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 Meatballs by Cynthia Raub


December. December is a wonderful month in theory - family and friend filled holidays and parties, extra well-wishes from strangers, and of course, all of the homemade baked goods. But in practice and despite December's great qualities, it's overwhelming, expensive and hectic. It’s nearly the end of January, and I feel like I have barely recovered from December’s flurry of activity. I hope to feel rested by March.

In December, I attended multiple potlucks organized by our family's preschool. My two daughters attend a parent participation, cooperative preschool that they adore and thrive in. Each family is scheduled and rotated for their turn to provide a snack for the class. We loved the idea of one family bringing a group snack for all of the children to share on a daily basis. The snack guidelines are balanced and nutritious: each snack includes a vegetable, fruit, grain, protein and dairy component. It's important to me for my children to try things from other households, that we wouldn't normally eat in our house. Conversely, I am always glad to bring a snack for the class and have another child try and enjoy something new from us. The convivial and group atmosphere is particularly wonderful around holidays. Before school was let out for winter break, both of my girls classes had potlucks in lieu of a normal snack day. On these potluck days, parents and siblings are welcome to stay for the class time and enjoy the food, festivities and school grounds. By the time I signed up for the potlucks, the most delicious kid-friendly choices were already spoken for: fruit salad, muffins, macaroni and cheese, and crudite. I noticed a lack of protein on both lists so I decided to make Swedish meatballs for both potluck parties.

Follow us to the recipes:

Swedish Meatballs

Meatballs with Tomato Sauce and Polenta