“One Night in Bangkok” – Thai themed Family Dinner

February 2014: Thai Fam Din

“One night in Bangkok makes a hard man humble
Not much between despair and ecstasy….”

Uh…not going to lie. That song rocks but I have no idea what any of the words are beside “one night in Bangkok“…But that didn’t stop my sibs and I from blaring that oldie but goodie when we had our last Sunday Family Dinner where we whipped up some of our favorite delish Thai inspired dishes…… it was the only right thing to do.

We started off with a few Thai Iced Teasthat the kiddos made using a quick recipe from White on Rice. This little number is full flavored—deep, deep black tea mixed up with a decadent douse of half and half. After a quick sip of this concoction I was convinced that there’s no need to order this out ever again. It’s so easy to make at home, plus, you can’t put a price tag on the entertainment you get when you pour the half and half into the tea to get a swirly -stormy mixture.

GORGEOUS!

Thai Iced Tea

And since the kiddos were set on their drinks, it was time for the 21+ to have a little drinky in our hands. I decided to mix up a little number that I appropriately called “One Night in Bangkok”.

Kaffir lime infused simple syrup, fresh lime juice, vodka, pineapple chunks, lime juice, mint and club soda.

Uh…YES, PLEASE!

One Night in Bangkok

We then moved on to some pre-dinner appetizers. Big seester made Thai Fish Cakes {Tod Mun Pla} with a Cucumber Salad that was my hands down, favorite dish of the night. They’re a common street food (LOVE street foods) in Thailand and she used the recipe found here.

Now, you may think fish cakes sound fairly mundane but do not underestimate these little buggers. They really knocked me off my feet by being incredibly moist and tender and were incredibly aromatic from the kaffir lime leaves. And you’ll never guess what’s in the fish paste……coconut milk!!!

I could’ve easily eaten a dozen of these fish cakes over rice and wish we would’ve doubled the batch! Oh wait– she did double the batch! :)

Thai Fish Cakes

Our second app for the night was my Pork Larb Gai Lettuce Wraps. It’s a dish that I make often but have tweaked several times over the years. Larb ( or laap, laab, etc.) can be made from a variety of proteins and is typically mixed with tons of fresh herbs, a fish sauce mixture, citrus, toasted ground rice, and depending on where in Thailand it’s made–pork/beef blood…..though I always it omit it.

Larb is DEE-LISH. If I was on a low carb diet, I’d eat it every day-all day. Since you can make it with anything, you can choose a really lean protein and the citrus & herbs makes it a very bright and satisfying dish.

Pork Larb

Big sis then made a Shrimp & Chicken Pad Thai using Alice’s recipe from Sweet Savory Life. It’s my go-to Pad Thai recipe whenever I want to make it at home and my overview of it can be found here.

Pad Thai

My other seester, T, made a big ol’ pot of Tom Yum Koong. Tons of seafood, aromatics and flavors that played with sour, sweet and a lots of spice!

Tom Yum Koong

She also made rich and hearty Beef Panang Curry.

Beef Penang Curry

And finally, dessert. As a nod to Thai flavors, I decided to pair one of my old recipes, Toasted Coconut Gelato with hot and crispy Fried Bananas. I mean, c’mon now. You CANNOT go  wrong with that!

IMG_63791

I’ve got to confess to y’all. Our Thai themed Sunday Family Dinner was awesome.

Sure, there were a lot of different dishes but they weren’t really heavy which allowed us to shovel it all in without feeling too bad. Definitely one of our more successful Family Dinners if I do say so myself. And since we started off with it, let me share with you how to make “One Night in Bangkok”.

One Night in Bangkok

ไชโย Folks and let’s see what next month has to offer!

