Treat Mom to brunch with lemon ricotta pancakes, cheddar cheese-chive waffles, and something sparkling to drink.
Mother’s Day in my family of origin was always like Game 1 of a long rain-delay double-header: Mother’s Day falls on the second Sunday of May, and my mom’s birthday is May 20. Not quite far enough apart that the kids could weasel out with just one combo celebration. And certainly not with my mom.
She’s a let’s-go-out-to-eat!, let’s-take-a-trip! party animal. If there’s something to celebrate, she’s the first one choosing the restaurant or the destination. Or she’s waiting for one of us kids to so we can surprise her. If we slip up, there’s Mom Pouting to pay.
But she’s about to turn 86. In the past couple of years, my once-athletic and super-strong mom has suffered a massive heart attack, a quadruple heart bypass, and a broken hip. She’s slowing down, using a walker when she can’t hack it, taking bags of medicine, going to doctors and hospitals a lot more, and hitting the road a lot less.
But that doesn’t mean she’s done celebrating what she can, when she can.
Which is why this Mother’s Day, I’m taking the party to her. A party of two. My son will no doubt forget it’s Mother’s Day or will come by really late with some grocery-store flowers. My sister and her kids live too far away to fly in cheaply. And my brother will be driving up with his family in just a week for my mom’s birthday and will skate on Mother’s Day with a phone call and some flowers I’ll buy her that he’ll offer to pay for.
So it’ll just be me, her firstborn, and Mom. We’ll do brunch at her house after she gets back from church.
She can still eat up a storm, so there will be plenty of food. She’ll have one glass of something spiked with the bubbly, but no more, because then she won’t be able to take her sleeping pill, and that would mean another of the increasing sleepless nights.
As circumscribed as our lives have become due to illness and aging, my mom and I are not without joy. And we are not without our memories of all the mother-child stuff we’ve been through together that has made our bond the singular unbreakable thing it is.
For brunch, I’ll choose some recipes that remind us of places we’ve been together. We might not be able to get there in body anymore, but we’re definitely there in spirit — plates loaded and glasses full.
Lemon Ricotta Pancakes
The Home Ranch
My mother loves pancakes. It’s her go-to item whenever we go out for breakfast together, which is every Saturday morning. When I told her about the amazing breakfasts (well, all the meals actually) my son and I had when I took him as a preteen for a weeklong stay at The Home Ranch, in Clark, Colorado, she was envious. My kid had the time of his young life — a trip I hope he’ll look back on someday with fondness for his own mother. I’ve probably missed the chance to take my mom there, but she’s seen the pictures, heard the stories, and now she can eat the pancakes.
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons sugar
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
½ cup ricotta cheese
¾ cup milk
1 egg, separated
2 egg whites
Grated zest of 1 lemon
In a large mixing bowl, sift together the dry ingredients. In a medium bowl combine the melted butter, ricotta cheese, milk, egg yolks, and lemon zest. Make a well in the dry ingredients and add the milk mixture, stirring until the dry ingredients are just moistened. In a small, dry, clean bowl, beat the egg whites until soft peaks form. Gently fold the egg whites into the batter. Pour batter on a greased griddle. Let it cook until bubbles pop on top. Flip and cook until golden brown. Dust with powdered sugar and garnish with berries.
Recipe courtesy The Home Ranch, Clark, Colorado.
Lake Austin Spa Resort
I once took my mom for a very special mother-daughter getaway to Lake Austin Spa Resort, in the Texas Hill Country. We reconnected in style, sharing a lovely room, getting relaxing spa treatments, walking the gorgeous grounds, and eating some of the cleanest, healthiest food either one of us has ever had. We both particularly loved this delightful watermelon gazpacho. On a hot summer’s day — or a pleasant late-spring Mother’s Day — it charms the eye and hits the spot.
12 cups cubed, seeded watermelon
1½ cups peeled, seeded cucumber, coarse chopped
¼ cup each red, yellow, and green bell pepper, chopped
½ cup fennel bulb, chopped
½ cup green onion chopped
⅓ cup chopped mint
2 tablespoons chopped Italian parsley
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 cups cranberry juice
½ cup lime juice
1½ teaspoons salt
1½ teaspoons Tabasco
3 tablespoons olive oil
Pulse all together in a food processor, keeping some texture, then Chill.
Recipe courtesy Lake Austin Spa Resort, Austin, Texas.
Cheddar Cheese-Chive Waffles
Vista Verde Guest Ranch
If you’re looking for something a bit different to jazz up your weekend breakfast or Mother’s Day Brunch, the chefs at Vista Verde Guest Ranch in Clark, Colorado, recommend this recipe for Cheddar Cheese-Chive Waffles. I know my mom will love these because a) if she’s not ordering pancakes, she’s getting the waffles, and b) cheese is her weakness (just ask her cardiologist, who I will report to that I only let her eat one).
(Makes 8 waffles)
1½ cups all-purpose flour
½ cup rye flour
1 cup grated sharp cheddar cheese
⅓ cup minced fresh chives
2 teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon grated nutmeg
¼ teaspoon salt
2 large eggs, separated
1½ cups buttermilk
½ cup whole milk
2 ounces unsalted butter, melted
Preheat waffle iron before Mixing together the flours, cheese, chives, baking powder, soda, nutmeg, and salt into a large bowl. In a separate bowl whip the egg whites to soft, glossy peaks. In another bowl whisk together the egg yolks, buttermilk, milk and melted butter. Add the buttermilk mixture to the dry ingredients and combine. Fold in the egg whites until incorporated.
