Holiday feasts

Inspirations for a great meal from Steamboat locals

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It's that time of year.

A time to gather around the family dinner table, which is filled to capacity with wonderful taste sensations, and share special moments with our family and friends.

This holiday season, the staff of At Home has asked five local culinary experts to share their favorite holiday treats and the family traditions they have inspired to form the ultimate five-course dinner. The truth is, you normally wouldn't want to serve the flavorful Stoyko Family Borscht with Beth Banning's Sweet Potato Chips, but maybe these creative dishes will get you thinking about those wonderful holiday banquets and a way to create your own long-lasting holiday traditions with a holiday feast.

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Beth Banning prepares some sweet potato chips.

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Beth Banning's Sweet Potato Chips.

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Beth Banning adds salt to a batch of sweet potato chips.

Banning puts twist on sweet potatoes

It's not surprising that Beth Banning decided to go with the sweet potato when she started looking for a new holiday dish several years ago, but her creative choice wasn't the same old predictable holiday fare you might expect.

"Sweet potatoes have always been a popular choice for the Thanksgiving Day meal," Banning said. "I was flipping through a magazine a few years ago when I saw a recipe for sweet potato chips, and I thought it was a great twist on an old holiday tradition."

Banning had grown up with sweet potato pie as a mainstay on the Thanksgiving Day table, but she wasn't sure how her family and friends would embrace the idea of sweet potato chips.

However, it didn't take long for her children to warm up to the idea. These days, one of the biggest problems with the chips is keeping her children away from them before they reach the table.

"They are a little labor intensive," Banning said. "I'm lucky if I actually get them in the bowl when I'm making them. But they are fun to make, and the whole family loves them."

For the past six years, the sweet potato chips have become a part of the Bannings' Thanksgiving celebration. She has expanded the recipe to include "true" yams (often confused with sweet potatoes), onions, beets and carrots. Banning admits that the chips can be a little messy to make, and she doesn't like to make them too often because the vegetables are deep fried in canola oil. But the flavor is addicting, and the chips are a perfect holiday treat when combined with her onion-garlic dip.

"I've always loved to cook and be creative in the kitchen," Banning said. "My mom went back to college when I was in junior high and I had to make some of the family meals. I quickly got beyond Hamburger Helper."

Banning worked for a catering company while studying art in graduate school at the University of Colorado. She also worked as an event coordinator for one of the top catering companies in Los Angeles, Ambrosia Productions. She planned, sold and produced many events, including movie premieres, celebrity parties and the Academy Awards Governor's Ball (a sit-down dinner for 1,700 guests that follows the awards). She worked with Wolfgang Puck and was responsible for coordinating the largest party that the company had ever done - the opening of the Richard Nixon Library and Birthplace, an event for 4,000 people.

In addition to working for Ambrosia, she also did her own catering on the side. Since moving to Steamboat 12 years ago, Banning has catered several parties. However, she was lucky enough to find work in the arts - the subject that she was studying when she began her career in catering and event production.

Sweet Potato Chips

Ingredients

4 medium sweet potatoes

canola oil for frying

salt

Preparation

Heat a couple of inches of canola oil in a large pot to 375 degrees. Peel potatoes and slice very thin using a mandolin or the smallest slicer blade of a food processor. It usually works best to peel and slice as you need them, as they will brown if left sitting too long. Carefully drop the potato slices into the hot oil. Keep slices separated, and allow plenty of room for them to move in the pot. Stir gently to cook the entire slice for about 1 to 2 minutes until golden brown, being careful not to overcook. This can happen quickly. Lift potatoes from oil with a slotted spoon and drain on paper towels. Sprinkle with salt. Eat plain or with Roasted Garlic and Chevre Dip (recipe below).

Roasted Garlic and Chevre Dip

Ingredients

2 large garlic heads

olive oil

thyme, salt and pepper

8 oz cream or Neufchatel cheese, softened

4 oz chevre (goat) cheese, softened

1/2 cup sour cream

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Use your favorite recipe for roasting garlic, or slice the tips of the cloves, keeping the garlic heads intact. Place heads, sliced side up in small pan, such as a pie pan. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with thyme, salt and pepper. Roast in the oven at 350 degrees for 30 minutes, then lower temperature to 250 degrees and continue for another hour. When cool enough to handle, squeeze out the garlic into a food processor. Add the olive oil from the roasting pan and remaining ingredients and puree until smooth. Serve with Sweet Potato Chips or other favorite chips. Also great with vegetable crudites.

