Sunday Family Dinner

May the Fam Din Be with You!

May 2019 Fam Din

HOLY COW!

It’s been a HOT MINUTE since I’ve last posted and boy–do I have a lot to catch you up on!

Since my last post, we’ve had four family dinners, a TON of kitchen experiments and foodventures, a little bit of travel and now we just bid a “see ya’ later” to my brother and his fam as they embark on a world wide adventure for the next year.

May 2019 Fam Din
So let’s pick up where I left off – our May Family Dinner which covered three birthdays: Dad, L and yours truly!

Yes…May — I know.

May 2019 Fam Din
For an appetizer, I chose to make dumplings because you know how much we love them!

I had been scrolling through Instagram one day and saw a picture of these cute dumplings with whole shrimp in them. I HAD to make my own version of them!

May 2019 Fam Din
So I mixed up an easy filling of chopped shrimp, crumbled fresh tofu (for extra juiciness), scallions, fish sauce, sesame oil, pepper and a bit of cornstarch. I then laid a butterflied shrimp (with tail on) down on a dumpling skin and put a bit of filling on top. A few pinches to seal and voila – Whole Shrimp and Tofu Dumplings.

May 2019 Fam Din
I ended up pan frying them although steaming them would also be delicious and they turned out great! Super plump and succulent.

And not only did the shrimp tails add a little something to the presentation, they became quite functional as a means to pick up the whole dumpling with. Cute and useful!

May 2019 Fam Din
That day also happened to be the series finale of Game of Thrones and if you read this post, you know my Fam LOVES us some GoT!

I had been saving this particular 2014 Game of Thrones Cabernet Sauvignon for some time…and that night seemed like the perfect time to crack it open.

May 2019 Fam Din
And I just so happened to score this Game of Thrones themed Monopoly board from a dear friend — so obvi…. GAME ON!

May 2019 Fam Din

The fur babies were very vested in the Iron Throne.

May 2019 Fam Din
Back to the food….

At the 11th hour, I asked brother to make some oven roasted Crispy Pork Belly.

Because, really….it’s always a good time for pork belly.

May 2019 Fam Din
I had seen this recipe from Kirbie’s Cravings and had wanted to give it a roll for a long time.

May 2019 Fam Din
The process was really easy and the salt crust pulled out all of the moisture to give a SUPER crispy skin.

May 2019 Fam Din
We’ll definitely be making this again.

May 2019 Fam Din
And I can’t wait to play around with the marinade a bit too!

May 2019 Fam Din
All of the Iron Throne excitement, left the fur babies tuckered out…..

May 2019 Fam Din

Grandpa had to give Bella some love….

May 2019 Fam Din

Speaking of Dad, his request for the night was Haemul Sundubu Jigae {Korea Seafood Soft Tofu Stew}. It’s something P first introduced Mom and Dad to YEARS ago when they visited her in SF. And when Mom got into her Korean cooking phase, she started making it, too!

I started mine by making a seafood stock with lots of aromatics and shrimp shells.

May 2019 Fam Din
I then made an intense seafood stock out of dried kelp, dried anchovies, radish and then added the seafood stock to it. Then all of the aromatics were added including LOTS of Korean chili flakes before I threw in the seafood. Nina then helped cut soft tofu into the boiling stew.

May 2019 Fam Din
We then cracked whole eggs into the boiling pots and topped with scallions.

DEE-LISH!

May 2019 Fam Din
I also had another request (HEY, BIRTH MONTH PEOPLE!) – Crab Fried Rice!

I asked T to make this dish and asked her to keep it simple. Just rice, eggs, lots of crab, garlic and fish sauce. It was bomb!

May 2019 Fam Din

Before we knew it, it was dessert time! And you betcha’ N spearheaded THREE desserts!

L had requested Sweet Sticky Rice with Mango.

May 2019 Fam Din
Dad is a chocoholic so the birthday boy got an Icebox Chocolate Cake.

May 2019 Fam Din
As for me, I got a Passionfruit-Mango Cake – loved it!

May 2019 Fam Din

N baked the cake….

Nini decorated it….

and Luna added the extra sparkles!

May 2019 Fam Din
You can see where we get the whole food photography thing from!

May 2019 Fam Din
Needless to say, the May Babies were VERY happy with everything!

May 2019 Fam Din
Do we really have to wait until next year to have our own dinner again????

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This Month’s Family Dinner Menu

Cocktails: Various Wines
Appetizers: Pan-fried Whole Shrimp and Tofu Dumplings
Entree: Crispy Pork Belly, Thai Style Crab Fried Rice, Haemul Sundubu Jjigae (Korean Seafood Soft Tofu Stew)
Dessert: Thai Sweet Sticky Rice with Mango, Chocolate Icebox Cake, Passion fruit-Mango Cake

Sunday Family Dinner

Family Dinner Celebrates Mardi Gras

March 2019 Fam Din
March is always a tough month for us to figure out a theme for Family Dinner.

Do we go with the St. Patrick’s Day route like that one year?

Maybe an early Easter theme like last year?

Or that one year where we were so stumped, we just decided to make green food. (Maybe not our most inspired dinner but it was still tasty.)

March 2019 Fam Din
So when we were kicking ideas around for this March, we were hemming and hawing FOH-EVAH!

And then it hit us…. MARDI GRAS is in March this year!

Sure, we’ve done a crazy N’awlins Seafood Boil and Southern Comfort food but we haven’t tried channeling Fat Tuesday before.

March 2019 Fam Din
Now it’s said that the first Mardi Gras celebration in the states occurred in Mobile, Alabama – and my ‘Bama coworker won’t let anyone say otherwise (those Roll Tide folks are serious!). But since celebrations can be found all around the old French territories in the Southern Gulf, we decided to take inspiration from Creole, Cajun and Southern cuisine for our menu that night.

March 2019 Fam Din
Seestrah T was up to bat first.

Shrimp and Grits seemed like a great option but she had already made a knock out version to pair with the brisket V smoked awhile back.

March 2019 Fam Din
Thankfully by the powers of Google searches, she stumbled upon a recipe for Crab Beignets.

Crabs? YES PLEASE!

Beignets? HECK YES!

Can’t have a nod to this region without including lots of seafood and beginets!

March 2019 Fam Din

These savory beignets were filled with goodies like LOTS of lump crab meat, onions, peppers, hot sauce, eggs, milk and baking soda for that lift. They were then rolled in cake flour and deep fried until golden brown.

We dunked them in a rémoulade and DING-DING-DING-DING-DING!

Nuggets of joy I tell you.

March 2019 Fam Din
We all agreed that they were more like fritters than what you initially think of when you say “beignet”.

But none of us cared because we were too busy stuffing them into our mouths.

March 2019 Fam Din
Since moving back to California, Luna has taken a great interest in helping out in the kitchen – particularly during Fam Din. She’s become more and more comfortable with her knife skills (under supervision of course) and is cooking complete dishes with her folks’ guidance.

All skills that we put to work as she helped her parents prep their dish for that night – Crawfish Étouffée.

March 2019 Fam Din
Étouffée is French for “smothered or suffocated” and is a thick sauce (practically a stew) made most often with shellfish. It’s traditionally served over rice and it all begins with a “roux“.

A roux is a mixture of a type of fat and flour that has been cooked down to thicken a sauce. I’ve read in a few places that if your roux is made with butter and flour, it’s Creole. If it’s made with oil and flour, it’s Cajun. But please don’t quote me on that– it has the makings of an ongoing debate I sure as heck have no authority to settle.

March 2019 Fam Din
V and L searched and searched for fresh crawfish to use in their étouffée but were out of luck. Crawfish season (crayfish, crawdads, mudbugs – whatever nomenclature you prefer) in California usually doesn’t start until July but sometimes you can find them in Asian grocery stores a bit earlier.

