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

Sunday Family Dinner

Sunday Family Dinner – Summah’ Grilling and Chillin’

June 2015 Family Dinner

 Sunday Family Dinners in the summer are all about dining al fresco. Long days, warm and beautiful weather…it’s perfect.

June 2015 Family Dinner

I love summer family dinners where the pace is a little bit slower and we really get the chance to catch up with what’s new with each other.

June 2015 Family Dinner

A big topic of conversation at June’s fam din?

Backyard decor… obvi.

June 2015 Family Dinner

Seester just got a new set of fantastic patio furniture. And after lounging in the new chairs for a bit, I realized that something was missing. They need a brick pizza oven—STAT! A brilliant idea!

It got quickly vetoed.

Party poopers.

June 2015 Family Dinner

Our inspiration for dinner was not so much a “theme” but started off with an idea that the main dish should feature all kinds of skewers. Because who doesn’t love meat on a stick?

Plus, if there’s grilling involved, the boys get a hand in things.

June 2015 Family Dinner

And because y’all know us so well, you know that there were cocktails. In fact, we had a few different types that night (it’s how we roll), but Seester came up with this one after watching an episode of Tiffani Thiessen’s cooking show.

It consisted of an iced fruit tea, ginger simple syrup, lime juice, mint, tequila and fresh fruit.

Light and refreshing.

Kelly Kapowski apparently knows cocktails.

June 2015 Family Dinner-Cocktails

To munch on before dinner, my niece Nina fried up a batch of Crispy Andouille Hush Puppies. I loved the salty, smokey flavor the andouille gave to the hush puppies. To serve with them, I whipped up a quick sauce from random things I found in the fridge and luckily, it turned out great. Though–I kind of blew it and didn’t jot down what it consisted of but it had things like sour cream, mayo, Old Bay seasoning, lemon juice, fresh dill, garlic and pixie dust.

The last ingredient is not optional.

The recipe for the hush puppies can be found at here.

June 2015 Family Dinner-Hush Puppies

Then we put the boys to work! Fire up the grill, Dudes!

June 2015 Family Dinner

We did three types of skewers:

June 2015 Family Dinner-Skewers

Why three different skewers? Why not?!

Plus, we generally have a hard time just choosing one thing.

June 2015 Family Dinner- Skewers

To serve with the skewers, I whipped up a quick Watermelon, Feta and Arugula Salad which is a great accompaniment to any BBQ. It’s fresh, light, and essentially guilt free.

Though, I rarely experience guilt with food.

Carpe diem!

June 2015 Family Dinner: Watermelon-Feta Salad

We also made a bunch of Elotes – Mexican style street corn. Super simple to make and you can find out how from a previous post here.

Elote {Grilled Mexican Style Street Corn}

And lastly–dessert!

Now, most of us admitted that we underestimated this dessert. Don’t get me wrong–eldest seester can definitely bake but we didn’t really have a good point of reference for an icebox pie. But after one bite, we knew what fools we had been.

The texture was incredibly creamy and smooth which resulted in somewhat of an ice cream pie texture. She also tweaked the originally recipe that can be found here by:

  • Substituting mango schnapps with mango extract (she also used the extract in the whipped cream);
  • Used ataulfo mangoes as they generally yield a much sweeter and aromatic fruit;
  • Used about 1 cup of mango puree versus the listed 3/4 cup;
  • Used graham instead of saltine crackers for the crust and doubled the amount.

June 2015 Family Dinner: Mango-Lemon Buttermilk Icebox Pie

And after all the food was eaten and the dishes were washed–there was nothing else to do but get in some jacuzzi time!

June 2015 Family Dinner

Now if that’s not a fitting Summer Fam Din, I don’t know what is.

Stay tuned for the wrap up of July’s Family Dinner with all 5 Nguyễn siblings!

