Sunday Family Dinner

Fam Din for the Best of Buds-Birthday Boys!

April 2018 Fam Din

Before I jump in, I must admit that my hiatus from posting was due to my endless birthday celebrations.

Yes, I realize my birthday was in May but it was a big milestone and I REALLY
C-E-L-E-B-R-A-T-E-D! I was living it up!

But I’m back now to share our Family Dinner where we celebrated these two best buds – Lucas and C! It’s always a bunch of fun to celebrate their birthmonth for Fam Din and it is ALWAYS delicious.

April 2018 Fam Din

It was even more eventful this time around because seester P came down from San Francisco with her crew. Which meant this little cutie-patootie was running around soaking up QT with her big cousins!

Oh Kaelani….you melt my heart ❤

April 2018 Fam Din

Whereas BIL C was pretty open for what he wanted on the menu, Lucas was VERY specific.

Hainanese Chicken and Rice.

Dumplings.

Finally, Donuts and Mint Chip Ice Cream because he doesn’t like cake (I know…where did I go wrong?!?)

April 2018 Fam Din

Since P was in town we quickly assigned her dessert duty for Lucas’ requests. With Fam Din, we almost always have to start prepping dessert early since there’s often proofing, chilling, icing and decorating that needs to be done. So P got started on the dough the night before and used Pioneer Woman’s recipe for Glazed Doughnuts that can be found here.

April 2018 Fam Din

Although it was barely 3pm and too soon for dessert, she chose to fry them up. And you may be wondering “Why? Donuts are amazing fresh out the fryer.”

Well dear friends, it’s because the donuts were just a mere vessel to hold the bday boy’s beloved mint chip ice cream.

Oh yes, we’re talking Donut Ice Cream Sandwiches!!!

April 2018 Fam Din

We go the extra mile! Well, in this case, P went the extra mile.

Lucky Lucas

But that also didn’t stop us from trying 1 or 2 after she glazed them. Quality control after all.

April 2018 Fam Din

And what was I doing while seestrah was hard at work frying?

Doing what I often do when I’m in seester T’s backyard – sipping rosé of course! I had to do most of my prep work waayyyyy in advance for the dishes I was tasked with. You’ll see why in a bit.

Also – 5 pts if you can spot Leia in less than 2 seconds!

April 2018 Fam Din

At some point we discovered that T’s lemon tree FINALLY produced fruit…as in one.

One tiny, tiny lemon.

She was quite proud of it.

But I’ve got to admit how surprised we all were with how much juice the little bugger had!

April 2018 Fam Din

Wondering what’s going on here?

The girls decided to have a little beauty session and Nini gave Maya a little TLC on her eyebrows. Nini is basically the young Vietnamese version of Anastasia Soare – the celebrity brow specialist in Hollywood.

April 2018 Fam Din

These two ❤

April 2018 Fam Din

And while the human girls worked on their brows, the fur girls worked on their perfectly wrinkled-scrunchy faces.

Serious Princess Leia, you give Doug the Pug a run for his money.

April 2018 Fam Din

And what about this sun goddess? She loves running around in seester’s backyard exploring while trying to find ways to break out and escape to the neighborhood pathways.

That rebel.

April 2018 Fam Din

Bella was less than thrilled when I scooped her up to force her to take a pic with me. She really is more humanling than canine.

April 2018 Fam Din
Kaelani and her pops took advantage of the spa to get a little swim time in. Our munckins are quite the little fishies!

Kaelani adores her big cousin Lucas and he is very, very sweet with her.

I know you’re digging her Bowie shirt.

April 2018 Fam Din

And just like that, it was appetizer time and I was up to bat!

Birthday boy wanted dumplings for his Fam Din — ALL kinds of dumplings. With so many people to feed and the time needed to prepare different types, I ended up making them the week before and freezing them. It really was the only way to manage this time around.

First type of dumplings, my tried and true Pan-Fried Ginger Chicken Dumplings.

April 2018 Fam Din

These beauties are always a favorite with folks. With so much fresh ginger, it perfumes the ground chicken and gives it a wonderful flavor. I served these with my standard soy-ginger-black vinegar-sesame oil dipping sauce.

April 2018 Fam Din
Using the same dumplings but slightly different cooking method, I made the below laced-bottom dumpling flower.

You start off with the same method as your standard potsticker by adding a bit of oil to a skillet. You then arange the dumplings, nestled together in the pan. After the bottoms become lightly browned, you pour in a slurry (water + cornstarch) instead of plain water and then cover the skillet with a lid.

Once the liquid steams the dumplings and then evaporates, the leftover starch and oil fry up and you’re left with a lacy pattern on the bottom after they are inverted onto a dish. The texture is incredibly crispy and satisfying. I highly suggest it!

April 2018 Fam Din

The second type I prepared were Seafood with Chinese Chives Dumplings which I chose to steam.

