Sunday Family Dinner

Brother’s “Simple and Easy” Family Dinner

November 2018 Fam Din
Us: “Brother, what do you want for your birthday fam din?”

Him: “Um…I don’t know. Let me get back to you.”

November 2018 Fam Din

Two weeks later….

Us: “Brother, you’ve got to decide what you want for fam din…it’s in a couple of days.”

Him: “Um……”

Us: “Yes?”

Him: “Um….how about something simple and easy, like Italian?”

November 2018 Fam Din

Us: “Itallian…simple and easy?? But ok, Italian it is!”

Brothers…..what are going to do with them?

But at least we had a theme so we were off to the races compiling an Italian feast for him.

November 2018 Fam Din
The day of I decided to bake up a tray of Rosemary Focaccia for us to munch on….and mostly because I’m a carboholic and love bread.

November 2018 Fam Din
While the focaccia dough was on its second rise, N made us a few cocktails using Italian sodas. These were her Blood Orange Spritzers and they went down way too smooth!

Dangerous!

November 2018 Fam Din
Of course, because it’s us, there was a Cheese and Charcuterie Board.

November 2018 Fam Din
Some classics you just can never have enough of.

November 2018 Fam Din
By then I had pulled the Rosemary Focaccia out of the oven. After it rested for a few minutes, we sliced it up and dipped it into balsamic vinegar and olive oil.

November 2018 Fam Din
Along with the rosemary, you may have noticed the large flakes of salt on the top of the focaccia. We’re BIG fans of Maldon and love putting it on everything– but if you’re not into it, a light sprinkle of fine sea salt would be fine, too.

November 2018 Fam Din
Nice little bites for appetizers, right?

But hang on…THERE WAS MORE!

November 2018 Fam Din

V & L brought made two more dishes for us to nosh on as appetizers.

First, was a big ol’ pot of Meatballs with Marinara Sauce. The meatballs were perfectly bite-size and tender!

November 2018 Fam Din
And second, they made Zuppa Toscana – a warm and comforting soup that had goodness like bacon, sausage, potatoes, kale and chicken stock.

November 2018 Fam Din
We hadn’t had a soup at Fam Din for quite awhile and we all loved it!

November 2018 Fam Din

Yes, for those of you that are keeping count–that’s a total of four appetizers.

Gluttons? Maybe.

But we REALLY like leftovers.

November 2018 Fam Din
Believe it or not, as soon as we finished with the last appetizer, we jumped back into the kitchen to get dinner ready.

Okay…so maybe “gluttons” is more appropriate.

But we’re 100% alright with that.

November 2018 Fam Din
T took the lead on the pasta dish for the evening. She was interested in making some variation of stuffed shells and when given the choice for protein, Brother went for seafood.

And man oh man…was it decadent!

November 2018 Fam Din
The filling consisted of lump crab, shrimp and scallops—of which the latter two were blanched in lobster stock! There was also aromatics, seasonings, mayo and the tamales from the shellfish.

HELLA RICH and oh so delish!

November 2018 Fam Din
In addition to the stuffed shells, I made crispy Pork Milanese….because why not make another entree right?

November 2018 Fam Din
Though I did realize that we needed some greens to offset the richness of both of the entrees.

November 2018 Fam Din

With Nini’s help, I pulled together a quick salad of Arugula with Citrus and Parmesan Shavings.

And yes, it did make us feel better.

November 2018 Fam Din
Oh man…we were stuffed. And there was still the birthday dessert!

So we sent the humanlings off to walk the fur babies for awhile to burn off some of the dinner.

November 2018 Fam Din
Bella looks like a zombie.

November 2018 Fam Din
These two Cousies really like this pose a lot.

November 2018 Fam Din
Back in the casa, seester N put the finishing touches on the dessert she made – Tiramisu!

Her desserts are always so purrrrty.

November 2018 Fam Din

And Molto Delizioso!

November 2018 Fam Din
Happy Birthday V!

November 2018 Fam Din
And when all was said and done, we had a good laugh as we recalled all of the dishes we had made for Brother’s “simple and easy” dinner.

Brothers….what are you gonna do with them, right? ❤
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This Month’s Family Dinner Menu

Cocktails: Blood Orange Spritzers, Various Wines
Appetizers: Rosemary Focaccia, Cheese & Charcuterie, Meatballs with Marinara Sauce, Zuppa Toscana
Entree: Seafood Stuffed Pasta Shells, Pork Milanese
Sides: Arugula with Citrus and Parmesan Shavings
Dessert:
Tiramisu

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Appetizers/Small Plates · Seafood

Steamed Crab Dumplings – Happy Lunar New Year!

Steamed Crab Dumplings
Hello Peeps!

I’m taking a quick break from the Fam Din recaps (told ya’ I would be making up for lost time!) to say Chúc Mừng Năm Mới!!

Steamed Crab Dumplings
Yes, it’s that time again…. Tết – the Vietnamese Lunar New Year!

Steamed Crab Dumplings
All of the my Tết prep has been dutifully followed.

The house is sparkly clean, the altar is up and I popped into the bank to get “new money” to fill the red lì xì envelopes for the munchkins.

Steamed Crab Dumplings
And OF COURSE, there has to be lots of “lucky” food!

There will be tons of noodles (longevity), fruit (auspicious) and Bánh Tét – steamed rice cakes (prosperity).

Steamed Crab Dumplings

And it wouldn’t be the new year if I wasn’t making lots and lots of dumplings that symbolize wealth. I’m fairly certain that I’ve made a couple hundred dumplings this month alone!

Steamed Crab Dumplings
Since the Year of the Pig rings in tomorrow, I thought I would take a moment to share with you these scrumptiously decadent dumplings I made for family dinner the other week.

Steamed Crab Dumplings
Seester T had requested some type of crab dumplings for her Fam Din menu (more on that soon) so I got to work creating a filling that was truly indulgent and delish.

Steamed Crab Dumplings
Since I wanted the crab to shine, I kept the filling quite simple and only supplemented the shellfish with beech mushrooms and cabbage. I did toy around with the idea of adding water chestnuts because I thought the added texture would be nice. But a quick convo with seestrah N had me doubting it.

Good thing too because I did a quick straw poll at dinner where I found out that most of my fam do not like water chestnuts. Who knew?

Steamed Crab Dumplings
I will also say that this is definitely one of the times that I skipped the dirty work and bought pre-shelled lump crab meat. Who the heck wants to be picking through shells to get a pound of pure, luscious crab meat?!?

I definitely didn’t!

Steamed Crab Dumplings

But it you’re up for it, more power to ya!

ps. I got mine at Costco. The quality is reliable and the price is reasonable.

Steamed Crab Dumplings
Once the filling was made, it was time to assemble. I did a little different fold on these dumplings that made them look like cute little pouches.

Steamed Crab Dumplings
I started off with my tried and true pleated method but then coiled the edges around to seal them up.