This Month’s Family Dinner Menu

Cocktails: Spiked Ginger Iced Tea
Appetizers: Crispy Andouille Hush Puppies
Entrees: Jerk Spiced Shrimp, Buttermilk Chicken Tandoori with Raita Sauce, Steak Skewers with Scallion  Sauce, Elotes, Watermelon-Feta-Arugula Salad
Dessert: Mango-Lemon Buttermilk Icebox Pie

 

Sunday Family Dinner

Rockin’ Seafood Burgers and Our Backyard Family Antics

Seafood Burgers

April’s Family Dinner was my brother-in-law, Curtis‘, choice as his birthday was just a few days away. And when given the option, Curtis nearly always picks seafood.

We casually brainstormed at the last Family Dinner, throwing out seafood ideas we could potentially make. Initially we were going to tackle some whole fish baked in a sea salt dome but a few weeks ago, I met up for lunch in Newport Beach with some friends at Dory Deli. I had a delicious Ahi Burger and it inspired me to convince the sibs to change our menu.

April 2015 Family Dinner

Since we were all attending my Uncle’s retirement party that Sunday, we had our Family Dinner on a sunny, Saturday afternoon at my seester’s house in Orange County. On days like those, we try to take advantage of the warm weather and enjoy their wonderful backyard.

Lately, I also have been feeling like our lilmunchkins will soon become old munchkins–which has motivated me to take even more pictures of them to try and preserve these moments.

Why do they have to grow up????

Oh, that’s right…we need someone to take care of us during our senile years.

April 2015 Family Dinner

The adults sipped on Lychee-Mint Martinis while we prepped and caught up on life. They’re a light and refreshing martini that can be a bit dangerous because you don’t realize how strong they are until you’ve had a few.

They’re a spin off my Lychee Saketinis but with added herbal notes from the fresh mint that is pureed with the lychees and a heavy hand of fresh lime juice.

Lychee-Mint Martinis

To nosh on, big seester wrapped tender asparagus with slices of salty prosciutto and roasted them in the oven. When she wasn’t looking, I sprinkled finely grated parmesan cheese over the asparagus during the last few minutes while it roasted to add a bit more umami.

I kind of hate myself a little any time I use that phrase but alas…how else can you describe it?

#FirstWorldProblems

Asparagus wrapped in Prosciutto

Since we were having burgers, we thought onion rings would also be a nice addition. But then big seester said…

“STEP UP YOUR GAME! Fry up a Blooming Onion instead!”

Okay…she may not have said it that way, but that’s what I heard when she was talking to me.

April 2015 Family Dinner

If Seester wants a Blooming Onion, Seester gets a Blooming Onion. So I took advantage of the outdoor range and got to frying.

But between you and I, I didn’t get as pretty of a “bloom” as I usually do. Partly because I didn’t dredge it enough and partly because I should have used a smaller pot to help the onion stay a little more intact. It still tasted good but looked more like a flattened sunflower instead of a full dahlia.

For the recipe and pics of how it should have looked, meander on over here.

Crispy Blooming Onion

With a little food in our bellies and libations in our veins, we set about on a little bit of shenangians.

Like balloon soccer and some auntie-niece bonding time….

April 2015 Family Dinner

And there may have also been a little bit of backyard dancing that was involved. Because who doesn’t want to shake their booties to a little 90s R&B?

Eventually we turned our focus back on to dinner because the munchkins morph into Gremlins if they aren’t fed at regular intervals.

Mogwais? Freaking Adorable! Gremlins? Terrifying.

April 2015 Family Dinner

Since the main star of our meal were to be burgers, I volunteered to bake the buns. I was well aware of the heavy responsibility I signed up for but let’s face it. You can have a fantastic burger “patty” but if the bread is terrible, you’re a super sad panda.

Luckily, I stumbled upon a fantastic Brioche Bun recipe from Comme Ça. They were perfect and will now be my go-to recipe for burger buns. I’ll be sharing the recipe and my adventure with them soon.

We also snagged a few Squid Ink Rolls from 85c Bakery Cafe which is an incredibly popular Taiwanese bakery pumping out delicious breads and pastries around the clock. The roll itself is a bit shocking at first glance as it’s a deep black color. However, one bite into the soft roll and any negative misconceptions will be forgotten. They’re scrumptious and should not be passed up on if you happen to stop by one of their bakeries.