April 2018 Fam Din

The filling was a simple combination of minced shrimp and scallops, a few aromatics and a TON of minced Chinese chives. I chose to fold these with a double-sided straight pleat to try and get a maximum amount of filling in. We’re seafood freaks after all.

April 2018 Fam Din

After a few minutes in the bamboo steamer, I topped them with fresh scallions and served them with a choice of the same dipping sauce as above or my Sichuan Chili Oil Sauce.

April 2018 Fam Din

The last version was something I had never made before – Sheng Jian Bao which are a pan fried pork soup dumpling. They’re the cousin to the thin-skin souped dumplings that I’m also obsessed with.

April 2018 Fam Din
I need to do a little more work and practice on these guys. The wrapper should be much thicker than the previous two dumplings I made – and have a bit of leaven to them. I didn’t really get that so much but the flavor of the pork filling was tasty. I’d give myself a 5 on a scale from 1-10 with these but there’s always next time!

April 2018 Fam Din
Here’s BIL R with Dad. They’re both wondering when I’ll stop bringing dumplings out because they were getting dumpling-wasted.

And OF COURSE Dad said “dumpling wasted”….not.

April 2018 Fam Din

I’ll tell you that there was one soul who was on full dumpling watch, waiting for her gramps to give her some.

Side note: If there is an open lap, she will find it and sit on it.

April 2018 Fam Din

Since bellies were full of dumplings, it was time for a Candy Land break for Kaelani and Nina. Candy Land was MY JAM back in the day!

April 2018 Fam Din

And I know I just said that our bellies were full but this is also about time when brother V rolled out with his Smoked St. Louis Style Ribs. Brother is getting REALLY good with his smoker – his smoked tri-tip is my fav thus far. P and her clan were getting tired of seeing all of our posts of V’s creations that when they came down for this visit, he promised to make them a little something.

Spoiler Alert: They were BOMB!

April 2018 Fam Din
While we were noshing on ribs, seestrah T finished up the Hainanese Chicken. Can you believe that bright yellow hue of the broth? That’s totally naturally colored! It’s a result of the skin of the fresh free-ranged chickens she got in combination with some of the aromatics she threw in.

April 2018 Fam Din
Once the chickens were cool enough to handle, she passed them over to seester N to carve. We really do make her carve and slice everything.

April 2018 Fam Din
Voila!

April 2018 Fam Din
T prepared three traditional sauces to accompany the Hainanese Chicken and Rice. The one closest to you is a Chili Sauce made from Holland chiies. The middle is a thick Sweet Dark Soy Sauce. The last is a Ginger-Garlic Sauce. The recipe for the chicken plus the sauces were adapted from The Woks of Life and can be found here.

April 2018 Fam Din
Look at the gorgeously glistening chicken and sauce!

I’m drooling.

April 2018 Fam Din
Needless to say, Lucas was a fan!

April 2018 Fam Din
And what do you serve along Hainanese Chicken and Rice? Steamed Alaskan King Crab Legs of course!!!

Ok, ok. It’s not traditional. Some may say it’s even gluttonous? Obviously not us but others may say so.

But it was one of the only items that BIL C had requested for dinner so we were definitely having them. Yeah remember the other birthday boy? Up until that point, Lucasarus was running the menu!

April 2018 Fam Din
We had consumed a crazy amount of food — even to our standards! So before we could even consider having dessert, we needed things to digest a bit.

And of course I took that opportunity to make the kids take pictures.

They’ll thank me someday…..SOME day.

Here I instructed them to give me serious faces. Kaelani totally dismissed that directive and Maya is JUST about to crack.

April 2018 Fam Din
Now this is MUCH more like them!

April 2018 Fam Din
Leo is killing it in this pic!

April 2018 Fam Din
Oh–and a little monkey managed to make it into the living room.

April 2018 Fam Din
The girls then cozied up to watch Beauty and the Beast.

Incidentally, I believe there may be a video of me out there barging into the room while belting out Belle’s opening number.

It’s what I do.

April 2018 Fam Din
And of course, the Nguyễn 5 had to snap a few pics with pops.

April 2018 Fam Din
So blurry but this pic cracks me up.

April 2018 Fam Din
And then the grand kids (minus K since it was past her bedtime) jumped in.

April 2018 Fam Din
What do we think Lucas is about to do to Nini’s head here?

April 2018 Fam Din
And then it was finally dessert time!

For LucasHomemade Glazed Donut Mint Chip Ice Cream Sandwich.

April 2018 Fam Din
Wait! Wasn’t this little elfling upstairs, asleep a minute ago!?

April 2018 Fam Din

And for CChocolate Matcha Lava Cake with Matcha Ice Cream.

April 2018 Fam Din
HAPPY BIRTHDAY LUCAS AND C!!!

