Wednesday, May 26, 2021

Edible and Healthy Spears.

Before the internet and cable/satellite television, home cooks found out about new recipes, food products, growing and harvesting of fresh fruits, vegetables and herbs by only a few sources.  Cooking and gardening books/magazines at a local bookstore (oh, the smell and feel of a real book’s pristine pages), shows featured on PBS, newspaper columns and featured articles, advice from friends, family and neighbors, or a shop which was dedicated to one or the other.  Now, by the click of a mouse, or the swipe of a finger across a screen, the world has become everyone’s oyster; or, in my case, salmon and asparagus.

Facebook features pages and pages on the topics of cooking and gardening.  Posts are constantly being shared, and shared again, so it is no wonder they pop up on a newsfeed.  One such post was about salmon and asparagus, baked together within an aluminum foil pouch.  I have cooked with aluminum foil pouches before, but not ever considered the combination of these two items. 

Normally, with salmon, I have seared it in a hot skillet; grilled on a hot barbecue rack; baked in an oven.  Typical seasonings or sauces would be teriyaki, butter, lemon and dill; oh heavens, not all at the same time!  This new recipe though did combine butter with lemon, and I was curious as to how that would turn out; a sort of piccata perhaps?

Teriyaki Salmon, Fried Rice, Asparsgus

Then there was cooking the asparagus with the salmon, how would these two distinct ingredients influence each other?  When it comes to asparagus, adding it as a main ingredient to quiche is a favorite.  Sautéing it with butter and toasted almonds makes a delicious side dish; or a main dish when featured in a savory omelet.

Then it happened, an advertisement appeared for Muhlestein Greenhouse (217 East 300 South, Monticello, UT, 84535; (435) 587-2704) for asparagus crowns at only $2 each!  How appropriate that I was attempting a new asparagus related recipe, and looking to start a new vegetable garden this year as well.

Asparagus Crowns and Roots; soak in water until reading for planting.

Asparagus, tall and usually green (there are also white and purple varieties), a bit woodsy at the base, and so tender to eat when picked early.  The spears are actually the leaves of the plant, and become more fibrous as they are left to grow.  The spaced out triangular sections which look like leaves eventually grow out lovely feather-like branches that will flower.  Pollen bearing flowers are male, while fruit bearing are female, but the crown is how this vegetable becomes king, or queen.  Underground, the root system can spread up to six feet; above ground is three feet; so plant those crowns with room to spare.

Asparagus loves sunlight (8 hours/day), and well-drained soil, so pick an area in the garden that will obtain both.  Regular watering is 1 to 2 inches of water/week during its first two growing seasons; older plants about 1 inch/week.  While dappled sunlight will still allow growth, it will not be as profuse as with full sunlight.

There are many health benefits to asparagus; low in calories, nutrient rich in fiber, folate, potassium, iron, and vitamins A, C and K; weight loss, improved digestion, healthy pregnancy outcomes and lower blood pressure.  Unless allergic, a person could eat asparagus on a daily basis, however, there is a foul side effect to doing that.  The creation of asparagusic acid occurs within 15-30 minutes after consumption.  As the digestive process continues, sulfur compounds are released, then expelled during urination.  So, the usual rule of thumb applies to this vegetable as well, “eat within moderation”; or wear a gas mask while peeing.

Now to the recipe which was easy to make, and born from it was a new side dish as well.  When it came to taste, my husband thought it was quite delicious, and enjoyed the combination of vegetable stock, garlic, butter and lemon.  Me?  Not so much, and I believe it was the garlic that turned me off.  Do not go by our likes/dislikes, try it out; it is your pallet, so create! The use of the aluminum foil was a typical Reynold’s Wrap commercial; easy, and basically, minimal cleanup.

Ah, timing.  Cooked together, 15 minutes, at 425F, will give a fully cooked and moist salmon portion; the asparagus will be tender, yet still maintain a slight bite, aka al dente.  However, if cooking the asparagus alone, 10 minutes for al dente; 15 minutes will make the spears very soft.  Now the very soft version is not a bad thing, especially if wanting to create a “nest”, place a cooked protein within, and wallah…haute cuisine!

Another hint to make this dish more wow; instead of using broth, use Knorr Concentrated Stock; each container equals the two tablespoons needed.  The hot sauce in the recipe?  Definitely optional.


