Desserts/Pastries

World Peace Cookies…Happy Holidays!

World Peace Cookies
It’s been an incredibly busy holiday season so far and things definitely won’t slow down until after the new year. But I couldn’t let Christmas pass without sharing this old favorite….Dorie Greenspan’s World Peace Cookies.

World Peace Cookies
Seester P first made these for me years ago and I was immediately in love. They’re a sablé cookie, a French shortbread.

Buttery, chocolatey and just so darn good!

World Peace Cookies
These beauties come together relatively easy so they’ll be fantastic to leave out for the big guy. And trust me, if you do, you’ll definitely be on his rockstar list.

Happy Holidays!!! ❤

____________________________________
World Peace Cookies
Makes about 3 dozen

Ingredients:

1 1/4 cups (170 grams) all-purpose flour
1/3 cup (28 grams) unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 stick plus 3 tablespoons (11 tablespoons; 5 1/2 ounces; 155 grams) unsalted butter, cut into chunks, at room temperature
2/3 cup (134 grams) packed light brown sugar
1/4 cup (50 grams) sugar
1/2 teaspoon fleur de sel or 1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
5 ounces (142 grams) best-quality bittersweet chocolate, chopped into irregular sized bits

 

Sift the flour, cocoa and baking soda together.

Working with a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, or in a large bowl with a hand mixer, beat the butter and both sugars together on medium speed until soft, creamy and homogenous, about 3 minutes. Beat in the salt and vanilla. Turn off the mixer, add all the dry ingredients and pulse a few times to start the blending. When the risk of flying flour has passed, turn the mixer to low and beat until the dough forms big, moist curds. Toss in the chocolate pieces and mix to incorporate. This is an unpredictable dough (see above). Sometimes it’s crumbly and sometimes it comes together and cleans the sides of the bowl. Happily, no matter what, the cookies are always great.

Turn the dough out onto a work surface and gather it together, kneading it if necessary to bring it together. Divide the dough in half. Shape the dough into logs that are 11/2 inches in diameter. Don’t worry about the length — get the diameter right, and the length will follow. (If you get a hollow in the logs, just start over.) Wrap the logs in plastic wrap and freeze them for at least 2 hours or refrigerate them for at least 3 hours.

When you’re ready to bake: Center a rack in the oven and preheat it to 325 degrees F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone baking mats.

Working with one log at a time and using a long, sharp knife, slice the dough into 1/2-inch-thick rounds. (The rounds might crack as you’re cutting them — don’t be concerned, just squeeze the bits back onto each cookie.) Arrange the rounds on the baking sheets, leaving about 2 inches between them. (If you’ve cut both logs, keep one baking sheet in the fridge while you bake the other.)

Bake the cookies for 12 minutes — don’t open the oven, just let them bake. When the timer rings, they won’t look done, nor will they be firm, and that’s just the way they should be. Transfer the baking sheet to a cooling rack and let the cookies rest until they are only just warm, at which point you can munch them, or let them reach room temperature (I think the texture’s more interesting at room temperature).

Bake the remaining dough.

From Dorie Greenspan

Advertisements
Sunday Family Dinner

And the Family Dinner Antics Continue….

July 2017 Family Dinner
How is it possibly Fall already with October just knocking on the door? Although, if you’re like SoCal these past few days, we’re still in a heat wave with the temps in mid-80s. The weather has been so strange lately that we actually got down to the low 60s last week (chilly for San Diego standards) and now we’re back in the thick of summer-like weather.

Speaking of summer, we had some brilliant Fam Dins over the past few months. The food is always great—even when it’s not dee best (flashbacks to my less than successful beef wellington or tarte tatin ). And there’s always more shenanigans than I can recount.

July 2017 Family Dinner
For this particular dinner, we were celebrating seester N and B.I.L. R’s birthmonth. But the day actually started early as we trekked down to Long Beach to cheer on Maya at her Hula/Tahitian performance at the Dragon Boat Races.

I mean, how freaking adorable is she?

After the festival and a quick bite of lunch, we headed back to Fullerton to get prepping on dinner. While we got to work in the kitchen, we sent the kiddos to the store to pick up a few extra items for us–just one of the perks of having munchkins that are of the driving age now.

