Ratatouille Pizza

Ratatouille Pizza
You may not know this about me but I’m a Disney freak.

For years my movie library was primarily filled with the clam-shell VHS cases of animated Disney films. Yes, you read correctly — VHS.

I can recite entire movies without effort, enthusiastically sing (albeit, in a tone deaf pitch) every song, and have a rather impressive “who’s-its and what’s-its galore” collection of Disney chotskies.

So it should be no surprise that my inspiration dish for National Pizza Month came while watching Disney’s Ratatouille the other week. The movie is now near 10 years old but if you haven’t seen it yet—drop everything and watch it!!

Oh that Remy……

Ratatouille Pizza
Ratatouille is a French Provençal dish that features veggies in a slow cooked stew. It was while Remy was layering the veggies for his remake of Ratatouille that I thought –HOT DAMN! Those flavors would be fantastic on a pizza! Eggplant, squashes, peppers, tomatoes, basil — perfect!!!

With those flavors in mind, I took to my beloved cast iron skillet method to fix up a gorgeous pizza. I smothered a generous layer of my homemade marinara that mimicked the stewed tomatoes of Ratatouille with its onions, garlic, oregano, and fennel. Next came a shingled layer of roasted eggplant, roasted zucchini and few slices of red bell pepper that I chose not to roast so that it could hold a bit of its crunch through the short cooking process. After the whole pizza broiled, I placed torn pieces of burrata on top because burrata makes everything better! And right before serving, I sprinkled the the whole thing with some sea salt, fresh cracked pepper, chili flakes and ribbons of fresh basil.

What do ya think? Isn’t it a beauty? And it tasted even better than it looked!

Remy would be proud.



Ratatouille Pizza
Serves 2


12-15 ¼-inch slices eggplant
12-15 ¼-inch slices zucchini or summer squash
olive oil, divided
kosher salt
5 ounces fresh pizza dough, rested and at room temperature
all purpose flour
1 teaspoon ground corn meal
¾ cup marinara
1 teaspoon minced garlic
leaves from 2 sprigs fresh thyme
10-12 thin slices red bell pepper
3 ounces fresh burrata cheese, torn into pieces
sea salt
fresh cracked black pepper
¼ teaspoon red chili flakes
2-3 large fresh basil leaves chiffonade

Preheat oven to 475 degrees F. Place the eggplant and zucchini on a baking sheet. Brush each slice with olive oil and sprinkle with kosher salt. Roast the vegetables in the oven for 10-15 minutes until they are soft and become golden. Remove the sheet and allow to cool.

Turn on the oven broiler and adjust one of the racks to the top of the oven to rest directly under the broiler. Place a seasoned cast iron skillet (12-14 inches in diameter) directly under the broiler for 8-10 minutes. It may begin to smoke but you need the skillet to be screaming hot.

While the skillet heats, roll out the pizza dough onto a floured surface–you’ll want it a tad smaller than the width of your skillet. If you have a pizza peal, sprinkle it with cornmeal and transfer the pizza dough onto it. If not, you can also use a wooden cutting board. Brush olive oil over the dough.

Once the skillet has heated for the appropriate length of time, quickly and CAREFULLY remove the skillet from the oven. Slide the dough into the skillet. Quickly spread the marinara over the dough and sprinkle the minced garlic and thyme leaves over. Layer with the slices of eggplant, zucchini and bell pepper. Carefully replace the skillet in the oven so it sits directly underneath the broiler. Close the oven door and allow the pizza to cook for about 60 seconds. Open the oven door and rotate the skillet 180 degrees. Close the door and allow another 60-90 seconds underneath the broiler. Once the crust and bell peppers are slightly charred, CAREFULLY remove the skillet from the oven and place it on a cooling rack for 3-4 minutes. While the pizza rests, top with burrata cheese and allow the heat to melt it.

After the pizza has fully rested, sprinkle the tops with sea salt, freshly cracked black pepper and red pepper flakes. Sprinkle the basil over the pizza and transfer to a cutting board, slice up and enjoy!

