Sunday Family Dinner

Eldest Munchkin’s Family Dinner

August 2017 Family Dinner
I was in the room when she came into this world.

I waited for her for a gazillion of hours (yeah–likely felt longer for seester that actually birthed her)…..and then she popped out.

Our chubby little bebe girl….our first munchkin.

August 2017 Family Dinner
And now she’s 19 and in college….and I’m still only 20 years old.

Kind of magical how that can happen right?

August 2017 Family Dinner

But that’s our Nina girl…..

Bright, compassionate, silly and a ‘SC fan (of course I had nothing to do with that!…not!)

And our other munchkins just adore her.

August 2017 Family Dinner
Our latest Family Dinner was all about Nina — all her favorites — in honor of her birthday. We’ve held some memorable Fam Din themes in years past for her like our full blown lu’au or when V took on Alton Brown’s chimney method to cook dry aged steaks.

But this time, she opted for some low key options.

August 2017 Family Dinner
And as you all know, first up is always cocktails!!

This month we went for a family fav — fresh Mango Mojitos!

These beauts are made with lots of muddled mint, limes, fresh mangoes, mango nectar, lots of light rum and a splash of club soda. Soooooo lovely!

August 2017 Family Dinner

Did I mention that it happened to be the season opener for ‘SC?

Goooooo Trojans!!

August 2017 Family Dinner

So what was the first thing Nina asked to be on her menu that night?

Chicken wings.

Yup, chicken wings.

Hey–how could I say no to that? I love me some wings and it was game day and all.

And since I’m obsessed with my Anova Precision Cooker, I sous vide the wings first.

August 2017 Family Dinner
I made two types per birthday girl’s request — buffalo and parmesan. So after seasoning them, I threw the chicken into bags and sous vide them at 147.2 degrees F for 2 hours.

Once they were done, I patted them dry with lots of paper towels and tossed them in a blend of AP flour, cornstarch and seasonings. The wings then went into a deep fryer for 2-3 minutes until they were golden brown.

The Garlicky Parmesan batch were tossed into a butter-garlic sauce.

The Hot Buffalo Wings were tossed into a butter-hot sauce mixture.

Chicken loves butter.

And so do I.

August 2017 Family Dinner
I served the wings with ranch dressing (Nina’s fav) and whipped up an easy blue cheese dressing.

August 2017 Family Dinner
If you love blue cheese dressing but haven’t made it before—DO IT!

Just throw some blue cheese, mayo, sour cream, buttermilk, white wine vinegar, garlic and some seasoning into a food processor. Let it whirl for it a bit and voila!

Easy peasy!

August 2017 Family Dinner
And if you’ve ever wondered what the behind-the-scenes of our dinners look like–here you go!

Yup, kind of a mess.

August 2017 Family Dinner

But hey! Foodventures are messy sometimes.

Delicious but messy.

August 2017 Family Dinner
The second appetizer that we made for Nina was deep fried cheese.

Mmmmmm……

V made these ooey-gooey Mozzarella Sticks with Homemade Marinara. Mozz sticks are actually pretty simple to make (especially since we already had the deep fryer out) but are such a fun hit–particularly around football season.

All you need to do is freeze mozzarella string cheese for about 30 minutes. You then dredge them into seasoned breadcrumbs before deep-frying until golden brown. V made an awesome marina sauce that is a favorite with his youngins’.

August 2017 Family Dinner
Oh our wrinkly fur-babies….we love them so. ❤

And they love Family Dinner too! It’s where the action is…but mostly because they get extra goodies.

August 2017 Family Dinner
Now it couldn’t be a meal for Nina without beef involved. Seestrah T seasoned these big ol’ bone-in ribeye steaks with lots of salt, pepper and fresh rosemary springs.

August 2017 Family Dinner
And you guessed it! We threw them in to be sous vide at 130 degrees F for two and a half hours.

I freaking love this thing.

August 2017 Family Dinner
After the steaks were done with their bath, the boys threw them on the grill for a quick char.

