Thursday, August 31, 2017

Beautiful Evening for a Farmers Market.

After a three year hiatus, the Monticello Farmers Market has come back to this small town.  Bayley Hedglin, Executive Director of the San Juan Chamber of Commerce, organized the event which took place in the rear parking area of the Monticello Welcome Center.   Featured vendors did not consist of only farmers, but craftspeople and food trucks; fruits, vegetables, canned goods, handmade jewelry, crafts and Green River melons.  From the hours of 5pm to 8pm, locals and curious visitors were able to stock up on “Buy Fresh, Buy Local”; and get a free cookbook from San Juan Health.

Los Tacho’s authentic Mexican held center stage, patrons waiting patiently in line for enchiladas, chile rellano, tacos, burritos and more.  Instead I hula’d down to Benyaki’s to take my taste buds on a Hawaiian vacation; Kalua pork (shredded, moist pork with a sweet, savory taste), fried noodles, white rice and a thick, rich teriyaki sauce.   So I went home with a passenger seat full of veggies for slicing and dicing; refreshing melon for dessert, after a delicious Hawaiian inspired dinner.  …and to boot, I was able to order a 25 pound box of tomatoes from one of the farmers (name of Morgan); it’s homemade sauce making time!

The Farmers Market will occur twice more before the end of the fall season.  Go to the Facebook page (, Like and make sure to Follow to get notices on your Newsfeed.  Looking to become a vendor?  Contact Bayley at (435) 459-9700 for more information.   “Buy Fresh, Buy Local” is showing support for our local farmers, it just makes perfect sense! 

Mary Cokenour

Sunday, August 27, 2017

Difference a Change Can Create.

Change, change can be quite annoying at times.  Rattling around in a purse or pocket, those elusive pennies never there when needed; or too many taking up precious space.  For many years there has been consideration of doing away with the penny.  Has not happened yet as that would lead into another type of change altogether.

Change, “the act or instance to make or become different”, “to alter, vary or modify to make or become different”.  Change is evolution, growth, development which goes hand in hand with making or creating something different.  This is often sort by some, but feared by the majority; it is comforting to be one of many, then alone on an unsure roadway.  I believe there lies the rub; to be different, unique, in a smaller grouping where one can stand out.  Why be different when the “same old, same old” has always been good enough?  Why, why be good when there can be better!?!

When it comes to recipes, a first attempt will be following word for word, measure by measure, ingredient by ingredient; no changes or differences.  The resulting culinary creation might be liked, even enjoyed so much to spark the word love; pretty close to perfection.  However, I am an adventurer in, as well as out of, the kitchen; my pantry is a wonderland of spices, herbs, seasonings and sauces from around the world.  The second, third, even more attempts are play time; changing original designs to make/create different tastes, textures.  The ultimate goal is to be better, not just good!

As an example, let’s use Campbell Soups’ recipe for One-Dish Chicken & Stuffing Bake, a simple dish to make and very tasty too.  (Recipe from:


4 cups Pepperidge Farm® Herb Seasoned Stuffing
1 3/4 pounds skinless, boneless chicken breast halves
1/4 teaspoon paprika
1 can Campbell's® Condensed Cream of Mushroom Soup or Campbell's Condensed 98% Fat Free Cream of Mushroom Soup
1/3 cup milk
1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley or 1 teaspoon dried parsley flakes

How to Make It

Step 1

Heat the oven to 400°F.  While the oven is heating, prepare the stuffing according to the package directions.

Step 2

Spoon the stuffing across the center of a 3-quart shallow baking dish. Place the chicken on either side of the stuffing. Sprinkle the chicken with the paprika.

Step 3

Stir the soup, milk and parsley in a small bowl. Pour the soup mixture over the chicken.  Cover the baking dish.

Step 4

Bake for 30 minutes or until the chicken is cooked through.

Made it once or twice as is, very good and no leftovers, but not good enough, so I made it again and again; changing ingredients like cream of celery, instead of cream of mushroom; using cut up, precooked chicken instead of raw chicken breasts; adding frozen or canned vegetables to see which tasted better.  Each time it went from good to better, better to betterer to betterest; yes, yes, I know I am not using proper English and I can hear the groans of teachers everywhere.  Each time though, it was a delicious concoction devoured by all who tasted it; success in making different!

