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Here’s why chef and ‘momfluencer’ Caro Chambers is skipping Mother’s Day this year

This Mother’s Day, chef, influencer and cookbook author Caroline Chambers (who also goes by Caro) plans to be on a girls trip to Spain — without her three young sons. “The thing I’ve been missing in my life since becoming a mom is alone time and space to be by myself. So [typically] I’ll go on a hike or go play tennis with friends — and spend multiple hours reading by a pool. But this year, I’m taking a trip to Spain with my two best friends who are mothers too,” she says.

Her life has been busy with her super-popular newsletter, What to Cook When You Don’t Feel Like Cooking, which features easy-to-make recipes. She is also releasing a new cookbook in August that helps busy moms like herself take the guesswork out of daily meal preparation.

Mother's Day is the least fussy day of the year for chef and author Caro Chambers and her three young sons.

Mother’s Day is the least fussy day of the year for chef and author Caro Chambers and her three young sons. (Breana Janay Photography)

“I’ve gotten so much quicker and more efficient in terms of how I write recipes now; I think what people like about my recipes [is that] they’re hack-y. I reuse sheet pans in different ways in a recipe; everything is to minimize time and mess,” she says.

She’s built a career deeply rooted in family and inspiring home cooks and moms to prepare quick, delicious recipes with “as little fuss as possible.” And she really doesn’t want a fuss on Mother’s Day. “It makes me anxious to wake up to … a super-messy house and ‘look Mom we made you breakfast,’” she says. “So me and my husband treat it differently; we each get the day off. I’ll hang out with my kids in the morning, they’ll make me Mother’s Day cards — but there’s no messy breakfast and no breakfast in bed.”

But on a typical day, she loves having her kids in the kitchen with her. She’s immersed her three young sons — now 5 years old, 3 years old and 20 months old — in helping her prepare meals.

Her secret to success in the kitchen is not being afraid to break a few rules. “Before I had kids, I wanted Gordon Ramsay to be proud of my technique! But a mom with 30 minutes to prepare dinner doesn’t need to follow all the rules; you don’t need the perfect technique. Like, throw that carrot in a blender and press “pulse” five times instead of dicing it into perfect cubes!”

She has a few tricks up her sleeve to help her sons feel more a part of her daily cooking, including giving them a kid’s knife to let them chop veggies and fruit. “We make a ton of smoothies together. They love baking (I don’t) so we do a lot of boxed mixes; but my biggest cooking trick is definitely the kid’s knife chopping celery. They always want to help and it’s great quality time. I let them start before they were 2 years old!”

But getting her boys to eat dinner is another matter entirely. She says she tries to expose them to different foods, even if they wind up rejecting them. “My 5-year-old went through an insane picky phase and I felt like a failure; I did all the right things [in terms of introducing them to food] and I still expose them to everything. I’ll make dinner for George [her husband] and I and may make them something different, but I’ll always put mom and dad’s dinner on their plate too … even if they only take one bite!,” she says with a laugh.

One rule Caro Chambers has in preparing meals: break the rules and embrace hacks.

One rule Caro Chambers has in preparing meals: break the rules and embrace hacks. (Breana Janay Photography)

She also suggests a lot of meal prep and planning. “I work from home, so I slowly work on dinner all day long. I’ll chop the onion at 10 a.m. in between calls; I’ll have a long conference call and chop vegetables.”

Another hack: She keeps her pantry stocked with basics at all times; the same goes for her refrigerator and freezer. “I do a meat subscription; as long as you have some grains, meat in the freezer and vegetables like cabbage or carrots and potatoes, you’re fine.”

Salads are daily lunches for Chambers and sauces and seasonings keep her family dinners fresh and different. “I make a lot of sauces with Greek yogurt: I’ll blend in cilantro and lime juice; or harissa and lemon juice; even Greek yogurt and Cholula hot sauce,” Chambers says. “I always have chili crisp; I love it. I like this one brand Red Clay — it’s made with peanut oil and it has peanut chunks in it! It’s so good! I love to eat salads and I spent years making my own salad dressing — but with kids and work, I have no time. I recently found Kewpie sesame dressing, and now I’m back to eating salads every day because I found a dressing I love.”

One of Chambers's go-to meals is a recipe she calls

One of Chambers’s go-to meals is a recipe she calls “show off-y Greek salad.” (Breana Janay Photography)

Not surprisingly, Chambers gets a lot of questions from followers asking her what to bring new moms to eat after giving birth, which is something she has a lot of opinions about. To her, the trick is to keep things easy, nutritious and batched in smaller servings — the opposite of huge casseroles.

“I bring postpartum moms a really nutritious soup,” she says. “I’ll freeze it in 1-to-2-cup increments in Ziploc bags and I’ll deliver eight soups so they can defrost one at a time. Usually, you get 2 gallons of soup, but this way she can enjoy one at a time over the course of months. That’s my favorite way to treat a new mom. I added a freezer section to my recipe database so it’s easy for people to cook for new moms or people going through medical treatment.”

