Raise your hand if you have a Junior League of Denver (JLD) cookbook on your shelf. Now wave your hand if you have more than one JLD cookbook. I imagine that most everyone reading this is waving wildly since the JLD has sold more than 2.1 million of their treasured cookbooks since Colorado Cache was published in 1978. To commemorate the JLD’s 100th Anniversary, their sixth book, appropriately titled Centennial Celebrations, is waiting in bookstores for you to add to your collection.
With Denver—and the Centennial state—fast becoming widely recognized for innovative food, breweries, music and a thriving art scene, this latest edition features not only the creative recipes we have come to expect and love, but it also serves to excite the senses through beautiful photography of wonderful gatherings and events at iconic Denver locations.
I asked Mary Beth McErlane, Centennial Celebrations chair, what prompted her to take on this monumental project. “I volunteered,” she said. “I knew about cookbooks more than I knew about the JLD. My mom had a lot of cookbooks from Los Angeles and from Texas. We had Junior League cookbooks from all over the country.”
It’s still no easy task to produce a volume such as this, and she described the process: “We [the committee] decided what we wanted it to be, decided that it should coincide with the 100th anniversary [of the JLD]. We put a call out to members and the public and we got almost 1,000 recipes. Once we had those, we got a team of recipe testers—over 100 people from our committee, plus volunteers. We divided them up [into smaller groups] and had three rounds of testing.” She explained that each group filled out detailed forms, so every recipe needed to pass rigorous scrutiny before being deemed worthy of inclusion.
She added, “We were also doing photography in Denver, photographing places around the city, events and food that might go along with those events and places. We have “Discover Denver” insets with photos and interesting blurbs.”
“A lot of people buy our books because of the Denver feel,” said Vanessa Banker, communications director for the Junior League of Denver. “ It’s also a great gift for out-of-town visitors, housewarmings or wedding presents.” Hint, hint!
The 232 recipes are arranged in the traditional succession of eight chapters including appetizers/beverages, bread, salad, pizza/pasta, main dishes, soup/sandwiches, vegetarian/sides, and, of course, desserts. But McErlane described a unique twist: “It also moves through the seasons and events that go along with the season. For example, in Appetizers there’s a Tailgate at Red Rocks idea. For Soup/Sandwiches, it’s “Après Ski … or anything. Pizza/Pasta might be a pizza party at the Children’s Museum like a kid’s birthday, and a Fall Harvest menu suggests an event at Four Mile Historic Park.” You are sure to find a wide and varied range of ideas for crowd-pleasing game day appetizers, traditional holiday favorites, light summer recipes and winter comfort foods.
How many times have you picked up a book looking for ideas? “When you open up a cookbook, you think “what do I have?” McErlane said. “Sometimes you want only four ingredients and easy, other times more complicated. For any time of year, you can find something that will fit what you need. The main thing is that we tried hard to have recipes for every season.”
“Our books are some of the best-selling Junior League cookbooks in the country,” Banker said. “Colorado Cache alone has sold over one million copies. There’s a lot of longevity for the books, and a lot of excitement when a new one comes out. Colorado Cache still sells, even though it came out in 1978.” It’s nice to know that I could replace my taped-together, sauce-splattered and dog-eared copy. However, each little stain and smudge tell a story and bring a memory to mind. I guess I’ll just keep it as is.
There’s a purpose behind all these books, though, and that is the primary mission of the league, “an organization of women committed to promoting voluntarism, developing the potential of women, and improving communities through the effective action and leadership of trained volunteers. Its purpose is exclusively education and charitable.” Those 2.1 million books sold since 1978 have raised close to $7 million for League programs. That fact alone is reason enough to acquire this latest book, knowing that the proceeds serve to elevate women and our communities.
While that is the long-term purpose of the JLD, the immediate goal of Centennial Celebrations is to offer you creative menus, recipes and entertaining tips. The hope is that these will inspire you to cook, connect, and celebrate, Colorado style!
Centennial Celebrations is available at a number of bookstores including Tattered Cover, Barnes & Noble, and other local shops. It can also be ordered on Amazon. Visit jld.org for more information on locations.
Centennial Celebrations is the sixth cookbook published by the JLD. Others are Colorado Cache, Crème de Colorado, Colorado Collage, Colorado Colore and Colorado Classique.
Grilled Peaches with Whipped Ricotta Fig Toast
4 medium peaches, pitted and cut into halves
2 ½ Tbsp honey
½ cup ricotta cheese
3 Tbsp fig spread
16 slices French bread, toasted
1/8 tsp sea salt
3 Tbsp chopped fresh mint
Preheat the grill to medium.
Drizzle the peach halves with the honey. Arrange cut sides down on the grill. Grill for 3 to 4 minutes or until grill marks appear. Remove to a cutting board. Cut into slices.
Combine the ricotta cheese and fig spread in a food processor. Process until smooth and creamy. Spread equal portions of the cheese mixture over each toast and top with a peach slice. Sprinkle with the sea salt and mint. Drizzle with additional honey if desired.
Asian Marinated Chicken Wings
6 pounds chicken wings
2⁄3 cup soy sauce
½ cup apple cider vinegar
1⁄3 cup packed brown sugar
¼ cup sugar
2 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp ground ginger
3 Tbsp diagonally sliced green onions
Sesame seeds to taste
Cut the tips from the chicken wings and cut the wings through the joints into halves.
