Friday, January 31, 2020

Time to Think Amore’

Day after Christmas, and already stores were filling up aisles with gifts, candies and decorations for Valentine’s Day.  The New Year had not even been celebrated as yet, but we were being programmed to think about a future holiday.  Besides the required gifts to “prove undying love”, a romantic meal is also part of this holiday.  Many restaurants offer specials featuring expensive cuts of meat, or shipped in seafood like lobster.  You know, the types of foods only eaten for holidays and special occasions, where the amount spent equals the amount of love in the heart.

Equating love to a monetary value just does not sound right to me somehow.  However, throughout history, marriages were arranged between families.  Was this a form of keeping these families “pure” by purchasing the correct spouse?  However, women have always been looked upon as a type of commodity throughout history, and world cultures.  Either the groom’s family would pay a “bride price” to the intended bride’s family, or a dowry was offered to the groom’s family.  What is a dowry?  Basic definition is, “A dowry is a transfer of parental property, gifts, or money at the marriage of a daughter.”
Even in modern societies, it is often the bride and her family who foot the major portion of the wedding and reception costs

Whether wealthy or poor (does a middle class even exist any longer?), I believe love is measured in small ways.  The longing look, gentle touching of hands, a little nudge-nudge, wink-wink; an unexpected compliment, or sharing the last cookie while watching a movie.  Does not cost much, well excepting if the cookies are homemade or store bought.

Swinging back to the romantic meal aspect, not every couple can afford a fancy time out.  Does that diminish the value of Valentine’s Day?  Of course not!

Living in Monticello, the nearest Olive Garden is either in Grand Junction, Colorado (2 and 1/2 hours’ drive northeast), or Farmington, New Mexico (2 hours southeast).  Many people enjoy going to one of these when they are in one of those cities.  The commercials are often on television, and yes, we have gone there once in a while ourselves.

Readers of this food column, and people who I have cooked for, know I focus mainly on Italian cuisine.  So, seeing the latest "limited edition menu items" in recent commercials; had to admit that I wanted to try them.  Then I thought about the items, and realized they are pretty close to baked ziti, and another type of baked pasta casserole, made in the past.  In other words, I can make these new items at home, myself!  While my baked ziti and baked pasta casserole use a homemade tomato based sauce, these new dishes require an Alfredo sauce.

Now, and you know I do this, putting my own spin on a recipe is usually on my mind.  Olive Garden uses a "creamy seafood Alfredo sauce" for the shrimp casserole.  Well, I know how to make Alfredo sauce, and it uses loads of Parmesan cheese.  Smoked mozzarella is shredded and used as a topping.  Since this item is not easily found in any local markets, and traveling an hour away to a supermarket is time consuming, regular mozzarella will do.  However, adding it into the sauce, with the Parmesan, will result in a rich cheesy sauce.   Oh, leaving out the nutmeg as black pepper and garlic will be the main seasonings.


Baked Mozzarella Casserole

1 bag (12 oz.) medium sized shrimp
1 bag (16 oz.) tortellini (frozen or dried)
1 can (15.5 oz.) diced tomatoes, rinse & thoroughly drain all excess liquid
8 Tbsp. butter
8 Tbsp. all-purpose flour
6 cups hot milk
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. ground black pepper
2 tsp. garlic powder
1 Tbsp. dried parsley leaves


Fill a 3 quart pot halfway with water, place on high heat.  While waiting for water to boil, clean shrimp; remove shells and devein.  When water begins to boil, add in tortellini and cook according to package directions.  Fit a metal colander over the pot, place shrimp inside, and steam until a light pinkish coloring.  Place shrimp, drained tortellini and tomatoes into large mixing bowl.

Preheat oven to 400F; spray sides and bottom of 2 quart baking dish with nonstick cooking spray.

In another 3 quart pot, heat the butter over medium heat until melted; gradually add the flour, stirring until smooth.  Cook, stirring constantly, until the mixture turns a golden brown color, about 6 to 7 minutes; this is the roux.

Yes!  You can make the sauce, on the stove top, right next to the pot cooking the tortellini and steaming the shrimp.

Add the hot milk to the butter mixture one cup at a time; whisk continuously to avoid burning or clumping. When mixture is completely smooth, add the Parmesan and mozzarella cheeses, whisk until smooth again; remove from heat; season with salt, black pepper and garlic powder.