Brioche Buns

As for the “patties”, we prepared two types of fish.

The first were Chipotle Salmon Patties from How Sweet It Is. Roughly ground salmon with tons of spices, adobo sauce and parsley. The initial recipe called for the patties to be rolled in crushed tortillas chips before pan-frying them but we opted to use panko bread crumbs instead. These patties were served with a chipotle mayo.

The second were thick Ahi Steaks that were lightly marinated and then grilled–still keeping the centers beautifully pink and rare.

Seared Ahi

Our sides for the evening were hand cut, double-fried French Fries that were also fried up in the backyard and my Roasted Corn and Avocado Salad.

And I don’t mind saying that if you haven’t tried my Roasted Corn and Avocado Salad before, you really must add it to your list for summer grilling dishes. It really is a fantastic side for burgers, ribs, grilled chicken—practically everything!!

April 2015 Family Dinner

We gathered a bunch of fixins’ to top the burgers with. Butter lettuce, baby arugula, creamy avocado slices, tomatoes, my pickled red onions, chipotle mayo, my niece’s “crack sauce” and even tobiko — Japanese flying fish roe.

What’s Crack Sauce? It’s my niece, Stephanie’s, concoction that she uses as a base for her Spicy Tuna mixture. I really don’t know what it consists of other than mayo, tons of sriracha, sesame oil, tobiko and whatever else voodoo goodness she throws in it. And honestly, you can schmear it on or dip anything in it.

SO GOOD!

April 2015 Family Dinner

My family suffers from the MustTakePhotosOfFood Affliction.

Have you heard of it?

No?

WebMd it.

April 2015 Family Dinner

Here’s a head shot of the burgers…

Panko Crusted-Chipotle Salmon Burger with baby arugula, avocados, pickled red onions, chipotle mayo on toasted brioche bun.

Seared Ahi Burger with butter lettuce, tomatoes, avocados, tobiko, “crack sauce” on toasted broiche bun.

Seafood Burgers

Of course I didn’t eat both of the burgers!

But I wanted to…………

I went halvsies with my seester.

Seafood Burgers

And finally, dessert. Because a Family Dinner without dessert is straight up blasphemy. Curtis is a huge matcha fan so we decided to try out Nami’s Green Tea Souffle from Just One Cookbook. If you haven’t checked out her site before, you really must as it’s one of my go-to references for Japanese recipes.

As for the soufflés? They were on point—light, fluffy, airy and paired well with a quick chocolate sauce we whipped up. But the only down side with soufflés is that unless you’re a crazy amazing photographer, it’s near impossible to get a good shot of them before they start to fall. You barely have 0.35109 seconds before the gorgeous, raised souffles begin to sink.

At which point, an angel sheds a tear.

Sigh….

The only time I’ve ever have taken a decent soufflé picture is with these Chocolate Souffles with Raspberry Sauce and I’m fairly convinced it was with sheer luck that it happened.

Nonetheless, the Soufflés were delish.

Matcha Souffle

I should mention that at some point between dessert and clean up, we had a full blown 80s dance party-singing session in the kitchen.

We sounded amazing. Our moves were jaw-dropping. The kids were mortified.

Alas, bellies stuffed, hearts filled…..another Family Dinner to be proud of.

Until next month!

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This Month’s Family Dinner Menu

Cocktails: Lychee-Mint Martinis
Appetizers: Roasted Proscuitto wrapped Asparagus, Bloomin’ Onion
Entrees: Chipotle Salmon Burgers, Ahi Burgers, Avocado-Corn Salad, French Fries
Dessert: Green Tea Souffle with Chocolate Sauce

Sunday Family Dinner

Sunday Family Dinner turns Steakhouse!

May 2014 Fam Dinner

I am a bit behind on our Sunday Family Dinner recaps — and not because the menus weren’t memorable. But late spring-early summer is always a crazy time.

But SHAME ON ME because May’s menu was my choice — Steakhouse inspired fare!

