5 Italian Foods: Deliziosi!

It’s been quite a while since I participated in Tanya’s 5 Things challenge. The topic this week is: Italian food!! My favorite cuisine! It’s even a bit difficult to choose ONLY five of them!

  1. Gnocchi with Vodka sauce
Bowls filled with comforting gnocchi alla vodka, Parmesan, and basil.
I love gnocchi with whatever sauce is put on it, but I am partial to “vodka sauce” – I don’t taste the vodka, but it’s a wonderful tomato based smooth sauce!

2. Gelato: This is the Italian word for ice cream, which is my favorite food, but somehow the Italians (or wherever it is made in their name) have it just perfect – rich, creamy, flavorful! I also like the sorbets.

Espresso Gelato
This is a photo of espresso gelato – coffee ice cream! I love it! Since I cannot drink coffee anymore, this ice cream is a delicious way to get my “coffee fix”!

3. Pizza – Who doesn’t love pizza? It is such a versatile dish – a variety of toppings, a variety of crusts, the combinations are almost endless! If you ask me what kind of pizza I want, I would say spinach (for deep dish), Hawaiian (pineapple and Canadian bacon, usually topped with barbecue sauce), margherita (tomato and cheese) if it’s very thin crust, and sausage and onion if ordered from a certain local pizza place.

Mugs Pizza and Ribs | Chicago

4. Shrimp or Chicken Alfredo – I rarely order this because the alfredo sauce has about a gazillion calories (more than many other Italian foods, but most Italian foods are very caloric), but I still love it!

5. Risotto, if it’s prepared properly!

Overhead shot of prepared shrimp risotto in grey bowl with spoon.
This is risotto with shrimp – one of my favorite kinds!

Frutas Exoticas!

I have learned about exotic fruits mostly from my travels to Latin America and living in Brazil. And they are delicious!! Dr. Tanya’s 5 Things topic this week is exotic fruits!!

  1. Part of the time I spent in Brazil was in the northeastern city of Natal, the capital of the state of Rio Grande do Norte. My now ex-husband taught at the university there. I didn’t have a job and although we had a car, he drove because I was petrified of driving in Brazil – I still am! So many afternoons I would lie in a hammock on our veranda and drink fresh fruit juices. (Tough life, eh?!) We made these ourselves – all you do is cut up the fruit and blend it in a blender. I guess it was more like a smoothie.

It so happened that our next door neighbor, separated by a wall between us, had a papaya tree that was right next to that wall. One day, it produced a large papaya which dropped from the tree into our yard! So we claimed it and ate it right away. (I never much liked papaya, but when it’s fresh, it’s wonderfully juicy and smooth!)

Brazilian papayas are much larger than the ones imported from Mexico that we have in the U.S.

2. Probably the most unusual fruit, at least for those of us who live in temperate climates, is the caju (cashew in English). All we get here are the nuts (which I love!) but they also have a fruit attached to them. The juice from the cashew fruit isn’t that great, but I’m including it here for its “exoticness” and because I like cashews!

Incidentally, the largest cashew tree in the world is in Natal! My ex and I visited it one day, and although I have photos of it in a moldy old photo album somewhere, I am posting this one downloaded from Google Images. (They’ve really modernized it by making paths through it – there were no wooden paths when we went.)

The cashew tree doesn’t grow tall – it just spreads out and looks like a small forest from the outside! When a long, snaky branch gets heavy and touches the ground, eventually roots grow underneath it, creating a new, “daughter” tree!

Here is the fruit, called an apple in English. Brazilians don’t usually eat the fruit, but they make juice out of it.

The cashew nut is easy to identify!

3. The carambola, or star fruit, is shaped like a star! You slice it as you would a kiwi, and eat the juicy slices! It is possible sometimes to find this fruit in American supermarkets.

4. Fruta de conde is a fruit not available here, but in Puerto Rico and other Central American countries you can find a variation of it, called guanabana. It contains large black seeds which are easy to remove as you eat the mild, sweet white flesh. Ice cream made from this fruit is wonderful too!

The Brazilian fruta de conde is rather small, about the size of an artichoke (which it sort of resembles from the outside!), but the guanabana of Central America is quite a bit larger.

5. For the last one, it was hard to decide between passion fruit and guava, both of which are absolutely wonderful! If you have never tried passion fruit juice, you can find it in the international section of your supermarket – sometimes – and you will develop a passion for this fruit too!

Maracuja, as passion fruit is called in Portuguese, is very popular to use in the most famous Brazilian cocktail – caipirinha! This drink is made with cachaça (very strong but kind of sweet alcohol), sugar, ice, and maracuja. It’s great with vodka or rum too!!

Four years ago, when my husband Dale and I went to Brazil, I ordered this drink several times, always with passion fruit, but you can get them made from most any fruit, including mango, lime (traditional), guava, etc.