At the end of the day we opted to use the seawater cousin of crawfish – langostinos. These wild caught langostino tails can be found in 2 pound packs in the freezer section at Costco and they’re an awesome substitute. So yes, technically, we had Langostino Étouffée and not Crawfish Étouffée. The langostinos are quite sweet, tender – and these are SHELLED by hand so you don’t have to do the work!

March 2019 Fam Din

After they spent some TLC getting a rich and dark roux (for that deep nutty flavor), they added aromatics and A TON OF EXTRA BUTTER! Kerrygold Irish Salted Butter – it’s their fav.

And then all the glorious langostinos joined the party!

March 2019 Fam Din
Delish right?

March 2019 Fam Din
They served their étouffée over a big scoop of white rice. Can you guess which kind?

Uncle Ben’s!! SERIOUSLY!

They were told that it’s what’s commonly used – so we did it! To be honest, we weren’t even sure how to cook Uncle Ben’s white rice. But when all was said and done, it was perfect.

March 2019 Fam Din
In fact, it’s one of those things that tasted even better the next day!

By then the flavors had extra time to meld and party together which made me VERY happy to have leftovers.

March 2019 Fam Din
V & L were overwhelmed with joy at how well their dish turned out.

March 2019 Fam Din

And like all of the munchkins at some point have done, Nini is wondering —“Is this my family???”

March 2019 Fam Din
Seester N directed the last two savory items of the night…with the assistance of the kiddos, of course.

Luna helped her big cousie Nina get the corn meal dredge prepared for the catfish that had been soaked in buttermilk, hot sauce and spices.

March 2019 Fam Din
After the fillets were coated in the cornmeal, they hung out for a little bit on a rack so that the coating would set.

March 2019 Fam Din
They were then deep fried for a few minutes until golden brown. Southern Fried Catfish –mmmmm!

(Psssst…..I spy a box of Uncle Ben’s in the corner.)

March 2019 Fam Din
N also felt that if we were going to be in this region, we should have some okra. Hey- we did need some veggies.

So she dredged them and threw them in the hot oil, too. Because nothing says healthy veggies more than Cornmeal Fried Okra.

Work with us people…..

March 2019 Fam Din
Doesn’t this plate just look heavenly???

March 2019 Fam Din
We added generous douses of fresh lemon juice over it all to brighten the flavors and it was scrumptious!

The leftover fried catfish were remade the next day into little sliders on rolls with a schmear of the rémoulade from the Crab Beignets. I’m telling you, leftovers are a clutch component of Fam Din and we are always SUPER bummed during the months when our “doggie bags” are lighter than others.

March 2019 Fam Din
DROOLS.

Doesn’t this make you want to chug some Hurricanes and run around in elaborate costumes on floats?!?

Side note: I did consider whipping up a batch of Hurricanes for the occasion but really…. Although it would have been on trend for the theme, who in their right minds actually like the tastes of hurricanes?!? Tooth-achingly sweet and so boozy it could combust into flames.

BLEH!

So we stuck to lots of vino instead.

March 2019 Fam Din
Our Humanlings!

And a few photobombers in the background.

OMIGOSH – how the heck did that Uncle Ben’s box manage to squeeze itself into another picture????

March 2019 Fam Din
Okay, let’s talk about dessert now, shall we?

I really struggled on this one, peeps. The sweet bite often seen during Mardi Gras is King Cake. In the states, King Cake is a sweet bread dough that is braided and formed into a ring. After it’s baked, it’s drizzled with an icing and decorated in the colors of the celebration – purple, green, yellow. According to an article from Eater,

“King cake is eaten on January 6 in honor of Epiphany, or Twelfth Night, which historically marks the arrival of the three wise men/kings in Bethlehem who delivered gifts to the baby Jesus. The plastic baby hidden inside king cakes today is a nod to this story.”

March 2019 Fam Din
That is all fine and dandy.

But here’s the thing–if I want a dessert, I don’t want to have something that evokes a breakfast pastry. And to me, that’s what King Cake tastes like.

I could’ve tried traditional desserts for the season from outside of the US like galette des rois, gâteau des rois or roscón de reyes. But I just didn’t think that any of them would’ve been a hit with the fam – particularly the kiddos.

Of course, there was the sweet beignet route, too. However Seestrah P has made beignets in the past before and nothing I could’ve made in that thread would’ve topped her Cafe du Monde inspired Beignets with Vietnamese Coffee Ice Cream.

March 2019 Fam Din
So I took some MAJOR liberties and finally settled on a French dessert – Profiteroles!

I figured a French influenced dessert still had a home in a Mardi Gras menu, right? Another stretch? But I went with it and nabbed Maya and Nina to help make the choux pastry.

Bella volunteered to guard them as they puffed and baked in the oven.

March 2019 Fam Din
The choux pastry came together quick and easy (especially when you finagle 2 nieces to help you) and can be filled with just about anything. Common fillings are whipped cream, pastry cream, custard, fruit but I wanted use ice cream so that we could have a variety to choose from.

March 2019 Fam DinPLUS it gave me the perfect segue to bring in the colors of Mardi Gras based on the ice cream flavor:

March 2019 Fam Din
Since I didn’t make the ice creams (or gelato) myself, I felt compelled to make a chocolate sauce from Bouchon to drizzle over the tops. This WAS in honor of Fat Tuesday!

We created an assembly line where Nini filled the choux with ice cream, I drizzled the chocolate sauce and Luna topped them with matching sprinkles. Teamwork makes the dream work….especially when it’s this yummy.

And no surprises here but the the King Cake was not missed.

March 2019 Fam DinAnd guess what we did after we ate all of that?

We spent over an hour watching YouTube videos of people traveling all over Asia eating delicious (and sometimes crazy looking) foods. We’ve got some issues, I know.

I’m just going to call it research.

March 2019 Fam Din
Until next time Friends….Cheers! ❤

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This Month’s Family Dinner Menu

Cocktails: Various Wines
Appetizers: Crab Beignets with Rémoulade
Entree: Crawfish Étouffée, Southern Fried Catfish
Sides: Cornmeal Fried Okra, Rice
Dessert: Profiteroles filled with Ice Cream and Chocolate Sauce

Sunday Family Dinner

Our February Birthday Girls

February 2019 Fam Din
This month we celebrated the birthdays of these two sweeties — Maya and Princess Leia. ❤

Maya turned 14 and Leia is now 11. Aren’t they just the most adorable pair?

February 2019 Fam Din
And since Tết – the Vietnamese Lunar New Year – was happening at that time, Seester P and her clan made their way down from SF to join in on all of the celebrations.

Our youngest munckin was SOOOO excited to be with her SoCal family!

Ms. Kaelani is growing up to be quite the character! She was a nonstop chatterbox during her visit and was constantly singing!

Mulan’s “Let’s Get Down to Business” is one of her current favs but of course, Moana and Frozen are never far away.

And if you were watching my IG stories that weekend, you likely caught her bellowing out a few lines of a Madonna classic. I won’t divulge which one but needless to say, she was hilarious.

Such a funny and rascally little gal.

February 2019 Fam Din

It’s ALWAYS a fun time when all of the Nguyễn sibbies are together!

Always loud, always chaotic….

Lots of teasing and laughing….

Especially when we’ve got some cocktails in us!

February 2019 Fam Din

For this month, I made Palomas again because I love how bright and citrusy they are. There’s something about them that makes me feel “healthy”…..maybe the grapefruit juice?

I know I’m just fooling myself since it’s accompanied with a heavy pour of blanco tequila!

February 2019 Fam Din

Also at that time, V and L had been puppy-sitting their neighbor’s new little furbaby – Ollie!

February 2019 Fam Din

He’s an adorable little fluffy pup — and all of the kiddos just adored him!

February 2019 Fam Din
Well…all the humanlings that is.

Don’t get me wrong…. Bella didn’t dislike him. I think she was just worried that it was another puppy that she would have to share all the treats with. Plus, she doesn’t like to have to fight for her humans’ attentions because as far as she’s concerned — she’s the queen.

February 2019 Fam Din
I did notice that she was spending EXTRA time with each of her humans to ensure that they still remembered who was in charge.

