Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Dads' Favorites: Mac and Cheese and Barbecue Ribs

Happy Father's Day to all the dads out there! Whether you are a father, grandfather, godfather, step father, foster father, or even a spiritual father as a priest, I hope last Sunday was a great day filled with lots of love.

I have fun spoiling the awesome dads in my life on Father's Day, and there are a lot of them! It can make for a busy day traveling around making sure we spend time with everyone, but it's good to remember what a blessing it is to have so many people that we love so close - especially thinking of the recent losses of one of my husband's grandpas as well as one of mine. They are dearly loved and very missed. All in all, on Sunday my kids got to be with all of their grandfathers, two of their great grandfathers, and of course their own dear dad and my wonderful husband who has taken on the challenging and rewarding role of stay at home dad. I'm so thankful for all the love, care, and guidance he gives to our kids every day.

We ended our crazy dad-filled day with dinner at my dad's house where I served up some of the favorite recipes of the dads in attendance. My dad's favorite, according the family cookbook, is barbecue ribs. We never ate them that much growing up, but I think that I may be partially to blame since I have always been terrible at eating meat on the bone. If it was my fault, I think I made it up to him. Even though it was my first time making the recipe, it turned out great; succulent, tender pork  smothered in the best barbecue sauce I've ever had - there was definitely a lot of finger licking! Homemade makes the difference! My husband's favorite is macaroni and cheese. I once again turned to my grandma's recipes in the family cookbook, and he said it was the best mac and cheese I've ever made. I only made a couple slight tweaks with the shape of the pasta and topping it with cheese crackers instead of bread crumbs.  I've got to say that our family cookbook never fails and is one of the best things I own. Here's to the family cookbook, and of course here's to you Dad!

Barbecued Ribs

Cut baby back ribs into pieces with 2 ribs in each piece. Parboil in water for about 30 minutes until
getting tender and the fat is pretty much gone. Transfer ribs to baking pan. Cover with barbecue
sauce. Cook at 350 until meat falls off the bone. (I found that this will take between 2 to 3 hours.)

Barbecue Sauce
3 cups ketchup
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup water from parboiling ribs
2 Tablespoons chili powder
1 onion - minced
3 Tablespoon vinegar (or 1/2 cup dry white wine)
6 cloves garlic - minced
dash of Worcestershire sauce 
1 Tablespoon Dijon mustard
optional: 1 Tablespoon liquid smoke
                lemon and orange slices 


Macaroni and Cheese 

1 box cavatappi pasta
1/4 cup butter
1/4 cup flour
2 cups milk
1/4 teaspoon salt
dash of pepper
3 cups sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
cheese crackers and melted butter
1. Cook pasta until tender. Drain and set aside.
2. Melt 1/4 cup butter in sauce pan over low heat until smooth and bubbly. Stir in flour.
3. Remove from heat and stir in milk - adding the mild at little at a time, stirring occasionally to the mixture doesn't get lumpy. Add salt and pepper. Return to heat and bring to a boil for about a minute.
4. Mix together the pasta, white sauce, and shredded cheddar cheese. Put in a large casserole dish and top with crushed cheese crackers that have been mixed with melted butter.
5. Bake at 350 degrees for 20 to 30 minutes. 

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Zucchini Pancakes

     Actually they are not merely zucchini pancakes, but whole wheat zucchini flax pancakes. Putting that as the title made me feel a little too hippy-dippy though. I guess when it comes to cooking I can get that way sometimes. I should probably just embrace it!

    Those who share my struggle of having a child who's a picky eater have probably come across many ways to sneak vegetables into their children's food - spinach smoothies, sweet potato mac and cheese, etc.  I've given lots of yummy concoctions a try, but I've found that pancakes really offer a great blank canvas. The two variations I make the most are pumpkin pancakes and these zucchini ones, but I've also done carrots, butternut squash, sweet potatoes, bananas, and blueberry puree. I usually make them with whole wheat flour, and add in things like wheat germ or flax meal when I have them on hand.

