Sunday Family Dinner

What the Capricorns Want, the Capricorns Get

January 2019 Fam Din
At dinner in December, our January Babies (Seestrah T and Nini) were lamenting about how they felt like they get shortchanged for their bday Fam Din. Since their month comes right after the holidays where we are constantly feasting and living on the gluttonous side, they were under the belief that they “took one for the team” and only requested dishes that weren’t too laborious nor decadent when it came their turn.

We did have to quickly remind them that their previous dinners included dishes like Sous Vide Pork Belly Baos, Braised Short Ribs over Fresh Ricotta Gnocchi, Toasted Coconut Cake, French Onion Soup, Matcha Mille Crêpes Cake, Fresh Oysters and Dungeness Crab.

That doesn’t sound at all shabby! Am I right?

January 2019 Fam Din
But if the Capricorns wanted to go B-I-G for their 2019 dinner, it was our duty to acquiesce to their requests and get to work. And boy did they know exactly what they wanted!

So much so that little Luna rolled up her sleeves and got down to work.

January 2019 Fam Din
Big cousin Maya was so proud of her that she gave her a break to give her a quick back rub.

Um Maya….next month – you’re rubbing all of our feet!

THANKS!

January 2019 Fam Din
January Fam Din happened to fall on the same day of the NFC and AFC Championship games. Needless to say, we were never far away from a tv.

January 2019 Fam Din
After a quick update on the score and a selfie with Pops, I got to cooking Appetizer #1 requested by both Nini and T….

Duck Dumplings!

January 2019 Fam Din
I assumed that I would be tasked with this dish but I wanted to ask if either of them had even tried duck dumplings before – because I sure as heck hadn’t!

Nope. They hadn’t either.

January 2019 Fam Din
But the Capricorns felt that duck would be delicious inside a little dumpling so off to recipe testing I went. Lucky for me, we just had an epic Foodventure with Peking Duck – so I was feeling rather confident….sorta.

This was something that was going to take A LOT of time so I knew that I would have to prep everything before dinner and then cook the dumplings off that night.

January 2019 Fam Din
After mulling it over for awhile, I decided that I wanted to sous vide duck thighs so that the meat would be nice and tender.

I first marinated the duck thighs overnight in lots of garlic, ginger, five spice, soy, Shaoxing wine and pepper. Then, I sous vide them for 12 hours – yes, 12 HOURS! Thigh meat can be tough so it takes some time.

Oh the things we do for family….

January 2019 Fam Din
Okay…back to the dumplings.

After the duck was done, I shredded the meat and sauteed it with shiitake mushrooms, cabbage, shallots, scallions, garlic, ginger and a whole bunch of spices and aromatics.

January 2019 Fam Din
Then it was time to assemble the bunch!

I chose to fold them in these pretty little crescent shapes with a twisted braid. I have to admit, they were fun to make.

And since I knew that Appetizer #2 would be steamed (SPOILER ALERT – there were 2 different dumplings!), I opted to pan fry these for a different texture with Nini’s assistance.

January 2019 Fam Din
Pan Fried Duck Dumplings that we dunked in hot mustard, chili oil and black vinegar.

Yeah….I’ll be making these again.

January 2019 Fam Din
This is what happens when I ask the girls to get ME a glass of Rosé.

January 2019 Fam Din

Remember these little buggers I had suggested that y’all make for Lunar New Year?

Yup – they were developed for this Family Dinner.

Steamed Crab Dumplings
Super decadent Steamed Crab Dumplings.

Steamed Crab Dumplings
They went SUPER FAST that it made me feel like one of those dim sum cart ladies.

And then V and L were up to prep one of two main dishes.

Steamed Crab Dumplings

Quick funny story.

A couple of days before dinner, V and L texted the group and asked for ideas of which dish should they make. It went something like this….

Us: Umm….V, you volunteered to make a crown roast of lamb.

V: Oh I did? Ok, cool.

January 2019 Fam Din
Moral of the Story: 

If you want one of your Sibbies to make a laborious dish for you, get them to agree to it after you’ve given them copious amounts of wine!

January 2019 Fam Din
Lamb chops or even a single rack of lamb isn’t too complicated. But a crown is an entirely different ball game! It’s quite an undertaking.

Especially if you’re V who got crazily fixated on getting the bones as clean as possible. They had watched several tutorials that advised on doing so to achieve the most optimal appearance after roasting. Brother took it to heart and spent over an hour with several different knives cleaning them. Something that I would’ve been waaaayyy too lazy to do.

Suffice it to say that when he was done cleaning the lamb he promptly told Seester T that she owed him TWO dinners in return.

January 2019 Fam Din

While V cleaned the racks, L took charge of grinding the dried porcini and spices that they used to rub on the lamb. She also made a bright and vibrant chimichurri to go along with it. My fav!

Once the lamb was rubbed down and seared, they used twine to tie the racks into the crown shape and threw them into the oven to roast.

January 2019 Fam Din
TA DA!!!

Isn’t it spectacular??? They did such an awesome job!

