Happy Birthday Mom

Today is Mom’s 78th birthday.

Okay…legally it would’ve been her 77th.

Oh man…she would’ve been so annoyed that I was announcing the actual year.


I so wish that she was still physically here with us so that I could call and sing Happy Birthday to her….among other things.

Y’all that’s a true mother’s love to have to endure my singing….


And I wish that we could take her out to dinner and dote on her.

Well actually, there first would be an Egg Souffle from Panera for breakfast. Those became Mom and Dad’s favorite when they moved to Florida and I have to tell you, they’re delish.


And then for dinner, we’d take her to the Cheesecake Factory where she would order a filet mignon–something she adored.

Cheesecake Factory?!

I know…

But back then, we LOVED it!

And Mom sure did enjoy her favorite foods…especially steaks!

So to celebrate her birthday every year, I have certain food traditions.

For breakfast, I’ll swing by Panera to grab an Egg Souffle. This morning, I grabbed a Spinach and Artichoke Souffle. 

Mom also liked the Spinach and Bacon ones, too….because bacon….

And because Mom was such a carnivore, I’ve cooked steaks in her honor these past few years.

Like Rosemary Garlic Ribeye, Korean Inspired Ribeye, Ribeye with Chimichurri and Filet Mignons.


But today, I thought it would be fun to have an early dinner and head on over to the Cheesecake Factory.

Honestly, since Mom passed, I may have only gone there 3 or 4 times….so it would be a nostalgic treat!

Mom's Bday
I got there so early for dinner that I didn’t even have to wait for a table. Which, despite how ginormous they are, is so freaking rare!

Mom's Bday
Mom wasn’t a big drinker (no idea where the 5 of us kiddos got our love for libations) but if she did order a cocktail, it would be a margarita.

Mom's Bday
And MAN!

She LOVED their bread (where do you think I got it from?!?)–particularly their wheat bread. It was only fitting that I had a fair share of that carbolicious goodness tonight.

Mom's Bday

The steak arrived!

I was so excited that I quickly sliced into it and took a bite.



It was ok. Not bad…not great.

Actually nothing that I remembered it to be. Memory recollections are tricky like that.

Mom's Bday

I kept thinking… “For real?! Our steaks are SOOOO much better! More flavorful, more succulent!”

I couldn’t help but have a twinge of regret that we never had the chance to cook for her like we are able to cook now.

She would have absolutely loved it.

Mom's Bday
But the truth is, my sibbies and I were only fair cooks when Mom was here.

Proficient….but maybe nothing too spectacular.

It took us losing our Mom to motivate us to challenge ourselves to be where we are today. We ached for the flavors that she was able to conjure up and because of it, we became committed to building food memories for our munchkins.

And although she may not be able to taste our foodventures during our monthly Family Dinners, I have to believe that she’s out there somewhere pleased and proud to know that it is because of her, that we’ve carried on this tradition now for seven years.

Mom's Bday
Don’t worry Mama. When we’re together next, we’ll make you whatever you want and the margaritas will be flowing.

Happy, Happy Birthday. We love and miss you so much  ❤



The Nguyens Send Their Regards

Game of Thrones Party
We really should be used to it by now.

It’s been nearly 8 years since George R.R. Martin released A Song of Ice and Fire and we’ve been anxiously waiting for his next book installment ever since.

(COME ON GEORGE!!! You’re killing us, Smalls!)

Game of Thrones Party
So when HBO released the final episode of season 7 of the Game of Thrones TV series back in August 2017, we should’ve known that the wait for season 8 would also be excruciatingly long.

Apparently, we know nothing…..

But HOLY CRAP! 595 days is just torture — particularly in this day and age of instant video streaming. You cruel, cruel men – George, D.B. and David.

Game of Thrones Party
My sibbies and I were so damn excited once the long awaited premiere date was FINALLY announced. As Northerners (we are Minnesotans and all) – how could we not be?

It didn’t take long for me to convince them to get together to watch the premiere and of course make a few GoT themed dishes for us to nosh on. And although it kind of sounds like one of our monthly Fam Dins, it wouldn’t be an official one since a few of us would be missing.

Don’t worry, we made them amply jealous.

Game of Thrones Party

As the date drew nearer and nearer, we (and millions across the world) found ourselves in a GoT frenzy! The excitement was crazy and I got a bit carried away.

In addition to planning which dishes we’d make, I found myself (thanks to the powers of the interwebs) in full DIY mode making decorations for a tablescape for that night.

You may be thinking – tablescape?

And we say, OF COURSE! Feasts in the Seven Kingdoms always appeared elaborate. Though we weren’t really having a “party”… well not exactly.

Game of Thrones Party
My sibbies and I are devoted GoT enthusiasts and although an elaborate themed event with lots of guests and costumes would be fun, it would get in the way of us being able to concentrate on the show. And let’s be honest–we would’ve gotten extremely annoyed at people talking and asking questions during the show. I might have had to pull out Joffrey’s crossbow or one of Jaqen H’ghar blow-darts.