Now I have to admit that we were all over the place that day and were running so behind on dinner. We usually get together around 3-4 pm to prep/cook/drink together before dinner is actually done. But our niece had her semifinals (that turned into finals) lacrosse match (GO PIONEER!!!) so we didn’t get to big seester’s casa until after 6:30.

Things were a bit rushed when we finally got home so we definitely needed a moment to breath and enjoy a cocktail. And my go-to at steakhouses are always an extra dirty Grey Goose Martini followed by some red vino.

A MUST!

 

May 2014 Fam Dinner

For appetizers, I had initially wanted to go with roasted shrimp with homemade spicy cocktail sauce. But when we had gone to the store that morning, we saw these GORGEOUS and GI-NORMOUS Alaskan King Crab Legs –so the poor shrimp were scratched off the menu.

Big seester steamed the incredibly sweet crab and we dunked them into cocktail sauce and liquid love (aka melted butter).

I.N.C.R.E.D.I.B.L.E.

May 2014 Fam Dinner

For the main course, I convinced the sis to make Thyme Popovers because I’m obsessed with popovers. They were so light, crisp and buttery –just lovely. Popovers aren’t too difficult to make but they do take some time to bake and you need to inhale them straight from the oven. And since we don’t own a score of popover pans nor have multiple ovens to bake them all at once, you don’t see them too often at our dinners.

May 2014 Fam Dinner

And let’s face it….we needed a bit of greens–even if we drenched them in cheese and dressing. Since the majority of the fam aren’t fans of blue cheese, we opted for Caesar Salads instead of a Wedge Salad.

My niece, Nina, used Martha Stewart’s dressing recipe that can be found here. That’s right kiddies—there’s anchovies in traditional Caesar dressing! It’s what gives off the briny, salt, deep flavor.

May 2014 Fam Dinner

Since baked potatoes and mashed potatoes are standard fare at steakhouses, I decided to combine the two and made a huge bowl of The Ultimate Loaded-Baked-Mashed-Potatoes!

Red potatoes, roasted garlic, sour cream, cream cheese, butter, heavy cream, garlic salt, cracked black pepper–all topped with tons of crispy bacon and chopped scallions.

Don’t ask the calorie count because I don’t want to know. But needless to say–it was worth the mini heart attack.

May 2014 Fam Dinner

And the heart of our steakhouse themed menu? Our seester’s black pepper/fresh rosemary/salt crusted standing rib roast studded with whole garlic cloves.

DROOLS!

Now despite what most folks do, I almost always order the prime rib at a steakhouse. And you better believe I go to town at The House of Prime Rib in San Francisco. MAN- can my seester make a friggin’ mean  Prime Rib!?

May 2014 Fam Dinner

 

I seriously wish I had this plate in front of me right now…..

 

May 2014 Fam Dinner

 

As for dessert, I requested that Nina make our favorite chocolate layered cake topped with berries. I kid you not, it’s one of the best cakes ever!!
May 2014 Fam Dinner

 

So despite our limited prep time, our Steakhouse Dinner was an incredible success. Here’s hoping my siblings will let us do the same menu again soon! 🙂

 

This Month’s Family Dinner Menu

Cocktails: Extra Dirty Grey Goose Martinis, 2007 Blackstone Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon
Appetizers: Alaskan King Crab Legs
Entrees: Herb Rubbed Prime Rib, Caesar Salad, Thyme Popovers, Ultimate Loaded Baked-Mashed Potatoes
Dessert: Aunt Beatty’s Chocolate Cake with Fresh Raspberries

Sunday Family Dinner

Sunday Family Dinner goes back to Japan!

April 2014 Family Dinner

Well gang…. last year’s Japanese Sunday Family Dinner was so oishii – we had to go back again.

This time, per our brother-in-law’s request since we were also celebrating his birthday!

April 2014 Family Dinner

As always, we had to start with a few cocktails. I kept it pretty simple (but refreshingly delish) by infusing sake with fresh fruit. I filled a few mason jars with sweet canteloupe and pineapples, topped them off with sake, and them let them hang out in the fridge for a week.

