Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Care Packages

I don't know about you, but when I was in college, there was nothing more exciting than seeing a flash of pink peeking through the little window in your PO box.

The slip that meant: YOU HAVE A PACKAGE.

It meant a brown paper box with Mom's neat handwriting on it and stamps clustered in the corner was waiting for you behind the counter.  It would be filled with homemade treats, a clever note, a forgotten special something.  The goodies would be shared, of course, but the feeling of being unexpectedly touched by home was a magically selfish thrill.  Everyone else at the post office would look on enviously, waiting for their own miracle package slip to appear*.

Of course, that was a long time ago.  Before Amazon Prime and drone deliveries.  Before FedEx. Before email and Skype and the Internet.  Before parents and kids could text and talk with unlimited minutes any old time they wanted to.  Times have seriously changed.

I'm all for convenience and online everything, but when this company sent a brochure touting their "automated care package delivery service",  my heart broke just a little.

Then I shredded the damn flyer and started baking.  No kid of mine was going to get a pre-made box of corporate crap.  He was going to get a good, old fashioned, Mom-turned-on-the-oven-and-then-went-to-the-actual-post-office-so-I-could-get-a pink-slip-in-the-mailbox** kind of day.

I sent his favorite chocolate chip cookies*** and waited for the grateful call.
Instead, he posted this tweet.

Upstaged by my daughter's two second strike of the pen.  Hrumph.

Then I sent deep dark chocolate brownies****

Deep dark chocolate brownies | Cheesy Pennies

I got this text:

Not exactly gushing.

I sent brown butter cookie brittle with mini chocolate chips*****

Chocolate Chip Cookie Brittle | Cheesy Pennies


But when I sent this pre-packaged corporate crap for Halloween?

Assorted Halloween Candy | Cheesy Pennies

I get this:

Too bad, kid.  These are on the way.******

Halloween Candy Oatmeal Cookies | Cheesy Pennies

Care Package Halloween Candy Oatmeal Cookies

by Sharon Graves
Prep Time: 15 minutes, plus some time to chill the dough
Cook Time: 12 minutes
I adapted my own Halloween Candy Bowl Cookies by adding oatmeal and paring down to Twix, Butterfingers and Snickers bars in the mix.  They got rave reviews from my husband and the gang at the office.  I think they're the best of both worlds, but no word yet from the guy who apparently lives on Skittles.  
  • 1 1/2 c. flour
  • 1/2 tsp. (scant) baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp. (generous) salt
  • 3/4 c. quick cooking oats
  • 3/4 c. (1 1/2 sticks) butter
  • 1 c. brown sugar
  • 1/2 c. sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 2 tsp. vanilla
  • 2 cups chopped up Butterfinger Bars, Twix Bars and/or Snickers Bars. These would also be great with Reese's Cups in the mix, too.
Place flour, salt, baking soda and oats in a medium bowl. Whisk or stir a few times so everything is evenly distributed, then set aside.

Combine melted butter, brown sugar and sugar in a larger mixing bowl, using an electric mixer, or stirring really well with a spoon or spatula. Add in the egg, egg yolk and vanilla, and mix again until smooth and all of the melted butter is completely incorporated.

Gently stir in the flour/oat mixture by hand, just until combined, then add in the chopped candy.
If you can, allow the dough to rest overnight in the fridge. If you don't have the time, just give it as long as you can.

Preheat the oven to 350. Line baking sheets with parchment paper or a Silpat, then scoop dough out in balls about an inch and an half in diameter. Press down a bit to flatten each cookie a little before they go into the oven. 

Bake for 10-12 minutes, until golden brown all around the edge and a bit lighter brown on top.
Cool in the pan for a minute or two, to allow the cookies to firm up, then transfer to a rack and cool completely.

* Except for the 20 people ahead of you in line, also waiting to pick up their packages at an agonizingly slow pace.
** Naturally, they no longer put pink slips in PO boxes with see through windows.  Now, you get an email.  More efficient? Yes.  Jealously inducing?  Not so much.
*** By request.  They are his favorite. Sly like a fox, this kid.  He then requested Barnaby Day Cookies, and my sister baked up an entire batch AND brought him a cookie jar to store them in.  Her story of how truly strange and emotional it was to see a child she helped bring into the world settling in at college is here.
**** It was a new recipe for me, and a total keeper. All butter, baby! Impressively, they get better over time, so they are perfect for care packages.  You store them in...the fridge.
***** Modified from the original by deleting all the spices except the vanilla, and adding 1 cup of mini chocolate chips. They are completely addictive, so much so that they ruined my efforts at eating right for days.
****** To be perfectly honest, I'm not sure I was all that vocal in my appreciation back then either. And I do know he loves getting the packages, even if he did call to ask me to make the presents smaller so they were not so hard to carry back to his room.  Double sigh.

Here are some tips for mailing cookies and other baked goods:  Freeze right after baking, and ship off frozen to keep the treats fresh and moist while they travel.  The Post Office has great deals on their flat rate boxes, which are infinitely cheaper than using FedEX or UPS.  In case you were wondering, one dozen brownies fits perfectly in the small box.


  1. What a terrific and fun post, Sharon! I am with you - the homemade - or mommade - stuff was always the best. Once my mother sent me several boxes of PopTarts and I was SO disappointed. I told her and she never sent store bought again. Thanks fro the shout out - and, next time, keep the brownies for yourself! ~ David

    1. There will so be a next time, David. Thanks for stopping by, and for the excellent recipe!

  2. Sharon you really got my mouth watering with these pictures. This brought me back to when I was in college at Florida University. I missed everything New Jersey. My mom would send Philly pretzels, Italian baked cookies, pastries, just about everything our local bakery used to make for us. I can definitely relate to those little slips in my mailbox, Great memories!

    Kurt Bohling @ Philadelphia Mail Room