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!

This Month’s Family Dinner Menu

Cocktails: Spiked Ginger Iced Tea
Appetizers: Crispy Andouille Hush Puppies
Entrees: Jerk Spiced Shrimp, Buttermilk Chicken Tandoori with Raita Sauce, Steak Skewers with Scallion  Sauce, Elotes, Watermelon-Feta-Arugula Salad
Dessert: Mango-Lemon Buttermilk Icebox Pie


Elote {Grilled Mexican Style Street Corn} + 4th of July Menu Ideas

Elote {Grilled Mexican Style Street Corn}

Y’all got your BBQ grills all scrubbed down?

Coolers ready to be filled with frosty,cold beverages?

Menus all set?

Because it’s time to celebrate ‘MURICA!!!

Elote {Grilled Mexican Style Street Corn}

And since your grills will be nice and warmed up, I’ve got a perfect little number that will round out all of your BBQ bites…. ELOTES!!!

Elotes are a Mexican style grilled street corn that are slathered with butter, mayo (yup–MAYO!), a few spices and topped with cotija cheese. A quick squeeze of fresh lime juice and it’s perfection!

When I was living in LA for grad school, we used to have these nifty little trucks and carts that would cruise by our apartment. Produce trucks, paletas (popsicle) carts, fresh made tamales carts and we even had an elote man who would ring a bell on his cart signaling all of us to come running out for a delish and quick snack.

Elote {Grilled Mexican Style Street Corn}

Usually the corn ears are grilled for 10-15 minutes but I take a shortcut method by wrapping them in damp paper towels and heating them in the microwave for a few minutes. A quick char on the grill and they’re ready! But if you’re an anti-microwave person, just soak the ears of corn in water (husks on, silks removed) for about 15-20 minutes before grilling them. This prevents the husks from burning and creates a little steam bath for them.

Either method, you definitely have to make them for your Fourth of July spread… me.

Speaking of which…in case your menus aren’t set yet–here are some other fantastic ideas:

While your peeps are mingling around, have a big dish of this Cilantro & Jalapeño Hummus for them to snack on. It’s fantastic with veggie sticks, chips, bread or even smothered on some BBQ proteins.

Cilantro & Jalapeño Hummus

Or how about some Oven-Roasted Tomato Salsa?

Oven-Roasted Tomato Salsa

What picnic is complete without deviled eggs? And these Sriracha Deviled Eggs fit that bill perfectly!

Sriracha Deviled Eggs

Now on to the grilling!

Chimichurri Ribeye Steaks can be a show stopping stand alone main dish or sliced thinly to be placed inside crunchy, toasted ciabatta bread.

Grilled Ribeye Steak with Chimichurri Sauce

Not feeling beef? Grab your goodies that you set aside for margaritas to make a big batch of Tequila Chili-Lime Chicken!

Tequila Chili-Lime Chicken

Or if you want to go with burger route, try these Double Jalapeno-Bacon Cheeseburgers with Poblano Aioli.

Double Jalapeno-Bacon Cheeseburgers with Roasted Poblano Aioli

And if there are burgers, there must be BUNS! The Perfect Brioche Buns are….well…perfect for the job.

Perfect Brioche Buns

Don’t feel like slaving away over the grill? Then bust out the slow cooker to make these Kalua Pig sliders and bring the islands to your Independence Day.

Kālua Pig

Got two slow cookers? FANTASTIC! Then use the other one to make these BBQ Pulled Chicken Sandwiches–you won’t believe how easy they are. Not to mention that it’s one of my go-to recipes to feed a crowd.

Slow Cooker BBQ Pulled Chicken Sandwiches

Need an alternative to potato salad or pasta salad? Try out this light but flavor packed Stone Fruit and Prosciutto Salad.

Stone Fruit & Prosciutto Salad

And because you know me, you know there must be cocktails.

Kick start your Fourth of July with a big batch of Bloody Marys. On second thought, make a double batch….you may need a hair of the dog on the Fifth of July :)

Hair of the Dog - Bloody Mary

Palomas, margaritas’ cousin, are another great cocktail to make in a big batch. Just pour the grapefruit soda (or soda water) over each glass before serving.


Nothing screams summer like watermelon! Add an Asian twist on your cocktails with these light and fruity Watermelon Soju-tinis. 

Watermelon Soju-tinis

Planning to have any guests with a sweet tooth?

Fix up this wonderfully creamy and decadent Peanut Butter Cream Pie.

Peanut Butter Cream Pie

Or how about this beautiful Fresh Strawberry Tart?

Fresh Strawberry Tart

Or if you’re feeling a little tropical, some Mango Gelato. 

Mango Gelato

However you decide to celebrate and whatever you decide to serve, have an AWESOME FOURTH OF JULY, Friends!!

Just be sure to grill up some Elotes!!!

