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Kids in the kitchen

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Amaretto Angel Food Cake

FOOD OF ANGELS This version of Amaretto Angel Food Cake gets an extra special presentation, dipped in chocolate and garnished with an orange. (Photo: The Junior League of Houston)

Cooking Buzz is produced in partnership with the Junior League of Houston, a women’s charitable and education organization founded in 1925.

Growing up, some of my fondest memories were spent in the kitchen with my mom and brother, baking up a storm. We loved to experiment with recipes and had family traditions around our birthday cakes and other holiday occasions. We even baked desserts for our friends’ birthdays, a custom that continued through high school. I knew when my husband and I started having children, I wanted to make sure our home revolved around the kitchen as well. As E.B. White said, “On days when warmth is the most important need of the human heart, the kitchen is the place you can find it.”

Now that our daughter, Addison, is almost 2, we include her in making dinner and experimenting with different textures and tastes. I love getting her involved by having her bring jars of spices from the pantry or bring bowls and plates to me. And, of course, her favorite thing to do is help stir.

As a working mom, I am always looking for intentional ways to interact with Addison, and what better way than to get her involved in our nightly routine. Not only do I get to feed my family home-cooked meals, but I get to spend time with them, too. With that said, given our busy schedule, I am all for simple, quick and healthy, but balanced, meals.

One of my favorite recipes that we use as a snack throughout the weekend is the Black Bean Corn Salsa from the Junior League of Houston’s Stop and Smell the Rosemary. We love spicy food in our family, so if you want a milder flavor, leave out the jalapeños. We use the leftover salsa as a topping for chicken later in the week. One of our “go-to” chicken recipes on busy weeknights, which goes perfectly with the salsa, is the Spicy Yogurt Chicken from Stop and Smell the Rosemary.

If you are looking for sides packed with vegetables, look no further than the Vegetable Casserole from The Houston Junior League Cookbook. I am always looking for ways to slide nutritious food into our menus without hearing “No way, Mom.”

For a special night, our favorite is the Grilled Pizza with Pear, Arugula and Truffle Oil from Peace Meals. We usually prepare the dough on the weekends, when we have more time, and freeze it. You can be creative with the toppings. Some other great options are Rustic Chicken Pesto Pizza and the classic Margherita Pizza. Having children help out can be messy but some of my favorite memories happen when we are covered in flour or making shapes in the dough.

Finally, a beloved family tradition growing up was making angel food cake for birthdays. I have fond memories of helping my grandmother make it. One of my favorites is the Amaretto Angel Food Cake from Stop and Smell the Rosemary. Our family always drizzles chocolate icing on top. If you have extra icing, you can spread it on vanilla wafers to create mini dessert sandwiches. If you want a healthier option, you can add fruit. Adding whipped cream on top takes the recipe up a notch, as I do not believe there is a child or adult out there who does not love whipped cream.

Editor’s note: To buy a Junior League of Houston cookbook, see jlh.org or call 713.871.6608.

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