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Junior League Cookbooks Foster Connection

With Palisade peach season coming to a close and hatch green chile season in full swing, you’ve probably noticed piles of green chiles overflowing from the bins at grocery stores and dangling from seasonal roadside stands. Early to mid-fall in Colorado is the perfect time to get your hands on some of these fresh green chilies and make delicious comfort food.  We turned to Kristen Peterson who is the chief operations chair for the Junior League of Denver’s cookbook committee.

“There are generations of stories passed down through these cookbooks, and I’ve heard some that absolutely floor me,” says Peterson.

Peterson took us back to the 1995 Colorado Collage cookbook and showed us how she makes Pork and Green Chile Stew.  Beside the recipe she had one word written, “Good.”

Peterson prepares this heartwarming stew with ease by using some tried-and-true cooking tips she learned from her grandmother. To avoid peeling dozens of tomatoes by hand, she recommends pouring boiling water over tomatoes in a large bowl, then allowing them to rest while preparing all the other ingredients for the stew. Once the tomatoes have cooled, she peels off their outside layer with little to no effort and stirs them into the simmering pot. 

“There’s just something so welcoming about the smell of onions and garlic simmering over a stove. This recipe reminds me how much I love cooking for other people.” 

Peterson holds her grandmother’s cooking tips very close to her heart, and the first Junior League cookbook she ever received belonged to her grandmother and was filled with her writing. That cookbook is now like a time capsule of her grandma’s signature cooking tricks that will grow more special with time.

The Association of Junior Leagues International, more commonly known as the Junior League, is a private, women-led, non-profit organization with chapters scattered all around the globe full of women who are passionate about growing their leadership skills through philanthropy and community service. One of the main ways that the Junior League serves the community while gaining support for their volunteer projects is by creating and selling regional cookbooks that boast the famous flavors from each chapter’s homeland. 

“Picking a favorite cookbook is like picking a favorite child,” says Peterson, “I’ve always loved to cook and bake. Hospitality has always been my gift, and being a part of the Junior League’s cookbook committee has allowed me to love and encourage other women through cooking.”

The Junior League of Denver releases a new cookbook roughly every ten years, a tradition that began in 1978 when the first cookbook, Colorado Cache, was launched. Peterson says that “A whole lot of blood, sweat, love, and tears goes into making these cookbooks. It is incredible to watch the evolution of them and to see all the time and effort that goes into making every single one of them. I also love how when you look at each one of our cookbooks, you will find that every single person involved in the process has their name inside of it.” 

The Junior League of Denver currently has six cookbooks on the market, each with a distinctive personality and focus. Though each cookbook is memorable in its own unique way, they are all titled with “C” names to stay true to the spirit of Colorado. They are great gifts for “C”hristmas and “C”hanukkah.  

The magic inside of each cookbook comes from the step-by-step commitment to originality and authenticity–from picking out the cookbook’s theme, to reaching out to local restaurants and community members to submit their favorite recipes, to compiling its stunning pages, and finally, to selling the cookbooks and sharing Colorado’s cuisine with the world.

Recipes that make it into the cookbooks typically focus on classic Colorado flavors, so in them you will find no shortage of peaches, corn, green chiles, and other iconic ingredients that inspire Colorado traditions inside and outside of the Denver region. 

Peterson shared that “One gentleman came up to me while I was doing a peach sale at the Rotary club, and he told me that he wanted to buy the first cookbook from the Junior League to keep his wife’s memory alive and her traditions going. She is no longer with us, and a recipe of hers was in that cookbook.”

As Peterson says, “These cookbooks all have a life of their own, and it’s really incredible to see such a special heirloom form.”

And the Pork and Green Chile Stew was not just “good” but delicious.

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