Good thing they didn’t task me with cleaning those bones….

January 2019 Fam Din
Crown Roast of Porcini-Crusted Lamb with Chimichurri Sauce.

January 2019 Fam Din

And while the lamb rested, Seestrah T got working on her dish – Garlic Crab Noodles with Lump Crab

This picture does not do justice to how much crab went into this dish. You’ll just have to trust me…or watch the video and see!

January 2019 Fam Din
We actually conspired to make this dish a few weeks back while we were enjoying a big ol’ plate of garlic noodles at EMC Restaurant. Yes….we think about food while consuming food. It’s called R&D.

Often we’ll have these buttery, umami-filled garlic noodles with jumbo shrimp or whole Dungeness Crabs. But we figured, why not with lump crab? Cuts out all of the messy work.

January 2019 Fam Din
I think these two approved.

January 2019 Fam Din

And of course we needed a pic of the Capricorns with the Crowns before V carved them into chops.

January 2019 Fam Din

If you’ve never tried lamb before or are worried about gaminess, try chops that have been marinated in lots of herbs (I love the classic rosemary/garlic/lemon combo) or rubbed in dried porcini like this. Both methods reduce the gamey notes without losing the wonderful flavor that lamb has. The addition of bright sauces (like chimichurri) also assist with this.

January 2019 Fam Din
How many photobombers can you count here?

January 2019 Fam Din
With everything ready, it was time to gather at the table.

As always, someone doesn’t need to be told twice that it’s dinner time.

That face though… ❤

January 2019 Fam Din
At this point, some of you may have started wondering —

“Wait! Rare lamb chops? What did they make for their munchkins to eat?”

January 2019 Fam Din

Worry not, Friends….as you can see, they were just fine.

January 2019 Fam Din
They INHALED the chops!

Straight up, CAVE-MUNCHKIN STATUS!

January 2019 Fam Din

No princess bites here – and we love it. ❤

January 2019 Fam Din
After we finished dinner we cleared the tables and cleaned up a bit. Considering all of the dumplings, lamb, noodles and crab, we definitely needed to chill out a bit before dessert was served.

There was some giant-jenga-madness.

January 2019 Fam Din
And puppy TLC.

We also went outside to try and catch the Super Blood Moon/Total Lunar Eclipse but just as it was supposed to occur, a huge bank of clouds rolled in and covered the sky. But it didn’t stop us from belting out “Total Eclipse of the Heart” in our tone-deaf voices. Cooking is in our blood….well tuned singing is not.

January 2019 Fam Din

So we went back inside and couch potato’ed it for a bit and did a little Instagramming.

And then miraculously, our dessert stomachs were telling us IT WAS TIME!

January 2019 Fam Din
Big Seestrah N took the helm with both desserts that night.

January 2019 Fam Din

N made T a Chocolate Decadence Cake that weighed nearly the weight of Leo and Luna…combined.

T really enjoys a traditional chocolate cake that is moist and chocolatey –check and check!

January 2019 Fam Din
Nini surprisingly requested a Key Lime Pie —  it’s one of my faves so no complaints here.

Her rationale was that she was so full the last time we made it during our fam din at the beach house, that she didn’t get to have any. So her Mama Bear lovingly made up for it.

January 2019 Fam Din
And that was it!

Ok…so it was A LOT.

But we can undoubtedly say that the Capricorns were happy and full.

January 2019 Fam Din
And next time they say anything about not getting their way for their fam din, I will quickly show them to this video.

I repeat – the things we do for family ❤

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This Month’s Family Dinner Menu

Cocktails: Various Wines
Appetizers: Steamed Crab Dumplings, Pan Fried Duck Dumplings
Entree: Garlic Noodles with Lump Crab, Crown Roast of Porcini-Crusted Lamb with Chimichurri Sauce 
Dessert: Key Lime Pie, Chocolate Decadence Cake

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Sunday Family Dinner

A Very Happy Birthday Boy

December 2018 Fam Din
I’m always curious to hear what the munchkins request for their birthday Fam Din menu…. mostly because I’m so entertained by their choices of such impressive dishes.

December 2018 Fam Din
Dishes like salmon sushi, prime rib, dumplings, crab.……

December 2018 Fam Din
We sure as heck don’t get away with making them “kids menu” items like chicken nuggets or fish sticks.

December 2018 Fam Din
Though one year, Nina did ask for chicken wings and mozzarella sticks — but even then the entree was sous vide and then grilled ribeye sandwiches!

Guess you can’t blame them…we did train their palates.

December 2018 Fam Din
So when it came to Leonidas’ birthday meal, it wasn’t too big of a surprise that he once again requested “fatty steaks” and fish tacos.

Typical 7 year old dinner, right?

December 2018 Fam Din
V and L gathered all the goodies for Leo’s two requests and set us to work.

December 2018 Fam Din
Since fish tacos were on the menu, L prepped blue corn masa that Maya and I rolled and pressed into tortillas.

December 2018 Fam Din
Brother then cooked the pressed tortillas in a cast iron skillet.

