For most picky eaters, naturally sweet, juicy pineapple is low on the list of disliked foods. But did you know that this tasty fruit is full important vitamins and enzymes that are critical to a healthy diet?

Despite popular belief, pineapple was first discovered in South America by early explorers. It was then taken back to Europe and given the name pineapple due to its pinecone like appearance. However, today Hawaii is now the world’s leading pineapple producer.

Pineapples contain a powerful enzyme called bromelain. Research shows that bromelain is beneficial to help digestion in the intestinal tract as well as provided anti-inflammatory properties that may alleviate symptoms of arthritis, sports injuries, and prevent certain types of cancers. Pineapples are also an excellent source of manganese, fiber, and Vitamins C, B1, and B6.

Although fresh pineapple is available year round, its peak season runs from March through July. When selecting pineapple, choose ones that are large and plump. They should have deep green leaves, be slightly soft to the touch, and have a sweet tropical smell. Avoid pineapple that are overly soft or have yellow or brown leaves. Since pineapple stops ripening as soon as it is picked, it should be consumed fairly quickly after purchase. If stored in the refrigerator, a pineapple can last up to three days before cutting and three days after.

To pump up pineapple consumption in a picky eater’s diet try these kid friendly serving suggestions: Freeze fresh pineapple chunks and add them to smoothies and shakes. Puree canned pineapple chunks and juice and freeze in popsicle molds for a cool summer treat. Add pineapple to fruit salads, green salads, salsa, and pizza. Place pineapple on skewers with chicken and throw them on the grill for a quick, family friendly dinner.

The Hawaiian Rice recipe below is a popular user favorite from the Food on the Table website. Serve this tasty side dish with some grilled chicken, ham, or fish for a tasty complete meal that will be enjoyed by all!

Hawaiian Rice

Prep Time: 5 minutes Cook Time: 15 minutes Serves 4-5

2 cups rice (cooked)
1 teaspoon fresh ginger, minced
2 tablespoon soy sauce
1/3 cup brown sugar
1 (20 ounce) can pineapple slices (in heavy syrup)

Pour syrup from the can into a sauce pan. Bring to a boil for approximately five minutes.

Lower heat and stir in brown sugar until it dissolves completely. Add ginger and soy and allow to simmer on very low heat to keep warm.

On a grill place pineapple rings and cook for about four minutes on one side and one minute on the other side (you can broil them in the oven, but you should baste the rings with the sauce before broiling to help pineapple turn golden brown). Place pineapple rings on top of rice, pour sauce over rice.

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