*If you don’t want to use the cast iron skillet method, assemble the entire pizza (with the exception of the basil and cheese) on a baking sheet. Bake in a 500 degree F oven for about 15-20 minutes until the crust becomes golden brown. Remove the sheet from the oven and follow the remaining steps of the above recipe.

Li Hing Mui Margaritas – Okole Maluna!!

August 2016 Family Dinner
Maybe because the weather has taken a weird turn these past few days…..

Or maybe because tomorrow is the first day of Fall.

Whatever the case is, I want Summer back!!! Please?

To make the best of these last few hours of Summer I thought I would share with you all a fantastic little cocktail that in one sip, can transport you to a warm beach day with the sound of waves lapping on the shoreline — the Li Hing Mui Margarita!


If you read my last  Sunday Family Dinner post, you know that I mixed up a batch of these vibrantly colorful cocktails for our Lūʻau.

Anytime I’m visiting one of the islands of Hawai’i, I’m inevitably stuffing my face with some type of Li Hing flavored goodie. I’ll snag a few Li Hing malasadas from Leonard’s, have some Li Hing powder sprinkled on top of my shave ice, stuff a bag or two of Li Hing Sour Gummy Candies in my beach bag, and of course–sip on a few Li Hing cocktails.

Li Hing Mui is a salted, dried plum that is both sweet and tart–which is why it’s perfect for cocktails!

Li Hing Mui Margaritas
The first step is to infuse tequila with Li Hing Mui* for several weeks. And really–that’s the hardest part. Sitting and waiting for the magic to happen.

But if you make it through the waiting, all you need to do is add the infused tequila into your favorite margarita recipe and voila!! A tangy, sweet and onolicious cocktail you can enjoy year round.

Okole Maluna!!

ps. Summer– don’t leave me!❤

Li Hing Mui Margaritas
Makes 1 pitcher


750 ml tequila
6 ounces Li Hing Mui*
1 cup Grand Marnier or triple sec
1 cup fresh lime juice
1 cup simple syrup
1/4 cup coarse salt
1 heaping tablespoon Li Hing Mui powder -optional
lime wedges

Begin by infusing the tequila. Place the Li Hing Mui in a large, resealable container. Add the tequila, stir and seal the container. Place it in a room-temperature, dark spot for at least 4 weeks. Take the container and gently shake every few days to mix.  Once the time has passed, strain the infused tequila into a clean large bottle or mason jar and set aside until ready for use.

To make the margaritas, pour 2 cups of the infused tequila into a pitcher. Stir in the Grand Marnier, fresh lime juice and simple syrup. In a small plate, stir the coarse salt and Li Hing Mui powder together. Using a lime wedge, rim the edge of the glasses and dip them into the salt/powder mixture. Add ice and fill the glasses with margaritas.

Okole Maluna!!

*Li Hing Mui can be found in many Asian grocery stores or can be purchased online.

Family Dinner Calls Upon the Spirit of Alooohaaa!

August 2016 Family Dinner

What do the five Nguyễn Siblings do when we’re all together for Family Dinner?

We throw a Lūʻau of course!! Because if we can’t manage a visit to the islands together, we bring Hawai’i to us! Or…at the very least, the Spirit of Aloha! ❤

August 2016 Family Dinner

And before you feel bad for our brother being the only boy growing up with 4 seesters—-think again! He had it made! And it probably helped that he was quite rascally…which is completely where his son Leonidas gets it from!

As for putting our Lūʻau together, there were some definite essentials we had to have. Onolicious food, tropical cocktails, island music blaring, hula performances, whimsical decorations, colorful island gear, and…..

August 2016 Family Dinner


You can’t have a Lūʻau without the traditional blowing of the conch shell to open the festivities!

Okay, okay…maybe this is the one time you can feel a little bad for our brother—when four of his sisters and his wife force him into a grass skirt, ti leaves headdress and shirtless. But he’s used to this kind of thing and quite frankly,  just goes with it.

In case you’re curious, when V attempted to blow the conch, it kinda sounded more like a Wookie-Call. He quickly defended it by saying that Wookies originate from a planet that is rather jungle-like…. so it was totally appropriate.

And yes–I did fact check that. Kashyyyk is a tree covered planet with a jungle terrain. Go figure V would know that….

