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

Sunday Family Dinner

A Most EGG-cellent Fam Din!

March 2018 Fam Din
Last month’s Fam Din was most EGG-cellent!

We’re talking Bill and Ted’s status.

Why so egg-cellent? Because it happened the day before Easter — so of course, it was all about EGGS!!

The eggs had to come in a few different forms. Not only with our menu but also with some fun! (Oh Leo….never one to conform for mundane things like photos.)

March 2018 Fam Din

First up– Rice Krispy “Nests” with Jelly Bean “Eggs”!

Adorbs!

March 2018 Fam Din
And not only were they yummy to munch on (minus the jelly beans for me…they’re not my fav) but it was a fun activity for the kiddos, too!

March 2018 Fam Din
The older munchkins instructed and helped out their younger cuzzos.

Below you can see that Lucas’ face was full of concentration and determination.

Maya’s face was full of “hmmm…I wish we had jelly bellies instead”.

Me too, Maya. Me, too.

March 2018 Fam Din
So festive and colorful!

March 2018 Fam Din

And apparently, they were Leonidas approved!

March 2018 Fam Din

Since the kiddos had their treats, it was time for the adults to have one (or two), too! That’s right–it’s cocktail time!

As soon as we decided on the egg theme, I knew exactly what type of cocktail I would be shaking up that night. And you bet there were eggs in it-egg whites to be exact! Yes, my friends — we had Classic Bourbon Sours!

Now don’t freak out.

More times than not if you’ve been to an old school bar or better yet, a hipster one these days, you would have noticed a few cocktails with a decadent foam. Yes dear lovelies, that foam was most likely made by vigorously shaking a cocktail with egg whites in it!

March 2018 Fam Din

In a cocktail shaker with ice, I poured in bourbon (Bulleit Bourbon that day but use whichever you prefer), fresh lemon juice (it’s got to be fresh), simple syrup, a dash of bitters and an egg white (if you’re wary, be sure to used pasteurized eggs). Then shake what your Mama gave ya’ for a good 15-20 seconds and pour into a glass. I garnished mine with cherries that had been soaking in bourbon for the past several months and HOT DAMN did those cherries pack a punch!

The end cocktail was delightful. I could sip on them all day. But then I would need to sleep it off the entire next day. My aging, alas, has taken a toll on my cocktail-recovery time.

March 2018 Fam Din

By then, I had gotten my sibbies all boozy so the only responsible thing to do was give them something to nosh on.

I was up to bat for appetizers that night and after mulling over several different ideas with seester T, I settled on making chawanmushi – a light, Japanese egg custard. If you’ve ever had it at a restaurant before, you know how wonderfully smooth and creamy it can be. And guess what? It’s actually easy to make–when you sous vide it of course!

March 2018 Fam Din

Don’t be too surprise that I opted to sous vide –it has been, after all, a fam din or two since I last busted out my beloved Anova. It needed some love and the method not only provided a no-fuss process but its gentle cooking method resulted in the chawanmushi‘s luxurious texture.

I recruited both Nina and Nini to help out with it. Nini helped with the “custard” by whisking together eggs, seafood stock, dashi powder and bonito powder. After sealing the mixture in the little mason jars, we sous vide it at 176 degrees F for an hour. Then Nina gently topped each with a sprinkle of Maldon salt flakes, fresh uni, a generous spoonful of ikura and some fresh scallions.

I served the Sous Vide Chawanmushi with Uni and Ikura with two different types of Japanese rice crackers (one with wasabi, one without) for some added crunch and texture. They turned out rather beautifully…didn’t they? And I’m happy to report, they were OISHI!

March 2018 Fam Din

With a little something in their tummies, the munchkins were ready for their other activity….

EGG HUNT TIME!

That Fam Din, our human-lings ranged from ages 6 through 19 so the over 200+ eggs were filled with not only candy but some lottery tix and money, too!

March 2018 Fam Din

Both B.I.L.s hid the eggs in the front and back of the house. And I’d be remiss not to mention that Leo requested that we hid at least 10 “obviously” so that he’d be sure to find them.

That kid cracks me up.

March 2018 Fam Din

We made the munchkins line up across the street before letting them loose–and WOWSERS! It was a mad dash!

Laughing, shrieking, rolling in the grass…….

But enough of what I did, let’s get back to the kiddos!

March 2018 Fam Din

They were scavenging fiends!

With all of those eggs scattered about, I was sure that it would have taken them longer to find them all. But nope!

Within a blink of the eye, they were done!

March 2018 Fam Din

Wait a second….why do the older ones have big bags whereas the littles have small baskets?

Ah…more years of experience—that’s why.

March 2018 Fam Din
Examing their loot!

March 2018 Fam Din

Somehow we were able to refocus and get back to meal prep.

V enlisted Nini to help out with their dish that we nominated he and L for.

March 2018 Fam Din

Can you guessed what they fixed up below?

Did you say Scotch Eggs?

But not just any Scotch Eggs!

March 2018 Fam Din

Traditionally, they are hard boiled eggs with a pork sausage wrapped around it. They’re then breaded and fried. What’s not to love about that?

V and L also took boiled eggs but instead of pork, they wrapped them in a seafood mixture that was made of shrimp, dungeness crab and diver scallops. Fancy, eh?

They then rolled them in panko and deep fried them into these golden torpedoes of decadent deliciousness!

March 2018 Fam Din

I have to admit that T and I helped out with boiling the eggs while they worked on fixing up the seafood mixture. We were aiming for a soft-boiled egg so that when it was deep fried and sliced into, the yolks would still be unctuous and jammy.

Though we blew it and overcooked them.

Eh, lesson learned.

But good grief, they still were awesome!

March 2018 Fam Din

T also made a Bacon-Onion Quiche and a Mushroom Quiche. Yup, TWO! We love options and we especially love leftovers!

Her homemade pastry dough was giving her a bit of trouble that day but gosh darn it, it was tasty!

March 2018 Fam Din

Then, we were near EGG DRUNK.

Don’t get me wrong, everything was delectable. But it was A LOT of eggs. We were sorely missing on a salad or other vegetable. I guess we could have made an egg salad–but I’m not sure that would have brought the type of levity that was much needed at that point.

We definitely needed a breather before dessert.

While the humans cleaned up, Leia took a nap. Well, right here she’s giving us stink-eye for making too much noise during her nap…but she napped nonetheless.

March 2018 Fam Din

And these two cuties cuddled.

Bella loves her human-lings.

March 2018 Fam Din

At this point, most people would say “Hey, my belly is way overfilled. I’m going to pass on dessert.”

Not this family.

We suck it up (or I guess “in”) and get down to dessert business.

To close out our egg-a-palooza, seestrah N made these cute Mini Lemon Meringue Pies.

March 2018 Fam Din

I’ve got to admit, I didn’t think I liked lemon meringue pies because the ones I’ve had before were really artificial tasting. The filling would be really thick and sticky in texture and the meringue would be overly sweet.

NOT THESE!

These little angels were the perfect close out to such a rich meal. The lemon filling was light and citrusy. The meringue was airy and not too sweet. The crust was flaky and buttery.  My mouth is watering just thinking about them!

