Sunday Family Dinner

Our February Birthday Girls

February 2019 Fam Din
This month we celebrated the birthdays of these two sweeties — Maya and Princess Leia. ❤

Maya turned 14 and Leia is now 11. Aren’t they just the most adorable pair?

February 2019 Fam Din
And since Tết – the Vietnamese Lunar New Year – was happening at that time, Seester P and her clan made their way down from SF to join in on all of the celebrations.

Our youngest munckin was SOOOO excited to be with her SoCal family!

Ms. Kaelani is growing up to be quite the character! She was a nonstop chatterbox during her visit and was constantly singing!

Mulan’s “Let’s Get Down to Business” is one of her current favs but of course, Moana and Frozen are never far away.

And if you were watching my IG stories that weekend, you likely caught her bellowing out a few lines of a Madonna classic. I won’t divulge which one but needless to say, she was hilarious.

Such a funny and rascally little gal.

February 2019 Fam Din

It’s ALWAYS a fun time when all of the Nguyễn sibbies are together!

Always loud, always chaotic….

Lots of teasing and laughing….

Especially when we’ve got some cocktails in us!

February 2019 Fam Din

For this month, I made Palomas again because I love how bright and citrusy they are. There’s something about them that makes me feel “healthy”…..maybe the grapefruit juice?

I know I’m just fooling myself since it’s accompanied with a heavy pour of blanco tequila!

February 2019 Fam Din

Also at that time, V and L had been puppy-sitting their neighbor’s new little furbaby – Ollie!

February 2019 Fam Din

He’s an adorable little fluffy pup — and all of the kiddos just adored him!

February 2019 Fam Din
Well…all the humanlings that is.

Don’t get me wrong…. Bella didn’t dislike him. I think she was just worried that it was another puppy that she would have to share all the treats with. Plus, she doesn’t like to have to fight for her humans’ attentions because as far as she’s concerned — she’s the queen.

February 2019 Fam Din
I did notice that she was spending EXTRA time with each of her humans to ensure that they still remembered who was in charge.

February 2019 Fam Din
As for Leia – she took to Ollie just fine.

She was just PUMPED that it was her birthday dinner because she knew her birthday “dessert” was going to be delish!

Don’t you just love how she sits? What a little lady…..

February 2019 Fam Din
Ollie is one of the rare beings outside of our immediate family that has attended one of our Fam Dins.

It’s like hitting the lottery!

February 2019 Fam Din
Time for food!

As for the menu that night, we all took inspiration from Maya’s favorite things.

Like her mama and papa, she’s a steak gal.

February 2019 Fam Din
So earlier that morning, I took 6 New York Strip Steaks and cubed them up. Yes….SIX! There were a lot of us!

I marinated the cubed beef in shallots, garlic, EVOO, parsley, cilantro, chili flakes, S & P and ….. um…..

I’m not going to lie…..I threw in some other stuff that I can’t remember.

February 2019 Fam Din

Oh wait! I think there was some lime zest and juice?

I know, I’m a terrible food blogger.

Anywhoooo……

After the beef did its thing in the fridge for about 8 hours, Nina skewered them for me.

February 2019 Fam Din
Tag R – you’re in!

Nina and I then handed the skewers over so that R could grill ’em up.

February 2019 Fam Din
While R finished up, I gathered the fixings I had prepped earlier to go with the skewers.

For the sauce, I turned to one of my most favorites – chimichurri! I adjusted my standard recipe (which is so tasty!) and added more EVOO while I blended it so that it turned into almost an aioli consistency. It was wonderfully creamy and luscious drizzled over the beef.

For an extra bright bite, I topped them with my pickled red onions.

February 2019 Fam Din
Grilled Steak Skewers with Creamy Chimichurri and Pickled Red Onions – how many do you think you could throw down?

February 2019 Fam Din
Thanks for the awesome grill job R!

February 2019 Fam Din
Oh these two….

It makes my heart explode to see how close they are.

And it also makes me cringe to imagine what type of shenanigans they’ll get into together when they’re as old as T and I!

Eeek!

February 2019 Fam Din
Quick pause for a kitchen pic before L and V got started on the other app.

February 2019 Fam Din
Ms. Maya is a big fan of fried calamari so brother V took squid pieces, lightly tossed them into seasoned flour and then fried them up until they were nice and crispy.

February 2019 Fam Din
L made a classic marinara sauce for us to dunk the calamari in.

February 2019 Fam Din
Crispy Calamari with Fresh Marinara – irresistible!

