#atozchallenge: Pineapple


I don’t do anything to deserve the many pretty pineapple plants (couldn’t resist the alliteration) growing in my yard.  They are such a forgiving plant.  I started with fresh pineapples from the store, once long ago, and have not bought very many since then.  The tops get cut off and if they are laid on the ground where they can touch soil, they will find a way to root themselves and survive.  They have a life cycle of about 18 months, so depending on when you plant, you can expect some to be coming ripe every 6 months. Right now I am seeing most of my next batch slightly past the flowering stage.  A few are big enough to be ready probably in June or July.  I do not water or weed, although I’m sure the harvest would be better if I did.

The taste of homegrown is exceptional – I rarely find pineapple in the stores that tastes as good.  As they begin to mature they turn yellow, little by little, and become fragrant.  This is when the critters in my yard start to gnaw on them.  I haven’t figured out how to protect the plants yet although I’ve tried a lot of things (wrapping them in cloth, putting cages over them, making sleeves out of plastic milk jugs…  nothing works).  I’m not even sure who the culprits are, but likely squirrels or rats.  Because I have so many plants, probably 3 or 4 dozen, I usually get enough for us to eat.  But I have to be diligent.  Nothing is more disgusting than watching a nice, big pineapple approach picking time and then on the day I go out to pick it, it is half eaten or lying on the ground picked clean.

This is what I’m getting when I eat my pineapples.  They are high in vitamin C, and B complex vitamins. They have some vitamin A as well.  They have a proteolytic enzyme, bromelain, which is a potent anti-inflammatory, anti-clotting, and anti-cancer substance.  They have a large dose of fruit pectin which is a soluble dietary fiber.  Round it out with good amounts of minerals – especially copper, manganese and potassium.

I just enjoy having my own mini-plantation of pineapples.



#atozchallenge: Orange

Another departure from nutrition on this day dedicated to the letter O.  April is National Poetry Month. 

Great Grandfather’s Name

The warmth of orange, the rich shades of color

Taken from the sun, from reds and browns and yellows

And transferred to a child to be his name

What could his parents have wished that name would inspire


Could it have been a name from the land

That of an earl or duke from France

And why would that land be named orange

And why would the child inherit the name


Did the land in France, or some other faraway land

Grow the fruit, the tree named orange that takes

Color from the sun and the earth and makes that

Perfect, round fruit which shares name with the child


The child became a husband, a father, a grandfather

Who had children sit on his lap and wonder at

His beard, and the lingering smell not of orange

But of onion, the poultice for his maladies


Orange and onion, memories meld together

The family stories and the continuing wonder

Of why, and would he want to be remembered

For more, and doubtless he was but always

Also for the name, Orange Scott Warner.




#atozchallenge: Nuts

Writing is continuing to be hard today.  Between fits of coughing and the husband’s requests for records to finish filing our income tax, I’m going nuts.  We hate filling out our tax reports so much that it is almost assumed that we will be late and filing for an extension.  All those statements with tiny numbers and dates that are nearly impossible to find.  Maybe someone else should do our taxes.

As a treat for myself, knowing that this day was coming, I went to the big box store and bought myself some nuts.  And as a treat for my daughter who is getting tired of nutrition information, all I’m going to say is nuts are good for you, in moderation. It’s not like you can’t go look this stuff up yourself, right?

“Can’t you write a story about nuts?”  she wanted to know. And I’ve been thinking of the myriads of times in my life when nuts have figured prominently.

Back in the 70’s when I got married, Gourmet Magazine ran a layout about a wedding that I admired greatly.  It was very “flower child” oriented, woodsy settings, and a beautiful cream colored cake with several tiers.  And decorating the steps of the tiers were little meringue mushrooms and halved walnut shells.  The walnuts were probably in there somewhere too but it is the shells that I remembered. When the cake was refashioned for my wedding I think the walnut shells were replaced by small pine cones.  So much for prominence.

And much more recently, peanuts have saved me from traffic accidents. (I will slip in the fact that peanuts are legumes, not tree nuts, but they have similar nutritional benefits.) Driving home from work in the midafternoon became difficult for me.  My early rising and active physical work day left me quite tired and I would find myself sleeping at stop lights and perilously close to sleeping while moving slowly in traffic.  For probably a year, I would keep a 2 lb. can of peanuts in the car for those times.  I found out I could not eat and sleep at the same time, and although I often got rather sick from too many peanuts, I always made it home in one piece.

