Coming Back and Bloggers Bake For Hope 2012

Hi there.

Remember me?

Bubbly baking blogger from Boston passionate about serving scrumptious sweets to her family and friends? Sound familiar?

Well, I have most certainly not forgotten you. On the contrary, you’ve been on my mind and in my heart all this time- it’s been deeply distressing to be separated from all the phenomenal people who used to visit my site, as well as my fellow blogging buddies and baking groups. While it’s been more difficult than you can imagine for me to jump back in the mix, my very special role as a contributing member to the baking blogosphere is simply too important to abandon forever. It is an honor and a privilege to share my kitchen conquests with you, and I treasure the unique opportunity to connect with other talented and enthusiastic cooks and bakers from literally all over the world. Thankfully, I’ve come to know you lot as an extremely understanding and supportive group of folks, who welcome my participation with open arms whenever possible. Looking forward, I plan to partake in some new and exciting endeavors, including joining the Avid Bakers Challenge, an amazing assemblage of bakers led by my dear friend Hanaâ of “Hanaâ’s Kitchen,” who tackle the same recipe together each month. In the immediate future, I have the privilege of utilizing my baking to contribute to a great cause, Bloggers Bake For Hope 2012. When I discovered this exceptional effort to raise funds for the Avon Foundation, I just knew it was time to return to “Hot Oven, Warm Heart,” and in some small way, draw upon my baking for good.

Organized by two highly generous bloggers, Jen of “Beantown Baker” and Fiona of “A Boston Food Diary,” Bloggers Bake for Hope is an online virtual bake-sale event, with all proceeds benefiting the Avon Foundation. Participating bloggers will provide information about their baked goods, and each item will get its own blog post, which can be found here, when the bake sale opens on Monday, April 30th. If you would like to place a bid, leave a comment on the appropriate page with the dollar amount (All bidding will start at $15). Bidding will close on Wednesday, May 2nd, with the highest bidder being awarded the item. They will be notified via email during the weekend of May 5th, at which point they can return to the homepage, and pay via Paypal by clicking on the button reading “donate.” Once the donation has been made, the winner’s address will be sent to the baker, who will ship the baked goods sometime during the month of May. It’s really much simpler than it sounds, I promise!

When selecting my submission, I drew upon my greatest inspiration, both in life and the kitchen, my beloved Grammy. She cooked her way into countless hearts over the years, serving up mouth-watering meals and special memories that will stay with those she touched forever. My best friend, and my hero, Grammy and I shared a sincere passion for preparing food and serving others that goes beyond words. Along with innumerable other life lessons that have shaped me into the woman I am today, she taught me what it means to translate love to the plate. As my passion for baking grew, her support was inimitable and I could see the pride she felt shining deeply in her eyes. Of the many treats I had the pleasure of making for her, these simple corn muffins, always served alongside my homemade jam, made her light up in a way I can’t describe. It was as if she couldn’t believe her granddaughter had possibly baked something so delicious. I never understood what was so special about these muffins, but I certainly understood how special she made me feel when she ate one.

I hope the recipient of my package, complete with Grammy’s favorite corn muffins and jam, knows just how much I appreciate their support, and that tucked inside they just might find a little bit of love I was sure not to forget.

Me and Grammy in her kitchen, 1989

SMS: Peanut Butter Truffles

If you happened to read last week’s post chronicling my recent banana cupcake debacle, you can imagine how incredibly stressed I became when forced to shift gears under a time crunch, and come up with a quick and easy (yet still enticing, delicious, and somewhat impressive) substitute to bake for the very meaningful fund raising event I was contributing to. Thankfully, I could look no further than this week’s yummy SMS recipe, Peanut Butter Truffles, selected by one of our newer members, the highly talented and super creative Mara of Love Your Mother. Judging from the Hazelnut Truffles we made from the Sweet Melissa Baking Book last summer, I had a feeling that they would be similarly simple to assemble, but also rich, flavorful and unique enough for the bake sale. I am pleased to report that the truffles saved the day, and exceeded all expectations. Of course, I couldn’t help but complicate matters by adding extra steps to the project- but really, who could turn down a truffle dressed up with a caramelized candied peanut exterior? I called on David Lebovitz’s recipe (used to top my Black-Bottom Peanut Butter Mousse Pie with Pralined Peanuts), which never disappoints, and the added sweetness of his chopped nuts was the perfect counter-balance to the slightly bitter dark chocolate and salty peanut butter. That little bit of additional effort resulted in a combination that truly danced on the tongue! A few special touches with the packaging- some cellophane goody bags, colorful labels, and orange ribbon (more on the significance of that detail later)- and viola!, my truffles were ready for their debut at the 1st annual National Food Bloggers Bake Sale!

