Sunday Family Dinner

Kaelani’s Moana Inspired Birthday Fam Din!

October 2018 Fam Din
A few months before Kaelani’s birthday, she told her mom that instead of going to Hawai’i for her birthday, she wanted to spend it with cousins/family.

Now that’s fantastic for so many reasons but right off the bat–two thoughts came to mind.

October 2018 Fam Din
One….

How freaking adorable is that? Baby girl ADORES her big cousins so much that her birthday wish is to spend time with them.

October 2018 Fam Din
And Two…

At four years old, she’s such a baller that she’s been able to celebrate her first three birthdays in Hawai’i and this year, she’s like “eh…been there done that.”

October 2018 Fam Din
Here’s hoping that when she gets older, she’ll still want to bypass the Islands to hang out with us.

Better yet–why don’t we ALL just go to Hawai’i together?! MUCH better plan!

October 2018 Fam Din
Needless to say, Kaelani’s parents agreed to her request so we coordinated our monthly Family Dinner to coincide with their visit.

October 2018 Fam Din
When asked what birthday theme she wanted, Kaelani quickly said Moana! Maybe I should also mention that the week prior, she would be having a Frozen theme party with her friends in San Francisco.

Yes, two birthday parties. She knows how to live her BEST 4 year old life!

October 2018 Fam Din
As for food, she just asked for SPAM Musubi to be on the menu. So if there’s Moana and SPAM, we obviously were going with a Polynesian lens.

October 2018 Fam Din
They spent the beginning of their visit hanging with Pops and eating all of the deliciousness that So Cal has to offer. It was followed by spending the night at Seestrah T’s place in Fullerton so that Kaelani could spend some QT with Maya and Lucas.

October 2018 Fam Din
On the day of Fam Din, they headed to Brother’s casa in Diamond Bar to play in the pool and hang out with Luna and Leo.

October 2018 Fam Din

The rest of us quickly followed and got down to some cookin’!

October 2018 Fam Din
With an island theme in mind, N made us these festive drinks using “P.O.G.” – P.O.G.-tails!

You can’t have a trip to the islands without downing a few gallons of “P.O.G.” – a blend of passionfruit, orange and guava juices.

October 2018 Fam Din
She mixed up the fresh juices with some rum, lime juice, mint and rimmed the glasses with Tajin. Delicious!

The kiddos had straight up P.O.G. which is darn tasty in and of itself.

October 2018 Fam Din
Seestrahs! ❤

October 2018 Fam Din
It was about this time that I heard brother tinkering around with his Traeger Smoker. I turned around and found him piling up the grates with chicken wings — yes, please!

October 2018 Fam Din
After some time in the smoker, he brushed them with a layer of BBQ sauce and let them finish until they turned into these beauties!

October 2018 Fam Din
I had 2….ok, like 4.

Smoked Chicken Wings need to become a regular in my life.

October 2018 Fam Din
Then Nina was up to bat to prep the birthday girl’s one food request – SPAM Musubi!

October 2018 Fam Din
Now that is a fantastic rice to seaweed to SPAM ratio! Awesome job, Nina!

Most of the time when you pick them up at places, they put a huge block of rice in the musubi – way too much. These were just right!

ONO-licious!

October 2018 Fam Din
Then it was Nini’s turn to shine and she got to work on the last appetizer.

Yes, we had 3 appetizers – we like options.

October 2018 Fam Din
She made her signature Spicy Tuna Poke and served them with Seaweed-Rice Crackers and Taro Chips.

There’s something about that crack sauce she whips up that makes this poke so freaking delicious. You really can’t stop shoveling it into your mouth – so dang good.

October 2018 Fam Din
She really needs to start bottling/selling that crack sauce.

October 2018 Fam Din

Oh-and then Brother jumped back on the smoker because he had some venison stashed in the freezer that he decided to turn into Smoked Venison Jerky.  So I guess technically–that makes it four appetizers???

October 2018 Fam Din
Oh look!

A monkey found its way into the backyard.

October 2018 Fam Din
After a quick shower, Kaelani decided to leave her mark on V & L’s kitchen table.

Don’t worry–it was encouraged. In fact, it’s become a fun tradition for folks that visit their place to tag up their table.

October 2018 Fam Din

Some game was on that night that kept the Dudes glued to the couch for a few hours.

October 2018 Fam Din
And the prep work continued…..

October 2018 Fam Din

…while the munchkins decorated bags to keep their loot in.

What loot you ask?

October 2018 Fam Din
LOOT because there was a filled piñata!

Now, I have to say that I had a moment of mixed feelings on this.

October 2018 Fam Din

Sure–Kaelani wanted a Moana themed Fam Din and her auntie N got her this piñata to fit the theme.

October 2018 Fam Din
But when it came time for the kiddos to break open the piñata, I had some serious guilt that they were beating up Moana!!

October 2018 Fam Din
But hey, at least they used a light sabre to break her open.

October 2018 Fam Din
Even Seester T felt the need to shed a tear for Moana.

October 2018 Fam Din
But Kaelani didn’t seem to mind at all and gave Auntie N a BIG hug for her piñata.

October 2018 Fam Din
And gave some love to Uncle C, too!

October 2018 Fam Din

At that point, someone reminded us to put a pause on the shenanigans because it was dinnertime.

October 2018 Fam Din

 

For the entree, T made Shrimp and Fish Tacos. They were topped with a cabbage slaw, lots of pico de gallo, avocado and smothered in hot sauce.

YUM!

October 2018 Fam Din
P made SPAM Fried Rice to go along with the tacos. If we hadn’t eaten so much earlier, I would’ve requested that she top it with crispy fried eggs.

But even I know my limits people.

