The Shared Summer Picnic by Amy Cantu

I packed for efficiency and speed, with each item carefully curated: one carry-on suitcase filled with just enough clothes for the number of days I would be away on my girls' trip, no liquids in bottles over four ounces (so as to not anger the TSA gods,) slip-on shoes for the security line, boarding pass pre-printed and tucked neatly into the front pocket of my small travel purse, (no kids = no giant tote bag masquerading as a purse to hold the ten snacks, extra diaper, wipes, and water bottles). I tapped my foot nervously. I have not been away from the kids for five days EVER. I both wanted to bolt out the door and also start feigning illness to get out of going. Of course in this moment, their cherub faces were adorable and their good-bye hugs tugged at my heart strings. Can I do this? Can I be someone other than "mom" for the next five days? Yes. Yes, I can. I gathered up my littles for one last squeeze and pulled the door shut behind me. I could hear them wailing on the other side of the door, and my husband holding them back. "Maaaamaaaaa! MAMA!" I flinched and kept on walking. Five days. Five days of feeling like an individual again, releasing myself from the worry, guilt, and refereeing of small children . . . and also missing those same small children like crazy.

What does a getaway girls' trip have to do with a shared summer picnic? It's all about balance - in cooking and in life. If there's one thing that I've learned (and continue to learn), it's that too much of anything is just that: too much. I felt torn as I left for that trip, but when I returned, I felt renewed and ready to wrestle with the boys and cook for everyone again. This summer picnic is a metaphor for that revelation - a vibrant salad filled with summer vegetables and protein-packed beans balanced with a luscious, rich chocolate pudding. It's a picnic that is both nourishing for the body and nourishing for the soul because really, we all need a little of both to center ourselves in a world that too often feels so one-sided and stressful. When Cynthia and I shared this meal with each other, I just thought, how lucky are we to be able to balance our mom-lives with the love and passion we have for sharing food. I hope this Bean Salad and Easy Chocolate Pudding bring some much needed harmony into your lives too.

Follow us to the recipes:

Two Bean Summer Salad

Easy Chocolate Pudding

The Shared Lunch by Amy Cantu

white bean soup and kale salad

Winter was already well underway, when Cynthia, our friend Christine, and I huddled together in my unusually quiet kitchen. We were lucky enough to have grandparents watching the kids, so we had a whole afternoon at our disposal - it felt positively luxurious. So what to cook? We wanted to somehow redeem ourselves from all of our gluttonous holiday eating, but also eat food that would combat the cold, drizzly weather outside. So, we settled on a little bit of each: a bountiful kale salad and also a hearty, white bean soup. I am convinced that the kale with all it’s well-touted vitamins and antioxidants reversed the damage of eating more than my fair share of deep-fried turkey, honey ham, tamales, and cheesecake at not one, but TWO Christmas dinners. Well, that’s what I’m telling myself anyway. Add that to this soul-warming white bean soup that manages to pack its own healthy dose of good-for-you veggies, while still tasting unctuous and rich. Beyond any purported health benefits of said soup and salad, what really struck me on this otherwise gray, frigid day, was how filled with joy I felt spending a leisurely afternoon cooking, sharing, and enjoying lunch with Cynthia and Christine. I love how cooking with and for others has taught us to be generous with our recipes and each other - sharing a nourishing meal that ushered in a little extra warmth during these cold winter months.

Follow us to the recipes:

White Bean Soup with Wilted Greens

Kale Salad with Butternut Squash and Cheddar