Sunday Family Dinner

The Pacific Northwest and East Asia Blend at Family Dinner

April 2016 Fam Din
We’ve got two birthday boys in April — Lucas and Curtis! And as Family Dinner protocol dictates, when it’s your birthmonth, you call the theme for the menu.

Now with our Lucasaurus, he’s pretty laid back. If there’s something yummy and he gets ice cream at the end, well–he’s all set. So it was up to my BIL, Curtis, to give us some direction.

April 2016 Fam Din
Curtis
is all about seafood and generally loves Japanese cuisine. He mentioned that he wanted crab and the next thing I knew it, we were in crab boil planning mode. We’ve done crab Boils quite often. Remember this time? Or how about this time?

Can you blame us? Seafood boils are freaking D-E-L-I-C-I-O-U-S!!!

But this time, since we wanted to use dungeness crab (they’re back in season–YAHOO!), we thought we’d take a different spin. We ditched our beloved spicy Cajun seasoning packets and headed for the Pacific Northwest for inspiration.

April 2016 Family Dinner
But first–one small order of business.

A few months ago, we decided that while we were prepping/cooking/enjoying Fam Din, everyone would stay off their cellphones or tablets and spend some QT with each other. Only exception? You could use it briefly to snap pics of food or family.

The girls even made a sign for our “docking” station that would rotate from house to house each month.

April 2016 Fam Din
So what did we do while off our phones?

We play tennis of of course! Well….Wii Sports but that’s nearly as good.

The pics below may not be as clear as I’d like but I love them. Look at their intense facial expressions.

GAME ON!

April 2016 Fam Din
Speaking of GAME ON–check out Lucasaurus. One moment he’s all “sweet face” and the next “100% slugger”.

He’s such a playah’ that he even squeezed in a fast T-Ball game with the homies before dinner was ready.

Stud.

April 2016 Fam Din
And what did my seestrahs and I do in between the cooking?

Drank some draannnnkkks of course!

Our cocktail of choice was a concoction that seester T had with her friends one night – Pomegranate Soju with Sparkling Korean Grapefruit Rice Brew.

What does a “sparkling rice brew” taste like? Think of a less sweet, more carbonated wine cooler but a gazillion times better. The whole thing was floral, fruity, and went down dangerously smooth.

April 2016 Fam Din
At this point, you may be wondering how this cocktail fits the Pacific Northwest theme.

Well…..that’s where the East Asia meets the Pacific Northwest. At least, the first time for the night.

April 2016 Fam Din
Oh–and of course we took a minute or two to snap a few pics.

April 2016 Fam Din

CHEERS!

April 2016 Fam Din
Meanwhile, Lucas had come back from his game, showered and then decided to show his uncle some of his badass roundhouse kicks.

Did I mention our little man just passed his Tae Kwon Do black back examination?

Yeah…I keep him around as my personal security these days.

April 2016 Fam Din
Then at some point throughout the shenanigans, big sis whipped out some appetizers – Shrimp Crostinis!!

April 2016 Fam Din
And then we got down to some serious cooking.

How serious?

So serious we had to break out the step stools.

#ShortPeopleProblems

April 2016 Fam Din
And then the girls started getting all kinds of silly.

Not sure if they were getting hypoglycemic from all the waiting or if it’s just their true nature.

You’re right….. it’s the Aliens.

April 2016 Fam Din

Grab the bibs, refill the drinks, plunk yourselves down in a chair because it was finally DINNER TIME!!!

April 2016 Fam Din
Sweet dungeness crab, prawns, clams, corn, new potatoes and crusty bread. The “boil” was made from crab stock, lemons, garlic and an insane amount of fennel and coriander seeds. Very, very aromatic.

Oh–and tons, and I mean TONS of garlic butter to dip it all in.

LET’S GET SEAFOOD WASTED!!!!

April 2016 Fam Din
And you bet we sure as heck did! Totally natural–birthday celebrations and all.

Though no matter how full we are, there must be dessert! And with two birthday boys, we had to have TWO desserts. One made specifically for each of boys’ favorite flavors.

April 2016 Fam Din
With Curtis, we went for the East Asian flavors because the man loves him some green tea! And after all these years, it’s become quite the challenge to make him a different green tea dessert. We’ve done Matcha Green Tea Icebox Cheesecake, Green Tea Souffles, and Matcha Green Tea Layered Cake filled with Matcha Mousse and the list goes on and on.

Hey–at least he’s consistent.

