Thursday, December 28, 2017

Finding Your Connection in 2018.

“Mary, you are one of the most honest people I’ve ever met, and I admire that about you; but honest to a fault.  Living in San Juan County, especially Monticello, that part of your personality will earn you hardships, many you do not deserve.  However, I don’t want you to change, you are not the one that needs to change; the others need to change, start listening and doing.” This was said to me by a man who only lived in Monticello a short time, but was happy as a pig in a mud hole to move away to a more populated area of Utah.

With that I looked back at my life, not just in 2017, but in general and realized that I have changed many times, mainly to make others happy.  From an early age, I relished the thought of visiting museums, discovering the scientific worlds of archaeology, anthropology and paleontology.  In college, I took several of these courses and was at the New York Museum of Natural History (yes, the one from the Ben Stiller movies) so much, all the guards knew me by name.  However, I ended up putting these loves on the shelf, listening to advisors that said there was no money in these careers, no real future for a woman.  I dragged myself through jobs I hated, stayed in an abusive marriage as others kept telling me, “You’ll never do better.”  I figured, if everyone I knew was telling me this, then it must be true, right?

It wasn’t until I was in my 40s that I developed friendships with people who supported me mentally and emotionally.  I divorced the s.o.b., met my current husband, Roy, and even he too kept telling me, “Be who and what you want to be; don’t do things to make me, or anyone else happy.”  With our move to Utah, our adventuring around the 4 Corners region of the four states, I was able to enjoy those lost loves from my younger years.  That crazy woman jumping up and down on slickrock, off State Highway 95, near White Canyon?  Yeah, that was me as I just found dinosaur prints, put my foot next to one and imagined what creature, from millions of years ago, I was communing with.

In essence, what I am trying to communicate to everyone is, have hopes and dreams, hold onto them tightly, and get them done!  Don’t listen to naysayers and simply do as they say, put them on the spot and ask them “Why?  Why don’t you want me to pursue what will make me happy?  Why does it have to be only your way when I know you’ve never tried to do it yourself?”

Need a little inspiration?  Watch the original Muppet Movie (1979), about a little frog that had big dreams and pursued them no matter what.  Listen to the words he sings in “Rainbow Connection” and realize,

“Why are there so many songs about rainbows and what's on the other side?
Rainbows are visions, but only illusions, and rainbows have nothing to hide.
So we've been told and some choose to believe it.
I know they're wrong wait and see.
Someday we'll find it, the rainbow connection.
The lovers, the dreamers and me.”

Oh, I know I usually have a recipe for you, but I remember when a rainbow went over a particular ridge.  I want to climb that ridge and see “what’s on the other side?”  However, if you really need a recipe, go into the San Juan Record archives and reread my article on “Frog Eye Salad”, sort of fits the theme, doesn’t it?  Otherwise, you can find the link for the recipe right here on this food blog:  In 2018, find your rainbow connection and from the Cokenour family, Happy New Year!

Mary Cokenour

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

My Birthday Lunch at Bangkok House Too.

Bangkok House Too

59 South Main Street, Suite 8 (Eddie McStiff's Plaza)
Moab, Utah, 84532

Telephone: (435) 355-0168


Hours:  Monday – Saturday 11:30 AM – 10:00 PM, Sunday 5 PM – 10 PM

December 26, 2017 was my 59th birthday, according to my birth certificate that is; but I still feel young at 21.  That is, except, for my joints which are developing osteoarthritis, but thankfully there is Advil and Aspercreme with Lidocaine to help keep the annoying pain away.  I decided I would love to have Thai for my birthday meal, but there are 3 Thai restaurants in Moab that I love and I thought it would be a difficult choice.  Not really as one was closed on Tuesday, 168 Ramen has closed permanently (also owned by Bangkok House Too and some of the recipes will appear on their menu now), so my choice was then easy...Bangkok House Too. 

