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

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Sunday Family Dinner

Family Dinner Calls Upon the Spirit of Alooohaaa!

August 2016 Family Dinner

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

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

August 2016 Family Dinner

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

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

August 2016 Family Dinner

THIS GUY!!!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But guess what?!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And they were a BIG hit with the sibs!

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

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

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

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

Wahhhhhhh!!!

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

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

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

It would be just sacrilegious!

August 2016 Family Dinner

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

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

August 2016 Family Dinner

And FINALLY!

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

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

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

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

#CousinLove

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

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

August 2016 Family Dinner

Unless you’re THIS GUY!

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

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

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

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

August 2016 Family Dinner
SEESTERS!!!!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Endless options!

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

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

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

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

August 2016 Family Dinner

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

Soooo purrrrtyyy!!!

August 2016 Family Dinner

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

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

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

August 2016 Family Dinner
Aerial shot!

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

Points for effort???

August 2016 Family Dinner
Styrofoam Compartment Plates?!

HELL YES!

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

August 2016 Family Dinner
Quick pic!

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

Apparently the theme was “spoons”…..

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

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

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

August 2016 Family Dinner

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

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

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

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

August 2016 Family Dinner

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

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

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

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

My favorite? The lilikoi!!!

ONO, ONO, ONOLICIOUS!

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

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

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

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

August 2016 Family Dinner

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

ALOOOOOHAAA!!

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This Month’s Family Dinner Menu

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

Sunday Family Dinner

Family Dinner Channels the Mediterranean!

June 2016 Fam Din

A couple of things about this month’s Family Dinner that we had last weekend.

First off, it was HOT AS HECK!! 104 degrees in Orange County and it wasn’t even technically summer yet!

Which is why we were okay with having {Diet} Coke Floats right out of the gates.

Y.O.L.O.

June 2016 Fam Din
Second, Fam Din took place two days after my eldest niece, Nina, graduated from high school.

She is the eldest of my siblings’ kids and my parents’ first grandchild. In many ways, she was all of our baby. In fact, I was in the room when she came into the world and heard her very first cry.

And now, here she is–all grown up and starting college this fall. How did this happen? So I was a cheering lunatic at the ceremony and a little sad….ALL at the same time.

Needless to say, I was still a little emotional two days later. Which is why I took a ton of pics at dinner. So be warned—there are more photos of the fam than food in this post. I’ll make it up to you next time.

But isn’t she adorable?

Nina

As I mentioned, it was a scorcher out that day and coincidentally, we all were feeling a little silly.

So it was no surprise that this happened….

June 2016 Fam Din

And then Lucasaurus had to break out his stunnahs because, well…

He’s a playah….

June 2016 Fam Din
We had anticipated the heat and wanted to create a menu that wasn’t too heavy. We settled on dishes with a Mediterranean slant and were able to use ingredients like oregano, mint, dill, pine nuts, feta, olives, anchovies and lemons. Plus, it lent to a colorful menu and who doesn’t love to taste the rainbow?

Next up–Cocktail Time!!! To help us cool down, I made several batches of Boozy Watermelon Lemonade. Doesn’t it just scream summah?

Refreshing, light, lemony and went down incredibly smooth….a little too smooth. That could be a good and bad thing.

June 2016 Fam Din
I’m going with good.

Oh, and the kiddos got regular Watermelon Lemonade–sans vodka.

June 2016 Fam Din
After the first pitcher or so, we needed a little nosh in our tummies.

Appetizers time!

I do enjoy a deviled egg from time to time but my seestrah absolutely L-O-V-E-S them! Which is kind of confusing because she doesn’t really like eggs.

Say WHAT?!? Say WHAT?!?

I know, she’s weird.

But then she pulls out a winner like this and then we were sold.

June 2016 Fam Din
Her Kicked Up Mediterranean Inspired Deviled Eggs were flavored with white truffle oil, paprika and then topped with crispy applewood bacon, freshly made tapenade and fried kale.

I know, right?!?

Tons of flavor and I loved the great texture contrast from the bacon and kale.

I may or may not have eaten like 5 or 6 of them…. but might I remind you–this is a “No Food Judgement Zone”.

June 2016 Fam Din
On to more fam pics….

These three melt my heart. ❤

June 2016 Fam Din

And then I go back into the house and find the seesters being a little silly.