August 2016 Family Dinner
In addition to having a wide range of Star Wars knowledge, my brother also happens to make killer Piña Coladas!  They were creamy, weren’t too sweet, and had that wonderful tropical vacay feel. Definitely packed a punch and you didn’t even taste it—trouble.

August 2016 Family Dinner
With a cocktail or two in our tummies, it was time to take some more pics. Here’s our sister P and her fam that came down from San Francisco.

And look at Kaelani’s little face. How freaking adorable is she?!

August 2016 Family Dinner
So adorable that I had to post a few more pics of her and her mama.❤

This time around, Kaelani only got to hang out for 5 days with her crazy So Cal family–so we can’t wait to see our munchkin again in November.

August 2016 Family Dinner
Then there’s brother V and his fam! They’re an adventurous and carefree bunch who had lived in New York for the past 15+ years.

But guess what?!

They’ve moved back to Southern California for the next year!!! Yahoo!!

August 2016 Family Dinner
Which means more–LOTS MORE, shenanigans at family dinner for the next year!

August 2016 Family Dinner
We’ve missed them!!!

August 2016 Family Dinner
At some point during our photo shoot, I took a pause to mix up our next set of cocktails for the evening — Li Hing Mui Margaritas!

Li Hing Mui is a salted, dried plum that is somewhat tart, a bit sweet and incredibly addicting. In Hawai’i it’s used to flavor everything from shave ice, sour candies, fruit, ice cream, malasadas and in cocktails like these margs.

If you follow me on Instagram you’ll remember that I took a bag of Li Hing and soaked them in tequila for about 4-5 weeks. It dyes the tequila to a dark brown-orange hue and the flavor is incredible. I mixed a few ounces of the magical infused tequila with Cointreau, fresh lime juice, simple syrup and then poured it over ice in glasses rimmed with coarse salt and li hing powder.

BOOM! I was instantly transported to the beaches of Haleiwa.

And they were a BIG hit with the sibs!

August 2016 Family Dinner
We were then equipped to take some more fam pics.

Here’s seestrah N and her fam (minus Princess Leia who was hanging out with Bella at their house).

August 2016 Family Dinner
Nini (left) is 16 and just started her junior year in high school. Nina (right) just turned 18 and started college a few weeks back.

Which all results in me having periodic meltdowns on how grown they’ve become….


August 2016 Family Dinner
Here’s seester T and her fam — total naturals when it’s picture time!

August 2016 Family Dinner
Oh these two love birds……..

August 2016 Family Dinner
Before we took more pictures, we needed some apps to hold everyone down. And we cannot, I repeat– CANNOT have a Hawaiian themed event without mounds of SPAM Musubis!

It would be just sacrilegious!

August 2016 Family Dinner

Nini did the majority of the musubi assembly rolling sticky rice with crispy SPAM, soy sauce and furikake in thick sheets of nori.

As for brother….I don’t think he rolled any but I’m quite certain he had gobbled at least 4 of them.

August 2016 Family Dinner


A shot of all of our munchkins ranging from 18 years old to 22 months!

I can’t begin to explain how hectic it was trying to get a pic of them all looking at the same general vicinity!

Sure, Luna’s tongue was out but I like to think she was channeling the Maori warriors while they did the haka.

August 2016 Family Dinner


August 2016 Family Dinner
In this auntie’s opinion, all of our kiddos are miracles. But this particular munchkin is a medical miracle! (Hope you read that in Ross’s voice.)

Since she doesn’t get to see us too often living in SF, it usually takes her a few days to get used to all the noise and insanity that is her family.

August 2016 Family Dinner

Unless you’re THIS GUY!

I swear, my brother-in-law, C, is a legitimate baby whisperer. ALL KIDS love him and babies always want him to hold them.

Ms. Kaelani spent the entire 5 days walking around yelling “BAH-BEE!!” in search of her beloved uncle. She hasn’t perfected the Vietnamese pronunciation of C’s title as Bác Bi yet but it’s so heart-melty to hear her try.

August 2016 Family Dinner
This little lady has practiced hula and Polynesian dance for several years now and it’s a beautiful sight to see her perform.