Pour cheese sauce over contents in large bowl, mix thoroughly and spoon into baking dish and sprinkle with parsley.  Place dish in oven and bake for 15-20 minutes; edges around contents, and on the top will be slightly browned, and cheese bubbling.  Remove from oven and let rest for 5 minutes before serving.

Makes 6 servings.

In case you are wondering, I rinse and drain the tomatoes as I do not want all that red liquid to dilute the cheese sauce, or turn it red.  The shrimp, parsley, and the tomatoes themselves should be the eye catchers throughout the white pasta and cheese sauce.

Now if shrimp is not a favorite, grill up chicken breasts with a light seasoning of salt, black pepper and paprika; cut into bite sized pieces and add this instead.  Or choose another pasta, like rigatoni, but make the cheese sauce as directed, add shrimp or chicken, and bake it up.

This casserole, paired with a salad and garlic bread will make a fantastic dinner for six.  However, it will be a spectacular Valentine’s Day dinner for two, with leftovers!

Mary Cokenour

Wednesday, January 29, 2020

Good Eating at DC Rack Haus

DC Rack Haus

330 Highway 491
Dove Creek, CO, 81324

Phone: (970) 677-2656


Hours of Operation:  Monday thru Saturday, 7am to 2pm
                                      Closed Sunday

A little over one and ½ years ago, Beth Spigner, was working at The Dinner Bell, in quiet Dove Creek, Colorado.  Then it happened, the owners decided to pull up stakes and sell.  Beth talked it over with mom, Athena Spigner, and the decision was made.  Purchasing the restaurant and becoming co-owners, revamping the interior and menu; these two ladies were on a mission.  A mission to become the culinary goddesses of Dove Creek, and strong goddesses they are!

A military family, formerly from California, the move to Dove Creek, 16 years ago, was another easy decision.  Though they had traveled far and wide, retirement brought the Spigner family to a place they enjoyed visiting often, Colorado.  What better way to put down solid roots within the community, then to purchase a business to cater to it?

Now many locals were a bit concerned, “What about the Dinner Bell’s menu!?!”  Little by little, new menu items were phased in, older ones phased out.  You know, like that Whole Foods Thanksgiving commercial, “They’ll never know, we’ll just phase it in.”   There are three tried and true dishes that remain, “Open Face Burger”, “Green Smothered Burrito”, and the “DC Steak”.  DC Rack Haus uses the same tried and true recipe, so makes the best green chili around.  There was no way that was coming off the menu.  Well, unless the new owners wanted to find themselves at the open end of a hanging rope.

Third easy decision was the days and hours of operation.  Monday thru Saturday, 7am to 2pm, are prime time, and busy they are.  Locals flock in for deliciously prepared breakfasts and lunches; mainly house made with ingredients sourced locally.  During hunting season, hunters eagerly find the time for fluffy flapjacks and waffles; crispy French toast, and omelettes bulging with cheeses, meats and veggies of choice.  There are other egg dishes to choose from, biscuits and gravy, and, of course, the breakfast burrito.

Lunch time features are geared towards American and Mexican cuisines.  The burgers are half pounders, perfectly grilled with oozing delectable juices.  Try out the Snow-Cap with grilled mushrooms, onions, ooey-gooey Jack cheese on a toasted bun.  The veggies served are alongside the burger, so they are cool and crisp before adding to your burger.  The burgers are two fisted, so come hungry, and ask for extra napkins.  Side is crispy French fries, but sweet potato fries or crunchy onions rings can be substituted for an extra $1.50.  The portions are large, so once again, come hungry!  Let me tell you, for the portions you receive, the prices on the menu are spot on as well.

Patty Melt


Inside the Snow-Cap

There are wraps with or without meats; there is the “everyone’s favorite”, Country Fried Steak served with fries, toast and country style gravy.  The Country Fried Steak is also a breakfast feature with eggs and home style potatoes.  Looking for something more filling and vegetarian; try out a Veggie Wrap, Salad or Green Chili Cheese Fries.  The Cole slaw is house made, and that includes the dressing.  Do not be afraid to ask about ingredients, the Spigners want to make sure you have exactly what you are craving.

DC Rack Haus is family friendly as well, with a Kiddie Menu that will satisfy a child with choices of PBJ, Grilled Cheese, Mac n’ Cheese, burgers that small hands can manage and chicken strips.