I messenged the owner, Venus Varunum, to let her know we were coming down to Moab, and she assured me that one of my very favorites would be on hand for my eating pleasure...BBQ Pork Buns.  These are the steamed version of Roast Pork Buns (pastry is baked) which I used to buy, 3 dozen at a time, from Chinese bakeries in New York City and Philadelphia.  They are delectable, 3 come with each order and I begrudgingly let my hubby, Roy, have one; oh yes, I ate the other two and savored every bite.  Oh, we also ordered the Thai dumplings which are, if you've ever gone to a Chinese Dim Sum restaurant, known as Shumai; ate those before I even thought of photographing them and they were purely delish!

Next on the craving list was sushi rolls and we each picked our favorites; Porcupine Rim for me and Superbowl for hubby; we only ate a half of each and took the rest home to have as dinner.

We each ordered a lunch special too, knowing we would only eat a small portion, and take the leftovers home to enjoy as an evening meal; along with the sushi rolls of course.  I chose chicken teriyaki which has a thick and rich delectable sauce over grilled chicken.  Hubby chose Red Curry which is spicy, but you can have the spice anyway you want from mild to Thai Hot.  Lunch specials come with a crispy spring roll, white rice and choice of miso soup or side salad.

We both highly recommend the Thai Iced Coffee and Hot Jasmine Tea to enjoy along with the meals; refreshingly good.

The staff at Bangkok House Too are wonderful, from the servers to sushi master, kitchen staff to manager (Hi Sandy!!!); of course the owner, Venus, is a most lovely woman.  They all make you feel so welcomed, and you're not just a customer, you are a good friend who happened to stop by for a meal.  Thank you all for a most wonderful birthday lunch, and it ended up being one for dinner later on too!

Mary Cokenour

Friday, December 22, 2017

Foods of the December Holidays.

December is a month of many holidays, to name everyone would take about a full newspaper page, so here is a few most Americans may have heard of, or even practice.

Saint Nicholas Day (Christian)
Fiesta of Our Lady of Guadalupe (Mexican)
St. Lucia Day (Swedish)
Hanukkah (Jewish)
Christmas Day (Christian)
Three Kings Day/Epiphany (Christian)
Boxing Day (Australian, Canadian, English, Irish)
Kwanzaa (African American)
Omisoka (Japanese)
Yule (Pagan)
Saturnalia (Pagan)

By the way, the Twelve Days of Christmas are December 25th to January 5th, aka Twelvetide, a festive Christian season celebrating the Nativity of Jesus Christ; and the dates change dependent on which sect of Christianity you practice.  December 26th is known as Saint Stephens Day, or Boxing Day; all I know is that it is my birthday, and yes, I do expect presents…that’s a little hint right there.

For Hanukkah, potato latkes and doughnuts (sufganiyot) are requirements, while brisket is the traditional meat served.  Traditional Yule foods include festive meats, winter vegetables, and colorful preserved fruits.  Cookies and caraway cakes soaked in cider, fruits, nuts, pork dishes, turkey, eggnog, ginger tea, spiced cider, wassail, or lamb's wool (ale, sugar, nutmeg, roasted apples), apples, mulled wine, beans, and oranges.  Omisoka is the Japanese New Year’s Eve (celebrated December 31st); Toshikoshi soba is Japanese traditional noodle bowl dish eaten. This custom lets go of hardship of the year because soba noodles are easily cut while eating.

Depending on where you live in this massive world of ours, traditional Christmas main dishes are culturally inspired.  Roast goose or roast beef in Britain, whole roasted pig in the Philippines, Feast of the 7 Fishes in Italy, tamales in Costa Rica; and immigrants have brought these traditions to this United States as well.  Growing up, my family had roast turkey with all the trimmings, it was Thanksgiving all over again!  Later on, celebrating with other families, I experienced glazed ham with raisin sauce; Peking duck thinly sliced and layered onto Mandarin pancakes smeared with hoisin sauce; Sauerbraten (translated “sour roast meat”) and German potato salad.  Oh yes, my culinary palette has had an amazing educational experience when it comes to food.

Personally, my food philosophy, and Roy has embraced this too, is to try anything and everything once.  May not like something, might even find it to be totally disgusting, but at least can honestly say, “Yes, tried it, and no, do not like it.”  Or who knows, may simply love it to the point of craving it.  This is the point of this entire story, do not give up traditions, but do not give up on learning.  Also strive to try something new; this is, to me, the meaning of life, of existence, to learn something new each and every day.