She treated us later that night with a poi ball performance but unfortunately this auntie blew it and wasn’t able to record it with enough lighting to share with y’all. Next time–I promise!

August 2016 Family Dinner

We couldn’t let T’s neighbor’s plumeria tree not be put to use on the night of our Lūʻau!

August 2016 Family Dinner
Alright, enough pics of my fam bam for now. Let’s get to the food, shall we?

As I had mentioned, we were going with Hawaiian/Lūʻau grindz for our menu. Things that you may find on one of the islands on a lunch plate or dishes that we adore when visiting.

First up–an homage to Helena’s Hawaiian Food in Honolulu. Helena’s is a tiny little spot serving up local Hawaiian grindz since 1946 and has even earned a James Beard Award. When at Helena’s, be sure to order the Squid Lu’au, Laulau and their fantastic Short Ribs Pipikaula.

Pipikaula is a dried beef that is first marinated and hung up to dry out (think “dry aged”). They are then fried or grilled up and are just so ono! T took the lead on these beauties but instead of the hang-dry method, she chose to dry them out in a low-heat oven. Right before serving, R threw them on the grill to get a little char.

August 2016 Family Dinner
N made these little bundles of Steamed Monk Fish in Banana Leaves which was a slight variation of the beloved Sam Choy’s steamed grouper. The fish was quickly marinaded in tamari, fish sauce, sugar, lemongrass and Sriracha. They were then wrapped up in banana leaves with a few slices of red bell pepper and then steamed. Once done, they were finished with a dab of bright and fresh herb butter.

I’m definitely making these again—and maybe sub with a black sea bass or even some snapper?

Endless options!

August 2016 Family Dinner
As far as I’m concerned, Kālua Pig has got to make an appearance on any Hawaiian menu. Sadly, we did not get a whole pig so we didn’t get to dig an imu in my seestrah’s back yard to cook it. So, I opted for my trusty CrockPot version which is pretty dang close — especially since it’s slow cooked in banana leaves and finished off with Hawaiian sea salt and a few shakes of liquid smoke.  The recipe can be found here.

Nina made a request for Kālua Pig and Cabbage, so in the last 30 minutes of cooking, I added in shredded cabbage so that it cooked down a bit but still had some bite to it. I highly recommend making lots of Kālua Pig as leftovers are brilliant in sliders, fried rice, burritos or even over fries!

August 2016 Family Dinner
And of course, if you’ve ever found yourself on O’ahu, you most likely made your way up towards the North Shore to the shrimp farms….and to Giovanni’s Shrimp Truck!

P whipped up a HUGE batch of Garlicky Peel-and-Eat Shrimp Scampi as an homage to the Giovanni’s and she did them proud!

August 2016 Family Dinner

N also pulled together this colorful and fresh Tropical Slaw. And let’s just put it out there that she definitely got extra credit for the plating!

Soooo purrrrtyyy!!!

August 2016 Family Dinner

And what’s more Hawaiian than Mac Salad????

Ok, I admit it–I have no idea how Macaroni Salad found its way into Island Cuisine. There’s nothing tropical about tubs of mayonnaise but here’s the thing….. I cannot, I WILL NOT have a lunch plate without a big ol’ scoop of Mac Salad! It would be OH SO WRONG without it. So I made lots of it….LOTS of it!

And yes, you must use an ice cream scooper to plate Mac Salad.

August 2016 Family Dinner
Aerial shot!

Admittedly, the picture quality isn’t good but I nearly broke my neck climbing on a high chair to take it.

Points for effort???

August 2016 Family Dinner
Styrofoam Compartment Plates?!


I realize it’s kitschy but it was our homage to the styrofoam containers that lunch plates come in. We just had to do it.

August 2016 Family Dinner
Quick pic!

And can you just look at our little guys in the front????

Apparently the theme was “spoons”…..

August 2016 Family Dinner
I think I failed to mention that this Fam Din was super special because not only did we have all the Nguyễn sibs together, but we were also celebrating this gal’s 18th birthday!!!!

Oh our sweet, sweet Nina….. How have 18 years just flown by???

And although this pic may look a bit weird since I took it through a screened window, I wanted to share it because to me, it just captures her.

