Prickly Pineapple

When you think of the tropical fruits of summer, pineapple always comes to mind almost immediately.  This fruit is prevalent in restaurants, grocery stores and homes.  The pineapple is second only to the banana as America’s favorite fruit.  Pineapples are a juicy fruit with a perfect blend of sweet and tart with citrus undertones.  It works well in so many dishes it’s not hard to find a way to add it to the menu.

The pineapple is technically an herb that generally grows 3-4 foot tall.  The plant has a short, stocky stem with tough, somewhat waxy leaves.  It can produce up to 200 flowers when growing the fruit.  Once it flowers, the individual fruits of the flowers join together in one large mass to create a multiple fruit.  The fruit of a pineapple is arranged in two interlocking helices, eight in one direction, 13 in the other, according to Wikipedia.  From start as a seed to finish as a fruit, it can take up to 3 years for a pineapple to fruit.

Pineapples are tropical fruit rich in vitamins, enzymes and antioxidants. Pineapple contains all of the recommended daily value of vitamin C, according to the FDA.  Vitamin C is essential for fighting cell damage. This makes vitamin C incredibly helpful against problems such as heart disease and joint pain.  The fruit contains nearly 75 percent of the daily-recommended value of the mineral manganese, which is essential in developing strong bones and connective tissue, according to the Linus Pauling Institute.  Like many other fruits and vegetables, pineapple contains dietary fiber, which is essential in keeping you regular and in keeping your intestines healthy.  But unlike many other fruits and veggies, pineapple contains significant amounts of bromelain, an enzyme that breaks down protein, possibly helping digestion, according to the American Cancer Society.  Because of their bromelain levels, pineapples are also recommended help reduce the risk of blood clots.  Bromelain may also help reduce mucus in the throat and nose.  

A word of warning though.  Too much vitamin C can cause abdominal pain, diarrhea and vomiting.  And too much of the bromelain may cause tenderness of the mouth, including the lips, tongue and cheeks.  Extremely high amounts of bromelain can cause skin rashes and excessive menstrual bleeding (remember it’s used to reduce the risk of blood clots).  If you are already on blood thinners, you should only take pineapple in small amounts.  And eating unripe pineapple or drinking unripe pineapple juice is dangerous, reports the horticulture department at Purdue University. In this state, it is toxic to humans.

Fun Facts:

Pineapple canneries use every bit of the pineapple. The skins, core and end portions are used to make a variety of products, including vinegar, alcohol and animal food.

If you cut the crown off a pineapple, you can grow your own pineapple at home and it would be a lot faster than growing it from a seed.

Due to the bromelain, pineapple and its juices can be used as a meat tenderizer.

They may help boost the immune system, build strong bones and aid indigestion. Also, despite their sweetness, pineapples are low in calories.  For all its sweetness, one cup of pineapple chunks contains only 82 calories. Pineapples are also fat-free, cholesterol-free and low in sodium. Not surprisingly, they do contain sugar, with 16 grams per cup.  Pick up this prickly fruit this weekend while shopping and add it to the menu on a regular basis, but not daily.  Meet me in the kitchen for some delicious ways to enjoy pineapple!

 

Pineapple Sangria

1 pineapple, sliced or diced to your preference 

1 pint strawberries, halved or quartered

2 limes, sliced

1 750mL bottle of dry white wine, like Chardonnay

1 cup pineapple juice

1 cup club soda

½ cup brandy

½ cup honey

¼ cup fresh mint leaves, plus more for garnish

Combine all ingredients together in a large pitcher, jar or bowl and stir, stir, stir. Refrigerate for an hour or so (or longer!) before serving. Taste and if it’s too sweet for you, add a bit more soda or dry wine. The longer it sits, the more the fruit will absorb the alcohol and the flavors will meld better.  If you let this sit overnight, it will turn a pretty shade of pink from the strawberries!

Recipe adapted from howsweeteats.com

 

Pineapple Parfait

Parfaits are super easy to put together and so good to eat.  Feel free to customize to your tastes.