August 2017 Family Dinner
Helllooooo…….

August 2017 Family Dinner
They came out a beautiful medium-rare and tender.

As in tenderoni.

August 2017 Family Dinner
The boys were taking a break from all that grilling and frying.

August 2017 Family Dinner
Growing up the only dude smack dab in the middle of 4 seesters, I have to imagine that V’s pumped to finally have brothers. Although let’s face it, he was pretty darn lucky having us!

August 2017 Family Dinner
Here’s N posing in her newly remodeled kitchen. Everything is so new and shiny now.

August 2017 Family Dinner
She made decadent Crab Cakes with a Homemade Tartar Sauce.

August 2017 Family Dinner
So pretty!! I wish I had one now….

Or more like 3.

August 2017 Family Dinner
So nice I had to show you twice!

August 2017 Family Dinner

Brother is showing off his knife skills on some pears.
August 2017 Family Dinner
R wanted in on that action too.

August 2017 Family Dinner
Kids – don’t try this at home.

Brothers will always be brothers….

August 2017 Family Dinner
But he did fix up this nice Gorgonzola-Pear Salad.

Mmmmm…cheese.

August 2017 Family Dinner
Remember those gorgeous ribeye steaks from before?

August 2017 Family Dinner
T sliced them up to make Ciabatta Ribeye Paninis.

August 2017 Family Dinner
And of course someone pilfered some to feed his nephew.

August 2017 Family Dinner
Inside the panini, she spread a layer of horseradish and filled them with caramelized onions, arugula and cheese.

August 2017 Family Dinner
They were crunchy, gooey, and beefy.

August 2017 Family Dinner
I love saying “beefy”. It makes me giggle.

August 2017 Family Dinner
Someone’s ready for dinner!

August 2017 Family Dinner
I don’t even know what to say about this picture other than we’re a bunch of sillies.

August 2017 Family Dinner
Cousie love!

And college football.

Some of my favorite things in the world.

August 2017 Family Dinner
And more cheeses while N put the finishing touches on dessert.

August 2017 Family Dinner
Birthday gal with her auntie. They’re cute. I think I’ll keep them.

August 2017 Family Dinner
Nina requested this Chocolate Raspberry Tart. It’s a fantastic tart with a shortbread like crust and a filling that tastes like rich chocolate truffles. I used to make them often but now N makes it all the time so I don’t have to. Perks of having a seestrah that likes to bake.

August 2017 Family Dinner
She really is adorable.

August 2017 Family Dinner
Happy Birthday Nina Bebe! We love you to the moon and back–and back around again! ❤

August 2017 Family Dinner

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This Month’s Family Dinner Menu

Cocktails: Mango Mojitos, Various Wine
Appetizers: Parmesan-Garlic Chicken Wings, Spicy Buffalo Wings, Fried Mozzarella Sticks with Marinara
Entrees: Ciabatta Ribeye Paninis, Crab Cakes with Tartar Sauce
Sides: Gorgonzola-Pear Salad
Dessert: Chocolate Raspberry Tart

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Sunday Family Dinner

And the Family Dinner Antics Continue….

July 2017 Family Dinner
How is it possibly Fall already with October just knocking on the door? Although, if you’re like SoCal these past few days, we’re still in a heat wave with the temps in mid-80s. The weather has been so strange lately that we actually got down to the low 60s last week (chilly for San Diego standards) and now we’re back in the thick of summer-like weather.

Speaking of summer, we had some brilliant Fam Dins over the past few months. The food is always great—even when it’s not dee best (flashbacks to my less than successful beef wellington or tarte tatin ). And there’s always more shenanigans than I can recount.

July 2017 Family Dinner
For this particular dinner, we were celebrating seester N and B.I.L. R’s birthmonth. But the day actually started early as we trekked down to Long Beach to cheer on Maya at her Hula/Tahitian performance at the Dragon Boat Races.