Game of Thrones Party
I came up to seester’s house early that weekend so that we could hang out and prepare for our GoT celebration. Sure, there were times that we couldn’t help but laugh at ourselves while we prepped. For a “non party”, we sure were putting some effort into things. But what can we say? When we start something, we go for it!

And yes – along with an Iron Throne, House bunting, flying dragon cutouts with flames – there was a Kill Board.

This is the final season of GAME OF THRONES! It would be in poor taste not to!

Game of Thrones Party
I believe the munchkins call it “being extra”. And I don’t disagree.

Though I definitely don’t hear any of them complaining when we combine our powers to throw their parties. In fact, I spy some “extra” tendencies growing in each of them too! It’s a Nguyen gene –they can’t avoid it!

I’d also like to say that it could’ve been A LOT more EXTRA. This was on the tamer side considering some of our other endeavors.

Game of Thrones Party
One of my besties, T, did snag a coveted invite – but after 22+ years, she’s my family. And most importantly, T is a GoT fanatic who doesn’t talk during the show.

Priorities people!

(Oh Bella…the perpetual photobomber.)

Game of Thrones Party
Let’s get on to the feast, shall we?

GoT has never shied away from libations with references to ale, rum and even Tormund’s sour goats milk. And characters always appear to be sipping on wines. Dornish Reds? Arbor Golds? How about some of that Lannister soldier’s homemade Blackberry Wine?

So when I saw the Game of Thrones wines from vintner, Bob Cabral, I had to get my hands on some! These were 2016 Chardonnay and 2017 Pinot Noir. 

Game of Thrones Party

We also discovered that each cork is emblazoned with different house sigils! We only opened two that night (hey-there are 5 more episodes!) and got House Stark and House Martell.

And the libations didn’t stop there because like Tyrion says….

We drink …and we know things.

Game of Thrones Party
Oh that Cersei.

I just love to hate her–don’t you? Conniving, ruthless, smart, ambitious…and that woman sure does love her vino.

In her honor, we made Cersei’s Sangria. It’s seemingly light and fruity but packs a punch thanks to a douse of Armenian Brandy I added.

Game of Thrones Party
And then I found these….limited edition whiskey – White Walker by Johnnie Walker.

“In celebration of the final season of the critically-acclaimed HBO series, Game of Thrones, Johnnie Walker is proud to introduce White Walker by Johnnie Walker. This new blend perfectly reminds Johnnie Walker and Game of Thrones fans alike that “Winter is Here.” The limited edition bottle utilizes thermochromic ink to give fans a frosty surprise message when frozen. With flavor notes like caramelized sugar, vanilla, and fresh red berries, White Walker by Johnnie Walker makes for a delicious serve. The new blend is best served ice cold, inspired by the White Walkers beyond The Wall.”


  1. This girl likes her whiskey.
  2. This girl loves GoT.
  3. This girl is a major sucker for marketing and branding items.

Bonus? I got them on an insane clearance sale (WHAT?!?! I know!) and gave some to the sibbies as non-party/party favors.

Game of Thrones Party
We enjoyed the White Walkers over ice (because Winter is here and all) and I also made up a batch of White Walker Whiskey Sours. I love a good Whiskey Sour and the egg white made for a nice frothy “wintry” look.

Game of Thrones Party
We used avocados to serve as Dragon Eggs for the evening.

We also paid homage to Guest Rights which is the sacred law of hospitality in Westeros. Per the Wiki of Ice and Fire:

“When a guest, be he commonborn or noble, eats the food and drinks the drink off a host’s table beneath the host’s roof, guest right is invoked. Bread and salt are traditional provisions. When invoked, neither the guest nor the host can harm the other for the length of the guest’s stay. For either to do so would be to break a sacred covenant that is believed to invoke the wrath of the gods. both old and new. Even robber lords and wreckers are bound by the ancient laws of hospitality.”

And as we all remember (and you bet as heck the North Remembers….), Walder Frey broke what was considered one of the most sacred laws of gods and men during the Red Wedding when he allowed the slaughter of the Starks and their bannermen after having ceremonially sharing bread and salt with them.

For that night, our “bread” was Kings Hawaiian Rolls and our “salt” was Maldon Sea Salt Flakes.

Game of Thrones Party
Since Braavos plays a significant role in GoT (it’s where Arya trained to become a Faceless Man and is home of the Iron Bank), we had Braavosi Coins in the form of Oreo cookies. Nabisco was brilliant partnering with GoT to come out with a limited edition series that featured special packaging and four different imprinted designs honoring House Stark, House Lannister, House Targaryen and the Knight King. They even made its own GoT title sequence using Oreo cookies!

Of course that marketing scheme totally worked on me and when the release date for the cookies came, we were on a mad hunt! Nearly a dozen stores later, I got my hands on a full case of them! (Yup, I shared those, too.)

