Thursday, February 17, 2011

Operation Baking Gals - Round 27 - Team Country Cookies Wrap Up

While cleaning for one of my customers back in December I mentioned that I was affiliated with Operation Baking Gals. For those of you who might not know about OBG it is a group of people who bake for soldiers stationed overseas. (If you need more info, go to our website, bakinggals) I joined two or three years ago and have baked almost every round.

Back to my customer...when I mentioned the group, she told me that her son-in-law, Ian, was stationed overseas in Afghanistan. She said it was his 4th!! tour. I asked for his address and some info about him and told her I would personally lead a team to bake for him.

My team was called Country Cookies. Team Country Cookies was one of twenty teams this month. In addition to me there were 8 other members on my team. Now that the round is over (shipping dates were February 1-12) I wanted to take the time to acknowledge my fellow bakers by posting what they baked or bought for Ian.

The first baker I heard from was Maggi. She sent me the following email:

Just a note to tell you I mailed my package to Ian on Wednesday, February 2nd.
It included: homemade Snicker Doodle cookies
                 a bag of Tootsie Roll Pop suckers
                  can of almonds
                  3 packages of gum
                  box of Valentine Dots candies
                  heart-shaped chocolate cakes - 8
                  2 bags of nut snack mix
                  a bag of Hershey chocolate drops
                  bottle of hot sauce
                  1 left, right, center game - it's a lot of fun to play :)
                   5 cigars - from my husband - to share with his buddies  :)
Thanks for taking the time to be a leader!  This has been a lot of fun!  Ian is the 4th soldier I have baked for, so you can see I have only been doing this for 4 rounds!

The next baker I heard from was Debbie. I wish I could include the picture she attached to the pdf file she sent me, but I couldn't figure out how to attach it. I was able to copy and paste the words, just not the picture. And, that's a shame because it looked like a picture of three generations of women baking for our soldier. Debbie wrote...

February 5, 2011
Howdy from Houston, Texas! I sure hope you enjoy this little care package. It’s only a small token of my appreciation, but the cookies were baked and the package was assembled with much love and thoughts of gratitude for our mighty warriors. My family and I thank you from the bottom of our hearts for your service.
Ms. Debbie
Packing List for Ian
2 dozen peanut butter cookies 1 ½ dozen oatmeal cinnamon chip raisin cookies 8 large Valentine heart sugar cookies 10-count pkg. individual Nestle hot chocolate drink mixes 8 2-oz. pkg. nuts 10 lens cleaning wipes 1 travel size Gold Bond lotion 1 travel size Dial bodywash 1 shower loofah 2 1-oz. beef jerkies 6 2-oz. trail mix
6 5-stick packs of Wrigley’s spearmint gum 1 Texas Fish & Game magazine

I had two Debbie's baking for me this round. Debbie #2 sent me this email after she shipped her box to Ian.
Just wanted to let you know that I sent Ian's package yesterday.  I have a great 
cookie recipe that starts with a brownie mix so I made those.  Sent some pringles,
gum, Valentines candy, p-nuts and sunflower seeds too.  Thanks again for your hard

Christine was the next baker I heard from. She sent a picture of the things she baked and included in 
her box along with a quick note. 

Happy Valentines Day!  Attached is a picture of the box I sent to Ian .  Thank you for hosting Round 27 of Operation Baking Gals!
AKA: Betty Crocker

My daughter Beth joined me this round. She baked with me the last time I headed a team and jumped on board this time when she found out about it. She has become quite the baker ( a chip off the ole' block!) and sent this wrap-up email:
I completely forgot to take pictures this time but I still wanted to send you an email to let you know my box was sent off on Friday.  I sent a batch of Rick Katz's brownies, a batch of pebernødder (peppernuts), several GameInformer magazines, two packages of Iced Via, and two bags of Wurther's caramels: the regular and coffee-caramel flavor.  I definitely got my money's worth in shipping for that box. :D

Laura was another of my bakers. She is a friend of mine on Facebook and saw my post about
 this round. Here is the email she sent to me:

Hi, Susan!  I got my box sent off to Ian and included a handmade card 
with my thanks to him for his sacrifice.
Because you mentioned that Ian favors brownies, I tried out a couple 
of new recipes I've been holding onto.  All in all, my box included:
 - 1.5 doz. Butterscotch blondie brownies
 - 1.5 doz. Cherry chip chocolate brownies
 - 3 doz. Traditional fudgy brownies
 - 8 mini loaves of friendship bread
 - 3 doz. Snickerdoodles
I hope he enjoys his treats and I appreciate you putting together a 
team to get us all baking.  Thanks for your efforts - I had a great 
time baking for Ian!
Laura S

