Gobble-Gobblin’ Up Family Dinner!

October-November 2016
If you can believe it, I had three different turkey dinners within the course of seven days—roasted, fried, and smoked. Talk about Turkeypalooza!

It all started last Sunday with our belated (VERY BELATED) October Sunday Family Dinner. Our cousin Van and his new wife Jenny got married on Saturday. It was, of course, a super fun wedding full of S-H-E-N-A-N-I-G-A-N-S that would be inappropriate for me to divulge the full details here. But let’s just say–there was a lot of cognac involved.

A LOT.

October-November 2016
Since October was so crazy and the whole family would be in town for the wedding, we decided to have Fam Din the day after V & J’s festivities – four days before Thanksgiving. Traditionally, Thanksgiving Day in our fam is a house full of extended family (50+ peeps) for a full day of feasting. We typically have several meals throughout the entire day and flip between Vietnamese courses and American Thanksgiving dishes.

We feast…. a lot. 12+ hours worth.

But with the family spread out over the years, we realized all five siblings hadn’t celebrated Thanksgiving all together in over 10 years. That’s quite some time! And since P and her gang were heading back up to SF before Turkey Day, we decided to have a full blown Thanksgiving menu for Family Dinner—an early Siblings Turkey Day.

Added bonus – we had the leftover flowers from the wedding as our table centerpieces for dinner. Recycled Fanciness.

October-November 2016
Despite living in SF, our youngest munchkin, Kaelani has been able to attend quite a few Fam Dins so far with her crazy So Cal o’hana. And she’s talking SO MUCH now! Nonstop jabber-jabber chasing after the pups and calling out for her favorite Bac Bi — my eldest bro-in-law.

That face–we wish she was here every month!

October-November 2016
If you’ve been following my Fam Din posts over the years, you already know that these two are thick as thieves.

October-November 2016
And can we talk about how HUGE this marshmallow pop is??? It’s nearly the size of Leo’s head!

October-November 2016
Since my brother and his family have temporarily moved back to Cali from NY, I’ve been putting their kiddos to work at Fam Din to make up for lost time. Here’s my Luna Bear helping with the appetizers. She was quite meticulous with them too!

October-November 2016
And these three….

Heart Melty.

October-November 2016
And the last of our munchkins…the fur babies.

Princess Leia is looking quite regal lounging on her ottoman while Bella is just wondering when dinner would be ready.

October-November 2016

Speaking of which, let’s talk about the food! We had two appetizers before dinner which big sis had us stagger out during prep time so that we wouldn’t get too stuffed.

I made Mixed Mushrooms & Herbed Goat Cheese Crostinis. Portabellos, criminis, button mushrooms, shitakes, and oyster mushrooms were sauteed with garlic and herbs and finished off with white wine. They topped toasted crostinis that were spread with a mixture of goat cheese, mascarpone and fresh herbs.

October-November 2016
Maya approved and said they tasted like mushroom pizza!

October-November 2016
Next up was brother and his appetizer – Blue Crab Dip.

October-November 2016
I usually use lump Dungeness Crab in dips and fillings but V insisted that Blue Crabs have better flavor — and they did! Rich, decadent, and SUPER YUM!

Did I just say “super yum”???

Well…it was!

October-November 2016
Of course there was some football and lots of silliness throughout prep. Here’s seester P doing leg-lifts with Kaelani. No wonder she’s in great shape!

October-November 2016
There were also lots of photos because Bella always loves a good pic to post on her Instagram at @iambellathepuggle  <shameless plug>

October-November 2016
After hours and hours of cooking, dinner was ready!!!

And yup– alongside those gorgeous centerpieces, we ate dinner off paper plates.

We’re ashamed.

Not really. Just don’t tell Ina.

October-November 2016
Okay, back to the food.

Although we decided on a Thanksgiving menu, the inspiration was really all about this beauty…. Mom’s Five Spice Roast Turkey.

Imagine this….a Vietnamese refugee family in the mid 1970’s, relocated to Minnesota. Total culture shock is an understatement. So the family did what we could to acculturate to the new environment. And that especially included our foods.

October-November 2016
So Mom took a turkey and gave it a Vietnamese spin by marinating it in five spice, lots of garlic, sugar and Maggi. The flavor is incredible and I’ve got to tell you, is the best turkey you’ll ever taste because it is seasoned so well–every bit of it.

We would wake up early in the morning to the smell of the turkey roasting and the five spice aroma was incredible. The funny thing is, we were just remembering how Mom would throw the turkey in the oven at around 5 or 6am and not take it out until 3 or 4pm! Sure, we used to try and find the biggest bird (26+lbs), but why did it take so long then when now we only roast them for 5 or 6 hours. But I’ll be darn, her turkeys weren’t overcooked and were SUPER juicy.

October-November 2016
Big seester N
has been making Mom’s turkey recipe for years now so we quickly nominated her for the job. And I’ll tell ya, she sure would have made Mom proud. The flavor was spot on and was everything we all remembered it to be.

