CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- While musing over recipes to include in a column on easy, kid-friendly Mother's Day fare, I asked several friends what they'd like from their children for Mother's Day. The answers didn't have much to do with food. The offspring in question are teenagers.
"I'd like them to take their dirty dishes one step beyond their usual final resting place in the kitchen sink, and put them in the dishwasher. Why is that step so hard," one friend asked.
"Wow. Your kids take their dishes to the sink," said another mom who obviously still clears the table herself.
Add food wrappers, empty cups, bottles and, eww, bowls rimmed with weeks' old dredges of cereal and milk in their bedrooms to the list. How about the candy and gum wrappers, lollipop sticks and hundreds of sticky pennies that reside in the smallest crevices in the car, I asked.
If your child plays sports, the potential for disarray increases dramatically. Soccer moms maintain that there's no greater funk than the foul odor emitted by shin guards and cleats left in the car overnight. I understand baseball and softball socks and catcher's equipment and football pads get pretty rank, too. Anything that touches their feet should be unpacked and appropriately sanitized as soon as possible. A friend whose daughter dances insists dance bags are as pungent as gym bags -- again, the foot proximity.
Alas, rare is the child who empties a bulging bag. Moms attest to the damage done by the slow seepage of water, or worse, Gatorade, from a bottle deep in a gym bag dumped in the front hall and left to molder until the next practice.
And why is it that teenagers don't get the international signal for "Take this upstairs and put it in your room?" I refer, of course, to the prominent placement of item(s) on the bottom step of the staircase. Point out the shoes that you've moved from the family room floor to the stairs as they step over them, and they'll look bemused and say they didn't see them. Perhaps their peripheral vision doesn't develop until later in life.
The fairly simple act of washing, folding and putting away clothes is fraught with possibilities for frustration. The process usually starts with a tentative glance into a bedroom apparently recarpeted in dirty clothes and ends with a massive dump of the clothes on the laundry room floor Sunday night and a plaintive cry Monday morning for a (still) dirty shirt. Apparently, the laundry fairy doesn't work Sundays.
Moms go two ways with the laundry issue. Either they wash their hands of it and turn the responsibility over to the offspring, or they resign themselves to the role of laundress. The first option sounds good, but often results in 'loads' of laundry of one or two desired items.
The laundress role is more efficient, but unappreciated. "You would think that someone would be so grateful to receive a basket of clean, folded laundry, that they would immediately put it away," one friend said. "But no, they'd rather pull the clothes out of the basket, bit by bit, wrinkling everything left behind, until the basket's empty and the dirty clothes are strewn all over the floor.
Since it's tough to change a well-established behavior pattern, even for a day, we moms might not get our hearts' desires. So, I'll offer a few recipes for a Mother's Day breakfast.
Moms of small children usually make do with the proudly presented breakfast in bed of charred toast and a milky bowl of cereal. With a little help from an adult, though, they could surprise mom with a basic sausage casserole, assembled that night before and baked Sunday morning.
Moms of teenagers, especially those inclined toward cooking, might enjoy something a bit more sophisticated like Savory Breakfast Bread Pudding from "Cuisine at home" or Vegetable and Cheese Strata from "Cooking Light" The Cinnamon Roll Bake from "Southern Living" looks appropriately decadent for moms with a sweet tooth.
Most of the moms I know would love these breakfast/brunch casseroles lovingly made by their children. But, for goodness sake, please put your dirty dishes in the dishwasher when you're done.
Reach Julie Robinson at jul...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-1230.
Savory Breakfast Bread Pudding with tarragon and Gruyére
This recipe appears in the June 2009 issue of "Cuisine at home" magazine. I added chopped onion, red pepper and spinach to the filling and Dijon mustard to the egg mixture to give it a little zing.
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 1/2 pounds button mushrooms, sliced
1 medium onion, diced
1 medium red bell pepper, diced
1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil, divided
2 cups spinach, chopped
1 1/2 cups shredded Swiss cheese, divided
1 1/2 cups shredded Gruyére cheese, divided
3 scallions, thinly sliced, green part only
1 tablespoon minced fresh tarragon (or 1 teaspoon dried)
1 pound sliced artisan-style bread
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
3 cups milk
1 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
GREASE the bottom of a 9-by-13-inch baking dish with butter.
SAUTE half the mushrooms in 2 tablespoons oil in a large sauté pan over high heat until all their moisture has evaporated. Transfer sautéed mushrooms to a bowl. Sauté remaining mushrooms in 2 tablespoons olive oil. Add to bowl. Sauté onions and peppers in remaining oil. Add spinach when vegetables are nearly cooked and wilt the spinach. Add to bowl of mushrooms.
MIX 1/2 cup Swiss and 1/2 cup Gruyére with scallions and tarragon.
COVER bottom of the prepared baking dish with a layer of bread, cutting slices as needed to fill in spaces. Top with half the vegetable mixture and all the herbed cheese. Cover with another layer of bread, remaining vegetables and remaining cheeses.
BLEND eggs, mustard, milk, salt, and pepper in a blender until combined. Pour over layers in baking dish. Cover bread pudding with plastic wrap, gently pressing to encourage absorption; refrigerate at least two hours or overnight. Remove plastic wrap before baking. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
BAKE until bread pudding is cooked through (160 degrees), about 1 hour. Let stand 10 minutes before serving.
Nutritional information: 345 cal; 17g fat; 185mg chol; 619mg sodium; 26g carb; 2g fiber; 20g protein.
SOURCE: "Cuisine at home," June 2009
Yield: 6 to 8 servings
1 pound sausage
1 cup Cheddar cheese, grated
2 cups milk
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon mustard
6 to 8 cups stale bread