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

Aruba, Jamaica…Oooh I Wanna Take Ya–to the West Indies!

March 2016 Fam Din

I need a vacay in the worst kind of way. Somewhere tropical where I can lounge on soft sand while getting my share of vitamin D from the warm sun, while listening to the sounds of water lapping on the shore.

Yeah, yeah…I live in coastal San Diego where I can pretty much get that 80% of the year but a gal needs options! So with no foreseeable break in my near future, I bamboozled my sibbies into our latest theme for Family Dinner in hopes that our dishes could transport me to a fabulous destination– the West Indies!

Jamaica, Trinidad & Tobago, Haiti, Barbados, and more……they were calling to me!

March 2016 Fam Din

So we converged upon our seester’s house and got to cooking –all while I pretended that the palm trees and bistro lights in her backyard were not in Tustin but actually somewhere in the Bahamas.

And of course I had to snap some pics of the kiddos to balance all of the food shots.

I mean, look at Lucasaurus‘ face….that kid just kills me.

March 2016 Fam Din

I don’t have a clue what’s going on here but if I had to take a gander, they were practicing to become back up dancers for JT or even the Bad Boy Family Reunion concert!!!

An auntie could only dream…..

March 2016 Fam Din
And doesn’t it look like our fur babies could use a vacation too?

Who am I kidding–those two live THE LIFE!

DSC_0168

As for our cocktails, there’s no way we could hop to the Caribbean without a Dark’n Stormy! Okay, maybe more like a few of them….

Dark rum, ginger beer, lots of fresh lime juice over ice—fantastic and goes down wonderfully smooth.

March 2016 Fam Din

Since we were in the West Indies, much of our time was consumed with chopping lots of aromatics, herbs, chilies, and toasting spices. Unfortunately I couldn’t wrestle up any scotch bonnet peppers like most of the recipes called for and opted for habaneros instead. Both have similar heat ranges on the Scoville scale so it was a fair substitute and in the end were SPICY, SPICY, SPICY!

March 2016 Fam Din

We ended up fixing two appetizers to nosh on before dinner. First up were my seestrah’s Conch Fritters.

March 2016 Fam Din

Conch is said to be the ultimate Bahamian food and its many iterations are the country’s national dish. You’ll find it in salads, grilled or as a fritter. Fresh conch was difficult for us to get so we ended up resorting to grabbing some frozen ones.

After they were defrosted, seester took a mallet and beat the heck out of them to tenderize the flesh a bit. Conch, after all, is a big ol’ sea snail and can be rather chewy. And if you’re grossed out by sea snails, just forget I called them snails and pretend I said squid or clams.

March 2016 Fam Din

The recipe she used didn’t call for any baking soda or powder but were surprisingly light and fluffy after they were fried up—probably from the egg? She also added chopped red bell peppers for some additional flavor and crunch and served them up with a spicy mayo sauce.

I could have eaten a dozen of them! Um…well, I ate 1/2 a dozen of them but they were barely the size of a ping pong ball! Regardless, they are a keeper!

March 2016 Fam Din

For our second appetizer, I made a batch of Curried Jamaican Beef Patties.

March 2016 Fam Din
I’ve often said that many of the world’s cultures have some form of the a “meat pie” and the Jamaicans are no exception!

This version starts off with a flaky pastry dough filled with butter and flavored with curry powder. I added some turmeric for extra color as well. Despite the instructions on the recipe, you’ll want to pulse the dried ingredients with the cold butter a bit before adding the liquid ingredients in.

March 2016 Fam Din
Next up came the incredibly savory beef filling. Definitely follow the ingredients to get the wonderful layers of flavor—and the beef broth and Worcestershire sauce is a must!

After the dough had chilled and rested and the filling cooled, we began assembly. The recipe said it made six 6-inch patties but that was way off for us. After rolling out the dough into 1/8 inch, we used a 5 inch biscuit cutter to form circles. This yielded about 22-24 perfect patties for us.

Oh–and after a quick egg wash, we sprinkled the tops with some sea salt flakes.

March 2016 Fam Din

After they baked, not only was the dough wonderfully flaky and buttery but it had an awesome spiced flavor to it. As for the filling, it was delish. I would DEFINITELY make these again–and in fact, I’d double the batch and freeze them so that I could bake them off any time I had a hankering.

March 2016 Fam Din
And since Nini helped assemble these bad boys, she was forced to pose with them. She’ll thank me years from now….maybe.

