Sunday Family Dinner

A Fam Din Fit for Leonidas

December 2016 Family Dinner
The fact of the matter is, our munchkins have an extremely well tuned palate.

So it’s no surprise that when it came to Leonidas’s 5th birthday, he knew exactly what he wanted for his Family Dinner menu.

I mean c’mon.…take a looksies below. On the left, you can see our little man on his very first birthday cradling a bottle of Dom. Four years later, nothing has changed except instead of a 2000 bottle of Dom Pérignon, he opted for a 2004.

Oh, he knows the difference in subtle notes.

December 2016 Family Dinner
When asked what he’d like for Family Dinner, Leo looked backed to one of his comforting favorite spots when they lived in NYC — Bobwhite Lunch and Supper Counter.

Our little man wanted their sweet tea brined fried chicken that he used to drizzle honey over. I’ve had their chicken—and it’s lovely! So for our birthday boy, a menu surrounding sweet tea brined fried chicken it is!

December 2016 Family Dinner
I adore all the fun we have with creating our meal but it’s seeing all the kids together that I love the most.

These two rascals—Lucas and Luna. They are only a few months apart in age so you can only imagine the mischief they get into together. Not to mention, one moment they are thick as thieves and the next, they are bickering and arguing about everything under the sun.

It keeps us on our toes.

December 2016 Family Dinner
And here’s Nina and Maya having some cousins cuddling time.

December 2016 Family Dinner
While the kiddos were amusing themselves, the grown “kids’ turned our attention to a sip or two of libations. These pretty in pink beauties were a Cranberry-Thyme Champagne Cocktail I whipped up.

December 2016 Family Dinner

Yeah, I’m not 100% sure what we’re doing here but I wouldn’t doubt if there was a selfie stick involved.

And yes, there’s still the Christmas tree up in the corner — I’m still catching up on these Fam Din posts!

December 2016 Family Dinner

Sibbies!!

Oh, and the lumberjack look was no coincidence. At the 11th hour, the older nieces decided that we all needed to wear flannel that night. No clue why….sometimes you just got to go with it.

December 2016 Family Dinner
Seestrah N made us two appetizers to nosh on while the chicken was being fried….we like options.

First up, these wonderfully savory, Crispy Stuffed Mushrooms. The caps were stuffed with the mushroom stems, aromatics, cheese and panko breadcrumbs.

December 2016 Family Dinner
She also made a big ol’ pot of Ina Garten’s Cheddar Corn Chowder. Chunks of potatoes, sweet corn, half and half, cheddar cheese and bacon–so comforting and delish.

December 2016 Family Dinner
Now let’s turn our attention to the star of the show–the fried chicken!

Here’s our big gal Luna helping her momma out with the breading of the chicken.

December 2016 Family Dinner
And when you’re frying enough chicken for 13 peeps, you need to employ two dutch ovens.

December 2016 Family Dinner
Nini did a good deal of the frying for us that night—isn’t she a trooper? I keep envisioning her a few years from now in her college dorm frying up chicken for her roommates at 2am.

December 2016 Family Dinner

Life skills folks, life skills!

December 2016 Family Dinner
And voila! Aren’t they GORGEOUS!!

The chicken was extremely moist and juicy with a fantastic crunchy crust. As for the flavor, it had a light herbal touch to it from the tea. Definitely a different spin from the Lemon-Brined Fried Chicken we made a few years but equally delicious!

December 2016 Family Dinner
Here’s seester T’s Whipped Garlic Mashed Potatoes……butter on butter on butter!

December 2016 Family Dinner
She also roasted these Parmesan Zucchini Spears that were tender on the inside and slightly crispy on the outside from the panko bread crumbs.

December 2016 Family Dinner
Brother also made some Buttermilk Biscuits……

December 2016 Family Dinner
And L made a colorful Coleslaw.

December 2016 Family Dinner
I seriously could have this plate all day, any day!

December 2016 Family Dinner
I had to sneak this pic in of the boys. Now usually at Fam Din, we all sit crammed in together at the table–no phones, no devices.