So now I will share with you my latest changes to Campbell’s most basic recipe.  Do not fear change my friends; accept, embrace and remember most of all; Fear is the Mind Killer.

Chicken Corn Stuffing Bake


1 box (10 oz.) Mrs. Cubbison’s Herb Seasoned Cube Stuffing (personally like this brand)
2 cups homemade chicken broth (or used canned)
2 cups precooked chicken, cut into small pieces
1 can (15 oz.) whole kernel sweet corn (do not drain liquid)
1 tsp. each ground black pepper, garlic powder, onion powder
1 can (15 oz.) sweet cream styled corn
1 bag (8 oz.) shredded, medium Cheddar cheese


 Preheat oven to 350F; spray a 9” x 13” baking dish with nonstick spray.

In a large bowl, mix together cube stuffing, broth, precooked chicken, whole kernel corn and seasonings.  Spread out evenly in baking dish; spread creamed corn evenly over all; spread Cheddar cheese evenly over creamed corn. 

Cover with aluminum foil and bake for 30 minutes; remove foil, bake another 20 minutes; cheese will be completely melted and browning at dish edges.  Remove from oven, let rest 10 minutes before serving.

Makes 8 servings.

Mary Cokenour

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

So, What's with the Potatoes?

Thank Your Farmers!

On Saturday, August 5, 2017, I attended another lecture at Edge of the Cedars Museum; topic being, "The Four Corners Potato".  This interesting and informative lecture was delivered by Dr. Lisbeth Louderback, Curator of Archaeology and Dr. Bruce Pavlik, Director of Conservation; both of University of Utah in Salt Lake City.

Drs. Bruce Pavlik and Lisbeth Louderback

During an excavation of ruins in the Escalante Valley (aka Potato Valley and now you'll find out why the nickname), residue was found on manos and metates (used for grinding grains).  After carefully wrapping the artifacts, individually in plastic, to avoid contamination, the residue was genetically tested.  Imagine the surprise of finding starch granules, not of wheat or corn, but from a species of potato!  Sorry Idaho, but looks like the ancestral Puebloans of Utah were one up on the potato industry approximately 11, 000 years ago. 

Question though, were the potatoes always here or brought up through Mexico and traded for?  Exploring the landscape surrounding the ruin site, plants of Solanum jamesii were found growing and thriving.  To answer the question just asked, studies were done extensively throughout the 4 states of Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico and Utah; this species seemed to be only growing in the 4 Corners region.  San Juan County, Utah?  Correct!  Thriving plants can be still found in the Newspaper Rock area, so stay on the path when hiking around and don’t trample the plant life.

Newspaper Rock

Macaw Shawl found by Kent Frost, housed at Edge of the Cedars Museum

Let me get back to the question of, "So, What's with the Potatoes?"  This was asked of me by another attendee of the lecture who didn't understand why I was there.  First off, it concerns a food item, not just of this region, but potatoes, and who doesn't enjoy those?  Secondly, being able to input historical information into food articles gives the reader more "brain food".  These tubers may be tiny (average size equal to adult thumbnail), but they are powerful in growth and nutrition; think of them as little superheroes.  Drought and disease resistant; the plants are intelligent as they wait for monsoon season to provide needed moisture.  In one experiment, a plant placed in a ten gallon container produced over 100 delicious spuds.  S. jamesii has twice the amount of protein, zinc and manganese; and 3 times calcium and iron of the common potato (S. tuberosum) sold in markets all over the USA.  Slight evidence has been found of a compound within the potato that may effectively be used as a preventative and/or curative for cancer.

How did the ancestral Puebloans process, store and eat S. jamesii?  Roasted (residue found in cooking pots), boiled unpeeled and eaten as is, sometimes raw, or placed into niches of the pueblo walls, dried, then ground into flour.  Need more modern day techniques and recipes?  San Juan Record carries a book to help you out, The Forgotten Skills of Self-Sufficiency used by the Mormon Pioneers by Caleb Warnock.  Interacting with the local Natives, the pioneers needed to learn from them; what was safe to eat, how to grow and harvest; definitely how to cook and store for the harsh winter ahead.  At Edge of the Cedars Museum, Wild Plants and Native Peoples of the Four Corners by William Dunmire and Gail Tierney is a wonderful guide of the knowledge the ancestral Puebloans passed down to their modern descendants.

