Wrapping Up the Great American Bake Sale


I had a month to plan.

I signed up as a team captain, without first asking if anyone else was interested in helping.

I reached out to the farmer’s market near my home to hold it there (and after a week of “pestering” got a firm yes).

I asked my foodie friends if anyone would be willing to bake for the sale.

And, on Saturday, WE raised $216 for Share our Strength’s No Kid Hungry campaign.

Great American Bake Sale table

Of the 4 folks who offered to bake, 3 came through. Several friends came out on Sunday to help man the table/keep us company. We had 110 “units” when we started and only brought 19 home. My fears of what to do with the leftovers were greatly unneeded.

(Especially since most of the leftovers were my double chocolate muffins–they’re great with vanilla ice cream!)

What shocked me, though, was how much use the Donations jar got!

We put out a mason jar with a simple sitcker-dot label on it and Todd “primed” it with $1. Before long it was half full, and not just with singles. I don’t know that we ever really mentioned it by name, it just sat in the middle of the table and people fed it! A third of the funds came directly from that jar.

Pretty awesome, huh?

Great American Bake Sale donation

One of the surprise hits of the day were my Spinach Puffs. True, I figured with a venue like the farmer’s market, something savory might have a better chance than not, but people really responded well to them in general. Because they are so super simple and so wonderful for parties, here’s the recipe:

Spinach Puffs

10 oz frozen spinach, thawed
1/2 cup diced onion
2 eggs, beaten
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 cup shredded Cheddar cheese
1/3 cup blue cheese salad dressing
2 Tbsp butter, melted
1/8 tsp garlic powder
1 package corn bread mix

Squeeze the liquid out of the spinach and combine it with the rest of the ingredients, mixing well. Chill the batter at least 30 minutes.

Preheat your oven to 350° F and line a couple of cookie sheets with parchment paper.

Drop by rounded spoonful (I like to use a cookie scoop) onto the prepared cookie sheets, leaving 2 inches between each. Bake 10-12 minutes or until the edges of each puff are golden brown.

They’re great room temperature or warmed, can be frozen for long storage. And a even more delicious dipped in a bit of spicy brown mustard.

The Allergen 8


For whatever reason (various theories abound), we humans are racking up quite the list of allergens and intolerance in our diet. And I’ve noticed it’s not just humans–have you noticed the rise in allergy issues in your family dog?

This has been more on my mind thanks to planning for the Great American Bake Sale, Helper Monkey Style! in 2 weeks. I try to stay conscious of my guests food preferences when I plan a party menu, but when baking for strangers? The word that comes to mind is “vigilance.”

We want happy, healthy bake sale customers on the 28th, and one way we can ensure that is by carefully labeling our baked goodies with the basic ingredient list, highlighting the eight most common food allergens:

  • Milk
  • Eggs
  • Peanuts
  • Tree nuts (such as almonds, cashews, walnuts)
  • Fish (such as bass, cod, flounder)
  • Shellfish (such as crab, lobster, shrimp)
  • Soy
  • Wheat

(list via The Mayo Clinic)

But what’s the difference between an allergy, an intolerance and a sensitivity?

To qualify as an allergy, the body’s reaction is violent: hives, swelling, system shutdown. Your system declares all-out war on a substance and your body is the battlefield. Consuming products you know you’re allergic to can be life-threatening; even when the allergic response is mild, continued exposure can bring rapid escalation of the systems and the outcome.

Intolerance, on the other hand, is the body’s inability to process an enzyme in the food, creating unfortunate side-effects. Lactose intolerance means your body doesn’t produce enough lactase, for instance. To combat it we either take a pill that gives our body the needed lactase, consume dairy products that have been specially treated to combat the lack of lactase, or use a dairy substitute.   Being sensitive to a certain ingredient or additive means you experience certain unfortunate consequences when you eat or drink whatever it is, but it’s unlikely to kill you.

Sensitivity, though, is a middle ground. Each person can be more or less sensitive to a food, and wish to avoid it to improve their quality of life. For instance, I have a friend who went gluten-free to help her migraines and it helped, for a while at least. Another friend avoids gluten because she feels fuzzy-headed and sluggish if she eats it, and likes to be clear-headed. MSG sensitivity causes lots of headaches to folks in the US (pun intended). Like intolerance, though, it’s not going to kill you if you eat something you’re sensitive to, you just might feel pretty bad afterwards.

Your average bake sale is going to be full of wheat, eggs, and milk, with a good chance of peanuts or tree nuts as well. Somehow I don’t see a high probability of fish and shellfish being on our table, but it’s all up to the volunteers and what they choose to bake!

My to-bake list included mini pound cakes (perfect with some farmer’s market strawberries, mmm!), double chocolate muffins and I think I’m going to make up a big batch of spinach puffs just to have something different available.

Extra, Extra, Read All About It!

Everyday Adventures

Have I got news for you?!

Actually, it’s more like a confession…

Did you know…

I’m Gauche!

But not just any old gauche, oh no, the lovely ladies at Gauche Alchemy have decided I’m just the right kind of gauche to join the GA Team as a blog writer! I’d be speechless, but that wouldn’t fit this group!

Actually, I’ve known about this for a week, now, but couldn’t breathe word one. Do you know how tough it is for me to keep the good kind of secrets? Really tough. Like maybe as tough as it is for me to resist the basket of Reese’s Peanut Butter Eggs in the living room that I am *not* getting up to go pilfer between paragraphs.