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Dianne Stoyko adds fresh dill to a dish of borscht.

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Dianne Stoyko serves up a dish of her family borscht.

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Dianne Stoyko prepares beets for her family borscht recipe.

Borscht recipe gets family involved

Dianne Stoyko's mother used cooking as a way of passing along many of her family's Ukrainian Catholic beliefs.

"Because we were Ukrainian Catholics, we would always have a meatless food on Christmas Eve," said Stoyko, who grew up in Canada. "My mother would always make the 'Stoyko Family Borscht' for our family on that night, and now I make it for my family and friends as part of our Christmas celebration."

Borscht is a vegetable soup from Eastern Europe, which is traditionally cooked including beet roots as a main ingredient, which gives it a unique red color.

For the past eight years, the traditional Stoyko holiday dinner has included family, friends and neighbors who gather for a Christmas Eve celebration in her neighborhood. Stoyko says she usually prepares the borscht in the fall shortly after the beets have been pulled from the ground. She then freezes the soup to hold in the flavor for the holiday feast, which serves about 20 people.

These days, the beets are grown by Deb and Craig Metscher, who live just a short walk from Stoyko's kitchen and have become a valued part of the traditional holiday dinner.

"They grow the beets that I use to make the soup," Stoyko said. "It's a neat twist on a long- running tradition that makes it special for me."

On Christmas Day, Stoyko said she also serves a "Can't Be Beat" Beet Relish that is perfect to serve with turkey, ham or on homemade bread.

Stoyko has worked as a chef, and she spent most of her life exploring different types of food in the kitchen.

Today she is the driving force behind The Home Gourmet, a company that offers cooking classes in attendees' own homes.

"I'll do any type of food, and I can customize the cooking class for any type of person," Stoyko said.

She is already planning this year's holiday celebration complete with borscht and beet relish and says she expects the tradition to continue for years to come.

"It's a great thing because it goes back to my cultural roots," Stoyko said. "It's something I've been able to share with my family and pass on to or friends and neighbors, as well."

Stoyko Family Borscht

Serves 10 to 12 portions

Ingredients

2 pounds beets with greens, cut into matchstick pieces

2 leeks, sliced

4 carrots, shredded

1 onion, shredded

2 parsnips, shredded

1 large can diced tomatoes

3 potatoes, shredded

14 cup fresh lemon juice

3 cups very cold water

6 cups beef bouillon

4 cups chicken broth

4 cloves garlic, crushed

salt and pepper to taste

34 cup fresh fill, finely chopped

sour cream as garnish

Preparation

1. Peel beets and slice into matchsticks. Chiffonade the beet greens.

2. Shred onions, leeks, carrots, potatoes and parsnips in a food processor.

3. Add vegetables, diced tomatoes and cold water to a large soup pot. Simmer for at least 30 minutes and then add beef and chicken broth. Adjust seasoning of salt and pepper. Simmer until all vegetables are soft; time varies according to quantity of ingredients.

4. Add lemon juice and remove from heat.

5. To serve, in each soup bowl add fresh dill and dollop of sour cream according to individual taste. Soup can be served warm, room temperature or cold. Soup freezes well.

Can't Be Beat Beet Relish

Ingredients

1 cup beets

14 cup fresh horseradish, grated

14 cup white sugar

14 cup vinegar

1 tsp. salt

Preparation

1. Peel and simmer chopped beets until tender.

2. Allow beets to cool and grate into a bowl.

3. Peel and grate fresh beets. Adjust amount according to individual taste. Prepared horseradish may be used, but taste while adding.

4. Add sugar and stir.

5. Add vinegar and blend

6. Salt according to taste.

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Rick Spencer adds soy sauce to some prime rib.

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Prime rib has become a holiday tradition for Jan Spencer and her daughter Katie.

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Spencer Family Standing Rib Roast

Perfect Prime Rib

On Christmas morning, after the presents have been opened and the taste of sweet rolls is fading, Rick Spencer usually gets off the couch and heads into the kitchen to enjoy one of his favorite holiday traditions - cooking.

"I love to make prime rib because it's fairly easy," Spencer says. "Once you get the meat cooking, you just have to baby-sit it. That means there's plenty of time to visit with family and enjoy the holidays."