Caro Chambers’s Show Off-y Greek Salad

Serves 4 to 6

Cook time: 1 hour

Ingredients:

Chicken:

  • 2 to 2½ lbs. boneless skinless chicken breasts (you’ll probably have leftovers but they’re so good!!!)

  • ¼ cup Greek yogurt

  • 1 tbs. red wine vinegar

  • 1 tbs. Greek seasoning (such as Cavender’s)

  • 2 tsp. Dijon mustard

  • 2 tsp. kosher salt

  • 1 tsp. garlic powder

Red wine vinaigrette:

Salad:

  • 1 English cucumber

  • 1 red bell pepper

  • 1 orange bell pepper

  • 10 oz. cherry tomatoes or 1 large heirloom tomato

  • 1 very small red onion

  • ½ cup kalamata olives

  • ⅓ packed cup fresh mint leaves

  • ⅓ packed cup fresh dill fronds (aka leaves)

  • 1 (eight-ounce) block of feta in brine (not crumbled feta!!!)

  • 4 thick slices sourdough bread

  • Extra-virgin olive oil

  • Kosher salt

Directions

FYI: The chicken marinade and red wine vinaigrette have many of the same ingredients! Take all of your ingredients out, and don’t put them away until you’ve finished making the marinade and vinaigrette.

Step 1: Let’s marinate the chicken! In a large Tupperware container or Ziploc bag, combine the chicken breasts, Greek yogurt, red wine vinegar, Greek seasoning, Dijon mustard, kosher salt and garlic powder. Get in there with your hands and make sure everything is evenly coated. Refrigerate for up to 4 hours, or leave the mixture at room temperature for 30 minutes.

Step 2: Now let’s make the vinaigrette. In a jar with a tight-fitting lid (or a bowl, if you don’t have a jar), combine the extra-virgin olive oil, red wine vinegar, Dijon mustard, honey, Greek seasoning, garlic powder, salt and pepper. (If you have a jar, you can shake the mixture until it’s well combined; if using a bowl, whisk it.) Set aside.

Step 3: Now we have some chopping to do! Chop the cucumber, red bell pepper, orange bell pepper and cherry or heirloom tomatoes in half or into bite-size pieces (use a serrated knife for tomatoes!). Thinly slice the red onion. Roughly chop the kalamata olives, fresh mint leaves and fresh dill fronds.

Chambers's Greek salad recipe includes lots of fresh chopped vegetables and herbs.

Chambers’s Greek salad recipe includes lots of fresh chopped vegetables and herbs. (Breana Janay Photography)

Step 4: Toss all of the vegetables and most of the herbs (leave a bit of each herb out for garnish) into a large bowl with about half of the dressing to start marinating the vegetables (don’t add salt yet, as it will make the vegetables release a lot of liquid). Throw the bowl in the refrigerator.

Step 5: Preheat your grill to medium-high heat (400°F to 450°F).

Step 6: Cut 1 block of feta into 8 slices. If you’ve got the time, shingle it on a small plate and zhuzh it up with a drizzle of extra-virgin olive oil, a drizzle of honey, a sprinkle of chopped herbs, and a sprinkle of Greek seasoning. This is totally unnecessary — just show off-y.

A drizzle of extra-virgin olive oil and honey with a sprinkle of chopped herbs make this feta dish earn its

A drizzle of extra-virgin olive oil and honey with a sprinkle of chopped herbs make this feta dish earn its “show-off-y” name. (Breana Janay Photography)

Step 7: Use the serrated knife to slice the sourdough slices. Throw the bread on a plate and drizzle generously with extra-virgin olive oil.

Step 8: Now let’s head out to the grill (see the notes section below if you’re using an oven)! Head outside with the chicken, the bread, a pair of tongs and a spatula.

Step 9: Cook the chicken breasts for 4 to 5 minutes per side (if using chicken thighs, cook for 5 to 6 minutes per side) or until 160°F internally (breasts have so little fat that they will continue cooking after you pull them off to reach 165°F) internally. Check all the chicken breasts, not just one! Transfer the chicken to a plate and allow it to rest for 5 minutes before slicing.

When flipping the chicken, use a flipped-over spatula (you get more leverage this way) instead of tongs. The yogurt marinade can stick to the grill a bit, so you need to really scrape under there to release the chicken from the grill.

Step 10: Grill the bread (with the lid open) for 1 to 2 minutes per side, until dark grill marks appear.

Step 11: Thinly slice the chicken. Garnish with fresh herbs if you’re showing off. Season the salad with 1½ tsp. kosher salt. Taste. Add more salt and dressing as desired.

Let everyone build their perfect plate!

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