And it was perfect that they were little mini pies because honestly, I couldn’t fit much more in me.

March 2018 Fam Din
That’s a wrap on our EGG-stravaganza of a Family Dinner!

And as a wise Abraham Lincoln of Bill and Ted’s once said, “Be excellent to each other….and….PARTY ON, DUDES!”

March 2018 Fam Din

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This Month’s Family Dinner Menu

Cocktails: Classic Bourbon Sours, Various Wine
Appetizers: Sous Vide Chawanmushi with Uni and Ikura
Entrees: Bacon-Onion Quiche, Mushroom Quiche, Seafood Scotch Egg
Dessert: Mini Lemon Meringue Pies, Rice Krispy “Nests” with Jelly Bean “Eggs”

Sunday Family Dinner

Unicorn Cakes and Magical Pugs….

February 2018 Family Dinner

If you think the above photo is just too darn adorable, than scroll down and check out the one below.

Amazing right?

Keep scrolling.

February 2018 Family Dinner

They are just too much. I want to freeze time so that they both will stay like this forever.

Our February Babies.

Oh yes, this time Princess Leia got in on the Family Dinner Birthday celebrations too. After all, she was turning double digits…the big 1-0! (Or I guess, 70 in her case….)

So her fur-less cousin Maya was happy to be sharing her bday fam din with her. And as for our sweet Maya, she turned 13.

THIRTEEN!!!

I can’t…I seriously just can’t with the munchkins growing up so quickly.

February 2018 Family Dinner

Usually for your birthday, you get to choose what you’d like your dessert to be.

For Leia, it was a no-brainer. She’d be getting candles in a big ol’ steak like her cousin Bella.

But for Maya, I wanted to surprise her and told her “trust me, you’ll like it.” More on that later.

February 2018 Family Dinner
While we were milling around getting things prepped, we noshed on a Cheese Board that L assembled. It had Manchego with apricot preserves, Fromager d’Affinois, Picholine olives, marinated peppers and crackers.

February 2018 Family Dinner
N made the second appetizer. Truthfully, I can’t remember what it’s called but it’s like a Cheesy Spinach-Artichoke Bread Ring Dip. Picture this….take crescent roll dough and form little balls. Line a cast iron skillet with them and then fill the center with a super cheesy spinach-artichoke mixture. Bake it up and BOOM.

Cheesy goodness.

YES PLEASE!

February 2018 Family Dinner

Spotted: Unicorn Herd in their natural environment.

I think they were congregating because they knew it was DINNER TIME!!

February 2018 Family Dinner

Miss Maya was very relaxed about her whole birthday menu. This was pretty much our convo:

Me: What would you like to have for dinner?

Maya: Um….

Me: Seafood? Sushi? Pasta —

Maya: PASTA!

Me: Ok…what kind of pasta? Chicken? Shrimp? Steak —

Maya: STEAK!

And that was it! She’s pretty low maintenance.

February 2018 Family Dinner
V and T put their heads together and came up with this Grilled Steak over Puttanesca dish. It was hearty, flavorful and combined some of my most favorite things –steak, cheese and carbs.

February 2018 Family Dinner
And since Maya loves salads, seester T decided to make the Chopped Salad from Pizzeria Mozza.

Have you had it before? If not, you’ve got to try it!

It has all kinds of goodness like radicchio, lettuce, tomatoes, chickpeas, salami, pepperoncini and provolone. And it’s actually quite hearty that you could have it as a stand alone meal with perhaps some warm toasted baguette on the side.

February 2018 Family Dinner
And then before we knew it, it was dessert time!

I’ve always wanted to make a unicorn cake…blame it on Instagram I suppose. So when I was thinking of what to bake for Maya, Nini suggested a unicorn cake because it would be something that the birthday girl would absolutely love. And if anyone knows Maya, it’s definitely her big cousie Nini.

I realize that Buttercup’s horn (yes, Maya named the unicorn) is a bit excessive, but heck–I’m not sure when the next unicorn cake will come around again so I might as well GO BIG!

February 2018 Family Dinner

I first started off with the sponge and ended up choosing funfetti. Because c’mon, unicorns love rainbows and sprinkles right?

After I baked the three layers of cake, I took a taste and thought hmm…..it kind of just tasted like vanilla cake.

For those of you that like funfetti, this may not be a surprise. But I actually think that it may have been my first time tasting it. Don’t judge me…I’m a chocolate fan myself.

February 2018 Family Dinner

So to OOMPHF up the flavor, I decided to fill the layers with fresh whipped cream and strawberries –two things that I know for certain the bday girl also adores. And I’m totally glad that I did because it really brought something fresh to the cake.

Hey- if you’re going to be extra when baking a cake, it might as well be fore a unicorn cake!

February 2018 Family Dinner

The whole thing was then covered with a light layer of vanilla Swiss meringue buttercream (always my buttercream of choice) and then I went nuts decorating Buttercup with three shades of buttercream using various piping tips.

I used standard fondant to shape her horn, ears and eyes. And for the golden sheen, I used edible gold spray for the inner ear accents as well as her magical horn.

Cute right? I wish my eyelashes were as on-point as Buttercup.

February 2018 Family Dinner

And of course, because she’s so magical, she was dusted with lots of different sprinkles and edible gold stars.

To be honest, I had a lot of fun making this cake!

February 2018 Family Dinner
And let’s not forget the other birthday girl!

Princess Leia got a bone-in ribeye steak that V grilled.

Seriously, look at that face.

And unlike her food-mongering puggle cousin, she sat patiently waiting while we sang and took pictures before diving in. What a good puppers!

February 2018 Fam Din

It’s fair to say that the birthday girls thoroughly enjoyed their family dinner in their honor.

Princess Leia wearing a crown while seated on a plush thrown…..

Maya wearing a floral-kitty headband from when she was about 1 or 2….

Heart-melty….

February 2018 Family Dinner

Yes, we’re a bit over-the-top kind of family. But if you’ve been with me for awhile, you’ve likely come to that conclusion already. It’s how we roll….

¯\_(ツ)_/¯

February 2018 Family Dinner

Happy Birthday Maya and Leia!

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This Month’s Family Dinner Menu

Cocktails: Various Wine
Appetizers: Cheese Board, Cheesy Spinach-Artichoke Bread Ring Dip
Sides: Chopped Salad à la Pizzeria Mozza
Entrees: Grilled Steak over Puttanesca
Dessert: Funfetti-Strawberries and Cream Unicorn Cake (And a Steak for the fur babies!)

Sunday Family Dinner

These are a few of Leo’s favorite things….

December 2017 Fam DIn
Pepperoni on pizza and cookie dough in ice cream–these are a few of Leo’s favorite things….

So when December’s Fam Din rolled in the day before our family’s big Christmas Party, we knew exactly what we had to make for the the little man’s 6th birthday. He was quite sure of what he wanted— pizzas, fatty steaks and cookie dough ice cream. Everything else, he left up to us.

Dinner also happened to fall on the night of the big game. And as Minnesota Vikings fans (SKOLLLLL!!!), very few other games mean as much as when we meet up with those cheese heads…I mean, those Packers.  <barf>

So we had the game streaming in every room.

