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.

October-November 2016
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!

October-November 2016
And these three….

Heart Melty.

October-November 2016
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.

October-November 2016

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

SFD – It’s a Family Thing

October 2015 SFD

It’s crazy to think of it but it’s been 3.5 years since my siblings and I first started having our monthly Sunday Family Dinners.

Every month we try to pick some type of theme for dinner and build a menu around it. Each of us are in charge of contributing some portion of the meal whether it be specialty cocktails, appetizers, entrees, desserts–or even staffing the grill.

And we try our darndest to not replicate dishes—which, I don’t mind saying, is kind of tough after 3+ years!

October 2015 SFD

If you’ve been with us since the beginning of our little tradition, you’ve seen the progression of the meals and in fact, some of them are quite elaborate. From “grilling” steaks with a BBQ chimney to breaking down whole ducks to use them beak-to-tail to reducing lobster stock for hours to make lobster martinis to full on N’Awlins seafood boil to a 9-course Korean feast with homemade kimchi….and that’s just to name a few!

October 2015 SFD
I get a lot of comments and compliments (THANK YOU for them!) about how great the food comes out. We’re often quite proud ourselves, too, but here’s a confession. Nearly every month, there’s some point in the preparation where things get really stressful and one (or more) of us starts freaking out.

It could be anything from the porchetta catching on fire (yeah…that did happen), the dessert not setting properly or having to double-fry pounds and pounds of French fries.   And that’s where the bickering usually comes in—but remember, we’re REAL siblings who are very close. If we didn’t bicker, we wouldn’t be family.

That, and the fact that we’re all Type A and OCD.

We blame it on our parents.

October 2015 SFD

But here’s the thing. Although the food is definitely a perk, the best part of SFD is hanging out with each other for no other purpose or cause other than Family Dinner.

It’s a time where the kids get assigned kitchen tasks to build their confidence in their own selves while allowing the adults to pass down a part of ourselves.

October 2015 SFD

It gives the siblings dedicated time to catch up on family gossip, work, and be silly with each other— over cocktails, of course. And the educator in me also sees it as an opportunity to do a little “team-building” as we come together and challenge ourselves with creating dishes that we often have never tried, let alone never made before.

October 2015 SFD

Because of the blog and because I love to document things, I’m always the one running around snapping pics of the fam, food and puppies. Since I’m still a novice/trial-and-error photographer, one of my stresses during SFD is trying to capture photos that I like. I love to snap photos with natural light and try to stay away from photo editing. But this gets particularly difficult during the latter part of the year where it gets dark so early.

So imagine me trying to finish my dishes while running around the house/kitchen/backyard to take photos. I can be a hot mess!

October 2015 SFDWhich, in full disclosure, is why it can take a couple of weeks after a SFD before I actually post the photos and write-up of the dinner. When I get back to San Diego after a weekend at my seesters’ respective houses, I’ll download the shots I took and peruse through them. If I’m unhappy with the quality of the photos, I start to procrastinate because, again, I am not a fan of photo editing……or at least my photo editing skills.

October 2015 SFD

That was certainly the case for our most recent dinner.

But after these past few days of horrific, HORRIFIC events that have taken place in the world, I’ve been reflecting a lot about my family, my loved ones, my work…..and really – just evaluating everything that is important to me.

October 2015 SFD
So when I pulled up the photos from our last SFD, I saw them from a very different perspective.  Shots that I was upset with because the white balance was off or not sharp didn’t frustrate me as when I first reviewed them. Instead, I focused on why I stopped to snap those particular pics in the first place. Like how Nini was covering her face because she didn’t want me to post pics of her (too bad!) or how sweet it was when Maya and Lucas were playing Wii.

October 2015 SFD
Or how the Coq au Vin big seestrah N made was one of the best I’ve ever had.

Or when seestrah T was rolling out homemade dough for her pie–because she rarely bakes!

Or how the boys decided to push tables into the tiny living room instead of using the dining room or backyard so that we could watch Green Bay get the smack down by the Broncos while we ate (HELL YEA!). GO VIKES!

October 2015 SFD
Essentially what I’m saying is that the next time I start freaking out about not being able to snap the perfect shot or become upset that the meat pies browned too much, I need to take a deep breath and check myself and remember to appreciate/enjoy the important things.

Don’t worry– that doesn’t mean the sibling bickering will ever stop.

October 2015 SFD

So indulge me this time around, Friends. In light of the heavy hearts so many of us have had these past few days–please go hug someone you love today. ❤

 

This Month’s Family Dinner Menu

Cocktails: Hard Pear Cider Sangria
Appetizers: Pot Roast and Cheddar Hand Pies
Entrees: Coq au Vin over Cheesy Polenta
Dessert: Flaky Salted Caramel Apple Pie