February 2019 Fam Din
As for Leia – she took to Ollie just fine.

She was just PUMPED that it was her birthday dinner because she knew her birthday “dessert” was going to be delish!

Don’t you just love how she sits? What a little lady…..

February 2019 Fam Din
Ollie is one of the rare beings outside of our immediate family that has attended one of our Fam Dins.

It’s like hitting the lottery!

February 2019 Fam Din
Time for food!

As for the menu that night, we all took inspiration from Maya’s favorite things.

Like her mama and papa, she’s a steak gal.

February 2019 Fam Din
So earlier that morning, I took 6 New York Strip Steaks and cubed them up. Yes….SIX! There were a lot of us!

I marinated the cubed beef in shallots, garlic, EVOO, parsley, cilantro, chili flakes, S & P and ….. um…..

I’m not going to lie…..I threw in some other stuff that I can’t remember.

February 2019 Fam Din

Oh wait! I think there was some lime zest and juice?

I know, I’m a terrible food blogger.

Anywhoooo……

After the beef did its thing in the fridge for about 8 hours, Nina skewered them for me.

February 2019 Fam Din
Tag R – you’re in!

Nina and I then handed the skewers over so that R could grill ’em up.

February 2019 Fam Din
While R finished up, I gathered the fixings I had prepped earlier to go with the skewers.

For the sauce, I turned to one of my most favorites – chimichurri! I adjusted my standard recipe (which is so tasty!) and added more EVOO while I blended it so that it turned into almost an aioli consistency. It was wonderfully creamy and luscious drizzled over the beef.

For an extra bright bite, I topped them with my pickled red onions.

February 2019 Fam Din
Grilled Steak Skewers with Creamy Chimichurri and Pickled Red Onions – how many do you think you could throw down?

February 2019 Fam Din
Thanks for the awesome grill job R!

February 2019 Fam Din
Oh these two….

It makes my heart explode to see how close they are.

And it also makes me cringe to imagine what type of shenanigans they’ll get into together when they’re as old as T and I!

Eeek!

February 2019 Fam Din
Quick pause for a kitchen pic before L and V got started on the other app.

February 2019 Fam Din
Ms. Maya is a big fan of fried calamari so brother V took squid pieces, lightly tossed them into seasoned flour and then fried them up until they were nice and crispy.

February 2019 Fam Din
L made a classic marinara sauce for us to dunk the calamari in.

February 2019 Fam Din
Crispy Calamari with Fresh Marinara – irresistible!

February 2019 Fam Din
Look! I inadvertently made cocktails that matched P’s shirt.

February 2019 Fam Din

By then, it was getting close to someone’s bedtime. No, not me… Kaelani!

So P asked if we could move up lì xì time to ensure the youngest munchkin would still be awake.

Tết is all about welcoming the Lunar New Year with family and includes giving out lì xì for luck to the munchkins. Starting from oldest to youngest, they say Chúc Mừng Năm Mới (Happy New Year) and we give them our blessings and best wishes along with lì xì (little envelopes filled with some lucky moola).

February 2019 Fam Din
Someone was WIDE AWAKE now!

Lì xì does have that magical affect!

February 2019 Fam Din

With the well wishes and lucky money doled out, we put the finishing touches on dinner.

P was getting chilly and didn’t want to get her clothes splattered while she cooked, so she borrowed L’s onesie.

Extra funny since they were Christmas jammies and looked ginormous on her.

February 2019 Fam Din
P crusted up tuna steaks with sesame seeds and crushed coriander before searing.

February 2019 Fam Din
She then topped the Seared Tuna over Mixed Greens and added fresh oranges, crispy wonton chips, sliced almonds and a light sesame vinaigrette.

February 2019 Fam Din

I blame the below on the Christmas onesie.

Or the extra strong refill cocktail we made her.

Probably both.

February 2019 Fam Din
Seestrah T took charge of the entree — an homage to one of Maya’s favorite dishes from Corner Baker.

February 2019 Fam Din

Creamy Pesto Cavatappi with Grilled Chicken … super rich and comforting.

T did a spot on job with this copycat recipe — trust me, I had my fair share of it.

February 2019 Fam Din

How the heck is Lucas doing that with his tongue?!

February 2019 Fam Din

Dinner time! Everyone to the table please!

Bella….always the first one waiting.

February 2019 Fam Din

Some one was SUPER tired by this time and barely made it through dinner.

February 2019 Fam Din

But in her defense, after all that pasta, we ALL were feeling a bit sleepy.

February 2019 Fam Din
For fear of us passing out, we quickly got dessert ready for our two birthday girls.

February 2019 Fam Din
Maya loves strawberries and chocolate and sprinkles.

Big Seester N took the lead with her dessert and made a chocolate cheesecake that had strawberry slices inside. The crust, of course, was made of Oreos….because why not add more chocolate?

February 2019 Fam Din
Nini made chocolate covered strawberries to top the cheesecake with. Aren’t they perfect? As a college student, she could totally build a side hustle selling them–don’t you think?

Everyday we hustlin’…..

February 2019 Fam Din
Strawberry-Chocolate Decadence Cheesecake …. seester nailed it with this one.

February 2019 Fam Din
And don’t forget our 2nd birthday babe – Princess Leia!

When R was grilling the beef skewers earlier, I asked him to also throw on a 7th New York Strip Steak I had bought. Yes…I procured 6 steaks to cube up for our appetizer and left the 7th one whole for Leia’s birthday “cake-steak”.

Hey, a girl only turns 11 once! And that face…how could I not?

February 2019 Fam Din

HAPPY BIRTHDAY MAYA AND LEIA! You both are such sweet souls.

WE LOVE YOU! ❤

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This Month’s Family Dinner Menu

Cocktails: Palomas, Various Wines
Appetizers: Grilled Steak Skewers with Creamy Chimichurri and Pickled Onions, Crispy Calamari with Fresh Marinara
Entree: Creamy Pesto Cavatappi with Grilled Chicken
Sides: Seared Tuna over Mixed Greens
Dessert: Strawberry-Chocolate Decadence Cheesecake

 

ps. YAHOO! I DID IT! All caught up with our Fam Din recaps! 😉

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!

 

_______________________________________________________________________

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 – BEACH HOUSE EDITION!

June/July 2018 Fam Din-BEACH HOUSE
I know…it’s been a minute.

2018 was a blur—particularly the latter half. But I’ve received so many wonderful inquiries of what’s going on…..and if we’re still partaking in our monthly Family Dinner Foodventures.

We are most DEFINITELY still crafting and executing our Fam Dins…over 6.5 years later. ❤

So I’m doing my best to edit pics and recap what we’ve been up to for the past few months to catch you all up to speed. I hope to be up to date in the next few weeks–so they’ll be lots for you to see soon.

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Let me rewind back to the summer where we somehow managed to get everyone’s schedule aligned and squeezed into a rental for the weekend. Let me tell you, this was quite the feat!

Even though we were only in Newport Beach (where I spent most of my college years lounging on the sand and frequenting the local watering holes….uh……I MEAN I WAS STUDYING!) my siblings and I have not been on “vacation” all together since maybe the early 90s? And even at that point, I can’t recall where we went. Camping? Maybe Yosemite?

So it was very special that we’d be spending the weekend together –less than a 100 feet away from the sand. What can I say? We’re beach people.

Because it was such an unusual Family Dinner (more like a Family Weekend getaway) this recap won’t feature what we cooked as much and the photos were mostly taken from our phones. But I hope you can get an idea of some of the shenanigans we had.

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And it all started because of this one!

Yup, seester P hit the big 5-0…..and had wanted to do something memorable to celebrate. I’d say a beach getaway with her family fits that bill.

Yeah…

She looks more like 30-something. Good genes and great skincare will do that for you.

We also celebrated the other July babies that weekend too!

Seester N, Luna and B.I.L. R were also our special honorees.

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When we arrived Friday afternoon, we spent some time getting situated into our digs and unpacking all of our groceries.

