The Seattle Times annual Holiday Cuisine section offers recipes for holiday entertaining — including a selection of appetizers, entrees, side dishes and desserts.

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The Seattle Times has again partnered with the pros at Seattle Central Community College to whip up a package of holiday-ready recipes. But this time, in addition to chef-celeb Kathy Casey (who’s dishing out some D’Lish appetizers and desserts, including Savory Chicken and Bacon “Cupcakes” With Tabasco Cream Cheese Frosting and Eggnog Pumpkin Bread Pudding With Spiced Cranberry Compote), we’ve turned to a host of other proud SCCC Culinary Academy alumni who’ve made a name for themselves in Seattle and beyond.

Garnish that with a handful of classic Seattle Times holiday recipes, and you’re looking at a trip to bountiful.

Even I get into the act this year, offering a couple of cooking school recipes that put me in the mood for entertaining. And if you’re thinking, “I didn’t know you went to culinary school, Nance!” think again.

I did — if you count the cooking classes I’ve taken in New Orleans and New Mexico, where I had the great good fortune of rubbing elbows with (and learning tricks of the trade from) some celebrated chefs.

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I made my first visit to New Orleans in 2009 and fell hard for the city. While there, I befriended one of the keepers of its culinary traditions — cooking instructor, cookbook author and culinary ball ‘o fire Poppy Tooker. Poppy and I share a great love for gumbo, which, in keeping with my family’s holiday traditions, is our less-traditional Northwest Christmas Day dinner.

Christmas is also my husband Mac’s birthday, and to honor that day he makes a big pot of gumbo to share with family and friends. While I’m convinced his gumbo is among the best I’ve eaten, I’ve got to give props to Poppy, who took to the stove for a gumbo-making class at the New Orleans Cooking Experience. (See Poppy’s Seafood Gumbo recipe inside.)

The native New Orleanian taught me how to make a proper roux (“Keep the heat up high and stir slowly, nonstop, until it’s the color of milk chocolate”), insisting “Don’t use a whisk, use a wooden spoon!”).

This year I traveled to Santa Fe New Mexico, home-base for chef Rocky Durham, culinary director of The Santa Fe School of Cooking, who shared his considerable knowledge of New Mexico chiles and his recipe for Carne Adovada. It’s a dish I’ve since made with great success, and one that now holds a hallowed place in my holiday-potluck canon.

Nancy Leson: 206-464-8838 or Follow her on Twitter @nancyleson

Read her All You Can Eat blog at

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