Friday, June 12, 2020

Twisted Dough

Hard or soft, salted or seeded, butter dipped or not, seasoned with herbs and/or spices, anyway it is made, is always a treat.  Can you guess what this baked goody is?  The Pretzel. 

The origins of the pretzel are dependent on which country is telling the story.  600s Italy, a monk created the “pretiolas” (little rewards) to give to good children who had memorized their prayers.  The shape represented the arms of the children, crossed while saying their prayers.  The French have a similar story referencing a monk, while Germany tells of bakers held hostage and forced to bake for royalty and high officials of the church.   However, the earliest documented (key word for historical evidence) is from 1185 Germany.  An illustration of pretzels appeared in the Hortus Delicarum, a manuscript compiled by Herrad of Landsberg, at an abbey in Alsace, which was, then, a region of Germany.  Bakers’ guilds displayed the pretzel within their crest.

By the 1400s, the pretzel had become a sign of the Holy Trinity, given out for the Christmas holiday, and even hung on trees.  In the 1700s, German immigrants followed William Penn to America, and his state of Pennsylvania (Pennsylvania Dutch aka Amish).  In 1861, Julius Sturgis opened his pretzel bakery in Lititz, PA which offered up soft and hard pretzels to consumers.  Story is that his factory was the first to develop hard pretzels, and no, it was not due to a baker falling asleep while pretzels overbaked.  The crunchy, salty snacks lasted longer in an air tight container, than soft pretzels did.  This allowed them to be sold in stores far away from Lititz, and kept on shelves much longer.  Roy and I have visited this historic place several times, and highly recommend, if visiting Lancaster County, PA, to put this on your touring to-do list.  Besides getting to feast on delicious pretzels, hands on experience in pretzel twisting is part of the factory’s tour.  (

Personally, I feel so lucky that I was able to experience, during childhood, getting a huge (as big as my head!) soft pretzel from a street vendor.  A pushcart full of soft baked pretzels, kept warm from the heat of glowing charcoal.  The saltiness mixed with a smoky aroma, the soft consistency giving comfort physically and mentally.  Talk about complete satisfaction!

Soft pretzels can be found in your grocer’s freezer; who has not heard of “Super Pretzel”?  However, I recently found a company called “Eastern Standard Provisions Co.” (, located in Maine, and the photographs on their website made my mouth crave soft pretzels.  The website describes their soft pretzels as, “a pretzel with the airy qualities of a brioche on the inside and a traditional Bavarian-style crust on the outside.”  Sold!

I purchased the “Love at First Bite” gift box which included five Wheelhouse pretzels and 3 types of salt.  Paying attention (see, I can!) to the instruction guide, the oven baked the pretzels to perfection.  Soft and blissfully chewy, the salt was a crisp bite which tickled the tongue, and the butter smeared on, before baking, had permeated the interior.

Spread butter onto pretzels

Press salt onto butter

After baking.

Inside, pretzel is hot, soft and buttery delcious!

Now whether you decide to try this product, or purchase the one from the market, here’s a huge hint; always bake them!  Microwaving ruins the entire experience.

Want to try your hand at making your own?  There are so many recipes located online, video demonstrations, and in baking books.  You will not know which recipe is right for your tastes, unless you try.  The San Juan Record Bookstore offers a variety of genre, including cooking and baking.  Stop in and see if one of their books has the right recipe for you.

Mary Cokenour

Thursday, June 4, 2020

Fish Without the Deep Fry.

I have to admit, with all the hoarding, due to Covid-19, I was able to score supplies that the hoarders ignored.  One such supply was bread crumbs - plain, Italian seasoned, and Japanese Panko.  Not only had the prices not gone up, but there was no limit, so purchasing six of each was easy.  Now some of you are thinking, "Wow, that's way too much to have in stock.".  Maybe for you, but not in my household, as we use them with many, many recipes.

However, the price of cooking oils has gone up dramatically, so the next best cooking technique is oven frying.  The coating still comes out crunchy when the bread crumbs used is the Panko.  The oil used is non-stick cooking spray; no oil absorbed by the fish, and it doesn't stick to the baking pan.

The fish recommended for this is a firm, white flesh fish such as pollack, haddock or cod.  Basically the same type of fish that could be battered, then deep fried.  I have done it with catfish, but the cooking time is longer with the fillets being very thick.  Or it could be cut in half lengthwise, but it's catfish, and who does that!?! 

I have to give kudos to the hoarders.  Being a bunch of selfish low lives, has definitely forced home cooks to become creative.

