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

Monday, November 6, 2017

A Bite of Winter, Squash That Is.

Even though Monticello technically has four distinct seasons, sometimes Mother Nature plays tricks on the environment.  2017 saw a very short spring, weather wise, and the summer monsoon season continued further along than usual.  Fall had only just begun when on October 9th, the townsfolk awoke to the first snowfall; furnaces pulsed to life while the air filled with the scent from wood burning stoves.  As suddenly as winter touched the town, fall was back with mildly cool temperatures and the turning of leaves to warm, golden colors. 

In the kitchen, recipe pages turned to comforting soups and casseroles; holidays just around the calendar corner tickled the sweet tooth for cookies, pies and cakes.  Fall and winter is also when we tend to hibernate; cocooning ourselves inside with mugs of spiced apple cider or hot chocolate.  We become more sedentary, so shouldn’t be surprised when the pounds begin moving the needle on scales upward.  Pasta is the winter downfall of the Cokenour household; thick lasagna layered with meat sauce and cheeses; puffy ravioli loaded with creamy cheese, and maybe I’ll sneak in some chopped spinach into the cheese mixture.  Therein lies the key, getting vegetables into the meals to offset some of those pounds trying to sneak onto the hips.

Spaghetti squash is an oblong shaped (normally yellow in color, sometimes with an orange tint) winter squash which can be easily prepared.  After cutting the squash lengthwise, use a simple spoon to scoop out the seeds; the raw flesh is firm and the surprise comes after cooking.  This type of squash can be baked, boiled, microwaved or steamed; my personal favorite way is baking it in an oven.  I have tried the microwave way, but I believe the baking method gives the squash more flavor, especially if you allow the ends to brown slightly.  A medium sized squash is about seven inches long and gives up about four cups of cooked flesh.  Oh, when buying a spaghetti squash, be warned that it looks slightly like a honeydew melon, but the melon typically has a greenish tint to it, while the squash won't.

After cleaning the squash, preheat the oven to 375F; line a baking sheet with aluminum foil and place the squash cut side down.  Some folks say to rub oil on the rind, but it really doesn't do a thing for the flesh inside and the rind will soften with or without the oil.  Bake the squash for 40 - 50 minutes; the edges will begin to brown and the flesh can easily be removed with a fork.  Clean the squash while it is still hot; hold the rind side with a folded towel and lean the bottom against the edge of your bowl; with a downward scraping motion pull the strands of the flesh into the bowl.  See how it looks like spaghetti, and the texture is almost the same also; the taste however is different, it does taste like a vegetable.  You can easily use the strands in any dish you would use the pasta in; top with your favorite pasta sauce, make a frittata, or go completely vegetarian with your recipe.  Could you add a protein?  Why not!?!  Small meatballs, grilled and sliced sausages, crispy bacon; treat it like a pasta that just happens to have more vitamins and minerals than whole grains.

 Mediterranean Spaghetti Squash


4 Tbsp. olive oil
1 and 1/2 cups sliced mushrooms
1 and 1/2 cups cup sliced zucchini
1 Tbsp. minced garlic
1 and 1/2 cups diced tomatoes
3/4 chopped fresh parsley
4 cups cooked spaghetti squash
Salt and ground black pepper to taste
Option: grated Parmesan cheese on top


Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat; sauté' the mushrooms, zucchini and garlic together until the mushrooms soften and begin to brown.  Keep stirring to keep the garlic from burning.

Add the tomatoes, mix and let them cook down for about five minutes, so the excess liquid can evaporate.

Add the parsley, but only cook for one minute to allow it to wilt a little.  If you want it to look more dramatic though, instead of chopping the parsley leaves; leave them whole.  Add the spaghetti squash and toss well to make sure it gets a good coating of the vegetables and parsley.  Add salt and pepper to taste; depending on how vegetarian you want this dish, you might want to sprinkle a little grated Parmesan cheese over the top of each serving.

Makes 4 servings.

I served this to both my husband and his mother; neither had ever had spaghetti squash before, nor knew what it was.  They ended up splitting the four servings up between them.  Good thing I keep a jar of peanut butter in the house; made myself a sandwich for lunch while they chowed down on the squash.  Oh well, at least I know they enjoyed it...a lot!

Mary Cokenour