December 2017 Fam DIn

And apparently we needed more coverage because the boys ran out before dinner started to pick up a new TV. Nothing special…just a ginormous 65inch flatscreen.

I’ve got to admit, it was quite humorous watching all of our men attempt to mount the TV to the family room wall.

But they did it and it worked!

December 2017 Fam DIn
Poor Nina….she wasn’t feeling so hot that day–she had the terrible cooties situation everyone seemed to be getting hit with. And because she’s so caring, she even shared it with me a few days later.

Thanks Nina.

Thanks 😦

December 2017 Fam DIn
Seestrah P and her fam made it down for the holidays this year so it was a full house!

It’s rare that all five siblings can be together in one place these days so we definitely try to make the most out of it when we are.

December 2017 Fam DIn

I don’t think Dad understood the message below when we said “OK, funny shot!”

¯\_(ツ)_/¯

December 2017 Fam DIn
While the game was on, the enormous TV was getting set up and the kids were running amok, we assembled a quick Charcuterie Platter…because it’s how we roll.

Truffle Salami from Trader Joe’s, Camembert, Toscano Cheese soaked in Syrah, Heirloom Grape Tomatoes, Olives, Truffle Marcona Almonds, and a few crackers.

December 2017 Fam DIn
In case you’ve ever wondered what down time at Fam Din looks like…..here you go.

Some chatting, some TV, lots of Mind Craft (despite our ban on devices!) and a little bit of dancing hair flips from Kaelani.

December 2017 Fam DIn
Of course, there’s lots of picture taking too.

December 2017 Fam DIn
And if your family is like ours — when we see peeps taking a group pic, we get FOMO and jump in.

Cue in Dad and T.

December 2017 Fam DIn
For the main appetizer (does that sound contradictory?), N made these little Spinach-Artichoke-Crab Puffs. Imagine rich spinach-artichoke dip mixed with lump crab meat—then surround it with flaky puff pastry and top it with more cheese and breadcrumbs.

Decadently delicious!!

December 2017 Fam DIn
LOOK! Nina arose from the dead!!!

It’s because she heard “Spinach-Artichoke-Crab Puffs” and shot right up.

December 2017 Fam DIn
Look at these two adorable munchkins.

December 2017 Fam DIn
And then Leia got Christmas’ed by her dad.

The look on her face is freaking hysterical.

December 2017 Fam DIn
Soon it was time to get the kiddos to prep their mini personalized pizzas.

December 2017 Fam DIn
There were lots of toppings from them to choose from — pepperoni, Italian sausage, caramelized onions, cheese, ‘shrooms and of course, homemade marinara.

December 2017 Fam DIn
It’s never too young to get them started with cooking…..because it means I can retire sooner.

December 2017 Fam DIn
Kaelani was so proud of her little pizza!

December 2017 Fam DIn
After the munchkins prepped, baked and ate their pizzas–we assembled larger ones for the grown folks to split.

December 2017 Fam DIn
Which means, throw EVERYTHING on and bake it up!

December 2017 Fam DIn
Which also included the leftover fillings from the Spinach-Artichoke-Crab Puffs.

Talk about decadent! They were delicious but super rich.

December 2017 Fam DIn
L slicing up pizza with flair!

December 2017 Fam DIn
As you may recall, birthday boy also requested steaks.

FATTY steaks to be exact.

December 2017 Fam DIn
So brother picked up a few prime steaks and dry aged them for a few days. He seared them on cast iron skillets that were screaming hot which gave them a beautiful crust.

December 2017 Fam DIn
And while they rested, he threw a bit of butter on top so that it could slowly melt and seep into all that beefy goodness.

December 2017 Fam DIn

Just a smidge of butter, right?

December 2017 Fam DIn
And I have to tell you guys, those were some of the best steaks I’ve had in a loooong time! The combination of great quality steaks that were dry aged to intensify the flavors were just fantastic!

December 2017 Fam DIn
Nina helped put the finishing touches on my Lentils and Arugula Salad topped with Burrata.

The funny thing that Dad often does when we cook for him is to look at the ingredients we use, ask what the name of it is, how to spell it—and then ends up taking a picture of it. He cracks me up.

December 2017 Fam DIn
See that photobomber in back?

December 2017 Fam DIn
Told ya…. FOMO.

December 2017 Fam DIn
If you ever have a doubt– throwing burrata on top of ANYTHING will always make it more delicious.

December 2017 Fam DIn

Quick pic of the spread!

December 2017 Fam DIn
So nice, I had to show you twice!

December 2017 Fam DIn
V’s face is hysterical in this pic. Now that’s true appreciation of one’s craft.

December 2017 Fam DIn
Don’t mind me while I stand in the corner taking pics and stealing bites off of people’s plates while drinking my Cosmopolitan (it was that month’s cocktail but of course, I forgot to take pics of them–DOH!).

December 2017 Fam DIn
V and Pops!

December 2017 Fam DIn
And the girls!

Minus Kaelani because at that point she was getting a bath to prep for bed. She was NOT happy about missing out on the rest of Fam Din.

Oh the woes of a 3 year old….

December 2017 Fam DIn

Speaking of missing out…..the fur babies were definitely not wanting to miss out on any of the good eats! Here they are patiently waiting for their grandpa to hook them up.

December 2017 Fam DIn
They didn’t get as much as they wanted (Dad can eat!!) so Nini hooked them up with all kinds of goodness!

December 2017 Fam DIn
Yeah…I realize they eat better than most humans but they are our bebes.

December 2017 Fam DIn
And then it was FINALLY time for dessert!

Leo asked for Cookie Dough Ice Cream for his birthday dessert. But here’s the thing, although P did one heck of a job making it from scratch, it’s not a dessert that those of us 13 and older were excited about. So she did us a solid and made us a second dessert – Alice Medrich’s Warm Mocha Tart.

YUMilicious!!

December 2017 Fam DIn
Um, T–hurry up and finish vacuuming or else Maya and Luna are liable to inhale the tart.

December 2017 Fam DIn
Look at birthday boy’s face!

Candle perched upon a huge scoop of his favorite ice cream –that he, of course, had seconds of.

December 2017 Fam DIn
And with that–another shenanigans filled, delicious Fam Din came to a close.

Happy, Happy Birthday Leonidas!

December 2017 Fam DIn

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This Month’s Family Dinner Menu

Cocktails: Cosmopolitans, Various Wine
Appetizers: Charcuterie Platter, Spinach-Artichoke-Crab Puffs
Entrees: Dry Aged Rib Eye Steaks, DIY Pizzas
Sides: Lentils and Arugula Salad topped with Burrata
Dessert: Homemade Cookie Dough Ice Cream, Warm Mocha Tart

Sunday Family Dinner

All the Smokey Goodness..and Then Some!

November 2017 Fam Din
Ever since brother got a Traegar Grill/Smoker, we have been living the glorious all-the-smoked-goodness life! So it was no surprise that for his birthday family dinner, he volunteered to take on the entrees. Hey-I wasn’t going to argue with the birthday boy!

We quickly got the munchkins involved. Here’s Maya and Luna making a bechamel. I mean, what 12 and 8 year old doesn’t know how to make a bechamel???

