Poultry

Our Adventures with Howard the Smoked Peking Duck

Smoked Peking Duck
Before I get started, let me caution those that get wary about seeing protein in its “whole” state because this recap will show the entire duck (sans feathers) during the cooking process. If that freaks you out, maybe skip this one and just wait until my next post.

We good?

Cool.

Smoked Peking Duck
One of my favorite things about spending a big chunk of time with the family over the holidays is that we notoriously tackle the more challenging Foodventures that we’ve previously deemed extremely laborious or too daunting to try. I’m talking about things like start-to-finish-Tamales, Xiao Long Bao and the time V created an homage to one of their favorite dishes from Flushings ChinatownSteamed Glutinous Rice with Crab in Lotus Leaves.

This past holiday break was no exception as Brother and I took a spin at making Peking Duck for the first time using his Traegar smoker. Yes, the decision was made after consuming a few bottles of wine….but aren’t those the best times to make choices?

No? Just us?

Smoked Peking Duck
Luckily, V & L had discovered a FANTASTIC tutorial by BBQ Champion, Harry Soo, on YouTube that we followed to the “t”.

Fun fact: Harry, who is behind Slap Yo Daddy BBQ, lives in Diamond Bar where 4 out of 5 of us sibbies graduated high school – Go Brahmas!

The day of our Peking Duck undertaking, we popped into 99 Ranch Market to pick up some of the essentials that started with a 6 pound whole duck. I removed its wing tips and feet with a large cleaver and then slowly used my fingers to lift and separate the skin from the meat.

Smoked Peking Duck
With Peking Duck, it’s all about spending LOTS of TLC on the skin to create a crisp and glossy finish. Even after using your fingers to loosen the skin, the pros will then use an air compressor to detach the skin so that when the duck cooks, the fat will slowly melt away.

And if the pros tell us to do so, we’re gonna try it! Particularly since V happens to have an air compressor! So he switched out the tubing and rigged a straw to be used as the nozzle — and we were then off to the races!

Easily the CRAZIEST thing I’ve ever done in the “kitchen”.  Brother and I were cracking up the entire time but it totally worked!

It’s how we bond.

Smoked Peking Duck
While V finished blowing Howard up (yes, I named him — and yes, it’s after the 80s alien duck movie), I charred the scallions and ginger as well as toasted whole star anise and coriander.

Smoked Peking Duck
I also mixed up the marinade for the cavity which included five spice powder, brown sugar, hoisin and a grilling spice mix.

Smoked Peking Duck
After we stuffed Howard with everything listed above, V stitched him up.

Smoked Peking Duck
Harry Soo calls this a “spiral stich”.

V couldn’t find a wooden skewer to use, so he whittled a wooden chopstick down. Quite industrious I thought and it definitely did the job!

Smoked Peking Duck
While Brother stitched up Howard, I brought a big pot of water to a boil that included honey, apple cider vinegar and maltose. Maltose is malt sugar and can be found in tubs as shown below at most Chinese/Asian grocery stores. Check the aisles with the honey and jams.

The maltose helps give the duck a nice sheen and color.

Smoked Peking Duck
Then it was time for Howard to take a little dip in the jacuzzi.

Okay….I admit, it looks a bit savage but just trust the process.

(ps. I did thank Howard for his sacrifice before we started everything….seemed like the right thing to do at the time.)

Smoked Peking Duck
I ladled the boiling liquid over the skin for a few minutes until it tightened and firmed up.

You don’t want to cook the duck but you want to make sure that it’s evenly coated. Again, this dish is all about LOTS of TLC for the skin.

Smoked Peking Duck
Once the duck was sufficiently scalded, it was placed on a rack over a sheet pan and went directly into the fridge (uncovered) for 3 days for the skin to dry out.

Smoked Peking Duck
Three days later (Hey–I never said this was quick), we were left with this. The skin was definitely dried and darkened in color – just what we wanted.

Smoked Peking Duck
V then fired up his smoker to 350 F degrees with soaked apple and hickory wood.

Smoked Peking Duck
He then proceeded to smoke the duck for about 70ish minutes.

Smoked Peking Duck
We were a bit concerned because it was much lighter towards the center breast portion. But miraculously in the last ten minutes or so, V said it caught up and became a beautiful dark golden hue all over.

Smoked Peking Duck
Isn’t he lovely???

Smoked Peking Duck
While Howard rested, I made up a batch of flaky scallion pancakes – the perfect accompaniment!

Smoked Peking Duck
They’re really easy to make and I can post a future recipe if y’all are interested.

I also sliced up some thin cucumbers and more scallions to go with the duck and put out some hoisin sauce.

Smoked Peking Duck
Then we called in Nini and L to do the honors of slicing up the duck. It’s a family affair after all!

Smoked Peking Duck
They say traditional Peking Duck should be sliced into over 100 pieces.

But no one’s got time for that!

Smoked Peking Duck

Anyway, I think Nini’s knife-work is just lovely. How many teenagers do you know have such master skills???

Smoked Peking Duck
And voila! Howard in all his glory (THANK YOU HOWARD!)…

The duck was really delicious….the meat was moist and the skin was lovely. And when eaten with the scallion pancakes, cukes and hoisin–totally legit!