February 2019 Fam Din
Look! I inadvertently made cocktails that matched P’s shirt.

February 2019 Fam Din

By then, it was getting close to someone’s bedtime. No, not me… Kaelani!

So P asked if we could move up lì xì time to ensure the youngest munchkin would still be awake.

Tết is all about welcoming the Lunar New Year with family and includes giving out lì xì for luck to the munchkins. Starting from oldest to youngest, they say Chúc Mừng Năm Mới (Happy New Year) and we give them our blessings and best wishes along with lì xì (little envelopes filled with some lucky moola).

February 2019 Fam Din
Someone was WIDE AWAKE now!

Lì xì does have that magical affect!

February 2019 Fam Din

With the well wishes and lucky money doled out, we put the finishing touches on dinner.

P was getting chilly and didn’t want to get her clothes splattered while she cooked, so she borrowed L’s onesie.

Extra funny since they were Christmas jammies and looked ginormous on her.

February 2019 Fam Din
P crusted up tuna steaks with sesame seeds and crushed coriander before searing.

February 2019 Fam Din
She then topped the Seared Tuna over Mixed Greens and added fresh oranges, crispy wonton chips, sliced almonds and a light sesame vinaigrette.

February 2019 Fam Din

I blame the below on the Christmas onesie.

Or the extra strong refill cocktail we made her.

Probably both.

February 2019 Fam Din
Seestrah T took charge of the entree — an homage to one of Maya’s favorite dishes from Corner Baker.

February 2019 Fam Din

Creamy Pesto Cavatappi with Grilled Chicken … super rich and comforting.

T did a spot on job with this copycat recipe — trust me, I had my fair share of it.

February 2019 Fam Din

How the heck is Lucas doing that with his tongue?!

February 2019 Fam Din

Dinner time! Everyone to the table please!

Bella….always the first one waiting.

February 2019 Fam Din

Some one was SUPER tired by this time and barely made it through dinner.

February 2019 Fam Din

But in her defense, after all that pasta, we ALL were feeling a bit sleepy.

February 2019 Fam Din
For fear of us passing out, we quickly got dessert ready for our two birthday girls.

February 2019 Fam Din
Maya loves strawberries and chocolate and sprinkles.

Big Seester N took the lead with her dessert and made a chocolate cheesecake that had strawberry slices inside. The crust, of course, was made of Oreos….because why not add more chocolate?

February 2019 Fam Din
Nini made chocolate covered strawberries to top the cheesecake with. Aren’t they perfect? As a college student, she could totally build a side hustle selling them–don’t you think?

Everyday we hustlin’…..

February 2019 Fam Din
Strawberry-Chocolate Decadence Cheesecake …. seester nailed it with this one.

February 2019 Fam Din
And don’t forget our 2nd birthday babe – Princess Leia!

When R was grilling the beef skewers earlier, I asked him to also throw on a 7th New York Strip Steak I had bought. Yes…I procured 6 steaks to cube up for our appetizer and left the 7th one whole for Leia’s birthday “cake-steak”.

Hey, a girl only turns 11 once! And that face…how could I not?

February 2019 Fam Din

HAPPY BIRTHDAY MAYA AND LEIA! You both are such sweet souls.

WE LOVE YOU! ❤

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This Month’s Family Dinner Menu

Cocktails: Palomas, Various Wines
Appetizers: Grilled Steak Skewers with Creamy Chimichurri and Pickled Onions, Crispy Calamari with Fresh Marinara
Entree: Creamy Pesto Cavatappi with Grilled Chicken
Sides: Seared Tuna over Mixed Greens
Dessert: Strawberry-Chocolate Decadence Cheesecake

 

ps. YAHOO! I DID IT! All caught up with our Fam Din recaps! 😉

Appetizers/Small Plates · Vegetables/Vegetarian

Heirloom Tomato and Pesto-Ricotta Tart

September 2017 Fam Din
An heirloom tomato dish when we’re just days away from November?

I know, but work with me people…..this crazy heatwave has got all of us in California out of sorts. Monday it was 97 degrees, Tuesday it was 99 degrees and today is 92 degrees —and I live on the coast!

Mother Nature is not happy. So in the meantime, you’ll get some summer inspired recipes from me.

September 2017 Fam Din
I made this beauty for last month’s family dinner as an appetizer but it could easily serve as a main course with a nice side salad. Perhaps a peppery arugula salad? And of course, a cold and crisp glass of white wine to go along is a must.

