Monday, December 13, 2010

Hawaiian Haystacks - Reinvented

So I've never made Hawaiian Haystacks, but I've had them before and really liked them.
However, when I was searching for recipes, I really was turned off by the gravy... I mean, call me a snob, but I really try to steer clear of Cream of "x" Soup, if it's from a can...and that, to my dismay, was what most of the recipes were calling for.
However, I was diligent, I really wanted to try my hand at these! That was when I came across Mel's Kitchen Cafe. I had a "where have I been" moment as I stopped by her website. It's so easy to navigate and seems to have some fun recipes! If I were to get serious about this blog...I'd make it like hers.
Anyway, she had the same gravy/sauce problem I did, only she seized the moment and made THE most delicious sauce to put on the Hawaiian Haystacks from scratch. So, SO much better than anything from a can. My family devoured it. I ate it happily for leftovers over the next 3 days... we'll definitely have these again. Even if I was chopping my way through the 5th topping thinking "why is it that people think these things are SO easy and fast?" They were worth it. So worth it.

Oh, and I also used her baked brown rice idea, simply because we had company coming for dinner and I wanted to make a lot all at once. I just used water and a little salt, and I must say, it was perfectly delicious! We love brown rice in our house, so it wasn't anything earth- shattering, but it was fluffy, soft, and easy.

Oh, and I used plenty o' salt in the gravy. And I reduced the amount of milk and chicken broth and then added it in as necessary. I just wanted my sauce to be a little bit thicker.

Mmmm. Yummy. So, so very yummy! 5 stars.

Recipe here and below.

Hawaiian Haystacks: Chicken Sauce Reinvented

2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into bite-size chunks (or leftover cooked chicken, cubed)
3 tablespoons butter
½ onion (about ½ cup), finely chopped
3 cloves garlic; finely minced
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon pepper
¼ cup flour
2 cups milk
1 cup chicken broth

In a large skillet melt the butter over medium heat and add the onion and raw chicken (if using leftover cooked chicken, don’t add it to the skillet now, you’ll add it later). Saute the onion and chicken, if using, until the onions are soft and translucent and the chicken is cooked through, about 5 to 6 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for about one minute, stirring, until fragrant.

Sprinkle the flour over the onions and chicken and stir to combine. Cook over medium heat for one minute - this helps get rid of the starchy, flour taste. Slowly whisk in the milk and chicken broth. Cook, stirring constantly with a whisk, and bring the sauce to a simmer over medium to medium-high heat. Add the salt and pepper. If you are using leftover cooked chicken, add it now. Continue simmering, stirring the sauce frequently, until the sauce has thickened, about 5 minutes.

Serve the chicken sauce over rice with your toppings of choice, such as olives, tomatoes, shredded sharp cheddar cheese, green onions, mandarin oranges and chow mein noodles.

Recipe Source: My Kitchen Cafe

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Thanksgiving 2010 Menu

I thought I'd share what my menu was this year for Thanksgiving. Mostly so that next year I won't have to re-find a number of them, and because I've had a couple of people ask for them. There are a few that really deserve their own posts, but better to get them up in a big group than not at all since a lot of these recipes could easily be used for a Christmas feast as well!

Every year I get intimidated of making stuffing, but I think I'll try it out from scratch next year. If you ever get in a pinch, I always just use Stove Top Turkey Stuffing, add some chopped dried cranberries and celery to it at the last minute and it gives it a homemade flavor and tastes like you slaved over it. =) It's worked for me every year, especially since so many people don't really like stuffing, it's not fun to work hard on something few people enjoy. However, I am excited to try a "real" stuffing recipe next year, so if you have one you love or tips on how to make it taste great, please share!