December 2018 Fam Din
They also made some awesome salsas – tomatillo and roasted guajillo.

December 2018 Fam Din

As for the fish, they chose to sear ahi that was crusted in crushed coriander and sesame seeds.

December 2018 Fam Din

The coriander imparted such a perfumed flavor to the fish – so good!

In fact, if you didn’t want to go with the tacos route, it would be awesome in a sandwich or just on top of a salad.

December 2018 Fam Din
In addition to the salsas, there were also sliced avocado and fresh corn to top the tacos with.

December 2018 Fam Din
HELLO LUV-AH!!!

December 2018 Fam Din
Seared Ahi Tacos in Homemade Blue Corn Tortillas

December 2018 Fam Din
They were ridiculous!

SO. DAMN. SCRUMPTIOUS.

December 2018 Fam Din
T and I agreed that it’s one of our favorite dishes they’ve made.

Incredibly flavor packed!

December 2018 Fam Din
After the tacos were inhaled, I went around to snap a few pics before the evening got away from us.

December 2018 Fam Din
I’m a sucker for a pretty wine bottle….isn’t that how you pick out wine, too?

December 2018 Fam Din
C and his two girls.

With both of them in college now, he and seester N are practically empty-nesters!

December 2018 Fam Din
Okay…remember that “no cell phone during Fam Din” rule?

Yeah…we let them break it after they’ve helped out.

AND as long as they’re gaming together.

I know….it’s a stretch.

December 2018 Fam Din
Then Bella will walk by them with this look on her face and they’ll stop to give her some cuddles.

Having a permanent “emo” face has its perks.

December 2018 Fam Din
When the menu was being crafted, N decided that she wanted to add paella to the mix.

December 2018 Fam Din

Her rationale was that it’s such a festive dish….

December 2018 Fam Din
…. I think it’s because she got new paella pans.

December 2018 Fam Din
But hey–I love paella so I wasn’t going to complain.

December 2018 Fam Din
Look at all of that seafood goodness piled into that pan!

December 2018 Fam Din
Her Seafood Paella was not only pretty, it was darn delicious.

December 2018 Fam Din
Leia 1000% agreed.

December 2018 Fam Din

Now back to the birthday boy’s other request – fatty steaks!

December 2018 Fam Din
Yup…the smart kiddo likes his steaks marbled and fatty — no lean filet mignon here!

December 2018 Fam Din
V dry aged these beautiful boneless ribeye steaks (uncovered) in the fridge for a few days to get rid of some moisture and intensify that beefy flavor.

He rigged the below chopsticks-in-a-tray situation to lift up the steaks which helped aerate and dry out all sides of the beef.

December 2018 Fam Din
And then it was seared in cast iron skillets to get that nice crust.

December 2018 Fam Din
While the steaks rested, I got working on the salad.

December 2018 Fam Din

Leo didn’t actually ask for a salad but we needed some veggies.

December 2018 Fam Din
I called it a Lentil-Arugula Salad …but it was so much more.

December 2018 Fam Din

It was packed with lentils, slow roasted tomatoes, goat cheese and pistachios.

Not your average salad!

December 2018 Fam Din

Then it was time to slice the steaks.

Bella could barely contain her excitement.

December 2018 Fam Din
And the same could be said for Nina.

December 2018 Fam Din
In fact, V did such a great job on the steaks that C wanted to give him a big ol’ thank you smooch!

December 2018 Fam Din
We’re definitely a family that prefers our beef on the rare to medium-rare side. Though, growing up, we were “well done” people.

THANK GOODNESS we grew out of that phase!

December 2018 Fam Din
Dry Aged Ribeye Steaks ….

Excuse me as I lick the computer screen.

December 2018 Fam Din
Our Dudes!

December 2018 Fam Din
Steaks and Paella?

COUNT ME IN!

December 2018 Fam Din
The Munchkins Table … with a little sassy look from R in the background.

December 2018 Fam Din
And the Oldies!

December 2018 Fam Din

ps. Why didn’t I get the plaid memo?

December 2018 Fam Din
Now it wouldn’t be a birthday fam din if we didn’t have a birthday dessert!

Leo’s last request that night was to have a Roblox Mint Chip Ice Cream Cake.

The kid knows what he wants, right?

December 2018 Fam Din
And guess what? T made it!

T is not a fan of baking although she is usually down to make a panna cotta or crème brûlée. So this was a big deal!

December 2018 Fam Din
L and Luna also pitched in on the cake by making the marshmallow fondant Roblox logo.

December 2018 Fam Din

Needless to say, we had a VERY happy birthday boy.

December 2018 Fam Din

And not just Leo – we ALL had an awesome time that night.

R was still feeling sassy. Must be the steaks.

December 2018 Fam Din

HAPPY BIRTHDAY LEONIDAS!!!

December 2018 Fam Din

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This Month’s Family Dinner Menu

Cocktails: Various Wines
Appetizers: Seared Ahi Tacos in Homemade Blue Corn Tortillas
Entree: Dry Aged Ribeye Steaks, Seafood Paella
Sides: Lentil-Arugula Salad
Dessert: Roblox Mint Chip Ice Cream Cake

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 Celebrates the January Babies!