The house was super cute — 3 levels /4 bedrooms with an upstairs living space that opened up to the balcony. And my favorite beachy feature—an outdoor shower.

I think Brother V was pretty stoked about it all.

June/July 2018 Fam Din-BEACH HOUSE
As we settled in, Leo decided to head out to the beach and break in his kite…..

June/July 2018 Fam Din-BEACH HOUSE

While S.I.L. L and Luna took a quick dip in the warm water.

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Bella (never not “on duty”) took up a post to protect her family.

June/July 2018 Fam Din-BEACH HOUSE
Of course there was some snacking. Essentials like chicken sausages, Cheetos and Sidecar Doughnuts.

June/July 2018 Fam Din-BEACH HOUSE
While I opted to take advantage of the deck and sunshine with some chilled Rosé with seester.

June/July 2018 Fam Din-BEACH HOUSE
Why are all of the older munchkins towering over us?

Me-no-likey.

But it is convenient for those times when I can’t reach things in the top cabinets.

June/July 2018 Fam Din-BEACH HOUSE
Then it was time to start prepping Dinner #1 of the weekend.

K had some beautiful fresh ahi flown in from the islands and we put Nini to work on getting the Poke ready. Her knife skills are seriously on point.

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Chunks of Ocean Love.

Good name for my next cook book.

June/July 2018 Fam Din-BEACH HOUSE
Yup…even when it’s your birthday, we put you to work.

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Here is P’s Peach and Kale Salad with Goat Cheese and Walnuts.

June/July 2018 Fam Din-BEACH HOUSE
Since P and her clan live in SF, she really misses out when Brother randomly gets inspired and starts firing up his smoker. Since she was in SoCal, she wanted to take advantage of her visit (and her bday gal status!) and requested that he make his Smoked Tri Tip with Whipped Horseradish Cream.

Here he is searing the Tri Tip after it was smoked. Really one of my favs that he makes.

June/July 2018 Fam Din-BEACH HOUSE
By then Pops finally arrived so he took a tour of the house while drinking a glass of vino…like the G he is.

June/July 2018 Fam Din-BEACH HOUSE
Dad also brought us some tomatoes from his garden — beautiful little jewels!

June/July 2018 Fam Din-BEACH HOUSE
Dinner On!

Cocktails: Suntory Toki Whisky, Veuve Clicquot, Various Wines
Entrees: Smoked Tri Tip with Whipped Horseradish Cream, Smoked Duck (not pictured), Spicy Ahi Poke, Shoyu Poke
Sides: Peach and Kale Salad with Goat Cheese and Walnuts, Tomato and Basil Salad, Roasted Rosemary Potatoes
Dessert: La Bete Noire (“The Black Beast” Flourless Chocolate Cake)

June/July 2018 Fam Din-BEACH HOUSE
Told ya that the pics aren’t 100%. But trust me….it was delicious.

I spy our fur babies in the background enjoying their dinners. ❤

June/July 2018 Fam Din-BEACH HOUSE
Obligatory dinner pic!

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Obligatory ginormous bottle of Justin Cabernet Sauvignon pic!

June/July 2018 Fam Din-BEACH HOUSE
Those summer nights…..

June/July 2018 Fam Din-BEACH HOUSE
We loved this little patio.

June/July 2018 Fam Din-BEACH HOUSE
This is his “why are you taking pictures of me while I eat” look.

It’s what we do Dad…it’s what we do.

2018 Beach House Fam Din
I love Newport.

June/July 2018 Fam Din-BEACH HOUSE
And then it was time for P to blow out her birthday candles!

I made “La Bete Noire”… translation: The Black Beast.

It was a super decadent, flourless chocolate cake covered in a layer of chocolate ganache.

June/July 2018 Fam Din- BEACH HOUSE EDITION

And when there’s a French named cake, there must be French champagne!

It’s an undeniable rule…

that I just made up.

June/July 2018 Fam Din-BEACH HOUSE
Pops and the Bday gal.

June/July 2018 Fam Din-BEA CH HOUSE
We like to drink Veuve Clicquot in cheap plastic cups….it keeps us honest.

June/July 2018 Fam Din- BEACH HOUSE EDITION

FAM BAM! ❤

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At this point, I was fairly certain that one of us was going to have to buy this house so that we could keep it in the family.

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As for Princess Leia, she was already exhausted.

She’s not used to all of those stairs!

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T and I took that as a cue to change into our PJs.

What?

You don’t have matching PJs with your siblings?

June/July 2018 Fam Din-BEA CH HOUSE
That’s also about the point where the girls broke into the s’mores stash and the jigsaw puzzles.

June/July 2018 Fam Din-BEACH HOUSE
Safe to say, Leo was a fan of the S’mores.

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Kaelani opted to spend a little time with Paw Patrol before bed.

June/July 2018 Fam Din-BEACH HOUSE
And that’s when T also decided to prep one of the desserts for Dinner #2 -a New York Cheesecake, per P’s request.

Look how focused my Lucas looks with that hand mixer.

June/July 2018 Fam Din-BEACH HOUSE
Adorable.

June/July 2018 Fam Din- BEACH HOUSE EDITION

I have no idea what time it is at this point because I went to bed at around 2am.

But the girls were still up, steadily working on that puzzle.

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In fact, Nini and Maya stayed up the ENTIRE night! Oh how it is to be young!

They ended up walking to the beach to watch the sun rise while the rest of the house was passed out!

June/July 2018 Fam Din- BEACH HOUSE EDITION

And lucky for us because that meant that we woke up to the smell of Nini frying SPAM! Oh the glorious aromas of SPAM frying in the morning cannot be beat!

And yes, that was a lot of SPAM.

But we were like a mini-army —so it was ok.

June/July 2018 Fam Din-BEACH HOUSE
P also really wanted Monkey Bread for breakfast — I know, she sure did have A LOT of requests!

So big seester N obliged and put together this 50,000 lb. dome of sugary, doughy goodness.

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That glisten tho’!

June/July 2018 Fam Din-BEACH HOUSE
While breakfast was getting situated, an epic checkers match was going down.

June/July 2018 Fam Din- BEACH HOUSE EDITION

At that point, these two could wait no longer and dug into the Monkey Bread.

June/July 2018 Fam Din-BEACH HOUSE
I paired mine with a glass of Rosé.

Hey-I was on vacay!

June/July 2018 Fam Din-BEACH EDITION
If I hadn’t said it before, Kaelani LOVES being around her big cousins. Her face just lights up being around them.

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In other news…

Someone was living her best life.

June/July 2018 Fam Din-BEACH HOUSE
Then N jumped on the back of V and L’s Vespa to snap this pic. I swear that there’s a similar black/white pic of Mom back in Viet Nam on a scooter like this. I’ve got to find it.

It was also about this time when N declared that she wanted a birthday dessert of her own choosing. Luckily she chose a Key Lime Pie —not only one of my favorite desserts, but also fairly simple to make.

We realized that we needed to pick up a couple of essential ingredients at the store but if you’re familiar with beach towns in the summer– street parking is terrible! Which is exactly why V and L brought their Vespa that weekend–for quick errand runs and also for us to cruise around Newport and Balboa.

Those Smarties!

June/July 2018 Fam Din- BEACH HOUSE EDITION

Cue in Nina and L.

The eldest munchkin had never been on a scooter before so Brother plunked a helmet on her….

June/July 2018 Fam Din-BEACH HOUSE
…and sent her zipping away with L!

Her peals of laughter as she zoomed away was hysterical. Also, Luna’s look of shock in the background while she was dutifully walking Leia was equally entertaining.

June/July 2018 Fam Din-BEACH HOUSE
Don’t worry….the scooter wasn’t on when they took this.

June/July 2018 Fam Din-BEACH HOUSE

N also decided to take advantage of her bday gal status and requested that V sharpen her kitchen knives.

Yes…she brought her knives from home.

And yes….he brought a whetstone.

It may not be what your family does on vacay—but it’s what we do!