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One Night in Bangkok
Serves 1

Ingredients:

1 cup sugar
½ cup water
12-15 whole kaffir lime leaves, divided
¼ cup fresh pineapple chunks
2 lime wedges
3-4 mint leaves
2 ounces vodka
ice
3-4 ounces tonic water

Prepare the Kaffir Lime infused Simple Syrup. In a small pot, add the sugar, water and kaffir lime leaves. Bring the liquids to a boil and stir to dissolve the sugar. Lower the heat to a simmer and continue cooking the syrup on low for 5-10 minutes until it’s thickened. Remove from heat and allow to cool to room temperature. Transfer the Kaffir Lime infused Simple Syrup to a resealable jar or container. It may be kept in the refrigerator for up to 4 weeks.

In a cocktail shaker, muddle the pineapple chunks, lime wedges, mint leaves, 1 kaffir lime leaf and 1 tablespoon of Kaffir Lime infused Simple Syrup. Add the vodka and fill the shaker halfway with ice. Vigorously shake for 15-20 seconds and strain the liquids into a glass filled with ice. Top off the glass with the tonic water and garnish with additional pineapple spears, mint leaves and kaffir lime leaves.  Enjoy!

Toasting the 86th Oscars with an “Aye-Aye Captain”!

Aye-Aye Captain

Hollywood’s biggest night is nearly upon us with the Oscars just a few days away. And like every year, I cannot wait to see all the gorgeous gowns! The glitz the glam – I love it!

This year I’m keeping things pretty low key but it would not be an Oscars Night if I didn’t shake up a few special-themed craft cocktails. Last year in honor of Life of Pi, I made the Sparkling Tangerine Tiger that was bright and dangerously delicious. For this year’s 86th Academy Awards, my cocktail is created in honor of Captain Phillips and is called the Aye -Aye Captain!

DSC_Aye-Aye Captain

And let me tell ya…you’re going to love this one. Fresh oranges, limes, mint, Captain Morgan Spiced Rum and ginger beer. The spiced rum and ginger beer offer a great bite while the fresh citrus rounds out this delightful cocktail. But be warned, these beauties go down incredibly smooth.

If you’re hosting a shindig for the event, finger foods and small bites are definitely the way to go. Below are a few suggestions that would definitely win the hearts & tummies of your guests:

Aye-Aye Captain

Enjoy the Oscars!

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Aye -Aye Captain
Serves 1

Ingredients:

½ small orange, cut into small wedges (I used Cara Caras that are incredibly sweet & juicy)
½ lime, cut into small wedges
5 fresh mint leaves (more to garnish)
1 teaspoon raw sugar
1½  ounces Captain Morgan Spiced Rum
ice
3-4 ounces ginger beer

In a shaker, muddle ¼ of the oranges, 2-3 lime wedges, mint and sugar. Add the rum and shake well.

Fill a tumbler with ice. Strain and pour the liquid from the shaker into the glass. Top with ginger beer and garnish with citrus wedges and mint leaves. Cheers!

Xôi Lạp Xưởng {Sticky Rice with Chinese Sausage}

Xôi Lạp Xưởng {Sticky Rice with Chinese Sausage}

It seems almost silly that I’m writing a post on Xôi Lạp Xưởng {Sticky Rice with Chinese Sausage} because it’s incredibly easy and so common. But if you grew up in a Vietnamese family like I did, then you can appreciate what a staple this humble dish is.

Xôi Lạp Xưởng {Sticky Rice with Chinese Sausage}

It starts with xôi –sticky, glutinous sweet rice (gạo nếp) that is best soaked before you cook it. I use a bamboo steamer to cook the rice but if you’ve got a nifty electric rice cooker that has the right settings, you can also go with that method. Unfortunately my rice cooker isn’t that snazzy and often burns my xôi, so I opt for the old school method.

Xôi Lạp Xưởng {Sticky Rice with Chinese Sausage}

The sticky and slighty chewy xôi then gets topped with slices of lạp xưởng, which are Chinese sausages. They’re a smoked sausage typically made from pork or chicken and has a salty and slightly sweet flavor profile. Our mom used to pan-fry the lạp xưởng or even throw it in the rice cooker while the xôi cooked. But these days I’ve adopted my eldest seester’s method – broiling them in the toaster oven. They make the lạp xưởng wonderfully crisp and makes for easy clean up.