January 2018 Fam Din
Seester T and  Nini are our January Babies! So with all birthday Fam Dins, it was all about them!

January 2018 Fam Din
The evening included some of their favorite foods and of course, succulents. My Fam are somewhat succulents-obsessed….to put it mildly. And T and Maya put this adorable pot together for Nini that just had her written all over it.

Orange is her fav color.

And so are pugs—particularly Princess Leia.

And she also has been known to say that Maya is her Spirit Animal….so there’s that.

January 2018 Fam Din
While we were admiring their handy work, I put my efforts towards that night’s cocktail – Pomegranate Moscow Mules!

We’re big fans of mules with its gingery, citrus punch—and the addition of pomegranate juice was the perfect kick to update the classic.

January 2018 Fam Din
Then it was time to get down on some appetizers! Nini asked her mama to make pork belly baos.

Seester N marinated the pork belly overnight with soy, sugar, rice wine, garlic, ginger and a few other goodies. Once it was ready, she handed it over to me and I sous vide the belly for 10ish hours.

After the belly finished its bath, we placed it in the fridge for a few hours so it was easier to slice.

January 2018 Fam Din
When we were about ready to eat, she took the slices of pork and seared it up on each side.

I wish you could have smelled the house when she did this. It was simply intoxicating.

January 2018 Fam Din
A few hours beforehand, she made the dough for the baos and had it proof for a bit.

January 2018 Fam Din

Then it was time to roll it out.

Super adorbs rolling pin, right?

January 2018 Fam Din
Here they were before she placed them in the steamer.

And now here’s a confession……

Although everything looked perfect up to this point, the baos did not rise after they had steamed. It was the strangest thing!! We did taste a small piece of it and it was great! But we were looking for a smooth, puffed, mini-dome and somehow ended up with a pancake.

BUMMER!!!

January 2018 Fam Din
Luckily Seestrah N thought ahead and was prepared for any potential mishaps. You know, in case we “pulled a Monica”. Please tell me someone got that reference….

While at the Asian market, she swung by the freezer section and picked up a few packages of pre-steamed frozen bao dough. Think of it like the frozen dinner rolls you can buy and just throw in the oven.

They just needed a few minutes in the steamer and they were perfect!! Then it was assembly time.

January 2018 Fam Din
Get a look at these beauties!!

Sis also pickled up some thin cucumber slices earlier on in the week and stuffed them inside the baos along with freshly sliced cucumbers, carrots and a few sprigs of cilantro.

January 2018 Fam Din
They were insanely good — as delish as any I’ve had in restaurants! The pork belly was tender and succulent. The glaze was salty and sweet. And the veggies were the perfect offset for freshness, acidity and texture.

Sous Vide Pork Belly Baos — I highly, highly recommend them!

January 2018 Fam Din
Next up — OYSTERS!!!

To be honest, T had requested those crazy, 10 feet tall seafood towers for dinner. But c’mon now…that would be, as my nieces say, “very extra”.  Brother V got her to compromise and go with a Swan Oyster Depot-esque theme.

Which really just means HELLA seafood.

January 2018 Fam Din
V picked up a gazillion of fresh oysters and clams from our local Dry Dock Fish Company. Birthday gal got to work and was shucking away! I’m telling you, Nini is a Shucking Queen.

January 2018 Fam Din

I whipped up a quick mignonette for them but they were just as delish with a squeeze of lemon and tabascco.

January 2018 Fam Din
And then it was time for a GINORMOUS platter of these babies – DUNGENESS CRAB!!!!!

LOOK AT ALL THAT ROE! HOLY MOLY!

Brother also picked up a few dozen clams too. He meant to have us enjoy them raw, but dang it! Those suckers were tough as heck to shuck!

January 2018 Fam Din
So I did a little quick inventory of what N had in her pantry and decided to whip up a 20 minute dish – Seafood Squid Ink Pasta!

I sauteed some aromatics and threw in some crushed Roma tomatoes, clam juice and white wine. I then added the clams and some calamari N had in the freezer. Once the clams opened up, I tossed in some al dente squid ink pasta. Hey–we were going for seafood overload, right?

It was quite tasty and for a dish on the fly, we were pretty happy with it!

January 2018 Fam Din
Then it was time for us to do a little clean up before dessert.

Which for Leia, that means commandeer her fur cousin’s crate for a post dinner nap.

January 2018 Fam Din
Which is 100% okay for Bella because she prefers the couch with blankets.

January 2018 Fam Din
Then it was dessert time!

And of course, I had to make one for each birthday girl.

Nini loves all things green tea so when I asked her what she’d like for her bday dessert, she quickly said Matcha Mille Crêpes Cake! She’s a fancy one….

January 2018 Fam Din
It all started with matcha crêpes. And I’ve got to admit, they were the bane of my existence…well, while I was making them at least. I hadn’t made crêpes in YEARS and it took a while to get the hang of it down again.