This stunning tart is quite easy to whip together. All you need is a few ripe heirloom tomatoes, store bought puff pastry, ricotta cheese, some basil pesto and just a couple of other kitchen staples. I used some pesto I had made a few days prior, but if you prefer, store bought is fine too. Just be sure to adjust for salt as needed.

September 2017 Fam Din
One thing to note is that since you’ll be baking the tomatoes (versus some other tomato tarts that bake the puff pastry first and then top fresh tomatoes on top), you’ll want to try and get as much moisture out as possible or else you’ll get a soggy mess. Just lay them out over a bunch of paper towels after they’ve been sliced and let them chill out for a bit while you take care of everything else.

After some quick assembly and about 30 minutes in the oven, you’re done! Creamy textures from ricotta mixture, brightness from tomatoes and fresh basil–and flaky, buttery goodness from the pastry dough.

Now excuse me as I stick my head in the freezer to try and cool down…..

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Heirloom Tomato and Pesto-Ricotta Tart
Serves approximately 8

Ingredients:

1 pound ripe heirloom tomatoes
2 large eggs, divided
2 heaping tablespoons basil pesto (homemade or store-bought)
8 ounces ricotta cheese, room temperature
1 tablespoon grated parmesan cheese
1 teaspoon minced fresh garlic
¼ teaspoon fresh black pepper
¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes.
flour
1 package puff pastry dough (2 sheets about 10 x 15 inches each)
½ tablespoon water
kosher salt
4-5 fresh basil leaves, chiffonade

Cut the tomatoes into approximately ¼ – ⅓ inch slices. In a single layer, place the tomatoes on top of 2-3 layers of paper towels to remove excess moisture. Place another paper towel on top of the tomatoes and gently press. Set aside.

In a medium sized bowl, whisk 1 egg with the pesto. Fold in the ricotta, parmesan, garlic, black pepper and red pepper flakes until all items have been incorporated. Depending on your pesto, you may need to add some additional kosher salt. Set aside.

On a lightly floured surface, overlap one of the pastry sheets with the other by about ⅓ inch. Gently press the seams together and roll out the combined sheet to about ⅛ inch thick. You’ll want to keep the dough in the rectangle shape and then transfer to a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.

Cut a 1 inch strip off each of the four sides of the dough. Beat the remaining egg with ½ tablespoon of water in a small bowl. Brush the sides of the large piece of dough and lay each of the four strips on the corresponding side. Gently press the dough down. Once the tart bakes, the sides will puff up.

In the interior of the dough, evenly spread the pesto-ricotta mixture. Lay the sliced tomatoes on top of the mixture, slightly overlapping each slice. Brush the exposed dough with the egg wash mixture and sprinkle salt over the tomato tart.

Bake the tart in a preheated oven at 425 degrees F for about 25-30 minutes until the pastry dough has risen and becomes golden brown. Transfer to a cooling rack and allow the tart to set for a few minutes before sprinkling the basil on top. Serve warm or at room temperature.


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

Breakfast/Brunch · Sponsored · Vegetables/Vegetarian

Coddled Eggs with Pesto and Potato-Parsnip Purée

Coddled Eggs with Pesto and Potato-Parsnip Puree

We’ve officially entered “shower” season. And by that, I don’t mean April Showers but Wedding Showers and Baby Showers!

My next two months will be weekends filled with shower games, presents galore, tea sandwiches, little bite sized desserts, and sparkling cocktails (I hope!).

Coddled Eggs with Pesto and Potato-Parsnip Puree

What can I say? Love is in the air and my dear friends and loved ones have a lot to be celebrating over these next few months.

So for my latest contribution to Safest Choice™ Darling Dozen, I thought I would make something that would go well on a menu for both bridal and baby showers.

Coddled Eggs with Pesto and Potato-Parsnip Puree

I’ve always been a huge fan of choosing brunch to host parties and celebrations. It’s the perfect time of day where you can serve a variety of foods to please all palates. A few desserts, sandwiches. croissants, scones, preserves, charcuterie boards, and of course–there has to be eggs!

And these adorable coddled eggs served in mason jars will be an absolute hit at your showers.

Coddled Eggs with Pesto and Potato-Parsnip Puree

They start with a luscious, smooth layer of a potato-parsnip purée….which truthfully, are one of my faves these days. They’re a bit lighter than traditional mashed potatoes but are just as delectable.

Next, comes a layer of savory, herbaceous pesto. And c’mon now–who doesn’t love pesto? But for this particular dish, it really does add some much needed brightness to offset the rich, coddled egg and purée. You can also add some sauteed greens as well.

Finally, the whole thing is topped off with a beautiful egg. Heaven.

Coddled Eggs with Pesto and Potato-Parsnip Puree

Your guests will just love these little jars when served. The yolks are unctuous and runny — perfect to dunk toasted little soldiers into. And since Safest Choice™ uses an all-natural egg pasteurization process to eliminate the risk of salmonella, feel at ease when serving them to mamas-to-be.

Want to find out more about their pasteurization process? Click here

Coddled Eggs with Pesto and Potato-Parsnip Puree

These little cuties can be assembled hours before your parties (even the night before!) to give you even more time to spend with your guests.

Adorable? Check! Easy to assemble? Check! Delicious? Check!

Sounds like a slam dunk dish to me. Happy Shower Season, Friends! ❤

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Coddled Eggs with Pesto and Potato-Parsnip Purée
Serves 4

Ingredients:

kosher salt
½ pound russet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1 inch chunks
1 medium sized parsnip, peeled and cut into 1 inch chunks
¼ cup heated heavy cream
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature, divided
1 teaspoon garlic powder
black pepper
4 tablespoons pesto
4 large Safest Choice™ pasteurized eggs
sea salt flakes
chopped parsley
serve with soldiers or other bread of your choice

Prepare the potato-parsnip purée by bringing a medium sized pot of water to a boil. Add ½ tablespoon salt, potatoes and parsnips. Boil until they are tender—about 20 minutes. Drain the root vegetables and either run them through a food mill or ricer. Stir the hot heavy cream, 1 tablespoon butter, and garlic powder into the potato-parsnip mixture. Season with additional salt and black pepper as needed. Set aside.

Take 4 small mason jars or ramekins and use the remaining butter to grease the inside of each jar. Divide and spoon the potato-parsnip purée into the bottom of each of the jars. You can also use a small piping bag to do this. Spread one tablespoon pesto on top of each potato-parsnip purée and then carefully top each with an egg.

Fill a large pot with about 2-3 inches of water and bring to a simmer. Place a steam rack inside of the pot of water and carefully place the filled jars/ramekins on top. Cover the pot and steam the eggs for 8-10 minutes until the whites are set but the yolks are still soft. Alternatively, if using mason jars, screw on the lids of each jar and place directly into the pot to simmer for about 10-12 minutes. If the jars/ramekins that I’m using aren’t very high, I prefer to place them on top of a steam rack.

Once done, top each coddled egg with sea salt flakes and chopped parsley. Serve with soldiers or other bread of your choice.

NPE_DarlingDozenBadges

*DISCLOSURE: As a brand ambassador for the Safest Choice™ Darling Dozen, I was compensated for the creation of this recipe and post. However, as always, all opinions are my own.*

Breakfast/Brunch

Poached Eggs with Vegetable Medley and Arugula Pesto

Poached Eggs with Vegetable Medley and Arugula Pesto

I could eat breakfast all day long. Savory items, sweet items….so many options! And what other meal can you order a dessert for your main entree? (French toast, pancakes and all other types of sweet goodness…)

Poached Eggs with Vegetable Medley and Arugula Pesto

My only problem is that I can rarely eat breakfast first thing in the morning. At most I’ll have coffee or a smoothie because it takes a few hours for my tummy to wake up.

But that is why Brunch is so brilliant!

You get the chance to enjoy all the delish breakfast-like dishes hours after you manage to roll out of bed. And the icing on the cake? It’s totally acceptable to start sipping on cocktails way before noon!

Poached Eggs with Vegetable Medley and Arugula Pesto

At brunches, I tend to gravitate towards any and all types of Eggs Benedict dishes. Rich and decadent hollandaise sauce with an ooey-gooey poached egg—how could you go wrong with that?!

This wonderful offering is a nod to my beloved Eggs Benedict with an attempt to make a slightly figure-friendly version by swapping out the hollandaise for pesto. Now before you start getting all worked up, I realize pesto isn’t totally healthy but it’s a tad lighter than the (mouthwatering) egg yolk and butter laden sauce. The bright herbaceous flavor also helps balance the rich egg yolk. And since I had some great veggies on hand, I thought they would make a wonderful base in lieu of the muffin.

The next time you host brunch, consider making this rustic beauty! It’s quite simple but really is a showstopper that will definitely impress your guests.

And of course, Mimosas are a MUST. Or a Bloody Mary. Or an Irish Coffee. Well…you get my drift.

Happy Friday Friends…and make time for Brunch this weekend!