You can also find Xôi Lạp Xưởng topped with thịt chà bông/ruốc (a dried and shredded pork), eggs, small dried shrimp or chicken. But we grew up eating it pretty simple and I like to have it with a small side of Maggi Seasoning Sauce and fresh chiles.

Xôi Lạp Xưởng {Sticky Rice with Chinese Sausage}

Xôi Lạp Xưởng can be eaten warm or at room temperature– which is why I think it always had a presence in our home for quick meals, road trips, picnics and was the perfect way to feed a crowd on a budget.

I still enjoy Xôi Lạp Xưởng to this day but it will always be a taste of my childhood…..and that’s a delicious thing.

Ăn Ngon, Friends!

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Xôi Lạp Xưởng (Sticky Rice with Chinese Sausage)
Serves 4-6

Ingredients:

2 cups sweet glutinous rice
1 teaspoon kosher salt
¼ cup vegetable oil
½ cup chopped scallions
4 lạp xưởng links (Chinese sausage)
1 cup fried shallots
Maggi Seasoning Sauce or soy sauce
fresh chiles or sambal paste

Rinse the rice until the water runs clear. Fill a large bowl with cool water, add the rice and soak it overnight. Once the rice has been properly soaked, drain the rice and shake off any excess water. With a clean kitchen towel, gently pat the rice dry, sprinkle in the salt and mix until combined.

Line the bottom of your steamer with a sheet of cheesecloth and then spread the rice mixture evenly on top of the cloth. Depending on how large your stacked steamer is, you may need to add a second layer. Steam, covered, for about 20-25 minutes or until rice is fully cooked. *Alternatively, you can use an electric rice cooker if it has the correct settings.

While the rice is steaming, place the lạp xưởng links (Chinese sausage) on a foil lined baking sheet. Broil for 3-4 minutes in your oven or in a toaster oven until all sides have been crisped. Cut the lạp xưởng into thin slices.

Prepare the hành mỡ (scallion oil). In a sauté pan, slowly heat the vegetable oil. Add the chopped scallions. Cook the scallions on very low heat until they are wilted but still bright green. Approximately 2-3 minutes. Pull from heat and set aside.

To assemble, place a few scoops of the cooked rice in a bowl or shallow plate. Brush the rice with the hành mỡ (scallion oil) and top with several slices of lạp xưởng. Sprinkle each serving with fried shallots and serve with Maggi seasoning or soy sauce and fresh chiles/sambal paste.

Enjoy!

Ch-ch-ch-Chia Seed Pudding!

Chia Seed Pudding

Ch-ch-ch-Chia!

Terra cotta statuettes sprouting into fuzzy green pets?!  What’s not to love? Of course if you’re not into the responsibility of having to care for a Chia lamb, Chia Hello Kitty, Chia Scooby or even Chia Obama, you can always jump on the chia seed healthy bandwagon instead.

Since they’re bountiful in Omega-3s, fiber, antioxidants and all that jazz, I like to sprinkle chia seeds into my morning smoothies, muffin batters, or over greek yogurt. And since they take on somewhat of a “gel-like” consistency when mixed into water, they’re the perfect little ingredient to make a cheat pudding with.

There are so many variations on Chia Seed Puddings out there but I like to keep things simple with just a few ingredients: ripe bananas, almond milk, agave or honey, a dash of vanilla and of course–chia seeds. The actually consistency after it sets is like tapioca pudding and is delish when topped with fresh fruits, nuts or even granola.

And if you really want to get a little crazy, add a bit of cocoa powder to the party for a Chocolate Chia Seed Pudding. Because chocolate makes EVERYTHING better!