October-November 2016
Along with the roast turkey, we had TONS of sides!

Seestrah T made 3 side dishes and her first was this Squash & Gruyere Gratin from Ina Garten. Surprisingly rich (in a good way), cheesy and great crunch from the panko.

October-November 2016
She also did a spin off of my biscuits and made these Ham & Cheddar Drop Biscuits. They were so savory and I’ll tell ya, made for awesome little breakfast sammies the next day.

October-November 2016
Lastly she roasted Brussel Sprouts with Pancetta. And I’ve got to admit, I have no idea how they tasted because brussel sprouts are NMF (not my fav) but everyone else seemed to really like them.

October-November 2016
V & L tag teamed on their Grilled Ginger-Balsamic Carrots. Aren’t they pretty?

October-November 2016
They first blanched the carrots and then quickly grilled them to get a nice char.

October-November 2016
Of course in my opinion, no Thanksgiving meal can be complete without some ‘taters. These are my tried and true Roasted Garlic Mashed Potatoes. The key to them? Lots of roast garlic and more butter, cream cheese, and heavy cream then you’d like to know.

October-November 2016
And last but not least, dessert!!! There’s no doubt that P is the best baker among the clan. So there’s no way she’d get away without making dessert for this Fam Din and we (ok, I) requested TWO traditional Apple Pies served with Vanilla Bean Ice Cream.

October-November 2016
I’ve got to say, we’ve had some REALLY great meals in the four years we’ve been having Fam Dins but this one really is up there.

October-November 2016
Not only did it mark the first Thanksgiving all my sibs have been together in over a decade but Mom would have absolutely loved everything about it.

October-November 2016
And with that–Hope you are all able to create some great traditions and memories with your loved ones.

CHEERS!

October-November 2016______________________________________________________

This Month’s Family Dinner Menu

Cocktails:  Passion Fruit Bellinis, Assorted Wines
Appetizers: Mixed Mushrooms & Herbed Goat Cheese Crostinis, Blue Crab Dip
Entrees: Mom’s Five Spice Roast Turkey
Sides: Squash & Gruyere Gratin, Ham & Cheddar Drop Biscuits, Grilled Ginger-Balsamic Carrots, Brussel Sprouts with Pancetta, Roasted Garlic Mashed Potatoes
Dessert: Apple Pie with Vanilla Bean Ice Cream

Crème Brûlée French Toast – Happy National French Toast Day!

Crème Brûlée French Toast
HAPPY NATIONAL FRENCH TOAST DAY!!!

And what better way to celebrate this fun food day and the holiday season than with this decadent breakfast/brunch treat — Crème Brûlée French Toast!

Crème Brûlée French Toast
For this month, I worked with our friends over at Safest Choice® Eggs to up the ante on the traditional French Toast by mashing it up with one of my favorite desserts—-Crème Brûlée.

It all starts off with a rich custard base of eggs, cream, milk and then it’s flavored with warm spices, vanilla extract, Grand Marnier and fresh orange zest. Day old bread then soaks up the custard overnight so that it gets into every nook and cranny.

In the morning, you throw the dish into the oven until the bread becomes golden brown and puffed.  The final step is a generous sprinkle of sugar over the toast and then it’s quickly brûléed.

Crème Brûlée French Toast
The end result?

When you cut into the top layer of caramelized sugar, you get a wonderfully satisfying crunch and the center is rich and decadent. Personally, I think the brûléed sugar gives the right amount of sweetness but if you want to add a drizzle of maple syrup—go right ahead!

Scrumptious breakfast and a make-ahead wonder!

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

HAPPY NATIONAL FRENCH TOAST DAY!!!

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A Late Family Dinner Recap….and Where I’m Currently At

September 2016
Ok gang, I know I’ve been MIA lately and I’m long overdue to recap our last Family Dinner.

The delay started with me misplacing the SD card with all the photos I took from dinner. Don’t ask….no clue where it is. But how does a food blogger publish a post without food pics?? Yes, between the sibs and I, we had snapped some on our phones but I was determined to find that freaking memory card. But—-I didn’t. So then I started drafting the post using the pics from our phones.

And then last Tuesday happened.

I generally haven’t used this space to discuss things other than food. But the truth of the matter is, I am shaken to my core. It wasn’t just an election. It’s that the outcomes have supported a movement to lead by instilling fear and panic, to further widen the gap between gender equity, to continue to target those of historically marginalized races and religions and to regress not progress. It’s not a question of political parties but of basic human decency. I’m heartbroken, angry, frustrated, tired–and quite frankly, I’m afraid. Why? Because I’m a person of color, daughter of refugee parents, advocate of marriage equality, non-Christian, and a woman who believes that I alone should be the one who should make decisions regarding my health and body. I am the embodiment of everything that the new majority “leadership” has fought against.

What now? So where do my beliefs and I belong come 2017? Where do we start again? How can we keep up the strength and fight?