When it was time to get the party started, I threw the contents of each jar in the blender, pureed it and then strained the liquids. It was fabulous!

April 2014 Family Dinner

As for the food, we had to do a little different spin on last year’s dinner. In honor of the robatayaki-yakiniku Japanese grilling style, we snagged a few of my cousin’s grills (that our uncle finagled) and got down to business!

We grilled fresh oysters, clams, prawns, calamari, trumpet mushrooms and yakitori (grilled chicken skewers). The seafood were either dipped in a chili ponzu sauce or a ginger-fish sauce that the B.I.L. (bro-in-law) is a whiz at making.

April 2014 Family Dinner

And of course we had to have some beautiful, fresh sashimi.

Tuna, salmon, hamachi and …………..GEODUCK!

April 2014 Family Dinner

Have you ever seen fresh geoduck? CRAZY!!! They’re a gi-normous shellfish with a trunk-like thing sticking out of it.

We made big sis take care of the prep work for it…. obligatory big sister duties, of course. 🙂

It’s best to first blanch the geoduck for a minute to help skin it – a tip learned by a random stranger when we were buying the geoduck at the market. After a quick clean, she sliced it really thin and we inhaled it with soy and wasabi.

Verdict? Awesome. I liken the flavor and texture to escargot –but not as chewy.

Definitely a Foodventure.

April 2014 Family Dinner

To brush over the yakitori and mushrooms, I made a quick teriyaki sauce. Easy-peasy!

My other seester also made Japanese Hamburger Steak served over rice. Totally comforting and hearty.

April 2014 Family Dinner

And there’s always room for dessert in my family!

This time around, our big sis outdid herself with this layered Matcha Green Tea Cake filled with Green Tea Mousse and smothered with a rich ganache.

It was AH-MAY-ZING! Super-duper Green Tea Flavor!

April 2014 Family Dinner

She did a mash-up of a few different recipes. The cake comes from here and the green tea mousse is from here. As for the ganache, it was a quick version I made with heavy cream and dark chocolate. Can’t get any easier than that! But one piece of advice, double the amounts of matcha powder or else you won’t get that full flavor.

April 2014 Family Dinner

Pre-historic looking mollusks, outdoor grilling (including us accidentally melting the plastic table –eek!) and sparklers for the munchkins.

Needless to say it was a tummy-pleasing and FUN Sunday Family Dinner!

April 2014 Family Dinner

This Month’s Family Dinner Menu

Cocktails: Pineapple and Cantaloupe infused Sake
Appetizers: Tuna, Salmon, Hamachi and Geoduck Sashimis
Entrees: Hibachi Grilled Seafood & Vegetables, Demi-Glace Japanese Hamburger with Rice
Dessert: Matcha Green Tea Cake with Green Tea Mousse and Chocolate Ganache

Sunday Family Dinner

Sunday Family Dinner Celebrates the Emerald Isle!

March 2014 Sunday Family Dinner

We found ourselves transported to the rolling, lush green hills of Ireland for this month’s Sunday Family Dinner– it was the only right thing to do since St. Patty’s was the next day. But let me tell ya, we were stumped when coming up with the menu.

Off the cuff we had thought of Guinness braised short ribs but it seemed a bit too heavy to stew something on such a warm day. Plus, we often making variations of short ribs so it wasn’t something too new for us to try out. Then there was lamb stew, corn beef and cabbage, and other dishes of the sort. Still…nothing seemed to jump out at us.

 

March 2014 Sunday Family Dinner

 

So we made a concession….if the dishes we prepared weren’t traditionally Irish then they’d be a remake on an Irish dish—or at the very least, they’d be the color GREEN.

As always, there were lots of {adult} beverages to choose from … Guinness, Jameson, Green colored Chardonnay. And the kiddos had Mint Chocolate Shakes with shamrock sprinkles and Green colored Sprite.

 

March 2014 Sunday Family Dinner

The signature cocktail of the night was made by the seesterIrish Espresso-tinis.It had a ga-jillion different things in it like vodka, Kahlúa, espresso, Irish cream….and was served in a salted rimmed glass. Sláinte!