March 2016 Fam Din

One of the side dishes we served up was a Trinidad Callaloo. Callaloo is the local name of a leaf vegetable known as amaranth. However, the dish callaloo is made up of slow cooked callaloo (or dark greens), with onions, coconut milk, spices and sometimes seafood. Although found on various Caribbean tables, I’ve been told that the Trinidadian version also uses okra so I used them as well.

March 2016 Fam DinMarch 2016 Fam Din
Since I couldn’t procure the callaloo leaf, I opted for collard greens as I figured its sturdiness could hold up to the long cooking and coconut milk. And instead of crabs, I threw in shrimp.

Now before you question how the finished dish looks, let me just say–TRY IT FIRST! It’s rich, creamy, earthy with a few kicks of spice. I also added a few splashes of fish sauce to further bring out the seafood notes since I didn’t use crabs and I found that it paired so well with the heat from the jerk chicken.

For those of you familiar with Hawaiian cuisine,  callaloo is quite comparable to Squid Lu’au.

March 2016 Fam Din
And of course– JERK CHICKEN! It would be silly to have a West Indies inspired meal without some kind of jerk dish!

Seester marinated a bunch and I’m talking a BUNCH of bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs in a myriad of jerk seasonings. It was hybrid of this recipe and this recipe which created one heck of a juicy, flavorful jerk chicken!

It would be fantastic as a pork marinade too!

March 2016 Fam Din
And of course dessert because it’s not a Fam Din without one–or two!

March 2016 Fam Din

To finish up our meal, seestrah whipped up this Pineapple-Coconut Cream Pie that drew upon all the sweet flavors of the Caribbean.

Light, fruity and perfect!

March 2016 Fam Din

And I realize that the pic of the pie below is terribly out of focus but his toothless smile just makes my heart melt.

March 2016 Fam Din

Yes–I may not have gotten my vacay but my belly sure did get transported to the West Indies. And I’ll definitely take that…. FOR NOW!

Until next time!

 

This Month’s Family Dinner Menu
West Indies – Caribbean

Cocktails: Dark n’ Stormy
Appetizers: Conch Fritters, Curried Jamaican Beef Patties
Entrees: Jerk Chicken
Sides: Callaloo, Rice and Beans (not shown)
Dessert: Pineapple-Coconut Cream Pie

Game Day BBQ Chicken Pizza — Fight On!

BBQ Chicken Pizza

Alright y’all….this is a last minute post so please excuse the quality of the photos and any typos.

But it’s the SEASON OPENER today for my boys and kick-off is in less than 5 hours–a GOOD LUCK post was a must!

GO USC TROJANS!!!!!!!

BBQ Chicken Pizza

Growing up, football always had a “shadow” presence in my childhood. We lived in Minnesota–land of the mighty Minnesota Vikings. So when football season came along in the fall, Sundays and Monday-nights were off limits for the TV.

Dad held permanent residence in front of the sole family tube during the season.

And as funny as it is now for me to think it, I didn’t really enjoy the game at that time. All I knew was that I had an unquestionable loyalty to the Vikes.

BBQ Chicken Pizza

Then I found myself as a cheerleader all throughout high school (2-year varsity cheer captain–thank you very much! Go BRAHMAS!!) and spent every Friday night cheering for a CIA Champ Football Team. By then, my own appreciation and understanding for the sport had taken shape which only catapulted and grew a MILLION times when I went to school at the University of Southern California during the Coach Pete Carroll/Carson Palmer years.

It was extraordinary…

It’s been over a decade since I’ve been at USC but my loyalties have never waned. In fact, it’s such a serious thing for me during the season that I will rarely watch a game in public at a sports bar (unless I’m at the game) because this 5’2″ gal gets so heated, I become a sailor!

Well, my potty mouth becomes a sailor.

BBQ Chicken Pizza

To cheer on my boys as they face Arkansas State tonight, I made a quick pizza using ingredients that take on the spirit of College Football tailgating– BBQ Chicken Pizza!!

I know, BBQ Chicken Pizza is so “1990’s”–but after all this time, it’s still dang good!

And with that, I’ve got to get back to my usual game day rituals.

Here’s to an incredible College Football season– GO TROJANS!!!!!!

