Grilled Baby Artichokes and an Awesome Cheese Board

Are you grilling for Memorial Day? Try these delicious grilled baby artichokes! Because they are small and tender, they do not have to be parboiled or steamed before throwing on the grill. I am also sharing some tips for creating an awesome cheese, nut and fruit board, in case you will be entertaining. (Or just like cheese, like me.)

grilled baby artichokes

Disclaimer: This post was sponsored by Melissa’s Produce who supplied many of the ingredients free of charge. The recipes, post and opinions are my own. You might remember Melissa’s Produce from my posts on Butternut Squash, Chick Peas and Black Rice with a Clementine Shallot Vinaigrette and Chestnut Tart with Fresh Winter Fruit (GF, Vegan, Low Sugar). I didn’t hesitate when Robert from Melissa’s reached out and asked if I wanted to try some of their latest products, like Clean Snax and the baby artichokes, and seasonal, exotic fruit and nuts.

cheese and nut plate with clean snax

First, the artichokes! I grew up in the Carmel/Monterey area on the Central Coast of California, which is the perfect climate for artichokes. I still remember eating the grilled artichokes at the Rio Grill in Carmel, and it’s been at least 15 years. They were slightly charred, and dripping in olive oil, garlic and salt. I actually had been wanting to grill artichokes for awhile, and was excited to see the baby artichokes from Melissa’s. Cutting into them, it was fascinating to see that some had no choke at all, and some had a little to cut out.

baby artichokes

Robert included Melissa’s new Hollandaise sauce, which made a tasty dipping sauce, along with our family’s favorite: balsamic yogurt. Other classics to try would be melted butter or garlic aioli. My mom used to do a semi-homemade take on aioli with garlic, lemon juice and mayonnaise. The full recipe for grilled baby artichokes and balsamic yogurt sauce are at the end of the post. We used the same olive oil, garlic and thyme, to dress a chicken my husband rotisserie-grilled, which completed our meal.

grilled baby artichokes with hollandaise and balsamic yogurt sauce

Now for the cheese board….

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7 Ways to Celebrate Strawberry Season

To celebrate Papa Bird’s birthday this year, the four of us went strawberry picking again. Strawberries are in peak season and are super sweet. We picked a flat of strawberries and enjoyed them every which way in the week that followed. Here is a round-up of ways to celebrate strawberry season.

organic u-pick strawberries from suisie's farm

First: Go strawberry picking!

strawberry picking at suzie's farm

Susie’s Farm is still our favorite place to pick. The berries are organic and a super sweet variety (Albion.) The above flat was $36. We also met up with some of Little Bird’s friends since she was a little baby. My mama tribe has such a close place in my heart. We are all so busy these days, so it was nice to reconnect with a few.

My heart just about melted seeing Little Bird running with two of her friends… and “Littler Bird” chasing after them.

2. Strawberry, Dark Chocolate and Brie Grilled Cheese

strawberry, dark chocolate and brie grilled cheese

Melt a little butter on a griddle or pan, add bread layered with thick slices of brie cheese, sliced strawberries, and shaved dark chocolate. Top with another piece of bread, flip and enjoy the messy, gooey, tangy warmth.

 

3. Strawberry Balsamic Pizza

strawberry balsamic pizza

The farm stand at Suzie’s had par-baked flatbread from Sadie Rose, which made me think semi-homemade pizza would be an easy dinner. I didn’t yet have the strawberry jam made, but inspired by the recipe in the link, I cooked down a cup of ripe strawberries, balsamic vinegar and sriracha for the sauce. Yum!

4. Top and fill a cake with strawberries

chocolate cake with strawberries

Little Bird loves baking as much as me. For Papa Bird’s birthday we made a chocolate sponge cake with chocolate orange buttercream frosting. Can you guess how old he turned? The filling was strawberry jam and whipped cream. Other cakes just begging for strawberries: Baby Bird’s Healthy Smash Cake, and Tres Leches.