Was it the Boozy Watermelon Lemonade?

Nah….I blame it on the kicked up Deviled Eggs.

June 2016 Fam Din
But….

When you can’t beat them—join them!

Throwing up SHAKA!…ROCK AND ROLL!…ZOT-ZOT!

Don’t know what zot-zot is? Ask anyone with ties to UC Irvine.

June 2016 Fam Din
And before we knew it, we needed another snack.

Hey–we started early that day and we like options!

So then I made a big batch of Kolokithokeftedes with a Tzatziki Dipping Sauce.

June 2016 Fam Din
What are Kolokithokeftedes, you ask? They’re delicious Greek zucchini fritters. Can’t pronounce Kolokithokeftedes? Don’t worry–neither can I. But they’re fab, nonetheless.

I made these from shredded zucchini, beaten eggs, chopped fresh dill and mint, feta cheese, panko breadcrumbs and some dried herbs. Just be sure to squeeze out as much liquid from the zucchini as possible before you make the fritters. Or you can do what I did and lightly salt them, put them in a colander and allowed the natural liquids to be drawn out. You’d be surprised how much liquid you’ll extract–I got almost 1 1/2 cups from about 2 pounds of zucchini!

After a quick pan fry, I sprinkled them with a bit of sea salt flakes and served them with Tzatziki.

As for the Tzatziki, it’s a breeze.

I mixed together shallots, garlic, diced cucumbers, Greek yogurt, sour cream, red wine vinegar, dill, salt and pepper. Very versatile and for the record, fantastic over grilled salmon, too.

June 2016 Fam Din
We love hanging out in seestrah’s backyard.

Great patio furniture, bistro lights, built in BBQ, lots of space and very SoCal inspired landscaping.

June 2016 Fam Din
And their jacuzzi is fantastic too!

June 2016 Fam Din
After some shenanigans, lots of pictures and even more cocktails – it was time to focus in on dinner.

Keeping with the Mediterranean flavors, seestrah made up a big batch of Oregano Chicken to be grilled.

June 2016 Fam Din
She marinated lots of bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs overnight. The marinade consisted of garlic, anchovies, olives brine, lemons, onions and fresh oregano.

Seestrah then handed it over to her hubs to grill low and slow so that the meat was wonderfully juicy and skin was perfectly crispy.

June 2016 Fam Din
Once the chicken was grilled and rested, it was slathered with a flavorful mixture of anchovies, olive oil, chopped olives, garlic, lemon juice and parsley.

As someone who loves olives, I thought this was fantastic!

The “topping” added the right amount of brininess and acidity to the chicken. If you’re interested, the recipe can be found here.

June 2016 Fam Din

While the chicken rested, I snapped a couple pics of the kid sibbies.

First up–Lucas and Maya and then Nini and Nina.

They. Are. Adorable.

June 2016 Fam Din
Back to dinner….

Big seester made two sides to go along with the chicken.

First, a bright and fresh Cucumber Salad that had heirloom tomatoes, olives, Persian cucumbers, feta cheese and lots of fresh dill. She dressed the salad with an anchovy vinaigrette.

June 2016 Fam Din
Her second side dish was this beautiful Orzo Salad.

June 2016 Fam Din
It was made of cooked orzo, artichokes, tomatoes, olives, feta cheese, pine nuts, fresh basil, lemon and shrimp.

I adored it–LOVED what the pine nuts added to the dish.

June 2016 Fam Din
Now isn’t this plating a delicious sight?

I also added a dollup of tzatziki to the party because why the heck not?

June 2016 Fam Din
After dinner, we lounged about and enjoyed some more vino.

June 2016 Fam Din
We chatted about random stuff, laughed a lot, sang a bunch of 80’s hits, did a little gossiping and started planning for July’s menu.

It’s never too early to plan the next meal in our book.

And trust me, I would have loved to have share the video of us singing Jessie’s Girl.…but I value my life too much.

June 2016 Fam Din
Finally, it was time to dig into dessert.

Carrying on with the Mediterranean flavors, I made an olive oil cake–a Chocolate Olive Oil Cake –and used Nigella Lawson’s recipe that can be found here.

June 2016 Fam Din
If you’ve never had an olive oil cake, don’t worry, it doesn’t taste like olives. The oil just lends to a very moist sponge and gives a slight floral flavor. It works particularly well since there’s no flour in the recipe but instead it uses ground almonds.

