Sunday Family Dinner

All the Smokey Goodness..and Then Some!

November 2017 Fam Din
Ever since brother got a Traegar Grill/Smoker, we have been living the glorious all-the-smoked-goodness life! So it was no surprise that for his birthday family dinner, he volunteered to take on the entrees. Hey-I wasn’t going to argue with the birthday boy!

We quickly got the munchkins involved. Here’s Maya and Luna making a bechamel. I mean, what 12 and 8 year old doesn’t know how to make a bechamel???

November 2017 Fam Din
And of course, safety first when the rugrats are cooking. Good thing Bella and Princess Leia are such conscientious supervisors.

November 2017 Fam Din
And while the kiddos went to town, I whipped up cocktails. Since brother is a whiskey and bourbon fan, I mixed up a batch of my Boozy Fall Punch (yeah…I’m a little late on posting this).

It had all kinds of autumnal things like bourbon, brandy, apple cider, pomegranate juice, blood orange soda, cinnamon sticks and chopped up fruit.

It was boozy. It was tasty. Mission Accomplished.

November 2017 Fam Din
The cocktails packed a punch! So we noshed on a Charcuterie Platter….because you know how much we love our cheeses and cured meats!

I just realized the La Tur cheese from Murray’s below kind of looks like a mini-cheesecake. But trust me, it was la tur-rific!

November 2017 Fam Din
Seestrah T also made these cute Mini French Onion Bread Bowls as a second appetizer–recipe courtesy of Tastemade.

November 2017 Fam Din
Think of French Onion Soup…but in dip form! And in its own little bread bowl! Brilliant!

And gosh darn it, it was scrumptious!

November 2017 Fam Din
Quick cooking/eating break for a picture!

November 2017 Fam Din
Can’t forget the dudes!

November 2017 Fam Din

Now on to the food!!!

First up, brother smoked a ginormous side of salmon. I’ll be the first to admit, I don’t love salmon. I don’t hate it and I’ll eat it–but of the fishes, it’s not my fav. But when brother busted out this Smoked Salmon he smoked low and slow with mesquite wood pellets, I WAS ALL ABOUT IT!!

It was SUPER moist and had the lightest bit of smoke. The added capers and fresh lemon juice helped to cut through the fatty fish and it was perfect!

November 2017 Fam Din
Not to be outdone by the aquatic beasts, he also did up a huge platter of Smoked Beef Ribs.

November 2017 Fam Din

They were, they were….one word.

BEFF-ilicious.

November 2017 Fam Din

This time around, I was in charge of the sides. First up! Mac and Cheese!

And as you recall, I enlisted Maya and Luna to help out. No idea why N popped in…maybe to try to get in on the credit I suppose. That big seestrah of ours….

November 2017 Fam Din

I make Mac and Cheese quite often but I was listening to a Bon Appetit Pod Cast on the way into work and decided to give their BA’s Best Macaroni and Cheese a shot.

Let me tell you gang, there’s a whole ton of various cheeses in this business — Fontina, Gruyere, White Cheddar and Parmesan. But I decided to go big and added Monterey Jack and Pepper Jack.

I mean, I didn’t want them to feel left out.

And instead of making Maya hand shred all the cheeses, we busted out the food processor. She was definitely pleased with that decision.

November 2017 Fam Din
How did it turn out?

Quite good!

Ridiculously cheesy… but I guess 6 different cheeses will do that to a dish. But yes, I definitely recommend it. It’s quite easy to make and the end result is on point!

November 2017 Fam Din

With all that protein and 200 pounds of cheese, I figured it would be good to have some veggies. So I pulled together a quick Sauteed Kale and Swiss Chard situation. I quickly sauteed some garlic, shallots and chili flakes in some olive oil and threw in a bunch of Lacinato Kale and Swiss Chard. After they were lightly wilted, I finished it with a douse of red wine vinegar to brighten things up.

Eat your veggies right?

November 2017 Fam Din
Before dessert, most of us cleaned up a bit and someone took a nap. Oh that Leia, she’s a reliable one.

And if you’re wondering what Bella was doing, I can only assume that she was upstairs ordering take-out while watching Minecraft videos on YouTube.

November 2017 Fam Din
Finally–DESSERT!

When we asked brother what he wanted for his dessert, he almost instantaneously replied “flan”.  And I’ve got to tell you, I was surprised. I’ve known him all my life and had no idea that the man liked flan that much!

We were dumbfounded….

Seester N’s F.I.L. has a great flan recipe so we immediately tasked her with the job. She used these cute ramekins to make individual sized flan.

November 2017 Fam Din
And to kick things up (it was brother’s bday after all), she spiked the adult flans with rum!

The Creamy Rum Flan was perfect! Creamy (I know, it’s in the name), light and was the most delectable finish to our meal!

November 2017 Fam Din
Here’s one of the munchkins caught in the act….we do pass on great habits, right?

November 2017 Fam Din
And with that, brother’s Family Dinner was a wrap! Here’s to you V! ❤

November 2017 Fam Din

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This Month’s Family Dinner Menu

Cocktails: Boozy Fall Punch, Various Wine
Appetizers: Charcuterie Platter, Mini French Onion Bread Bowls
Entrees: Smoked Salmon, Smoked Beef Ribs
Sides: Bon Appetit’s Best Macaroni and Cheese, Sauteed Kale and Swiss Chard
Dessert: Creamy Rum Flan

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Sunday Family Dinner

From Our Foodie Fam Bam to Yours

Oct 2017 Fam Din

Before I jump into our last Family Dinner, let me take a moment to talk about the most helpful kitchen assistants we have….. our Fur Babies.

