Breads

Mini Sourdough Bread Boules

Sourdough Bread Boules
Being the carb monster I am, it’s really no surprise that I’ve come to love baking bread–granted, it wasn’t always the case.

But now I find that there’s something about forming something so beautiful and delicious out of a few spare ingredients that most folks have in their cupboards. There’s something ritualistic about the process–and although time consuming, it is completely fulfilling.  Not to mention that we’ve been baking some type of bread, across the world/cultures for thousands and thousands of years.

Sourdough Bread Boules

Sure, some breads can be finicky and depending on the weather and moisture outside, you’ve got to adjust. But when you’ve kneaded that perfectly silky dough, it’s fantastic!

So for Maya’s birthday Fam Din where we served a delicious Clam Chowder that brother made, I quickly volunteered to bake the sourdough bread boules to go along with them. I had never officially baked my own sourdough, although it’s been on my to-do list for some time, but hey-it seemed like a great opportunity.

Sourdough Bread Boules

First off, I needed a “starter” that gives the bread that wonderful chew and flavor. Now, I’m not one of those lucky home bakers that have a starter stored in my fridge that has been handed down in my family for the past century. So I had to create my own.

It’s a fairly easy process that essentially involves “growing” a wild yeast over several days through a combination of water and flour. Every day, you “feed” your starter a little bit more of both as it bubbles away. At one point, you may begin to freak out as it starts to separate–and you may think–CRAP! It’s gone bad!

But don’t fret my pet. All is good–in fact, you want that to happen because that’s when you’ll know that you’ve got a fermentation party going on. Just stir it all up and keep on going with the process.

Sourdough Bread

For this particular batch, I chose to make a starter based on a recipe found here. The only exception is that I grew my starter for about 8 days versus the 5 listed in the instructions.

But hey–if you’ve got your own starter recipe, or even better–have some already chilling in your fridge, by all means…go with that.

Sourdough Bread
After you’ve introduced your finished starter with a bit of flour to create a “levain”, you’ll want to let it mingle together overnight before adding the final flours to proof. And boy oh boy, will it proof! All through the wonders of your starter and with no additional help of dried yeast.

Magic!

This recipe from Half Baked Harvest produced 6 good-sized boules out of the dough. However, I ended up forming them a little smaller to make 8 per batch. Since we were going to have lots of appetizers before dinner and intended to use them as chowder “vessels”, this smaller sized suited us well.

Sourdough Bread Boule
Prior to baking these little guys got brushed with an egg white wash and were quickly spritzed with water. These two additional steps gave them a beautiful golden sheen and helped to create the wonderful crisp exterior texture.

PERFECT sourdough characteristics!

February 2017 Family Dinner
As for the crumb, I wish I would have taken a pic of the interior– it was spongy with great bubble pockets. The flavor was subtly sour—in fact, I would have preferred a bit more. But it was still slightly tangy. I think next time, I’ll give Tartine’s recipe a try now that I’ve gotten my feet wet.

February 2017 Family Dinner

But overall, I definitely recommend it! The method below is quite easy to follow–even for those new to bread baking.

Happy Sourdoughing!

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Mini Sourdough Bread Boules
Makes 6-8 mini boules

Ingredients:

1 cup fed sourdough starter
1 1/2 cups lukewarm water
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
2 1/4 teaspoons salt
2 cups bread flour
1 tbsp water optional
1 tbsp egg white lightly beaten with 1 tablespoon water
water

 

In a large mixing bowl or the bowl of an electric mixer, combine the starter, water, and all-purpose flour. Mix together with a fork or wooden spoon until smooth. Cover with plastic wrap and let sit at room temperature for 4 hours.

Transfer the bowl to the refrigerator and chill overnight, at least 12 hours.

Remove the bowl from the refrigerator and add the sugar, salt, and bread flour to the sponge. Mix until a ball of dough begins to come together. If some of the dry ingredients will not incorporate into the dough, add the additional 1 tablespoon of water to moisten them. Continue kneading the dough (on low speed if using an electric mixer) until the dough is smooth and elastic, about 5-6 minutes. Form the dough into a ball and transfer to a large lightly oiled bowl, turning the dough once to coat in the oil. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm spot until doubled in volume, 3-4 hours.

