Wednesday, June 30, 2021

Bread, Chocolate and Mystery

Anyone who has ever made a bread, from scratch, knows that the process does not go hand-in-hand with spontaneity.  Whether using yeast, or a sourdough starter, a living organism must be given moisture and nourishment to flourish.  Fermentation begins, and this is the creation of natural gases which will make the dough rise.  In beer making, whether breweries, or the home brewer, yeast is used, once again, for the fermentation process.  So, a popular slogan heard at beer festivals is, “Drink your bread!”

Quick bread recipes became popular as the production time was extremely shortened.  A quick bread uses baking powder and/or baking soda for the leavening process.  This means all ingredients can be mixed together immediately, baked, usually within an hour, and be ready to serve; well, quickly.  Quick bread is often referred to as a “cake bread”, as the consistency, dependent upon ingredients and baking time, can be very cake-like; for example, zucchini bread.

Now, who can we thank for combining bread with everyone’s favorite sweet treat, chocolate?  That would be the Jewish communities of Poland and the Ukraine, who brought, in the early 19th century, the recipe for Babka from Israel.  While it was referred to simply as yeast cake in the old country, Babka means “grandmother”, and who did most of the baking anyway, grandma of course!  Babka is basically left over challah dough (a yeast bread) which is rolled out, filled with chocolate (a 20th century addition), cinnamon, fruit jam, or sweet cream cheese; braided and baked.  Since the challah dough has already gone through the proofing and rising stages, Babka can be baked within an hour. 

I enjoy reading, actually, it is an addiction and mysteries are my #1 go to.  Then again, I enjoy cooking too, so imagine the joy of finding books that have both!  Joanna Fluke, Joanne Pence, Karen Rose Smith, Chelsea Thomas and Diane Mott Davidson are just a tiny listing of the hundreds of authors putting out this type of novel.  Often referred to as “Cozy Mysteries”, it is the type of novel meant to be read in a day or two with personable characters, except the murdered ones.  Food is often mentioned, sleuths and killers have to eat too, right?  Then several of the mentioned foods have actual recipes printed at the very ending.  Best of both worlds, a mystery and a cookbook!

Hallmark, and Hallmark Movies and Mysteries, are two channels that feature many a movie, sometimes based upon an author’s series, or an original script.  However, do not judge a movie, or book, by its title.  Bread and Chocolate (1974) - about an Italian immigrant working as a waiter in Switzerland, but nothing about baking bread or creating chocolate. Blood and Chocolate (2007) - werewolf horror movie, once again, nothing about baking bread or creating chocolate.

Now that I have given you much to chew on (bread, quick bread, mystery novels and movies); how about a recipe, for Chocolate Banana Bread.  It is very easy to make (I really like easy), the finished product is three loaves (you can share!), and then there is another dessert recipe to try, Caramelized Bread Blast.

Shalena Bradshaw Black (Monticello City Recorder) gave me the idea of frying up the chocolate banana bread slice with butter and sugar.  My hubby, Roy, named it, and I was lucky to get a bite to taste for myself.

It is knock-you-right-out-into-outer-space amazing, and definitely restaurant quality....Order up, and you're welcome!!!


Chocolate Banana Bread


3 and 1/2 cups all-purpose flour (+ 3 Tbsp. for high altitude)

1 and 1/2 tsp. baking soda

1 and 1/2 tsp. salt

2 cups sugar (or sugar substitute equal to 2 cups sugar)

2 sticks (1 cup) unsalted butter, softened

4 large eggs

2 cups mashed very ripe bananas

1 cup sour cream

2 tsp. vanilla extract

1 cup dark chocolate chips (preference: Ghirardelli Dark Chocolate Melting Wafers)

4 tsp. unsweetened cocoa powder




Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease 3 -8.5 x 4.5 inch loaf pans generously with butter or nonstick butter flavored cooking spray.


Into a medium bowl, sift together the flour, baking soda and salt.

In a large bowl, beat butter and sugar until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add the flour mixture and mix on low speed until just combined (will look exactly like a bread dough). Add the mashed bananas, sour cream and vanilla extract; beat until dry ingredients well combined, but not overmixed.