And by most helpful, I mean, the most unhelpful.

I asked Leia to chop some apples and instead, she chose to take a nap.

All. Day. Long.

But aren’t those rolls just simply glorious???

October 2017 Fam Din
I asked Bella to whip up some cream and instead, she chose to guard the oven. I mean, sure–there’s always a chance someone will come in and steal the chocolate cake.

Whelp, at least they are darn furdorable.

October 2017 Fam Din
Speaking of furdorable, I mean adorable – look at my little man. Those dimples….

Here’s Lucasaurus hanging out, waiting for his cousies to come over to play.

October 2017 Fam Din

And while we were waiting for everyone to come over, we caught seestrah N pilfering some of T’s succulents.

My family is rather obsessed with succulents.

October 2017 Fam Din

Here’s her six pack of succulents to-go.

October 2017 Fam Din

And while she did that, I poured us a cocktail— Apple Cider Sangria.

This, my Friends, is one of my favorite cocktails lately and it’s really easy to make.

October 2017 Fam Din
Just fill a large pitcher with apples, pears, white wine and apple cider. I also added some Calvados (or just some regular Brandy or Cognac if you don’t have Calvados on hand), a few splashes of OJ and a few cinnamon sticks. I let all the goodness chill out in the fridge for several hours and then stirred in some Prosecco before serving.

So dang good and it goes down really smooth. So be careful–it packs a punch!

October 2017 Fam Din
Cuddles… my non-food favorite thing about Fam Din.

October 2017 Fam Din

Then it was time for some appetizers! And this month was filled with them — 3 different kinds!

Sometimes we’re heavy on appetizers (like 3 or 4 different ones) and sometimes we’re heavy on entrees (like 2 or 3 different main dishes!). What can I say, we love to eat!

October 2017 Fam Din
N took a spin off of Trisha Yearwood’s (yup, as in the country singer) Shrimp Croquettes.

And let me tell you…

Oh. My. God.

They were so freaking good!

October 2017 Fam Din
She tweaked the recipe a bit (as we always do!) and they came out beautifully!

Perfectly crispy on the outside and shrimpy–and somehow creamy–on the inside. We think the milk may have been the cause to this?

But whatever the reason—these will definitely be made again!!

October 2017 Fam Din

I have no idea what the kiddos are doing here. But there’s no bickering, no yelling, no crying — so this Auntie is a happy camper.

October 2017 Fam Din
Appetizer number 2!

L brought these Burgundy Pepper Beef Skewers that we grilled — which is kind of funny because she doesn’t eat red meat.

October 2017 Fam Din

But for us, all-kinds-of carnivorous eatin’ peeps, we were VERY happy with her decision!

October 2017 Fam Din

She also brought a bunch of fresh oysters and whipped up a classic mignonette to accompany them.

October 2017 Fam Din
And as always, our resident shucker, Nini got to work. I think she shucked her first oyster at 10 or 11?

If you love fresh oysters, I highly suggest training your munchkins early on how to shuck. Not only does it give them some fantastic life skills but it REALLY helps out with family dinners.

October 2017 Fam Din

And it gives me some extra time to sit on the Wicker Throne to enjoy some vino.

October 2017 Fam Din

Now on to the main course.

Seestrah T has been talking about her Chicken Pot Pie for ages now as it’s been a staple for her household. She uses her 40 Garlic Clove Chicken as a base and throws it into a dish before covering it with some puff pastry.  After a quick bake in the oven–wham, bam! Chicken Pot Pie!

T has been raving about it for so long that we decided to task her with it for Family Dinner!

Below is her 40 Garlic Clove Chicken ready to shred up. I love it and do a hybrid of Ina Garten’s and Alton Brown’s recipes when I opt for this wonderfully savory and rich dish. My version can be found here.

October 2017 Fam Din

Once she shreds up the chicken, she mixes it up with carrots, peas (edamame this time) and some of the rich sauce from the chicken.

In a few of the dishes, I stirred in some cubed potatoes because I’m a potato-monster.

October 2017 Fam Din
For quick pot pies, T opts for some store bought puff pastry. I love that too–buttery, flaky goodness. But this time for Family Dinner, she whipped up some pastry dough to cover up the dishes.

October 2017 Fam Din
The girls helped to roll out the dough and made little leaves for decoration.

The end result was wonderful! Rich, hearty—total comfort food.

October 2017 Fam Din
And then we did a bit of clean up before for dessert.

Meanwhile, I love this picture. Maya is screaming while Leo has the look of total indifference. I know…it’s so blurry but totally captures the shenanigans of our Fam Din.

October 2017 Fam Din

And then it was finally time for dessert!

We’re a chocoholic kind of family so when I was deciding on what sweet treat to make, it was a no brainer to opt for something chocolate based.

October 2017 Fam Din

And what screams chocolate more than a Triple Chocolate Mousse Cake!

Our family loves the Triple Chocolate Mousse Cake from Porto’s. The best thing for a chocoholic! It’s been on my to-do list to try and bake for some time now. And I’ve been holding on to the recipe from Cook’s Illustrated FOH-EVAH.

No day but today!

October 2017 Fam Din
It starts with a dense and rich chocolate cake base. Next, it’s slathered with a light and airy chocolate mousse before it’s topped with an equally light (and decadent) white chocolate mousse.