But there happened to be a big game on that night. So we let the boys set up an adjacent little table next to the dining room so that they were right in front of the TV.

And yes, they’re eating off of Star Wars paper plates — it still was Leo’s birthday dinner after all!

December 2016 Family Dinner
Speaking of the birthday boy, when I asked what he wanted for his birthday dessert, he promptly said CHOCOLATE CAKE! Which then he changed to chocolate cupcakes….then seconds later, he said ice cream cupcakes!

December 2016 Family Dinner
Who am I to say no to the little guy on his birthday? So I enlisted Nina to help bake the chocolate cuppies and then I hollowed out the centers. I filled them with softened vanilla bean ice cream and threw them back in the freezer to firm up before topping them with swirls of chocolate flavored whipped cream.

And let’s not forget the Darth Vader and Stormtrooper chocolate toppers!

December 2016 Family Dinner
A perfect TWO IN ONE! I’m not sure why I’ve never made these before but I will most DEFINITELY make them again!

Oh our munchkins….how I love them so…..

December 2016 Family Dinner

Happy, Happy Birthday Leonidas! We hope you enjoyed your dinner!

I love you to the moon and back—and back again!! ❤

December 2016 Family Dinner
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This Month’s Family Dinner Menu

Cocktails:  Cranberry-Thyme Champagne Cocktails, Assorted Wines
Appetizers: Crispy Stuffed Mushrooms, Cheddar Corn Chowder
Entrees: Sweet Tea Brined Fried Chicken
Sides: Whipped Garlic Mashed Potatoes, Cole Slaw, Buttermilk Biscuits, Parmesan Zucchini Spears, Pickles
Dessert: Star Wars themed Vanilla Bean Ice Cream filled Chocolate Cupcakes

Sunday Family Dinner

Our Smokin’ Family Dinner

November 2016 Family Dinner

As you may have noticed, I have a few Sunday Family Dinners I need to catch y’all up on. Three to be exact.

I know, totally tardy to my own party.

I was having one of those existential moments for a bit. You know…those “Who am I? What am I? Where am I?” moments where you begin questioning everything under the sun. And that included an evaluation of this blog.

I’ve been sharing on this space with you all for a little over seven years now and I wondered if it was all still relevant. But after a lot of musings, I’ve decided—what the hell? As long as I still have something to say, I’m gonna say it! And if I’m still having Foodventures, I’m still going to share them.

That’s not to say that I won’t be experimenting with a few things this year to give some new things a try. So stick with me gang—I’m still here and I hope you still will be too. ❤

Back to our Fam Dins!

Let me pick up where I left off–which is our Smokin’ Family Dinner! It happened to be our brother’s birth-month so birthday boy opted for beef… in the form of Smoked Brisket! And not only that, but he also volunteered to be in charge of the main dish for his dinner. What a trooper!

In full disclosure, V (well actually, NONE of us) had ever smoked a brisket before. Heck–we didn’t even have a smoker! So brother, being my brother, decided to do a trial run the month before and bought a 14 pound brisket to experiment with.

V ended up rigging seester T’s grill into quite the MacGyver smoker! And it turned out beautifully! So when it came time to make it for Fam Din, he was prepared!

 

November 2016 Family Dinner

If any of you have smoked a brisket before, then you know it takes FOH-EVAH! Low, slow and even heat. So what do we do when we’re all sitting around for 14+ hours waiting for brisket?

We have a few cocktails!

I’ve no idea if he’s sipping on whiskey or Sculpin here….because truthfully, we consumed a lot of both throughout the entire cook time!

And YES, that is a Christmas tree you’re seeing in this pic.

Told ya’ I’m trying to catch up!

November 2016 Family Dinner

Oh! And because we just happened to have a spare turkey around (I mean, c’mon…don’t you have spare poultry laying around??), we decided to smoke it to. Why the heck not?

See the little wood chip chamber V made on the left of the turkey?

I’ve got to say, that’s pretty damn gorgeous–isn’t it?

November 2016 Family Dinner

And because even WE cannot live on smoked meat alone, we put the kiddos to work helping with the side dishes.

