Wednesday, February 24, 2021

Done Up in a Bun.

There I was, perched upon the edge of the sofa, eyes glued to the television screen, adrenaline pumping…Yes!  Tombstone tears into MadCatter, metallic armor flying to all corners of the arena, and it’s a KO!  That’s correct folks, we are fans of Battlebots, featured on the Discovery Channel.  Hearing, “It’s robot fighting time!” means the sofa will only be vacated during commercials, so not one bit of action is missed.

Thankfully, my buns in the oven were set to a timer which just happened to chime at commercial time.  Otherwise, well they would have been more on the mature side, then planned upon.

“Bun in the oven”, a phrase meaning to be pregnant or expecting a baby.  Originating in the novel, Cruel Sea, by Nicholas Monserrate, published in 1951, a character named Bennett says, “I bet you left a bun in the oven, both of you”, to a couple that just spent an intimate night together.  But why the reference of a baking bun to a baby?   According to the Oxford Online Dictionary, the phrase is a pun, “As a bun grows in size when baked in the oven, similarly, an unborn child grows in the womb of the mother.”

Typically a baked bun is small, sometimes sweet, bread-based, comes in many shapes and sizes, with a rounded top and flat bottom. Well, babies are considered to be sweet, come in different weights (sizes), have a round head and flat feet; sure I can see it.

Buns are usually made from flour, sugar, milk, yeast and butter.  Common sweet varieties can contain chopped fruits or nuts, may be topped with icing, or a sweet drizzle like caramel; or filled with jam or cream.  Other types of buns are used to fill with various meats, cheeses and vegetables; perfect examples are hotdog, hamburger or sandwich buns.

Depending on the culture a "bun" may also refer to particular types of filled dumplings, such as Chinese baozi, or bao, a type of yeast-leavened filled bun.  There are many variations in fillings (meat, vegetables or combination of both), and preparation is either steamed or baked.  You have seen me mention “Roast Pork Buns”, and these are delectable, hand held buns usually found in Chinese bakeries.  Personally, I could eat six in one seating, and still be craving more; that’s how spectacular in flavor, taste and texture they are.  No plans to get to Chinatown in New York City or Philadelphia anytime soon?  Head into Moab and Bangkok House Too; they offer up steamed pork buns as an appetizer.

While the recipe I will be giving you is not the Chinese version, it can be easily made in the home kitchen, using beef, pork or chicken.  Normally, I would make this recipe, shred the meat and spoon it atop sandwich buns; a salad on the side of macaroni or potato, or maybe macaroni and cheese.

However, when watching an exciting show, like Battlebots, you most certainly do not want to be balancing any sort of plate on your lap.  The excitement will be so much, well that plate will go flying, like the shell off Captain Shrederator!  Better to take your chances with a bun in one hand, and make sure not to slap it with the other hand.


BBQ Beef Buns


2 lbs. lean beef roast or London broil; cut into 4 lengthwise pieces

1 and ½ cups diced red bell pepper

1 and ½ cups diced red onion

1 (18 oz.) bottle hickory smoked barbeque sauce

4 (8 count) cans refrigerated biscuits


2 eggs

2 Tbsp. milk


Spray interior of 2-quart crock pot with nonstick cooking spray.  Place beef, upright on sides, against crock pot walls, and in center.  Top with bell peppers, then red onions; cover all with barbeque sauce.  Set on low and cook for six hours.


After six hours, turn off crock pot; preheat oven to 350F, and line baking trays with parchment paper.


On floured board, roll out biscuit dough rounds, half to 5 inches in diameter (bottoms), half to 3 inches in diameter (tops).  Remove beef from crock pot and shred onto a plate.  Spoon out sauce into bowl, use slotted spoon to get peppers and onions, not just liquid.


Onto 5-inch rounds, place beef up to one-inch from edges; spoon chunky sauce over top.  Take 3-inch rounds and place onto center, over beef and sauce.  With water, wet edges of 5-inch rounds and seal over 3-inch rounds.  Place onto parchment lined trays.


In a small bowl, whisk eggs with milk; brush liquid over tops and edges of buns on trays.  When all buns are complete, place in oven for 20-25 minutes, until golden brown.

Makes 16 buns.