August 2016 Family Dinner

And as you may recall, when it’s your birthday — you pick the menu and dessert!!!

This proved to be more difficult than you may think. P agreed to make the dessert but Nina pupu‘ed (pun intended) all of our ideas! But one thing is for certain–the gal loves chocolate! So seestrah ended up baking rich and decadent brownies that we served with coconut gelato.

And because we’re OVER THE TOP— we served two desserts!

And because V and L totally embraced the Fam Din theme and their move back to Cali by buying this….

August 2016 Family Dinner


Shave Ice is a quintessential Hawaiian treat! Don’t confuse it for a snow cone or slushee–it’s so much more!

Hawaiian Shave Ice is fluffy, snow-like ice that is gorgeously shaven from a block and then dressed with deeply intense fruit syrups. Not just any ol’ machine can achieve the perfect texture…..so V and L ordered this beautiful blue behemoth that weights a good 60-70lbs!

August 2016 Family Dinner
Then they made these great tropical syrups for us to drizzle over the snow— lilikoi (passion fruit), strawberry and pineapple.

My favorite? The lilikoi!!!


August 2016 Family Dinner
And it was so fun and interactive!!!

You better believe they’ll be lugging that machine all over to our family parties for the next year while they’re here. They’re definitely going to get their moneys worth!

August 2016 Family Dinner
The girls approved!!! (Me included!!!)

August 2016 Family Dinner
All in all, it was a crazy, CRAZY dinner but so, SO much fun!!! I can’t wait til’ we do it again!

August 2016 Family Dinner

And isn’t it wonderful when your family is as over-the-top and bonkers as you are?



This Month’s Family Dinner Menu

Cocktails:  Piña Coladas, Li Hing Mui Margaritas
Appetizers: SPAM Musubi
Entrees: Short Ribs Pipikaula, Steamed Monk Fish in Banana Leaves, Kālua Pig and Cabbage, Garlicky Peel-and Eat Shrimp Scampi 
Sides: Tropical Slaw, Mac Salad, White Rice
Dessert: Chocolatey and Decadent Brownies with Coconut Gelato, Hawaiian Shave Ice

Saigon Cheesesteaks for the WIN-NGUYEN!!

Saigon Cheesesteaks
Sometimes I like to do C-R-A-Z-Y things…..

You know – kooky things like mashing up Philly Cheesesteaks with the comforting Vietnamese Thịt Bò Xào.

Say Whaaat???? I know, but just hear me out.

Thịt Bò Xào is a quick beef stir-fry we used to eat weekly growing up and we all loved it. It was hearty, garlicky, and well–beefy! The added bonus is the wonderfully rich sauce it created that we use to spoon over our rice bowls.

So freaking good.

Saigon Cheesesteaks
The other night I was about to make up a pan of Thịt Bò Xào when I caught a glance of leftover hoagie rolls sitting on the counter. And that’s when I got struck with a bit of genius! Or madness!

Sometimes it’s a blurry line with those two characteristics.

Why not throw the Thịt Bò Xào inside a roll and top it off with cheesy goodness?

Ain’t nothing bad about that!

Saigon Cheesesteaks

So I rolled the dice and gave it try!

I stir fried some ribeye beef and veggies, added a few slices of pepper jack cheese, stuffed it inside the hoagie and topped it with some bright cilantro leaves.  And no surprise here–it was AWESOME!! The beef had the same type of richness like the beloved Philly Cheesesteaks but the Asian flavors combined with that luscious sauce I had mentioned was a definite game changer!

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not knocking the Philly Cheesesteak because I’m one of its biggest fans! But this is a fun twist and I do love variety!

And since this weekend kicks off College Football Season (FINALLY!)–it gives me the perfect excuse to whip up these Saigon Cheesesteaks again as I cheer on my beloved❤ Trojans as they take on Crimson Tide!

Fight On, ‘SC!