Because it was a tie between passion fruit and guava, I will include guava too! My late sister-in-law lived in Hawaii, and when we went to visit her, I would pick guavas right off the tree in front of her house and bite into them! Guava skin is meant to be eaten with the fruit. My ex-husband’s grandmother made really good jam from guava.

I prefer the pink guava, but the yellow/white is good too.

There are many other fruits I could write about, (mango, jaca, acai, etc.) but this challenge was for 5 (or 6, ahem) things!

All photographs in this post were downloaded from Google Images.

5 Things & Truthful Tuesday: On the Subject of Eating

I’m combining Dr. Tanya’s 5 Things and PC Guy IV’s Truthful Tuesday, both of which are about one of my favorite subjects: EATING! This is possibly the first time I’m participating in Truthful Tuesday but I like PC Guy’s questions so probably will again.

The Questions for this week on Truthful Tuesday:
  • Are you an adventurous eater, or do you prefer to play it safe when you’re feeling peckish?
    I do often play it safe but every once in awhile I am compelled to eat something I think I don’t like and end up surprised. For example, I don’t know when I got the idea that I hate eggplant, but would never eat it until I had to sample it at a family’s house in Egypt in order not to offend. And I LIKED it! What I’ve been missing! But I also tend to choose what I am familiar with when at ethnic restaurants, especially when the cuisine is known for being spicy. I cannot tolerate spicy.
  • Do you prefer dining in or dining out?
    Both. I love to eat out but after awhile I get sick of choosing from a menu and spending more than I would spend to eat at home. So I try to see it as special to eat out. Now my husband and I live in a senior living community so we have to choose from a menu even to eat at “home.” Especially now, during the pandemic, we are having our food delivered to us. But I enjoy being able to just open the refrigerator and select from what is in there. I tend not to gain weight as much that way!

    One of the great things about eating out is that I usually bring home leftovers. American restaurants serve way too much food, but that’s okay – then I get at least two meals for the price of one!
  • When you dine in, who does the cooking?
    My husband, mainly because I’m lazy and also because he enjoys being a short-order cook. A couple of times a week, he makes omelettes with lots of veggies and usually some kind of meat, unless I protest. I get to choose what kind of bread to eat with them! He’s really good at breakfast and also he makes an awesome turkey meatloaf! We always have the option of eating in, because we have food in our freezer, but usually just eat what the dining service here offers us.
  • When you dine out, do you tend to stick to places you know, or do you look for new places to try?
    I like to try new places but also enjoy returning to the ones I have eaten at before that I like. It’s fun to try something on the menu I haven’t had a chance to order previously. And sometimes I have the urge for a certain meal I can get at a particular restaurant – right now I have a craving for ceviche so I want to go to my favorite Mexican restaurant and order ceviche on tostadas. I’ll invite a like-minded friend to go with me!

And now Dr. Tanya’s Five Things: 5 Favourite Ways To Enjoy Potatoes

This is a hard one, because I love potatoes any way they are prepared – when it comes to potatoes, I can’t go wrong whatever I decide to order or cook. But I do have favorites. Here they are in no particular order.

  1. Steak fries – this is what we Americans call the British “chips” – sort of like French fries but thicker and more substantial. Leaving the skins on is great too! The kind I like are also called “potato wedges.” I usually eat them with ketchup but I also would love the garlic mayo that Dr. Tanya mentions! If I cook them at home, I’ll roast them with olive oil and parmesan cheese!

2. Mashed potatoes – definitely with butter, never gravy. The picture below shows how I like them best.

  • 3. Baked potatoes – what I order when I’m trying to eat healthy. I also like them with butter and pepper. (I do like them with sour cream, but when I’m trying to eat healthy, I won’t eat sour cream so as a result I rarely eat sour cream on baked potatoes.) Usually baked potatoes are so large at restaurants that I cut them in half and take one of the halves home. As a leftover, I like to heap it with veggies and melted cheese on top! The image below shows “twice baked” potatoes, which I also love! The things on top – tomatoes, scallions, cheese, maybe a little bacon – are the things I like to put on the leftover potato.
Twice Baked Potatoes - Jessica Gavin
  • 4. dauphinoise style or potatoes au gratin
Dauphinoise recipe - BBC Food
  • 5. Bistro chips (“crisps” to the Brits) – these are potato chips only better – usually not as greasy and they tend to be a little burnt around the edges, which I like the best!
Bistro Chips | Seasoned chips, bleu béchamel, balsamic driz… | Tom Noe |  Flickr
Don’t these bistro chips look scrumptious?

I once bought online a tool to make potato chips at home. You cut the potato (raw or slightly cooked) in thin slices, and insert them into the little slots on this potato chip maker, then bake them at a hot temperature. They turned out well but I lost the thing to put them in so I never did it again!