Place the chocolate in a microwave safe bowl. Cook on high power 20 seconds (3 times for full 60 seconds), stir in between each interval.  Remove from microwave, stir until smooth; add cocoa powder and stir until dissolved.  


Spoon one layer plain batter and 3 Tbsp. chocolate alternately into the prepared loaf pans. Swirl together with a knife; do not overdo, or it will all look chocolate.  Repeat with remaining batter and chocolate.  Bake for about 1 hour, or until toothpick comes out clean. Cool in the pan on a wire rack to cool completely.  Wrap in plastic wrap; store in refrigerator.  Reheat ½ inch slice for 10-15 seconds in microwave, or butter and heat up in skillet on medium heat.


Makes 3 loaves.


Caramelized Bread Blast


½ inch slice chocolate banana bread

1 tsp. butter + ½ Tbsp. butter (keep separate)

½ tsp. sugar

vanilla ice cream

chocolate syrup



In small skillet, medium-high heat, melt ½ tablespoon butter.  At same time, butter one side of bread with 1 teaspoon butter; sprinkle sugar evenly over butter.


When butter in pan begins to sizzle, place bread, unbuttered side, down in pan and let fry for 2 minutes.  Flip over, let fry 2 minutes; butter and sugar will caramelize.


Place bread, caramelized side up, on plate; add scoop of vanilla ice cream; drizzle chocolate syrup over ice cream, and decoratively around bread.

Makes one dessert.

Mary Cokenour







Thursday, June 24, 2021

Chinese-Russian Fusion

So, here I am, sitting at my desk and typing merrily away on my computer’s keyboard.  It is just going on 6:30am, and I have already experienced many joys of nature.  First and foremost is the backyard neighbor’s “elephant rooster” waking up the household at 5am.  I call it an “elephant rooster” as it trumpets like one from around 5am, sometimes even 4am, and continues throughout the day.  I do not understand rooster language, but obviously this one has much to inform the neighborhood about.

Letting out the dogs to do their morning absolutions, I prepare the food for the indoor pets, as well as the outdoor kitty family.  The kittens are already up, jumping and playing, while Mama Callie looks on with sleepy eyes.  Putting down their food dish, the kittens will not eat until I pick up each one, give kisses and a belly rub, which earns me some very loud purr action.

About an hour later, the coffee, vanilla caramel flavor this morning, is brewing and the food dishes are being washed up.  Gazing out the kitchen window, I am greeted by the lovely sight of a hummingbird at the water feeder.  It enjoys sipping at the sugar water (only natural cane sugar, no red food dye); its wings beating furiously, yet I can still make out the iridescent colors of its plumage.  Oh, now I have just shocked myself as I have spelled “iridescent” correctly, and not even had my first cup of coffee as yet.

While the temperature outside is still cool, a slight breeze swaying the tree branches, I know it will be another hot, dry day.  After experiencing such joy from nature this morning, I remember the fires burning in our forests, and my heart aches.  The trees, plant life, the wild life; spring saw the birthing of animal babies; were their parents able to get them away in time?  Whether by nature’s own doing (lightning), or the sheer stupidity of man (abandoned camp fire), fire destroys, and the loss is heart breaking.

…and now to thoughts on food.

Pepper steak, a stir-fried Chinese American dish consisting of sliced beef steak cooked with sliced green and/or red bell peppers plus seasonings of soy sauce and ginger.  Sliced onions area common addition; bean sprouts for a little more texture.  The dish originated from Fujian cuisine, where it was known as qingjiao ròusi, the meat of choice being pork.  A similar dish, called chin-jao rosu is found in Japanese Chinese cuisine.  As Chinese restaurants began to expand throughout the United States, around 1948, diners were introduced to pepper steak.  However, due to religious, or health, reasons, many could, or would, not eat pork, and beef is definitely all-American.