July 2017 Family Dinner

For dinner, R wanted simply prepared dungeness crabs. But while at the store, seester ended up picking up some lobsters too.

I totally supported that decision.

July 2017 Family Dinner
The munchkins came back shortly after supplied with boba, slurpees (kids after my own heart) and a surprise they found at 7-11. More on that soon.

Nini saw the lobstahs and quickly picked them up and posed for a pic. I  have at least a dozen pictures of her mom doing the same thing over the past few years–same genes and all.

July 2017 Family Dinner
Oh our boys…..

July 2017 Family Dinner
While the sibs were bustling away with prep, I turned my efforts to something extremely important.

Cocktails.

Since it was so hot out and because the kiddos had picked up their own slurpees, I whipped up a batch of Tropical Fruit Wine Slushies. Adult slurpees in my opinion.

July 2017 Family Dinner
In a heavy duty blender, I filled the pitcher with frozen tropical fruits (mango, pineapple, papaya), a whole bottle of sauvignon blanc, lime juice, simple syrup, fresh mint leaves and a few splashes of vodka. Everything was quickly blended and that’s it!

Deliciously cold and refreshing. Another one of those summer-in-a-glass types of cocktails.

July 2017 Family Dinner
Remember that surprise I mentioned that the kiddos found at 7-11?

It was henna paste!

And the coincidence was that earlier that day, we were trying to get T’s friend over that night to do henna for us but things didn’t work out because she was out of the paste.

Why did we want her to come over and do henna for us?

Why not?

July 2017 Family Dinner
Henna is a temporary body art that is imprinted on the skin through a paste made from ground henna tree. The paste the munchkins found were premixed and sold in little conical tubes for ease of application. Kind of a random thing to find at a 7-11 in Orange County–but sometimes you just got to go with fate.

July 2017 Family Dinner
And with that–we went into full henna mode! The gals had a wonderful knack for it and did all of these beautiful designs by free hand.

July 2017 Family Dinner
Seestrah and I are thinking of hiring them out for parties.

Kidding–not kidding.

July 2017 Family Dinner
Check out this dragon Nini did for me–isn’t she so talented?

Apparently having an actual dragon tattoo wasn’t enough for me so I needed a henna one too.

Mother of Dragons and all….

Okay, I’m more like Mother of Puggle but Bella has the heart of a dragon.

Or more like an appetite of one.

July 2017 Family Dinner
And then we all started getting a rumbly in our tummy. Apps time!

I made one of my go-to bites that I love having all summer long — Burrata Bruschetta with a Balsamic Reduction. Nina lent a hand by pan frying (yup PAN FRYING) the sourdough in olive oil and rubbed it down with garlic cloves. It was topped with chopped heirloom tomatoes, more fresh garlic, EVOO, red chili flakes, basil, ooey-gooey burrata and a drizzle of reduced balsamic vinegar.

These are great as apps but there are so many times that I whip this up for a quick light lunch when it’s warm out. Perfect.

July 2017 Family Dinner
And then it was time to steam those crustaceans!

We love crabs, lobstahs, ‘shramps, crawdads….actually, we’re pretty much into all seafoods.

And riverfoods?

Lakefoods?

Are those even things?

July 2017 Family Dinner
T also picked up some ginormous giant clams (yes, I know that was redundant but they were HUGE!) so we threw those on the grill along with some romaine for a salad.

July 2017 Family Dinner
And after the wine slushies were gone, there was just wine. Well, lots of wine.

The chardonnay from Starmont is the fuel T and I guzzle down every Black Friday to muster the energy to keep up with our other sibs’ shopping marathons. Without it, we would be passed out by 9am.

July 2017 Family Dinner
Speaking of passing out…

She had a VERY action packed day and was down for the count. But she still wanted to be in the midst of the action and decided to take her naps underneath us.

July 2017 Family Dinner
Here are those giant clams again. Once out of the grill, T spooned a butter-soy-garlic sauce into them and topped it with fresh cilantro. Those buggers were super meaty!

July 2017 Family Dinner
N made this rad salad with grilled romaine lettuce, cukes, tomatoes, and avocados which was topped with pickled red onions and a grilled flank steak that had an Asian inspired marinade. The salad had a light soy-sesame dressing and was delectable!