November 2017 Fam Din
And of course, safety first when the rugrats are cooking. Good thing Bella and Princess Leia are such conscientious supervisors.

November 2017 Fam Din
And while the kiddos went to town, I whipped up cocktails. Since brother is a whiskey and bourbon fan, I mixed up a batch of my Boozy Fall Punch (yeah…I’m a little late on posting this).

It had all kinds of autumnal things like bourbon, brandy, apple cider, pomegranate juice, blood orange soda, cinnamon sticks and chopped up fruit.

It was boozy. It was tasty. Mission Accomplished.

November 2017 Fam Din
The cocktails packed a punch! So we noshed on a Charcuterie Platter….because you know how much we love our cheeses and cured meats!

I just realized the La Tur cheese from Murray’s below kind of looks like a mini-cheesecake. But trust me, it was la tur-rific!

November 2017 Fam Din
Seestrah T also made these cute Mini French Onion Bread Bowls as a second appetizer–recipe courtesy of Tastemade.

November 2017 Fam Din
Think of French Onion Soup…but in dip form! And in its own little bread bowl! Brilliant!

And gosh darn it, it was scrumptious!

November 2017 Fam Din
Quick cooking/eating break for a picture!

November 2017 Fam Din
Can’t forget the dudes!

November 2017 Fam Din

Now on to the food!!!

First up, brother smoked a ginormous side of salmon. I’ll be the first to admit, I don’t love salmon. I don’t hate it and I’ll eat it–but of the fishes, it’s not my fav. But when brother busted out this Smoked Salmon he smoked low and slow with mesquite wood pellets, I WAS ALL ABOUT IT!!

It was SUPER moist and had the lightest bit of smoke. The added capers and fresh lemon juice helped to cut through the fatty fish and it was perfect!

November 2017 Fam Din
Not to be outdone by the aquatic beasts, he also did up a huge platter of Smoked Beef Ribs.

November 2017 Fam Din

They were, they were….one word.

BEFF-ilicious.

November 2017 Fam Din

This time around, I was in charge of the sides. First up! Mac and Cheese!

And as you recall, I enlisted Maya and Luna to help out. No idea why N popped in…maybe to try to get in on the credit I suppose. That big seestrah of ours….

November 2017 Fam Din

I make Mac and Cheese quite often but I was listening to a Bon Appetit Pod Cast on the way into work and decided to give their BA’s Best Macaroni and Cheese a shot.

Let me tell you gang, there’s a whole ton of various cheeses in this business — Fontina, Gruyere, White Cheddar and Parmesan. But I decided to go big and added Monterey Jack and Pepper Jack.

I mean, I didn’t want them to feel left out.

And instead of making Maya hand shred all the cheeses, we busted out the food processor. She was definitely pleased with that decision.

November 2017 Fam Din
How did it turn out?

Quite good!

Ridiculously cheesy… but I guess 6 different cheeses will do that to a dish. But yes, I definitely recommend it. It’s quite easy to make and the end result is on point!

November 2017 Fam Din

With all that protein and 200 pounds of cheese, I figured it would be good to have some veggies. So I pulled together a quick Sauteed Kale and Swiss Chard situation. I quickly sauteed some garlic, shallots and chili flakes in some olive oil and threw in a bunch of Lacinato Kale and Swiss Chard. After they were lightly wilted, I finished it with a douse of red wine vinegar to brighten things up.

Eat your veggies right?

November 2017 Fam Din
Before dessert, most of us cleaned up a bit and someone took a nap. Oh that Leia, she’s a reliable one.

And if you’re wondering what Bella was doing, I can only assume that she was upstairs ordering take-out while watching Minecraft videos on YouTube.

November 2017 Fam Din
Finally–DESSERT!

When we asked brother what he wanted for his dessert, he almost instantaneously replied “flan”.  And I’ve got to tell you, I was surprised. I’ve known him all my life and had no idea that the man liked flan that much!

We were dumbfounded….

Seester N’s F.I.L. has a great flan recipe so we immediately tasked her with the job. She used these cute ramekins to make individual sized flan.

November 2017 Fam Din
And to kick things up (it was brother’s bday after all), she spiked the adult flans with rum!

The Creamy Rum Flan was perfect! Creamy (I know, it’s in the name), light and was the most delectable finish to our meal!

November 2017 Fam Din
Here’s one of the munchkins caught in the act….we do pass on great habits, right?

November 2017 Fam Din
And with that, brother’s Family Dinner was a wrap! Here’s to you V! ❤

November 2017 Fam Din

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This Month’s Family Dinner Menu

Cocktails: Boozy Fall Punch, Various Wine
Appetizers: Charcuterie Platter, Mini French Onion Bread Bowls
Entrees: Smoked Salmon, Smoked Beef Ribs
Sides: Bon Appetit’s Best Macaroni and Cheese, Sauteed Kale and Swiss Chard
Dessert: Creamy Rum Flan

Sunday Family Dinner

From Our Foodie Fam Bam to Yours

Oct 2017 Fam Din

Before I jump into our last Family Dinner, let me take a moment to talk about the most helpful kitchen assistants we have….. our Fur Babies.

And by most helpful, I mean, the most unhelpful.

I asked Leia to chop some apples and instead, she chose to take a nap.

All. Day. Long.

But aren’t those rolls just simply glorious???

October 2017 Fam Din
I asked Bella to whip up some cream and instead, she chose to guard the oven. I mean, sure–there’s always a chance someone will come in and steal the chocolate cake.

Whelp, at least they are darn furdorable.

October 2017 Fam Din
Speaking of furdorable, I mean adorable – look at my little man. Those dimples….

Here’s Lucasaurus hanging out, waiting for his cousies to come over to play.

October 2017 Fam Din

And while we were waiting for everyone to come over, we caught seestrah N pilfering some of T’s succulents.

My family is rather obsessed with succulents.

October 2017 Fam Din

Here’s her six pack of succulents to-go.

October 2017 Fam Din

And while she did that, I poured us a cocktail— Apple Cider Sangria.

This, my Friends, is one of my favorite cocktails lately and it’s really easy to make.

October 2017 Fam Din
Just fill a large pitcher with apples, pears, white wine and apple cider. I also added some Calvados (or just some regular Brandy or Cognac if you don’t have Calvados on hand), a few splashes of OJ and a few cinnamon sticks. I let all the goodness chill out in the fridge for several hours and then stirred in some Prosecco before serving.

So dang good and it goes down really smooth. So be careful–it packs a punch!

October 2017 Fam Din
Cuddles… my non-food favorite thing about Fam Din.

October 2017 Fam Din

Then it was time for some appetizers! And this month was filled with them — 3 different kinds!

Sometimes we’re heavy on appetizers (like 3 or 4 different ones) and sometimes we’re heavy on entrees (like 2 or 3 different main dishes!). What can I say, we love to eat!

October 2017 Fam Din
N took a spin off of Trisha Yearwood’s (yup, as in the country singer) Shrimp Croquettes.

And let me tell you…

Oh. My. God.

They were so freaking good!

October 2017 Fam Din
She tweaked the recipe a bit (as we always do!) and they came out beautifully!

