Nothing says "The holidays are here!" like the intoxicating aroma of special treats baking in the oven, sizzling on a grill or simmering on the stove. So, in the spirit of the season, we asked several of the Denver area’s well-known cooks to share favorite recipes with Colorado Expression readers. Enjoy!
GIRL SCOUTS TREATS
LEANNA CLARK became chief executive officer of Girl Scouts of Colorado in May and traces her love of Girl Scout cookies to her own membership in the leadership development organization that serves 20,000 girls throughout the state. “I always buy extra packages and freeze them to be able to use them for recipes throughout the year, including the holiday season,” she says. “To give this recipe a festive twist, arrange the fried shrimp in a star pattern on a plate and surround with pomegranate seeds and lime wedges.” She also shares her recipe for a holiday punch that’s a crowd-pleaser.
Samoas Fried Shrimp
10 Samoas Girl Scout Cookies, finely chopped
1 cup coconut flakes (reserving some for garnish)
2 cups seasoned bread crumbs
1 pinch cayenne pepper
10 extra-large shrimp, peeled and deveined
2 cups flour
4 egg whites
1 lime for garnish
Vegetable or peanut oil for frying
Toss chopped Samoas with coconut flakes, bread crumbs and cayenne pepper. Dredge shrimp through flour, followed by egg whites and Samoas mixture.
Fry shrimp in vegetable oil at 350 degrees until golden brown.
Garnish with coconut flakes and lime wedges.
• Serve warm. Arrange in a star pattern on a plate or on a bamboo skewer.
• Can be served as an appetizer, in a salad, or as an entrée.
• If serving as an entrée, accompany with fried plantains and wild rice.
This is a festive and tasty punch that disappears quickly at every holiday party, Clark says. Double (or quadruple) the quantities depending on the size of your gathering. Slice lemons and oranges and freeze the slices for about 3 hours. Float them on top instead of ice cubes.
21⁄2 cups Southern Comfort (about a 1.75 liter bottle)
6-ounce can frozen orange juice, undiluted
6-ounce can frozen lemonade, undiluted
6 ounces fresh lemon juice 21⁄4 quarts ginger ale
Combine and chill all ingredients, then mix in a punch bowl, adding the ginger ale just before serving. Float slices of frozen oranges and lemons on top.
COOKIES FOR FRIENDS
Registered dietitian MARY LEE CHIN says that while Chinese dishes were plentiful in her childhood home, “We always had traditional Western dishes for Thanksgiving and Christmas, with the exception of rice. Nothing like a Thanksgiving meal with turkey, stuffing, rolls, mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes and rice!” For 40-plus years, Chin and her friend Anita Coen have dedicated a full day right before Christmas to bake approximately 1,000 cookies to distribute as gifts to friends, family and neighbors. The COVID-19 pandemic has left Chin and Coen “trying to figure out how we can get together in one kitchen and bake this year (as) both our families are seriously isolating. We figure we will quarantine for 14 days prior to baking day; this is a tradition we are reluctant to give up.” A recipe for one of their favorite cookies follows.
Russian Tea Cakes
Makes 4 dozen
1 cup high-quality butter
1⁄2 cup sifted confectioner’s sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
21⁄2 cups flour
1⁄4 teaspoon salt
3⁄4–1 cup chopped walnuts or pecans
Mix butter, sugar and vanilla thoroughly. Stir together flour and salt, and then stir into butter mixture. Mix in nuts. Chill dough for four hours or overnight.
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Roll dough into 1-inch balls and place on parchment paper-lined cookie sheet. Bake 10-12 minutes until set but not browned.
While cookies are baking, fill a deep bowl with more confectioner’s sugar.
Remove cookies from the oven and let cool 3-5 minutes. Roll each ball in confectioner’s sugar and place on a rack. When completely cooled, roll each ball in confectioner’s sugar again. It’s important that the cookies not be rolled in the sugar when they are hot from the oven. They will crumble if they are handled while too hot.
A NEW MEXICAN TREAT
When the multitalented JESSE OGAS finishes with his day job—he has been executive director of Firefly Autism since 2015—you can find him starring in plays produced at Su Teatro, singing with Trio Encantada, ice fishing with his grandson or treating friends to any number of foods typical of his native New Mexico. A holiday favorite at his Lakewood home are biscochitos, “a Christmas cookie,” he says, “that the whole family can enjoy.”
1 one-pound box of lard
1 tablespoon vanilla
2 cups sugar
1 teaspoon salt
7 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1⁄2 cup anise seed (use more or less, to taste)
3 cups sweet white wine (riesling or sauvignon blanc)
Combine lard, eggs, vanilla, sugar and salt in a bowl and mix well.
In a large bowl, combine flour, baking powder and anise seeds and mix by hand, gradually adding the wine. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and let sit for several hours or overnight. Form balls by hand, dusting hands with flour, if necessary, to prevent the dough from sticking to them. On a floured surface, roll each ball to a 1⁄4-inch thickness. Use your favorite holiday cookie cutter to shape the individual cookies.
In a separate bowl, mix together an additional 2 cups of sugar and 2 tablespoons of cinnamon, and set aside. Bake at 375-400 degrees until the cookies are golden brown, about 10 minutes. Allow them to cool for 10 minutes. Dust with the sugar-cinnamon mix.
