The Shared Japanese Fried Pork by Cynthia Raub

When I was a young child, my newly emigrated, single-Korean mom worked in a Japanese restaurant as a waitress. After a number of years, her entrepreneurial and fearless spirit lead her to open her own Japanese restaurant and karaoke bar, Tomiyoshi, in my hometown. I can still remember being driven to the back alley of her restaurant in our 1990 Toyota Camry, always double checking the locks before closing the car door, and then being hit with the funky odor of the alley, that only a Japanese restaurant, Mexican bakery and dollar store could make. I spent countless idle and restless hours waiting for the mid-day closing time, waiting for a ride, and/or waiting for a meal. In a day, I'd spend my time spinning around on the small parquet dance floor (that could only feasibly fit three enthusiastic dancers, one bored child, or a handful of slow-dancing lovers). Then I'd play in a dank closet "office", followed by whisking the teriyaki sauce as I'd walk by the low-lit burner. I might straighten up some place settings and push in a chair. Then, I'd tell my mom I was hungry and wait at the sushi bar for some food. These dishes, Tonkatsu and Katsudon are a couple of my favorite from that time and they bring back the best memories.

It's been nearly 20 (!!!) years since my carefree and hungry childhood at Tomiyoshi and less since my mom's Korean restaurant (which was much less carefree and much more laborious for me). The rewards of growing up in a restaurant are many, but mostly I am grateful for the early exposure to how delicious food and kind service can make people feel relaxed, happy, and satisfied. It's hard not to feel like the world is crumbling around us during these uneasy and volatile times, but I think that those fears and uncertainty can be quelled, even if momentarily, by a meal prepared with care and shared with those you love.

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The Shared Morning Pick-me-up by Amy Cantu

I always go a little crazy when I visit a farmer's market - three baskets of blueberries for a discount? OK! (For that matter, the same goes for Costco: I can totally use up the giant bag of carrots, no problem . . . or not.) I found myself lulled by all the fun produce recently, and with more blueberries than I could possibly expect my family to eat. Then I remembered that a friend had asked if we might post a recipe for blueberry muffins. My morning was instantly looking up! Even better? Cynthia had the brilliant idea to pair these bakery-worthy Blueberry Streusel Muffins with Cold Brew Coffee and Mint Syrup! Umm, yaaaas. If this doesn't solve that mid-morning slump, I don't know what will. (Dancing a sugar-fueled, caffeine-induced happy dance that thankfully no one can see but me! Weeeee!)

P.S. July 11th was National Blueberry Muffin Day, and in perfect mom-time, I missed it by one day. Still, I don't see why we can't celebrate Blueberry Muffin Day on July 12th or any other morning, where we might need a little goodie to make our day brighter! Happy Blueberry Muffin (every)Day!

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Blueberry Streusel Muffins

Cold Brew Coffee with Mint Syrup

The Shared BBQ Sides by Cynthia Raub

It's not summer until I've had my first bites of potato salad and cold pasta salad. Just like it's not Halloween, until I've had my yearly ration of a single Candy Corn (to remind myself that it's still not yummy). And just like it's not actually Thanksgiving, until I've had a slice of pumpkin pie and apple pie. The other week, I co-hosted a barbecue baby shower, and I made a tangy potato salad as a side. Amy helped me a ton by making a bright and fresh pasta for the mama-to-be and her 80 guests. I also served a classic cole slaw and featured a dessert table with an assortment of cookies! I used to be stumped with what to contribute to barbecues and summertime get togethers, but now I think I've got the formula down for a great party: something creamy (classic cole slaw), something with an abundance of fresh herbs (Amy's Pesto Pasta Salad) and something tangy and/or acidic (Mustardy Potato Salad). With fresh seasonal fruit, grilled meats, and a leafy salad, you've got the perfect menu for a delicious and thoughtful spread!

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Mustardy Potato Salad

Pesto Pasta Salad with Roasted Tomatoes

The Shared Holiday Barbecue by Amy Cantu

It finally feels like summer, and we love nothing more than to share big platters of delicious food with our family and friends! When we thought about our tried and true favorites, Cynthia's Mediterranean Turkey Burger came to mind immediately. These are my favorite kind of burgers - the kind that are filled with little bits of treasure. Nestled in these turkey burgers are feta crumbles, morsels of sun-dried tomato, and (for good measure,) tender spinach; there's enough good stuff tucked in there for adults to find these burgers irresistible, and nutritious enough to feel good about feeding them to the kids, (plus my kids love anything in patty-form)! For dessert, I couldn't resist the appeal of a big dish filled to the brim with layers of Polenta Cake with Olive Oil and Lemon, whipped mascarpone cream, and fresh berries - I feel happy just thinking about it. This Berry Trifle easily feeds a crowd and screams of summer parties on the patio, or even better, an Independence Day dessert, with its patriotic red, white, and blue hues.