Which brings me to the 4 Corners Potato Stewardship Program (yes, the Cokenour family did sign up) to help propagate and grow these wild potatoes.  While Solanum jamesii thrives in the other three states, often on Navajo, Hopi and Zuni reservation land, it is at a critical point of extinction within Utah.  Whether a small space gardener, like our family; major landowners; even farmers with ample fields, stewards are needed to keep this food source viable.  Here is another way for the stewards of San Juan County to show how residents protect our land!

To read a full report of the founding of the 11,000 year old potato, or sign up to become a steward, go to:

Mary Cokenour

Thursday, August 3, 2017

168 Ramen Serves Up Authentic Noodles and Dim Sum.

168 Ramen

2740 US-191
Moab, Utah, 84532

Phone: (435) 355-0899

Facebook Page:

168 Ramen is at the former location of Bangkok House, the first Thai restaurant opened by entrepreneur Venus Varunun; her second is Bangkok House Too located in central Moab. Venus wanted to bring something new to the area, something that locals and tourists alike could experience without having to travel out of the country, a Ramen Noodle House.  News Flash, she has succeeded!

168 Ramen opened its doors in March 2017, but we always wait awhile before trying out a new establishment; allowing them to get settled.  While the exterior and interior has not changed, the two page menu has with a listing of Dim Sum and Ramen dishes to please anyone.  There are extras, rice bowls and stir fry also, but go for the dim sum and ramen which are severely excellent.  My husband and I used to go to Philadelphia's Chinatown area to a favorite dim sum restaurant; that was 9 years ago.  To once again experience the tastes, textures, pure pleasure of these culinary tidbits brought smiles to our faces of joyous remembrance.  Yes, it was that good!

To start with, the Dim Sum Sampler and Octopus Balls (we were very curious); the sampler contained delicate Shrimp Dumplings; light, yet savory Shrimp and Pork Shumai; and BBQ Pork Buns.which brought tears to my eyes.  Why the tears?  The remembrance of going to a favorite China town Bakery and buying the most delicious baked Roast Pork Buns ever!  The buns at 168 Ramen are steamed, but we still experienced the same pleasure.

The jury is still out on the Octopus Balls though; the sauce is savory and rich, the octopus just the correct chewiness, and yet we still can't decide if we liked them or not.  Truthfully, I would say take the adventure plunge and try them out yourself.

While Ramen Noodle houses are a norm in Asian countries, they are slowly becoming popular in the United States.  Now these are NOT your typical dried ramen noodles you find on every food store shelf, and probably lived on while in college.  These are freshly made and prepared, served with a variety of ingredients depending on tastes and desires; and the most delectable broths imaginable!  Believe me, if you have eaten store bought, you will taste, and enjoy, the difference of freshly made.

Chicken Katsu Curry Ramen is a mild pork broth with Japanese curry; deep fried panko breaded chicken (to die for!), soft boiled seasoned egg, Nori (seaweed) and vegetables. While it is only available in the large bowl size, you will eat every morsel and drink every drop of broth.

Shrimp Tempura Ramen is a Dashi broth (mild, slightly sweet and addicting), soft boiled seasoned egg, Naruto fish cake (so awesome), Shitake mushrooms, Nori and green onions.  It came with 3 Shrimp Tempura which I ate separately from the soup; didn't want to lose the crunch of that tempura.

With both Ramen bowls, we left nothing!

Now I have to mention our most lovely waitress, Nat, who put up with all our questions, and helped us make the best decisions for this first...yes, first, as we will be going back again and again...meal. By the way, I highly recommend the Iced Green Tea; unsweetened and you won't miss the sugar.
Also the Thai Iced Coffee; Nat makes it so well that we ended up ordering one to go and shared it all the way back home to Monticello.  We've had Thai Iced Coffee before, but Nat makes it out of this world!

168 Ramen has now been added to our favorite Asian cuisine restaurants in the Moab area; however, in the mood for Dim Sum, Ramen Noodles or both....168 Ramen is your go-to restaurant!

Mary Cokenour