Perfectly crispy on the outside and shrimpy–and somehow creamy–on the inside. We think the milk may have been the cause to this?

But whatever the reason—these will definitely be made again!!

October 2017 Fam Din

I have no idea what the kiddos are doing here. But there’s no bickering, no yelling, no crying — so this Auntie is a happy camper.

October 2017 Fam Din
Appetizer number 2!

L brought these Burgundy Pepper Beef Skewers that we grilled — which is kind of funny because she doesn’t eat red meat.

October 2017 Fam Din

But for us, all-kinds-of carnivorous eatin’ peeps, we were VERY happy with her decision!

October 2017 Fam Din

She also brought a bunch of fresh oysters and whipped up a classic mignonette to accompany them.

October 2017 Fam Din
And as always, our resident shucker, Nini got to work. I think she shucked her first oyster at 10 or 11?

If you love fresh oysters, I highly suggest training your munchkins early on how to shuck. Not only does it give them some fantastic life skills but it REALLY helps out with family dinners.

October 2017 Fam Din

And it gives me some extra time to sit on the Wicker Throne to enjoy some vino.

October 2017 Fam Din

Now on to the main course.

Seestrah T has been talking about her Chicken Pot Pie for ages now as it’s been a staple for her household. She uses her 40 Garlic Clove Chicken as a base and throws it into a dish before covering it with some puff pastry.  After a quick bake in the oven–wham, bam! Chicken Pot Pie!

T has been raving about it for so long that we decided to task her with it for Family Dinner!

Below is her 40 Garlic Clove Chicken ready to shred up. I love it and do a hybrid of Ina Garten’s and Alton Brown’s recipes when I opt for this wonderfully savory and rich dish. My version can be found here.

October 2017 Fam Din

Once she shreds up the chicken, she mixes it up with carrots, peas (edamame this time) and some of the rich sauce from the chicken.

In a few of the dishes, I stirred in some cubed potatoes because I’m a potato-monster.

October 2017 Fam Din
For quick pot pies, T opts for some store bought puff pastry. I love that too–buttery, flaky goodness. But this time for Family Dinner, she whipped up some pastry dough to cover up the dishes.

October 2017 Fam Din
The girls helped to roll out the dough and made little leaves for decoration.

The end result was wonderful! Rich, hearty—total comfort food.

October 2017 Fam Din
And then we did a bit of clean up before for dessert.

Meanwhile, I love this picture. Maya is screaming while Leo has the look of total indifference. I know…it’s so blurry but totally captures the shenanigans of our Fam Din.

October 2017 Fam Din

And then it was finally time for dessert!

We’re a chocoholic kind of family so when I was deciding on what sweet treat to make, it was a no brainer to opt for something chocolate based.

October 2017 Fam Din

And what screams chocolate more than a Triple Chocolate Mousse Cake!

Our family loves the Triple Chocolate Mousse Cake from Porto’s. The best thing for a chocoholic! It’s been on my to-do list to try and bake for some time now. And I’ve been holding on to the recipe from Cook’s Illustrated FOH-EVAH.

No day but today!

October 2017 Fam Din
It starts with a dense and rich chocolate cake base. Next, it’s slathered with a light and airy chocolate mousse before it’s topped with an equally light (and decadent) white chocolate mousse.

Wowser, wowser, WOWSER!

Gang…it’s perfection. Easily one of my favorite types of chocolate cakes.

Yup, I’ll definitely be making it again.

October 2017 Fam Din
After dinner, R whipped up a fire because it’s what he does.

Anyone else feel like Sirius Black’s head is going to pop out of the flames to give us some sage advice on how to defeat the Dark Lord?

If not, shame on you. You need to go back and re-read (or rewatch) the entire Harry Potter series.

October 2017 Fam Din

Look at them.

How could your heart not swell with love?

October 2017 Fam Din

Our munchkins.

They are our Reason.

October 2017 Fam Din
And just like that—it’s a wrap!!!

With ❤ from our Foodie Fam Bam to Yours!

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This Month’s Family Dinner Menu

Cocktails: Apple Cider Sangria, Various Wine
Appetizers: Shrimp Croquettes, Burgundy Peppercorn Beef Skewers, Fresh Oysters with Mignonette
Entrees: 40 Garlic Clove Chicken Pot Pie
Dessert: Triple Chocolate Mousse Cake

Sunday Family Dinner

‘Twas a S’Autumn Fam Din

Sept 2017 Fam Din
‘Twas a S’Autumn Family Dinner….

What’s S’Autumn? It’s when it’s technically Autumn but the weather acts like we’re in the peak of Summer. Which for inland Orange County–that means the mid-90s. Ugh.

It kind of makes our dinner themes a bit difficult which results in a mish-mash of dishes…. a bit theme-less. But delicious, nonetheless.

Or maybe it’s called F’ummer? S’all? Eh, I’ll stick with S’Autumn….

September 2017 Fam Din
I spy our fur babies above! Princess Leia was walking around near my feet and Bella is at her favorite spot–in front of the warm oven. ❤

After doing a little prep work, I got to fixing up a cocktail to match the heat we were having that day – SHANDIES! Shandies are a beer based cocktail that typically combines a wheat beer and a lemonade. That’s it? Yup–that’s it!

These refreshing lovies were made with a Hefeweizen and a sweet lemonade. Because shandies are so dandy….yeah–I had to do it.

September 2017 Fam Din
Leia
is still trying to figure out what S’Autumn is.

It means whatever you want it to be, you glorious pug.

September 2017 Fam Din
S.I.L. L was hankering for some duck for dinner and picked up a whole bird from Electric City Butcher in Santa Ana.

She seasoned them up with salt, pepper and dried thyme…..

September 2017 Fam Din
….and then threw it in a bag with some rendered duck fat to sous vide for a few hours. Because after all, she and brother V were the ones who gave me the Anova so it only seemed right for her to take a spin with hit.

The breasts went in at 130 degrees F for 2 hours.

September 2017 Fam Din
While the duck was taking a dip, the girls were giving me this look.

Which interprets to: We’ll smile for the camera but we’re starving so feed us some appetizers before we get hypoglycemic.

And that look is all I need because I have lived through their hangry phases. It’s scawie.

September 2017 Fam Din
I made two appetizers to tie the fam over until dinner. The first was this colorful Heirloom Tomato and Pesto-Ricotta Tart. Isn’t she a beaut????

September 2017 Fam Din
And guess what? It starts with store bought puff pastry–because ain’t no one has got time or patience to make their own!

I then smeared it with a thin layer of a pesto and ricotta mixture — and then shingled it with sweet, ripe tomatoes. The whole thing baked in the oven for about 25 minutes and was finished with large sea salt flakes and fresh basil.

Perfection.

It’s definitely one of those appetizers I make that would be perfect as a stand alone entree on a warm summer day with a chilled glass of white vino.

September 2017 Fam Din
And for my second appetizer, I made a big pot of Tomato-Fennel Mussels served with lots of crusty warm bread to sop up all that goodness.

The base that the mussels cooked in comprised of onions, garlic, fennel, wine, clam juice and San Marzano tomatoes. And once the mussels steamed opened, they released their own sea liquor into the mix and it was divine!

