Getting a care package in the mail is guaranteed to bring a smile, but the “thoughtful gift” itself is often more valued by the recipient than the actual contents inside. Here are some non-commercial ideas and recipes for sending a Valentines care package to a college student or a young adult away from home.
Care packages in general are a creative and fun way to keep loved ones close and top of mind when they live in a different state. Even with zoom and texting always available, there is something special about getting and opening a package that comes in snail mail. It’s especially fun if it is a surprise!
Creating Shared Memories
I started sending seasonally themed care packages to my kids when they were in college. It ended up being such a delightful memory for them that I am still sending them every holiday, even though my kids have long-since graduated.
They were as much fun for me to make as they were for them to receive. I loved getting the call after they received it and laughing about the items that were a fail and accepting the warm thank-yous of the items that were a hit.
Sometimes the fails were pretty hilarious and more of a memory today than the hits. I kept sending my son a swimming suit in his Spring package every year because the first one I sent was so ugly (to him) and unrelated to his college activities that it ended up being a standing joke. He got a swim suit in each Spring package after that. Pretty sure Good Will got those suits!
Valentine’s Day in her First Apartment:
I sent the above care package to my daughter when she started living in an apartment for the first time and began cooking for herself and friends. She was taking part in office potlucks in her new job and was thinking of making Valentines sweets to share with new co-workers.
I thought some high quality paper plates, along with fun decorations for cupcakes and bars would be appreciated (they were!).
I added some gel decorations for her windows and some homemade Valentine’s Day treats from mom, and of course, a little cold hard cash.
The College Student in the Dorm
While my son was in college he was always in need of money, so I turned the heart Valentine box into a mix of different denominations of money.
I added some useful items for his specific needs, like laundry pods, hot sauce and a coffee filter basket.
And of course I sent some sweet treats, both store-bought and homemade. Red Velvet Peanut Blossom Cookies and Raspberry Cheesecake Swirl Brownies were the homemade treats in this particular year’s care package (recipes below)Jump to Recipe
Homemade Treats for Valentine’s Care Packages
Red fruit, chocolate and hearts are, of course, the must-haves for Valentine’s Day. It’s always fun to mix it up with some favorite store-bought candies, as well as “heart-felt” homemade treats.
A Few Notes on Shipping
Although my care packages usually include a range of fun or needed “things”, they always have some sort of homemade food. Cookies, cupcakes and baked goods are well-loved treats around holidays, but they can be a problem to ship. Shipping companies, whether USPS or UPS don’t tend to heed the “fragile” notes you put on the box.
Over the years I learned which homemade goods could withstand shipping and delays without turning into a crumbly or gooey mess. The cookies and bars in the photos above include Raspberry Swirl Brownies and the Red Velvet Peanut Butter Cluster Cookies (both recipes included below).
Red Velvet Peanut Butter Cookies
- cookie sheet
- Bowls and measuring spoons
- 1/2 cup unsalted butter room temperature; 1 stick
- 1 cup creamy peanut butter
- 1/2 cup light brown sugar
- 1/3 cup sugar
- 1 egg
- 2 Tbsp milk whole or 2%
- 1 tsp vanilla
- 1 1/4 tsp red gel food coloring
- 1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa
- 1 cup all purpose flour
- 1 tsp baking soda
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 11 ounce dark chocolate Hershey’s Kisses Enough to make 48 cookies
- 1/4 to 1/2 cup red sanding sugar granulated sugar in red
- Preheat oven to 375°
- Beat butter and peanut butter together in a stand mixer on medium speed until well blended (about 2 minutes). Add brown sugar and granulated sugar and beat until fluffy (2 min). Turn mixer to low and add in egg, milk, vanilla and red food coloring. Beat over medium high until light and fluffy
- In a separate bowl sift together cocoa, flour, baking soda and salt. With mixer on low, add flour mixture gradually to sugar mixture and beat until just combined (do not overmix).
- Remove mixer from stand and shape dough into 1 inch balls. Pour red sanding sugar into bowl and roll the balls in the red sugar to coat. Place on ungreased cookie sheet about 2 inches apart.
- Bake 8 to 10 minutes, or until toothpick inserted comes out clean. While cookies are baking, unwrap the kisses.
- Remove cookies from oven and immedietely press kiss into center of each cookie. The cookie will crack around the edges. Remove from cookie sheet to wire rack and cool completely.
Raspberry Cheesecake Swirl Brownies
- 9“ x 13” pan
- Heart shaped cookie cutter
- Bowls and measuring spoons
- Flour sifter
Chocolate Brownie Layer
- 1 1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa sifted
- 1/2 cup all purpose flour sifted
- 1/2 tsp kosher salt
- 4 large eggs
- 2 tsp vanilla
- 1 cup sugar
- 1 cup brown sugar lightly packed
- 8 oz. softened butter unsalted, 2 sticks plus 1 Tbsp
Raspberry Cheesecake Layer
- 8 Ounces Cream cheese Softened to room temperature
- 1/3 Cup Sugar
- 1/4 Cup Raspberry jam I used Heathglen’s Raspberry Chambord jam
- 1 Large Egg
- 1/2 Teaspoon Vanilla extract
- 1/4 Teaspoon Kosher salt
- 3 Tablespoons All purpose flour
- 3-5 Teaspoons Red food coloring Optional
- 1/2 Cup Fresh raspberries optional
- Grease an 9″ x 13″ pan with butter and sprinkle some flour into the pan. Shake the pan around until flour coats the butter (can use cooking spray instead of butter if preferred)
- Sift the cocoa and then measure 1 cup. Sift the flour and then measure 1/2 cup. Combine sifted cocoa, flour and salt into a bowl.
- Beat the eggs in a stand mixer with the paddle attachment on medium speed for 3-4 minutes, or until light and fluffy. Add in vanilla and sugars and butter and mix over low speed to combine. Using a spatula, scrape this batter into a clean bowl. Wash out mixer bowl to use in making cheesecake layer.
- Fit the whisk attachment to a stand mixer and and beat together all ingredients for cheesecake layer over medium speed until light and fluffy (about 3-5 minutes). Raspberry seeds will make it look a little lumpy.
- Spoon 3/4 of the brownie batter into the prepared pan and spread out to the sides. Spoon the raspberry cheesecake layer on top of the brownie battter. Spoon the remaining brownie batter on top of the cheesecake layer. Using a fork, pull the raspberry cheesecake through the brownie mixture, swirling the layers together. (if desired, you can poke some fresh raspberries into the mixture for even more raspberry flavor).
- Bake for 45 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Cool on a rack completely before cutting brownies.