Routt County residents share their recipes for warming up the kitchen when the weather gets cold |

Routt County residents share their recipes for warming up the kitchen when the weather gets cold

Decadent Chocolate Bread Pudding

By Bill and Judith Emerson

"There's something about a richness in food that makes it a comfort food," Judith Emerson said.

If that's true, Bill and Judith Emerson's chocolate bread pudding might just rock you to sleep. The warm and gooey pudding is delicious and expertly punctuated with cherries that provide a fruity complement to the rich chocolate.

The retired couple made the dish together, working as a team in their custom-designed kitchen just as they do for the large private fundraisers they host and the meals they eat together daily.

"When we got married, Judith hadn't cooked much," Bill Emerson joked. "That just wasn't acceptable."

Decades later, cooking is a comforting cornerstone of the Emersons' relationship.

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"We're both retired," Judith Emerson said. "We both have our interests, and they're not necessarily the same during the day. But we get together for dinner. That's our time together."

Decadent Chocolate Bread Pudding recipe

2/3 cup dried cherries, rehydrated in 1/4 cup brandy and 1/4 cup water

2 cups heavy cream

2 cups milk

1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1 loaf French bread

12 ounces bittersweet chocolate, roughly chopped, plus 1/2 ounce shavings for garnish

8 large egg yolks

3/4 cup sugar


  1. Heat oven to 325 degrees

  2. Cut the bread into 3/4-inch slices and let dry on counter or in the oven on low. Then cut into 3/4-inch cubes. Fill a 9-inch-by-12-inch gratin pan with the cubes. Set aside the rounded end pieces.

  3. Place cream, milk and vanilla in a medium saucepan and bring to a simmer. Remove from heat and cover with plastic wrap. Let sit for 15 minutes to infuse flavor.

  4. Return the milk mixture to a boil, remove from heat, add chocolate and whisk until smooth.

  5. Combine egg yolks and sugar in a large bowl and whisk to combine. Pour chocolate mixture very slowly into egg yolk mixture, whisking constantly, until fully combined. Slowly stir in the cherries.

  6. Slowly pour half the chocolate custard over the bread, making sure all the cubes are soaked. Arrange the reserved bread on top and press firmly so the bottom layer of the bread absorbs the chocolate mixture. Spoon the remaining custard over the bread until it's completely covered and all cracks are filled. Place a piece of plastic wrap over the dish; press down to soak the bread thoroughly. Remove plastic, wipe edges of dish with a damp towel, and allow it to sit for 30 minutes.

  7. Place gratin dish in a larger pan; fill outer pan with hot water halfway up the sides of the gratin dish. Bake until set, about 35 minutes. Cool on rack for 15 minutes.

Optional vanilla sauce recipe

(The bread pudding can also be topped with crème fraiche or whipped cream)

1/2 cup sugar

1/2 cup brown sugar

1/2 cup whipping cream

1/2 cup butter

1 teaspoon vanilla


  1. In a saucepan, combine sugar, brown sugar, whipping cream and butter. Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until mixture thickens and comes to a full boil, five to eight minutes. Stir in vanilla.

  2. Serve sauce over warm pudding.

White Chicken Chili

By Meredith Herndon

As a cook at Yampa Valley Medical Center, comfort food is Meredith Herndon's business. When doctors and nurses come into the eatery in the middle of a rough, stressful day at the hospital, Herndon always tries to send them away happy.

The hospital serves 20,000 meals a month, but Herndon doesn't tire of cooking at home and being creative.

"Cooking is my first love," Herndon said. "When someone gives me a recipe, there's no way I can cook it as written."

As such, Herndon's white chicken chili recipe evolves each time she cooks it, and she encourages others to put their own spin on it.

"It's just a different take on chili," Herndon said. "It warms you up. It's really satisfying because it's really rich … and it tastes even better the next day."

