Gobble-Gobblin’ Up Family Dinner!

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

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

A LOT.

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

We feast…. a lot. 12+ hours worth.

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

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

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

That face–we wish she was here every month!

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

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

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

October-November 2016
And these three….

Heart Melty.

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

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

October-November 2016

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

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

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

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

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

Did I just say “super yum”???

Well…it was!

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

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

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

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

We’re ashamed.

Not really. Just don’t tell Ina.

October-November 2016
Okay, back to the food.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

CHEERS!

October-November 2016______________________________________________________

This Month’s Family Dinner Menu

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

Turkey and Bean Chili

Turkey and Bean Chili
This time of the year, Sundays are filled with weekday meal prep and football. It’s only sensible, of course.

And while I was in the middle of prepping a double batch of my Turkey and Bean Chili for tomorrow’s Halloween Potluck, I realized I’ve never posted the full recipe here.

That changes now!!

Turkey and Bean Chili

It’s tried and true and is easily doubled or tripled to feed crowds. AND it freezes beautifully!!

Serve as a main with cornbread or crackers…….or on top of baked potatoes or chips……whatever way, this chili is a beaut! ❤

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Turkey and Bean Chili
Serves 8

Ingredients:

2 tablespoons olive oil
1½ cups white onion, diced
1 red bell pepper, diced
1 heaping tablespoon minced garlic
1 serrano chili pepper, minced
1 jalapeno pepper, minced
1 pound ground turkey meat
2 tablespoons chili powder
1 teaspoon cumin powder
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon onion powder
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper (more to taste)
2 tablespoons tomato paste
3 ounces chipotle peppers in adobo sauce (optional)
1 28-ounce can diced tomatoes
1 cup lager beer of your choice
1 15-ounce can kidney beans, rinsed
1 15-ounce can black beans, rinsed
1 teaspoon kosher salt, more to taste
black pepper

 

Heat the oil in a large dutch oven or heavy bottom pot. Cook the onions and bell peppers until softened—about 5-6 minutes. Add garlic, serrano pepper, jalapeno pepper and cook for an additional 2-3 minutes. Add the turkey and cook while using a wooden spoon to break up the meat. Continue cooking until the meat is no longer pink—about another 5 minutes.

Add the chili powder, cumin, garlic powder, onion powder, and cayenne—stir and cook for an additional minute. Stir in the tomato paste and chipotle peppers (if using) and then add in the diced tomatoes with its juices. Gently stir in the beer, beans, 1 teaspoon salt and bring the mixture up to a slow boil.

Once it reaches a boil, lower the heat to a simmer. Simmer the chili partially covered, for about 45 minutes. Stir the chili every 10 minutes or so as it slowly thickens. Once it reaches your desired consistency, taste and adjust seasonings with salt and pepper as needed.

Serve the chili with additional cheddar cheese, chopped scallions, and sour cream.

Turkey & Peppers Tacos – Happy Cinco de Mayo!

Turkey & Peppers Tacos

Well gang…y’all made it — HAPPY CINCO DE MAYO!!!!

And as promised, I have one more little goodie to share with you that will definitely make some tummies quite happy today.

Turkey & Peppers Tacos

Turkey & Peppers Tacos!

Like my Portabello Mushroom Tacos, these little beauties are super quick to make and are darn right tasty. And if you’re not a fan of ground turkey, you can swap out the protein with ground chicken, pork, beef– or even ground tofurkey!

Turkey & Peppers Tacos

And just don’t stop with tacos. The filling works fantastic over nachos, tostadas, inside burritos or even inside lettuce wraps.

Because this gal likes versatility.

Turkey & Peppers Tacos

Here’s to a fantastically festive Cinco de Mayo — have a margarita (or 2 for me)!

Salud!

