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

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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

What the Capricorns Want, the Capricorns Get

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

THANKS!

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

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

Duck Dumplings!

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

Nope. They hadn’t either.

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

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

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

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

Oh the things we do for family….

January 2019 Fam Din
Okay…back to the dumplings.

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

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

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

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

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

Yeah….I’ll be making these again.

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

January 2019 Fam Din

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

Yup – they were developed for this Family Dinner.

Steamed Crab Dumplings
Super decadent Steamed Crab Dumplings.

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

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

Steamed Crab Dumplings

Quick funny story.

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

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

V: Oh I did? Ok, cool.

January 2019 Fam Din
Moral of the Story: 

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

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

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

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

January 2019 Fam Din

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

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

January 2019 Fam Din
TA DA!!!

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

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

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

January 2019 Fam Din

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

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

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

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

January 2019 Fam Din
I think these two approved.

January 2019 Fam Din

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

January 2019 Fam Din

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

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

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

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

That face though… ❤

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

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

January 2019 Fam Din

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

January 2019 Fam Din
They INHALED the chops!

Straight up, CAVE-MUNCHKIN STATUS!

January 2019 Fam Din

No princess bites here – and we love it. ❤

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

There was some giant-jenga-madness.

January 2019 Fam Din
And puppy TLC.

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

January 2019 Fam Din

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

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

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

January 2019 Fam Din

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

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

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

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

January 2019 Fam Din
And that was it!

Ok…so it was A LOT.

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

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

I repeat – the things we do for family ❤

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This Month’s Family Dinner Menu

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

Sunday Family Dinner

A Very Happy Birthday Boy

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

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

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

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

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

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

Typical 7 year old dinner, right?

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

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

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

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

December 2018 Fam Din

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

December 2018 Fam Din

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

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

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

December 2018 Fam Din
HELLO LUV-AH!!!

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

December 2018 Fam Din
They were ridiculous!

SO. DAMN. SCRUMPTIOUS.

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

Incredibly flavor packed!

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

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

December 2018 Fam Din
C and his two girls.

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

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

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

AND as long as they’re gaming together.

I know….it’s a stretch.

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

Having a permanent “emo” face has its perks.

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

December 2018 Fam Din

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

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

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

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

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

December 2018 Fam Din
Leia 1000% agreed.

December 2018 Fam Din

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

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

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

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

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

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

December 2018 Fam Din

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

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

December 2018 Fam Din

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

Not your average salad!

December 2018 Fam Din

Then it was time to slice the steaks.

Bella could barely contain her excitement.

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

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

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

THANK GOODNESS we grew out of that phase!

December 2018 Fam Din
Dry Aged Ribeye Steaks ….

Excuse me as I lick the computer screen.

December 2018 Fam Din
Our Dudes!

December 2018 Fam Din
Steaks and Paella?

COUNT ME IN!

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

December 2018 Fam Din
And the Oldies!

December 2018 Fam Din

ps. Why didn’t I get the plaid memo?

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

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

The kid knows what he wants, right?

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

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

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

December 2018 Fam Din

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

December 2018 Fam Din

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

R was still feeling sassy. Must be the steaks.

December 2018 Fam Din

HAPPY BIRTHDAY LEONIDAS!!!

December 2018 Fam Din

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This Month’s Family Dinner Menu

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

Sunday Family Dinner

Brother’s “Simple and Easy” Family Dinner

November 2018 Fam Din
Us: “Brother, what do you want for your birthday fam din?”

Him: “Um…I don’t know. Let me get back to you.”

November 2018 Fam Din

Two weeks later….

Us: “Brother, you’ve got to decide what you want for fam din…it’s in a couple of days.”

Him: “Um……”

Us: “Yes?”

Him: “Um….how about something simple and easy, like Italian?”

November 2018 Fam Din

Us: “Itallian…simple and easy?? But ok, Italian it is!”

Brothers…..what are going to do with them?

