Avid bakers from around the state have joined forces, using the power of their collective kitchens to shower local servicemen and servicewomen stationed overseas with care packages filled with homemade cookies and other baked treats.
Ohio soldiers stationed in war zones of Afghanistan and Iraq have been bombarded with more than 10,000 cookies since Fran Zimmerman founded Operation Baking Northern Ohio, an affiliate of the national group Operation Baking Gals (Give A Little Support).
Zimmerman, who lives in Westlake and grew up in Elyria, started baking for Operation Baking Gals shortly after it was started by Virginia blogger Susan Whetzel in July 2008. The idea was to inundate U.S. troops deployed in combat zones with thousands of cookies each month.
‘They are heroes’
In the fall of 2008, after the funeral of a young local serviceman and after hearing that so many soldiers receive very few packages from home, Zimmerman was inspired to start a group of Ohio bakers, moms and families who would volunteer to bake monthly for Ohio men and women fighting for the country.
“These men and women who serve our country — they are heroes, there is no doubt about it,” Zimmerman said. “If I can do my little part to make them happy or to bring a smile to their face … Everybody is so honored to have these servicemen and servicewomen there for us, and we just want them to know that we appreciate them. You just try to spread the love.”
Now with more than 120 bakers engaged in the effort, Zimmerman’s group is baking for three soldiers a month. She divides her bakers into teams of three and each is e-mailed a new soldier’s name at the beginning of the month.
“We know the soldiers are stunned when they get the packages. They are bombarded with cookies, and it’s fun,” she said.
“We’re looking for more soldiers to bake for and for more bakers. I can’t see it getting too big.”
Her group has recruited bakers from Akron to Columbus to Chardon.
“They can bake every month if they want to, or they can bake when they are able to, there is no pressure,” she said. The goal is for each featured soldier for the month to receive at least 8 to 10 boxes throughout the four weeks, which translates into 500 to 600 cookies. “If they get a lot of boxes, that’s fine, they’ll just pass it out among their comrades. They are excited they get the box of cookies and tossing it to other guys.”
On average, each baker makes four to five dozen goodies — anything from traditional chocolate chip to peanut butter cookies, even sauerkraut cookies.
They also have been known to bake Bundt cakes, cinnamon streusel breads, pizzelles, muffins, and bar cookies — just about anything that will hold up in the weather and seven days in the mail.
Linda Karohl, of Amherst, has been a “Baking Gal” with Zimmerman’s group for about a year. She said she was inspired to join the group because almost everyone in her family has served in the military at one point or another.
“I can’t imagine how that would have been to live daily with that thought that someone that you love is out there,” Karohl said. “The war has gone on for so long now that people sort of turn a blind eye. But they are all out there, and they are so young.”
Karohl usually bakes between six dozen and eight dozen cookies a month — as many as she can snugly wrap and pack into the 12-by-12inch flat-rate military box that mails for $11.95.
Along with the cookies, she tucks in a Sunday newspaper and a little note to thank the soldier for his or her service.
“Just knowing that you’re doing a little something, it might not be much but to let them know that you are thinking about them,” she said.
“I love to bake and it gives me an excuse to make cookies and do something good at the same time.”
Anna Kanis, a kindergarten teacher in North Ridgeville, has been a part of the baking group for more than a year. She submitted the name of her nephew, who is serving in Afghanistan.
She said she was thrilled that he was one of the soldiers who received cookies in April.
“I fear that they just think that they are over there fighting, and I just want them to know there are people back here appreciating what they are doing and supporting what they are doing. And if cookies can highlight their day, then so be it,” Kanis said.
Gloria Frombach of North Ridgeville got involved in the group because her son, Matt, an Apache pilot in the Army, had been deployed to Iraq. He was one of the soldiers who received cookies from the local group before he returned home to Northeast Ohio last year.
“There is just something about sending a child off to war that makes you crazy,” Frombach said. “I developed a passion for everything I do for the troops because I know how it feels, and I felt the soldiers need our support and the families, too.”
Frombach has two friends who contribute baked treats to tuck into her monthly boxes, which usually consist of almost 10 dozen cookies, packets of instant coffee, energy drinks and a Baking Gals sticker featuring Rosie the Riveter.
“It spreads when you want to do something like this. People hear about it, and it just gets bigger,” said Frombach, who also includes a handwritten note and a copy of Psalm 91 — the soldier’s psalm. “I tell them that we are praying for them and thanking them for their service. It’s the very least I can do. I wish I could do more.”
DOUBLE CHOCOLATE ALMOND CHIP COOKIES
Time: 10 minutes to assemble / 10-12 minutes to bake per tray
- 1 egg
- cup sugar
- cup butter, room temperature
- 1 (7-ounce) box Odense almond paste, divided and grated
- 1 cup flour
- teaspoon baking soda
- 1/8 teaspoon salt
- teaspoon almond extract
- cup chocolate syrup
- 2/3 cup chocolate chips (or more, if you prefer)
- 1 cup chopped almonds, toasted (350 F for 12-15 minutes)
- 2/3 cup Heath Bar bits
Preheat oven to 350 F. Grease and flour cookie sheet or line with parchment paper.
In a bowl cream together egg, sugar, butter and of grated almond paste until light and fluffy.
Separately sift together flour, baking soda and salt.
Combine creamed ingredients, flour mixture, syrup, chips, almonds and remaining half of grated almond paste.
Mix well, without over-mixing.
Drop dough by rounded teaspoons onto cookie sheets. Bake 10-12 minutes or until brown. Makes 3 dozen.
Source: Adapted by Linda Karohl, of Amherst, from a recipe on the Odense Almond Paste website, www.odense.com
From Gloria Fromback, North Ridgeville: “I would like to share the following recipe because it is so easy and delicious. I don’t know where I got it; had it for a long time.
It is called Incredible Cookies because they really are ‘incredible’ considering how easy they are to make.
I always make this recipe if I need a homemade cookie ‘right away’ for my grandkids.”
- 1 cup peanut butter
- 1 cup sugar (granulated)
- 1 large egg
Preheat oven 350 F.
Mix sugar and egg together, then and peanut butter. Form into 1-inch balls and press with fork. Dip fork in a little sugar so it won’t stick. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes.
Makes 1 to 2 dozen cookies.
This recipe is a favorite of Anna Kanis, of North Ridgeville.
- 1 cup butter softened
- 1 cup sugar
- 2 eggs
- 2 cups flour
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 2 teaspoons cream of tartar
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 2 tablespoons sugar
- 2 teaspoons cinnamon
Preheat oven to 400 F.
Cream together butter and sugar. Beat in eggs. Add flour, baking soda, cream of tartar and salt. Mix well. Chill for 1 hour. Roll into small balls. Combine sugar and cinnamon. Roll balls in cinnamon-sugar to coat. Bake for 8-10 minutes.
Contact Chrissy Kadleck at 329-7155 or firstname.lastname@example.org.