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The best thing I ate in L.A.

Last summer we spent a week in L.A. while my daughter went to a design camp in West Hollywood. I absolutely loved this trip because that city is jam-packed with things to do! Some highlights for me were Santa Monica beach area and pier, seeing a concert at the Hollywood Bowl, running and hiking at Runyon Canyon, Griffith Observatory, and a day in Malibu! It was interesting to feel like we were in the center of everything because that's where movies are filmed and celebrities live...just a different vibe for sure!

I enjoy visiting cities that have a strong healthy lifestyle culture. Phoenix is one of those places (we ate the BEST vegan food there) and Los Angeles is another one. In L.A. everybody's walking around in the sunshine wearing Alo workout gear, carrying green juice in to-go cups and looking like the very essence of vibrant health and good energy. That motivates me to come back home and recreate that lifestyle here.

My daughter's design camp was at the Pacific Design Center and the first day, we grabbed lunch at a nearby restaurant called Urth Cafe. Dining al fresco in that glorious California sunshine that day, I ate the best meal I would have on that trip...a mediterranean plate!

As you can see, it was made up of Tabouli (with pearl couscous), falafel, artichoke hearts, stuffed grape leaves, roasted red peppers, green and purple olives and hummus. The plate is finished off with a slice of block feta, some olive oil and a sprig of fresh dill. It was SO good!...and I have not forgotten about this dining experience!

I decided I wanted to recreate the Mediterranean plate for my family for dinner at home recently. Instead of falafel, I made my own original lamb meatball recipe (which I will share below), and a pearl couscous tabouli salad that I threw together without a recipe, just based on what I thought would be good. I'll share that (kind of) recipe below as well.

Well, how do you think I did? What would you have included in a plate like this?

Lauren's Lamb Meatballs

1 shallot

2 cloves garlic

2 slices bread (white or wheat, I always use gluten-free)

1 cup chopped pecans

2 lbs ground lamb

1 8 oz container feta cheese

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

In a food processor, blend shallot, garlic, bread and pecans until finely ground.

In a large mixing bowl, use your hand to combine the ground lamb, feta cheese and pecan mixture.

Form meat mixture into golfball sized balls and place on a parchment paper lined roasting pan,

Bake for 18-20 minutes or until no longer pink in the middle (cut into the biggest one after 18 minutes to check).

El Matador State Beach, Malibu, CA

Pearl Couscous Tabouli Salad (kind of) Recipe

2 cups pearl couscous (cooked by package instructions)

lots of olive oil to drizzle, maybe 3/4-1 cup

juice of 1/2-1 lemon (depending on how lemony you want it)

1 clove garlic, minced

1 cucumber, peeled and diced

2 tomatoes, diced

Chopped dill, however much you like

handful of chopped fresh spinach leaves

salt and pepper to taste

Combine all ingredients in a decorative bowl and stir to combine. Flavors will really come out if you cover and store in the fridge for a while. If it's too dry after time in the fridge, you could add a bit more olive oil.

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