'Daycation' Offers Busy Moms a Much-Needed Time-Out

woman getting facialI enjoyed my first "daycation" this week. What's that, you ask? It's a new membership-based program that offers busy moms a guilt-free break once a month.

Started by busy mom and entrepreneur Debra Olshan Cooper of Short Hills, New Jersey, Daycation subscribers get monthly emails inviting them to take a well-deserved time-out and enjoy a bit of pampering. 

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Options range from massages, group bike rides, painting or parenting workshops, and even yoga and cooking classes. 

So, just how did I spend my "daycation"? In the kitchen. Say what? That's right, I chose the cooking class, titled "Become the Iron Chef of Thanksgiving With Monica." How can that be a break, you ask, when moms feel like they spend way too much time in that room already?

Well, I love to cook and sitting in someone else's warm kitchen without having to lift a finger -- except to taste the chef's delicious creations -- sounded pretty good to me. And it was!

Hosted in the stunning, state-of-the-art kitchen belonging to food blogger and French Culinary Institute graduate Monica Puri Bangia, six ladies and I learned how to prepare some easy yet mouth-watering dishes just in time for Thanksgiving. The best part -- we just watched and taste-tested. No prep, no cleanup, no dishes to wash and dry -- in other words, pure heaven for a foodie! 

Puri Bangia, also a mom, shared that she likes to go easy on the appetizers on Thanksgiving so guests can really appreciate the meal. She served us a yummy spiced fig compote with fig & olive crackers (from Trader Joe's) and goat cheese. It was simple yet elegant and definitely satisfying. 

Next, the chef, who offers group and one-on-one cooking lessons, showed us how she prepares her tasty spiced pumpkin chocolate bread, which filled the room with a heavenly aroma almost from the moment it began baking. Puri Bangia noted that the bread is nice to have on hand for guests who may arrive early. (It would be divine with coffee as breakfast or a late-afternoon snack too!)  

But the real showstopper came in the form of that beloved Thanksgiving side dish: mashed potatoes. Let me tell you, these aren't your Aunt Betty's lumpy and lackluster spuds. These were a melt-in-your-mouth concoction that sent us all back for seconds. Best of all, Puri Bangia shared that these decadent potatoes, infused with garlic, basil, and heavy cream, can be prepped in advance. (See recipe below.)

mashed potatoes

Tips for Busy Moms

The professional chef took time to answer cooking questions from "daycationers." One mom asked how to break out of the "turkey burger and pasta" rut. Bangia suggested thinking of an ingredient that your family loves (think: salmon, chicken, steak) and then scouring the Internet for recipes that include it and incorporating other flavors your family enjoys as well. 

She also said planning the week's meals in advance can eliminate those last-minute trips to the grocery store and those occasions when we wander the aisles hoping for a burst of inspiration. 

Another time-saving trick Bangia recommended is prepping vegetables in advance. If you have a few free minutes on a weekend afternoon, chop and dice and then cover those veggies with plastic for shortened preparation time on busy weeknights. 

It was a relaxing, educational, and yummy afternoon that I know I'll be even more thankful for as the hectic Thanksgiving season gets under way! I'm already looking forward to my next "daycation," which is what Cooper was counting on when she came up with the idea for the business. 

Mom to a teenage daughter, Daycation's founder says she knows firsthand what it's like to feel pulled in a million different directions.

"You drive here and there and at the end of the month, you ask, 'What have I done for myself? What have I enjoyed?'" the public relations maven says. "I started this business because as moms, we give and give and give, and we need to do something for ourselves once in a while."

Currently, Cooper has partnered with many New Jersey-based businesses to offer her members unique experiences that last between one and three hours, but she hopes to take her new venture nationwide in the near future. Packages of 10 "daycations" are priced at $195, bringing the cost of each restorative outing to just under $20 a pop. Can't beat that, right? 

Here's that amazing mashed potatoes recipe:

Mashed Potatoes With Basil and Garlic Cream

1 cup basil, chopped

4 garlic cloves

1/2 cup cream

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

1 cup milk

2 teaspoons salt

3 pounds baby yellow potatoes, peeled and cut in half

1 cup plus 1/2 cup shredded mixture of Parmigiano, Pecorino & Asiago cheese

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Combine basil, garlic, cream, oil, milk, and salt in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil and simmer for 15 minutes. Let cool and blend in a blender until smooth. 

Cover potatoes with water and bring to a boil. Simmer until soft. Drain and put through a food mill or potato ricer. Transfer mashed potatoes to the saucepan. Add the basil sauce and mix well. Add 1 cup shredded cheese and mix well. Transfer to a serving bowl and top with 1/2 cup cheese. Bake in oven covered for 30 minutes, take the aluminum foil off, and bake for another 15 minutes or until the top is golden brown. Serve hot.

What would you do on your "daycation" if you could choose?

 

Images © iStock.com/Andrey Popov & Sharing Plate

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