How long does it take you to make dinner?
This dinner takes me until the rice is done cooking. Fast. It’s easy to throw together last minute…bonus points that everyone feels like they get to own what they make, personalizing their topping choices. I love mixing different flavors and textures together, so this is pretty close to the best dish. It’s not fancy, but it’s colorful.
More color = More healthy
(Last night one of my kids said, “Then it can have candies all over it, because they’re colorful, and it would be healthy!!” No. They would try to get away with saying that.)
If you’re new to hawaiian haystacks, the key topping ingredient is pineapple.
If you’re already familiar with them please consider changing up your options! Seriously, take out the meats and cheese (vegan!) and explore a little. I think you’ll be surprised at how tasty it can be. Consider this as a meatless Monday option!
Little bowls filled with toppings are just as fun for adults. So much of food is the presentation. When the table is set with bowls filled with colorful and textured options, it makes the meal exciting to see and eat.
With this recipe, I know my kids are getting good protein and fiber, but to encourage color, we do have the rule of at least 2 veggies on top. You can eat it next to your haystack if you don’t want to mix it in. Either way, eating colorful is going to happen. The kids generally respond well to this because they have options to choose from, they feel like they are in control of what they are eating. If you give good choices, they can only make good choices. One meal, only healthy options, and sticking to your rules are keys to helping your kids eat well.
Crunchy and soft together? Yes please. I love celery, nuts, and seeds on top of this. You can include some chow mein noodles if you’re a fan, too. The textures of soft and crunchy are amazing together, just as much as salty and sweet. Maybe even more.
For veggie options, try:
little broccoli florets
crushed or tidbit pineapple
chow mein noodles
Your mouth is going to sing with this explosion of flavor. I feel like Ratatouille.
Besides all these fun colorful toppings, you can’t leave out the sauce.
I’ve seen people do sauce a couple ways: cream of chicken mixed with either milk or chicken stock or making your own rue, flavoring as desired.
I’m stepping mine up and you’re going to like it. I love using cashews to thicken and make a sauce because it 1) totally works and 2) adds good protein without the milk or meat. I mix it in with my beans for this dish. I buy my unsalted unroasted cashews in bulk and always have them on-hand. You don’t need to soak these for a long time, I simply microwave mine with water for 2 minutes, let them sit about 10, drain, and then use them. This sauce is so good you’ll want to spoon it right into your mouth.
I hope your family enjoys this meal as much as mine does. And if you have picky eaters, start with the rice and bean/sauce mixture, then have your child choose one colorful topping. Again, they don’t have to eat it mixed in. It still gets in their body if they eat it on the side. If they won’t eat the colors, don’t let them have the chow mein noodles (or whatever other crunchy thing) until they eat the color first. This is simply to encourage them to grow in their tastes. Make it fun regardless and exciting to try new things.
This is what our table really looks like with this meal.
For another meal idea that can be personalized, try building your own wild rice salad. My kids love that one, too!