July 2017 Family Dinner
Since we went for a simple steamed prep for the crabs and lobsters, N upped the gluttony ante and made a big ol’ bowl of Garlic-Butter Noodles. YES PLEASE!

July 2017 Family Dinner
The terrible pic does not do the food its justice.

I had some dang impatience to eat so I couldn’t be bothered to fiddle with adjusting the camera.

Nope…I don’t regret it.

July 2017 Family Dinner
Happy Fam! (Yes, I used flash…cringe.)

I spy a glowing-eye Bella.

July 2017 Family Dinner
After gorging ourselves on savory, we turned to sweet.

Yin to yang, right?

July 2017 Family Dinner
For the birthday buddies, Maya helped me to make this Peanut Butter-Oreo Chocolate Icebox Cake.

July 2017 Family Dinner
Looking at it again, it kind of looks like an ice cream cake—doesn’t it?

Hmmm…there’s always next time.

July 2017 Family Dinner
And after dinner, the antics continued because random henna sessions weren’t enough.  T busted out some new clay mask she got so we had to give it a spin, right?

What you don’t see is that we actually coerced R into letting us schmear that stuff on him too. He was less than thrilled so since it was his birthday dinner, I let him off the hook and decided not to post the pic I took of him. Plus he looked like we were rather torturing him so who wants that kind of stuff on-the-line?

Hehehe…

July 2017 Family Dinner
And that was it! Dragon Boat races, Polynesian dance performances, henna, clay masks, cooking, eating, drinking and a passed out a puggle.

Just another average Fam Din down in the books. ❤

Happy Birthday N and R!

July 2017 Family Dinner

_______________________________________________

This Month’s Family Dinner Menu

Cocktails: Tropical Fruits Wine Slushies, Various Wine
Appetizers: Burrata Bruschetta with Balsamic Reduction
Entrees: Steamed Dungeness Crabs & Lobsters, Grilled Giant Clams with Soy-Garlic Sauce
Sides: Garlic Butter Noodles, Asian Flank Steak over Grilled Romaine Salad
Dessert: Peanut Butter-Oreo Chocolate Icebox Cake

Sunday Family Dinner

An Endless Fam Din Feast for the Tauruses

IMG_0645
It was one of my favorite times of the year — my BIRTH MONTH!!!

Birth “month” you ask? Oh yes, I celebrate the entire month.

Actually our family is full of May babies….Mom, Dad, SIL and cousie –all Tauruses, which makes a lot of sense. We’re all a tad–how would you put it? Oh right–stubborn.

DSC_0242
But when it came time for L and my Fam Din— I WAS PUMPED!

What to have on the menu?

Lobster? Prime Rib? King Crab? French Fry Fest?

YES PLEASE!

DSC_0252
Sooooo many options. Maybe TOO many good ones to choose from.

In fact, the week before dinner, we still hadn’t had a full menu planned other than knowing who would be in charge of which portions of the meal.

IMG_0569
Then mid-week, it hit me-it was soft shell crab season! And I do love me some soft shell crab sammies! With new found inspiration, I volunteered to take on the main dish and its fixings!

But as for the other dishes–everything was still up in the air.

DSC_0237
We all convened with our mystery ingredients to T and R’s casa and got down to prep.

But first–some cocktails!

I whipped up a few pitchers of Sparkling Rosé Sangria and let me tell ya, it’s like summer in a glass.

Fresh fruit, ginger, mint, cognac, light rosé, bubbly….now that’s a party!

Sparkling Rosé Sangria
Quick pic with the sibbies!!

IMG_1411
And a little photobomber in the shape of Leonidas.

That little rascal….

I love that mischievous face.

IMG_1408 2
And then it was time to get back in the kitchen for some more prep.

May 2017 Fam Din
Thank goodness for R and Nini–our shuckers for the night.

DSC_0200
Because without those two, we’d just be staring at these beauties saying “Alohomora” over and over again.

Why yes–that was a little shot out to my fellow Potterheads.

DSC_0210
Now let the feasting begin!

V and L had been visiting our friends in Ventura that morning and picked up some Fresh Oysters for us to nosh on.

L made a classic mignonette for us to enjoy the oysters with and there was also lots of fresh lemon and tabasco on hand too.

DSC_0276

HELLLOOOOOO Gorgeous!!!!