After tasting his prime rib, you might be shocked to learn that Spencer's background is not that of a chef, but as a butcher.

His family owned and operated OK's Meats in Steamboat Springs for more than 30 years. Spencer left Steamboat to attend college for a couple of years but returned in 1978 to work for his dad at the meat plant. Spencer's dad had come to Steamboat Springs in 1952 to work for Safeway as a butcher.

Spencer typically spent his days providing top cuts of meat for some of the best restaurants in Steamboat and dealing with the men and women who make up Steamboat's culinary community. He said he learned everything he could about meat and preparing it so that he could answer his customers' questions when they walked in the door of the shop.

That experience, and the relationships he formed with the people who prepared the food at some of Steamboat's best restaurants, taught him everything he needed to know about creating savory holiday dishes.

Spencer said he often experimented in the kitchen and tested the results, sometimes to mixed reviews, with his family. Eventually, Spencer and his sister Nancy struck out on their own and ran a successful catering business for several years.

"The great thing about catering was when somebody would compliment our food," Spencer says. "Somebody would say that tasted great, or you guys did a great job, and it made me want to keep doing it."

Spencer said he has always focused on doing the standards, and doing them well. It worked in the catering business, and although he likes to try new dishes on the family from time to time, he says prime rib has become a standard at Christmas.

"It wouldn't be Christmas without prime rib and a roasted garlic sauce," Spencer said. "Prime rib was a standard in the restaurants when we owned the meat plant, and it's a standard on our holiday menu now - plus my dad loves prime rib."

These days, Spencer handles the meat on Christmas, and his sister takes care of the roasted garlic sauce. Other members of the family handle the side dishes. Spencer says the cooking is a big part of his family's holiday celebration.

What's the secret to making sure the holiday dinner is perfect? Spencer says it starts with the meat selection and making sure the meat is cooked to the perfect temperature. His experience cutting meat helps him pick the perfect cut, and a handy electronic thermometer makes sure the meat is always cooked to the perfect temperature.

When OK's Meat sold to the Steamboat Meat and Seafood Co. in 1999, Spencer scaled back his catering business. Spencer now works at Harbert Lumber (formerly BMC) as an outside salesman and has left the catering business behind. He admits there are times he wishes he was a part of the catering business, but for now, Spencer says he is satisfied preparing food for his family and maintaining the holiday traditions.

Spencer Family Roast Standing Rib Roast

Ingredients

One 5 to 6 pound standing rib roast, USDA Choice if possible. Select one with good marbeling on small end, and not too much fat on the large end. Allow 34- to 1-pound bone in roast per person. Have butcher separate ribs most of the way through and tie back together.

Sesame oil

Soy sauce

Brown sugar

Kosher Salt

Coarse black pepper

Seasoning salt

Preparation

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.

Lightly rub entire surface of roast with sesame oil, then brown sugar. Sprinkle roast with seasoning salt, black pepper and salt. Place roast in a pan with 1- to 2-inch sides, pour in 12 inch of water.

Insert probe of remote-read thermometer into roast. Make sure sensor is in the center of meat and not touching bone. Set thermometer to alarm at 120 degrees. Place roast in oven uncovered. Close door and let cook until alarm goes off. Adjust cooking options to obtain the desired doneness with the time left before serving. Pull from oven 5 degrees below desired finish temperature and 15 minutes before carving. (The roast needs to rest for the juices to set, and the roast will continue to cook during this time.) Approximate cooking time for 5 to 6 pound roast is 2 1/2 to 3 hours. Carve and serve hot with Roasted Garlic Cream Sauce (recipe below).

Note: Degrees doneness - Rare 120 degrees, Medium 135 degrees, Well 150 degrees

If you need to satisfy a variety of tastes for doneness, preheat the oven to 400 degrees, (set a timer for 15 minutes as a reminder), put roast in. After 15 minutes, turn down to 300 degrees. The ends will be well done, the next two slices in will be medium, and the center will be closer to medium rare. This roast will cook in about 2-2 12 hrs and will be darker on the outside.

Ovens vary, so keep an eye on the temperatures. A very thin Prime rib will cook faster than a thick one although they may weigh the same.

If the roast is too rare when time to serve, slice and finish on grill, or heat some beef broth and dip the slices in to bring to finish temperature.