Smoked Peking Duck
Check out this quick little recap video I put together—particularly so you can see the whole crazy air compressor situation! You can also see some snippets in my IG Stories Highlights.

All in all, I think we were pretty successful and I wouldn’t shy away from doing this again! Love our crazy Family Foodventures!

❤ BIG THANKS to Harry Soo for the recipe and tutorial. If you’re into BBQ’ing, definitely check out his YouTube channel.

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Sunday Family Dinner

A Very Happy Birthday Boy

December 2018 Fam Din
I’m always curious to hear what the munchkins request for their birthday Fam Din menu…. mostly because I’m so entertained by their choices of such impressive dishes.

December 2018 Fam Din
Dishes like salmon sushi, prime rib, dumplings, crab.……

December 2018 Fam Din
We sure as heck don’t get away with making them “kids menu” items like chicken nuggets or fish sticks.

December 2018 Fam Din
Though one year, Nina did ask for chicken wings and mozzarella sticks — but even then the entree was sous vide and then grilled ribeye sandwiches!

Guess you can’t blame them…we did train their palates.

December 2018 Fam Din
So when it came to Leonidas’ birthday meal, it wasn’t too big of a surprise that he once again requested “fatty steaks” and fish tacos.

Typical 7 year old dinner, right?

December 2018 Fam Din
V and L gathered all the goodies for Leo’s two requests and set us to work.

December 2018 Fam Din
Since fish tacos were on the menu, L prepped blue corn masa that Maya and I rolled and pressed into tortillas.

December 2018 Fam Din
Brother then cooked the pressed tortillas in a cast iron skillet.

December 2018 Fam Din
They also made some awesome salsas – tomatillo and roasted guajillo.

December 2018 Fam Din

As for the fish, they chose to sear ahi that was crusted in crushed coriander and sesame seeds.

December 2018 Fam Din

The coriander imparted such a perfumed flavor to the fish – so good!

In fact, if you didn’t want to go with the tacos route, it would be awesome in a sandwich or just on top of a salad.

December 2018 Fam Din
In addition to the salsas, there were also sliced avocado and fresh corn to top the tacos with.

December 2018 Fam Din
HELLO LUV-AH!!!

December 2018 Fam Din
Seared Ahi Tacos in Homemade Blue Corn Tortillas

December 2018 Fam Din
They were ridiculous!

SO. DAMN. SCRUMPTIOUS.

December 2018 Fam Din
T and I agreed that it’s one of our favorite dishes they’ve made.

Incredibly flavor packed!

December 2018 Fam Din
After the tacos were inhaled, I went around to snap a few pics before the evening got away from us.

December 2018 Fam Din
I’m a sucker for a pretty wine bottle….isn’t that how you pick out wine, too?

December 2018 Fam Din
C and his two girls.

With both of them in college now, he and seester N are practically empty-nesters!

December 2018 Fam Din
Okay…remember that “no cell phone during Fam Din” rule?

Yeah…we let them break it after they’ve helped out.

AND as long as they’re gaming together.

I know….it’s a stretch.

December 2018 Fam Din
Then Bella will walk by them with this look on her face and they’ll stop to give her some cuddles.

Having a permanent “emo” face has its perks.

December 2018 Fam Din
When the menu was being crafted, N decided that she wanted to add paella to the mix.

December 2018 Fam Din

Her rationale was that it’s such a festive dish….

December 2018 Fam Din
…. I think it’s because she got new paella pans.

December 2018 Fam Din
But hey–I love paella so I wasn’t going to complain.

December 2018 Fam Din
Look at all of that seafood goodness piled into that pan!

December 2018 Fam Din
Her Seafood Paella was not only pretty, it was darn delicious.

December 2018 Fam Din
Leia 1000% agreed.

December 2018 Fam Din

Now back to the birthday boy’s other request – fatty steaks!

December 2018 Fam Din
Yup…the smart kiddo likes his steaks marbled and fatty — no lean filet mignon here!

December 2018 Fam Din
V dry aged these beautiful boneless ribeye steaks (uncovered) in the fridge for a few days to get rid of some moisture and intensify that beefy flavor.

He rigged the below chopsticks-in-a-tray situation to lift up the steaks which helped aerate and dry out all sides of the beef.

December 2018 Fam Din
And then it was seared in cast iron skillets to get that nice crust.

December 2018 Fam Din
While the steaks rested, I got working on the salad.

December 2018 Fam Din

Leo didn’t actually ask for a salad but we needed some veggies.

December 2018 Fam Din
I called it a Lentil-Arugula Salad …but it was so much more.

December 2018 Fam Din

It was packed with lentils, slow roasted tomatoes, goat cheese and pistachios.

Not your average salad!

December 2018 Fam Din

Then it was time to slice the steaks.

Bella could barely contain her excitement.

December 2018 Fam Din
And the same could be said for Nina.

December 2018 Fam Din
In fact, V did such a great job on the steaks that C wanted to give him a big ol’ thank you smooch!

December 2018 Fam Din
We’re definitely a family that prefers our beef on the rare to medium-rare side. Though, growing up, we were “well done” people.

THANK GOODNESS we grew out of that phase!

December 2018 Fam Din
Dry Aged Ribeye Steaks ….

Excuse me as I lick the computer screen.

December 2018 Fam Din
Our Dudes!