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Chia Seed Pudding
Serves 2

Ingredients:

2 medium sized ripe bananas
1 cup almond milk
1 tablespoon agave
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 heaping tablespoons chia seeds
fresh mango slices (or other fresh fruit)

In a blender, add the bananas, almond milk, agave and vanilla extract. Puree until smooth and then transfer to a resealable container. Stir in the chia seeds and cover. Refrigerate the mixture for 4-6 hours, or overnight.

Spoon the pudding into two cups and top with fresh mango slices. Serve chilled.

Valentine’s Rice Cereal Pops…Because I Heart You.

Rice Cereal Pops

Rice Cereal Treats….

Coated in melted candy….

Covered with tons of sprinkles…..

On a stick.

If that doesn’t scream LOVE, than I don’t know what the heck does.

Rice Cereal Pops

Sometimes, simplicity is best. So don’t fret over laborious desserts today — instead, consider making these whimsical Rice Cereal Pops for your loved ones.

Rice Cereal Pops

They come together quite easily and are much less cumbersome than their Cake Pops cousins. Man…those Cake Pops can be the bane of my existence at times. But these Rice Cereal Pops will be the sprinkly sunshine of our lives.

Rice Cereal Pops

And in case you still need help planning a special {and delicious} Valentine’s Day meal, check out my proposed menu below:

Cocktails: Love Actually
Appetizer: Oysters with Asian inspired Mignonette
Entree: Sriracha Crab Cakes and Filet Mignon
Desserts: Rice Cereal Pops or Double Chocolate Tart with Fresh Raspberries

And with that dear friends, HAPPY VALENTINE’S DAY!

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Valentine’s Rice Cereal Pops
Makes 24 pops

Ingredients:

cooking spray
1½ tablespoons unsalted butter
6 ounces marshmallows (approx. 20 large marshmallows)
1 pinch salt
½ tablespoon vanilla extract
5 cups rice cereal
20 ounces candy melts
2 dozen lollipop sticks
TONS of sprinkles

Line a 9 x 9 inch square pan with parchment paper. Cover the inside of the pan with cooking spray. Set aside.

In a large pot, slowly melt the butter over medium-low heat. Add the marshmallows and stir until completely melted. Remove the pot from the heat. Stir in the salt and vanilla extract until smooth. Add the rice cereal and stir until well coated. Quickly transfer the rice cereal mixture into the greased pan and firmly press it into an even layer. Refrigerate the pan for one hour.

Using the parchment paper to assist, carefully transfer the rice cereal to a cutting board. Take a serrated knife and cut the rice cereal into 24 even bars. Place a few candy melts into a bowl. In intervals of 15 seconds (stirring in between), melt the candy in the microwave until smooth. Dip the tip of a lollipop stick into some of the melted candy and insert it into the bottom of one of the rice cereal bars. Place it on a baking sheet and continue the process with the rest of the rice cereal pops. Refrigerate the entire sheet for one hour.

Place the remaining candy melts into the bowl and melt them in the microwave using the same method above. Take one rice cereal pop out of the refrigerator. Using a small offset spatula, spread a thin layer of the melted candy all over the rice cereal pop. Quickly add the sprinkles and stand the pop upright in a styrofoam block to dry.

Repeat the process with the remaining pops. You may need to reheat the candy melts in the microwave from time to time if it becomes too stiff to spread over the rice cereal.

Allow the rice cereal pops to dry for at least 2 hours before sharing them with your sweetie.

French Bistro inspired Family Dinner – C’est Délicieux!

January 2014 Family Dinner

Bonjour! Pour notre dîner de famille, nous avons préparé un menu français.

Yup–that’s what 4 years of French classes at Diamond Bar High School got me. Monsieur Kirkeby would’ve been so proud. Although I can’t be 100% sure that it’s grammatically correct :)

January 2014 Family Dinner

Our most recent monthly Family Dinner adventures swept us away to a French Bistro theme. They’re dishes that were meant for casual dining although I’ve also heard bistro cuisine referred to as “glamorous comfort food”. However you define it – it’s délicieux!

