Appetizers/Small Plates · Pork

Pork and Shiitake Mushroom Dumplings

Pork and Mushroom Dumplings
There was a moment the other week when I stopped and said to myself, “Do you have a dumplings problem?”

I mean…sure, it was when I was elbow deep in folding about 100 dumplings. But then I quickly shook off the momentary doubt and kept on assembling.

Because dumplings make the world better!

Pork and Mushroom Dumplings
And if this is how I can contribute to adding positivity, it would be just bad ju-ju if I stopped making them—don’t you think?

Too much of a stretch?

Sorry…I was on a dumplings high.

Pork and Mushroom Dumplings
Speaking of a dumplings high, I am pretty pumped that I’ve got a healthy stash of these little buggers currently in my freezer just waiting to be broken into whenever the cravings hit.

The predominant ingredients in the filling are ground pork and shiitake mushrooms – the perfect pairing.

Pork and Mushroom Dumplings
Shiitake mushrooms provide such an earthy flavor and I use two forms of them in this filling – dried and fresh.

Why two?

It’s because I primarily use the dried shiitakes in order to extract a “mushroom liquid” during the rehydration process. I slowly incorporate this mushroom liquid into the ground pork to not only flavor the meat but it also results in a great texture while producing a juicier filling.

Pork and Mushroom Dumplings
Because juicy dumplings are muy bueno.

Pork and Mushroom Dumplings
Which reminds me to strongly suggest that you avoid using lean ground pork in this.

Just like when you’re making hamburgers, you need some of that fat for a juicier filling.

Pork and Mushroom Dumplings

Once you have these beauties filled and folded, you can opt to cook them any way that tickles your fancy. I generally either boil or pan-fry them and have included instructions for both below. But if you’re in a steaming or deep-fry mood, go for it!

Pork and Mushroom Dumplings

Heck, I often throw some into my instant ramen!

Versatility people – it’s a beautiful thing! ❤

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Pork and Shiitake Mushroom Dumplings
Makes approximately 40 dumplings

Ingredients:

Dumplings:
2 ounces dried shiitake mushrooms*
1 cup boiling water
2 cups finely chopped Napa cabbage
kosher salt, divided
1 pound ground pork
½ teaspoon Sichuan pepper flakes
½ teaspoon black pepper
2 cups minced fresh shiitake mushrooms
½ cup chopped scallions, plus more for garnish
2 tablespoons finely minced shallots
1 tablespoon finely minced garlic
1 tablespoon finely minced ginger
2 tablespoons soy sauce (more, if needed)
2 tablespoons Shaoxing wine or other preferred rice wine
2 teaspoons toasted sesame oil
¼ teaspoon ground coriander
1 package Shanghai-style dumpling wrappers (50 count) + water to moisten
1/4 teaspoon toasted sesame seeds

Dipping Sauce:
2 tablespoons soy sauce
3 tablespoons Chinkiang black vinegar
1 tablespoon sesame oil
½ tablespoon sugar
½ teaspoon finely minced ginger
2 tablespoons homemade Sichuan Chili Oil (both the oil and flakes), more to taste

Rehydrate the dried shiitake mushrooms* by placing them in a small bowl and pour the boiling water over them. Set aside for 20 minutes until the mushrooms have rehydrated. Gently squeeze the excess liquid from the mushrooms (reserving the “mushroom liquid”) and finely dice them. Set aside.

Place the chopped cabbage in a colander set over a bowl. Sprinkle with 1 teaspoon salt and let sit for about 20 minutes. Wrap the cabbage in a cheesecloth or clean kitchen towel. Squeeze out and discard the excess liquid and place the drained cabbage back in the colander.

Place the ground pork in a large bowl and add in the Sichuan pepper flakes, black pepper and ½ teaspoon salt. Using chopsticks, swirl the meat in a clockwise direction while gradually adding 4 tablespoons of the mushroom liquid. Keeping swirling until the liquid has fully incorporated into the ground pork. To the bowl, add both mushrooms, cabbage, scallions, shallots, ginger, garlic, soy sauce, Shaoxing wine, sesame oil and ground coriander. Using cleans hands, mix the filling until thoroughly combined.

Test the filling by taking a small spoonful of the mixture and pan fry in a nonstick skillet for 1-2 minutes on each side. Taste and adjust for seasonings.

