Tag Archives: Care Package

♥ Caramel Cookie Bars

J’s second favorite cookies: caramel cookie bars. These bars do not tolerate heat well, so I do not recommend them for care packages destined for an aircraft carrier floating in the Persian Gulf.  Packages for sailors in that region typically sit on pallets in Bahrain until the next scheduled airlift; sometimes it will take weeks. The result? An ooey, gooey hot mess; and still very yummy-tasting, nonetheless. But,  they don’t photograph well.

This recipe is another gift from my dear friend, Karen. Her version of the recipe was a ‘gift’ from Betty Crocker, but she changed it for the better. Betty’s recipe called for a bag of individually-wrapped caramels that had to be individually UN-wrapped, for crying out loud! So, Karen replaced that time-suck activity and ingredient with a jar of Smucker’s caramel topping. WAY quicker and even better tasting, I thought.

Since the Smucker’s topping is not vegan (and its first 2 ingredients are corn syrup and high fructose corn syrup, in that order), and I can’t find vegan caramel sauce locally, I set about (you guessed it) making my own caramel sauce for this recipe. Even Betty wouldn’t be able to tell the difference.

Before I get to the recipe, here is MY gift for Karen: seriously, how old is this picture?! Hey, we are still a couple of hot messes ourselves! Check out the B.A.M. (Big Ass Margarita) in front of us. Because that’s how we roll.

Thanks for the recipes, Karen. Keep them coming; I love a challenge!

♥     ♥     ♥

Caramel Cookie Bars


1-3/4 cups whole oats

1-1/2 cups whole wheat pastry flour

3/4 cup firmly-packed brown sugar

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon salt

3/4 cup (1-1/2 sticks) non-dairy butter, melted (I prefer Earth Balance)

12 ounces semi-sweet chocolate chip pieces (true semi-sweet chocolate does not contain dairy)

1 cup vegan caramel sauce

1/4 cup flour


Preheat oven to 350F.  Spray a 9 x 13 glass baking dish with non-stick cooking spray; set aside.

In a large bowl, mix together the oats, flour, brown sugar, baking soda and salt.  Add the melted non-dairy butter; mix well.  Reserve one cup of this mixture and press the remainder into the prepared glass baking dish.  Bake 8 minutes and remove from the oven to a wire rack and let it cool for 5 minutes.

Meanwhile, whisk the flour into the caramel sauce and set aside.

After 5 minutes, top the cookie bar crust with the chocolate chip pieces and spread them evenly over the-still warm crust.  Give the caramel sauce/flour mixture another stir and then pour it evenly over the chocolate pieces.  Use a spatula to distribute the sauce evenly.

Sprinkle the reserved oat mixture evenly over the caramel sauce and return the dish to the oven.  Bake 18 to 22 minutes (the longer cooking time is better  when using a homemade caramel sauce).

Let cool and then place in the refrigerator several hours, or overnight, to set up properly.  Remove the chilled cookie bar to a cutting board and cut into bars with a sharp knife.  Store in an airtight container.


♥ Vegan Caramel Sauce

And yet another “necessity is the mother of invention” recipe!

I needed a good vegan caramel sauce for my caramel cookie bars and I couldn’t find it within a reasonable driving distance of our home. So, I surfed the web and tried a few recipes. This is my final version, adapted from Sweet Beet  and Green Bean. It’s ridiculously good on ice cream, drizzled over chocolate desserts, as a dipping sauce for sliced apples…well, you get the idea!

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Caramel Sauce

Makes about 2 cups


1/2 cup (1 stick) non-dairy butter (I prefer Earth Balance)

1/3 cup maple syrup

1 cup Sugar In The Raw (turbinado) sugar

1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt

3/4 cup unsweetened, plain soy or coconut milk

2 – 3 Tablespoons Arrowroot powder

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract


Heat the non-dairy butter, maple syrup, sugar and the salt in a large saucepan over medium-low heat.  Cook, stirring constantly, until it all melts and begins to bubble a little bit (but be careful not to overcook it).

Measure the soy milk into a 2-cup glass measuring cup, add the Arrowroot powder and whisk until the Arrowroot is well incorporated.  Pour this mixture into the saucepan and turn the heat up to medium.

Cook, and whisk lightly, until it begins to bubble again.  Remove the saucepan from the heat and add the vanilla extract; whisk well again.  The consistency will be syrupy, but it will thicken more as it cools.

Pour the slightly-cooled mixture into a clean quart-size mason jar.  Let it cool, stirring occasionally, before placing the lid on the jar.

The caramel sauce will keep in the refrigerator for several weeks.  Whisk it well before using.

♥ Vegan White Chocolate

Vegan white chocolate is impossible to find where we live, and it is an essential ingredient for true Man Gettin’ Cookies, so I was forced to make my own. Necessity is the mother of invention, after all. There are commercial vegan white baking chips out there (and lucky are those that live near stores that carry them) that I could mail order, but the required express shipping and additional charge for the shipping ice pack makes ordering them cost prohibitive: about 20 bucks for a 10 to 12 ounce bag!

