Pam McKechnie is pleased to make a difference. So when the opportunity arose for the Lisle cook to combine her love for baking with making a difference in the lives of women halfway around the world, Pam pulled out her bags of flour and sugar and got to work.
The longtime member of St. Joan of Arc parish in Lisle is part of her church's Grandmothers to Grandmothers group. Last year, the women received overwhelming support from two bake sales and raised roughly $3,400.
The group formed to help impoverished African grandmothers become self-sufficient while they raise their orphaned grandchildren. In an area ravaged by AIDS/HIV, the Upendo Village in Naivasha, Kenya, offers local women the knowledge and then monitors each participant who starts her own micro-business. One woman might choose to raise dairy goats or chickens, whereas another might do bead work, keep bees for honey or grow vegetables. Money is lent to the women who draw up a business plan to pay back the initial loan from their profits. Details are available at upendovillage.org.
"We really are making a difference," Pam said.
Known for her desserts, breads and coffeecakes, Pam looks to her collection of more than 300 cookbooks for bake sale inspiration.
"I like to purchase a cookbook from everyplace we go on vacation," she explains.
Pam has cookbooks from Germany, the Middle East and all over the United States. Among the more unique cookbooks is one on Native American cuisine, another in the Basque language and a 1946 edition of "Joy of Cooking."
When selecting a scrumptious treat to sell at a bake sale, Pam considers something that will show well, taste delicious and transports easily. If the recipe also includes chocolate, that bolsters her choice.
"I believe that chocolate should be used whenever possible," she says with a smile.
She offers readers two recipes guaranteed to add smiles to any bake sale.
The streusel-woven chocolate coffee cake is a full-flavored treat that is delicious any time of day. A pastry cutter makes it easy to work in the butter to fine pea-shape morsels. Her Pineapple Upside-Down Cake is an old-fashion dessert that deserves modern recognition. Her personalized recipe is from a cookbook she inherited from her mother. Folding in the ingredients, as the recipe calls for, is easy to do using a rubber spatula and turning the bowl a quarter turn with each addition. The hands-on approach is gentler on the batter than an electric mixer.
After the 4 p.m. Mass on Saturday, May 26, and again following morning services on Sunday, May 27, Grandmothers to Grandmothers will hold its first bake sale of 2012 in the church lobby, 820 Division St., Lisle.
With so much love baked into a display of sweets and breads, how can anyone resist purchasing a treat from a grandmother?