December 2018 Fam Din
Steaks and Paella?

COUNT ME IN!

December 2018 Fam Din
The Munchkins Table … with a little sassy look from R in the background.

December 2018 Fam Din
And the Oldies!

December 2018 Fam Din

ps. Why didn’t I get the plaid memo?

December 2018 Fam Din
Now it wouldn’t be a birthday fam din if we didn’t have a birthday dessert!

Leo’s last request that night was to have a Roblox Mint Chip Ice Cream Cake.

The kid knows what he wants, right?

December 2018 Fam Din
And guess what? T made it!

T is not a fan of baking although she is usually down to make a panna cotta or crème brûlée. So this was a big deal!

December 2018 Fam Din
L and Luna also pitched in on the cake by making the marshmallow fondant Roblox logo.

December 2018 Fam Din

Needless to say, we had a VERY happy birthday boy.

December 2018 Fam Din

And not just Leo – we ALL had an awesome time that night.

R was still feeling sassy. Must be the steaks.

December 2018 Fam Din

HAPPY BIRTHDAY LEONIDAS!!!

December 2018 Fam Din

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This Month’s Family Dinner Menu

Cocktails: Various Wines
Appetizers: Seared Ahi Tacos in Homemade Blue Corn Tortillas
Entree: Dry Aged Ribeye Steaks, Seafood Paella
Sides: Lentil-Arugula Salad
Dessert: Roblox Mint Chip Ice Cream Cake

Sunday Family Dinner

Brother’s “Simple and Easy” Family Dinner

November 2018 Fam Din
Us: “Brother, what do you want for your birthday fam din?”

Him: “Um…I don’t know. Let me get back to you.”

November 2018 Fam Din

Two weeks later….

Us: “Brother, you’ve got to decide what you want for fam din…it’s in a couple of days.”

Him: “Um……”

Us: “Yes?”

Him: “Um….how about something simple and easy, like Italian?”

November 2018 Fam Din

Us: “Itallian…simple and easy?? But ok, Italian it is!”

Brothers…..what are going to do with them?

But at least we had a theme so we were off to the races compiling an Italian feast for him.

November 2018 Fam Din
The day of I decided to bake up a tray of Rosemary Focaccia for us to munch on….and mostly because I’m a carboholic and love bread.

November 2018 Fam Din
While the focaccia dough was on its second rise, N made us a few cocktails using Italian sodas. These were her Blood Orange Spritzers and they went down way too smooth!

Dangerous!

November 2018 Fam Din
Of course, because it’s us, there was a Cheese and Charcuterie Board.

November 2018 Fam Din
Some classics you just can never have enough of.

November 2018 Fam Din
By then I had pulled the Rosemary Focaccia out of the oven. After it rested for a few minutes, we sliced it up and dipped it into balsamic vinegar and olive oil.

November 2018 Fam Din
Along with the rosemary, you may have noticed the large flakes of salt on the top of the focaccia. We’re BIG fans of Maldon and love putting it on everything– but if you’re not into it, a light sprinkle of fine sea salt would be fine, too.

November 2018 Fam Din
Nice little bites for appetizers, right?

But hang on…THERE WAS MORE!

November 2018 Fam Din

V & L brought made two more dishes for us to nosh on as appetizers.

First, was a big ol’ pot of Meatballs with Marinara Sauce. The meatballs were perfectly bite-size and tender!

November 2018 Fam Din
And second, they made Zuppa Toscana – a warm and comforting soup that had goodness like bacon, sausage, potatoes, kale and chicken stock.

November 2018 Fam Din
We hadn’t had a soup at Fam Din for quite awhile and we all loved it!

November 2018 Fam Din

Yes, for those of you that are keeping count–that’s a total of four appetizers.

Gluttons? Maybe.

But we REALLY like leftovers.

November 2018 Fam Din
Believe it or not, as soon as we finished with the last appetizer, we jumped back into the kitchen to get dinner ready.

Okay…so maybe “gluttons” is more appropriate.

But we’re 100% alright with that.

November 2018 Fam Din
T took the lead on the pasta dish for the evening. She was interested in making some variation of stuffed shells and when given the choice for protein, Brother went for seafood.

And man oh man…was it decadent!

November 2018 Fam Din
The filling consisted of lump crab, shrimp and scallops—of which the latter two were blanched in lobster stock! There was also aromatics, seasonings, mayo and the tamales from the shellfish.

HELLA RICH and oh so delish!

November 2018 Fam Din
In addition to the stuffed shells, I made crispy Pork Milanese….because why not make another entree right?

November 2018 Fam Din
Though I did realize that we needed some greens to offset the richness of both of the entrees.

November 2018 Fam Din

With Nini’s help, I pulled together a quick salad of Arugula with Citrus and Parmesan Shavings.

And yes, it did make us feel better.

November 2018 Fam Din
Oh man…we were stuffed. And there was still the birthday dessert!

So we sent the humanlings off to walk the fur babies for awhile to burn off some of the dinner.

November 2018 Fam Din
Bella looks like a zombie.

November 2018 Fam Din
These two Cousies really like this pose a lot.

November 2018 Fam Din
Back in the casa, seester N put the finishing touches on the dessert she made – Tiramisu!

Her desserts are always so purrrrty.

