Sunday Family Dinner

Unicorn Cakes and Magical Pugs….

February 2018 Family Dinner

If you think the above photo is just too darn adorable, than scroll down and check out the one below.

Amazing right?

Keep scrolling.

February 2018 Family Dinner

They are just too much. I want to freeze time so that they both will stay like this forever.

Our February Babies.

Oh yes, this time Princess Leia got in on the Family Dinner Birthday celebrations too. After all, she was turning double digits…the big 1-0! (Or I guess, 70 in her case….)

So her fur-less cousin Maya was happy to be sharing her bday fam din with her. And as for our sweet Maya, she turned 13.

THIRTEEN!!!

I can’t…I seriously just can’t with the munchkins growing up so quickly.

February 2018 Family Dinner

Usually for your birthday, you get to choose what you’d like your dessert to be.

For Leia, it was a no-brainer. She’d be getting candles in a big ol’ steak like her cousin Bella.

But for Maya, I wanted to surprise her and told her “trust me, you’ll like it.” More on that later.

February 2018 Family Dinner
While we were milling around getting things prepped, we noshed on a Cheese Board that L assembled. It had Manchego with apricot preserves, Fromager d’Affinois, Picholine olives, marinated peppers and crackers.

February 2018 Family Dinner
N made the second appetizer. Truthfully, I can’t remember what it’s called but it’s like a Cheesy Spinach-Artichoke Bread Ring Dip. Picture this….take crescent roll dough and form little balls. Line a cast iron skillet with them and then fill the center with a super cheesy spinach-artichoke mixture. Bake it up and BOOM.

Cheesy goodness.

YES PLEASE!

February 2018 Family Dinner

Spotted: Unicorn Herd in their natural environment.

I think they were congregating because they knew it was DINNER TIME!!

February 2018 Family Dinner

Miss Maya was very relaxed about her whole birthday menu. This was pretty much our convo:

Me: What would you like to have for dinner?

Maya: Um….

Me: Seafood? Sushi? Pasta —

Maya: PASTA!

Me: Ok…what kind of pasta? Chicken? Shrimp? Steak —

Maya: STEAK!

And that was it! She’s pretty low maintenance.

February 2018 Family Dinner
V and T put their heads together and came up with this Grilled Steak over Puttanesca dish. It was hearty, flavorful and combined some of my most favorite things –steak, cheese and carbs.

February 2018 Family Dinner
And since Maya loves salads, seester T decided to make the Chopped Salad from Pizzeria Mozza.

Have you had it before? If not, you’ve got to try it!

It has all kinds of goodness like radicchio, lettuce, tomatoes, chickpeas, salami, pepperoncini and provolone. And it’s actually quite hearty that you could have it as a stand alone meal with perhaps some warm toasted baguette on the side.

February 2018 Family Dinner
And then before we knew it, it was dessert time!

I’ve always wanted to make a unicorn cake…blame it on Instagram I suppose. So when I was thinking of what to bake for Maya, Nini suggested a unicorn cake because it would be something that the birthday girl would absolutely love. And if anyone knows Maya, it’s definitely her big cousie Nini.

I realize that Buttercup’s horn (yes, Maya named the unicorn) is a bit excessive, but heck–I’m not sure when the next unicorn cake will come around again so I might as well GO BIG!

February 2018 Family Dinner

I first started off with the sponge and ended up choosing funfetti. Because c’mon, unicorns love rainbows and sprinkles right?

After I baked the three layers of cake, I took a taste and thought hmm…..it kind of just tasted like vanilla cake.

For those of you that like funfetti, this may not be a surprise. But I actually think that it may have been my first time tasting it. Don’t judge me…I’m a chocolate fan myself.

February 2018 Family Dinner

So to OOMPHF up the flavor, I decided to fill the layers with fresh whipped cream and strawberries –two things that I know for certain the bday girl also adores. And I’m totally glad that I did because it really brought something fresh to the cake.

Hey- if you’re going to be extra when baking a cake, it might as well be fore a unicorn cake!

February 2018 Family Dinner

The whole thing was then covered with a light layer of vanilla Swiss meringue buttercream (always my buttercream of choice) and then I went nuts decorating Buttercup with three shades of buttercream using various piping tips.

I used standard fondant to shape her horn, ears and eyes. And for the golden sheen, I used edible gold spray for the inner ear accents as well as her magical horn.

Cute right? I wish my eyelashes were as on-point as Buttercup.