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At this point, Nini started braiding Maya’s hair…..

June/July 2018 Fam Din-BEACH HOUSE
And ended up braiding Luna and Kaelani’s too!

June/July 2018 Fam Din-BEACH HOUSE

My girls…

June/July 2018 Fam Din-BEACH HOUSE
And then I felt left out….so she braided my hair, too.

#FrenchBraidSquadGoals

June/July 2018 Fam Din-BEACH HOUSE
Since we had planned to spend the entire day in the sand and water, N thought it would be a great idea to pack a picnic lunch so that we could enjoy it leisurely in between naps and swim time.

She made tons of Roast Chicken-Pesto Sandwiches on Ciabatta and Roast Beef Croissant Sammies. We also made some quick SPAM Fried Rice from the leftovers at breakfast and packed it up along with lots of chips, cold watermelon wedges and drinks.

June/July 2018 Fam Din-BEACH HOUSE

California Love ❤

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Staking our claim to our little piece of paradise.

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Look at these happy faces ❤

As much as I love my SoCal life, I’m still guilty for taking all of this for granted sometimes.

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Watermelon break to cool down.

June/July 2018 Fam Din-BEACH HOUSE

Time to jump in!

June/July 2018 Fam Din-BEACH EDITION

Actually, I think Lucas maybe trying to throw Leo in here.

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There were LOTS of sandcastle building.

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And at some point, Nini caught a TON of sand crabs.

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It makes me quite happy that our beach babies are not afraid to get all sandy.

June/July 2018 Fam Din-BEACH EDITION

Luna sure does love to dig sand pits….

June/July 2018 Fam Din-BEACH HOUSE
I wonder where she gets that from?

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Sibbies! ❤

June/July 2018 Fam Din-BEACH EDITION
I mean, someone’s got to get buried in the sand, right?

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Maya was such a trooper.

June/July 2018 Fam Din-BEACH HOUSE
And of course….

I love how much our munchkins love each other.

It makes this Auntie’s heart burst. ❤

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Is Lucas trying to pilfer a sand crab here??

June/July 2018 Fam Din-BEACH EDITION
Obligatory peace sign pose.

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About to frolic in the waves.

June/July 2018 Fam Din-BEACH EDITION
I have to admit to you….about 1 minute after this pic was taken, I did a cartwheel.

And then totally crashed on my head.

Oh it was quite the scene!

MY BRAIDS!!!

Then I could not stop laughing.

But…

I SWEAR I CAN DO CARTWHEELS!

June/July 2018 Fam Din-BEACH EDITION
Oh well…….

And what is it about the beach that makes it the most perfect napping spot?

June/July 2018 Fam Din-BEACH EDITION
The sun? The snacks? The swimming?

Some of us napped for awhile and then at around 4pm, we decided to head back into the house to shower and clean up.

June/July 2018 Fam Din-BEACH HOUSE
Ms. Kaelani decided she also needed a post beach manicure.

Amen, sister.

June/July 2018 Fam Din-BEACH HOUSE
T spent some QT with her fur nieces on the patio.

Bella seemed to be having the nap of her life while Leia was trying to figure out how she could squeeze in on that lap too.

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The boys opted to catch up on an intense poker tournament on TV.

No clue people, no clue.

June/July 2018 Fam Din-BEACH HOUSE
Leia finally gave up outside and opted for a quiet corner indoors.

June/July 2018 Fam Din-BEACH HOUSE
And Maya, with that never ending youthful energy, decided to take a ride on the boardwalk with her dad.

Her shirt was totes appropriate.

June/July 2018 Fam Din-BEACH HOUSE
We then decided to put out some snackies while folks mulled around.

Because being hangry is one thing BUT having a house FULL of hangry people is a natural disaster and should be avoided at all cost.

We sure do adore us some Charcuterie.

June/July 2018 Fam Din- BEACH HOUSE EDITION

We also thought it would be a good idea to take some fun family pics on the sand before it got too dark.

N and her clan had just gotten back from an epic trip to Thailand & Viet Nam and had brought us back souvenirs that we decided to wear in the photos. They gave the women/girls billowy pants that are worn when visiting the temples in Thailand. The men got knockoff/pun Patagonia tshirts that said “Saigonia”. For the two younger boys, they received bucket hats with fruit prints all over—apparently the rage in the coastal towns of VN.

June/July 2018 Fam Din-BEACH HOUSE
Our July Babies!

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Dad and his kiddos.

June/July 2018 Fam Din-BEACH HOUSE
Grandpa with his grandchildren (including his fur grandchildren)….minus Kaelani. She was feeling a bit shy at that moment.

June/July 2018 Fam Din-BEACH HOUSE
Nguyen Sibbies ❤

June/July 2018 Fam Din-BEACH HOUSE
The Dudes.

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The Gals.

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The Big Dudes.

June/July 2018 Fam Din-BEACH HOUSE
And now EVERY ONE!

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The Nguyen Kids.

So different and somehow, so alike.

June/July 2018 Fam Din-BEACH HOUSE
Being the youngest had its ups and downs.

But my big seesters and brother… they sure do crack me up all the time.

June/July 2018 Fam Din-BEACH HOUSE
T and R.

June/July 2018 Fam Din-BEACH HOUSE
I’ve got hundreds of pictures of us doing the exact same pose.

June/July 2018 Fam Din-BEACH HOUSE
And then it was time to get our last dinner on the table.

June/July 2018 Fam Din-BEACH HOUSE
Since P got to pick what she wanted for Friday’s dinner, our other July Babies got to dictate Dinner #2.

Luna LOVES pasta in red sauce so I fixed up big batches of slow cooked marinara.

R always wants lamb chops so T was tasked with grilling those.

As for N –her only request was pie and I was all about it.

June/July 2018 Fam Din-BEACH HOUSE
Cocktails: Suntory Toki Whisky, Various Wines
Entrees: Rosemary Garlic Lamb Chops, Farfalle with Marinara, Panko Crusted Ahi Patties
Sides: Mixed Fried Rice, Mustard Roasted Garlic Potatoes
Dessert: New York Style Cheesecake, Key Lime Pie

June/July 2018 Fam Din-BEACH HOUSE
We train them young, we train them well.

June/July 2018 Fam Din-BEACH HOUSE
Dessert time!

June/July 2018 Fam Din-BEACH HOUSE
July is a poppin’ month for us when it comes to birthdays!

June/July 2018 Fam Din-BEACH HOUSE
Luna’s birthday falls smack dab in between her two aunties.

P’s is on the 13th, N’s is on the 15th and Luna’s is on the 14th. Forever surrounded with love by her aunties. ❤

June/July 2018 Fam Din-BEACH HOUSE
The rest of the night was spent with moonlit bike/Vespa rides, more games and lots and lots of laughter.

June/July 2018 Fam Din-BEACH HOUSE
Before we knew it…it was Sunday morning and it was time for us to go home.

None of us really wanted too….the beach casa was OUR home now after all, too.

So I gave the kiddos popsicles for breakfast to help ease the pain.

(Yes, they ate other stuff too.)

June/July 2018 Fam Din-BEACH HOUSE
Once the house was clean and our cars were packed, we bade our beach house a final adieu!

June/July 2018 Fam Din-BEACH HOUSE
A certain puggle was REALLY not happy about it.

(Someone tell Bella that we live 1.5 miles away from the beach! #FirstPuggleProblems)

June/July 2018 Fam Din-BEACH HOUSE
But before we all parted our separate ways, we decided to grab one last meal together at a nearby restaurant  – Pitfire Pizza

June/July 2018 Fam Din-BEACH HOUSE

As tired as we all were from a full weekend, it was bittersweet to end things. When you spend that much time with each other, you kind of get used to being around a crowd.

But at least we had one more meal together…

June/July 2018 Fam Din-BEACH HOUSE
So we tucked into brunch and ordered dishes like:

Smashed Avocado Toast with Charred Corn and Chives

June/July 2018 Fam Din- BEACH HOUSE EDITION
The Big Sur Pizza which had Gulf Shrimp, Tomato, Four Cheese, Mint, Chile –and we added on Prosciutto and Arugula.