We like to have a plentiful selection of items to nosh on for our Sunday Family Dinners but as they were only 10 of us that night, we had to make some concessions. The biggest challenge was trying to narrow down which dishes we’d prepare…. Poulet Rôti? Steak Tartare? Salade Frisée aux Lardons? Escargots?

So much good food, so little time!

January 2014 Family Dinner

As always, we started off with some adult beverages. Although this time around, I opted not to prepare any mixed cocktails and served chilled sparkling vin from the Loire Valley in central France and a Côtes du Rhône.

While we prepped, we nibbled on an Abbaye de Belloc which is a French sheep’s milk frommage that we picked up earlier that day from Center Street Cheese Shop.

Frommage

Next, we had a hearty Soupe à l’oignon - French Onion Soup.

French Onion Soup is rather nostalgic for me. The first “fancy dining” memory I have is eating French Onion Soup with my parents at a restaurant in Minnesota. I couldn’t have been more than a few years old but the fact that none of my siblings were there makes me believe that I must have crashed one of their very few “date meals”.

French Onion Soup

There was a Salade Niçoise overflowing with goodies like olive oil preserved tuna, haricot verts, olives, eggs, and grape tomatoes. My sister took the lead on this and adapted Tyler Florence’s version that can be found here. It was incredibly satisfying and could have been a meal in itself–but we’re gluttons.

Salad Niçoise

I can’t imagine a bistro themed menu without some version of mussels. Our sister prepared her Moules with lots of wine, leeks, celery and fresh herbs. She used P.E.I. mussels that were so plump and were sweet and tender. They took on a creamy texture that was out of this world.

Moules

And then our deep carnivore side took over and we threw down some serious Steak Frites. We opted to go with simply seasoned grilled steaks (ribeyes and T-bones) and then topped them with an herb butter I had made with tarragon, parsley, thyme, lemon zest, salt and pepper.

To go with the Moules and Steaks, we put our niece, Nini, to work with double frying our Frites. You first fry the potatoes at a lower heat to cook them through to a translucent stage. Then, you crank up the heat and fry them up again so that become crisp and perfectly golden.

This Potato Monster totally approves.

Steak avec Frites

As for dessert, we had an apple Tarte Tatin with ice cream and it was a FLOP!

Seriously!

So for those of you who ask if we never mess up on any dishes — you better believe it! And this Tarte Tatin was a prime example of how you can follow a recipe word for word and still have a disaster. My caramel didn’t set, the puff pastry was a soggy mess…I was SO bummed! It didn’t look terribly bad but trust me, looks can be deceiving.

But I survived and will live to make more desserts. Plus there was still lots of vin left so we commiserated with booze like all honest cooks do.

Tarte Tatin

Despite my failed dessert, it was a fantastic meal! And like I said, with so many other Bistro classics that we didn’t have the time (or enough room in our stomach) to make, there may be a Part Deux to come!

In the meanwhile, fix yourself up the delightful Salade Niçoise that our seester made. You’ll adore it–especially with some baguette and a crisp white wine.

À bientôt!

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Salade Niçoise

Ingredients:
½ tablespoon minced garlic
2 heaping teaspoons Dijon mustard
3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
2 tablespoons lemon juice
2 heaping tablespoons minced fresh tarragon
½ cup quality extra virgin olive oil
kosher salt
black pepper
½ pound petit new potatoes, scrubbed and cleaned
1/4 pound haricots verts, trimmed
10 to 12 ounces canned or jarred Italian tuna packed in olive oil
8 ounces mesclun, washed and dried
½ pint grape tomatoes
4 hard boiled eggs, quartered lengthwise
6 ounces pitted Niçoise olives

Prepare the vinaigrette. Place the garlic, Dijon mustard, vinegar, lemon juice, tarragon and olive oil in a small jar.  Add ¼ teaspoon of kosher salt and ¼ teaspoon of black pepper into the jar before tightly securing the lid back on. Shake the jar vigorously for 15-20 seconds. Taste and adjust for seasonings as needed. Set aside.