So, from the Cokenour household, Happy Holidays to All, be it Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Joyous Yule, or whichever belief you hold dear.  Oh, and here’s my recipe for Prime Rib, in case you’ve never experienced it…enjoy!

Normally a prime rib roast comes with the bones attached.  You can do several things with the bones once removed; use them as a rack for the roast to rest on while roasting; cook them separately to eat later on; use them to make beef stock.  Or you can ask your butcher to remove them for you and not deal with them at all; to me, that's a complete waste.  Prime rib usually comes with a thick fat cap also; I removed a good portion of it so I could get the seasoning rub onto the meat itself, but left enough fat so the meat could self-baste while roasting.

Prime Rib


1 (14.5 oz.) can beef broth
1/2 can of water
4 large shallots, peeled and split into sections
2 tsp. dried rosemary
3 tsp. dried thyme
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp. onion powder
1/2 tsp. ground black pepper
1 tsp. coarse sea salt
2 Tbsp. olive oil
8 lb. prime rib; bones removed


Preheat oven to 400F.  Line a roasting pan with aluminum foil; pour the beef broth and water in.  Place the shallot sections in the pan so that the prime rib will be located over them.  Spray the rack with nonstick spray and place into the pan; be careful not to tear the foil.

Mix together the rosemary, thyme, garlic and onion powders, black pepper and salt.  Brush olive oil over top of the prime rib; spread seasoning rub onto it.

Place the roast onto the center of the rack; make sure it is over the shallots.  Roast the beef for 45 minutes at the 400F temperature; turn the temperature down to 300F and roast to desired doneness.  A meat thermometer is going to be your best friend with this process as it will tell you the internal temperature and, therefore, how you like your meat cooked.  125F is rare, 135F is medium-rare, 145F is medium and 155F is well; anything over that, in my opinion of course, is shoe leather.  In the words of Doctor Who, it's a "wibbley wobbley, timey wimey" process.

Once you have the roast at the desired doneness, pull the entire pan out of the oven, remove the roast to a platter, cover with aluminum foil, and let it all rest for 30 minutes.  This lets the juices from the roast redistribute back throughout itself; then place the roast on a cutting board and cut one inch slices.

You're probably wondering about the beef broth, water and shallots?  This is what you'll use to make either an au jus or a gravy; first remove the shallots with a slotted spoon.  Then pour all the remaining liquids and solids into a freezer safe plastic bowl; put the bowl into the freezer for 45 minutes; the fat will rise to the surface, solidify and you can just remove it easily with a spoon.  Pour the fat free liquid through a strainer to remove any bits of missed solid fat or herbs.  That will give you a lovely clear, herbal flavored au jus; or you can put the liquid into a saucepan, add a tablespoon of corn starch, bring it to a boil and make a gravy.  The shallots?  I chopped them up finely and added them to the au jus, but they could just as well be served on the side of a prime rib slice.

Now what did I do with those rib bones?  Glad you asked.  I seasoned them up a bit differently by using my all-purpose seasoning rub.  After the prime rib was done, I popped them into the 300F oven, sitting on an aluminum foil covered rack in a pan; I let them roast for 3 hours.  They made a good snack for my hubby later on.

Mary Cokenour

Monday, December 11, 2017

A Sweet Tooth's Paradise - The Italian Bakery.

Basically, I often let it be known that the most I miss about the East Coast is the food.  Roy and I have discussed the question of "would we ever go back East?"  The answer is that it would have to be for a very, very good reason; and we probably wouldn't feel very comfortable.  Comparing the wide open spaces of where we live now to the traffic and people congested areas of New York City, Philadelphia and comparison.  Comparing the clean air, the blue sky, the overall feel good feeling to pollution that is quite visible, smells that would make a skunk gag and overall feeling of comparison.  Southeastern Utah wins hands down! What did Roy say to me the other day, oh yes, "hun, you may have been a city girl because you lived there, but deep down, you ain't no city girl"  He's right, I never was very comfortable living in large city areas; hating the pollution, noise, crowds; many are surprised when I tell them this truth about myself.