June/July 2018 Fam Din- BEACH HOUSE EDITION
The Burrata Pizza – Caramelized Onion, Arugula, Pesto, Hazelnuts…and we added on La Quercia Prosciutto.

June/July 2018 Fam Din- BEACH HOUSE EDITION
And finally, the Sausage Party Pizza – Bacon, Sausage, Salami, Coppa, Tomato, Saba.

What a delicious way to end the weekend!

June/July 2018 Fam Din- BEACH HOUSE EDITION
Sure—barely 48 hours but what a blast we had! And we’re all hoping that it becomes a regular family tradition.

As B.I.L. C says – “Y’all come back now- ya hear!”

June/July 2018 Fam Din-BEACH HOUSE

Sunday Family Dinner

Kamayan Family Dinner – Masarap!

May 2018-Kamayan Fam Din
At least one of the Family Dinners each year is truly epic. Sure, most months are delicious and we definitely put a lot of effort into them. But for these particular memorable dinners, we go EXTRA on the theme, make more dishes than usual and perhaps more shenanigans occur. Months like our Seafood Boil  or Lūʻau jump quickly to mind.

But so far, 2018 has had a few milestone dinners. The first of which was for my birth-month!

Okay more accurately, it was also L and Dad‘s birth-month celebration too!

May 2018-Kamayan Fam Din

Per usual, we started brainstorming the month before.

Right off the bat, Dad said he wanted Prime Rib and Chocolate Ice Cream. The man didn’t even take more than a few seconds to decide.

L said maybe sashimi? Maybe seafood? She was pretty open to things.

I thought maybe a sliders bar would be fun. A bunch of little burgers with a ton of different toppings to choose from?

May 2018-Kamayan Fam Din

And then throughout the course of a couple of weeks and several text chains later, a theme out of left field emerged – a Kamayan Feast!

“Kamayan” is the Filipino traditional custom of eating solely with your hands that was prevalent prior to their Spanish colonization. These days, Kamayan occurs for holidays or celebrations and the sure telltale sign is a table covered with banana leaves and then piled high with a feast of customary Filipino foods. The usual suspects are roast pork, seafood, rice, lumpia, pancit, grilled vegetables and fresh fruit. Think family style–gone BIG!

For years now, folks (including B.I.L) have wondered why we haven’t chosen Filipino cuisine as one of our monthly themes. Sure, both B.I.L. R and S.I.L. L identify with their Filipino heritage (and thus a few of munchkins share that lineage) but it just never came to fruition.

Until now.

Let the Kamayan begin!!!

May 2018-Kamayan Fam Din

And what made Fam Din extra special that month? It was the first time V and L hosted at their new digs!

Their clan relocated from NY about two years ago and officially moved into L’s childhood home. There’s been a lot of re-organizing and de-cluttering that’s been happening over the past several months but they were finally ready to welcome the tribe in! They’ve got lots of plans for remodeling and so forth – I love the place. It’s got a great vibe and let’s face it, the flow for a wonderful home to entertain in!

May 2018-Kamayan Fam Din
The thing about Kamayan is that the feast happens all at once. There’s no multiple courses as it’s all served in one gigantic, delicious pile!

The “low fuss” approach gave R some time to sit down and relax with a cigar that he picked up when we were in NoLA the week before.

May 2018-Kamayan Fam Din

And with all Fam Dins, it gave the munchkins LOTS of time to hang out and spend QT with each other. That’s my favorite part of it all.

And I mean, the tasty food isn’t bad motivation either.

May 2018-Kamayan Fam Din
Nina is a wonderful big cousie ❤

Did I tell you she’s 20 now?

Seriously, my heart hurts just thinking of it.

May 2018-Kamayan Fam Din

Approved Graffiti Activities.

May 2018-Kamayan Fam Din
I hope they look back on pictures like this years from now with their own little munckhins—remembering what a special family they are a part of. ❤

Ugh…there goes the heart hurting again….

May 2018-Kamayan Fam Din
V took this opportunity to try and shank T with a pair of tongs.

Big brothers will always be big brothers.

May 2018-Kamayan Fam Din

Speaking of T, she scored a bunch of homegrown blood oranges from a friend. So she busted out the electric citrus juicer (a serious game changer people, trust us) and was left with a quart of beautiful juice.

May 2018-Kamayan Fam Din

We used up the juice for Mimosas and they were fantastic!

May 2018-Kamayan Fam Din
And then it came time for me to put the munchkins to work.

In my opinion, if we’re doing Filipino cuisine, Lumpia Shanghai must be on the menu! It’s their take on eggrolls/fried spring rolls and that night I chose to make the filling with a combo of ground chicken and shrimp.

May 2018-Kamayan Fam Din
We had quite the assembly line going!

May 2018-Kamayan Fam Din
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, Nini is quite skilled at meticulous tasks. Look at how perfect her lumpia turned out?

May 2018-Kamayan Fam Din
Yup, totally would hire her if we went pro.

And by “hire”, I mean she would be “volun-told”.

May 2018-Kamayan Fam Din
She did so well that I gave her a break to snuggle with her fur cousin in the hammock while I fried the Lumpia.

Actually those two are often snuggle buddies ❤

May 2018-Kamayan Fam Din
Then R was up to bat with his mom’s recipe for Bistek Tagalog.

May 2018-Kamayan Fam Din
Bistek Tagalog are beef slices braised and browned in soy, garlic and either vinegar or calamansi juice. It’s then topped with thick slices of browned onions.

May 2018-Kamayan Fam Din
Quick Bistek break to take a pic with N!

May 2018-Kamayan Fam Din
As you might’ve noticed above, we had deep friend Golden Pompano that L picked up. To keep it crispy, we kept it in the oven on a sheet pan on low heat.

And of course it’s got to be whole fish!

May 2018-Kamayan Fam Din
Dad never really knows what the theme of our family dinners are until he shows up. So you can imagine our surprise when he showed up with a ginormous 40lb Jackfruit – FRESH! It was perfect to have the distinct tropical fruit join the Kamayan table!

In the pic below you can see that he’s wearing latex gloves. It’s because the sap of the jackfruit is incredibly sticky that gloves are a must! It’s also a good tip to use some light vegetable oil to wipe the blade of your knife after every couple of slices. If not, you’re left with rather a big mess.

Jackfruit is delicious but highly laborious.

May 2018-Kamayan Fam Din
T and Maya also introduced Dad to Snapchat filters that day. He was THOROUGHLY amused.

May 2018-Kamayan Fam Din
Nina was on produce duty! Fresh pineapple, mangoes, cucumbers and tomatoes.

May 2018-Kamayan Fam Din
L got in on the action too!

May 2018-Kamayan Fam Din
Then it was time for V to fire up the grill! Here he is charring up a bunch of Baby Bok Choy and Longanisa. Longanisa is a slightly sweet, Spanish influenced sausage that can often be found at Filipino breakfasts.

May 2018-Kamayan Fam Din
I admit it.

I didn’t make the longanisa – I picked it up at the Asian supermarket. I know, I know….but I didn’t have time and really wanted some on the table.

Sorry!!!

May 2018-Kamayan Fam Din
V also grilled up the Eggplant that L sliced earlier.

May 2018-Kamayan Fam Din
Then it was onto the seafood. Got to have LOTS of seafood at a Kamayan feast!

May 2018-Kamayan Fam Din
Did I mention that Dad loves it when we all cook for him? I mean, with five kids that love to cook, he’s in good hands.

May 2018-Kamayan Fam Din
Grilled Whole Shrimp and Squid – tasty!

May 2018-Kamayan Fam Din
While the cooking was going down, Luna continued her training as Ollivander’s apprentice. Our niece has an affinity with the world of Harry Potter (much to her aunties’ delight!) and since she’s so crafty, she makes her own wands!