Game of Thrones Party

We made Deviled Dragon Eggs — though the Mother of Dragons may not have been pleased with that decision.

Game of Thrones Party
I attempted to color them green, yellow and black in honor of Rhaegal, Viserion and Drogon but had mediocre results.

They were still rather pretty though.

Game of Thrones Party
Although he was so freaking smarmy, his endless machinations were at the core of the entire GoT chaos. And since chaos is a ladder, these twisted parmesan cheese straws were a nod to that twisted Little Finger.

Game of Thrones Party
I admit this is rather childish humor but after all that Theon did to betray the Starks, I kind of had to go there. So I made meatballs in marinara sauce and called them Theon’s Balls.

Nina wanted me to call them Unsullied Balls but those poor men had gone through enough.

Game of Thrones Party
Remember that spineless Walder Frey? By the Old Gods that man was terrible! And it was such sweet, sweet poetic justice when Arya carved up his sons, baked them into a pie and served it to him.

Where are my damn moron sons? Black Walder and Lothar promised to be here by midday.“- Walder Frey

They’re here, my lord.” – Arya Stark

Game of Thrones Party
Seestrah T was inspired to bake Frey Pie based on Arya’s Revenge. She made two filling versions— there were two Frey sons after all.

One was beef bourguignon based and the other was ground turkey-Italian sausage based.

Game of Thrones Party
Since she was feeling cheeky, she used fingerling potatoes to serve as their fingers and pearl onions to be their eyes.

Game of Thrones Party
Who knew Black Walder and Lothar could be so tasty?

Game of Thrones Party
At one point I felt a bit guilty and thought we needed some greens. And since House Tyrell hails from a land of abundance and is known for their bountiful crops, a Highgarden Salad seemed appropriate.

Game of Thrones Party
The Wildlings (or Free Folk) have no love for the men of the Night’s Watch and call them “crows”. And what better way to depict that then by serving Roasted Crow.

Game of Thrones Party
Seester N marinated a bunch of quail in five spice, soy and blood magic before deep frying them. And to drive the theme home, she impaled them on skewers.

Yeah, eldest sis may look nice but there’s savage streak to her too.

Game of Thrones Party
Nini’s Roasted Crow still had a tiny heart intact!

Game of Thrones Party
The Thenns are one of the tribes of the Free Folk known for cannibalism as they feast on the flesh of their enemies.

Game of Thrones Party
Which motivated me to make a few slabs of Thenn Ribs.

Okay, they were pork baby back ribs … because Costco was all out of Thenn.

Game of Thrones Party
And finally there was what I considered the Valyrian steel of cakes – this jaw dropping showstopper.

Munchkin Nini also got caught up in the GoT craze and when she heard that there were specialty Oreos, she decided to make a chocolate-Oreo cake in honor of Drogon.

We named it Dracarys.

Game of Thrones Party
Not only was it delicious (Chocolate with Cookies & Cream!) but her decorations was just stunning. She created a beautiful gradient hue with the buttercream and piped out Drogon’s tail. She then meticulously placed the sprinkles one-by-one on the “scales” for depth.

Game of Thrones Party
Told ya that “extra” gene was hereditary.

Game of Thrones Party
And the surprise of the night? We discovered who ends up ruling the Iron Throne!

Queen Leia Le of House Pug,

Queen Bella Nguyen of House Puggle, and

Queen Millie Bulaon of House Morkie.

First of their Names, The Untrained, Queens of the Snuggles, Queens of Treats, Khaleesis of the Great Duvet Comforters, Protectors of the Realm, Ladies Regnant of the Seven Pupdoms, Breakers of Winds, and Mothers of Chew Toys.

Game of Thrones Party

Our Queens would like to remind you that:

“When the snows fall and the white winds blow, the lone wolf dies, but the pack survives…”

ps. They would like steaks for dinner.

Game of Thrones Party
Needless to say, we had an awesome time.

And we watched the premiere episode 3 times that night. The first time, no one was allowed to talk or ask questions. The second time, we paused and debriefed whenever anyone had questions, comments or new information. And the third time, we kind of fell asleep.

Hey-it was late and we were so full!

I know what you’re thinking….if we did this for the premiere what are we going to do for the series finale?!?

GAH! We don’t wan’t to think about it coming to a close so soon!

In the meanwhile…check out this quick recap video where you might see something “magical” at the very end.

Until next time….

Valar Morghulis

Game of Thrones Party


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.

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???


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???



Celebrating Cinco de Mayo with a Tacos Roundup!

Tacos-Cinco de Mayo

Y’all know my love for Tacos knows no bounds or limits. And it’s rather perfect that I live in a city (SAN DIEGO!!) that enables my Tacos Addiction.

So I can think of no better way to celebrate today — Cinco de Mayo then with a Tacos Roundup! Here are 9 DELICIOSO taco recipes that you’ve got to make TODAY!

Well – if I had it my way, you’ll make them every day!

First up, my Grilled Shrimp Tacos with Spicy Avocado Crema.

