Bake Sale!

One of the joys of working at a school is that bake sales pop up quite frequently…

I am kind of kidding, I don’t know if bake sales are really a joy… but they are a great way to raise some money! We are currently having a bake sale at the school where I work. We are raising money to send exchange students to Japan. I was lucky enough to have been a chaperone for exchange students 2 years ago. I got to travel to Sano, Japan – a city about the size of Lancaster, PA. It was a great trip filled with many culinary firsts for me. I loved trying everything! I’ll save that story for another post.

I have had to raise a lot of money and I have planned a lot of bake sales through out the years I have been teaching. I have learned that a bake sale is not always as easy as it seems. You think you just ask for donations, set up a table, and make sure you have a money-box… right?

So I learned to ask for donations, and ask again… and again. I learned to make sure you have lots of change in your money-box to start out with (lots of items at 50 cents means making lots of change). One of the biggest things I learned was about packaging your goodies. I thought that we would just set up the baked goods and people would take what they want and eat it. What I found was that people wanted to take their cupcakes, brownies, and cookies with them. If I wanted to sell more items, I would have to find a way to package them.

At the first bake sale I planned I got a lot of donated baked goods but I didn’t bring plastic wrap or baggies. I didn’t have anything to wrap items in. The next time, I came prepared with packaging items and I asked people to bring their yummy donations individually wrapped. Bake sale success!

I am not running the bake sale going on at school right now, but of course I donated some sweet treats. I volunteered to bring two dozen cupcakes. I was really pressed for time last night so I couldn’t make my favorite devil’s food cupcakes. I came up with a fast alternative that uses store-bought cake mix and icing, and I put a little twist into them to make them my own… I feel like Sandra Lee.

Thin Mint Cupcakes

1 package Thin Mint Cookies (It is Girl Scout cookie time!)

1 box dark chocolate cake mix (read that back and make sure it says that it will make 24 cupcakes)

1 large container of whipped icing

Follow the directions on the cake mix box to make your batter.

Save twelve thin mints to use for garnishes on your cupcakes. Crush up the rest of the thin mints into a bowl and mix them with 1/4 cup of flour to coat them. The flour will help them stay suspended in the cupcake batter instead of sinking to the bottom.

Fold the flour coated crushed thin mints into the batter and scoop it into two muffin pans (making 24 cupcakes). Bake according to box directions.

Let the cupcakes cool and pipe the icing onto the tops in a swirl pattern making it come up to a peak. Place 1/2 of a thin mint cookie into the icing to decorate.

Quick, easy, cheap, yummy!

Here’s a great packaging idea for cupcakes that are traveling to a bake sale: put them in cups! I used the clear disposable wine cups that you can find at any grocery store. Place the cooled cupcake into the cup before you pipe the icing onto it and decorate it right in the cup. It’s a lot easier to get into the cup before the icing and decorations are on top.

I wrapped mine with plastic wrap. It was a great way to be able to stack them on top of each other for transport.  You could also use clear cellophane bags and tie them with ribbons to make them look really pretty!

Here are mine, ready for transport – I used a reuseable insulated grocery store bag to transport them, not really fashionable but it kept them safe and a little cushioned.

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Vacation Eats – Tar Pits and Hitting the Road

Back to the California trip… It’s about time for a famous eatery stop. So on Wednesday (August 3rd) we had hot dogs for breakfast.

We choose Pink’s Famous Hot Dog Stand on LaBrea Avenue in Hollywood. Pinks has dozens of condiments and topping combinations on their famous dogs. The specials are named after famous stars, chefs, TV personalities and landmarks.

I chose the Emeril BAM! Dog. Emeril has a new show called The Originals that featured Pinks on one of the episodes about LA. It airs on the Cooking channel if you’re interested in finding it.

This special dog had cheese, jalapenos, mustard, onions, bacon, and cole slaw. I had to take a lot of the jalapenos off because there were so many they were falling out of the bun. I also am not a huge fan of pickled jalapenos, or bacon for that matter, but the cole slaw pulled me into picking this dog. The combination overall was BAM good, I would get it again!

Janeen got the Pastrami Reuben Dog, not named after any celebrity but I think it was famous all by itself. it was loaded with sauerkraut, pastrami, swiss cheese, and mustard. I tried it and it was a mouthful of meat. there was so much pastrami on it, it was falling all over the place. It was a fine dog.

With our bellies full of hot dogs we drove through Miracle Mile and into the La Brea Tar Pits. I’m kind of a science nerd so I thought this stop was great. The Page Museum held a lot of the fossils they excavated from the tar pits. There are also open sites that they are working on that you could observe.

We drove back across Hollywood into Echo Park to eat a late lunch at The Park restaurant, which the wonderful Erin caters to the lunch time crowd. Janeen and I had an identical lunch today. We both got Lucifer Ale, a nice light Belgian with hints of apple.

The Park has sandwich specials that all looked so good it made it really hard to choose just one. I went with some thing kind of light because I ate the hotdog for breakfast… I enjoyed the avocado and Gruyère sandwich piled high with avocado, Gruyère cheese, tomato, and lettuce. I added crispy onions, as per Erin’s recomendtion and spread some Dijon on the grilled whole wheat sourdough bread.

It was nice light and delicious, perfect after a morning of looking at gas bubble out of pits of black asphalt smelling pits.

So we headed out late that afternoon to drive up the coast. We had one perfect stop as we made our way North. I was reading “taste of Santa Barbara” magazine in the car and telling Janeen about this amazing looking Gelato in Montecito. A little bit later she noticed that we were passing Montecito on the highway and said “wasn’t something in Montecito? oh yea, isn’t the Gelato place there?” So I checked the magazine and yes! So we pulled off the exit and 2 minutes down the road we were stopping at Here’s the Scoop for a Gelato dinner.

This place it definitely worth the stop! They let you try any flavor you want and they make everything with local ingredients. Yes, I realize I keep writing about these places using local, organic ingredients, but I am drawn to that so I am either a sucker for people writing local on everything or I just pick really awesome places… probably a little bit of both. Anyway… The gelato and sorbet are out of this world awesome at this place.

I tasted the lavender lemon flavor which was crisp and refreshing but I ultimately decided on one scoop coconut, one scoop chocolate strawberry in a waffle cone. Janeen got Italian chocolate chip (which tasted like cannoli filling) and espresso in a chocolate waffle cone.  All flavors got my stamp of approval and left me wanting more.