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.

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And how So Cal is it that somehow succulents were involved?

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

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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.

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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

Sunday Family Dinner

A Late Family Dinner Recap….and Where I’m Currently At

September 2016
Ok gang, I know I’ve been MIA lately and I’m long overdue to recap our last Family Dinner.

The delay started with me misplacing the SD card with all the photos I took from dinner. Don’t ask….no clue where it is. But how does a food blogger publish a post without food pics?? Yes, between the sibs and I, we had snapped some on our phones but I was determined to find that freaking memory card. But—-I didn’t. So then I started drafting the post using the pics from our phones.

And then last Tuesday happened.

I generally haven’t used this space to discuss things other than food. But the truth of the matter is, I am shaken to my core. It wasn’t just an election. It’s that the outcomes have supported a movement to lead by instilling fear and panic, to further widen the gap between gender equity, to continue to target those of historically marginalized races and religions and to regress not progress. It’s not a question of political parties but of basic human decency. I’m heartbroken, angry, frustrated, tired–and quite frankly, I’m afraid. Why? Because I’m a person of color, daughter of refugee parents, advocate of marriage equality, non-Christian, and a woman who believes that I alone should be the one who should make decisions regarding my health and body. I am the embodiment of everything that the new majority “leadership” has fought against.

What now? So where do my beliefs and I belong come 2017? Where do we start again? How can we keep up the strength and fight?

It’s these questions that have me deeply troubled and walking in a daze this past 10 days. It’s been difficult to focus in the office and even harder to get things in order for the whirlwind of family activities I’m about to embark on for the next 9 days. 9 days that include my cousin’s wedding, 2 family dinners, Thanksgiving, and lots and LOTS of time with the nieces and nephews.

September 2016
Yes, you read correctly–that’s two family dinners that are scheduled. We wanted to take advantage of the time since all five siblings would be in town for our cousin’s wedding. As hectic and chaotic that I know it’ll be, I need it. I think that lots of time with my siblings and their fam while we cook will do us some good. And as much as I hurt, I need to still be me and do what I do–even if it’s a bit clunky for now.

So here’s that recap of our last Family Dinner I owe you.

September 2016
Thanks to R’s fresh yellowfin catch, we made Shoyu Poke and my niece–Nini, made her infamous Spicy Tuna Hand Rolls.

September 2016
Sis N took on the main course– Tamarind Dungeness Crab.

September 2016
L made stir-fried Garlic-Lemon Broccolini to give us some greens.

September 2016
T made Garlic Noodles and the Soju Cocktails.

September 2016
And lastly, for dessert, I made the Mango-Macadamia Nut Cheesecake.

September 2016
Gang, I know this isn’t my normal kind of post—far from it. But to write in my “normal” tone would feel disingenuous. And quite frankly, we need less of that in the world. So thank you for taking the time to read my thoughts.

And until next time, let me leave you with a picture of this fedorable face….she’s been my steadfast cuddler and best comfort of late.

Fedorable

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This Month’s Family Dinner Menu

Cocktails:  Grapefruit Soju Cocktails
Appetizers: Spicy Tuna Hand Rolls, Shoyu Poke
Entrees: Tamarind Dungeness Crab
Sides: Garlic Noodles, Lemon Garlic Broccolini
Dessert: Mango-Macadamia Nut Cheesecake

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