Crispy Black Cod with Uni {Sea Urchin} Risotto

Black Bass with Uni Risotto

Crispy Black Cod over Uni Risotto.

You need this in your life. You really, REALLY do.

And the truth of the matter is, we made this incredibly decadent dish earlier this year at a Family Dinner though I didn’t post it because I wasn’t a fan of the pictures. But I came across them again while I was digging through my external hard drive and found my mouth watering.

It was so damn good.

Uni (Sea Urchin)

Seeing how we try our darnedest to try and not make the same dish twice for Family Dinner, I knew it would be awhile before I had the chance to rephotograph it. So I apologize for the photo quality but trust me on this, you’ll love this dish.

It was a collaboration between my seestrah T and I. She wanted a luscious fish and although we would usually turn to sea bass, we opted for black cod since it’s much more affordable. Sea bass has a very high oil content which keeps it wonderfully moist and almost buttery once cooked. Black cod mirrors the rich and decadent textures of sea bass but there are a TON of bones in them. So make friends with your fish monger and let them do the work for you.

Black Bass with Uni Risotto

I was in charge of the starch component of the dish and thought risotto would be wonderful with the tender fish. To send things over the top, I chose to make uni risotto by using my base risotto recipe but stirred in lots of pureed uni towards the end. The briny, mildly sweet flavor it brought to the rice was such a wicked compliment to the cod.

Here in Southern California, shelled uni can be found in the sashimi sections of Japanese and other Asian grocery stores. And if you’re feeling really adventurous, you can buy them whole in their spiny shells and remove them at home. I, for one, am okay with not shanking myself and opt to get them prepackaged.

Black Bass with Uni Risotto

And since more uni is always better in my book, we had to top off the whole thing with 1-2 extra pieces. If you’re going to do it, do it right.





Crispy Black Cod with Uni {Sea Urchin} Risotto
Serves 4


12 ounces fresh uni (sea urchin )
4¼ cups seafood stock (ie. lobster, shrimp, etc.), divided
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
1 cup diced white onion
1 tablespoon minced garlic
¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes
½ teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
1 cup Arborio rice
½ cup dry white wine
½ cup grated Parmesan cheese
kosher salt
black pepper
4 pieces black cod, skin-on, de-boned (5-6 ounces each)
vegetable oil
chopped chives to garnish

Take all but 4-6 pieces of uni and put it in a blender with ¼ cup seafood stock. Pulse until it becomes smooth and set aside. Alternatively, you can use an immersion blender or hand-whisk the uni into the stock. The latter method will not have as smooth of a finish.

Heat the remaining seafood stock in a medium saucepan and keep warm over low heat.

Heat the olive oil and 1 tablespoon butter in a pot (or large, deep set skillet) over medium heat. Add the onions and sauté until softened and translucent, about 3-4 minutes. Add the garlic, red pepper flakes, thyme leaves, rice and stir quickly until the rice is well coated and opaque—about 1-2 minutes.  Stir in the wine and cook until the liquid is nearly all evaporated.

Ladle in 1 cup of the hot stock into the rice. Simmer and slowly stir until the rice has absorbed the liquid. Add the remaining stock, 1 cup at a time. Continue to simmer and constantly stir, allowing the rice to absorb each addition of stock before adding more. Once done, the risotto should be slightly firm and creamy–approximately 25 minutes in total. Stir in the pureed uni, cheese and remaining butter. Check for seasonings and adjust with the kosher salt and pepper.

While the risotto cooks, heavily season both sides of the cod with black pepper and salt. Using a sharp knife, score the skin side of the fish. Choose a skillet that can handle a high level of heat (ie. cast iron, stainless steel, etc.) Heat the skillet over high heat so that it becomes screaming hot. Once it reaches the desired temperature, add a few tablespoons vegetable oil and swirl it around the skillet. Carefully place each fish, skin side down into the oil. Using a spatula, gently press down on the fish so that they don’t curl up on the sides. Cook the first side of the cod for about 3 minutes — depending on the thickness. Be careful not to flip the fish before the skin has crisped up and formed a crust. Once the first side has cooked, about 2/3 way through, flip and cook for an additional 2 minutes. Remove the fish from the skillet.