September 2017 Fam Din
Absolutely scrumptious! Definitely another appetizer that could have been a stand alone with just a loaf of bread or even over some pasta.

Then this happened.

V asked out loud: “Where did these mussels come from?”

Maya nonchalantly answered: “Oh…I work out a lot.”

September 2017 Fam Din
The rest of us gave a brief silent pause and then collectively bursted out in hysterical laughter.

That clever, funny girl.

By the way, I got them at Costco. The mussels, not Maya’s fierce muscles….I can’t take credit for those guns.

September 2017 Fam Din
And then the two hours were up!

L dried off the duck and threw them into a cast iron to crisp up the skin and finish them off.

September 2017 Fam Din
A wonderful medium-rare.

Man… that sous vide is the business.

September 2017 Fam Din
She then placed the sliced duck over a bed of greens, orange segments, raspberries, nuts and a light vinaigrette. A great showing of summer transitioning into fall–don’t you think?

September 2017 Fam Din
Heyyyyyy L!

September 2017 Fam Din
And then T was up to bat with the main course!

She took a spin on Jamie Oliver’s Grilled Pesto Pork Chops. Initially she wanted to sous vide them as well (because we’re addicted) but when she picked them up, she found that although they were thick chops, they’d be fine straight on the grill.

September 2017 Fam Din

T served them with this super cheesy Parmesan-Mushroom Israeli Couscous. And I’ve got to tell you, as a super carboholic, I was all about it. It actually resembled risotto and y’all know how much I love me some risotto!

September 2017 Fam Din
And this is the point when we gave in and let the younger munchkins get on their devices. At least they were all playing in some virtual world together, right? Sometimes you just have to make some concessions…particularly while we were trying to hold them over before dessert.

September 2017 Fam Din
Did someone say dessert???!?!!

Yes Nina and V, it’s almost dessert time.

September 2017 Fam Din
Wowsers, N! Now that’s some frosting! Cream cheese frosting that is—one of my faves!

September 2017 Fam Din
N ended up making this Hummingbird Cake which is a traditional southern goodness with pineapple chunks, bananas, vanilla and lots of spices. It may seem odd if you haven’t had it before but the pineapple just gives it the lightest sweetness and moisture—essentially it tastes like a kicked up spice cake with lots of cream cheese frosting.

Yes please!

September 2017 Fam Din
Now please Mother Nature… turn down the thermostat so that we’re back at our normal 74ish degrees for Fall.

xoxo

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This Month’s Family Dinner Menu

Cocktails: Shandies, Various Wine
Appetizers: Heirloom Tomato and Pesto-Ricotta Tart, Tomato-Fennel Mussels
Entrees: Grilled Pesto Pork Chops
Sides: Seared Duck Salad, Parmesan-Mushroom Israeli Couscous
Dessert: Hummingbird Cake

Sunday Family Dinner

And the Family Dinner Antics Continue….

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

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

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

I mean, how freaking adorable is she?

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

July 2017 Family Dinner

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

I totally supported that decision.

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

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

July 2017 Family Dinner
Oh our boys…..

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

Cocktails.

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

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

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

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

It was henna paste!

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

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

Why not?

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

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

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

Kidding–not kidding.

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

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

Mother of Dragons and all….

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

Or more like an appetite of one.

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

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

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

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

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

And riverfoods?

Lakefoods?

Are those even things?

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

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

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

July 2017 Family Dinner
Speaking of passing out…

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

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

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

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

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

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

Nope…I don’t regret it.

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

I spy a glowing-eye Bella.

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

Yin to yang, right?

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

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

Hmmm…there’s always next time.

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

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

Hehehe…

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

Just another average Fam Din down in the books. ❤

Happy Birthday N and R!

July 2017 Family Dinner

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This Month’s Family Dinner Menu

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

Sunday Family Dinner

All about that Bulaon-baisse, ’bout that baisse…

April 2017 Family Dinner
When it comes to Lucasauraus and C’s birthday, we always know that there will be some combination of seafood, matcha and mint chip ice cream on the menu for Fam Din. And no–not all mixed together, Silly!

And who can blame them–I love all of it too!

April 2017 Family Dinner

We gathered at T and R’s place in Fullerton on a sunny afternoon to get down on some cookin’ and grubbin’!

And there may have been a cocktail or two before we switched over to wine. This month we went back for the Hendrick’s Gin and Tonic with Cucumber and Lime. C’mon, it’s a classic–not to mention totally refreshing on a warm Southern Cali afternoon.

April 2017 Family Dinner
And how So Cal is it that somehow succulents were involved?

Yea, I have no idea what N was doing with these.

April 2017 Family Dinner
Now let’s get back to the food, shall we?

Since our entree was slated to be on the lighter side—well….”lighter” than our normal fare, we had three different appetizers to sate our tummies.

First up, Deviled Eggs with Smoked Salmon that brother fixed up using Eric Ripert’s recipe. I am a sucker for a good deviled egg and these were no exception. They featured the classic rich flavors and was topped with the smoky, salty salmon.

Awesome.

They’d be perfect for brunch too!

April 2017 Family Dinner

And since Lucas is a salmon-eating-monster (has been since he was barely 2) we needed MORE of the fatty fish–LOTS MORE! So we put the nieces to work and they got rolling on these beautiful Salmon Temaki.  They were filled with seasoned rice, avocados, luscious slices of salmon, daikon sprouts and of course, that magnificent “crack sauce” that Nini makes.

That sauce is seriously E V E R Y T H I N G! It’s a mixture of mayo, sambal, sriracha, soy sauce, sesame oil, chives, tobiko and I’d venture to say–a splash of her soul. It is THAT good.

I inhaled about 20 dozen of them. Screw that summer bikini diet.

April 2017 Family Dinner

A birthday Fam Din for Lucas and C without sashimi?? Not on our watch!

In fact, there may have been 1 or 2 plates of Hamachi Sashimi.

April 2017 Family Dinner
It does this foodblogger’s heart proud when she sees the munchkins doing this…..

Shall we move on to main course?

When we asked C what he wanted for dinner, he replied “seafood stew—bouillabaisse”. Ok then, we’re on it!

Well actually, seestrah T was on it—and hence the “Bulaon-baisse“. What’s a “Bulaon-baisse” you may be asking? It’s when T is in charge of the bouillabaisse, has a few glasses of vino while making the stock and merges her married name (Bulaon) to the classic Provençal stew.

What a dork.

But a funny dork.

All joking aside, T put some serious time and love into creating the broth of the bouillabaisse. She simmered the excess fish trimmings with aromatics such as bay leaves, orange peels, and a bouquet garni to produce a rich seafood stock. In a separate pan, she sweated the fennel, onions, and garlic and then reduced it with wine before adding in the stock, tomatoes and saffron. After what seemed like a gajillion years, the stock was strained and we were left with a flavorful and clear broth.

That broth was brought to a boil, and the fish, shrimp, and mussels were cooked in it.

Speaking of fish, my B.I.L., aka Mr. Bulaon, caught the below red snapper and cod that we used in the bouillabaisse. Isn’t he handy?

