Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Kane Creek, Oh Look Over There!

This is a food/travel combination article.  Spaghetti alla Puttanesca and Lone Rock in the Kane Creek Canyon Rim.

Spaghetti alla Puttanesca

Lone Rock

Next month, Roy and I will have been living in San Juan County, Utah for nine years.  These past years have been filled with joy, adventure, hardship, heart wrenching moments of loss, sometimes regret which becomes overwhelmed by a passion for the area itself.  Many times Roy has been amazed at how acclimated I have become to living in the great Southwest.  I tell him I must have been a pioneer in a past life; learned lessons eased me into this new life here.

Beginning a food blog to express a passion for cooking was a given, but beginning a travel blog ( of the 4 Corners region was a must.  How else to share the adventures of this outdoor historical museum, and immense playground of desert, mountains, plains, forests and open ranges?  How else to share my photographs that many have called amazing; yet do not truly do justice to the landscape.  To appreciate it all, you have to get out here, experience it and remember to breathe.  What better way to introduce readers to a delicious Italian recipe, than to integrate it into the story of a San Juan County site. 

Kane Creek Canyon Rim aka Lone Rock Road, is located between La Sal and Spanish Valley; the far northern end of San Juan County; entrance across from the Black Ridge Recreation Area.  Personally, I often think this region is forgotten about, since the main population of the county is in the central to southern regions.  It is a wondrous region of trails for ATVing, 4 wheel driving, hiking, climbing, camping and exploration.  On most maps, it’s indicated with a mention of the “Behind the Rocks” trail; no mention of the road name, or what sites are available to see along the way.  It’s usually a busy playground during the ATV and Jeep Safaris though.

Lone Rock is a long, red sandstone formation which houses two arches, Balcony and Picture Frame. Now for a little history of Lone Rock to understand the relationship to the recipe I’ll be giving you next.  Originally it was called "Prostitute Butte" by the white settlers; the Anasazi used the area for religious ceremonies dedicated to the "mother deity"; it is assumed that sexual practices were part of the ceremonies which offended the white people.  A mother goddess is a term used to refer to any female deity associated with motherhood, fertility, creation or the bountiful embodiment of the Earth; the goddess was referred to as Mother Earth or the Earth Mother.  The name change to "Lone Rock" now dedicated the area to the Anasazi male fertility god, the Kokopelli; usually depicted as a humpbacked flute player (often with feathers or antenna-like protrusions on his head).  Kokopelli presides over both childbirth and agriculture; he is also a trickster god and represents the spirit of music.   In other words, if a female deity was involved...prostitute; male deity...just a lonely guy; can you feel my eyes rolling around in their sockets?

Lone Rock aka Prostitute Butte

Other Side of Lone Rock

Picture Frame Arch

Balcony Arch

The Terra Cotta Warriors
Spaghetti alla Puttanesca (pronounced [spaˈɡetti alla puttaˈneska] has been loosely translated into "spaghetti in the style of a whore"; an Italian pasta dish invented in Naples in the 20th century.  The ingredients of tomatoes, olive oil, anchovies, black olives, capers, red chile pepper and garlic give it the sensations of sweet, salty, spicy, and savory.  In other words, the perfect pasta dish to satisfy the taste buds as well as the belly.  Supposedly, this dish was prepared at brothels in the hopes of attracting men to satisfy their hunger for food, and well, do I have to really spell it out?

Spaghetti alla Puttanesca


4 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
½ cup sliced, pitted black olives
4 anchovies, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 and 1/2 Tbsp. capers
1 tsp. red chile pepper flakes
1 and ¾ cups fresh, chopped Roma tomatoes (or use equivalent of canned diced tomatoes, drained)
1 lb. spaghetti
Salt to taste
¼ cup fresh, chopped parsley


In a large skillet, medium-high heat, heat oil and add olives, anchovies, garlic, capers and chile flakes. Sauté for 2 minutes, add tomatoes and cook for 15 minutes, or until the sauce has reduced.  At the same time, cook the spaghetti al dente.

Taste sauce and add salt to desired taste; add in drained spaghetti and continue to cook for 5 minutes.  Add salt to taste if necessary, and add chopped parsley after cooking.

Plate and sprinkle fresh parsley over all.

Makes 4 servings.

There you have it, a perfect combination of adventuring and dining.  Mangia!

Mary Cokenour

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Blue Mountain Foods Enters a New Age.

Blue Mountain Foods

64 West Center Street
Monticello, Utah, 84535

Phone: (435) 587-2727 or 2451

Hours of Operation:  Monday thru Saturday  8am – 9pm, Closed Sundays

In June 2017, the owner of Blue Mountain Foods, and former mayor of Monticello, Doug Allen, heard the call of retirement.  He heeded that call by handing the reins and ownership over to his daughter, Stacy, and her husband, Jeremy Young.  The Youngs are no strangers to Monticello or Blue Mountain Foods, as they grew up in this small town, and worked at the store.  As Jeremy puts it, “food markets are in their blood”.

By the way, Jeff Allen, Stacy's brother, is the third partner in the new ownership.  He is sort of the "silent partner" and enjoys being behind the scenes.

They weren’t always in Monticello and prior to moving back, had resided in the Lone Star State of Texas for 13 years.  However, Monticello was calling and it was, and always will be, home.  This hometown couple, married 22 years, raising a family, found another need to be “food aware”, food allergies affected, not only themselves, but family and friends.  As they talked more and more with, not just locals, but tourists visiting the area, food allergies and illnesses seemed to be becoming a major issue.  Label reading and researching became a must; as Jeremy states, “Blue Mountain Foods is a fun place to be a foodie”.  So no wonder, during my interview with this friendly, lovely couple, we hit if off so well, we were foodies!