April 2016 Fam Din
So after squeezing my brain to the core, I decided to make him a Green Tea Tiramisu–also known as a Matchamisu!

I used this recipe to make the fantastically easy and light dessert. I took packaged lady finger cookies and dipped them in a mixture of honey and a strongly brewed green tea. It was then layered with a fluffy filling of whipped mascarpone cheese, egg yolks, sugar, clouds of whipped cream and of course, matcha powder.

Oh! Did I mention that I threw in a few splashes of Grand Marnier? It is a type of tiramisu after all.

April 2016 Fam Din
It was a WINNER!

Not only was it crazy easy to pull together but it was so well flavored and light. Birthday boy gave me the stamp of approval! So much in fact, that I’m making a bunch of individual sized Matchamisus for his big birthday bash this weekend.

PHEW!

Better start thinking about his next year’s green tea dessert!

April 2016 Fam Din
As for Lucas’ dessert – my nephew being MY nephew, LOVES ice cream — mint chocolate chip ice cream. And like me, if it’s isn’t green mint chip then we want nothing to do with it.

So as a nod to the “Pacific Northwest”, I made our little guy a Baked Alaska — something I’ve never attempted before. And guess what? It was really easy too!

First off, I used store bought ice cream (I know, I know–but I was short on time!) and let it set out for about 30-45 minutes to soften. I lined a large metal bowl with plastic wrap (for easy removal) and packed the ice cream in it. Then, I pressed a layer of brownie on top to form the base.

Lukey doesn’t like cake—we’re all a work in progress.

April 2016 Fam Din
I covered the top with more plastic wrap and then let the whole thing freeze for several hours. When it was about time to serve, I took the bowl out of the freezer and set it on the counter while we got to making the meringue.

In a stand mixer with the balloon whisk attachment, I whisked up 2 large egg whites, 1/2 cup sugar, 1-2 pinches cream of tartar and 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract and until stiff peaks formed.

We then inverted the bowl onto a plate, piped meringue rosettes all over and then brought out the torch.

April 2016 Fam Din
Most Baked Alaskas, well—are baked. But instead of placing the whole thing in a high heat oven, I opted to use a kitchen torch. I felt more comfortable with this method for a more even browning.

I think it all came out beautifully well. Fluffy-marshamllowly meringue, VERY green ice cream and a chocolately brownie base.

April 2016 Fam Din
It got a thumbs up from this adorable birthday boy….

And if you follow me on Instagram, then you would have saw a video of Lucas face planting into his dessert plate–on his own volition!!!

Silly boy.

April 2016 Fam Din
Another delish and FUN Family Dinner in the books!

Happy Birthmonth Curtis and Lucas!

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This Month’s Family Dinner Menu
Pacific Northwest – East Asian

Cocktails: Pomegranate Soju with Sparkling Korean Grapefruit Rice Brew
Appetizers: Shrimp Crostini
Entrees: Pacific Northwest Dungeness Crab Boil with Prawns, Clams, Sausage, Potatoes & Corn
Sides: Toasted Ciabatta and French Bread
Dessert: Matcha Tiramisu and Baked Alaska with Mint Chocolate Chip Ice Cream and Brownie Base

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Desserts/Pastries

Chocolate and Peanut Butter Macarons – Happy Macaron Day!

Macarons

It’s a double whammy today!

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

Now that is a food holiday I can get behind.

Macarons3

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

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

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

Over the top?

Hell yes.

Macarons4

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ingredients:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Desserts/Pastries

Pavlovas: A Guest Post at The Ravenous Couple

Pavlova with Fresh Berries

 

One of the best things that has occurred by writing this blog has been connecting with some of the most talented food writers from around the world. Thanks to the internet, I have made friends around the globe who are so incredibly creative that one just can’t help but be inspired.

One of my regular sources of inspiration comes from The Ravenous Couple. You simply must head over there if you haven’t seen their delicious creations yet. Through mouthwatering dishes and beautiful photography, Kim and Hong highlight all of the wonderful flavors of Vietnamese cuisine.

I am honored to be among a group of guest bloggers who will be posting over at The Ravenous Couple while the lovely pair takes some time off to get hitched 🙂

Just in time for the Fourth of July holiday, I offer individual Pavlovas with Fresh Berries. Not only are these pavlovas delicious but they are sure to impress your guests at any Independence Day shindig! For the recipe and information about my pavlovas, click  here to their site.

Thanks for reading!