1-2 cups whole fresh strawberries

1-2 Tbsps. sugar

3-5 scoops vanilla bean ice cream

¼-½ whole pineapple, diced 

Whipped topping

Slice all but three strawberries.  Save those three for garnish, if desired.  Place sliced strawberries in a small bowl and sprinkle with sugar.  Set aside for about 10 minutes.  This can actually be done a couple hours before.  The longer the strawberries sit in sugar, the juicier and sweeter they will be.  Spoon half of the sliced berries into three parfait glasses. Top with half of the ice cream and half of the pineapple. Repeat layers. Top with whipped topping and reserved strawberries.  

Note: The amounts are ambiguous. You determine how much you want in each glass and how many glasses you want to use.  

 

Teriyaki Sliders

1 ½ lbs. beef chuck roast, or pork shoulder butt roast

½ cup pineapple juice (I used canned pineapple juice)

¾ cup teriyaki sauce

1 large onion, chopped

Hawaiian sweet rolls

Pineapple slices, if you use canned, make sure you drain and pat dry the slices.

Place Crock Pot liner in slow cooker.  Place meat in slow cooker and place onions on top of meat. Cover with pineapple juice and 1/2 cup of teriyaki sauce. Cover and cook on low for 7-8 hours or high 4-5 hours. I turned meat over half way through cooking to coat both sides in sauce. Once meat is cooked, shred it and pour in remaining 1/4 cup of teriyaki sauce.  Stir to coat.  Cut open rolls and place meat on bun.  Top with pineapple and onion or other toppings of choice.  Serve immediately.

Recipe adapted from houseofyumm.com  

 

Grilled Chicken Pineapple Quesadillas 

4 large flour tortillas

Unsalted sweet cream butter 

2 cups grilled pineapple, sliced

3 whole boneless, skinless chicken breasts

Pepper, to taste

Cajun seasoning, to taste

Grated Monterey Jack cheese

1 whole jalapeno, sliced (optional)

3 Tbsps. barbecue sauce

To pound chicken, place inside a Ziploc bag and pound with a mallet (a large can works too) to flatten to uniform thickness.  This will allow it to cook faster and be tenderer.  Sprinkle with pepper and Cajun spice (or cumin/cayenne, etc.) Drizzle olive oil on a grill pan and grill on both sides until done, brushing with barbecue sauce. Set aside and slice into very thin slices.  Warm griddle over medium heat and put sizzling butter in the pan. Slightly warm and toast tortillas on both sides, then remove from griddle and set aside.  To assemble, sprinkle half of browned tortillas with grated cheese. Arrange chicken slices evenly over cheese. Add pineapple and jalapeno slices if desired. Drizzle extra barbecue sauce over top. Fold tortilla over.  Return to skillet to warm, until cheese is melted. Cut each quesadilla into wedges. Serve with sour cream, Pico de Gallo and lime wedges.

Recipe adapted from pioneerwoman.com

 

Pineapple Popsicles

1 fresh pineapple (peeled, cored and chopped) or about 5-6 cups frozen pineapple chunks

1 cup milk of choice-I have used both almond milk and coconut milk to make these. 

2 Tbsps. honey

If using a fresh pineapple, cut it up and freeze chunks overnight. Or you can purchase pre-cut pineapple, frozen pineapple chunks or freeze canned pineapple chunks in an ice cube tray.  This is not 100% necessary, but it will make the ingredients blend together easier and not separate while you wait for them to freeze into a popsicle. Combine frozen pineapple, milk and honey in a high speed blender or food processor until it reaches a smooth, thick frozen sorbet consistency. You may need to blend it in smaller batches if your appliance struggles.  At this point, you have a delicious pineapple whip that you can serve immediately if you just can’t wait. For popsicles, spoon pineapple mixture into popsicle molds and freeze overnight, or until solid.  You don’t have to have mold though.  Paper cups work great as popsicle molds!

Recipe adapted from fabulesslyfrugal.com