November 2018 Fam Din

And Molto Delizioso!

November 2018 Fam Din
Happy Birthday V!

November 2018 Fam Din
And when all was said and done, we had a good laugh as we recalled all of the dishes we had made for Brother’s “simple and easy” dinner.

Brothers….what are you gonna do with them, right? ❤
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This Month’s Family Dinner Menu

Cocktails: Blood Orange Spritzers, Various Wines
Appetizers: Rosemary Focaccia, Cheese & Charcuterie, Meatballs with Marinara Sauce, Zuppa Toscana
Entree: Seafood Stuffed Pasta Shells, Pork Milanese
Sides: Arugula with Citrus and Parmesan Shavings
Dessert:
Tiramisu

Appetizers/Small Plates · Seafood

Steamed Crab Dumplings – Happy Lunar New Year!

Steamed Crab Dumplings
Hello Peeps!

I’m taking a quick break from the Fam Din recaps (told ya’ I would be making up for lost time!) to say Chúc Mừng Năm Mới!!

Steamed Crab Dumplings
Yes, it’s that time again…. Tết – the Vietnamese Lunar New Year!

Steamed Crab Dumplings
All of the my Tết prep has been dutifully followed.

The house is sparkly clean, the altar is up and I popped into the bank to get “new money” to fill the red lì xì envelopes for the munchkins.

Steamed Crab Dumplings
And OF COURSE, there has to be lots of “lucky” food!

There will be tons of noodles (longevity), fruit (auspicious) and Bánh Tét – steamed rice cakes (prosperity).

Steamed Crab Dumplings

And it wouldn’t be the new year if I wasn’t making lots and lots of dumplings that symbolize wealth. I’m fairly certain that I’ve made a couple hundred dumplings this month alone!

Steamed Crab Dumplings
Since the Year of the Pig rings in tomorrow, I thought I would take a moment to share with you these scrumptiously decadent dumplings I made for family dinner the other week.

Steamed Crab Dumplings
Seester T had requested some type of crab dumplings for her Fam Din menu (more on that soon) so I got to work creating a filling that was truly indulgent and delish.

Steamed Crab Dumplings
Since I wanted the crab to shine, I kept the filling quite simple and only supplemented the shellfish with beech mushrooms and cabbage. I did toy around with the idea of adding water chestnuts because I thought the added texture would be nice. But a quick convo with seestrah N had me doubting it.

Good thing too because I did a quick straw poll at dinner where I found out that most of my fam do not like water chestnuts. Who knew?

Steamed Crab Dumplings
I will also say that this is definitely one of the times that I skipped the dirty work and bought pre-shelled lump crab meat. Who the heck wants to be picking through shells to get a pound of pure, luscious crab meat?!?

I definitely didn’t!

Steamed Crab Dumplings

But it you’re up for it, more power to ya!

ps. I got mine at Costco. The quality is reliable and the price is reasonable.

Steamed Crab Dumplings
Once the filling was made, it was time to assemble. I did a little different fold on these dumplings that made them look like cute little pouches.

Steamed Crab Dumplings
I started off with my tried and true pleated method but then coiled the edges around to seal them up.

I was quite happy with how they looked after they steamed up. ❤

Steamed Crab Dumplings
I suggest serving them with a generous drizzle of my homemade Sichuan oil but even a quick dunk in my soy-black vinegar sauce was delish too!

Steamed Crab Dumplings
I got some solid feedback from the Fam on these so they’ll definitely be making appearances in the future. Added bonus – since the filling is so simple, they were actually quite easy and quick to make.

Though, I’ve got to give Costco some credit there for knocking out a few hours of manual labor. Thanks Costco!

Steamed Crab Dumplings
So with that, dear Friends– Here’s to a wonderful New Year! May yours be filled with health, prosperity, joy and endless Foodventures!

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Steamed Crab Dumplings
Makes approximately 45-50 dumplings

Ingredients:

2 cups finely chopped Napa cabbage
kosher salt
16 ounces cooked lump crab meat
4 ounces white beech mushrooms, chopped
½ tablespoon finely minced garlic
½ tablespoon finely minced ginger
1 tablespoon Shaoxing wine
2 teaspoons toasted sesame oil
1 tablespoons fish sauce sauce (more, if needed)
½ teaspoon black pepper
50 thin dumpling wrappers
serve with: chopped scallions, sesame seeds, Sichuan oil

Place the cabbage in a colander; sprinkle it with about ½ teaspoon salt and let sit over a bowl for 20 minutes. Wrap the cabbage in a cheesecloth or clean kitchen towel. Squeeze out and discard the excess liquid and place the drained cabbage in a clean bowl.

Add in the crab, mushrooms, garlic, ginger, Shaoxing wine, sesame oil, ½ teaspoon salt, fish sauce and pepper. Taste and add more fish sauce if needed.