Recipe courtesy Vista Verde Guest Ranch, Clark, Colorado.
Alisal Guest Ranch & Resort
Alisal Guest Ranch Resort in Solvang is one of our favorite places to experience the West, California style. Alisal spreads over 10,000 gorgeous, secluded acres in the cowboy-and-vineyard country of the famed Santa Ynez Valley. And their awesome oatmeal pie? It’s the ranch-resort’s most requested recipe. My mom’s got a bit of a sweet tooth and tries to put oatmeal into everything, so this is a can’t-miss.
(Makes 3 pies)
3 cups of sugar
2¼ cups oats
2¼ cups corn syrup
2½ cups melted butter
3 cups coconut
3 tablespoons vanilla
Dash of salt
3 9-inch unbaked pie shells
Place pie shells on cookie sheet. Mix all ingredients and pour into unbaked pie shells. Bake in a 350-degree oven for 45 – 55 minutes.
Recipe courtesy Alisal Guest Ranch & Resort, Solvang, California.
A Mimosa For Mom
Nothing says “special celebration” like a sparkling cocktail. My mom’s a lightweight, though — she’s good for about one drink, and then things start getting a little crazy. That’s why I love mimosas for Mother’s Day or anytime my mom wants to kick up her heels a little. A mimosa cocktail is one part champagne (or other sparkling wine) and one part chilled citrus juice (usually orange). I get the champagne flutes out of my mom’s breakfront and open a nice bottle of brut champagne or dry prosecco. Then I pull a little bit of a fast one: Instead of filling her glass half full with champagne and topping it off with freshly squeezed orange juice or cranberry juice or whatever, I fill it with juice, splash in a touch of the sparkling stuff, and call it done.
A Special Screwdriver
If I can manage a trip to the liquor store when I’m out looking for the obligatory orchid corsage for my mom, I might make her a sparkling screwdriver instead. My mom wouldn’t know a bottle of Veuve Clicquot if one hit her over the head, but she knows Korbel, calls it “fancy,” and will be impressed.
Korbel always reminds me of Sonoma County. One of our favorite haunts in Northern California, Sonoma is a pretty drive west from Napa and has its own distinct wine-country scene. What a great place to set up shop making champagne, which three Czech brothers named Korbel did in the 1880s.
History, the Russian River, free tastings, vineyards, redwoods, charmingly rustic Guerneville, the beach at nearby Sonoma Coast State Park — there are so many wonderful Sonoma County memories to distract the mind when my mom says stuff like “I never know anymore if I’m going to wake up in the morning.”
I grew up in a largely dry household, but the screwdriver is one drink I actually know how to make. Simple: vodka and OJ. If it’s true that a vodka maker created it in the 1930s, the screwdriver’s about the same age as my mom.
What she should appreciate about this particular variation is the tangerine vodka. She has a thing about tangerines.
In our Christmas stockings, Santa/Mom would always inexplicably throw in some tangerines. Sipping a (diluted) sparkling tangerine screwdriver, my mom will probably swerve into a good story about the old days — she’s wistfully telling more and more — maybe something about what a treasure a fresh tangerine was for a kid growing up poor during the Depression and then coming of age amid the privations of World War II. I’ll be thinking about my own childhood and the oddly quaint tangerine in our stockings — and how the smell of peeling one will always remind me of my mom.
All that remains is the teary-eyed toast to Mom. If she had an Internet connection, I’d play her the YouTube video of Glen Campbell and Steve Wariner singing "The Hand That Rocks the Cradle.” But I’ll figure out another way to tell her she ought to be in the Hall of Fame for Mamas.
Korbel Sparkling Screwdriver
Korbel Champagne Cellars
1 ounce Finlandia Tangerine vodka
2 ounces [fresh] orange juice
4 ounces KORBEL Brut
Pour vodka and orange juice into shaker with ice. Shake and strain into a wine glass. Top with KORBEL. Garnish with an orange slice.
Recipe and image courtesy F. Korbel & Bros., Guerneville, Sonoma County, California.
Bangkok Bloody Mary
Snooze: an A.M. Eatery
My mom wouldn’t be able to handle this, what with all the meds and her inability to hold her liquor. Me? I’m going for it. I’m a mom, too.
1½ ounces vodka
1½ ounces Sriracha mix (a blend of Sriracha sauce, garlic chili paste, fish sauce or soy sauce, and lime juice, to taste)
3½ ounces bloody mary mix
1 basil leaf, torn
3 – 4 cilantro sprigs
Chopped pepper-seasoned pickle, for garnish
Cherry tomato, for garnish
Lemon wedge, for garnish
Rim Garnish (optional) Togarashi seasoning (available at retailers such as Walmart, Whole Foods Market, Amazon, and more)
Mix equal parts Togarashi seasoning and Kosher salt on a small plate. Moisten rim of glass and garnish with the spicy mixture. Combine ice, vodka, Sriracha mix, bloody mary mix, and basil leaf into a shaker. Shake. Pour into rim-garnished glass and cilantro sprigs and garnish with a toothpick skewered with pickle, tomato, and lemon wedge.
Recipe courtesy Snooze: an a.m. Eatery, in Austin, Houston, and Dallas.