You don’t have to stick to bagels and burnt eggs for breakfast in bed to make Mother’s Day at home special.
Skip the tray and go for an elegant or sentimental table with fresh greenery and a simple menu that tastes amazing.
Joseph Marini, who runs At Home with Joseph, a blog focused on home economics, says you can look around your house to find table decorations.
“You can use houseplants or greenery from the bushes in your backyard,” he said. “You can make table runners from wrapping paper or print out copies of family photos to make a table runner. It’s about going back to arts and crafts and making something special.”
Marini said a table doesn’t need to look professional because Mom loves what comes from the heart.
“If you have a household with varied ages of children, each one can play a part,” Marini said.
Younger kids can pick flowers and greenery from the back yard or on a walk through the park. Older ones can arrange them in unique vessels, like a vase, glass jar or basket.
Kids of all ages can help make a handwritten or printed menu with the name of their restaurant and the date. This is a memento Mom can save to always remember the Mother’s Day spent in quarantine.
3 Tablescapes You Can Make With Things You Already Have
Marini shared three classy yet easy tablescapes you can pull together with the help of the kids.
A Woodlands Restaurant
“A woodlands theme is a pretty easy concept to create when you can just use things from your yard,” Marini said. “I also think it’s kind of fun for kids to do.”
He offers these tips for the tablescape:
- Arrange vines, twigs, leaves, moss and stones across the center of the table.
- Crush Oreos in a food processor to make lovely, germ-free dirt.
- White button mushrooms and dried apples also offer a woodsy look.
Marini used burlap as a background, but said any type of fabric, table cloth, curtain or bedsheet can tie your centerpiece together.
“Stagger the things you use to create some length. When something is off-centered there’s more flexibility,” he said, pointing out that he has an urn at one end of his table but not the other.
Marini suggests serving an easy-to-make chicken pot pie, with roasted vegetables and a baked crust on top, to complete the hearty, woodlands theme.
The French Bistro
For a smaller table with a French bistro theme, Marini adds personal touches, including vintage books in the center and baby spoons tied to a sprig of rosemary on top of each napkin.
You can incorporate other touches such as family photos, mementos from vacations, a baby rattle or baby book.
For a table runner, Marini used a piece of vintage wallpaper. You can also use construction paper, wrapping paper or a piece of cut fabric.
Marini recommends stacking dishes to give the table some elevation, but he also says the dishes don’t have to match. “I like to mix and match plates and bowls,” he said.
And just because you stack several plates doesn’t mean you need a five-course dinner. A bowl for salad, a small plate for dessert and a bigger plate for an entree works well.
The Illustrated Table
Children from age 2 to 62 will score big points with Mom by creating a custom tablecloth.
Here’s how to do it:
- Cut up paper grocery bags (any store will give you a stack of them) and lay them flat on your table, then tape them together with clear tape.
- Draw a rectangle at each place setting for a placemat.
- Use paint or crayons to decorate the placemats with flowers, a pattern or any design.
- In the space between each place setting, personalize the table by writing adjectives that describe Mom, memories of fun times together or listing her favorite places, songs, books, movies, sports or hobbies. Older family members can do the writing and younger members can illustrate, even if all they do is scribble from the heart.
5 Elegant Dishes That Don’t Require a Culinary Degree to Make
Presentation also goes a long way with the food itself, according to St. Petersburg chef and caterer Sofia Forte. For instance, shrimp and grits or mashed potatoes served in martini glasses look elegant but are also easy to prepare.
“You can do a lot with presentation, if you don’t want to cook something complicated,” Forte said.
Tyson Grant, executive chef at 400 Beach Drive in St. Petersburg, agrees that food has to be good, not complex. He suggests a beautifully baked chicken or a good steak and baked potato for Mother’s Day at home.
The following recipes come from Chef Sofia Forte, and her son Julius, who is also a chef:
- Serve a scoop of mashed potatoes (homemade or use a mix) in a martini glass.
- Top with bite size pieces of chicken marsala, or chicken and gravy. (The gravy can be canned, homemade or from a mix)
- Offer other toppings for a second scoop. Those can include steamed broccoli, grated cheese, chopped green onions or sour cream.
Shrimp and Grits
This can also be served in a martini glass, wine glass, or cup and saucer for a fun presentation.
For the grits:
- Bring one cup of whole milk or half-and-half to a boil.
- Add a cup of grits, two teaspoons salt and one teaspoon pepper
- Stir constantly for 12 to 15 minutes on low heat. (Keep stirring!)
- Add butter and grated cheese to your liking.
For the shrimp:
- Marinate one pound of shrimp for about 15 minutes in a cup of water, with a little Old Bay seasoning, chopped garlic and pinch of red pepper flakes.
- Saute on high heat with butter on the skillet. Use high heat so you can sear the shrimp without overcooking them.
- Cook for about seven minutes, stirring them or flipping with tongs.
- Divide evenly over grits and then pour drippings from the pan on each dish.
These recipes come from Chef Grant:
Fresh Strawberries With Cream or Chocolate
“Chocolate-dipped strawberries are easy and fun,” Grant said.
Grant suggests melting a bittersweet bar of chocolate in the microwave for 10-12 seconds at a time. When chocolate is smooth and melted, stir well, dip strawberries and let the chocolate harden.
To make whipped cream, put a metal bowl and whisk in the freezer 15 minutes before you plan to mix. Then use the bowl and whisk to whip one cup of heavy whipping cream with two tablespoons of sugar.
- Rinse a 2- to 3-pound chicken, and then pat it dry.
- Season it with lemon and a spice rub.
- Stuff the chicken with herbs.
- Bake in a 425-degree oven for about an hour and a half.
- Check it after an hour by cutting a slit between the leg and the thigh. If the juices running out are clear, it’s done. Let it sit for 20 minutes before serving.
- While the bird is resting, add some rosemary, a bag of baby carrots and baby onions to the pan and roast them to serve on the side.
Steak and Baked Potato (A Classic!)
“If Dad loves grilling steaks, they go great with a good baked potato,” Grant added.
Katherine Snow Smith is a freelance reporter and editor in St. Petersburg, Florida, and author of Rules for the Southern Rulebreaker: Missteps and Lessons Learned.