Line a baking sheet with a silicone baking mat or parchment paper. Transfer the dough ball to a lightly floured work surface and gently deflate the dough. Divide the dough into eight equal portions. Form each piece of dough into a ball, and tuck any loose edges or seams underneath. Place seam-side down on the prepared baking sheet. Repeat shaping with the other 7 pieces of the dough. Transfer the shaped boules to the prepared baking sheet. Cover loosely with lightly oiled plastic wrap. Let rise in a warm place until nearly doubled in volume, about 2-3 hours.

Place a baking stone or large dutch oven in the oven and preheat the oven to 425? F. Allow the pot to preheat for at least 20 minutes. Just before baking, lightly slash the top of each boule using a sharp serrated knife. Brush the exposed surface of the loaves with the egg wash. Spray the loaves lightly with water. Slide the entire baking sheet onto the baking stone or carefully place 4 boules in the dutch oven with the top on. Bake about 28-32 minutes, rotating the pan halfway through baking, until the crust is golden brown. If baking with the dutch oven repeat once the first four have been baked. Transfer the finished boules to a wire rack and let cool at least 30 minutes before slicing and serving.

Recipe From: Half Baked Harvest

Drinks

Sparkling Rosé Sangria – Happy National Rosé Day!

Sparkling Rosé Sangria

With all the craziness going on right now, aren’t you happy to know that at least we have random holidays we can celebrate and temporarily take our minds off of the insanity?

Brilliant holidays like the one today. And “what’s today” you may be asking?

Oh silly Friend….

It’s National Rosé Day—-as in, Rosé Wine!

And no, I didn’t make it up–though it does sound like something I would do.

Sparkling Rosé Sangria

To honor this illustrious day, I’d like to share with you my Sparkling Rosé Sangria. It’s filled with fresh fruit, rosé wine, cognac, orange liqueur and is topped off with chilled sparkling wine right before serving.

And my special addition? Fresh ginger root! The ginger is steeped in the sangria for a few hours which imparts a subtle but bright flavor. The whole combination is like drinking summer in a glass!

Totes Pretty in Pink

CHEERS Friends – and HAPPY NATIONAL ROSÉ DAY!

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Sparkling Rosé Sangria
Serves as many as you’re willing to share with

2 inch piece fresh ginger root, peeled
12 cup simple syrup
14 cup fresh lime juice
13 cup cognac
13 cup Cointreau or other orange liqueur
2 cups sliced fresh peaches
2 cups sliced fresh strawberries
4 sprigs fresh mint, more to garnish
2 750mL bottles rosé wine
ice
1 750mL bottle chilled sparkling wine

With the back of a large chef’s knife (or mallet), carefully bruise the ginger to help release some of its juices–but be sure not to break it into smaller pieces.

In a large pitcher, add the bruised ginger, simple syrup, lime juice, cognac, Cointreau, fruit and mint sprigs. Pour in the rosé wine and stir. Cover the pitcher and refrigerate for 4-5 hours. Once chilled, remove and discard the ginger and wilted mint sprigs.

Fill glasses with ice and add the sangria. Pour 2-3 ounces of chilled sparkling wine in each glass and gently stir the contents. Garnish with additional mint leaves and serve.

CHEERS!

Sunday Family Dinner

These are a few of Maya’s Favorite Things – Fam Din Time!

February 2017 Family Dinner

Our little Maya was born with an old soul. At barely a few days her little eyes began to sparkle and have the ability to look right in and grab your heart.

And as the years have passed, she’s grown into a a wonderfully thoughtful, kind, sensitive, smart and silly young gal.

February 2017 Family Dinner

So when it came time for her birthday Fam Din, we definitely wanted to make sure we made dishes that our “little” girl (who is now taller than me!) would love.

February 2017 Family Dinner

But although it was Maya’s birthday, the adults needed a little fun too….in the form of Hendrick’s Gin and Tonics with cucumbers and limes.

COCKTAIL TIME!

I love a good gin and tonic and Hendrick’s is definitely one of my favs.

February 2017 Family Dinner

CHEERS Sibbies!!!

February 2017 Family Dinner

All of our kiddos have had impeccably refined palates at a young age—and Maya is no exception. So when it came time to develop her dinner menu, I knew it was going to be a good one.

First up–appetizers!

Bebe girl loves a good Antipasta platter, so seester T put together this beauty for us to nosh on while we prepped dinner. Marinated artichokes, olives, salami, stilton and burrata cheeses, peppers, wheat crackers and cheese straws.