Elote {Grilled Mexican Style Street Corn}

Elotes {Grilled Mexican Style Street Corn}
Serves 4


¼ cup mayonnaise
1 teaspoon garlic powder
¼ teaspoon cumin powder
¼ teaspoon black pepper
4 ears of corn, husk on
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons melted butter
sea salt
½ -3/4 teaspoon chili powder
½ cup grated cotija cheese or parmesan cheese
¼ cup chopped cilantro
4 lime wedges
In a small bowl, mix together the mayonnaise, garlic powder, cumin powder and black pepper. Set aside.

Peel the husks of the corn back but do not remove them. Pull and discard the silk from each ear and fold the husks back over the cobb. Wrap each ear loosely with a damp paper towel. Microwave the corn on medium-high heat for 5 minutes.

Carefully remove the paper towels from each ear of corn. Pull the husks down to the base of each cobb. Using either kitchen twine or a piece of the husk, tie the husks together into a bundle to form a handle. Brush the olive oil over the corn kernels.

Place the corn on the grill over medium heat. Grill the corn for about 5 minutes, rotating every 1-2 minutes, until surface becomes slightly charred. Remove the corn to a large platter. Brush the melted butter over the corn and then spread a layer of the mayonnaise mixture on top. Sprinkle each ear with sea salt, chili powder, cotija cheese and cilantro. Serve with lime wedges to be squeezed over the corn.


Indonesian Corn Fritters with Tamarind Chili Sauce

Indonesian Corn Fritters

The Oscars are tomorrow night and I have to admit, I just LOVE them. The glitz, the glam–I can’t help but be swept away in the spirit of the Old Hollywood Glam.

Sure, I haven’t watched all of the top nominated films but the event is the perfect excuse for a fun
“girls night in” filled with lots of cocktails and delish little bites. A  charcuterie board and other finger foods are the perfect accompaniment to a night of gorgeous gowns while my gal pals and I catch up on latest celebrity gossip.

Indonesian Corn Fritters

For my most recent contribution to the Safest Choice™ Darling Dozen, I wanted to make something easy to whip together while unique enough to impress your Oscar going friends. These Indonesian style Corn Fritters are the exact thing and are spiced with South East Asian flavors like Thai chilies, Kaffir lime leaves and turmeric. With just barely enough “batter” to hold the kernels together, the sweet corn definitely is the star especially when dunked into a mixture of Tamarind Chili Sauce and Sriracha.

Indonesian Corn Fritters

Since it is the Academy Awards, I’d recommend serving them with a bright, refreshing cocktail like a Paloma or Blood Orange Margarita— though a chilled glass of champagne would be fab as well.

Much thanks to our friends at Safest Choice™ and to learn more about them and their pasteurization process to eliminate salmonella, please click here.

Enjoy Oscar Night!

Indonesian Corn Fritters with Tamarind Chili Sauce
Makes approximately 16 fritters


3 tablespoons tamarind juice concentrate
1½ tablespoons fish sauce
1 tablespoon warm water
½ tablespoon lime juice
1 tablespoon palm sugar
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1 Thai bird chile, minced finely
1 teaspoon Sambal chili paste

2 large fresh whole corn cobs (about 3 heaping cups of corn kernels)
¼ cup chopped shallots
1 tablespoon minced garlic
2 scallions, chopped (more for garnish)
2-3 Thai bird chilies, minced (depending on your heat preference)
4 fresh kaffir lime leaves, minced
¼ cup chopped cilantro leaves (more for garnish)
½ teaspoon chili powder
½ teaspoon ground cumin
¼ teaspoon ground coriander
1/8 teaspoon turmeric powder
¼ teaspoon coarse black pepper
½ teaspoon kosher salt
2 large Safest Choice™ pasteurized eggs, beaten
¼ cup rice flour
vegetable oil
sea salt
lime wedges
Sriracha sauce

Prepare the sauce. In a bowl, whisk together all the items and refrigerate until serving.

Stand one ear of corn vertically on a cutting board or in a large bowl. Using a sharp knife, carefully cut down the sides of the corn to remove the kernels. Repeat with the remaining ear of corn.

In a large bowl, mix the first 13 ingredients together. Stir in the beaten eggs and rice flour until just combined. The batter will be minimal and just barely hold the corn and aromatics together.

Take a large cast iron skillet or other heavy bottom pan and pour in oil until it reaches about ½ – ¾ inch up the side of the pan. Allow the oil to come up to medium heat. Carefully place large spoonfuls of the corn mixture in the skillet – avoid having the fritters touch each other. Fry the fritters for about 2 minutes on each side until they reach a deep, golden color. Take caution while frying as the corn kernels may splatter a bit during the frying process. I like to place an inexpensive mesh splatter screen over the skillet while frying. Once done, remove the fritters from the oil and briefly drain on paper towel lined plates. Sprinkle each fritter with a few pinches of sea salt while they’re still warm and garnish with additional chopped scallions and cilantro.