Jeremy and Stacy also believe that listening to their customers is a key factor for a successful business.  New items and brands were introduced to Blue Mountain Food’s shelves, many gluten free and vegetarian/vegan friendly.  Jeremy acknowledges that, “In this time where online food shopping is easy, less costly and more convenient; it is hurting the supermarket industry which have to now find ways to compete to stay in business.”

Another huge change is the loss of the Western Family brand that had been on the shelves for over 50 years.  This brand pulled out of Associated Foods, the main supplier to Blue Mountain Foods, prior brand was Best Way, and it would have been too costly to switch suppliers to keep Western Family.  So the Youngs stayed with Associated Foods and have switched to the Food Club brand, which has been on supermarket shelves for over 100 years!  Beginning April 4th, a two week case lot sale of Western Family brand will be the ending of an over half century relationship.  Food Club brand will then be adorning the shelves with their green labeled products.


But wait, there’s more change in store (yes, pun was intended) for Blue Mountain Food’s loyal customers.  Online meal kits (Blue Apron, Hello Fresh and others) have become a huge seller, not just for guaranteed freshness, but ease of preparation.  Blue Mountain Foods has teamed up with Home Table to offer 3-4 weekly choices for your evening meal pleasure.  These meals can be ordered in advance or simply walk-in, make your choice and buy to try.  A few examples are: Chicken Fajitas, Chicken Pot Pie, Pork Yakisoba or Salmon Quinoa.  Currently the meals offered only offer a service of two at $15/kit.  Unlike the online meal kits that lock in consumers to a mandatory weekly delivery, Home Table will be buy as you need.

This foodie will definitely be trying out a couple of kits and will be reporting about the experience at a later date.

The Youngs are very interested in the “Shop Small, Shop Local” movement, especially the introduction of “cottage businesses” to San Juan County.  At home cooks will be licensed to prepare, package and sell to individuals, as well as small shops within the area.  For example, wouldn’t you rather have pure, delicious, locally produced honey than something shipped in from China?  Guess what, that product from China isn’t even real honey, it’s flavored syrup!  Another reason to join us foodies in reading labels and knowing for certain what you are truly consuming.

Expansion for Blue Mountain Foods is looming on the horizon, either for the current location on West Center Street, or the purchase of a larger property in Monticello.  For the Youngs, they are focused on hometown roots and loyalty; on bringing in products locally sourced, fresh and healthy; helping people deal with food allergies and illnesses; and most important of all, listening to their customers, whether local or visitor. 

Best wishes to Stacy, Jeremy and Jeff; let’s all of us help them achieve their goals!

Mary Cokenour

Sunday, April 8, 2018

Who Offed the Ham and Beans?

March came in like a lion, roaring with fierce winds; covering the landscape with snow that turned to ice under the hot rays of the sun.  Mid-month, March became a bipolar version of Mother Nature; some days warm enough to go without a jacket or long sleeved shirt; some days making us wonder if we could ever turn off the furnaces in our homes.  The question now is, with the end of March, will it end like a meek little lamb lying in a field scented with blossoming wild flowers?

So, it’s no wonder that on a wind chilled weekend, I would find myself prepping beans for an overnight soaking.  The next day pouring them into a crock pot with water, vegetables and chopped up, baked ham to make a hearty ham and bean soup.   During the long wait, my mind began to wander over the origin of this soup.  Warning, my mind is a huge game of trivial pursuit; constantly full of questions and the gathering of answers.  Is it any wonder that my favorite genre of reading is mysteries?  The gathering up of clues to answer the questions of “Who Done It?”, “Why?”, “How?” before the reveal in the final chapters.

John Egerton, a historian and writer of Southern foods, based the origin on the African slaves in the Appalachian Mountain states of Kentucky, Tennessee, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia and Alabama.  To survive, they made due with whatever foods their “owners” grudgingly bestowed on them, namely white beans, ham hocks, collard greens, onions.  After the Civil War and the freeing of all slaves, many fled to the northern states, finding employment as cleaning and cooking staff.  On the menu of the United States Senate, even served today, is a ham and bean soup credited to the black Southerners.  Of course, the House of Representatives could not be outdone, so have their own version, without onions.

There you go, through brilliant deduction (Sherlock Holmes would be so proud!) the mystery of “Who Offed the Ham and Beans?” has been solved, and now for the recipe.  I chose to make this soup in a crock pot for convenience; that way it could cook, I could get chores and assignments done, and not worry over the pot.  I soaked the beans in cold water overnight which would allow them to cook up nice and tender, but also make them less gassy.  Now that’s a good thing!

 Ham and Bean Soup (Crock Pot)

1 and ½ cups white beans (aka Great Northern)
1 and ½ cups pinto beans
Cold water to cover
8 additional cups cold water for cooking. (see note)
1 cup each chopped onions, carrots, celery and potatoes
1 tsp. salt (see note)
½ tsp. ground black pepper
1 tsp. each dried basil and oregano
2 cups chopped cooked ham (leftover spiral sliced ham is what I used)


Place beans in a large bowl, add water to cover them, cover bowl with plastic wrap and let soak overnight (minimum 12 hours).

Next day, drain beans and add to 6-quart crock pot; add in all other listed ingredients.  Cover, set on low for 8- 10 hours (beans are tender), or high for 4-6 hours.  Taste and add additional salt and pepper is needed.

Note:  if using vegetable broth instead of water to cook, do not add in 1 teaspoon of salt; taste after cooking and add if needed.

Makes 10 servings.

Mary Cokenour