Hawaiian Dinner Party

Time flies – whether you’re having fun or not – so we might as well party! Ten years after I threw a luau to celebrate my husband’s 50th, it was time to celebrate another decade. What with kids and the economy, we haven’t gotten back to Paradise as often as we would like, so it seemed natural to try to rekindle some great memories right here at home. And so I planned another Hawaiian-themed party for my husband’s 60th; this time it was a smaller-scaled Hawaiian dinner party for just very close friends and family. But like the luau, it was delicious, and we all had a really lovely time.

My kids were too busy with school to help with invitations, and our guest list only required 14 invitations, so I did them myself:

Then I planned the menu, with a little (well, a lot of) inspiration from Roy Yamaguchi.  I used his book, Roy’s fish and seafood for the entree; and I used his Banana-Macadamia Nut Bread recipe for party favors, from Roy’s Feasts from Hawaii.   

A few days before the party day, I raided my old supplies of luau stuff to set up for the party. Beach sheets (subbed in for tablecloths), Hawaiian-inspired tumblers, umbrella picks, coconut candles, and of course, fresh tropical flowers from Island Florals, and we were ready.

E komo mai, aloha!

Hawaiian Dinner Party Menu

Mauna Kea Shrimp with Peanut Sauce
Buttermilk Peppercorn Dip with root chips and cruditées
Kalua Pork Sliders

Mesclun salad mix with macadamia-encrusted goat cheese, grilled skewered tropical fruits, and coconut balsamic vinaigrette, sprinkled with dried toasted coconut flakes

Crab and potato-crusted Ono with creamed spinach and carrot ribbons, and bacon
     (Potato-crusted chicken for non-fish eaters)
Taro bread

Carrot Cake
Coconut milk ice cream
Pineapple- and palm tree-shaped Shortbread Cookies

Pineapple Fizz Punch (with a pineapple juice ring)
Hawaiian Sun beverages
Iced tea
Tedeschi Vineyards wine
Kona coffee
Rejuvenation tea

Mauna Kea Shrimp with Peanut Sauce

Colorful, refreshing, and always a hit; this recipe comes from one of my stand-by Hawaiian cookbooks, Maui Cooks Again (by Gini Baldwin, Judy Bisgard, Judy Furtado, Zelie Harders, Carol Hartley, and Penny James).

1 lb. (about 20) medium shrimp, cleaned, deveined, and tail removed
1 t. salt
10 Chinese snow peas, blanched and split
1 small bunch mint
1 small bunch basil
1 small bunch cilantro
20 toothpicks

Cook shrimp in 1 qt. boiling water with 1 t. salt added until shrimp turn pink.
Immediately plunge shrimp into ice water. Drain and pat dry. On each shrimp, lay a mint leaf, cilantro sprig, and small basil leaf. Wrap each shrimp around the middle with a split snow pea pod and skewer with a toothpick. Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve. Serve with Peanut dip below.

Peanut Dip:
2 T. chunky peanut butter (use Jif or Skippy)
3 T. rice vinegar
¼ c. low-sodium soy sauce
1 T. sugar
2 t. lime juice
Few drops Tabasco sauce, to taste
1 clove garlic, finely minced

Place all ingredients in a blender or processor, blend until smooth. Adjust flavors as you like.

Makes almost 1 c. dip; I usually double or triple the recipe.

Uala Maoli Sweet Potato Casserole Recipe

This recipe comes from an old standard, Roana and Gene Schindler’s Hawaiian Cookbook. Even though it was originally published in 1970, it still sells in Hawaii today. This recipe is a nice alternative to sweet-potatoes-and-marshmallows at Thanksgiving.

6 large sweet potatoes (2½ lbs.), parboiled and peeled
6 T. butter
2 t. salt
6 bananas, sliced
1 c. brown sugar mixed with 1 t. cinnamon
1 can (16 oz.) crushed pineapple, drained
1 c. pineapple juice mixed with 1 t. lemon juice and 1 t. chopped fresh ginger
2 T. honey

Slice sweet potatoes ½-inch thick. Grease a heatproof casserole dish with a little of the margarine. Arrange in alternate layers starting with the sweet potatoes dotted with margarine and salt, then the bananas sprinkled with brown sugar, and then the crushed pineapple. Combine the pineapple juice, lemon juice, ginger, and honey and pour over mixture. Bake in 350°F. preheated oven for 40 mins., or until browned on top. Serves 6-8.

Lemon Ginger Chicken Salad

This is a fantastic recipe.  It’s great for luncheons, showers, and even dinner on hot, summer nights…  From Maui Cooks Again, by Gini Baldwin, Judy Bisgard, Judy Furtado, Zelie Harders, Carol Hartley, and Penny James.