While researching the origin, I came upon a definition of pepper steak which simply is, “strips of steak sautéed with green peppers and onions”.  However, a second definition gives this dish a French twist, “steak covered with crushed peppercorns, pan-broiled, and served with brandy-and-butter sauce”.  This refers more to Steak au Poivre.  In 1961, Julia Child introduced this recipe to America when it was published in the New York Times.  It is featured in her cookbook, Mastering the Art of French Cooking, and now it is bragging time.  She actually put out two books, Part 1 and Part 2, and I happily found a first edition of each at an antique shop, of all places.  In 2002, food blogger, Julie Powell challenged herself to cook, daily for an entire one year, a recipe from these Julie Child cookbooks.  The movie, Julie and Julia depicts the adventure, and while a well done movie, there is no way I personally would ever take up a challenge like this.

However, I do challenge myself to come up with new ways of cooking up an “old” recipe.  Did you ever get in the mood for a dish, but wanted another one as well?  Do you cook up both, pick just one, or do something unique like combining?  Well I ended up combining ingredients that would fit pepper steak, but also Russian stroganoff; and all due to not having any fresh, or canned, mushrooms!  Basically I fused a Chinese dish, pepper steak, with a Russian one, stroganoff, and came up with…oh, the smell, the taste, it was all intoxicating!

I have written up stroganoff before, but as a reminder, credit for the recipe has been given to three people. The history behind this dish is vague: #1 – 1850s created by a chef for Count Grigory Stroganov who had rotten teeth and needed the meat to be very soft.  #2 – 1891 created by French Chef Briere for Count Pavel Alexandrovich Stroganov; using shallots.  #3 – 1871 Elena Molokhovets writes a cookbook for young housewives; her recipe uses mushrooms, onions, bouillon, allspice and mustard.

My recipe calls for the dish to be cooked in a crock pot for eight hours; the beef becoming so tender, it simply melts in the mouth.  So now, I present to you, Pepper Steak Stroganoff.


Pepper Steak Stroganoff


2 lbs. lean beef roast, cut into one inch cubes

3 Tbsp. all-purpose flour

2 Tbsp. each red wine vinegar and Worcestershire sauce

1 cup each green and red bell peppers, cut into half inch slices

1 large red onion, cut into half inch slices

2 cups beef stock

½ tsp. ground black pepper

2 Tbsp. minced garlic

1 lb. wide egg noodles

4 Tbsp. butter

12 oz. sour cream


Spray 4-quart crock pot with nonstick cooking spray.  Add in beef, sprinkle flour over cubes, vinegar, Worcestershire, bell peppers, onions; in that order.  Mix together stock, black pepper and garlic; pour over all in the pot.  Cover, set on low, and cook for 8 hours.

At the 7 hour mark, cook the egg noodles according to package directions, drain, and place in bowl; gently mix in butter until melted and noodles coated.  At the 8 hour mark, add sour cream to crock pot, mix well, and serve over egg noodles.

Makes 8 servings.

Mary Cokenour




Wednesday, June 16, 2021

Multiple Personality Disorder Muffins aka Morning Glory Muffins.

Good morning, how about a warm, freshly baked muffin; one with multiple personalities?  That is exactly what the Morning Glory Muffin is all about; an “everything, but the kitchen sink” recipe.  The long list of ingredients starts out as carrot cake with raisins, then becomes Hawaiian with coconut, and ends up with apples and cinnamon for that all American pie. Walnuts are added in, just to prove it is nuts.  There you have it, a muffin with multiple personality disorder.

Morning Glory Muffins were created by Chef Pam McKinstry, of the Morning Glory Café, which was open from 1979-1982, on Old South Wharf, Nantucket, MA.  The recipe was printed in Gourmet magazine in 1981, but was so popular that it was re-printed in the October 1991 issue.  It was part of an article called “25 Favorite Cookies, Muffins, and Quick Breads”; these were recipes which were collected, from all of their past issues, in celebration of the 50th anniversary of Gourmet Magazine.

Pamela A. McKinstry wrote two spiral-bound cookbooks of recipes from her restaurant, Sconset Café, which still exists under different owners (  On page 8, of A Kitchen Collection: Sconset Café—a village café on Nantucket Island (1985), is the recipe for Morning Glory Muffins. The second book is called Kitchen Magic on Nantucket: Recipes from the Sconset Café (1987).  While I personally could not find either cookbook, for purchase online (out of print/none available for resale), one of the 5-star reviews read, “amazing morning glory muffins”.