Bring a small pot of water to a boil. Stir in a few pinches of salt before adding in the potatoes. Depending on the size of your potatoes, cut them into halves or quarters before adding them into the water. Allow the potatoes to boil for about 8-10 minutes, until tender. Using a slotted spoon, remove the potatoes and place them in a large bowl. Toss the warm potatoes with 1-2 tablespoons of the vinaigrette to coat lightly.

Add the haricots verts to the same pot of boiling water. Blanch the haricots verts for 1-2 minutes and then drain them into a colander. Immediately transfer them to a bowl of ice water and allow them to cool for a few minutes. Shocking the haricots verts will stop the cooking process to stock and allow them to maintain their bright color. Drain them and set aside.

Drain the olive oil from the tuna and use a fork to flake the fish into large pieces. Season with kosher salt and pepper.

Arrange the mesclun on to a large platter. Arrange the dressed potatoes, haricot verts, tomatoes, eggs and olives over the top of the greens. Drizzle the vinaigrette over the salad and serve.

Braised Sage Chicken with Kale & Chickpeas

Braised Sage Chicken with Kale & Chickpeas

I adore “one-pot” meals.

Not only do you cut down on the extra dirty dishes (I detest washing dishes!) but it also gives me a great excuse to use some of my fab dutch ovens, braisers, and other pots that can go straight from the stove/oven and directly to the serving table.

These types of cooking gear are fantastic to braise proteins in as they allow for an even, slow cooking process. And since I happened to catch a great deal on chicken thighs and drumsticks at the grocery store the other week, I decided to throw them into one of my fav Le Creuset Braisers for an easy Sunday night meal.

Braised Sage Chicken with Kale & Chickpeas

After browning the chicken for a few minutes, I cooked down some onions, garlic and chopped sage–an herb that pairs wonderfully with poultry. A bit of white wine and a few cups of chicken stock go into the braiser. And then the chicken goes back into the liquids for a slow, bubbling bath in the oven.

Finally, with just a few minutes left of braising, I throw in fresh kale leaves and chickpeas for that extra level of earthiness.

Braised Sage Chicken with Kale & Chickpeas

The chicken is super tender, flavorful and plays off well with the kale and chickpeas. The final touch of fresh lemon juice adds a bit of brightness to round out the hearty dish.

All in all, a winning one-pot meal that’s easy to pull together and totally satisfying.

I’m all about it.

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Braised Sage Chicken with Kale & Chickpeas
Serves 4-5

Ingredients:

3-4 pounds bone-in chicken (I prefer thighs and drumsticks)
kosher salt
black pepper
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 small white onion, thinly sliced
2 garlic cloves, minced
½ teaspoon red chili flakes
8 fresh sage leaves, minced
1 cup dry white wine
2 cups chicken stock
1 can (15 ounces) garbanzo beans, rinsed and drained
4 heaping cups chopped kale leaves
juice ½ lemon

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Liberally season the chicken with salt and pepper. In a large dutch oven (or other oven proof pot with a lid), heat olive oil to medium. In batches, brown the chicken pieces on both sides and transfer to a plate. Discard all but 1 tablespoon of the leftover grease.

Add the onions and cook until they have softened and are translucent. Add the garlic, chili flakes, sage and sauté for an additional minute.  Pour in the wine and with a wooden spoon, scrape the brown bits from the bottom of the pot. Continue cooking until the wine has reduced by half. Pour in the chicken stock and bring to a boil.

Return the chicken to the pot with the skin side up. Place the lid on and transfer to the oven.

Bake for 25 minutes and remove from the oven. Carefully remove the lid and use a spoon to skim off and discard any excess fat and grease. Add the kale and chickpeas to the pot, cover with the lid, and place it back into the oven. Continue cooking for 5-10 minutes until the meat is tender and pulls away from the bone.

Remove the pot from the oven. Taste the broth and adjust for seasonings as needed. Squeeze the fresh lemon juice over the dish and serve warm.