Sunday Family Dinner

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

Desserts/Pastries

Samoa Cupcakes…and those savvy Girl Scouts

Samoa Cupcakes

When it comes to cookies, I’ve always believed that the Girl Scouts could hustle. I mean, c’mon now. Adorable little girls, pleading for some philanthropic cause while slinging delicious cookies. A no brainer!

And every year, you could always count me in for at least a box or two of those delectable bites. But alas, two years ago, my fate was sealed.

Yup. My niece, Maya, had joined the Scouts. I was in trouble.

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Look at that face! Who could say “no“?

Although, more accurately, I think she started as a “Daisy”—a neophyte Girl Scout, I think. Thus my 1-2 boxes of cookies has now grown to 6, 7, 8….. Ugh–you get my drift.

Samoa Cupcakes

But how can you really blame me? I’m a sucker for my little buggers and when they’ve got cookies, I’ve got no chance.

The cookies are delicious on their own and even frozen. But every so now and then, I try to rework the beloved Girl Scout cookie into a cupcake like my Tagalong Cupcakes (a cookie on the bottom and top), Thin Mint-Chocolate Cupcakes (cookies in the batter and on top), and finally these Samoa Cupcakes.

Samoa Cupcakes

These cuppies are my tribute to the Samoa Cookie (and Maya)—a chocolate cupcake topped with a caramel cream cheese frosting, rolled in toasted coconut flakes, topped with a chocolate drizzle and half a Samoa cookie. Yup…I went there.

So friends, as long as Maya is a Scout, you can count on an annual Girl Scout themed cuppie. With that said, anyone else having flashbacks of Shelley Long in Troop Beverly Hills?

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Samoa Cupcakes
Makes approximately 2 dozen cupcakes

Ingredients:

Cupcake Batter
5 ounces dark chocolate, finely chopped
1 cup strongly brewed hot coffee
½ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
2 cups all purpose flour
1½ teaspoons baking soda
½ teaspoon baking powder
1 cup + 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs
¾ cup vegetable oil
1 cup buttermilk
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Caramel Cream Cheese Frosting
16 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
8 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
3 heaping tablespoons caramel sauce
4-5 cups sifted confectioner sugar (varies due to preferred frosting consistency)

Toppings
1½ cups toasted coconut flakes
¼ cup melted chocolate
12 Samoa® Cookies, sliced in half

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place paper liners in muffin pans.

Place finely chopped chocolate in a bowl and pour hot coffee over it. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and allow to sit for 1-2 minutes. Remove plastic and stir until smooth.

Sift together cocoa powder, flour, baking soda, baking powder, sugar, and salt into a large bowl. In electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat eggs until it becomes pale yellow. Beat in oil, buttermilk, and vanilla extract. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and slowly incorporate the melted chocolate. In increments, add the dry ingredients and mix until just incorporated. Pour batter into the lined cups–about 3/4 way. Bake for 20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Allow cupcakes to cool in the pans for 5 minutes before removing to cooling racks.

In an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, whip together the cream cheese and butter until fluffy. Add caramel sauce and then gradually add in the confectioners’ sugar, ¼ cup at a time. Continue adding sugar until desire consistency.

Fill a pastry bag and pipe frosting on top of cooled cupcakes. Roll the tops of the cupcakes in the toasted coconut flakes. Drizzle the melted chocolate over the tops and then garnish with ½ a Samoa® cookie. Enjoy!

Desserts/Pastries · Giveaways

Toffee Caramel Cheesecake & a GIVEAWAY!!!

Toffee Crunch Caramel Cheesecake

I’m still recovering from Thanksgiving.

From tons of cooking, eating, family time, and shopping. In fact, I need a vacation from my vacation!