It probably didn’t help that I started making the crêpes at 11pm the night before Fam Din but at least there was wine!

When all was said and done, I made 25 crêpes with the batter.

January 2018 Fam Din
The next day, I made a matcha flavored whipped cream and began assembly.

One crêpe, then a thin layer of the whipped cream.

And repeat.

January 2018 Fam Din

Once I was done, I had a total of 50 layers. But since I wanted to cover the whole cake in ganache, I used the whipped cream and covered everything in a thin layer before chilling it for a few hours.

January 2018 Fam Din
While I was glazing the chilled cake in a layer of ganache, I put birthday girl to work by having her cut out a stencil of a succulent.

Yes, I know. We’re obsessed.

January 2018 Fam Din

And VOILA!!

Nini’s Matcha Mille Crêpes Cake!

January 2018 Fam Din
And here’s a peak inside.

All.

Of.

Those.

Layers.

January 2018 Fam Din
Pretty, right?

I’ve got to admit, it was quite delicious too!

January 2018 Fam Din
And then it was seestrah’s turn!

After texts upon texts of me pestering her, she finally said she wanted a traditional chocolate cake. Now usually for us, that means Ina Garten’s version of Beatty’s Chocolate Cake.

Man, that is a damn good cake. But as good as it is, it’s not a great cake if you’re looking for a solid crumb for decorating.

January 2018 Fam Din

So I chose a sponge that I used for Maya’s cake a few years ago. It’s really chocolately and delish too–but just sturdier.

January 2018 Fam Din
And then I did this to it.

Because purple is seester’s favorite color.

It’s mine too.

And mama’s.

January 2018 Fam Din
Chocolate Layered Cake with Ombre Swiss Buttercream Rosettes.

January 2018 Fam Din
I actually kind of loved how it turned out in the end.

Now that I think of it, they kind of remind me of Sterling Roses that seestrah really loves.

I mean–I didn’t just think of it. I meant to do it that way all along!

*not

January 2018 Fam Din

Now here’s the thing about us. As much as we love desserts and as much as we bake….we’re not really into eating a lot of frostings or buttercreams. It’s just too sweet or too much most of the time!

Since I figured we’d get our fix of buttercream via the rosettes, I only used a thin amount between each of the cake layers.

Trust me, it was still plenty!

January 2018 Fam Din

And I just had to include this picture because Lucas and Maya’s expressions have be DYING.

January 2018 Fam Din
And that’s a wrap!

Happy Birthday January Babies!!!!

xoxo ❤

January 2018 Fam Din
___________________________________________________________

This Month’s Family Dinner Menu

Cocktails: Pomegranate Moscow Mules, Various Wine
Appetizers: Sous Vide Pork Belly Baos, Fresh Oysters
Entrees: Steamed Dungeness Crab, Seafood Squid Ink Pasta
Dessert: Matcha Mille Crêpes Cake, Chocolate Layered Cake with Ombre Swiss Buttercream Rosettes

Sunday Family Dinner

A Belated Sunday Family Dinner

Feb 2016 Fam Din
The other weekend we celebrated February in March.

Or more accurately, we had February’s Sunday Family Dinner in March. February was totally hectic with the Lunar New Year, the family being up in San Francisco for our cousin’s wedding and just a bunch of random events that caused the delay for dinner.

But the thing is, we couldn’t actually “skip” a month—because once you start doing that, those “monthly dinners” can continue to get pushed back and eventually become “every few months family dinners”.

And that’s No bueno.

Plus, February was Maya’s birthday and we couldn’t skimp out on birthday celebrations for this cutie! So per her request, we made a menu around some of the favorite things she loves — steak and cake!

A girl after my own heart….

Feb 2016 Fam Din

That day we decided to enact a new rule — unless you’re taking pictures of each other or food (which is more likely), everyone has to stay off their iPads and iPhones. Which, if you have teenagers and wee ones, can be torture!

But if the point of us having monthly family dinners was to spend quality time with each other, being glued to phones and tablets (darn you Snapchat and Minecraft!) kind of defeated the purpose. So I went around and collected all their devices and didn’t return them until dessert – which is pretty darn good if you know our munchkins!

Without his iPad, Lucas had to resort to one of his other favorite obsessions — Nerf guns. Here he is intensely loading up on ammo. Afterwards, he spent a good hour running around the house, hiding behind columns and banisters as he went on full assault mode with his uncle.

Feb 2016 Fam Din
Those two have always been thick as thieves–ever since Lucas was a wee-bitty-baby. I used to think it was because he and my sister had two daughters and no sons—but I really think it’s because my brother-in-law definitely has a “kid at heart” gene.

Feb 2016 Fam Din

The girls decided to spend a considerable amount of time with Maya’s latest obsession – FIMO clay. The clay can be molded into whatever your imagination conjures up–then you bake it to harden your design.

She has a TON of them in all different colors filling tackle boxes, tupperwares, and wherever else she can store them.

Feb 2016 Fam Din
They’re quite talented with it too!