I was quite happy with how they looked after they steamed up. ❤

Steamed Crab Dumplings
I suggest serving them with a generous drizzle of my homemade Sichuan oil but even a quick dunk in my soy-black vinegar sauce was delish too!

Steamed Crab Dumplings
I got some solid feedback from the Fam on these so they’ll definitely be making appearances in the future. Added bonus – since the filling is so simple, they were actually quite easy and quick to make.

Though, I’ve got to give Costco some credit there for knocking out a few hours of manual labor. Thanks Costco!

Steamed Crab Dumplings
So with that, dear Friends– Here’s to a wonderful New Year! May yours be filled with health, prosperity, joy and endless Foodventures!

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Steamed Crab Dumplings
Makes approximately 45-50 dumplings

Ingredients:

2 cups finely chopped Napa cabbage
kosher salt
16 ounces cooked lump crab meat
4 ounces white beech mushrooms, chopped
½ tablespoon finely minced garlic
½ tablespoon finely minced ginger
1 tablespoon Shaoxing wine
2 teaspoons toasted sesame oil
1 tablespoons fish sauce sauce (more, if needed)
½ teaspoon black pepper
50 thin dumpling wrappers
serve with: chopped scallions, sesame seeds, Sichuan oil

Place the cabbage in a colander; sprinkle it with about ½ teaspoon salt and let sit over a bowl for 20 minutes. Wrap the cabbage in a cheesecloth or clean kitchen towel. Squeeze out and discard the excess liquid and place the drained cabbage in a clean bowl.

Add in the crab, mushrooms, garlic, ginger, Shaoxing wine, sesame oil, ½ teaspoon salt, fish sauce and pepper. Taste and add more fish sauce if needed.

Begin assembly of the dumplings. Lay one dumpling wrapper on a flat surface. Dip your finger in water and moisten the edge of the wrapper. Place about 1 tablespoon of the filling in the center of the dumpling skin. Pick up the dumpling, fold it in half and pinch the center together. Starting from the center, make about 4-5 pleats on the right side of the dumpling. Repeat with the left side of the dumpling so that all the pleats point towards the center. Wet one corner of the dumpling and wrap/coil the other end together. Pinch and seal so that it creates an enclosed pouch. Place the dumpling on a baking sheet and continue until all the filling/wrappers have been used.*

To cook, arrange the dumplings in a steamer (lined with cabbage leaves or parchment paper) and steam for 7-8 minutes. Transfer the dumplings to a platter and sprinkle the tops with scallions and toasted sesame seeds. Serve immediately with Sichuan oil or your choice of sauce.

*If you would like to freeze the uncooked dumplings, place the baking sheet directly into freezer for 2-3 hours after you have assembled them. Be sure that the dumplings are in a single layer and are not touching each other. Once the dumplings are frozen, you may transfer them to a sealed container. They can be kept in the freezer for a few months and should be cooked frozen. Add 1-2 additional minutes to the cooking time when steaming.

 

Sunday Family Dinner

Kaelani’s Moana Inspired Birthday Fam Din!

October 2018 Fam Din
A few months before Kaelani’s birthday, she told her mom that instead of going to Hawai’i for her birthday, she wanted to spend it with cousins/family.

Now that’s fantastic for so many reasons but right off the bat–two thoughts came to mind.

October 2018 Fam Din
One….

How freaking adorable is that? Baby girl ADORES her big cousins so much that her birthday wish is to spend time with them.

October 2018 Fam Din
And Two…

At four years old, she’s such a baller that she’s been able to celebrate her first three birthdays in Hawai’i and this year, she’s like “eh…been there done that.”

October 2018 Fam Din
Here’s hoping that when she gets older, she’ll still want to bypass the Islands to hang out with us.

Better yet–why don’t we ALL just go to Hawai’i together?! MUCH better plan!

October 2018 Fam Din
Needless to say, Kaelani’s parents agreed to her request so we coordinated our monthly Family Dinner to coincide with their visit.

October 2018 Fam Din
When asked what birthday theme she wanted, Kaelani quickly said Moana! Maybe I should also mention that the week prior, she would be having a Frozen theme party with her friends in San Francisco.

Yes, two birthday parties. She knows how to live her BEST 4 year old life!

October 2018 Fam Din
As for food, she just asked for SPAM Musubi to be on the menu. So if there’s Moana and SPAM, we obviously were going with a Polynesian lens.

October 2018 Fam Din
They spent the beginning of their visit hanging with Pops and eating all of the deliciousness that So Cal has to offer. It was followed by spending the night at Seestrah T’s place in Fullerton so that Kaelani could spend some QT with Maya and Lucas.

October 2018 Fam Din
On the day of Fam Din, they headed to Brother’s casa in Diamond Bar to play in the pool and hang out with Luna and Leo.

October 2018 Fam Din

The rest of us quickly followed and got down to some cookin’!

October 2018 Fam Din
With an island theme in mind, N made us these festive drinks using “P.O.G.” – P.O.G.-tails!

You can’t have a trip to the islands without downing a few gallons of “P.O.G.” – a blend of passionfruit, orange and guava juices.

October 2018 Fam Din
She mixed up the fresh juices with some rum, lime juice, mint and rimmed the glasses with Tajin. Delicious!

The kiddos had straight up P.O.G. which is darn tasty in and of itself.

October 2018 Fam Din
Seestrahs! ❤

October 2018 Fam Din
It was about this time that I heard brother tinkering around with his Traeger Smoker. I turned around and found him piling up the grates with chicken wings — yes, please!

October 2018 Fam Din
After some time in the smoker, he brushed them with a layer of BBQ sauce and let them finish until they turned into these beauties!

October 2018 Fam Din
I had 2….ok, like 4.

Smoked Chicken Wings need to become a regular in my life.

October 2018 Fam Din
Then Nina was up to bat to prep the birthday girl’s one food request – SPAM Musubi!

October 2018 Fam Din
Now that is a fantastic rice to seaweed to SPAM ratio! Awesome job, Nina!

Most of the time when you pick them up at places, they put a huge block of rice in the musubi – way too much. These were just right!

ONO-licious!

October 2018 Fam Din
Then it was Nini’s turn to shine and she got to work on the last appetizer.

Yes, we had 3 appetizers – we like options.

October 2018 Fam Din
She made her signature Spicy Tuna Poke and served them with Seaweed-Rice Crackers and Taro Chips.

There’s something about that crack sauce she whips up that makes this poke so freaking delicious. You really can’t stop shoveling it into your mouth – so dang good.

October 2018 Fam Din
She really needs to start bottling/selling that crack sauce.

October 2018 Fam Din

Oh-and then Brother jumped back on the smoker because he had some venison stashed in the freezer that he decided to turn into Smoked Venison Jerky.  So I guess technically–that makes it four appetizers???

October 2018 Fam Din
Oh look!

A monkey found its way into the backyard.

October 2018 Fam Din
After a quick shower, Kaelani decided to leave her mark on V & L’s kitchen table.

