IT'S A FUNNY thing about mothers. In advertisements for Mother's Day gifts, they are usually in rapture over long-stemmed red roses, watches, diamonds and automatic dishwashers. But if you ask around, you're likely to hear about hand-printed plants, bunches of wild flowers, crayon art and IOUs for services.

The best gift I ever received was dinner. Though it wasn't the fancy dinner out that I expected, it was an adventure in fine dining.

I realized that something was different when I read the sign on the door: "Mother, please ring the bell for service." My youngest son, dressed in his best suit and wearing a towel neatly folded over his arm, answered my ring. He escorted me to the living room, where my husband, a bottle of white wine and some of my favorite appetizers were waiting.

As we sipped and nibbled cheese, the fragrance of food cooking wafted in from the kitchen."Who's in there and what are they doing to my kitchen?" I whispered to my husband. "Just relax and pretend you're at the Lion d'Or," he replied. It was my 14-year-old son who was cooking. His two younger brothers were dressed in suits and presenting themselves as waiter and busboy.

The boys had cooked and planned the whole meal themselves. Their father helped only with the shopping and the cash. The menu was simple but included many of my favorite foods. The table was set with flowers, china and crystal. It was memorable.

Perhaps you, too, would like an inhouse Mother's Day dinner. Here are some recipes to leave on top of the cookie jar as a hint to child cooks. APPETIZER TRAY 1 carrot 4-ounce package of genoa salami 3 ounces cream cheese 4 ounces brie or your mother's favorite cheese Crackers

Use a vegetable peeler to remove the skin from the carrot. Place the carrot on the countertop and begin making thin slices of carrot, using the vegetable peeler. The first few will be too narrow, but as you get into the center of the carrot they will become wider. As you make each carrot stip, place in ice water. It should curl. Spread the cream cheese thickly on the slices of salami. Roll up the slice of salami like a jellyroll. Refrigerate. Place the cheese on a plate with some crackers, the carrot curls and the salami rolls. BACON AND EGG SALAD (4 servings) 1 head leaf lettuce 4 eggs 4 slices bacon 1 cup sweet Russian-style dressing Freshly ground pepper

Break apart the lettuce leaves. Wash them and wrap in a towel. Place the lettuce in the refrigerator until time to serve. Place the eggs in a small saucepan. Cover them with cold water. Place on medium heat and bring to a boil for 10 minutes. Take the pan to the sink. Run cold water into the pan. When the eggs are cool, remove the shells. Fry the bacon over medium heat until it is crisp. At serving time, arrange the lettuce on salad plates. Slice an egg on each plate and crumble one slice of bacon on top. Pour a little dressing on each salad. If you have a pepper grinder, ask the people at the table if they would like a little pepper, just like they do in restaurants. BAKED POTATOES (4 servings) 4 large Idaho baking potatoes Butter

Use a brush to scrub the dirt off the potatoes.Light the oven and set the temperature at 350 degrees. When the oven is heated, place the potatoes in the oven, on the middle shelf. Bake them for 1 hour and 15 minutes. This means you must put them in the oven 1 1/2 hours before you will need them. Test them at 1 hour and 15 minutes. If a fork slides in easily, they are done. If they still seem a little hard, keep baking them. Keep them warm by turning of the oven and leaving them in it. ROSY GLAZED STUFFED CHICKEN (4 to 5 servings) 3- to 4-pound chicken 1/2 cup chopped onion 1/2 cup sliced celery 1/2 cup butter (1 stick) 2 teaspoons poultry seasoning 1 teaspoon salt 8 slices white bread (2 days old if possible) 1/2 cup red currant jelly (you can substitute apple jelly) 2 tablespoons mustard (dijon if you have it)

Unwrap the chicken and wash it. Remove the neck and gizzard. Leave them for your mother to use some other time. Chop the onion carefully. Slice the celery thin. Heat the butter in a large skillet and saute the onion and celery over medium heat until they are soft but not browned. Add the poultry seasoning and salt. While the onion and celery are cooking, tear the bread into very small peices. Each piece of bread should be about the size of a dime. Mix the bread with the celery and onions. Stir well so that all the bread is coated with butter and seasoning. Stuff this mixture into the cavity of the chicken. Don't push it in too hard. If there is any stuffing left, you can bake it in a small pan.

About 1 1/2 hours before you plan to serve dinner, turn the oven to 350 degrees and let it heat up. Then put the chicken in a baking pan and place it in the oven. Set the timer for 45 minutes. Mix the red currant jelly with the mustard. If it doesn't blend well, heat it in a small pan. After 45 minutes, take the chicken out of the oven. Brush the jelly mixture all over the chicken.Use a pastry brush to do this or carefully use a spoon. Place the chicken back in the oven, which should still be at 350 degrees. Bake for 15 minutes. Remove the chicken from the oven and brush or spoon more glaze over the chicken. Wait 10 minutes and serve. FRESH GREEN BEANS (4 servings) 1 pound fresh green beans 2 tablespoons butter 1/2 teaspoon salt 1/4 teaspoon pepper 1/2 teaspoon basil or tarragon

Use your fingers to snap off the ends of the beans.(This is a good job for the youngest.) One-half hour before serving time, put a large pot of water on to boil. The pot your mother uses for cooking spaghetti is good. When the water is boiling add the beans and boil them for 12 minutes.Pour the water and beans out into a colander. Run cold water over the beans. At serving time heat a saucepan and melt the butter. Add about 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon of pepper and the basil or tarragon, if you have it. When the butter is melted, add the greebeans, stir them well to coat them with butter, and heat them. STRAWBERRY SUNDAES ROMANOV (4 servings) 1 quart (1 big basket) strawberries 1 cup frozen raspberries, thawed 1/2 cup sugar 1/2 gallon vanilla ice cream Whipped cream (optional)

Early in the day, wash the strawberries and pull off the green stems. Place the frozen raspberries and the sugar in a blender and turn on the machine until they are smooth. If you don't have a blender, use a spoon to push the raspberries through a sieve. Then mix with the sugar. Pour the raspberry mixture over the strawberries and place in the refrigerator. At serving time, scoop vanilla ice cream into four dishes. Spoon strawberries over the ice cream. If you want to, you can top with whipped cream.