Toffee Crunch Caramel Cheesecake

But through it all, I’ve got to take a step back and remember all that I’m thankful for. Loved ones, good health, and of course, this Toffee Crunch Caramel Cheesecake 🙂

I made this little number for Thanksgiving and was pretty darn happy with the cake. It’s dense, creamy and surprisingly not overly sweet even with the caramel. It was also a perfect way to use the homemade toffee my nieces my made. Yep, they’ve got skills.

Toffee Crunch Caramel Cheesecake

And of course, I am thankful for you all. OOBER Thankful.

To show my appreciation, we’re giving away a lovely KitchenAid® 7-Speed Hand Mixer so that you can whip up your own tasty creations (hopefully this yummy cheesecake will be on your list, too!).  The mixer is lightweight, durable and just pretty! A kitchen must!

And you’ve got 4, count ’em F-O-U-R different chances to win it! To enter:

  1. Leave a comment and tell us what the first thing you’ll make using the mixer;
  2. Subscribe to The Culinary Chronicles & get automatic emails when new posts are published (If you already subscribe, leave a comment indicating so);
  3. Like our Facebook Fan Page (If you already “Like” us, leave a comment indicating so); or
  4. Follow @CulinaryChron on Twitter (If you already Follow us, leave a comment indicating so).

The giveaway will end on Tuesday, December 6th at 5pm (PST) and the winner will be announced the next day.

GOOD LUCK and THANKS for being you! 🙂

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Toffee Crunch Caramel Cheesecake
One 9-inch cake

Ingredients:

Crust:
2 Cups Graham Cracker Crumbs
3 Tablespoons Sugar
6 Tablespoons Unsalted Butter, melted

Filling:
32 Ounces Cream Cheese, room temperature
1 Cup Packed Light brown sugar
1/8 Teaspoon Cornstarch
2 Tablespoons Unsalted, melted and cooled
5 Large Eggs
½ Vanilla Bean Pod, split with seeds scraped out
1 Teaspoon Vanilla Extract

Topping:
¾ Cups Granulated Sugar
1½ Tablespoons Water
½ Teaspoon Lemon Juice
½ Cup Heavy Whipping Cream
½ Cup Toffee, chopped

Preheat oven to 350°F. Prepare a 9-inch spring form pan by wrapping the outside with 2-3 sheets of heavy-duty aluminum foil. Spray the inside of the pan with cooking spray.

Prepare the crust by combining graham cracker crumbs, sugar and butter until moistened and resembles the texture of wet sand. Press crumbs into the bottom of the pan and about one inch up the sides. Bake for 8-10 minutes until golden and cool to room temperature.

Prepare the filling by beating cream cheese and sugar in large bowl until smooth. Add in cornstarch and vanilla beans. Beat in butter, then eggs, 1 at a time, until just blended. Beat in vanilla extract. Pour batter over cooled crust. Place spring form pan in large roasting pan. Add enough hot water to come halfway up sides of spring form pan. Bake cake uncovered until filling is puffed around edges and moves slightly in center when pan is gently shaken, about 1 hour. Turn off the oven, remove pan from water, remove foil and return the cheesecake to the oven. Allow the cake to sit in the oven with the door propped open for about 30 minutes. Remove from the oven and transfer to a wire rack.  Allow the cake to cool for an additional 30 minutes.  Wrap well with plastic film and foil. Refrigerate for at least 8 hours.

Prepare the caramel by stirring sugar, water, and lemon juice in large saucepan over medium heat until sugar dissolves. Increase heat; boil without stirring until mixture turns deep amber, occasionally swirling pan and brushing down sides with wet pastry brush, about 9 minutes. Add cream (mixture will bubble). Reduce heat to medium-low. Simmer until reduced to just under 1 cup, stirring occasionally, about 8 minutes. Chill until thickened but still pourable, about 15 minutes.

Spoon caramel over top of cake just to edges (do not allow caramel to drip down sides). Garnish top edges with chopped English toffee. Return to the fridge and chill at least 2 hours and up to 6 hours.

To serve, run a hot knife around pan sides to loosen cake; release pan sides.

 Adapted from Epicurious