Baked Salmon in Foil with Asparagus and Garlic Lemon Butter Sauce

(Homemade Recipes:


2 salmon fillets

2 tablespoons vegetable broth or chicken broth 

1 1/2 tablespoon fresh lemon juice, or to taste

1 tablespoon of your favorite hot sauce  

4 teaspoons minced garlic (4 cloves)

Salt and fresh ground black pepper, to taste

3-4 tablespoons butter, diced into small cubes (or ghee)

2 tablespoons fresh chopped parsley or cilantro

1 lb. (450g) medium-thick asparagus, woody ends trimmed



To prepare the oven-baked salmon in foil packs: Preheat your oven to 425ºF (220ºC). Cut 2 sheets of 14 by 12-inch (35 x 30 cm) heavy-duty aluminum foil then lay each piece separately on the countertop. In a small bowl, combine the ingredients for the garlic butter sauce: broth, lemon juice, and hot sauce.

Season both sides of the salmon fillets with salt and pepper and divide salmon onto the aluminum foil near the center then place trimmed asparagus to one side of the salmon, following the long direction of the foil.

You can adjust salmon fillets seasoning with more salt and pepper, then sprinkle garlic on top. Drizzle the garlic butter sauce generously over the salmon fillets and asparagus.

Divide butter pieces evenly among the foil packets, layering them over the salmon fillet and asparagus.


Wrap salmon foil packets in and crimp edges together then wrap ends up. Don’t wrap too tight – keep a little extra space inside for heat to circulate. Transfer the salmon foil packs to a baking sheet and bake salmon in the oven, sealed side upward until salmon has cooked through, about 9 – 12 minutes. Carefully unwrap the baked salmon in foil packets then drizzle with more lemon juice and garnish with fresh parsley or cilantro and a slice of lemon.  


…and my side dish.

Asparagus Side Dish Only (Perfect with Teriyaki Salmon too!)


1 lb. asparagus, woody ends trimmed

2 tablespoons vegetable broth or chicken broth (or Knorr concentrated stock, 1 container)

2 Tbsp. butter

1 Tbsp. minced garlic

¼ tsp. ground black pepper

1 tsp. lemon juice

Bend Asparagus

Will Snap Apart Before Woody Section

Ready for Cooking


Preheat oven to 425F.

Place long sheet (double length of asparagus) aluminum foil onto pan.  Place asparagus long ways on sheet. Put broth, butter, garlic and pepper into small bowl; microwave for 30 seconds.  Add lemon juice and mix thoroughly.  Pour over asparagus.

Fold foil over asparagus and seal sides.  Bake in oven for 20 minutes, or 15 minutes for al dente.

 Remove from foil; place on serving platter.

 Makes 4 servings.

*Option: French green beans aka Haricots Verts

Mary Cokenour

Friday, May 21, 2021

Being Kind to our Pollinators.

March of this year, we began to see the return of the honey bees.  Even though spring had sprung, winter did not want to release her hold fully.  During the day, the sun warmed the water at the watering stations, and the bees were thirsty.  However, as the sun began to set, it was becoming usual to find bees lying in the water.  Quickly removing them from the cold liquid, some were revived and sent on their way back to the hive.  Sadly, at least one, nightly, did not revive and its tiny soul was sent away with a blessing.

The small branches and flat rocks placed inside the stations were not doing the intended job; keeping the bees out of the water.  What to do, what to do?  This question was suddenly answered by a photo on, of all places, Facebook.  It showed a deep metal bowl, full of marbles and water; the bees safely out of the water, walking atop the marbles.  Now our watering stations are heavy plastic storage containers, the lids a half inch deep.  Their new use was a happy accident.  While cleaning out a shed, they were outside, it began to rain and the lids filled with water.  Afterwards, we noticed the bees sitting on the rim; their tiny proboscises sucking up the precious liquid. Adding the small branches and flat stones, the bees were able to move over the water, giving each other room to share.  Of course, this did not keep them from falling into the water, and if not rescued quickly, going into forever sleep.

Before I forget, each storage container is wedged inside a tire.  It keeps the containers from being blown over by the wind.  Also, when the dogs are playing soccer, the ball, and the dogs themselves, will bounce off the tire.  The containers might shake slightly, but definitely not tip over, sending water, stones and bees tumbling to the ground.  Several flowering plants have begun growing around the tires, so the bees have a pollen, and water, source within reach.

