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Jul 23, 2009 12:34 PM

Care package to Iraq

I'm planning to send a care package to a cousin stationed in Iraq, and want it to be homemade. So far, I've sent him trail mixes, fruit candies, etc., that I knew wouldn't melt. However, I thought this time I would see if anyone could recommend new things that will hold up. Will a peanut brittle hold up, or would it melt? And what cookies would be good? Most packages have made it to him in 5-7 days, so it's not too, too long. However, I do know that we have to be careful about melting. Does anyone have anything tried and true? Many thanks.

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  1. The homemade things that have held up best for me have included molasses cookies and oatmeal raisin cookies, and fudgy brownies.
    Those cylindrical gift boxes for wine bottles have worked well for packing cookies.

    I know you didn't ask for other ideas but a few things our nephew loved getting were handi wipes and those individual packets of powder drink mix to stir into water. I think I got the drink mix idea here on Chowhound, actually. I put handi wipe packets into ziplocs and used them as packing cushions.

    Enjoy making your care package, your cousin will love it!

    3 Replies
    1. re: fern

      Right, they love the handiwipes and dry powder mixes they can mix with water. Other hits: Beef Jerky, Chewing Gum, Hot Sauce to spice up MRE's, Kleenex packs, Toilet Paper (unless they are in the Green Zone.) My issue has never been with melting but with pilfering!

      1. re: fern

        Brownies are a really good idea. I've made them in muffin / cupcake tins and packed in Pringles containers, with a round of paper between each brownie. (Wrap the brownie tower in a ziplock bag before sticking in the Pringles tin. A lot of people like to reuse the bag.) Brownies hold up well to long, warm trips, and even if they crumble, the crumbs still stay relatively moist and delicious. Turtle cookies, blondies, Rice Krispies treats and homemade granola bars would work, too.

        Peanut brittle pieces will probably stick a bit, but I think it'd be fine if you wrapped bigger chunks, together, in a piece of wax paper. Even if they stick together, you can whack them a few times and rebreak.

        I've never sent chocolate to Iraq, but if you do, dark chocolate would probably resist melting a bit better than milk chocolate. If in doubt, maybe just send a tin of drinking chocolate or your own mix of cocoa powder, milk powder and sugar (with a dash of cayenne powder and/or cinammon if you want).

        Oh -- and piggybacking on Scoop's beef jerky suggestion, Kate: do you know what meat sung is? If you do and think your SO might like it, do send a package. It's light, nutritious and holds up wonderfully to travel.

        1. re: cimui

          I haven't ever sent food to Iraq but I make cards... and we were warned that whatever we make has to stand up to 130 degree temperatures in transit. In our case that means watching for glues that get tacky at temperature, but it's even more important for food. The ladies who pack the card up for shipping used to put treats in the corners and they melted and destroyed a box or two. Any form of chocolate aside from powders/'desert chocolate' would definitely come out the end as chocolate soup.

      2. What about food items and swag from a favorite store/restaurant? A coffee house near me has a wall filled with pictures of soldiers in Iraq/Afghanistan holding up a cup from the coffee house (presumably filled with coffee that they've made from shipped beans) and wearing t-shirts with the joint's logo. A taste of home.

        2 Replies
        1. re: tcamp

          Sounds lovely, but I live 2,000 miles from his home, so that is tough. That's why I'm looking for recipes that can stand to be shipped. I'm thinking about a batch of these, since they also include good, healthy ingredients for him. They should ship well, yes? Anyone see any concerns?
          Friendship Bars
          About 16 bars

          Feel free to use any friendly combination of dried fruits that strikes your fancy. The dates really do make the recipe, but I've tossed in a scoop of dried sour cherries or cranberries as well with great results. Whatever you do, stick with the quanties below and no one will get hurt.

          For all the folks that absolutely feel they have to change things (and you know who you are...) a handful of candied ginger, a few swipes of freshly-grated citrus zest, or some crushed anise seeds might be welcome. For those of you who are gluten-free, I imagine you could substitute another starch for the flour, but otherwise I recommend sticking pretty close to the recipe, since it's pretty perfect just as it is.

          6 tablespoons (50 gr) flour
          1/8 teaspoon baking soda
          1/8 teaspoon baking powder
          1/4 teaspoon salt
          6 tablespoons (90 gr) packed, light or dark brown sugar
          2 cups walnuts, almonds, or pecans (200 gr), toasted and coarsely chopped
          1½ cups (170 gr) dates, pitted and quartered
          1 cup (170 gr) dried apricot halves (preferably from California)
          1 large egg
          ½ teaspoon vanilla extract

          Line an 8-inch (20cm) square pan across the bottom and up the sides with two sheets of aluminum foil, making a big criss-cross.

          Preheat the oven to 325 degrees (160 C) and position the rack in the center of the oven.

          In a large bowl, toss together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Add the brown sugar, walnuts, dates, and apricots. Use your fingers to mix the fruit, separating any pieces sticking together.

          Beat the egg and vanilla in a small bowl, then mix with the fruit and nut mixture until everything's coated with the batter. Spread the mixture in the baking pan and press to even it out.

          Bake for 35-40 minutes until the batter is golden brown and has pulled away just-slightly from the sides of the pan. Cool the bars in the pan.

          Storage: Alice says you can store the bars in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 2 weeks, but I've never kept them around that long.

          1. re: katecm

            That sounds like a good recipe to send... nothing to melt, and long-lasting.

        2. Hi there! Hate to be a downer, but I like to just pass on a little item to keep in mind for anyone thinking to send packages... My husband spent 16 months as a truck driver with the Army in Iraq, and he said that they would often bring tractor-trailer loads of donated stuff- magazines, candy, toothbrushes, coffee- on and on- to bases, and when they would get there, there would be whole tents set up to store the stuff, because they literally were swimming in candy and such, and didn't have enough people to eat it all (or a mechanism to donate on to the Iraqi people). And the bases are generally fully civilized, with Burger Kings and the like (and this is well outside the Green Zone), so the real appreciation is for homemade items, which no Pizza Hut can replace.

          That said, the items that my SO liked best and which traveled well seemed to be sturdy cookies like ginger snaps, which are good even kinda stale, and firm cookie bars, especially with dried fruit; packets of "make your own sun tea," with sugar and tea bags- just add water and sun (there's plenty of that); and dried gourmet-ish type things, like sundried tomatoes, dried fancy fruits etc. I sent a lot of sundried tomatoes from my own garden- they make a nice addition to salads and for snacking.

          Good luck to you and your family, and thanks for chipping in!

          1 Reply
          1. re: happybellynh

            Good point, HB. I started to type a response and then realized that the OP was referring to a cousin in Iraq. My nephew is in Afghanistan and its an entirely different environment (less civilized, extremely rural, just the basics) - no Burger Kings!

            That said, I guess it would depend on what he likes. We sent dried fruits, protein bars, beef jerky, oatmeal cookies and dum-dum lollipops for the Afghani children.

          2. I'd like to recommend biscotti for care packages - they were the most popular of the baked goods that my family sent over. And since they're not meant to be soft and chewy, it's not as noticeable if they go a bit 'extra dry.'

            1. During World War II there was something called Tropical Chocolate so I tried googling it just now and came up with some hits. Have never tried it, but supposedly it doesn't melt at tropical temperatures. You might take a look.