Spoon the risotto into the dishes. Place one piece of cod on top of the risotto and then place 1-2 pieces of uni atop the fish. Sprinkle each plate with chopped chives and serve immediately.

Matcha Chocolate Pocky Cake

August 2015 Family Dinner

It’s Friday gang….so let’s get down with some CAKE!!!

Cake! Cake! Cake! Cake!

Since I posted a pic of this beauty I made for my beauty of a niece, I’ve been getting lots of love (THANK YOU!) and questions about what went into the cake.

So let me break it down for you…

August 2015 Family Dinner

There was a TON of matcha powder….

LOTS of chocolate….

A gleeful amount of butter and sugar……

And three pinches of fairy dust.

Because if you’re not baking with fairy dust, then you’re doing something wrong.

August 2015 Family Dinner

Our Nina loves chocolate and matcha so when it came time to think of a birthday cake for her, I remembered a picture I saw on Pinterest a while back that had a cake adorned with Matcha Pocky Sticks. It was so flipping cute and had her name all over it.

I got down to business. It’s rather impressive in its presentation and surprisingly, not too hard to make. But there are a lot of stages involved—totally worth it in my opinion.

August 2015 Family Dinner

To begin, I turned to my girl Ina Garten and her incredible chocolate cake recipe. Actually she gives credit to “Beatty“…. who is Beatty again? She’s a saint as far as I’m concerned….a Cake Saint {insert sounds of angels singing}.

Seriously, this is THE chocolate cake recipe. We make this all of the time and not only is it near foolproof but it is always a hit whenever we serve it. It’s rich in chocolate flavor (because the hot coffee intensifies the cocoa powder) and wonderfully moist (because of the buttermilk and it’s an oil based batter). Layered cakes, cupcakes, sheet cake—look no further for a base chocolate cake….I’m not exaggerating this time guys.

Pinky swear.

If you’ve never made this cake before (drop EVERYTHING and bake it now!), don’t be concerned if the batter looks really runny before baking. It will come together.

Trust Ina. And Beatty.

August 2015 Family Dinner

I initially had planned to just use buttercream in between the cake layers. But then I thought, why stop there? Let’s add MORE matcha flavor to party!

I ended up making an airy matcha mousse to fill the layers with. The mousse was inspired by the Matcha Cake my seester N made for her hubby’s birthday last year. He, too, loves green tea. Yep, my niece Nina (and her seester Nini) get their love of matcha from their Pops.

August 2015 Family Dinner

After I filled the layers of cake with the mousse, I refrigerated it for an hour or so to allow everything to set up.

While everything was chilling out in the fridge, I turned my attention to the frosting.

August 2015 Family Dinner

These days, I tend to make Swiss Meringue Buttercream to frost almost all my cakes and cupcakes with. I find that it tastes less sweet (though, don’t get me wrong, there’s a hefty amount of sugar in it) and it’s a more stable product to decorate with.

Sure, it is more laborious than an American Buttercream but so much tastier.

To flavor the buttercream, I used… you guess it—- matcha powder!

August 2015 Family Dinner

After the cake was frosted, it was time to add the Matcha Pocky Sticks!

I used 4 boxes of Pocky Sticks for this 9-inch round cake and ended up with just a few spare sticks that quickly disappeared –care of the hovering munchkins.

August 2015 Family Dinner

Next time I make this cake, I will definitely take my time to ensure that the layers are evenly cut so I have a nicer presentation once sliced. I also got sloppy with the buttercream because I assumed the Pocky Sticks would cover any imperfections—but unfortunately some of it seeped through the sticks.

Moral of the story = My laziness always gets me in the end

August 2015 Family Dinner

But with that said, the fam – particularly the birthday gal, really enjoyed the cake. Chocolate and green tea pair so well together and when combined with a whimsical presentation –you’ll have a winning cake.