Combine the soy sauce, vinegar, brown sugar, sugar, garlic powder and ginger in a large sealable plastic bag and mix well. Add the chicken and turn the bag to coat the chicken well. Chill, covered for 8 to 12 hours, turning over the bag occasionally.
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
Remove the chicken from the marinade, arranging in a single layer on two baking sheets and reserving the marinade. Bake the wings in the top third of the oven for 45 minutes or until tender and brown, basting twice with the reserved marinade. Remove to a platter. Sprinkle with the green onions and sesame seeds. Garnish with minced multicolored peppers. Serve with Sriracha sauce if desired.
Creamy Goat Cheese and Jalapeño Dip
2 Tbsp unsalted butter
1 ½ cups chopped yellow onion
2 cups fresh sweet corn kernels
1 tsp salt
½ tsp cayenne pepper
1 Tbsp chopped garlic
1 medium jalapeño, seeded and chopped
16 oz goat cheese, crumbled
½ cup heavy cream
Chopped fresh cilantro to taste
Melt the butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Cook the onion, corn, salt and cayenne pepper in the butter for 6 minutes, stirring frequently. Stir in the garlic and jalapeño. Cook for 2 minutes, stirring frequently. Add the goat cheese and cream. Cook until the cheese is melted, stirring frequently. Spoon into a serving dish. Sprinkle with cilantro and serve immediately, keeping dish warm.
Flank Steak with Chimichurri
Serves 4 to 6
1 ½ lbs trimmed flank steak
2 tsp ground cumin
1 1/2 tsp kosher salt, divided
1 tsp ground coriander
¼ tsp black pepper
3 large cloves garlic
1 cup packed fresh cilantro
1 cup packed fresh Italian parsley
¼ cup (or more) white vinegar
1/3 cup (or more) extra-virgin olive oil
1/8 tsp cayenne pepper or red pepper flakes
Preheat the broiler or grill to medium.
Pat the steak dry with paper towels. Combine the cumin, 1 teaspoon of the salt, coriander and black pepper in a small bowl and mix well. Rub over both sides of the steak. Grill the steak or broil 3 inches from the heat source for 5 to 7 minutes per side for medium-rare. Remove to a cutting board. Let stand to rest for 5 minutes or longer.
Process the garlic in a food processor just until chopped. Add the cilantro, parsley, vinegar, olive oil remaining ½ teaspoon salt and cayenne pepper. Process until the herbs are finely chopped, adding additional vinegar and/or olive oil if needed for the desired consistency. Cut the steak against the grain. Serve with the chimichurri.
Salted Caramel Bars
1 (14-oz) can sweetened condensed milk
2 cups butter, softened
1 cup granulated sugar
1 ½ cups powdered sugar
1 Tbsp vanilla extract
3 ½ cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp coarsely ground sea salt
Pour the sweetened condensed milk into a pint-size canning jar and cover with the lid. Place in a slow cooker. Add enough water to reach just below the bottom of the lid. Cook on low for 8 hours. Remove the jar carefully from the slow cooker. Let stand to cool completely; caramel will thicken as it cools.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Spray a 9×13-inch glass baking dish with nonstick cooking spray.
Cream the butter, granulated sugar and powdered sugar in a mixing bowl. Add the vanilla extract and mix well. Add the flour ½ cup at a time, beating until incorporated after each addition. Cut the dough into halves. Wrap 1 half in plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator. Press the remaining dough over the bottom of the prepared baking dish. Bake for 20 minutes or until the edges are light golden brown. Let stand to cool for 15 minutes. Maintain oven temperature.
Pour the caramel over the crust. Sprinkle with the sea salt. Crumble the chilled dough into pea- to marble-size pieces over the caramel. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes or until golden brown. Sprinkle with additional sea salt if desired.
Mason Jar Key Lime Pies
8 half-pint Mason jars
½ cup graham cracker crumbs
2 Tbsp butter, melted
2 Tbsp sugar
5 egg yolks, beaten
½ cup Key lime juice (about 12 to 15 limes)
1 (14-oz) can sweetened condensed milk
Coconut Whipped Cream (recipe below)
2 tsp grated Key lime zest (optional)
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Spray the inside of the Mason jars with nonstick cooking spray. Arrange the jars in a small baking pan.
Combine the graham cracker crumbs, butter and sugar in a bowl and mix well. Press 1 heaping tablespoonful of the mixture over the bottom of each prepared jar, reserving any remaining mixture. Bake for 3 minutes. Let stand to cool.
Whisk the egg yolks, Key lime juice and sweetened condensed milk in a bowl until blended. Divide evenly among the jars. Bake for 8 to 10 minutes or just until set but not firm. Let stand to cool completely. Dollop or pipe equal portions of the Coconut Whipped Cream into each jar. Sprinkle with the reserved graham cracker mixture and Key lime zest. Chill until serving time.
Coconut Whipped Cream
1 cup heavy whipping cream
½ cup canned coconut milk (white part only)
2 Tbsp powdered sugar
Beat the whipping cream, coconut milk and powdered sugar at medium-high speed in a mixing bowl until soft peaks form.
Joy Lawrance is a freelance writer in Golden who writes frequently for the New West family of publications. She loves to cook and owns at least three Junior League of Denver, cookbooks which are the first ones she goes to for menu ideas.
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