February 2018 Family Dinner

And of course, because she’s so magical, she was dusted with lots of different sprinkles and edible gold stars.

To be honest, I had a lot of fun making this cake!

February 2018 Family Dinner
And let’s not forget the other birthday girl!

Princess Leia got a bone-in ribeye steak that V grilled.

Seriously, look at that face.

And unlike her food-mongering puggle cousin, she sat patiently waiting while we sang and took pictures before diving in. What a good puppers!

February 2018 Fam Din

It’s fair to say that the birthday girls thoroughly enjoyed their family dinner in their honor.

Princess Leia wearing a crown while seated on a plush thrown…..

Maya wearing a floral-kitty headband from when she was about 1 or 2….

Heart-melty….

February 2018 Family Dinner

Yes, we’re a bit over-the-top kind of family. But if you’ve been with me for awhile, you’ve likely come to that conclusion already. It’s how we roll….

¯\_(ツ)_/¯

February 2018 Family Dinner

Happy Birthday Maya and Leia!

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This Month’s Family Dinner Menu

Cocktails: Various Wine
Appetizers: Cheese Board, Cheesy Spinach-Artichoke Bread Ring Dip
Sides: Chopped Salad à la Pizzeria Mozza
Entrees: Grilled Steak over Puttanesca
Dessert: Funfetti-Strawberries and Cream Unicorn Cake (And a Steak for the fur babies!)

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Beef

Celebrating Mom’s Birthday with a Rosemary Garlic Ribeye Steak!

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Today we celebrate the birth of a 4’9″ firecracker of a Vietnamese woman who was fiercely loyal, an original hustler, an extraordinary cook, a diehard fashionista, was wholeheartedly stubborn, and a true “Jill of all trades”--our Mom. ❤

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It’s always a bittersweet time of year for us as Mother’s Day always falls so close to Mom’s birthday. Our emotions vacillate between sadness to laughter, from deep remembrance to joy, mourning to celebration—and of course, love.

This December will mark the tenth year since since her spirit departed for her next adventure. And although it’s hard to believe that the years have passed so quickly, my siblings and I can attest that she is still so greatly missed.

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There are so many things I wished I asked her, so many stories I wished I had recorded her telling, so many things I wished she would have taught me—and good grief, I miss that woman’s cooking to no end.

So I talk to her all the time–and I believe a few of my siblings do, too. Especially when I’m in the kitchen–bustling around like she did so many times during her life. I have a large portrait of her hanging in my kitchen and I’ll jibber-jabber about everything and anything. Because Mom was a total Chatty-Cathy, a trait that my seester T and I definitely inherited –and I am certain she would be amused by our ramblings.

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When Mom was still with us, we all cooked and prepped with her in the kitchen. But, I for one, definitely deferred to her and leaned more towards on the baking side of the house. But when she passed, cooking became our way of keeping her spirit with us. And since she was the original Foodie, I think we all deep down inside, aim to excel in the kitchen to create elaborate things that we know she would have loved.

You can best believe that I often imagine her scolding us if she saw half the stuff we did in the kitchen. We probably weren’t cutting things right, adding too much salt and likely drinking too much wine/cocktails while cooking. Ok…maybe the latter would be focused at some of us more than others. And yes, those “some” would likely be T and I.

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With that said, it’s no wonder that my rituals for Mom’s birthday all surround food. Like every year, I started this morning off with an early brekkie at Panera Bread inhaling her favorite Spinach and Bacon Egg Souffle. It’s like a rich quiche but with a puff pastry/croissant-like crust. So sinfully caloric to start a day off with but hey–it’s Mom’s Birthday!

And if you’ve read my previous birthday posts for Mom, you know that this little woman loved her some steaks!!! Filet Mignons and Ribeyes all day, everyday! Ok, maybe not everyday—but she would have wanted to at least. In years past, I’ve celebrate her birthday with:

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The filet mignon cuts weren’t looking that great when I was at the market but the ribeyes were gorgeous! So for this year, I’m honoring Mom’s birthday with this Rosemary-Garlic Ribeye Steak. I mean, take a gander at this beauty!!!

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I took the steak, seasoned it with some S&P, and threw it in a resealable bag with some rosemary springs, crushed garlic, and olive oil. It hung out in my fridge for several hours for the flavors to infuse the beef.

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Next came the decision to either grill the steak or cast iron that baby.

I chose the cast iron method because I LOVE how the beef beautifully sears and crusts in the skillet and it gave me the opportunity to bathe the steak in butter while it seared.