Happy Friday Friends!

Matcha Chocolate Pocky Cake
Makes one 9-inch cake


Matcha Mousse:
1 cup chilled heavy cream
2 large egg yolks
½ cup sugar
1 tablespoon gelatin powder
7 tablespoons warm water, divided
2 heaping tablespoons matcha green tea powder|
1 cup milk

Cake Batter (From Ina Garten) :
1¾ cups all-purpose flour, plus more for pans
2 cups sugar
¾ cups good cocoa powder
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup buttermilk, shaken
½ cup vegetable oil
2 extra-large eggs, at room temperature
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 cup freshly brewed hot coffee

Matcha Swiss Meringue Buttercream:
5 large egg whites
1½ cups sugar
1½ pounds unsalted butter, cubed and at room temperature
pinch of salt
1½ heaping tablespoons matcha green tea powder

4 boxes Matcha Pocky Sticks
1 teaspoon matcha powder

Prepare the Matcha Mousse:
Using a stand mixer fitted with the balloon whisk attachment, whip the chilled heavy cream on high until it holds stiff peaks. Cover and place in the refrigerator.

In a medium sized bowl, whisk together the egg yolks, sugar and then set aside. In small bowl, mix the gelatin powder with 4 tablespoons water until dissolved. Dissolve the matcha powder with the remainder of warm water in another small bowl.

Using a small saucepan, heat the milk until it just begins to bubble. While whisking, slowly drizzle the heated milk into the egg mixture until everything has incorporated. Whisk in the liquefied matcha. Place the bowl in a larger bowl that has been filed with ice and water to help chill the contents. Continue stirring the mixture until it cools to room temperature –be careful to not splash any water inside the mixture bowl. Once cooled, take the refrigerated whipped cream and gradually fold it into the matcha custard. Cover the bowl and allow the mousse to refrigerate for a minimum of 6 hours. *This can be done the night before.

Prepare the Cake:
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Butter two 9-inch round cake pans. Line with parchment paper, then butter and flour the pans.

Sift the flour, sugar, cocoa, baking soda, baking powder, and salt into the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment and mix on low speed until combined. In another bowl, combine the buttermilk, oil, eggs, and vanilla. With the mixer on low speed, slowly add the wet ingredients to the dry. With mixer still on low, add the coffee and stir just to combine, scraping the bottom of the bowl with a rubber spatula. Pour the batter into the prepared pans and bake for 35 to 40 minutes, until a cake tester comes out clean. Cool in the pans for 30 minutes, then turn them out onto a cooling rack and cool completely.

Prepare the Buttercream:
Add the egg whites and sugar in a mixer bowl set over a pot of simmering water. The water should not be able to touch the bottom of the bowl. While the bowl sits over the simmering pot, whisk until sugar dissolves and the mixture registers 140 degrees on a candy thermometer. Remove from heat, and attach bowl to a mixer.

Using the whisk attachment, whip on medium speed until the meringue becomes thick and can hold medium peaks. This can take about 8-10 minutes and once done, the sides of the bowl should not feel warm at all. Remove the whisk attachment and replace with the paddle.

With the mixer on low, add a few cubes of butter and beat until it has full incorporated. Add in a few more cubes and continue with the process until all the butter has been added and the frosting has become smooth. If it looks slightly curdled, keep mixing—it will come together! Sprinkle in the salt and on low, slowly add in the matcha powder until it becomes fully incorporated.

Cake Assembly:
Using a serrated knife, slice each of the cake layers in half so that you are left with four thin chocolate cake layers. Place one layer of chocolate cake on a serving platter or cake stand. Spread 1/3 of the matcha mousse, evenly, over the layer. Place another layer of cake on top and evenly spread another 1/3 of the matcha mousse over the layer. Place a third chocolate cake layer on top and spread the remaining amount of matcha mousse evenly over the cake. Top with the final chocolate cake layer. Place the cake in the refrigerator for an hour to set.

