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!

Sunday Family Dinner – Summah’ Grilling and Chillin’

June 2015 Family Dinner

 Sunday Family Dinners in the summer are all about dining al fresco. Long days, warm and beautiful weather…it’s perfect.

June 2015 Family Dinner

I love summer family dinners where the pace is a little bit slower and we really get the chance to catch up with what’s new with each other.

June 2015 Family Dinner

A big topic of conversation at June’s fam din?

Backyard decor… obvi.

June 2015 Family Dinner

Seester just got a new set of fantastic patio furniture. And after lounging in the new chairs for a bit, I realized that something was missing. They need a brick pizza oven—STAT! A brilliant idea!

It got quickly vetoed.

Party poopers.

June 2015 Family Dinner

Our inspiration for dinner was not so much a “theme” but started off with an idea that the main dish should feature all kinds of skewers. Because who doesn’t love meat on a stick?

Plus, if there’s grilling involved, the boys get a hand in things.

June 2015 Family Dinner

And because y’all know us so well, you know that there were cocktails. In fact, we had a few different types that night (it’s how we roll), but Seester came up with this one after watching an episode of Tiffani Thiessen’s cooking show.

It consisted of an iced fruit tea, ginger simple syrup, lime juice, mint, tequila and fresh fruit.

Light and refreshing.

Kelly Kapowski apparently knows cocktails.

June 2015 Family Dinner-Cocktails

To munch on before dinner, my niece Nina fried up a batch of Crispy Andouille Hush Puppies. I loved the salty, smokey flavor the andouille gave to the hush puppies. To serve with them, I whipped up a quick sauce from random things I found in the fridge and luckily, it turned out great. Though–I kind of blew it and didn’t jot down what it consisted of but it had things like sour cream, mayo, Old Bay seasoning, lemon juice, fresh dill, garlic and pixie dust.

The last ingredient is not optional.

The recipe for the hush puppies can be found at here.

June 2015 Family Dinner-Hush Puppies

Then we put the boys to work! Fire up the grill, Dudes!

June 2015 Family Dinner

We did three types of skewers:

June 2015 Family Dinner-Skewers

Why three different skewers? Why not?!

Plus, we generally have a hard time just choosing one thing.

June 2015 Family Dinner- Skewers

To serve with the skewers, I whipped up a quick Watermelon, Feta and Arugula Salad which is a great accompaniment to any BBQ. It’s fresh, light, and essentially guilt free.

Though, I rarely experience guilt with food.

Carpe diem!

June 2015 Family Dinner: Watermelon-Feta Salad

We also made a bunch of Elotes – Mexican style street corn. Super simple to make and you can find out how from a previous post here.

Elote {Grilled Mexican Style Street Corn}

And lastly–dessert!

Now, most of us admitted that we underestimated this dessert. Don’t get me wrong–eldest seester can definitely bake but we didn’t really have a good point of reference for an icebox pie. But after one bite, we knew what fools we had been.

The texture was incredibly creamy and smooth which resulted in somewhat of an ice cream pie texture. She also tweaked the originally recipe that can be found here by:

  • Substituting mango schnapps with mango extract (she also used the extract in the whipped cream);
  • Used ataulfo mangoes as they generally yield a much sweeter and aromatic fruit;
  • Used about 1 cup of mango puree versus the listed 3/4 cup;
  • Used graham instead of saltine crackers for the crust and doubled the amount.

June 2015 Family Dinner: Mango-Lemon Buttermilk Icebox Pie

And after all the food was eaten and the dishes were washed–there was nothing else to do but get in some jacuzzi time!

June 2015 Family Dinner

Now if that’s not a fitting Summer Fam Din, I don’t know what is.

Stay tuned for the wrap up of July’s Family Dinner with all 5 Nguyễn siblings!

Hair of the Dog – Bloody Marys

Hair of the Dog - Bloody Mary

It’s no secret… my seester T and I are rather in L-O-V-E with a good Bloody Mary. They’re schpishy, zingy and man…do they have some serious rejuvenating powers. Hair of the dog all the way!

But there’s nothing worse than a watered down, flavorless Bloody. Vodka in an iced glass of tomato juice does not make a Bloody Mary. Hell – that’s just spiked tomato juice. Yuck! 

A well crafted Bloody should be as complex and multi-layered as a beautiful dish. Savory while bright, spiced and full of umami (ugh, did I really use that word?), while still packing a strong punch.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not opposed to using a premade Bloody mix because there are some darn good ones out there. But even when I do use a premixed base, I always tweak it. Usually to give more spice and depth of flavor.

Hair of the Dog - Bloody Mary

So when one of my favorite meals comes around (Sunday Brunch of course), I’m the first to offer up one of my Bloody Marys. Starting off with a good tomato juice, I add some of this and some of that until the concoction is just right. And then, the Bloody has got to chill in the fridge so that the flavors have a chance to marry.

That gives you the perfect amount of time to get the “toppings” together. And that’s where things get fun. Pickled or fresh veggies, pepperoni, crispy bacon, shrimp, cheeses, kettle chips–anything goes! And want a tip? If you’re wary about having to pick up all kinds of ingredients to garnish a cocktail–fret not! Just swing by the salad bar of your local grocery store and grab whatever tickles your fancy. I usually fill a little box with all the fixings to jazz up my cocktails for under $2-$3.

Looking for a Pan-Asian spin on the Bloody Mary? Use Sriracha instead of hot sauce….swap out Worcestershire sauce for Maggi Seasoning Sauce… crush in some hot Thai chiles….and finally, top it with a SPAM musubi. HELL YEAH!