October 2018 Fam Din
But then N decided to be really extra and took P’s SPAM Fried Rice…..

October 2018 Fam Din
….and put it into a pineapple bowl.

I definitely do not like pineapple in my fried rice (or pizza) but I give her an “A” for effort.

October 2018 Fam Din

We then rolled from our dinner chairs to the couch to digest our food and chat some more.

I’m sure you’re thinking….

DAMN. They sure do like to eat!

And you’re 100% CORRECT! But we also like leftovers, too!

October 2018 Fam Din
And then someone was ready for her birthday cake.

YES – we were full. But do you want to be the person to tell her wait even longer? Nope-not me!

So we all stood up, did a little jiggle to make room in our bellies and then focused on desserts!

I  made Kaelani this Chocolate Moana Cake. It was 3 layers of rich, dense chocolate cake that I covered with vanilla bean swiss meringue buttercream. I decorated the cake with handmade fondant plumerias, white chocolate shells, brown sugar “sand” and of course– the Heart of Te Fiti, also made of fondant.

October 2018 Fam Din
There was a moment when I considered molding the characters out of fondant as well, but when you’re trying to replicate such recognizable characters, it’s REALLY tough!!! The slightest imperfection can make them look wonky! So in the end, I cheated and ordered a personalized edible topper sheet. It’s really quite neat! The topper is an edible icing sheet that is then printed with food color. It comes on a sheet that you peel away (kind of like a label) and then place on the cake. You do need to let it set for awhile so that it can soften into the buttercream but I was really impressed with the vibrant color.

October 2018 Fam Din
Our birthday girl really liked it!

October 2018 Fam Din
And yes, it weighed a gajillion pounds!

After we sang to her and she blew out her candles, it was time to dig in.

October 2018 Fam Din

A little peek inside….

October 2018 Fam Din
Here’s K giving me a big hug to say thank you.

October 2018 Fam Din
I’m such a sucker for this little adorable munchkin.

October 2018 Fam Din
But we weren’t done yet!

Here’s the situation with swiss meringue buttercream.

It’s personally one of favorite frosting to not only use to decorate cakes/cupcakes with but I also prefer it’s flavor and texture. Since it’s meringue based, it’s really fluffy and can maintain its structure really well.

October 2018 Fam Din
Which means when I make batches of it, I’m left with TONS of egg yolks…..and I just can’t throw them out!

So I typically will use the leftover yolks to make some type of custard based dessert — and this time, it was Vanilla Bean Crème Brûlée.

October 2018 Fam Din
No complaints from the family because it’s a fan favorite!

Also, if you hold off on torching them, they’ll keep in the fridge for a few days. Then, when you get a hankering, just cover the tops with a layer of sugar and brûlée away!

October 2018 Fam Din

And let’s not forget about this beast!

Yes, dessert #3

Truthfully, we meant to crack out Shave Ice machine earlier in the day but it totally slipped our minds!

We couldn’t NOT use it that night….it was an Island themed dinner, after all!

So we made a couple of cones that were either topped with a Vietnamese Coffee base or a Blueberry Syrup that Leo helped L make earlier that day.

I can’t believe they’re actually sitting down after all of the sugar we consumed.

October 2018 Fam Din
But birthday girl was rearing to open up her gifts.

October 2018 Fam Din
And then somehow this happened.

Luna inherited a violin that one of her cousins was no longer using. She hadn’t started lessons yet but it just so happens that seester N used to play waaaaaaay back in the day! So N gave the kiddos a few instructions for them to play a few chords.

October 2018 Fam Din
And of course, K wanted to give it a try, too!

October 2018 Fam Din
Needless to say, youngest munchkin had a BLAST with her family for her birthday.

October 2018 Fam Din

And for us, whenever we can get all 9 of them together (yes, including the 2 fur babies), our hearts are incredibly filled. ❤

October 2018 Fam Din
Here’s a little video if you want to see the real chaos behind the scenes!

 

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This Month’s Family Dinner Menu

Cocktails: POGtail, Various Wines and Beers
Appetizers: Spicy Tuna Poke, SPAM Musubi, Smoked Chicken Wings, Smoked Venison Jerky
Entree: Fish and Shrimp Tacos
Sides: SPAM Fried Rice
Dessert:
Moana Chocolate Cake, Shave Ice, Vanilla Bean Crème Brûlée

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Sunday Family Dinner

Family Dinner Calls Upon the Spirit of Alooohaaa!

August 2016 Family Dinner

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

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

August 2016 Family Dinner

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

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

August 2016 Family Dinner

THIS GUY!!!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But guess what?!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And they were a BIG hit with the sibs!

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

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

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

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

Wahhhhhhh!!!

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

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

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

It would be just sacrilegious!

August 2016 Family Dinner

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

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

August 2016 Family Dinner

And FINALLY!

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

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

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

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

#CousinLove

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

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

August 2016 Family Dinner

Unless you’re THIS GUY!

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

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

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

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

August 2016 Family Dinner
SEESTERS!!!!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Endless options!

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

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

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

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

August 2016 Family Dinner

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

Soooo purrrrtyyy!!!

August 2016 Family Dinner

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

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

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

August 2016 Family Dinner
Aerial shot!

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

Points for effort???

August 2016 Family Dinner
Styrofoam Compartment Plates?!

HELL YES!

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

August 2016 Family Dinner
Quick pic!

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

Apparently the theme was “spoons”…..

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

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

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

August 2016 Family Dinner

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

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

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

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

August 2016 Family Dinner

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

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

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

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

My favorite? The lilikoi!!!

ONO, ONO, ONOLICIOUS!

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

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

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

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

August 2016 Family Dinner

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

ALOOOOOHAAA!!

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This Month’s Family Dinner Menu

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