Aaaaand…..I also live in a condo where I’d have to hike downstairs to the common area to use the grill.

So that settled that debate.

Aaaaand…..let’s not talk about how that “hike” is actually a 2 minute walk from my front door.

Steak and Potatoes
Did I mention that the steak gets repeatedly spooned over with infused herb butter/oil? Bathed, I tell ya – BATHED!

Now that’s the way to go…..

Grilled Steak
After a quick sear (and bath) on the stove, I threw the entire thing in the oven for a few minutes to finish it off. Depending on the thickness of your cut, as well as desired cook on your steak, you may need to adjust the timing by a few minutes. But a meat thermometer should do the trick.

And if you’re feeling real naughty, after the steaks rest, you can drizzle the leftover infused butter/oil from the skillet over the beef.

HELLO!!!

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I’m quite certain Mom would have loved this steak—because she loved them ALL! But really, I think she would have just loved that I made it for her and she needn’t lift a finger.

Mama
Happy Birthday Mama!

Wherever you are, I hope you’re enjoying a big ol’ steak today!

We love and miss you!

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Rosemary Garlic Ribeye Steak
Serves 2

Ingredients:

1 16-18 ounce ribeye beef steak or two 8-9 ounce ribeye beef steaks
kosher salt
fresh cracked black pepper
3 large garlic cloves, smashed
4-5 sprigs fresh rosemary
¼ cup olive oil
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
flaked sea salt, optional

Season the steak with kosher salt and black pepper. In a resealable plastic bag, add the garlic, rosemary sprigs, olive oil and steak. Rub the marinade all over the beef. Squeeze out as much air as possible and then seal the bag. Refrigerate for at least 4-5 hours. Halfway through the time, take the bag out of the fridge and massage the marinade into the beef.

 

Remove the steak from the plastic bag. Use paper towels to dry off some of the marinade—do not discard the rosemary or garlic. Allow the steak to sit out at room temperature for 30 minutes.

 

Place a cast iron skillet on the middle rack of the oven and preheat to 400 degrees F. After the cast iron skillet has heated in the oven for 15-20 minutes and the steak has come to room temperature, carefully remove the skillet and place on a burner over medium-high heat.

 

Add the butter, oil and allow it to melt together before carefully placing the steak in. Add the sprigs of rosemary and crushed garlic from the marinade bag. Sear the ribeye for 1-2 minutes on each side. While the beef sears, repeatedly spoon the butter/oil over the tops of the meat to baste. Once both sides have seared, transfer the skillet with the steak back into the oven.

 

Roast the ribeye at 400 degrees F for 3-4 minutes or until the internal temperature

reaches 135 degrees F for medium-rare. Allow the steak to rest for 5-10 minutes and sprinkle the tops with sea salt to finish (optional). You can also drizzle a few spoonfuls of the herb infused oil/butter from the skillet over the steak as there is a TON of flavor it in it. Serve warm with roasted potatoes, veggies or sides of your choice.

Appetizers/Small Plates · Sunday Family Dinner

French Bistro inspired Family Dinner – C’est Délicieux!

January 2014 Family Dinner

Bonjour! Pour notre dîner de famille, nous avons préparé un menu français.

Yup–that’s what 4 years of French classes at Diamond Bar High School got me. Monsieur Kirkeby would’ve been so proud. Although I can’t be 100% sure that it’s grammatically correct 🙂

January 2014 Family Dinner

Our most recent monthly Family Dinner adventures swept us away to a French Bistro theme. They’re dishes that were meant for casual dining although I’ve also heard bistro cuisine referred to as “glamorous comfort food”. However you define it – it’s délicieux!

We like to have a plentiful selection of items to nosh on for our Sunday Family Dinners but as they were only 10 of us that night, we had to make some concessions. The biggest challenge was trying to narrow down which dishes we’d prepare…. Poulet Rôti? Steak Tartare? Salade Frisée aux Lardons? Escargots?

So much good food, so little time!

January 2014 Family Dinner

As always, we started off with some adult beverages. Although this time around, I opted not to prepare any mixed cocktails and served chilled sparkling vin from the Loire Valley in central France and a Côtes du Rhône.

While we prepped, we nibbled on an Abbaye de Belloc which is a French sheep’s milk frommage that we picked up earlier that day from Center Street Cheese Shop.

Frommage

Next, we had a hearty Soupe à l’oignon French Onion Soup.