DSC_0279
As you can tell, Nina didn’t like them at all.

May 2017 Fam Din
They also picked up some fresh uni and L got to work cracking them open.

Seriously, my mouth is watering just looking at the picture of it.

May 2017 Fam Din
And what did we do with them? Nini and L made adorable little bites of Uni Gunkan Maki.

Perfect morsels that just screamed of the sea.

DSC_0246
I could have easily polished off a dozen of them.

ps. Gunkan Maki are “warship sushi” or “battleship sushi” and are named such because of its shape. See? I can drop some random knowledge from time to time.

DSC_0245
N demolishes battleships on the reg.

DSC_0244
Since we were going the distance, V & L also picked up some local Yellowtail while in Ventura and there’s no better way to enjoy it than as straight up Yellowtail Sashimi.

It’s how we roll.

IMG_0595
Now most folks would just make 1 or 2 appetizers for dinner. But with my o’hana, why just have 1 when we could have 5?

Seriously, five. We had FIVE appetizers for Fam Din.

We’re uncontrollable.

To wrap up our apps course, T made clams two ways. (Are you sensing that gluttony theme?)

May 2017 Fam Din

The first version featured clams stuffed with miso butter, cheese, aromatics and panko bread crumbs. Quite addicting and hopefully will be at our football parties this fall.

IMG_0591

The second preparation were roasted clams with miso butter, rice wine, ginger, beech mushrooms, scallions and some other magical goodies.

And OH. MY. GOD.

These were so freaking good!! So savory, so rich in flavor—FULL of umami (I feel like such an idiot every time I use that word)! The clams were wonderful on its own but would also be perfect as a main dish with soba noodles or even with just crusty baguette.

IMG_0590 2

Look at my fam…..they’re cute.

I guess I’ll keep them.

I should probably admit that they look so happy because we had just spent an hour gorging on apps and cocktails (for the 21+ over).

But hey, whatever it takes.

IMG_1380
After polishing off all the apps, we were pretty stuffed. And we still had our main course left, too!

In order to make it to the finish line, we needed a breather.

Maya took a T.O. on Lamby.

DSC_0214
Leonidas got a massage.

Life is rough for the munchkins, isn’t it?

DSC_0227
And we snapped pics.

Because apparently, we don’t take enough pictures.

NOT!

DSC_0266

After a quick pause, I turned my attention to these little guys–the soft shell crabs. Since the crabs have molted their exoskeletons, the entire crustacean can be eaten after a bit of light cleaning.

DSC_0258
Sometimes you jut have to infuse your food with love……you feel me?

It makes everything that much tastier.

DSC_0232
After they were cleaned and drained, we lightly dredged them in a mixture of flour and corn meal.

And not to sound twisted, but doesn’t it look like they’re just chilling in the sand?

No? Too much?

DSC_0311
After they were dredged, Nini helped me pan fry them in butter and olive oil until they were golden brown and crispy.

DSC_0310
Once out of the pan, they all got a sprinkle Old Bay and sea salt.

DSC_0320
The crispy soft shell crabs were destined to rest inside these little Brioche Buns I had baked earlier. Nina lightly buttered and toasted the buns for that extra punch of goodness.

Aren’t they adorable? The girls said they reminded them of Krabby Patties from SpongeBob—which, now that I think of it, is kind of appropriate.

DSC_0314
To serve with sandwiches, I decided to make homemade Cracked Pepper & Sea Salt Chips. I know, it seems like a lot of work when you can just go out and buy a bag of chips.

DSC_0186
But honestly, homemade chips are SOOO much better! It does take a bit of time but they’re really easy to make. Just be sure to fry up some extra because if your family is anything like mine, they will be gone before it’s time to eat.

DSC_0315
Assembly time!

A light schmear of Old Bay aioli on the buns, add thin slices of ripe tomato, a leaf of butter lettuce and top it off with a beautiful soft shell crab.

DSC_0332
So nice I had to show it twice!

Seriously–as good as I had hoped for when they came to mind just a few days prior. I love it when that happens.

DSC_0327
And Food Coma starts in 5…4…3…2…..

IMG_1374
But wait! We still have dessert!!

And not just any dessert but B I R T H D A Y  cake!

