As the mom chef of my family, there is nothing more gratifying than making a meal that everyone approves of. With a tableful of kids whose tastes, preferences, and moods change even faster then their shoe sizes, it’s definitely a special feat to cook a dinner than everyone not only eats, but cheers about.
That happens every time I make Hawaiian Haystacks.
The kids go crazy (in a good way)! They love being able to pick and choose their toppings. Customization allows them to be independent and in control.
For me, I love that it’s a super simple meal to make.
If you’ve never experienced Hawaiian haystacks before, you might wonder about the colorful combination of textures and flavors. I was about twenty when I met my first Hawaiian haystack and honestly, I was a little nervous about the dish. I quickly fell in love. Try it and you’ll see what I mean!
Here’s how we do it:
I make my rice in my rice cooker because it turns out perfect every time. I also love that mine has a programmable timer so I can tell it when we’re having dinner and the rice will be ready when we are. If you don’t have a rice cooker, my friend Catherine wrote a tutorial showing her secrets to cooking perfect rice on the stovetop.
For my family, 4 cups of dry rice is usually plenty for dinner. Tonight my kids each had two big bowls of rice, so there wasn’t much left for my husband when he got home after working late. I told you they love this stuff!
The sauce I like to make for Hawaiian Haystacks is super simple. I think every family probably has their own version of Creamy Crock Pot Chicken. I make it in that wonderful invention called the slow cooker. Here’s what I use:
- 2 cans cream of chicken soup— Of course you can substitute the equivalent of the homemade version (3- 4 cups).
- 1 envelope Zesty Italian dressing dry mix – I use a variation on this recipe to make my own, then use about a Tablespoon of it in the sauce.
- 2 boneless skinless chicken breasts— You can add more or less depending on how chicken-y you like it or how frugal you want it to be.
Stick that all in the crock pot for 3-4 hours on high or 6-7 hours on low (time varies by slow cooker, so just check to be sure the meat is done). About a half hour before you’re ready to serve dinner, add your choice of “creamy” ingredient:
- a block or cream cheese OR 1-2 cups sour cream OR 1-2 cups plain yogurt
The cream cheese makes the thickest sauce of the three. Each of them has a different flavor, but they are all yummy! In fact, sometimes we stop here. We just put the sauce over rice and have salad or broccoli on the side and call it a meal!
While just the rice and sauce make a delicious meal, it’s the “design-your-own” aspect that has the kids raving. This is where it gets exciting! We don’t always have all of the toppings on hand, so we just use whatever is available. Having a variety of color and texture makes it pleasing to the eye and the palate.
Here are our some favorite toppings:
- green onions
- pineapple (tidbits are my favorite size to use)
- raisins (or craisins)
- chow mein noodles (We call them “crunchies.” You’ll find them in with the Asian foods.)
Other common toppings:
- celery (finely chopped)
- mandarin oranges
As you can see in the photos, I serve our toppings in my favorite food containers. The beauty of this is when we’re done, I just pop on the lids and put them in the fridge! No extra dirty dishes from switching from using serving containers. We’re not trying to impress anyone, so there’s no need to be fancy.
Side note– I love love love those containers for sending in lunches. I put soup, yogurt, and other liquid and potentially messy foods in them and they never leak. It’s wonderful!
Feed the Crowd
Hawaiian Haystacks makes a great frugal meal for when you have company or need to feed a crowd. Unless someone has an aversion to rice, they’ll likely find something that suits their fancy.
How about you?
- Do you eat Hawaiian Haystacks at your house?
- What’s a meal that’s a favorite of your whole family?