Wednesday, December 23, 2020

Ending Upon a Note of Wishful Thinking.

As we end 2020, a year of “Who, What, Where, Why, When and How” questions that are still boggling the minds of many, consider this, “Did we learn, and did we do good?”  Personally, the meaning of life is to learn something new, and do a good deed, on a daily basis.  Learn something new?  Yes, it could be a craft, a talent, book or television series, a way to do something entirely different, etc. etc., and that includes an outlook upon something as well.  A good deed?  Yes, something as simple as smiling at a person who looks absolutely miserable, then seeing a new light in their eyes as they smile back.  Perhaps someone was stranded on the side of the road, and instead of driving by, you made that U-turn, and helped to change a flat tire.  A new learning or good deed does not have to be monumental; also, do not brag about it, as then the meaning actually becomes nothing at all.

“Do you watch Christmas themed movies?” is a question I am often asked, due to the fact that I do not believe in the main stream, religious meaning of this holiday.  Of course I do, as there is more to this holiday than the beliefs of religion.  This is the end of the calendar year, a time to reflect back on what has occurred; the good, the bad, the “what the…?”, and ticking off of items on the bucket list.  Whether you have a written, or mental, list, you know you are ticking items off; we all do it.  The month of December is a month full of numerous holidays around the world, mainly surrounding love, life, laughter, giving, receiving, and most important, togetherness.  2020, of course, is putting a huge strain on togetherness, but should that truly affect all the other aspects?  It should not, but I believe we have been conditioned to allow it to.

One of my very favorite movies is, The Bishop’s Wife, based upon the novella by Robert Nathan, and released December 1947, is a wonderful classic. The cast includes such greats as Loretta Young, David Niven, Elsa Lanchester, and Cary Grant…oh, the oh so handsome, charismatic, multi-talented Cary Grant as Dudley, the angel.  David Niven plays the Bishop Brougham, who is determined to have a cathedral built, and must beg for funding from the snobbish wealthy.  Having come from a poor district, he seems to have forgotten, not just where he came from, but what the holiday season is all about.  Praying to God, an angel is sent down to help him, not to build the cathedral, but to find his way back to himself.  Everyone that Dudley encounters has become a lost soul, lost to themselves, to others; or in the case of the members of the children’s choir, potentially losing themselves.

This movie is not full of sadness, but brings out the joy and happiness that once was, and now found again.  Watch the movie, put it up against what you have been encountering in this past year, and I believe you will get the meaning.  Not only will you learn, but those good deeds may just pop into mind.

As the New Year comes knocking upon our doors, open up, smile and say “Welcome, what do you have planned for me now?”  Now here comes the challenge of choices, do we simply live, or do we Live!  Those good deeds that popped into mind, are they forgotten or acted upon? Yes, you do not have to wake up and consciously say to yourself, “Today I will do a good dead.” just do it!  Do not think about it, just do it, keep going, and suddenly you might think about it, and that is when it will click in; what meaning life has.

Of course, being a food blog, how could I not give you a recipe which will bring joy and cheer to your stomachs!?!  Let’s try out a Lemon Ricotta Cheesecake to end 2020, and welcome in 2021.  Fresh lemon juice brings out the brightness of this cheesecake; the use of ricotta and cream cheeses, blended together, give a firm, yet smooth texture.  Really do not like the taste of lemon?  Then use orange juice, but make sure, whichever fruit is used, to use the fresh squeezed, or defrosted juice concentrate only.  Bottled juices are full of water, and will ruin the entire cake.  By the way, did you know that cheesecake is not really a cake?  Due to the lack of flour used, and the main ingredients are eggs and cheese, this is actually a custard.  There you go, you just learned something new!


Lemon Ricotta Cheesecake





1 package (9 crackers) original flavor graham crackers

1/2 cup ground almonds

5 Tbsp. melted butter



2 (8 oz.) packages cream cheese, softened

1 and ½ cups sugar (yes, a substitute can be used, and I recommend Swerve)

2 Tbsp. lemon peel (if dried, reconstitute with warm water and pat away excess moisture)

2 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice (squeezed or pure concentrate)

1 (16 oz.) container of whole milk ricotta cheese

3 eggs



Whipped cream



Candied Lemon Slices

Fruit Flavored Marshmallows (bring out the child in us all)



Preheat oven to 350F.  Line bottom of 9-inch springform pan with parchment paper; spray paper and sides of pan with nonstick baking spray.  Wrap outside of pan, bottom and sides, with heavy-duty foil. 