And it’s freaking delicious.

I paired the dense, chocolatey cake with a whipped berry cream. Super easy since I made my standard whipped cream and then folded in crushed fresh blueberries and raspberries. And it was fantastic!

YUM!

I’d definitely make this combo again. And you should make it too.

June 2016 Fam Din
Moral of the post?

I love Family Dinners in the summer.

Even when it’s just “almost” summer.

June 2016 Fam Din
Days are longer and the sun hangs out until 8ish.

Which means more time for food and a lot more time with the fam.

June 2016 Fam Din

And in my book, that’s definitely a Win-Nguyen!

June 2016 Fam Din

This Month’s Family Dinner Menu

Cocktails:  Boozy Watermelon Lemonade
Appetizers: Kicked Up Mediterranean Inspired Deviled Eggs, Kolokithokeftedes with Tzatziki
Entrees: Grilled Oregano Chicken with Green Olives & Anchovies
Sides: Cucumber & Heirloom Tomato Salad with Anchovy Vinaigrette, Shrimp and Orzo Salad
Dessert: Chocolate Olive Oil Cake with Whipped Berry Cream

Sunday Family Dinner

Sunday Family Dinner Celebrates the May Babies!

May 2016 Fam Din
Last weekend, Sunday Family Dinner celebrated the May babies in our immediate family — Dad and I!

It was a casual menu for the evening with an iteration of surf and turf — my fav! We didn’t choose any dishes that required long periods of cooking and we managed to do a lot of the mise work earlier on in the day.

May 2016 Fam Din
So when it came time for the actual “cooking”, it was pretty easy peasey. Which freed up my time to make/sip pre-dinner cocktails and snap a few photos.

And can we talk about how GINORMOUS these strawberries were???

May 2016 Fam Din
I also wrangled Lucas into staying still for a moment to snap a pic with his fur-cousin. He looks so handsome with his fresh hair cut….what a cutie-patootie. And I intend to call him that until he’s at least 50 years old.

Me? Oh…I’ll still be 21 at that time.

Extra bonus points for those of you who caught the red SOLO cups target pyramid in the background.

It was a target…..

May 2016 Fam Din
…..for their NERF gun competition.

And let’s talk about this pic below. I told them to give me a fierce, rugged look.

Lucas nailed it….Nina, um….not as much.

May 2016 Fam Din
Bella hadn’t seen her Gramps in quite some time so she wanted to make sure that he wouldn’t forget what she looked like.

Grampa–do you see me?!?  PET ME!!!  Give me treats!!! And by treats, I mean–STEAK!!! HELLOOO–I’m right down here!!! Look at me, look at me!!!

She’s not needy at all….

May 2016 Fam Din
Remember when I mentioned cocktails?

Yea…we had a few of them.  And how could we help ourselves? They were so pretty in pink!

I called them Minty Blood Orange Sparklers. It started off with me making a batch of fresh mint simple syrup. After it cooled, I added a splash or two over crushed ice and threw in some vodka, fresh lime juice, Blood Orange flavored Italian Soda and some mint leaves.

Fruity, minty, citrusy, summery……

And the kiddos got MOCKtails—all of the ingredients mentioned above minus the vodka.

May 2016 Fam Din

Speaking of kiddos, we put Maya to work this month. She helped her mom prep our appetizers for the evening — Grilled Flatbread with Ribeye Steak, Tomatoes, Burrata and Italian Salsa Verde.

Here she is whipping up the salsa verde in the mini food processor.

May 2016 Fam Din
Her salsa verde had fresh cilantro, parsley, jalapeno, garlic lime juice, oil and S&P. Usually we add some capers and anchovies to the party too but we opted to nix them this time around –so it was kind of akin to a chimichurri sauce.

But who cares—it was fantastic!

And yes, there’s another one of those Yogurtland spoons…..we love prepping with them!

May 2016 Fam Din
Beef time!

We tasked our B.I.L., Curtis, with grilling up the steaks for the flatbread.

Hello Beautifuls…..

May 2016 Fam Din
And VOILA! The finished product!

