The Shared Labor of Love by Amy Cantu

Six and a half years ago, I called a huddle in the middle of my friend's kitchen with my bridesmaids. Our task: make 102 small jars of raspberry jam as favors for my upcoming wedding. The crazy voice in my head said, "This is noooooo problem. This is a completely reasonable task for your bridesmaids. Bridesmaids are just indentured servants right??? When else, (besides your wedding,) do you test the limits of your friendships?!" Yes, my inner-cuckoo was strong that day. Cartons upon cartons of raspberries were stacked up precariously around us, threatening to tumble down and bury us at any moment. I had never made jam before, let alone for 102 people, nor had I ever scaled a recipe to yield so many servings. What I did have were friends who clearly loved me enough to slave over a hot stove on a hot summer day to help me figure it all out. We churned out batch after batch of sweet, sticky, bright pink raspberry jam - each jar topped with a small square of floral fabric and painstakingly tied with a bit of ribbon. In that moment, I had never felt so loved by this group of friends who stood by me through all of my food-related (and non-food-related) drama, and again to bear witness to the love and happiness on my wedding day - the jam was truly a labor of love.

Once more, I found myself stirring together a big pot of jam, but this time with the help of much smaller hands. One of my besties had her seven year-old niece, Aaliyah, over for a visit, so together with my four year-old, Alex, we all gathered in the kitchen with a flat of peaches and a couple cartons of raspberries to make a yummy gift that Aaliyah could take home to her family. Raspberry Peach Jam and Buttermilk Biscuits! The kids couldn't wait to cover their hands in fruity goo! Their faces were wrought with deep concentration, as their little fingers nimbly peeled the skin from the peaches and scooped the flesh into a giant bowl. They giggled as the peach juices dribbled down their hands and arms and onto the counter. Again, my heart swelled with love, but this time because I was witnessing two small children learn the rewards of sharing and giving food with the generosity of their hearts.

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Raspberry Peach Jam

Easy Buttermilk Biscuits

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 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 Brunch by Cynthia Raub

Parenthood is terrifying. It’s incredibly fun, fulfilling, exhausting, as well as physically, mentally and emotionally taxing. I have two children, and I was a much better parent before I had kids of my own! So having multiple children does not make you an expert. (I actually have less of a grip on parenting now, than when I had one newborn.) When someone has a baby, I like to bring them a meal to say: 1) I’m here to hold (and smell) your baby, 2) I’m sorry you will never sleep the same again, and 3) Welcome to the tribe. A new friend had her first baby, and I wanted to bring her and her husband some yummies that could be enjoyed at several different temperatures (hot coffee and warm meals are impossible with a newborn). I wasn’t sure if they had a meal train set up for them, so I decided to play it safe and bring them brunch foods instead of a dinner meal. I made an all-occasion Swiss Chard and Leek Crostata - one of my standards that is always appropriate, delicious, and fool-proof. As luck would have it, Amy was experimenting with making yogurt and granola and wanted to contribute to the meal too!

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Swiss Chard and Leek Crostata

Olive Oil Granola

Homemade Yogurt

In the Kitchen Now - Salmon Cakes by Cynthia Raub

For Easter dinner, my husband Michael cooked a delicious and ginormous (11+ pounds) salt-crusted Atlantic salmon for our extended family. Needless to say, everyone was sent home with leftovers and we were eating salmon for days. The past week we have enjoyed: salmon with Israeli cous cous and roasted vegetables, salmon flaked on top of a bagel with whipped cream cheese, salmon on grilled toast with a fried egg... you get the picture. Once we whittled the container down to the last 1/2 pound, I checked in with my girl and (unbeknownst to her) mentor Ina Garten and she (and Google) recommended I make her Salmon Cakes. These beautifully browned, tender and flavorful cakes can be enjoyed as an appetizer, for brunch (with poached eggs, duh), or served with a salad for a meal. 

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Salmon Cakes

In the Kitchen Now - Lemon Ricotta Pancakes by Amy Cantu

Lemon Ricotta Pancakes

I might have a small obsession with lemon. So, if you see me cooking up a lot of lemon recipes, you'll know exactly why. I love the light, fruity tang that lemon adds to everything it touches. This morning, I woke up knowing exactly what I wanted to make for our Sunday breakfast - Lemon Ricotta Pancakes! These are ridiculously light and fluffy, but also soft and custardy from the ricotta. It's delicious!

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Lemon Ricotta Pancakes