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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.