November 2016 Family Dinner
While the smoke was going and the veggies were being chopped, I whipped up this super easy and fun Armadillo Cheese Bread for us to nosh on. Warm and toasty sourdough boule stuffed with mozzarella, parmesan, tons of garlic herb butter and topped off with fresh parsley.

I mean, COME ON! EVERYTHING is beautiful about this situation!

November 2016 Family Dinner
Pssst! Caught brother watching a quick video by Aaron Franklin of Franklin Barbecue in Austin for some guru brisket tips!

November 2016 Family Dinner
After a total of 20 hours combined smoking time for the brisket and turkey—-it was finally done!!! We carved the turkey before bringing it to the table and here my niece Nini is prepping the bones for some good ol’ fashion stock.

Teaching them young!

And yes, Bella is trying to get some of that smoked turkey goodness! In case you were curious, she was successful.

November 2016 Family Dinner
We had quite the plethora of fixins’ to go along with the protein.

Seestrah N made my Cheddar Skillet Cornbread……..

November 2016 Family Dinner
….a pan full of Roasted Cauliflower and Broccoli .

November 2016 Family Dinner

……and of course, Baked Bacon Macaroni and Cheese. I mean, if you’re gonna do it, DO IT!

And we always do.

November 2016 Family Dinner
Seester T knocked it out of the park with this soulful Cheesy Shrimp and Grits. Now peeps, I like to think that I make a pretty mean bowl of Shrimp and Grits, but I think hers is better. The use of the shrimp heads in the sauce created this deep, rich, flavor that was glorious!

Hmmmm….maybe I can convince her to make it for me this weekend? #ImTheBabySister

November 2016 Family Dinner
And finally, the pièce de résistance — the Smoked Brisket! I mean look at this BEAUTY! Isn’t the color just splendid!! Tender, fatty (in a wondrous way) and smoky.

Completely worth the wait.

November 2016 Family Dinner

Bella totally thought so.

She was completely hypnotized by her uncle’s cutting skills.

November 2016 Family Dinner
After inhaling what I deemed to be an INSANE amount of food, I began prepping dessert. Because OF COURSE I would.

The kiddos colored….

November 2016 Family Dinner
And played ginormous JENGA.

As for the adults? Well, let’s just say we broke out into a solid karaoke and dance session of our favorite 70s-80s songs (A-Ha! Erasure, ABBA, New Order...) and maybe even the fog machine and strobe light came out. And by maybe…IT DID!

You think I’m exaggerating, but I’m really not.

For reals.

Unfortunately I was told that if any pictures or videos of us singing/dancing surfaced on this site, it would be the last y’all would ever hear from me. But trust me, it was quite epic.

November 2016 Family Dinner
And after all the dancing and shenanigans was done, it was time to dig into the Chocolate Molten Lava Cakes with Vanilla Bean Ice Cream!

November 2016 Family Dinner
Smoking brisket and turkey…another first for us but what a Foodventure!

Cheers Friends!

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This Month’s Family Dinner Menu

Cocktails:  Assorted Wines, Ballast Point Sculpin IPA, Suntory Hibiki Whiskey
Appetizers: Armadillo Cheese Bread
Entrees: Smoked Brisket, Smoked Turkey
Sides: Skillet Corn Bread, Baked Bacon Macaroni and Cheese, Roasted Cauliflower and Broccoli, Shrimp and Grits
Dessert: Chocolate Molten Lava Cake with Vanilla Bean Ice Cream

Appetizers/Small Plates · Poultry

Game Day Garlicky-Parmesan Chicken Wings

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There’s no hiding it, I’ve been seriously MIA. With the holidays and the craziness of the Death Eaters overtaking the Ministry, I desperately needed a break to recharge. Trust me, there’s been a TON of cooking with the winter holidays, family dinners, both Western & Lunar New Year, and endless sporting events—-all of which I plan to share with you all soon.

But I needed something to kick start me back into the writing game….and that, my friends, is Football.

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Truthfully I don’t have a pony in tomorrow’s Super Bowl Game.

Falcons? BLEH!

Patriots? Patooey!