Don’t worry–it was encouraged. In fact, it’s become a fun tradition for folks that visit their place to tag up their table.

October 2018 Fam Din

Some game was on that night that kept the Dudes glued to the couch for a few hours.

October 2018 Fam Din
And the prep work continued…..

October 2018 Fam Din

…while the munchkins decorated bags to keep their loot in.

What loot you ask?

October 2018 Fam Din
LOOT because there was a filled piñata!

Now, I have to say that I had a moment of mixed feelings on this.

October 2018 Fam Din

Sure–Kaelani wanted a Moana themed Fam Din and her auntie N got her this piñata to fit the theme.

October 2018 Fam Din
But when it came time for the kiddos to break open the piñata, I had some serious guilt that they were beating up Moana!!

October 2018 Fam Din
But hey, at least they used a light sabre to break her open.

October 2018 Fam Din
Even Seester T felt the need to shed a tear for Moana.

October 2018 Fam Din
But Kaelani didn’t seem to mind at all and gave Auntie N a BIG hug for her piñata.

October 2018 Fam Din
And gave some love to Uncle C, too!

October 2018 Fam Din

At that point, someone reminded us to put a pause on the shenanigans because it was dinnertime.

October 2018 Fam Din

 

For the entree, T made Shrimp and Fish Tacos. They were topped with a cabbage slaw, lots of pico de gallo, avocado and smothered in hot sauce.

YUM!

October 2018 Fam Din
P made SPAM Fried Rice to go along with the tacos. If we hadn’t eaten so much earlier, I would’ve requested that she top it with crispy fried eggs.

But even I know my limits people.

October 2018 Fam Din
But then N decided to be really extra and took P’s SPAM Fried Rice…..

October 2018 Fam Din
….and put it into a pineapple bowl.

I definitely do not like pineapple in my fried rice (or pizza) but I give her an “A” for effort.

October 2018 Fam Din

We then rolled from our dinner chairs to the couch to digest our food and chat some more.

I’m sure you’re thinking….

DAMN. They sure do like to eat!

And you’re 100% CORRECT! But we also like leftovers, too!

October 2018 Fam Din
And then someone was ready for her birthday cake.

YES – we were full. But do you want to be the person to tell her wait even longer? Nope-not me!

So we all stood up, did a little jiggle to make room in our bellies and then focused on desserts!

I  made Kaelani this Chocolate Moana Cake. It was 3 layers of rich, dense chocolate cake that I covered with vanilla bean swiss meringue buttercream. I decorated the cake with handmade fondant plumerias, white chocolate shells, brown sugar “sand” and of course– the Heart of Te Fiti, also made of fondant.

October 2018 Fam Din
There was a moment when I considered molding the characters out of fondant as well, but when you’re trying to replicate such recognizable characters, it’s REALLY tough!!! The slightest imperfection can make them look wonky! So in the end, I cheated and ordered a personalized edible topper sheet. It’s really quite neat! The topper is an edible icing sheet that is then printed with food color. It comes on a sheet that you peel away (kind of like a label) and then place on the cake. You do need to let it set for awhile so that it can soften into the buttercream but I was really impressed with the vibrant color.

October 2018 Fam Din
Our birthday girl really liked it!

October 2018 Fam Din
And yes, it weighed a gajillion pounds!

After we sang to her and she blew out her candles, it was time to dig in.

October 2018 Fam Din

A little peek inside….

October 2018 Fam Din
Here’s K giving me a big hug to say thank you.

October 2018 Fam Din
I’m such a sucker for this little adorable munchkin.

October 2018 Fam Din
But we weren’t done yet!

Here’s the situation with swiss meringue buttercream.

It’s personally one of favorite frosting to not only use to decorate cakes/cupcakes with but I also prefer it’s flavor and texture. Since it’s meringue based, it’s really fluffy and can maintain its structure really well.

October 2018 Fam Din
Which means when I make batches of it, I’m left with TONS of egg yolks…..and I just can’t throw them out!

So I typically will use the leftover yolks to make some type of custard based dessert — and this time, it was Vanilla Bean Crème Brûlée.

October 2018 Fam Din
No complaints from the family because it’s a fan favorite!

Also, if you hold off on torching them, they’ll keep in the fridge for a few days. Then, when you get a hankering, just cover the tops with a layer of sugar and brûlée away!

October 2018 Fam Din

And let’s not forget about this beast!

Yes, dessert #3

Truthfully, we meant to crack out Shave Ice machine earlier in the day but it totally slipped our minds!

We couldn’t NOT use it that night….it was an Island themed dinner, after all!

So we made a couple of cones that were either topped with a Vietnamese Coffee base or a Blueberry Syrup that Leo helped L make earlier that day.

I can’t believe they’re actually sitting down after all of the sugar we consumed.

October 2018 Fam Din
But birthday girl was rearing to open up her gifts.

October 2018 Fam Din
And then somehow this happened.

Luna inherited a violin that one of her cousins was no longer using. She hadn’t started lessons yet but it just so happens that seester N used to play waaaaaaay back in the day! So N gave the kiddos a few instructions for them to play a few chords.

October 2018 Fam Din
And of course, K wanted to give it a try, too!

October 2018 Fam Din
Needless to say, youngest munchkin had a BLAST with her family for her birthday.

October 2018 Fam Din

And for us, whenever we can get all 9 of them together (yes, including the 2 fur babies), our hearts are incredibly filled. ❤

October 2018 Fam Din
Here’s a little video if you want to see the real chaos behind the scenes!

 

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This Month’s Family Dinner Menu

Cocktails: POGtail, Various Wines and Beers
Appetizers: Spicy Tuna Poke, SPAM Musubi, Smoked Chicken Wings, Smoked Venison Jerky
Entree: Fish and Shrimp Tacos
Sides: SPAM Fried Rice
Dessert:
Moana Chocolate Cake, Shave Ice, Vanilla Bean Crème Brûlée

Sunday Family Dinner

Family Dinner Takes a Walk on the Pura Vida Side!

September 2019 Fam Din

T and her clan had an adventurous getaway to Costa Rica where they zip-lined through the jungles, went on night hikes, encountered monkeys and sloths, stayed in tree houses, frolicked on beaches and indulged in wonderful meals. As I was stalking their vacay via IG, I saw that they kept hashtagging their photos with the “Pura Vida” phrase. Although it translates to “pure life”, I’m told that it’s a indicative Costa Rican phrase that can mean anything from “this is living”, “carefree life” and also as salutations.

Needless to say, they were still buzzing with the “pura vida” bug when they came home and convinced us to take a Costa Rican spin with our Family Dinner menu. The rest of us had never been but we were game to give it a spin!

And it all started with Cocktail Hour!

Inspired by a cocktail T had on vacay, she mixed cilantro-cucumber infused vodka with ginger simple syrup, lime juice and ginger beer. It was delish! Really bright and unexpected – something akin to a mix of a Mojito meets Moscow Mule.