Place graham crackers into plastic bag and crush, by hand, by rolling a rolling pin over them.  Or use a mixer, pulse setting; add in ground almonds, melted butter and ½ cup of sugar.  Mix until crumbly; press crumb mixture in bottom and 2 inches up sides of springform pan.

Bake at 350F for 5 to 10 minutes, or until crust is light golden brown around edges. Remove crust from oven; place on wire rack, cool 10 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 325F.

Beat cream cheese in large bowl, medium speed, until fluffy; add 1 cup sugar; beat until very soft and creamy.  Add lemon peel, lemon juice and ricotta cheese; mix thoroughly.  Add eggs one at a time, beating just until combined and scraping down sides of bowl after each addition. Pour into crust-lined pan.

Bake at 325F for 1 hour 15 minutes, or until sides of cheesecake are set and puffed, but center still moves slightly when pan is tapped. Turn off oven, open door slightly and let cool down for 30 minutes.  Cover; refrigerate at least 3 hours (if wanted to serve same day), or overnight before serving.  Run a sharp knife around sides of pan before fully releasing spring.  The parchment paper will allow for easily sliding the cheesecake off the metal pan bottom onto cake platter.

Cheesecake will make 16 servings; decorate with garnish, spacing out fruit used; or add dollop of whipped cream before placing fruit on top.

Mary Cokenour




Wednesday, December 16, 2020

Chile Peppers Flavor European Cuisine.

Paprika, a savory red spice  used in a variety of dishes such as paprikash, paella, deviled eggs, soups, sauces, and a most popular European dish, goulash.  While it is easy purchase at the local market, or online; what is paprika, and why does it make foods taste so good?

Traveling back to the 15th century, explorers from Spain made their way to, what we now call, Mexico and Brazil.  In these countries were found a variety of chile peppers, from the mildest in heat and flavor, to the hottest that must have come from pits of lava.  Bringing plants back to the Old World, the plants were cultivated, not just for culinary use, but ornamental as well.  Now who were the specialists who cultivated these pepper plants, and discovered their many uses?  Monks, men devoted to religion, highly educated, the scholars of their time.

By the 16th to 17th century, chile pepper plants were making their way throughout Europe.  In Spain, the peppers were placed upon an open grate which was placed over a smoky oak fire.   In Hungary, the peppers were sun dried; but either method dried out the peppers completely.  Then they were ground into a fine powder, ready to be sprinkled onto bread or lard; or measured out into soups and stews.  Sweet, bittersweet and hot are the primary intensities of paprika, and that is dependent upon which types of peppers are used (single type, or a combination of types).

When someone hears the term “goulash”, the mind usually clicks onto Hungarian Goulash.  A simple stew of beef, onions, water and lard, cooked over an open fire, by cattle herdsmen.  Then came paprika, and a new taste was added to the stew. By the 18th century, goulash became a staple at inns, filling the bellies of weary travelers.  The stew itself was changed by adding carrots, sometimes potatoes, from the back gardens.  Add freshly baked, crusty bread plus a tankard of the inn’s best brew, and the travelers went to sleep sated.

As leaner, and more costly, cuts of meat began to be used in restaurants, the wealthy were introduced to a “high class” dish procured from a peasant recipe.  In the 1800s, immigration to the United States allowed Hungarians to, not just bring their cultural traditions, but also their recipes.  As they emigrated across North America, trading and interacting with other cultures, and using “American food sources”, traditional goulash developed into a variety of recipes.

“Mexican Goulash” contains, not only, beef, but chorizo, and those wonderful chile peppers the Spanish explorers discovered back in the 15th century.  So, whomever said, “You can’t go home again.” certainly was not referring to the foods of the world.

As to a recipe, I will be giving you my own take on the classic Hungarian Goulash, with a bit of influence from my Croatian ancestors.  While it cooks up perfectly in a stove top skillet, I personally find that the Dutch oven method makes the meat more tender, sauce thicker, and overall flavor more savory.  It does take about three hours to cook, and with prep work, the entire meal can take about four hours to complete, but is worth the work and the wait.  Due to the low and slow cooking technique, cheaper cuts of beef, such as a chuck roast, can be used, and the meat comes out so tender, it will taste, well, as Guy Fieri says, “That’s money right there!”.