Spencer's Roasted Garlic Sauce

Adapted from Mark Miller's Coyote Cafe

Ingredients

3 Heads Garlic Cloves, Roasted & Chopped

3 Tbs. Butter, Unsalted

2 12 Tbs. Virgin Olive Oil

14 Cup Chopped Red Onion

1 12 Cup Heavy Whipping Cream

1 Cup Chicken Stock

12 Cup Marsala cooking wine

1 tsp. Kosher salt

1tsp. coarse black pepper

1 tsp. Fresh Thyme leaves

1 package breath mints

Melt butter into olive oil. Add onion and chopped roasted garlic, saute until onion is soft. Add chicken stock and cream, bring to boiling, and reduce to simmer for 10 minutes. Add Marsala thyme and pepper. Blend until medium fine or to desired consistency. Put back in pan on stove and simmer until creamy. This sauce can be made in advance. Serve with prime rib, or add 14 cup grated parmesan and 1 raw egg yolk during last step for an outstanding fettuccini sauce!.

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Robert DeGrange creates a Black Canyon Christmas Cocktail.

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Robert DeGrange adds a stick of cinnamon to a glass of Black Canyon Christmas Cocktail.

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Robert DeGrange mixes up a Black Canyon Christmas Cocktail.

Bartender hopes drink becomes a tradition

The Black Canyon Bar in Estes Park was the inspiration, but Robert DeGrange might well owe his experience in the U.S. military for the creation of his long-running holiday tradition - The Black Canyon Christmas Cocktail.

DeGrange came up with the idea for the drink in 1992, shortly after leaving the Army and taking a job as a bartender in Estes Park.

"I was just playing around in the bar with different flavors when I discovered this drink," DeGrange said. "It's a good Christmas drink because of the coffee - it keeps you from falling asleep after that big Christmas dinner."

DeGrange says he never studied to be a bartender but learned the skills while serving in the Army at the Peden Barracks in the German town of Wertheim. He had a part-time job as a bartender at the barracks' local bar.

"The couple who owned the bar taught me everything I needed to know," DeGrange said.

From 1987 until 1992, DeGrange worked at the bar in addition to his duties with the Army's food services. The experience helped DeGrange hone his skills behind the bar. In 1992, DeGrange left the military and took a job working as a bartender in Estes Park when he started playing around with ideas for making a unique holiday taste sensation.

DeGrange discovered that a rich combination of dark Cream de Cocoa, Kahlua, Baileys, Amaretto, coffee and hot chocolate made a perfect after-dinner drink that soon become a holiday tradition at the bar where he worked.

"It's pretty straight forward," DeGrange said. "The key to making any drink is to entertain people while you are doing it."

DeGrange moved to Steamboat Springs three years ago and is the house manager at the Old Town Pub. He is hoping that the drink he created will become a tradition here, as well.

The Black Canyon Christmas Cocktail

Ingredients

1 wine glass

12 ounce Dark Cream De Cocoa

12 ounce Kaluha

12 ounce Baileys

12 ounce Amaretto

Preparation

Pour liquors into the glass, fill the glass to halfway with hot chocolate and finish off with coffee. Add whipped topping, a sprinkle of nutmeg and a cinnamon stick.

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Nancy Kramer adds raspberries to her Raspberry Amaretto Trifle.

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Nancy Kramer's Raspberry Amaretto Trifle

Top off the meal with raspberries

It only takes Nancy Kramer a few minutes in the kitchen to prove that some of the best holiday traditions are also the sweetest.

For years, Kramer measured success in terms of the teaspoons, tablespoons and cups that added up to tons of praise for the In Season Bakery. Kramer owned the downtown bakery from December 1982 to June 1989. During that stretch, Kramer's coconut macaroons were nearly as popular among locals as the ski trails on Mount Werner that made Steamboat a world-class skiing destination.

Kramer drifted away from the culinary spotlight a few years back to pursue other interests, but she still gets in the kitchen every time she wants to entertain friends and family.

"When I came to Steamboat Springs, I was a surgical nurse," Kramer said. "But before that, when I lived in Portland, where I used to entertain friends - that's where I developed an interest in entertaining and cooking."

After moving to town, Kramer opened the bakery, where her creativity ran wild to the pleasure of locals who discovered tit was a great place to find unique treats that would satisfy the taste bud.

Kramer no longer owns the bakery, but her raspberry Amaretto trifle is still a regular around the holiday table and is reason enough to celebrate.