     Though I say that I'm "sneaking" in the healthy stuff, I try to never add things into my kids' food that they don't know about. In order to try to teach them good eating habits that will last into adulthood, if I'm adding veggies or other healthy ingredients in a creative way, I make sure that they are aware and even have them help me make the recipe. My six year old may not ask me for zucchini at snack time, but he does ask me to make zucchini pancakes for breakfast. I'll take what I can get!

  So if you or your children are pancake lovers, I encourage you to get creative and see what you can come up with! And if you are looking for some other ways to get a few extra veggies into your kids, I've got you covered with a few recipes from the archives:

Broccoli Cheddar Biscuits
Kid Friendly Chili (with  red beans and pumpkin)
Whole Wheat Pumpkin Pancakes
Spinach Parsnip Muffins (whole wheat of course!)

    Whole Wheat Zucchini Flax Pancakes 

1 egg
1 cup milk
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 Tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 Tablespoons flax meal
1 teaspoon of cinnamon
1 medium zucchini, shredded

Beat the egg and mix all ingredients together until smooth.

Grease a hot griddle or large pan. Ladle batter onto the hot surface. When bubbles form on the surface of the pancake, it's time to flip.

Top with your favorite pancake toppings. My son likes syrup, my husband went with peanut butter, and as you can see from the pictures, I went with some homemade gooseberry/blueberry jam!

Monday, May 9, 2016

Ascension Thursday: Neapolitan Meringue Cookies

  I hope everyone had a wonderful feast of the Ascension! This feast celebrates the return of Jesus to heaven forty days after his resurrection. It is a solemnity, and so accordingly we should make it a day of celebration and festivity!  Traditionally Ascension is celebrated on a Thursday, exactly forty days after Easter Sunday, (and is a holy day of obligation by the way). However, in the United States and a few other countries the feast gets moved to the Sunday after. It does make remembering to go to church on Ascension day easier, and it also gives a little wiggle room for when to have your Ascension celebration. I just hope the reason that it got moved in the U.S. wasn't because people thought Americans were too lazy or too apathetic to make it to church on a Thursday!

   One of the traditional ways to celebrate the Ascension is to have a picnic, and this year in Michigan the weather was just perfect for it! I just love getting to eat outside, so I particularly like this way of celebrating.  I think preferably the picnic is supposed to be on a hill to represent being close to heaven, but we're pretty flat here in this region of the mitten state.

To keep the minds on all things heavenly the menu usually consists of some sort of poultry, for their ability to fly up into the heavens, and a light and fluffy dessert, reminiscent of heavenly clouds. For the main course I made my new favorite chicken dish that I learned from watching "The Kitchen" on the Food Network. There aren't many shows that I make sure I watch every week, but on Saturdays at eleven o'clock, I almost always know what I'll be doing! This roasted chicken dish includes a side of carrots and potatoes, and is made on a single sheet pan, so clean up is pretty easy. It's full of wonderful flavors like lemon, rosemary, and thyme. My son's favorite part is the crispy chicken skin. You can find the recipe here.

Chocolate, Strawberry, and Vanilla
 For the dessert I knew I wanted to do something with meringue. I mean what is more light, fluffy, and cloud like than meringue? I decided to go with a baked meringue cookie. The first time I encountered the meringue cookie concept was in my high school foods class. We made a chocolate chip version. I absolutely loved the idea, but personally I thought the chocolate chips weighed down and overpowered the meringue. I continued to experiment with the idea adding in my own flavors. Sadly, I lost my recipe folder from class, so I've been searching for a good recipe for meringue cookies. I think these ones turned out pretty well.

