Sunday, April 20, 2014

5 Mother’s Day gift ideas for the single mom

America is full of unsung heroes – at least 10.3 million of them, in fact. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, that was the number of single mothers living with children under 18 in 2012. These strong women have a significant role in shaping the nation’s future as they guide nearly 18 million American children through childhood and adolescence, according to firstthings.org.

This Mothers' Day, if you know a single mom who deserves a shout out for the great job she's doing, consider using one of these ideas to show her how special she really is.

Give her a break

For any parent, single mothers especially, life requires us to navigate through a whirlwind of obligations and demands. Finding time to enjoy a favorite activity, read a book or just sit quietly and think can seem impossible.

If appropriate, offer to watch her children for the evening. If that seems awkward, find a trusted babysitter from a site like Care.com and offer to pay for the services. Then, send her out on the town. Encourage her to get together with friends, hit her favorite shops to find bargains or find a table in a quiet café and crack open a long-neglected novel. While you’re at it, why not offer to pick up the dinner tab too?

Mother and sonNotice what she does well

Send her a Mothers’ Day card – with a twist. Before you sign the card and seal it in an envelope, take a moment to write a personalized note to her. Let her know you see the difference she’s making and give specific examples of how she’s making her children’s lives better.

You still can’t go wrong with flowers

Flowers are a traditional gift for a reason. A carefully chosen, gorgeous bouquet can bring untold brightness and feelings of appreciation to any day. If selecting the perfect batch of flowers seems intimidating, don’t worry; just go online and search for Mother's Day flowers from a company like FTD.com. While you're at it, why not treat her to a chocolate assortment as well?

Surprise her with a meal

Certainly you can take her and her kids out to eat on Mother's Day, but inviting the family to your house to dine or surprising them by making a Martha Stewart homemade meal can make a traditional gift seem even more special. We think the spinach and gruyere quiche looks especially delicious.

Offer your gifts and talents

For single mothers, time is a precious commodity. Between homework help, demands from the office, taking care of a household and other responsibilities, there are bound to be projects she must put on the back burner. If she’s mentioned one of those to you, give her the gift of taking care of that nagging job. Fix a leaky faucet, offer to tutor her children, tend to her garden, clean her living room... the opportunities to help out a single mom are endless.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Culinary creations: Concocted by me, inspired by others #cook #review

Disclosure: “Great Homemade Soups” was provided to me for the purpose of review. Any opinions expressed are my own. This post contains an affiliate link and clicking on it will take you to an Amazon page to read more about or purchase the book. I receive a small commission for any sales. Please read my complete disclosure policy.

I am not a fan of cooking. There, I said it. It was hard to say because I seem to be surrounded by other blogging moms who come up with fabulous kitchen concoctions and actually enjoy doing it. That makes me feel like somewhat of an anomaly. Ever had that feeling?

Saying I dislike preparing dinners – or any other meal – would be fairly accurate as I find it burdensome and not.fun.at.all to plan and prepare scheduled meals. I mean, why do children have to eat anyway? I know you’re laughing, nodding your understanding or, the worse, shaking your head in absolute horror. It’s okay, I can take it.

Weirdly enough though, when I see magazine articles or cookbooks with foods I like or I think the children would like I get excited. I even tear out some of the recipes to try and flip cookbooks with good intentions. That is why when I was contacted to take a gander at the book “Great Homemade Soups: A Cook's Collection” by best-selling chef Paul Gayler, I excitedly responded with my interest and a commitment to try and review.

What was I thinking? It takes me eons to get around to trying recipes. It’ll take me another eon to try one from Chef Gayler’s book, but that is unacceptable for the purpose of a true tested or read product. I did read some of the recipes and drool over the pictures to share a little bit of that here along with some of my own concoctions.

Chef Paul Gayler has put together more than 100 soup recipes from other world-class chefs and features everything from classic soups to the unusual, exotic and what he calls “soon-to-be classics.” Right now on my “to-try” list are the Carrot, Tortilla and Smoked Chilli Soup, Jamaican Pepper Pot Soup as well as Chris and Jeff Galvin’s soupe a l’oignon gratinée, among others. (Lucky for me, my children have very diverse and mature palates.) Since I am so often under the weather as of late I turn to easy-to-prepare choices and easy-to-follow recipes.