Once the cake has set, frost the entire cake with the buttercream—covering the top and sides. Place the Pocky Sticks upright, side by side, all around the side of the cake –pressing them gently into the cake to secure. With the remaining matcha powder, dust the top of the cake. Optional: Tie ribbon around the cake. Refrigerate for one last hour before serving.

Browned Butter Linguine with Mizithra {Myzithra}

Browned Butter Linguine with Mizithra


Y’all are in trouble.

Why have you been hiding Mizithra from me my whole life??

Browned Butter Linguine with Mizithra

Mizithra…the wonderful Greek sheep’s milk cheese. Dry, salty, with a very distinct floral and nutty flavor.

And do you know where I finally discovered Mizithra? The Old Spaghetti Factory of all places!

I know, what the heck was I doing at The Old Spaghetti Factory?! But that’s an entirely different story for another time.

Browned Butter Linguine with Mizithra

They toss Mizithra with pasta and browned butter which is so perfect and simple. I mean, c’mon now, throw some nutty flavored browned butter in anything and I’ll gobble it up. So when Mizithra joins the party, I’m totally there.

Browned Butter Linguine with Mizithra

I found a little wedge of the cheese at my neighborhood market and swooped it right up. I, too, browned up some butter to coat linguine noodles in but added lots of fresh parsley and lemon zest. The combination of the browned butter and Mizithra can be a bit rich so the fresh herbs and citrus really helped to brighten it all.

A rad little dish that takes less than 10 minutes to make with only a handful of ingredients.

And yes, I forgive you now <3


Browned Butter Linguine with Mizithra
Serves 2


kosher salt
4 ounces dried linguine noodles
¼ cup salted butter
¼ teaspoon dried red pepper flakes
¼ cup grated Mizithra (Myzithra) cheese, more to plate
¼ teaspoon fresh lemon zest
1 tablespoon minced parsley

Bring a pot of salted water to boil. Add linguine noodles and boil for 6-7 minutes or until al dente.

While the pasta boils, prepare the browned butter. Place the butter in a saucepan and melt over medium-low heat. Swirl the pan and allow the butter to bubble and foam slightly. Continue browning the butter until it begins to smell nutty and it turns a dark golden brown. Remove from heat.

Once the pasta becomes al dente, drain well and add it back to the pot. Toss the noodles with the browned butter, red pepper flakes and cheese. Plate the pasta between two dishes. Sprinkle each serving with lemon zest, parsley and grate additional Mizithra over each plate. Enjoy!

Spicy Tuna Hand Rolls – Temaki

Spicy Tuna Hand Rolls

I’m not sure when we discovered that my niece Nini had a knack for knocking out some amazing Spicy Tuna but once we did, there was no turning back. It has everything to do with this “crack sauce” she created to bind the fish. And incidentally, that sauce is pretty brilliant for a bunch of different things like dipping fries in or as schmears for seafood burgers.

At our last family dinner, I mentioned that seestrah’s neighbor had gifted them with a whole bunch of freshly caught yellowfin tuna (sigh….I love living in California) so we seized the opportunity and put Nini to work on a bunch of temaki (sushi hand rolls).

In truth, you could use any type of sashimi grade seafood for this preparation –ahi, salmon, scallops, shrimp…..the ocean (or lake) is the limit! But remember–it’s got to be sashimi grade since there is no heat used to cook the fish.

Oh Nini, what a cutie-patootie and rockin’ little chef.


She started off with the crack sauce which is really a little bit of this and a little bit of that. Things like mayo, sambal chili, sriracha, soy, sesame oil and such. She then folded some of the sauce into the chopped tuna.

We didn’t include it here but if you wanted an extra kick {you wild animal, you!}, throw in some finely minced jalapeno or serrano peppers. They’d add an extra level of heat with a bit of nice crunch.

Spicy Tuna Hand Rolls

Then we got rocking and rolling!

Nori, daikon shoots, avocado slices, more crack sauce………thinly sliced cucumber strips would have been also a great addition.