Making a meringue is super simple. The vanilla version has a mere five ingredients. And as a bonus, it happens to be dairy, grain, and fat free. One meringue cookie is only about 10 calories, so they're a great way to have a sweet treat without feeling too guilty about it. In addition to vanilla I also made strawberry and chocolate. Since I didn't use any food coloring, the visual difference between the three wasn't too striking after they were baked, but they sure were full of flavor and absolutely delicious! Meringue is a great blank canvas for lots of flavors, so feel free to experiment!
                                                                                    When piped in pretty design, they would also make a great decoration for cakes and pies.

Meringue Cookies

3 large egg whites
1 1/2 tsp vanilla
1/4 tsp cream of tartar
dash of salt 
2/3 cup sugar

For strawberry: freeze dried strawberries
For chocolate: cocoa powder

Combine the egg whites, vanilla, cream of tartar, and salt. Beat on high until foamy.

Gradually add the sugar, about a tablespoon at time, beating until dissolved after each addition. Continue beating until you reach stiff peaks.

Now is the time to add your flavors if you wish. I divided the meringue into thirds. I left one as it was for vanilla. In another third I folded in a handful of crushed freeze dried strawberries. In the last third I folded in about a tablespoon of cocoa powder.

Pipe or dollop the meringue onto a  baking sheet lined with a silpat or parchment paper. Bake at 250 degrees for 40 - 45 minutes. Turn off the oven, but leave the meringues in for 1 more hour. Take them out and let them cool. They can be stored in an airtight container. Enjoy!

Friday, April 22, 2016

Cooking for Eighty with Great Aunt Katie

Well, maybe it wasn't exactly eighty people, but it was a lot and eighty rhymes!

When I was in college at Central Michigan University I became part of an amazing Catholic student group called Corpus Christi. While I had always gone to mass every Sunday growing up, attended youth group, learned about the saints, things like that, Corpus Christi helped me to be on fire for my faith more than I ever had before. I grew in knowledge of my faith and love for God during that time in ways I never imagined possible. I also gained amazing life long friends who have moved on to become priests, nuns, brothers, awesome married couples, and single lay people living out their calling from God.

One of the important parts of our weekly meetings was ending by enjoying each others company over a meal. Back in my college days the group was a little smaller, so one kind woman cooked for us each week. Since then the group has continued to grow and grow, a very good thing, but it definitely made cooking for everyone a much bigger task. The new arrangement became for many people to sign up to volunteer and take turns cooking throughout the year. I still live in the area and wanted to give back to this group that had been so important in my life. So I signed up and two or three times a year I get to cook a big ol' heap of food for a large group of hungry college students.

When I first started cooking, the count was closer to around forty than today's eighty, so I would experiment and make something different each time - corned beef in March, my great-grandmother's enchiladas in May.  The group continued to grow, I moved a little farther away, and the dance classes I teach got moved to the day that Corpus Christi meets. I knew I needed to come up with a new plan.   So considering everything I needed to come up with something that was:

1. Budget Friendly
2. Easily made in large quantities
3. Able to be made ahead of time. (No cooking on site, only heating up) 
4. Something that a lot of people would like

As it turns out, my Great Aunt Katie had all the answers! Without even realizing it, the two dishes that I picked to make regularly for Corpus Christi both came from her. The first is something I grew up knowing as Katie's Casserole. Others may know it as Hot Dish or Tater Tot Casserole. The second Great Aunt Katie dish I make for them is a dessert I have shared on the blog before - Katie's Rhubarb Cake. However, since rhubarb isn't in season during the school year I change it up a little bit and turn it into Katie's Peach Cake. I also chop up some lettuce and veggies for a salad side dish.

The great thing about using these recipes is that not only do they meet all of the above requirements, but if I do my cooking in disposable aluminum pans, I dirty a total of four dishes/utensils. Four! Cooking for eighty people! I get absolutely nothing dirty making the casserole. Everything goes right into the pan. For the cake I dirty one mixing bowl and one spoon. Then I also have to wash one cutting board and one knife after I chop veggies for salad.

Putting together the Katie's Casserole is so easy that sometimes I make it on my lunch break from work the day of. After I cook it, I let it cool, pack it up, and then warm it up in the ovens at church when I get there. Katie's Casserole is always a hit, I mean who doesn't love a good tater tot?