My own personal interest with the muffin began at our local Maverik.  Needing something for breakfast, being on the go, why not a yummy muffin?  Reading the labels, I spied Morning Glory, and it peaked my interest further.  Was this one of those baked goods that included an infusion of flowers, like roses and pansies, but using morning glories?  I saved the container, for label reading later on, but scarfed down that muffin; sweet, moist, packed with surprise after surprise of flavorful additions.  But to be objectively fair, I purchased another muffin, the next day, gave it to Roy for his eating enjoyment, and most especially, his opinion.  Result? Find a recipe and bake them up, baby! Oh, no flowers were used in the making of this muffin.

Since we do live at high altitude, especially compared to Massachusetts, I added in three tablespoons of flour.  I still achieved the required wet, sticky batter; however, instead of 12 muffins, it was stretched out to 15.  No complaints there!  I did take a few up to San Juan Record, for taste testing, and just to be nice; and did receive a couple of rave reviews myself.

With this muffin recipe, the prep work is worth the delicious result.  Morning Glory Muffins, a muffin with multiple personality disorder, that will make your day bright, and your smile wide.

Morning Glory Muffins


1 and 1/4 cups granulated sugar

2 and 1/4 cups all-purpose flour

2 tsps. baking soda

1 Tbsp. ground cinnamon

1/2 tsp. salt

1/2 cup sweetened shredded coconut

3/4 cup raisins

1 large apple peeled and grated

1 (8 oz.) can crushed pineapple drained and pressed dry with paper towels

4 medium carrots peeled and grated (about 2 cups)

1/2 cup walnuts toasted and coarsely chopped

3 eggs

1 cup vegetable oil

1 tsp. pure vanilla extract



Adjust the oven rack to the middle position and heat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 12-cup muffin tin.

In a large bowl, whisk together sugar, flour, baking soda, cinnamon and salt. Add coconut, raisins, apple, pineapple, carrots, and walnuts and stir to combine.


In a small bowl, whisk together eggs, oil, and vanilla until smooth. Gently add to the rest of the ingredients and stir carefully to combine (do not overmix).


Batter will be wet and sticky.

Using a greased ⅓ cup measure, portion the batter into each muffin cup. Bake until golden and a toothpick inserted into the center of the muffin comes out with just a few crumbs attached, about 25-35 minutes, rotating the pan half-way through baking.

 Let the muffins cool in the pan for 5 minutes then flip out onto a wire rack and let cool for 10 minutes before serving.

Makes 12 Muffins.

Mary Cokenour









Wednesday, June 2, 2021

Doing Indian in Native American Lands.

Before anyone gets their knickers in a twist, let me ease your minds by stating that the title, and subject matter, are not even close to being politically incorrect.  Though we live in Utah which is most definitely Native American lands (primarily Ute and Navajo), doesn't mean we cannot enjoy Indian (and that is from India) cuisine. Fooled you good, did I not? We are here to enjoy cooking, so let’s leave politics to others, shall we?

Spices and Mixes of India can be purchased online.

Now if you are familiar with Indian cuisine, you have probably heard of, or tried, curry, tandoori and masala.  Curry is a basic term for dishes originating not just in India or Pakistan, but Thailand, Japan and most Asian cultures. It is a collection of spices, herbs, dried and/or fresh chile peppers which gives a dish its particular taste and heat. Often the curry plant will be confused as the main ingredient for curry, but this is not so. The plant resembles lavender in structure, but smells and tastes similar to sage. I highly recommend it for jazzing up chicken salad.


Tandoori is actually a method of cooking using a clay, cylindrical oven called a tandoor. A most popular dish is Tandoori Chicken, an Indian and Pakistani dish consisting of roasted chicken prepared with yogurt and spices.  Raw chicken (skin removed) is marinated in a mixture of dahi (yogurt) and tandoori masala; a spice blend of roasted, then ground, coriander seeds, cumin seeds, mustard seeds, cinnamon stick, bay leaves and mace.  It is seasoned and colored with cayenne pepper, red chili powder, or Kashmiri red chili powder, plus turmeric.