I mean, how freaking adorable is she?

After the festival and a quick bite of lunch, we headed back to Fullerton to get prepping on dinner. While we got to work in the kitchen, we sent the kiddos to the store to pick up a few extra items for us–just one of the perks of having munchkins that are of the driving age now.

July 2017 Family Dinner

For dinner, R wanted simply prepared dungeness crabs. But while at the store, seester ended up picking up some lobsters too.

I totally supported that decision.

July 2017 Family Dinner
The munchkins came back shortly after supplied with boba, slurpees (kids after my own heart) and a surprise they found at 7-11. More on that soon.

Nini saw the lobstahs and quickly picked them up and posed for a pic. I  have at least a dozen pictures of her mom doing the same thing over the past few years–same genes and all.

July 2017 Family Dinner
Oh our boys…..

July 2017 Family Dinner
While the sibs were bustling away with prep, I turned my efforts to something extremely important.

Cocktails.

Since it was so hot out and because the kiddos had picked up their own slurpees, I whipped up a batch of Tropical Fruit Wine Slushies. Adult slurpees in my opinion.

July 2017 Family Dinner
In a heavy duty blender, I filled the pitcher with frozen tropical fruits (mango, pineapple, papaya), a whole bottle of sauvignon blanc, lime juice, simple syrup, fresh mint leaves and a few splashes of vodka. Everything was quickly blended and that’s it!

Deliciously cold and refreshing. Another one of those summer-in-a-glass types of cocktails.

July 2017 Family Dinner
Remember that surprise I mentioned that the kiddos found at 7-11?

It was henna paste!

And the coincidence was that earlier that day, we were trying to get T’s friend over that night to do henna for us but things didn’t work out because she was out of the paste.

Why did we want her to come over and do henna for us?

Why not?

July 2017 Family Dinner
Henna is a temporary body art that is imprinted on the skin through a paste made from ground henna tree. The paste the munchkins found were premixed and sold in little conical tubes for ease of application. Kind of a random thing to find at a 7-11 in Orange County–but sometimes you just got to go with fate.

July 2017 Family Dinner
And with that–we went into full henna mode! The gals had a wonderful knack for it and did all of these beautiful designs by free hand.

July 2017 Family Dinner
Seestrah and I are thinking of hiring them out for parties.

Kidding–not kidding.

July 2017 Family Dinner
Check out this dragon Nini did for me–isn’t she so talented?

Apparently having an actual dragon tattoo wasn’t enough for me so I needed a henna one too.

Mother of Dragons and all….

Okay, I’m more like Mother of Puggle but Bella has the heart of a dragon.

Or more like an appetite of one.

July 2017 Family Dinner
And then we all started getting a rumbly in our tummy. Apps time!

I made one of my go-to bites that I love having all summer long — Burrata Bruschetta with a Balsamic Reduction. Nina lent a hand by pan frying (yup PAN FRYING) the sourdough in olive oil and rubbed it down with garlic cloves. It was topped with chopped heirloom tomatoes, more fresh garlic, EVOO, red chili flakes, basil, ooey-gooey burrata and a drizzle of reduced balsamic vinegar.

These are great as apps but there are so many times that I whip this up for a quick light lunch when it’s warm out. Perfect.

July 2017 Family Dinner
And then it was time to steam those crustaceans!

We love crabs, lobstahs, ‘shramps, crawdads….actually, we’re pretty much into all seafoods.

And riverfoods?

Lakefoods?

Are those even things?

July 2017 Family Dinner
T also picked up some ginormous giant clams (yes, I know that was redundant but they were HUGE!) so we threw those on the grill along with some romaine for a salad.

July 2017 Family Dinner
And after the wine slushies were gone, there was just wine. Well, lots of wine.

The chardonnay from Starmont is the fuel T and I guzzle down every Black Friday to muster the energy to keep up with our other sibs’ shopping marathons. Without it, we would be passed out by 9am.