A huge thank you to Amy Watkins Kensley, and her son Michael, for giving me a beautiful Dutch oven last Christmas.  With it, I have been able to create meals, and breads, that put stovetop, or other baking techniques, to shame.  Thank you, am sad that this Covid-19 is keeping us from our family meal times, and holiday celebrations.  For everyone, let us all feel positive that 2021 will find us healthier, happier and most importantly, wiser.


Beef Goulash


4 lbs. beef chuck roast, cut into 1-inch pieces (leaner cut of beef can be used)

½ cup all-purpose flour

¼ cup olive oil, divided in half.

1 large white onion, chopped

1 large red onion, chopped

1 large red bell pepper, seeded and chopped

1 and ½ Tbsp. minced garlic

2 Tbsp. butter

1 lb. baby carrots, cut in half, at an angle

1 (15 oz.) can diced tomatoes, drained

4 Tbsp. sweet paprika

½ tsp. ground black pepper

1 (6 oz.) can tomato paste

2 cups beef stock or broth

2 Tbsp. Worcestershire sauce

2 Tbsp. red wine vinegar

½ cup half and half

1 cup sour cream

Cooked egg noodles or mashed potatoes to serve over.



Place the pieces of the beef into a large bowl, add flour and coat meat.  In a large skillet, in two batches, brown the meat in the olive oil (1/2 portion of olive oil for each batch), over medium-high heat.  Drain on paper towels and place meat into large, clean bowl.

At the same time as meat is browning, in the Dutch oven, melt butter over medium heat; add onions, bell pepper and garlic, coat with melted butter and cook for 15 minutes to soften vegetables, but do not brown.  Also, in a medium sauce pan, parboil carrots, over medium-high heat, to soften, then strain.

Preheat oven to 275F; lightly spray Dutch oven with nonstick cooking spray (manufacturer’s instructions recommend this).

Into the Dutch oven, add the parboiled carrots, softened vegetables, and browned beef.  In a medium size bowl, whisk together paprika, black pepper, tomato paste, beef stock or broth, Worcestershire sauce, and red wine vinegar. Pour liquid oven meat and vegetables, mix thoroughly together, place lid on and cook for 2 and ½ hours in oven.

Carefully remove Dutch oven, and remove lid (careful, it will be very hot!), stir contents.  In a small bowl, stir together half and half with sour cream to form a loose paste, and mix into goulash.  Set lid back on, place back into oven for another ½ hour; cook egg noodles or mashed potatoes during this half hour, and all will be ready to eat at the same time.

For stove top:

Follow instructions except for preheating oven, or coating Dutch oven.  Use a 6-quart cooking pot, or very deep skillet, set on low heat, but cook for 3 and ½ hours, add loose paste, and cook additional ½ hour while preparing noodles or potatoes.  With this method, stir mixture every half hour to keep foods from sticking to bottom and sides of pot or skillet.

Makes 10-12 servings (or 8-10 if you live in my home, with two very hungry men who love my cooking).

Mary Cokenour

Tuesday, December 8, 2020

Banger’s Bar and Pizza is all in the Family

Banger’s Bar and Pizza
315 US-491
Dove Creek, CO, 81324

Phone: (970) 677-2465


Hours of Operation: Monday through Saturday, 11am – 9pm; Closed Sunday

Decades back, Tim Meyer’s father owned a building in Dove Creek, Colorado which housed the Old Frontier Bar, liquor store and the family.  Eventually the building was renovated and became the New Frontier Bar, a much loved local hang out.  There was a time when the building held an antique shop, and then quietly remained closed up.  That is until Tim purchased the property and was determined to bring it back to its focal status.

Tim, and wife, Shelly Poole, attended a Pizza Expo at the Las Vegas Convention Center, in Nevada.  There they learned about pizza making techniques, supplies, equipment, recipes, and, well, if it was pizza related, they learned about it.  Returning to Dove Creek, the inspiration hit, a plan was implemented, and on August 28, 2020, Banger’s Bar and Pizza held its Grand Opening.  August 2020!?!  That is correct, in the middle of the Covid-19 Pandemic, this crazy couple opened a new restaurant and bar with high hopes.