Wowser, wowser, WOWSER!

Gang…it’s perfection. Easily one of my favorite types of chocolate cakes.

Yup, I’ll definitely be making it again.

October 2017 Fam Din
After dinner, R whipped up a fire because it’s what he does.

Anyone else feel like Sirius Black’s head is going to pop out of the flames to give us some sage advice on how to defeat the Dark Lord?

If not, shame on you. You need to go back and re-read (or rewatch) the entire Harry Potter series.

October 2017 Fam Din

Look at them.

How could your heart not swell with love?

October 2017 Fam Din

Our munchkins.

They are our Reason.

October 2017 Fam Din
And just like that—it’s a wrap!!!

With ❤ from our Foodie Fam Bam to Yours!

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This Month’s Family Dinner Menu

Cocktails: Apple Cider Sangria, Various Wine
Appetizers: Shrimp Croquettes, Burgundy Peppercorn Beef Skewers, Fresh Oysters with Mignonette
Entrees: 40 Garlic Clove Chicken Pot Pie
Dessert: Triple Chocolate Mousse Cake

Sunday Family Dinner

An Endless Fam Din Feast for the Tauruses

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It was one of my favorite times of the year — my BIRTH MONTH!!!

Birth “month” you ask? Oh yes, I celebrate the entire month.

Actually our family is full of May babies….Mom, Dad, SIL and cousie –all Tauruses, which makes a lot of sense. We’re all a tad–how would you put it? Oh right–stubborn.

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But when it came time for L and my Fam Din— I WAS PUMPED!

What to have on the menu?

Lobster? Prime Rib? King Crab? French Fry Fest?

YES PLEASE!

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Sooooo many options. Maybe TOO many good ones to choose from.

In fact, the week before dinner, we still hadn’t had a full menu planned other than knowing who would be in charge of which portions of the meal.

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Then mid-week, it hit me-it was soft shell crab season! And I do love me some soft shell crab sammies! With new found inspiration, I volunteered to take on the main dish and its fixings!

But as for the other dishes–everything was still up in the air.

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We all convened with our mystery ingredients to T and R’s casa and got down to prep.

But first–some cocktails!

I whipped up a few pitchers of Sparkling Rosé Sangria and let me tell ya, it’s like summer in a glass.

Fresh fruit, ginger, mint, cognac, light rosé, bubbly….now that’s a party!

Sparkling Rosé Sangria
Quick pic with the sibbies!!

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And a little photobomber in the shape of Leonidas.

That little rascal….

I love that mischievous face.

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And then it was time to get back in the kitchen for some more prep.

May 2017 Fam Din
Thank goodness for R and Nini–our shuckers for the night.

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Because without those two, we’d just be staring at these beauties saying “Alohomora” over and over again.

Why yes–that was a little shot out to my fellow Potterheads.

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Now let the feasting begin!

V and L had been visiting our friends in Ventura that morning and picked up some Fresh Oysters for us to nosh on.

L made a classic mignonette for us to enjoy the oysters with and there was also lots of fresh lemon and tabasco on hand too.

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HELLLOOOOOO Gorgeous!!!!

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As you can tell, Nina didn’t like them at all.

May 2017 Fam Din
They also picked up some fresh uni and L got to work cracking them open.

Seriously, my mouth is watering just looking at the picture of it.

May 2017 Fam Din
And what did we do with them? Nini and L made adorable little bites of Uni Gunkan Maki.

Perfect morsels that just screamed of the sea.

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I could have easily polished off a dozen of them.

ps. Gunkan Maki are “warship sushi” or “battleship sushi” and are named such because of its shape. See? I can drop some random knowledge from time to time.

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N demolishes battleships on the reg.

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Since we were going the distance, V & L also picked up some local Yellowtail while in Ventura and there’s no better way to enjoy it than as straight up Yellowtail Sashimi.

It’s how we roll.

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Now most folks would just make 1 or 2 appetizers for dinner. But with my o’hana, why just have 1 when we could have 5?

Seriously, five. We had FIVE appetizers for Fam Din.

We’re uncontrollable.

To wrap up our apps course, T made clams two ways. (Are you sensing that gluttony theme?)

May 2017 Fam Din

The first version featured clams stuffed with miso butter, cheese, aromatics and panko bread crumbs. Quite addicting and hopefully will be at our football parties this fall.

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The second preparation were roasted clams with miso butter, rice wine, ginger, beech mushrooms, scallions and some other magical goodies.

And OH. MY. GOD.

These were so freaking good!! So savory, so rich in flavor—FULL of umami (I feel like such an idiot every time I use that word)! The clams were wonderful on its own but would also be perfect as a main dish with soba noodles or even with just crusty baguette.

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Look at my fam…..they’re cute.

I guess I’ll keep them.

I should probably admit that they look so happy because we had just spent an hour gorging on apps and cocktails (for the 21+ over).

But hey, whatever it takes.

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After polishing off all the apps, we were pretty stuffed. And we still had our main course left, too!

In order to make it to the finish line, we needed a breather.

Maya took a T.O. on Lamby.

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Leonidas got a massage.

Life is rough for the munchkins, isn’t it?

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And we snapped pics.

Because apparently, we don’t take enough pictures.

NOT!

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After a quick pause, I turned my attention to these little guys–the soft shell crabs. Since the crabs have molted their exoskeletons, the entire crustacean can be eaten after a bit of light cleaning.

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Sometimes you jut have to infuse your food with love……you feel me?

It makes everything that much tastier.

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After they were cleaned and drained, we lightly dredged them in a mixture of flour and corn meal.

And not to sound twisted, but doesn’t it look like they’re just chilling in the sand?

No? Too much?

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After they were dredged, Nini helped me pan fry them in butter and olive oil until they were golden brown and crispy.

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Once out of the pan, they all got a sprinkle Old Bay and sea salt.

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The crispy soft shell crabs were destined to rest inside these little Brioche Buns I had baked earlier. Nina lightly buttered and toasted the buns for that extra punch of goodness.

Aren’t they adorable? The girls said they reminded them of Krabby Patties from SpongeBob—which, now that I think of it, is kind of appropriate.

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To serve with sandwiches, I decided to make homemade Cracked Pepper & Sea Salt Chips. I know, it seems like a lot of work when you can just go out and buy a bag of chips.

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But honestly, homemade chips are SOOO much better! It does take a bit of time but they’re really easy to make. Just be sure to fry up some extra because if your family is anything like mine, they will be gone before it’s time to eat.

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Assembly time!

A light schmear of Old Bay aioli on the buns, add thin slices of ripe tomato, a leaf of butter lettuce and top it off with a beautiful soft shell crab.

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So nice I had to show it twice!

Seriously–as good as I had hoped for when they came to mind just a few days prior. I love it when that happens.

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And Food Coma starts in 5…4…3…2…..

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But wait! We still have dessert!!

And not just any dessert but B I R T H D A Y  cake!

N was in charge of our birthday dessert and all I said is that I wanted a dense chocolate cake that tasted like a Ferrero Rocher — one of my favorite candies.

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And HOLY CRAP!  SHE DELIVERED!!!

Just like a Ferrero Rocher!!!

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The cake was super dense and rich–like a flourless cake that had ground hazelnuts in the batter. She topped it with a chocolate mousse and a “crunch” made from melted chocolate and rice cereal. It was then finished with more hazelnuts and a generous drizzle of more chocolate.

From taste to texture it totally was a Ferrero Rocher!

I’m not kidding y’all–it’s one of the best cakes I’ve ever had. She’s going to have to make me this cake every year now.

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And as if we didn’t have enough sugar, R broke out the fire so the munchkins could roast some marshmallows.

Why not, right? If not for the added sugar than at least for the experience.

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I can’t help but hope that when they look back 20 years from now, they’ll think fondly of our monthly Fam Dins and the randomness that often occur.

For example, the fireworks that we set off shortly after I took this picture.

And no, I’m not kidding.

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And that’s a wrap on our decadent Fam Din for L and my bday!

Not bad considering we threw the menu together at the last minute. And yes, it was a delicious as it looks.

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This Month’s Family Dinner Menu

Cocktails: Sparkling Rosé Sangria, Various Wine
Appetizers: Fresh Oysters with Mignonette, Yellowtail Sashimi, Uni Gunkan Maki, Miso Roasted Clams with Beech Mushrooms, Panko-Miso Butter Clams
Entrees: Soft Shell Crab Sandwiches with Old Bay Aioli, on Brioche Rolls with Cracked Pepper & Sea Salt Chips
Dessert: Chocolate-Hazelnut “Ferrero Rocher” Cake

Sunday Family Dinner

All about that Bulaon-baisse, ’bout that baisse…

April 2017 Family Dinner
When it comes to Lucasauraus and C’s birthday, we always know that there will be some combination of seafood, matcha and mint chip ice cream on the menu for Fam Din. And no–not all mixed together, Silly!

And who can blame them–I love all of it too!

April 2017 Family Dinner

We gathered at T and R’s place in Fullerton on a sunny afternoon to get down on some cookin’ and grubbin’!

And there may have been a cocktail or two before we switched over to wine. This month we went back for the Hendrick’s Gin and Tonic with Cucumber and Lime. C’mon, it’s a classic–not to mention totally refreshing on a warm Southern Cali afternoon.

April 2017 Family Dinner
And how So Cal is it that somehow succulents were involved?

Yea, I have no idea what N was doing with these.

April 2017 Family Dinner
Now let’s get back to the food, shall we?

Since our entree was slated to be on the lighter side—well….”lighter” than our normal fare, we had three different appetizers to sate our tummies.

First up, Deviled Eggs with Smoked Salmon that brother fixed up using Eric Ripert’s recipe. I am a sucker for a good deviled egg and these were no exception. They featured the classic rich flavors and was topped with the smoky, salty salmon.

Awesome.

They’d be perfect for brunch too!

April 2017 Family Dinner

And since Lucas is a salmon-eating-monster (has been since he was barely 2) we needed MORE of the fatty fish–LOTS MORE! So we put the nieces to work and they got rolling on these beautiful Salmon Temaki.  They were filled with seasoned rice, avocados, luscious slices of salmon, daikon sprouts and of course, that magnificent “crack sauce” that Nini makes.

That sauce is seriously E V E R Y T H I N G! It’s a mixture of mayo, sambal, sriracha, soy sauce, sesame oil, chives, tobiko and I’d venture to say–a splash of her soul. It is THAT good.

I inhaled about 20 dozen of them. Screw that summer bikini diet.

April 2017 Family Dinner

A birthday Fam Din for Lucas and C without sashimi?? Not on our watch!

In fact, there may have been 1 or 2 plates of Hamachi Sashimi.

April 2017 Family Dinner
It does this foodblogger’s heart proud when she sees the munchkins doing this…..

Shall we move on to main course?