They made a golden snitch, macaron, marshmallow, a cat(?) and my favorite–a cast iron skillet with an egg and bacon!

Feb 2016 Fam Din
Then it was cocktail time!

The adults sipped on Raspberry-Lemonade Sparklers….and by “sparklers”, I mean prosecco.

Feb 2016 Fam Din

We always need to nosh on a few things before dinner is served or else my “cute” family turn into a tribe of gremlins.

And that’s not a pretty sight.

Trust me….I’ve seen it.

Feb 2016 Fam Din
Big seester made these adorable little Tartlets that were like mini-quiches filled with bacon, gruyere, and custard all in a savory crust.

Perfect bite sized snacks!

I had about 30 or so……

Feb 2016 Fam Din
Since birthday girl wanted steaks, she got STEAKS!

These were the beautiful boneless Ribeyes seestrah picked up. She simply seasoned them with lots of kosher salt and fresh cracked pepper. And oh that lovely marbling!

Feb 2016 Fam Din
They were then handed over to the boys to grill.

I must have a gajillion pics of R and C posing like this by the grill over past few years…. But hey–they like to grill so we put them to work!

Feb 2016 Fam Din
Sizzle, sizzle!

And no, I didn’t mean The Sizzler.…..but oh that cheese bread!

Feb 2016 Fam Din
The grilled steaks were brushed with some herb butter while they rested which now gives me a great opportunity to talk about the sides!

Feb 2016 Fam Din
Maya loves salad–usually odd for small kids but she does have a mature palate. We put together a tray of colorful Wedge Salads because nothing makes veggies more healthy than dousing it with a creamy dressing and tons of crispy bacon bits.

MMMMmmmm….bacon……

Feb 2016 Fam Din
And since Nina helped with making it, I made her pose with the tray.

Think the kids will be traumatized by all the pics I make them take holding food?

Nah…they make good profile pics, right?

Feb 2016 Fam Din
Next up, colorful Roasted Potatoes that were marinated in tons of garlic, rosemary, chili flakes and Dijon mustard before being blasted in a high heat oven.

Feb 2016 Fam Din
We also had a side of slowly Sauteed Crimini Mushrooms that were drizzled with truffle oil and fresh thyme.

Total mushroom goodness.

Feb 2016 Fam Din
There may have been a few bottles of vino too…..

And yes, that’s me in the bottle’s reflection…

Hiiiiii!!!

Feb 2016 Fam Din
Beef-a-licious!

Feb 2016 Fam Din
Here’s my plate with a little bit of everything…. OH! And I forgot about the Dirty Rice seester made as well! It’s cooked with onions, lots of butter, beef consomme, and a few other secret stuff.

What’s the secret?

No idea…I never pay attention when she makes it but I am more than pleased to shovel it down by the large spoonfuls.

Feb 2016 Fam Din

After dinner, we tend to try and clean up a bit before dessert.

And by “clean up”, I mean “take pictures”.

Fam Din
Cake time!

When I asked Maya what kind of cake she wanted, all she said was a chocolate and peanut butter combo.

Told you the girl had good taste!

Feb 2016 Fam Din
I started off with a wonderful chocolate cake by Brown Eyed Baker.

I have to tell y’all, that crumb was oh-so-lovely! Super dense, moist and oober chocolaty! And there were three layers of it! I also used her version of peanut butter buttercream that was so lip smacking good!

Chocolate & Peanut Butter Cake
But this was for Maya and things had to be OVER THE TOP! Although the chocolaty cake was frosted in the peanut butter buttercream, I added chopped mini-peanut butter cups in one layer and Girl Scouts Peanut Butter Patties in the next!

Now, I had intended to frost the entire cake with that luscious buttercream and then do a drippy, drizzle layer of chocolate ganache like Brown Eyed Baker did for her Chocolate-Peanut Butter Cup Overload Cake.

But I totally biffed it by making the ganache too thick and instead of making that whimsical-purposely drippy look, it turned into a gloopy mess. AGH! So I took seester’s advice and decided to frost the ganache out into a thin layer—and I actually kind of loved the marbling effect it had.

PHEW!

Chocolate & Peanut Butter Cake
To top the cake I added more Peanut Butter Patties, mini-peanut butter cups, 3 different types of gold sprinkles and wait for it–freshly made Chocolate and Peanut Butter Macarons.

Wait–did I say I baked macarons just to top the cake? I SURE DID!!! Because Miss Maya LOVES macarons and I promised her an OVER THE TOP cake.

Here’s a quick peek inside of the cake…..and let me just tell you, a tall and icy glass of milk would go perfect with it!

Except I can’t drink milk…..TMI?

So I had it with red vino instead.

Chocolate & Peanut Butter Cake
All in all, I think birthday girl forgave us for having her dinner so late—though, she’s such a sweet tempered kid that I don’t think she really minded at all.