WATCH THE MOVIE that goes along with the recipe. It's like 3 minutes long or something and it's totally different: he doesn't steam the artichokes, he adds a ton more parmesan cheese and lemon juice, etc. It changed everything for me. Also, I used fresh artichokes, which totally intimidated me, but I just did it like he does on the movie and they turned out perfectly. I think they brought the dip up a big notch for me, but if you were in a pinch, or want a cheaper option, I'm sure canned is fine. My favorite crab artichoke dip I have ever had. I even ate it for days after the feast. And I don't eat seafood leftovers. Also, I made it the night before and then just cooked it the day of, worked great. 5 Stars, easily.
Notes: Don't let the fancy name fool you, it's just a sliced baguette with a few toppings. You can make the goat cheese mixture the day before and then just toast the bread and assemble it the day of. I love this appetizer because it has so many flavors going on - cinnamon, salt, pepper, cranberries. Really, it looks and tastes fancy, and tastes different than your average appetizer. I love this. 4.5 Stars.

The Turkey
When something has over 3000 reviews on the and it's 5 stars, well, you aren't joking around. I had never actually brined a turkey and put in "aromatics" before, but let me tell you: I just experienced turkey for the first time in my life this Thanksgiving. It was moist. It was flavorful. It wasn't like turkey at all. And it was easy. I did cringe a little as I was pouring in that much chicken stock, so I poured in 12 cups instead of 16, and then added a quart of water to bring it up. I also totally forgot the ice water, but my bag was full enough to almost cover a 14 pound turkey, so I figured it was fine, which it was. I was able to buy my candied ginger in bulk, luckily, and allspice berries were cheap, so it all worked out. Plus, now I know I'll never make another kind of turkey, so I can just keep using what's left over in spices for next year.
A word about cooking time: My turkey was seriously done in 1 hour and 15 minutes. Let's say that again: My 14 pound turkey that normally takes 3 hours to cook was done in 75 minutes. I tested it in 3 different places with two different thermometers because I couldn't believe it. Yours might take longer, but I finally just pulled mine out at an hour and a half and let it sit for an hour while I hurriedly got all my side dishes together. I'm glad that I did pull it, since it truly was done, and it was so tender. I think it's because you kind of sear it in the beginning on such a high heat, which, by the way, I stopped after 20 minutes and dropped the temp to the 350 because my turkey was a beautiful dark golden color. Anyway, everyone's oven is different, but just a word to the wise. 6 stars. Oh yes, I just gave something 6 stars.

Side Dishes
Roasted Green Beans with Pumpkin Seeds.
I just broiled pumpkin seeds with some kosher salt and olive oil the day before. Then the day of I threw the green beans in the oven with some kosher salt, pepper, and oil as the rolls were cooking. Then I threw the pumpkin seeds on them as I plated them. Yummy and a great change of pace from all the creamy dishes.
This was another one of those moments where I went "Have I ever really tasted mashed potatoes before?" As I was throwing in what was WAY more than I ever put in my mashed potatoes (which I typically prefer with just a little milk, salt, and pepper), I kept remembering how amazingly delicious they looked on tv when I saw her do her Thanksgiving Throwdown with Bobby Flay. So I trusted in the Ree, and you know what? I'll never make potatoes on Thanksgiving any other way. I do have to say that I think the last part about putting even MORE butter on the top and baking them is completely unnecessary, unless you need to reheat them because you made them the day before (which you could, because these are good enough that I bet no one would even notice), next time I'll skip that part. Other than that, well, let's just say I made enough that we are still eating them a week later and they are just the perfect creaminess and blend of flavor. 5 stars.
Heidi's Amazing Sweet Potato Casserole
My friend, Heidi, gave me this recipe years ago. I fell in love with it. My brother-in-law always calls them "stupid good", and I have to agree, since I never liked any sweet potato dish before this, and I can eat these for days on end. Actually, I have been eating them for days on end. It's more like a dessert, the sweet potatoes are really more like a custard and then you put the topping... mmmmm. You can make and bake them completely up to about 3 days beforehand and then just warm it/toast it just before serving the day of to save time, they're just as good if not better. I always spray a little cooking spray on during the last 10 minutes to really brown it and crisp it up. Oh, and I like the sweet potatoes a little on the creamy side and a lot of topping, so I alter it to my liking every time, feel free to be liberal with your portions, this time I added so much vanilla and milk to the sweet potatoes that I had to add an extra egg to thicken them up!
Heidi's Sweet Potato Casserole
6 to 8 Cs cooked mashed sweet potatoes
1 C sugar
1 tsp vanilla
2 eggs
1/3 C milk
½ C butter
1 C finely chopped pecans
1 C brown sugar
1/3 C flour
1/3 C butter