When we asked C what he wanted for dinner, he replied “seafood stew—bouillabaisse”. Ok then, we’re on it!

Well actually, seestrah T was on it—and hence the “Bulaon-baisse“. What’s a “Bulaon-baisse” you may be asking? It’s when T is in charge of the bouillabaisse, has a few glasses of vino while making the stock and merges her married name (Bulaon) to the classic Provençal stew.

What a dork.

But a funny dork.

All joking aside, T put some serious time and love into creating the broth of the bouillabaisse. She simmered the excess fish trimmings with aromatics such as bay leaves, orange peels, and a bouquet garni to produce a rich seafood stock. In a separate pan, she sweated the fennel, onions, and garlic and then reduced it with wine before adding in the stock, tomatoes and saffron. After what seemed like a gajillion years, the stock was strained and we were left with a flavorful and clear broth.

That broth was brought to a boil, and the fish, shrimp, and mussels were cooked in it.

Speaking of fish, my B.I.L., aka Mr. Bulaon, caught the below red snapper and cod that we used in the bouillabaisse. Isn’t he handy?

So all in all, I guess it was a Bulaon-baisse!

H E L L O    G O R G E O U S!!!

April 2017 Family Dinner
And finally – DESSERT TIME!

C loves him some matcha. I can’t remember the last time we made him a birthday dessert that green tea wasn’t involved. And I tell ya–I’m quickly running out of ideas people!

As I scoured the internet for some inspiration, I stumbled upon a Coconut-Matcha Cream Pie and decided to give it a try.

My thoughts?

I was a bit disappointed by how much the crust “shrunk” after it was baked. I let it thoroughly rest before rolling it out and even froze it for an hour before baking. I blind baked the crust and the temp wasn’t too high either. Eh…that’s how it goes with baking sometimes.

As for the filling, it was rich and had the texture of a firm pudding. The coconut flavor was very subtle and it wasn’t too sweet. I’m glad I opted to add matcha to the whipped cream to amp up the flavor.

Overall, not bad but not great.

April 2017 Family Dinner
As for my mint-chip loving nephew, a Grasshopper Ice Cream Pie seemed perfect for Lucas. The base what made out of crushed Oreo cookies and crushed Thin Mint Cookies. I then added a layer of softened mint chip ice cream (it HAD to be the green kind too!), a drizzle of chocolate sauce, a layer of more crushed cookies and a final layer of ice cream. The whole thing was put in the freezer for a few hours before topping it with whipped cream and more cookies.

I am embarrassed to say that the below picture looks rather a hot mess. We had some melting issues on the drive from Tustin to Fullerton and we attempted to mask it over with more whipped cream. But all looks aside, it was delicious and the bday boy approved!

April 2017 Family Dinner
Another scrumptious Fam Din in the books!

H A P P Y     B I R T H D A Y    L U C A S    A N D     C!!!!

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This Month’s Family Dinner Menu

Cocktails:  Hendrick’s Gin and Tonic, Assorted Wines
Appetizers: Hamachi Sashimi, Salmon Temaki, Deviled Eggs with Smoked Salmon
Entrees: Bouillabaisse with Toasted Garlic Crostini
Dessert: Coconut Matcha-Cream Pie, Grasshopper Ice Cream Pie

Sunday Family Dinner

These are a few of Maya’s Favorite Things – Fam Din Time!

February 2017 Family Dinner

Our little Maya was born with an old soul. At barely a few days her little eyes began to sparkle and have the ability to look right in and grab your heart.

And as the years have passed, she’s grown into a a wonderfully thoughtful, kind, sensitive, smart and silly young gal.

February 2017 Family Dinner

So when it came time for her birthday Fam Din, we definitely wanted to make sure we made dishes that our “little” girl (who is now taller than me!) would love.

February 2017 Family Dinner

But although it was Maya’s birthday, the adults needed a little fun too….in the form of Hendrick’s Gin and Tonics with cucumbers and limes.

COCKTAIL TIME!

I love a good gin and tonic and Hendrick’s is definitely one of my favs.

February 2017 Family Dinner

CHEERS Sibbies!!!

February 2017 Family Dinner

All of our kiddos have had impeccably refined palates at a young age—and Maya is no exception. So when it came time to develop her dinner menu, I knew it was going to be a good one.

First up–appetizers!

Bebe girl loves a good Antipasta platter, so seester T put together this beauty for us to nosh on while we prepped dinner. Marinated artichokes, olives, salami, stilton and burrata cheeses, peppers, wheat crackers and cheese straws.

You really can’t go wrong with Antipasti. There’s no cooking involved and it’s all about assembling items from the market–perfect, particularly when entertaining.

February 2017 Family Dinner

Maya’s second appetizer for the evening was Crispy Calamari with Homemade Marinara. These goodies were lightly coated and fried to a great crunchy texture. Super tender and addicting.

February 2017 Family Dinner

SPOTTED!

Food blogger caught in her natural environment!

February 2017 Family Dinner

Funny enough, Maya loves salad—has so since she was a little babe.

And she also loves bacon.

Told ya she was smart.

To kick up her usual Caesar Salad fav, I made Maya this Shrimp and Bacon Caesar Salad. After crisping up the bacon in a cast iron, I used the rendered bacon fat to toast up some bread cubes for some over-the-top croutons and to saute the shrimp in.

Oh yes, I went there.