Back to the cashews, it seems lots of people like them.  It’s something about the consistency and the salty way they crush in your mouth.  Last year, shopping in Cambodia with my friends Mike and Trish, we found cashews in the Russian Market.  Somewhere in the middle of this vast place there was a candy and food vendor who had 1 lb.measures of cashews all shrink-wrapped up in shiny plastic and Mike decided to get them.  I was skeptical as I am a little fearful of eating from the Market.  Mike said they were pretty good and he didn’t get sick so my daughter and I went back later to buy ours.  The Russian Market is covered, very crowded, very little moving air and probably 100 degrees F. in the summer. Unless you live in it, it is very easy to get lost in the maze of similar looking booths and tables, meals being cooked on hibachis, children napping in corners. It is such an interesting place. We did finally find our cashews.  Mine were not as good as Mike’s.  I’m sticking to nuts from home. End of story.

It’s only a 2 pounder – will be gone in no time at all.

#atozchallenge: M for Midway through

And also, sticking with my theme, MANGO, another fruit with a very large seed in the middle.  Mangoes are common in tropic and subtropical climates and have a season – usually January through August in the U.S. because they come from so many different places. They are actually the national fruit of India and several other countries in the east and middle east. The ones in my grocery store were from Nicaragua and Mexico.  I could grow them here in Florida (but I don’t).

On the left, the more common type. On the right a different variety called Ataulfo from Mexico.

A really ripe mango is soft, juicy and I think very peach-like in flavor.  Under ripe ones can taste a little like turpentine, especially close to the skin. At full ripeness you can use them like any fruit in pies, cobblers, short-cake or sherbet.  But they are versatile enough to be used green, and I had them that way once in Cambodia. They were cut into spears and dipped in a spice/salt mixture like a vegetable.  Wasn’t bad, really, but very different.

They are a good source of Vitamin C, Vitamin A (that pretty gold color…), niacin and quite a few minerals.  There are different ways to cut them but I’ve pictured one that’s easy. Cut on both sides of the flat seed and then into cubes or spears. Even when not fully ripe, like the one I have pictured, I like to freeze them in chunks and use them in smoothies with milk, or yogurt, or orange juice or a banana or all of those things. There is no way to go wrong with a mango smoothie.  They are soooo good!


Some people may have allergic reactions to the stems, leaves, sap, and skin of this fruit, typically a  contact dermatitis. If you are allergic to urushiol, the allergen in poison ivy, you may also have trouble with a similar phytochemical in mangos.  However, even sensitized people can eat peeled mango or drink mango juice.

That’s it for M.  We’re halfway through the A to Z challenge!  Everyone still having fun?

#atozchallenge: Let Us Eat Lettuce

I have returned from a journey, sick and hardly able to think about writing my posts. I am going to be brief.  There are two bits of nutritional advice that have meant a lot to me and they both apply to lettuce. So here goes…

Eat foods that will spoil, and eat them before they do.  We have so many varieties of good tasting but fragile greens available to us in our stores. It is sometimes difficult to eat them before they get limp and dried out, or wet and decomposing.  Do your best to plan but when your plans don’t work out – toss what can’t be cleaned up and used. Buy more fresh stuff.  Inevitably there will be some waste.

Always go for as much color as you can get. Color means a lot. There are nutrients that come with that color and more are being discovered all the time. We now hear about lutein, zeaxanthin, and other carotenoids in regard to eye health and macular degeneration. We hear about resveratrol in plants with deep purple color. There are lots more.  I had to laugh when reading on one website about how these nutrients aren’t essential to life like some of the major vitamins, but that they may be  important for good health.  So the question becomes do you just want to be alive or would you kind of like to be alive and healthy?

Dark green lettuces also contain vitamin A, beta carotenes, vitamin K, vitamin C, folates and a lot of needed minerals. Just eat a salad every day if you can, and consider that you can actually make a salad be the meal.

#atozchallenge: Kiwifruit

Kiwifruit is another fruit that is a berry, sometimes even called Chinese gooseberry. It grows on woody vines and originated in China. The major exporters of kiwifruit now are Italy, New Zealand and Chile. I had never seen a kiwi until the 1960’s when they were introduced to the American market. They are more common now almost everywhere.

They are about the size of a hen’s egg, have a brown skin which is edible but often gets peeled off. There are quite a few different varieties, with slightly different flavors but this is what we see available commercially.