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Poached Eggs with Vegetable Medley and Arugula Pesto
Serves 2

Ingredients:

Arugula Pesto
2 Packed Cups Fresh Arugula Leaves
1/2 Cup Sweet Basil
½ Cup Roasted Pine Nuts
2-3 Garlic Cloves, finely diced
½ Cup Grated Parmesan Cheese
Juice from 1/2 Lemon
Approximately ½ – ¾ Cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Kosher Salt and Pepper to taste

Vegetable Medley
1 Shallot, finely diced
2 Garlic Cloves, finely diced
2 Cups Crimini Mushrooms, roughly chopped
1 Cup Grape Tomatoes, quartered
1 Ripe Avocado, diced
Lemon Juice
Kosher Salt
Black Pepper
Olive Oil

Poached Eggs
1 Teaspoon White Vinegar
2 Fresh Eggs

Prepare the pesto. In a food processor, pulse garlic and pine nuts. Add arugula, basil, cheese, lemon juice, and salt/pepper. With the food processor on, stream in olive oil and blend until the pesto is fully incorporated. Be sure to scrape down sides in between steps. More olive oil can be added if a smoother, loose texture is desired. Refrigerate until ready to be used.

Bring a heavy saucepan that has been filled with a few inches of water to a rolling boil. Add in the vinegar and slightly lower the heat. Crack an egg into a small bowl. Take a spoon and swirl it around quickly in the saucepan to make a whirlpool of the water. Slowly pour the egg into the middle of the whirlpool. The movement of the whirlpool will help the egg form but you can also use a spoon to help it along. After about 3-4 minutes, use a slotted spoon to remove the egg and drain on a paper towel. Repeat with the other egg. Cover the saucepan and turn the heat down to low to keep the water warm.

In a large skillet, heat two tablespoons of olive oil. Saute the shallots and garlic over medium heat until softened, about 3-4 minutes. Add in the mushrooms and continuing cooking for an additional 4-5 minutes. Remove from heat and toss in the avocado and tomatoes. Season with salt, pepper, and a few squeezes of lemon. Toss to incorporate.

To serve, add a few spoonfuls of the vegetable medley to a plate. Using the slotted spoon, dip one of the poached eggs into the hot water to warm the egg and blot dry. Place the egg on top of the vegetables and generously spoon the pesto on top. Repeat with the 2nd dish. Enjoy!

Appetizers/Small Plates · Condiments/Sauces · Pork · Seafood · Sunday Family Dinner

Bacon wrapped Shrimp with Pesto…..and our new Family tradition.

Bacon wrapped Shrimp with Pesto

I love the movie Soul Food and have watched it at least a cajillion times. Sure, it had some predictable spin of dramas but I always envied the Sunday family dinner at Big Mama’s house with all the delish soul food and of course–the family time.

Since moving back down to Southern California, I have really appreciated the frequency and quality time I get to spend with my family—and in particular, my nieces and nephew. Because of the distance, I only used to see them on sporadic weekend trips for holidays or special occasions. And it was because of this that I was always worried that I was missing out on seeing them grow up.

Now that I’m only about an hour’s drive away, I try to see them as often as possible—for “non-holiday” visits. And truth be told, I’m trying to squeeze in as much time as possible since my older nieces (now 13 and 11) will soon get to the age where it won’t be cool for them to hang out with their auntie. Eeek! Add that with the fact that we’re all busier than ever, it is so  important that we establish some type of traditions to keep our family ties strong.

So, with a little inspiration from Soul Food, I cajoled my siblings into agreeing on having a monthly Sunday dinner—something that is established and routine so that no matter what invitations roll in or events arise, we would say– “Sorry, I’ve got to pass—it’s my family dinner.”

Several weeks ago we kicked off our first family dinner and it was a great start to a new tradition. We cooked together (getting the kids involved, too), lounged about, sped “plasma cars” up and down the street, searched frantically for the eclipse, and of course–delved into some delish eats. Grilled steaks topped with blue cheese & fried onions, “dirty rice”, corn, bacon wrapped shrimp and strawberry pastries. YUM! Unfortunately our sister P  (who lives in SF) and our brother V and his family (who live in NYC) weren’t physically at dinner—they were sure there in spirit. Plus, I’m hoping they’ll plan their future visits so that it’ll land on a Sunday Family Dinner.