Spicy Tuna Hand Rolls

And of course, the star of the whole deal–the onolicious fish! Throw on a few heaping spoonfuls of that spicy lusciousness.

On a side note, I have to apologize for the weird hue of these photos. It’s takes more talent than I possess to tinker around with my camera settings while keeping one hand constantly filled with these overflowing temaki that I couldn’t stop eating.

I have no shame.

Spicy Tuna Hand Rolls

Speaking of which– temaki are meant to be eaten right after they’re rolled so that the nori retains the crispness. If not, they become a bit wilty like these little guys below. But of course, that didn’t stop us for inhaling them.

August 2015 Family Dinner

And that’s it! Beautiful, homemade temaki!


Thanks Nini <3 !


Spicy Tuna Hand Rolls {Temaki}
Makes approximately 18-20 rolls


1½ cups mayonnaise
3 tablespoons Sambal Oelek chili garlic paste, more or less depending on heat preference
2 tablespoons Sriracha, more or less depending on heat preference
2 teaspoons toasted sesame oil
1 tablespoon soy sauce
3 teaspoons kosher salt, divided
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons tobiko (fish roe), divided
4 tablespoons chopped chives, divided
2 pounds sashimi grade tuna, roughly chopped
¼ cup rice wine vinegar
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
4 cups cooked sushi rice
2-3 ripe avocados, sliced
1 package daikon radish shoots, approximately 2 cups
10 sheets nori (toasted seaweed), cut in ½ lengthwise–you should end up with 20 long sheets about 4 x 8 inches
¼ cup toasted sesame seeds

In a bowl, mix together the mayonnaise, Sambal, Sriracha, sesame oil, soy sauce, 2 teaspoons kosher salt, 2 tablespoons tobiko and 2 tablespoons chives. Portion out about ½ the sauce into a clean bowl. Cover and refrigerate. With the remaining sauce, fold in the chopped tuna. Cover and refrigerate for 1-2 hours.

In a small bowl, whisk together the remaining salt, rice wine vinegar and sugar. While the sushi rice is still hot, drizzle the liquid over the grains and fold it through to thoroughly coat. Allow the rice to cool to room temperature.

Prepare the hand rolls. Lay one nori sheet lengthwise in your hand and add a small pile of daikon radish shoots in the center. Place 2-3 slices of avocado on top and then a small scoop of the cooled rice. Place a few spoonfuls of the reserved spicy sauce over the rice before topping with a generous scoop of the tuna on top. Carefully fold the left of the nori over in a diagonal motion, tightly rolling until you’ve created a secured cone. Top with scallions, sesame seeds and a small scoop of tobiko. Serve immediately.

Family Dinner Brings On the FIRES OF MORDOR!!!!!!

August 2015 Family Dinner

The Fires of Mordor!!!!

Only a little bit of it….but still– THE FIRES OF MORDOR!!!!!

But I’ll get to that in a bit.

It’s been a few weeks since we had our last Family Dinner and I have to admit, I want EVERY THING from that menu EVERY.SINGLE.DAY.

Since it was August, we were celebrating this pretty gal’s birthday. Yes folks, my little Nina is now 17. How is this even possible?! I feel like it was only the other day that I was zerberting my baby niece’s cheeks and now she’s a senior in high school, preparing to apply to college and driving me around. Well, the latter definitely has its perks.

So, the gang gathered at T’s house on a warm August afternoon for Family Dinner and birthday festivities.

August 2015 Family Dinner

There were cousins selfies……

August 2015 Family Dinner

Cuddle time…..

August 2015 Family Dinner

A little smooching…… (barf)…..

August 2015 Family Dinner

Dudes hanging out by the grill……..

August 2015 Family Dinner

Puppies running around and going BONKERS………

August 2015 Family Dinner

Leo-nators climbing on patio furniture….

August 2015 Family Dinner

Nini and Maya  time…….

August 2015 Family Dinner

And lots of QT with this cutie..

August 2015 Family Dinner

We had A LOT going on.