While the high season does bring in more visitor business, having tour groups scheduling meals breaks, in Dove Creek, would be a huge boon to the community.   Well, to any small community where tourism is becoming a major attraction.  Tour companies need to get smarter about including breaks within small towns, where the service is more homegrown and comfortable.

Overall, the atmosphere is cozy, the service is friendly, and the food is just what the comfort doctor ordered.  Whether in Dove Creek, Colorado, another nearby town, or simply passing through, stop into DC Rack Haus for a homestyle breakfast or lunch that will make your eyes roll with dining pleasure.  You will not be disappointed!

Breakfast Menu

Lunch Menu
Mary Cokenour

Tuesday, January 28, 2020

Brunch at Stateline Bar and Grill

Stateline Bar and Grill

69576 Highway 491 (just east of the Utah/Colorado borderline)
Dove Creek, Colorado, 81324

Phone: (970) 677-2649


Hours of Operation: 11am - 9pm, Thursday thru Sunday
            Brunch: 11am - 2pm, Saturday and Sunday

Opening in 2014, Stateline brought to Dove Creek, Colorado a much needed bar scene and restaurant.  However, owners, Tim and Shelly Meyer felt there was something missing.   It was something that, they did not have, nor did any other restaurant; and that was brunch.  Oh sure, breakfast was offered Monday through Friday, maybe on Saturday, definitely not on Sunday; but it was over by 11am.  Now between you and me, who does not enjoy a nice brunch on a Sunday, or even breakfast for lunch in general?

Stateline Bar and Grill still uses local sources for their food supplies, so adding breakfast items to the shopping list was easy.  Baked goods such as buttery croissants and bread for French toast; bacon, thick ham, sausage for patties.  Blueberry syrup for thick waffles, or mild sausage gravy over biscuits and country fried steak are house made.  So are the waffles and French toast, and the maple syrup is real!

We dined on the Breakfast Croissant Sandwich, and the Country Fried Steak.  The croissant is extra-large, flaky and butter infused; choosing scrambled for the eggs was a great choice.  The eggs were fluffy and needed no seasonings or condiments to compliment them.  The bacon was crispy and melt in the mouth delicious; cheddar cheese connected all the ingredients of this sandwich perfectly.  A fruit cup featuring pineapple, cantaloupe and honey dew melon was the accompanying side.

The Country Fried Steak is a large, crispy coated, tender steak draped with mild sausage gravy.  Hash browns and toast of choice are sides.  Being used to black pepper gravy, the sausage gravy was an unexpected, yet taste bud pleasing change.  The crispiness of the coating gave a nice crunch to the chewing experience.

Luckily, another couple nearby, had ordered different dishes, so we were able to see what they entailed.  The Stateline features two eggs, bacon strips or sausage patties and hash browns.  The gentleman who ordered this, and the rest of us dining, were shocked to see how large and fluffy a serving of two scrambled eggs he received.  If they tasted anything like the ones in my croissant sandwich, he would be eating every bite.  The sausage patties were large and nicely grilled.  

Now his wife ordered the Waffle, and it was a classic Belgium style waffle that overflowed off the plate.  

Well now, they must have been really hungry, as the Avocado Toast special was also ordered, and it sure did look good!

Along with breakfast, we had coffee and water for our beverages.  Lovers of strong coffee will definitely enjoy Stateline’s.  It comes in a large, pastel colored mug; one sip and you will think you are a hobbit, as the hair will be growing out of your toes.

Stateline Bar and Grill’s Brunch will be a boon to this restaurant, especially with the influx of travelers along Highway 491.  Locals, of course, will have a new choice for lunch on Saturday and Sunday…breakfast! 

Mary Cokenour

Monday, January 27, 2020

It's New and You Want to Watch It.

I have started Vlogging!  That's right, now you get to see my crazy self, cooking and baking in my kitchen.

I'm calling it, "WTF is Cooking", and the first episode is on making homemade meat sauce.

Become a subscriber now, and don't miss any episodes as they become posted.  Episode 2 will be Lasagna!

Youtube Channel for WTF is Cooking   Click on the link now!

You know you want to watch it!