September 2019 Fam Din

She couldn’t remember the name of it so I’m just going to call it the Pura Vida Cocktail for now.

Seems appropriate, right?

September 2019 Fam Din

2 BILs and Brother……

Or as I refer to them–the Dudes!

September 2019 Fam Din
Seestrahs

September 2019 Fam Din
And then we looked over and saw Nina like this.

Which meant one thing…we needed to get going on the appetizers or the munchkins would all become hypoglycemic and either pass out or get super grumptastic.

And that, Friends, is NEVER a pretty picture.

September 2019 Fam Din

N took the lead on the first appetizer – her take on Chorizo Empanadas.

September 2019 Fam Din

She’s made variations of empanadas before but what made these different than her previous versions was that the filling also included cubed potatoes and boiled eggs.

September 2019 Fam Din
They were so bomb!

Instead of a masa dough, she used puff pastry so the exterior was so buttery and flaky while the filling was rich and deeply spiced. And of course, we had to have some chimichurri sauce to dunk them in.

September 2019 Fam Din
Actually, I’m pretty much a sucker for savory hand pies from ALL cultures.

Portable, savory deliciousness.

September 2019 Fam Din

Nini and C agree!

September 2019 Fam Din
While in Costa Rica, T said the ceviche dishes were some of her favorite bites. One day, R and Lucas even went deep sea fishing and caught a sailfish, dorado and a yellowfin tuna. They brought their haul back to the hotel restaurant where the kitchen fixed them up a feast that included mahi mahi ceviche.

dorado = mahi mahi

September 2019 Fam Din
With that still fresh on her mind, T decided to whip up a big ol’ bowl of bright Ceviche and served them with Tortilla Chips.

It wasn’t just pretty—it was scrump-diddly-dumptious!

September 2019 Fam Din
Puggle cuddle break!

September 2019 Fam Din
Oh…and we all fight over this egg chair…..it’s the best.

September 2019 Fam Din

LOOK!

Nina is awake!

Told ya she needed food.

September 2019 Fam Din

It was around this time that Brother started prep on his and L’s dish.

I should’ve snapped a pic once he finished mincing the garlic because V is quite meticulous (like Nini!) with his prep and his knife cuts are super consistent.

September 2019 Fam Din
And here’s L rockin’ out with the black bass!

September 2019 Fam Din
V and L went B-I-G for the entree and decided to make a version of pescado frito entero – whole fried fish.

After she seasoned the bass, L put them in a cornmeal-flour dredge……

September 2019 Fam Din
……before gently placing them in a vat of hot oil to deep fry!

You can see why we opted to cook the fish dish outside, right? I’m sure our neighbors just adored us that day.

Then L got to work on the decadent “sauce” to top the fish with — whole shrimp with a SHIZZ TON of garlic, butter and scallions!

She also finished it off with a quick flambe of dark rum but for some reason my dang site is having issues uploading the video I took of it.

September 2019 Fam Din

After the shrimp were sufficiently flambeed, she topped it over the crispy bass.

W-O-W-S-E-R-S!!!

September 2019 Fam Din

Pescado Frito con Relleno de Camarones – Fried Fish with Garlic Shrimp Sauce.

September 2019 Fam Din
To accompany the fish, T made a big dish of Gallo Pinto – Costa Rican Rice and Beans. It was a great way to soak up all the buttery-garlicky goodness from the fish and shrimp, too!

September 2019 Fam Din

Then things got a little crazy.

I’m telling ya, N is living her best life, I mean– pura vida, these days!

September 2019 Fam Din

These cuties just sit back sometimes and watch how silly the adults can get.

September 2019 Fam Din

After the shenanigans settled down and the dishes were cleared, we dug into dessert.

I made Tres Leche a three-types of milk cake. Now, I won’t say that this is an authentic Costa Rican dessert since there are many claims that its origins are from Mexico. But versions of Tres Leche can be found all over Latin America, so I just went with it.

The photo below is terrible but luckily it tasted great – despite my worries while it baked! Seester’s oven needs some TLC and can be erratic at times with its temperature so I was stressing while it was in the oven. But I guess that’s where Tres Leche can be a bit forgiving since you soak the sponge with a sugary-milk mixture until it just can’t take in anymore. I used this recipe and was pleased with the flavor.

By the end of the night, I felt that we successfully caught glimpses of the food vibes that T and her fam experienced during their time in Costa Rica. And I SURE as heck want to go there to experience it for myself too!

PURA VIDA!!

September 2019 Fam Din

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This Month’s Family Dinner Menu

Cocktails: Pura Vida Cocktails, Various Wines
Appetizers: Ceviche, Chorizo Empanadas
Entree: Pescado Frito con Relleno de Camarones {Fried Bass with Garlic Shrimp Sauce}
Sides: Gallo Pinto {Costa Rican Rice and Beans}
Dessert:
Tres Leche Cake {3 Milks Cake}

Sunday Family Dinner

Nina’s 1st Fam Din as a 20-Something….

August 2018 Fam Din
The eldest munchkin is no longer a teenager.

I don’t know how it happened….she sure as heck didn’t clear it with me!

But here we are. The once little chubby and mischievous baby girl is no longer a baby.

Of course our hearts are filled to see what a wonderful young being she has grown into.

August 2018 Fam Din
But when you were in the room where she took her first breath in this world – it can get really emotional for this Auntie!

August 2018 Fam Din
Not to mention for her Dad and Uncles, too!

(Sneaky, little photobomber Luna is just pumped to be celebrating her cousie’s bday)

August 2018 Fam Din
Signs of Nina having a foodie knack emerged very early on.

I like to say that it’s partially due to her genes and partially because Mom and Dad took care of her every weekday until she was two. So you know that they were sneaking her all kinds of fantastic goodies all day long.

August 2018 Fam Din

It was no surprise that when we asked her what she’d like to have on the menu for her birthday Fam Din, she didn’t hesitate to say: Prime Rib, Garlic Knots, Broccolini and Chocolate Raspberry Tart.

All of her faves.

Hey-we weren’t going to argue because those were some great choices!

August 2018 Fam Din
The only thing she didn’t have an opinion on was the appetizers.

V and L opted to go the “surf” route to pair with the “turf” entree.

August 2018 Fam Din
They whipped up these beautiful Brown Butter Seared Scallops.

August 2018 Fam Din
Maya spent a little QT with her cousie Leo before she jumped into the kitchen to help with some prep.

August 2018 Fam Din
While the prime rib roasted, the girls assisted T with fixing up the horseradish cream sauce – a MUST have accompaniment to the main course.

August 2018 Fam Din
And then the roast was pulled out of the oven to rest.

The birthday girl could barely contain her excitement.

August 2018 Fam Din
Yup. It’s bigger than her head!

August 2018 Fam Din
After the resting time was up, T began to carve up the gorgeous roast.

August 2018 Fam Din
A FANTASTIC cook!

Great job, Seestrah!

August 2018 Fam Din
Per the bday gal’s request, V and L prepared Garlic Roasted Broccolini.