Begin assembly of the dumplings. Lay one dumpling wrapper on a flat surface or in the palm of your hand. Dip your finger in water and moisten the edge of the wrapper. Place a spoonful of filling in the center of the wrapper. Fold the dumpling in half and pinch the center together. Starting from the center, make about 4-5 pleats on the right side of the dumpling. Repeat with the left side of the dumpling so that all the pleats point towards the center. This will also create a flat bottom to allow the dumpling to sit upright and form a slight crescent shape. Place the dumpling on a baking sheet and continue until all the filling/wrappers have been used.**

Prepare the dipping sauce by whisking all of the ingredients together and set aside.

Cook the Dumplings

Boiled Dumplings: Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add the dumplings to the pot (no more than a 9 or 10 at a time, depending on how large your pot is) and lower the heat so that it’s at a steady but not rapid boil. Stir frequently so that they do not stick together. Allow the dumplings to cook for about 5 or 6 minutes or until the filling has cooked through. Use a large slotted spoon or kitchen spider to remove and drain the dumplings. Transfer to a serving dish and spoon the sauce over them. Garnish with scallions, and sesame seeds. Serve immediately.

Pan-Fried Dumplings: Heat a large frying skillet to medium-high heat with 2 tablespoon of oil. Place a single layer of the dumplings in the skillet. Fry the dumplings for 1-2 minutes until the bottoms are golden. Carefully pour in about ½ cup of water and immediately place a tight fitting lid on top. Lower the heat to medium-low and allow the dumplings to steam for 4-5 minutes. Remove the lid and cook until all the water has evaporated. Transfer the dumplings to a platter and sprinkle the tops with scallions and toasted sesame seeds. Serve immediately with the dipping sauce on the side.

*If using whole dried shiitake mushrooms, quarter them before hydrating.

**If you would like to freeze the uncooked dumplings, place the baking sheet directly into freezer for 4-5 hours after you have assembled them. Be sure that the dumplings are in a single layer and are not touching each other. Once the dumplings have froze, you may transfer them to a sealed container. They can be kept in the freezer for a few months and should be cooked frozen. Add 1-2 additional minutes to the cooking time.

 

 

 

Appetizers/Small Plates

Mixed Mushrooms & Herbed Goat Cheese Crostinis

October-November 2016
It’s the season of holiday parties galore!

And if you find yourself in need of a quick appetizer to serve at a festive shindig, I’ve got a great little number for you – Mixed Mushrooms and Herbed Goat Cheese Crostinis.

October-November 2016
I actually made them for our last Sunday Family Dinner and have gotten a few inquiries for the recipe since. It’s really easy to make and the individual components can be prepped ahead of time. A few minutes before service, you can quickly assemble them and voila — Mushroomlicious!

October-November 2016
Speaking of the mushrooms, I recommend a mixture of button, crimini, shitake, and oyster –but anything goes!

October-November 2016

Happy Holidays!
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Mixed Mushrooms & Herbed Goat Cheese Crostinis
Serves 12

Ingredients:

8 ounces goat cheese, room temperature
4 ounces mascarpone cheese, room temperature
1 tablespoon fresh minced parsley
1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves, divided – more to garnish
¼ cup chopped fresh basil leaves
½ teaspoon garlic powder
kosher salt
black pepper
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 cup sliced button mushrooms
1 cup sliced crimini mushrooms
1 cup chopped oyster mushrooms
1 cup chopped shitake mushrooms
½ tablespoon minced garlic
¼ cup minced shallots
¼ cup white wine
24 ½ inch thick slices baguette, toasted
¼ cup reduced balsamic glaze (optional)

In a bowl, mix together the goat cheese, mascarpone, parsley, ½ tablespoon thyme leaves, basil, and garlic power. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Set aside.

Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the butter and swirl around the skillet until it melts. Add the fresh mushrooms, remaining thyme leaves, garlic and shallots. Sauté until the mushrooms are golden browned. Pour in the white wine to deglaze the pan and lower the heat to medium low. Continue to sauté until the wine has evaporated. Remove the skillet from the heat and season with salt and pepper.

Spread one side of each baguette slice with the cheese mixture and top with a spoonful of the mushroom medley. Drizzle the balsamic glaze over the crostini (optional) and garnish with additional thyme leaves. Enjoy!

 

Side Dish · Vegetables/Vegetarian

Toasted Israeli Couscous with Roasted Mushrooms Medley

July 2016 Fam Din
At our last Family Dinner, we fired up a bunch of lamb racks and chops per my brother-in-law’s bday request. I initially was going to make a side dish that had potatoes in it but it seemed kind of heavy for such a warm day.

I brainstormed with seester and decided to make some Israeli couscous. The pearls are larger than standard couscous and when toasted –like with risotto — it takes on a nutty flavor with a great texture.