So all in all, I guess it was a Bulaon-baisse!

H E L L O    G O R G E O U S!!!

April 2017 Family Dinner
And finally – DESSERT TIME!

C loves him some matcha. I can’t remember the last time we made him a birthday dessert that green tea wasn’t involved. And I tell ya–I’m quickly running out of ideas people!

As I scoured the internet for some inspiration, I stumbled upon a Coconut-Matcha Cream Pie and decided to give it a try.

My thoughts?

I was a bit disappointed by how much the crust “shrunk” after it was baked. I let it thoroughly rest before rolling it out and even froze it for an hour before baking. I blind baked the crust and the temp wasn’t too high either. Eh…that’s how it goes with baking sometimes.

As for the filling, it was rich and had the texture of a firm pudding. The coconut flavor was very subtle and it wasn’t too sweet. I’m glad I opted to add matcha to the whipped cream to amp up the flavor.

Overall, not bad but not great.

April 2017 Family Dinner
As for my mint-chip loving nephew, a Grasshopper Ice Cream Pie seemed perfect for Lucas. The base what made out of crushed Oreo cookies and crushed Thin Mint Cookies. I then added a layer of softened mint chip ice cream (it HAD to be the green kind too!), a drizzle of chocolate sauce, a layer of more crushed cookies and a final layer of ice cream. The whole thing was put in the freezer for a few hours before topping it with whipped cream and more cookies.

I am embarrassed to say that the below picture looks rather a hot mess. We had some melting issues on the drive from Tustin to Fullerton and we attempted to mask it over with more whipped cream. But all looks aside, it was delicious and the bday boy approved!

April 2017 Family Dinner
Another scrumptious Fam Din in the books!

H A P P Y     B I R T H D A Y    L U C A S    A N D     C!!!!

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This Month’s Family Dinner Menu

Cocktails:  Hendrick’s Gin and Tonic, Assorted Wines
Appetizers: Hamachi Sashimi, Salmon Temaki, Deviled Eggs with Smoked Salmon
Entrees: Bouillabaisse with Toasted Garlic Crostini
Dessert: Coconut Matcha-Cream Pie, Grasshopper Ice Cream Pie

Sunday Family Dinner

Family Dinner Calls Upon the Spirit of Alooohaaa!

August 2016 Family Dinner

What do the five Nguyễn Siblings do when we’re all together for Family Dinner?

We throw a Lūʻau of course!! Because if we can’t manage a visit to the islands together, we bring Hawai’i to us! Or…at the very least, the Spirit of Aloha!  ❤

August 2016 Family Dinner

And before you feel bad for our brother being the only boy growing up with 4 seesters—-think again! He had it made! And it probably helped that he was quite rascally…which is completely where his son Leonidas gets it from!

As for putting our Lūʻau together, there were some definite essentials we had to have. Onolicious food, tropical cocktails, island music blaring, hula performances, whimsical decorations, colorful island gear, and…..

August 2016 Family Dinner

THIS GUY!!!

You can’t have a Lūʻau without the traditional blowing of the conch shell to open the festivities!

Okay, okay…maybe this is the one time you can feel a little bad for our brother—when four of his sisters and his wife force him into a grass skirt, ti leaves headdress and shirtless. But he’s used to this kind of thing and quite frankly,  just goes with it.

In case you’re curious, when V attempted to blow the conch, it kinda sounded more like a Wookie-Call. He quickly defended it by saying that Wookies originate from a planet that is rather jungle-like…. so it was totally appropriate.

And yes–I did fact check that. Kashyyyk is a tree covered planet with a jungle terrain. Go figure V would know that….

August 2016 Family Dinner
In addition to having a wide range of Star Wars knowledge, my brother also happens to make killer Piña Coladas!  They were creamy, weren’t too sweet, and had that wonderful tropical vacay feel. Definitely packed a punch and you didn’t even taste it—trouble.

August 2016 Family Dinner
With a cocktail or two in our tummies, it was time to take some more pics. Here’s our sister P and her fam that came down from San Francisco.

And look at Kaelani’s little face. How freaking adorable is she?!

August 2016 Family Dinner
So adorable that I had to post a few more pics of her and her mama. ❤

This time around, Kaelani only got to hang out for 5 days with her crazy So Cal family–so we can’t wait to see our munchkin again in November.

August 2016 Family Dinner
Then there’s brother V and his fam! They’re an adventurous and carefree bunch who had lived in New York for the past 15+ years.

But guess what?!

They’ve moved back to Southern California for the next year!!! Yahoo!!

August 2016 Family Dinner
Which means more–LOTS MORE, shenanigans at family dinner for the next year!

August 2016 Family Dinner
We’ve missed them!!!

August 2016 Family Dinner
At some point during our photo shoot, I took a pause to mix up our next set of cocktails for the evening — Li Hing Mui Margaritas!

Li Hing Mui is a salted, dried plum that is somewhat tart, a bit sweet and incredibly addicting. In Hawai’i it’s used to flavor everything from shave ice, sour candies, fruit, ice cream, malasadas and in cocktails like these margs.

If you follow me on Instagram you’ll remember that I took a bag of Li Hing and soaked them in tequila for about 4-5 weeks. It dyes the tequila to a dark brown-orange hue and the flavor is incredible. I mixed a few ounces of the magical infused tequila with Cointreau, fresh lime juice, simple syrup and then poured it over ice in glasses rimmed with coarse salt and li hing powder.

BOOM! I was instantly transported to the beaches of Haleiwa.

And they were a BIG hit with the sibs!

August 2016 Family Dinner
We were then equipped to take some more fam pics.

Here’s seestrah N and her fam (minus Princess Leia who was hanging out with Bella at their house).

August 2016 Family Dinner
Nini (left) is 16 and just started her junior year in high school. Nina (right) just turned 18 and started college a few weeks back.

Which all results in me having periodic meltdowns on how grown they’ve become….

Wahhhhhhh!!!

August 2016 Family Dinner
Here’s seester T and her fam — total naturals when it’s picture time!

August 2016 Family Dinner
Oh these two love birds……..

August 2016 Family Dinner
Before we took more pictures, we needed some apps to hold everyone down. And we cannot, I repeat– CANNOT have a Hawaiian themed event without mounds of SPAM Musubis!

It would be just sacrilegious!

August 2016 Family Dinner

Nini did the majority of the musubi assembly rolling sticky rice with crispy SPAM, soy sauce and furikake in thick sheets of nori.

As for brother….I don’t think he rolled any but I’m quite certain he had gobbled at least 4 of them.

August 2016 Family Dinner

And FINALLY!

A shot of all of our munchkins ranging from 18 years old to 22 months!

I can’t begin to explain how hectic it was trying to get a pic of them all looking at the same general vicinity!

Sure, Luna’s tongue was out but I like to think she was channeling the Maori warriors while they did the haka.

August 2016 Family Dinner
I. CAN’T. HANDLE. ALL. THIS. CUTENESS.

#CousinLove

August 2016 Family Dinner
In this auntie’s opinion, all of our kiddos are miracles. But this particular munchkin is a medical miracle! (Hope you read that in Ross’s voice.)

