Skip the wait and plan a thoughful spring menu for Mom

By Maura Wery

Moms are pretty important pieces of the culinary landscape. Many of them inspired both famous chefs and home cooks, including me.

This Sunday celebrates mothers, both culinary and not, with Mother’s Day.

As anyone who has ever attempted to take Mom out knows, restaurants become a complete madhouse. Plus, it can be a hassle between making reservations and just finding a place everyone can agree on.

I think a different approach is in order. Try doing what my family and I often do during the spring and summer: picnic. With a week of warm temperatures, it would be a great way to show Mom something a little more thoughtful than a chain restaurant meal.

The key to picnics is to keep it as simple as possible and prep as much as you can before. I thought a soup-and-sandwich lunch would be light and easy to walk off during the afternoon — not to mention it’s easy to prep soups the day before.

I took the other cue for this menu from the season. The recipes highlight the freshness of spring ingredients. After a long winter of canned and boxed ingredients, I think we are all ready for that.

Farmers markets filled with produce inspired the cream of asparagus soup.

Last weekend, I found a bargain, one pound of asparagus for $3; almost unheard of in the grocery store. Mixing it with potatoes and half and half makes it silky and rich. A little garnish of lemon and feta cheese brings bite and brightness, much like the spring sun.

Sweet green grapes and walnuts work alongside curry powder to create a creamy, spicy chicken salad.

I just used a wheat bread, but a nice artisan loaf would definitely be a nice touch. Crackers would work as well. Finally, peach cupcakes for dessert. Peaches aren’t quite yet in season yet, but you can substitute strawberries or another fruit.

A family-style picnic is fun. Spending time in the sun with good food and people you love — what could be more thoughtful?

Cream of Asparagus Soup



2 tablespoons olive oil

1 1/2 pounds of asparagus, peeled and cut in half

1 yellow onion, chopped

4 cloves of garlic, chopped

2 small, peeled red potatoes

2 1/4 cup of chicken broth divided

1/4 cup half and half

Zest and juice of one lemon

2 tablespoons flour

2 tablespoons butter

Salt and pepper to taste

1 teaspoon of feta cheese



Place Dutch oven or another heavy pot on medium heat and add 2 tablespoons of olive oil.


Chop onion and garlic; add to heated oil. Cook until softened.


Chop potatoes and add to onions and garlic. Salt and pepper to taste.


Add zest of one lemon.


Peel, chop asparagus and add to mixture. Salt and pepper, again to taste.


Add one cup of broth to vegetables. Bring to a boil and simmer for about 20 minutes or until the veggies are softened.


Pour, in batches, soup into a blender. Mix until completely pureed. Put aside and add juice of one lemon.


In original pot add two tablespoons of butter and flour. Cook for two minutes or until mixture becomes slightly golden.


Add 1 1/4 cups of chicken broth and stir until smooth.


Add the veggie puree and mix until smooth. Add in half and half and cook until warm.


Serve with a squeeze of lemon juice and feta cheese


—Adapted from



Curried Chicken Salad



4 skinless, boneless chicken breasts halves-cooked and diced

1 stalk celery diced

1/3 cup of seedless grapes, quartered

1/2 cup walnuts

1/2 teaspoon curry powder

3/4 cup of light mayonnaise

salt and pepper to taste


In a large bowl combine chicken, celery grapes, walnuts, curry powder, mayonnaise, salt and pepper.


Mix all together until combined. Serve cold.


Note: If you are planning to be outside for a while with this chicken salad, make sure to keep it in a cooler with plenty of ice or ice packs until serving time.


—Adapted from



Peach Cupcakes



1 box white cake mix

2 cups of fresh fruit or 2 cans of peaches in light syrup

4 tablespoons of peach preserves

2 teaspoons vanilla

2 eggs

1 can vanilla buttercream frosting

Cupcake liners



Preheat oven to 350 degrees


Take the two cans of peaches and drain. Add to blender and puree until smooth with one tablespoon of preserves.


Pour boxed mix into a bowl. Whisk until it is lump free. Add 1 cup of puree, vanilla, eggs, and whisk until smooth. Add another tablespoon of preserves and stir until blended.


Line muffin tin with cupcake liners. Add 1/2 cup of batter in each cup.


Place in preheated oven and bake for 20 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. Let cool completely.


For frosting:

Put one can frosting into a bowl. Add the remaining puree and two tablespoons of preserves. Mix until smooth.

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