Saigon Cheesesteaks
Makes 2


½ pound thinly sliced ribeye beef
1 tablespoon minced garlic
½ teaspoon cornstarch
2 tablespoons vegetable oil, divided
½ teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
½ yellow onion, sliced
5 ounces mushrooms, sliced
2 ripe Roma tomatoes, cut into wedges
2 tablespoons Maggi or Soy Sauce, more to taste
4 slices cheese (pepper jack, provolone, Swiss, etc.)
2 hoagie/sub rolls, sliced and toasted
red chili flakes
fresh cilantro to garnish


In a small bowl, mix together the beef, garlic, cornstarch, 1 tablespoon vegetable oil and black pepper. Set aside.

Heat the remaining vegetable oil and butter in a large wok or nonstick skillet over medium heat. Swirl the pan around until the butter melts. Add onions and mushrooms and cook until both have softened and become lightly browned, approximately 4-5 minutes. Add tomatoes and cook for an additional 2 minutes. Push the items to the side of your wok/skillet (or remove to a plate if your wok/skillet is not large enough) and add the beef. Turn the heat up to medium-high and quickly stir fry the beef for 1-2 minutes or until lightly brown. This should not take a long time since the beef is so thin.  Mix the onion/tomato/mushroom mixture together with the beef. Stir in Maggi (to taste) and additional cracked black pepper if desired. Pull the pan off the heat.

Keeping the mixture in the pan, divide it into two. Place the cheese slices over each of the portions and cover with a lid until the cheese melts. Open each roll and add half the meat mixture inside. Sprinkle the tops with red chili flakes and cilantro.

Serve immediately.

Kale, Bacon and Cheese Strata

Bacon and Kale Strata
Y’all hear that bell ringing?


It’s the time of year in many households where everyone is just wishing they had a few extra minutes in the morning before they dash out the door for the day.

So for this month, I worked with our friends over at Safest Choice® Eggs to create this deliciously satisfying “make the night before” dish that will fuel up your loved ones for an entire day of work, school, and any shenanigans they may find themselves in.

Bacon and Kale Strata

Breakfast Stratas are essentially a savory bread pudding. It’s the perfect way to use up all of your stale bread and any other fixings you may have tucked away in the corner of your fridge. And since the custard base needs time to soak up in all the nooks and crannies of the bread, it’s the ideal thing to prep the night before only to be thrown in the oven while you’re getting ready in the morning.

This time around, I chose to use sauteed kale and combination of cheeses to flavor the strata and of course– bacon. Because the smell of bacon is the sure fire trick to motivate people out of bed in the morning! I also tossed in some leftover diced potatoes because I like the texture and body it gives to the dish. But if you prefer to use bread only, feel free to leave it out.

Added bonus? This Kale, Bacon and Cheese Strata is such a stunner, you can definitely serve it up at a brunch gathering alongside fresh fruit, juices, coffee and mimosas. Guaranteed hit!

Head on over to Safest Choice® Eggs  to read my Strata post this month and while you’re at it, click here for the recipe.


Thai Inspired Shrimp & Chicken Larb Gai

Shrimp & Chicken Larb Gai
I must admit that I’ve been incredibly lazy in the kitchen these past few weeks. It’s been really warm and humid (for San Diego standards, that is) and the last thing I want to do is hang out over the hot stove for long periods of time.

And don’t even get me started about my utter disdain for dishes!

Shrimp & Chicken Larb Gai
So my “cooking” of late has really consisted of compiling ingredients (salads or sandwiches), charcuterie boards (AMEN!), or quick prep dishes such as stir-frys.

Because…you know…. EVERYTHING STIR-FRY and all.

Total shameless plug.

Shrimp & Chicken Larb Gai
But all self-promotion aside, stir-fry dishes are a total legit way to get something scrumptious in your belly with minimal cooking time. The majority of your efforts primarily go towards chopping the ingredients— easy peasy!

Shrimp & Chicken Larb Gai
This Shrimp & Chicken Larb Gai is a slight variation of my Pork Larb Gai which is a Thai minced pork salad. For the protein I went with a surf and turf approach as I love the flavor combo. For the ground chicken, you can go with breast meat but I prefer the flavor of dark meat. And if you want a really light approach, sub the chicken with ground turkey breast.

