Mother's Day is Sunday. Do you have a plan? If you've already got it together and you know what goodies you'll be showering on Mom (or Grandma or Stepmom), then I proudly offer a shiny gold medal. For the flounderers among you (and I suspect that's the people in my own home), I've put together a list of 10 gift ideas for the mother who is all about food and drink. It's not just the male heart that's warmed by food. Women are also touched by the effort of something homemade. And for those of you planning an all-out breakfast-in-bed assault, build cleanup time into the battle plan. You'll get more points for a spotless kitchen floor than the double-stuffed French toast. Trust me on this one. You don't have to cook to make Mom feel special, but you do have to plug into what she likes. A woman who hates to cook will appreciate a cookbook about as much as she will a new set of pots and pans. For a woman who lives in an apron, bring on the souped-up food processor. I hope something on this list is suitable. If not, that's no excuse. Keep thinking, but don't wake up on Sunday morning empty-handed. That'll be a bad day indeed. Janet K. Keeler, Times food and travel editor
TASTE OF THE SOUTH
Two recent cookbooks, one out just this month, celebrate the bounty of Southern food. The brand-new Southern Biscuits by Nathalie Dupree and Cynthia Graubart (Gibbs Smith, 2011; $21.99) reveals the secrets to the South's most iconic food. A lot of variations, step-by-step help and tips on what to put between flaky halves. For an armchair guide to Southern food, consider The Complete Southern Cookbook by Tammy Algood (Running Press, 2010; $26.95). It includes 800 recipes, many of them tweaked or updated favorites.
Though the Florida strawberry season is over, there are plenty of domestic strawberries, and at pretty good prices, in the stores now. If you're planning a brunch at home, make simple Pecan Strawberry Bread or a luscious Strawberry Trifle. The kids can try their hands at Strawberry Cookie Pizza, which starts with refrigerated cookie dough. See recipes on Page 7E.
TEA FOR ONE
Last week's royal wedding has me thinking like a Brit. How about a lovely teapot and a selection of teas? A pretty cup that's hers and hers alone would be nice, too. Accompanying your teas with a batch of Emeril's Lemon Raspberry Thumbprints (recipe, Page 7E) would be spot-on.
A KITCHEN GARDEN
Buy a selection of potted herbs and replant them in pretty containers. A good start would be flat-leaf parsley, chives, oregano and basil. Promise to help take care of them. Grow Your Own Herbs in Pots: 35 Simple Projects for Creating Beautiful Container Herb Gardens by Deborah Schneebeli-Morrell (Cico, 2010; $24.95) would be an appropriate companion book.
IT ONLY SOUNDS LIKE FOOD
Charged Up Cherry, Black Cherry Chutney, Melon of Troy and Plugged in Plum may sound like Ben & Jerry's ice cream flavors, but they are actually nail colors from OPI. Many beauty products, and that includes face makeup and body lotions, get inspiration for their names from fruits and even favorite baked goods. Should we eat or apply Dear Cupcake from MAC? (It's an eye shadow.) Check out the beauty products and pick up a delicious selection for your beautiful mother.
TABLE FOR TWO, OR MORE
At this late date, many popular brunch places may be booked, but that shouldn't keep you from making a few phone calls. Right now. If you're too late for brunch, consider dinner on Saturday night. That might be more relaxing and says that you care just as much, especially if you makes plans at a restaurant that she has not been to but has wanted to try. (Can you say Bern's Steak House, wolverines?)
SPICE IS NICE
Refresh her spice cabinet, where there is likely to be some nutmeg from 2000 or earlier. Take a whiff of what's there. Anything that smells dusty needs to go. Be ruthless. Anything in tins is likely to be from the Cretaceous period. Toss. Buy new spices and date the containers with long-lasting markers.
Make her a special cocktail on Sunday morning, spirited or not. What the heck, make a whole punch bowl of Piña Colada Punch for your Mother's Day gathering. Call this tropical concoction Mother's Milk and invite as many mothers as you can muster.
PACK A LUNCH
Buy a cute insulated lunch bag and place an IOU inside that promises a week's worth of work lunches. I am not talking turkey and cheese on wheat or PB&J every day, either. Consider green salads (craisins and almonds!), curried chicken salad pitas, containers of soup, hummus and veggie dippers, or a seafood pasta salad. Don't forget the cookie.
"O" ISN'T JUST FOR OPRAH
It's for Riedel's cool stemless wine glasses. The glassmaker has a chardonnay "O" set and another for merlot (though I'd use it for malbec). Four wine glasses and a carafe for under $100 at Williams-Sonoma. Too rich for your wallet? Check out the fun glasses at a Home Goods close to you. Either way, get a bottle (or two) of the appropriate wines.
Janet K. Keeler can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 893-8586.