April 2018 Fam Din
And now for a collective nap…. ❤

April 2018 Fam Din

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This Month’s Family Dinner Menu

Cocktails: Various Wines
Appetizers: Pan-Fried Ginger Chicken Dumplings, Seafood with Chinese Chives Dumplings, Sheng Jian Bao, Smoked St. Louis Style Ribs
Entrees: Alaskan King Crab Legs, Hainanese Chicken and Rice
Dessert:  Homemade Glazed Donut Mint Chip Ice Cream Sandwich, Chocolate Matcha Lava Cake with Matcha Ice Cream

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Seafood

Chawanmushi with Uni and Ikura

March 2018 Fam Din
There are some foods that after one bite, I find myself saying…

“Damn. That’s luxurious.”

And it doesn’t even mean having to use expensive ingredients – though, it definitely doesn’t hurt.

March 2018 Fam Din
A lot of times, that sentiment is evoked for me just based on texture.

Just think about how you feel when you take a bite of crème brûlée. Hopefully, if it is was prepared well, it should be thick and rich with a great mouthfeel. It should make you want to move your mouth around so that the creamy custard hits all of your taste buds and sensors.

March 2018 Fam Din
That’s exactly how I felt the first time I had chawanmushi – a traditional Japanese egg custard. I couldn’t even tell you the name of the restaurant I first had chawanmushi at. All I recall is that it was a tiny little spot we had stumbled into when we were in Osaka years ago. My friends and I didn’t speak a bit of Japanese but had somehow managed to order the most delicious bowls of soba. I guess we amused our host (and the fact that he was incredibly generous) because he brought out several dishes for us to try.

Chawanmushi was one of them.

I recall the bowl was simply adorned with fish cake slices and mushrooms but it was the custard itself that was surprising. It was incredibly light, beautifully silky while having a fresh sea flavor to it.

And that was it.

March 2018 Fam Din
Since then, I’ve enjoyed several variations of it—sometimes with chunks of seafood in the base, sometimes more veggie forward. But always oishi.

At our recent egg themed Fam Din, it was the perfect time make my own chawanmushi. The base of the custard is quite simple to assemble. All we did was combine eggs, seafood stock, dashi and bonito together. And because I’m obsessed with trying to use my sous vide device as much as possible, I put them in little mason jars.

After sealing the jars, I sous vide them at 176 degrees F for an hour. Before serving, we topped each with a sprinkle of Maldon salt flakes, fresh uni, a generous spoonful of ikura and some fresh scallions.

March 2018 Fam Din
Not only did the uni and ikura add to the decadence level and gentle seafood flavor but the little pops from the ikura were a fun little surprise. The Sous Vide Chawanmushi with Uni and Ikura was then served with two different types of Japanese rice crackers (one with wasabi, one without) for some added crunch and texture.

Next time I may add some big chunks of prawns and beech mushrooms to the custard, too. Or maybe even lobster or crab?

Options are endless.

March 2018 Fam Din
Perfect to serve at brunch or as a light appetizer, the beauties are sure to have you and your guests do a little happy food-shimmy.

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Chawanmushi with Uni and Ikura
Serves 6

Ingredients:

2 ounces dried bonito shavings
21⁄4 cups seafood stock
2 teaspoons dashi powder
3 large eggs
flaked salt
12 pieces fresh uni (sea urchin)
3-4 ounces fresh ikura (salmon roe)
sliced scallions/chives
serve with senbei (Japanese rice crackers)

In a small pot, combine the bonito shavings and seafood stock. Bring to a simmer and allow the shavings to simmer and steep for 5 minutes. Strain the stock in a bowl and discard the bonito flakes. Stir in the dashi. Allow to slightly cool.

In another bowl, whisk the eggs. You’ll want to ensure the yolks and whites have combined but do so gently as to not create too many bubbles. Pour in about one of cup of the heated broth while gently stirring to combine. Once incorporated and slightly tempered, add the rest of the stock and gently stir.

Divide the custard mixture, pouring through a fine mesh strainer, between six 4-ounce mason jars. Try not to shake or disturb the custard too much as you want to avoid air bubbles. Seal the jars tightly with their respective lids.

Submerge the jars in a secure container of water (pot, food safe bin, etc.)  that has been heated to 176 degrees F. Sous vide the custards at the 176 degrees F temperature for one hour. Once done, carefully remove the jars from the water bath allow to slightly cool. If you prefer not to sous vide, cover each dish/jar and steam for 15-20 minutes.

When it’s time to serve, remove the lids and sprinkle each with a few pinches of salt flakes (we like Maldon for the texture and flavor), 2 pieces of uni, a spoonful of ikura and some scallions/chives. Serve with your choice of senbei on the side.

 

Adapted from Nomiku blog

Pastas/Noodles · Poultry · Vietnamese

Phở Gà – Vietnamese Chicken Noodle Soup for My Soul

Phở Gà

Today is Mom’s Birthday.

And like every year on her birthday, I’ll fix up a big ol’ steak dinner in her honor. Our tiny giant was quite the carnivore after all. A trait that was definitely passed on to my sister and many of our munchkins.