But football, oh–for the love of FOOTBALL! Nothing can beat the frenetic craziness when it’s a good game.

And although I don’t have much stake in the game tomorrow, let me tell you of a game where my whole being was on the line….the 2017 Rose Bowl Game!!!

Did you smell those Roses?!?!

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Yes Friends…it was the GAME of GAMES where my USC Trojans battled Penn State. Both teams had undergone years of drama, leadership changes, team changes, injuries. But both fought and somehow they found themselves battling it off at one of the most iconic collegiate bowl games–the Rose Bowl.

Despite weeks of endless indulgence, we convened at big seestrah’s house to watch the game. And when it’s game day, there MUST be game day eats!!!

Seester T made a huge pot of rich and comforting Beef and Beans Chili. Her chili is way better than mine which is somewhat unnerving because she just throws things into the pot and poof–amazing chili.

Brother and Seester N tag teamed to get the components together for Loaded Beef Nachos using tortilla chips that I freshly fried. I know it sounds laborious but fresh fried chips make a huge difference!

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As for me, I was in charge of the Chicken Wings because hot damn–we love us some wangzzzz’!  When in doubt–wing it out!!

I ended up brining the wings overnight in a solution of water, salt, sugar, hot sauce and some other aromatics. I don’t always have the time to do this, so if you don’t–skip it. But I do think it’s worth this extra step as it infuses in an oompf of flavor. Obvi.

I also despise rubbery chicken wings. You know what I’m talking about– wings that haven’t been crisped enough or opt not to use a flour coating. Don’t get me wrong, other than K.F.C. (and I mean Korean Fried Chicken), I generally don’t like a thick breading on my wings–the meat to coating ratio just doesn’t work out well.  But I do like how a light toss in a mixture of AP flour and rice flour (or cornstarch) helps with the crispiness factor.

I ended making two types that day – my standard Buffalo Wings and per my niece Nina’s request, these Garlicky-Parmesan Chicken Wings. Super garlicky, super cheesy, super crispy….definitely not diet food.

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As for the game….I WAS STRESSED!!!

I won’t lie, I was the hottest mess in all the land.

There was some ridiculously high moments and some terribly low ones when the fam was terrified of what my wrath would be if it didn’t end well for the Trojans. But in the last second, my boys pulled the big W and we (more like I) LOST OUR MINDS!! The joy–OH THE JOY!

So although I don’t have much at stake in the game tomorrow….I can 100% empathize with those who do.

For the love of football, make it a great game tomorrow Pats’ and Falcons……..and as for y’all—please make my Garlicky-Parmesan Chicken Wings ❤

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Garlicky-Parmesan Chicken Wings
Serves approximately 4

Ingredients:

8 cups warm water
1/3 cup kosher salt
1/3 cup sugar
1/3 cup hot sauce, I like Frank’s
8-10 sprigs fresh thyme
8-10 sprigs fresh parsley
1 head of garlic, cut in half
1 lemon, cut in half
1 tablespoon black peppercorns
2 bay leaves
2 pounds chicken wings, separate wings at the joint with tips removed
vegetable oil
2 cups all purpose flour
½ cup rice flour or cornstarch
1 tablespoon onion power
2 tablespoons garlic powder, divided
1 teaspoon cayenne power
1 cup unsalted butter
½ cup olive oil
2 tablespoons finely minced garlic
¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese
1/3 cup shredded Parmesan cheese*
½ cup chopped fresh parsley

In a large container, whisk the warm water with salt, sugar, and hot sauce until everything has dissolved. Add the thyme, parsley sprigs, garlic, lemon, peppercorns and bay leaves. Add the chicken wings and push down to ensure that all pieces are submerged. Cover the container and refrigerate overnight or about 8 hours.

Drain the chicken and pat dry with paper towels.

In a large, heavy bottom pot, fill 2-3 inches of oil. Heat until temperature reaches 350 degrees F.

While the oil heats, combine the flour, cornstarch, onion powder, 1 tablespoon garlic power, and cayenne power in a large resealable bag. Close the bag and gently toss until the ingredients have combined. In batches, toss the chicken wings in the dried mixture until well coated and shake off any excess. Place the coated wings on a rack fitted over a baking sheet. This will help set the crust.