Mary Cokenour

Wednesday, January 15, 2020

Roam If You Want To

Roam Industries

265 North Main Street
Monticello, UT, 84535

Phone: (435) 590-2741


“I hear a wind
Whistling air
In my ear”

“Roam” by The B-52s

Surrounded by majestic Ponderosa Pine; sailing upon a one-track trail and the breeze whispers into ears a blessed silence.  Welcome to mountain biking in the Abajo Mountains with Roam Industries.  Opening its doors July 2018, owners Dustin and Natalie Randall, enjoy the great outdoors of San Juan County.  They wanted to bring mountain biking, hiking and winter sports to visitors, and locals, of this vast area. 

When it comes to mountain biking, Roam Industries became the organizers and hosts of the Abajo Enduro.  A yearly mountain biking fest which has grown to a 2-day, 3-State event, and has sold out the past two years.  What started out, as a handful of friends, to ride and have friendly competition, is now a full on event, maximum participation of 50 riders!  

“…dancing down those dirty and dusty trails
Take it hip to hip, rocket through the wilderness”

“Roam” by The B-52s

Mountain biking, as well as hiking and climbing, tours are offered during the spring to fall months.  Tours are initially 1-3 days of exploring various sections of San Juan County. Climbing is mainly in the Indian Creek Valley, or what is now part of the Bears Ears National Monument. 

Roam Industries offers the service of a mobile tiny home; sleeping 7 and room for supplies; it is camping with the comfort of home.  Currently the tiny home is up at Buckboard National Forest Campground.  Sports of shoe shoeing and cross country skiing are a major draw during the winter months.  Natalie Randall helped develop the trails that extend from the Dalton Springs and Buckboard campgrounds.  Through her grant writing, Monticello has been able to expand other trails as well for biking and walking.  A hut system, throughout San Juan County, is now in the works.

Do not think cross country skiing is your sport of choice?  Dustin Randall states, “It takes about one season to learn, and become proficient, on the skis.  After that though, you will love it!”

Another benefit of visiting Roam Industries is their self-serve snack bar and relaxed seating section.  Delicious scones of Lemon Rosemary, Pumpkin, Coconut, Ginger Apricot and more are the creations of home baker, Hannah Plemons.  Crisp around the edges, tender and fluffy inside, the fruity to savory concoctions are pleasing to the taste buds.  Along with coffees, teas, water, the scones are an indulgent start to the day’s event, or a relaxing finish.  Hannah’s scones are available Monday and Wednesday at 1pm, and they are gone in the blink of an eye!

While Roam Industries did have some success with a connection with Airbnb, it is mainly word of mouth that sustains this business.  Repeat customers and great reviews feed the trickle down effects to the City of Monticello.  Hotels, restaurants, and shops benefit from the influx of visitors, their families that come along, and the friends that decide to have their own Roam adventures.  What better way is there, for economic sustainability, and development, then to have local businesses holding hands, with each other, in camaraderie?

Current winter hours are Monday, Wednesday and Friday, 1pm-6pm.  Once spring’s warm fingers begin to caress the land, more adventurous opportunities will become available.  With the summer months, family reunions are always looking for activities; how about a group tour with Roam Industries? 

“Roam if you want to
Roam around the world
Roam if you want to”

“Roam” by The B-52s

Mary Cokenour

Wednesday, January 1, 2020

A Sweeter New Year

Happy New Year Everyone!  It is 2020 and jokes about our vision are bandied about.  At the time I am writing this article, it is still 2019.  Unease has not only hit our vast corner of Utah, but the entire United States is facing chaos.  Impeachment looms on the horizon, maybe, for our current President, Donald Trump.  Politicians in Washington, DC, are against term limits, so it seems the ones making a mockery of our rights; well we are kind of stuck with them for now.  In our county, taxes are going up, economic development is being kept at bay, and everyone notices the underlying racial tension.

Took one of those silly Facebook tests, one on focus for 2020.  The three words that I noticed immediately were: Happiness, Energy and Powerful.  Wow…wow!  At a time when happiness is a minor commodity, grabbing, and holding, onto it makes perfect sense.  Energy, depression saps energy, and who is not depressed over our current state of affairs!?!  Again, grab, and hold, onto your inner energy; make yourself shine with it!  Powerful, how can anyone feel empowered when every Tom, Dick and Harry seems to want to own, and run, your life!?  Stand up straight and tall, and say, “No way!  I refuse to give my power to anyone.  I refuse to have anyone dominate me with their power.”  Seems easier to say than do, but not if you believe in yourself, and you surround yourself with others of a positive attitude.  Personal empowerment can be achieved by acknowledging a fear, then conquering it.  Fear, indeed, is the mind killer.  Once again, Happy New Year Everyone!