N was in charge of our birthday dessert and all I said is that I wanted a dense chocolate cake that tasted like a Ferrero Rocher — one of my favorite candies.

DSC_0228

And HOLY CRAP!  SHE DELIVERED!!!

Just like a Ferrero Rocher!!!

DSC_0360

The cake was super dense and rich–like a flourless cake that had ground hazelnuts in the batter. She topped it with a chocolate mousse and a “crunch” made from melted chocolate and rice cereal. It was then finished with more hazelnuts and a generous drizzle of more chocolate.

From taste to texture it totally was a Ferrero Rocher!

I’m not kidding y’all–it’s one of the best cakes I’ve ever had. She’s going to have to make me this cake every year now.

DSC_0352
And as if we didn’t have enough sugar, R broke out the fire so the munchkins could roast some marshmallows.

Why not, right? If not for the added sugar than at least for the experience.

DSC_0340
I can’t help but hope that when they look back 20 years from now, they’ll think fondly of our monthly Fam Dins and the randomness that often occur.

For example, the fireworks that we set off shortly after I took this picture.

And no, I’m not kidding.

DSC_0343
And that’s a wrap on our decadent Fam Din for L and my bday!

Not bad considering we threw the menu together at the last minute. And yes, it was a delicious as it looks.

IMG_1410 2

_______________________________________________

This Month’s Family Dinner Menu

Cocktails: Sparkling Rosé Sangria, Various Wine
Appetizers: Fresh Oysters with Mignonette, Yellowtail Sashimi, Uni Gunkan Maki, Miso Roasted Clams with Beech Mushrooms, Panko-Miso Butter Clams
Entrees: Soft Shell Crab Sandwiches with Old Bay Aioli, on Brioche Rolls with Cracked Pepper & Sea Salt Chips
Dessert: Chocolate-Hazelnut “Ferrero Rocher” Cake

Desserts/Pastries · Sponsored

Matcha Green Tea Cheesecake

Matcha Green Tea Cheesecake
If you’ve been with me for awhile then you’re probably familiar with my family’s obsession with ALL things matcha green tea flavored. So when it comes to our celebrations, I’m constantly trying to think of different ways to incorporate the finely ground matcha green tea powder in our desserts

Matcha Green Tea Cheesecake
We’ve done…..

You’d think we’d be sick of it all by now—but of course, we can’t seem to get enough of it!

There are even some health benefits to matcha — high in antioxidants, can assist with your concentration and help to detox. And if you use it in baked goods like I do, it finishes into a beautiful green hue –perfectly festive for the  holidays.

Matcha Green Tea Cheesecake
To close out my year as a Davidson’s Dozen, I thought I would take one of our favorite ingredients and combine it with their Safest Choice® pasteurized eggs. The end resulted in a rich and decadent Matcha Green Tea Cheesecake.

There are several different forms cheesecakes. Some are baked and some are unbaked like my Matcha Green Tea Icebox Cheesecake. There are fruit flavored, chocolate based and some are light and airy whereas others are rich and dense.

I generally prefer a denser texture –more along the lines of a New York style cheesecake –which is how this baked Matcha Green Tea Cheesecake was inspired by.

Matcha Green Tea Cheesecake

The crust of the cheesecake started off with chocolate sandwich cookies that I threw into the food processor — cream filling and all. Once the cookies were pulsed into the texture of sand, it’s then mixed with some melted butter and baked off in a springform pan for a few minutes to set.

The filling is a combination of cream cheese, sour cream (for that added bit of tang), sugar, Safest Choice®  Eggs, and a hefty dose of ground matcha green tea. Davidson’s Safest Choice® Pasteurized Eggs are all-natural, hormone and antibiotic free which all leads towards a delicious farm-fresh flavor. They give the cheesecake a smooth and creamy consistency that your loved ones will adore for the holidays.

The cheesecake is then baked in a water bath to provide moisture in the oven so that the top doesn’t crack. After chilling in the fridge overnight, it’s then topped with matcha flavored whipped cream. And I’ve got to admit–it tastes fantastic! Chocolate pairs especially well with matcha — the green tea is slightly bitter and balances the sweetness from the cake.