DSC_0091March 2014 Sunday Family Dinner

We munched on super green Baked Spicy Kale Chips……….

 

March 2014 Sunday Family Dinner

And these delectable skewers of Beef with Port Sauce and Cashel Blue Cheese

Now I agree, it didn’t sound too Irish to me at first but the seester sold us on it. She opted to skewer the tender beef cubes and the bro-in-law grilled it to perfection. The skewers were then drizzled with the rich port/raisin sauce before receiving a generous shower of blue cheese crumbles. SO GOOD!

 

March 2014 Sunday Family Dinner

There may have been a bit of shenanigans throughout the dinner, too.

 

March 2014 Sunday Family Dinner

As the main course, we fried up a TON of crispy Guinness Beer Battered Cod and Chips and doused them with malt vinegar. The batter was so crunchy even after it had been out of the fryer for awhile and the fish was tender and flaky. And you know, you just can’t go wrong with double-fried “chips”.

March 2014 Sunday Family Dinner

To help cut all that deep fried goodness, I made a super green Cabbage & Green Apple Slaw. I made a quick vinaigrette from malt vinegar, dijon mustard, agave, garlic, scallions, fresh dill, chili flakes and EVOO.

For something that was thrown together in the 11th hour, it was a nice addition to the meal. Although next time, I’d like to make the vinaigrette a tad more acidic.

March 2014 Sunday Family Dinner

Considering we were struggling a bit at first, it turned out to be a delicious meal! And I was kind of bummed that we didn’t make extra fish because leftovers would be great as fish tacos!

March 2014 Sunday Family Dinner

And to finish things off—dessert which was my Thin Mints Chocolate Cheesecake

I mean c’mon….there’s absolutely nothing wrong with all that goodness.

Thin Mints Chocolate Cheesecake

I’d like to think we did the Emerald Isle proud– being Vietnamese & Filipinos that have never been to Ireland 🙂 Another DEE-LISH Fam-Din down in the books.

 

This Month’s Family Dinner Menu

Cocktails: Irish Espresso-tinis, Green Chardonnay
Appetizers: Beef with Port Sauce and Cashel Blue Cheese, Baked Spicy Kale
Entrees: Guinness Beer Battered Cod and Chips, Cabbage & Green Apple Slaw
Dessert: Thin Mints Chocolate Cheesecake

Desserts/Pastries

Thin Mints Chocolate Cheesecake ….Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

Thin Mints Chocolate Cheesecake

Yeah….I went there.

I just had to do it.

Thin Mints Chocolate Cheesecake

It wouldn’t be a Girl Scouts Cookies season if I didn’t bake something with them. I typically make some type of cupcake with the various cookies like my Thin Mints Cupcakes, Samoa Cupcakes, and Tagalong Cupcakes.

Thin Mints Chocolate Cheesecake

But this year, I wanted to change it up a bit. And since my siblings and I decided to pay tribute to the Emerald Isle for our Sunday Family Dinner yesterday, I knew I had to take the opportunity to use one of my favorites in our dessert– Thin Mints.

This time, in cheesecake form.

Thin Mints Chocolate Cheesecake

It all started with the crust that was made purely from melted butter and ground Thin Mints. Then, I took my standard cheesecake filling recipe and mixed it with melted dark chocolate. I poured a layer of the chocolate cheesecake filling over the crust and then sprinkled in mint & dark chocolate chips (more mint chip flavor, the better!). Another layer of the chocolate cheesecake filling gets poured on top and then a heavy sprinkle of chopped Thin Mints gets topped on that. The remaining chocolate cheesecake filling gets poured in and then it gets baked for about 50 minutes.

photo-61

Once baked, the cheesecake sets and ages overnight. And finally it all gets topped with mint scented whipped cream, even MORE Thin Mints and shamrock sprinkles. It is St. Patrick’s Day, after all!

Thin Mints Chocolate Cheesecake

This beauty was the perfect, decadent end to our Irish inspired Family Dinner. And although it was in honor of St. Patrick’s Day, it would be spectacular for any occasion—birthdays, holidays,…..or just because you’re a Thin Mints monster.