You really can’t go wrong with Antipasti. There’s no cooking involved and it’s all about assembling items from the market–perfect, particularly when entertaining.

February 2017 Family Dinner

Maya’s second appetizer for the evening was Crispy Calamari with Homemade Marinara. These goodies were lightly coated and fried to a great crunchy texture. Super tender and addicting.

February 2017 Family Dinner

SPOTTED!

Food blogger caught in her natural environment!

February 2017 Family Dinner

Funny enough, Maya loves salad—has so since she was a little babe.

And she also loves bacon.

Told ya she was smart.

To kick up her usual Caesar Salad fav, I made Maya this Shrimp and Bacon Caesar Salad. After crisping up the bacon in a cast iron, I used the rendered bacon fat to toast up some bread cubes for some over-the-top croutons and to saute the shrimp in.

Oh yes, I went there.

I then tossed romaine lettuce in a quick dressing I made with garlic, anchovy paste, lemon juice, Dijon mustard, egg yolk, grated Parmesan cheese and olive oil. Once the greens were lightly coated, I piled the shrimp, bacon, croutons on top and finished it off with large shavings of Parmesan.

Hey, I said I made a salad. I didn’t say it was low calorie.

February 2017 Family Dinner
Here’s Nina checking in on things.

And yes, she’s standing on a step stool because seester’s range was built for giants.

February 2017 Family Dinner

One thing that Maya specifically asked for to have at her dinner was clam chowder and she loves it served in a bread bowl. Brother volunteered to take charge of the chowder and since I love baking bread, I signed up to bake our bread bowls.

I ended up making my own sourdough starter several days prior to our dinner and I’ve got to admit, it was a rather fun process.

And the end result?

Beautifully golden boules that had the signature crispy crust and tender interior. The flavor was mildly sour–a little less so than my preference, but delish nonetheless.

It was the perfect vehicle for the rich and dreamy clam chowder my brother made. Oh-and I’ll be sharing a full post on the bread boules shortly.

February 2017 Family Dinner

Take a look at this beauty!!!

Brother knocked it out of the park with his chowda’!  The texture was perfect–not too thin and not too thick. And it was PACKED with clam flavor! He first took a ton of fresh clams and steamed them to release their liqueur. He then added the clam juice back into the base of the soup with tons of aromatics, white wine, potatoes, cream–and then topped it all off with whole clams, crispy bacon and fresh thyme.

Seriously, he did good.

February 2017 Family Dinner

And finally–Birthday Cake Time!!

Maya couldn’t decide on what type of dessert she wanted seestrah N to make her. So seester took flavor inspiration from one of the bday girl’s favorite sweet treats — the Strawberry and Pastry Cream filled Croissants from Cream Pan in Tustin, California. Which, PSA, if you haven’t been before and are within a 30 mile range, GOOOOO!

February 2017 Family Dinner

I have to say that I think my fam can whip up some fantastic desserts. However, N has been known to mash a billion different recipes together and come up with things off the fly that are freaking delicious. She’d be awesome at a Chopped dessert challenge!

What did she end up creating for Maya?

This gorgeous Strawberry Cream Cheese Mousse Cake. I mean c’mon—WOWZA! N started with making a graham cracker crust and then created a “wall” on the interior of a spring form pan with wafer cookies. Next, she created a rich cream cheese mousse and assembled the cake alternating between the mousse, crushed graham crackers and strawberry slices. It was all finished off with a lovely flower arrangement of strawberry slices.

The cake was somehow light and decadent all at the same time–with wonderfully contrasting textures between the mousse and wafers. Needless to say, the birthday girl LOVED it! And we all did too!

February 2017 Family Dinner

And that was it! Pretty successful–don’t you think?

HAPPY BIRTHDAY Bebe Girl! We hope you enjoyed your dinner and we LOVE you to pieces!! ❤

February 2017 Family Dinner

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This Month’s Family Dinner Menu

Cocktails:  Hendrick’s Gin and Tonic, Assorted Wines
Appetizers: Crispy Calamari with Homemade Marinara, Antipasta Platter
Entrees: New England Clam Chowder in Homemade Sourdough Bread Bowls
Sides: Shrimp and Bacon Caesar Salad
Dessert: Strawberry Cream Cheese Mousse Cake

Seafood · Soups/Stews

Our Seafood Cioppino – Happy Birthday Mom!!!