Oven Fried Fish


2 lbs. firm white fish (haddock, cod, Pollack), about 6-8 pieces
2 cups milk
2 eggs
4 cups flour
1 Tbsp. salt
1 tsp. cracked black pepper
1 Tbsp. crushed dried dill
1 Tbsp. crushed dried parsley
4 cups Panko


Preheat oven to 400F; spray jelly roll pan with nonstick cooking spray.

3 wide shallow bowls

#1 – whisk milk with eggs
#2 – mix flour with salt, pepper, dill and parsley
#3 – Panko

Coating sequence

Immerse fish into #1.
Coat both sides of fish with #2.
Immerse into #1 again.
Coat both sides of fish with #3.
Place on sprayed baking pan.

Repeat sequence with each piece of fish.

Bake in oven for 20-30 minutes, dependent on thickness of fish.  After 20 minutes, insert fork into center to test for doneness (flakes up easily).

Makes 6-8 servings of approximately 4 – 4.5 ounces each.

Add a simple side salad for a complete meal.
 Mary Cokenour

Good Day Sunshine

“Good day sunshine.
I need to laugh, and when the sun is out.
I've got something I can laugh about.
I feel good, in a special way.
I'm in love and it's a sunny day.”

(Good Day Sunshine – The Beatles)

June, sun is shining and a cool breeze drifts down from the mountains.  Soon the summer solstice will arrive, the longest day of the year, and the official start of the season.  Prediction for June is, “Welcome to the 6th level of Jumanji”.  Father Time is certainly giving everyone an interesting 2020 year, and personally, I am wondering if Godzilla will be making an appearance in July.

Happily, Roy and I have been, once again, adventuring.  Our latest was following trails off of Lisbon Valley Road, close to the town of La Sal, and discovering long abandoned mining facilities.  Packing a picnic lunch of tuna salad sandwiches, Amish macaroni salad and a sun-shiny dessert, we found a lovely spot, on a ridge, overlooking the valley.  It is the absolute quiet, with the occasional call of a bird, or the whooshing sound of its flapping wings.  Yes, that is how quiet it can be, and it is a wonderful lack of sound.

Taking over 200 photographs, I, of course, have a new goal to research the mining industry of La Sal.  From what I have already read, there were over 19,000 mining claims!  The remains, of the mining facilities, we found have stories to tell, and I intend on sharing them on my travel blog.  Well, depending on how I do on this new level of Jumanji.

Now to that sun-shiny dessert I mentioned, Creamy Lemon Squares.  It is a takeoff on traditional lemon bars, but with a crispy crust and thicker filling.  Besides using lemon juice, I played (did you expect I would not!?!), and used a combination of orange and vanilla to create Creamsicle bars.  Sugar was played with as well as the crust has added sugar, and it was just too sweet for our tastes.  Using graham crackers which are already sweet, the additional sugar, in our opinion, was unnecessary.  However, try this recipe yourself, and see what your taste buds think about it.  The squares cut easily and can be packed up nicely to take on a picnic, or just as a snack when riding out through the countryside.

 Creamy Lemon Squares
(Easy Recipes Blog:

For the Crust
4 tablespoons butter, melted and cooled, plus more for pan
1-1/2 cup graham cracker crumbs
1/4 cup sugar

For the Filling
2 large egg yolks
1 can (14 ounces) sweetened condensed milk
1/2 cup fresh lemon juice (3 lemons)


Preheat oven to 350F / 180C degrees.
Brush a square baking dish with melted butter.
Crush graham crackers

Then add in sugar and butter and blend to mix.
Press mixture into bottom of prepared pan.
Bake until lightly browned, 8 to 12 minutes.
Cool crust, 30 minutes.

To Make the Filling

*In a large bowl, whisk together egg yolks and condensed milk.
*Add lemon juice; whisk until smooth.

*Pour filling into cooled crust; carefully spread to edges.
*Bake until set, about 15 minutes.
*Cool in pan on rack.


After Baking and Cooled
*Chill at least 1 hour before serving.
Serve with whipped cream.

Makes 16 squares.

Creamy Creamsicle Squares (Orange Juice plus Pure Vanilla Extract)
Juice Options: Substitute orange, lime or pineapple; also use fresh juice or concentrated.  Combinations like lemon-lime, use ¼ cup of each juice to create ½ cup combo.  For orange, add 1 Tbsp. pure vanilla extract to create old fashioned Creamsicle flavor.  Never use premixed juice from a carton or bottle, it contains water and will ruin the filling.

Garnishes: Powdered sugar and/or add fresh fruit.

Mary Cokenour