Seester T lightly oiled the grates and threw some pizza dough that Maya and Nini had rolled out over them. After it had cooked through, she topped it all with the sliced steaks, ripe Roma tomatoes, burrata and salsa verde. It was lovely! Tons of flavor and would be a great summer meal on its own with a chilled glass of vino.

You could also sub out skirt steak for the ribeye and fresh mozz instead of burrata. But for me, I’m obsessed with burrata and love how creamy and luscious it is.

May 2016 Fam Din
Earlier when I mentioned that dinner was easy peasy, I failed to say it was because we tasked the two older kiddos with the actual cooking of our main entrees – Paella! Paella seemed like an ideal way to get the “surf” component into our meal with lots of shrimp, clams and scallops all in one pot. Plus the chicken and chorizo added the “turf”.

YUM!

Nina and Nini our pros at making Paella and since we had to make a bunch to feed the crowd, we decided that each gal would make their own pot as a competition! They each got a Le Creuset dutch oven to use and all the same ingredients.

And then they were off!

May 2016 Fam Din
This is Nina’s finished product….look at all of those colors!

May 2016 Fam Din - Nina
And here is Nini’s….I could dive right on in!

May 2016 Fam Din-Nini
They both were picture perfect right? And I was hard pressed to tell which niece made which pot.

Wondering who won in the end?

Maya did…….with this picture.

May 2016 Fam Din

Okay, okay…. it was a tie.

Both were delicious and had lovely crispy socarrat. It would have been impossible to choose one from the other. My nieces are so talented and it’s rather comforting to know that they can cook for us as we get along in years.

Oh!

And during dinner, we enjoyed a lovely Caymus Vineyards 40th Anniversary Cabernet Sauvignon –  THANKS Curtis!

May 2016 Fam Din

Then it was time for BIRTHDAY CAKE!!

Normally I’m a chocolate gal but sometimes a light and fruity cake is just divine! So this month I asked Seestrah N to fix up a white cake with fresh berries and fluffy frosting. She came up with this behemoth of a layered cake with ginormous strawberries and frosting made of whipped mascarpone cheese and heavy cream.

Isn’t it lovely????

May 2016 Fam Din
By the time we finished with presents, desserts and dishes….Dad was ready to head home. But we convinced them to stay for just a big longer…..

to PLAY BINGO!!!!!!!

Yup BINGO!  Seester had gotten a BINGO set as a white elephant present and it was high time we cracked it open.

May 2016 Fam Din
And the winners got lottery scratchers!

Here’s the birthday boy scratching away after winning a round of BINGO. Initially he said they’d only stay for one game…..but that one game turned into five 🙂

May 2016 Fam Din
And wouldn’t you know it, neither of the birthday babies won the final blackout round — that went to my B.I.L. Rick!

Talk about happy camper! BINGO winner gets a BINGO scratcher!

May 2016 Fam Din

All in all, it was a great Fam Din –which incidentally was the 4 year anniversary of our Sunday Family Dinners Isn’t it rather wonderful that our siblings’ tradition has carried on?

Can’t wait for next month – and neither can the pups ❤

May 2016 Fam Din

This Month’s Family Dinner Menu

Cocktails:  Minty Blood Orange Sparklers and Vino
Appetizers: Grilled Flatbread with Ribeye Steak, Tomatoes, Burrata and Salsa Verde
Entrees: Paella
Dessert: Mile-High Fresh Strawberry and Cream Layered Cake

Sunday Family Dinner

Sunday Family Dinner with All of the Crew

December 2015 SFD
About two times a year we can wrangle all five Nguyễn siblings at our monthly Family Dinners. It’s not for lack of desire but with one brother in New York, one seester in San Francisco, two seesters in Orange County and me in San Diego–it can be a logistical nightmare.

But when it does happen, it’s chaotically wonderful.

December 2015 SFD

With all of the sibs in town last month, we managed to squeeze Fam Din in between our Cousin’s wedding, multiple Christmas parties, and the most important— the release of Star Wars.

All very, VERY important events for us.

I’m not kidding gang–although I was off from work for the last two weeks of December, I was up in Orange County the entire time with some type of event each day. Let’s just say, at the end of my vacation–I needed a vacay from my vacay.

December 2015 SFD

But back to our Fam Din!

We held it the next day after our younger cousin’s amazing wedding. He’s been like a little brother to the five of us so it was extremely special to witness his truly perfect day. And because we knew it was going to be a fantastic party, we planned ahead for a very low key but comforting menu for dinner.