So garlicky delicious.

August 2018 Fam Din
I was tasked to make the Cheesy Garlic Knots – which was fine by me because they’re easy to make and oh-so cheesily delicious.

It starts with my basic pizza dough, cut into portions and rolled into ropes. After the dough ropes were flattened, they’re filled with minced garlic, mozzarella cheese and a sprinkle of garlic salt. They’re then rolled up, slightly knotted and brushed with melted garlic butter (butter infused with minced garlic and dried Italian seasonings) before a quick bake in the oven. Once out of the oven, I brushed the knots with more garlic butter and sprinkled them grated parmesan and chopped parsley.

August 2018 Fam Din
I served them with two choices of dipping sauces – marinara and ranch dressing. Winning, right?

Why don’t I make these more often???

August 2018 Fam Din
Scrumptious choices, Nina, scrumptious choices!

August 2018 Fam Din
By the way, a few days later I made a little “slider” out of a leftover Garlic Cheesy Knot and Prime Rib….I was making some GREAT choices that day.

August 2018 Fam Din
Seesters! ❤

August 2018 Fam Din
And then it was time for Nina to blow out her candles on her birthday dessert.

August 2018 Fam Din
Nina chose my Chocolate Raspberry Tart that has now become a staple in the family. Actually, Seester N makes it regularly that it’s pretty much become her recipe.

The crust is a buttery-shortbread –and the filling is like a thin truffle layer. The raspberries bring a nice tartness to the decadent chocolate.

August 2018 Fam Din
Family pic!

August 2018 Fam Din
Leonidas needed in on the love and wanted to give his big couise a birthday hug.

August 2018 Fam Din
And that was a wrap to Nina’s Birthday Fam Din! It was a delicious way to celebrate our dazzling niece. ❤

August 2018 Fam Din

_______________________________________________________________________

This Month’s Family Dinner Menu

Cocktails: Various Wines
Appetizers: Brown Butter Seared Scallops
Entree: Garlic-Rosemary Prime Rib Roast
Sides: Garlic Roasted Broccolini, Cheesy Garlic Knots
Dessert:
Chocolate Raspberry Tart

Sunday Family Dinner

Family Dinner – BEACH HOUSE EDITION!

June/July 2018 Fam Din-BEACH HOUSE
I know…it’s been a minute.

2018 was a blur—particularly the latter half. But I’ve received so many wonderful inquiries of what’s going on…..and if we’re still partaking in our monthly Family Dinner Foodventures.

We are most DEFINITELY still crafting and executing our Fam Dins…over 6.5 years later. ❤

So I’m doing my best to edit pics and recap what we’ve been up to for the past few months to catch you all up to speed. I hope to be up to date in the next few weeks–so they’ll be lots for you to see soon.

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Let me rewind back to the summer where we somehow managed to get everyone’s schedule aligned and squeezed into a rental for the weekend. Let me tell you, this was quite the feat!

Even though we were only in Newport Beach (where I spent most of my college years lounging on the sand and frequenting the local watering holes….uh……I MEAN I WAS STUDYING!) my siblings and I have not been on “vacation” all together since maybe the early 90s? And even at that point, I can’t recall where we went. Camping? Maybe Yosemite?

So it was very special that we’d be spending the weekend together –less than a 100 feet away from the sand. What can I say? We’re beach people.

Because it was such an unusual Family Dinner (more like a Family Weekend getaway) this recap won’t feature what we cooked as much and the photos were mostly taken from our phones. But I hope you can get an idea of some of the shenanigans we had.

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And it all started because of this one!

Yup, seester P hit the big 5-0…..and had wanted to do something memorable to celebrate. I’d say a beach getaway with her family fits that bill.

Yeah…

She looks more like 30-something. Good genes and great skincare will do that for you.

We also celebrated the other July babies that weekend too!

Seester N, Luna and B.I.L. R were also our special honorees.

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When we arrived Friday afternoon, we spent some time getting situated into our digs and unpacking all of our groceries.

The house was super cute — 3 levels /4 bedrooms with an upstairs living space that opened up to the balcony. And my favorite beachy feature—an outdoor shower.

I think Brother V was pretty stoked about it all.

June/July 2018 Fam Din-BEACH HOUSE
As we settled in, Leo decided to head out to the beach and break in his kite…..

June/July 2018 Fam Din-BEACH HOUSE

While S.I.L. L and Luna took a quick dip in the warm water.

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Bella (never not “on duty”) took up a post to protect her family.

June/July 2018 Fam Din-BEACH HOUSE
Of course there was some snacking. Essentials like chicken sausages, Cheetos and Sidecar Doughnuts.

June/July 2018 Fam Din-BEACH HOUSE
While I opted to take advantage of the deck and sunshine with some chilled Rosé with seester.

June/July 2018 Fam Din-BEACH HOUSE
Why are all of the older munchkins towering over us?

Me-no-likey.

But it is convenient for those times when I can’t reach things in the top cabinets.

June/July 2018 Fam Din-BEACH HOUSE
Then it was time to start prepping Dinner #1 of the weekend.

K had some beautiful fresh ahi flown in from the islands and we put Nini to work on getting the Poke ready. Her knife skills are seriously on point.

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Chunks of Ocean Love.

Good name for my next cook book.

June/July 2018 Fam Din-BEACH HOUSE
Yup…even when it’s your birthday, we put you to work.

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Here is P’s Peach and Kale Salad with Goat Cheese and Walnuts.

June/July 2018 Fam Din-BEACH HOUSE
Since P and her clan live in SF, she really misses out when Brother randomly gets inspired and starts firing up his smoker. Since she was in SoCal, she wanted to take advantage of her visit (and her bday gal status!) and requested that he make his Smoked Tri Tip with Whipped Horseradish Cream.

Here he is searing the Tri Tip after it was smoked. Really one of my favs that he makes.

June/July 2018 Fam Din-BEACH HOUSE
By then Pops finally arrived so he took a tour of the house while drinking a glass of vino…like the G he is.

June/July 2018 Fam Din-BEACH HOUSE
Dad also brought us some tomatoes from his garden — beautiful little jewels!

June/July 2018 Fam Din-BEACH HOUSE
Dinner On!

Cocktails: Suntory Toki Whisky, Veuve Clicquot, Various Wines
Entrees: Smoked Tri Tip with Whipped Horseradish Cream, Smoked Duck (not pictured), Spicy Ahi Poke, Shoyu Poke
Sides: Peach and Kale Salad with Goat Cheese and Walnuts, Tomato and Basil Salad, Roasted Rosemary Potatoes
Dessert: La Bete Noire (“The Black Beast” Flourless Chocolate Cake)

June/July 2018 Fam Din-BEACH HOUSE
Told ya that the pics aren’t 100%. But trust me….it was delicious.

I spy our fur babies in the background enjoying their dinners. ❤

June/July 2018 Fam Din-BEACH HOUSE
Obligatory dinner pic!

