We’ve made it this far, let’s congratulate ourselves with a grill-up and cake. Karen Schneider / For the Foredcaster

When my granddaughter, Anna, was just learning to talk, one of her best sentences was, “Let’s put up a party!” No one could resist her exclamation and accompanying smile. Of course, we had to do something to celebrate her cuteness. Immediately.

“Putting up a party” has become part of the family’s language over the years and I can think of no time like the present to do a little something to break up the monotony of our “retreat,” i.e. quarantine.

So this past week I seasoned up some ribs, put together a pasta salad and even made a little cake, complete with sprinkles.

The ribs are delicious with just the rub, but partaking of the sticky dipping sauce is also worthwhile. For my pasta salad, I like to use Olive Garden brand salad dressing. It’s the only store-bought dressing allowed in my kitchen.

As I made this one-layer cake, I thought about how it could be a great project for a youngster. Baking is a wonderful way to practice reading comprehension, math and mixing skills. And you have a delicious smackerel of something in the end that makes everyone happy.

Now don’t forget the sprinkles. You deserve them.

Southwestern Ribs

4 pounds pork ribs
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1 teaspoon chili powder
1 teaspoon paprika
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon garlic salt
1/2 teaspoon onion salt
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon pepper

Combine all ingredients in a small bowl. Rub seasonings on both sides of ribs then wrap tightly in foil or plastic. Chill for at least four hours.

When ready to cook, bring ribs to room temperature. Using the medium setting on one side of a gas grill, place ribs on unheated side, 4-6 inches away from heat. (If using a charcoal grill, place the ribs over a drip pan in the center of the grill and arrange coals around the edges. Cook for 1 1/2-2 hours, turning occasionally, until tender. To slow-roast in the oven, preheat oven to 225 degrees and place ribs in a baking pan. Cover with heavy-duty foil and cook for 3 1/2-4 hours.

Serve with the sauce below or with your favorite barbecue sauce. Ribs can also be brushed with the sauce during the last 15 minutes of cooking time.

Dipping Sauce

1/2 cup chipotle sauce
1/4 cup chili sauce
2 tablespoons orange marmalade

Combine all ingredients in a small saucepan and heat to boiling. Stir for one minute. Yield: 4-6 servings

Pasta with Grilled Vegetables

8 ounces spiral pasta
1 red onion, cut into wedges
1 large red pepper, cut into 1-inch strips
1/2 cup Italian dressing
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
8 ounces asparagus, cut into bite-size pieces
1 (6-ounce jar) marinated artichokes, including liquid
1 cup sliced black olives, drained
1 teaspoon oregano
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 cup feta cheese, cubed

Cook pasta according to package directions. Place onion and pepper in a large bowl with half the dressing. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Marinate for 30 minutes.

When ready to cook, transfer onion and pepper to a grill basket. Add asparagus to the dressing in the bowl and allow to marinate while grilling and stirring the other vegetables over medium heat for 15 minutes.

Add asparagus to the onion and pepper and grill for 8-10 more minutes until vegetables are tender.

Gently combine pasta, grilled vegetables, artichokes, olives, seasonings and feta in the large bowl. Toss in remaining dressing. Yield: 4 servings

Just Cake

6 tablespoons butter, at room temperature
3/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon sugar
1 egg plus 2 egg yolks
1 tablespoon vanilla
3/4 cup buttermilk (or 3/4 milk plus 1 teaspoon white vinegar, allowed to sit for 10 minutes)
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1 1/4 cups plus 2 tablespoons flour

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter an 8-inch square pan or a 9-inch round cake pan. Line the bottom of the pan with buttered parchment paper.

Beat butter and sugar together in a large bowl with an electric mixer until fluffy. Beat in egg, yolks and vanilla. Combine all dry ingredients and add to butter mixture alternately with buttermilk. Mix after each addition but do not over mix.

Pour batter into prepared pan. Bake for 25-30 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Allow to cool in the pan for 10 minutes then gently flip the cake out of the pan to cool completely before frosting it. Yield: 9 servings

Vanilla Frosting

1/2 cup butter, at room temperature
1 1/4-1 1/2 cups confectioners’ sugar
Pinch of salt
1-2 tablespoons cream or milk
1 teaspoon vanilla

Beat the butter, sugar and salt together in a bowl with an electric mixer. Add milk and vanilla and beat for about two more minutes.

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