The Shared Packed Lunch by Cynthia Raub

Today was Olivia's first day of Junior Kindergarten at her beloved cooperative preschool. She has attended for two years as a preschooler and is now advancing to the next class that prepares her for kindergarten. Since her first preschool year, she would constantly ask when it would be her turn to be with the big kids in "JK". I'd giggle and tell her that she had to wait two more years. Last year I told her, "Only one more year . . . " and now the day is here. Somehow, I'm still unprepared for this year to start. We've been counting down the years and this summer we had counted down the days. Our family has made incredible friends and developed a strong sense of community with the children and parents at our school. I don't want to get too far ahead of myself, but I'm especially emotional that the year has begun because that means the year will end. That will mean my children are a year older, everyone will move onto their new schools and my friendships with invested and like-minded parents will be a little more difficult to maintain. But also, this year will be filled with the special traditions and milestones we have been looking forward to for the past two years.

This year is extra special for Olivia and me because this is the first time she will bring her own lunch to school. During meals throughout the summer, Olivia would exclaim that she LOOOOVED something she's eating and asked if I would pack it for her lunch in her new class. Together, we started a journal of all of her food ideas. This lunchbox of Orecchiette with Roasted Broccoli was first on her list, and she paired it with strawberries and nectarines. I added the small Nutella sandwich with sprinkles as a surprise for this special day, (she drew it in the picture and called it her "dream lunch"- how could I not oblige this small request?) Much like the special traditions the preschool has held for 70+ years, I hope both my girls will want to continue to collaborate with me on their school lunches for the years to come.

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Orecchiette with Roasted Broccoli

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

In The Kitchen Now: Roasted Eggplant and Pickled Beet Sandwich by Cynthia Raub

roasted eggplant and pickled beet sandwich

Eggplant. Does that word entice you or does it make you shudder and gag? What about pickled beets? Is that sexy-talk or nightmare city? Eggplant doesn't regularly show up in my shopping basket at the market, but when I saw this recipe on my Facebook feed, my interest was piqued and I began to crave it. I picked up a few small, taut and shiny aubergines and headed home to my multiple jars of pickled beets. Yes, multiple (very large) jars of pickled beets- courtesy of Costco and my BUY ALL THE PICKLES! tic that acts up for every shopping trip. This sandwich is complex in flavor but not in preparation or cooking. The roasted eggplant is deeply luscious and sweet; the beets and herbs are bright and merry, and the sherry-garlic mayonnaise is a punchy creamy spread that deliciously pools in the crannies of the bread. This messy and loose vegetable sandwich delivers so much flavor despite it's very humble ingredients.

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Roasted Eggplant and Pickled Beet Sandwich

The Shared Pizza and Salad by Amy Cantu

My kid was begging me to have pizza for lunch. Normally I would probably try to distract him and get him to forget about his request, but this day I saw a fun opportunity for us to bond over mixing together the stretchy pizza dough and scattering toppings over the crust. Also, I am obsessed with this recipe for Broccoli Cooked Forever and all the different ways that I can eat it. Why not on pizza??? The soft, umami-rich broccoli gets smeared all over the pizza crust and topped with stretchy, milky fresh mozzarella and shards of sharp and nutty parmesan. Yes. I want to eat that. Even the kid wants to eat that! This easy-peasy recipe for pizza dough makes enough for two crusts, so for pie #2, we dug around the fridge and found a good nub of fontina, a small chunk of red onion, a package of Canadian bacon, and some grape tomatoes. Last (but not least), this shared pizza meal needed a crunchy salad and some good friends to make it complete. Luckily, we had the makings for both!

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Pizza Two Ways

Broccoli Cooked Forever

Pancetta Caesar Salad