I then tossed romaine lettuce in a quick dressing I made with garlic, anchovy paste, lemon juice, Dijon mustard, egg yolk, grated Parmesan cheese and olive oil. Once the greens were lightly coated, I piled the shrimp, bacon, croutons on top and finished it off with large shavings of Parmesan.

Hey, I said I made a salad. I didn’t say it was low calorie.

February 2017 Family Dinner
Here’s Nina checking in on things.

And yes, she’s standing on a step stool because seester’s range was built for giants.

February 2017 Family Dinner

One thing that Maya specifically asked for to have at her dinner was clam chowder and she loves it served in a bread bowl. Brother volunteered to take charge of the chowder and since I love baking bread, I signed up to bake our bread bowls.

I ended up making my own sourdough starter several days prior to our dinner and I’ve got to admit, it was a rather fun process.

And the end result?

Beautifully golden boules that had the signature crispy crust and tender interior. The flavor was mildly sour–a little less so than my preference, but delish nonetheless.

It was the perfect vehicle for the rich and dreamy clam chowder my brother made. Oh-and I’ll be sharing a full post on the bread boules shortly.

February 2017 Family Dinner

Take a look at this beauty!!!

Brother knocked it out of the park with his chowda’!  The texture was perfect–not too thin and not too thick. And it was PACKED with clam flavor! He first took a ton of fresh clams and steamed them to release their liqueur. He then added the clam juice back into the base of the soup with tons of aromatics, white wine, potatoes, cream–and then topped it all off with whole clams, crispy bacon and fresh thyme.

Seriously, he did good.

February 2017 Family Dinner

And finally–Birthday Cake Time!!

Maya couldn’t decide on what type of dessert she wanted seestrah N to make her. So seester took flavor inspiration from one of the bday girl’s favorite sweet treats — the Strawberry and Pastry Cream filled Croissants from Cream Pan in Tustin, California. Which, PSA, if you haven’t been before and are within a 30 mile range, GOOOOO!

February 2017 Family Dinner

I have to say that I think my fam can whip up some fantastic desserts. However, N has been known to mash a billion different recipes together and come up with things off the fly that are freaking delicious. She’d be awesome at a Chopped dessert challenge!

What did she end up creating for Maya?

This gorgeous Strawberry Cream Cheese Mousse Cake. I mean c’mon—WOWZA! N started with making a graham cracker crust and then created a “wall” on the interior of a spring form pan with wafer cookies. Next, she created a rich cream cheese mousse and assembled the cake alternating between the mousse, crushed graham crackers and strawberry slices. It was all finished off with a lovely flower arrangement of strawberry slices.

The cake was somehow light and decadent all at the same time–with wonderfully contrasting textures between the mousse and wafers. Needless to say, the birthday girl LOVED it! And we all did too!

February 2017 Family Dinner

And that was it! Pretty successful–don’t you think?

HAPPY BIRTHDAY Bebe Girl! We hope you enjoyed your dinner and we LOVE you to pieces!! ❤

February 2017 Family Dinner

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This Month’s Family Dinner Menu

Cocktails:  Hendrick’s Gin and Tonic, Assorted Wines
Appetizers: Crispy Calamari with Homemade Marinara, Antipasta Platter
Entrees: New England Clam Chowder in Homemade Sourdough Bread Bowls
Sides: Shrimp and Bacon Caesar Salad
Dessert: Strawberry Cream Cheese Mousse Cake

Sunday Family Dinner

A Fam Din Fit for Leonidas

December 2016 Family Dinner
The fact of the matter is, our munchkins have an extremely well tuned palate.

So it’s no surprise that when it came to Leonidas’s 5th birthday, he knew exactly what he wanted for his Family Dinner menu.

I mean c’mon.…take a looksies below. On the left, you can see our little man on his very first birthday cradling a bottle of Dom. Four years later, nothing has changed except instead of a 2000 bottle of Dom Pérignon, he opted for a 2004.

Oh, he knows the difference in subtle notes.

December 2016 Family Dinner
When asked what he’d like for Family Dinner, Leo looked backed to one of his comforting favorite spots when they lived in NYC — Bobwhite Lunch and Supper Counter.

Our little man wanted their sweet tea brined fried chicken that he used to drizzle honey over. I’ve had their chicken—and it’s lovely! So for our birthday boy, a menu surrounding sweet tea brined fried chicken it is!

December 2016 Family Dinner
I adore all the fun we have with creating our meal but it’s seeing all the kids together that I love the most.

These two rascals—Lucas and Luna. They are only a few months apart in age so you can only imagine the mischief they get into together. Not to mention, one moment they are thick as thieves and the next, they are bickering and arguing about everything under the sun.

It keeps us on our toes.

December 2016 Family Dinner
And here’s Nina and Maya having some cousins cuddling time.

December 2016 Family Dinner
While the kiddos were amusing themselves, the grown “kids’ turned our attention to a sip or two of libations. These pretty in pink beauties were a Cranberry-Thyme Champagne Cocktail I whipped up.

December 2016 Family Dinner

Yeah, I’m not 100% sure what we’re doing here but I wouldn’t doubt if there was a selfie stick involved.

And yes, there’s still the Christmas tree up in the corner — I’m still catching up on these Fam Din posts!

December 2016 Family Dinner

Sibbies!!

Oh, and the lumberjack look was no coincidence. At the 11th hour, the older nieces decided that we all needed to wear flannel that night. No clue why….sometimes you just got to go with it.

December 2016 Family Dinner
Seestrah N made us two appetizers to nosh on while the chicken was being fried….we like options.

First up, these wonderfully savory, Crispy Stuffed Mushrooms. The caps were stuffed with the mushroom stems, aromatics, cheese and panko breadcrumbs.

December 2016 Family Dinner
She also made a big ol’ pot of Ina Garten’s Cheddar Corn Chowder. Chunks of potatoes, sweet corn, half and half, cheddar cheese and bacon–so comforting and delish.

December 2016 Family Dinner
Now let’s turn our attention to the star of the show–the fried chicken!

Here’s our big gal Luna helping her momma out with the breading of the chicken.

December 2016 Family Dinner
And when you’re frying enough chicken for 13 peeps, you need to employ two dutch ovens.

December 2016 Family Dinner
Nini did a good deal of the frying for us that night—isn’t she a trooper? I keep envisioning her a few years from now in her college dorm frying up chicken for her roommates at 2am.

December 2016 Family Dinner

Life skills folks, life skills!

December 2016 Family Dinner
And voila! Aren’t they GORGEOUS!!

The chicken was extremely moist and juicy with a fantastic crunchy crust. As for the flavor, it had a light herbal touch to it from the tea. Definitely a different spin from the Lemon-Brined Fried Chicken we made a few years but equally delicious!

December 2016 Family Dinner
Here’s seester T’s Whipped Garlic Mashed Potatoes……butter on butter on butter!

December 2016 Family Dinner
She also roasted these Parmesan Zucchini Spears that were tender on the inside and slightly crispy on the outside from the panko bread crumbs.

December 2016 Family Dinner
Brother also made some Buttermilk Biscuits……

December 2016 Family Dinner
And L made a colorful Coleslaw.

December 2016 Family Dinner
I seriously could have this plate all day, any day!

December 2016 Family Dinner
I had to sneak this pic in of the boys. Now usually at Fam Din, we all sit crammed in together at the table–no phones, no devices.

But there happened to be a big game on that night. So we let the boys set up an adjacent little table next to the dining room so that they were right in front of the TV.

And yes, they’re eating off of Star Wars paper plates — it still was Leo’s birthday dinner after all!

December 2016 Family Dinner
Speaking of the birthday boy, when I asked what he wanted for his birthday dessert, he promptly said CHOCOLATE CAKE! Which then he changed to chocolate cupcakes….then seconds later, he said ice cream cupcakes!

December 2016 Family Dinner
Who am I to say no to the little guy on his birthday? So I enlisted Nina to help bake the chocolate cuppies and then I hollowed out the centers. I filled them with softened vanilla bean ice cream and threw them back in the freezer to firm up before topping them with swirls of chocolate flavored whipped cream.

And let’s not forget the Darth Vader and Stormtrooper chocolate toppers!

December 2016 Family Dinner
A perfect TWO IN ONE! I’m not sure why I’ve never made these before but I will most DEFINITELY make them again!

Oh our munchkins….how I love them so…..

December 2016 Family Dinner

Happy, Happy Birthday Leonidas! We hope you enjoyed your dinner!

I love you to the moon and back—and back again!! ❤

December 2016 Family Dinner
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This Month’s Family Dinner Menu

Cocktails:  Cranberry-Thyme Champagne Cocktails, Assorted Wines
Appetizers: Crispy Stuffed Mushrooms, Cheddar Corn Chowder
Entrees: Sweet Tea Brined Fried Chicken
Sides: Whipped Garlic Mashed Potatoes, Cole Slaw, Buttermilk Biscuits, Parmesan Zucchini Spears, Pickles
Dessert: Star Wars themed Vanilla Bean Ice Cream filled Chocolate Cupcakes

Sunday Family Dinner

Gobble-Gobblin’ Up Family Dinner!

October-November 2016
If you can believe it, I had three different turkey dinners within the course of seven days—roasted, fried, and smoked. Talk about Turkeypalooza!

It all started last Sunday with our belated (VERY BELATED) October Sunday Family Dinner. Our cousin Van and his new wife Jenny got married on Saturday. It was, of course, a super fun wedding full of S-H-E-N-A-N-I-G-A-N-S that would be inappropriate for me to divulge the full details here. But let’s just say–there was a lot of cognac involved.

A LOT.

October-November 2016
Since October was so crazy and the whole family would be in town for the wedding, we decided to have Fam Din the day after V & J’s festivities – four days before Thanksgiving. Traditionally, Thanksgiving Day in our fam is a house full of extended family (50+ peeps) for a full day of feasting. We typically have several meals throughout the entire day and flip between Vietnamese courses and American Thanksgiving dishes.

We feast…. a lot. 12+ hours worth.

But with the family spread out over the years, we realized all five siblings hadn’t celebrated Thanksgiving all together in over 10 years. That’s quite some time! And since P and her gang were heading back up to SF before Turkey Day, we decided to have a full blown Thanksgiving menu for Family Dinner—an early Siblings Turkey Day.

Added bonus – we had the leftover flowers from the wedding as our table centerpieces for dinner. Recycled Fanciness.

October-November 2016
Despite living in SF, our youngest munchkin, Kaelani has been able to attend quite a few Fam Dins so far with her crazy So Cal o’hana. And she’s talking SO MUCH now! Nonstop jabber-jabber chasing after the pups and calling out for her favorite Bac Bi — my eldest bro-in-law.

That face–we wish she was here every month!

October-November 2016
If you’ve been following my Fam Din posts over the years, you already know that these two are thick as thieves.

October-November 2016
And can we talk about how HUGE this marshmallow pop is??? It’s nearly the size of Leo’s head!