A nod to rustic Italian and Tuscan fare.

December 2015 SFD
And since I’m me, I couldn’t resist snapping away at some pics of the fam bam. How often do I get all of my kiddos (minus the fur babies) in one shot?

This particular one is freaking hilarious. Maya, Lucas, Nini and Nina are pros having been subjected to my photo shoots every month but the youngest three munchkins’ faces below have me DYING!

Leonidas is rocking the ultimate pouty face.

Kaelani has the petrified “Is this really my family?!?!?” look.

And Luna is giving me the “Hurry up before I flip over!” face.

Classic.

December 2015 SFD

Then at some point, I channeled the inner prom-photographer in me and snapped a couple of the sibbies.

Representing Tustin…..

December 2015 SFD
Representing San Francisco…..

Wait! How did Kaelani sneak in this one?

December 2015 SFD
Representing New York…..

Or is technically Manhattan?

Um. You get the picture.

December 2015 SFD
And finally, Representing Fullerton…..

December 2015 SFD
Somewhere along the lines, my two eldest munchkins, who are now both taller than me, decided to lick my face.

Gross.

But I probably would have done the same to them. Where do you think they’ve learned it from?

December 2015 SFD
And since our Leo was turning four a few days later, we decided to make Fam Din into a little party for him.

How can he be four already?!?!?

December 2015 SFD
Before dinner, we snacked on an overflowing tray of Antipasti from a local Italian market named Claro’s. They’ve got tons and tons of wonderful imported goods as well as delish cold cuts, cheeses, olives, sandwich counter and plenty of premade dishes you can take home.

Below is their sampling of Asiago cheese, Gorgonzola, bocconcini, salami, prosciutto sticks, olives and cherry tomatoes.

December 2015 SFD
For the main course, we had Roasted Rosemary-Garlic Whole Chickens with new potatoes. Seester marinated the chickens overnight and roasted two of them in the oven and one outdoor in her rotisserie oven. You just can’t beat a wonderfully flavored, juicy roasted chicken.

December 2015 SFD
And you just can’t have an Italian menu without a big ol’ bowl of pasta.

I whipped up a ginormous bowl of Cacio e Pepe using bucatini pasta–because I adore bucatini.

Butter, black pepper, Pecorino, and Parmesan.

December 2015 SFD

Eldest seestrah made Souffle al Formaggio Facile – a Tuscan cheese souffle with mixed greens. We’ve never had an Italian dish like this but heck –how could you go wrong with a cheese souffle???

In fact, this would be a great brunch dish with perhaps a poached egg nestled on top of the greens.

December 2015 SFD

As for dessert, the birthday boy wanted Chocolate Cupcakes and what birthday boy wants, he gets. Well, at least with desserts that is.

Seester P recruited the little munchkins to help bake up a batch of chocolaty cuppies with chocolate frosting –using our go to recipe from Ina.

The kids loved helping out–especially since they got to pipe the frosting on top.

December 2015 SFD

I mean, c’mon. Look at that face.

Could anything be cuter????

December 2015 SFD

Okay…maybe these faces below.

Hey, it was his birthday– and the kid loves chocolate!

December 2015 SFD
And that friends, was only day 2 of my 14-day “vacation” in Orange County.

I’m still recovering. ❤

This Month’s Family Dinner Menu

Cocktails: Vino Galore!!!
Appetizers: Anitpasti – Asiago cheese, Gorgonzola, bocconcini, salami, prosciutto sticks, olives and cherry tomatoes
Entrees: Rosemary Garlic Roast Chicken, Roast Potatoes, Cacio e Pepe, Souffle al Formaggio Facile
Dessert: Rich Chocolate Cupcakes with Chocolate Buttercream

Sunday Family Dinner

Family Dinner Brings On the FIRES OF MORDOR!!!!!!

August 2015 Family Dinner

The Fires of Mordor!!!!

Only a little bit of it….but still– THE FIRES OF MORDOR!!!!!

But I’ll get to that in a bit.

It’s been a few weeks since we had our last Family Dinner and I have to admit, I want EVERY THING from that menu EVERY.SINGLE.DAY.