In years past, I’d post some variation of a steak recipe for her birthday, but this year I thought I would share something comforting – Phở Gà. Because what’s more comforting than chicken noodle soup?

Phở Gà

When I was digging through old photos last night, I came upon the one below that I just love. Mom (second from the right) was barely in her mid-teens here and our Ông Ngoại, our maternal grandpa, was in the suit in the back row. There aren’t too many pictures of him so it always makes me smile when we do find one.

And what about our grand uncle seated in the middle? He’s definitely putting out some Vietnamese Colonel Sanders vibes, right?

I’m 100% for it.

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I’m also rather obsessed with Mom’s look here. That hair…. those shades!

Very beach chic!

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As time has passed, I often wonder what is it that I miss most of her.

Her eyes that somewhat twinkled when she smiled? Maya inherited those….

Her sharp-witted comments? She was not to be messed with.

Her constant rearranging of her plants and furniture? She used to love changing things up.

Phở Gà

Then a few months ago, I read an article from a woman who wrote:

“When I lost my mom, I also lost her food”.

And that hit me hard.

It’s exactly how my siblings and I feel.

Phở Gà
Of course it’s so much more than just her cooking—which until the day I leave this existence, I will tout that she was THE best.

Cooking was Mom’s way to show her love.

Phở Gà
Whether it be the time and painstaking details she would put into elaborate meals or even the quick cooking tips she would give us to prepare our own food. It was her medium of communication.

Phở Gà
Which, if you have been with me for the past few years, was the genesis of our monthly family dinners. At the root, we sibbies get together and cook a meal together. Sometimes it’s elaborate and I think that I would NEVER put so much effort into an appetizer or other dish if it wasn’t for my family. And sometimes it’s just comfort food that makes us want to do a little food-shimmy. But there’s never a month that occurs where I don’t think Mom would have loved it that we’ve created this tradition.

And of course, I always talk to her while I cook since I have her photo perched in my kitchen. Very fitting.

Phở Gà
One of the reasons why I wanted to share Phở Gà today was because I think this Vietnamese staple really does epitomize some of the cooking lessons Mom shared with us. Although fairly simple, every step and every ingredient counts.

You always have to scrub the chicken with salt and then parboil for a clean broth.

The onion and ginger must be charred for added depth of flavor.

Spices must be toasted — but she also wasn’t opposed to using pre-packaged spice packets.

Phở Gà

And of course, the whole thing must be simmered, low and slow. It takes time but every step has its purpose.

Love in bowl form.

Phở Gà

Happy, Happy Birthday Mom.

I know we’re keeping you amused with all of our cooking shenanigans.

We love and miss you, always. ❤

ps. How did you keep your waistline the same tiny diameter as that palm tree?!?

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Phở Gà (Vietnamese Chicken Noodle Soup)
Makes approximately 6 bowls

Ingredients:

1 4-5 lb. whole chicken
coarse salt
1 whole yellow onion
1 4-5 inch piece of fresh ginger
2 small cinnamon sticks
5 whole star anise pods
12 whole cloves
1 teaspoon whole coriander seeds
1 teaspoon whole black peppercorns
½ teaspoon fennel seeds
nước mắm – fish sauce
1 package bánh phở – rice noodles
cilantro and other fresh herbs of your choice
scallions, chopped and sliced into 1-inch pieces
bean sprouts
lime wedges
jalapeno slices
nước mắm gừng – ginger dipping sauce

Place the chicken in the sink and liberally sprinkle salt over it. Using the salt as an exfoliate, scrub the chicken well and rinse with cool water. Place the chicken in a large pot and cover with cold water. Set the heat to high and boil for about 10 minutes. At this point, a lot of the impurities and “scum” will have boiled out. Carefully dump out the water and rinse the chicken thoroughly to remove all the impurities. If you intend on using the same pot for the phở , wash it well before adding the chicken back in.

Pour in about 6-7 quarts of water over the cleaned chicken and bring it to a boil. Once the water has come a boil, lower the heat to a gentle simmer.

While this happens, char your onion and ginger. If you have a gas burner, place the flame on medium heat. Hold the onion and garlic with metal tongs directly over the flame and rotate until they have charred all over. Alternately you can place them on a sheet a few inches under your oven broiler and broil for several minutes—flipping every so often. Once the yellow onion and ginger have been charred, place them into the pot with the chicken. Allow the contents to simmer, partially covered, for about 45 minutes or until the chicken has cooked through.

Carefully remove the whole chicken from the pot and place it on a shallow dish. Allow the contents of the pot to continue simmering. After the chicken has rested for about 10 minutes, carefully (it’ll be quite hot!) carve the chicken into slices and bite-sized pieces. Cover the chicken with plastic wrap and set aside. Place the leftover chicken bones (I throw the wings in too) back into the pot. Allow the contents to simmer, partially covered for about 1.5 hours. During that time, periodically skim and discard any impurities that may have formed on top of the broth. You’ll want a semi-dark but very clear broth like a consommé.

