Here’s a taste of good government that could make your mouth water and put a smile on your face, for a change. Cooks from 14 Colorado Department of Human Services facilities squared off Wednesday in Wheat Ridge to show off dishes they serve to those in their care.
Folks are so eager to badmouth public servants, based on the actions of a few. To do so, however, they must overlook the pride, dedication and caring of so many, like those who make sure the state’s neediest and most neglected are cared for with love, compassion and respect. DHS is trying to shine a light on its staff members who, themselves, are shining lights.
Baklava from Mount View Youth Services Center in Lakewood took home the prize Wednesday at the Wheat Ridge Regional Center. Mount View is a detention facility for youth, many of whom likely haven’t had a lot of award-winning attention in their lives.
“I fix baklava for the kids on special occasions,” said Dina Lampropoulou, who joined with Jim Cronin on the Mount View team. She said she was “very excited” to win.
The dish is close to her soul; she’s originally from Greece. A sign on the Mount View booth at the contest noted “America is the melting pot.”
Mount View shared the award for most spirit, a recognition called Say Yes to the Zest, with the Veterans Community Living Center at Fitzsimons in Aurora, which showed off its patriotic pride in its theme.
“The work our dietician team does is so important,” said Reggie Bicha, DHS’s executive director. “A good and nutritious meal is one of the best ways to make somebody feel nurtured and to give our clients a foundation so that they can benefit from the great work our clinical staff does.”
Adams Youth Services Center came in second with roast pork mole pupusas, a recipe the center got from one of the young people in the facility. There were two honorable mentions: Grand Mesa Youth Services Center for its carne asada tacos and Pueblo Youth Services Center for a red velvet cake.
Bicha judged the contest with Tony Gherardini, DHS’s deputy executive director of operations; Melissa Wavelet, the agency’s director of the Office of Performance and Strategic Outcomes; Denver Post food writer Allyson Reedy and 9News multimedia journalist Noel Brennan.
Among the other dishes they judged were lasagna, smoked meatloaf, cheesecake, taco soup and chicken enchiladas.
. Other competitors were Gilliam Youth Services Center, Marvin W. Foote Youth Services Center, Platte Valley Youth Services Center, Zebulon Pike Youth Services Center, Pueblo Regional Center, Wheat Ridge Regional Center, Colorado Mental Health Institute at Fort Logan and Colorado Mental Health Institute at Pueblo.
Fitzsimons won the contest the first year of the 3-year-old contest , and Spring Creek was the winner last year.
Here’s the recipe (by special request of Colorado Politics, because our readers deserve the best):
Mount View Baklava
1 pound of phyllo pastry, thawed or frozen
1 cup of butter melted at room temperature
3/4 cup of sugar
1 teaspoon of ground cinnamon
2 cups of chopped walnuts
1/2 cup of water
1/4 cup of lemon juice
1/4 cup of honey
1. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Layer sheets of phyllo one at a time in a greased 11x7x2-inch baking pan brushing each sheet evenly with butter and folding over the ends, if necessary, to fit in the pan.
2. Keep unused sheets covered with plastic wrap while assembling the baklava to prevent drying.
3. Mix 1/4 cup of the sugar and cinnamon, stir in walnuts.
4. Sprinkle mixture evenly over buttered phyllo in the pan.
5. Layer remaining phyllo, one sheet at a time, over the nut mixture, brushing each sheet evenly with butter.
6. Cut diagonally into squares, completely through all layers.
7. Bake in preheated oven until crisp and golden, about one hour.
8. Combine remaining sugar, the water, lemon juice and honey in a small saucepan; cook and stir over low heat until sugar dissolves.
9. Heat to boiling then pour evenly over the baklava.
10. Let stand loosely covered for 8 hours or overnight.
Editor’s note: This story was updated to correct that Fitzsimons won the contest the first year.