The world is currently both mourning the loss and celebrating the life of Betty White, the actress best-known for her role on "The Golden Girls" (and a charmingly irreverent sense of humor). After White’s passing last week, her hometown of Oak Park, Illinois, announced that on January 17 they will be celebrating “Betty White Day,” a full day of festivities, remembrances, and food that honor White. Why January 17? That’s Betty White’s birthday, and this year would have been her 100th.
White was known for her carefree attitude and enjoyment of life, and her favorite foods are no exception: She’s gone on the record stating a love of hot dogs, French fries, potato chips, and Red Vines candy. She was also a fan of Diet Coke, so Mickey’s Gyros and Ribs, a local restaurant in Oak Park, will be offering up a combo meal on January 17 that features a hot dog, fries, and a Diet Coke.
Of course, you don’t have to live in Oak Park—or travel there—to honor one of America’s best-loved sweethearts. You can celebrate Betty White Day on January 17 in your own kitchen. Here are a few recipes and food-forward tips to honor Betty White on her birthday.
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Because Betty White was from Illinois, we’re betting that she preferred Chicago-style hot dogs, which are boiled or steamed, rather than grilled. Chicago-style hot dogs are topped with plenty of fixins, including pickle relish, tomato, chopped onions, and yellow mustard. You could buy a jar of relish, but it is easy to make—and it keeps well in the refrigerator, too.
Don’t let tradition stop you from experimenting, though: Air fryer hot dogs are pretty darn delicious, and we’ve never turned down a platter of these hot dogs wrapped in Crescent rolls. You could also get creative with a variety of nontraditional toppings, but we do recommend streaming a few episodes of The Golden Girls while you prepare them.
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Next up are the sides: Real-deal French fries are a bit of a project to make at home, but they are worth the time. It also helps to read up on the science behind the perfect crispy fry, and to borrow a few tips from restaurants. If you opt for takeout or delivery, you may find that your fries arrive cold and soggy. This can be fixed with the proper reheating techniques. Air fryer fan? Us, too. We’ve got recipes for both regular and sweet potato air fryer fries.
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If you’re more of a potato chip person (or if you’re planning on serving spuds two ways), we highly recommend this recipe for homemade potato chips, or this one, for air fryer chips. Sweet potato chips are a fun alternative, and if you’re looking to lighten up the dish, you could always bake them. For chips and fries, it’s best to use starchy, rather than waxy potatoes — Idaho potatoes are a great option, and found in most grocery stores.
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You could pour a can of Diet Coke over ice and call it a day, but since this is a party, we’d highly recommend mixing up a classic Rum and Coke using Betty White’s favorite soda.Continue to 5 of 6 below.
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When it comes to Betty White’s favorite candy, Red Vines, it’s best to just nosh straight from the bag. If you can’t find Red Vines at your local supermarket (note: They are not the same as Twizzlers!), you can search online from vendors and candy subscription boxes.
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Giant Birthday Cake
Oak Park’s Turano Bakery will be making a reportedly “giant” birthday cake for Betty White Day. Although yours may be smaller in scale, it should still be a cake worthy of a celebration. This funfetti birthday cake is made extra-special with the addition of homemade waffles (you use the cake better to make them, so it’s easier and faster than a traditional cake). More the traditional type? You could use this basic yellow cake recipe and fancy-it up however you’d like — but don’t skip the frosting. We are also not opposed to celebrating with boozy birthday cake shots, and we feel that Rose Nylund, Betty White’s character on The Golden Girls would approve.
But if you really want to go big with a cake that honors Betty White, we recommend baking this unicorn birthday cake. After all, White was truly rare, special, and downright magical.