July 2017 Family Dinner
Speaking of passing out…

She had a VERY action packed day and was down for the count. But she still wanted to be in the midst of the action and decided to take her naps underneath us.

July 2017 Family Dinner
Here are those giant clams again. Once out of the grill, T spooned a butter-soy-garlic sauce into them and topped it with fresh cilantro. Those buggers were super meaty!

July 2017 Family Dinner
N made this rad salad with grilled romaine lettuce, cukes, tomatoes, and avocados which was topped with pickled red onions and a grilled flank steak that had an Asian inspired marinade. The salad had a light soy-sesame dressing and was delectable!

July 2017 Family Dinner
Since we went for a simple steamed prep for the crabs and lobsters, N upped the gluttony ante and made a big ol’ bowl of Garlic-Butter Noodles. YES PLEASE!

July 2017 Family Dinner
The terrible pic does not do the food its justice.

I had some dang impatience to eat so I couldn’t be bothered to fiddle with adjusting the camera.

Nope…I don’t regret it.

July 2017 Family Dinner
Happy Fam! (Yes, I used flash…cringe.)

I spy a glowing-eye Bella.

July 2017 Family Dinner
After gorging ourselves on savory, we turned to sweet.

Yin to yang, right?

July 2017 Family Dinner
For the birthday buddies, Maya helped me to make this Peanut Butter-Oreo Chocolate Icebox Cake.

July 2017 Family Dinner
Looking at it again, it kind of looks like an ice cream cake—doesn’t it?

Hmmm…there’s always next time.

July 2017 Family Dinner
And after dinner, the antics continued because random henna sessions weren’t enough.  T busted out some new clay mask she got so we had to give it a spin, right?

What you don’t see is that we actually coerced R into letting us schmear that stuff on him too. He was less than thrilled so since it was his birthday dinner, I let him off the hook and decided not to post the pic I took of him. Plus he looked like we were rather torturing him so who wants that kind of stuff on-the-line?

Hehehe…

July 2017 Family Dinner
And that was it! Dragon Boat races, Polynesian dance performances, henna, clay masks, cooking, eating, drinking and a passed out a puggle.

Just another average Fam Din down in the books. ❤

Happy Birthday N and R!

July 2017 Family Dinner

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This Month’s Family Dinner Menu

Cocktails: Tropical Fruits Wine Slushies, Various Wine
Appetizers: Burrata Bruschetta with Balsamic Reduction
Entrees: Steamed Dungeness Crabs & Lobsters, Grilled Giant Clams with Soy-Garlic Sauce
Sides: Garlic Butter Noodles, Asian Flank Steak over Grilled Romaine Salad
Dessert: Peanut Butter-Oreo Chocolate Icebox Cake

Sunday Family Dinner

An Endless Fam Din Feast for the Tauruses

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It was one of my favorite times of the year — my BIRTH MONTH!!!

Birth “month” you ask? Oh yes, I celebrate the entire month.

Actually our family is full of May babies….Mom, Dad, SIL and cousie –all Tauruses, which makes a lot of sense. We’re all a tad–how would you put it? Oh right–stubborn.

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But when it came time for L and my Fam Din— I WAS PUMPED!

What to have on the menu?

Lobster? Prime Rib? King Crab? French Fry Fest?

YES PLEASE!

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Sooooo many options. Maybe TOO many good ones to choose from.

In fact, the week before dinner, we still hadn’t had a full menu planned other than knowing who would be in charge of which portions of the meal.

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Then mid-week, it hit me-it was soft shell crab season! And I do love me some soft shell crab sammies! With new found inspiration, I volunteered to take on the main dish and its fixings!

But as for the other dishes–everything was still up in the air.

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We all convened with our mystery ingredients to T and R’s casa and got down to prep.

But first–some cocktails!

I whipped up a few pitchers of Sparkling Rosé Sangria and let me tell ya, it’s like summer in a glass.

Fresh fruit, ginger, mint, cognac, light rosé, bubbly….now that’s a party!