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Today is our Mama’s birthday and although it’s been 10 years since she’s been with us, not a day goes by when we don’t miss or think of her.

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That fiery spirit that her daughters and granddaughters inherited……

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That deep sense of family, love and loyalty……

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The affinity to talk to strangers and win them over in minutes….

MomandDad
That strong “will” (yes…I was trying not to say stubborn)…..

New Brighton
And that love to cook and explore new cuisines.

Kids
Of course there are dishes that I cannot help but miss her dearly when I make them. Like Thịt Kho Trứng (Vietnamese Caramelized Pork and Eggs), Thịt Bò Xào (Stir-fried beef), Mì Quảng (Turmeric Noodles) or even Korean Chap Chae —all dishes I used to ask her to make for me.

But then there are dishes like Seafood Cioppino, that although wasn’t her own, has now become a staple among my siblings every time we want to celebrate Mom.

River
At least a dozen years ago when I lived in San Jose, Mom came to visit me and sister P who lived in San Francisco. We spent the time walking around the city, shopping, and eating everything possible. And one night for dinner, P and I decided to make her a decadent, quintessential San Franciscan dish–Seafood Cioppino.

Mom and Nam
Cioppino is a seafood stew that originated in the Italian American communities of SF. It layers tons of aromatics with wine and tomatoes to make a fragrant stock. A variety of seafood is then cooked in the stock –which then deepens in flavor from the juices of the shellfish and seafood.

It’s incredible and we knew Mom would love it.

momanddad

While P and I spent hours in the kitchen that late afternoon charring the peppers, sauteing the veggies, simmering the stock, and cleaning all the seafood we had scored on Clement Street, Mom sat at the table watching us. She kept asking what we were doing—-and then, what we were going to next. Then she would say that we were going to a lot of trouble just for one dish.

But honestly, I think of everything we did during that visit, she loved that day the most. Chatting with her daughters while they cooked and fussed over her.

Of course, she loved the Seafood Cioppino too!

And can we just say how fabulous Mama was sitting in her satin pajamas, wearing her black Tahitian pearls while digging into a big ol’ bowl of Seafood Cioppino??

Fancy.

Shortly after Mom passed, I made a photobook for my family that included old pictures and our favorite recipes from her. And soon after, that one dish P and I made that one SF visit became “Mom’s Cioppino”—something that is lovingly made many times a year since.

Cioppino

I’ve posted tons of pics on Instagram and Facebook of our Seafood Cioppino and often get requests for the recipe. Whether it was too personal or maybe it was still too “soon”–I just wasn’t willing to share it yet.

Cioppino
After all of the years, it doesn’t get “easier” and I still miss her so much. But these days, I am able to share more things about her and now it’s rather perfect to share with you all this dish on her birthday.

Yes, there are many steps with the Cioppino and it does take some time —but the good news is, nothing is really difficult. And it’s the perfect dish to share with your loved ones when you can spend the day together in the kitchen making memories.

I hope you love it as much as we do.

Cioppino
We love you Mama and Happy, Happy Birthday!

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Seafood Cioppino

Serves 8

Ingredients:
Stock
2 red bell peppers
½ red jalapeno pepper
5 Roma tomatoes, halved
olive oil
1 medium sized white onion, diced
2 celery ribs, diced
1 fennel bulb, diced
2 large garlic cloves, smashed
¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 750mL bottle white wine, such as a Sauvignon Blanc or mild White Blend
5 standard tomatoes (Mexican or Florida tomato), coarsely chopped
1 8oz bottle clam juice
½ cup tomato juice
1 bay leaf
1 teaspoon whole black peppercorns
sea salt
20 sprigs fresh thyme
6 springs fresh parsley
8 sprigs fresh tarragon
½ teaspoon saffron threads

Seafood (or a medley of your favorites)
2 dungeness crabs, washed and quartered
2 lobster tails, quartered
2 pounds mussels, debeared and scrubbed
2 pounds manila clams, scrubbed
1 pound firm white fish, such as halibut or mahi, cut into 1½ inch cubes
1 pound shrimp, deveined and shell intact
1 pound sea scallops, if they are large—cut them in half
½ pound calamari, cut into 1-inch rings

Garnish
chopped fennel fronds and parsley

Turn your oven broiler on. Place bell peppers, jalapenos and Roma tomatoes on a rimmed baking sheet and coat with olive oil. Broil the vegetables for 5-7 minutes, using tongs to rotate frequently until the peppers have charred and the skin has bubbled. Transfer the vegetables to a large bowl and cover securely with plastic wrap. Set aside for 20 minutes to allow the vegetables to steam.

