Army 101 / Care package / Deployment / Food and recipes

Christmas care package: the sweet stuff

Now that Hanukkah is over and I’ve suffered the annual splattered-oil latke battle scars (Note: never, ever, mistake canola oil for vegetable oil; they are not the same thing, and you will not have a good time.), it’s time to focus on the sweet stuff.

The sweet stuff

In some kind of joint Hanukkah-Christmas miracle, Jonathan’s Christmas care package arrived in Afghanistan in record time, only two weeks after I sent it. And by “miracle,” I mean that I owe both the USPS and the mailrooms in Afghanistan a gigantic apology for my previous lack of faith. THANK YOU, MAIL PEOPLE EVERYWHERE. I took a risk and sent a lot of baked goods that incorporated most of the ingredients on the these-will-mold-do-not-ship-overseas-unless-you’re-a-moron list I found earlier this year. When Jonathan told me several days later that packages tend to get backed up over the holidays and it would likely take longer than usual for the Christmas package to arrive, I almost instantly burst into tears; I spent a record amount of time baking for this care package (and for some packages I sent to other soldiers as well), and I cannot deal with failure, even when I’ve specifically ignored all the advice that could have prevented me from failing. And then Jonathan quickly explained that, if every bit of the care package was covered in fuzzy green mold, he would eat it anyway and send me the pictures of his vomit.

True love.

After my mostly successful Halloween and Thanksgiving care package experiments, I decided to go really balls-to-the-wall for Christmas; along with four separate Christmas-specific sweets, I included four other gifts in the care package as well. I’d really like to pretend that I planned the eight total gifts as a special eight-nights-of-Hanukkah surprise for Jonathan, but it was purely coincidental. Or possibly it was purely subconscious, because I’m so good at Hanukkah that I don’t even have to think about Hanukkah to celebrate it masterfully.

You choose.

I’m breaking the care package elements into a few different blog posts, because if you’re not completely sick of the holiday season yet, I’d like to get you as close to OD-ing as possible. Happy holidays.

White chocolate gingerbread brownies

Jonathan’s favorite of the sweets was the white chocolate gingerbread brownies (recipe from Texanerin Baking). I was originally drawn to this recipe because it boasts being 100% whole grain; and had I been making the brownies for myself, I totally would have stuck to the whole-grain recipe. But, for the care package, I substituted all-purpose flour.

Gingerbread brownie supplies

So guess what I realized I don't own just after I incorporated the molasses? An 8"x8" pan. I improvised. I'm not calling this a failure, because it's important market research for my wedding registry.

So guess what I realized I don’t own just after I incorporated the molasses? An 8″x8″ pan. I improvised. I’m not calling this a failure, because it’s important market research for my wedding registry. And also because I REFUSE TO FAIL. I WASN’T KIDDING WHEN I SAID THAT EARLIER.

When they came out of the oven, these brownies tasted decidedly weird. Not bad weird, just not quite what I was expecting. I should probably just follow recipes the way they’re intended, but why would I make anything that easy for myself? Anyway, they were a step up from the accidental protein brownies I made for Jonathan’s birthday. Which is still his favorite of all the baked goods I’ve sent him. So I should have known these weird Christmas brownies would go over well with him. Market research for our marriage. I’m learning.

As noted, these turned out a little under-baked. I'm sure that had NOTHING TO DO WITH USING THE WRONG PAN. Since I still had hours of baking to do that night, I cut my losses and insulated the shit out of them. Individually wrapped in foil, three foiled brownies in a Ziploc, wrap the triple-brownie-Ziploc in another sheet of foil, then CRAM the dense package into a second Ziploc. Seal in Gladware. Drink at least two glasses of wine before continuing.

As noted, these turned out a little under-baked. I’m sure that had NOTHING TO DO WITH USING THE WRONG PAN. Since I still had hours of baking to do that night, I cut my losses and insulated the shit out of them. Individually wrapped in foil, a few foiled brownies in a Ziploc, wrap the brownie-Ziploc pack in another sheet of foil, then CRAM the dense package into a second Ziploc. Seal in Gladware. Drink at least two glasses of wine before continuing.