5. Strawberry Shortcake and (healthier) Chia Strawberry Shortcake Parfait

Chia Strawberry Shortcake Parfait with Very Vanilla Pudding

We took slightly sugared, sliced strawberries up to my sister’s along with shortcakes and cream. It was easy to assemble traditional strawberry shortcakes and a sweet way to celebrate my niece’s birthday.

For a slightly healthier take, try this parfait version which features vanilla chia pudding. If you are mindful of the sugar you add, it easily doubles as both breakfast and dessert.

 

 

6. low-sugar strawberry jam

canning strawberry jamSugar helps fruit break down and get softer, but is not necessary for preserving. If you cook the fruit long enough, it will still get soft. You can also use honey, or another sweetener. Pectin isn’t needed, either! Using super sweet berries, all you need is a little lemon juice. This year I overcame my fear of my steam canner, and canned for the first time.

7. green strawberry pickles

green strawberry picklesIf you love the idea of adding home-fermented foods to your diet, green strawberry pickles are an easy way to start. My kids like them, too.

Here’s a bonus way to try them: Strawberry Salmon Salad with Green Strawberry Pickles.

Canning the pickles and jam is a classic way to extend strawberry season. Having produce preserved is a great way to enjoy produce at its peak all year round.

How do you like to enjoy strawberry season?

Please share your ideas and link your recipes in the comments!

 

For Sale: Ocah Full Buckle Baby Carrier, Didymos Black and White Indio Wrap Conversion

Now that the littlest Baby Bird is running most of the time, I’m selling our much loved Ocah full buckle baby carrier, so that another family can enjoy it. This “Ocah” is a wrap conversion, made from an organic cotton Didymos black and white Indio wrap. Wrap conversions are made from wraps that are especially woven to be worn with babies, and to be soft and supportive. With a high level of attention to detail, Ocah is one of the very best converters. Operating out of England, custom spots are in high demand and the costs of shipping oversees and back can add up.

black and white indio ocah full buckle conversion for sale

Here is the description from the maker:

I am so pleased with how this Ocah Full Buckle carrier (OFB) has worked out. The Wrap used for this carrier is a Didymos Black and White Indio.  This is custom sized at 17″ tall and 18.5″ wide. It comes with a Pixie style sleephood, leg padding, arms out padding, matching chest strap,  and it has additional top stitching on the waist.

pixie hood black and white indio wrap conversion

You can see more pictures in a full feature of this wrap conversion on the Ocah blog here.

We bought this full buckle wrap conversion to be an easy to wear, but comfy, carrier, primarily for my husband. The custom-sized panel is wider than Ocah usually makes them. However, both my skinny/tall girls were still comfy. My husband is 6’2″ and I am 5’2″ and we both found it comfortable for wearing. We bought it second hand. The German-made wrap must have been perfectly broken-in and soft, but in excellent condition, when it was converted. The woman I bought it from (via the babywearer.com) only used it a few times. We didn’t end up using it much, because both my husband and I ended up having other carriers as our “favorites.” But this one has the adorable pixie hood, and is a good size for either small babies or bigger toddlers. We used Red Charlotte Suck Pads to protect against baby drool with our first, but the second left some drooly marks. I use super gentle detergent. They may or may not come out if you clean more aggressively. Detail picture of the stains available upon request. 

For the condition, asking $250 cash for local pick-up in San Diego. Message me for a quote for US or international shipping. For reference, having a carrier made with these features would cost £282 (approximately US $428) NOT including the cost of the wrap or shipping it to England. And not at all factoring in the time you might spend stalking a custom slot.

Send me a message here if you are interested in trying it on:

Additional information:

Our home is smoke-free, and until very recently was pet-free. We now have a cat, but the carrier hasn’t been used since she joined our home, and has been stored in a room she does not go in. Perfume-free and scent-free home, too. Links to buy/sell/trade feedback on the babywearer.com and FB available by request.