Meanwhile, take the dried spices and place them in a small skillet. Over low heat, toast the spices for a few minutes until they darken slightly and become fragrant. Remove them from the heat and place them in a sheet of cheesecloth. Tie the cloth up and place it into the pot with a 2 tablespoons of nước mắm. Simmer for another 45 minutes.

While the broth simmers, prepare the noodles according to the directions on the package. Usually if using fresh noodles, you’ll want to boil for a few seconds before draining well. If using dried, you’ll want to soak them before a quick boil.

After the broth has finished simmering, taste and add additional nước mắm if needed.

Assemble the phở gà by dividing the cooked noodles between the bowls. Top each bowl with chicken slices, scallions and cilantro. Pour the boiling broth over the noodles and serve with bean sprouts, jalapeno slices, lime and nước mắm gừng on the side.

Ăn ngon!

 

 

Drinks

Classic Bourbon Sour

March 2018 Fam Din
It’s Maaaaaaayyyyy!!!!!

And I REALLY hope you read that using Oprah’s voice.

Since May is my most favorite month, I think it’s only right to share with you one of my favorite cocktails – the Classic Bourbon (or Whiskey) Sour. It’s simple, straight forward–and just makes me happy. But I don’t order these out too often because I find that many spots defer to using overly sweet sour mixes AND because they don’t use egg whites.

Yup, egg whites!

If you read my last Fam Din recap, you know that I fixed these beauties up not only because I’m a fan of them but also because the classic version uses eggs. And eggs were our theme after all.

March 2018 Fam Din
The egg white doesn’t affect the flavor but it creates the most beautiful foam and viscosity to the drink. Trust me, it makes a difference. You know what else makes a difference? Use fresh lemons! I know, I know…it sounds a bit particular but there are so few ingredients that every bit counts.

Make them now. Make them because now you know how.

Make them because it’s May. Make them every day.

Huh…I think I just had a Seuss moment there.

Just make them because they’re delicious! Aaaand  because it’s my birth-month so you have to!

Yes. I celebrate the entire month.

Yes. It’s the reason why it’s my favorite month.

Cheers!


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Classic Bourbon Sour
Serves 1

Ingredients:

2 ounces bourbon (or your choice of whiskey)
1-1½ ounces fresh lemon juice (I like mine more tart and lean towards the extra ½)
¾ ounce simple syrup
2 dashes bitters
1 large egg white (if you’re wary, be sure to used pasteurized eggs)
whiskey soaked cherry or maraschino cherry to garnish

Fill your cocktail shaker with ice. Add bourbon, lemon juice, simple syrup, bitters and the egg white. Place the cap on the shaker and shake vigorously for 15-20 seconds. Remove cap, place strainer on top of the shaker and pour contents into a glass filled with ice.

Garnish with the cherry and cheers!

Sunday Family Dinner

A Most EGG-cellent Fam Din!

March 2018 Fam Din
Last month’s Fam Din was most EGG-cellent!

We’re talking Bill and Ted’s status.

Why so egg-cellent? Because it happened the day before Easter — so of course, it was all about EGGS!!

The eggs had to come in a few different forms. Not only with our menu but also with some fun! (Oh Leo….never one to conform for mundane things like photos.)

March 2018 Fam Din

First up– Rice Krispy “Nests” with Jelly Bean “Eggs”!

Adorbs!

March 2018 Fam Din
And not only were they yummy to munch on (minus the jelly beans for me…they’re not my fav) but it was a fun activity for the kiddos, too!

March 2018 Fam Din
The older munchkins instructed and helped out their younger cuzzos.

Below you can see that Lucas’ face was full of concentration and determination.

Maya’s face was full of “hmmm…I wish we had jelly bellies instead”.

Me too, Maya. Me, too.

March 2018 Fam Din
So festive and colorful!

March 2018 Fam Din

And apparently, they were Leonidas approved!

March 2018 Fam Din

Since the kiddos had their treats, it was time for the adults to have one (or two), too! That’s right–it’s cocktail time!

As soon as we decided on the egg theme, I knew exactly what type of cocktail I would be shaking up that night. And you bet there were eggs in it-egg whites to be exact! Yes, my friends — we had Classic Bourbon Sours!

Now don’t freak out.

More times than not if you’ve been to an old school bar or better yet, a hipster one these days, you would have noticed a few cocktails with a decadent foam. Yes dear lovelies, that foam was most likely made by vigorously shaking a cocktail with egg whites in it!

March 2018 Fam Din

In a cocktail shaker with ice, I poured in bourbon (Bulleit Bourbon that day but use whichever you prefer), fresh lemon juice (it’s got to be fresh), simple syrup, a dash of bitters and an egg white (if you’re wary, be sure to used pasteurized eggs). Then shake what your Mama gave ya’ for a good 15-20 seconds and pour into a glass. I garnished mine with cherries that had been soaking in bourbon for the past several months and HOT DAMN did those cherries pack a punch!