Since it was August, we were celebrating this pretty gal’s birthday. Yes folks, my little Nina is now 17. How is this even possible?! I feel like it was only the other day that I was zerberting my baby niece’s cheeks and now she’s a senior in high school, preparing to apply to college and driving me around. Well, the latter definitely has its perks.

So, the gang gathered at T’s house on a warm August afternoon for Family Dinner and birthday festivities.

August 2015 Family Dinner

There were cousins selfies……

August 2015 Family Dinner

Cuddle time…..

August 2015 Family Dinner

A little smooching…… (barf)…..

August 2015 Family Dinner

Dudes hanging out by the grill……..

August 2015 Family Dinner

Puppies running around and going BONKERS………

August 2015 Family Dinner

Leo-nators climbing on patio furniture….

August 2015 Family Dinner

Nini and Maya  time…….

August 2015 Family Dinner

And lots of QT with this cutie..

August 2015 Family Dinner

We had A LOT going on.

Good thing T made a bunch of Green Sangria for us to sip on. It was filled with kiwis, cucumbers, pears and white vino. Light and perfect for the HOT day we had.

August 2015 Family Dinner

As you may recall, if it’s your birth month, we usually create a menu with your favorite things for Family Dinner.

But the challenge you face when you raise little foodie-lings is that they end up having a taste for high end ingredients and dishes.
August 2015 Family Dinner

Nina loves lobster, uni, premium steaks, sashimi, poke….

Don’t get me wrong, I ADORE all of those things too but I don’t recall having such a refined palate at our munchkins’ ages.

So her birthday dinner of choice was not something your average teenager would have.

Lucky girl.

August 2015 Family Dinner

Seester T’s neighbor had just gone deep sea fishing and they gifted her with a bunch of fresh yellowfin tuna. Now that’s a neighbor I would TOTALLY want!

We took a few pounds of it and my niece Nini made her infamous Spicy Tuna Hand Rolls for us to snack on as appetizers.

SO. FREAKING. GOOD.

I love that Nini has such a great palate and makes THE BEST Spicy Tuna Hand Rolls.… like, EVER. They far surpass any that I’ve had at sushi joints and it’s all because of that “crack sauce” she makes. And lucky for you all, she’s agreed to allow me to share the recipe {coming soon}.

Did I mention she’s only 15?

August 2015 Family Dinner

Remember those lobsters from a few photos up?

Seester N took those buggers and made a wonderful Lobster Bisque filled with chunks of lobster meat and finished with a drizzle of truffle oil.

Lobsters and Truffle Oil?!?

Yea…just keep thinking “17 year old birthday dinner”…..

August 2015 Family Dinner

And because that Lobster Bisque was so nice, I had to show it twice.

August 2015 Family Dinner

One of the sides for dinner were twice fried Parmesan Garlic Truffle Fries.

Go Big or Go Home.

Well, we went Big and then went home.

August 2015 Family Dinner

As for the main course, Nina is like her grandma and ADORES beef. She always wants some kind of steak on her special day.

So she got this beauty below. Dry-aged, Prime Ribeye Steaks with herb butter and crispy onion strings on top.

I’ll pause a moment to allow you to lick the screen……

Oh! And there was a Caesar Salad for a bit of greens.

August 2015 Family Dinner

And to wrap up the whole meal, a decadent birthday cake. Nina loves and I mean LOVES chocolate and green tea. With that in mind, I made her a rich chocolate cake and filled the layers with a matcha mousse. It was then frosted with a matcha buttercream and adorned with Matcha Pocky Sticks.

Not to toot my own horn but it was pretty fantastic.

August 2015 Family Dinner

Now, let’s spend some more time talking about those mouth watering, juicy steaks.

When we first started talking about the menu for Family Dinner, we knew steaks had to be on the menu. But we make steaks all the time–a TON of different ways. We had to do something special for Nina and that’s where my brother comes into the picture.

He and I have talked numerous times about that one episode of Good Eats where Alton Brown uses a chimney starter to “grill” porterhouse steaks.

Yup, you read correctly. A chimney starter that you typically use to heat up coals for a BBQ grill.

And what’s fantastic is that the thick steaks cook in 5 minutes!

August 2015 Family Dinner

It all started with the beef.

Now, Alton used porterhouse steaks but that ended up being tough for V to find that were prime and not choice or select. Why do you want prime beef, particularly for this method of cooking? Because of all that beautiful marbling in the meat. Lots of lovely marbling = taste bombs exploding in your mouth.

