ONLY THE FACES have changed. More than 20 years after many of us regularly shipped cookies to soldiers in Vietnam, another generation of military men and women now asks for cookies along with your cards and letters.
Like Vietnam, the Saudi desert, site of the Desert Shield operation, is hot. Common sense tells us that no chocolate chips, no frostings, and no cream cheese should be shipped to the troops in Saudi Arabia.
And because no one wants to receive a box of crumbs, you will want to pack the cookies so they get there in good shape. Here are suggestions for preparing and getting your homemade goodies to the Middle East:
* Regular U.S. rates are in effect for most packages going to Army Post Offices and Fleet Post Offices. You won't pay a rate typical of sending something to a regular Middle East address. Also, unless you're sending cookies to a whole platoon, you don't have to worry about the weight limit. The 12-ounce limit imposed in early August has been lifted. Now you're allowed up to 70 pounds, which is a lot of oatmeal cookies.
* Alcohol in any form is prohibited from being sent to the APOs and FPOs for Persian Gulf troops, and to Saudi Arabia in general. Until an order comes through directing otherwise, don't be tempted to ship Mike's favorite rum balls to him.
* Bake cookies that can stand a few hard knocks. Packages don't get the same loving care on their long journey that they do when they're put together at home. Crisp cookies, fairly high in sugar and shortening, arrive in the best condition. Fruit cookies and bars are also good selections.
* Coffee cans or vegetable-shortening cans are the best containers for holding the cookies. It's best to make round cookies to mold nicely against the curves of the cans. (Exception: Bake brownies and other bar cookies in disposable foil pans, which then need an over wrapping of foil before being packaged in a box. The recipient can cut the brownies into squares when the package arrives.)
* Wrap cookies in pairs, back to back, with waxed paper between. Use plastic wrap, waxed paper, or aluminum foil for wrapping.
* Place crumpled foil or plastic wrap on the bottom of the coffee can. Fit in the wrapped pairs of cookies as closely as possible. If necessary, tuck unbuttered popcorn around the cookies to keep them from shifting. Enclose an address slip inside the can. Seal the plastic lid (from the coffee can) in place with masking tape.
* For brownies or other bar cookies baked in disposable aluminum pans, wrap the pan in foil. Then place it in a sturdy mailing box and fill vacant spaces with biodegradable packing material. Wrap as described above.
* If the troops of Operation Desert Shield haven't returned home by mid-November, check with the post office as to mailing-date deadlines for shipping holiday goodies.
* For those of you who don't have loved ones or friends in Saudi Arabia, yet wish to send treats to military personnel, call the Department of Defense Donations Hotline for information: (703) 274-3561.
Most of your favorite recipes can be used to make successful, mailable cookies. But here are several travel-tested recipes.
For information about sending other food items, call the post office or a military public-affairs office.
Chocolate Pixies 2 cups sifted flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
one-fourth cup (one-half stick) butter or margarine
4 1-ounce squares unsweetened chocolate
2 cups sugar
one-half cup chopped nuts
N Place flour and baking powder in sifter. Sift and set aside.
In a medium saucepan over low heat, or in a 3- or 4-cup glass dish in a microwave oven, melt butter and chocolate, then let the mixture cool slightly off heat or out of the microwave.
Blend the sugar into the cooled chocolate. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each. Stir in nuts and dry ingredients. Mix well. Chill at least 15 minutes.
Shape cookie dough into balls, using approximately 1 tablespoon of dough for each. Roll each ball in powdered sugar, and place on greased cookie sheet. Bake at 300 degrees 18 to 20 minutes. Remove from cookie sheet to racks and let cool.
Makes about 3 dozen.
Per cookie: 117 calories, 2 grams protein, 19 grams carbohydrate, 4 grams fat (2 saturated fat, 1 monounsaturated fat, 1 polyunsaturated fat), 27 mg cholesterol, 37 mg sodium.
Ranger Cookies 1 cup solid shortening
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup brown sugar, packed
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
one-fourth teaspoon salt, optional
2 cups sifted flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
one-half teaspoon baking soda
2 cups quick-cooking oats
2 cups cornflakes or other ready-to-eat dry cereal
1 cup flaked coconut
one-half cup milk
In large mixing bowl, cream shortening and sugars until fluffy. Stir in eggs, vanilla extract and salt.
Sift flour, baking powder and baking soda. Mix into the creamed mixture. Add oats, cereal, coconut and milk. Stir to blend. Drop by teaspoonfuls on greased cookie sheet. Bake at 375 degrees 10 to 12 minutes.
Makes about 6 dozen.