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Obligatory ginormous bottle of Justin Cabernet Sauvignon pic!

June/July 2018 Fam Din-BEACH HOUSE
Those summer nights…..

June/July 2018 Fam Din-BEACH HOUSE
We loved this little patio.

June/July 2018 Fam Din-BEACH HOUSE
This is his “why are you taking pictures of me while I eat” look.

It’s what we do Dad…it’s what we do.

2018 Beach House Fam Din
I love Newport.

June/July 2018 Fam Din-BEACH HOUSE
And then it was time for P to blow out her birthday candles!

I made “La Bete Noire”… translation: The Black Beast.

It was a super decadent, flourless chocolate cake covered in a layer of chocolate ganache.

June/July 2018 Fam Din- BEACH HOUSE EDITION

And when there’s a French named cake, there must be French champagne!

It’s an undeniable rule…

that I just made up.

June/July 2018 Fam Din-BEACH HOUSE
Pops and the Bday gal.

June/July 2018 Fam Din-BEA CH HOUSE
We like to drink Veuve Clicquot in cheap plastic cups….it keeps us honest.

June/July 2018 Fam Din- BEACH HOUSE EDITION

FAM BAM! ❤

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At this point, I was fairly certain that one of us was going to have to buy this house so that we could keep it in the family.

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As for Princess Leia, she was already exhausted.

She’s not used to all of those stairs!

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T and I took that as a cue to change into our PJs.

What?

You don’t have matching PJs with your siblings?

June/July 2018 Fam Din-BEA CH HOUSE
That’s also about the point where the girls broke into the s’mores stash and the jigsaw puzzles.

June/July 2018 Fam Din-BEACH HOUSE
Safe to say, Leo was a fan of the S’mores.

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Kaelani opted to spend a little time with Paw Patrol before bed.

June/July 2018 Fam Din-BEACH HOUSE
And that’s when T also decided to prep one of the desserts for Dinner #2 -a New York Cheesecake, per P’s request.

Look how focused my Lucas looks with that hand mixer.

June/July 2018 Fam Din-BEACH HOUSE
Adorable.

June/July 2018 Fam Din- BEACH HOUSE EDITION

I have no idea what time it is at this point because I went to bed at around 2am.

But the girls were still up, steadily working on that puzzle.

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In fact, Nini and Maya stayed up the ENTIRE night! Oh how it is to be young!

They ended up walking to the beach to watch the sun rise while the rest of the house was passed out!

June/July 2018 Fam Din- BEACH HOUSE EDITION

And lucky for us because that meant that we woke up to the smell of Nini frying SPAM! Oh the glorious aromas of SPAM frying in the morning cannot be beat!

And yes, that was a lot of SPAM.

But we were like a mini-army —so it was ok.

June/July 2018 Fam Din-BEACH HOUSE
P also really wanted Monkey Bread for breakfast — I know, she sure did have A LOT of requests!

So big seester N obliged and put together this 50,000 lb. dome of sugary, doughy goodness.

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That glisten tho’!

June/July 2018 Fam Din-BEACH HOUSE
While breakfast was getting situated, an epic checkers match was going down.

June/July 2018 Fam Din- BEACH HOUSE EDITION

At that point, these two could wait no longer and dug into the Monkey Bread.

June/July 2018 Fam Din-BEACH HOUSE
I paired mine with a glass of Rosé.

Hey-I was on vacay!

June/July 2018 Fam Din-BEACH EDITION
If I hadn’t said it before, Kaelani LOVES being around her big cousins. Her face just lights up being around them.

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In other news…

Someone was living her best life.

June/July 2018 Fam Din-BEACH HOUSE
Then N jumped on the back of V and L’s Vespa to snap this pic. I swear that there’s a similar black/white pic of Mom back in Viet Nam on a scooter like this. I’ve got to find it.

It was also about this time when N declared that she wanted a birthday dessert of her own choosing. Luckily she chose a Key Lime Pie —not only one of my favorite desserts, but also fairly simple to make.

We realized that we needed to pick up a couple of essential ingredients at the store but if you’re familiar with beach towns in the summer– street parking is terrible! Which is exactly why V and L brought their Vespa that weekend–for quick errand runs and also for us to cruise around Newport and Balboa.

Those Smarties!

June/July 2018 Fam Din- BEACH HOUSE EDITION

Cue in Nina and L.

The eldest munchkin had never been on a scooter before so Brother plunked a helmet on her….

June/July 2018 Fam Din-BEACH HOUSE
…and sent her zipping away with L!

Her peals of laughter as she zoomed away was hysterical. Also, Luna’s look of shock in the background while she was dutifully walking Leia was equally entertaining.

June/July 2018 Fam Din-BEACH HOUSE
Don’t worry….the scooter wasn’t on when they took this.

June/July 2018 Fam Din-BEACH HOUSE

N also decided to take advantage of her bday gal status and requested that V sharpen her kitchen knives.

Yes…she brought her knives from home.

And yes….he brought a whetstone.

It may not be what your family does on vacay—but it’s what we do!

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At this point, Nini started braiding Maya’s hair…..

June/July 2018 Fam Din-BEACH HOUSE
And ended up braiding Luna and Kaelani’s too!

June/July 2018 Fam Din-BEACH HOUSE

My girls…

June/July 2018 Fam Din-BEACH HOUSE
And then I felt left out….so she braided my hair, too.

#FrenchBraidSquadGoals

June/July 2018 Fam Din-BEACH HOUSE
Since we had planned to spend the entire day in the sand and water, N thought it would be a great idea to pack a picnic lunch so that we could enjoy it leisurely in between naps and swim time.

She made tons of Roast Chicken-Pesto Sandwiches on Ciabatta and Roast Beef Croissant Sammies. We also made some quick SPAM Fried Rice from the leftovers at breakfast and packed it up along with lots of chips, cold watermelon wedges and drinks.

June/July 2018 Fam Din-BEACH HOUSE

California Love ❤

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Staking our claim to our little piece of paradise.

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Look at these happy faces ❤

As much as I love my SoCal life, I’m still guilty for taking all of this for granted sometimes.

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Watermelon break to cool down.

June/July 2018 Fam Din-BEACH HOUSE

Time to jump in!

June/July 2018 Fam Din-BEACH EDITION

Actually, I think Lucas maybe trying to throw Leo in here.

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There were LOTS of sandcastle building.

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And at some point, Nini caught a TON of sand crabs.

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It makes me quite happy that our beach babies are not afraid to get all sandy.

June/July 2018 Fam Din-BEACH EDITION

Luna sure does love to dig sand pits….

June/July 2018 Fam Din-BEACH HOUSE
I wonder where she gets that from?

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Sibbies! ❤

June/July 2018 Fam Din-BEACH EDITION
I mean, someone’s got to get buried in the sand, right?

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Maya was such a trooper.

June/July 2018 Fam Din-BEACH HOUSE
And of course….

I love how much our munchkins love each other.