Good thing T made a bunch of Green Sangria for us to sip on. It was filled with kiwis, cucumbers, pears and white vino. Light and perfect for the HOT day we had.

August 2015 Family Dinner

As you may recall, if it’s your birth month, we usually create a menu with your favorite things for Family Dinner.

But the challenge you face when you raise little foodie-lings is that they end up having a taste for high end ingredients and dishes.
August 2015 Family Dinner

Nina loves lobster, uni, premium steaks, sashimi, poke….

Don’t get me wrong, I ADORE all of those things too but I don’t recall having such a refined palate at our munchkins’ ages.

So her birthday dinner of choice was not something your average teenager would have.

Lucky girl.

August 2015 Family Dinner

Seester T’s neighbor had just gone deep sea fishing and they gifted her with a bunch of fresh yellowfin tuna. Now that’s a neighbor I would TOTALLY want!

We took a few pounds of it and my niece Nini made her infamous Spicy Tuna Hand Rolls for us to snack on as appetizers.


I love that Nini has such a great palate and makes THE BEST Spicy Tuna Hand Rolls.… like, EVER. They far surpass any that I’ve had at sushi joints and it’s all because of that “crack sauce” she makes. And lucky for you all, she’s agreed to allow me to share the recipe {coming soon}.

Did I mention she’s only 15?

August 2015 Family Dinner

Remember those lobsters from a few photos up?

Seester N took those buggers and made a wonderful Lobster Bisque filled with chunks of lobster meat and finished with a drizzle of truffle oil.

Lobsters and Truffle Oil?!?

Yea…just keep thinking “17 year old birthday dinner”…..

August 2015 Family Dinner

And because that Lobster Bisque was so nice, I had to show it twice.

August 2015 Family Dinner

One of the sides for dinner were twice fried Parmesan Garlic Truffle Fries.

Go Big or Go Home.

Well, we went Big and then went home.

August 2015 Family Dinner

As for the main course, Nina is like her grandma and ADORES beef. She always wants some kind of steak on her special day.

So she got this beauty below. Dry-aged, Prime Ribeye Steaks with herb butter and crispy onion strings on top.

I’ll pause a moment to allow you to lick the screen……

Oh! And there was a Caesar Salad for a bit of greens.

August 2015 Family Dinner

And to wrap up the whole meal, a decadent birthday cake. Nina loves and I mean LOVES chocolate and green tea. With that in mind, I made her a rich chocolate cake and filled the layers with a matcha mousse. It was then frosted with a matcha buttercream and adorned with Matcha Pocky Sticks.

Not to toot my own horn but it was pretty fantastic.

August 2015 Family Dinner

Now, let’s spend some more time talking about those mouth watering, juicy steaks.

When we first started talking about the menu for Family Dinner, we knew steaks had to be on the menu. But we make steaks all the time–a TON of different ways. We had to do something special for Nina and that’s where my brother comes into the picture.

He and I have talked numerous times about that one episode of Good Eats where Alton Brown uses a chimney starter to “grill” porterhouse steaks.

Yup, you read correctly. A chimney starter that you typically use to heat up coals for a BBQ grill.

And what’s fantastic is that the thick steaks cook in 5 minutes!

August 2015 Family Dinner

It all started with the beef.

Now, Alton used porterhouse steaks but that ended up being tough for V to find that were prime and not choice or select. Why do you want prime beef, particularly for this method of cooking? Because of all that beautiful marbling in the meat. Lots of lovely marbling = taste bombs exploding in your mouth.

We ended up using prime ribeye steaks which were fantastic. V took those beauties and dry aged them in the refrigerator for four days. Click here to find out how A.B. dry ages steaks.


This is where the chimney comes in .

He filled the inside with a layer of natural lump coal………..

August 2015 Family Dinner

Then stuffed the bottom with newspaper…. well, actually, it was an old Trader Joe’s bag……..


Then he lit the paper and allowed the coals to burn.

August 2015 Family Dinner

And this is where the magic begins.

He lifted the chimney and placed one steak on the grill before placing it back over the beef.

