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!

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Enchiladas A La Gringa

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When it comes to Mexican food, I’m totally lost. I’m more literate in Italian cooking, but I realized that they are both very similar in spirit – focusing on comfort foods, made from fresh ingredients, and meant to be served family style. Yes, for this recipe I use a few short cuts, but these enchiladas taste pretty authentic to me!

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INGREDIENTS:

16 Small Corn Tortillas

1 Rotisserie Chicken (with juices)

1 Lime

1 1/2 Cups of Corn

1/4 Cup Queso Fresco

1 Cup Shredded Mozzarella

1/8 Cup Chopped Cilantro

I Can (4 ounces) of Diced Green Chiles

1  Can (19 ounces) of Las Palmas Green Chili Enchiladas Sauce

1/2 Tablespoon of Both Salt and Pepper

1/4 Tablespoon of Cayenne Pepper

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The biggest time savor to this recipe is grabbing a pre-cooked rotisserie chicken from the grocery store. It’s already cooked, super tender, has tons of flavor and no one has to know! Just pull apart the whole chicken removing any fatty bits and skin. Make sure the pieces are  bite size.

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Add chopped cilantro, canned green chiles, corn (fresh or canned works), the juice of one lime, salt, pepper, cayenne and 1/2 cup of the juices from the chicken. I like to let the mixture sit and marinate for about an hour if I have time – otherwise it’s ready to assemble as is. If the corn tortillas are a little dry or stiff just throw them in the microwave wrapped in a damp paper towel for 15 seconds.

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Take the corn tortillas, add a spoonful or two of the chicken mixture, top with a little mozzarella and roll.

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Line the enchiladas in a baking dish. A 10×15 dish can hold about 8.

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Cover the enchiladas with the green chili sauce. I like a lot of sauce to keep everything moist and fill the baking dish up about half way. I usually I prefer to make everything from scratch, but this canned enchilada sauce is so good I’m sticking with what’s simple.

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Sprinkle the top with mozzarella and queso fresco and pop into the oven for 15 minutes at 350 degrees. Remember everything is already cooked – the oven is just to heat everything up and make the cheese all brown and bubbly.

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What’s great about this recipe is you can prepare it in advance, and all you have to do it cook it for 15 minutes when you’re ready. I’m no Mexican chef, but I hope you enjoy my enchiladas a la gringa!

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Cinco de Mayo Margarita Bar!

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I thought a fun way to celebrate Cinco de Mayo was a do-it-yourself margarita bar, because let’s be honest – I can’t always be the hostess with the mostest – so make your own damn drink!

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I put out 3 different kinds of juice: classic lime, orange and grapefruit, and raspberries, blackberries, and lime slices as garnish.

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Can’t forget the tequila and Cointreau!

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I put out instructions for a classic margarita – but let my guests decide what fruit juice and garnish they’d like.

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Two combinations I liked were 1 ounce of lime juice and 2 ounces of grapefruit, mixed with both blackberries and limes.

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My other favorite was simply using orange juice with raspberries.

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I think mango and pineapple could be a fun addition to this margarita bar as well. What are some of your favorite margarita recipes?

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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Easy-Peasy Picnic

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I was so excited to go on a picnic with my friends this weekend. I normally would have loved to whip up some fun sandwiches and dips, but I was just too exhausted. Lucky my local grocery store came to the rescue!

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Instead of just grabbing sandwiches and calling it a day, finger foods from pretty much any market can make for a more fun and special meal. There’s no science to the perfect combination of food – see what’s fresh at the store and what you’re in the mood for!

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I chose 2 cheeses – a soft Bree and Humboldt fog goat cheese, 2 cured meats – prosciutto and salami, a crusty sourdough baguette, herb bread sticks, strawberries, sparkling water, mixed olives, a marinated artichoke, red pepper and mushroom salad and almonds.

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( I like that you can eat all of these items with your fingers )

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In addition to food some good things to pack are: plastic cups, napkins, cheese knives, a cutting board and sunscreen!

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Malibu Winery was the perfect escape for our picnic. What are other great spots?

The Garage Sale Guide

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Spring is a perfect time to host a garage sale: the weather’s warm and you can clean out your home of things you haven’t touched in the last year – or ten! My friend Kelsey is an expert garage saleist and sent me this list of tips. I found it extremely helpful and thought I would pass on her advice!

