Grilled Artichokes

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It’s artichoke season! March through May is the most popular time for artichokes and I try and get my hands on as many as possible! These spiky little green balls can be intimidating at first, but are so delicious once you figure out the best way to cook them. One of my favorite ways is to grill them.

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Harvesting artichokes is really easy using gardening sheers – you just cut right through the stem. The stem is one of the best parts of an artichoke so I like to cut about 4 inches down from the bulb.

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The hardest part of cooking artichokes is cleaning and prepping them – but it really just comes down to four steps.

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STEP 1: Slice them in half. I like to take the point of a large sharp knife in the stem at the base of the bulb and cut through the whole choke first, then the stem.

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STEP 2:  Cut off the hard top of each leaf with scissors.

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STEP 3: Scoop out the center of the artichoke with a spoon. Remove the hairy fibers covering the heart and the inner purple spiny leaves. Be careful not to take out pieces of the heart but still be firm with the spoon.

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STEP 4: Peel the stem using a normal vegetable peeler until it turns bright green.

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Once the artichoke is prepped immediately place in a pot of water with lemons to keep it green. Boil artichokes for about 25 minutes until the heart is fork tender and the outer leaves can easily be pulled off.

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Drain the artichokes and pat them dry with paper towels to remove and access moister. Cover with coarse black pepper and sea salt.

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Grill face down on high heat for 3-5 minutes and serve!

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These grilled artichokes go great with a lemon Dijon aioli dipping sauce. Simply combine: 1 cup of mayonnaise, 1/2 cup of Dijon Mustard, the juice of one lemon and salt and pepper. Enjoy!

Sauteed Zucchini with Cherry Tomatoes and Basil

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I hated zucchini my whole life – all squash for that matter. My boss gave me some huge zucchini from her garden and I had no idea what to do with them but didn’t want to say ‘no thanks’. I decided to mix it with my favorite vegetable- tomato, and my favorite herb – basil, thus starting my obsession with zucchini!

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INGREDIENTS:

2 Cups Cherry Tomatoes

2 Medium Zucchini

1/4 Cup Chopped Basil

1 Tablespoon of Butter

2 Chopped Garlic Cloves

1 Teaspoon of Cayenne Pepper

Salt & Pepper to Taste

First chopped the basil, slice the cherry tomatoes in half and the zucchini into 1/4 inch wide slices.

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Melt butter on high heat and add the zucchini. Sprinkle with cayenne pepper and garlic.

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Sautee for about five minutes until the zucchini is tender and slightly browned.

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Add tomatoes until they are heated through, about 3 minutes. And finally add the basil for the final minute.

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Now that all the veggies are warm and tender they are ready to serve. This salad can stand alone, or be served along side a protein like my whole grain mustard salmon…

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or tossed with pasta. You decide!

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Budget Bouquets

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These homemade arrangements are so easy make, and would make the perfect centerpiece for a bridal or baby shower.

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I found these adorable pantry jars at Marshalls for under $4 to use as the vases.

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These ranunculi and viburnum from my local farmers market made this arrangement look both rustic and elegant. I love the bright green and pink color combination.

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No need for a florist! These budget bouquets were less than $15 dollars each and were a huge hit.

Extra Versitile Olive Oil

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I love finding new uses for my glass jars and bottles! This bright green bottle used to contain extra virgin olive old from California Olive Ranch. As you know, I use olive oil pretty frequently when I cook, so I didn’t have to wait long to decorate my home with the bottle!

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One way to use this bottle was as a dish soap container. After thoroughly cleaning the bottle, pour in regular dish soap with a splash of water to make it less dense. Top the bottle with a pour spout that you can purchase for under $5.

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Another more obvious way to re-purpose this bottle is as a vase. I filled it with some fresh lavender from my yard and it really made my room look and smell like spring.

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Have a great weekend everyone!

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Quest for the Perfect Cafe Table: Rose Bowl Flea Market

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For the first time in my adult life I have a backyard! (well in reality a 3×6 foot balcony). But it’s just enough space for some flower boxes, herbs and potted tomato plants. What was missing was seating to enjoy it all.

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I searched all the usual places: Target, Bed Bath and Beyond, Craigslist¬†– I wasn’t impressed. I fell in love with a perfect garden table at a store on Montana but it was $400. Finally I found this adorable metal cafe table and chairs at the famous Rose Bowl Flea Market for $100. Not cheap, but still a great deal.¬† It’s the perfect addition to my ‘backyard’.

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This flea market is enormous. You can find vintage clothes, antique furniture, old records, estate sale jewelry – pretty much anything you could possible imagine. It’s open the second Sunday of the month. Don’t miss out this weekend! My next search will be for some cute upholstered stools to put by my fire place. I found this photo from http://thetwinsfashionblog.wordpress.com – check it out for more information on the market.

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I thought this lantern from Cost Plus World Market (www.worldmarket.com) was a great accessory for the table. I can’t wait to have a dinner date out here on a warm spring night!