Mary Cokenour



Tuesday, February 16, 2021

Ja-Roen Thai Sushi Stays Strong and Delicious

Ja-Roen Thai Sushi

380 South Main Street

Monticello, UT, 84535

Phone: (435) 587-4000

Hours of Operation:  11am – 9pm; Monday thru Sunday

In September 2019, Sampas Janhom opened Ja-Roen Thai Sushi, in Monticello, UT, and the online reviews further his story.  Whether local or passing through, diners are still enjoying his Thai and Japanese specialties.  Take, for example, this review on Google, “One of the great surprises on our road trip. A very unsuspecting restaurant from the outside. When you walk in you wonder how you found the place. It’s a very eclectic place that’s hard to describe. But the food was absolutely spot on delicious. (In addition everything was Covid clean with disposable service where they did not take away from the delicious food).Not fancy but a great surprise almost in the middle of nowhere. Obviously great pride of ownership. Well worth a stop!”

Or, “Amazing, not enough stars. The food was so delicious I ate there once and I went back the next day. I work in the trucking industry and have traveled the US eating at every Thai Restaurant spot I can and this place is on my top 10. A hidden gem from all the other basic restaurant food they have in this small town. They cooked up some of the best Sweet and Sour and Cashew Nut I have ever had. Crisp vegetables, and multitude of flavor, just like good authentic Thai food should be. Worth the 1 mile walk I took from the other side of town at the motel I stayed at.”

Valentine’s Day of 2020, before Covid-19 made its dramatic debut, we enjoyed a special meal, and Sam made sure to spoil us rotten!  So, is it any wonder that for 2021, we found ourselves at Ja-Roen once again?  Since my husband had to work that evening, we were at the restaurant by 4:30pm, and were greeted with rousing shouts of “Welcome Roy and Mary, Happy Valentine’s Day”.  Sam loves to retell the story of how I was the first person he met, when scoping out Monticello for a restaurant, and I convinced him to do it.

By now, we thought we had the menu pretty well memorized, but noticed a couple of additions to the sushi roll choices; Alaskan King Crab Roll and Lobster Roll.  However, we had already determined we wanted our very favorite menu items for today.  Our appetizer, believe it or not, was not from the appetizer section; instead All American Dream Roll.  Tempura style soft shell crab, with tender baby asparagus and avocado, wrapped in rice and topped with shredded crab stick, tempura flakes and a light sauce.  

Our main meal choices, which we shared of course, were Pad Se Ewe; wide egg noodles (much different from the typical supermarket style) with egg, broccoli, meat (we chose beef), stir fried in a sweet soy sauce (and we asked for extra sauce, no problem!)  We absolutely love this dish as it reminds us of our adventures in Philadelphia’s Chinatown district, and scarfing down Chow Ho Fun.

Sweet and Sour was the second dish; tender meat (we chose chicken) pieces battered and deep fried to a crispy perfection, with chopped onion, bell pepper, tomato, cucumber, scallion and pineapple.  The sweet and sour sauce covers all, but is light in flavor, so does not overwhelm the meat or vegetables.  There is a choice of white or fried rice with this dish, and highly recommend the fried rice which has peas, carrots and lightly fried with soy sauce.

We only ate half of each dish, that way hubby could take the remaining halves for lunch during work.  Oh yes, I had a craving later on, but had to sustain myself with mere cheese and crackers; ho hum.

Hot Jasmine Tea

Now this left plenty of room for dessert!  We shared Fried Ice Cream; a ball of vanilla ice cream, battered and deep fried; topped with whipped cream, chocolate sauce and a cherry (I snagged that baby fast!).

Even though the weather had been unfriendly and dreary, we had a blast this Valentine’s Day. We were eating food we enjoyed, in a friendly atmosphere, and with an owner who appreciates, not just our business, but we as people.  We were all laughing so loudly, people kept turning to stare at us!  By the time we left at 6pm, the restaurant was half full, and take-out orders were steadily being called in and picked up.

Ja-Roen Thai Sushi is a restaurant that stood strong during the pandemic, and refused to go under, as many other restaurants sadly have done.  Sampas Janhom, and his son who works diligently with him, made sure that folks could still continue to get freshly made Thai and Japanese foods.  Thank you guys, you are awesome people!