Those hopes have panned out into a success story.  Tourists, truckers, just-passing-through, and locals are enjoying a unique food array not seen in Dove Creek before.  The menu is not just pizza, but Italian specialties found in any respectable pizzeria.  Pizzas (pan or cracker thin crust), Calzones, Subs, Caprese, Salads, Appetizers and Desserts to please anyone hankering for Italian geared grub.

Our waitress/bartender for the evening was Breea Mykel Meyer, daughter of Tim Meyer and Shelley Poole.  She related to us the story of her grandfather owning and running Old Frontier, the liquor store, and the small living quarters in the back of the building.  The name, Banger’s, refers to her childhood, and much beloved, pet bulldog; his photograph is prominently featured at the bar.  Breea is no novice to the restaurant business, having also worked at Stateline Bar and Grill, also owned by Tim and Shelley.  As is the Sinclair, so you can say that bar/restaurant/food entrepreneurism runs rampant in this family line.

While we waited for our selections to arrive, take-out orders had a steady stream of pickups.  Several tables were taken up as well, with everyone respecting social distancing.  Conversations and laughter flowed, the atmosphere definitely welcoming, and comforting.  Wall television screens displayed, this evening, either a video related game show, or Guy Fieri’s “Diners, Drive-ins, or Dives”; I am very sure you know which one I was watching.  On nights that feature local or state sporting events, the screens are tuned onto them.


Then the food began to arrive and all attention was on that.  Appetizer was Bangy Wangy Wings; six meaty wings served with Ranch dressing and celery sticks.  The wings are presmoked, deep fried and then finished off in Banger’s amazing brick pizza oven.  We choose BBQ flavor, and the sauce, due to the cooking technique, was infused all the way through the meat.  While the skin was still soft, it was not greasy or gummy, so gave a good mouth feel.


Next was the Chicken Parmigiana Sub; an entire chicken breast coated in a light and crispy breading (similar to Panko), deep fried, topped with sauce and melted cheese.  Absolutely amazing flavor and texture, and definitely getting this when they have it on the weekly special for the day!  Served with the sub was potato chips that are made in house.  Thinly sliced potatoes, deep fried to a rich brown color, crunchy and addictive.  These should be sold by the bag full, and I suggested it to Breea.  They are reminiscent of kettle cooked potato chips often sold at farmers’ markets, and much craved by potato chip lovers.


Third was the Calzone; we choose Banger’s sauce (rich marinara), Italian cheese blend and meatballs.  The dough was baked to perfection, the combination of sauce, cheese and meatball was so delicious!  A side serving of sauce comes with the calzone, but we dipped our chicken sub in it instead.  Alright, yes, I admit it, I licked the sauce off the plate when it dripped off my half of the sub.


Last, and definitely not least, was the Bangy Boo Pizza; we chose the cracker crust which was ultrathin, crispy, but did not fall apart with the generous layers of sauce, cheese and pepperoni on top.  Good flavor all throughout, and a nicely browned crust; this also passed the “cold pizza for breakfast” test the next morning.

Dessert?  After all the sampling we just pigged out on, there was no room at the inn for dessert!  However, I have promised myself that next time, yes, there will be a next time, and we will be trying out S’mores Pie, large enough for two.,

Most of the ingredients used to create these excellent dishes, are locally sourced in.  Tim and Shelley made sure to pick high quality items.  It certainly shows in the delicious flavors, tastes, and textures that come through while enjoying the various dining choices.

Oh, and how did we end up at Banger’s Bar and Pizza?  Date night of course, and the food, atmosphere and service made it a wonderful evening out.  So, whether eating in, or taking out, give Banger’s Bar and Pizza a try; or be like us and give each section of the menu a try.

Mary Cokenour


Wednesday, December 2, 2020

Welcome to December 2020

In Roman mythology, a pair of twin boys were placed into a basket, set upon the Tiber River, found by a she-wolf and eventually raised by a shepherd and his wife.  The two adult brothers could not agree upon which hill to build their city, held a bird watching contest to decide, and yet still remained at a standstill.  Romulus began building his city on Palatine Hill, and Remus, who was quite the brat, would mock Romulus’ efforts.  One day, Remus decided to jump over a wall his brother had built, and fell to his death.  Now was this punishment from the Gods, or did Romulus, having run out of patience, simply murder his own brother?  In reading the variations of the tale of Romulus and Remus, one will find very many similarities to stories within the Old Testament.


