Rebecca's Cooking Journal

salt and pepper

Hawaiian Haystacks

I was trying to think outside the box when I’ve planned my meals this month. Each week I gave myself a new recipe to try, but I didn’t want to be overwhelmed, so I went with ones that sounded easy.

First I tried Hawaiian Haystacks, and my three-year-old son loved them! His favorite aspects was the ability to build it himself, but he also loved the pineapple and chow mein noodles, which made it fun.

If you don’t know, it’s a chicken mixture on a bed of rice, with whatever toppings you want.

Toppings we had: tomatoes, spring onions, pineapple, coconut, chow mein noodles, almonds, cheese.

I used a recipe I found online and the canned Cream of Chicken soup made it far too salty. I’ll try it again sometime without using canned products, but I must admit, it made it nice and easy!

Get the recipe from >>>

Hawaiian Haystacks

"Hawaiian" Chicken sauce with toppings over rice
Prep Time10 minutes
Cook Time10 minutes
Total Time20 minutes
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: American
Keyword: Easy, leftover chicken
Servings: 4 people


  • chicken cooked
  • 1 can cream of chicken soup
  • 2 cups chicken broth
  • 3 cups cooked rice


  • tomatoes fresh
  • spring onions chopped
  • pineapple fresh or canned
  • chow mein noodles
  • almonds toasted
  • cheese shredded


  • Simmer cream of chicken soup with chicken broth.
  • Pour over rice and chicken.
  • Add desired toppings.

Onions and Garlic

The next night, I was cooking some onions and garlic in olive oil. It smelled so good. Just as with the salt and pepper the day before, I had an overwhelming “this is going to be so delicious” feeling that got me excited to be cooking.

I need to make sure I enjoy those moments, because that makes cooking fun.

Salt and Pepper

Last night, I was making a same-old recipe once more (arancini and chicken nuggets, if you must know). But as I was chopping the chicken and seasoning it, I smelled the overwhelming smell of the salt and pepper. I took a deep breath. It smelled so good in the kitchen. Right at that moment, I fell in love once again with cooking, just knowing that that raw chicken would, in the course of a very short time, be delicious chicken nuggets (yes, I think mine are particularly delicious).

I’ve been wanting to give new life to this blog for a long time. I don’t know that I”ll ever have time to dedicate to it as I had originally intended, but I’ll keep checking in every now and then.

Thereby, I hereby rename this blog “Salt and Pepper.” I was inspired by that whiff of salt and pepper. I can’t think of a single thing I could cook without salt (I’m sure there are things, but, really, it’s so important!). I’ve heard people say that they “just add it later” or what not to make sure they don’t ingest too much sodium. But I cannot eat food — it’s just so BLAH — if it doesn’t have proper seasonings. I added “pepper” to the blog name because, well, I just love a pretty pepper mill filled with multi-colored peppercorns. And pepper is pretty important to making things taste nice too.

Salt and pepper are also the basics. Some recipes just say “add seasonings.” Have a slice of tomato and add salt and pepper and you have a yummy snack. Saute a pork chop with salt and pepper and you have an entree for dinner.

This blog, then, is about adding seasoning to my cooking life. I want to remember to cook a variety of foods.  (My goal, though I fail, is to not repeat anything each month).  I want to try new recipes and foods (again, I should try something new every month, actually every week, but lets start small). I want to remember the basics of cooking, like the difference a bit of salt can make to pumpkin soup. I want to make cooking and eating fun for my son, who already likes to pretend to cook.

Most importantly, I want to make sure that for the next 50 years of cooking every night, I don’t lose my mind!

Although I won’t have time to post a lot, maybe once or twice a month I will appear to say, “I cooked THIS this month.” Or I’ll try a new recipe and, if possible, give you a link to it.

What ingredient(s) do you feel you couldn’t live without?

Chicken Salad Croissants

I found a new fun site, thanks to some blog followers at my reading blog: Buttery Books, which gives book club menu ideas that go along with the books discussed! It is no longer an active blog.

I was hosting our club’s meeting for The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfeld, so I followed the blogger’s suggestion and made Chicken Salad Croissants. I also made some ghost-shaped sugar cookies (since it’s a ghost story of sorts), which needless to say, were also a hit.

The salad was good, although I didn’t measure the mayonnaise and I think I had too much. Two and a half cups seems like a lot, based on the other ingredients.

Another Way to Get a Three-Year-Old to Eat

I dyed our Kraft dinner purple the other night. I personally thought it looked revolting, because it was more of a greyish blue color. I had to close my eyes with each bite. But my son loved it! He likes Kraft dinner to begin with, but he sure ate that quickly and with a smile!