It took me three tries: I attempted Hannah Kaminsky’s white chocolate  recipe–I love her idea of using vanilla paste rather than vanilla extract–but the results were a clumpy mess. I used a measuring cup rather than a kitchen scale for the cocoa butter. Doh! Next, I tried Veganbaking.net‘s recipe and I weighed the cocoa butter and ignored the measuring cup altogether (Eureka! you must sift the powdered sugar!) and everything was going great until I added the vanilla extract to the concoction and it turned into a clumpy mess the instant that the vanilla extract hit the bowl.

I finally arrived at a simple white chocolate recipe that works: 1) weighed–rather than measured–cocoa butter, 2) sifted powdered sugar, and 3) no vanilla extract. I may gather my courage and attempt to add vanilla paste (without alcohol) the next time that I make white chocolate, but this simple recipe is wonderful as-is. It isn’t overly sweet and it literally melts in your mouth. Bonus: it is kid-approved, and she knee-jerk rejects anything different than what she is used to. Hmph.

♥     ♥     ♥

White Chocolate

Makes an 8-ounce bar


1/2 cup + 2 Tablespoons SIFTED powdered sugar

2 teaspoons plain soy milk powder

1/8 teaspoon salt

4-1/4 ounces food grade cocoa butter


Using a digital kitchen scale, measure the cocoa butter into a small saucepan; set aside.

Sift the powdered sugar, soy milk powder and the salt into a medium mixing bowl; set aside.

Melt the cocoa butter over medium heat; it melts quickly so do not leave  the pan unattended!  Transfer the melted cocoa butter to the mixing bowl and quickly whisk the mixture together until it is smooth.

Pour the mixture into a chocolate mold (I use an 8-ounce candy bar mold).   If you don’t have a mold, paper cups or silicon bakeware will do in a pinch. Gently tap the mold on the counter top a few times to release any excess air bubbles.

Allow the white chocolate to sit for about 30 minutes before placing it in the refrigerator to cool thoroughly.  Store the cooled white chocolate in an air tight container; it will keep for several months (but it doesn’t last a week in this house!).

♥ Tis The Sugar Season!

I thought it would be appropriate to begin this blog with the  cookie recipe that started it all. After all, it is December: the month of cookies and all things sugary.

The first few years of our life together,  J was gone (as in the ‘deployed halfway around the world’ kind of gone) more than he was home. While he was away, I mailed him bi-weekly care packages that always included his favorite cookies: white & semi-sweet chocolate chip macadamia nut cookies. Over time, my cookies became world famous, literally! My sister Rachael dubbed the cookies  “Man Gettin’ Cookies”…and the name stuck.

But then we went vegan…and J went into cookie withdrawal. So, I began the task  (more like a labor of love, really) of “veganizing” our recipe collection. Life is uncertain, so we started with the sweet treats first.

My good friend, Karen ( a goddess in her own right), gave me this recipe that I  have tweaked over the years:  I swapped half of the semi-sweet chips for white chocolate chips and I used macadamia nuts, rather than walnuts. Lately, I have been using whole wheat pastry flour,  which has a bit more fiber than all-purpose flour, and it doesn’t seem to affect the flavor of the cookies. I reduced the oven temperature a bit, too, to accommodate the gooey nature of the homemade white chocolate chunks.

Here they are, the world-famous Man Gettin’ Cookies – the new and improved vegan version. This recipe is easily doubled–as Karen’s original recipe was–if you are baking for an entire squadron.

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Man Gettin’ Cookies

Makes about 3 dozen cookies


1 cup (2 sticks) softened non-dairy butter (I prefer Earth Balance)

1 cup granulated sugar

1 cup brown sugar

EnerG Egg Replacer to equal 2 eggs (flax goop is a good substitute, too)

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

2-3/4 cups whole wheat pastry flour

1-1/2 cups whole oats

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

6 ounces semi-sweet chocolate chips (true semi-sweet chocolate does not contain dairy)

6 ounces white chocolate chips or homemade white chocolate chunks

3/4 cup chopped macadamia nuts


Preheat oven to 350F.

In a large bowl, cream the butter with the sugars, then beat in the egg replacer and the vanilla extract.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, oats, baking soda, baking powder and salt.

Add the flour mixture to the butter mixture; combine well.  Stir in the chocolate chips and the nuts (it may be necessary to use your hands to really mix it all together).

Spoon 1/4 cup (or more for larger cookies) of the dough onto un-greased baking sheets and slightly press the dough flat.  Bake 12 minutes.

Remove the baking sheet from the oven to a wire rack and let the cookies rest a few minutes before removing them from the baking sheet to the wire rack to cool completely.  If necessary, use the spatula to gently re-shape the cookies while cooling (the homemade white chocolate chunks melt a bit more than  the commercial white chocolate chips).

Store the cooled cookies in a tightly sealed container.