1 T. minced lemon zest
1/4 c. fresh lemon juice
2 T. ginger syrup*
1 T. shoyu
½ tsp. Chinese chili sauce
2 T. grated fresh ginger, lightly packed
1 clove garlic, minced
2 T. vegetable oil
½ t. salt

10 wonton skins, cut into ¼” strips
1 c. vegetable oil
1 lb. boneless, skinless chicken breasts
10 large romaine leaves
1 c. shredded carrots
¼ c. chopped green onion

*Ginger syrup can be taken directly from a bottle of preserved ginger, or made by cooking together 2 t. sugar, 2 t. water and 1 tsp grated ginger.
In a small jar, combine ingredients for the dressing. Cover tightly, shake vigorously and refrigerate.
In a large skillet or wok, heat oil over moderate heat until it just begins to smoke. Cook the won ton strips in several batches until light golden brown, about 1 min.
Drain on paper towels.
Gently poach chicken until tender. Cool and slice chicken into thin slices. Set aside.
Stack the romaine leaves and roll up from the long side into a tight cylinder. Slice the roll at 1/8” intervals. Transfer the lettuce to a large salad bowl.
Add the carrots, green onions, and the chicken. Shake the dressing, pour it over the salad and toss. At the last minute, gently fold in the won ton strips. Serve immediately. Serves 4.

Personal notes: If I’m making this ahead, I’ll marinate the sliced, cooked chicken in some of the dressing in the refrigerator until I toss the whole thing together. Also, I never fold in the wonton strips because they fall apart and soak up the dressing, becoming soggy (yuck). I just sprinkle them on top and put out an additional bowl of them so that you can add them to your salad as you eat them.

For the Luau version, I simply left out the chicken; the lemon zest in the dressing lets this salad stand out on its own.


Peanut Dip

From Maui Cooks Again, by Gini Baldwin, Judy Bisgard, Zelie Harders, Carol Hartley, and Penny James

2 T. chunky peanut butter (use Jif or Skippy)
3 T. rice vinegar
¼ c. soy sauce
1 T. sugar
2 t. lime juice
Few drops Tabasco sauce, to taste
1 clove garlic, finely minced

Place all ingrediants in a blender or processor, blend until smooth. Adjust flavors as you like. Makes almost 1 c. dip; I usually double or triple the recipe.

Hawaiian Luau Menu

Pupus started off the feast:

Sweet and sour meatballs
Bacon-wrapped macadamia nuts
Mauna Kea shrimp with peanut dip
Wonton bows with mango salsa
Five pepper dip with root chips


                                  Then, dinner, buffet-style:

Teriyaki chicken
Kalua pork and poi
Orange roughy lau lau with lychee salsa
Chinese pea salad
Lemon ginger salad
Hawaiian potato salad
Uala maoli sweet potato casserole
String beans with cashews
Banana bread
Mango bread
Taro bread

Dessert followed in the dining room:

Fresh tropical fruit
Coconut milk ice cream with white chocolate and macadamia nuts
Plain coconut milk ice cream
Coconut squares
Pineapple-upside-down cake
Key lime pie
pineapple shortbread cookies
Birthday (carrot) cake

       The birthday cake was inspired by the famous Halekalani carrot cake – except that I used my own favorite recipe! My two kids helped decorate the cake with souvenir fish-picks from our vacation… A sweet end to a sweet party…

Coconut Squares

(from an old, now-lost recipe in the LA Times)

1)     Preheat oven to 350° F.
2)     Grease or spray an 8” x 8” baking pan.
3)     Utilize the dump method of mixing:  turn your standing mixer on and add the following ingredients in the order listed, beating VERY well after each addition:

¼ c. unsalted butter
1 c. sugar
¼ t. salt
1 large egg
1 t. vanilla
1½ t. baking powder
1 c. flour
1 c. coconutcoconut bars - batter

4)  Spread batter in pan (it will be thick) and bake for 35 mins.

coconut bars - baked

This recipe doubles well, baked in a 12” x 7” Pyrex dish.  Don’t over bake, or they will be dry!coconut bars - serving

Hawaiian Luau for a 50th-Birthday Party

A long time ago, my husband turned 50.  Fresh from a typical, fabulous vacation in Hawaii (is there any other kind?), I decided to throw him a luau to celebrate.I knew I could not really replicate the professional luaus in the islands, but I had read somewhere that a truly authentic luau was the type hosted in a kama‘āina’s backyard. Okay, I’m not a local, but I am a haole wahini, so I figured, why not?  My kids were little then (aged 5 and 7 years), but very enthusiastic, so I knew it could be a party that we would all enjoy.