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Mediterranean Turkey Burger 

Berry Trifle 

Polenta Cake with Olive Oil and Lemon

The Shared Slow-Roasted Pork by Amy Cantu

I paid the local butcher a visit with my 20 month-old, close to nap time. Bad move. My darling cherub was screaming and throwing snacks at passers-by, while I waited anxiously in line. When it was my turn, I quickly rattled off that I wanted a "big" pork shoulder and handed the butcher my credit card with an apologetic smile. I returned home with a 12 pound whole bone-in, skin-on, pork shoulder (a.k.a. The Beast). It was larger than a newborn baby. I cradled The Beast in my arms in awe. "Holy moly! What was I thinking?!" My husband opened the fridge that night and stood stunned in the face of The Beast. "Is this ours? Where did it come from?!" We stared at The Beast together. It was a thing to behold. "That there is Father's Day."

Cynthia and I were up to the challenge. Here's what we did with The Beast, and we hope you salivate and lust after it the same we did!

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Slow-roasted Pork with Crunchy Skin and Chimichurri Sauce

Pork and Broccolini Sandwich

The Shared Scones by Amy Cantu

I am not a morning person. I thought that perhaps having two small children that wake with the sun would cure me of this, but no. I am still not a morning person. There are few things in this world that will rouse me from the warm, cozy cocoon of my bed covers in a cheerful mood - these scones are on that short list. These are scones that I've been making since . . . well, since forever. I used to bake scones instead of studying for finals in college, and Ina Garten's The Barefoot Contessa Cookbook was my textbook of choice. Ina, in her hostess-with-the-mostest way, opened my eyes to a world of butter and flour that held my interest in a way that Economics never could. Fast forward more years than I care to admit, and I'm faced with a preschool bake sale. I'm tired. I'm always tired now (because I love to sleep and will never properly sleep in again). I reach really far back through the fuzzy cobwebs in my brain to the recipes I can reliably make even in a semi-conscious state, and I find these scones archived somewhere between "Econ 101" and "Accounting 101". I may not remember much about Econ anymore, but my hands still remember precisely how to shape and form these tender, buttery scones. Within the hour, the scent of butter and flour filled my nostrils with their heady scent - a smell worth waking up for. I can't ever decide if I want a sweet or savory scone, so of course there is one of each. These are tried and true and flew off the bake sale table in the blink of an eye.

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Rosemary-Cheddar Scones

Salted Maple-Oat Scones

The Shared Bi Bim Bap by Cynthia Raub

Last week, I was out of town for four nights to celebrate a dear friend's wedding and to accompany my husband on a work-related trip. For two nights, we celebrated our friends in idyllic Tiburon. For another two nights, my kids and I relaxed and played (while my husband worked) in Monterey, California. It was such a fun-filled getaway (and dare I say), it was luxurious. For those five days and four nights, I didn't have to shop, prep, cook, serve or clean up any meals! We ate in restaurants and hotels for the entire trip, and I was the most relaxed I've been in a long, long time. But, I started feeling sluggish on the third day, and I knew I had overindulged one too many times. (My kids, however, were very content to eat cheesy pasta and pizza for nearly every meal.) The morning after we got home, I went into a cooking rampage and roasted every vegetable we had, and cooked off pounds of brown rice and wheat berries. I threw them together for every meal since, and it only took a couple days to feel back to normal.

As soon as I got back, Amy left for a long weekend to Nashville to reconnect with friends, visit the sites, and EAT. So, to continue my healthy gut week and to support my friend when she gets back from a long weekend of food destinations and cocktails, I decided to make us Bi Bim Bap. Bi Bim Bap is a Korean mixed rice and vegetable dish that is completed with beef, a fried egg, and a sweet and spicy sauce. I hope that this light and nutritive surprise aided in the recovery of her overindulged tummy.

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Bi Bim Bap with Beef and Spicy Sauce

The Shared Plenty (More) by Cynthia Raub

I was not familiar with Yotam Ottolenghi until a fateful trip to Costco. I normally don't tempt myself with Costco's dizzying array of seasonal items, clothes, and books, but I had half an hour to kill, and I needed to cool my nonchalant visits to the sample stations. Immediately upon flipping through the Plenty More cookbook, I was struck by the beautiful and mixed ingredient dishes that reminded me so much of the foods I love to eat. Ottolenghi elegantly includes grains, legumes, vegetables, and plentiful herbs in most of his dishes, which also lends to a complex variety of temperatures and textures. I immediately tossed the book into my cart and went home to indulge in the tasty photography and accessible recipes. After mentioning my new cookbook purchase to Amy, she divulged that she recently bought Plenty by Chef Ottolenghi. We agreed to try a recipe from each of our books and swap them. It was one of the most delicious decisions we have made!

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Rice Salad with Nuts and Sour Cherries

Lentils with Broiled Eggplant