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Quick pic with the sibbies!!

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And a little photobomber in the shape of Leonidas.

That little rascal….

I love that mischievous face.

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And then it was time to get back in the kitchen for some more prep.

May 2017 Fam Din
Thank goodness for R and Nini–our shuckers for the night.

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Because without those two, we’d just be staring at these beauties saying “Alohomora” over and over again.

Why yes–that was a little shot out to my fellow Potterheads.

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Now let the feasting begin!

V and L had been visiting our friends in Ventura that morning and picked up some Fresh Oysters for us to nosh on.

L made a classic mignonette for us to enjoy the oysters with and there was also lots of fresh lemon and tabasco on hand too.

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HELLLOOOOOO Gorgeous!!!!

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As you can tell, Nina didn’t like them at all.

May 2017 Fam Din
They also picked up some fresh uni and L got to work cracking them open.

Seriously, my mouth is watering just looking at the picture of it.

May 2017 Fam Din
And what did we do with them? Nini and L made adorable little bites of Uni Gunkan Maki.

Perfect morsels that just screamed of the sea.

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I could have easily polished off a dozen of them.

ps. Gunkan Maki are “warship sushi” or “battleship sushi” and are named such because of its shape. See? I can drop some random knowledge from time to time.

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N demolishes battleships on the reg.

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Since we were going the distance, V & L also picked up some local Yellowtail while in Ventura and there’s no better way to enjoy it than as straight up Yellowtail Sashimi.

It’s how we roll.

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Now most folks would just make 1 or 2 appetizers for dinner. But with my o’hana, why just have 1 when we could have 5?

Seriously, five. We had FIVE appetizers for Fam Din.

We’re uncontrollable.

To wrap up our apps course, T made clams two ways. (Are you sensing that gluttony theme?)

May 2017 Fam Din

The first version featured clams stuffed with miso butter, cheese, aromatics and panko bread crumbs. Quite addicting and hopefully will be at our football parties this fall.

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The second preparation were roasted clams with miso butter, rice wine, ginger, beech mushrooms, scallions and some other magical goodies.

And OH. MY. GOD.

These were so freaking good!! So savory, so rich in flavor—FULL of umami (I feel like such an idiot every time I use that word)! The clams were wonderful on its own but would also be perfect as a main dish with soba noodles or even with just crusty baguette.

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Look at my fam…..they’re cute.

I guess I’ll keep them.

I should probably admit that they look so happy because we had just spent an hour gorging on apps and cocktails (for the 21+ over).

But hey, whatever it takes.

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After polishing off all the apps, we were pretty stuffed. And we still had our main course left, too!

In order to make it to the finish line, we needed a breather.

Maya took a T.O. on Lamby.

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Leonidas got a massage.

Life is rough for the munchkins, isn’t it?

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And we snapped pics.

Because apparently, we don’t take enough pictures.

NOT!

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After a quick pause, I turned my attention to these little guys–the soft shell crabs. Since the crabs have molted their exoskeletons, the entire crustacean can be eaten after a bit of light cleaning.

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Sometimes you jut have to infuse your food with love……you feel me?

It makes everything that much tastier.

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After they were cleaned and drained, we lightly dredged them in a mixture of flour and corn meal.

And not to sound twisted, but doesn’t it look like they’re just chilling in the sand?

No? Too much?

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After they were dredged, Nini helped me pan fry them in butter and olive oil until they were golden brown and crispy.

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Once out of the pan, they all got a sprinkle Old Bay and sea salt.

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The crispy soft shell crabs were destined to rest inside these little Brioche Buns I had baked earlier. Nina lightly buttered and toasted the buns for that extra punch of goodness.

Aren’t they adorable? The girls said they reminded them of Krabby Patties from SpongeBob—which, now that I think of it, is kind of appropriate.

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To serve with sandwiches, I decided to make homemade Cracked Pepper & Sea Salt Chips. I know, it seems like a lot of work when you can just go out and buy a bag of chips.