Sampas Janhom, Owner

Still have not tried this restaurant out?  Well if it is a special invitation you are waiting for, here it is; “Go try it out now, and make your taste buds and stomach feel happy!”

Mary Cokenour



Wednesday, February 10, 2021

Using Real Pork to Copycat the McRib

One of the frustrating things, about the pandemic, is being unable to fulfill cravings.  It could be for a rootbeer float or ice cream cone; perhaps the most awesome fries you have ever tasted; or a favorite dinner with a special someone, family or friends.  Covid-19 has restaurants on a rollercoaster ride of open, not open, closed permanently, take out or drive thru only.  Even fast food places are going through this; and that drive up window might seem so far away on a very long line.  Worst yet, maybe your favorite restaurant or fast food place is miles away, and travel restrictions are in constant flux as well.

Solution?  Learn to make it yourself, or a close enough version to satisfy those cravings for a bit. Now for the warning. This article is how I created my copycat version of the McDonald’s McRib Sandwich.   I researched how they made that mini-boneless rib for the sandwich, and what it is made from.  If you love them, no matter what is in them, you can skip this part.  Personally, we have not enjoyed this sandwich, since they changed its consistency, and now we know why.

Here goes, the McRib consists of a restructured boneless pork patty shaped like a miniature rack of ribs, barbecue sauce, onions, and pickles; served as a sandwich on a sub/hero/hoagie roll.

Question, restructured?  Meat restructuring was developed by the US Army to deliver low-cost meat to troops in the field.  For the McRib, ground “pork” is pressed into the iconic rib shape, including the illusion of bones, then seared to give the eye catching “cooked on the grill” look.

The McRib made its debut, in the United States, in 1981.  McNuggets was a best seller, but McDonald’s kept running into shortages on chicken.   McDonald's first Executive Chef RenĂ© Arend, who invented McNuggets, came up with the idea of McRib.  Originally, the ground meat was made from pork shoulder (aka real pork), but not from the rib meat, as the name implies; plus salt and water. The McRib did not sell well, so was taken off the menu.  However, many customers actually liked the sandwich and complained to the head offices.  So, every few years, McDonald’s puts the item back on the menu, for a limited time, and these customers get their treat, and feel special.

Of course, there has been, for years, a call for healthier menu items at fast food establishments, and McDonald’s complied.  Instead of pure pork, tripe, heart, and scalded stomachs were ground, then pressed into the patties.  Being high in protein, completely edible, wholesome, and nutritious was the selling point to the health crowd.  Tripe is the edible muscle lining from the stomach of farm animals, such as cows, pigs, and sheep; there is your pork product then.

Have I ruined your love of the McRib?  Let me make it up to you by giving you my copycat recipe which is made from pure pork.  Boneless pork ribs are still not the rib meat though, but from pork shoulder.  Oh, just what the original McRib was made from!


Copycat McRib Sandwich


 3 lbs. boneless pork ribs (also called country style)

1 tsp. each fine sea salt, ground black pepper, garlic powder

1 extra large onion, julienned (can never have too much onion with this)

1 (18 oz.) bottle brown sugar barbeque sauce

6 sub rolls (I used Ciabatta bread which fit the pork portions better)

Pickles (Dill or Bread & Butter chips)



Each slab of pork will be sliced, not all the way through, into 9-10 “ribs”, attached with fat on the underside.  Cut the slabs, so that each portion has 3 or 4 “ribs”; there should be 6 portions altogether.  If the underside fat is very thick, trim it; do not have it more then 1/8th of an inch thick.  Mix the seasonings together; rub into tops and sides of the “ribs”.


Spray a 2-quart crock pot with nonstick cooking spray.  Fat side down, place one portion on the bottom of the crock pot.  Line the 5 remaining portions along the sides, fat against the crock pot wall.  Pour barbeque sauce over pork portions and into center.  Place julienned onion into the center, on top of the sauce.  While cooking, the sauce will rise up over the onions and pork.


Set on low and cook 5-6 hours (pork easily comes apart with a fork).  Pull out the pork, place on an aluminum lined jelly roll pan.  Set broiler on high, place pan under and let pork broil for 10-15 minutes (check every 5 minutes to get to desired grill effect).  At the same time, if the sauce has thinned out, due to juices from the pork, whisk in two tablespoons of flour to thicken.  The onions will have softened, yet still have a bit of bite to them.