Grilled Shrimp Tacos

These beauties are to die for. Ok…so all of these recipes are to die for. But you’ll just love how quick these babies come together and the shrimp are so wonderfully flavored and succulent. And the game changer? The spicy avocado crema. Seriously–that crema is amazing over everything! Tacos, burritos, sandwiches—even salads.

Swoon….SWOON I tell ya!

Next up – Fish Tacos with Avocado-Cabbage Slaw.

Fish Tacos with Avocado-Cabbage Slaw

How could I live in San Diego and not share a fish taco recipe?

These really are one of the most popular recipes on my sites. Folks adore how easy and quick it is to cook the fish (under the broiler) and how refreshing the bright avocado-cabbage slaw pairs with it. It’s definitely on the lighter side of the house–particularly if you sub Greek yogurt for the crema in the slaw. Perfect for warm, weeknight meals!

And of course, I’ve got to share a Baja style fish tacoChipotle-Beer Battered Fish Tacos!

Beer Battered Fish Tacos

These loaded tacos are filled with cod that have been battered with Mexican beer and chipotle peppers to get a wonderfully crispy exterior with a slightly smoky flavor. I dressed them with a power punch chipotle crema that’s mixed up in a blender, fresh veggies, creamy avocado and a squeeze of lime. Can you hear the ocean calling you?

If you’re looking for something a little “meatier”, you’ll definitely love these Beer Braised Carnitas Tacos.

Fat Tire® Braised Carnitas Tacos

This is another fan favorite on the site with spiced pork that has been slowly braised in all types of goodness (yup, BEER!) and then crisped up and caramelized. The flavor and textures are out of this world. I like to serve these “street tacos” style with just a small tortilla, a spoonful of salsa, fresh cilantro and a squeeze of lime. I could scarf down at least 6 of these….and I have.

Looking for something a little more figure friendly? How about some Turkey and Peppers Tacos?

Turkey & Peppers Tacos
I almost always have a package of ground turkey in my freezer (you should too!) and they make a beautiful taco filling. These are quite straight forward—browned red onions, peppers, lots of spices, ground turkey and bell peppers. But they are such a great staple that you can even double the recipe and keep some in the freezer for a rainy day. Perfect filling for tacos, burritos, quesadillas, enchiladas, tostadas, salads—-you get where I’m going with this.

And there are always FlautasSpicy Chicken Flautas!

Spicy Chicken Flautas
Flautas are essentially a fried rolled taco and can be filled with a myriad of goodness. This is a mixture of cooked chicken (you can even use store bought rotisserie chicken to cut back on time!), spices, aromatics and lots of cheese. After you fill up the tortilla and roll them up, they’re quickly fried until nice and crispy. I love the crunch from the tortillas and crispy chicken—so good! Dunk them in some sour cream, salsa, guac and you’re ready to roll!

They say brekkie is the most important meal so when you bring Breakfast Tacos to the mix then you know it’s going to be an amazing day!

Breakfast Tacos

Anything goes when it comes to brekkie tacos. But in this gal’s opinion, there must at least be a solid tortilla, ‘taters of some sort, salsa and an EGG! Because everything is better when you throw an egg on it!

Don’t worry my vegetarian peeps, I haven’t forgotten about you! Because I’ve got these tasty and fulfilling Portabello Mushroom Tacos for ya!

Portabello Mushroom Tacos

Portabellos are the meatiest non-meat item  ever!

Yeah….I just said that.

But they’re so wonderful and have so much earthy flavor on its own. And then when you add some extra spices, you’d be hard pressed to miss meat! Wait…did I just say that?! Oh–and if you omit the cheese, this recipe is vegan friendly too!

And finally, one of my favorite tacos ever— Tacos de Papa – Crispy Potato Tacos!

Tacos de Papa

When you mix a Potato Lover, a Tacos Lover, a Lover of Fried Foods, a Cheese Lover, and a Mexican Food Lover together — you get ME!!!!

These gorgeous loves contain nearly every food item I adore (hmm, maybe I should add bacon?) but even if you aren’t me, I cannot fathom that you wouldn’t love these too! Imagine this, a spiced cheese mashed potato mixture enclosed in a crispy taco shell and then topped with fresh veggies, cilantro and a squeeze of lime juice. Heaven right?

Well gang, I hope I’ve got you pumped and excited to make some tacos today and extra points goes to those who whip up a few pitchers of Margaritas to wash them down! There are plenty of different Margs recipes on my site archives if you need some inspiration.

Happy Cinco de Mayo!!


It’s March 14th– Pi(E) Day!

Pi(e) Day

Alright gang–get excited because it’s March 14th— π Day! Or Pi(E) Day as far as I’m concerned! And what better way to celebrate 3.14159 than to feature a delicious round up of ALL THINGS PI(E)!

First up, the savory pies —

Let’s talk about Pot Pies. All kinds of veggies, chunks of delicious proteins swathed in a rich and creamy sauce–then topped with a flaky, buttery crust—all in one dish! Super dreamy…..

