Several years ago, a friend from entered the Peace Corps. A group of my friends and I decided to assemble a gift package for him. We collected a number of nonperishable items and mixes that only require the addition of boiling water.
He was surprised and pleased by the large box of goodies.
Many people send gift boxes in the mail at this time of the year. Sometimes family members are far away. Thousands of troops are serving in the military, separated from families and friends at home during the holidays.
There’s nothing like favorite foods to conjure up fond memories of home.
Besides deciding on favorite foods, think about safety and quality when deciding what to mail. Perishable items, such as meat and soft cheeses, must be kept at 40 degrees or lower, so they aren’t good choices for a long trip.
Within the U.S., dry ice can be used along with overnight delivery for highly perishable items. You’ll need to decide if the expense is worth it and you’ll want to be sure the person knows the arrival time of the perishable items.
Consider moisture content of the foods when deciding what to mail. Moist carrot bread or pumpkin bread may grow mold during a week of travel to a distant destination, so they aren’t the best bet.
Quality can be an issue if you’re thinking about sending your favorite delicate holiday cookies. Cookies can become crumbs without some special precautions.
To keep cookies from crumbling, pack them back to back and wrap with plastic wrap. Put the wrapped pairs between two plastic foam plates and tape the plates together. Finally, surround with bubble wrap, foam or newspaper and pack in a sturdy box.
Here are some ideas from the USDA Meat and Poultry Hotline for foods that travel well without need for refrigeration:
- Beef jerky or other dried meat. Exclude foods that are forbidden by the country’s religious restrictions, such as pork in Muslim countries.
- Dehydrated soup and drink mixes.
- Condiments in single-serve packets.
- Canned items, such as corned beef, cracker spreads or dips.
- Dense, dry baked goods, such as biscotti, prepackaged cakes and cookies in airtight tins and dry cookies, such as ginger snaps.
- Dried fruits, such as raisins and apricots, canned nuts and fruit or trail mix.
- Hard candies. Avoid sending candy, such as fudge, that may melt during the trip.
Think about nonfood gifts, too, such as favorite soap, toothpaste or other personal products that might not be readily available. Slip in some stationery, stamps, books or magazines.
Here’s a homemade mix recipe for those with access to kitchen facilities. Pack the needed amount of the mix in a plastic container or sealed bag. Attach the recipe, a bag with the additional nonperishable ingredients and a festive bow. You might want to include the baking pan in your “kit,” too. Visit www.ag.ndsu.edu/food and click on “recipes” for more ideas.
Rolled Oats Master Mix
Yield: 10 cups
4 c. all-purpose flour
4 c. quick-cooking oats (not instant)
1 1/2 c. nonfat dry milk
1/4 c. double-acting baking powder
1 1/2 tsp. salt
1 1/2 c. shortening
Put all ingredients, except shortening, in a large bowl and stir until well blended. Cut in shortening, cover and refrigerate. Will keep one month. To measure, spoon into cup, tap lightly and level off.
Oat Muffins using Master Mix
2 1/4 c. Rolled Oats Master Mix
1/2 c. raisins (optional)
2 Tbsp. sugar
2/3 c. water
1 egg, beaten
Put ingredients in bowl and stir just to moisten. Spoon into 12 greased 2 1/2-inch muffin cups. Bake in preheated oven at 425 degrees for 20 minutes.
Makes 12 servings. Each serving has 159 calories, 20.6 grams of carbohydrate, 7 grams of fat, 1.3 grams of fiber and 230 milligrams of sodium
Date-Nut Oat Bread using Master Mix
3 c. Rolled Oats Master Mix
1 c. pitted, chopped dates
1 c. boiling water
1 c. sugar
1 c. chopped walnuts or pecans
Chop dates and put in bowl. Cover dates with boiling water and mix well. Stir in sugar, let stand until lukewarm. Add remaining ingredients and mix well. Put in greased 9-by-5 by-3-inch loaf pan and bake in preheated oven at 350 degrees for an hour or until done. Turn out and cool before slicing.
Makes 16 servings. Each serving has 227 calories, 30.4 grams of carbohydrate, 11 grams of fat, 2.1 grams of fiber and 205 milligrams of sodium.
- Photo by cohdra courtesy of morguefile.com