Begin making the garlic butter sauce by adding the butter, olive oil, remaining garlic powder, minced garlic and pepper flakes in a small saucepan. Over low heat, cook for 10-15 minutes–be careful not to burn the garlic.

Once the frying oil reaches 350 degrees F, begin frying the wings in batches, turning occasionally. Fry the wings for about 10 minutes each batch until they have turned golden brown. Transfer the fried wings to a clean rack fitted over a baking sheet and keep warm in a low temperature oven. Repeat until all the wings have been fried.

Place all the wings in a large bowl. Add several spoonfuls of garlic butter sauce and grated Parmesan cheese. Toss well until all the wings have been coated—adding more garlic butter sauce as needed. Plate the wings and sprinkle the tops with the shredded Parmesan cheese and parsley. Serve immediately with blue cheese dressing, ranch dressing, carrots and celery sticks.

*I like the different textures that come from using both grated and shredded Parmesan. But if you want to use one over the other–knock yourself out!

Desserts/Pastries

White Chocolate, Cranberry, and Pistachio Cookies

White Chocolate, Cranberry, and Pistachio Cookies

It’s no secret folks…I love cookies.

And it’s during this time of year that I like to try out a few new recipes to add to my Holiday Cookie Platters.

White Chocolate, Cranberry, and Pistachio Cookies
The usual suspects are often:

White Chocolate, Cranberry, and Pistachio Cookies
And sometimes I’ll throw in a Mint Chocolate Chip Brownie or a Peppermint Kissed Brownie to stir things up.

White Chocolate, Cranberry, and Pistachio Cookies
For this year, I wanted to use dried cranberries and pistachios together to create a festive sweet treat. And why not add white chocolate chips to the party?

It’s all kind of healthy-ish….right? Like trail mix?

Ok….that may be a stretch.

White Chocolate, Cranberry, and Pistachio Cookies
I opted to adapt the NY Times Best Chocolate Chip Cookie recipe from Jacque Torres because I love the textures of the cookie once baked—crisp on the outside and chewy on the interior.

In lieu of the vanilla extract, I used orange extract and fresh orange zest to pair with the flavors.

White Chocolate, Cranberry, and Pistachio Cookies
Folks were a fan of them! They’re super chunky and filled with lots of different textures from the nuts, chocolate and berries.

Definitely filled with Holiday goodness.

ps. We’re three days away from Christmas even and I still haven’t finished shopping! EEK!

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White Chocolate, Cranberry, and Pistachio Cookies
Makes approximately 2 dozen

Ingredients:

 

8.5 ounces cake flour
8.5 ounces bread flour
1 ¼ teaspoons baking soda
1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
1 ½ teaspoons coarse salt
1 ¼ cups unsalted butter
6 ounces light brown sugar
6 ounces granulated sugar
2 large eggs
1 teaspoons orange extract
1 tablespoon fresh orange zest
12 ounces white chocolate chips
1 heaping cup dried cranberries, roughly chopped
1 heaping cup roasted & unsalted pistachios, chopped

 

Sift flours, baking soda, baking powder and salt into a bowl. Set aside.

Using a mixer fitted with paddle attachment, cream butter and sugars together until very light, about 5 minutes. Add eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Stir in the orange extract and zest. Reduce speed to low, add dry ingredients and mix until just combined, 5 to 10 seconds. Add the white chocolate chips, dried cranberries and pistachios—mix until just combined. Press plastic wrap against dough and refrigerate for overnight.

When ready to bake, preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a nonstick baking mat. Set aside.

Scoop mounds of dough the size of large golf balls onto baking sheet and slightly flatten the dough balls. Bake until golden brown but still soft, 18 to 20 minutes. Transfer sheet to a wire rack for 10 minutes, then slip cookies onto another rack to cool a bit more. Repeat with remaining dough and enjoy!