Matcha Green Tea Cheesecake

If you’d like the recipe for my Matcha Green Tea Cheesecake, click here. And if you need other delicious ideas for your holiday events, visit the recipe center at SafeEggs.com for cocktails, appetizers, entrees and desserts!

Happy Holidays!

Davidsons-Dozen-Blogger-Badge*DISCLOSURE: As a brand ambassador for the Safest Choice™ pasteurized eggs, I was compensated for the creation of this recipe and post. However, as always, all opinions are 100% my own.*

Sunday Family Dinner

Family Dinner Channels the Mediterranean!

June 2016 Fam Din

A couple of things about this month’s Family Dinner that we had last weekend.

First off, it was HOT AS HECK!! 104 degrees in Orange County and it wasn’t even technically summer yet!

Which is why we were okay with having {Diet} Coke Floats right out of the gates.

Y.O.L.O.

June 2016 Fam Din
Second, Fam Din took place two days after my eldest niece, Nina, graduated from high school.

She is the eldest of my siblings’ kids and my parents’ first grandchild. In many ways, she was all of our baby. In fact, I was in the room when she came into the world and heard her very first cry.

And now, here she is–all grown up and starting college this fall. How did this happen? So I was a cheering lunatic at the ceremony and a little sad….ALL at the same time.

Needless to say, I was still a little emotional two days later. Which is why I took a ton of pics at dinner. So be warned—there are more photos of the fam than food in this post. I’ll make it up to you next time.

But isn’t she adorable?

Nina

As I mentioned, it was a scorcher out that day and coincidentally, we all were feeling a little silly.

So it was no surprise that this happened….

June 2016 Fam Din

And then Lucasaurus had to break out his stunnahs because, well…

He’s a playah….

June 2016 Fam Din
We had anticipated the heat and wanted to create a menu that wasn’t too heavy. We settled on dishes with a Mediterranean slant and were able to use ingredients like oregano, mint, dill, pine nuts, feta, olives, anchovies and lemons. Plus, it lent to a colorful menu and who doesn’t love to taste the rainbow?

Next up–Cocktail Time!!! To help us cool down, I made several batches of Boozy Watermelon Lemonade. Doesn’t it just scream summah?

Refreshing, light, lemony and went down incredibly smooth….a little too smooth. That could be a good and bad thing.

June 2016 Fam Din
I’m going with good.

Oh, and the kiddos got regular Watermelon Lemonade–sans vodka.

June 2016 Fam Din
After the first pitcher or so, we needed a little nosh in our tummies.

Appetizers time!

I do enjoy a deviled egg from time to time but my seestrah absolutely L-O-V-E-S them! Which is kind of confusing because she doesn’t really like eggs.

Say WHAT?!? Say WHAT?!?

I know, she’s weird.

But then she pulls out a winner like this and then we were sold.

June 2016 Fam Din
Her Kicked Up Mediterranean Inspired Deviled Eggs were flavored with white truffle oil, paprika and then topped with crispy applewood bacon, freshly made tapenade and fried kale.

I know, right?!?

Tons of flavor and I loved the great texture contrast from the bacon and kale.

I may or may not have eaten like 5 or 6 of them…. but might I remind you–this is a “No Food Judgement Zone”.

June 2016 Fam Din
On to more fam pics….

These three melt my heart. ❤

June 2016 Fam Din

And then I go back into the house and find the seesters being a little silly.

Was it the Boozy Watermelon Lemonade?

Nah….I blame it on the kicked up Deviled Eggs.

June 2016 Fam Din
But….

When you can’t beat them—join them!

Throwing up SHAKA!…ROCK AND ROLL!…ZOT-ZOT!

Don’t know what zot-zot is? Ask anyone with ties to UC Irvine.

June 2016 Fam Din
And before we knew it, we needed another snack.

Hey–we started early that day and we like options!

So then I made a big batch of Kolokithokeftedes with a Tzatziki Dipping Sauce.

June 2016 Fam Din
What are Kolokithokeftedes, you ask? They’re delicious Greek zucchini fritters. Can’t pronounce Kolokithokeftedes? Don’t worry–neither can I. But they’re fab, nonetheless.

