The Empower Team Shares: “What’s Your Fav Holiday Recipe?”

Fav Holiday Recipe

The Empower Team Shares: “What’s Your Fav Holiday Recipe?”

From turkey with stuffing to fruitcake and eggnog, eating delicious Christmas food is a holiday tradition everyone anticipates. To usher in the most wonderful time of the year, the Empower Brokerage team shares their favorite holiday recipes vital to their holiday menu.

Sherri Miller

Sherri Miller

Necessity is the mother of invention, as the saying goes. So, when food items were rationed during the Great Depression, American women, like Sherri Miller’s Grandmother and Mom, got creative with their desserts. Shortening was substituted for butter, water for milk, and baking powder for eggs. According to Sherri, “Both of these amazing women made this cake out of necessity, but continued to make it every year during the holidays.” Sherri keeps the tradition alive and bakes it for her own family every year, but not out of necessity, just because it tastes so good.

Poorman’s Cake / Eggless, Milkless, Butterless Cake / Depression Cake Serves 8-10

1 cup packed brown sugar
1 cup water
1 cup raisins
1/3 cup shortening
½ teaspoon ground clove
¼ teaspoon nutmeg
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
1 cup walnuts coarsely chopped

  • In a saucepan, combine the first seven ingredients. Bring to a boil. Cook for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Cool to room temperature.
  • In a large bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and walnuts: once mixed together, add the raisin mixture. Pour into a greased 9×5 inch loaf pan.
  • Bake at 350 degrees for 45-50 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool for 10 minutes before removing from the pan to a wire rack.
  • Can be served with Hard Sauce. Hard Sauce is made with three ingredients: butter, powdered sugar, and BRANDY.


Jenny McCann

jenny mccann

Did you know that the Christmas day meal for many in Louisiana is a big pot of gumbo? It’s true, and Marketing Specialist Jenny McCann, who hails from Louisiana, shares her favorite gumbo recipe with us. “People enjoy gumbo throughout the year in Louisiana, but typically splurge on Seafood gumbo for Christmas,” Jenny explains. She carries on the holiday tradition of cooking the rich stew filled with shrimp, crab, oysters, and a side of warm potato salad, just like her mama did every Christmas day. Ca c’est bon!

Jenny’s Mother’s Cajun Seafood Gumbo (in her words)

  • I prefer to use equal parts shrimp, oyster, and crab legs/bodies. About 4 lbs each, or whatever you can afford. (Increasing shrimp ratio is more affordable than crab or oyster)
  • Get your water/seafood stock going (fill pot halfway with liquid) on medium heat, add roux to achieve desired thickness. (about 1 cup premade jar roux) I try to use roux as sparingly as possible. Seafood has such a delicate taste, and you don’t want the roux taste to overpower the seafood.
  • Once you add roux to the water, stir continually so it does not stick to the bottom of the pot. After your roux and water mixture is going well, add 1 diced onion, 1 diced bell pepper, and 2-3 diced celery (the holy trinity) and continue stirring. Add your spices: salt, black pepper, cayenne pepper, garlic powder, filé, etc. (about 1 tsp each)
  • When the vegs are cooked and it starts to thicken, turn the heat down to slow simmer. Add crab legs/bodies. Close the lid and let simmer. (about 1 hour)
  • Uncover and skim any oil or foam from the surface of the gumbo. Taste and adjust the seasonings. Add the shrimp and simmer on low for 20 minutes. Add oysters last. (oysters only take about 5 min to cook)
  • Once seafood is cooked, add chopped green onions (about 1 cup), turn heat very low until green onions are slightly cooked and semi wilted looking. Only stir occasionally and very gently.
  • If using lump crab meat, use it as a garnish at the end as it doesn’t cook as long as if you are using crab legs and bodies. Crabmeat is delicate.
  • Serve over cooked rice; add Tabasco to taste. Serve with a generous scoop of warm potato salad. Bon Appétit!


