Tuesday, January 25, 2022

Family Tradition: Angel Food Cake

Angel food cake IS birthday cake!

Waiting for frosting

Who doesn’t like cake? As a kid, it was my favorite food, a treat reserved for birthdays, and it was always the same: Angel Food cake with pink frosting, served on a raised glass cake stand. I was told it was a family tradition, and was delighted to find photographic evidence from back in the 50s when my mom was a kid: the same cake!

Mom and Angel Food Cake, 1950s

Now I’m not sure when or with whom our family tradition originated, but I do know that for every one of my years, there is a photo of me, grinning ear to ear, in front of the Angel Food cake on the glass stand. Decades later, I made the same cake for my daughter and am still using the same stand. So when the time came to bake a cake for my Auntie’s 80th you can guess what I made: Angel Food cake with pink frosting. It’s a family tradition.

Auntie with Angel Food Cake 2022

Me with snake while Mom frosts the cake, 1970s

My 10th Birthday, 1980s

My 21st Birthday - white frosting that I decorated and a different cake plate, 1990s

Thank you Karen for this pic from my 39th birthday!

Mother herself with TWO Angel Food Cakes, 2014. Looks like we were doing berries and cream rather than frosting that year

The recipe itself became popular in this country in the 30s but actually dates to about 100 years before that. It’s pretty timeless and delicious and everyone likes it. And while baking it from scratch isn’t that difficult, I have to admit to using a mix. So did my mom, who otherwise made everything from scratch and was a gourmet cook and instructor. But she was also a working single mom and when throwing a party all by herself, she picked her battles. So I do the same, though I will include a recipe from the kind of cookbook that all American housewives would have had in the 40s. If you are not simultaneously trying to kid-proof your home and decorate for the imminent arrival of multiple pint-sized holy terrors, go ahead and make it yourself! Otherwise, just use the mix, nobody's gonna complain. 

Standard American Cookbook from the 40s

Not too complicated, but what they don't mention is how long it takes to beat the eggs!

Ingredients, including Mom's now vintage candles & holders

So easy; just add water to the mix

Beat with a mixer for 90 seconds

Batter will be thick

And it's done

Invert to cool

Cut around the sides

Part of the charm is the frosting: my mom always made a cream-cheese based frosting and used red food coloring to turn it pink. (Except the one year she made it blue and my 6 year old daughter cried because it wasn’t pink, but that’s another story.) The frosting is so good that if there was any leftover, she would put it in Tupperware and let me spread it on graham crackers as an after-school snack.

Mom's cream cheese frosting. Yum.

Frosting is sugar, citrus, coloring, cream cheese and milk (not shown)

Adding food coloring is psychedelic

Think Pink!

Frosting the cake

The cake is ready for candles! These are the same holders my Mother used.

Here's to family traditions! May you and yours have many occasions to celebrate that call for a special, and simple, cake. 

NOTE: if you need any of the kitchen tools shown, find them in my Idea List on Amazon: https://a.co/0uId9bG

Monday, June 26, 2017

Meatloaf... its what's for dinner!

Though I grew up a vegetarian, my mom always cooked meat things for my dad, and meatloaf was one of the dishes I loved. It’s tasty, filling and approachable, especially for someone who isn’t used to a lot of meat, because there is no clue as to what animal it was. It’s just a loaf. Of goodness. It’s fun to mix up with your hands, it’s delicious right out of the oven, and also nice cold on a sandwich. It is an all-purpose food and modelling material!

today's fridge finds = tonight's dinner!

Carrie wrote this, age 10

I have indeed sampled and experimented with other loaves, like the Super Hippie mushroom-lentil loaf so popular in Berkeley and other communal living hot spots, and if nicely spiced (and if there is some fat content), some are actually not bad. I’ve also made the quintessential mid-century style meatloaf (see 1959 General Foods Cookbook) which derives its flavor from a packet of dry soup or dressing mix, and might be topped with freeze-dried onions! My mom’s recipe (see my hand-copied notes, written at age 10, above) was a somewhat gourmet mix of several meats and traditional Italian spices. If done thoughtfully, one can create a loaf out of just about anything, meat or otherwise. I’ve begun, lately, to treat meatloaf a bit the way I treat quiche: I believe I can throw just about anything in, and it will be good. That thinking has given rise to my general weekday meal-planning strategy: my favorite formats being 1) quiche 2) salad 3) soup and 4) meatloaf. I pretty much rotate those 4 and use whatever is fresh, leftover, given to me by neighbors or otherwise discovered  in my fridge, to create one-dish suppers that I will also enjoy the day after for lunch.

Love this cookbook, thank you GKG!

A very traditional version from the 50s

Carrie’s Theory of Meatloaf: Basically, mix up some ground meat, chopped veg, some kind of binding agent (bread crumbs or oatmeal are typical), and a liquid like egg, cottage cheese or milk. Add a member of the Allium family (onion, leek, scallion, garlic), add a little spice (oregano, basil, Worcestershire sauce), form into a loaf, and bake. This can be topped with tomato paste, basted with wine or chicken stock, or can be left plain to firm into shape in a medium oven (350-375) for somewhere between 45-60 min and then fill er up! For serving, you can try something fancy like a drizzle of tomato sauce (aka catsup) or a sprig of mint, but don’t try too hard – it’s meatloaf : not pretty, but pretty darn tasty.

meatloaf version 2.0

mix it up!

Loaf + tomato paste = yum

Going in

Today’s loaf is a turkey and veg creation, based loosely on a modern recipe:

1 lb ground turkey
1 egg
1 cup panko breadcrumbs
1 cup sliced mushrooms
½ chopped green bell pepper
½ chopped onion
Worcestershire sauce
Salt & pepper
Tomato paste to top; Red wine to baste

Bake as suggested above (350-375 for 45-60 min)

and enjoy with a glass of the red wine you used to baste. #nom

Have a slice!