Beat together all the first stuff, then put in casserole and put topping and bake 20 to 30 minutes at 350 degrees
Yet another recipe that had me unexpectedly raving. When I made it (days in advance, of course, there's no way I can do that much cooking in one day!) I was lamenting that it was entirely too sweet - the the point that I would have halved the sugar the next time. However, when paired with the turkey, it was truly perfect. I found myself making excuses to eat the turkey so I could have more of the sauce! I'd probably put in 1/3 less sugar, not because the taste was off, but I thought the flavors and cinnamon carried the dish well, so why not reduce the sugar? I also loved that it didn't require anything special like fruit pectin or multiple steps. It's just straightforward and yummy. I will make it every Thanksgiving from now on. 5 Stars.
Auntie Pam's Rolls:
Everyone loves their roll recipe, there are a million out there. Truthfully, a good roll is a good roll, so I'm not going to sell you on these ones if you already have one you love, but I find myself coming back to this recipe every time. I make them a few days in advance and then freeze them about half-way through the second proof. Then, I let them rise as they thaw (it takes about 3-4 hours, I believe, for them to thaw - and I only let them thaw for 2 hours before finally popping them in this time because my turkey was done so early, so apparently that's fine). Then I cook them as directed. They are a little dense, which I like, but moist and soft. So yummy. I also use about 1/3 wheat flour, just to make me feel a little better about all my binging on Thanksgiving! 5 stars.

Auntie Pam's Rolls:

Makes: 30 Rolls


½ C sugar

½ C oil

2 eggs

2 Tbsp yeast

1 Tbsp salt

2 ½ C water

6-7 C flour


Proof the yeast by adding 1/2 C warm water to the yeast. While it proofs, beat sugar and oil together. Add eggs and beat again. Add 2 C flour and beat until smooth. Add yeast, salt, and water and gently mix until unified. Add flour until it pulls away easily from bowl. Knead for 10 minutes by hand/6-7 minutes with a mixer using a kneading hook. Let rise 35-45 minutes. Form into 30 small balls/rolls and let rise again 30 minutes (if you are freezing them, let rise 20 minutes, then place in the freezer on a plate or cookie sheet until mostly frozen, and then transfer to ziploc bags or other freezer container and store in freezer until ready for use); preheat oven to 375°F. Bake 20-25 minutes, until tops are golden brown. Brush with a little oil or butter and sprinkle with salt, if desired.


Junior's White Chocolate Raspberry Cheesecake with a Blackberry Balsamic Reduction Sauce


This is one of my favorite cheesecakes! I just make a graham cracker crust for the bottom. This year I decided to to a Blackberry Balsamic Reduction Sauce which I thought paired fabulously with it (although a little went a long way). I made the cheesecake days in advance and then froze it. Then, I popped it in the fridge 24 hours before serving it. I just removed it and let it sit at room temperature for about 2 hours before serving and it was perfect. Just play with it until it's the right temperature. The sauce paired SO nicely with it - my husband doesn't like cheesecake (I know, he should be arrested), but he actually ate a whole piece and attributed it to the pairing of the sauce with it. I was pretty liberal, I added balsamic to taste (more than the recipe called for) and sugar to taste (less than the recipe called for). I also added raspberries. But I followed all the steps perfectly, and made it days in advance and it was great. Cheesecake and sauce: 5 stars.

Junior's White Chocolate Raspberry Cheesecake


Graham Crackers, sugar, a pinch of salt, butter. You know the drill, just make whatever crust you like, bake it, let cook until golden and then let it cool while you make the cheesecake.