I made these from shredded zucchini, beaten eggs, chopped fresh dill and mint, feta cheese, panko breadcrumbs and some dried herbs. Just be sure to squeeze out as much liquid from the zucchini as possible before you make the fritters. Or you can do what I did and lightly salt them, put them in a colander and allowed the natural liquids to be drawn out. You’d be surprised how much liquid you’ll extract–I got almost 1 1/2 cups from about 2 pounds of zucchini!

After a quick pan fry, I sprinkled them with a bit of sea salt flakes and served them with Tzatziki.

As for the Tzatziki, it’s a breeze.

I mixed together shallots, garlic, diced cucumbers, Greek yogurt, sour cream, red wine vinegar, dill, salt and pepper. Very versatile and for the record, fantastic over grilled salmon, too.

June 2016 Fam Din
We love hanging out in seestrah’s backyard.

Great patio furniture, bistro lights, built in BBQ, lots of space and very SoCal inspired landscaping.

June 2016 Fam Din
And their jacuzzi is fantastic too!

June 2016 Fam Din
After some shenanigans, lots of pictures and even more cocktails – it was time to focus in on dinner.

Keeping with the Mediterranean flavors, seestrah made up a big batch of Oregano Chicken to be grilled.

June 2016 Fam Din
She marinated lots of bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs overnight. The marinade consisted of garlic, anchovies, olives brine, lemons, onions and fresh oregano.

Seestrah then handed it over to her hubs to grill low and slow so that the meat was wonderfully juicy and skin was perfectly crispy.

June 2016 Fam Din
Once the chicken was grilled and rested, it was slathered with a flavorful mixture of anchovies, olive oil, chopped olives, garlic, lemon juice and parsley.

As someone who loves olives, I thought this was fantastic!

The “topping” added the right amount of brininess and acidity to the chicken. If you’re interested, the recipe can be found here.

June 2016 Fam Din

While the chicken rested, I snapped a couple pics of the kid sibbies.

First up–Lucas and Maya and then Nini and Nina.

They. Are. Adorable.

June 2016 Fam Din
Back to dinner….

Big seester made two sides to go along with the chicken.

First, a bright and fresh Cucumber Salad that had heirloom tomatoes, olives, Persian cucumbers, feta cheese and lots of fresh dill. She dressed the salad with an anchovy vinaigrette.

June 2016 Fam Din
Her second side dish was this beautiful Orzo Salad.

June 2016 Fam Din
It was made of cooked orzo, artichokes, tomatoes, olives, feta cheese, pine nuts, fresh basil, lemon and shrimp.

I adored it–LOVED what the pine nuts added to the dish.

June 2016 Fam Din
Now isn’t this plating a delicious sight?

I also added a dollup of tzatziki to the party because why the heck not?

June 2016 Fam Din
After dinner, we lounged about and enjoyed some more vino.

June 2016 Fam Din
We chatted about random stuff, laughed a lot, sang a bunch of 80’s hits, did a little gossiping and started planning for July’s menu.

It’s never too early to plan the next meal in our book.

And trust me, I would have loved to have share the video of us singing Jessie’s Girl.…but I value my life too much.

June 2016 Fam Din
Finally, it was time to dig into dessert.

Carrying on with the Mediterranean flavors, I made an olive oil cake–a Chocolate Olive Oil Cake –and used Nigella Lawson’s recipe that can be found here.

June 2016 Fam Din
If you’ve never had an olive oil cake, don’t worry, it doesn’t taste like olives. The oil just lends to a very moist sponge and gives a slight floral flavor. It works particularly well since there’s no flour in the recipe but instead it uses ground almonds.

And it’s freaking delicious.

I paired the dense, chocolatey cake with a whipped berry cream. Super easy since I made my standard whipped cream and then folded in crushed fresh blueberries and raspberries. And it was fantastic!

YUM!

I’d definitely make this combo again. And you should make it too.

June 2016 Fam Din
Moral of the post?

I love Family Dinners in the summer.

Even when it’s just “almost” summer.

June 2016 Fam Din
Days are longer and the sun hangs out until 8ish.

Which means more time for food and a lot more time with the fam.

June 2016 Fam Din

And in my book, that’s definitely a Win-Nguyen!