HAPPY BELATED BIRTHDAY MAYA LOVE! ❤

Feb 2016 Fam Din

This Month’s Family Dinner Menu

Cocktails: Raspberry-Lemonade Sparklers
Appetizers: Bacon Gruyere Tartlets
Entrees: Grilled Ribeye Steaks
Sides: Wedge Salads, Rosemary-Garlic Roasted Fingerling Potatoes, Sauteed Mushrooms, Dirty Rice
Dessert: “Over the Top” Chocolate and Peanut Butter Cake

Sunday Family Dinner

Sunday Family Dinner turns Steakhouse!

May 2014 Fam Dinner

I am a bit behind on our Sunday Family Dinner recaps — and not because the menus weren’t memorable. But late spring-early summer is always a crazy time.

But SHAME ON ME because May’s menu was my choice — Steakhouse inspired fare!

Now I have to admit that we were all over the place that day and were running so behind on dinner. We usually get together around 3-4 pm to prep/cook/drink together before dinner is actually done. But our niece had her semifinals (that turned into finals) lacrosse match (GO PIONEER!!!) so we didn’t get to big seester’s casa until after 6:30.

Things were a bit rushed when we finally got home so we definitely needed a moment to breath and enjoy a cocktail. And my go-to at steakhouses are always an extra dirty Grey Goose Martini followed by some red vino.

A MUST!

 

May 2014 Fam Dinner

For appetizers, I had initially wanted to go with roasted shrimp with homemade spicy cocktail sauce. But when we had gone to the store that morning, we saw these GORGEOUS and GI-NORMOUS Alaskan King Crab Legs –so the poor shrimp were scratched off the menu.

Big seester steamed the incredibly sweet crab and we dunked them into cocktail sauce and liquid love (aka melted butter).

I.N.C.R.E.D.I.B.L.E.

May 2014 Fam Dinner

For the main course, I convinced the sis to make Thyme Popovers because I’m obsessed with popovers. They were so light, crisp and buttery –just lovely. Popovers aren’t too difficult to make but they do take some time to bake and you need to inhale them straight from the oven. And since we don’t own a score of popover pans nor have multiple ovens to bake them all at once, you don’t see them too often at our dinners.

May 2014 Fam Dinner

And let’s face it….we needed a bit of greens–even if we drenched them in cheese and dressing. Since the majority of the fam aren’t fans of blue cheese, we opted for Caesar Salads instead of a Wedge Salad.

My niece, Nina, used Martha Stewart’s dressing recipe that can be found here. That’s right kiddies—there’s anchovies in traditional Caesar dressing! It’s what gives off the briny, salt, deep flavor.

May 2014 Fam Dinner

Since baked potatoes and mashed potatoes are standard fare at steakhouses, I decided to combine the two and made a huge bowl of The Ultimate Loaded-Baked-Mashed-Potatoes!

Red potatoes, roasted garlic, sour cream, cream cheese, butter, heavy cream, garlic salt, cracked black pepper–all topped with tons of crispy bacon and chopped scallions.

Don’t ask the calorie count because I don’t want to know. But needless to say–it was worth the mini heart attack.

May 2014 Fam Dinner

And the heart of our steakhouse themed menu? Our seester’s black pepper/fresh rosemary/salt crusted standing rib roast studded with whole garlic cloves.

DROOLS!

Now despite what most folks do, I almost always order the prime rib at a steakhouse. And you better believe I go to town at The House of Prime Rib in San Francisco. MAN- can my seester make a friggin’ mean  Prime Rib!?

May 2014 Fam Dinner

 

I seriously wish I had this plate in front of me right now…..

 

May 2014 Fam Dinner

 

As for dessert, I requested that Nina make our favorite chocolate layered cake topped with berries. I kid you not, it’s one of the best cakes ever!!
May 2014 Fam Dinner

 

So despite our limited prep time, our Steakhouse Dinner was an incredible success. Here’s hoping my siblings will let us do the same menu again soon! 🙂

 

This Month’s Family Dinner Menu

Cocktails: Extra Dirty Grey Goose Martinis, 2007 Blackstone Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon
Appetizers: Alaskan King Crab Legs
Entrees: Herb Rubbed Prime Rib, Caesar Salad, Thyme Popovers, Ultimate Loaded Baked-Mashed Potatoes
Dessert: Aunt Beatty’s Chocolate Cake with Fresh Raspberries

Desserts/Pastries

Hello Kitty Cake Pops

Hello Kitty Cake Pops

 

And within a blink of an eye, Maya was turning 6. How is it possible that my sweet baby niece is now a quick-witted and mature little girl? Time flies too quickly.

But one thing is for certain. She, like many little ones her age, LOVES Sanrio–particular Hello Kitty. So it was a no brainer for her auntie when I wanted to make her something special for her birthday dinner. Cake Pops—in the form of Hello Kitty. To which I turned to the Queen of Cake PopsBakerella.

 

Hello Kitty Pops

 

But these little kitties sure did cause me some agony.

My fault, completely.

Usually when I attempt something new, I plunge into deep research—reading everything I can find for tips, common problems, etc. Yet for some reason or another, I just plunged straight forward without a care in the world. That was first of MANY mistakes.