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But honestly, homemade chips are SOOO much better! It does take a bit of time but they’re really easy to make. Just be sure to fry up some extra because if your family is anything like mine, they will be gone before it’s time to eat.

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Assembly time!

A light schmear of Old Bay aioli on the buns, add thin slices of ripe tomato, a leaf of butter lettuce and top it off with a beautiful soft shell crab.

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So nice I had to show it twice!

Seriously–as good as I had hoped for when they came to mind just a few days prior. I love it when that happens.

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And Food Coma starts in 5…4…3…2…..

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But wait! We still have dessert!!

And not just any dessert but B I R T H D A Y  cake!

N was in charge of our birthday dessert and all I said is that I wanted a dense chocolate cake that tasted like a Ferrero Rocher — one of my favorite candies.

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And HOLY CRAP!  SHE DELIVERED!!!

Just like a Ferrero Rocher!!!

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The cake was super dense and rich–like a flourless cake that had ground hazelnuts in the batter. She topped it with a chocolate mousse and a “crunch” made from melted chocolate and rice cereal. It was then finished with more hazelnuts and a generous drizzle of more chocolate.

From taste to texture it totally was a Ferrero Rocher!

I’m not kidding y’all–it’s one of the best cakes I’ve ever had. She’s going to have to make me this cake every year now.

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And as if we didn’t have enough sugar, R broke out the fire so the munchkins could roast some marshmallows.

Why not, right? If not for the added sugar than at least for the experience.

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I can’t help but hope that when they look back 20 years from now, they’ll think fondly of our monthly Fam Dins and the randomness that often occur.

For example, the fireworks that we set off shortly after I took this picture.

And no, I’m not kidding.

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And that’s a wrap on our decadent Fam Din for L and my bday!

Not bad considering we threw the menu together at the last minute. And yes, it was a delicious as it looks.

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This Month’s Family Dinner Menu

Cocktails: Sparkling Rosé Sangria, Various Wine
Appetizers: Fresh Oysters with Mignonette, Yellowtail Sashimi, Uni Gunkan Maki, Miso Roasted Clams with Beech Mushrooms, Panko-Miso Butter Clams
Entrees: Soft Shell Crab Sandwiches with Old Bay Aioli, on Brioche Rolls with Cracked Pepper & Sea Salt Chips
Dessert: Chocolate-Hazelnut “Ferrero Rocher” Cake

Sunday Family Dinner

All about that Bulaon-baisse, ’bout that baisse…

April 2017 Family Dinner
When it comes to Lucasauraus and C’s birthday, we always know that there will be some combination of seafood, matcha and mint chip ice cream on the menu for Fam Din. And no–not all mixed together, Silly!

And who can blame them–I love all of it too!

April 2017 Family Dinner

We gathered at T and R’s place in Fullerton on a sunny afternoon to get down on some cookin’ and grubbin’!

And there may have been a cocktail or two before we switched over to wine. This month we went back for the Hendrick’s Gin and Tonic with Cucumber and Lime. C’mon, it’s a classic–not to mention totally refreshing on a warm Southern Cali afternoon.

April 2017 Family Dinner
And how So Cal is it that somehow succulents were involved?

Yea, I have no idea what N was doing with these.

April 2017 Family Dinner
Now let’s get back to the food, shall we?

Since our entree was slated to be on the lighter side—well….”lighter” than our normal fare, we had three different appetizers to sate our tummies.

First up, Deviled Eggs with Smoked Salmon that brother fixed up using Eric Ripert’s recipe. I am a sucker for a good deviled egg and these were no exception. They featured the classic rich flavors and was topped with the smoky, salty salmon.

Awesome.

They’d be perfect for brunch too!

April 2017 Family Dinner

And since Lucas is a salmon-eating-monster (has been since he was barely 2) we needed MORE of the fatty fish–LOTS MORE! So we put the nieces to work and they got rolling on these beautiful Salmon Temaki.  They were filled with seasoned rice, avocados, luscious slices of salmon, daikon sprouts and of course, that magnificent “crack sauce” that Nini makes.