Fuzzzy brown skin and edible seeds. They are quite pretty.

They can be eaten raw, juiced or used for garnish.  They do have a substance that dissolves protein so are not usually used in gelatin or dairy desserts. They are highly nutritious, having lots of vitamins C, K and E in particular.  They keep fairly well. Firm ones will ripen at room temperature and will ripen faster  next to other fruits, even in the refrigerator.

If you’ve never tried kiwifruit, slice some up with strawberries, pineapple or whatever fruits you like in a fruit salad.


#atozchallenge: Jammin’

Raspberry jam, peanut butter, banana #favorite lunch food

Part of my food philosophy (a big part) is that any food can do a good thing for you if you eat it with the right attitude.  An extension of this is that eating a food that is not full of nutrients, on occasion, can still be good for you if it makes you happy (they’re called neurotransmitters and your brain makes them)  Mom and I tell ourselves this every time we have a cookie, and it also applies to jam.

Jam, almost any kind, is pretty, tastes sweet and a little goes a long way. Jam can be made from most any type of fruit, but most easily from those that are high in natural pectin. Pectin can be added to those not having enough of it naturally – it’s a product found in most grocery stores in the U.S. Gelatin can also be used and I will have a recipe at the end that uses it.  Jams are made with crushed fruit which is different from preserves where the shape of the fruit is preserved, duh…

It’s the process of crushing and cooking the fruit that releases natural pectins that thicken your jam, along with the sugar. Some recipes add natural pectin by including lemon juice and rind. The longer you cook it, the thicker it may become so you may need to experiment a little.  I love the frozen spoon test and the whole jam making method found in this link.(Click here to read )

Freezer jam is not cooked as long and has more of the nutrients found in the fruit and is more colorful and fresh tasting in my opinion. This freezer jam recipe has a surprise ingredient – tomatoes! You might not even notice they’re there. Surprise Raspberry Jam

You can make a lot of jam at once or as little as one pint jar if you have a small amount of fruit that might otherwise go to waste. It’s not hard, and fresh jam is so good in the morning with your toast, and your coffee (with half and half). Just sayin’…


#atozchallenge: The I Post



No not that kind.

The reason iron is interesting to me is that I know quite a few vegetarians and some vegans. I gravitate more toward that style of eating too.

Non-meat eaters need to be sure they have adequate circulating iron and iron stores in the body or they will experience iron deficiency anemia. Without iron to make hemoglobin, the blood can’t carry enough oxygen to properly fuel body cells. What it feels like is weakness, fatigue, inability to keep warm. It shows up as paleness in skin that should be pink.

The bad news is that plant sources of iron are of a form that is not easily absorbed by our bodies. A good deal of the iron in meat, about 40% of it, is a form that is easily absorbed which is why meats are a good source of the mineral.

The good news is that, amazingly, vegetarians and vegans do not have higher incidences of iron deficiency anemia. And no one, whether they eat meat or not, has to worry about it if they follow a few smart eating tactics with their plants sources of iron.  In fact, dried beans and green leafy vegetables are better sources of iron per calorie than meat. Here are some tricks that will help your body absorb it:

  • Combine an iron rich plant food with a source of vitamin C (absorb up to 5 times more iron)
  • Avoid drinking coffee or tea at the same time as iron rich foods (the tannins in those drinks block absorption)
  • Eat less at a time (your body gets overwhelmed with large amounts, as in supplements, and absorption is limited)
  • Cook with cast iron (really, get a well-seasoned iron pan and use it!)
  • Get your iron from a variety of iron rich foods (many of them already come combined with vitamin C – eat that broccoli!)

Here is the list of foods high in iron:

Beans, peas, lentils, blackstrap molasses, dried fruits, green leafy vegetables, potatoes, nuts and seeds, seaweed (kelp and nori), soy products, whole grains.

Click here for today’s iron rich, fast and easy recipe.  Spiced Carrot and Lentil Soup

#atozchallenge: Half and Half (It’s not coffee without it)

I was looking for interesting information about Half and Half and came across a statement that exactly describes what I love about this product. Ready?