It makes this Auntie’s heart burst. ❤

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Is Lucas trying to pilfer a sand crab here??

June/July 2018 Fam Din-BEACH EDITION
Obligatory peace sign pose.

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About to frolic in the waves.

June/July 2018 Fam Din-BEACH EDITION
I have to admit to you….about 1 minute after this pic was taken, I did a cartwheel.

And then totally crashed on my head.

Oh it was quite the scene!

MY BRAIDS!!!

Then I could not stop laughing.

But…

I SWEAR I CAN DO CARTWHEELS!

June/July 2018 Fam Din-BEACH EDITION
Oh well…….

And what is it about the beach that makes it the most perfect napping spot?

June/July 2018 Fam Din-BEACH EDITION
The sun? The snacks? The swimming?

Some of us napped for awhile and then at around 4pm, we decided to head back into the house to shower and clean up.

June/July 2018 Fam Din-BEACH HOUSE
Ms. Kaelani decided she also needed a post beach manicure.

Amen, sister.

June/July 2018 Fam Din-BEACH HOUSE
T spent some QT with her fur nieces on the patio.

Bella seemed to be having the nap of her life while Leia was trying to figure out how she could squeeze in on that lap too.

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The boys opted to catch up on an intense poker tournament on TV.

No clue people, no clue.

June/July 2018 Fam Din-BEACH HOUSE
Leia finally gave up outside and opted for a quiet corner indoors.

June/July 2018 Fam Din-BEACH HOUSE
And Maya, with that never ending youthful energy, decided to take a ride on the boardwalk with her dad.

Her shirt was totes appropriate.

June/July 2018 Fam Din-BEACH HOUSE
We then decided to put out some snackies while folks mulled around.

Because being hangry is one thing BUT having a house FULL of hangry people is a natural disaster and should be avoided at all cost.

We sure do adore us some Charcuterie.

June/July 2018 Fam Din- BEACH HOUSE EDITION

We also thought it would be a good idea to take some fun family pics on the sand before it got too dark.

N and her clan had just gotten back from an epic trip to Thailand & Viet Nam and had brought us back souvenirs that we decided to wear in the photos. They gave the women/girls billowy pants that are worn when visiting the temples in Thailand. The men got knockoff/pun Patagonia tshirts that said “Saigonia”. For the two younger boys, they received bucket hats with fruit prints all over—apparently the rage in the coastal towns of VN.

June/July 2018 Fam Din-BEACH HOUSE
Our July Babies!

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Dad and his kiddos.

June/July 2018 Fam Din-BEACH HOUSE
Grandpa with his grandchildren (including his fur grandchildren)….minus Kaelani. She was feeling a bit shy at that moment.

June/July 2018 Fam Din-BEACH HOUSE
Nguyen Sibbies ❤

June/July 2018 Fam Din-BEACH HOUSE
The Dudes.

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The Gals.

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The Big Dudes.

June/July 2018 Fam Din-BEACH HOUSE
And now EVERY ONE!

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The Nguyen Kids.

So different and somehow, so alike.

June/July 2018 Fam Din-BEACH HOUSE
Being the youngest had its ups and downs.

But my big seesters and brother… they sure do crack me up all the time.

June/July 2018 Fam Din-BEACH HOUSE
T and R.

June/July 2018 Fam Din-BEACH HOUSE
I’ve got hundreds of pictures of us doing the exact same pose.

June/July 2018 Fam Din-BEACH HOUSE
And then it was time to get our last dinner on the table.

June/July 2018 Fam Din-BEACH HOUSE
Since P got to pick what she wanted for Friday’s dinner, our other July Babies got to dictate Dinner #2.

Luna LOVES pasta in red sauce so I fixed up big batches of slow cooked marinara.

R always wants lamb chops so T was tasked with grilling those.

As for N –her only request was pie and I was all about it.

June/July 2018 Fam Din-BEACH HOUSE
Cocktails: Suntory Toki Whisky, Various Wines
Entrees: Rosemary Garlic Lamb Chops, Farfalle with Marinara, Panko Crusted Ahi Patties
Sides: Mixed Fried Rice, Mustard Roasted Garlic Potatoes
Dessert: New York Style Cheesecake, Key Lime Pie

June/July 2018 Fam Din-BEACH HOUSE
We train them young, we train them well.

June/July 2018 Fam Din-BEACH HOUSE
Dessert time!

June/July 2018 Fam Din-BEACH HOUSE
July is a poppin’ month for us when it comes to birthdays!

June/July 2018 Fam Din-BEACH HOUSE
Luna’s birthday falls smack dab in between her two aunties.

P’s is on the 13th, N’s is on the 15th and Luna’s is on the 14th. Forever surrounded with love by her aunties. ❤

June/July 2018 Fam Din-BEACH HOUSE
The rest of the night was spent with moonlit bike/Vespa rides, more games and lots and lots of laughter.

June/July 2018 Fam Din-BEACH HOUSE
Before we knew it…it was Sunday morning and it was time for us to go home.

None of us really wanted too….the beach casa was OUR home now after all, too.

So I gave the kiddos popsicles for breakfast to help ease the pain.

(Yes, they ate other stuff too.)

June/July 2018 Fam Din-BEACH HOUSE
Once the house was clean and our cars were packed, we bade our beach house a final adieu!

June/July 2018 Fam Din-BEACH HOUSE
A certain puggle was REALLY not happy about it.

(Someone tell Bella that we live 1.5 miles away from the beach! #FirstPuggleProblems)

June/July 2018 Fam Din-BEACH HOUSE
But before we all parted our separate ways, we decided to grab one last meal together at a nearby restaurant  – Pitfire Pizza

June/July 2018 Fam Din-BEACH HOUSE

As tired as we all were from a full weekend, it was bittersweet to end things. When you spend that much time with each other, you kind of get used to being around a crowd.

But at least we had one more meal together…

June/July 2018 Fam Din-BEACH HOUSE
So we tucked into brunch and ordered dishes like:

Smashed Avocado Toast with Charred Corn and Chives

June/July 2018 Fam Din- BEACH HOUSE EDITION
The Big Sur Pizza which had Gulf Shrimp, Tomato, Four Cheese, Mint, Chile –and we added on Prosciutto and Arugula.

June/July 2018 Fam Din- BEACH HOUSE EDITION
The Burrata Pizza – Caramelized Onion, Arugula, Pesto, Hazelnuts…and we added on La Quercia Prosciutto.

June/July 2018 Fam Din- BEACH HOUSE EDITION
And finally, the Sausage Party Pizza – Bacon, Sausage, Salami, Coppa, Tomato, Saba.

What a delicious way to end the weekend!

June/July 2018 Fam Din- BEACH HOUSE EDITION
Sure—barely 48 hours but what a blast we had! And we’re all hoping that it becomes a regular family tradition.

As B.I.L. C says – “Y’all come back now- ya hear!”