I’ve included a guide below of how I start my Bloody Marys but like my other cocktail recipes on the site, the measurements are loose guidelines and should be adjusted to your liking.

With that Friends….TGIF! Happy Friday and have a brilliant weekend!


Hair of the Dog – Bloody Marys
Serves 2 (very hefty servings)


3 cups tomato juice
1 heaping tablespoon prepared horseradish
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
½ tablespoon Tabasco sauce (or other hot sauce of your choice)
2 tablespoons olive juice (brine)
juice of ½ small lemon (about 2 tablespoons)
zest of ½ lemon
several dashes Old Bay Seasoning
1 teaspoon celery salt (more to rim the glasses)
¼ teaspoon kosher salt  (more to rim the glasses)
1/8 teaspoon fresh cracked pepper
4 ounces premium vodka

Extra goodness:
grilled prawns
thick pepperoni slices
cucumber slices
pickled hot cherry peppers
lemon wedges
lime wedges
celery stalks

In a pitcher or very large cocktail shaker, combine the first 12 ingredients. Stir well and refrigerate for about an hour.

While the cocktail chills, take wooden skewers and slide the garnish onto them.

Mix together 1 part celery salt and 1 part kosher salt in a shallow plate. Wipe the rim of two glasses with a lemon wedge. Roll the edges of each glass into the salt mixture and set aside.

Once chilled, stir the Bloody Mary concoction well. Fill the glasses with ice and divide the chilled liquid amongst the two. Garnish each drink with the celery stalks and prepared skewers.



Blended Mango Margaritas

Blended Mango Margaritas

Let’s get one thing straight.

In my book, it’s not a Cinco de Mayo celebration if there aren’t margaritas on hand –whether there’s booze in them or not. A chilled beverage filled with tons of citrus that is the perfect sidekick to spicy salsas, tacos, ceviche, barbacoa….let’s face it–pretty much anything!


Blended Mango Margaritas

As we continue on with the Cinco de Mayo plans, it’s only fit to think about what type of margaritas to serve. I usually lean towards my standard classic margarita on the rocks with a heavy salt rim. But if you’re interested in something different, here are a few options:


Blood Orange Margaritas

Blood Orange Margaritas

Mint Margaritas

Mint Margaritas

Pomegranate Margaritas

Pomegranate Margaritas


(not technically a margarita but a fantastic close cousin)



I managed to get my hands on some deliciously sweet ataulfo mangoes and thought they would be fantastic in a blended margarita. I tossed them into the blender with some booze, fresh citrus, ice and voila— a fiesta in a glass!

Blended Mango Margaritas

If you don’t have fresh mangoes on hand, frozen mangoes could also be used. However, you may want to reduce the amount of ice and add a bit more simple syrup to taste. I also chose to rim the glass with sugar but if you happen to have some chili-lime salt (ie. Tajin) then that would be another fab flavor layer.



Blended Mango Margaritas
Serves 2


1 lime wedge
2½ cups ripe mangoes
4 ounces premium tequila
2 ounces Cointreau or triple sec
2 ounces fresh lime juice
2 ounces fresh orange juice
1 ounce simple syrup (more if you prefer a sweeter cocktail)
1 cup crushed ice
limes slices to garnish

Use the lime wedge and rim the edge of two glasses. Dip/roll the rim into the sugar and coat the edge of each glass.

Place all the remaining items into a blender and puree until smooth. Pour the contents into the rimmed glass and garnish with a lime slice. Cheers!

“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.


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.


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!


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!


One Night in Bangkok
Serves 1


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
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!


Aye -Aye Captain
Serves 1


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
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!

Day 3 of A Week of Holiday Cocktails – Mint Chocolate Martinis

Mint Chocolate Martinis

Is it a dessert?

Is it a cocktail?

Who the heck cares because it’s ridiculously amazing!

Mint Chocolate Martinis

These decadent martinis are the TRUTH as they combine the rich flavors of chocolate and mint — one of my favorite flavor combos. And with 5 different spirits in it, you know the Holiday spirit will be flowing should you serve these at your upcoming festivities.

Since these martinis are on the sweeter side, you can also opt to serve them as a dessert to avoid any baking or fussy pastries–not a bad idea if you’re trying to avoid unnecessary stress during holiday entertaining.

Mint Chocolate Martinis

We’ve got a bunch of little munchkins in my family so I’m often mixing up cocktails for the adults and mocktails for the kiddos. To make a non-alcoholic spin on these Mint Chocolate Martinis, fill a shaker with chocolate syrup, milk, a splash of heavy cream, dash of vanilla extract and a drop of mint extract. Shake it all up and strain into glasses–but don’t forget the candy cane rims!

Cheers to all!


Mint Chocolate Martinis

Serves 2


2 candy canes
3 ounces vanilla vodka
2 ounces Bailey’s® Mint Chocolate Irish cream
2 ounces
1 ounce creme de cacao
splash of peppermint schnapps
1 tablespoon chocolate syrup

In a food processor, grind the candy canes until it becomes the texture of sand. Pour the candy on to a small plate. Wet the rim of each glass with water and roll the edge into the candy canes.

Fill a cocktail shaker with ice and pour in the vodka, Bailey’s®, Kahlúa, creme de cacao and peppermint schnapps. Shake vigorously for 15-20 seconds. Swirl the inside of 2 glasses with the chocolate syrup and strain the contents of the cocktail shaker between the two. Enjoy!