Begin assembly of the dumplings. Lay one dumpling wrapper on a flat surface. Dip your finger in water and moisten the edge of the wrapper. Place about 1 tablespoon of the filling in the center of the dumpling skin. Pick up the dumpling, fold it in half and pinch the center together. Starting from the center, make about 4-5 pleats on the right side of the dumpling. Repeat with the left side of the dumpling so that all the pleats point towards the center. Wet one corner of the dumpling and wrap/coil the other end together. Pinch and seal so that it creates an enclosed pouch. Place the dumpling on a baking sheet and continue until all the filling/wrappers have been used.*

To cook, arrange the dumplings in a steamer (lined with cabbage leaves or parchment paper) and steam for 7-8 minutes. Transfer the dumplings to a platter and sprinkle the tops with scallions and toasted sesame seeds. Serve immediately with Sichuan oil or your choice of sauce.

*If you would like to freeze the uncooked dumplings, place the baking sheet directly into freezer for 2-3 hours after you have assembled them. Be sure that the dumplings are in a single layer and are not touching each other. Once the dumplings are frozen, you may transfer them to a sealed container. They can be kept in the freezer for a few months and should be cooked frozen. Add 1-2 additional minutes to the cooking time when steaming.

 

Sunday Family Dinner

Kaelani’s Moana Inspired Birthday Fam Din!

October 2018 Fam Din
A few months before Kaelani’s birthday, she told her mom that instead of going to Hawai’i for her birthday, she wanted to spend it with cousins/family.

Now that’s fantastic for so many reasons but right off the bat–two thoughts came to mind.

October 2018 Fam Din
One….

How freaking adorable is that? Baby girl ADORES her big cousins so much that her birthday wish is to spend time with them.

October 2018 Fam Din
And Two…

At four years old, she’s such a baller that she’s been able to celebrate her first three birthdays in Hawai’i and this year, she’s like “eh…been there done that.”

October 2018 Fam Din
Here’s hoping that when she gets older, she’ll still want to bypass the Islands to hang out with us.

Better yet–why don’t we ALL just go to Hawai’i together?! MUCH better plan!

October 2018 Fam Din
Needless to say, Kaelani’s parents agreed to her request so we coordinated our monthly Family Dinner to coincide with their visit.

October 2018 Fam Din
When asked what birthday theme she wanted, Kaelani quickly said Moana! Maybe I should also mention that the week prior, she would be having a Frozen theme party with her friends in San Francisco.

Yes, two birthday parties. She knows how to live her BEST 4 year old life!

October 2018 Fam Din
As for food, she just asked for SPAM Musubi to be on the menu. So if there’s Moana and SPAM, we obviously were going with a Polynesian lens.

October 2018 Fam Din
They spent the beginning of their visit hanging with Pops and eating all of the deliciousness that So Cal has to offer. It was followed by spending the night at Seestrah T’s place in Fullerton so that Kaelani could spend some QT with Maya and Lucas.

October 2018 Fam Din
On the day of Fam Din, they headed to Brother’s casa in Diamond Bar to play in the pool and hang out with Luna and Leo.

October 2018 Fam Din

The rest of us quickly followed and got down to some cookin’!

October 2018 Fam Din
With an island theme in mind, N made us these festive drinks using “P.O.G.” – P.O.G.-tails!

You can’t have a trip to the islands without downing a few gallons of “P.O.G.” – a blend of passionfruit, orange and guava juices.

October 2018 Fam Din
She mixed up the fresh juices with some rum, lime juice, mint and rimmed the glasses with Tajin. Delicious!

The kiddos had straight up P.O.G. which is darn tasty in and of itself.

October 2018 Fam Din
Seestrahs! ❤

October 2018 Fam Din
It was about this time that I heard brother tinkering around with his Traeger Smoker. I turned around and found him piling up the grates with chicken wings — yes, please!

October 2018 Fam Din
After some time in the smoker, he brushed them with a layer of BBQ sauce and let them finish until they turned into these beauties!

October 2018 Fam Din
I had 2….ok, like 4.

Smoked Chicken Wings need to become a regular in my life.

October 2018 Fam Din
Then Nina was up to bat to prep the birthday girl’s one food request – SPAM Musubi!

October 2018 Fam Din
Now that is a fantastic rice to seaweed to SPAM ratio! Awesome job, Nina!

Most of the time when you pick them up at places, they put a huge block of rice in the musubi – way too much. These were just right!

ONO-licious!

October 2018 Fam Din
Then it was Nini’s turn to shine and she got to work on the last appetizer.

Yes, we had 3 appetizers – we like options.

October 2018 Fam Din
She made her signature Spicy Tuna Poke and served them with Seaweed-Rice Crackers and Taro Chips.

There’s something about that crack sauce she whips up that makes this poke so freaking delicious. You really can’t stop shoveling it into your mouth – so dang good.

October 2018 Fam Din
She really needs to start bottling/selling that crack sauce.

October 2018 Fam Din

Oh-and then Brother jumped back on the smoker because he had some venison stashed in the freezer that he decided to turn into Smoked Venison Jerky.  So I guess technically–that makes it four appetizers???

October 2018 Fam Din
Oh look!

A monkey found its way into the backyard.

October 2018 Fam Din
After a quick shower, Kaelani decided to leave her mark on V & L’s kitchen table.

Don’t worry–it was encouraged. In fact, it’s become a fun tradition for folks that visit their place to tag up their table.

October 2018 Fam Din

Some game was on that night that kept the Dudes glued to the couch for a few hours.

October 2018 Fam Din
And the prep work continued…..

October 2018 Fam Din

…while the munchkins decorated bags to keep their loot in.

What loot you ask?