Experiment time!  Being given a garden pot full of florist stones, I now had a use for them.  I washed them in hot water only; do not use soap as any residue will contaminate the drinking water.  Now here is where it got a little nerve wracking for a minute or so.  Removing the branches and rocks, dumping the old water and cleaning out any dirt and debris.  No, that is not the “heart skipped a beat” moment; it was several of the bees showing up, landing on my hair and waiting.  Deep breath, find that Zen spot; add the clean stones to cover the bottom and up to the rim of the lid.  Add clean water, a few flat agate stones for diversity; and the bees flew down to try it out! 

Container wedged into tire; wildflower seeds will be spread around tire.

Add florist stones, quartz, agate.

Add water.

Our first visitor to the new watering station.

Having a dozen, or more, honey bees, attaching themselves to one’s hair, or shirt; buzzing and vibrating, is an adrenaline shot to the system.  Not being stung, not once; then having them fly down to the water is, well, a precious, priceless moment.  Then again, that is my take on my place in this vast universe; a caregiver and nurturer of nature’s creatures.

Having a bench nearby, I sat, watched and waited; I needed to know if the experiment would be a success.  As bees flew away, more would come, and then more; none were falling into the water either.  They walked over the stones, their tiny heads dipping downward, and tiny rear ends happily vibrating.  Now I needed to create the second watering station, but was out of florist stones; and, of course, I could not find my jars of marbles.  I rushed to one local store, but it did not carry florist stones or marbles (what, don’t kids play with marbles anymore!?!)   Then I tried Unique Creations (116 South Main Street, Monticello, UT, 84535, (435) 587-3355), and there they were.  Bags of florist stones, different shapes, sizes, colors, and each bag only 99 cents!

Florist stones in a variety of shapes and colors.

At home, the process of washing in hot water, cleaning the second plastic lid, adding stones and clean water, began again.  As with “Field of Dreams”, it was built and they did come.  In fact, with the blooming of the plum trees this month of May, a third station was built.  The honey bees designated to collect pollen are in the trees, while the water gatherers are nearby.  To keep pollen as available as possible, wildflower seeds were planted around the tire the container is wedged into.  Do not be surprised if the watering stations have to be refilled, up to 3, or more, times per day.  Setting them up in sunny areas will keep the bees warm, but also evaporate the water.  Add the fresh water slowly, as the bees will push themselves between the stones, and you do not want to accidentally drown any.

Water Station #1

Water Station #2

Water Station #3 by plum trees.

The stones are bright, multicolored, and there is much hope that other pollinators will become attracted to the watering stations.  Butterflies, hummingbird moths and hummingbirds are also pollinators; and just as important, to our existence, as the bees.  Hummingbird feeders have been set up, but well away from the bees’ domain.  Why?  The sweet liquid attracts insects such as flies and wasps. 

In fact, there is a particular wasp, the yellow jacket, which looks very similar to a honey bee. Honey bees have hairy front and middle legs, used as brushes to comb the pollen off the body. Pollen is packed into hairy recesses, called pollen baskets or corbiculae, on the rear legs.  The wings are more oval shaped, and their overall demeanor is calm, not aggressive.    Yellow jackets have shiny, smooth and hairless bodies; long tapered wings, and are quite aggressive.  They will integrate themselves into a “gathering party”, fly back to the hive, and attempt to take it over which means killing the honey bees.  I recently found out that a neighbor's bee hives had been destroyed by wasps; his precious bees beheaded, or driven away, by those vicious wasps.

So, with all the talk, in the news, about ways to save our planet, and you are not sure of your part in this, focus on pollinators. Find out what species are in the area; what their needs are, and how to attract them.  “Pollination is one of nature's most important functions; it is the way many plants reproduce. Pollinators assist plants with reproduction; they take pollen from one plant to another. If plants aren’t properly pollinated, they can't bear fruit or produce seeds to grow new plants.” (The Importance of Pollinators by Joe Lamp’l -

To watch a video, of the honey bees at a watering station, go to:

Mary Cokenour

Wednesday, May 5, 2021

Chile or Chili, it's still Green.

May 5th, Cinco de Mayo is today, so a perfect opportunity to talk about chile peppers.  Is it Chile or Chili?  If it is the country in South America, it is Chile.  If it is the singer from the group "TLC", it is Chilli; and when it is very cold outside, well that is Chilly.  However, when it is the vegetable, it is the Green Chile Pepper, but when exactly does it become Chili?  Then there is the plural, is it Chiles or Chilies?  Confusing, and so many sources have so many definitions; so many recipes use the spellings so interchangeably.  Let’s just get to the story of the Chile Pepper itself and the most popular one in the Southwest is the New Mexico Green Chile Pepper, primarily grown in Hatch, New Mexico.  Oh yes, there are numerous types of chile peppers within the United States, and worldwide, but I am just going to focus on this one type for now.