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Turkey & Peppers Tacos
Makes 8-10 Tacos

Ingredients:

 

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup chopped red onions
2 small serrano peppers, seeds removed, finely minced
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1 pound ground turkey meat
¾ teaspoon cumin powder
½ teaspoon chili powder
¼ teaspoon paprika
1/8 teaspoon turmeric powder
½ teaspoon onion powder
½ teaspoon garlic powder
½ teaspoon dried oregano
¼ teaspoon garlic salt
¼ teaspoon kosher salt, more to taste
¼ teaspoon black pepper
2 scallions, chopped
2 cups diced bell peppers (I prefer red and orange peppers)
1 cup chopped cilantro leaves, more to garnish
8-10 small tortillas
1 cup crumbled Cotija cheese, or whatever cheeses you prefer
oven-roasted tomato salsa
lime wedges

 

In a large cast iron pan or large skillet, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the onions and cook for 3-4 minutes until they become translucent but not browned. Add in the minced serrano, garlic and sauté for an additional minute.

 

Add the turkey and use a wooden spoon to stir it around the pan while breaking it apart to a crumbled consistency. Cook the turkey until it is no long pink & begins to brown– approximately 5 minutes.

 

Stir in the cumin, chili powder, paprika, turmeric, onion powder, garlic powder, oregano, garlic salt, kosher salt, black pepper and scallions. Cook for 1 minute and then add the diced bell peppers. Cook for an additional few minutes to allow the peppers to begin soften and the turkey to cook through.

 

Take the pan off the heat and fold in the cilantro leaves. Taste and adjust with additional kosher salt and black pepper as needed.

 

Warm the tortillas (in a skillet, over a open flame, or even in the microwave). Begin assembling the tacos by placing a few spoonfuls of the filling mixture in the center of each tortilla. Top each taco with some Cotija cheeses and chopped cilantro. Serve with salsa and lime wedges.

 

Turkey and Bean Chili for Eat, Live, Run

Turkey and Bean Chili

Hi Friends!

I had the privilege to guest post yesterday for Jenna over at Eat, Live, Run.  If you have never been to her site, you simply MUST go there directly. Her recipes are utterly mouth-watering and her posts are a delight!

I opted to make a Turkey and Bean Chili to share with her readers to ease the fall season in. Yummy, yummy, yummy! Head on over and check it out.

Thanks so much Jenna! xoxo

Turkey Bolognese Ragu with Pappardelle

Turkey Bolognese Ragu with Pappardelle


I love a great Bolognese. There’s something about that rich sauce over thick noodles that is just so darn good. Let’s not forget to mention that you can sneak a fair amount of veggies into the sauce from the “trito”—and we all can use a little more veggies in our tummies.

For this Bolognese, I followed a cooking method laid out by Cook’s Illustrated but took my own spin for the ingredients. And before I get scolded, I will wholeheartedly admit that this Bolognese Ragu is far from traditional. I used ground turkey meat as the base of the sauce and substituted the pancetta for spicy Italian sausage. Why Italian sausage? Well, I needed to some fat in the dish since the turkey was so lean…..and I just love the flavor of a good spicy Italian sausage. I’ve also added several herbs and tomato paste—something you don’t find in most traditional Bolognese recipes.

However, the key to any great Bolognese comes down to a low heat and slow cooking time of the sauce. We’re talking at least 3 hours—so it’s definitely a dish you shouldn’t try and whip together. And it’s because of this slow cooking that makes the sauce utterly rich and meaty.

It’s also important to chop the veggies quite fine so that it can break down into the sauce. But you can just throw them into a food processor if you don’t want to fuss with the chopping. As for me, I’m often too lazy to wash my Cuisinart and I find something oddly therapeutic about chopping veggies and practicing my knife skills. 🙂

And best yet– Not only is this Bolognese Ragu so heartily yummy, it also freezes really well—–So be sure to make a double batch next time!


