Knock, knock…

Photo by Lisa Fotios on

Knock, knock.

Who’s there?


Pineapple who?

Knock, knock.

Who’s there?


Pineapple who?

Knock, knock.

Who’s there?


Orange who?

Orange you glad I didn’t say pineapple?

Well, you laugh at things like this when you’re six.


I was never a huge fan of citrus, but came close to swooning when an elderly aunt served me an orange from one of the fruit trees in her yard. It was unlike any orange I had ever tasted, sweeter and more succulent, and has shamed every orange I’ve tried to eat since.

But I have always been enamored of pineapples—fresh or canned in juice, it makes no difference to me. Both satisfy the craving for sweet acidity that oranges have left lingering.

And, when used in muffins or tea breads, they are heavenly.

Like in this recent concoction. Give it a try. You’ll be glad I said pineapple.

Pineapple Muffins or Tea Bread

Preheat oven to 400º for muffins, 375º for tea bread.

Butter muffin cups or a 9 x 5 loaf pan.


1/4 cup canned crushed pineapple in juice

1/3 cup dark brown sugar

Two large eggs

1/4 cup neutral oil or melted butter

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Mix the above ingredients until well blended.

Sift together

1 & 1/2 cup unbleached flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon cinnamon

…and add to the blended wet ingredients. Fold in gently until combined. Fold in more pineapple and juice by the tablespoon if the mixture is too dry. The batter should be substantial, but not stiff. Spoon into prepared muffin cups so that the batter reaches 2/3 of the way up, or pour into prepared loaf pan.

Bake 20 minutes for muffins, 40-45 minutes for bread. The bread will be ready when a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Cool in pans on rack for ten minutes, then remove from pans and finish cooling on rack.




I can’t see bell peppers without thinking of my mother.

A tiny woman, fragile, loose-limbed, and notoriously accident-prone, she could find the single crack in a sidewalk over which a thousand people had stepped without falling, and lose her footing.

Despite her delicate constitution, she had a sharp mind, wicked wit, and will of steel. In all matters, she was determined, tenacious, and thoroughly unconventional, a sylph with the heart of a daredevil.

Her greatest dream was to do biological research. Her high school teachers and guidance counselors encouraged her to pursue her dream in college. But this was during the 1930’s. There was a Depression. My mother was instructed by her family to find a job, and then a husband.

I can only imagine the discoveries she would have made had she been given the support she needed. She had an unwavering in her own abilities to solve life’s greatest puzzles and mysteries, defy odds, even when life was throwing obstacles in her way.

Thus she broke through an oppressively low glass ceiling, and became a corporate Chief Financial Officer. As busy as she was, on weekends, she was in the kitchen experimenting, mixing her mother’s old world culinary practices with a desire to understand how and why they nourished the body, and satisfied the senses so completely…

…which is how I wound up roasting peppers. During one of her visits, she laughed when I tried to put a jar of roasted peppers in my cart, and took them out of my hands. Before I could protest, she had walked off to the produce aisle to find the perfect peppers for the lesson she planned to give me.

Her insistence on my learning how to roast them amused me. But now I realize the value of it, the importance, in everything I do. How lucky we all were—my father, brother, and I, grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, then grandchildren—to be the recipients of her teaching, her gifts, her need to create, solve problems. How blessed we all were to be in the presence of such an extraordinary woman….


Chock Full O’Nuts


A recent viewing of the documentary, The Automat, launched me on a nostalgia tour through the New York City of my youth. I have ample memories of Horn and Hardart’s Automats in Manhattan, the excitement and pleasures of eating there, which I’ll talk about in a future post, but for now, I invite you to take a detour with me, as I can’t help dreaming of date-nut bread and cream cheese sandwiches.

My mother and I went on frequent outings when I was a child—to the theater, the ballet, opera, museums, and shopping. I don’t know how she managed it, as she worked full time, but it seemed we were always going somewhere together.  And when we did, we had favorite places to lunch or simply recharge.

One of them was Chock Full O’Nuts.

These small restaurants seemed to be everywhere, and I can still recall the scent of their freshly brewed coffee as we headed into them out of the cold or heat, and climbed up onto our stools at the counter. We’d order drinks, and always date-nut bread and cream cheese sandwiches. Their combination of sweet and crunch and tangy cream gave us a nourishment and comfort.

* * *

A few years ago, I set out to recreate my own version of this bread. It took a number of tries until I was satisfied with the results. I wanted not only another taste of my youth, but also the luxuriously sweet warmth that went with it.

Since I’m allergic to cow’s milk, I slathered chèvre over the finished product instead of cream cheese. But for those who don’t have that restriction, I say go for the original. There’s nothing like a good shmear to delight the senses, and invite pleasant memories….



1 & 1/2 cups chopped dates

1/2 cup boiling water

1/3 cup packed dark brown sugar

1 tablespoon of honey

3 tablespoons vegetable oil or melted butter

3 tablespoons molasses

two large eggs

1/4 teaspoon vanilla

1/2 cup chopped walnuts

1/3 cup mini dark chocolate chips

1 cup flour or 1-to-1 gluten free blend (plus more, as needed)

2 teaspoons baking powder

1/4 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt


Preheat oven to 350º.  Liberally grease an 8″ x 4″ bread pan with butter.  Pour boiling water over chopped dates. sugar, and honey, and let stand for 15 minutes. Beat in eggs, molasses, oil, and vanilla, then add nuts.  Sift dry ingredients over the liquid mix, and blend just until combined. The batter should be substantial, but not overly thick. If it’s too runny, add flour a tablespoon at a time until it’s right. If it’s too thick, add water or any type of milk or milk substitute until it loosens up.

Bake in prepared pan for 50 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center of the loaf comes out clean. Cool in pan on rack, then slice, spread with cheese, and devour.

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