Starting later this month I get the pleasure of writing up projects from the Alchemists (that’s what they call the Design Team members) and even toss in a few projects of my own from time to time.

Needless to say, I’m beyond excited about this!!!

I mean, how could I *not* with badges like these:

Which do you think I should put in the sidebar on permanent display?

Now, for those of you who know exactly what-all I’ve got going on, you’re probably wondering just how I have time to take on something else?

Well, that leads me to Page 2, as Paul Harvey would say.


What to Feed Your Raiding Party is getting closer and closer to being absolutely, true-blue, in-print done! I still have to lay out the actual pages–and that’s no small task, I admit–but that’s pretty much ALL that’s left. Compared to everything else I’ve done for this book in the past 2+ years, the layout is just details.

I’m not quite ready to announce a street-date or even open up pre-orders just yet, but if you’ve been curious about the cookbook or are planning to order a copy, make sure to either subscribe to the progress blog over at whattofeedyourraidingparty.com or Like the Facebook Fan Page so you don’t miss any of the big announcements that are coming up soon!

But wait, there’s more!


Because I firmly believe the best things come in threes, I have one more piece of news to share. This one is pretty time-sensitive, too. On April 28, 2012, I’ll be hosting the Helper Monkey version of the 

Great American Bake Sale

to benefit Share Our Strength’s No Kid Hungry campaign.

If you’ll be in the Tallahassee area that day, make sure to stop by our table at the Market Square Farmer’s Market and pick up a sweet treat and do good at the same time. If you’re not in the Tallahassee area, check out the Bake Sale map and find one in your area (or sign up to host one, yourself!). Or, none of those options work for you, would you consider making a donation on our team page? After all…

$1 can help provide a hungry child with 10 healthy meals.
$4 can help provide a child facing hunger with a backpack full of healthy food over a weekend when school meals are not available.
$9 can help connect a child with healthy lunches during summer when school is out.
$35 can help a child care center provide free afterschool snacks and suppers to at-risk children all year long.
$65 can provide a grab-n-go breakfast cart to an elementary school so that every student starts every school day with a healthy meal.

Thanks a million!

Nibbles: PB&J, Candy and GABS-ing


Scattered thoughts after a very busy weekend means it’s time for a few nibbley tidbits:

April 2nd is National Peanut Butter & Jelly Day

I can’t think of a pb&j without remembering the scene from St. Elmos Fire. Mare Winningham’s character, Wendy, has finally stood up for herself, moved out, and is living her life on her own terms.

Last night I woke up in the middle of the night to make myself a peanut butter and jelly sandwich… and ya know, it was my kitchen, it was my refrigerator, it was my apartment… and it was the BEST peanut butter and jelly sandwich that I have had in my entire life.

Love that scene.

And I’m willing to bet that we’ve all had a PB&J moment like that in our lives, food-related or not.

As humble as the lowly peanut butter and jelly sandwich may be, every now and then it’s nice to go back to the basic staple of the childhood lunch. Whether for nostalgia or just because nothing else sounds good at the moment, a pb&j on white bread can really hit the spot.

But what about jazzing up the standard pb&j? Sure, you could be “daring” and opt for something other than grape jelly (I’m partial to strawberry, myself) or really go wild with the smooth vs crunchy decisions, but why not try something really different? Maybe a fancy bread, a wrap or flatbread? Substitute the peanut butter for almond butter, cashew butter or sunflower seed butter. Mix a little honey or syrup into your peanut butter and go jelly-less. Or skip the bread entirely and alternate spoon-fulls of peanut butter and jelly straight from the jars.

What, like I’m the only one who does that?

I Want Candy

baritone horn, sheet music, parade beads and a candy headband

That song has been stuck in my head for 2 weeks and I’m hoping, now that the Springtime Tallahassee parade is over, that I’ll get a respite from it.

Saturday was the first time I’d “marched” in Springtime Tallahassee since 1994. As part of the Lofty Pursuits Community Marching Band we walked the hilly parade route playing the fitting tune, as Lofty is not only a local toy and game shop, but our very own old-fashioned soda fountain–complete with jerks–and classic candy shop.

It’s a pretty sweet gig, you know. The pressure is low, the music is fun, the uniform is a t-shirt and the funny hat of your choice (I whipped up a fabric candy headband for this parade), and we get “paid” in ice cream! And on Saturday I think the stroll down Monroe Street helped us work off the ice cream calories well before we’d consumed them!

Great American Bake Sale

Share Our Strength has a goal, through it’s No Kid Hungry Campaign, to end childhood hunger in America by 2015. That’s a pretty tall order and they’ll need help to do it–who better but food bloggers to pitch in?!

On Saturday, April 28th, bloggers across the country will be hosting their own Great American Bake Sale to help further the work Share Our Strength is doing to “[connect] children with the nutritious food they need to lead healthy, active lives” through “federal nutrition programs,… community organizations fighting hunger, [teaching] families how to cook healthy, affordable meals and [building] public-private partnerships to end childhood hunger, at the state and city level.”

Team Helper Monkey! will be hosting the Tallahassee bake sale at a location to be named as soon as I nail down the particulars. We’ll be accepting donations throughout the month of April online as well as hosting a physical bake sale on the 28th. If you’re in the Tallahassee area and want to join us online, contribute baked goods or take a shift on the actual day of the sale, please contact me at randomactscomics[at]gmail[dot]com.

And if you’re not in Tallahassee, check out the Great American Bake Sale map to find a sale in your area or sign up to start one yourself!