Here’s my take on Shrimp Pot Pies but the recipe can be easily adapted for chicken pot pies, turkey pot pies, or even lobster pot pies.

Shrimp Pot Pie

Shepherd’s Pie is another wonderful comfort food and is the perfect way to use up leftovers. And seriously, how can a layer of mashed potatoes over anything be a bad thing?

Shepherd's Pie

It seems like many cultures around the world have some type of “meat pie”….. Empenadas, Natchitoches, Piroshkis, Sambusas, Pasties – and the Vietnamese are no different! We have Bánh Pa Tê Sô (also spelled Pâté Chaud) and are the perfect bite when you’re on the go.

Bánh Patê Sô (Vietnamese Savory Meat Pies)

And of course–the beloved pizza pi(e)! Pizzas come out of my oven at least every other week and this cast iron skillet method will change your life!

Spring Skillet Pizza Pie

Now on to the sweets!

Hand Pies are a blessing for people like me who struggle with rolling out large sheets of pi(e) dough to cover full pans. They’re easy to make and no slicing required–which makes it a great dessert for picnics or dessert bars. These are filled with mixed berries but the filling options are endless!

Mixed Berry Hand Pies

And of course, there’s one of my personal favorites – Key Lime Pie. I like to add an extra nod to the islands by using crushed macadamia nuts inside the crust and also on top.


Fan of the classic combo of peanut butter and chocolate? Then you’ll LOVE this Peanut Butter Cream Pie. The filling is light and fluffy and topped with a layer of whipped cream and tons of mini chocolate peanut butter cups, crushed peanuts, chopped pretzels and a drizzle of melted chocolate.

Peanut Butter Cream Pie

Big sis makes some mean icebox pies and this Peach Divinity is no exception! Perfect for summer BBQs….or let’s be honest— ANYTIME!

July 2015 Fam Din

She also makes a stellar Caramel Apple Pie — and trust me, you’re going to want to A LA MODE that baby!

Caramel Apple Pie a la modeNext up – Boston Cream Pie that my other sister makes. Which, truthfully, kind of confuses me because it looks less like a “pie” and more like a cake. But heck–it’s tasty nonetheless.

Boston Cream Pie

And here’s a GORGEOUS Strawberry Tart I made using berries we just picked at the farm! Before you say it–yes, I know it’s a tart but it’s kind of a pie-like creation so I’m including it anyway.

I’m such a rebel.

Fresh Strawberry Tart

For my last Pi(e) Day idea — my ode to the flavors of apple pie….in cocktail form! The Spiced Apple Pie combines cider with dark rum and all kinds of spices in a wonderful drink. Yes, please!

The Spiced Apple PieSo many different pies, so little time!

What’cha waiting for? Get out there and whip up some deliciousness and celebrate the mathematical constant π (Pi)!

I realize this just solidifies my geekiness 🙂


My Fur Baby

Bella 8th Birthday
Alright y’all…

I don’t know how it happened–but somehow over the  years, I became THAT person.

Bella 8th Birthday

Maybe it’s because my human children are technically my nieces and nephews….

Perhaps it’s because my parents never allowed us to have pups as pets….

But somehow along the way I adopted a fur baby who sleeps in the bed, gets homemade treats, wears Yoda costumes & USC cheerleader outfits, has her paws & booty cleaned with baby wipes after every walk….and has birthday parties.

I know…I have issues.

So it’s no surprise that when my little puggle, Bella, turned 8 last week, we had a little puppy party at Fiesta Island Dog Beach with her buddies.

Oh yes… #SquadGoals

Bella 8th Birthday
(poodle-schnauzer mix)–her cuzzie and Aspen (also a puggle)–her boo, joined Bella for some birthday shenanigans. The pups spent 2+ hours running around galore while dipping their paws in the water.

Although the bday gal, who used to love to swim, only ran by the water line while she pranced around wearing her birthday bow. Apparently she couldn’t be bothered with swimming for fear that it would mess up her hair—I mean, fur.

Bella 8th Birthday

After all the running around, we went back to mi casa to give the pups a good bath. The below pic is of Bo and Bella sunning themselves after their baths.

Two things:

  1. Bella REALLY is my child. She loves lying around in the sun and napping;
  2. Please don’t judge how dirty the windows are. Wet puppy noses pressed upon the glass 24/7 makes it impossible to have clean windows.

Bella's 8th Birthday

After the baths and a bit of nap, it was time for Bella’s birthday cake!

Okay, okay…it’s less of a “cake” and more of a steak.

Bella 8th Birthday

Here’s the thing…up til her 5th bday, I really DID bake pupcakes for Bella.

Bella 8th Birthday

She gobbled them up–every year! But the girl LOVES meat. So a few years back, I nixed the PUPcakes and grilled her up a nice steak and shoved a candle in it.

It’s usually a grass-fed NY strip or rib-eye.