The recipes in “Great Homemade Soups” are just that. Unfortunately, I seldom have the ingredients needed for these mouth-watering creations or the energy to pick them up (hence the delay in reviewing the cookbook), but there is one thing it has done for me: Given me inspiration, which is what I take away from a lot of the recipes I read.

My recent, Gayler-inspired concoctions

Chicken and rice soup

I took pictures of the beginning, almost done and after we ate some… It was good… but forgot to take a bowled pic because it took longer than I thought to prepare. I used whole grain dry rice instead of boil-in bag or box. That, in and of itself, is not the problem; the problem was me forgetting how long the rice would takes to cook.

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This is a simple soup because I use whatever I have available. Of course, chicken breast and rice must be on hand. If you’re going to prepare this you can use whatever chicken you’d like. I prefer the breast because it’s easiest. I added cut carrots (had frozen available), chopped celery and garlic, and there may be some finally chopped red onions in there. (My children think they don’t like onions.) I also added cream of something soup (it was either chicken or celery) and seasoned to taste (my preferences are Old Bay, black pepper and sea salt. I’ll also use garlic and onion powder if I don’t have any fresh.

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Ideally, the chicken would have already been prepared in advance and left over from another dish. If not, cook ‘til just done in the oven or skillet. Add everything to your slow cooker and set to low if it’s the start of the day. Set on high at mid to late afternoon; any later and 10-minute or prepared rice are best.

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Pictured to the left is a Chicken and Bean Stew I made on a whim. I added all ingredients into my Crock-Pot the same as above. And I ended up having the same problem with this as I did with the soup. I used frozen beans, but didn’t realize they weren’t pre-cooked so our initial servings were sans beans. Both ways were really yummy. 2013-12-30 18.52.45

On the right is a chicken and rice stew (Can you tell what ingredients I normally have on hand?) with baked sweet potato that I scooped outta the skin then mixed in cinnamon and Turbinado. My brain will not allow me to tell you how I made it ‘cause it doesn’t remember

 


My non-slow cooker dishes

Another one-dish favorite is Cheeseburger Pie, which I make two ways. The first way is with Bisquick or a homemade, thin bread-like dough. It’s easy to make: sauté your ground meat (I use turkey, but chicken is good as well), onions and garlic.* Put mixture into a pie dish, fold in shredded cheese and pour the “dough” over the mixture until just covered. Bake for about 35 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean.

*Can use any preferred chopped ingredients. Tomatoes, mushrooms, green beans and peas are also good.

The second way, pictured below, is done with a rolled crust (I use Pillsbury or Kroger brands). Prepare the filling like before, roll out one crust into the bottom of the dish, spoon in filling and add the top crust.

A note about cheese: I’ve founded that finely shredded cheese almost disappears and there’s very little cheese taste. With standard shredded you won’t have to double or triple the amount to get the look and taste. Also, I add more cheese on top of the bottom crust and on top of the filling after it’s in the pie pan and before the top crust.

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There ya have it; my most recent (over the past six months or so), inspired concoctions in lieu of purchasing ingredients, following a recipe and taking the time to test something new. However, I have drooled over the pictures in the “Great Homemade Soups: A Cook’s Collection” so much that I’ve added the ingredients for Susan Spicer’s Roast Duck, Andouille and Greens Gumbo to my shopping list.

 

 

Final say about Chef Paul Gayler’s newest cookbook

You’ll definitely be pleased if you purchase a copy of “Great Homemade Soups.” The pictures are large and vibrant, the ingredients list and instructions easy to follow. In general, it’s a great read for a cookbook and it’s one you may want to leave on your coffee table or a bookstand in your kitchen. A cookbook that’s a work of art and a pleasure to use. Can’t beat it.

Have you seen or purchased a copy of “Great Homemade Soups: A Cook’s Collection?” Take a moment to leave your thoughts in the comments section.

Happy cooking!