Tag Archives: family

Ngày Đầy Tháng – Our Daughter’s One Month Celebration

31 Aug

You may have noticed a significant absence over the past 10 months. Most notably I left you hanging on our amazing trip to Vietnam.

I was working on a very important project that pretty much kept me out of the kitchen. Yesterday we celebrated the Đầy Tháng, or First/Full Month of our daughter, born late July. We are so over the moon, and I’m getting back in the kitchen.

But first, a little bit about this beautiful first month rite, as I’ve come to understand. Celebrating a baby’s first full month stems from traditional Vietnam where infant mortality was unfortunately quite common. It was considered back luck in inviting negative spirits if you named a baby before they made it to this important milestone. So traditionally, we would not have named our daughter until this event when our extended family would have come to meet her for the first time and share blessings for her future.

We set the table with sweet offerings and prepared incense to say prayers and thank the higher being for creating such a perfect life in our daughter. Even my parents shared in this, which was very special for me.

Mom and dad holding daughter in front of table set with offerings and food

The second part involved moving a flower over her mouth and stating our wishes for her future. My mother in law explained the significance as imparting the wishes to her and giving her the ability to clearly communicate such wishes for a successful future.

Her grandmother, or Ba Ngoai, went first — which reminds me I need to ask what she said!

Mother in law holding our daughter

Then I shared my wishes for our daughter, using a new flower.

Holding flower to daughter's lips and stating wishes for her future

Followed by my mother, who enjoyed being a part of the ceremony!

Maternal grandmother holding baby for ceremony

Once the incense burns down and offerings are made, it’s time to eat!

Incense sticks in front of ceremonial offerings and food

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New Year’s Day Black Eyed Peas

1 Jan

Happy New Year! We rang in the New Year at a family friend’s house with an adult’s-only party. Yeah. It was fun. The hosts always cook soups and brought the staples – noodles with seafood and veggies, fried rice, cha gio and whatnot. I went American this time around and made these ham and cheese sliders I kept seeing on Pinterest. Pretty good, but need to moderate the butter…

This year I jazzed up usual straightforward Black-Eyed Pea recipe with smoked ham and think this version will be our new go-to.  New Year’s Day has it’s own traditions in my family, and one that I’ve insisted on keeping with my husband. Since our Vietnamese family celebrates the Chinese New Year, there’s no conflict or blending of traditions on this day, which is kinda nice.

Eating Black-Eyed Peas on New Year’s Day is said to bring prosperity in the new year as a tradition with Southern families (which includes mine). Mom always made this rich stew with a pan of homemade cornbread. I always liked to split the slide of cornbread, slather on the butter and dip in my bowl of beans. Unfortunately I cheated and just picked up a rustic baguette from the grocery store yesterday. Maybe next year I’ll make my first cornbread. A note on shopping – it’s not wise to wait until New Year’s Eve to buy the dried beans. I found a bag on my fourth grocery store stop.

Cheers to a prosperous, joyful, and healthy 2014!

New Year’s Day Smoky Black-Eyed Peas

Serves 4-6

  • 16-oz bag dried black-eyed peas
  • 4 tbl butter
  • 1 onion minced
  • 4 garlic cloves minced
  • 1 small can green chiles
  • 1 tomato
  • 32 oz low sodium chicken broth
  • Smoked ham hocks
  • Mushroom seasoning (salt works, too)
  • Pepper
  • Cayenne pepper
  • 1-2 tbl White vinegar

Soak the beans overnight, or if you’re an early riser when you wake up on New Year’s Day. They need to soak for at least 6 hours. Make sure there aren’t any rocks or other stuff in the beans, and rinse with clean water.

In a stock pot, melt butter over medium-high heat and add onion, garlic, diced tomato and green chile. Stir well to combine and cook for a few minutes until soft and fragrant. You can also get the Rotel green chile and tomato version and omit the separate tomato. Add 1-2 tablespoons of mushroom seasoning (less if you’re using salt), 2 tsp of cayenne pepper (to taste) and fresh ground pepper.

Add the smoked ham hocks and add the beans, filling in the gaps. Pour in the chicken broth to cover – you may need to add another cup of chicken broth or water as it gets cooking. Definitely look for smoked ham or ham hocks. The smoked flavor adds so much to this dish.

Black eyed peas with smoked ham hock, onion, garlic, and green chile.

Bring to a boil, cover and reduce heat to medium low. Cook for 30 minutes and check the liquid level. Some people like their BEPs thick like a mushy stew. Others like it more watery like a soup with beans. We’re like Goldy Locks and like them juuuuuust right. So based on your preference, either uncover for the last 30 minutes or keep covered.

Add more liquid or seasoning if you need to and splash in the vinegar at this point – a tip I saw on the Pioneer Woman – for a little bump in flavor. This makes complete sense as I used to add the vinegar from the little yellow banana peppers growing up. I used 2 tablespoons, but you may like less. Start with less and add more until you get it right.

That’s it! Serve with bread to sop up the yummy broth. Tabasco is a good hot sauce choice because of the vinegar, but use what you like. Go forth and be prosperous!

Black eyed pea stew with smoked ham hock, served with sliced bread and Tabasco hot sauce

Successful Thanksgiving Day

1 Dec

Last night as I was flipping through Facebook and Instagram posts of friends and family, my heart swelled like it so often does around the holidays. We all have so very much to be thankful for, which shouldn’t be concentrated in just one day a year.

This morning [Friday, actually…I didn’t finish this blog in one sitting], for instance, I’m sitting at the dining room table working on this blog with my niece flipping through Christmas music stations on Pandora on the couch across from me. She also plugged in the Christmas tree that she and her sister helped us decorate yesterday after dinner. Family, peace, and Girl Scout Samoa coffee creamer are certainly on the Thankful List.

Anywho, yesterday was a success. We survived – the kitchen, our sanity, and maybe even waistlines. I learned one very important lesson in hosting Thanksgiving: Prepare 1/3 of the food that I *think* I need.

This is seriously a problem of mine, guys. There were more leftovers than what was eaten. It didn’t help that we had the extra Chinese and Viet dishes.

I mean, look at this well-stocked table!

Family gathered around the table for Thanksgiving dinner Continue reading

Our First American-Vietnamese Thanksgiving

17 Nov

The kiddos spent the night last night and are sleeping upstairs. That means Auntie gets to enjoy coffee, TV and knitting. Except this morning is crochet. I’m working on a tree skirt pattern from my local yarn shop Fibre Space that mimics a pricey Anthropologie version in stores a couple of seasons ago. Here are some of the granny squares and the circular base that will go around our tree. Not blocked yet, but you get the idea!

Crocheted Christmas tree skirt

This is our first Christmas together in our home and we are both so excited. Friday I also worked up an ornament wreath for the front door that was a super cheap DIY. I already had a foam wreath form waiting to be crafted, and when running errands earlier in the day I picked up several tubes of disco ornaments from Target in the dollar bins. Whip out the hot glue gun, turn on some trash TV DVR’d episodes and pretty soon we have a handmade, unique front door wreath.

Handmade wreath with ornaments

Ok, ok, ok! One holiday at a time, I know! But I get so excited, don’t you? At least I haven’t turned on the Christmas music. Hubs certainly appreciates that. Back to Thanksgiving… Continue reading

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