We did travel up to the Salt Lake City area once, and once was enough.  I have driven many of the highways of the East: Long Island Expressway, Belt Parkway, Schuylkill River Parkway, I-95; to just name a few and they didn't bother me.  The highways in the Salt Lake City area are terrifying!!!  Yeah, if they can scare me, then they must be bad.   Seeing a tiny Prius cut off an 18 wheeler with only a foot to spare speaks to me of having a death wish and not caring who is taken with the driver.   See, that's another reason I like the area we live in now; our version of a traffic jam is three pickup trucks in front of you as you're driving down either Highway 191 or 491; and the passing lane is a mile away. 

However, we are pro-economic development, not to the point where the area explodes like Moab, Telluride, even Flagstaff has done; but to the point where residents don’t have to worry about lack of employment.  To the point where there are so many benefits for residents, they don’t have to wonder why their children are leaving the area.  Visitors will be coming and they need amenities; better their monies go into the coffers of San Juan County’s various towns, then the pockets of others, is just common sense.

One business I’d personally love to see develop is Italian based, a combination of restaurant/delicatessen/bakery which would be a wondrous place to tantalize all the senses.  From the bakery alone, the smell of baking wafts throughout the air, the sight of decorated cakes, the taste of crispy cookies, hearing the workers speak in a romantic language, the feel of a loaf of real Italian bread and the overall feeling of contentment is intoxicating.   Of course if you’ve never experienced such a place, then you don’t truly know what you’re missing out on. 

Little by little I have been learning to recreate recipes from the Italian Bakery; no folks, we don't have such a wonderland in our area.  If you do in your area, appreciate it!!!  Two previous articles I’ve written covered Tiramisu and Cheesecake, now I have decided to tackle cookies, not your typical chocolate chip or sugar cookies, but Italian cookies.  The first is a chocolate meringue cookie called "Brutti Ma Buoni" which translates to "ugly but good", containing nuts and Amaretto.  The second is a cookie made with ricotta cheese and is basically a simple cake like cookie, not overly sweet and putting a glaze or frosting on them is optional.

Brutti Ma Buoni


8 egg whites
1 tsp. white vinegar
½ tsp. cream of tartar
1 cup sugar
1 Tbsp. Amaretto
1 Tbsp. cocoa powder
1 cup each of chopped hazelnuts and almonds

Preheat oven to 350F; lightly butter and flour cookie sheets.

In a large bowl, beat egg whites, vinegar and cream of tartar until soft peaks form. Continue to beat, while adding 2 tablespoons at a time of the sugar, until stiff peaks form; beat in the Amaretto.

Gently fold in the cocoa powder and nuts, so as to not deflate the egg whites. Drop, by tablespoon, the mixture onto the cookie sheets; bake for 15-20 minutes; until cookies become firm. Remove to wire racks and let cool.

Makes 3 dozen cookies.

 Ricotta Cheese Cookies


1 cup sugar
¼ unsalted butter, softened
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 Tbsp. blackberry preserves
2 eggs
2 cups flour
½ tsp. salt
½ tsp. baking soda
1 cup whole milk ricotta cheese


Preheat oven to 350F.

In a small bowl, cream together the sugar and butter until fluffy; continue to beat in the preserves, then one egg at a time until all are incorporated fully.

In a large bowl, sift together the flour, salt and baking soda; add the mixture from the small bowl and mix together well; add the ricotta cheese and mix in fully. The dough will be thick, so can easily be measured out by rounded tablespoons onto nonstick cookie sheets.

Bake for 15-17 minutes or until tops are golden brown; move cookies onto wire racks to cool.

Makes 4 dozen cookies.

The cookies have a mild sweetness at first, but intensify as eaten. However, a glaze can be spread onto the cookies and sprinkles added immediately before it sets.

Recipe for Glaze

1 cup confectioners’ sugar
3 Tbsp. warm milk

Mix together until it becomes a spreadable consistency.

Makes enough to cover 4 dozen cookies.

Mary Cokenour