Screen Shot 2015-09-17 at 10.50.43 AM

He allowed the steak to grill for 90 seconds and then flipped them….

August 2015 Family Dinner

Then the chimney goes back over the steak for another 90 seconds….

August 2015 Family Dinner

Then he took the chimney off, placed the grate on top of the chimney and placed the steak on top………..

August 2015 Family Dinner

Then threw a metal bowl to cover the steak. It grilled for 60 seconds, the bowl was removed, the steak was flipped, the bowl was slapped back on top and then the steak grilled for a final 60 seconds.

August 2015 Family Dinner

And that’s it! The steaks were then rested before we dove in.

August 2015 Family Dinner

Wasn’t that freaking AWESOME!!!???

Not only did it produce a commercial-kitchen-salamander affect on the beef but it was SO FUN to do!!!

August 2015 Family Dinner

In fact, it was SO fun that I had to make a quick video about it. Check it out below and let me know what you think :)

All in all, it was a show stopping dinner.

August 2015 Family Dinner

Filled with kids inhaling pounds of lobsters.

August 2015 Family Dinner

And lots of laughter and vino.

August 2015 Family Dinner

Big, BIG thanks to my bro for overseeing our awesome steaks!

August 2015 Family Dinner

And I don’t know what’s happening in the picture below but I can’t stop cracking up over it.

August 2015 Family Dinner

And don’t forget about cake time!

August 2015 Family Dinner

Look at Luna and Leo’s faces below.

They kill me.

August 2015 Family Dinner

Happy Birthday Nina Love!

Speaking of love, take a look at the little photo bomber on the right.


August 2015 Family Dinner

Delicious food, learning new cooking techniques, hanging out with the fam–it was a memorable summer family dinner.

With the fires of Mordor….

August 2015 Family Dinner

And Maya dancing behind them. ;)

August 2015 Family Dinner

Until next time gang!

xoxo <3

Summer Watermelon Sangria

July 2015 Fam Din

This summer, I have been inhaling watermelons like they’re going out of style. Now, for most, this wouldn’t be such an odd thing since chilled watermelons seem to be synonymous with summer.

Particularly when it’s been so flippin’ warm….

But here’s the thing about me….. watermelons aren’t really my fav.


Now before you start virtually bombarding me with the “WHY?” “WHAT THE?!”, let me clarify and say that it’s not that I hate watermelon–they’re just not the first fruit I reach for.

But here we are, near the middle of September, and I’m still plowing through pounds and pounds of watermelon. Maybe they’re right when they say that your taste buds change through the years.

And no, I don’t really know who “they” are……just go with me on this one.


With this inexplicable obsession, I decided to use some to make a few pitchers of Watermelon Sangria for a Family Dinner the other month. Sangrias are a great default cocktail I like to make because it’s easy to make big batches of and you can flavor it any which way you’d like. Plus, since it’s best to allow the sangria to chill a few hours before serving it, it’s the perfect make-ahead drink.

Watermelon Sangria

My sibs and I guzzled down 2 huge pitchers of these Watermelon Sangrias so I think they liked it.

But we’re Nguyễns.

So they’re really isn’t a sangria we’ve met that we haven’t guzzled down.

OH! And had I given it some thought ahead of time, I would have cubed a bunch of the leftover watermelon and stuck them in the freezer for several hours. Frozen cubed melons act as PERFECT “ice cubes” for your sangria that not only add to the flavor but also won’t water down your cocktail.

There’s always next time ;)



Watermelon Sangria


3 cups fresh watermelon, cut into large chunks
½ cup chilled water
12 fresh mint leaves, divided
juice of ½ lime
1-2 tablespoons sugar, depending on sweetness of the watermelon
1 bottle (750 ml) Sauvignon Blanc or white wine of your choice
¼ cup Cointreau
1 cup sliced strawberries
½ small orange, sliced
4-5 lime slices
6 ounces lemon lime soda

In a blender, add the watermelon chunks, water, half of the mint leaves, lime juice and sugar. Blend until smooth. Pour watermelon juice through a sieve to strain.