To start off the New Year, I will entertain you with a recipe that I have, myself, feared.  Cinnamon rolls are an exquisite example of comfort food.  The yeast smell from the dough assails the nostrils.  Cold winter nights outside, but cuddly warm inside wrapped in flannel blankets while a fire snap, crackles and pops in the fireplace.  Kneading the dough moves the arm and hand muscles, yet soothes them at the same time.  The soothing is due to a satisfaction of accomplishment; the yeast lived, proofed, and rose the dough.  Rolling it out, brushing sweetened, melted butter and then a savory scented layer of brown sugar and cinnamon.  Roll out the barrels…oops, Octoberfest just popped into my mind.  Rolling the dough, cutting slices that are place into buttered pans, a little more rising and then the baking begins.  Within minutes, the scent of yeasty, sweet bread is mixing with the sweet brown sugar and savory cinnamon.  The scent wafts throughout the entire home, even the noses of the pets are twitching, and they sigh in their sleep.

Picture it, the Happiness of warm memories.  The Energy which accomplishment brings overall to mind and body.  The Powerful knowledge that a fear has been conquered.  Yes, I did fear making cinnamon rolls from scratch.  I thought it would be frustrating and difficult, and I feared the failure.  Now I know better, and am so much happier for it.

I do not know what this New Year, of 2020 Vision, will bring to myself, friends, and family, to anyone really.  While I would love to see a coming together of all, for the good of all, well, human nature is unpredictable.  Personally, I believe that letting a small handful of individuals, make all the major decisions for a community, is not a working concept any longer.  It is time that all groups concerned, put on their big boy/big girl panties, and begin doing what is best for the majority.  Perhaps others will finally understand this message too, and greater, more positive changes, will develop.

Until then, make some cinnamon rolls and share them; sit down together and have calm conversations.  It is amazing, how something so small, can bring people together.

Cinnamon Rolls



2 packages active dry yeast
1 cup warm water (105-115F)
2/3 cup sugar plus 1 tsp
1 cup warm milk
2/3 cup butter, softened
2 tsp salt
2 eggs, slightly beaten
7 cups flour


1 cup melted butter, divided in half
2 cups brown sugar, divided in half
3 ½ Tbsp. cinnamon


2/3 cup melted butter
4 cups powdered sugar
2 tsp vanilla
6 Tbsp. hot water

Cream Cheese Frosting:

2 packages (8 oz.) cream cheese, softened
1 cup butter, softened
3 tsp vanilla
6 cups confectioner's sugar
2 Tbsp. warm milk


For the Dough:

In a small bowl, mix together yeast, warm water and one teaspoon sugar; set aside. Yeast will be ready when bubbles begin forming.

In a large bowl, beat together thoroughly 2/3 cup sugar, milk, butter, salt and eggs; mix yeast mixture. Add 4 cups of flour, beat until smooth; add in remaining flour one cup at a time, until dough is slightly stiff, but still sticky. Turn out onto a well-floured board; knead 5-10 minutes. Place in well-buttered glass or plastic bowl, cover with a clean linen towel and let rise in warm place until doubled in size, about 1 to 1-1/2 hours. When doubled, punch down dough and let rest 5 minutes; roll out on floured board into a 15x20" rectangle.

For the Filling:

Spread dough with 1/2 cup melted butter. Mix together 1-1/2 cups brown sugar and cinnamon; sprinkle over buttered dough. Roll up jellyroll style, pinching edge together to seal. Cut into 16-18 slices.

Brush bottom and sides of a 13x9 inch baking pan and a 9 inch square or round pan (6 slices per pan) with remaining melted butter; sprinkle with remaining brown sugar. Place cinnamon roll slices close together in pans. Let rise in warm place until dough is doubled in size, about 1 hour.

Preheat oven to 350F; 25-30 minutes, or until rolls are golden brown. Allow rolls to cool slightly before glazing or frosting.

For the Glaze:

In medium bowl, mix melted butter, powdered sugar and vanilla; add hot water one tablespoon at a time until glaze reaches desired thickness.  Add more water if necessary.

For the Frosting:

In a large bowl, beat together all ingredients on medium speed until smooth and creamy.

Makes 16-18 rolls.

Mary Cokenour