Since she doesn’t get to see us too often living in SF, it usually takes her a few days to get used to all the noise and insanity that is her family.

August 2016 Family Dinner

Unless you’re THIS GUY!

I swear, my brother-in-law, C, is a legitimate baby whisperer. ALL KIDS love him and babies always want him to hold them.

Ms. Kaelani spent the entire 5 days walking around yelling “BAH-BEE!!” in search of her beloved uncle. She hasn’t perfected the Vietnamese pronunciation of C’s title as Bác Bi yet but it’s so heart-melty to hear her try.

August 2016 Family Dinner
This little lady has practiced hula and Polynesian dance for several years now and it’s a beautiful sight to see her perform.

She treated us later that night with a poi ball performance but unfortunately this auntie blew it and wasn’t able to record it with enough lighting to share with y’all. Next time–I promise!

August 2016 Family Dinner
SEESTERS!!!!

We couldn’t let T’s neighbor’s plumeria tree not be put to use on the night of our Lūʻau!

August 2016 Family Dinner
Alright, enough pics of my fam bam for now. Let’s get to the food, shall we?

As I had mentioned, we were going with Hawaiian/Lūʻau grindz for our menu. Things that you may find on one of the islands on a lunch plate or dishes that we adore when visiting.

First up–an homage to Helena’s Hawaiian Food in Honolulu. Helena’s is a tiny little spot serving up local Hawaiian grindz since 1946 and has even earned a James Beard Award. When at Helena’s, be sure to order the Squid Lu’au, Laulau and their fantastic Short Ribs Pipikaula.

Pipikaula is a dried beef that is first marinated and hung up to dry out (think “dry aged”). They are then fried or grilled up and are just so ono! T took the lead on these beauties but instead of the hang-dry method, she chose to dry them out in a low-heat oven. Right before serving, R threw them on the grill to get a little char.

August 2016 Family Dinner
N made these little bundles of Steamed Monk Fish in Banana Leaves which was a slight variation of the beloved Sam Choy’s steamed grouper. The fish was quickly marinaded in tamari, fish sauce, sugar, lemongrass and Sriracha. They were then wrapped up in banana leaves with a few slices of red bell pepper and then steamed. Once done, they were finished with a dab of bright and fresh herb butter.

I’m definitely making these again—and maybe sub with a black sea bass or even some snapper?

Endless options!

August 2016 Family Dinner
As far as I’m concerned, Kālua Pig has got to make an appearance on any Hawaiian menu. Sadly, we did not get a whole pig so we didn’t get to dig an imu in my seestrah’s back yard to cook it. So, I opted for my trusty CrockPot version which is pretty dang close — especially since it’s slow cooked in banana leaves and finished off with Hawaiian sea salt and a few shakes of liquid smoke.  The recipe can be found here.

Nina made a request for Kālua Pig and Cabbage, so in the last 30 minutes of cooking, I added in shredded cabbage so that it cooked down a bit but still had some bite to it. I highly recommend making lots of Kālua Pig as leftovers are brilliant in sliders, fried rice, burritos or even over fries!

August 2016 Family Dinner
And of course, if you’ve ever found yourself on O’ahu, you most likely made your way up towards the North Shore to the shrimp farms….and to Giovanni’s Shrimp Truck!

P whipped up a HUGE batch of Garlicky Peel-and-Eat Shrimp Scampi as an homage to the Giovanni’s and she did them proud!

August 2016 Family Dinner

N also pulled together this colorful and fresh Tropical Slaw. And let’s just put it out there that she definitely got extra credit for the plating!

Soooo purrrrtyyy!!!

August 2016 Family Dinner

And what’s more Hawaiian than Mac Salad????

Ok, I admit it–I have no idea how Macaroni Salad found its way into Island Cuisine. There’s nothing tropical about tubs of mayonnaise but here’s the thing….. I cannot, I WILL NOT have a lunch plate without a big ol’ scoop of Mac Salad! It would be OH SO WRONG without it. So I made lots of it….LOTS of it!

And yes, you must use an ice cream scooper to plate Mac Salad.

August 2016 Family Dinner
Aerial shot!

Admittedly, the picture quality isn’t good but I nearly broke my neck climbing on a high chair to take it.

Points for effort???

August 2016 Family Dinner
Styrofoam Compartment Plates?!

HELL YES!

I realize it’s kitschy but it was our homage to the styrofoam containers that lunch plates come in. We just had to do it.

August 2016 Family Dinner
Quick pic!

And can you just look at our little guys in the front????

Apparently the theme was “spoons”…..

August 2016 Family Dinner
I think I failed to mention that this Fam Din was super special because not only did we have all the Nguyễn sibs together, but we were also celebrating this gal’s 18th birthday!!!!

Oh our sweet, sweet Nina….. How have 18 years just flown by???

And although this pic may look a bit weird since I took it through a screened window, I wanted to share it because to me, it just captures her.

August 2016 Family Dinner

And as you may recall, when it’s your birthday — you pick the menu and dessert!!!

This proved to be more difficult than you may think. P agreed to make the dessert but Nina pupu‘ed (pun intended) all of our ideas! But one thing is for certain–the gal loves chocolate! So seestrah ended up baking rich and decadent brownies that we served with coconut gelato.

And because we’re OVER THE TOP— we served two desserts!

And because V and L totally embraced the Fam Din theme and their move back to Cali by buying this….

August 2016 Family Dinner

….AN INDUSTRIAL STRENGTH SHAVE ICE MACHINE!!!!!!!

Shave Ice is a quintessential Hawaiian treat! Don’t confuse it for a snow cone or slushee–it’s so much more!

Hawaiian Shave Ice is fluffy, snow-like ice that is gorgeously shaven from a block and then dressed with deeply intense fruit syrups. Not just any ol’ machine can achieve the perfect texture…..so V and L ordered this beautiful blue behemoth that weights a good 60-70lbs!

August 2016 Family Dinner
Then they made these great tropical syrups for us to drizzle over the snow— lilikoi (passion fruit), strawberry and pineapple.

My favorite? The lilikoi!!!

ONO, ONO, ONOLICIOUS!

August 2016 Family Dinner
And it was so fun and interactive!!!

You better believe they’ll be lugging that machine all over to our family parties for the next year while they’re here. They’re definitely going to get their moneys worth!

August 2016 Family Dinner
The girls approved!!! (Me included!!!)

August 2016 Family Dinner
All in all, it was a crazy, CRAZY dinner but so, SO much fun!!! I can’t wait til’ we do it again!

August 2016 Family Dinner

And isn’t it wonderful when your family is as over-the-top and bonkers as you are?

ALOOOOOHAAA!!

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This Month’s Family Dinner Menu

Cocktails:  Piña Coladas, Li Hing Mui Margaritas
Appetizers: SPAM Musubi
Entrees: Short Ribs Pipikaula, Steamed Monk Fish in Banana Leaves, Kālua Pig and Cabbage, Garlicky Peel-and Eat Shrimp Scampi 
Sides: Tropical Slaw, Mac Salad, White Rice
Dessert: Chocolatey and Decadent Brownies with Coconut Gelato, Hawaiian Shave Ice