My first challenge came from the cake itself. The birthday girl, being a woman after her own auntie’s heart, requested chocolate cake. Which wouldn’t normally be an issue—-except when you’re trying to cover the cake pops with white chocolate. As a result, I had to dip the pops twice in the white chocolate and even then, I didn’t think it covered the dark cake color enough. Note to self—use lighter colored cakes when dipping in white chocolate.

Then there was the frosting.  Although I did make my own chocolate cake (versus using a boxed cake mix), I did employ the use of packaged frosting. Not necessarily out of laziness. But I didn’t want to use too much frosting and it’s near impossible to make a “little bit” of buttercream. Problem is, there’s a reason why Bakerella uses a whole can of frosting. I was worried the pops would be too sweet and only used about 8 ounces of frosting. But since I didn’t use enough binding, I could not properly shape Kitty’s head as the cake wouldn’t hold together well. She was quite bumpy and I had crumbs everywhere. Next time I won’t worry too much about the pops being “overly sweet” and will gladly use MORE frosting.

Which then brings me to the Candy Melts. I have never had great experiences using Candy Melts and this time was no exception as it would not melt properly. I quickly dumped them and went to using regular white chocolate that I tempered. MUCH better results.

Finally there were the edible markers which I had never used before. UGH! How is it that out of all of the markers from a fresh new pack, only the black one wouldn’t write well?? As such, over half of our Hello Kitties had blue eyes. Eh….at least they were diverse. I think I’ll pass on the edible markers next time and paint things on using powdered food colors and a brush.

 

Hello Kitty Cake Pops

 

So from my experience…..

  • If you don’t have a styrofoam block then hold off on making cake pops until you can pick one up. Trust me. Your life will be so much easier for it.
  • After you place the cake balls on the sticks, refrigerate them for another  few hours. The firmer they are, the better it will be when you dip/cover them in chocolate.
  • After you dip the pops in chocolate, GENTLY rap the lollipop stick with a spoon or with your finger to remove excess chocolate. If you’re too rough with them, they will definitely plop off. It happened to me….but then I just ate the runaway cake balls 🙂
  • Plan to make several more than you need. Chances are, there may be a few “flops”. But don’t let it get you down–even Jelly Bellies have “flops“.

 

Hello Kitty Cake PopsA “litter” of Hello Kitty Pops


In the end, despite my follies, the Birthday Girl really enjoyed them. And if Maya likes them–then her auntie’s job is done. 🙂

________________________________________

Hello Kitty Cake Pops
Adapted From Bakerella

Supplies Needed:

1 9 x 13 Cake (Chocolate Cake Recipe Below)
Approximately 12-16 Ounces Cake Frosting
White Candy Melts or White Chocolate
Jumbo Heart Sprinkles
Rainbow Chip Sprinkles
Edible Pens or Black Food Coloring
Lollipop Sticks
Styrofoam Block
Toothpicks

Cover a large baking sheet with wax paper. In a large bowl, thoroughly crumble the cake. Add frosting and mix together with your hands. Be sure to use enough frosting so that the cake binds well together and can hold shape. If it’s too crumbly, add more frosting. Using a cookie scoop or small ice cream scoop, scoop/roll/mold an oval shape for kitty’s head. Dip the tip of a lollipop stick into some of the melted chocolate and insert into the bottom of kitty’s head. Place the heads on the covered baking sheet and refrigerate for about 2 hours.

Once chilled, take two white chocolate chips and dip the bottoms in the melted chocolate. Place/glue them on the top of the head as kitty’s ears. Stand them up in a styrofoam block to dry. When the ears are firmly attached to the head, dip the cake pop in a bowl of melted white chocolate. Then remove and gently tap off any extra coating. Stand them up in a styrofoam block to dry. When the heads are completely dry, apply the hearts and sprinkles to make a bow and the yellow rainbow chips to make a nose. Use toothpicks to assist in this process. Once everything is completely dry, draw eyes and whiskers with edible pen or paint on with food coloring.

Chocolate Cake

Ingredients:

½ Cup Unsweetened Cocoa Powder
2 Cups All Purpose Flour
1½ Teaspoons Baking Soda
¾ Teaspoon Baking Powder
1 Teaspoon Salt
2 Cups Granulated Sugar
6 Ounces Semi Sweet or Dark Chocolate, finely chopped
1 Cup Buttermilk
1 Cups Strong Brewed Hot Coffee
½ Cup Vegetable Oil
2 Large Eggs
1½ Teaspoons Vanilla Extract

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line the bottom of pan with parchment paper and cover with cooking spray. Place finely chopped chocolate in a bowl and pour hot coffee over it. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and allow to sit for a few minutes. Remove plastic and stir until smooth.

Sift together cocoa powder, flour, baking soda, baking powder, sugar, and salt into a large bowl. In a mixing stand, beat eggs for a few minutes until they become a pale yellow. Beat in oil, buttermilk, and vanilla.  Scrape down the sides of the bowl and slowly add the chocolate. Slowly add the dry ingredients and mix until just incorporated. Pour batter into the lined pan. Bake for 40-45 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Allow the cake to cool completely.