Drinks

Spiked Watermelon Lemonade – Happy 4th of July!!

June 2016 Fam Din

H-A-P-P-Y   F-R-I-D-A-Y!!!!!!

Especially if that Friday kicks off the Fourth of July!

June 2016 Fam Din
My next three days are slated to be filled with BBQs, shenanigans, and fireworks — Oh my! Needless to say, I will need a vat of coffee waiting for me on my desk come Tuesday morning. And I reckon it will be 100% worth it.

But until then, let me recommend this lovely little cocktail that will be perfect for Independence Day — heck, your entire summer!

Blended Watermelon
It combines two things that are quintessential to summer – watermelon and lemonade. And when a few glugs of spirits are added to the mix, you’ve got a party on your hands! It’s light, refreshing and something you can sip on all day long.

Trust me…I sure did when I made it for our last Family Dinner.

June 2016 Fam Din
So enjoy the weekend Friends and Happy Independence Day ‘Merica!!!  💙❤️🇺🇸

______________________________
Spiked Watermelon Lemonades

Ingredients:

¾ cup fresh lemon juice
¼ cup fresh lime juice
1 cup simple syrup, more if needed
5 cups chilled water, divided
8 cups fresh watermelon, cut into large chunks
1 cup vodka
½ cup triple sec
ice
additional lemon slices and watermelon wedges to garnish

In a large container, stir together the lemon juice, lime juice, simple syrup and 4 cups of water. Refrigerate for at least one hour.

In batches if need be, place the watermelon and remaining water in a blender. Blend until smooth and pour the liquid through a sieve to strain. This should yield approximately 6 cups of juice.

Pour 6 cups of watermelon juice, vodka, and triple sec into the chilled lemonade. Taste and add additional simple syrup if needed. Serve over ice and garnish with lemon slices and watermelon wedges.

Cheers!

Sunday Family Dinner

Family Dinner Channels the Mediterranean!

June 2016 Fam Din

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

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

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

Y.O.L.O.

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

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

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

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

But isn’t she adorable?

Nina

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

So it was no surprise that this happened….

June 2016 Fam Din

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

He’s a playah….

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

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

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

June 2016 Fam Din
I’m going with good.

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

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

Appetizers time!

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

Say WHAT?!? Say WHAT?!?

I know, she’s weird.

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

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

I know, right?!?

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

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

June 2016 Fam Din
On to more fam pics….

These three melt my heart. ❤

June 2016 Fam Din

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

Was it the Boozy Watermelon Lemonade?

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

June 2016 Fam Din
But….

When you can’t beat them—join them!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

As for the Tzatziki, it’s a breeze.

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

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

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

June 2016 Fam Din
And their jacuzzi is fantastic too!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

June 2016 Fam Din

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

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

They. Are. Adorable.

June 2016 Fam Din
Back to dinner….

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And it’s freaking delicious.

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

YUM!

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

June 2016 Fam Din
Moral of the post?

I love Family Dinners in the summer.

Even when it’s just “almost” summer.

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

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

June 2016 Fam Din

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

June 2016 Fam Din

This Month’s Family Dinner Menu

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

Sunday Family Dinner

A Belated Sunday Family Dinner

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

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

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

And that’s No bueno.

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

A girl after my own heart….

Feb 2016 Fam Din

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

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

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

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

Feb 2016 Fam Din

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

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

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

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

Feb 2016 Fam Din
Then it was cocktail time!

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

Feb 2016 Fam Din

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

And that’s not a pretty sight.

Trust me….I’ve seen it.

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

Perfect bite sized snacks!

I had about 30 or so……

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

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

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

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

Feb 2016 Fam Din
Sizzle, sizzle!

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

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

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

MMMMmmmm….bacon……

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

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

Nah…they make good profile pics, right?

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

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

Total mushroom goodness.

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

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

Hiiiiii!!!

Feb 2016 Fam Din
Beef-a-licious!

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

What’s the secret?

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

Feb 2016 Fam Din

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

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

Fam Din
Cake time!

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

Told you the girl had good taste!

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

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

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

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

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

PHEW!

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

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

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

Except I can’t drink milk…..TMI?

So I had it with red vino instead.

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

HAPPY BELATED BIRTHDAY MAYA LOVE! ❤

Feb 2016 Fam Din

This Month’s Family Dinner Menu

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