Potatoes are one of the foods I find hard to resist, no matter how disciplined I am about not gaining weight.

5 Things I Hate (?) About Summer (!)

This is a tough one to write about, since my favorite season is summer – it would be a lot easier to list 5 things I LOVE about summer. But since this is Dr. Tanya’s topic for her 5 Things challenge, this week, here goes…

1. Humidity – I would love to live in a drier climate. It can be a mild day, but I still sweat due to the high humidity here in Midwestern USA!

I’d rather be living in the orange or yellow zones! Seriously, most of the time our humidity in the summertime is 70-80 %, even though the map shows an AVERAGE of 55% for northern Illinois.

2. Extreme heat – temperatures in upper 80s and above. I just have to stay inside an air conditioned house in those conditions. I admit, though, that I didn’t mind it while traveling in Europe last year during a heat wave – maybe it’s less humid or maybe I was just having too much fun to care!

National Weather Service issues heat warning | News ...

3. Bugs, especially mosquitoes and stinging insects. This is the one thing that every summer brings, and one of the few things I don’t like about this season.

Mosquito Control & Removal | How to Get Rid of Mosquitoes | Orkin

4. Excessive air conditioning – I realize it’s highly desirable to have air conditioning, but many buildings have cranked up the air conditioning so that I feel cold – after all, we are wearing summer clothes, we don’t want to freeze in a restaurant! Hotel rooms, too – I hate their air conditioning – it’s usually noisy and I don’t sleep well in air conditioned rooms.

LG LT1216CER: 12,000 BTU Through-the-Wall Air Conditioner | LG USA
In our old house, we relied on window units like this one and fans. Now we have central air.

5. Getting into a hot car that’s been sitting in the sun – I can open the windows a little bit and put a sunshade over the windshield while it is parked, but these things don’t help too much – and if I’ve left a water bottle in there, the water is warm, ugh!

21 children have died in hot cars this year | Fox 59

In the past, at the top of my list would be “sunburn” – but I don’t get sunburned anymore. My lifestyle has changed and I tend to protect myself, if needed, with sunscreen, but mostly by wearing a hat! And I just don’t go lie on beaches anymore – skin cancer is too much of a risk!

5 Things Tuesday: Food Combos

Dr. Tanya at Salted Caramel has a new weekly challenge: 5 Things Tuesday – this week the theme is food combos.

1. Pizza: Sausage & onion, or Hawaiian (pineapple and Canadian bacon or ham) – I always try to remember to order it with no barbecue sauce!
hawaiian-pizza-5320182. My favorite dessert is a schaum torte, which is a combination of a meringue with ice cream on top and then covered with strawberries and/or hot fudge sauce (preferably homemade!). My niece makes the meringues every year at Easter and her mom, my sister, makes the homemade hot fudge sauce and everyone assembles their own schaum torte according to their particular taste! Because of the quarantine, there was no Easter celebration at my sister’s this year, so I’m posting this photo from last year! (By the way, my favorite ice cream is peppermint and with fudge sauce it’s sublime!)
3. Snack or lunch side: Hummus with either pita chips, pretzels or veggies – my favorite snack or lunch accompaniment! To drink, I prefer Bai Strawberry Lemonade!
4. My two favorite breakfast combos: Hot hard-boiled eggs, chopped up with a little butter, salt and pepper, and an English muffin with honey. When I am having breakfast alone, this is what I will have if the ingredients are available. Otherwise I will have instant oatmeal with raspberry yogurt, and pecans, blueberries and raspberries mixed in!

5. dinner side: miniature potatoes, boiled, then marinated with balsamic vinegar, a little olive oil and chopped onions

5 Things Tuesday: Make Me Smile

Years ago, there used to be a weekly feature called “5 Things.” I don’t remember who hosted it but I really got into it. Every week the blogger would write about five things pertaining to a certain topic. I think it is great that Dr. Tanya is resurrecting it! And what fun for us all to share our five things every week!

A happy topic to start:5 Things That Make Me Smile!

  1.  Kittens – really cats of all ages. I have a whole separate blog about cats, but I don’t add to it much. I mostly post my cat pictures/stories here!


Kittens and cats

2.  Flowers – I love to discover them, photograph them and admire them!


Daffodils are special because they are the heralds of the beginning of spring.

3.  Ice cream or anything chocolate


Oh, how I’d love to have one of these right now!

4.   Baby animals – It’s so fun to walk around the campus of our community right now, because we get to see baby ducks, baby geese, and very soon baby swans!
5.  Just the right music for my mood – from Beatles to Mahler

Dr. Tanya’s challenge and her answers remind me of a song, which is appropriate to end this post: