Friday, May 13, 2011


I remember the day I had my first artichoke.  I was 16 and at my boyfriend's (future hubby's) house and he cooked steaks, mashed potatoes and artichokes.  I'm not gonna lie, I was nervous!  If your not familiar with an artichoke they can be very intimidating.  After spending a few minutes teasing me he showed me how to eat an artichoke.   I quickly decided it was one of my favorite things to eat, super yummy and fun to eat!  I have spent the last 10 years eating artichokes every chance I get and I have made them all kinds of different ways.
Since it took me 16 years to discover an artichoke I figured not everyone knows about how great they are, or you too are slightly intimidated by them!  This is why restaurants are able to charge $18 or more for a grilled artichoke!  CRAZY!  So, I have put together a little instruction guide on how to do artichokes at home.  There are a bunch of different ways to cook them, but this is my recent favorite.

What you need:
2 artichokes, the more closed the artichoke the better
2 lemons
3 garlic cloves
2 bay leaves
Olive Oil
This is what they look like

First you need to cut off about 1 1/2 inches from the top (depending on the size of your artichoke), you want to get rid of most of the thorns.  Then cut the end of the stem, and use a potato peeler to peal the outside layer off of the stem.  Then pick off any artichoke leaves on stem, and I normally take the outer most leaves off as well.  Then you can use scissors to trim any leaves that still have their thorns.
  They will look like this:
Now its time to boil them!  You need a big pot of salted water.  Use the potato peeler to peel the zest off of your lemons, add zest as well as lemon juice to water.  Also add the whole garlic cloves and bay leaves.  They will need to boil for about 25 minutes.  You will know its done when you can take off a leaf and eat it by using your top teeth to scrape off the "meat" from bottom of the inside of the leaf.  Test a leaf and allow to boil longer if needed.
This is what they will look like boiling (the water is cloudy because of the lemon juice)
When they are done boiling they are ready to eat!  Because you boiled them in such well seasoned and yummy water the artichokes are great to eat on their own, or dipped in your favorite sauce (see below for a new favorite of mine!)  If you want to take them to the next level keep reading for how to make grilled artichokes!

So, now that your artichokes have been boiled and you have pulled them out of the water, slice them in half.  Use a spoon to carve out the "choke" and the itty bitty thorny leaves in the center.
The one on the right is what it looks like sliced in half, the left has the choke and leaves removed.
Now brush both sides with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper!
Put these on a hot grill for about 3 minutes per side (or until you have some nice grill marks).  This just adds a nice smokey flavor!  So yummy!

Size of basil, zest and shallots for sauce
For Lemon Basil Aioli dipping sauce:
4 tablespoons mayonnaise
1 shallot diced super fine
Finely grated zest from 1/2 lemon
1 tablespoon lemon juice
2 teaspoons white wine vinegar
3 tablespoons chopped basil
Salt & Pepper to taste

Place the shallots, lemon zest, juice, vinegar and salt into bowl and let sit for about 3 minutes (or longer).  Then add in the mayonnaise and basil stirring it all together.  Taste and add salt and pepper as necessary.

Now you are ready to eat!!  I know it seems like a lot of instructions and a lot of work.  It isn't, I promise!!  These are so yummy and make a great presentation as well!

And now just for are some pictures of Connor (my now 4 1/2 year old) enjoying his first artichoke at 7 months!  I was determined not to let him live 16 years without one like his mama!!


5 Minutes to Awesome Garlic Bread

I am a strong believer in making everything you serve taste great!  This may seem obvious, but I find so often people don't take the time to taste what they are making and season it properly, or they make some delicious chicken, but the side dishes are boring or missing something.  It has happened to me on many occasions, I spend so much time on the main dish that I run out of time for the others...oops!  So, I have mastered making delicious and very simple garlic bread in almost no time at all.  I hope you like it too!!

1 loaf french bread
1/2 stick butter, super soft-but not melted
3-4 garlic cloves, chopped and mashed super fine
1/4 cup parmesan cheese
1/4 cup mozzarella cheese
1/2 tsp salt
A couple grinds of pepper

Slice your bread in half length wise, and put cut side up on a cookie sheet.  In a bowl use a fork to mash together butter, garlic, parmesans, salt and pepper.   Smooth butter mixture completely over the bread.  Sprinkle with the mozzarella cheese and put into oven at 350 for about 2 minutes to warm it up.  Then turn the broiler on and let the cheese melt and turn golden brown, and the bread will crisp up!  (Watch carefully the broiler will go from perfect to burnt in seconds :)  Pull the bread out and slice it!

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Grilled Peppers and Sausage Rigatoni

Monday night I was way behind on making dinner, and Casey was home.  When he is home I normally like to make something that he is going to love and be excited to eat since we don't get to eat as a family very often with his CRAZY schedule!!  Since Casey loves a little spicy in pretty much everything I decided to make some pasta with some spicy sausage.  I grilled the sausage and some bell pepper and the flavor from the grill added so much to the pasta.  We all loved it!  Casey and I loved it even more paired with a beautiful Pinot Noir :)

1 lb hot Italian sausage
2 red bell peppers
Tomato Sauce (about 24 oz homemade or 1 jar)
4 oz fresh mini mozzarella balls, quartered
1/2 cup chopped basil
1 lb rigatoni pasta
Olive Oil
Salt & Pepper

Put a pot of SALTED water on the stove to boil.  Slice the sides off of the bell peppers and toss them with a little olive oil, with salt and pepper.  Grill the bell peppers along with the sausages on the bbq.  Let the bell peppers get some nice grill marks and get soft.  Grill sausages until they are cooked through.  Cook pasta according to directions on the box.  Slice the grilled sausages and cut up the grilled peppers.  When pasta is done, drain water and toss with the tomato sauce.  Add in the sausage, bell peppers, mozzarella balls and basil.  Toss it all together and serve.