Photos by Collin Richie

Homemade care packages bring comfort and love in times of need

The call comes. We’ve all been there. A friend or family member is having surgery or home with sick kids, a debilitating migraine or sinus infection. Someone is facing a cancer diagnosis or the effects of chemotherapy. Happy news comes through, too. A new baby has arrived, spreading joy to all with an extra dose of exhaustion. In these situations, we hunger to help but it can be challenging to know exactly how to be there for someone in need.

I wrote in these pages about my daughter’s miraculous survival from a seven-story fall in 2019. As we approach the five-year milestone of this life-altering event, she is healing at home from another surgery. She is here working from our living room, riding out the four or five weeks of weight-bearing restrictions while tapping on her laptop from the sofa. She can scoot from room to room on the knee scooter a friend loaned us, and she is counting the days until she can return to independence in New York where she has been living again since 2021.

We are healing side-by-side as I recover from ACL reconstruction surgery, now partially mobilized by crutches and physical therapy. So much cheer has arrived! Fresh flowers whose bright colors lift our spirits, quarts of homemade soup and a luscious lemon loaf cake perfect with a spot of tea. On the night I returned from surgery, a never-ending batch of the most delicious stuffed shells appeared with a fresh green salad, Italian bread and a king cake. This repast has kept us fed for days, filling us with nutrients and making us feel so loved.

My mother was always on the front lines of sharing healing meals with friends. I am privileged to have learned from her. I embrace the moniker of “comfort food evangelist” that a friend bestowed, and I am happy to share my greatest hits. Prior to my personal trauma timeout, sending aid was front of mind but didn’t always happen. Now, I try not to miss a beat sending a care package. My guiding principle is cashmere, soup and cookies.

Cashmere socks are hugs for the feet. My go-to soup is a magical carrot ginger elixir that comforts like a favorite sweater—the one you reach for when gumbo season arrives. It’s a chop-sizzle-stir-and-whir warming bowl of nutrition. Cookies are the perfect sweet treat—portable, shareable, timeless and beloved. They can be any kind. I suggest making your favorite type that reminds someone they are loved. Local bakeries and mail-order sources can also answer the cookie call.

When a friend’s teenage son was having a historic 16-hour surgery, I did my best to curate the most comforting boxed set of goodies. Her thank you note confirmed: “Your package was so on point! I am typing with my under-eye patch things on, have eaten most of the cookies and that candle smells incredible! Can’t thank you enough for thinking of me.”

You don’t have to be a gourmet chef to send a meal or a little care package. It’s truly the thought that counts and the recipients are on their way to feeling better knowing they haven’t been forgotten.


  • Flowers can be frowned upon in some hospitals, check the hospital policy before sending them.
  • Try to avoid packing food in containers that need to be returned. Mason jars are great for soups. Foil containers are great for casseroles and cookies.
  • When a friend’s daughter attending college in Boston started the spring semester with the flu, a delivery of steaming pho from a local restaurant saved the day.
  • If a friend’s healing journey is ongoing, arranging a schedule through platforms such as Take Them a Meal helps organize the delivery calendar.
  • People whose routines are upended by illness can use assistance with many services. Offer to wash a load of laundry. Drop off the dry cleaning. Walk the dog. Water the plants. Take the garbage to the curb. Collect the mail. No act of kindness goes unnoticed.

Carrot Ginger Soup

Greatest hits, indeed! I keep this one on regular rotation and find it to be adored by all. Make a big batch to enjoy and share. This soup makes its rounds in town whenever someone is under the weather. It is sunshine on a cloudy day.

2 Tbsp. olive oil
1 onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, crushed or minced
1 to 2 Tbsp. minced fresh ginger
4 large carrots (about 1 lb., preferably organic), peeled and sliced
4 cups chicken or vegetable broth
Heat olive oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add onion and sauté for 5 minutes to soften. Stir in garlic and ginger and sauté 1 minute (enjoy the fragrance). Add sliced carrots and cook for 5 minutes to soften.
Stir in 3 cups of broth and bring to boil. Reduce heat and simmer until carrots are tender, about 20 minutes. Purée soup in batches in blender, food processor or in pot with immersion blender (my preferred method).
Return soup to pot (if pureeing in blender or food processor) and add additional broth to desired consistency. Season with salt (depending on saltiness of broth). If not serving immediately, let cool completely before packing into mason jars or containers. Chill until ready to serve (or deliver), then reheat. Some even like it chilled. Share the love.

Thumbprint Cookies

These cookies are great for sharing, resembling precious jewels encased in buttery pastry accented with lemon.

1 (4 oz.) stick butter
¼ cup lightly packed brown sugar
Zest of 1 lemon
1 egg yolk
1 cup unbleached flour
¼ tsp. salt (omit if using salted butter)
Jam or preserves of your choosing
Heat oven to 350 degrees and line large baking sheet with parchment paper.
Cream butter and brown sugar in large mixing bowl or stand mixer on medium. Beat in lemon zest and egg yolk, mixing to combine. Add flour and salt and mix until dough forms.
Roll dough into 24 small balls and place about an inch apart on prepared baking sheet. Press thumb into center of each to make a well. Bake until light golden, about 10 minutes. Let cool on cooling rack and fill each indentation with about a half tsp. of jam. Pack into containers or tins, separating each layer with waxed paper. For festive gifting, place each cookie inside a cupcake paper. Cookies keep about a week.