By Valerie Heimerich
Sacramento chef and restaurateur Kit Syn knows a lot about keeping his guests happy, on Thanksgiving and every other day of the year. The outgoing owner of Ben’s Huli Huli Chicken & Shave Ice is an expert on tempting the taste buds of everyone he encounters.
Ben’s Huli Huli Chicken & Shave Ice
7967 Auburn Blvd.
Citrus Heights, CA 95610
Food and family are at the center of Kit Syn’s world; his cozy Polynesian café in Citrus Heights is named after his adopted son Benjamin. Syn says Ben is “my everything, and the reason why I work so hard”, and that he hopes to pass the business down to his son one day. “No pressure though”, he adds, laughing. After a lengthy career in hotel management with both the Marriott and Hilton, Syn is thankful he could pursue his dream as a chef, creating flavorful, authentic Hawaiian food in the capital city. Finding healthy recipes for Thanksgiving comes naturally for the outgoing Chef Syn, for whom “ohana”, family, means everything.
Festive Pom Fizz
Pomegranate juice is rich in Vitamin C and has many more antioxidants that even green tea or red wine. Fresh pomegranates have gorgeous deep red edible called arils, which also contain fiber and look stunning in a glass of bubbly. This sparkler is a perfect aperitif before Thanksgiving dinner; for a kid-friendly version use sparkling water instead of wine. Serves 4.
- 1-1/4 cup chilled demi-sec sparkling wine
- 2/3 cup chilled pomegranate juice (bottled or fresh)
- 1 tablespoon. fresh lime juice
- Combine all ingredients and top with wedges of lime or pomegranate arils.
- Serve and enjoys the compliments.
Related: Best Pumpkin Dishes In Sacramento
Dressed Up Stuffing
Traditional stuffing, either fresh or boxed, is loaded with carbs and empty calories but little in the way of nutrition. To amp up both the flavor and health content, add nuts, raisins, dried cranberries, cherries, apricots or figs, pomegranate arils, diced pear or apples. Extra celery and onions, mushrooms, corn or small cubes of sautéed butternut squash, carrot, parsnips or leeks are excellent additions as well.
As a former Maui resident, Syn appreciates adding chopped macadamia nuts and pineapple to stuffing to get a creamy, nutty flavor, added nutrients and extra moisture, Hawaiian style.
Naturally Sweet Potatoes
A post-dinner sugar crash is one reason people often feel stuffed and sleepy after the big meal. Syn suggests roasting fresh sweet potatoes instead of syrupy candied yams. The potatoes have plenty of fiber and vitamin A, along with a delicious natural sweetness that complements the rest of the meal without requiring sugar and marshmallows.
- 1 sweet potato per person
- Wash and dry the potatoes.
- Use a fork to poke a few holes in the skins and wrap loosely in foil.
- Throw in the oven with the turkey for 70 – 80 minutes, or until the sides are soft when squeezed gently with a hot mitt.
- Cut crisscross on the top of each potato and add a bit of butter and cinnamon to taste.
- A touch of brown sugar can also enhance the flavor.
California Avocado Orange Holiday Salad
Syn knows how lucky he is to be in the Sacramento region, having access to so many types of fresh and flavorful produce year-round. This makes it easy to create side dishes like this quick, simple and delightful alternative to the bland, soggy salads which are often rustled up at the last minute on Turkey Day.
- 2 large oranges, sectioned
- ¼ cups red onion, thinly sliced
- 8 cups mixed salad greens (available prepackaged at most grocery stores)
- ½ cup bottled or fresh vinaigrette
- ¼ cup diced cilantro
- 1 avocado, diced
- 1 lime
- Mix first 5 ingredients well.
- Gently fold in diced avocado and top with a spritz of fresh lime juice, avoiding seeds.
Related: Ask An Expert: DIY Gift Ideas