May 2018-Kamayan Fam Din
For those that follow me on Instagram, you may have seen the Elder Wand she created for me. Incredible, right?

When T saw it, she declared she needed one too – so Luna went to work!

May 2018-Kamayan Fam Din
Auntie and niece casting spells … both of whom were sorted into Hufflepuff. Yours truly is a Ravenclaw.

May 2018-Kamayan Fam Din
For the record, not all faces are happy all of the time at Fam Din.

¯\_(ツ)_/¯

May 2018-Kamayan Fam Din
Then it was time to take my baby out of the oven – Oven Roasted Lechon Kawali.

Many Filipino feasts showcase whole roast pig. The pork is always so juicy and tender—and OH THAT CRACKLING!!!

To Die For!

May 2018-Kamayan Fam Din
But as gluttonous as our Fam Dins can be, an entire pig seemed a bit much. Even for our standards!

Instead, I took a big ol’ slab of pork belly, brined it with a bunch of aromatics overnight and then rolled it up with some goodness inside. I then brushed the exterior with milk so that it would take on a beautiful color, roasted it (think of porchetta) and TA-DA!

The chicharrón was so crispy! It made me so happy that I did a little dance once it came out.

May 2018-Kamayan Fam Din
With all the pieces done, it was finally time to assemble the table!

May 2018-Kamayan Fam Din
First step was to cover our long table with banana leaves. Not only did it act as a decorative table “cloth” but once the hot food was piled on top, the heat released the natural oils from the leaves and left everything with a light fragrance and depth of flavor.

Note: If you use frozen banana leaves from the Asian grocery store like we did, be sure to rinse/wipe the leaves down before adding the food on top as there’s usually a bit of dirt remaining.

May 2018-Kamayan Fam DinNext, we made a long row of fresh steamed rice. Got to have a solid base right?

May 2018-Kamayan Fam Din
Then everything was piled on top!

  • Dad’s Roast Beef (not traditional for a Kamayan but bday boy did request it!)
  • Oven Roasted Lechon Kawali
  • Bistek Tagalog
  • Grilled Longanisa
  • Crispy Fried Golden Pompano
  • Grilled Shrimp and Squid
  • Lumpia Shanghai
  • Charred Baby Bok Choy and Eggplant
  • Fresh Cucumber and Tomatoes
  • Fresh Jackfruit, Pineapple, Mango
  • Dipping Sauces: Prime Rib Au Jus, Suka (Filipino Cane Vinegar), Fish Sauce with Chiles

You want to dive right in, don’t you? I don’t blame you.

May 2018-Kamayan Fam Din
Nina’s doing her “low key” food photography.

May 2018-Kamayan Fam Din
And so was Nini.

May 2018-Kamayan Fam Din
When these two seesters aren’t bickering, they are quite adorable.

Hmmm…sound familiar?

May 2018-Kamayan Fam Din
There was A LOT going on.

May 2018-Kamayan Fam Din
Bella was supervising.

May 2018-Kamayan Fam Din
The Bulaons!

May 2018-Kamayan Fam Din
The Les!

May 2018-Kamayan Fam Din
I have no idea why I don’t have a fam pic of the Nguyens. SORRY DUDES!

But I do have these of Dad and I!

It’s so blurry but I like both of the expressions on our faces. Dad is rather foodstruck and I am just giddy.

May 2018-Kamayan Fam Din
Pops!

May 2018-Kamayan Fam Din
Say Kamayan!

ps. Please don’t give me crap about the Seahawks hat. He didn’t inherit that fanaticism from me. Go VIKES!

May 2018-Kamayan Fam Din

May 2018-Kamayan Fam Din
WE. WERE. SO. STUFFED.

Everything was delicious. Each component hit a different note.

MASARAP! (Translation: Delicious!)

After the dinner, we needed to clean up and digest everything.

COMMENCE THE SHENANIGANS!

May 2018-Kamayan Fam Din
You just know I had to get in on it.

May 2018-Kamayan Fam Din
Btw, this is Primo…the ceramic pug that protects the house.

May 2018-Kamayan Fam Din
And last, there was my one request – Chocolate Marble Cake!

Growing up, it was my favorite — a dense yellow cake with swirls of chocolate. What could be better?

So seester N took up the dessert helm and made this beauty for us.

May 2018-Kamayan Fam Din
That cake seriously weighed like 15lbs!

May 2018-Kamayan Fam Din
Making wishes!

May 2018-Kamayan Fam Din
Lovely layers!

She also made Chocolate Ice Cream (per Dad’s request) and Vietnamese Coffee Ice Creambecause we like options.

May 2018-Kamayan Fam Din
More cuddles and QT in the sunken conversation pit.

As far as I’m concerned, every house needs a “conversation pit” that is connected to the fire place.

Having  a bar nearby doesn’t hurt either — refer to top left corner below.

May 2018-Kamayan Fam Din

Our Kamayan Feast was truly so epic. And it wasn’t just the caliber of the food–it was the entire day/night!

Nini ended up taking a ton of videos that day so I asked Nina to edit them together for a quick video. When you have a moment, check it below.

I should hire them for my marketing team. Thanks, Girls!

And that’s a wrap on our Kamayan Fam Din! It will definitely be in our memories for a long time to come!

May 2018-Kamayan Fam Din

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This Month’s Family Dinner Menu

Cocktails: Blood Orange Mimosas, Various Wines
Kamayan Table: Dad’s Roast Beef, Oven Roasted Lechon Kawali, Bistek Tagalog, Grilled Longanisa, Crispy Fried Golden Pompano, Grilled Shrimp and Squid, Lumpia Shanghai, Charred Baby Bok Choy and Eggplant, Fresh Cucumber and Tomatoes, Fresh Jackfruit, Pineapple, Mango
Dessert: Marble Cake, Homemade Chocolate Ice Cream, Vietnamese Coffee Ice Cream

 

Sunday Family Dinner

Fam Din for the Best of Buds-Birthday Boys!

April 2018 Fam Din

Before I jump in, I must admit that my hiatus from posting was due to my endless birthday celebrations.

Yes, I realize my birthday was in May but it was a big milestone and I REALLY
C-E-L-E-B-R-A-T-E-D! I was living it up!

But I’m back now to share our Family Dinner where we celebrated these two best buds – Lucas and C! It’s always a bunch of fun to celebrate their birthmonth for Fam Din and it is ALWAYS delicious.

April 2018 Fam Din

It was even more eventful this time around because seester P came down from San Francisco with her crew. Which meant this little cutie-patootie was running around soaking up QT with her big cousins!

Oh Kaelani….you melt my heart ❤

April 2018 Fam Din

Whereas BIL C was pretty open for what he wanted on the menu, Lucas was VERY specific.

Hainanese Chicken and Rice.

Dumplings.

Finally, Donuts and Mint Chip Ice Cream because he doesn’t like cake (I know…where did I go wrong?!?)

April 2018 Fam Din

Since P was in town we quickly assigned her dessert duty for Lucas’ requests. With Fam Din, we almost always have to start prepping dessert early since there’s often proofing, chilling, icing and decorating that needs to be done. So P got started on the dough the night before and used Pioneer Woman’s recipe for Glazed Doughnuts that can be found here.

April 2018 Fam Din

Although it was barely 3pm and too soon for dessert, she chose to fry them up. And you may be wondering “Why? Donuts are amazing fresh out the fryer.”

Well dear friends, it’s because the donuts were just a mere vessel to hold the bday boy’s beloved mint chip ice cream.

Oh yes, we’re talking Donut Ice Cream Sandwiches!!!

April 2018 Fam Din

We go the extra mile! Well, in this case, P went the extra mile.

Lucky Lucas

But that also didn’t stop us from trying 1 or 2 after she glazed them. Quality control after all.

April 2018 Fam Din

And what was I doing while seestrah was hard at work frying?

Doing what I often do when I’m in seester T’s backyard – sipping rosé of course! I had to do most of my prep work waayyyyy in advance for the dishes I was tasked with. You’ll see why in a bit.