“the addition of half and half gives coffee body and richness without turning it grey”

And that is my experience exactly.  On the rare occasions when I’m out of half and half and resort to using the husband’s skim milk in my morning coffee, the mere sight of it is enough to make me give up and dump it in the sink. Not the same and not worth drinking. I’m looking for this and nothing else.

warm brown, not grey…


As you might imagine the term half and half means half milk and half cream, but it gets more specific than that when you look at the milk fat content. These are the general parameters:

  • whole milk       3.5% fat
  • half and half    about 12% fat, not enough to whip or be stable in sauces
  • light cream       16 -29% fat, generally not available in the U.S.
  • light whipping cream   30 -35% fat, has to have this much fat to whip and hold shape
  • heavy whipping cream   36 – 40% fat, whips quickly and is very stable
  • manufactured cream   40- 45% fat, used only in restaurants and why their stuff tastes so good and makes you fat

All these different products have their specific uses that relate to the amount of fat they have.  In cooking, the fat in cream makes it stable, meaning that it won’t separate and curdle. If you use a lower fat product like half and half in a sauce or to thicken a soup you should add it at the very end and not over cook it or it will curdle. It won’t taste bad if it does but it doesn’t look good either. It won’t curdle  with the heat of your coffee due to an additive, sodium citrate disodium phosphate (less than .5%) which keeps it from separating. One of it’s best and most common uses is to make your coffee rich tasting with that beautiful warm brown color… hmmm.

Using 2 tablespoons in your coffee will give you 40 calories.  Using 1/2 cup will give you 315 calories.  Personally, I find it better not to measure. After all, I’m not going to be drinking gallons of the stuff.

Be aware that in that same 2 tablespoon serving you will be getting 3 grams of fat, which is 5% of your daily allotment and 2 grams of that is saturated fat, 15 milligrams of cholesterol, 20 milligrams of sodium, 1 gram of sugar (lactose), 1 gram of protein, 2% of your vitamin A requirement, 4% of your vitamin C requirement and 6% of your iron requirement.

Some people are going to try non-fat half and half, which is a complete misnomer because if there’s no fat in it, it can’t be half cream can it? This product is actually skim milk with added thickeners and corn syrup intending to masquerade as the real thing. It does have half the calories but has twice the amount of sodium. As you might guess, it does not have the body and richness of half and half, not at all.

You can make your own half and half by using 1 part milk to 1 part light cream, or 3 parts milk to 1 part light whipping cream, or 4 parts milk to 1 part heavy whipping cream.  But what a lot of trouble – better to not run out of it in the first place!

Click on this link to find other uses for half and half that are interesting and really quite good. Many recipes that call for cream or light cream will do well with half and half and you will have fewer calories as a result.

That’s it for H!

#atozchallenge: Be Grapeful

20160406_144602-1.jpg(If you don’t care what’s in grapes or why they’re good for you because you’d eat them anyway just because you like them, jump to the recipe at the end. That’s what I would do.)

Red grapes, purple grapes, black grapes, green grapes, seedless grapes, grapes for wine, grapes for the table, grapes for juice, grapes for jam.  They’ve been a popular food for centuries, but lately research has introduced us to the reasons behind their most important health benefits.

Resveratrol,  anti-oxidants, quercetin. Big words with powerful effects. They are the nutrients of most interest in all colors of grapes and they are concentrated in the skins and seeds. You should eat grapes.  This is why…

You probably wouldn’t remember all the scientific jargon if I gave it to you (I don’t have it in my head either) but what you need to know is that these phyto-nutrients are pretty effective at doing these things

  • decreasing inflammation
  • decreasing blood pressure
  • protecting against many different cancers
  • protecting against degenerative nerve diseases (Alzheimers)
  • protecting from viral and fungal infections

In addition to all the phyto-nutrients grapes are a good source of several important minerals – potassium, copper and manganese – and raisins or dried grapes have a good amount of iron.

They have only about 3 calories per grape and a serving of one cup is about 100 calories, an excellent low calorie snack.  They are a great source of hydration, being over 70% water and have a fair amount of fiber as well.  Need any more reasons to eat some grapes?


I need to mention that grapes are high on the list of fruits that can have pesticide residues, so organic is best.  Choose berries (yes they actually are berries) that are firm, not wrinkled, tightly clustered and have nice green stems. Rinse the whole bunch in water before eating and store in the refrigerator. Freeze them for a snack on hot days. One of my favs, cut them in half and put in chicken salad.

Avocado-Grape Salsa The sweetness added by the grapes makes this salsa, or guacamole, unique and really brings out a wonderful flavor. It is also a very flexible recipe so you can leave out cilantro if you’re not fond of that, or use more avocado, onion or even put in some jalapeno. It all works. Be prepared for NO leftovers.