Hatch chiles (ies) are available in a canned version, all roasted, seeded and peeled for you which is advantageous if you cannot find fresh chiles in your area.  This is what I had to do when I lived in Lancaster, PA, and while convenient, there was still that metallic taste from the aluminum cans to contend with.  Nope, there is no better alternative to fresh chiles than fresh chiles.

Roasting vegetables such as the chile pepper is actually not that difficult.  No, you do not need that large barrel type roaster you may have seen on a cooking show or outside of Walmart in Cortez, CO.  Your own barbeque grill, stove top burner (gas only), or oven will do will do that job, and very well.  Do make sure to grease up the rack on your grill or in your oven; otherwise the chiles will stick and tear apart when being removed.

Remember, you can do the roasting technique, not just for chile peppers, but those large bell peppers too.  When jalapenos are roasted, they become known as chipotle, so be careful if you are one of those people who says, "I hate jalapenos, but love chipotles"; they're the same. Anyway, once the peppers are blackened, place them in a brown paper bag, seal it and let the steam from the peppers make your work easier. Once the peppers are warm to the touch, the skins will easily peel off; give the stems a twist and pull the seed pods right out. Give them a rinse, let them dry and they can be frozen for up to six months, or used immediately.


Two items you can make with your roasted peppers are Green Chile (or Chili) Sauce and Salsa Verde. With Salsa Verde, it is made using tomatillo instead of actual green tomatoes. The tomatillo, also known as tomato verde (green tomato) or Mexican husk cherry is related to the gooseberry, and in the nightshade family.


Basic Green Chile Sauce


1 small onion, diced

1 Tbsp. minced garlic

2 Tbsp. canola oil

6 large green chile peppers; roasted, seeded, peeled and chopped

1 tsp. cumin

2 cups water



In a large sauce pan, heat the oil on medium-high heat; sauté' onion until softened; the garlic should be added when you see the onion just beginning to soften. Reduce heat to low, add the peppers, cumin and water; simmer for 30 minutes; stirring occasionally. Puree to desired consistency using a blender or immersion blender; add salt to taste.  Makes 1 and 1/2 cups.

Basic Salsa Verde


6 tomatillos, removed from husks and washed


1/4 chopped onion

1 clove garlic

3 large green chile peppers; roasted, seeded, peeled and chopped



Place tomatillos and water into a large saucepan; on medium-high heat, bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and let simmer for 15 minutes.Quarter the tomatillos; add tomatillos, onion, garlic and peppers to a blender. Set on puree and slowly add 1/4 cup water until ingredients achieve a smooth texture.  Makes 1 and 1/2 cups.

You now have two sauces, but what to do with them?  While you can enjoy them as dips for a party, they can be used in such Mexican recipes as enchiladas or burritos; used as toppings for a breakfast skillet or even in a main dish.  Here is a simple recipe you can make quickly at home; rice, grilled vegetables or a salad can serve as the side dish.

Green Chile Chicken


2 Tbsp. olive oil

8 skinless chicken tenderloins

1 tsp. Mexican oregano

1/2 tsp. ground black pepper

1/4 tsp. fine sea salt

2 Tbsp. white wine (NOT cooking wine, real wine!)

1 cup green chile sauce, warmed

8 tsp. diced red tomatoes


In a large skillet, medium-high heat, heat the oil; place the chicken "skin side up" and evenly sprinkle with the oregano, black pepper and salt.   Brown chicken for 3 minutes.

Turn the tenderloins over, remove the skillet from the heat and add the white wine; this will keep the wine from accidentally catching on fire.  Remember, you are not making a flambé', just searing the chicken.  Set back on heat and cook 3 minutes before removing from skillet.   

Two tenderloins per serving, a tablespoon of sauce over each plus a teaspoon of diced red tomatoes.  You will get the heat temperature from the seared chicken and warmed sauce; the spicy heat of the green chiles grabs you; but now the cool, sweetness of the tomatoes gives you a full flavor taste explosion in your mouth. Mexican style rice, grilled vegetables or even a simple salad as a side, makes this a complete meal; and there is the key word: simple.

Enjoy and Feliz Cinco de Mayo!

Mary Cokenour