Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Welcome Kanani, American Girl of the Year, Luau: A Prep Ahead Party

Graphics and party supplies by Love the Day!!

Saying my girls love American Girl Dolls would be an understatement.  It all started a couple of years ago when they got their hot little hands on one of the catalogs.  They dove right in, pens in hand, and got right to circling...everything on every page.  Our girls are young and Mike and I debated about whether or not to indulge in what we knew would be the start of an extraordinary collection.  I knew that this needed to be more than the purchase of $100 dolls times three.  It was up to us to bring these dolls to life by sharing with our girls their stories of compassion, courage, loyalty and leadership.  These stories feed their imaginations.  Our playroom quickly transforms into Kirsten's new home on the American frontier as the girls set up a honey stand to help support her new life in Minnesota.  Most recently, our kitchen became a rescue operation, as the girls helped their newest doll, Kanani, save the life of an endangered monk seal on the island of Kauai.

When Kanani, the 2011 American Girl of the year was released in January, I new she would be the next addition to the girls' collection.  We purchased the book, Aloha Kanani, by Lisa Yee and read it in its entirety with the promise of a celebratory Luau in Kanani's honor upon its completion.  In preparation, I frequented Love the Day's Etsy Shop where graphic designer/stylist, Lindi Hawes, offers AMAZING party supplies.  I purchased her luau party kit and requested additional custom items which she quickly emailed me in a digital file.  Love the Day is my new one stop shop for party supplies.  Thank you Lindi!!!

Of course our Hawaiian theme went beyond, the decor, wall mural, maps of Hawaii, flower leis and grass skirts!  The exact menu Kanani ate while attending a luau in the story was recreated for our guests, all of which was prepared ahead of time!  

We share with you our "Welcome Kanani, American Girl of the Year, Luau!"

Kanani Akina's sweet shop was replicated in our living room.  At the end of the post you will see many of the recipes from our Hawaiian dinner!  I did however, call in reinforcements from the fabulous local bakery, Scrumptions.  The cupcakes, macaroons and palm tree cookie favors all came from there!

Water bottle labels and ALL graphics from Love the Day!

  I seemed to have missed getting a picture of the adorable "Drinks" bucket with a sign created by Love the Day!  Check it out in her Etsy store!!!
Kanani's Shaved Ice Stand!

And the dinner menu...

Banana Bread
Portuguese Sweet Bread
Hawaiian Sweet Potatoes
Chicken Long Rice
Kalua Pork

This staple of a hawaiian luau, chicken long rice, actually originated in China!
 Okinowan sweet potatoes are actually purple in color and grow all over the islands of Hawaii!  This recipe was made with orange sweet potatoes, coconut milk and pineapple bringing out some of the traditional flavors of Hawaii!

Kalua Pork is always the main dish at a traditional Hawaiian Luau!  Kalua means to bake in an open pit under ground!  Ours was baked in the slow cooker but the flavor rivals the traditional version we had in Kauai!
Although ordering real poi made from taro root was an option, I opted for vanilla pudding with purple food coloring.
"Kapu" meaning forbidden in Hawaii
 The mai tais were a hit!

The recipes....
All of the recipes were prepared ahead of time and were heated before serving!

Kalua Pork
adapted from a recipe found on allrecipes


  • 1 (6-7 pound) pork butt roast* 
  • 1 tablespoon liquid smoke flavoring
  • 1 teaspoon (use more or less to taste-I tend to use less!) hawaiian sea salt (or Kosher salt)
  • *I used a fully cooked bone in pork butt (shoulder)
  • Directions:
  1. Pierce pork all over with a carving fork. Rub liquid smoke over meat. Place roast in a slow cooker.
  2. Cover, and cook on Low for 16 to 20 hours, turning once during cooking time.
  3. Remove meat from slow cooker, and shred, adding drippings as needed to moisten.

Chicken Long Rice
adapted from several different recipes found online!
8 ounces rice noodles, soaked for 15 minutes according to package directions
1 T olive oil
1 rotisserie chicken, cut up
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 onion, chopped
4 carrots, chopped
2 stalks celery, chopped
ginger root, an inch and a half, peeled and chopped or grated
salt and pepper
1 bunch of scallions, chopped
chicken broth, 4- 32 oz cartons

1.  Saute carrots, onion, garlic, and celery until veggies are soft.
2.  Add broth, chicken, ginger and salt and pepper, bring to a boil, then simmer for about an hour.
3.  Stir in scallions and noodles and simmer for an additional 10 minutes!*

Prep Ahead Plan:  Do steps 1 and 2 the night before.  Stir in scallions but NOT the noodles.  An hour before serving, heat on low in a crockpot.  After an hour, stir in noodles and leave on low to serve!

Hawaiian Sweet Potatoes
8 medium sized sweet potatoes or less if they are large
1/2 cup of brown sugar
1 stick of butter (sliced into thin pieces)
1 16 ounce can of drained crushed pineapple
1/2-3/4 cup of coconut milk

1.  Wash sweet potatoes and pierce them with a fork.  Roast for 45 minutes at 400 degrees until soft.
2.  After they have cooled a little, scoop the sweet potatoes out into a 2 1/2 quart baking dish.
3.  Mix in remaining ingredients and mash with a potato masher.
4.  Cover and refrigerate until ready to bake.  Bake, covered, at 250 degrees for about 45 minutes until heated though. (Microwaving them is also an option!)

