasantly scented; they're not just for putting inside a dish for decor.  Homemade soaps can be better for your skin; and soothing to your state of mind, well while you're in the shower or bath at least.

For more photos and details of Essentially Ivy soaps, go to her blog (, message at Facebook (, or email Ivy with questions, or to order.

By the way Ivy, consider beginning a homemade chocolate making business, including fudge; I'll expect a gift box for my birthday!

Mary Cokenour