The end cocktail was delightful. I could sip on them all day. But then I would need to sleep it off the entire next day. My aging, alas, has taken a toll on my cocktail-recovery time.

March 2018 Fam Din

By then, I had gotten my sibbies all boozy so the only responsible thing to do was give them something to nosh on.

I was up to bat for appetizers that night and after mulling over several different ideas with seester T, I settled on making chawanmushi – a light, Japanese egg custard. If you’ve ever had it at a restaurant before, you know how wonderfully smooth and creamy it can be. And guess what? It’s actually easy to make–when you sous vide it of course!

March 2018 Fam Din

Don’t be too surprise that I opted to sous vide –it has been, after all, a fam din or two since I last busted out my beloved Anova. It needed some love and the method not only provided a no-fuss process but its gentle cooking method resulted in the chawanmushi‘s luxurious texture.

I recruited both Nina and Nini to help out with it. Nini helped with the “custard” by whisking together eggs, seafood stock, dashi powder and bonito powder. After sealing the mixture in the little mason jars, we sous vide it at 176 degrees F for an hour. Then Nina gently topped each with a sprinkle of Maldon salt flakes, fresh uni, a generous spoonful of ikura and some fresh scallions.

I served the Sous Vide Chawanmushi with Uni and Ikura with two different types of Japanese rice crackers (one with wasabi, one without) for some added crunch and texture. They turned out rather beautifully…didn’t they? And I’m happy to report, they were OISHI!

March 2018 Fam Din

With a little something in their tummies, the munchkins were ready for their other activity….

EGG HUNT TIME!

That Fam Din, our human-lings ranged from ages 6 through 19 so the over 200+ eggs were filled with not only candy but some lottery tix and money, too!

March 2018 Fam Din

Both B.I.L.s hid the eggs in the front and back of the house. And I’d be remiss not to mention that Leo requested that we hid at least 10 “obviously” so that he’d be sure to find them.

That kid cracks me up.

March 2018 Fam Din

We made the munchkins line up across the street before letting them loose–and WOWSERS! It was a mad dash!

Laughing, shrieking, rolling in the grass…….

But enough of what I did, let’s get back to the kiddos!

March 2018 Fam Din

They were scavenging fiends!

With all of those eggs scattered about, I was sure that it would have taken them longer to find them all. But nope!

Within a blink of the eye, they were done!

March 2018 Fam Din

Wait a second….why do the older ones have big bags whereas the littles have small baskets?

Ah…more years of experience—that’s why.

March 2018 Fam Din
Examing their loot!

March 2018 Fam Din

Somehow we were able to refocus and get back to meal prep.

V enlisted Nini to help out with their dish that we nominated he and L for.

March 2018 Fam Din

Can you guessed what they fixed up below?

Did you say Scotch Eggs?

But not just any Scotch Eggs!

March 2018 Fam Din

Traditionally, they are hard boiled eggs with a pork sausage wrapped around it. They’re then breaded and fried. What’s not to love about that?

V and L also took boiled eggs but instead of pork, they wrapped them in a seafood mixture that was made of shrimp, dungeness crab and diver scallops. Fancy, eh?

They then rolled them in panko and deep fried them into these golden torpedoes of decadent deliciousness!

March 2018 Fam Din

I have to admit that T and I helped out with boiling the eggs while they worked on fixing up the seafood mixture. We were aiming for a soft-boiled egg so that when it was deep fried and sliced into, the yolks would still be unctuous and jammy.

Though we blew it and overcooked them.

Eh, lesson learned.

But good grief, they still were awesome!

March 2018 Fam Din

T also made a Bacon-Onion Quiche and a Mushroom Quiche. Yup, TWO! We love options and we especially love leftovers!

Her homemade pastry dough was giving her a bit of trouble that day but gosh darn it, it was tasty!

March 2018 Fam Din

Then, we were near EGG DRUNK.

Don’t get me wrong, everything was delectable. But it was A LOT of eggs. We were sorely missing on a salad or other vegetable. I guess we could have made an egg salad–but I’m not sure that would have brought the type of levity that was much needed at that point.

We definitely needed a breather before dessert.

While the humans cleaned up, Leia took a nap. Well, right here she’s giving us stink-eye for making too much noise during her nap…but she napped nonetheless.

March 2018 Fam Din

And these two cuties cuddled.

Bella loves her human-lings.

March 2018 Fam Din

At this point, most people would say “Hey, my belly is way overfilled. I’m going to pass on dessert.”

Not this family.

We suck it up (or I guess “in”) and get down to dessert business.

To close out our egg-a-palooza, seestrah N made these cute Mini Lemon Meringue Pies.