French Onion Soup is rather nostalgic for me. The first “fancy dining” memory I have is eating French Onion Soup with my parents at a restaurant in Minnesota. I couldn’t have been more than a few years old but the fact that none of my siblings were there makes me believe that I must have crashed one of their very few “date meals”.

French Onion Soup

There was a Salade Niçoise overflowing with goodies like olive oil preserved tuna, haricot verts, olives, eggs, and grape tomatoes. My sister took the lead on this and adapted Tyler Florence’s version that can be found here. It was incredibly satisfying and could have been a meal in itself–but we’re gluttons.

Salad Niçoise

I can’t imagine a bistro themed menu without some version of mussels. Our sister prepared her Moules with lots of wine, leeks, celery and fresh herbs. She used P.E.I. mussels that were so plump and were sweet and tender. They took on a creamy texture that was out of this world.

Moules

And then our deep carnivore side took over and we threw down some serious Steak Frites. We opted to go with simply seasoned grilled steaks (ribeyes and T-bones) and then topped them with an herb butter I had made with tarragon, parsley, thyme, lemon zest, salt and pepper.

To go with the Moules and Steaks, we put our niece, Nini, to work with double frying our Frites. You first fry the potatoes at a lower heat to cook them through to a translucent stage. Then, you crank up the heat and fry them up again so that become crisp and perfectly golden.

This Potato Monster totally approves.

Steak avec Frites

As for dessert, we had an apple Tarte Tatin with ice cream and it was a FLOP!

Seriously!

So for those of you who ask if we never mess up on any dishes — you better believe it! And this Tarte Tatin was a prime example of how you can follow a recipe word for word and still have a disaster. My caramel didn’t set, the puff pastry was a soggy mess…I was SO bummed! It didn’t look terribly bad but trust me, looks can be deceiving.

But I survived and will live to make more desserts. Plus there was still lots of vin left so we commiserated with booze like all honest cooks do.

Tarte Tatin

Despite my failed dessert, it was a fantastic meal! And like I said, with so many other Bistro classics that we didn’t have the time (or enough room in our stomach) to make, there may be a Part Deux to come!

In the meanwhile, fix yourself up the delightful Salade Niçoise that our seester made. You’ll adore it–especially with some baguette and a crisp white wine.

À bientôt!

This Month’s Family Dinner Menu

Cocktails: Côtes du Rhône, French Sparkling Wine from Loire
Appetizers: Soupe à l’oignon, Frommage, Salade Nicoise
Entrees: Moules, Steak Frites
Dessert: Tarte Tatin

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Salade Niçoise

Ingredients:
½ tablespoon minced garlic
2 heaping teaspoons Dijon mustard
3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
2 tablespoons lemon juice
2 heaping tablespoons minced fresh tarragon
½ cup quality extra virgin olive oil
kosher salt
black pepper
½ pound petit new potatoes, scrubbed and cleaned
1/4 pound haricots verts, trimmed
10 to 12 ounces canned or jarred Italian tuna packed in olive oil
8 ounces mesclun, washed and dried
½ pint grape tomatoes
4 hard boiled eggs, quartered lengthwise
6 ounces pitted Niçoise olives

Prepare the vinaigrette. Place the garlic, Dijon mustard, vinegar, lemon juice, tarragon and olive oil in a small jar.  Add ¼ teaspoon of kosher salt and ¼ teaspoon of black pepper into the jar before tightly securing the lid back on. Shake the jar vigorously for 15-20 seconds. Taste and adjust for seasonings as needed. Set aside.

Bring a small pot of water to a boil. Stir in a few pinches of salt before adding in the potatoes. Depending on the size of your potatoes, cut them into halves or quarters before adding them into the water. Allow the potatoes to boil for about 8-10 minutes, until tender. Using a slotted spoon, remove the potatoes and place them in a large bowl. Toss the warm potatoes with 1-2 tablespoons of the vinaigrette to coat lightly.

Add the haricots verts to the same pot of boiling water. Blanch the haricots verts for 1-2 minutes and then drain them into a colander. Immediately transfer them to a bowl of ice water and allow them to cool for a few minutes. Shocking the haricots verts will stop the cooking process to stock and allow them to maintain their bright color. Drain them and set aside.

Drain the olive oil from the tuna and use a fork to flake the fish into large pieces. Season with kosher salt and pepper.

Arrange the mesclun on to a large platter. Arrange the dressed potatoes, haricot verts, tomatoes, eggs and olives over the top of the greens. Drizzle the vinaigrette over the salad and serve.