It’s these questions that have me deeply troubled and walking in a daze this past 10 days. It’s been difficult to focus in the office and even harder to get things in order for the whirlwind of family activities I’m about to embark on for the next 9 days. 9 days that include my cousin’s wedding, 2 family dinners, Thanksgiving, and lots and LOTS of time with the nieces and nephews.

September 2016
Yes, you read correctly–that’s two family dinners that are scheduled. We wanted to take advantage of the time since all five siblings would be in town for our cousin’s wedding. As hectic and chaotic that I know it’ll be, I need it. I think that lots of time with my siblings and their fam while we cook will do us some good. And as much as I hurt, I need to still be me and do what I do–even if it’s a bit clunky for now.

So here’s that recap of our last Family Dinner I owe you.

September 2016
Thanks to R’s fresh yellowfin catch, we made Shoyu Poke and my niece–Nini, made her infamous Spicy Tuna Hand Rolls.

September 2016
Sis N took on the main course– Tamarind Dungeness Crab.

September 2016
L made stir-fried Garlic-Lemon Broccolini to give us some greens.

September 2016
T made Garlic Noodles and the Soju Cocktails.

September 2016
And lastly, for dessert, I made the Mango-Macadamia Nut Cheesecake.

September 2016
Gang, I know this isn’t my normal kind of post—far from it. But to write in my “normal” tone would feel disingenuous. And quite frankly, we need less of that in the world. So thank you for taking the time to read my thoughts.

And until next time, let me leave you with a picture of this fedorable face….she’s been my steadfast cuddler and best comfort of late.

Fedorable

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This Month’s Family Dinner Menu

Cocktails:  Grapefruit Soju Cocktails
Appetizers: Spicy Tuna Hand Rolls, Shoyu Poke
Entrees: Tamarind Dungeness Crab
Sides: Garlic Noodles, Lemon Garlic Broccolini
Dessert: Mango-Macadamia Nut Cheesecake

Turkey and Bean Chili

Turkey and Bean Chili
This time of the year, Sundays are filled with weekday meal prep and football. It’s only sensible, of course.

And while I was in the middle of prepping a double batch of my Turkey and Bean Chili for tomorrow’s Halloween Potluck, I realized I’ve never posted the full recipe here.

That changes now!!

Turkey and Bean Chili

It’s tried and true and is easily doubled or tripled to feed crowds. AND it freezes beautifully!!

Serve as a main with cornbread or crackers…….or on top of baked potatoes or chips……whatever way, this chili is a beaut!❤

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Turkey and Bean Chili
Serves 8

Ingredients:

2 tablespoons olive oil
1½ cups white onion, diced
1 red bell pepper, diced
1 heaping tablespoon minced garlic
1 serrano chili pepper, minced
1 jalapeno pepper, minced
1 pound ground turkey meat
2 tablespoons chili powder
1 teaspoon cumin powder
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon onion powder
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper (more to taste)
2 tablespoons tomato paste
3 ounces chipotle peppers in adobo sauce (optional)
1 28-ounce can diced tomatoes
1 cup lager beer of your choice
1 15-ounce can kidney beans, rinsed
1 15-ounce can black beans, rinsed
1 teaspoon kosher salt, more to taste
black pepper

 

Heat the oil in a large dutch oven or heavy bottom pot. Cook the onions and bell peppers until softened—about 5-6 minutes. Add garlic, serrano pepper, jalapeno pepper and cook for an additional 2-3 minutes. Add the turkey and cook while using a wooden spoon to break up the meat. Continue cooking until the meat is no longer pink—about another 5 minutes.

Add the chili powder, cumin, garlic powder, onion powder, and cayenne—stir and cook for an additional minute. Stir in the tomato paste and chipotle peppers (if using) and then add in the diced tomatoes with its juices. Gently stir in the beer, beans, 1 teaspoon salt and bring the mixture up to a slow boil.

Once it reaches a boil, lower the heat to a simmer. Simmer the chili partially covered, for about 45 minutes. Stir the chili every 10 minutes or so as it slowly thickens. Once it reaches your desired consistency, taste and adjust seasonings with salt and pepper as needed.

Serve the chili with additional cheddar cheese, chopped scallions, and sour cream.

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.

HAPPY NATIONAL PIZZA MONTH!!!

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Ratatouille Pizza
Serves 2

Ingredients:

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!

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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!❤

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Li Hing Mui Margaritas
Makes 1 pitcher

Ingredients:

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

THIS GUY!!!

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….

Wahhhhhhh!!!

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

And FINALLY!

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
I. CAN’T. HANDLE. ALL. THIS. CUTENESS.

#CousinLove

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
SEESTERS!!!!

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?!

HELL YES!

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

….AN INDUSTRIAL STRENGTH SHAVE ICE MACHINE!!!!!!!

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!!!

ONO, ONO, ONOLICIOUS!

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?

ALOOOOOHAAA!!

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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