March 2018 Fam Din

I’ve got to admit, I didn’t think I liked lemon meringue pies because the ones I’ve had before were really artificial tasting. The filling would be really thick and sticky in texture and the meringue would be overly sweet.

NOT THESE!

These little angels were the perfect close out to such a rich meal. The lemon filling was light and citrusy. The meringue was airy and not too sweet. The crust was flaky and buttery.  My mouth is watering just thinking about them!

And it was perfect that they were little mini pies because honestly, I couldn’t fit much more in me.

March 2018 Fam Din
That’s a wrap on our EGG-stravaganza of a Family Dinner!

And as a wise Abraham Lincoln of Bill and Ted’s once said, “Be excellent to each other….and….PARTY ON, DUDES!”

March 2018 Fam Din

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This Month’s Family Dinner Menu

Cocktails: Classic Bourbon Sours, Various Wine
Appetizers: Sous Vide Chawanmushi with Uni and Ikura
Entrees: Bacon-Onion Quiche, Mushroom Quiche, Seafood Scotch Egg
Dessert: Mini Lemon Meringue Pies, Rice Krispy “Nests” with Jelly Bean “Eggs”

Breakfast/Brunch

Breakfast Risotto…Because Your Mornings Will Thank You

Breakfast Risotto
I was feeling a bit punky this week.

What’s punky?

It means that I was under the weather. Yeah…I got the saying (and likely the cooties) at the office.

But all of the sudden yesterday afternoon, I WAS BACK! Energy, spunk–and especially my appetite!!

I WAS HUNGRY!!!!!

So when I got home, I did a quick inventory of what I had in the pantry and about 30 minutes later — BOOM!

Breakfast Risotto was born!

Breakfast Risotto
I adore risottos. It’s rich, comforting and just darn tasty!

And I love breakfasts and brunch foods. Bacon and eggs, baby!

So really, it was only time that I combined the two to make this unctuous and satisfying dish. Oh! And since I had some asparagus on hand, I threw some in for some texture and brightness. Now I will say that I debated between a fried egg and a poached one. Let’s be honest, I’m a big fan of both. But in the end, I went with a crispy fried egg for some more texture—though I won’t be hurt if you go with a poached egg.

In the end, it was a winning dish! Perfect for breakfast, brunch, lunch or dinner!

And here’s to not feeling punky anymore! ❤

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Bacon Risotto
Serves 4

Ingredients:

4 cups chicken stock
4 slices bacon, diced
1 cup diced white onion
1 tablespoon minced garlic
¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes
½ teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
1 cup Arborio rice
½ cup white wine
1 cup chopped blanched asparagus
1 teaspoon fresh lemon zest
¾ cup grated Parmesan cheese, more to garnish
kosher salt
¼ chopped Italian parsley, more to garnish
4 fried eggs

Heat the chicken stock in a medium sized saucepan and keep warm over low heat.

In a heavy bottom pot over medium-low heat, slowly sauté the bacon until it becomes crispy and the fat has rendered down—about 5 minutes. Use a slotted spoon and transfer the bacon bits to a plate covered with paper towels. Reserve two tablespoons of bacon drippings in the pan and discard the rest. Sauté the onions over medium heat in the bacon drippings until translucent. Add the garlic, red pepper flakes, thyme leaves, rice and stir quickly until the rice is well coated and opaque—about 1 minute.  Stir in the wine and cook until the liquid is nearly all evaporated.

Ladle in 1 cup of the chicken broth into the rice. Simmer and slowly stir until the rice has absorbed the liquid. Add the remaining broth, 1 cup at a time. Continue to simmer and stir, allowing the rice to absorb each addition of broth before adding more. The risotto should be slightly firm and creamy–approximately 25-30 minutes in total.

Gently fold in the asparagus, lemon zest and Parmesan. Check for seasonings and adjust with the kosher salt. Fold in the parsley.

Spoon the risotto into dishes and top each with the reserved crispy bacon. Grate additional Parmesan cheese over each dish. Top each with a fried egg and sprinkle parsley over each dish. Serve immediately.

Sunday Family Dinner

Unicorn Cakes and Magical Pugs….

February 2018 Family Dinner

If you think the above photo is just too darn adorable, than scroll down and check out the one below.

Amazing right?

Keep scrolling.

February 2018 Family Dinner

They are just too much. I want to freeze time so that they both will stay like this forever.

Our February Babies.

Oh yes, this time Princess Leia got in on the Family Dinner Birthday celebrations too. After all, she was turning double digits…the big 1-0! (Or I guess, 70 in her case….)

So her fur-less cousin Maya was happy to be sharing her bday fam din with her. And as for our sweet Maya, she turned 13.

THIRTEEN!!!

I can’t…I seriously just can’t with the munchkins growing up so quickly.

February 2018 Family Dinner

Usually for your birthday, you get to choose what you’d like your dessert to be.

For Leia, it was a no-brainer. She’d be getting candles in a big ol’ steak like her cousin Bella.