Joy Culp

The holidays are filled with tradition. From long-standing social rituals to family traditions passed down from generation to generation, some things are just meant to last. Throughout the changing times, one thing that has stayed the same is gathering around the table with those you love on holidays. Joy recalls her mother making this pea salad for Easter, Thanksgiving, and Christmas. Now, she says, “My sister Sue and I carry on her tradition on those holidays!”

Pea Salad

1 can of French Style green beans, drain all but 3 tbsp of juice
1 can of peas, drained
1 cup chopped celery
1 small onion, diced
4 oz diced pimento
1 cup fresh mushrooms, sliced
1 medium bell pepper, chopped
4 tsp salt
¼ tsp pepper
½ cup red wine vinegar
¾ cup sugar
⅓ cup oil
Mix all the ingredients together and let it marinate for 24 to 48 hours. Serve with a slotted spoon.


Jeff Hess

Often, favorite holiday meals take shape while we’re kids and continue into adulthood. Jeff and his family have something different every Christmas, ranging from lasagna to enchiladas, but he fondly recalls Christmas dinners of country ham paired with homemade mashed potatoes and corn from when he was a child.

Baked Country Ham
1 smoked ham, 14-15 oz
1 cup brown sugar, heaping (don’t pack it!)
½ cup orange juice
¼ cup honey
¼-½ cup dijon mustard, to taste

Preheat your oven to 300 degrees. Lay the ham fat-side up in a foil-lined baking pan. Cover the ham with foil and bake for three hours. Mix the remaining ingredients in a bowl and put to the side. After three hours, remove the ham and trim away all but one eighth an inch of fat. Score the ham in a diamond pattern. Pour the excess fat out of the pan, line the pan with new foil, and place the ham back in the pan. Pour one-third of the glaze on the ham, making sure to spread it evenly, and then bake for another 20 to 30 minutes. Pour another third of the glaze on the ham and raise the oven temperature to 325. Bake the ham for 20 more minutes. Pour on the remaining glaze and bake for 15 minutes.



While our Product Specialist extraordinaire, Blanca Montemayor, loves turkey with all the trimmings, she admits, “I don’t cook that.” Her favorite holiday meal is of her own creation: chicken salad. She stumbled on this dish after volunteering to make chicken salad sandwiches for a Christmas party. Her sandwiches were a hit, and Blanca’s Famous Chicken Salad was born! “Now, when our group of friends get together for the holidays, I always bring the chicken salad,” she says. Blanca, you had us at dried cranberries. Yum!

Blanca’s Famous Chicken Salad!

4 boneless chicken breasts
1 tablespoon of salt
1 small grated white onion
2 cups finely chopped celery
½ cup Kraft real mayonnaise
½ cup of dried cranberries

  • Boil chicken breast, let it cool, shred chicken, and place in a large bowl.
  • Add grated onion, chopped celery, mayonnaise, cranberries, and salt and pepper to taste. Mix together and chill for about ½ an hour.
  • Serve on Mini Butter Croissants or serve with crackers.


William Bronson


“Ham I Am” by Bill Bronson

10-16 lb bone-in spiral ham
½ cup maple syrup
½ cup brown sugar
¼ cup apple cider
2 tbsp spicy brown mustard
1 tsp cayenne pepper
10 Pineapple slices (about 1-2 inch)
10 Cherries
10 toothpicks

  • Score diagonally with a sharp knife, creating a cross-hatch pattern
  • Put it flat side down in a pan with a grate insert
  • Set smoker to 250 degrees and get Apple Wood Chips ready. (I soak mine in apple cider vinegar for about 30 minutes before cooking)
  • Whisk maple syrup, sugar, cider, mustard, and cayenne pepper in a saucepan and simmer until thickened.
  • Baste the ham liberally, saving half for later.
  • Pin the pineapple slices with cherries evenly around the top half of the ham.
  • Smoke the ham with applewood at 250 degrees
  • At 130 degrees baste one more time liberally.
  • Remove at 140 degrees and cover lightly with foil for about 15 minutes before cutting. (I use a Masterbuilt electric smoker but you can use a pellet grill, regular smoker, or oven. If you use an oven, add a ½ teaspoon of liquid smoke to the glaze)
  • Enjoy!