Katie's Casserole
The following quantities are for a single recipe. I sextuple it when cooking for Corpus Christi

1 lb ground beef
1/4 of an onion - diced
1 bag frozen french style green beans
1 can condensed cheddar cheese soup
1 bag of tater tots
salt and pepper

1. Press the ground beef into the bottom of a 9 x 13 baking dish, making one thin layer that covers the whole bottom of the pan. Season with salt and pepper and sprinkle with diced onions.

 2. Add a layer of green beans and cover with cheddar cheese soup (undiluted).
 3. Top with tater tots and bake for one hour at 350 degrees - until the beef is cooked through and the tots are golden brown.

Enjoy! Don't forget that one of the benefits of being the cook is you get to steal a few tater tots off the top before you serve it everyone else. 

  Of course I also make the cake ahead of time, so I when I arrive at the church all I have to do is set it on the table with some cans of whipped cream! Easy and oh so delicious. I love desserts with fruit, and this recipe can be adjusted to use almost any type of fruit and jello flavor that you like.The original uses fresh rhubarb and either strawberry or raspberry jello. To peach-ify it I use frozen peaches and orange jello.

Katie's Rhubarb Cake - Peach Style
The quantities here are for a single recipe. When I cook for Corpus Christie I quadruple it. 

1 box of yellow cake mix
ingredients to make cake mix (eggs, water, oil)
1 bag of frozen peaches (I added a few blueberries this time too.)
1 box of orange gelatin
whipped cream for serving

1. In the bottom of a 9x13 baking dish mix together the peaches, gelatin powder, and little sugar.
2. Make the cake batter according to directions on the box, and pour over the fruit mixture.
3. Bake at 350 for about a 30 minutes (or check directions on cake mix box for a 9 x 13 cake) - cake should be golden brown on top and a toothpick should come out clean when stuck in the center.
4. Top with whipped cream and enjoy!

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Spaghetti Pi(e)

Yesterday, March 14th was Pi Day! Pi of course being the irrational number 3.14.... used to find measurements like area in circles.  I'll admit that math is not my favorite subject, but I am a big fan of the food pie, so any day where there is an excuse to make some pie sounds good to me!  My husband who loves math, (he does it for fun!), says that we should wait and celebrate Tao Day because tao, (6.28....), is a better and more accurate number for working with circles.  He says why use 2πr when you can just use τr?   Despite what the mathematicians say, I think I will stick with Pi Day, because tao just isn't as tasty as pie!

I took me a little while to decide what kind of pie I should make for our mathematical celebration. It was a weekday after the daylight savings time change, the day before pay day, and the kitchen could stand to be cleaner than it is. (Okay, that last one pretty much applies to every  day!)  Due to that I knew I wanted something not too labor intensive with ingredients that I pretty much already had on hand. I almost decided on my brother's pocket pie recipe, I felt like for Pi Day the end product should be a circle rather than a rectangle. Finally, it came to me. I remembered one of my favorite dishes I used to make as a little girl from my American Girl cookbook - spaghetti pie! I love that I can still get use out something I learned in elementary school.  Basically it is spaghetti with meat sauce, but put together like a pie so you can serve it in slices. It really is a wonderful weeknight family dinner, and the presentation adds a factor (math pun not intended), of fun. The original recipe included diced onions and green peppers in the meat sauce component, but due to a recent indecent with the 6 year old involving, (gasp!), onions in the taco meat I decided to leave them out. I also substituted whole wheat pasta and ground turkey for regular pasta and ground beef. A simple salad with some easy homemade dressing made for a nice accompaniment, and for dessert I whipped up some instant chocolate pudding and poured it over a graham cracker crust. I used some peppermint chips for my pi symbol decoration. Happy Pi Day everyone!