July 2016 Fam Din
To flavor the couscous, I combined it with a medley of roasted mushrooms. I chose a combo of portabello, trumpets and beech ‘shrooms but anything goes. I also added dried porcinis as they have an earthy flavor and used the liquid that I reconstituted them in to deepen the profile.

To finish it off, I added some fresh herbs and lemon zest to brighten up the dish.

July 2016 Fam Din
The couscous paired quite well with the lamb providing just enough substance without being too heavy.

And since it’s delicious at room temperature, it would be a great dish to bring to a potluck or summer picnic event. ❤

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Toasted Israeli Couscous with Roasted Mushrooms Medley
Serves 4-5

Ingredients:

½ ounce dried porcini mushrooms
1 cup hot water
3 cups sliced mixed mushrooms (I used portabello, trumpets, and beech)
olive oil, divided
kosher salt, divided
black pepper, divided
¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 teaspoon garlic powder
10 sprigs fresh thyme, divided
½ cup white onion, finely diced
2 cups dried Israeli couscous
1 tablespoon minced garlic
2 cups vegetable broth, heated
1 tablespoon minced parsley
½ tablespoon lemon zest
1 tablespoon truffle oil or quality extra virgin olive oil

Combine the dried porcini with the hot water in a small bowl. Allow the mushrooms to soften and reconstitute for about 30 minutes. Remove the porcini from the bowl, squeezing out the excess liquid. Reserve the porcini liquid and set aside.

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Toss the fresh mushrooms with 3 tablespoons olive oil, ½ teaspoon salt, ½ teaspoon black pepper, red pepper flakes, and garlic powder. Pull the leaves from half the thyme sprigs and mix into the mushrooms. Spread the mushrooms on a lightly greased baking tray and roast for about 20 minutes, stirring every few minutes until they have browned. Set aside.

Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil over medium heat in a small pot. Add the white onions and cook for 3-4 minutes until they become translucent. Add the couscous—stir and cook until the pearls become toasted and golden brown. Stir in the garlic and cook for about 20-30 seconds before adding in the liquid that the porcini was reconstituted in–careful not to add in the mushroom grit/sand. Pour in the heated vegetable broth, add the remaining thyme sprigs and bring to a boil. Lower the heat to a simmer, cover the pot and cook until all the liquid has absorbed—about 10-15 minutes.

Once the couscous is done, take it off the heat and discard the thyme sprigs. Use a fork to fluff the couscous pearls and fold in the roasted mushrooms, porcinis, parsley, and lemon zest. Drizzle in the truffle oil and taste. Add additional salt and pepper as needed.

The couscous can be served immediately or at room temperature.

Sunday Family Dinner

Swimming Spot Prawns & Fiery Lamb – It’s Fam Din Time!

July Fam Din Collage
July is another month with lots of birthdays in the fam. Seester N, Seester P, Bro-in-law R, Niece Luna and about a GAZILLION of cousins!  Ok, maybe we’re just a tad shy of a gazillion but really, not by much.

So for this month, N and R got to pick the menu for Fam Din–and boy, did they choose a doozy!

July 2016 Fam Din
I’m typically assigned the task of making the themed cocktails for dinner —which is totally fine because this gal truly does love her some adult beverages! Shocking, I know.

Since it was so hot and humid, I was leaning towards some type of margarita. I gave N a few options and she gave the thumbs on passion fruit. So I broke out the citrus juicer and ended up with about a quart of lime juice. THANK GOODNESS for electric citrus juicers because without it, I’d still be sitting in my seestrah’s kitchen squeezing limes. Foh-evah.

Once done, I combined the lime juice with freshly made simple syrup, triple sec, passion fruit juice and of course, tequila. YASSSS!!! I really enjoyed the tartness from both the passion fruit and limes–definitely making them again.

July 2016 Fam Din
Now say helloooooo to my little friend…..the sweet Spot Prawn.

These little buggers were seestrah’s choice for an appetizer and were swimming around the tank at the store when we picked them up earlier that day.

By the way, if you’re squeamish, just quickly scroll through to the next section.

July 2016 Fam Din

We gobbled the Spot Prawns two ways…..

First—sashimi style. We dipped them in just a bit of soy and wasabi and they were incredible! Truly sweet and fresh.

July 2016 Fam Din
Then we took the prawn heads and tossed them in a rice flour–you can also use cornstarch or tempura flour. My niece Nini deep fried them until they were golden and quickly sprinkled sea salt over them once they were out of the hot oil.