"I like to make it around the holidays because it's good," Kramer says.

She also likes it because it's the perfect way to top off that traditional English dinner that includes prime rib or beef tenderloin, Brussels sprouts and Yorkshire pudding.

"It's just so festive," Kramer said of the trifle. "The bright red of the raspberries gives it great color, and the flavors are wonderful."

Kramer says she started making the holiday treat because she wanted to offer her customers at the bakery a trifle for the holidays, so one day she started playing around with many of the things she had already made. The raspberry sauce was a basic item to top off the bakery's cheesecakes, the macaroons were already wildly popular, and the other ingredients were easily accessible.

"That's the fun part of what we do," Kramer said. "The recipe for the trifle is pretty fundamental, but then you make it your own."

Kramer said she learned her way around the kitchen early in life by taking notes from her Scottish grandmother. Both of her parents worked, so she spent a lot of time in the kitchen preparing meals for her siblings. She never attended a formal cooking school, but learned about the business through the In Season Bakery, which was a regular stop for locals in the mid to late 1980s.

Kramer left formal baking in 1989 when the bakery sold, but that hasn't kept her out of the kitchen or from entertaining friends, neighbors and family. In her spare time she also has acted as executive director of the Steamboat Springs Arts Council (1993- through December of 2006). Most recently she took the job as project coordinator of the Northwest Colorado Products Program.

Kramer Raspberry Amaretto Trifle

Ingredients

1 recipe macaroons (see below) broken into nugget size pieces

1 recipe pastry cream (see below)

1 recipe raspberry sauce (see below)

1 16 ounce package pound cake

2 pints fresh raspberries

Amaretto 1 1 12 cup

3 cups whipping cream

2 12 quart Trifle Bowl or clear glass bowl

2 Tbsp confectioner sugar

Preparation

Trim crust from pound cake, slice cake into 14 inch thick piece, cut 1/3 of these pieces on the diagonal to form triangles. Assemble by placing layer of pound cake slices in bottom of trifle dish; use pastry brush to soak cake with amaretto; spread raspberry sauce over soak cake pieces making sure the sauce is visible through glass; spread 1/3 of pastry cream recipe on top of soaked cake; using 1/3 of the raspberries, place single row around edge of bowl and spread remaining berries on top of cream (save one or two berries for garnish); sprinkle macaroon nuggets over berries (reserve a few nuggets for garnish). Repeat layering two more times, applying slight pressure with cake layers. Whip cream with confectioner sugar to soft peaks. Spread on top of layered dessert. Sprinkle with reserved macaroon nuggets and berries. You can use a pastry bag and decorating tip to pipe cream in circular pattern for a fancier presentation.

For best results, assemble trifle layers, cover and store in refrigerator for 12 hours or over night. Top with whipped cream prior to serving.

Serves 20

Prepare first: Coconut Macaroons

Prepare 2 cookie sheets by placing

parchment paper or silpat liners on both pans

Mix together

2/3 cup flour

5 cups flaked coconut 14 oz package

1/4 tsp salt

Add and mix with large spoon or hand

1 can (14oz) sweetened condensed milk

2 tsp vanilla

Spoon 1 12 inch mounds of mixture on sheets

Bake for 10 to 12 mins. until slightly golden on the top but soft in the center.

Pastry Cream

Blend:

34 cup sugar

12 cup cornstarch

Mix together

6 egg yolks

2 cups milk

2 cups 12 & 12

Preparation: Pour liquid slowly into dry mixture - avoiding any lumping.

Cook over medium heat and cook, stirring constantly until it thickened.

Stir in 1 12 tsp vanilla. Remove from heat.

Cool mixture to room temperature, stirring frequently to prevent crust from developing.

Place in container and chill prior to use.

Raspberry sauce for trifle

Blend together

2 12 oz packages frozen raspberries

1 cup sugar

1 12 cup water

Preparation

Bring to a boil and cook until berries become soft and liquid is reduced by 1/3.

Strain berry mixture though fine mesh colander or strain to remove seeds.

Return sauce to pan.

Mix 2 Tbsp. berry sauce with 2- 3 Tbsp in a small bowl.

Bend until cornstarch is softened and smooth (without lumps).

Blend cornstarch mixture and 3 Tbsp Chambord liquor into berry sauce.

Bring to slow boil, cook until slightly thickened.

Cool prior to use.

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