Good manners: gifts for your care team

Upfront, let me just say that this is in no way a “must do.” Everyone has different care experiences, and some believe this is going too far. This is intended to share what I did without turning it into a “should” for you, dear reader. Unless you think it doesn’t go far enough. I’m not even talking to you if that’s what you think.

The first time I was preparing to welcome a baby into the world, I heard murmurs and whispers about doing “a little something” for the staff who would care for you at the hospital.

This was news to me – and so I polled, quizzed and queried my way into understanding this practice. I learned that some mom-friends of mine showed up at their place of birthin’ with a cookie tray they had ordered from their nearby bakery, or had a plan in place for their partners to dash out and buy bagels (or pizzas, depending on the time of day) for the nurses’ station once their baby was born and all were well. Other sources I read showed that some people believed it would be offensive to the care team, that the services rendered were just part of the job, and giving them treats doesn’t buy you any favors.

That made me pause.

Whether paid or not, all of us work. All of us have jobs that we’re just supposed to do. Does that mean we don’t want to be recognized or thanked for doing that job?

No. And as our firstborn’s due date came and went, and an induction date was scheduled, I had the luxury of cleaning the hell out of my house one last time, preordering an arrangement of flowers to be delivered to my OBGYN after the baby was born and pulling together some treats to bring with us and share with the hospital staff. I ruthlessly took advantage of the fact that some members of my family are healthcare professionals, and asked for their feedback on what would be most appreciated/useful/desired in a treat basket. Here’s what I learned:

  • Portability is key. Many of the hospital staff are on their feet and on the go for the bulk of their shifts – in some cases skipping breaks and cutting meals short to do what needs doing. Tempting as it may be, if the item isn’t something that can be grabbed and tucked away in a pocket or eaten while walking down the hall, it may just be passed over.
  • Balance the sinful with the healthful. Treats are nice, but depending on either the time of the year or a staff member’s personal health goals, there’s a real risk of sugar overload. Consider adding fresh produce in with the treats and offer a choice.
  • No refrigeration required. This should be a no-brainer, but any treat will most likely be sitting out on a counter in a break room, so make sure whatever is brought in can tolerate at least a single shift out in fluorescent lighting with nowhere to hide.

Using that information all those years ago, I arrived with a basket brimming with oranges, apples, grapes…and some chocolate oat bars, cut and individually wrapped. The one glitch I encountered was when my labor stalled, an emergency c-section was called for, and as the on-call anesthesiology team was congratulating us on our healthy baby boy, I offered up the information that we brought some bars. “No one told us there were treats!” was the outcry. And in the blink of an eye, the surgical suite was emptied, save for myself and the recovery nurse.

For our latest baby, I intended to do it all again – flowers for the OBGYN, and treats for the hospital staff. But, being older and wiser, I also took the minute-and-a-half needed to inquire with my doctor on what staffing numbers typically run at our Women’s Center, as well as the size of the anesthesiology team. To make sure whatever I prepared and brought in would cover at least a shift.

Considering the autumnal air, I then took time to plan out some goodies that felt seasonally appropriate — honeycrisp apples for the healthy, some Lawry’s seasoned popcorn , and for the real treat: brown butter salted caramel snickerdoodles. The day before our scheduled caesarean was spent cooking and packaging.

IMG_3836IMG_3837IMG_3838IMG_3839Some craft paper labels and a trip to Dollar Tree gave me all I needed to dress up the tray and add the personal touch we wanted. But the cookie recipe is what really stole the show. Here’s the recipe, which I found at another blog:

Brown Butter Salted Caramel Snickerdoodles

(from Two Peas and Their Pod)

IMG_3826

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons cream of tartar
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1 cup unsalted butter, sliced
1 1/4 cup dark brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg
1 egg yolk
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon plain Greek yogurt
1 cup caramel squares, cut into 1/4’s

For Rolling the Cookies:
1/4 cup granulated sugar
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

Sea salt, for sprinkling on top of cookies

Directions

IMG_3828In a medium bowl, Whisk together the flour, baking soda, cream of tartar, cinnamon, and salt. Set aside.

IMG_3827To brown the butter, heat a thick-bottomed skillet on medium heat. Add the sliced butter, whisking frequently. Continue to cook the butter until melted. The butter will start to foam and browned specks will begin to form at the bottom of the pan. The butter should have a nutty aroma. Watch the butter carefully because it can go from brown to burnt quickly. Remove butter from the heat and let cool to room temperature.

IMG_3830In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine the brown butter and sugars. Mix until blended and smooth. Beat in the egg, yolk, vanilla, and yogurt and mix until combined. Slowly add in the dry ingredients and mix until just combined.

Form the dough in a ball and cover with plastic wrap. Chill in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes. You can chill the dough overnight.

IMG_3829(While the dough chilled, I took time to quarter the caramels.)

IMG_3831When ready to bake, preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Measure about 2 tablespoons of dough and roll into balls.

IMG_3832Flatten the ball with the palm of your hand and place a piece of caramel in the center of the dough. Wrap the cookie dough around the caramel, making sure the caramel is completely covered with dough.

IMG_3833 In a small bowl, combine the cinnamon and sugar. Roll the balls in the cinnamon-sugar mixture.

IMG_3834Place dough balls on a large baking sheet that has been lined with parchment paper. Make sure the cookies are about 2 inches apart. Sprinkle the cookie tops with sea salt.

IMG_3835Bake the cookies 8-10 minutes or until the edges of the cookies begin to turn golden brown. The centers will still be soft. Cool the cookies on the baking sheet for 2-3 minutes, or until set. Transfer cookies to a wire cooling rack and cool completely.

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