They were divine!! Perfectly crunchy and we still got a little bit of the prawn flesh in conjunction to the money bite. You know—the bite that’s filled with the tomalley-like goodness. Utterly rich, decadent and full of prawn flavor.

And seriously, if you’re freaked out by this, I kind of feel sorry for you but just pass yours right over to me because I will DEVOUR them!

July 2016 Fam Din
We also picked up some Octopus to nosh on. N sliced the tentacle super thin so that it was tender and easier to eat. Nini then made the perfect dipping sauce which had things like ponzu, sesame oil, garlic, ginger, scallions, paprika and anything else she could find in the pantry.

July 2016 Fam Din
As for the birthday boy, he wanted Lamb. Seester T, marinated lamb racks and loin chops overnight with a bunch of herbs, garlic and citrus zest.

When it was time for entrees, she had the boys grill them up and they nailed it.

July 2016 Fam Din

Initially, they were a bit concerned about the char due to the flare ups they had since the lamb was a bit fatty. But once the meat was rested, we sliced in and found a perfect medium-rare to medium.

Yeah, I guess we’ll keep those boys around after all.

July 2016 Fam Din
Seester fixed up a Mint Pesto to dunk the Lamb into.

July 2016 Fam Din
As for sides, we charred up some fresh Artichokes and N made a light Gremolata to drizzle over them to brighten things up.

July 2016 Fam Din
As for my side dish contribution, I made this Toasted Israeli Couscous with Roasted Wild Mushrooms. Super easy and low fuss to make—plus, it’s perfect at room temp. I’ll be sharing the recipe with y’all in a few days.

July 2016 Fam Din
And then it was dessert time!!

Since we had two birthday babies, they each got their own dessert. I know, it was something I started back in April for Lucas and bro in law C and now I can’t stop.

R said he wanted something chocolate and peanut butter. After mulling over it a bit, I decided to make a batch of NY Times Chocolate Chip Cookies (that he L-O-V-E-S) and sandwiched chocolate & peanut butter cup ice cream in between.

It was a total mess to eat but who cares when it’s a WINNER likes this!

July 2016 Fam Din
For Seestrah, it was much harder to decide what to make. She doesn’t really have a favorite dessert and likes an array of things. Since we already had something chocolate for R, I gave her several fruit options and she chose this Roasted Peach Napoleon.

There are essentially 3 components to this dessert which I was able to make earlier in the day and enlisted Nina to help assemble it. First up, I made the pastry cream which came together quite quickly. While the cream chilled, I roasted up the peaches and then baked off the puff pastry sheets.

Nina then layered it all together and we dug in!

Ok, technically there were candles, singing, wishes, and some presents before we dug in—but you get the picture.

July 2016 Fam Din
All in all, I think it was a delicious way to celebrate N and R!

Definitely stick around because August’s Dinner will have all 5 Nguyen Siblings + kids and fam in attendance and we’ll be cooking up the spirit of Aloha with a Hawaiian Lu’au spread!  ❤

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This Month’s Family Dinner Menu

Cocktails:  Passion Fruit Margaritas
Appetizers: Sashimi Style Spot Prawns, Crispy Fried Spot Prawns Head, Octopus Sashimi
Entrees: Grilled Lamb Chops with Mint Pesto
Sides: Charred Artichokes with Gremolata, Toasted Israeli Couscous with Roasted Wild Mushrooms
Dessert: Roasted Peach Napoleon, Peanut Butter & Chocolate Ice Cream Sandwiches

Pizzas

Alsatian Pizza …. Sorta.

"Kinda" Alsatian Pizza

If I see an Alsatian Pizza on a menu, I’ve got to order it.

Because if I don’t do it—I won’t stop thinking about it and will have regrets for the rest of my life!! MY ENTIRE LIFE!!

Too Much?

Sorry–I haven’t had my Diet Coke today. Anyway…..

Alsatian Pizzas are pure and uncomplicated but oh-so-lovely. Typically it consists of a perfect pizza dough, fromage blanc –or crème fraîche, onions and bacon. How easy is that?!

But don’t let the few ingredients fool you because they’re wonderfully paired. The creamy, slightly sharp and piquant crème fraîche is tamed by the sweet onions and salty bacon.

Heaven.

As in—I’m praying they serve Alsatian Pizzas in Heaven.

"Kinda" Alsatian Pizza2
But you all know me and I can never leave things alone. So I decided to up the ante and add shredded gruyere, sliced mushrooms, and use BOTH caramelized and raw red onions. Why the heck not—LET’S GET CRAZY TODAY!!!

