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The Nina Blog

Celebrity Remix: MTV Movie Awards 2015


With the Golden Popcorn in sight, Hollywood's hottest celebrities rocked some cute outfits for this year's 2015 MTV Movie Awards. Check out our Celebrity Remix, MTV edition. 


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Serving up Gourmet & Home-made Lunch at Nina Nguyen Studio, Sai Gon Vietnam

Growing up a home cooked meal was an essential part of my family life. We always had at least two chefs cooking for our very large family and my father's employees. Meal time was always a lot of excitement. Vietnamese culture, like any culture that emphasizes eating as a major part of their day, has a rich and complex cuisine. That's what has made Vietnamese cuisine one of #Anthony Bourdain's favorites. 

While on a visit to my studio in Vietnam, I have expanded our production capacity and improved many of our working processes all while implementing additional employee's benefits. One such benefit is to provide home-cooked, gourmet lunch for all my staff. 

The story about our chef: 

I asked our production manager, Tram, to find us an office cleaner. Tram literally walked out of her residence and spoke to the first lady sweeping the floor in the public area of her apartment. The lady who sweeps the floor knew that her sister Tuoi was in need of a job since her husband hadn't been able to find work to support their family of four. Tram arranged for Tuoi to come to our office. She did a stellar job helping us return the place to sanity. I decided to speak with Tuoi briefly and found out that she was in need of a more permanent job to support her family. Fast forward a few days later, Tram and I asked if Mrs. Tuoi could help us with arranging and cooking for our staff at the studio. Tuoi was extremely gracious and took up the offer. 

This week, our staff have been well fed with her delightful cooking. The fresh ingredients, healthy menu and excitement during lunch time is now a major part of the studio routine. Tuoi only has to work three hours a day and is still able to go home to take care of her children. The pay for those three hours is plenty enough to take care of her family. 

Considering this is costing my company more than we've budgeted for (I don't think this was in the budget but don't tell my CFO ok) but the happiness of my staff is priceless. I am also glad that I've provided another woman with an opportunity to be independent, to care for her family and to be able to continue to pay for her kids to be in school.

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Honey Lavender Cupcakes

With Easter right around the corner, I have the yummiest treat planned! With the soft pastel colors that pops up around this time of year, this Lavender infused cupcake will be the perfect compliment. This is one of my go-to recipes for a light treat for get-togethers and parties, Honey Almond and Lavender (gluten free!) cupcake with a salted honey cream cheese frosting. Sounds like a bit much but it is really a lightly sweet and floral cupcake!

Honey Almond Lavender Cupcake


½        cup organic butter
2        cage-free eggs
1¾        cup gluten free all purpose flour
1½        teaspoon baking powder
2        teaspoon dried lavender
½        teaspoon sea salt
1        cup organic raw sugar
¼        cup organic honey
1        teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1        teaspoon pure almond extract
½        cup vanilla almond milk

8        ounces soften organic cream cheese
3        tablespoons soften organic butter
¼        cup organic honey
½        teaspoon pure vanilla extract
3        cups organic powder sugar
2        tablespoons lavender
2        teaspoons of sea salt

1. Let butter and cream cheese sit at room temperature to soften up.
2. Preheat oven to 350°. Set up the cupcake wrappers into a muffin pan to maintain shape. Whisk together all the dry ingredients in a medium bowl and set aside.
3. Beat ½ cup of butter with an electric mixer. Add sugar,  ¼ cup of honey, 1 teaspoon almond and teaspoon vanilla extract. Beat  on medium speed and slowly add in eggs.
4. Slowly sift the dry mixture into the beater. Add in ½ cup of vanilla almond milk. Beat on medium speed until all is blended into a smooth and creamy consistency.  Add more almond milk if needed.
5. Spoon batter into cupcake holders about ¾ of the way full. Bake for 12 minutes and cool before frosting. Double check the cupcake is fully cooked by poking the middle with a toothpick- if it comes out dry then it’s done! If not leave in for a few more minutes to cook.
6. Prepare the frosting while the cupcake cools. Let the 3 tablespoon of butter and 8 ounces of cream cheese soften at room temperature. Beat together softened butter and cream cheese on medium. Drizzle in the ¼ cup honey and  ½ teaspoon vanilla. Sift in the powder sugar slowly and beat until smooth and thick.
7. In a small bowl mix together 2 tablespoons of sea salt and 2 tablespoons of lavender evenly to create Lavender Salt for the topping.
8. Once cooled begin frosting the cupcakes using a pastry bag and frosting tip. Sprinkle each frosted cupcake with the Lavender Salt topping mixture and toasted almond slivers for texture. ENJOY

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