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Thursday, July 31, 2008

Baking Bars with the GALS for a Great Cause


I'm sure most of you have already seen this lady around in the past few days. She has been making the food blogging rounds at a whirlwind pace as the spokeswoman (ok, the spokes-badge) for Operation Baking GALS (Give A Little Support).

When I received the call to arms - or in this case whisks and spoons - via this email on Sunday from Sus over at She's Becoming DoughMESStic I immediately jumped onboard.

My brother, Jason - fondly known as "Hank the Tank" (outlined in the picture below) by his buddies - is in the Army and has been to Iraq once already. He actually renewed his contract with the Army recently and will most likely be going back to Iraq just in time for Christmas this year (if not much sooner - I can't be sure). I have told him before how proud I am of him, not only for joining in wartime, but for seeing it through. It has not been an easy road for him and he has had to make a lot of personal sacrifices - as do all of our fighting men and women.

So, for obvious reasons, I am a bit chagrined that the thought of doing something like this never occurred to me before. I guess in part it is because when he was in Iraq before I wasn't blogging yet, and for the time being he is in Washington with his family. No excuse for not really finding a good way to do something positive to help before that I could do from home, but there you go.

That is why I am so grateful (actually just one of many reasons) to be a part of this food blogging community. Without it, I don't know when I would have found a way to do something positive and to say "thank you" to all of our soldiers in all the branches of our military. I also owe a big "thank you" to Sus for coming up with this idea in the first place. I look forward to throwing my brother's name in the hat as a recipient for some love when he goes back to Iraq for his second tour.

So, why did it take me so long to get this done since Sunday? Good reasons actually. you see, when my brother was in Iraq before my Mom was the unofficial 'Queen of Care Packages'. I, proud to be like my mother, felt that I needed to do my due diligence in research, on the best way and what to send (hopefully). What you see before you is the last five days worth of questions, research and planning. Whether or not this is the best way, I really don't know, but I really wanted to give it my very best shot so that when Jason, Susan's cousin and our first OP: GALS recipient, receives this package I can feel like and hope that I've done the very best I can to hedge all my bets on it getting there safely.

So, I approached all this a bit more methodically than I normally do because - well - this is so much more important than just my everyday baking for fun.

So, of course, for something so important, I needed help and I only wanted the best. For this project here were my recruits: Aidan "the crazy five-year old" (as he now refers to himself) seen climbing his first tree, and Cole, my sweet little peanut - seen here sitting with me in a parking lot checking out the steering wheel and finally sitting up like a champ.

Cole's duties were simple - sit in the booster chair and play while looking cute. Done. Mission accomplished. Aidan's duties were a bit tougher - play with Cole, help dump in ingredients and sample the baked goods to make sure they pass inspection - it is a tough job, but someone had to do it.

My duties - well, they were all a bit more complicated, but, we'll cover most of that with the recipes. Other than the actual baking though I wanted to share with you my thought process below that took all the planning - using information gleaned from my Mom, as well as the various sources Sus provided on the OP: GALS headquarters and my own (possibly over-analyzed) criteria.

Basically, for just under $10 ($9.80 to be exact) you can ship in a flat rate box a decent amount of baked goods (in this 36 big bars). You have to use the special box from the USPS (I think - at least to get this rate) and you have to complete a customs form. You also have to make sure that the box is packed tight with really no wiggle room.

This led to my mission to figure out, basically, how to get the most bang for the buck, so to speak - thus my criteria - in no particular order:

-- Nothing too soft or squishy - Hopefully something that will stay together
-- Portions that could be individually wrapped for ease of distribution (and hopefully this helps
keep things together) - I went with plastic wrapped, then foil packed groups
-- The most efficient use of space in the box to fill it as completely as possible - this is why I
went with three types of bar cookies (12 generous size servings of each kind)
-- The best ingredients I could get my hands on and generous portions as mentioned above-
because, what if that is the only treat that soldier gets - I want it to satisfy, not tease
-- Some kind of variety of the things I felt would be the most widely popular

UPDATE: I used a local newspaper and the most recent copy of TIME magazine to help fill the little space that was left in the box, as well as a letter from us that included our email address and blog address as suggested on the OP: GALS blog. In the future I want to include a return postcard where the troops can rate the goodies and let me know whether or not the recipe was a winner by the time it gets there

I think that covered all my criteria, which is why it took so long to get all this together. So, you will have to be patient with me because I will be posting these recipes seperately so this excessively long post doesn't become thelongestpostinthehistoryofmankindthankyouverymuch!

UPDATE: The recipes are now posted and you can link to them from their titles below!

So, without further ado, I give you....... [[drumroll please]].........









Manggy said...

Wow, I could never do what your brother does-- very admirable. I'm sure he'll be ecstatic when he receives the care package. I know I would be, and I'm not even short on baked goods here! Everything looks fantastic, Holly, keep up the good work!

Susie Homemaker said...

Geez Holly!! You really outdid yourself!!
This is a great post and I feel sure it will inspire lots of your faithful readers!!
Thanks again - you have no idea how much I appreciate it.

Deborah said...

What a great thing to do!! And I can't think of a better thing to get in the mail!

Jacque said...

Oh man, those guys and gals are going to be so happy, I'll bet. How sweet of you to do this and to take the time to figure it all out. They all look FAN-tastic!

Please tell your brother I thank him for what he's doing.

Mary Ann said...

Wow- I have been wanting to help out too, but wasn't sure what to send. Thanks for all the info! Those bar cookies look delicious!

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