Friday, April 28, 2017

Unicorn Frappuccino Hack #pinterestfail

The Unicorn Frappuccino. Business analysts call the drink's creation "stunt marketing" but Starbucks calls it "flavor-changing, color-changing, totally not made-up" and describes the flavor as "magical" starting off "sweet and fruity transforming to pleasantly sour." Meanwhile, lovable culinary snark Anthony Bourdain called it the "perfect nexus of awfulness" but unless you've been under a rock the past month, you've seen or heard about it. Perhaps you even tried one, like I did with a mico-sample at my local crack dealer's Starbucks:

Sample Size. A good place to stop. 

And what does it taste like? SUGAR. Sugar-flavored sugar that tastes vaguely of mango, in fun colors that was available for a short time only, is 100% Instagram-worthy, and will give you street cred with middle schoolers. So, basically, a win for Starbucks and "diabetes in a cup" according to health experts, parents and sane people everywhere. Clearly I lost my sanity when I tried it: they say that the taste of sugar induces our brains to seek more sugar, so I decided to make my own at home. Yeah... because if I made it, it would somehow not be a bucket of cold iced shiny sugar mess? Well, not if I made it exclusively with ingredients available at my favorite health food store, San Francisco's venerable Rainbow Grocery! 

Yes, I took my tween daughter to get one and Instagrammed it, what. 

Semi-healthy ingredients mostly from the health food store. I should point out that my cost was significantly higher than the cost of the actual drinks, though due to their scarcity, it was my only option as the drinks were discontinued the day before. According to my calculations, two drinks made at home cost approximately $38, while the drink retailed for just under $5. Hmmmm...


For the "Frappuccino" I blended frozen mango, Greek yogurt, a bit of vanilla ice cream, and coconut water. I tried using grenadine to color it pink, but that had seemingly no effect, so I resorted to red (natural! No red #5 thankyouverymuch) food color, and had to use the whole package ($2) to get even a slight pink. BUT IT WAS PINK! I skipped the cranberries, worrying about texture, and let the yogurt provide the slight tartness we tasted in the original. I added agave syrup to sweeten it, but I am sure mine was nowhere NEAR as sweet as the original (59 g of sugar).

The procedure was rather messy, and required numerous elements of my "Ninja Mega Kitchen System" (OK I just like to say that aloud in my best NASCAR voice! Don't you do that too?) and I pulled several things out of the fridge that were not planned. This was truly an experiment, not a tested recipe. So, I might need to do it again...

You'll note in the original, there is a blue drizzle around the inside of the cup... I tried to recreate this with blended blueberries. They didn't get blue enough or thick enough, so I added a bit of vanilla ice cream, as well as blue food coloring. 

AND OMG here it is! In fact the most disappointing element was the Soy Whip, which did not set up the way conventional whipped-cream-in-a-can does, so the top of the cup is sadly empty, but we did sprinkle it with blue sugar crystals in an effort to recreate the neon blue "fairy powder" of the original.... After laughing for about 5 minutes straight, and referring to the hilarious Instagram account @pinterest_fails we tried it, and you know what? It was GOOD! 

OK maybe not quite as good, colorful or thick as the original...

But I did it! 


Saturday, December 17, 2016

Cranberry Apple Crumble Pie

Just out of the oven, smells amazing!

When I started this blog, my idea was to *exactly* replicate vintage recipes from my vast (if I do say so myself) collection of cook books from 1920-1990, but along the way I realized that if I actually intend to EAT the results (and enjoy them), that I might modify them... so here is a modified recipe based on a pie from 1959 edition of The General Foods Kitchens Cookbook which was a gift from my brother-from-another-mother, Grant K Gibson:

Thank you, Grant! xo

For dinner at a friend's I needed something a little special, and I wanted it to scream "Fall" so I asked 1959 what to do and she told me to see page 352 for a recipe for Cranberry Apple Pie - perfect! Except I had to go and change almost all of it. I left out tapioca, added lemon and cinnamon, and instead of the top crust, I looked above at the peach crumb pie and went with a crumb topping, but modified that as well, adding oatmeal. Whew, that's a lot of changes... but the result was delicious! 

Inspiration recipe


So because I changed the recipe so much, I will give you my steps here. Thank you 1959 for the inspiration :)

Apple Cranberry Pie: 

1 pie crust (see my 3 min no-roll, no fail recipe here) blind baked

Mixing the pie filling


4 apples, peeled, cored and sliced thin (gala work especially well)
6 oz fresh or frozen (not thawed) cranberries
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 1/2 Tbsp flour
1/2 tsp cinnamon
pinch of salt
juice of 1/2 fresh lemon
2 Tbsp unsalted butter

* combine all ingredients for filling BUT BUTTER in a bowl
* dump into pie shell and top with dabs of unsalted butter (approx 2 Tbsp)
* cover with foil and bake at 425 for 30 min

Filled pie before butter and before topping


1/3 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup flour
1/2 tsp cinnamon
2 1/2 Tbsp softened butter (unsalted)
1/2 cup oatmeal (any kind but instant)

* blend with pastry cutter or fork till crumbles are the size of peas
* after first 30 min, top pie with crumble and lower heat to 375 and bake 45min to 1 hour till fruit is bubbling over and topping is browned and you smell cinnamon
* cool completely, up to 2 hours

where is my durn pastry cutter? Ah well, fork it ;)

Make a mini treat with any leftover filling in a Pyrex single serve cup or dish! 
Prepare, bake and top same as pie :)

Topping the pie

Enjoy for with a scoop of vanilla ice cream, or cold with coffee for breakfast because: PIE!