Serve the fritters warm with a squeeze of fresh lime juice, Sriracha and tamarind chili sauce.



*DISCLOSURE: As a brand ambassador for the Safest Choice™ Darling Dozen, I was compensated for the creation of this recipe and post. However, as always, all opinions are my own.*

Jalapeño-Cheddar Skillet Cornbread

Jalapeno Cheddar Cornbread

I love Bread. I love Corn. But I’ve never really LOVED cornbread.

Odd, I know.

I think it’s because most of the cornbreads I’ve sampled always had some major flaws…..either too dry, too sweet—or, just lacked flavor.

But there have been some times that I’ve tasted different versions and I’ve thought—-huh, that’s not bad at all. When it comes down to it, I prefer the ones that aren’t overly sweet but have a lot of good corn flavor. I also like the ones that have nice crispy edges.

Turkey and Bean Chili

So when I made a big ol’ pot of chili for some friends the other weekend for the big game, it just seemed right to serve it with cornbread. They go hand in hand, right?

My take below is still a work in progress but I think it’s almost there. The key components are lots of Jalapeños , whole corn kernels, cheese—and of course, the crispy edges from the cast iron skillet. Yummers.

There’s definitely still room to tweak this cornbread to make it the ultimate real deal but I barely had enough time to snap a few pictures of it before my friends inhaled it. And I mean all of it! :)


Jalapeño-Cheddar Skillet Cornbread


1 Cup All Purpose Flour
1 Cup Yellow Cornmeal
1½ Teaspoon Baking Powder
1 Teaspoon Baking Soda
1 Teaspoon Salt
4 Tablespoons Sugar
1 Cup Buttermilk
2 Large Eggs
1 Cup Shredded Sharp Cheddar Cheese
5 Tablespoons Unsalted Butter, melted and cooled, divided
3-4 Jalapeño Peppers, seeded and minced
¼ Cup Scallions, chopped
1 Cup Corn Kernels

Place a 9 inch cast iron skillet in the oven and preheat to 400 degrees.

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, cornmeal, baking soda, baking powder, salt, and sugar. Add the cheese and gently toss.

In a separate bowl, whisk together the milk, eggs, and 4 tablespoons of butter.

Combine the wet and dry ingredients, stirring until all items are well incorporated. Fold in the jalapeños , scallions, and corn.

Carefully remove the hot skillet from the oven. Pour the remaining butter into the bottom of the skillet and swirl around to cover the pan. Be careful as butter may splatter. Pour the batter into the skillet. Lower the oven temperature to 375 degrees and bake for about 25-30 minutes or until the center is firm and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Cool on a wire rack for 10 minutes before serving.

Grilled Shrimp Tacos with Spicy Avocado Crema

Grilled Shrimp Tacos

San Diego is the land of fish and seafood tacos.

And since moving here, I’ve had my fair share of them. Deliciously fresh seafood combined with bright salsas and spice—- all wrapped up in flour or corn tortillas.


So it was high time that I share with you one my favorite (and easy) seafood tacos that I love to make—Grilled Shrimp Tacos.

Grilled Shrimp Tacos

To add even more oompf to these tacos, I made a Spicy Avocado Crema using Mexican Crema. Mexican Crema–or Crema Espesa is similar in flavor and consistency to Crème fraîche. Its natural cooling effect works wonders to balance spicy tones and is even more fantastic with the addition of the creamy avocados, cilantro, and jalapeno.

Fish would be just as fantastic in these tacos using the same marinade and method—however, if you do go this route, be sure to use a firmer fish that would hold up in the taco. I personally like the “bite” of texture that the shrimp give in these tacos but to each their own!

And in case you’re wondering, my suggested cocktail pairing for these killer tacos would be a Cadillac Margarita or an icy cold Mexican Beer with Lime & Salt. :)


Grilled Shrimp Tacos with Spicy Avocado Crema  


Spicy Avocado Crema:
1½ Cups Ripe Avocado, diced
½ Cup Mexican Crema (or Crème fraîche )
¼ Cup Fresh Cilantro, chopped
1 Teaspoon Jalapeno Pepper, finely diced and seeded
1 Tablespoon Fresh Lime Juice
Kosher Salt and Ground Pepper to taste

1 Pound Large Shrimp, peeled and deveined
1 Teaspoon Fresh Garlic, finely minced
1 Teaspoon Fresh Lime Zest
¼ Teaspoon Red Chili Flake
2 Pinches Cayenne Pepper
2 Pinches Ground Cumin
2 Tablespoons Vegetable Oil
Kosher Salt

Serve with:
Fresh Corn Pico de Gallo
Fresh Cilantro Leaves
Lime Wedges

Prepare the Spicy Avocado Crema by combining all the ingredients in a food processor. Puree until thoroughly combined. Place in a bowl, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 1 hour.