June/July 2018 Fam Din-BEACH HOUSE

Desserts/Pastries

Cooks Illustrated Triple-Chocolate Mousse Cake

October 2017 Fam Din
We’re Chocoholics.

Every single one of us.

October 2017 Fam Din
From Ôn and Mệ (our paternal grandparents) that would give us Andes chocolates as goodies….

To our Folks…(particularly Dad these days…)

To all five Sibbies

and especially all of our Munchkins.

Triple-Chocolate Mousse Cake
Mmmm….Chocolate.

Triple-Chocolate Mousse Cake
So when we discovered the Triple Chocolate Mousse Cake from Porto’s Bakery –it became a staple at our celebrations!

Triple-Chocolate Mousse Cake
A rich chocolate cake layer base….

Topped by a chocolatey mousse layer…

Then topped with another white chocolatey mousse layer.

Triple-Chocolate Mousse Cake
Perfection.

Triple-Chocolate Mousse Cake
A while back, seester asked me to make a version of our beloved cake. Which was perfect timing because I had just stumbled across a version by Cooks Illustrated that I really wanted to try out.

October 2017 Fam Din
Their recipes are very specific and detailed….but for this recipe, not difficult at all. Just takes some time. Trust the process, it’s so worth it.

Oh–and don’t skimp out on the quality chocolate peeps. Since it’s the star of the show, indulge a bit.

October 2017 Fam Din
The bottom layer is a flourless chocolate cake.

Decadent and delicious.

October 2017 Fam Din
The second layer, is a rich and scrumptious bittersweet chocolate mousse.

So velvety divine.

October 2017 Fam Din
Next is the fluffy white chocolate mousse layer — airy and dreamy.

And don’t forget the chocolate shavings to garnish!

October 2017 Fam Din
And now that I’m looking at these pictures — I’m wondering why the heckI haven’t made it recently again?! Must fix that soon!

Happy Chocolate Dreams!!! ❤

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Triple-Chocolate Mousse Cake
Serves 12-16

Ingredients:

BOTTOM LAYER
6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) unsalted butter, cut into 6 pieces, plus extra for greasing pan
7 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped fine
¾ teaspoon instant espresso powder
1½ teaspoons vanilla extract
4 large eggs, separated
pinch table salt
⅓ cup packed (about 2 1/2 ounces) light brown sugar, crumbled with fingers to remove lumps

MIDDLE LAYER
2 tablespoons cocoa powder, preferably Dutch-processed
5 tablespoons hot water
7 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped fine
1½ cups cold heavy cream
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
⅛ teaspoon table salt

TOP LAYER
¾ teaspoon powdered gelatin
1 tablespoon water
6 ounces white chocolate chips
1½ cups cold heavy cream

Shaved chocolate or cocoa powder for serving, optional

FOR THE BOTTOM LAYER:

Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 325 degrees. Butter bottom and sides of 91/2-inch springform pan. Melt butter, chocolate, and espresso powder in large heatproof bowl set over saucepan filled with 1 inch of barely simmering water, stirring occasionally until smooth. Remove from heat and cool mixture slightly, about 5 minutes. Whisk in vanilla and egg yolks; set aside.

In stand mixer fitted with whisk attachment, beat egg whites and salt at medium speed until frothy, about 30 seconds. Add half of brown sugar and beat until combined, about 15 seconds. Add remaining brown sugar and beat at high speed until soft peaks form when whisk is lifted, about 1 minute longer, scraping down sides halfway through. Using whisk, fold one-third of beaten egg whites into chocolate mixture to lighten. Using rubber spatula, fold in remaining egg whites until no white streaks remain. Carefully transfer batter to prepared springform pan, gently smoothing top with offset spatula.

Bake until cake has risen, is firm around edges, and center has just set but is still soft (center of cake will spring back after pressing gently with finger), 13 to 18 minutes. Transfer cake to wire rack to cool completely, about 1 hour. (Cake will collapse as it cools.) Do not remove cake from pan.

FOR THE MIDDLE LAYER:

Combine cocoa powder and hot water in small bowl; set aside. Melt chocolate in large heatproof bowl set over saucepan filled with 1 inch of barely simmering water, stirring occasionally until smooth. Remove from heat and cool slightly, 2 to 5 minutes.

In clean bowl of stand mixer fitted with whisk attachment, whip cream, granulated sugar, and salt at medium speed until mixture begins to thicken, about 30 seconds. Increase speed to high and whip until soft peaks form when whisk is lifted, 15 to 60 seconds.

Whisk cocoa powder mixture into melted chocolate until smooth. Using whisk, fold one-third of whipped cream into chocolate mixture to lighten. Using rubber spatula, fold in remaining whipped cream until no white streaks remain. Spoon mousse into springform pan over cooled cake and gently tap pan on counter 3 times to remove any large air bubbles; gently smooth top with offset spatula. Wipe inside edge of pan with damp cloth to remove any drips. Refrigerate cake at least 15 minutes while preparing top layer.

FOR THE TOP LAYER:

In small bowl, sprinkle gelatin over water; let stand at least 5 minutes. Place white chocolate in medium bowl. Bring ½ cup cream to simmer in small saucepan over medium-high heat. Remove from heat; add gelatin mixture and stir until fully dissolved. Pour cream mixture over white chocolate and whisk until chocolate is melted and mixture is smooth, about 30 seconds. Cool to room temperature, stirring occasionally, 5 to 8 minutes (mixture will thicken slightly).

In clean bowl of stand mixer fitted with whisk attachment, whip remaining cup cream at medium speed until it begins to thicken, about 30 seconds. Increase speed to high and whip until soft peaks form when whisk is lifted, 15 to 60 seconds. Using whisk, fold one-third of whipped cream into white chocolate mixture to lighten. Using rubber spatula, fold remaining whipped cream into white chocolate mixture until no white streaks remain. Spoon white chocolate mousse into pan over middle layer. Smooth top with offset spatula. Return cake to refrigerator and chill until set, at least 2½ hours.

TO SERVE:

If using, garnish top of cake with chocolate curls or dust with cocoa. Run thin knife between cake and side of springform pan; remove side of pan. Run cleaned knife along outside of cake to smooth sides. Cut into slices and serve.

NOTE:

This recipe requires a springform pan at least 3 inches high. It is imperative that each layer is made in sequential order. Cool the base completely before topping it with the middle layer. We recommend Ghirardelli Bittersweet Chocolate Baking Bar for the base and middle layers; our other recommended brand of chocolate, Callebaut Intense Dark L-60-40NV, may be used, but it will produce drier, slightly less sweet results. Our preferred brand of white chocolate is Guittard Choc-Au-Lait White Chips. For best results, chill the mixer bowl before whipping the heavy cream. The entire cake can be made through step 8 and refrigerated up to a day in advance; leave it out at room temperature for up to 45 minutes before releasing it from the cake pan and serving. For neater slices, use a cheese wire or dip your knife in hot water before cutting each slice.

Recipe: Cooks Illustrated. Instructional Video available here.