White Chicken Chili recipe

3 cups chopped chicken (cooked, light and dark meat)

3 cups Great Northern beans

1 1/2 cups chopped white onions

1 1/2 cups green chilies

1/2 stick butter

1/2 tablespoon black pepper

2 teaspoons salt

3 tablespoons cumin

6 tablespoons dark red chili pepper

1 cup chicken broth

16 oz. sour cream


  1. Saute chicken, onions, pepper, salt, cumin and chili pepper in butter for 15 to 20 minutes. Add chilies near end.

  2. Add the beans, then chicken broth and then water (or more chicken broth, if you prefer) until the mixture reaches a simmer-able consistency.

  3. Let simmer for one hour.

  4. Mix in the sour cream.

  5. Serve garnished with shredded cheddar cheese, chopped green onions and more sour cream, to taste.

Spinach Quesadilla Wedges

By Elaine Dermody

"I have been eating her cooking for 52 years," Win Dermody said about his wife, Elaine. "She's fantastic."

For Elaine Dermody, simplicity equals comfort. Her spinach quesadilla wedges — consisting of crunchy shells, sweet onions, hot pepper jack cheese and flavorful spinach — can be quickly prepared to warm up a cold winter day.

"It is a real good comfort food," Elaine Dermody said. "It has cheese and spinach and things that people like. I haven't found anyone who hasn't liked it."

The spinach quesadilla wedges also can be used for more than just a snack.

"This is a really good winter hors d'oeuvre," Elaine Dermody said. "It's a hearty appetizer. This is the salad and the bread all in one that you can follow with a really light dinner after that. As long as you have a good dessert, people are happy."

Spinach Quesadilla Wedges recipe

8 fajita-size flour tortillas

3 cups shredded pepper jack cheese

1 cup chopped red onion

2 cups shredded spinach leaves


  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees

  2. Place four tortillas on a baking sheet. Layer half the cheese, all the onion, all the spinach, the remaining four tortillas and the remaining cheese over the tortillas on the baking sheet.

  3. Bake for eight to 10 minutes.

  4. Let cool for five minutes before cutting each tortilla into eight wedges.

  5. Can be refrigerated and then reheated at 350 degrees for 10 minutes.

Serving suggestion: Guacamole and sour cream are good accompaniments.

Some variations are cheddar cheese and one can (4 ounces) diced green chilies or chopped cooked shrimp, plain Monterey jack cheese, and one can (4 ounces) diced green chilies.

Old-fashioned Pot Roast

By Jayne Hill

The most comforting thing about Jayne Hill's pot roast isn't the tender beef or the chunky vegetables.

"It's the old pan I cook it in," Hill said about the kitchenware that has been in her family for at least four generations. "As far as family heirlooms, there's no arguing over what little jewelry, silver and china we have. They argue over who gets the pot roast pan."

Hill said the pan adds to the taste of the dish and recommends that others cook her pot roast recipe in cast iron. Another secret is to cut the potatoes into large pieces.

"The reason I cut them big is they cook the same time as the roast, and if you cut them small, they disintegrate," Hill said.

Hill's pot roast is the comfort food that just keeps giving.

"You can actually turn (leftovers) into a stew or slice it for sandwiches," Hill said. "It has lots of uses."

Pot Roast recipe

3 pound eye of round beef roast

3 tablespoons olive oil

1 package of dry onion soup mix

1/4 to 1/2 cup red wine (optional)

3 well-scrubbed whole carrots

2 large russet potatoes

1 celery stalk

1/2 cup sliced onion

1 3/4 cup water


  1. Brown the roast on all sides in a cast iron pan using olive oil.

  2. Mix together the onion soup, red wine and water.

  3. Surround the roast with the carrots and potatoes cut in large chunks. Add the celery and onion slices.

  4. Pour the liquid mixture over the roast and vegetables. Lightly salt and pepper.

  5. Place the covered pan in a 350-degree oven. Roast for about three hours. Halfway through the cooking time, turn the vegetables so they will cook evenly. Be cautious of the steam coming from the pan.

  6. Slice the roast and serve with au jus.

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