Prepare shrimp by combining all the ingredients in a large bowl and marinate for 10 minutes. If using an outdoor grill, skewer the shrimp on soaked bamboo sticks.  If using an indoor grill pan, heat over a medium-high flame. Grill shrimp for 1-2 minutes on each side until opaque. Remove from grill and place on a large platter.

Warm tortillas in a skillet. Assemble tacos by placing a layer of the Corn Pico de Gallo in a tortilla and top with the grilled shrimp. Drizzle the Spicy Avocado Crema over the top and sprinkle with cilantro. Enjoy!

Fresh Corn Pico de Gallo

Fresh Corn Pico de Gallo

I love Condiments.

Hot sauces, dips, salsas, flavored ketchup, sauces…… I’m completely obsessed. No salsa bar is safe from me and I am without a doubt the reason why many food spots charge extra for sauces these days.

But when condiments can also be considered a “dip” or even a side dish—-well then it’s brilliant! And my Fresh Corn Pico de Gallo does just that!

Fresh Corn Pico de Gallo

Traditional Pico de Gallo is known for its bright flavors from the citrus and cilantro. These components play so well with the slight heat from the chilies and coolness of tomatoes. To add a different flair, I threw in fresh corn for a bit of sweetness and crunch. The whole combination married so well together and for me, depicted summer at its best.

This Fresh Corn Pico de Gallo is extremely versatile as well. Serve it as a dip with chips or veggies. Layer it in tacos or over freshly grilled meat or fish. You can even serve it as a side dish!

But one thing is for sure, be sure you make A LOT of it because you will definitely gobble it all up!


Fresh Corn Pico de Gallo


2 Cups Fresh Tomatoes, diced and seeded
1 Cup Whole Corn Kernels
½ Cup White Onion, finely diced
¼ Cup Fresh Cilantro, chopped
½ Tablespoon Serrano Chili, finely diced and seeded
1 Teaspoon Fresh Lime Zest
1 Tablespoon Fresh Lime Juice
1-2 Pinches Ground Cumin
Kosher Salt and Ground Pepper to taste

Combine all the ingredients in a large bowl and mix well. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 1 hour.

Corn Chowder and a Photo Quandry

In the age of Digital Cameras, photography novices (and I mean ME!) rely on taking hundreds of shots in hopes of getting 1 or 2 photos we like. It’s so easy to snap a photo, take a quick peak, delete, re-shoot….repeat.

Sure, I play around with aperture settings, ISO, composition, blah-blah-blah. But most of it’s trial and error. This especially occurs when I shoot food photos. I often torture loved ones by making them wait until I’ve snapped the thousandth photo before they can dig into their plates. It’s a sad thing.

So I decided to challenge myself the other day……. take only ONE shot of a dish. One quick click without any do overs.

The subject of the photo—a Corn Chowder to take the chill off the cold days we’ve been having.

Sadly, it definitely wasn’t a great photo.  But alas, I had to stick to my guns—- though I had a quandary on my hands. Even though the photo was BLEH the Corn Chowder turned out so darn tasty and tummy warming. If I scrapped the photo, I would have nothing to show you Friends.

Alas….here it is….


Corn Chowder



Not my best work but I’m a work in progress. And although I’m glad to have challenged myself, next time I will continue to click away. Let’s face it….that’s why I bought a digital camera in the first place :)


Corn Chowder
Serves 4


3 Cups Russett Potatoes, diced
1 Cup Corn Kernels
½ Cup Carrots, finely diced
½ Cup Celery, finely diced
½ Cup White Onion, finely diced
2 Whole Garlic Cloves, finely diced
3 Strips Bacon, finely diced
2 Dried Bay Leaves
1 Teaspoon Fresh Thyme Leaves
1 Quart Low Sodium Chicken Broth
3/4 Cup Heavy Cream
Kosher Salt and Black Pepper

In a heavy bottom pot, cook the bacon slowly until crisp and the fat has rendered out—about 8-10 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the bacon to a plate covered with a paper towel.

In the same pot with the bacon grease, add carrots, celery, and onions and cook until they are translucent. Add the garlic, thyme, potatoes and cook for 2 or 3 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Add chicken broth and bay leaves. Bring liquid to a boil and then cover and lower heat to a steady simmer.

Continue to simmer until the potatoes become tender—about 15-20 minutes. Once this has been achieved, use a wooden spoon to smash some of the potatoes against the sides of the pot to release some of the starch into the liquid. Stir in the corn and cream and continue to simmer for an additional 10 minutes.

Remove the bay leaves and discard. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Ladle soup into bowls and sprinkle the tops with the crisped bacon.