Braised Chicken with Apples and Sage

I wanted a perfect braised chicken recipe for a chilly fall afternoon, so I turned to The recipe I made seemed quite familiar, but I haven’t mentioned it on this site, so here it is.

I had to simmer it longer than 20 minutes — it was not cooked through yet at that point.Otherwise, I followed the recipe pretty closely. I normally use boneless/skinless, but I went with bone-in skin on thighs and it made it quite tender and moist. Altogether, an easy and taste meal but nothing spectacular.

Get the recipe from >>>


My Pumpkin Cake

It has taken me a week to post this, but never fear: here is my pumpkin cake.

I have never decorated a cake before, so this was quite the undertaking. But actually, it was quite simple. I made two cake mixes and baked them in three rounds. When they were cool, I sliced off the top of two of them and stacked the three together, with frosting in between the layers.

Then I carved the sides off, so it was rounded a bit like a pumpkin. I frosted the sides and top. I used some of the extra cake (from the carving) to insert a little stem. After it sat in the fridge overnight, I frosted another layer so it would be smoother. I think it turned out well! It is a little lopsided, yes, but what pumpkin is ever completely rounded? Besides, it was my first attempt.

Is this to be a Halloween tradition?

I should note that I didn’t eat it. I took it to my ward Halloween party; it was a prize for the pumpkin carving contest. No worries, I had tons of leftover cake from the carving to eat at home!

Train Restaurant, AKA Getting a Picky Eater to Eat

My husband is out of town for a two nights, the first time he’s travelled in a long time, and as he left in the afternoon, as dinner came around I was feeling a bit down. This was not fun! Trying to cook for two (and my son often does not like what I cook) does not feel worthwhile. Plus, we had leftovers in the fridge, so I decided the lazy side won out and went for those.

Then I had a brilliant idea. My son loves going to a restaurant, and he always orders Mac and Cheese. As soon as I say “restaurant,”  he yells out “I want Mac and Cheese!” So I told my son we were going to a restaurant for dinner. I welcomed him to the restaurant, sat him at the table, handed him a “menu” (really a piece of junk mail that was sitting on the counter) and asked him what he wanted: Mac and Cheese (left over from the other night when we did go to a restaurant) or Chicken Nuggets (other leftovers I had in the freezer for just such a night). He had a big smile as he pretended to read, then said, “Mac and Cheese!” I gave him two crackers to eat while he waited and a cup of milk with a straw, and he happily waited.

Then, out of the blue, my son said, “Mommy, it’s a train restaurant!” A few months ago (a year ago?!) we went to a restaurant that did have trains. We sat around a counter and a train “delivered” the food to us. He loved it. So I agreed it was a train restaurant, and got some GeoTrax from the basement. Soon, we had a small, circle track for our battery-operated train. But I wouldn’t turn it on until he took a bit of food!  Repeat for each bite.

I had mentioned that maybe after he ate we could have dessert. After a little while, he asked me for the “menu” again, and then he said, “I want some blueberry yogurt for dessert, please.” I hadn’t even suggested it, and I had been thinking of ice cream, but it was fun to know that for him it was a treat to have yogurt.

I noticed a lot of interesting things about this. I was treating him as if I were a waiter (“Hello, young man. What can I get you today?”) and acting all polite. As a result, instead of demanding as he usually does (“MILK! NOW!”), he mellowed out. “Can I please have some more milk please?” Was it the fact that we were in a restaurant (where he normally is more well behaved since it’s in public) or the fact that I was treating him nicer than I normally do?

At any rate, it made for a fun dinner and it got him to eat more than he would have eaten if I was grouchy as I had been when I was feeling sad that my husband was gone!

Apple Strudel Muffins

I’ve made this twice in the past two weeks, so I thought I”d better mention it for future reference! Since my son had a field trip at an Apple Orchard, we came away with a lot of apples! What a better use for them but some of these yummy “desert” muffins. I love cinnamon sugar and the apple chunks inside are just a wonderful surprise in every bite.

Get the recipe from All Recipes >>>

Buttercream Frosting

I made this buttercream recipe for my son’s pumpkin sugar cookie decorating party. The toddlers loved it. And oh my, it is so good. I’m never buying canned frosting again.

The person who emailed it to me said it was from Betty Crocker but I cannot find it online — the Betty Crocker recipe for buttercream I find online is completely different. (ETA: From Trish‘s 1970s Betty Crocker cookbook.) Since I refuse to purchase shortening, I plan on using this pure butter option in the future. Here it is for my future reference.