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Game Day BBQ Chicken Pizza
Serves 2

Ingredients:

6 ounces fresh pizza dough, rested and at room temperature
all purpose flour
¾ cup barbeque sauce, divided
1 tablespoon minced garlic
½ teaspoon red chili pepper flakes, divided
1 cup sliced red onions
1/3 pound thinly sliced fresh mozzarella cheese
¼ cup diced scallions, divided
1 cup diced cooked chicken
1 cup grape tomatoes, halved
½ tablespoon corn meal
¼ cup chopped cilantro leaves

Preheat oven to 500 degrees F.

Take the pizza dough and flatten it with your hands on a floured surface. Use a floured rolling pin to gently roll the crust to about ¼ of an inch thickness. Transfer the rolled out dough to a pizza paddle or lightly floured cutting board.

Spread ½ cup of the barbeque sauce over the dough. Next, top the sauce with the minced garlic and ¼ teaspoon red chili pepper flakes. Cover the pizza with the red onions, mozzarella cheese, 2/3 of the scallions, chicken, and tomatoes. Drizzle the remaining barbeque sauce over the top of the pizza.

Sprinkle the corn meal over a baking sheet. Carefully slide the pizza onto the baking sheet and transfer to the oven. Bake the pizza for 15-20 minutes until the crust becomes golden brown and the cheese is bubbly.

Remove the pizza from the oven. Sprinkle the remaining red chili pepper flakes, scallions and cilantro over the top. Slice the pizza and serve warm.

Sunday Family Dinner – Summah’ Grilling and Chillin’

June 2015 Family Dinner

 Sunday Family Dinners in the summer are all about dining al fresco. Long days, warm and beautiful weather…it’s perfect.

June 2015 Family Dinner

I love summer family dinners where the pace is a little bit slower and we really get the chance to catch up with what’s new with each other.

June 2015 Family Dinner

A big topic of conversation at June’s fam din?

Backyard decor… obvi.

June 2015 Family Dinner

Seester just got a new set of fantastic patio furniture. And after lounging in the new chairs for a bit, I realized that something was missing. They need a brick pizza oven—STAT! A brilliant idea!

It got quickly vetoed.

Party poopers.

June 2015 Family Dinner

Our inspiration for dinner was not so much a “theme” but started off with an idea that the main dish should feature all kinds of skewers. Because who doesn’t love meat on a stick?

Plus, if there’s grilling involved, the boys get a hand in things.

June 2015 Family Dinner

And because y’all know us so well, you know that there were cocktails. In fact, we had a few different types that night (it’s how we roll), but Seester came up with this one after watching an episode of Tiffani Thiessen’s cooking show.

It consisted of an iced fruit tea, ginger simple syrup, lime juice, mint, tequila and fresh fruit.

Light and refreshing.

Kelly Kapowski apparently knows cocktails.

June 2015 Family Dinner-Cocktails

To munch on before dinner, my niece Nina fried up a batch of Crispy Andouille Hush Puppies. I loved the salty, smokey flavor the andouille gave to the hush puppies. To serve with them, I whipped up a quick sauce from random things I found in the fridge and luckily, it turned out great. Though–I kind of blew it and didn’t jot down what it consisted of but it had things like sour cream, mayo, Old Bay seasoning, lemon juice, fresh dill, garlic and pixie dust.

The last ingredient is not optional.

The recipe for the hush puppies can be found at here.

June 2015 Family Dinner-Hush Puppies

Then we put the boys to work! Fire up the grill, Dudes!

June 2015 Family Dinner

We did three types of skewers:

June 2015 Family Dinner-Skewers

Why three different skewers? Why not?!

Plus, we generally have a hard time just choosing one thing.

June 2015 Family Dinner- Skewers

To serve with the skewers, I whipped up a quick Watermelon, Feta and Arugula Salad which is a great accompaniment to any BBQ. It’s fresh, light, and essentially guilt free.

Though, I rarely experience guilt with food.

Carpe diem!

June 2015 Family Dinner: Watermelon-Feta Salad

We also made a bunch of Elotes – Mexican style street corn. Super simple to make and you can find out how from a previous post here.

Elote {Grilled Mexican Style Street Corn}

And lastly–dessert!

Now, most of us admitted that we underestimated this dessert. Don’t get me wrong–eldest seester can definitely bake but we didn’t really have a good point of reference for an icebox pie. But after one bite, we knew what fools we had been.