Pour the wine into a large pitcher along with 2 cups of watermelon juice, and Cointreau. Stir well. Add in the strawberries, oranges, and lime slices. Chill for a minimum of 2-3 hours.

Before serving, stir in the remaining mint leaves, soda and pour into glasses that have been filled with ice. Enjoy!

Gỏi Cuốn Tôm {Shrimp Spring Rolls}

Vietnamese Shrimp Spring Rolls

Dear Mother Nature,

You know that I adore Spring and Summer. In fact, I’m a Sun Baby through and through.

It may be a result of those early years where I froze in the Minnesota snow and now I’m at my best when I can feel the warmth of the sun on my face and can wear my flipflops 365.

Vietnamese Shrimp Spring Rolls

But with that said, I think you’re playing a cruel practical joke on me this late in the game.

90+ degree weather EVERY day this week?!?!

And that’s with mi casa sitting on the coast. Where or WHERE did you send my beloved Pacific Ocean breeze?

My poor puggle and I are melting.


And it’s already September.

Vietnamese Shrimp Spring Rolls

Spring Rolls.

Lately, all I want are Spring Rolls and popsicles….and slurpees.

Gỏi Cuốn, as you know, are Vietnamese spring rolls….sometimes noted as “summer rolls”.

They’re light, filled with veggies and low maintenance.

Thankfully, because I can barely muster enough energy to boil water to cook the vermicelli noodles and poach the shrimp. And lucky for both of us, I don’t like poached pork belly which is commonly used in Vietnamese spring rolls. It gives me one less thing to worry about.

Vietnamese Shrimp Spring Rolls

Now, if my face wasn’t melting off my head (is that T.M.I.?), I’d marinate the shrimp in a little garlic, fish sauce and then grill them. It really does add that extra oompf of flavor but trust me, poaching them are just as delish.

Oh–and Mother Nature, if you’re fixing up some spring rolls, feel free to add in other herbs and veggies you may have on hand….bell peppers, bean sprouts, Thai basil….

And thin slices of poached pork belly if it tickles your fancy.

Vietnamese Shrimp Spring RollsAnd once you’re done making your rolls, could you find it in your heart to send back our “normal” weather?

We would love you even more….like, times infinity.

xoxo <3 ,



Gỏi Cuốn Tôm {Shrimp Spring Rolls}
Serves approximately 4


2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 teaspoon kosher salt
½ cup boiling water
1 cup rice wine vinegar
1 cup julienned carrots
1 cup julienned daikon radish
8 sheets round bánh tráng (dried rice paper sheets)
lettuce leaves
2 cups cooked vermicelli noodles
1 small Persian cucumber, sliced thinly lengthwise
fresh mint leaves
fresh cilantro leaves
fresh Thai basil, optional
fresh Vietnamese coriander, optional
1 dozen poached shrimp, sliced in half lengthwise
8 thin scallions or Chinese chives

Prepare the đồ chua (pickled vegetables). In a medium sized bowl, dissolve the sugar and salt with the boiling water. Add the vinegar and allow the liquid to cool to room temperature. Add the carrots and daikon and refrigerate for at least 1 hour. *This can keep in a sealed container in the fridge for 2-3 weeks and are a must in Vietnamese sandwiches (bánh mì).

Dip one rice paper sheet in warm water and place on a flat surface. The rice paper will slowly become pliable. Lay one piece of lettuce in the middle of the rice sheet and top with vermicelli noodles, cucumber slices, mint leaves, cilantro leaves, Thai basil, Vietnamese coriander and some of the refrigerated đồ chua. Lay 3-4 shrimp slices, cut side up, in one line above the layer of vegetables.

Tightly roll the bottom of the rice paper over the mound. Fold the right side of the roll in and lay one scallion/chive above the roll. Fold the left side in and continue rolling the rice paper up until you’ve created a secured roll. Repeat with the remaining ingredients.

Serve at room temperature with hoisin peanut sauce or other dipping sauce of your choice.