May the luck o’ the Irish be with you today—HAPPY ST.PATRICK’S DAY!!!!!!

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Thin Mints Chocolate Cheesecake
Makes one 9-inch Cheesecake

Ingredients:

Crust:
11 ounces Thin Mints Cookies
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
cooking spray

Filling:
8 ounces quality dark chocolate, roughly chopped
24 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
¼ cup sour cream, at room temperature
1 cup sugar
3 large eggs
½ tablespoon vanilla extract
1 cup dark chocolate and mint chips (or other chocolate mint candies of your choice)
1 cup chopped Thin Mints Cookies

Mint Scented Whipped Cream:
1 cup heavy cream, chilled
2 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon mint extract.

Garnish:
Thin Mints Cookies
sprinkles
Preheat oven to 325 ˚F.

Prepare the crust. In a food processor, pulse the Thin Mints Cookies until they are well ground. Pour them into a bowl and mix them with the melted butter until moistened and resembles the texture of wet sand. Cover a 9-inch springform pan with cooking spray and press the crust mixture into the bottom of the pan and about one inch up the sides. Bake for 8-10 minutes until golden and cool to room temperature.

In a heatproof bowl, melt the chocolate in the microwave until smooth. Do this in 20 second intervals, stirring in between to ensure that you do not scorch the chocolate. Cool the chocolate mixture until room temperature.

Using a standing mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, whip the cream cheese and sour cream until its light and fluffy. Gradually mix in the sugar.  Mix in the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition.  Add  the vanilla extract and melted chocolate. Mix until well combined.

Pour 1/3 of the filling over the cooled crust. Sprinkle the dark chocolate and mint chips over the filling before pouring another 1/3 on top. Sprinkle the chopped Thin Mints Cookies over the top and then cover with the remaining filling. Gentle rap the pan on the counter to release any air bubbles

Place the pan on the middle rack of the oven with a pan half full of hot water on the bottom rack of the oven. Bake for 50-60 minutes or until the center is set. Turn off the oven and allow the cake to sit in the oven with the door propped open for about 30 minutes. (To prop the oven door, I use a wooden handled spoon to keep it ajar a few inches). Remove from the oven and transfer to a wire rack.  Allow the cake to cool for an additional 30 minutes.  Wrap well with plastic film and foil. Refrigerate for at least 8 hours. Carefully remove the sides of the pan by running a hot knife around the outside of the cake.

When you are ready to serve, prepare the whipped cream. Using a standing mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, whip the chilled heavy cream on high until it just holds stiff peaks. Slowly sprinkle in the sugar until you reach a thick consistency. Add in the mint extract and whip until combined.

Pipe the whipped cream on top of the cheesecake and garnish with additional cookies and sprinkles. Enjoy!

Drinks · Sunday Family Dinner

“One Night in Bangkok” – Thai themed Family Dinner

February 2014: Thai Fam Din

“One night in Bangkok makes a hard man humble
Not much between despair and ecstasy….”

Uh…not going to lie. That song rocks but I have no idea what any of the words are beside “one night in Bangkok“…But that didn’t stop my sibs and I from blaring that oldie but goodie when we had our last Sunday Family Dinner where we whipped up some of our favorite delish Thai inspired dishes…… it was the only right thing to do.

We started off with a few Thai Iced Teasthat the kiddos made using a quick recipe from White on Rice. This little number is full flavored—deep, deep black tea mixed up with a decadent douse of half and half. After a quick sip of this concoction I was convinced that there’s no need to order this out ever again. It’s so easy to make at home, plus, you can’t put a price tag on the entertainment you get when you pour the half and half into the tea to get a swirly -stormy mixture.

GORGEOUS!

Thai Iced Tea

And since the kiddos were set on their drinks, it was time for the 21+ to have a little drinky in our hands. I decided to mix up a little number that I appropriately called “One Night in Bangkok”.

Kaffir lime infused simple syrup, fresh lime juice, vodka, pineapple chunks, lime juice, mint and club soda.