Adapted from NY Times Chocolate Chip Cookies

 

Desserts/Pastries · Sponsored

Matcha Green Tea Cheesecake

Matcha Green Tea Cheesecake
If you’ve been with me for awhile then you’re probably familiar with my family’s obsession with ALL things matcha green tea flavored. So when it comes to our celebrations, I’m constantly trying to think of different ways to incorporate the finely ground matcha green tea powder in our desserts

Matcha Green Tea Cheesecake
We’ve done…..

You’d think we’d be sick of it all by now—but of course, we can’t seem to get enough of it!

There are even some health benefits to matcha — high in antioxidants, can assist with your concentration and help to detox. And if you use it in baked goods like I do, it finishes into a beautiful green hue –perfectly festive for the  holidays.

Matcha Green Tea Cheesecake
To close out my year as a Davidson’s Dozen, I thought I would take one of our favorite ingredients and combine it with their Safest Choice® pasteurized eggs. The end resulted in a rich and decadent Matcha Green Tea Cheesecake.

There are several different forms cheesecakes. Some are baked and some are unbaked like my Matcha Green Tea Icebox Cheesecake. There are fruit flavored, chocolate based and some are light and airy whereas others are rich and dense.

I generally prefer a denser texture –more along the lines of a New York style cheesecake –which is how this baked Matcha Green Tea Cheesecake was inspired by.

Matcha Green Tea Cheesecake

The crust of the cheesecake started off with chocolate sandwich cookies that I threw into the food processor — cream filling and all. Once the cookies were pulsed into the texture of sand, it’s then mixed with some melted butter and baked off in a springform pan for a few minutes to set.

The filling is a combination of cream cheese, sour cream (for that added bit of tang), sugar, Safest Choice®  Eggs, and a hefty dose of ground matcha green tea. Davidson’s Safest Choice® Pasteurized Eggs are all-natural, hormone and antibiotic free which all leads towards a delicious farm-fresh flavor. They give the cheesecake a smooth and creamy consistency that your loved ones will adore for the holidays.

The cheesecake is then baked in a water bath to provide moisture in the oven so that the top doesn’t crack. After chilling in the fridge overnight, it’s then topped with matcha flavored whipped cream. And I’ve got to admit–it tastes fantastic! Chocolate pairs especially well with matcha — the green tea is slightly bitter and balances the sweetness from the cake.

Matcha Green Tea Cheesecake

If you’d like the recipe for my Matcha Green Tea Cheesecake, click here. And if you need other delicious ideas for your holiday events, visit the recipe center at SafeEggs.com for cocktails, appetizers, entrees and desserts!

Happy Holidays!

Davidsons-Dozen-Blogger-Badge*DISCLOSURE: As a brand ambassador for the Safest Choice™ pasteurized eggs, I was compensated for the creation of this recipe and post. However, as always, all opinions are 100% my own.*

Appetizers/Small Plates

Mixed Mushrooms & Herbed Goat Cheese Crostinis

October-November 2016
It’s the season of holiday parties galore!

And if you find yourself in need of a quick appetizer to serve at a festive shindig, I’ve got a great little number for you – Mixed Mushrooms and Herbed Goat Cheese Crostinis.

October-November 2016
I actually made them for our last Sunday Family Dinner and have gotten a few inquiries for the recipe since. It’s really easy to make and the individual components can be prepped ahead of time. A few minutes before service, you can quickly assemble them and voila — Mushroomlicious!

October-November 2016
Speaking of the mushrooms, I recommend a mixture of button, crimini, shitake, and oyster –but anything goes!

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Happy Holidays!
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Mixed Mushrooms & Herbed Goat Cheese Crostinis
Serves 12

Ingredients:

8 ounces goat cheese, room temperature
4 ounces mascarpone cheese, room temperature
1 tablespoon fresh minced parsley
1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves, divided – more to garnish
¼ cup chopped fresh basil leaves
½ teaspoon garlic powder
kosher salt
black pepper
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 cup sliced button mushrooms
1 cup sliced crimini mushrooms
1 cup chopped oyster mushrooms
1 cup chopped shitake mushrooms
½ tablespoon minced garlic
¼ cup minced shallots
¼ cup white wine
24 ½ inch thick slices baguette, toasted
¼ cup reduced balsamic glaze (optional)

In a bowl, mix together the goat cheese, mascarpone, parsley, ½ tablespoon thyme leaves, basil, and garlic power. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Set aside.

Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the butter and swirl around the skillet until it melts. Add the fresh mushrooms, remaining thyme leaves, garlic and shallots. Sauté until the mushrooms are golden browned. Pour in the white wine to deglaze the pan and lower the heat to medium low. Continue to sauté until the wine has evaporated. Remove the skillet from the heat and season with salt and pepper.

Spread one side of each baguette slice with the cheese mixture and top with a spoonful of the mushroom medley. Drizzle the balsamic glaze over the crostini (optional) and garnish with additional thyme leaves. Enjoy!

 

Sunday Family Dinner

Gobble-Gobblin’ Up Family Dinner!

October-November 2016
If you can believe it, I had three different turkey dinners within the course of seven days—roasted, fried, and smoked. Talk about Turkeypalooza!

It all started last Sunday with our belated (VERY BELATED) October Sunday Family Dinner. Our cousin Van and his new wife Jenny got married on Saturday. It was, of course, a super fun wedding full of S-H-E-N-A-N-I-G-A-N-S that would be inappropriate for me to divulge the full details here. But let’s just say–there was a lot of cognac involved.

A LOT.

October-November 2016
Since October was so crazy and the whole family would be in town for the wedding, we decided to have Fam Din the day after V & J’s festivities – four days before Thanksgiving. Traditionally, Thanksgiving Day in our fam is a house full of extended family (50+ peeps) for a full day of feasting. We typically have several meals throughout the entire day and flip between Vietnamese courses and American Thanksgiving dishes.

We feast…. a lot. 12+ hours worth.

But with the family spread out over the years, we realized all five siblings hadn’t celebrated Thanksgiving all together in over 10 years. That’s quite some time! And since P and her gang were heading back up to SF before Turkey Day, we decided to have a full blown Thanksgiving menu for Family Dinner—an early Siblings Turkey Day.

Added bonus – we had the leftover flowers from the wedding as our table centerpieces for dinner. Recycled Fanciness.

October-November 2016
Despite living in SF, our youngest munchkin, Kaelani has been able to attend quite a few Fam Dins so far with her crazy So Cal o’hana. And she’s talking SO MUCH now! Nonstop jabber-jabber chasing after the pups and calling out for her favorite Bac Bi — my eldest bro-in-law.

That face–we wish she was here every month!

October-November 2016
If you’ve been following my Fam Din posts over the years, you already know that these two are thick as thieves.

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And can we talk about how HUGE this marshmallow pop is??? It’s nearly the size of Leo’s head!

October-November 2016
Since my brother and his family have temporarily moved back to Cali from NY, I’ve been putting their kiddos to work at Fam Din to make up for lost time. Here’s my Luna Bear helping with the appetizers. She was quite meticulous with them too!

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And these three….

Heart Melty.

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And the last of our munchkins…the fur babies.

Princess Leia is looking quite regal lounging on her ottoman while Bella is just wondering when dinner would be ready.

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Speaking of which, let’s talk about the food! We had two appetizers before dinner which big sis had us stagger out during prep time so that we wouldn’t get too stuffed.

I made Mixed Mushrooms & Herbed Goat Cheese Crostinis. Criminis, button mushrooms, shitakes, and oyster mushrooms were sauteed with garlic and herbs and finished off with white wine. They topped toasted crostinis that were spread with a mixture of goat cheese, mascarpone and fresh herbs.

October-November 2016
Maya approved and said they tasted like mushroom pizza!

October-November 2016
Next up was brother and his appetizer – Blue Crab Dip.

October-November 2016
I usually use lump Dungeness Crab in dips and fillings but V insisted that Blue Crabs have better flavor — and they did! Rich, decadent, and SUPER YUM!

Did I just say “super yum”???

Well…it was!

October-November 2016
Of course there was some football and lots of silliness throughout prep. Here’s seester P doing leg-lifts with Kaelani. No wonder she’s in great shape!