That sauce is seriously E V E R Y T H I N G! It’s a mixture of mayo, sambal, sriracha, soy sauce, sesame oil, chives, tobiko and I’d venture to say–a splash of her soul. It is THAT good.

I inhaled about 20 dozen of them. Screw that summer bikini diet.

April 2017 Family Dinner

A birthday Fam Din for Lucas and C without sashimi?? Not on our watch!

In fact, there may have been 1 or 2 plates of Hamachi Sashimi.

April 2017 Family Dinner
It does this foodblogger’s heart proud when she sees the munchkins doing this…..

Shall we move on to main course?

When we asked C what he wanted for dinner, he replied “seafood stew—bouillabaisse”. Ok then, we’re on it!

Well actually, seestrah T was on it—and hence the “Bulaon-baisse“. What’s a “Bulaon-baisse” you may be asking? It’s when T is in charge of the bouillabaisse, has a few glasses of vino while making the stock and merges her married name (Bulaon) to the classic Provençal stew.

What a dork.

But a funny dork.

All joking aside, T put some serious time and love into creating the broth of the bouillabaisse. She simmered the excess fish trimmings with aromatics such as bay leaves, orange peels, and a bouquet garni to produce a rich seafood stock. In a separate pan, she sweated the fennel, onions, and garlic and then reduced it with wine before adding in the stock, tomatoes and saffron. After what seemed like a gajillion years, the stock was strained and we were left with a flavorful and clear broth.

That broth was brought to a boil, and the fish, shrimp, and mussels were cooked in it.

Speaking of fish, my B.I.L., aka Mr. Bulaon, caught the below red snapper and cod that we used in the bouillabaisse. Isn’t he handy?

So all in all, I guess it was a Bulaon-baisse!

H E L L O    G O R G E O U S!!!

April 2017 Family Dinner
And finally – DESSERT TIME!

C loves him some matcha. I can’t remember the last time we made him a birthday dessert that green tea wasn’t involved. And I tell ya–I’m quickly running out of ideas people!

As I scoured the internet for some inspiration, I stumbled upon a Coconut-Matcha Cream Pie and decided to give it a try.

My thoughts?

I was a bit disappointed by how much the crust “shrunk” after it was baked. I let it thoroughly rest before rolling it out and even froze it for an hour before baking. I blind baked the crust and the temp wasn’t too high either. Eh…that’s how it goes with baking sometimes.

As for the filling, it was rich and had the texture of a firm pudding. The coconut flavor was very subtle and it wasn’t too sweet. I’m glad I opted to add matcha to the whipped cream to amp up the flavor.

Overall, not bad but not great.

April 2017 Family Dinner
As for my mint-chip loving nephew, a Grasshopper Ice Cream Pie seemed perfect for Lucas. The base what made out of crushed Oreo cookies and crushed Thin Mint Cookies. I then added a layer of softened mint chip ice cream (it HAD to be the green kind too!), a drizzle of chocolate sauce, a layer of more crushed cookies and a final layer of ice cream. The whole thing was put in the freezer for a few hours before topping it with whipped cream and more cookies.

I am embarrassed to say that the below picture looks rather a hot mess. We had some melting issues on the drive from Tustin to Fullerton and we attempted to mask it over with more whipped cream. But all looks aside, it was delicious and the bday boy approved!

April 2017 Family Dinner
Another scrumptious Fam Din in the books!

H A P P Y     B I R T H D A Y    L U C A S    A N D     C!!!!