Even the under-baked brownies (which contained no less than four ingredients on the THIS-SHIT-WILL-GET-MOLDY-YOU-IDIOT list) made it to Afghanistan still fresh. I have an anti-mold guardian angel watching over me.

Jonathan’s second favorite of the Christmas care package sweets was the pumpkin pie spiced walnuts.

Pumpkin pie spiced walnuts

I looked up a lot of recipes for candied nuts, but couldn’t find one specifically for walnuts that also incorporated the pumpkin spice. So for the twenty-billionth time, I decided to loosely base my attempt on a recipe instead of just following a standard recipe and continuing to BEG for failure.

I'm not gonna lie here. The end result wasn't nearly sweet enough for my liking, so I kind of BATHED the roasted nuts in honey, dumped an indiscreet amount of sugar over everything, tossed it into a bag (and then another bag, and then some Gladware), and hoped for the best.

I’m not gonna lie here. The end result when I took the nuts out of the oven wasn’t nearly sweet enough for my liking, so I kind of BATHED the roasted nuts in honey, dumped an indiscreet amount of sugar over everything, tossed it into a bag (and then another bag, and then some Gladware), and hoped for the best.

Jonathan mentioned loving these walnuts at least three separate times during one conversation, so I’ll attribute that to my very advanced baking skills, and not just to my ability to open a bag of sugar.

Jonathan’s least favorite of the baked sweets were the cherry walnut balls, which were easily my favorite of them, because why should we start agreeing on things now?

Cherry walnut balls

Cherry walnut ball supplies

This also happened to be the only recipe I followed by-the-book. Except possibly for the part where I creamed the butter, added the dry ingredients, and only then realized that I’d accidentally used half the proper amount of butter. GOOD.

Cherry walnut balls prep

So I recovered by shouting a lot of unhappy words over and over again, ANGRILY softening more butter, then attempting to cream it into the new mixture and pretend everything would be okay.

Also worth noting: By this point, it was approaching 11:00 at night. Which is a full hour after my usual bed time, and I still had several hours of work ahead of me. So I drank another half a glass of wine (which TOTALLY HELPED ME NOT FALL ASLEEP, SO THAT WAS A GREAT IDEA GOOD JOB ME) and sang the Indiana Jones theme music in my head over and over. Because that made the baking feel a lot more adventurous and exciting. Don’t question my tactics. THEY WORK.

It's possible that I chose this recipe for the "balls" puns.

It’s possible that I chose this recipe for the “balls” puns.

So that’s three out of eight Christmas care package ingredients. Stay tuned for more! You can also poke around on my care packages pinboard and try to guess what else I did. If that doesn’t sound fun, maybe try doing it while humming Indiana Jones music. YOU’RE WELCOME.

0 thoughts on “Christmas care package: the sweet stuff

  1. I don’t want to hear you complaining this time when a John Williams score earworms its way into your head. Because at least it’s not
    SANTA
    SANTA
    SANTA’S
    GOT HIS JOLLY LITTLE EYES ON ME!

    Balls to the wall.

    • Listen again, it takes you far away. Trying to stop it is futile So just listen now to my musical doodle! Doo-doo-doo-doo-doo-doo-doo-doo-doo-doo * Listen again to the musical doodle! Doo-doo-doo-doo-doo-doo-doo-doo-doo-doo Doo-doo-doo-doo.

  2. Pingback: Christmas care package: the sentimental stuff « Army Pants and Flip Flops

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  5. I’m so happy that your fiance liked the brownies! Despite the weirdness. 🙂 Are you sure that they were underbaked? They look perfect to me. After all, they should be gooey. 😀

    The rest of the goodies look great too! Thanks again for leaving feedback on the recipe and happy holidays to you and your fiance (and thanks for him for serving!) I was thrilled to find out that one of my recipes made it over there and was enjoyed. 🙂

    • Thanks for reading! He actually recently told me I need to stop sending him baked goods before he gets fat. Ungrateful. But I’ll definitely be searching for some of your healthier, wholegrain type recipe for the future 🙂

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