Masala is a combination of ground spices; garam refers to the intensity of the spices, not to the heat of the chile peppers.   Also referred to as Allspice or Jamaican pepper, its aroma is similar to clove, black pepper, nutmeg and cinnamon.  It is usually added last in the cooking process to keep it from getting bitter if cooked too long.  Do not confuse Garam Masala (spices) with Marsala (wine), or you will be in for a big surprise if you do not enjoy spicy food.


Garam Masala can be purchased at online herbal and spice sites, or you can make your own at home.  If stored in an airtight container, the powder can last up to four months. While you can use a mortar and pestle or a blender to ground up the spices, I recommend a typical electric coffee grinder. I have two, one for grinding up my coffee beans and one for grinding up herbs and spices. I labeled the latter one, so my coffee does not accidentally taste like my herbal pantry. To make Garam Masala, you are using whole seeds and pods which will be toasted before grinding; the toasting will intensify the flavors.


Now after making Chicken Tikka Marsala, may I suggest a movie, for viewing, while dining?  The Hundred-Foot Journey (2014), featuring Helen Mirren, is the story of a displaced Indian family.  They open an Indian cuisine restaurant across the street from a very fancy and classy French restaurant, run by Helen Mirren’s character.  While viewers will drool over the various recipes created throughout the movie, the story itself will tug at the heart.  There will be laughter, sadness, smiles, anger, and at the end, a whole feel good sensation.


Basic Garam Masala


2 cinnamon sticks, broken into small pieces

4 bay leaves

1/2 cup cumin seeds

2/3 cup coriander seeds

2 Tbsp. whole black peppercorns

1 Tbsp. whole cloves

2 small dried chile peppers (stems removed, but not the seeds)

1/2 tsp. whole nutmeg, broken into small pieces

1/4 tsp. ground mace


In a medium skillet, over medium-high heat, add all the ingredients, except the nutmeg and mace; stir often until the cumin seeds darken to a deep brown. Do not worry if the ingredients crackle or smoke a little; it's all part of the toasting process.

Remove to a bowl to let cool before grinding. Once cool, add the nutmeg and mace to the bowl; work in batches to add the ingredients to the grinder and grind to a fine powder.  Store in an airtight container for up to 4 months.   Makes 1 1/2 cups.

Chicken Tikka Masala is basically a two part process where you would make Chicken Tikka, then make a sauce using the Masala mixture. Feeling scared? Just think of it as making a basic meal, for example Chicken Fried Steak, and then making the gravy for it. Same idea, just another country's cuisine.


Chicken Tikka


1 cup plain Greek yogurt

1/2 tsp minced fresh garlic

1/2 tsp minced fresh ginger

1 tsp lemon juice

1 Tbsp. canola oil

1/2 tsp chili powder (ancho or cayenne)

1 tsp each ground turmeric, cardamon and fennel

1/4 tsp Garam Masala

4 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves, cut into cubes

2 Tbsp. butter, melted



Mix all ingredients, except chicken and butter, in a medium bowl and transfer to large plastic sealable bag.  Add the chicken and make sure to coat completely; seal the bag and refrigerate 8 to 12 hours; the longer the better.


Preheat broiler; line a large jelly roll pan with parchment paper and brush the paper with the melted butter.  Remove the chicken from the bag and discard any excess marinade; spread the chicken out on the buttered paper.  Place under the broiler for 4 minutes; turn chicken, broil again; remove to platter.


Makes 4 servings.


Note: this dish can be served with jasmine or basmati rice as is.


Chicken Tikka Masala


3 Tbsp. canola oil

1 medium red onion, diced

2 medium tomatoes, diced

1/2 tsp. Garam Masala

3/4 cup heavy cream


In a large skillet, over medium-high heat, sauté onion until softened and edges begin to brown; add the tomatoes and cook for 6 minutes.  Add in garam masala and heavy cream; cook for 2 minutes before adding in the prepared Chicken Tikka.  Coat all chicken in sauce, let cook additional 3 minutes.  Serve over rice.

There you have it, Indian cuisine that will inspire you to explore.

Mary Cokenour