October 2018 Fam Din
LOOT because there was a filled piñata!

Now, I have to say that I had a moment of mixed feelings on this.

October 2018 Fam Din

Sure–Kaelani wanted a Moana themed Fam Din and her auntie N got her this piñata to fit the theme.

October 2018 Fam Din
But when it came time for the kiddos to break open the piñata, I had some serious guilt that they were beating up Moana!!

October 2018 Fam Din
But hey, at least they used a light sabre to break her open.

October 2018 Fam Din
Even Seester T felt the need to shed a tear for Moana.

October 2018 Fam Din
But Kaelani didn’t seem to mind at all and gave Auntie N a BIG hug for her piñata.

October 2018 Fam Din
And gave some love to Uncle C, too!

October 2018 Fam Din

At that point, someone reminded us to put a pause on the shenanigans because it was dinnertime.

October 2018 Fam Din

 

For the entree, T made Shrimp and Fish Tacos. They were topped with a cabbage slaw, lots of pico de gallo, avocado and smothered in hot sauce.

YUM!

October 2018 Fam Din
P made SPAM Fried Rice to go along with the tacos. If we hadn’t eaten so much earlier, I would’ve requested that she top it with crispy fried eggs.

But even I know my limits people.

October 2018 Fam Din
But then N decided to be really extra and took P’s SPAM Fried Rice…..

October 2018 Fam Din
….and put it into a pineapple bowl.

I definitely do not like pineapple in my fried rice (or pizza) but I give her an “A” for effort.

October 2018 Fam Din

We then rolled from our dinner chairs to the couch to digest our food and chat some more.

I’m sure you’re thinking….

DAMN. They sure do like to eat!

And you’re 100% CORRECT! But we also like leftovers, too!

October 2018 Fam Din
And then someone was ready for her birthday cake.

YES – we were full. But do you want to be the person to tell her wait even longer? Nope-not me!

So we all stood up, did a little jiggle to make room in our bellies and then focused on desserts!

I  made Kaelani this Chocolate Moana Cake. It was 3 layers of rich, dense chocolate cake that I covered with vanilla bean swiss meringue buttercream. I decorated the cake with handmade fondant plumerias, white chocolate shells, brown sugar “sand” and of course– the Heart of Te Fiti, also made of fondant.

October 2018 Fam Din
There was a moment when I considered molding the characters out of fondant as well, but when you’re trying to replicate such recognizable characters, it’s REALLY tough!!! The slightest imperfection can make them look wonky! So in the end, I cheated and ordered a personalized edible topper sheet. It’s really quite neat! The topper is an edible icing sheet that is then printed with food color. It comes on a sheet that you peel away (kind of like a label) and then place on the cake. You do need to let it set for awhile so that it can soften into the buttercream but I was really impressed with the vibrant color.

October 2018 Fam Din
Our birthday girl really liked it!

October 2018 Fam Din
And yes, it weighed a gajillion pounds!

After we sang to her and she blew out her candles, it was time to dig in.

October 2018 Fam Din

A little peek inside….

October 2018 Fam Din
Here’s K giving me a big hug to say thank you.

October 2018 Fam Din
I’m such a sucker for this little adorable munchkin.

October 2018 Fam Din
But we weren’t done yet!

Here’s the situation with swiss meringue buttercream.

It’s personally one of favorite frosting to not only use to decorate cakes/cupcakes with but I also prefer it’s flavor and texture. Since it’s meringue based, it’s really fluffy and can maintain its structure really well.

October 2018 Fam Din
Which means when I make batches of it, I’m left with TONS of egg yolks…..and I just can’t throw them out!

So I typically will use the leftover yolks to make some type of custard based dessert — and this time, it was Vanilla Bean Crème Brûlée.

October 2018 Fam Din
No complaints from the family because it’s a fan favorite!

Also, if you hold off on torching them, they’ll keep in the fridge for a few days. Then, when you get a hankering, just cover the tops with a layer of sugar and brûlée away!

October 2018 Fam Din

And let’s not forget about this beast!

Yes, dessert #3

Truthfully, we meant to crack out Shave Ice machine earlier in the day but it totally slipped our minds!

We couldn’t NOT use it that night….it was an Island themed dinner, after all!

So we made a couple of cones that were either topped with a Vietnamese Coffee base or a Blueberry Syrup that Leo helped L make earlier that day.

I can’t believe they’re actually sitting down after all of the sugar we consumed.

October 2018 Fam Din
But birthday girl was rearing to open up her gifts.

October 2018 Fam Din
And then somehow this happened.

Luna inherited a violin that one of her cousins was no longer using. She hadn’t started lessons yet but it just so happens that seester N used to play waaaaaaay back in the day! So N gave the kiddos a few instructions for them to play a few chords.

October 2018 Fam Din
And of course, K wanted to give it a try, too!

October 2018 Fam Din
Needless to say, youngest munchkin had a BLAST with her family for her birthday.

October 2018 Fam Din

And for us, whenever we can get all 9 of them together (yes, including the 2 fur babies), our hearts are incredibly filled. ❤

October 2018 Fam Din
Here’s a little video if you want to see the real chaos behind the scenes!