But for Maya, I wanted to surprise her and told her “trust me, you’ll like it.” More on that later.

February 2018 Family Dinner
While we were milling around getting things prepped, we noshed on a Cheese Board that L assembled. It had Manchego with apricot preserves, Fromager d’Affinois, Picholine olives, marinated peppers and crackers.

February 2018 Family Dinner
N made the second appetizer. Truthfully, I can’t remember what it’s called but it’s like a Cheesy Spinach-Artichoke Bread Ring Dip. Picture this….take crescent roll dough and form little balls. Line a cast iron skillet with them and then fill the center with a super cheesy spinach-artichoke mixture. Bake it up and BOOM.

Cheesy goodness.

YES PLEASE!

February 2018 Family Dinner

Spotted: Unicorn Herd in their natural environment.

I think they were congregating because they knew it was DINNER TIME!!

February 2018 Family Dinner

Miss Maya was very relaxed about her whole birthday menu. This was pretty much our convo:

Me: What would you like to have for dinner?

Maya: Um….

Me: Seafood? Sushi? Pasta —

Maya: PASTA!

Me: Ok…what kind of pasta? Chicken? Shrimp? Steak —

Maya: STEAK!

And that was it! She’s pretty low maintenance.

February 2018 Family Dinner
V and T put their heads together and came up with this Grilled Steak over Puttanesca dish. It was hearty, flavorful and combined some of my most favorite things –steak, cheese and carbs.

February 2018 Family Dinner
And since Maya loves salads, seester T decided to make the Chopped Salad from Pizzeria Mozza.

Have you had it before? If not, you’ve got to try it!

It has all kinds of goodness like radicchio, lettuce, tomatoes, chickpeas, salami, pepperoncini and provolone. And it’s actually quite hearty that you could have it as a stand alone meal with perhaps some warm toasted baguette on the side.

February 2018 Family Dinner
And then before we knew it, it was dessert time!

I’ve always wanted to make a unicorn cake…blame it on Instagram I suppose. So when I was thinking of what to bake for Maya, Nini suggested a unicorn cake because it would be something that the birthday girl would absolutely love. And if anyone knows Maya, it’s definitely her big cousie Nini.

I realize that Buttercup’s horn (yes, Maya named the unicorn) is a bit excessive, but heck–I’m not sure when the next unicorn cake will come around again so I might as well GO BIG!

February 2018 Family Dinner

I first started off with the sponge and ended up choosing funfetti. Because c’mon, unicorns love rainbows and sprinkles right?

After I baked the three layers of cake, I took a taste and thought hmm…..it kind of just tasted like vanilla cake.

For those of you that like funfetti, this may not be a surprise. But I actually think that it may have been my first time tasting it. Don’t judge me…I’m a chocolate fan myself.

February 2018 Family Dinner

So to OOMPHF up the flavor, I decided to fill the layers with fresh whipped cream and strawberries –two things that I know for certain the bday girl also adores. And I’m totally glad that I did because it really brought something fresh to the cake.

Hey- if you’re going to be extra when baking a cake, it might as well be fore a unicorn cake!

February 2018 Family Dinner

The whole thing was then covered with a light layer of vanilla Swiss meringue buttercream (always my buttercream of choice) and then I went nuts decorating Buttercup with three shades of buttercream using various piping tips.

I used standard fondant to shape her horn, ears and eyes. And for the golden sheen, I used edible gold spray for the inner ear accents as well as her magical horn.

Cute right? I wish my eyelashes were as on-point as Buttercup.

February 2018 Family Dinner

And of course, because she’s so magical, she was dusted with lots of different sprinkles and edible gold stars.

To be honest, I had a lot of fun making this cake!

February 2018 Family Dinner
And let’s not forget the other birthday girl!

Princess Leia got a bone-in ribeye steak that V grilled.

Seriously, look at that face.

And unlike her food-mongering puggle cousin, she sat patiently waiting while we sang and took pictures before diving in. What a good puppers!

February 2018 Fam Din

It’s fair to say that the birthday girls thoroughly enjoyed their family dinner in their honor.

Princess Leia wearing a crown while seated on a plush thrown…..

Maya wearing a floral-kitty headband from when she was about 1 or 2….

Heart-melty….

February 2018 Family Dinner

Yes, we’re a bit over-the-top kind of family. But if you’ve been with me for awhile, you’ve likely come to that conclusion already. It’s how we roll….

¯\_(ツ)_/¯

February 2018 Family Dinner

Happy Birthday Maya and Leia!

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This Month’s Family Dinner Menu

Cocktails: Various Wine
Appetizers: Cheese Board, Cheesy Spinach-Artichoke Bread Ring Dip
Sides: Chopped Salad à la Pizzeria Mozza
Entrees: Grilled Steak over Puttanesca
Dessert: Funfetti-Strawberries and Cream Unicorn Cake (And a Steak for the fur babies!)