October-November 2016
There were also lots of photos because Bella always loves a good pic to post on her Instagram at @iambellathepuggle

October-November 2016
After hours and hours of cooking, dinner was ready!!!

And yup– alongside those gorgeous centerpieces, we ate dinner off paper plates.

We’re ashamed.

Not really. Just don’t tell Ina.

October-November 2016
Okay, back to the food.

Although we decided on a Thanksgiving menu, the inspiration was really all about this beauty…. Mom’s Five Spice Roast Turkey.

Imagine this….a Vietnamese refugee family in the mid 1970’s, relocated to Minnesota. Total culture shock is an understatement. So the family did what we could to acculturate to the new environment. And that especially included our foods.

October-November 2016
So Mom took a turkey and gave it a Vietnamese spin by marinating it in five spice, lots of garlic, sugar and Maggi. The flavor is incredible and I’ve got to tell you, is the best turkey you’ll ever taste because it is seasoned so well–every bit of it.

We would wake up early in the morning to the smell of the turkey roasting and the five spice aroma was incredible. The funny thing is, we were just remembering how Mom would throw the turkey in the oven at around 5 or 6am and not take it out until 3 or 4pm! Sure, we used to try and find the biggest bird (26+lbs), but why did it take so long then when now we only roast them for 5 or 6 hours. But I’ll be darn, her turkeys weren’t overcooked and were SUPER juicy.

October-November 2016
Big seester N
has been making Mom’s turkey recipe for years now so we quickly nominated her for the job. And I’ll tell ya, she sure would have made Mom proud. The flavor was spot on and was everything we all remembered it to be.

Seestrah also made stuffing, dressing and cranberry sauce to go with the turkey.

October-November 2016
Along with the roast turkey, we had TONS of sides!

Seestrah T made 3 side dishes and her first was this Squash & Gruyere Gratin from Ina Garten. Surprisingly rich (in a good way), cheesy and great crunch from the panko.

October-November 2016
She also did a spin off of my biscuits and made these Ham & Cheddar Drop Biscuits. They were so savory and I’ll tell ya, made for awesome little breakfast sammies the next day.

October-November 2016
Lastly she roasted Brussel Sprouts with Pancetta. And I’ve got to admit, I have no idea how they tasted because brussel sprouts are NMF (not my fav) but everyone else seemed to really like them.

October-November 2016
V & L tag teamed on their Grilled Ginger-Balsamic Carrots. Aren’t they pretty?

October-November 2016
They first blanched the carrots and then quickly grilled them to get a nice char.

October-November 2016
Of course in my opinion, no Thanksgiving meal can be complete without some ‘taters. These are my tried and true Roasted Garlic Mashed Potatoes. The key to them? Lots of roast garlic and more butter, cream cheese, and heavy cream then you’d like to know.

October-November 2016
And last but not least, dessert!!! There’s no doubt that P is the best baker among the clan. So there’s no way she’d get away without making dessert for this Fam Din and we (ok, I) requested TWO traditional Apple Pies served with Vanilla Bean Ice Cream.

October-November 2016
I’ve got to say, we’ve had some REALLY great meals in the four years we’ve been having Fam Dins but this one really is up there.

October-November 2016
Not only did it mark the first Thanksgiving all my sibs have been together in over a decade but Mom would have absolutely loved everything about it.

October-November 2016
And with that–Hope you are all able to create some great traditions and memories with your loved ones.

CHEERS!

October-November 2016______________________________________________________

This Month’s Family Dinner Menu

Cocktails:  Passion Fruit Bellinis, Assorted Wines
Appetizers: Mixed Mushrooms & Herbed Goat Cheese Crostinis, Blue Crab Dip
Entrees: Mom’s Five Spice Roast Turkey
Sides: Squash & Gruyere Gratin, Ham & Cheddar Drop Biscuits, Grilled Ginger-Balsamic Carrots, Brussel Sprouts with Pancetta, Roasted Garlic Mashed Potatoes
Dessert: Apple Pie with Vanilla Bean Ice Cream