October-November 2016
Since my brother and his family have temporarily moved back to Cali from NY, I’ve been putting their kiddos to work at Fam Din to make up for lost time. Here’s my Luna Bear helping with the appetizers. She was quite meticulous with them too!

October-November 2016
And these three….

Heart Melty.

October-November 2016
And the last of our munchkins…the fur babies.

Princess Leia is looking quite regal lounging on her ottoman while Bella is just wondering when dinner would be ready.

October-November 2016

Speaking of which, let’s talk about the food! We had two appetizers before dinner which big sis had us stagger out during prep time so that we wouldn’t get too stuffed.

I made Mixed Mushrooms & Herbed Goat Cheese Crostinis. Criminis, button mushrooms, shitakes, and oyster mushrooms were sauteed with garlic and herbs and finished off with white wine. They topped toasted crostinis that were spread with a mixture of goat cheese, mascarpone and fresh herbs.

October-November 2016
Maya approved and said they tasted like mushroom pizza!

October-November 2016
Next up was brother and his appetizer – Blue Crab Dip.

October-November 2016
I usually use lump Dungeness Crab in dips and fillings but V insisted that Blue Crabs have better flavor — and they did! Rich, decadent, and SUPER YUM!

Did I just say “super yum”???

Well…it was!

October-November 2016
Of course there was some football and lots of silliness throughout prep. Here’s seester P doing leg-lifts with Kaelani. No wonder she’s in great shape!

October-November 2016
There were also lots of photos because Bella always loves a good pic to post on her Instagram at @iambellathepuggle

October-November 2016
After hours and hours of cooking, dinner was ready!!!

And yup– alongside those gorgeous centerpieces, we ate dinner off paper plates.

We’re ashamed.

Not really. Just don’t tell Ina.

October-November 2016
Okay, back to the food.

Although we decided on a Thanksgiving menu, the inspiration was really all about this beauty…. Mom’s Five Spice Roast Turkey.

Imagine this….a Vietnamese refugee family in the mid 1970’s, relocated to Minnesota. Total culture shock is an understatement. So the family did what we could to acculturate to the new environment. And that especially included our foods.

October-November 2016
So Mom took a turkey and gave it a Vietnamese spin by marinating it in five spice, lots of garlic, sugar and Maggi. The flavor is incredible and I’ve got to tell you, is the best turkey you’ll ever taste because it is seasoned so well–every bit of it.

We would wake up early in the morning to the smell of the turkey roasting and the five spice aroma was incredible. The funny thing is, we were just remembering how Mom would throw the turkey in the oven at around 5 or 6am and not take it out until 3 or 4pm! Sure, we used to try and find the biggest bird (26+lbs), but why did it take so long then when now we only roast them for 5 or 6 hours. But I’ll be darn, her turkeys weren’t overcooked and were SUPER juicy.

October-November 2016
Big seester N
has been making Mom’s turkey recipe for years now so we quickly nominated her for the job. And I’ll tell ya, she sure would have made Mom proud. The flavor was spot on and was everything we all remembered it to be.

Seestrah also made stuffing, dressing and cranberry sauce to go with the turkey.

October-November 2016
Along with the roast turkey, we had TONS of sides!

Seestrah T made 3 side dishes and her first was this Squash & Gruyere Gratin from Ina Garten. Surprisingly rich (in a good way), cheesy and great crunch from the panko.

October-November 2016
She also did a spin off of my biscuits and made these Ham & Cheddar Drop Biscuits. They were so savory and I’ll tell ya, made for awesome little breakfast sammies the next day.

October-November 2016
Lastly she roasted Brussel Sprouts with Pancetta. And I’ve got to admit, I have no idea how they tasted because brussel sprouts are NMF (not my fav) but everyone else seemed to really like them.

October-November 2016
V & L tag teamed on their Grilled Ginger-Balsamic Carrots. Aren’t they pretty?

October-November 2016
They first blanched the carrots and then quickly grilled them to get a nice char.

October-November 2016
Of course in my opinion, no Thanksgiving meal can be complete without some ‘taters. These are my tried and true Roasted Garlic Mashed Potatoes. The key to them? Lots of roast garlic and more butter, cream cheese, and heavy cream then you’d like to know.

October-November 2016
And last but not least, dessert!!! There’s no doubt that P is the best baker among the clan. So there’s no way she’d get away without making dessert for this Fam Din and we (ok, I) requested TWO traditional Apple Pies served with Vanilla Bean Ice Cream.

October-November 2016
I’ve got to say, we’ve had some REALLY great meals in the four years we’ve been having Fam Dins but this one really is up there.

October-November 2016
Not only did it mark the first Thanksgiving all my sibs have been together in over a decade but Mom would have absolutely loved everything about it.

October-November 2016
And with that–Hope you are all able to create some great traditions and memories with your loved ones.

CHEERS!

October-November 2016______________________________________________________

This Month’s Family Dinner Menu

Cocktails:  Passion Fruit Bellinis, Assorted Wines
Appetizers: Mixed Mushrooms & Herbed Goat Cheese Crostinis, Blue Crab Dip
Entrees: Mom’s Five Spice Roast Turkey
Sides: Squash & Gruyere Gratin, Ham & Cheddar Drop Biscuits, Grilled Ginger-Balsamic Carrots, Brussel Sprouts with Pancetta, Roasted Garlic Mashed Potatoes
Dessert: Apple Pie with Vanilla Bean Ice Cream