Don’t be jelly…it’s her birthday!

Bella 8th Birthday

Of course it was torture having to wait for me to light the candle and sing before she could inhale her steak.

And sometimes I even make her wear some ridiculous things.

She loves it!

Okay…she really hates it but the promise of steak is great motivation for her.

Bella 8th Birthday

Yes…I’m rather smitten with my puppy. But in my defense, it’s not just me.

A few days ago, big seestrah sent me the pic below. And yes, you’re seeing it correctly. Princess Leia has her own Christmas tree this year!

We’re a family of enablers.

Quite frankly, I wouldn’t have it any other way.


As for the birthday girl–

Well, let’s just say she partied like a Rock Star for her birthday and passed out all the next day. I tried to explain to her that the recovery time nearly doubles when we get older but she didn’t listen.

Oh well…we’ve all been there.

Happy Birthday, Bella-love ❤

Bella 8th Birthday

Miscellaneous · Pizzas

Cast Iron Skillet Pizza…. #LifeChanging

Cast Iron Skillet Pizza

I had a life changing moment in the kitchen nearly a year ago….

It was the first time I had tried my hand at Cast Iron Skillet Pizzas!

The method allows the dough to bake beautifully–crisp with a slight char. Delicious! And the kicker? The cook time is less than 3 minutes! So flipping fast!

Cast Iron Skillet Pizza

Here’s how to do it:

  • Turn on the oven broiler and adjust one of the racks to the top of the oven–directly under the broiler.
  • Place a cast iron skillet (10-12 inches in diameter) directly under the broiler for 8-10 minutes. It may begin to smoke but you need the skillet to be screaming hot.
  • While the skillet is heating, roll out 5-6 ounces of pizza dough onto a floured surface–you’ll want it a tad smaller than the width of your skillet. If you have a pizza peal, sprinkle it with cornmeal and transfer the pizza dough onto it. If not, you can also use a wooden cutting board.
  • Dress the pizza with the toppings of your choice.
  • Once the skillet has heated for the appropriate length of time, quickly and CAREFULLY slide the pizza into the skillet. Replace the skillet so it sits directly underneath the broiler.
  • Quickly close the oven door and allow the pizza to cook for about 45-60 seconds.
  • Open the oven door and rotate the skillet 180 degrees. Close the door and allow another 60-90 seconds underneath the broiler.
  • Once the crust is slightly charred, CAREFULLY remove the skillet from the oven and place it on a rack for 2-3 minutes.
  • Transfer the pizza to a cutting board, slice up the goodness and DIVE ON IN!!!

And here are some things to keep in mind:

  • The skillet is incredibly hot after it’s been under the broiler so handle with care. I usually use both an oven mitt and a thick kitchen towel.
  • Things happen very fast once you start so have all of your toppings and mise en place ready to go before you even start heating the skillet.
  • Toppings are completely up to you but I would recommend not placing fresh items on top until after the pizza has baked so that it doesn’t wilt or melt (arugula, goat cheese, etc.).
  • I think a 10-12 inch pizza is perfect for two with a crisp side salad, however, if you’re feeding several folks, it would be ideal to use two skillets at a time.

And that’s it! Easy Peasy and totally faster than take out.

*In case you’re curious, the pizza shown here is topped with mozzarella, leftover ribeye steak, mushrooms, roasted garlic cloves, a drizzle of herb oil, fresh rosemary chili flakes and goat cheese.

Desserts/Pastries · Miscellaneous

Lucas’ Galatic Star Wars Birthday Party

Lucas' 4th Birthday

It was my Lucas’ 4th birthday the other week. And as his auntie/godmama, I’ve affectionately nicknamed him Lucasaurus.

Don’t let his charming smile, bright wit and adorable face fool ya. He can be a downright rascal—– a veloci-rascal!

Lucas' 4th Birthday

But I just adore the kid to pieces.

So last year, when I mentioned to my seester (pictured above with her super photogenic fam) that we should throw him a Star Wars themed birthday party–she was all for it.

And that’s where I was in trouble. Now some of you all may have witnessed my tendencies to go overboard with certain things and that my OCD habits can get me in a tough spot. Well–then you have not met my seesters…..and in particular, my over-the-top party planning sister, T.

Star Wars1-001

Nearly 5 months before Lucas’ birthday, she started sending me texts about deals she found on party favors, decorating ideas she found on Pinterest, signage she had created, etc. The next thing I knew it, we were headed warp speed into Star Wars mania.

As for me, I just went along for the ride hoping my desserts would get the stamp of approval by the party planning Jedi.

Lucas' 4th Birthday

But look at this little guy? How could we not get carried away?!

…Wrapped around his finger, he has us….

So then this happened.

Star Wars Dessert Tablescape

A bountiful Star Wars tablescape with desserts and goodies galore. But as much as I wish I could take the credit for all the galactic-goodness, I was only in charge of the desserts.