Dark Chocolate Almond Lace Cookies (Copy Cat Recipe)

Dark Chocolate Almond Lacy Cookie (Trader Joe's Copy Cat Recipe)

I wanted to share how delicious these crisp, chewy toffee cookies turned out. I love the Dark Chocolate Almond Lacey Cookies from Trader Joe’s. So when Little Bird insisted we do a mommy-daughter baking project during Baby Bird’s nap yesterday, we tried out this copy cat recipe featuring a honey toffee and orange zest.

We used this recipe from My Jerusalem Kitchen with local honey. We made them exactly as written with a few small changes. I think they taste better than the store-bought. The orange zest and cinnamon add more levels of flavor. The store-bought can be pretty addicting, but these went really quick!

My notes on making Dark Chocolate Almond Lace Cookies:

  1. We used Trader Joe’s Almond Meal in place of the finely chopped almonds. The recipe still worked great and it was a convenient swap.
  2. I baked them on silicone mats instead of parchment paper. Again, worked well and a reusable option.
  3. We made the sandwich version with melted chocolate in the middle. Our yield was a dozen sandwich cookies. I might double the recipe if making to share.
  4. Please use organic citrus anytime you are zesting or otherwise eating peel. p.s. Our orange tree smells AMAZING right now!

Dark Chocolate Almond Lacy Cookie (Trader Joe's Copy Cat Recipe)

Rugelach

First: I’m an aunt again! My baby birds are now “big cousins” to a little girl. Congratulations to my sister, Marjorie, and brother-in-law, Sam!! Now, rugelach… Rugelach is a Jewish cookie made with a cream cheese pastry dough, and rolled with brown sugar, nuts, cinnamon, and anything else you like. These rugelach include chocolate chips.

Rugelach recipe from Baby Birds Farm

This rugelach recipe comes from my mom and has been perfected for over 20 years. For most of those years she has lead the baking for the Jewish Food Festival in Carmel, for which she and a team make 2000+ pieces in small batches each year. When a recipe has been made several hundred times, you know that it is tried and true.

jewish food festival brideHere I am with my dad, circa age 15, in a mock wedding from the era of “Fiddler on the Roof” at the Jewish Food Festival.

Random trivia: My cousin Rachel has had many nicknames over the years, but “Rugelach” is one of the earliest.

This recipe freezes really well. My mom will pre-cut a roll, but leave one layer of the roll intact, so that it stays together as a log. Then you can pull it out, cut the rest of the way,  and bake any time you have a craving. The cookies don’t even have to defrost before baking.

This chocolate chip version is tasty, but I love the simple brown sugar, cinnamon and nuts original the best.

Tried and true rugelach recipe, been perfected over 1,000s of times.

Rugelach
 
Author:
Recipe type: Dessert
Cuisine: Jewish
Cook time:
Total time:
 
Like my great-grandmother's matzo ball soup, this recipe was originally published in 1994 in a synagogue cookbook. The rugelach recipe was submitted by Joyce Kurtz, with additional tips by Diana Rosenthal.
Ingredients
  • ½ pound (8 ounces) butter
  • ½ pound (8 ounces) cream cheese
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1 cup walnuts (chopped fine)
  • cinnamon, to taste, or mini chocolate chips
Instructions
  1. Cream butter and cream cheese and gradually add flour. Roll into a ball and chill overnight.
  2. Divide ball into 2 pieces and roll each into an ⅛ inch oblong. Mix the brown sugar, nuts and cinnamon and liberally spread the mix on the dough. Roll jelly roll fashion.
  3. Cut ¾ inch slices and bake on a silicone mat at 350* for 20 minutes, or until brown and bubbling.
Notes
Nuts chopped fine with a food processor and mini chocolate chips are preferred as bigger chips or nuts will tear the dough when rolling up the logs.