Also – 5 pts if you can spot Leia in less than 2 seconds!

April 2018 Fam Din

At some point we discovered that T’s lemon tree FINALLY produced fruit…as in one.

One tiny, tiny lemon.

She was quite proud of it.

But I’ve got to admit how surprised we all were with how much juice the little bugger had!

April 2018 Fam Din

Wondering what’s going on here?

The girls decided to have a little beauty session and Nini gave Maya a little TLC on her eyebrows. Nini is basically the young Vietnamese version of Anastasia Soare – the celebrity brow specialist in Hollywood.

April 2018 Fam Din

These two ❤

April 2018 Fam Din

And while the human girls worked on their brows, the fur girls worked on their perfectly wrinkled-scrunchy faces.

Serious Princess Leia, you give Doug the Pug a run for his money.

April 2018 Fam Din

And what about this sun goddess? She loves running around in seester’s backyard exploring while trying to find ways to break out and escape to the neighborhood pathways.

That rebel.

April 2018 Fam Din

Bella was less than thrilled when I scooped her up to force her to take a pic with me. She really is more humanling than canine.

April 2018 Fam Din
Kaelani and her pops took advantage of the spa to get a little swim time in. Our munckins are quite the little fishies!

Kaelani adores her big cousin Lucas and he is very, very sweet with her.

I know you’re digging her Bowie shirt.

April 2018 Fam Din

And just like that, it was appetizer time and I was up to bat!

Birthday boy wanted dumplings for his Fam Din — ALL kinds of dumplings. With so many people to feed and the time needed to prepare different types, I ended up making them the week before and freezing them. It really was the only way to manage this time around.

First type of dumplings, my tried and true Pan-Fried Ginger Chicken Dumplings.

April 2018 Fam Din

These beauties are always a favorite with folks. With so much fresh ginger, it perfumes the ground chicken and gives it a wonderful flavor. I served these with my standard soy-ginger-black vinegar-sesame oil dipping sauce.

April 2018 Fam Din
Using the same dumplings but slightly different cooking method, I made the below laced-bottom dumpling flower.

You start off with the same method as your standard potsticker by adding a bit of oil to a skillet. You then arange the dumplings, nestled together in the pan. After the bottoms become lightly browned, you pour in a slurry (water + cornstarch) instead of plain water and then cover the skillet with a lid.

Once the liquid steams the dumplings and then evaporates, the leftover starch and oil fry up and you’re left with a lacy pattern on the bottom after they are inverted onto a dish. The texture is incredibly crispy and satisfying. I highly suggest it!

April 2018 Fam Din

The second type I prepared were Seafood with Chinese Chives Dumplings which I chose to steam.

April 2018 Fam Din

The filling was a simple combination of minced shrimp and scallops, a few aromatics and a TON of minced Chinese chives. I chose to fold these with a double-sided straight pleat to try and get a maximum amount of filling in. We’re seafood freaks after all.

April 2018 Fam Din

After a few minutes in the bamboo steamer, I topped them with fresh scallions and served them with a choice of the same dipping sauce as above or my Sichuan Chili Oil Sauce.

April 2018 Fam Din

The last version was something I had never made before – Sheng Jian Bao which are a pan fried pork soup dumpling. They’re the cousin to the thin-skin souped dumplings that I’m also obsessed with.

April 2018 Fam Din
I need to do a little more work and practice on these guys. The wrapper should be much thicker than the previous two dumplings I made – and have a bit of leaven to them. I didn’t really get that so much but the flavor of the pork filling was tasty. I’d give myself a 5 on a scale from 1-10 with these but there’s always next time!

April 2018 Fam Din
Here’s BIL R with Dad. They’re both wondering when I’ll stop bringing dumplings out because they were getting dumpling-wasted.

And OF COURSE Dad said “dumpling wasted”….not.

April 2018 Fam Din

I’ll tell you that there was one soul who was on full dumpling watch, waiting for her gramps to give her some.

Side note: If there is an open lap, she will find it and sit on it.

April 2018 Fam Din

Since bellies were full of dumplings, it was time for a Candy Land break for Kaelani and Nina. Candy Land was MY JAM back in the day!

April 2018 Fam Din

And I know I just said that our bellies were full but this is also about time when brother V rolled out with his Smoked St. Louis Style Ribs. Brother is getting REALLY good with his smoker – his smoked tri-tip is my fav thus far. P and her clan were getting tired of seeing all of our posts of V’s creations that when they came down for this visit, he promised to make them a little something.

Spoiler Alert: They were BOMB!

April 2018 Fam Din
While we were noshing on ribs, seestrah T finished up the Hainanese Chicken. Can you believe that bright yellow hue of the broth? That’s totally naturally colored! It’s a result of the skin of the fresh free-ranged chickens she got in combination with some of the aromatics she threw in.

April 2018 Fam Din
Once the chickens were cool enough to handle, she passed them over to seester N to carve. We really do make her carve and slice everything.

April 2018 Fam Din
Voila!

April 2018 Fam Din
T prepared three traditional sauces to accompany the Hainanese Chicken and Rice. The one closest to you is a Chili Sauce made from Holland chiies. The middle is a thick Sweet Dark Soy Sauce. The last is a Ginger-Garlic Sauce. The recipe for the chicken plus the sauces were adapted from The Woks of Life and can be found here.

April 2018 Fam Din
Look at the gorgeously glistening chicken and sauce!

I’m drooling.

April 2018 Fam Din
Needless to say, Lucas was a fan!

April 2018 Fam Din
And what do you serve along Hainanese Chicken and Rice? Steamed Alaskan King Crab Legs of course!!!

Ok, ok. It’s not traditional. Some may say it’s even gluttonous? Obviously not us but others may say so.

But it was one of the only items that BIL C had requested for dinner so we were definitely having them. Yeah remember the other birthday boy? Up until that point, Lucasarus was running the menu!

April 2018 Fam Din
We had consumed a crazy amount of food — even to our standards! So before we could even consider having dessert, we needed things to digest a bit.

And of course I took that opportunity to make the kids take pictures.

They’ll thank me someday…..SOME day.

Here I instructed them to give me serious faces. Kaelani totally dismissed that directive and Maya is JUST about to crack.

April 2018 Fam Din
Now this is MUCH more like them!

April 2018 Fam Din
Leo is killing it in this pic!

April 2018 Fam Din
Oh–and a little monkey managed to make it into the living room.

April 2018 Fam Din
The girls then cozied up to watch Beauty and the Beast.

Incidentally, I believe there may be a video of me out there barging into the room while belting out Belle’s opening number.

It’s what I do.

April 2018 Fam Din
And of course, the Nguyễn 5 had to snap a few pics with pops.

April 2018 Fam Din
So blurry but this pic cracks me up.

April 2018 Fam Din
And then the grand kids (minus K since it was past her bedtime) jumped in.

April 2018 Fam Din
What do we think Lucas is about to do to Nini’s head here?

April 2018 Fam Din
And then it was finally dessert time!

For LucasHomemade Glazed Donut Mint Chip Ice Cream Sandwich.

April 2018 Fam Din
Wait! Wasn’t this little elfling upstairs, asleep a minute ago!?

April 2018 Fam Din

And for CChocolate Matcha Lava Cake with Matcha Ice Cream.

April 2018 Fam Din
HAPPY BIRTHDAY LUCAS AND C!!!

April 2018 Fam Din
And now for a collective nap…. ❤

April 2018 Fam Din

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This Month’s Family Dinner Menu

Cocktails: Various Wines
Appetizers: Pan-Fried Ginger Chicken Dumplings, Seafood with Chinese Chives Dumplings, Sheng Jian Bao, Smoked St. Louis Style Ribs
Entrees: Alaskan King Crab Legs, Hainanese Chicken and Rice
Dessert:  Homemade Glazed Donut Mint Chip Ice Cream Sandwich, Chocolate Matcha Lava Cake with Matcha Ice Cream