Isn’t it wonderful when you accidentally and totally unexpectedly stumble upon an exciting opportunity through your everyday blog surfing? That’s actually how I first got involved in SMS, and what a serendipitous discovery that turned out to be :)! Well a few weeks back, a digital banner caught my eye, advertising an upcoming event connected to the Great American Bake Sale. Sound familiar?- if you’re a food TV junkie like myself, you may have seen spokeswoman Sandra Lee discussing it on a Food Network commercial. Part of the phenomenal organization, Share our Strength, it’s a national campaign that mobilizes volunteers to host bake sales in their communities in an effort to help end childhood hunger in America. Although I’ve been interested in getting involved for quite a while, that banner convinced me the ideal time had arrived: on April 17th, food bloggers from across the country would unite to support the cause by holding bake sales in their states. I was filled with glee when I got in touch with the fabulous and super sweet Kathy-Ann of Mother May Have, who was coordinating for Massachusetts, and realized I could be a part of this extraordinary day, utilizing my baking to assist those in need. (I love on the Share our Strength website, they proclaim, “Together we can bake a difference!”)

Did you know that nearly 1 in 4 children in America struggle with hunger? That’s almost 17 million kids! With the weakened economy, poverty rates are on the rise, and every day, more and more children wonder where their next meal will come from.

Here’s a look at how Share our Strength is addressing this growing problem:

“Through No Kid Hungry, Share Our Strength funds the most effective anti-hunger organizations across the country, connects needy children and their families with nutritious food, teaches families how to cook healthy on a budget, and provides leadership that brings together public and private decision-makers to end childhood hunger, state by state. These funds help accomplish the following:

* Enroll more eligible kids in school breakfast, after-school snacks and meals, and their families in SNAP (food stamps).
* Bring community gardens and farmers markets to low-income neighborhoods.
* Bring affordable, fresh fruits and vegetables to urban corner stores.
* Teach at-risk families how to plan, shop for, and prepare healthy, low-cost meals at home.
* Help local food pantries, food banks and soup kitchens meet the pressing demand for more nutritious food.
* Increase awareness and understanding of childhood hunger and solutions to it.

Through all these means, [Share Our Strength is] working to ensure that all of America’s children have nutritious food where they live, learn and play.”

Since 2003, more than 1.7 million people have participated in Share Our Strength’s Great American Bake Sale, raising $6 million to make sure no child in America grows up hungry. But the big news? The first annual National Food Bloggers Bake Sale alone raised a grand total of over $16,500! Wow! Go baking bloggers! I felt truly honored to be a part of it, and am already looking forward to next year. I want to say a big thank you to Gaby of What’s Gaby Cooking for coordinating the entire event, and Kathy-Ann for leading us here in Massachusetts. Also- shout out to my new friend Carmen of Baking is my Zen, who just so happens to be a fellow SMSter! Her sale in NJ did amazing, raising more than $600- fabulous job Carmen! To see pictures from our sale in MA (including some of my goodies- the Peanut Butter Truffles and a selection of Coconut Jam Thumbprints made with 5 different types of homemade jams/preserves) check out this slide show.

For more information about Share our Strength and to find out ways you can help, visit their website, http://www.strength.org/. And don’t forget to check out the myriad of truffles whipped up by the other lovely ladies of SMS by exploring the blogroll!

Oh, by the way, the orange ribbon stands for hunger awareness… fitting right?