Vicki was another generous soul who took the time to do something nice for a complete stranger.
 Her email reads as follows:

Hi, Susan-
I was able to send out a package last Tuesday to Ian, however, I cannot 
say for sure what ended up in Ian's box!  I travel for my job, and bake 
on weekends.  I also joined more than one team this round, and my daughter
packed and shipped the items for me, not realizing she should break down 
the different bags!  So, I know each box got a lemon cake, a peanut 
butterpound cake, and an assortment of cookies, but I don't know what 
kind of cookies!
Hope that helps.
Thank you for hosting this round.
I also sent a box to Ian. Normally I would bake several different kinds of cookies and load the box with 
anywhere from 10 - 20 dozen cookies. This time I did things a little different. I baked cookies...a
Toffee Chocolate Chip cookie which is like a brownie in cookie form, but I also packed the box with
some useful(and not so useful) goodies. Three different kinds of peanuts, sunflower seeds, Wet Wipes, 
hand sanitizer, Mentos gum, disposable toothbrushes, cereal bars and two different kinds of Slim Jims.
I included a letter from me and a couple of pictures of my family and pets. 
And, that wraps up Round 27 for Team Country Cookies. I would like to give all my teammates a
heart-felt thank you for taking the time to do this with me. It is wonderful to share in doing something 
so simple that means so much to someone.  If anyone reading this would like to share in the fun...check 
out We can always use another baker or two. :) 


Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Chocolate with Francois - Chocolate Nut Loaf

So, I have good news and bad news. The good news is that I did bake the Chocolate Nut Loaf that Leslie of Lethally Delicious picked for January. The bad news is I am just now getting around to posting about it.  Better late than never as they say. :) My apologizes to my fellow CWF bakers for not posting on time. As always, my crazy schedule keeps me pretty busy. Some weeks I don't see my hubby for days on end. He goes to bed before I get home from Starbucks and I get up after he has left for work. Depending on my mood that can be a good or bad thing. :)

But, back to the recipe.

I looked over the recipe to see what if any ingredients I needed to buy. I keep a pretty well stocked pantry, but occasionally need one or two items. For this recipe I needed the pistachio nuts, almond paste, and hazelnuts. No problem I thought. I will just pop into Kroger because they always have the odd ingredients I need. Yeah, right! Not this time. No hazelnuts, no almond paste, no pistachios. Okay, let's try Food Lion. Nope, not there either. Okay, how about Walmart? Ah, pistachios, but no paste or hazelnuts. By now I am tired, grumpy and running out of gasoline! I decided I would try and be creative with what I had on hand at home.

The first thing I did was make my own almond paste. Or at least I think I did. :) I took some blanched almonds, powdered sugar, corn syrup, water and processed it in my food processor. Since the recipe called for such a small amount I figured my homemade stuff wouldn't affect it much.

The next thing I did was use pecans in place of the hazelnuts. Having all three nuts for the loaf I proceeded with the recipe.

Like Leslie, I have one of those beater blades that scrapes the side of the bowl for you while it is mixing the ingredients. If you don't have one you should really invest in one. They are wonderful and I wouldn't be without one. (I sure used "one" a lot in those two sentences!) :D

I really hesitated when I read the part about 20!!! tablespoons of butter. 20?!? Sure seemed like an awful lot of butter (Paula Deen I am not!) but I trusted Francois knew what he was doing and went ahead and did as the recipe stated.

My loaf baked for about 55 minutes. It smelled wonderful while it baked. Of course, anything chocolate smells wonderful while baking. I found waiting for the loaf to cool in the pan until room temperature and then cool completely before trying it a bit taxing, but being made to be patient is good for me from time to time.

Once sliced I decided it was worth waiting for. I zapped it in the microwave just to warm it up a tad, and the hubby had his with whipped cream on it. It was moist, chocolate-y, nutty and very satisfying. I love nuts in my baked goods and having three different ones, each with it's own texture was great. Along with the chocolate chips with was one rich and yummy loaf. I am not sure how much better it would have been with hazelnuts. Maybe, if I ever find any, I will try this again. But, it was just fine like I made it this time.

Thanks again, Leslie for a great pick. The hubby and I both enjoyed it.