Peel the skins off the peppers and discard along with the stems and seeds. Next, peel and discard the skins of the Roma tomatoes.

Place a large stock pot or dutch oven over medium heat on the stove. Add 2 tablespoons olive oil and allow the oil to begin to slightly shimmer. Add the onions, celery and fennel inside the pot and cook until they have softened and become translucent—you do not want them to brown. Add the garlic, red pepper flakes and cook for an additional minute until fragrant. Pour in the wine and allow the liquids to come to a boil. Add the roasted peppers, Roma tomatoes, chopped fresh tomatoes, clam juice and tomato juice. Add the thyme, parley, tarragon, bay leaf, ½ tablespoon sea salt and peppercorns. Allow the liquids to come a rolling boil, lower heat and simmer, partially covered for 1½-2 hours. The liquids will nearly have reduced by half.

Pass the stock to a fine strainer and discard the vegetables and aromatics. Pour the stock into a large clean pot, add the saffron threads and lower the heat to a simmer for several minutes to allow the saffron to bloom and flavor the stock. Taste the broth and add additional sea salt as needed. Bring the stock back to a boil and add in the crab and lobster—cover and cook until the shells have become pink and the flesh becomes almost fully opaque. Stir in the clams, mussels and cover the pot. Allow them to cook for about 2 minutes until they just begin to open. Gently stir in the shrimp, fish, calamari and allow them to cook over a simmering heat—avoid cooking the fish in a rapid boil as they will get tough. Once the last seafood items turn opaque, taste the broth again and adjust with additional sea salt and pepper as needed.

Ladle the seafood into a bowl and pour the hot broth over it. Sprinkle with chopped fennel fronds, chopped parsley and serve immediately with warm bread.

Enjoy!

Note: This stock can definitely be made ahead of time so double or triple the batch and keep some in your freezer for a chilly night!

Poultry

Grilled Honey-Sesame Chicken Skewers

Honey Sesame Chicken Skewers

Easy, Delish and Versatile.

Now that’s the name of a cookbook I’d totally buy as I’d hope it would have satisfyingly scrumptious goodies like these Grilled Honey-Sesame Chicken Skewers.

Honey Sesame Chicken Skewers

These chicken skewers are super quick to prep, takes only a few minutes to cook and I like to serve them in anything from noodle bowls (bún), Vietnamese sandwiches (bánh mì), with rice or even as appetizers.

Oh the possibilities!!

Honey Sesame Chicken Skewers
And if you’re feeling a bit lazy to heat up the grill, you can even throw them in the oven. Just place the skewers on a tray and bake at 425 degrees for about 20 minutes.

Easy peasy.

Note: I prefer the flavor of chicken thighs and find that it tends to dry out less than breast meat. However, feel free to swap out whichever cut is your preference.

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Grilled Honey-Sesame Chicken Skewers
Makes 10-12 skewers

Ingredients:

2 tablespoons oyster sauce
1 tablespoon low sodium soy sauce
1 tablespoon honey
1 tablespoon sesame oil
1 tablespoon rice wine vinegar
1 tablespoon mirin
1 tablespoon sambal chili paste
1 tablespoon Sriracha sauce
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
zest of 1 lime
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1 tablespoon minced ginger
¼ teaspoon black pepper
2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs – cut into 1½ inch pieces
10-12 bamboo skewers soaked in water for 30 minutes
vegetable oil
¼ cup chopped scallions
2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
½ teaspoon toasted sesame seeds

In a large bowl, whisk together the first 13 ingredients. Add the chicken, mix to coat well. Cover the bowl and refrigerate for 30 minutes.

Heat the grill (gas or charcoal) to medium-high heat. Brush the grates of the grill with the vegetable oil. While the grill heats, thread the chicken pieces through the soaked skewers.

Grill the chicken skewers, turning every few minutes, for 6-8 minutes until the chicken has cooked through. Remove the skewers to plate and sprinkle with scallions, cilantro and sesame seeds.