June 2016 Fam Din

This Month’s Family Dinner Menu

Cocktails:  Boozy Watermelon Lemonade
Appetizers: Kicked Up Mediterranean Inspired Deviled Eggs, Kolokithokeftedes with Tzatziki
Entrees: Grilled Oregano Chicken with Green Olives & Anchovies
Sides: Cucumber & Heirloom Tomato Salad with Anchovy Vinaigrette, Shrimp and Orzo Salad
Dessert: Chocolate Olive Oil Cake with Whipped Berry Cream

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

Desserts/Pastries

Chocolate and Peanut Butter Macarons – Happy Macaron Day!

Macarons

It’s a double whammy today!

Not only is it the first day of Spring (yahoooooo!) but it also happens to be MACARON DAY!

Now that is a food holiday I can get behind.

Macarons3

It just so happened that we were celebrating my niece’s very belated birthday last week and I had volunteered to make the cake. A few things about our Maya…..

She loves the chocolate and peanut butter combo –and she ADORES macarons. Smart girl, right?

So I set about finding as many ways to incorporate that flavor combo into the cake as possible–and that included adorning the tops with Chocolate and Peanut Butter Macarons.

Over the top?

Hell yes.

Macarons4

I’ve shared a few macaron recipes will you all before — so you know a few things I have to do when baking them:

  • Age the egg whites
  • Double, if not TRIPLE, sift the ground almonds or almond meals
  • Don’t over whip the meringue
  • Gently tap the baking sheets a few times after you pipe the macaron batter to release air bubbles
  • Allow the shells to harden before baking

But even with those steps, I still get flops from time to time. It’s usually because I wasn’t meticulous enough with the meringues, haven’t allowed the shells to harden enough prior to baking (because I’m impatient) and because my oven has hot spots. I swear if I get a new oven, the first thing I’ll ask the salesperson is “Will it bake consistent macarons?!?!?!”.

But that’s a whole other story for another time…..

Macarons2
Once the shells were baked and done, I filled them with the same Peanut Butter Buttercream I used to frost the cake with. It was rich, sticky and SUPER peanut-buttery. PERFECT!

They were a hit with the birthday girl and maybe next time I’ll swap it so that the shells are peanut flavored and will fill them with chocolate ganache. The options are endless!

HAPPY MACARON DAY!
_________________________________________
Chocolate and Peanut Butter Macarons
Makes 28-30 macarons

Ingredients:

Macaron Shells:
110 grams double sifted almond meal or blanched almonds
15 grams high quality cocoa powder
170 grams confectioner’s sugar
100 grams egg whites, aged at room temperature for 24-48 hours
40 grams granulated sugar

If using blanched almonds, pulse the almonds in a food processor until it becomes finely ground. Sift it twice before measuring out the 110 grams. In a bowl, sift together the almond meal/ground almonds with cocoa powder and the confectioner’s sugar. Set aside.

In a mixing stand fitted with the whisk attachment, whisk egg whites until frothy. Slowly add granulated sugar and continue beating until stiff peaks are barely formed. Carefully begin incorporating the dry mixture into the meringue, gently folding until all items have been integrated and a smooth batter has been formed.

Using a pastry bag fitted with a large round tip, pipe small rounds of the mixture onto baking sheets lined with silicon mats. Rounds should be about 1-1½ inches in diameter. Once the baking sheets are filled, carefully tap the sheets on the counter to remove any possible air pockets. Let the macaron shells sit on the counter for 45-60 minutes to harden the outer shell before baking. Humidity will affect how long it takes for the “skin” to form but the shells should not be sticky when you gently touch them.

Bake the shells at 290 degrees F for 18-20 minutes. Transfer the baking sheets to cooling racks and cool completely before removing shells from the sheets. Macarons shells can be made up to 24 hours in advance before filling and should be stored in airtight containers.

Peanut Butter Buttercream
1 cup smooth peanut butter
6 tablespoons room temperature unsalted butter
1 cup sifted powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
4 tablespoons milk
2-3 pinches sea salt

In a large mixer bowl, whip the peanut butter and butter together for several minutes until very light and fluffy. Slowly add the powdered sugar a few spoonfuls at a time until incorporated. Add the vanilla extract and then slowly drizzle in the milk, sea salt and whip until combined.

Using a piping bag filled with the peanut butter buttercream or with a small knife, fill the flat side of a macaron shell and sandwich with another shell. Filled macarons can be kept up to 2 days in airtight containers.