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1. SIGNS!! LOTS AND LOTS OF SIGNS! I’m putting this first for a reason. This is the #1 way people will find you.

o   Placement: I put them all the way up and down the busiest street near my house, in addition to our own street.

o   Hanging them: MUST use hammer and nails. Staple gun will NOT work. Don’t hang them until you are set up – people start coming immediately! I wait to hang them up at 7AM the morning of.

o   Making them: The best way to make them is with cardboard and craft paint. Keep them simple and consistent in color. Don’t really need address if you are good with the arrows. You could also put “at the end of (your street)”.

o    I always hang one up that says “Keep Going” so people didn’t think they are lost.

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2. Post on Craigslist a week before the sale and again the day before. List as many things as you can. Post some pictures of some interesting/big items you have. You might get a few emails about you posting too.

3. Price as many items as possible. People like to see prices on things. You will sell more. I just printed out labels on the computer (.25, .50, $1, $2 etc.) and started sticking them on everything.

4. You will need help. People always have questions, need help with something or are “checking out” with their purchases. Plus, even when no one is there, you’ll need to keep things neat, which brings me to my next point…

5. Keep things neat and organized. One table for household items, one for kitchen, etc. This kind of stuff on the ground does not sell as well. And nothing in boxes sells. Spread things out. I put a sheet down and put all the shoes out on the sheet – same with purses.

6. Hang as many clothes as you can! I hung all the nice stuff and folded the rest (t-shirts, jeans) on round tables like in a retail store. I also had a sign that said the clothing prices so I did not have to mark each item, although some jackets etc. were priced individually if they were worth more. I also sold a ton of clothes by “bundling”. Tell people that you’ll give them a deal if they buy a few things.

7. Have paper and plastic bags for people’s purchases.

8. Speak up! If someone is looking at something and it appears they are interested, tell them “I’ll give that to you for $10!”

9. Candles melt in the sun.

10. People LOVE LOVE LOVE jewelry, but keep it close to you. People also steal jewelry. I always sell out of jewelry.

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11. People buy everything. Don’t be afraid to put anything out there. I’m telling you….everything.

12. Use signs at the sale. I also put signs on the kitchen table “Set of Four Champagne glasses – $3” or “Set of 6 Coca-Cola Mugs – $5″

13. Start with some change. I always had a bunch of $1, $5 and quarters to start with. I wore an apron to keep the money organized and on me at all times. Then I just took $20s in the house as we collected more money so I didn’t have a ton in our pockets.

14. WATCH OUT FOR FAKE MONEY. If someone offers to buy something with $100 bill or even a bunch of $20s, don’t be afraid to check it. People use counterfeit money ALL THE TIME at garage sales.

15. Don’t be afraid to tell people NO if they are not willing to give you a fair price.

Hope these tips help you as much as they helped me! Thanks Kelsey!

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.

All Tied Up

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I finally decided to hang my curtains- and stop giving my neighbors a show. I needed a way to tie them back but didn’t want to use tasseled ropes because it seemed so formal. My solution was both affordable and girly: Grosgrain ribbon.

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Grosgrain is a heavy ribbon made from silk or nylon with ribs. I used one that was about 3″ wide, and cut two pieces 2 yards long.

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I secured the ribbon on the wall behind the curtains with a staple gun.

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And tied back my curtains.

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Remember when tying bows and square knots, left over right and right over left.

A Little Bit Country

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This weekend I flew home to Sacramento to celebrate my baby sister’s 16th birthday. My mom and I whipped together some fun country-themed decorations with the help of Rustic Event Rentals. They supply great custom accents for any occasion. Check them out at: http://www.facebook.com/RusticEventRentals

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Some sand blasted glass jars, tied with burlap and twine made the perfect country lanterns.

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We used these colorful cowboy hats as both party favors and as garland to decorate!

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My favorite inside-tip from the girls at Rustic Events was the cowboy boot center pieces!

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All you have to do is place a regular glass jar or vase inside a cowboy boot.

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Just add water and flowers!

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Yes, that is a mechanical bull– what country-themed party would be complete without one?

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So, my sister insisted on having Taco Bell to serve for dinner.

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Rustic Event Rentals provided the cutest wooden containers to display all the tacos and burritos.

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It was a great way to feed hungry teenagers!

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Chalkboards are an instant way to personalize an event.

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I loved all different shapes and sizes and scattered them around the party.

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Other decorations were simple items we found around the house – like jean jackets.

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The party was definitely a success thanks to Rustic Event Rentals! Thank you for some great ideas and supplies!

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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