 

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This Month’s Family Dinner Menu

Cocktails: POGtail, Various Wines and Beers
Appetizers: Spicy Tuna Poke, SPAM Musubi, Smoked Chicken Wings, Smoked Venison Jerky
Entree: Fish and Shrimp Tacos
Sides: SPAM Fried Rice
Dessert:
Moana Chocolate Cake, Shave Ice, Vanilla Bean Crème Brûlée

Sunday Family Dinner

Family Dinner Takes a Walk on the Pura Vida Side!

September 2019 Fam Din

T and her clan had an adventurous getaway to Costa Rica where they zip-lined through the jungles, went on night hikes, encountered monkeys and sloths, stayed in tree houses, frolicked on beaches and indulged in wonderful meals. As I was stalking their vacay via IG, I saw that they kept hashtagging their photos with the “Pura Vida” phrase. Although it translates to “pure life”, I’m told that it’s a indicative Costa Rican phrase that can mean anything from “this is living”, “carefree life” and also as salutations.

Needless to say, they were still buzzing with the “pura vida” bug when they came home and convinced us to take a Costa Rican spin with our Family Dinner menu. The rest of us had never been but we were game to give it a spin!

And it all started with Cocktail Hour!

Inspired by a cocktail T had on vacay, she mixed cilantro-cucumber infused vodka with ginger simple syrup, lime juice and ginger beer. It was delish! Really bright and unexpected – something akin to a mix of a Mojito meets Moscow Mule.

September 2019 Fam Din

She couldn’t remember the name of it so I’m just going to call it the Pura Vida Cocktail for now.

Seems appropriate, right?

September 2019 Fam Din

2 BILs and Brother……

Or as I refer to them–the Dudes!

September 2019 Fam Din
Seestrahs

September 2019 Fam Din
And then we looked over and saw Nina like this.

Which meant one thing…we needed to get going on the appetizers or the munchkins would all become hypoglycemic and either pass out or get super grumptastic.

And that, Friends, is NEVER a pretty picture.

September 2019 Fam Din

N took the lead on the first appetizer – her take on Chorizo Empanadas.

September 2019 Fam Din

She’s made variations of empanadas before but what made these different than her previous versions was that the filling also included cubed potatoes and boiled eggs.

September 2019 Fam Din
They were so bomb!

Instead of a masa dough, she used puff pastry so the exterior was so buttery and flaky while the filling was rich and deeply spiced. And of course, we had to have some chimichurri sauce to dunk them in.

September 2019 Fam Din
Actually, I’m pretty much a sucker for savory hand pies from ALL cultures.

Portable, savory deliciousness.

September 2019 Fam Din

Nini and C agree!

September 2019 Fam Din
While in Costa Rica, T said the ceviche dishes were some of her favorite bites. One day, R and Lucas even went deep sea fishing and caught a sailfish, dorado and a yellowfin tuna. They brought their haul back to the hotel restaurant where the kitchen fixed them up a feast that included mahi mahi ceviche.

dorado = mahi mahi

September 2019 Fam Din
With that still fresh on her mind, T decided to whip up a big ol’ bowl of bright Ceviche and served them with Tortilla Chips.

It wasn’t just pretty—it was scrump-diddly-dumptious!

September 2019 Fam Din
Puggle cuddle break!

September 2019 Fam Din
Oh…and we all fight over this egg chair…..it’s the best.

September 2019 Fam Din

LOOK!

Nina is awake!

Told ya she needed food.

September 2019 Fam Din

It was around this time that Brother started prep on his and L’s dish.

I should’ve snapped a pic once he finished mincing the garlic because V is quite meticulous (like Nini!) with his prep and his knife cuts are super consistent.

September 2019 Fam Din
And here’s L rockin’ out with the black bass!

September 2019 Fam Din
V and L went B-I-G for the entree and decided to make a version of pescado frito entero – whole fried fish.

After she seasoned the bass, L put them in a cornmeal-flour dredge……

September 2019 Fam Din
……before gently placing them in a vat of hot oil to deep fry!

You can see why we opted to cook the fish dish outside, right? I’m sure our neighbors just adored us that day.

Then L got to work on the decadent “sauce” to top the fish with — whole shrimp with a SHIZZ TON of garlic, butter and scallions!

She also finished it off with a quick flambe of dark rum but for some reason my dang site is having issues uploading the video I took of it.

September 2019 Fam Din

After the shrimp were sufficiently flambeed, she topped it over the crispy bass.

W-O-W-S-E-R-S!!!

September 2019 Fam Din

Pescado Frito con Relleno de Camarones – Fried Fish with Garlic Shrimp Sauce.

September 2019 Fam Din
To accompany the fish, T made a big dish of Gallo Pinto – Costa Rican Rice and Beans. It was a great way to soak up all the buttery-garlicky goodness from the fish and shrimp, too!

September 2019 Fam Din

Then things got a little crazy.

I’m telling ya, N is living her best life, I mean– pura vida, these days!

September 2019 Fam Din

These cuties just sit back sometimes and watch how silly the adults can get.

September 2019 Fam Din

After the shenanigans settled down and the dishes were cleared, we dug into dessert.

I made Tres Leche a three-types of milk cake. Now, I won’t say that this is an authentic Costa Rican dessert since there are many claims that its origins are from Mexico. But versions of Tres Leche can be found all over Latin America, so I just went with it.