Seester did all the decor (that she started putting up 2 weeks before the party), cute signs, overflowing swag bags, and all the adorable touches that would have made the Jedi Council proud.

Star Wars5-001

Of course a regular Star Wars themed party wouldn’t cut it, so they upped the ante and arranged a Jedi Training Camp in order for all the padawans to prepare for their path to Jedi Knighthood.


Lightsabers and Jedi Robes were a must, including cadet boxes to store all their goodies.

Star Wars4-001

To quench our thirst on the beautiful day, we sipped fresh Millennium Margaritas (for Jedi Masters 21+), Yoda Soda and Vader-Ade. Special props to my brother-in-law for hand squeezing the 25+ limes I needed to make the margaritas.

Trust me, we will never scoff again at those who own electric citrus juicers–DOH!

Star Wars2-002

And to fuel our Force, we summoned the Taco Master all the way from Orange County— I mean Tatooine. 🙂

Mouthwatering Carne Asada, Carnitas, Fish, Nachos….ideal nourishment to battle the Empire.

Taco Master from Tattoine

Back at our tablescape, Seester put together these cute Star Wars themed candies. Yoda Treats, Han’s Rolo, Edible Ewoks, & Thermal Detonators.

Star Wars-001

And poor Han.

All he wanted to do was to come wish Lucas a Happy Birthday but then he got himself frozen in carbonite again.

Star Wars3-001

Seester got to employ her knife skills by carving a watermelon Death Star. Lord Vader would have been pleased.

Watermelon Death Star

Lucky for us, Chewbacca was kind enough to guard the goodies from any other Sith Lords.

Lucas' 4th Birthday

Speaking of Sith Lords, I started off my dessert contributions by molding Stormtrooper and Darth Vader chocolates to place on top of the cupcakes. They later received a bit of edible disco dust for a bit of sheen….they are from outer space after all.

Darth Vader & Storm Trooper Chocolates

They perched atop rich Chocolate Cupcakes topped with big swirls of Vanilla Bean-Swiss Meringue Buttercream and sprinkles. Some of the cuppies were also topped with vanilla whipped cream.

Darth Vader & Storm Trooper Cupcakes

I paid additional homage to Darth Vader with these Chocolate Shortbread Cookies made with Valrhona cocoa powder.

Chocolate Darth Vader Cookies

How would it be a party without Master Yoda? These were Citrus Scented Sandwich Cookies filled with a Dark Chocolate Ganache.

Delicious, he was.

Yoda Sandwich Cookies

And to keep Darth Vader company, I made an army of Stormtrooper Sugar Cookies that were decorated with Royal Icing.

They were super fun to make and all of the cutters can be purchased from Williams Sonoma.

Storm Trooper Sugar Cookies

There were also pops for all to enjoy…..

Princess Leia Cake Pops & Death Star Rice Krispy Pops

“That’s no moon-it’s a Space Station!”

Not quite Master Obi-Wan but you’re close. They’re Rice Krispy Pops shaped as Death Stars. Not only a superweapon but super-yummy.

Death Star Rice Krispy Pops

And Princess Leia Cake Pops. Lucas really enjoyed these.

Princess Leia Cake Pops

And what’s a birthday party without a birthday cake?

I just had to make a little cake for our Jedi in training although Seester called it a “gentleman’s cake”. This was a 6 inch, 3-layer chocolate cake frosted with Vanilla Bean-Swiss Meringue Buttercream. I decorated the little cake with a fondant Stormtrooper accented with royal icing, fondant lightsabers, fondant Star Wars banner, Darth Vader molded chocolates, fondant stars and a star sparkler.

Star Wars Birthday Cake

At Jedi Training Camp, there was a Space Pod and stations for the padawans to bottle their own galaxies.

Lucas' Birthday

And then it was time to don their robes because…

Lucas' 4th Birthday

Duh, duh, duh, dum, da-dah, dum, da-dah………..

Darth Vader appeared! He was powerful, all-knowing, and—

Lucas' 4th Birthday

He liked parachutes. Yup, parachutes.

Lord Vader thought it was an integral training tool for the young padawans and can be seen here strategizing with the younglings.

Lucas' 4th Birthday

Heck–Vader even cleaned up after the parachute exercises!

There may still be good in him.

Lucas' 4th Birthday

Then he showed the padawans how to properly yield their sabers and spar.

I think that Lucas is saying– “You look a lot bigger on TV but I still pity the foo’ who messes with me!”

Oh yes, that was a Star Wars–Mr. T crossover moment.

Lucas' 4th Birthday

Cake Time!

Lucas' 4th Birthday

But that sneaky Vader used The Force to make the candles relight after Lucas blew them out.

He’s quite a trickser—when he’s not serving the Emperor and upholding the Dark Side.

Lucas' 4th Birthday

Lucas and Vader. They’re BFFs now.

The Lucasaurus always wins over the Dark Side.

Lucas' 4th Birthday

It was an action packed and exhausting day but the little guy had a blast.