Uh…YES, PLEASE!

One Night in Bangkok

We then moved on to some pre-dinner appetizers. Big seester made Thai Fish Cakes {Tod Mun Pla} with a Cucumber Salad that was my hands down, favorite dish of the night. They’re a common street food (LOVE street foods) in Thailand and she used the recipe found here.

Now, you may think fish cakes sound fairly mundane but do not underestimate these little buggers. They really knocked me off my feet by being incredibly moist and tender and were incredibly aromatic from the kaffir lime leaves. And you’ll never guess what’s in the fish paste……coconut milk!!!

I could’ve easily eaten a dozen of these fish cakes over rice and wish we would’ve doubled the batch! Oh wait– she did double the batch! 🙂

Thai Fish Cakes

Our second app for the night was my Pork Larb Gai Lettuce Wraps. It’s a dish that I make often but have tweaked several times over the years. Larb ( or laap, laab, etc.) can be made from a variety of proteins and is typically mixed with tons of fresh herbs, a fish sauce mixture, citrus, toasted ground rice, and depending on where in Thailand it’s made–pork/beef blood…..though I always it omit it.

Larb is DEE-LISH. If I was on a low carb diet, I’d eat it every day-all day. Since you can make it with anything, you can choose a really lean protein and the citrus & herbs makes it a very bright and satisfying dish.

Pork Larb

Big sis then made a Shrimp & Chicken Pad Thai using Alice’s recipe from Sweet Savory Life. It’s my go-to Pad Thai recipe whenever I want to make it at home and my overview of it can be found here.

Pad Thai

My other seester, T, made a big ol’ pot of Tom Yum Koong. Tons of seafood, aromatics and flavors that played with sour, sweet and a lots of spice!

Tom Yum Koong

She also made rich and hearty Beef Panang Curry.

Beef Penang Curry

And finally, dessert. As a nod to Thai flavors, I decided to pair one of my old recipes, Toasted Coconut Gelato with hot and crispy Fried Bananas. I mean, c’mon now. You CANNOT go  wrong with that!

IMG_63791

I’ve got to confess to y’all. Our Thai themed Sunday Family Dinner was awesome.

Sure, there were a lot of different dishes but they weren’t really heavy which allowed us to shovel it all in without feeling too bad. Definitely one of our more successful Family Dinners if I do say so myself. And since we started off with it, let me share with you how to make “One Night in Bangkok”.

One Night in Bangkok

ไชโย Folks and let’s see what next month has to offer!

 

This Month’s Family Dinner Menu

Cocktails: One Night in Bangkok, Thai Iced Tea
Appetizers: Fried Thai Fish Cakes with Cucumber Salad, Pork Larb Gai Lettuce Wraps
Entrees: Shrimp & Chicken Pad Thai, Tom Yum Koong, Beef Panang Curry
Dessert: Fried Bananas with Toasted Coconut Gelato

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One Night in Bangkok
Serves 1

Ingredients:

1 cup sugar
½ cup water
12-15 whole kaffir lime leaves, divided
¼ cup fresh pineapple chunks
2 lime wedges
3-4 mint leaves
2 ounces vodka
ice
3-4 ounces tonic water

Prepare the Kaffir Lime infused Simple Syrup. In a small pot, add the sugar, water and kaffir lime leaves. Bring the liquids to a boil and stir to dissolve the sugar. Lower the heat to a simmer and continue cooking the syrup on low for 5-10 minutes until it’s thickened. Remove from heat and allow to cool to room temperature. Transfer the Kaffir Lime infused Simple Syrup to a resealable jar or container. It may be kept in the refrigerator for up to 4 weeks.

In a cocktail shaker, muddle the pineapple chunks, lime wedges, mint leaves, 1 kaffir lime leaf and 1 tablespoon of Kaffir Lime infused Simple Syrup. Add the vodka and fill the shaker halfway with ice. Vigorously shake for 15-20 seconds and strain the liquids into a glass filled with ice. Top off the glass with the tonic water and garnish with additional pineapple spears, mint leaves and kaffir lime leaves.  Enjoy!