Wednesday, February 23, 2022

Cookies Were a Sweet Mistake.

 The cookie, a word derived from the Dutch “koekje”, meaning “small or little cake”.  All over the world, cookies are created in all shapes, sizes, flavors and textures.  Guess what?  They were a mistake! 

Persia (modern day Iran) was one of the first countries to grow and harvest sugar cane.  As far back as the 7th century, Persian bakers were using it to make cakes, breads and even delicate candies.  Small discs of dough or batter were used to simply test the temperatures of the ovens; then discarded, or added to animal feed.  By the 14th century, sugar was making the rounds of European countries and the Mediterranean.  Instead of checking only the “doneness” of the discs, curiosity won out, they were tasted and were found to be quite good.  The Renaissance Era, being one of enlightenment and discovery, saw the writing of books intensify, and cookbooks were included.  The addition of eggs, spices and flavorings launched an explosion of new recipes, all dealing with the development of cookies.

However, it was the advancements of “kitchen technology”, during the Industrial Revolution that helped cookies find new textures and shapes.   A typical cookie press was made from craved wood; the more polished, the less likely to crack and splinter.  With the smelting and molding of metals, the cookie press became more durable, but expensive and heavy to yield and carry.  As pioneers moved across the American plains and mountains, bringing along cookie presses, in a covered wagon, became too burdensome.  Glancing through pioneer cookbooks, if there were any cookie recipes, they were simplistic and the shapes molded by hand.  Even going through my variety of “Indians of the Southwest” cookbooks, the recipes I kept finding were variations of the typical sugar cookie; all using whole wheat and/or white processed flour.

As with the Persians of the 7th century, cakes and breads were more common fare among the peoples of the Americans.  It was not till the “discovery” of the New World that more food variations were introduced by pioneers, traders and adventurers.

Three ingredients typically found in native baking are blue corn flour, juniper ash and pinon nuts.   While I did find recipes for breads and cakes, again, cookie recipes were a mystery.  It was on a food blog, “The Fancy Navajo” (, that I was able to find a perfect recipe to try out.  A Navajo lifestyle and food blogger, from Phoenix, AZ, Alana Yazzie is proud of her heritage and culture; and sees the importance of keeping it alive through sharing.   I am a member of the “Navajo, Pueblo, Apache and Hispanic Cooking” page, on Facebook, and her food blog and recipes are often recommended.

Since this was the first time trying her recipe, I kept it simple and neat by rolling out the dough into balls, and letting them do their own thing, in the oven, while baking.  The cookies have a lovely purple-blue coloring, crisp throughout, and tend to melt in the mouth as chewed.  I added raw pinon nuts into the dough, instead of just a topping.  They toasted as the cookies baked, adding a great nutty flavor.  If flattened, the cookies bake in about 8-9 minutes, but since I left them as balls, they took about 12 minutes in my oven.


Fancy Navajo Blue Corn Cookies



1/2 Cup Unsalted Cold Butter

1 Egg

3/4 Cup Sugar

1 Teaspoon Vanilla Extract

1/2 Teaspoon Baking Soda

1/2 Teaspoon Juniper Ash  

1/4 Teaspoon Salt

1/2 Cup Flour

1 ¼ Cup Blue Cornmeal



Preheat oven to 350 F. Line baking sheets with parchment paper or nonstick mat.

In a large mixing bowl cream butter and sugar together until pale and creamy.

Add in vanilla and egg until thoroughly combined.

Add in baking soda, juniper ash, and salt until thoroughly combined.

Add in Flour and Blue Corn Meal in ¼ cup increments until combined.


Prepare cookie dough for baking, they can be rolled out in ¼ inch thickness, or scooped and pressed down.  


Bake for 8-9 minutes or until the edges start to turn brown. Let cool for 2 minutes before removing from baking sheet. Cookies should mostly be blue and the edges slightly brown. If the cookies are mostly brown, then they are over baked and you may need to reduce time for baking.


Yields: 18 cookies.


While I know most folks have their “go-to” cookie, try something different next time.  You might just find yourself pleasantly surprised.

Mary Cokenour

Wednesday, February 9, 2022

Remembering Childhood Comforts.

Happy childhood memories are few for me and they almost all seem to revolve around food in some way. No wonder really, as food is comforting in itself. It fools you into believing that all is right with the world, well for that moment at least; and later on, if need be, the memory of it can soothe an unpleasant moment in time. 

Take, for example, a thunderstorm brewing and suddenly taken back to a childhood memory. During such storms, I would put four chairs in a square formation, throw a large blanket over them and pretend to be camping outdoors. Some of you probably did the same thing, but called it “playing fort”.  I would have my favorite stuffed animals as company, a flashlight to light the interior, books to read and a large bowl of one of my grandmother's home cooked meals. It could be spaghetti and meatballs, shrimps in sauce over spaghetti, or one of her many delicious soups. Whatever it was, it was wonderful and I would always sneak out of my tent (between thunderclaps) to get a second bowl.

My grandmother's cooking was able to provide me with, not just comforting moments, but comforting memories to help me later on. One such dish was her Paste E Fagioli; a wonderful dish of beans, meat and pasta in a flavorful broth. The steam rising up from the bowl, so fantasy figures could be picked out, much like one would do when watching the clouds in the sky.  Problems are set aside momentarily while the senses take in the taste, texture, smell and overall good feel of the food being consumed.  Oh, the problems are still there, but now a calm has been reached.  The mind and body, instead of knee-jerk reacting, can deal in a more orderly manner; or that is what we hope for.