FISH FOR CHINESE NEW YEAR
KEVIN AND STEPHANIE TUNG divide their time between Denver, where they formerly owned the Golden Plate restaurant, and Shanghai, where until the pandemic they honored the memory of their godson, Nathan Yip, by hosting an annual fundraising gala for the Denver-based Nathan Yip Foundation. A fish dish is a must for Chinese New Year celebrations because it “welcomes prosperity for the coming year,” they say.
Poached Fish, Shanghai-style
16 ounces of boneless, skinless cod filets
Powdered white pepper
1⁄2 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons corn starch
3 fresh green onions
Small piece of fresh ginger
Slice the fish into 1⁄2-inch thick pieces and place in a large bowl.
In a small bowl, mix together 1⁄4 teaspoon of white pepper, one teaspoon of cooking wine and 1⁄2 teaspoon of salt, then sprinkle the mixture over the fish filets, coating them evenly. Let the seasoned fish sit for 15 minutes, then add the egg and corn starch and mix it well, being careful not to break the fish.
Shred the green onion and ginger.
In a small bowl, mix 2 tablespoons of soy sauce, 1 tablespoon of water and 1 teaspoon of sugar.
Heat 3 quarts of water in a pot, adding 1 tablespoon of cooking wine and a dash of white pepper. Bring the water to a boil and add the fish slices piece by piece. Boil for 3 minutes, making sure the fish slices aren’t sticking to each other, then transfer the fish from the water to a plate and place the shredded green onion and ginger on top of them. Then heat 2 tablespoons of cooking oil and pour it over the green onion-ginger mix. Finish by spreading soy sauce to taste over the fish.
SCONES FOR CHRISTMAS MORNING
JOANNE KATZ retired several years ago after co-founding Three Tomatoes Catering, a company that she and Peggy Beck ran successfully for close to 40 years. She keeps a finger in the pie, so to speak, by volunteering on behalf of groups dedicated to feeding the underserved, serving as a “compost ambassador” for the city of Den- ver and operating Café Ronaldo, a pop-up farm stand during the summer growing season that sells organic produce from hubby Ron Katz’s gar- den and her trademark baked goods, jams and jellies. “This recipe,” she says of her family favorite scones, “is so great for Christmas morning because you can include whatever everyone wants: blueberries, peach chunks, roasted pear or chocolate chunks. Or, if tastes run more toward the savory, reduce the sugar and mix in basil and feta.”
Scones with Lemon and Raspberries
2 cups flour
1⁄4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1⁄4 teaspoon baking soda
1⁄4 teaspoon salt
1⁄2 cup unsalted butter, cold and cut into pieces
Zest of 2 lemons
2⁄3 cup buttermilk
1⁄2 cup raspberries
Raw sugar for sprinkling on tops of scones
Preheat oven to 400 degrees and place rack in middle of oven. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper.
In a large bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt.
Blend the pieces of butter into the flour mixture with a pastry cutter or two knives. The mixture should look like coarse crumbs.
Stir in the lemon zest. Add the buttermilk and stir just until the dough comes together. Do not overmix.
Add the raspberries.
Transfer to a lightly floured surface and knead the dough gently four or five times and then pat it into a circle that is about 7 inches round and about 11⁄2 inches thick. Cut this circle in half, then cut each half into three pie-shaped wedges. Place the scones on the baking sheet.
Make an egg wash of 1 large, well-beaten egg mixed with 1 tablespoon milk. Brush the tops of the scones with this mixture and sprinkle with raw sugar.
Bake for 20-25 minutes, until golden brown and a toothpick comes out clean. Transfer to a wire rack to cool.
MOM’S SWEET POTATO BLISS
ROSEMARIE ALLEN is the president and chief executive officer of the Institute for Racial Equity and Excellence and an associate professor of early childhood education at Metropolitan State University. She is also the author of books for African American children (lovebeingblack.com). “This is my mom’s recipe and she worked with few formal measurements,” Allen says, explaining why “dashes” and “to taste” are found throughout.
Sweet Potato Cheesecake Pie
Makes 4 pies
SWEET POTATO FILLING
2 round yams
1⁄2 stick of butter
Nutmeg, to taste
Vanilla extract, 2 dashes
Lemon extract, 1 dash
Allspice, to taste
Bake yams 1 1⁄2 hours or until tender. Let cool, peel and mash. Into the mashed yams add the egg, butter, nutmeg, vanilla extract, lemon extract and allspice and let sit for 30 minutes. Beat until smooth, constantly rinsing strings from the yams off of the beater. Add sugar to taste. Set aside.
32 ounces of cream cheese, softened
2 cans of Pet evaporated milk, refrigerated overnight
16 ounces sour cream
1⁄2 cup lemon juice
4 ready-made graham cracker pie crusts
In a bowl separate from the yam mixture, beat the softened cream cheese until fluffy. Gradually beat in the evaporated milk and sour cream and add the eggs one at a time. Add the lemon juice and mix well.
Layer the mixtures into the graham cracker crusts: cheesecake filling, sweet potato filling and so forth, ending with the cheesecake mixture on top. Don’t worry if you get a little “swirl” on the top. Bake for 55 minutes at 375 degrees. Let cool, then refrigerate before serving.
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