The photo below is terrible but luckily it tasted great – despite my worries while it baked! Seester’s oven needs some TLC and can be erratic at times with its temperature so I was stressing while it was in the oven. But I guess that’s where Tres Leche can be a bit forgiving since you soak the sponge with a sugary-milk mixture until it just can’t take in anymore. I used this recipe and was pleased with the flavor.

By the end of the night, I felt that we successfully caught glimpses of the food vibes that T and her fam experienced during their time in Costa Rica. And I SURE as heck want to go there to experience it for myself too!

PURA VIDA!!

September 2019 Fam Din

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This Month’s Family Dinner Menu

Cocktails: Pura Vida Cocktails, Various Wines
Appetizers: Ceviche, Chorizo Empanadas
Entree: Pescado Frito con Relleno de Camarones {Fried Bass with Garlic Shrimp Sauce}
Sides: Gallo Pinto {Costa Rican Rice and Beans}
Dessert:
Tres Leche Cake {3 Milks Cake}

Sunday Family Dinner

Nina’s 1st Fam Din as a 20-Something….

August 2018 Fam Din
The eldest munchkin is no longer a teenager.

I don’t know how it happened….she sure as heck didn’t clear it with me!

But here we are. The once little chubby and mischievous baby girl is no longer a baby.

Of course our hearts are filled to see what a wonderful young being she has grown into.

August 2018 Fam Din
But when you were in the room where she took her first breath in this world – it can get really emotional for this Auntie!

August 2018 Fam Din
Not to mention for her Dad and Uncles, too!

(Sneaky, little photobomber Luna is just pumped to be celebrating her cousie’s bday)

August 2018 Fam Din
Signs of Nina having a foodie knack emerged very early on.

I like to say that it’s partially due to her genes and partially because Mom and Dad took care of her every weekday until she was two. So you know that they were sneaking her all kinds of fantastic goodies all day long.

August 2018 Fam Din

It was no surprise that when we asked her what she’d like to have on the menu for her birthday Fam Din, she didn’t hesitate to say: Prime Rib, Garlic Knots, Broccolini and Chocolate Raspberry Tart.

All of her faves.

Hey-we weren’t going to argue because those were some great choices!

August 2018 Fam Din
The only thing she didn’t have an opinion on was the appetizers.

V and L opted to go the “surf” route to pair with the “turf” entree.

August 2018 Fam Din
They whipped up these beautiful Brown Butter Seared Scallops.

August 2018 Fam Din
Maya spent a little QT with her cousie Leo before she jumped into the kitchen to help with some prep.

August 2018 Fam Din
While the prime rib roasted, the girls assisted T with fixing up the horseradish cream sauce – a MUST have accompaniment to the main course.

August 2018 Fam Din
And then the roast was pulled out of the oven to rest.

The birthday girl could barely contain her excitement.

August 2018 Fam Din
Yup. It’s bigger than her head!

August 2018 Fam Din
After the resting time was up, T began to carve up the gorgeous roast.

August 2018 Fam Din
A FANTASTIC cook!

Great job, Seestrah!

August 2018 Fam Din
Per the bday gal’s request, V and L prepared Garlic Roasted Broccolini.

So garlicky delicious.

August 2018 Fam Din
I was tasked to make the Cheesy Garlic Knots – which was fine by me because they’re easy to make and oh-so cheesily delicious.

It starts with my basic pizza dough, cut into portions and rolled into ropes. After the dough ropes were flattened, they’re filled with minced garlic, mozzarella cheese and a sprinkle of garlic salt. They’re then rolled up, slightly knotted and brushed with melted garlic butter (butter infused with minced garlic and dried Italian seasonings) before a quick bake in the oven. Once out of the oven, I brushed the knots with more garlic butter and sprinkled them grated parmesan and chopped parsley.

August 2018 Fam Din
I served them with two choices of dipping sauces – marinara and ranch dressing. Winning, right?

Why don’t I make these more often???

August 2018 Fam Din
Scrumptious choices, Nina, scrumptious choices!

August 2018 Fam Din
By the way, a few days later I made a little “slider” out of a leftover Garlic Cheesy Knot and Prime Rib….I was making some GREAT choices that day.

August 2018 Fam Din
Seesters! ❤

August 2018 Fam Din
And then it was time for Nina to blow out her candles on her birthday dessert.

August 2018 Fam Din
Nina chose my Chocolate Raspberry Tart that has now become a staple in the family. Actually, Seester N makes it regularly that it’s pretty much become her recipe.

The crust is a buttery-shortbread –and the filling is like a thin truffle layer. The raspberries bring a nice tartness to the decadent chocolate.

August 2018 Fam Din
Family pic!

August 2018 Fam Din
Leonidas needed in on the love and wanted to give his big couise a birthday hug.

August 2018 Fam Din
And that was a wrap to Nina’s Birthday Fam Din! It was a delicious way to celebrate our dazzling niece. ❤

August 2018 Fam Din

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This Month’s Family Dinner Menu

Cocktails: Various Wines
Appetizers: Brown Butter Seared Scallops
Entree: Garlic-Rosemary Prime Rib Roast
Sides: Garlic Roasted Broccolini, Cheesy Garlic Knots
Dessert:
Chocolate Raspberry Tart