Shrimp & Chicken Larb Gai

Whichever protein you select, you’ll really love Larb Gai –-especially during the summer months. The dish is light yet fulfilling and is punched up with TONS of flavor from the fresh lime juice, bright herbs and savory sauce. I often have it over steamed rice but when I’m feeling extra lazy or when it’s warm out, I use it as filling for lettuce wraps. Either way, you’ll love it.



Thai Inspired Shrimp & Chicken Larb Gai
Serves 4-6


1 tablespoon granulated sugar
1 tablespoon warm water
4 tablespoons fresh lime juice, divided
3 tablespoons fish sauce, divided
1 teaspoon minced Thai chiles, divided
3 tablespoon vegetable oil
1/4 cup minced red onions or shallots
4-5 kaffir lime leaves, sliced into thin strips
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1/2 teaspoon red chili flakes
1 pound ground chicken
½ pound peeled shrimp, cleaned and deveined
2 scallions, chopped
1 heaping tablespoon ground toasted rice powder*
1 cup thinly sliced red onion
1 cup fresh mint leaves, roughly torn
1 cup fresh cilantro leaves, roughly torn
1 cup fresh Thai basil leaves, roughly torn

In a small bowl, create the sauce by whisking together the sugar and warm water until dissolved. Add in 2 tablespoons lime juice, 2 tablespoons fish sauce and ½ teaspoon minced chiles (more to taste). Set the sauce aside.

Heat the vegetable oil in a wok or large skillet over medium-low heat. Add the minced onions, kaffir lime leaves, garlic and cook for 1 minute. Add ½ teaspoon minced chiles (more to taste), red chili flakes and cook for an additional 30 seconds. Increase the heat to medium-high and add in the ground chicken.

Using a wooden spoon, stir the chicken around the wok/skillet while breaking it apart to a crumbled consistency. Cook the chicken for 3-4 minutes and then add the shrimp Stir-fry for an additional 2 minutes until the shrimp becomes pink and opaque. Stir in the remaining fish sauce and scallions.

Remove the wok/skillet from the heat. Toss in the rice powder, remaining lime juice, sliced red onions, mint leaves, cilantro leaves, and Thai basil. Stir in a few spoonfuls of the sauce to taste. Plate the larb with extra fresh herbs, whole chiles, lime wedges, sliced cucumbers, and lettuce. Serve immediately with either steamed rice or whole lettuce leaves for wraps. The remaining sauce can be served alongside as a dipping sauce.

*If you cannot find pre-ground toasted rice powder, you can easily make your own. Toast uncooked jasmine rice in a skillet over low heat until golden brown. Once cooled, transfer the toasted rice into a spice grinder and grind until you get a fine powder.

Passion Fruit Margaritas

July 2016 Fam Din

I adore margaritas….blended or on the rocks with salt–of course! Classic margs? Fruit flavored margs? YES– thank you!

But please, no pre-made margarita mixes. More times than not, they are overly sweet and leave you with an artificial aftertaste. BLEH! And when you consider that the classic margarita is so simple and a GAJILLION times more tasty, the extra bit of effort is totally worth it.

And the key? Fresh lime juice. Not bottled, not concentrate–fresh.

July 2016 Fam Din
If you happen to be lucky enough to own an electric citrus juicer –than you’ve really got no excuse! For our last Family Dinner, I made a few pitchers of these summery Passion Fruit Margaritas. I broke out seester’s electric juicer and whipped out a quart of fresh lime juice in under 10 minutes. But even without the juicer, I still use fresh limes—-it truly, truly makes all the difference in the world!

These Passion Fruit Margaritas were a delish take on the classic marg. The fruit’s natural tartness paired beautifully with the limes and added a fun tropical spin.

Oh! And here’s a tip— if you find limes on sale, get a whole bunch and juice them. The juice freezes beautifully and you can have fresh margs all year long.


Passion Fruit Margaritas
Makes 1 pitcher


2 cups premium silver tequila
1 cup Grand Marnier or triple sec
1 cup fresh lime juice
½ cup simple syrup
2 cups passion fruit juice

Combine and stir all ingredients in a large pitcher. To serve, rim glasses with salt. Add ice and fill the glasses with margaritas. Garnish with additional lime wedges and CHEERS!