Now to create the sandwich.  Slice roll in half, lengthwise and spoon two tablespoons of sauce on bottom half.  Place pork portion on top, spoon additional sauce and onions on top.  Top with pickle chips and top half of bun.  Eat with enjoyment, and have plenty of napkins at hand.

Makes six sandwiches.

Remember, you do not have to deprive yourself of a craving due to restrictions.  Create!  The only limit you have is the limitation you give yourself.  Imagine the fun you will have trying to copycat a menu item; thinking about its taste, texture, structure.  Who knows what you will learn about this item, and more so, yourself.

Mary Cokenour


Monday, February 8, 2021

Freshen Up Leftover Pasta with Veggies

 So here's the scenario; meatballs and sausages plus a baked pasta dish.  While it's expected that they'll all be eaten together, that often isn't the case.  The meat items might be used to make a sandwich, or broken up and used to spruce up pizza.  However, you're now stuck with a half pan full of pasta, and while it has sauce and cheese with it, it's kind of boring as is.

Click on Baked Ziti and it will take you to the recipe for this hearty dish of pasta baked together with homemade pasta sauce and cheese.  Now what happens if you have a lot left over?  Better yet, what if you have someone over who is vegetarian?  Serve just salad as a side?  Boring again!  Now let's take that baked pasta and combine it with a homemade sauce chock full of veggies!

I had half a 3-quart baking dish of leftover baked rigatoni.  Nope, you don't have to use just ziti for the baked ziti recipe, any small tubular pasta will do, like rigatoni, penne and mostaccioli.  In a deep, large skillet, I heated up a fresh made veggie sauce, mixed in the leftover baked pasta, and let it continue cooking until all was hot and ready to be eaten.

Here's what I used...


3 Tbsp. olive oil

1 small onion, diced

1 cup each of chopped (about 1/2 inch in size) green and red bell peppers

1 medium zucchini, chopped (same size as the peppers)

1 tsp. cracked black pepper

2 cups chopped Roma tomatoes

2 cups pasta sauce

2 heaping Tbsp. minced garlic

1 Tbsp. each dried, crushed basil and oregano

Leftover baked pasta (about 1 and 1/2 quarts or about 4 servings)


In a deep, large skillet, medium high heat, heat the olive oil, then add in the onion, bell peppers, zucchini and black pepper; let them cook for 15 minutes.

Next, add in the remaining ingredients: tomatoes, sauce, garlic and herbs; mix thoroughly and continue to cook for an additional 20 minutes.  Stir occasionally to keep from sticking and/or burning.

Last step, mix in the left over baked pasta; mix thoroughly, breaking up the pasta pieces that might be clumped together, and let cook 10 additional minutes.  Mix again before serving.

Doing all this, I was able to stretch it out to six servings; the taste, smell and texture was delicious all the way throughout.

With the addition of the vegetables, I made something mundane into something fabulous; and even a vegetarian would find it to be fabulous as well.

This recipe can be made if cooking up some fresh pasta as well.  Cook the pasta to al dente, drain, and then add to the veggie sauce to cook together for that last 10 minutes before serving.  If someone doesn't like, or can't eat, cheese, it's not already in, so no worries.  However, you could always have a few of bowls of cheeses (shredded provolone, mozzarella and parmesan) on hand, so anyone wanting to add them, into their serving, can.

Now you don't have to wonder what to do with leftover pasta, just spruce it up with veggies!

Mary Cokenour

Wednesday, February 3, 2021

Being Bananas and Nuts Can Be Fulfilling.

“Time flies like an arrow; fruit flies like a banana.”

Groucho Marx, A Night at the Opera

 Ah, the Marx Brothers, four brothers (Groucho, Chico, Harpo and Zeppo) who made five hilarious movies together, before Zeppo decided that his life’s goal was to be a successful businessman.  Although the other three brothers continued on to make more movies, it was only Groucho who continued on, into radio and television, with his show, “You Bet Your Life”.