Spaghetti Pie

8 oz whole wheat spaghetti
1 egg
1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 Tbsp soft butter
1/2 pound ground turkey or beef
1 cup of pasta sauce
3/4 cup ricotta cheese
1/2 cup shredded mozzarella cheese

Directions : 

1. Boil the spaghetti in salted water until done. Drain and rinse in cold water.
 2. Beat together the egg, Parmesan, and butter. Mix with the spaghetti.
3. Grease a pie pan with a little bit of shortening. Press the spaghetti mixture into the pie pan to form the crust.
4. Brown the ground meat and add the pasta sauce. (optional, add diced onions and green peppers)
5. Spread the ricotta cheese in a layer over the spaghetti crust. Top with the meat and sauce mixture. Sprinkle the mozzarella cheese over the top.
6. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes.
7. Let cool for 10 minutes after it comes out of the oven. Slice and enjoy!

    -  You can also whip up this easy dressing to serve with your salad!

 Italian Dressing in a Jar

In a  jar with a tight fitting lid, combine:

1/2 tsp minced garlic
2/3 cup olive oil
1/3 cup white wine vinegar
1/2 tsp Dijon mustard
Dried basil, dried oregano, and onion powder to taste ( this means I eyeballed it!)

Put the lid on the jar and shake to combine. Easy peasy lemon squeezy! 

Sunday, January 31, 2016

Irish Dancer Cake

Isn't she adorable! This has got to be one of my favorite cakes I've made in a while. It was another cake for a birthday party at the dance studio. Typically, the birthday girl asks for ballet or hip hop as her theme, but this one wanted all things Irish! It was so much fun to mix it up a little. A friend of mine had given me an old Barbie princess shaped cake pan, and I knew that this was the perfect opportunity to use it. Barbie's big 80's hair would be perfect for the bouncing curls of a traditional Irish dancer.  Once again my round and star tips served me well. I think this pan will work well to create ballerinas too.  Now I'm just waiting for someone to ask for my favorite style of dance, tap!

Friday, January 15, 2016

A Web Slinging Birthday

  Over Christmas break my oldest turned 6 years old, and this year he requested a Spiderman birthday party. I keep trying to convince him to have his party theme be Mo Willem's pigeon books, but it's his birthday and he wanted Spiderman. Not that there's anything wrong with Spiderman, I just have ideas I want to use for the pigeon! Maybe next year?  We came up with some good things for his chosen theme, and he and his friends had a lot of fun.

  We had two power outages over the break, so it was a little crazy getting everything ready, but thankfully we had power the day of his party and we were able to pull everything together just in time! With the power outages I didn't get the chance to bake a cake, so I bought one from the store and added some of my own decorations.
 I was excited to find a Bob Evans cake at the store. The restaurant isn't around anymore, but back when it was, they would give you a free chocolate cake if you went there the week of your birthday. Myself, my older brother, and oldest younger sister have birthdays all within the same week in December, so each December we would go to Bob Evans for dinner and get three free chocolate cakes, one for each of us. The extra special thing was that one of those cakes was always eaten with no plates and no utensils! It was so fun to dive right in and get delicious chocolate frosting all over our faces.  Now that I know I can still get the cakes this tradition can start up again!

 For Sam's birthday I jazzed up the cake by adding a web on top with royal icing. The icing was thinner and runnier than I would have liked, but a spider web doesn't need to be that neat, so it worked out. I colored some store bought frosting red and blue, and put them both in the same piping bag for a swirled effect. I used a star tip to make a border around the bottom, and a round tip to turn a gumdrop into a spider, and write a birthday message on the platter.

Activities at this age are pretty easy. I printed off some free Spiderman coloring pages for when everybody started arriving, and for the most part everyone just played together. Though we did have one big activity that was a huge hit.

We got a can of silly string for each party guest and wrapped it with a label I printed out that read "Spider Web."

Now, silly string can be very messy, and in the middle of winter, doing this activity outside wasn't really an option. With the help of some plastic table cloths, we were able to keep things relatively neat and easy to clean up. 