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This Month’s Family Dinner Menu

Cocktails:  Hendrick’s Gin and Tonic, Assorted Wines
Appetizers: Hamachi Sashimi, Salmon Temaki, Deviled Eggs with Smoked Salmon
Entrees: Bouillabaisse with Toasted Garlic Crostini
Dessert: Coconut Matcha-Cream Pie, Grasshopper Ice Cream Pie

Sunday Family Dinner

It Ain’t Easy Being A Green Fam Din

March 2017 Family Dinner
Alright, so I’ll be the first to admit that some of our Fam Din themes are a bit more successful than others. When we’re on point, we totally nail it like with our Hawaiian Lu’au, “One Night In Bangkok”, Korean Feast, or the N’awlins Seafood Boil.

But some themes are bit tougher than others. Case and point, a certain holiday a few months ago that inspired us to try and make dishes that were green.

That’s right, the color green.

March 2017 Family Dinner
First up–appetizers!

V+L were in charge of this portion and came up with wonderfully fresh and sweet Scallops Carpaccio.

Lovely, right?

March 2017 Family Dinner
And before you ask for the green, might I direct your attention to the chopped cilantro and green platter???

Totally green.

March 2017 Family Dinner
A year or two ago, T got N a Pink Himalayan Sea Salt Block from Williams Sonoma. She hadn’t had the opportunity to use it yet and figured Fam Din was the perfect chance. So she pulled out the slab and seared some sweet scallops on them.

I think we had average results with it. Yes, it did impart a subtle flavor to the scallops and sure–the process looked impressive. But we didn’t get that lovely golden sear on them as if we had used a pan.

Don’t worry, we’ll try again.

March 2017 Family Dinner
N placed the scallops over fresh and peppery arugula. She dressed it with grape tomatoes, fresh basil and a light vinaigrette. Light, lovely and would be a wonderful summer lunch with some crusty bread.

But being the chunky monkeys we are, we had them as an appetizer.

March 2017 Family Dinner
As for our entree, T chose to slow-braise pork in a rich and luscious chile verde sauce—key word, “verde“.

As in green, folks!

The pork was tender, savory and quite versatile! The chilies are not the least bit spicy but more so mild and brought a verdant, tangy flavor.

March 2017 Family Dinner
To serve alongside the pork, I whipped up some homemade Cilantro-Flour Tortillas. The recipe is from Rick Bayless and I wrote about them here. At the very end when I rolled out each tortilla de harina, I sprinkled on some chopped cilantro before throwing them on a cast iron skillet.

Tender, flaky and perfect with the pork.

March 2017 Family Dinner
In addition, I made a big batch of my Cilantro-Lime Rice because carbs are my friends.

March 2017 Family Dinner

Last but not least—DESSERT!

Now, when thinking of green desserts, my mind kept drifting towards matcha. But since BIL’s birthday was the following month, I was bound to have to make a green tea dessert in a few weeks. So I mulled around and decided to rely on the bright green hues of the kiwi to make this Kiwi Fruit Pie.

The shell was a shortbread crust and I filled it with Cook’s Illustrated pastry cream. Next came lots of slices of fresh kiwi fruit.

Easy peasy right?

March 2017 Family Dinner

Now let me share one thing before I close this post.

Silly things happen at our Family Dinners. In truth, it’s one of my favorite things about the whole tradition. And this month, was no exception.

After dessert, the kids started doing arts and crafts for Nini’s elections—and there was a bottle of glue on the table. T, V and I started reminiscing of when we were kids and made “glue skins” from our hands.

And then this happened.

March 2017 Family Dinner

Oh yes….as we laughed, drank wine (the 21+ and over of us–that is), and sang along to Erasure–we painted layers of glue on our hands. Then, once dried, we slowly peeled them off to make “glue skin”.

March 2017 Family Dinner

Silly, I know. But I wouldn’t change anything.

It’s what our Family Dinner is all about. ❤

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This Month’s Family Dinner Menu

Appetizers: Scallop Carpaccio, Scallops Seared on Pink Himalayan Sea Salt Block over Arugula
Entrees: Slow Braised Pork Chile Verde
Sides: Cilantro-Lime Rice, Cilantro Flour Tortillas
Dessert: Kiwi Fruit Pie

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

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