Graphic This And That

A few years back, I started a tradition of sending a “Care” package to my nephew, Andrew, when he was a cadet at the U.S. Coast Guard Academy.

When he was a freshman, I sent a package full of home baked goodies about once a month. Sometimes I’d send him cookies, other times it was Dutch letter bars or pie. But the most loved treat was something he called fudge bars.

His fellow cadets loved them. I’d get notes from them or they’d send me a card at Christmas time telling me how much they appreciated the treats during late night study sessions.

For me, it was always refreshing to know Andrew and his fellow cadets appreciated my baking skills because I’m not much of a cook.

The packages kept coming for four years. When he graduated from the Academy, I was thrilled to meet many of the young men who enjoyed my baking skills.

Hoping they wouldn’t forget me, I gave them each copies of the recipes of the items that I baked for them. The note that accompanied the recipes said: It’s time to pay it forward men. Learn to bake so you can make the goodies yourself.

Everyone once in a while, I’ll get a call from one of the young men asking me how to make pie crust or if they substitute margarine for butter. Nice to know they still remember me.

These past two years my youngest nephew, David, has been the recipient of “Care” packages from his beloved Aunt.

While Andrew never bugged me about receiving “Care” packages, David is a constant nagger.

Before classes started at Massachusetts Maritime Academy this fall, David called reminding me he was heading back at college and that he’d enjoy getting a monthly “Care” package again.

Every few weeks I’ll get a text from him stating, how he’d love to see another “Care” package in his mailbox sooner rather than later.

Like the devoted Aunt I’ve mailed him several boxes of his favorite goodies – fudge bars. When I don’t receive word that he got the package, I’ve called him.

However when his roommate answered this cell phone, I got a bit suspicious. He told me David was busy bartering for services with the fudge bars that I sent him.

What? I immediately told his roommate to interrupt the conversation and put my “beloved” nephew on the phone. When I asked David point blank about bartering my fudge bars – at least he didn’t deny it.

“Aunt Wandie, I don’t think you know how incredibly valuable your bars are,” he said. “Why I just traded fudge bars to someone to wash my car for a month. I got someone to iron my shirts and pants and I traded for a pair of pants at the bookstore, too. Everyone loves your fudge bars.”

I had to chuckle at David. He was quite the conniver. If he could get someone to iron his shirts and wash his car, so be it.

“Don’t be mad,” he said, apologizing to me. “I do give a lot of them away to my friends. Oh…but if you could do me a favor. My best friend from the football team is having a birthday next week, could you send a box of fudge bars to him. He’d love it. He just cut my hair, so I kind of owe him.”

So … this past weekend I spent baking between getting a presentation ready for the New Mexico Press Association meeting on Friday and Saturday.

So if you want to know how to make these beloved bars, here’s the recipe, below. My mother made them for years as an after school snack. My dad affectionately called them, “Can’t Leave Alone bars.”  Why? He’d always eat two or three at a time in one setting then complained when mom took away the pan so he wouldn’t spoil his supper.

Can’t Leave Alone Bars

1 box of white cake mix

2 eggs

1/3 cup of vegetable oil

1 (14 ounce)  can of sweetened condensed milk

1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

¼ cup butter

In a bowl, combine the cake mix, eggs and oil. Press 2/3 of the mixture into the greased 13x9x2 inch baking pan.

In a microwave safe bowl, combined condensed milk, chocolate chips and butter. Microwave on high for 2 to 3 minutes or until chips are melted and mixture can be stirred smooth. Pour over cake mixture in pan. Drop the remaining cake mixture batter by teaspoons over the chocolate layer. Bake at 350 degrees for 20 to 25 minutes. Cool before cutting.