Rome was the city that Romulus built, and named after himself; he was king of course.  Around 750 BCE, the Romulus calendar was created, having only ten months, running from March to December.  December has its root beginning from the Latin “decem” which means ten; all the days of winter resided in this month as well.   Now hold on a moment, take into consideration that the Covid-19 pandemic did not officially escalate until March 2020.  Here we are in December 2020, and it is as if the virus is following the Romulus calendar itself. 


Anyway, in 45 BCE, Julius Caesar ordered a calendar consisting of twelve months and based upon a solar year. This calendar utilized a cycle of three years of 365 days; followed by a fourth of 366 days, aka Leap Year.  Naming it the “Julian Calendar”, Caesar moved the beginning from March 1st to January 1st.


Now I know there has been many a debate of when Jesus Christ was actually born.  However, Roman Christian historian Sextus Julius Africanus, using the Romulus calendar, dated Jesus' conception to March 25th (the same date he believed God created the world), which, after nine months in his mother's womb, would result in a December 25th birth.  Using the Julian calendar though, presuming the conception was January 25th, that would push Jesus’ birthday up to September 25th.


That’s it, I have had enough of 2020 and its nonsense…Jumanji, Jumanji, Jumanji!!!


December is a month full of holidays (Yule, Christmas, Kwanzaa, Hanukkah, Boxing Day and Omisoka; just to name a few) which have a main focus upon peace and love.  Two facets that this entire world needs a whole lot of, especially after the debacle of the previous eleven months.  Let’s make a deal, instead of focusing on which holiday is the “correct” one for the month of December; let’s just focus on peace and love.  Anyone have an issue with that?  Please be quiet, no one really wants to know what a meanie you truly are.


Now, since I started off talking about Roman mythology, how about I continue with some Italian cuisine.  In November, the United States celebrates Thanksgiving with the traditional feast consisting of a cooked turkey.  Now leftovers are also a tradition of this holiday feast, so what to do with them?


New story.  Tetrazzini is strictly Italian, that is if you are the opera singer Luisa Tetrazzini who had a recipe created for her back in the early 1900's.  While Tetrazzini enjoyed a lavish career from 1890 to 1920; her life ended in poor health and poverty.  Now two sources claim to be the creators of this recipe named after the famous opera star, the Palace Hotel in San Francisco, CA and the Knickerbocker Hotel in New York, NY.  Just another version of the West coast versus the East coast; but whoever invented it, I bet, did not foresee the casserole becoming such a hit with the home cook.


Basically, Tetrazzini is a casserole made with some type of cooked poultry, canned tuna or raw shrimp which is mixed with diced vegetables, cooked spaghetti and baked together in a luscious, buttery cream sauce.  It is one of those recipes that can incorporate all the food groups in one sitting; if you add diced tomatoes, well there is your fruit group right there.  One thing I know for certain, there will be no leftovers for this casserole.




5 Tbsp. unsalted butter

3 Tbsp. all-purpose flour

2 cups chicken broth

1 cup heavy whipping cream

2 Tbsp. dry sherry

¾ cup grated parmesan cheese

¼ tsp. ground black pepper

1 cup thinly sliced mushrooms

1 medium onion, diced

1 lb. spaghetti, cooked and drained

½ cup roasted red bell pepper, diced

3 cups turkey breast, cooked and cut into ½ inch cubes

3/4 cup dry, unseasoned bread crumbs

3 Tbsp. melted butter


Preheat oven to 350F. Spray a 9” x 13” baking dish with nonstick spray.

Make a roux by melting 3 Tbsp. butter, on high heat in a large saucepan; whisk in flour until smooth. It is important to keep whisking, or roux will burn; and the process will have to be started over. Continue whisking while adding chicken broth; sauce will thicken. Whisk in cream, sherry, cheese and black pepper; remove from heat when mixture is smooth.

In a small nonstick skillet, on high heat, melt 2 Tbsp. butter; sauté mushrooms and onions until softened; about three minutes.

In a large bowl, combine the spaghetti, roasted peppers, turkey, sautéed vegetables and sauce; spread evenly into the baking dish. In a small bowl, mix together the bread crumbs and melted butter; sprinkle evenly over the mixture in the baking dish. Bake, uncovered for 20-30 minutes, or until bubbling and the topping is golden brown.

Makes 8 servings.

Mary Cokenour