We ended up using prime ribeye steaks which were fantastic. V took those beauties and dry aged them in the refrigerator for four days. Click here to find out how A.B. dry ages steaks.

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This is where the chimney comes in .

He filled the inside with a layer of natural lump coal………..

August 2015 Family Dinner

Then stuffed the bottom with newspaper…. well, actually, it was an old Trader Joe’s bag……..

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Then he lit the paper and allowed the coals to burn.

August 2015 Family Dinner

And this is where the magic begins.

He lifted the chimney and placed one steak on the grill before placing it back over the beef.

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He allowed the steak to grill for 90 seconds and then flipped them….

August 2015 Family Dinner

Then the chimney goes back over the steak for another 90 seconds….

August 2015 Family Dinner

Then he took the chimney off, placed the grate on top of the chimney and placed the steak on top………..

August 2015 Family Dinner

Then threw a metal bowl to cover the steak. It grilled for 60 seconds, the bowl was removed, the steak was flipped, the bowl was slapped back on top and then the steak grilled for a final 60 seconds.

August 2015 Family Dinner

And that’s it! The steaks were then rested before we dove in.

August 2015 Family Dinner

Wasn’t that freaking AWESOME!!!???

Not only did it produce a commercial-kitchen-salamander affect on the beef but it was SO FUN to do!!!

August 2015 Family Dinner

In fact, it was SO fun that I had to make a quick video about it. Check it out below and let me know what you think 🙂

All in all, it was a show stopping dinner.

August 2015 Family Dinner

Filled with kids inhaling pounds of lobsters.

August 2015 Family Dinner

And lots of laughter and vino.

August 2015 Family Dinner

Big, BIG thanks to my bro for overseeing our awesome steaks!

August 2015 Family Dinner

And I don’t know what’s happening in the picture below but I can’t stop cracking up over it.

August 2015 Family Dinner

And don’t forget about cake time!

August 2015 Family Dinner

Look at Luna and Leo’s faces below.

They kill me.

August 2015 Family Dinner

Happy Birthday Nina Love!

Speaking of love, take a look at the little photo bomber on the right.

Precious.

August 2015 Family Dinner

Delicious food, learning new cooking techniques, hanging out with the fam–it was a memorable summer family dinner.

With the fires of Mordor….

August 2015 Family Dinner

And Maya dancing behind them. 😉

August 2015 Family Dinner

Until next time gang!

xoxo ❤

This Month’s Family Dinner Menu

Cocktails: Green Sangria
Appetizers: Spicy Tuna Hand Rolls and Lobster Bisque
Entrees: Grilled Ribeye Steaks with Crispy Onion Strings, Caesar Salad & Truffle Parmesan Fries
Dessert: Matcha Chocolate Pocky Cake

Sunday Family Dinner

Our Shellfish Boil and a Nguyễn Siblings Reunion

July 2015 Fam Din

There are 5 Nguyễn Siblings.

I know what you’re thinking…..

How can THAT much awesomeness exist in the world? Oh, but let me assure you…we’re real.

And although I’ve written this little blog for over 5 years now, I’m not sure if I have ever introduced each of my sibbies to you. Let’s break it down….

First up, we’ve got the eldest seester, N, who lives in Orange County. She’s a PT extraordinaire by day and expert bowler by night. N and her husband, C, have two daughters—my nieces Nina and Stephanie….and are the fur-parents to my pug niece, Princess Leia.

Now

Next up, seestrah P who lives in the foodie land of San Francisco. P is a clinical pharmacist but in her spare time she enjoys hazing her family by making them hike up and down the hills of SF….for MILES and MILES! She is the mama bear to our newest little niece – Kaelani.

Phooey

Next up, we have our brother V who resides in the Lower East Side of Manhattan. V is a hustlin’ entrepreneur by trade and a Jedi Master/random knowledge guru the other 16 hours of the day. He and his wife, L, have two little munchkins….my niece —Luna and nephew —Leonidas.

V also loves it when people misuse the word “literally”. I literally just fibbed…..he hates it.