The first thing we did were the invitations:

It helped knowing a few Hawaiian words to add some flavor to the invitation and the party: aloha (hello, good-bye, I love you), Aloha nui loa (very much love), E komo mai (welcome), hale (house), haole (foreigner), Hau‘oli lā Hānau (Happy Birthday), kama‘āina (local resident of the islands), imu (underground oven), kahuna (expert), keiki (child or children), lei (flower necklace), ‘ohana (family), ‘ono (delicious, also mackerel), Pūpū (appetizers), Wahine (woman), wikiwiki (hurry), Ali‘i (chief), ‘a‘ole pilikia (no problem), mahalo (thank you)…

Then I decided on the menu.  I was lucky because I had a few friends and family who were happy to help (well, that’s what they said!).

Party supplies (dinner plates, dessert plates, dinner napkins, dessert napkins, beverage napkins, and plastic forks, knives and spoons in solid tropical colors) came from Party City, and Oriental Trading provided a few more supplies and all the favors (tablecloths, assorted souvenir glasses for everyone, and more kid-oriented stuff for the keiki – children).

Tropical flowers came from Island Florals in Costa Mesa, California. I selected anthuriums, heliconia, ginger, orchid stems, ti leaves, bird of paradise, and palms – enough to fill vases for the dessert, beverage, and buffet tables, the dinner tables, and my living room mantel and coffee table.Arranging the flowers took about two hours the day before the luau, but the time was worth my trouble. Nothing says “paradise” like the flowers of Hawaii…

Set-up was straight-forward the morning of the party: I used my dining room table inside for the deserts, which would be arranged before the party (except for homemade ice cream, which I’d pull out last-minute).I set up the “Bali Hai Bar” on a patio outside, along with simple coolers to keep drinks cold. (I recruited a few friends the day of the party to skewer banana, strawberry, and pineapple wedges on the essential umbrella drink-pick…)Appetizers were set up on our backyard picnic table, and when dinner was ready, I cleared that table and set out the dinner buffet.Rented tables, chairs, and heaters had been arranged by the party rental company that morning also.Every island souvenir, tropical serving dish (including some from my mother-in-law that she had brought back from Guam in the 50’s), and relic of Hawaiiana I owned, was pulled out and used somehow.

Because this was a family-style luau, there were all ages.  Entertainment for the keiki was pretty relaxed.  The one planned activity for them took advantage of all the pineapple tops I had cut for the meal: every family went home with their own newly planted pineapple plant (directions linked here), courtesy of their keiki. And yes, I did try to involve my kids in the set-up and hosting: they were responsible for dressing up native teddy bears, greeting our guests with a lei, and filling out their name tags.  After that, it was every kid for themself!

The music we played was classic beach and luau: Beach Boys, Jan and Dean, and assorted Hawaiian CD’s we’d picked up at Hilo Hattie’s…

As the party wound down, each guest left with their pineapple plants, souvenir glasses, and leis.  They also took home a small scroll printed with the definition of aloha. live alohaThese wise words were written by Pilahi Paki, a Hawaiian sage who recognized the need for Aloha in Hawaii back in the 1970’s when tourism became airborne.  Her acronym says it all.  Thank you, Auntie Pilahi, and aloha to all of you reading!

Hawaiian Luau Birthday invitation

My kids were at an age (5 and 7 years old) when they wanted a hand in everything.  And I have always thought (still do) that children’s art efforts can be very appealing.  So I thought to put them to work on the invitations.  At the same time, I wanted our guests to know just how far the “birthday boy” had come, so I needed to show “then” and “now” images.  The combination of needs resulted in a triptych card (cream-colored cardstock, (6 1/2 ” x 12 3/4″), with before and after photos and artwork by my kids to set the island theme:

The initial opening of the card revealed the “now” picture; both photos were “matted” on tropical flowered paper:

The next unfolding showed the artwork and the party details:

In signature primitive style, with their Crayola watercolor paint set, my kids painted the ocean, a wave on the sand, and a palm tree on the beach.  They did this 40 times (for 40 invitations)!  They added a few assorted stickers (a sun and a Hawaiian image) and I added a vellum sheet with all the pertinent details, affixed with tropical flower stickers.

The invitation said this (Microsoft Windows 2010 Ravie font, boldface in orange):


Chris, our big kahuna,

is celebrating

a special birthday:

Hukilau down to the

Sandalwood Beach Bungalow

for a luau!

Saturday, October 5th

4:00 pm

Rsvp to the natives –

Sandy, Vince, or Tina


by September 22nd

No gifts, please –