10 oz dry-pack frozen whole raspberries (unsweetened/not in syrup), thawed and drained well

5 T cornstarch

8 oz white chocolate

3 8 oz packages cream cheese (use only full fat), at room temperature

1 1/3 C sugar

1 T pure vanilla extract

2 extra-large eggs

2/3 C heavy or whipping cream

1 half-pint fresh raspberries (about 6 oz)

White chocolate curls (for garnish, not necessary)



Pulse the thawed raspberries in food processor until pureed (you need ¾ C puree). Stir in 1 T of the cornstarch and set aside. It will thicken slightly as it stands. Melt white chocolate and set aside if doing white curls for garnish.

Put one package of cream cheese, 1/3 C sugar, and remaining 4 T cornstarch in a large bowl. Beat with electric mixer on low until creamy, about 3 minutes, scraping down the bowl several times. Beat in the remaining cream cheese, one package at a time, scraping down the bowl after each one. Increase mixer speed to medium and beat in the remaining 1 C sugar, then the vanilla. Blend in the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in the melted white chocolate, then the cream, just until completely blended. Do not overmix!! (Overbeaten eggs cause cracking!)

Gently spoon the batter on top of the crust. Drop the raspberry puree in teaspoonfuls on top of the batter, pushing it down slightly as you go. Using a thin, pointed knife, cut through the batter a few times in a ‘figure 8’ design, just until red swirls appear (don’t overmix and turn the cake pink!).

Place cake in a large shallow pan with hot water that comes 1 inch up the sides. Bake until the edges are light golden brown and the top is slightly golden tan with raspberry swirls, about 1 ¼ hours. Remove the cheesecake from the water bath, transfer to a wire rack, and let cool for 2 hours (just walk away – don’t move it!). Leave the cake in the pan, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate until completely cold, preferably overnight or at least 4 hours.

Remove from pan and put on cake plate if desired. Decorate with raspberries, white chocolate curls, and puree. Can wrap and freeze leftover cheesecake for 1 month (without fresh raspberries on top of course).

Magnolia's Banana Cream Pudding Pie

I love this recipe and make it every year. And every year that I make it I forget that it's better the next day, so next year, I'll make it 1 day in advance. I will also remember that it makes an EXORBITANT amount of pudding, so I will make 1/3 of the recipe and serve it in a smaller bowl (hopefully a clear one, because it's so pretty in a clear bowl, it looks like trifle). The bananas on top are the only part that need to be pretty, so put those on just before serving. The longer it sits, the more the flavor because amazing! Oh, and don't be fooled, I know this looks like your cheating with these ingredients, but really, who cares, if it's good, it must be Thanksgiving worthy (and if people line up for blocks in NYC for it, it must be good as well). I'm not a big fan of banana cream, but this is good. My husband loves it and has to have it every Thanksgiving! 4 stars.

Magnolia Bakery Banana Pudding
From 'More From Magnolia' Cookbook
Serves 12

1 1/2 cups water
2/3 cup vanilla pudding mix
1 (14 ounce) can sweetened condensed milk
3 cups cold heavy cream
1 (12 ounce) box vanilla wafers
4 ripe bananas, sliced

Whisk together the water, pudding mix and sweetened condensed milk until will mixed. If not using instant, refrigerate at least 4 hours or overnight. If using instant, it will be ready to go within 15 min.

When pudding is ready, whip the heavy cream in a chilled bowl until soft peaks form. Fold the pudding mixture into the whipped cream until well incorporated.

In a deep glass bowl (or pie pans or whatever you want to use to layer...but honestly the deeper the bowl the more it will all 'mish mash' together), layer the pudding, wafers, bananas and pudding again. Continue until all the mixture is used up, ending with either wafers or pudding. Don't end with bananas because they will just turn brown and end up looking unappealing. I sprinkled crushed wafers on top of mine.

Now, I can't take credit for all this cooking, my good friends came into town and helped make a lot of these dishes! Plus, my friend made amazing Collard Greens (seriously, they were really good!) and Pumpkin Cake with whipped Cream Cheese Frosting that were both so good. I need to get those recipes. I just had to share these recipes, and also document them so next year I can make them again!

Happy Thanksgiving!