The banana, and its peel, was often used as a gag in movies; who has not seen the classic slipping on the banana peel fall?  In Horse Feathers, Chico and Harpo throw banana peels across a football field, slowing down the opposing team as they slipped and fell.  In Duck Soup, Harpo is so busy chowing down on a banana, he successfully does not get married, due to not being able to say his vows.

There is something to be said about the old comedy classics such as the Marx Brothers, Abbott and Costello, Laurel and Hardy, Bowery Boys and the Little Rascals, to name a few.  Their movies and shows were done during hardship eras of the United States; bringing joyous laughter to help forget the sorrows, even if for a short time.  Still having difficulty dealing with the pandemic?  Have a laugh fest night watching these old comedies; belly laughs always feel better than belly aches.

Which brings me to, “Fruits and nuts were comparing themselves one day.  Cauliflower and Walnut said, “We look like brains, so are very smart.”  Broccoli said, “I look like a tree, so am sturdy and strong.”  Banana said, “Nevermind, can we change the subject.””  So yes, bananas can be compared to fingers (I bet you thought I was going to say something else), and that is exactly why they are called bananas.  Arabs adopted the name banan, the Arabic word for finger; bananas grow in hands, or what we call bunches, and were smaller in size.

Bananas are packed with potassium, B6 (great for brain nourishment) and 12% of daily fiber; however, also contain mega-carbohydrates and natural sugar.  High amounts of ethylene cause the yellow pigments in banana skins to decay into brown spots, a process called enzymatic browning.  Wrapping the stems in plastic, or hanging them by the stem and away from other fruits, can slow the browning process.  Peel the bananas, sprinkle lemon juice on them, and then pop them into the refrigerator to keep the “meat” from browning too quickly.  Or, take the whole bananas (minus peels), wrap in plastic and pop into the freezer individually; think of it as a banana popsicle.  Personally, after the peels begin to brown, I mush the banana pulp up, measure out into one cup portions, wrap in plastic, freeze and save for baking.

One of our favorite baked good is either banana nut muffins or breads.  I enjoy trying out new recipes which have options of using different nuts, or added in fruits like cranberries or blueberries.  One recipe I tried added in lemon juice, and the breads came out very sour tasting, so I do not recommend that.  The recipe made three breads, and I shared two with the tasters agreeing with our assessment, just too sour.

The nut I use the most is the walnut; rich in antioxidants and omega-3, good for digestion and a simple 1/4 cup of a walnut snack helps maintain blood sugar and blood pressure.  Out of walnuts, then consider using the almond which contains Vitamin E, and helps regulate cholesterol, blood sugar and blood pressure.

Now, of course, the addition of white and brown sugars is going to up the carbs, so consider using baking sugar substitutes like Truvia and Swerve.  I have even used these products for cookies, pies, cakes, even cheesecakes, and no one could tell I did not use real sugar!   Swerve even has a substitute for confectioner’s (powdered) sugar which tastes authentic; and neither brand has a bitter aftertaste.


Very Ripe Banana Muffins

(The 250 Best Muffin Recipes by Esther Brody, page 124)


1 cup mashed overripe bananas

½ cup + 2 Tbsp. vegetable oil

½ cup granulated or brown sugar

½ tsp. salt

1 egg

1 tsp. vanilla

1 and ½ cups all-purpose flour

1 tsp. baking soda

1 tsp. baking powder

½ cup chopped walnuts or pecans


Preheat oven to 350F, 6 cup muffin tin greased or paper lined.

In a bowl, combine bananas, oil, sugar and salt; blend well.  Add eggs and vanilla, beat well.

In another bowl, combine flour, baking soda, baking powder and walnuts.  Add to banana mixture; stir just until moist.  Do not overmix.

Spoon batter into prepared muffin tin, dividing evenly.  Bake in preheated oven for 15-20 minutes.

Makes 6 muffins.

I doubled up on this recipe to make 12 muffins, and used brown sugar to give the muffins a rich, darker coloring. 

With the bread, this recipe can make one loaf, and if using white sugar, the interior coloring will be much lighter than with brown sugar.
  Want a bit more flavor, add a teaspoon of cinnamon to the batter.


Go nuts!  Go bananas!  Go crazy with laughter!  You will be amazed at how much of your personal pain will diminish.

Mary Cokenour