But at least we had a theme so we were off to the races compiling an Italian feast for him.

November 2018 Fam Din
The day of I decided to bake up a tray of Rosemary Focaccia for us to munch on….and mostly because I’m a carboholic and love bread.

November 2018 Fam Din
While the focaccia dough was on its second rise, N made us a few cocktails using Italian sodas. These were her Blood Orange Spritzers and they went down way too smooth!

Dangerous!

November 2018 Fam Din
Of course, because it’s us, there was a Cheese and Charcuterie Board.

November 2018 Fam Din
Some classics you just can never have enough of.

November 2018 Fam Din
By then I had pulled the Rosemary Focaccia out of the oven. After it rested for a few minutes, we sliced it up and dipped it into balsamic vinegar and olive oil.

November 2018 Fam Din
Along with the rosemary, you may have noticed the large flakes of salt on the top of the focaccia. We’re BIG fans of Maldon and love putting it on everything– but if you’re not into it, a light sprinkle of fine sea salt would be fine, too.

November 2018 Fam Din
Nice little bites for appetizers, right?

But hang on…THERE WAS MORE!

November 2018 Fam Din

V & L brought made two more dishes for us to nosh on as appetizers.

First, was a big ol’ pot of Meatballs with Marinara Sauce. The meatballs were perfectly bite-size and tender!

November 2018 Fam Din
And second, they made Zuppa Toscana – a warm and comforting soup that had goodness like bacon, sausage, potatoes, kale and chicken stock.

November 2018 Fam Din
We hadn’t had a soup at Fam Din for quite awhile and we all loved it!

November 2018 Fam Din

Yes, for those of you that are keeping count–that’s a total of four appetizers.

Gluttons? Maybe.

But we REALLY like leftovers.

November 2018 Fam Din
Believe it or not, as soon as we finished with the last appetizer, we jumped back into the kitchen to get dinner ready.

Okay…so maybe “gluttons” is more appropriate.

But we’re 100% alright with that.

November 2018 Fam Din
T took the lead on the pasta dish for the evening. She was interested in making some variation of stuffed shells and when given the choice for protein, Brother went for seafood.

And man oh man…was it decadent!

November 2018 Fam Din
The filling consisted of lump crab, shrimp and scallops—of which the latter two were blanched in lobster stock! There was also aromatics, seasonings, mayo and the tamales from the shellfish.

HELLA RICH and oh so delish!

November 2018 Fam Din
In addition to the stuffed shells, I made crispy Pork Milanese….because why not make another entree right?

November 2018 Fam Din
Though I did realize that we needed some greens to offset the richness of both of the entrees.

November 2018 Fam Din

With Nini’s help, I pulled together a quick salad of Arugula with Citrus and Parmesan Shavings.

And yes, it did make us feel better.

November 2018 Fam Din
Oh man…we were stuffed. And there was still the birthday dessert!

So we sent the humanlings off to walk the fur babies for awhile to burn off some of the dinner.

November 2018 Fam Din
Bella looks like a zombie.

November 2018 Fam Din
These two Cousies really like this pose a lot.

November 2018 Fam Din
Back in the casa, seester N put the finishing touches on the dessert she made – Tiramisu!

Her desserts are always so purrrrty.

November 2018 Fam Din

And Molto Delizioso!

November 2018 Fam Din
Happy Birthday V!

November 2018 Fam Din
And when all was said and done, we had a good laugh as we recalled all of the dishes we had made for Brother’s “simple and easy” dinner.

Brothers….what are you gonna do with them, right? ❤
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This Month’s Family Dinner Menu

Cocktails: Blood Orange Spritzers, Various Wines
Appetizers: Rosemary Focaccia, Cheese & Charcuterie, Meatballs with Marinara Sauce, Zuppa Toscana
Entree: Seafood Stuffed Pasta Shells, Pork Milanese
Sides: Arugula with Citrus and Parmesan Shavings
Dessert:
Tiramisu

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.

IMG_0236
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