While Pasta e Fagioli (meaning pasta and beans) is a typically Italian soup, recipes can be found as far as the Alps, and stretching all through the Mediterranean.   Originally, the scarcity of meat made this a vegetarian meal with the starchiness of the beans, maybe potatoes too, giving a thicker consistency.  As cattle, pigs and sheep became more plentiful, additions of these meats elevated the quality of the soup.  Think of this recipe as an example of the story, “Stone Soup”; whatever is at hand can be placed in the pot, all combining for a delicious meal.  My grandmother made this soup in a large stock pot on the stovetop, but I have converted it for cooking in a crock pot.  The stovetop method took hours; stirring and checking to make sure nothing stuck to the bottom and burned.  The crock pot method still takes long hours of cooking, but “setting and forgetting” is less stressful.

 Pasta E Fagioli


2 lbs. lean ground beef

1 large onion, diced

3 medium carrots, peeled and diced

4 celery stalks, diced

1 (14 ½ oz.) can diced tomatoes

1 (15 oz.) can tomato puree

1 (28 oz.) can crushed tomatoes

2 (16 oz.) cans white kidney beans (Great Northern), drained and rinsed

1 qts beef stock

3 tsp oregano

2 tsp ground black pepper

4 Tbsp. dried parsley

¼ tsp cayenne pepper flakes

8 oz. ditilini pasta, cooked before adding to the crock pot


In large skillet, brown meat till no pink shows; drain grease.

Spray 6-quart crock pot with non-stick spray. Mix together meat and all ingredients, except the pasta. Set on low heat and cook for 7 hours; add in pasta and cook another 15 minutes before serving. If desired, grated Parmesan cheese can be sprinkled on top of each serving.

Makes 12 - 14 servings.

Mary Cokenour

Wednesday, February 2, 2022

Gustavo’s Fine Guadalajara Cuisine

Gustavo’s Mexican Restaurant

216 East Center Street

Monticello, UT, 84535

Phone: (435) 298-8270

Facebook Page:

Entering the fifth week of their opening in Monticello, Gustavo’s Mexican Restaurant is doing well, and keeping the staff busy.  An offshoot of the original Gustavo’s, located in Cortez, CO, this cuisine is completely unique from other Mexican based restaurants. The owner, Gustavo, and the majority of his staff are from Guadalajara, and the cuisine of that region can only be defined as “fancified”.

Upon entering, expect to be warmly greeted by Kelyn, a local resident, who is being trained for the wait staff.  Gustavo believes in giving back to, and sharing with, the community.  Training of the staff is of utmost importance, as everyone will benefit from learning and knowledge.  Our waiter though was Angel (also the manager), who hails from Guadalajara, and lives up to his name.  Very friendly, ready and willing to serve, and a wealth of knowledge about the menu selections, and the cuisine of the region.  A truly excellent bonus to the diners is the chef, Miguel.  He is a graduate of the University of Guadalajara, with a degree in culinary arts; and his assistant cooks are trained to do it up delicious!


The building is the old PJ’s, a rustic A-frame design with open floor plan and wood planking on the floor and walls.  Happy Mexican music plays in the background, and I swear one of the songs was from Ricky Martin…ai-ai-ai, caliente!  Speaking of caliente, salsa and chips are served up immediately; and made in house.  

The salsa has a kick, but then you crave more; in the words of John Cougar Mellencamp, “it hurts so good!”  In fact, even though all supplies are shipped in from Gustavo’s in Cortez, all main dishes, appetizers, salads, desserts, and condiments (except ketchup) are made freshly in house.


Bestselling main dishes are the vast selection of Street Tacos, Chile Rellanos Crispie and Gustavo’s Enchiladas.  My hubby, Roy, went for the Rellanos, while I looked forward to a diverse selection of enchilada and chimichanga. 

Both choices are served with rice and beans; the refried beans creamy with cheese, and rice lightly seasoned and fluffy.

Now be warned, the food you receive will not be what you are used to seeing.  In fact, it is so pretty, a wave of guilt occurs when cutting into the food, for who wants to destroy artwork!?!

The Chile Rellanos Crispie is topped with a Caesar salad that mixes with the chiles and cheese; a slight crunch comes from the tortilla wrapped around each rellano and deep fried.  This dish is packed with flavors, perfectly cooked; the Hatch chiles sweet and filled with a creamy cheese.


My chicken enchilada was stuffed with shredded chicken, a mild red sauce intermingled with piped over crème fraiche; the flavors are mild.  The chimichanga is filled with a mildly seasoned ground beef, surrounded with a crispy exterior, almost like a delicate puff pastry.  While I wanted to finish up every bite, room for dessert had to be left.  All the mild seasoning allows the palette to experience the various tastes, while spicy heat would only hide the flavors.


Angel recommended Gustavo’s Pie, and it was definitely a very good choice to end with.  This dessert can only be described as a square of lemony cheesecake flan; light, creamy and rich, but not overwhelming in sweetness.  While whipped cream and chocolate sauce are nice complements, this dessert is delicious just as is.


By the way, after ordering, the food does come out quickly, but do not expect to be rushed to eat and leave.  The atmosphere at Gustavo’s is casual, so just relax and enjoy.  Looking around at other diners, everyone was either eating heartedly, or laughing and talking between bites.  Recently, Gustavo’s was awarded a liquor license, so if you are looking for a more potent potion to have with your meal, they will have it.

Monticello locals, or their taste buds I should say, have gained plenty from the addition of Gustavo’s to its restaurant lineup.  Currently hours of operation are Monday thru Saturday, 11am – 9pm; closed on Sunday.  Located on Center Street, catty-corner to Maverik, it will not be a surprise to see tourists and truckers also flocking into Gustavo’s.

Keep an eye out for advertising on their Facebook page, and shared to locally based groups; a Valentine’s Day Special is in the works.

Mary Cokenour