We put one plastic tablecloth on the wall and taped pictures of Spiderman villains to it. Just print, cut out, and stick! We also put a plastic tablecloth on the floor for easy clean up. The kids stood on the edge of the tablecloth on the floor and took turns blasting the bad guys with their spider webs! Everyone was cheering and smiling, and having a great time. Like I said, it was a big hit!

Happy birthday Sam! I've loved watching you become the amazing 6 year old that you are today, and I can't wait to see how you continue to learn and grow!

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Jam Thumprint Cookies

Christmas is almost here! Of course that means we are all looking for some yummy cookies to swap at a party, leave out for St. Nicholas, or just share with friends and family. I'm a fan of fruity desserts, so jam thumbprints are one of my favorites. You can fill them with whatever flavor jam you want, heck you could even go crazy and use a fruit curd, or even chocolate or caramel! - but these ones happen to feature a holiday flavor that is very special to my family. I filled mine with homemade kumquat marmalade.

For more about our family's kumquat traditions and some more recipes check out Kumquat Christmas Drink, and Kumquat Refrigerator Pie.

Jam Thumbprint Cookies

1/2 cup powdered sugar
1 cup softened butter
1 Tbsp vanilla
2 1/2 cups sifted flour
1/2 tsp salt

Beat together sugar, butter, salt, and vanilla until fluffy. Add flour and mix well.

Chill the dough for at least an hour. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Shape chilled dough in to small balls and place on an ungreased cookie sheet. Make a small dent in the center of each dough ball with your thumb. Bake for 7 - 9 minutes.

Remove from the oven and let cool. Once the cookies are cool, fill the middle with your favorite jam or other filling.  Enjoy!

Saturday, December 12, 2015

Feast of St. Juan Diego Enchiladas

We made one of my favorite things for Wednesday's feast of St. Juan Diego, enchiladas! The recipe comes from my great-grandma Martinez, where most of our family's authentic Mexican recipes come from. If you love Mexican food, don't forget to check out her recipe for arroz con pollo.

   Sometimes when life gets busy and crazy, I don't always get the chance to do the feast day celebrations that I would like to. But one that we get in every single year is St. Juan Diego and Our Lady of Guadalupe. It helps that not only are they tied together , (You can't tell the story of one without the other!),  but their feast days are a just a few days apart, giving me the flexibility to cook Mexican on either St. Juan Diego's feast day, Our Lady's or some day in between the two. And of course these are especially special feast days for our family not only because St. Juan Diego is my son's favorite, but because it helps us to celebrate my family's Mexican heritage.

   Now, most people in these here United States would think of an enchilada as a filled and rolled tortilla smothered in sauce. These enchiladas are not like that, and in fact, the first time I saw an enchilada made that way, it baffled me. In my world, that just not how it's done! For these enchiladas, the tortilla is dredged in a chili powder slurry before being dipped in hot oil and then filled and baked. Now, I've never been to Mexico or eaten an enchilada in Mexican town, (tacos yes, enchiladas no), so I can't say that everyone else is doing it wrong, but this is the way my Mexican mama taught me to make them, and her's before that. If my little brother is coming over, make sure you make a big tray, because these are his favorite.

Enchiladas (this is one of those recipes where I don't measure too much!)

Ground beef, 1-2 pounds
Potatoes, about the same volume as the beef
Onions and garlic, diced and minced (optional)
Chili powder (get a big one, you're going to need a lot!)
Salt and pepper
Flour toritillas
Vegetable oil or shortening
Cheddar cheese, shredded

For the Filling:
Peel, dice, and boil the potatoes until tender. While the potatoes are boiling, brown the ground beef with the onions and garlic. Season with salt, pepper, and a whole bunch of chili powder. Drain the potatoes, add them to the meat, and mix then together.