Miscellaneous

Easter Brunch Cheat Sheet

Coddled Eggs with Pesto and Potato-Parsnip Puree
Happy Friday Peeps!

I know many of you will be gathering on Sunday with loved ones for Easter festivities filled with egg hunts and hopefully–delish eats!

But if you’re still struggling on what to serve for brunch-2nd breakfasts-lunch-supper-snacks-dinner, don’t worry—I’m here to help! Here are some fantastic menu ideas that will keep your crew happily hoppin’ at the table!

First up– COCKTAILS!

Because, let’s be honest, if it’s a celebration at mi casa, lovely libations will always be available.

I call this first option, my Hair of the Dog Bloody Mary. But trust me, your struggle does not have to be real to enjoy this beauty. And heck- this little number has so many garnishes, you can even skip serving appetizers!

Hair of the Dog - Bloody Mary
Not into Bloodys? How about a flirty, pretty and potent Paloma? Full of bright grapefruit flavors with a tequila punch.

Palomas
Keeping with the grapefruit vibe, how about a Rosemary Greyhound? I love the floral and herb profile that the rosemary lends to this classic. And best of all—you can make pitchers of these so you won’t need to be mixing and shaking during your festivities.

Rosemary Greyhounds

And lastly, the Lychee Saketini which is quite easily, one of my most requested cocktails that folks ask me to make for them. Not only is a delicious but it’s deceivingly potent. You can easily polish off 2 or 3 before you realize you’re tipsy.

Which, of course, is not a bad thing.

Lychee Saketinis
Now on to the eats…..

For me, it’s against every fiber in my being to not serve some type of egg dish for brunch–particularly Easter Brunch. And do I have the perfect little beauty for you— Coddled Eggs with Pesto and Potato-Parsnip Puree. The presentation alone will get you oohs and ahhs and once they dunk their spoons into the jars, songs will be written about your ingenuity.

And want in on a secret? They’re incredibly easy to make and can be prepped the day before!

Coddled Eggs with Pesto and Potato-Parsnip Puree

And of course, there’s always the deviled eggs route! You can go OG or freaking over the top like my seester’s Mediterranean Inspired Deviled Eggs. These babies were flavored with white truffle oil, paprika and then topped with crispy applewood bacon, freshly made tapenade and fried kale.

June 2016 Fam Din
Little bites are always a good idea to have around.

And since we’re in the throws of Spring, how about some lovely Greek Zucchini Fritters {Kolokithokeftedes} with Tzatziki Sauce?

June 2016 Fam Din

Or fresh Bruschetta with Smoked Mozzarella?

Bruschetta with Smoked Mozzarella Cheese
And how do you feel about using avocados as a serving dish? Because I feel AMAZING about it.

Which is why I implore you to make my Spicy Crab and Avocado Salad ….if not for Easter then at your very next free moment.

Spicy Crab & Avocado Salad
Speaking of salads, if I have to eat them, they’ve got to be pretty. And I think my Tropical Summer Salad with Sesame-Ginger Dressing is as lovely as it can get…..and so will your guests.

Tropical Summer Salad with Sesame-Ginger Dressing
I, for one, think pizza is a perfectly acceptable dish to serve when entertaining because who doesn’t love pizza???

For an Easter lunch, this Burrata Caprese and Prosciutto Pizza would definitely fuel folks for an egg hunt. It’s both hearty and bright at the same time. I love the contrast from the warm pizza with fresh tomatoes and basil.

Burrata Caprese & Prosciutto Skillet Pizza

If you’re looking for something heartier, I’d recommend Rosemary-Garlic Lamb Rib Chops. I cannot tell you how delectable these buggers are and if you’re one who thinks you don’t like lamb or it’s too gamey—you’ve got to try these. Easily one of my fam’s favorites!

Grilled Lamb Chops
If you’re not interested in making multiple dishes, then might I suggest Bacon and Shrimp Cheesy Grits? Surf & Turf? Cheese?? Grits???

COME ON!

This is easily a no-brainer!!

Bacon & Shrimp Cheesy Grits
And last but not least…. Desserts.

Because no celebration is complete until sweets are involved.

First up, Strawberry Shortcake Cupcakes! Aren’t they adorable and Spring-y??? And they’re also filled with a strawberry compote which is a sneaky surprise once you bite into them!