Turkey Bolognese Ragu with Pappardelle

 

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Turkey Bolognese Ragu with Pappardelle
Serves 4

Ingredients:

1 Pound Ground Turkey
¼ Pound Spicy Italian Sausage
1 Cup White Onion, finely minced
1 Cup Celery, finely minced
1 Cup Carrots, finely minced
1 Tablespoon Fresh Garlic, finely minced
3 Tablespoons Olive Oil
½ Teaspoon Dried Red Chili Flakes (or less depending on your heat preference)
2 Dried Bay Leaves
1 Tablespoon Fresh Thyme Leaves
2 Tablespoon Tomato Paste
1 Cup Lowfat Milk
1 Cup Dry White Wine
1 28 Ounce Can Crushed Tomatoes
1 Pound Pappardelle, cooked
Kosher Salt and Black Pepper to taste
2 Tablespoons Fresh Italian Parsley, chopped
2-3 Tablespoons Grated Parmesan Cheese

Heat olive oil in a large heavy pot. Add onions, carrots, celery, and garlic. Saute until softened but not browned. Add chili flakes and sauté for an additional minute. Add turkey, Italian sausage, and ½ teaspoon of kosher salt. Use a wooden spoon to crumble the meat and break into small pieces.  Once the meat is no longer pink, add thyme and bay leaves. Add tomato paste and cook for an additional 2-3 minutes.

Add the milk and bring to a simmer. Continue simmering until all the milk has evaporated and only clear juices remain—about 10 minutes. Add the wine and bring to a simmer. Continue simmering until all the wine has evaporated—about 10 minutes.

Add tomatoes with its juices and bring to a boil, then place the heat at the lowest setting. Continue on this very low simmer for 2 – 2 ½ hours, stirring every 20 minutes until you get a rich, thick meaty sauce. Check for seasonings and add kosher salt and pepper accordingly.

Toss the cooked pappardelle in Bolognese sauce and serve topped with Parmesan cheese. Garnish with Italian parsley and Enjoy!

Thai Basil Turkey…..Light, Full Flavored, Fast.

No matter what your cooking level is, I believe that everyone has 1 or 2 dishes in your arsenal that can be whipped out at any time and WOW any crowd. Lucky for me, one of my go-to dishes is light and flavorful…..and can be made in 20 minutes. Yup, I said it. 20 minutes.

Introducing my coveted Thai Basil Turkey.

Many everyday South East Asian dishes can be prepared very quickly. The combination of having your mis en place ready with the use of high heat truly expedites the process—resulting in flavorful and quick meals.

At most Thai restaurants you will probably find some variation of Thai Basil Chicken—in either ground or sliced form. Before incorporating it into my own repertoire, I used to order it all the time. I loved the herbaceous spicy flavors from the Thai Basil and how it pairs so well with the heat of the chilies. However, once I started making it, I began using lean ground turkey for an even lighter alternative. I’m happy to report, it does not compromise the end result at all. (Note: Thai Basil has a very distinct flavor from the commonly found Sweet Basil or Lemon Basil)

This dish can be enjoyed with rice or if you’re looking for an even lighter (or low carb) alternative, use it in lettuce wraps. Serve them in endive leaves and they will be a great appetizer, too!  In the photo shown, I used a large romaine lettuce since I had it on hand but I’d suggest using a Butter Lettuce as those leaves have a more natural “cup-like” curvature.

Hope you give this delicious and quick dish a try!

Until next time friends…..Cheers!

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Thai Basil Turkey
Serves 4

Ingredients:

1 lb. Lean Ground Turkey
1½ Cups Loosely Packed Thai Basil, chopped
½ Cup Chopped Green Onions
2 Tablespoons Fresh Garlic, finely minced
4-6 Red Thai Bird Chilies, finely minced
2-3 Tablespoon Nước mắm (fish sauce)
1 Tablespoon Vegetable Oil
Ground Black Pepper

In a wok or large pan, heat oil over medium heat. Add garlic and cook until fragrant but not browned, about 1-2 minutes. Add Chilies and cook for 1 minute. Add Green Onions and cook for an additional minute. Add Ground Turkey. Using a wooden spoon or rubber spoonula, stir the turkey around the pan while breaking it apart to a crumbled consistency. Cook turkey until it is no long pink, approximately 5 minutes. Remove pan from heat. Add pepper, Nước mắm, and Thai Basil. Check seasonings and adjust to desired flavor.

Serve with rice or with large lettuce leaves to wrap.

NOTE: I like A LOT of spice in my dishes and tend to use even more than 6 chilies. However, if you are unsure about the spice level, just try 1-2 to start off with.

Have your mis en place before starting and this will be a breeze