Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Baking GALS: What to put in your box

NOTE: There is still time to sign up for baking if you haven't yet: www.bakinggals.com, team Just Add Nuts!

Those of you who are signed up to bake for my team this round know that it's up to you to fill up your box and get it sent, but I thought I'd open up a discussion for ideas in case anyone is wondering.
The first priority would be to make sure whatever you send will arrive in good condition. Last round, Randy and I sent oatmeal cookie bars and chocolate chip cookie bars, as well as some sugar cookies. There's a small pic of the sugar cookies on the baking gals site on our team page. I don't think we'll be doing sugar cookies this round, even though I love them because they look so pretty! It just was really hard on me to make cookies without the frosting. I know they taste so much better with it, but I was afraid it would melt and be smooched on the trip over..which would be even more disastrous. So we made them without icing...they were okay I guess, but not what I really wanted to do. The oatmeal cookies, on the other hand, turned out wonderfully and we'll probably be doing them again this round. I'm thinking we may just do enough oatmeal cookies to fill the box, probably some with raisins added and some plain. I will share that recipe eventually too, but I'm "working" (hehe) right now and don't have it available...besides, I want our soldier to get variety!
I did think of a few other ideas for things that might ship well. I was thinking unsliced quick breads (pumpkin would be nice this time a year) would be good, or muffins. Also, a lot of soldiers like healthy snacks, so trail mix would be great, or some healthy snack bars or protein bars.
Since it will be Halloween right after the mailing starts, maybe some candy would be a good idea too. I don't have any candy recipes really, but if that's your specialty, give it a whirl. I'm not sure about sending chocolates, since I don't know what kind of conditions our boxes will encounter as they make their way to our soldier.
Also, if you don't have quite enough baked goods to fill your box, you are welcome to send other things along with the goodies. Use common sense here though! Obviously, nothing illegal (no pirated DVD's, etc), but also, think about what you're sending and how it will mix with your baked goods. No lotions, shampoos, fabric softener sheets, things like that...they will only ruin your whole box. Even if you double wrap them in ziplock bags, it's not worth the risk. I have read online that if it can leak on the trip over, it will...and I don't want a day of baking to go to waste because I had to send a bottle of lotion too. And I've read that fabric sheets and other air fresherners tarnish the taste of the entire box. Last round, Randy and I included some magazines and some extra DVD's my dad had. We used them at the bottom and sides of our boxes, kind of as shields for the cookies. We also filled up the top of the box with napkins...we figured that would come in handy with a hundred cookies! Our soldiers especially thanked us for the DVDs. They are really missing home over there, so letters from you or your kids or friends, or anyone really, are greatly appreciated, as well as stationary and envelopes so they can write to their loved ones. Also, anything to entertain them in their down-time is really enjoyed. Remember, they spend long days in the desert (or other not so fun places), and then for their down-time, they get to come "home" to a tent or trailer and sit....eating and sleeping only take up so much time, so something to entertain them in some small way is always a good thing. Footballs, softballs, other sporting equipment, puzzles, books, games, movies, magazines (even older ones). Another suggestion is things to decorate their areas, pictures, posters, strings of lights, holiday decorations, pictures from your kids, new socks, wash cloths, pillowcases...all of those are nice extras.
That is in NO way saying you have to put anything except baked goods in your box, those are just suggestions in case you have a little space left. Since we pay $10.95 to send a box no matter how much it weighs, we wanted to fill every single empty spot in our boxes. We baked mostly bar cookies because I thought they would pack closer. Last round, we individually wrapped each cookie in plastic wrap. This round, I'm considering wrapping the entire pan of cookies in plastic and mailing them whole. I think I can fit about 9 (9x13) batches in my box that way. I'm thinking that the cookies will stay fresher in a big block than smaller pieces. I'll probably include a box of plastic knifes for cutting them up too, and also pack some napkins like last time. We still have a few of the DVD's my Dad donated, so our soldier will be getting some of those too.
For the baked goods, you need a recipe that doesn't need refrigeration, and something that will stay moist for a few days. Last round, we baked on Sunday, mailed on Monday, and got our first thank you on Thursday, so that wasn't too bad. I had a few of the oatmeal cookies left and we ate some a few days later...still yummy, so I think that recipe was a winner!
I'm going to be emailing everyone on the team to see what they think they might be sending, just so we make sure his unit gets a variety. If any of the team members are reading this, feel free to email me if you've already decided, or comment on this blog entry or the baking gals site.
Happy baking...I hope you're all getting as excited as I am!!


mpaigew said...

Quick breads are a great idea; I sent pumpkin last month. I would suggest slicing it though (easier for them to take a piece off) but keeping it in it's loaf shape and wrapping it up that way.

For packaging, I purchased a Glad vacuum sealer. It was only like $10, and the bags are $3 for a box of 9. I was able last month to fit a TON in my flat rate box.

Have a great day! =)

Val and Randy said...

Thanks for the tips Paige! Maybe I should do that with my bar cookies too...cut them up but package them as one sheet. I want to fit as much as I can in my box. Maybe we should have a little "weight" contest to see who can send the heaviest box!
Are you sending pumpkin bread this round too?