Strawberry Shortcake Cupcakes
A citrus filled Key Lime Cheesecake would also be a wonderful ending to an Easter meal. And although you’d might assume cheesecakes are on the heavier side, this one is actually quite light and splendorous!

Key Lime Cheesecake
Fresh Strawberry Tart

Seriously, no other words needed for this gloriousness.

 

Fresh Strawberry Tart

And that’s it gang! Hopefully I gave you some ideas for your Easter menu and if you do end up making one of them (or more) — can I come over???

 

Sunday Family Dinner

2 Birthdays Means 2 Desserts for Family Dinner

January 2017 Family Dinner
Somehow along the journey of our Family Dinners, I decided that even if there’s more than one birthday for the month, each bday babe gets their own dessert.

So when it was seester T and Nini’s bday, I found myself baking TWO cakes. Albeit, Nini’s was slightly larger and 15 pounds heavier.

I’m royally screwed in July since there are FOUR BIRTHDAYS!!

Oy vey.

Why do I do this…..

January 2017 Family Dinner
Actually, our birthday gals were very low maintenance. They didn’t request anything over the top which made things quite easy for the other dishes.

PHEW!

We opened up with fresh Salmon Shōyu Pokē and Chips — Nini’s choice.

I have to admit, salmon generally isn’t my fish of choice. It’s fine but I think I went through a period where I was eating it all of the time and then one day….BLEH! NO MORE!

Nowadays, I rarely order it when out and generally just prefer my salmon as lox over bagels. But when seestrah N whipped up this pokē, I was about it!! Fresh, slightly sweet and savory. She based it off my Ahi Shōyu Pokē that can be found here.

Onolicious!

January 2017 Family Dinner

As for the entrée, we went for the rich, stick to your ribs type of dish — as in short ribs!!!

T made a GINORMOUS pot of Red Wine Braised Short Ribs that had tons of herbs, aromatics and ‘shrooms! I may or may not have stolen the below pic from her IG.

Alright…I totally did.

Once the ribs were utterly tender and at the melt-in your mouth consistency, she shredded them and topped them over the freshly made Ricotta Gnocchi by brother V and my SIL L.

And since the beef was so rich, we added a big dollop of gremolata (garlic, lemon zest, and parsley) that our niece prepared. The gremolata adds a much needed freshness and bite to cut through all of that unctuous goodness.

January 2017 Family Dinner
Then one of us (it sure wasn’t me!) thought it would be a good idea to add some greens to the meal and pulled together a Gorgonzola and Asian Pear Salad.

Don’t get me wrong, it was lovely but I would have been fine with just the greens from the gremolata!

January 2017 Family Dinner

And then….DESSERTS!!!

Nini requested a coconut cake. She asked and I delivered this three layered Toasted Coconut Cake.

January 2017 Family Dinner

I used Thomas Keller’s recipe that can be found here. It’s a pretty standard southern coconut cake recipe that uses a combination of coconut milk, buttermilk and mayonnaise for a dense but moist cake crumb. The cake is frosted in a thick Italian Meringue but instead of desiccated sweet coconut shreds, I covered it all in toasted coconut flakes so that it wouldn’t be too sweet. And I generally prefer the texture of the flakes over the shreds too.

Nini was a fan. Success.

What a cutie-patootie.

January 2017 Family Dinner
Seeestrah is slightly obsessed with the Butter Cake from Mastro’s so I did my best to try and replicate it. If you’ve never had the cake from Mastro’s, think of an incredibly rich and dense pound cake….but with more butter!!!

After scouring the internet, I went with this recipe here. Truthfully, I had mediocre success with it and it took nearly twice as long for the cakes to bake. Not to mention we had a heck of a time removing it from the pans. But the flavor was pretty good and there’s nothing that a ton of fresh whipped cream and berries can’t hide—am I right?

Sorry seester, I’ll definitely try again for ya…..

January 2017 Family Dinner

Needless to say, we all nearly knocked out after our heavy meal — but it was worth every calorie!

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This Month’s Family Dinner Menu

Cocktails:  Assorted Wines
Appetizers: Salmon Shōyu Pokē
Entrees: Red Wine Braised Short Ribs over Fresh Ricotta Gnocchi
Sides: Gorgonzola and Asian Pear Salad
Dessert: Toasted Coconut Cake, Butter Cake with Berries and Cream