Over the last few years I’ve gotten in the habit of sending my grandparents cookie care packages about once a quarter. I don’t live very close to my grandparents in Long Island or my grandmother in Georgia, so sending them cookies is my way of telling them that I’m thinking about them and reminding them that I’m a fantastic baker.
I’ve probably sent somewhere between 50 and 100 baked good care packages through the mail over the past five years to my grandparents and other assorted friends and family, and I’ve developed somewhat of a formula. When it comes to packages for the grandparents I usually include three things:
- about a dozen of a seasonal cookie
- about a dozen of a heartier (perhaps more nutritious) cookie
- a couple mini loafs of a quick bread
The purpose of the seasonal cookies is obviously to make the package festive. In December it’s a Christmas cookie; in the spring it’s heart shaped shortbread, Hamentashen, or coconut macaroons; in the fall it’s something pumpkin oriented; and the summer is kind of a wild card. The heartier choice is sort of the same idea as putting vegetables in your kid’s mac and cheese. Cookies with oats, dried cranberries, nuts, or bananas add a couple little nutritional elements to my grandparent’s limited daily diet. I know that my cookies are better for them than any of the baked goods they buy at the grocery store. Lastly, I throw in one or two mini loaves of a quick bread. I usually do banana bread because it’s just so easy, but I’ll also do cranberry nut bread or zucchini bread. I just know my grandparents all love quick bread so I try to always include it.
This past weekend I baked for a care package for my Grandfather in Long Island. He’s turning 94 next week! Keeping that in mind, I made two of his favorites- Hamentashen (it’s Purim season) and banana bread. I also added chunky lola cookies (adding Craisons to the recipe) for a little extra something.
Here are a few pro tips to remember for mailing cookies:
- do bake as close to mailing as possible (I usually bake Sunday afternoon and mail first thing Monday morning)
- don’t be shy with the bubble wrap, peanuts, newspaper, etc.- cookies need cushioning
- do include a quick note that identifies the enclosed items
- don’t make anything too fancy, delicate, or perishable because it will not hold up in the mail- btw cookies covered in powdered sugar do not usually look great when they arrive, but they probably still taste good
- do allow everything to cool completely before you package them
For whatever reason, I think the seasonal quick bread in the winter is cranberry nut bread. Maybe it’s because cranberries are a fall/winter fruit. I also like to think of cranberry nut bread as a little fancier than the standard banana bread, so I send it to family and friends with Christmas cookies.
I’m actually not sure where I got this recipe, but I’ve had great success with it (if I do say so myself). The one hitch is that it includes orange juice and buttermilk which takes extra brain power when I’m at the grocery store (I forgot them, and I had to postpone the baking until after my next grocery trip).
Cranberry Nut Bread
Yields 1 9 x 5 loaf or 3 mini loaves
- 1/3 cup orange juice
- 2 tsp orange zest
- 2/3 cup buttermilk
- 6 Tbs unsalted butter, melted and cooled
- 1 large egg
- 2 cups flour
- 1 cup and 2 Tbs sugar
- 3/4 tsp salt
- 1 tsp cinnamon
- 1 tsp baking powder
- 1/4 tsp baking soda
- 1 cup cranberries, chopped
- 1/2 cup walnuts, chopped
- Preheat oven to 375. Prepare loaf pan(s) with non-stick spray.
- Combine orange juice, zest, buttermilk, butter, and egg.
- In a separate bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, salt, cinnamon, baking powder, baking soda.
- Combine wet and dry. Fold in cranberries and walnuts.
- For 9 x 5 loaf, bake for 20 minutes at 375 then reduce to 350 and bake for 45 minutes. Reduce time for smaller loaves. Use the toothpick test.
Banana bread is a classic for a reason: it’s easy, it’s economical, and it’s delicious. I always have bananas on hand for my breakfast smoothie so I will regularly have surplus that get a little too ripe. I love using the over ripe bananas to make banana bread because I can throw the bread in my freezer and grab it when I need it. I’ve been using a very simple recipe and it’s always a crowd pleaser. I usually have 90% of the ingredients on hand, and I just have to remember to grab some walnuts when I’m at the store.
Yields one 9 x 5 loaf or 3 mini loaves
- 2 ripe bananas
- 1 cup sugar
- 1/2 cup vegetable oil
- 2 large eggs
- 1 tsp vanilla
- 1 3/4 flour
- 1 tsp baking powder
- 1 tsp salt
- 1/2 tsp baking soda
- 3/4 cup chopped walnuts
- Preheat the oven to 350. Coat the loaf pan(s) with non-stick spray.
- Combine the dry ingredients: flour, baking powder, salt, and baking soda in a bowl and set aside.
- Mash the bananas in a medium/large bowl, and whisk in the “wet” ingredients: sugar, oil, eggs, vanilla.
- Add the dry to the wet slowly, and fold in the chopped walnuts.
- Divide the batter equally amongst the pans, and bake at 350 for 1 hour and 15 minutes for a 9 x 5 loaf or 45-55 minutes for mini loaves. Use a toothpick to test. If it comes out clean then it’s ready!