Because it is National Wine Day, which incidentally, goes perfect with my “sorta” Alsatian Pizza. ❤

Cheers!!
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Alsatian Pizza….Sorta.
Serves 2

Ingredients:

4 slices thick cut bacon, thinly cross sliced
¾ cup sliced red onions, divided
6 ounces fresh pizza dough, rested and at room temperature
all purpose flour
½ cup crème fraîche
1 cup shredded gruyere cheese
1 cup sliced crimini mushrooms
2 sprigs fresh thyme
kosher salt
black pepper
extra virgin olive oil
½ tablespoon corn meal
¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 tablespoons chopped parsley

Preheat oven to 500 degrees F.

While the oven preheats, cook the bacon in a skillet over medium-low heat until the fat has rendered and the bacon begins to get crispy. Do not over-brown the bacon, as it will continue to crisp in the oven. Use a slotted spoon and transfer the bacon bits to a plate covered with paper towels. Sauté ½ cup onions over medium heat in the bacon drippings until they become golden brown. Set aside

Take the pizza dough and flatten it with your hands on a floured surface. Use a floured rolling pin to gently roll the crust to about ¼ of an inch thickness. Transfer the rolled out dough to a pizza paddle or lightly floured cutting board. Spread the crème fraîche evenly over the dough. Scatter the caramelized onions, gruyere, bacon, crimini and fresh thyme leaves on top. Season the entire pizza with salt and pepper and drizzle with extra virgin olive oil.

If you have a baking steel/stone in the oven, gently slide the pizza on top. Otherwise, sprinkle a baking sheet with corn meal and slide the pizza on top of it. Bake the pizza for 12-15 minutes until the crust becomes golden brown.

Remove the pizza from the oven. Sprinkle the remaining sliced red onions, red chili pepper flakes and parsley over the top. Slice the pizza and serve warm

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

Pastas/Noodles · Pork

20-Minute Spicy Sausage & Mushroom Pasta

20-Minute Spicy Sausage & Mushroom Pasta

I love pasta…yeah, yeah, yeah!

Pasta is so great….yeah, yeah, yeah!

 

That’s my new pasta song. Do you like it? Well obvi you can’t appreciate the full artistry of the song by just reading it.

But trust me.

It’s going to be a Grammy hit one of these days.

20-Minute Spicy Sausage & Mushroom Pasta

This 20-minute beauty truly tops the cake! Or pasta cake…or whatever. Y’all get where I’m going with this………………

Using two of my most favorite items– spicy Italian sausage and ‘shrooms, this number comes together so quick and is so delish that it’ll be a regular staple in your weeknight dinner rotation. You can also throw in other cast members that you may have lingering in your fridge like bell peppers, carrots, zucchinis, etc.

This time around, I ended using whole wheat pasta but feel free to use whichever that tickles your fancy.

TGIF Folks!

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20-Minute Spicy Sausage & Mushroom Pasta
Serves 3-4

Ingredients:

kosher salt
½ pound dried linguine, or pasta of your choice
2 tablespoons olive oil
¾ pound hot Italian sausage, casings removed
½ cup diced shallots
1 tablespoon finely minced garlic
½ teaspoon red pepper flakes
¼ teaspoon dried fennel, crushed
¼ teaspoon dried oregano
2 cups sliced crimini or button mushrooms, roughly chopped
1 28-ounce can crushed Roma tomatoes
2-3 pinches sugar
2-3 sprigs fresh thyme
fresh grated parmesan cheese

Boil the pasta for approximately 8-10 minutes in heavily salted water until al dente. Drain the pasta and reserve ¼ cup of the starchy water that the pasta was cooked in.

While the pasta boils, heat a large skillet with the olive oil over medium-high heat. Add in the sausage and use a wooden spoon to crumble up the meat while it’s browning. Cook until the sausage is no longer pink (about 1-2 minutes) and add the shallots, garlic, pepper flakes, fennel, oregano, and mushrooms. Sauté the items together for another 1-2 minutes.

Add tomatoes with its juices and bring to a boil. Add the sugar, thyme and lower the heat to medium-low. Use the wooden spoon to crush and break apart any large pieces of tomatoes. Allow the items to simmer for 8-10 minutes. Remove the thyme sprigs.

Toss in the cooked/drained linguine, coating the pasta well. If you want a looser based sauce, add a tablespoon at a time of the starchy pasta water until you reach your desired consistency. Season with additional kosher salt and black pepper as needed. Plate the pasta and cover each dish with freshly shaved parmesan.

Enjoy!