Portuguese Sweet Bread (bread machine recipe)
Recipe from Allrecipes
1 cup milk
1 egg
2 tablespoons butter
1/3 cup white sugar
3/4 teaspoon salt
3 cups bread flour
2 1/2 teaspoons active dry yeast

  1. Add ingredients in order suggested by your manufacturer.
  2. Select "sweet bread" setting.

Banana Bread
recipe from food network kitchens
1 cup sugar

8 T butter
2 large eggs
3 bananas
1 T milk
1 t cinnamon
2 cups flour
1 t baking soda
1 t baking powder
1 t salt


1.  Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Butter a 9 x 5 x 3 inch loaf pan.
2.  Cream the sugar and butter in a large mixing bowl until light and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition.
3.  In a small bowl, mash the bananas with a fork. Mix in the milk and cinnamon. In another bowl, mix together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt.
4.  Add the banana mixture to the creamed mixture and stir until combined. Add dry ingredients, mixing just until flour disappears.
5.  Pour batter into prepared pan and bake 1 hour to 1 hour 10 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Set aside to cool  for 15 minutes. Remove bread from pan, invert onto rack and cool completely before slicing.

My favorite recipe of the afternoon...
Mai Tais (makes 1 gallon)
recipe adapted from Allrecipes


  • 2 cups light rum
  • 1 cup dark rum
  • 1 cup 151 proof rum
  • 1 cup orange curacao (orange flavored liqueur)
  • 1 cup simple syrup flavored with 1 t almond extract 
  • 1 cup simple syrup
  • 10 limes, juiced
  • 1/2 gallon fresh orange juice
  • Directions:
  1. In a large jar or drink cooler, combine the light rum, dark rum, 151 rum, orange liqueur, almond flavored syrup, simple syrup, and lime juice. Stir and top off with orange juice. Do not use grenadine if you want the true Mai Tai! 

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Bruschetta Chicken Bake

LIfe around here has been quite busy these days!  Our "Welcome Kanani Luau" planning and preparation have been in full swing and dominating a great deal of our time over the course of the last couple of weeks!  I wanted to squeeze in a quick post that I feel, will appeal to the masses!

I am a huge fan of one dish chicken bake recipes!  Mix it all up in one 9 X 13 baking dish, put it in the fridge and you're all set for dinner the next evening!  Here are several of them from previous posts that frequent our weekday menu lists!

Prep Ahead Plan:  I have had this sit in the fridge for almost 48 hours before baking and it still turned out great!  

Bruschetta Chicken


  • 6 skinless, boneless chicken breasts
  • 1 t salt
  • 1 (15 ounce) can diced tomatoes with juice
  • 1 T balsamic vinegar
  • 1/2 cup chicken broth (or water)
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced or crushed
  • 1 (6 ounce) box chicken-flavored dry bread stuffing mix ( I use Arrowhead Mills)
  • 3 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
  • About 10 fresh basil leaves, torn

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.  Spray a 9x13-inch glass baking dish with cooking spray.
  2. Season the chicken and place it in the pan.  Stir together tomatoes, broth, garlic, balsamic vinegar and stuffing mix in a large bowl; set aside to soften. Sprinkle half of the cheese on top of the chicken, then sprinkle with half of the basil leaves. Spread the softened stuffing mixture on top and top with the remaining basil and cheese.
  3. Bake uncovered for about 30-40 minutes.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

red velvet cupcakes with cream cheese frosting for my favorite little valentines

If you're up for some weekend baking in preparation for Valentine's Day on Monday, you MUST make these!!  They are super moist unlike other "from scratch" cake recipes I have tried!  The recipe is simple and fairly quick to throw together.  The perfect Valentine's Day treat!

Prep Ahead Plan:  Make the cupcakes and frosting up to a day ahead of time.  Store the frosting in the fridge and frost the cupcakes as needed or immediately before serving!

Getting pictures of the finished product is almost always a challenge!  Little grabby fingers are usually waiting in the wings ready to pounce.

It's really hard to say no to that sweet little, "Pweeeeeease???"

Red Velvet Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting
recipe adapted from McCormick

For the cupcakes:
  • 2 1/4 cups flour
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup butter, softened
  • 2 1/4 cups sugar
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 1/2 buttermilk OR regular milk soured with 1 T lemon juice or white vinegar
  • 1 (1 ounce) bottle red food coloring or
  • 4 t McCormick vanilla

Vanilla Cream Cheese Frosting:

  • 1 (8 ounce) package cream cheese, softened
  • 1/4 cup butter, softened
  • 2 T sour cream
  • 2 t vanilla
  • 1 (16 ounce) box confectioners' sugar

1.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Mix flour, cocoa powder, baking soda and salt in medium bowl. 
2.  Beat butter and sugar in a large bowl for about 5 minutes or until light and fluffy. Beat in eggs, one at a time. Mix in sour cream, buttermilk (or soured milk), food coloring and vanilla. Gradually beat in flour mixture on low speed until just blended. Be careful not to over-beat! Spoon batter into greased or paper lined muffin cups, filling each cup 2/3 full.
3.  Bake 20 to 25 minutes or until toothpick inserted into cupcake comes out clean. Cool and frost with vanilla cream cheese frosting before serving.
4.  Vanilla Cream Cheese Frosting: Beat cream cheese, softened, butter, sour cream and vanilla in a large bowl until light and fluffy. Gradually beat in confectioners' sugar until smooth.