I’m pretty sure Mom would have loved the idea of us coming together to keep the family close—-and of course, that it’s an event that revolves around food. After all, we are her kids and the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree 🙂


This Month’s Family Dinner Menu

Cocktails:  Vino
Appetizers: Bacon wrapped Shrimp with Pesto
Entrees: Grilled Steaks topped with Bleu Cheese & Fried Onions, Dirty Rice, Corn
Dessert: Strawberry Pastries

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Bacon wrapped Shrimp with Pesto

Ingredients:

1 Pound Shrimp, cleaned with tails left on (about 24-30)
12 Slices Bacon
Black Pepper
Cooking Spray

Pesto:
2½ Packed Cups Sweet Basil
½ Cup Roasted Pine Nuts, unsalted
2-3 Garlic Cloves, finely diced
½ Cup Grated Parmesan Cheese
Juice from 1/2 Lemon
Approximately ½ – ¾ Cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Kosher Salt and Pepper to taste

Soak wooden skewers in water for 10-15 minutes.

Prepare  the Pesto. In a food processor, pulse garlic and nuts. Add basil, cheese, lemon juice, and salt/pepper. With the food processor on, stream in olive oil and blend until the pesto is fully incorporated. Be sure to scrape down sides in between steps. More olive oil can be added if a smoother, loose texture is desired. Refrigerate until ready to be used.

Preheat your oven broiler.

Season the shrimp with black pepper. In batches, line a plate with paper towels and lay slices of bacon on top. Cover with additional paper towels and microwave for about 2 minutes so that the bacon is slightly cooked but still pliable.  Cut each slice of bacon into half and wrap the half around each shrimp. Skewer the shrimp in a fashion so that the bacon stays secure. Approximately 3 bacon wrapped shrimp should fit on a skewer. *Alternatively, you can use soaked toothpicks and secure each shrimp individually.

Place the skewers on a aluminum foil-lined baking sheet that has been lightly covered with cooking spray. Place the sheet directly under the broiler and cook the shrimp for 8-10 minutes (flipping halfway through) until the bacon has crisped and the shrimp have turned pink.

Slide the shrimp off the skewers and serve immediately with the Pesto.

Pastas/Noodles · Poultry

Creamy Pesto Rigatoni

Creamy Pesto Rigatoni

This past weekend I caught up with some friends over dinner. And before we knew it, we launched into an extensive and detailed conversation on how we believe that Pesto goes with practically anything.

Sandwiches, appetizers, crackers, pastas……….

P had even threatened to top the panna cotta I made for dessert with it but his wife quickly intervened. Okay…that may have been a bit much but I see where he was going with it.

Creamy Pesto Rigatoni

 

 

I typically go on a major pesto binge when herbs are abundant at my local farmers market. It’s so easy to change things up with various herbs and whatever types of nuts you have on hand. And the awesome thing is— Pesto freezes beautifully! Just drizzle some olive oil on top before sealing the container and your fresh pesto can keep in the freezer for months! A quick and easy way to flavor dishes with yummy herbaceous notes.

 

 

Creamy Pesto Rigatoni

 

 

This little number is a delicious and satisfying quick meal. PERFECT for any weeknight as you can pull it together in under 30 minutes! Easy Peasy!

And for an added spin, toss the pesto pasta with a cup of shredded cheese (of your choice) and spread into a casserole dish. Top with panko bread crumbs, more parmesan cheese and drizzle olive oil on top. Bake for 20 minutes at 400 degrees and you’ve got a hearty and tummy warming alternative dish!

Oh Pesto….I love you.

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Creamy Pesto Rigatoni
Serves 6

Ingredients:

1 Pound Chicken Breast, skinless and boneless
1 Tablespoon Minced Garlic
1 Cup Pesto
1 Cup Grape Tomatoes, halved
1/4 Teaspoon Red Chili Flake
1/2 Cup Heavy Cream
1/4 Cup Grated Parmesan Cheese
Kosher Salt
Black Pepper
Olive Oil
1 Pound Rigatoni Pasta

Slice chicken breast into strips and season with salt and pepper. Set aside.

Fill a large pot of water and bring it to a boil. Heavily salt the water and cook pasta according to directions.

In a heavy bottom pan, add 1-2 tablespoons of olive oil and brown the chicken. Once cooked, remove the chicken from the pan. Add an additional tablespoon of oil and cook garlic over medium heat for 1-2 minutes before tossing in the tomatoes and red chili flakes. Cook for about 2 minutes and stir in pesto. Heat the pesto and then stir in the heavy cream. Once incorporated, toss in the pasta, chicken, parmesan cheese and coat well. Check for seasonings and adjust with salt and pepper as needed. Serve warm.