After I started The Postcard Project, I went to anysoldier.com and got the address for a female soldier in Afghanistan that I could correspond with. (If you don’t know any soldiers that are currently serving, I recommend this site–it’s the only place I’ve found where you can get an address for a soldier you don’t know.) Through our letters, I have come to understand how important mail is to soldiers. I was moved by how happy I could make this woman just by sending her a few pages of my craziness, blabbing about things most people could care less about. When she replied with her gratitude, answering all the questions I had asked and telling me about herself, I felt the connection we had made, all thanks to the Postal Service and the exchange of a few letters.
I asked her in my first letter if there was anything I could send her to make her happier while she was serving overseas. She replied, much to my glee, that her team (I love how she said “her team” and not “I”–it just shows how selfless soldiers are) loves snacks, especially homemade, and if I could send some that would be great, but if not, “the letters are great also, it shows that someone really cares and values what we are doing.”
I don’t think she had any idea how happy her request for homemade snacks would make me. Anysoldier.com tells us not to send homemade goodies if the soldiers do not know us (for safety reasons, most likely), so I had not hoped that I could take my baking love out on her. But she must have felt like she knew me after only one letter, and I couldn’t have been more delighted by her request. My favorite way to make people happy is by making them goodies, so I literally was jumping up and down and squealing to my husband “she wants homemade snacks!!!” like I had just gotten a Kitchenaid stand mixer for Chrstimas. I think it makes me happier to make and give the treats than it makes the people who receive them!
I did some research and found a good article on the best cookies to ship long distances, and macaroons were listed as a cookie that gets better with time, so I immediately decided I would be including some macaroons in the boxes. (Yes, there were more than one. I couldn’t help myself.)
So along with a batch of homemade butterfingers and 3 pounds of seasoned crackers, I included a tin of these chocolate chip macaroons. I had saved a very simple & easy (also multiple blue ribbon-winning) recipe using sweetened condensed milk, and I kicked them up a notch by adding in some mini chocolate chips…because chocolate makes everything better.
These were wonderful fresh from the oven, and as promised by the article mentioned above, did taste even better the next day! They are moist and chewy–nice and soft when warm from the oven, and more dense & rich the next day. Hopefully they were like bites of nirvana by the time they made it to Jacqueline and her team, and from the feedback I got, they must have been close!
Chocolate Chip Macaroons
2/3 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 (14 oz) can sweetened condensed milk
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 (14 oz) package sweetened, shredded coconut
1/2 cup mini semisweet chocolate chips
In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, salt, sweetened condensed milk, and vanilla, then stir in the coconut and chocolate chips with a spoon or your hands until well blended. The mixture will be very sticky. Refrigerate for two hours, or overnight.
When ready to bake, preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Line cookie sheets with parchment paper or a Silpat mat to prevent sticking (like I said, this dough is sticky!). Using a cookie scoop, drop dough onto the prepared cookie sheets. Cookies should be about golf ball size. Bake for 12 to 15 minutes in the preheated oven, until coconut is toasted. Cool completely on a wire rack and store in an airtight container or Ziploc bag(s).
Recipe source: adapted from Allrecipes