And of course, we prevailed by restoring balance to the Force.

Lucas' 4th Birthday

The Force is strong with this one and I look forward to watching him grow into Jedi greatness.

Until our next Jedi Episode (hopefully for my other nephew, Leonidas’ birthday)— MAY THE FORCE BE WITH YOU!

Lucas' 4th Birthday


Bella’s Golden Birthday & Peanut Butter-Carob PUPcakes!

Bella's 5th Birthday

My Bella turns 5 today! Woo Hoo!

Yes, my little puggle can be quite mischievous and well–rather rascally. But at the end of the day she’s my super cuddly and loving little gal. Yup. She’s the Best Pup Ever. True Story.

Peanut Butter-Carob PUPcakes

To celebrate her golden birthday, I wanted to make her a few PUPcakes! After all, a mama has to indulge her little one from time to time….and well, because I somehow became one of those obsessed puppy parents 😉

Since chocolate is a definite no-no for dogs, I opted for both melted and whole carob chips in the batter along with peanut butter, honey, shredded carrots, and jarred baby food. That’s right–baby food! Organic chicken to be exact. It may sound odd but it’s a hit with the pups. And lastly, I dipped the pupcakes into a carob “ganache” and topped them with carrot sprinkles.

Bella's 5th Birthday

Needless to say, Bella loved them! Although I must admit that it was torture for her to wait until her mama finished snapping pics before she could dive into the pupcakes. She is much less concerned with documenting her Foodventures than I am but was such a good sport nonetheless.

And with that….HAPPY BIRTHDAY BELLA! Love ya to pieces!


Peanut Butter-Carob PUPcakes
Makes 1/2 dozen pupcakes


½ cup carob chips, divided
1 tablespoon honey
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 large egg
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
4 ounces organic pureed baby food (chicken or beef)
¼ cup smooth peanut butter
¼ cup shredded carrots

½ cup carob chips
2 tablespoons smooth peanut butter
1 tablespoon honey

shredded carrots
carob chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Place cupcake liners in a muffin pan.

In a small bowl, combine ¼ cup carob chips and honey. Using 15 second intervals, microwave the chips and honey until melted and smooth. Be sure to stir every 15 seconds to avoid burning the carob. Set aside to cool slightly.

In a mixing bowl, whisk together the flour and baking soda. In another bowl, whisk the egg, vegetable oil, baby food, peanut butter and melted carob until thoroughly combined. Stir in the dry ingredients and then the carrots and ¼ cup carob chips. Spoon the batter into the cupcake liners until they are about 2/3 filled. Bake the pupcakes for 18-20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool on racks.

While the pupcakes are cooling, prepare the “ganache”. In a bowl, combine ½ cup carob chips, peanut butter and honey. Using 15 second intervals, microwave the items until melted and smooth. Check and stir every 15 seconds to avoid burning the “ganache”. Working with 1 pupcake at a time, carefully dip each cake top in the warm “ganache”, twisting your wrist as needed to ensure the pupcake top gets completely coated. Allow the “ganache” to set 1-2 minutes and decorate with shredded carrots and carob chips. Repeat with the remaining pupcakes.

Pupcakes can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.


20 Super Bowl Recipes for Game Day

Whether you’re hosting/attending a Super Bowl bash, no game day is complete without a table of goodness to nosh on. Check out my 20 Super Bowl recipes that will have your loved ones not only cheering for your fav team but also for you—-whatever the results of the game may be!

Buffalo Wings

Buffalo Wings

Fried Buffalo Calamari

Fried "Buffalo" Calamari

Mediterranean Spinach Artichoke Dip

Oven Baked Potato Chips

Oven Baked Potato Chips

Bruschetta with Smoked Mozzarella Cheese

Bruschetta with Smoked Mozzarella Cheese

Margherita Pizza with Crispy Bacon

Margherita Pizza with Crispy Bacon

Roasted Garlic Chicken Pizza

Roasted Garlic Chicken Pizza

Sausage and Mushroom Pizza

Sausage and Mushroom Pizza

Macadamia Nut Pesto Pizza

Macadamia Nut Pesto Pizza

Shrimp and Prosciutto Pizza with Fresh Arugula

Shrimp and Prosciutto Pizza with Fresh Arugula

Fat Tire Braised Carnitas Tacos

Fat Tire® Braised Carnitas Tacos

Turkey and Bean Chili

Turkey and Bean Chili

Onion Burgers

Buttermilk Fried Chicken

Buttermilk Fried Chicken

Peanut Butter & Chocolate Rice-Cereal Treats

Peanut Butter & Chocolate Rice-Cereal Treats

At Hoc at Home Brownies

Brownies from "Ad Hoc at Home"

New York Times Chocolate Chip Cookies

New York Times Chocolate Chip Cookies

Fat Tire Chavelas

Fat Tire® Chavelas

Mint Margaritas

Mint Margaritas

Fresh Strawberry Mojitos

Fresh Strawberry Mojito