Viet 2

Last up, we have seestrah T. T is an attorney in the LBC and is a retired 90’s hip-hop back up dancer…..ok fine–it was dance team but it’s practically the same. 80% of the time she follows a strict all-meat, all-vino, forget-the-carbs diet. She and her husband, R, also live in Orange County with their kids Maya and Lucas.

Tuong

Why all of this background info now? Because for last month’s Family Dinner…. we were ALL here!!! Yup, all 5 Nguyễn sibs with their fams in N’s backyard eating up a storm. With everyone scattered around, this doesn’t happen very often–maybe once or twice a year. So it’s definitely a special time when it can occur.

We started it all off with how fam dins always begin….grocery shopping.

We crammed the five of us into one car (which hasn’t happened for nearly 20 years!) and headed down to Little Saigon to pick up the goods. We had intended to remake our N’awlins Seafood Boil we did a couple of years ago with tons of crawfish, clams, lobstahs, etc. But even though crawdads were plentiful the week before–they were NO WHERE to be seen that particular day.

Seriously….10 stops and no fresh crawfish. Boo 😦

Nguyen Sibbies

So instead, we went with a standard Shellfish Boil theme.

And we had a little fun while picking up the groceries too.

July 2015 Fam Din

Shrimp, stone crabs, clams, locally made sausages, corn and taters.

Aren’t these clams lovely???

July 2015 Fam Din

And there were also lots and lots of mussels.

July 2015 Fam Din

So we put V and L to work cleaning the little buggers.

July 2015 Fam Din
And while they did that, C had some cuddle time with Leonidas who had just spent time in the pool with his cousins.

July 2015 Fam Din

Since it was Kaelani’s very first Family Dinner with us, we HAD to take tons of pictures with her. I mean, come on….look at that face. How could we not?

July 2015 Fam Din

This also happened to be the first weekend where all 7 little cousins were together.

And can I just say how difficult it is to get a picture where all 7 munchkins have their eyes open, aren’t squirming and are looking at the camera??

July 2015 Fam Din

This is the best one we got….and it only took 4.7396 trillion takes.

I counted.

July 2015 Fam Din

In between takes, Nina and Leo would break out in dance…..

July 2015 Fam Din

And Nini and Kaelani would be adorbs…..

July 2015 Fam Din

But after a long morning and early afternoon of shopping and prepping…it was time to get down to business. And yes, by business, I mean cocktails.

I pureed a huge watermelon with a bit of lemon and mint to make some fragrant watermelon juice for the kiddos. And then took a bunch of it to turn it into Summer Watermelon Sangria for the adults. LOTS of Summer Watermelon Sangria. 

July 2015 Fam Din

To prevent a h’angry crowd, I steamed up some of the fresh clams and Nina used them to make a few of these White Clam Pizzas for us to nosh on.

July 2015 Fam Din

And then N went to town and boiled up all the seafood for us.

SOOOO much seafood.

Yes, Friends….we got Seafood Wasted.

July 2015 Fam Din

And P loves it.

July 2015 Fam Din

Look at all that crab roe I schmeared on a baguette. Rich, decadent….perfect with a sprinkle of sea salt.

July 2015 Fam Din

After an hour of gluttonous shellfish consumption, we put the kids to work.

“Lucas and Luna–no dessert until all the dishes are done!!”

Just kidding….not kidding.

July 2015 Fam Din

For dessert, N whipped out two icebox pies. They’re quickly becoming our faves for the summer.

Here is her spiraled beauty — Peach Divinity Icebox Pie.

July 2015 Fam Din

And since there was a ton of us, she also made a Key-Lime Buttermilk Icebox Pie.

July 2015 Fam Din

We also celebrated all the July babies! N, P, bro-in-law R and Luna Bear. 

July 2015 Fam Din

With all of that sugar, the girls got a little silly…

July 2015 Fam Din

And good thing Luna was there to document it all.

Watch out Annie Leibovitz….

July 2015 Fam Din

And that folks, is how we do Family Dinner with all the sibs...Shellfish Boil style.

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And I have to tell ya…as the youngest of the 5, it was sure nice to have all my older sibbies and their fam together again ❤

July 2015 Fam Din

This Month’s Family Dinner Menu

Cocktails: Summer Watermelon Sangria
Appetizers: White Clam Pizza
Entrees: Shellfish Boil
Dessert: Peach Divinity Icebox Pie and Key Lime-Buttermilk Icebox Pie