The texture was incredibly creamy and smooth which resulted in somewhat of an ice cream pie texture. She also tweaked the originally recipe that can be found here by:

  • Substituting mango schnapps with mango extract (she also used the extract in the whipped cream);
  • Used ataulfo mangoes as they generally yield a much sweeter and aromatic fruit;
  • Used about 1 cup of mango puree versus the listed 3/4 cup;
  • Used graham instead of saltine crackers for the crust and doubled the amount.

June 2015 Family Dinner: Mango-Lemon Buttermilk Icebox Pie

And after all the food was eaten and the dishes were washed–there was nothing else to do but get in some jacuzzi time!

June 2015 Family Dinner

Now if that’s not a fitting Summer Fam Din, I don’t know what is.

Stay tuned for the wrap up of July’s Family Dinner with all 5 Nguyễn siblings!

This Month’s Family Dinner Menu

Cocktails: Spiked Ginger Iced Tea
Appetizers: Crispy Andouille Hush Puppies
Entrees: Jerk Spiced Shrimp, Buttermilk Chicken Tandoori with Raita Sauce, Steak Skewers with Scallion  Sauce, Elotes, Watermelon-Feta-Arugula Salad
Dessert: Mango-Lemon Buttermilk Icebox Pie

 

Slow Cooker BBQ Pulled Chicken Sandwiches

Slow Cooker BBQ Pulled Chicken Sandwiches

I know, I know.

It’s kind of silly that I’m even posting this recipe as it’s a near no-brainer.

But if any of you are like me and have been running around like crazy with holiday errands, festivities, tasks, etc —then you know how clutch it is to have a “set it and forget it” kind of meal in your back pocket.

 

Slow Cooker BBQ Pulled Chicken Sandwiches

And that’s where slow cookers are my saving grace.

I got up pretty darn early this past Saturday with coffee in hand and a heavy to-do list that needed to be tackled. But before I dashed out of the house, I threw some chicken, aromatics and a couple of glugs of BBQ sauce in the slow cooker pot, flipped the switch on and let it do its magic while I battled crazy holiday shoppers.

I’m still sporting the wounds from some ‘bows being thrown at the toy store.

Scawie.

 

Slow Cooker BBQ Pulled Chicken Sandwiches

But my quick 5 minute prep in the morning was rewarded when I got home to a pot of delicious chicken ready to be piled on to some soft Kings Hawaiian buns.

So tender, so tangy, so delicious and so dang easy.

 

Slow Cooker BBQ Pulled Chicken Sandwiches

Slow cooker pulled chicken is definitely one of those fab dishes that you can add or omit whatever you may have handy in your pantry or fridge. Crushed tomatoes, canned chili, cream of mushroom soup, bell peppers, root veggies—whatever goes! But if you do opt for the BBQ sauce route, don’t skip the liquid smoke. It adds that wonderful smokey element you can’t get if you don’t use a smoker or outdoor grill.

This time around, I topped the chicken with lightly pickled onions and shredded lettuce. But definitely use whatever toppings you like. Or in my case, whatever I managed to scrounge up from the fridge.

And with that dear friends, let me wish you and your loved ones a very, very….

Happy Hanukkah!
Joyous Kwanzaa!
Merry Christmas!
Cheerful Winter Solstice!

and a Happy Festivus for the Rest of Us!!!

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Slow Cooker BBQ Pulled Chicken Sandwiches
Serves approximately 8

Ingredients:

2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts
½ tablespoon kosher salt, more to taste
½ teaspoon black pepper
¼ teaspoon paprika
¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
½ small white onion, sliced
1 tablespoon minced garlic
2 dried bay leaves
1 4-ounce can diced green chiles
2 cups BBQ sauce, divided (homemade or bottled)
4-5 dashes liquid smoke
8 large hamburger buns/rolls
optional: cole slaw, pickles, cheese, shredded lettuce, pickled onions, avocado, etc.

Season the chicken with kosher salt, pepper, paprika and cayenne. Place in the slow cooker and top with the onions, garlic and bay leaves. Pour in the can of chiles and 1 cup of the BBQ sauce. Cover the pot and cook on low for about 6 hours or on high for 3 hours.

Once done, carefully remove the chicken from the slow cooker and place on a platter or large dish. Use two forks to shred the meat into bite sized pieces. Spoon the onions, garlic and chiles from the slow cooker over the chicken. Pour the remaining BBQ sauce over the meat and stir in the liquid smoke. Taste and season with additional salt as needed.

Assemble each sandwich by placing a large mound of the pulled chicken and sauce on top of each bun/roll. Serve with additional toppings/condiments as desired.