Now it's time to get ready to put things together. You will be dealing with hot oil and a messy red chili powder slurry, so call the big kids and adults together to form an assembly line, and make sure you have everything set up and ready to go before you start. You will need:

 - A pie tin or baking dish filled with a mixture of chili powder and water. The word I've been using is slurry, It should be somewhere between a liquid and a paste.
- a skillet with with hot oil or melted shortening
- a plate for receiving hot tortillas
- a plate for rolling and filling
- a 9 x 13 baking dish or two for completed enchiladas

1. Dip the entire tortilla in the chili powder mixture, completely coating it.

2. Use tongs to dip the coated tortilla in the hot oil. Do not let the tortilla get crispy! You only need to dip it for a few seconds. Put the tortilla on the receiving plate.

3. Put a heaping spoonful of filling into the tortilla, roll it up, and place seam side down in the baking dish. Yes, I do this with tortillas that have just come out of hot oil. It usually involves  a bit of saying. "Hot, hot, hot!" while I shake my hands and jump up down a little. Be careful out there folks!

 Once you have filled your pan, and you can squeeze a lot in there - if you think it's full, just squish them together a bit and you can fit in more - cover the top with the shredded cheese  and bake in the oven at 350 degrees until the cheese is melted and everything is heated through.

Eat and enjoy! We like to serve them with some Spanish rice or refried beans on the side. If you feel the need to top them with things like salsa and sour cream just don't tell me about it.

Monday, December 7, 2015

Heavenly Angel Food Cake

    As much as like to decorate cakes, I'm not really a big cake eater when it comes to traditional American style cakes covered in frosting. Sure, when I was little I enjoyed licking the frosting off, but as an adult even the frosting can be a little much sometimes. To tell the truth, I'd much rather have a birthday pie than a birthday cake. Perhaps cherry, or one of my favorite fruit combinations - blueberry and rhubarb, also known in our house as bluebarb.

   So no yellow cake with chocolate frosting and sprinkles for me. But if I'm making a cake that I'd really enjoy eating myself, it's got to be angel food cake; a light and fluffy pillow of delicate sweetness, and the perfect thing to pair with fresh fruit and whipped cream, yum!

  Angel food cake has actually become a Thanksgiving tradition in our family because it is my grandfather's favorite dessert. When I became old enough to bring my own contributions to our annual celebration of Thanksgiving in the barn, I started bringing homemade angel food cake as a special treat for him. When grandpa was not able to come out to the barn anymore, I started making two angel food cakes, one for everyone else, and one just for him. He is a World War II hero who raised nine children, I'd say he deserves it. This does mean we go through a lot of eggs in November! Now I try to bring an angel food cake with me every time we visit, not just for Thanksgiving, so it's kind of my specialty. And trust me, once you've had homemade angel food cake made from scratch, a store bought one just can't compare!

Heavenly Angel Food Cake

12 eggs
1 1/4 cups powdered sugar
1 cup all purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons cream of tartar (optional - I actually leave this out quite frequently!)
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
14/ teaspoon salt
1 cup white sugar

1. Seperate the eggs. Put the whites in a large mixing bowl, and set the yolks aside for some other use like fruit curd or pasta. I like to seperate the eggs over a small bowl, and transfer the the egg white into the big bowl after I seperate each egg, so that way if I mess up and break the yolk, I don't mess up the whole thing.

2. Add the cream of tartar, extracts, and salt to the egg whites. As you gradually add the white sugar, beat on high until stiff peaks form. Set aside

3. Sift the powdered sugar and flour together three times. Gently fold this into the egg white mixture. Transfer the cake batter into an ungreased tube pan. (Ungreased is very important! Angel food cakes are cooled upside down. One time my mom wasn't thinking and greased the pan and the whole thing slid out onto the counter making a big mess!)

4. Bake at 350 degrees for 40 - 45 minutes. Turn upside down to cool completely before removing from the pan. Traditionally you would rest the pan on top of a glass pop bottle or something, but nowadays most angel food cake pans have little "feet" to rest on when you flip them over.

Serve plain or with toppings of your choice, and enjoy!