Power to the Pineapple (and Hawaiian Holy Shadow Cookies)

by Maria Theresa Maggi on January 8, 2013

When I was a preteen back in the mid 60s, a slumber party was a sign of popularity and prestige. The first one my mother let me attend was during the summer of my tenth year: Judy Matrangalo, a very popular girl in my class at school who lived around the block from me, was turning 10. I remember very few particulars except that we went to see the film Born Free, and that a box of Kleenex was passed up and down the movie aisle as the row of us young girls dried our sniffles afterwards, and that even through tears I was breathless with joy at being one of the chosen to attend. In October of that year, my “older” buddy, Gail, just a few houses down from me, turned 12. I remember feeling honored to be with all these seventh graders. We danced to “I’m a Believer” in the small living room with the furniture pushed back, and then spent the night out in the back yard in a large tent with flashlights. I listened in awe as the seventh grade girls discussed who had bras and how you could tell, and whether there was Kleenex stuffed into the cups or not.

So naturally when I turned 11 the next January, it was my turn to host.  Having my birthday fall in Winter had some rather sore sticking points. Earlier on, it was that I could not have a birthday at Fairy Tale Town, a place in our city park that boasted a castle with a moat where the birthday boy or girl would be crowned king or queen and allowed to sit on a throne to open presents. It was closed for the month of January. As if that were not disappointment enough as a member of the “under 8” crowd, when I got a little older I learned that I could not request a legendary ice cream cake from  Vic’s Ice Cream, because they, too, closed for the month of January. How in the world was I to celebrate in true style if these accompaniments were denied me?

So hosting a slumber party was a source of great comfort. I remember there were lots of giggling girls of all colors and sizes, that we slept in the living room and had a fire in the fireplace, and that my Dad got cranky at us for giggling on into the very late night. But in the morning  his crankiness was gone. He was “up and at ’em,” as he would have said, with my Mom, making us a sit-down feast of a breakfast. There were pancakes with maple or berry syrup, and, in those days, of course, bacon. But the thing I remember most clearly was the fresh pineapple. Somewhere my Dad had procured a whole, fresh pineapple. He stood at the head of the dining room table, all smiles, with a very sharp knife, and proceeded to skin and then cut the pineapple up for us. Chunks and slices were laid on a fancy glass plate and passed around the table. As I write this, I can once again taste the strong sweet goodness. It was my first taste of fresh pineapple, and I never forgot it or fell out of love with it–or my Dad, for giving us such a spectacular and fresh warm weather treat.

The World’s Healthiest Foods site (one of my favorite places to “nerd out” on fun factoids about fruits and veggies) says that pineapples “are a composite of many flowers whose individual fruitlets fuse together around a central core. Each fruitlet can be identified by an ‘eye,’ the rough spiny marking on the pineapple’s surface.” Pineapple also contains a complex mixture of substances called bromelaine in the core and stem of the fruit. Bromelaine acts to reduce excessive inflammation, coagulation of the blood and even tumor growth. Bromelaine has only been tested as an extracted supplement, but there is a strong suggestion that eating the fruit itself may also provide these benefits. That makes sense to me. And research shows that pineapple is indisputably loaded with vitamin C.

Christmas around here got crowned with pineapple. Kelly dotted the delicious personal gluten free oil free veggie pizzas she made us with little chunks of pineapple. Mike flavored his very big breakfast bowl with crushed pineapple. We made Susan’s pineapple coffee cake gluten free with date syrup, and ate it with banana ice cream on Christmas Eve and Christmas night. So I got bit by the pineapple bug again. But once the kids left I didn’t want to tempt myself with a whole cake made from flour. Too much flour, even gluten free flour, too many days in a row does my fibromyalgia no good and makes my rosacea flare up. So I concocted a tropical version of my Holy Shadow Cookies. Here’s what I came up with:

My long time Capricorn friend and I here in Moscow have known each other for 20 years. Our birthdays are just days apart, and we usually celebrate them in some way together. This year my friend is headed off to Arizona for the month of January so we convened early, on New Year’s Eve, to mark our Capricorn-ness together. We ate the McDougall Shepherd’s Pie from the Starch Solution photographed on Susan’s facebook page, and some steamed swiss chard. For dessert it was Hawaiian Holy Shadow Cookies, in honor of her love of dolphins and all places surrounded by tropical warm water. She ate one and took two for the road (but one was already getting eaten up as she was walking out the door to an appointment). She insisted I post the recipe on the blog. And when she gets imperative with me, I listen.

All this pineapple bliss came from the kind canned in its own juice. As my actual birthday approached, I splurged on half a fresh organic one. And compared my experience cutting it up to this breakthrough I wrote about a couple of years ago:

“August 8, 2010

Last night I cut  my own pineapple up. I had never done it before.  Or if I have, I don’t remember when. Either way, I couldn’t have even attempted it three years ago. The pineapple would have been too heavy and slippery, and I would have been too weak. I started out armed with a friend’s instructions about how she did it, but that quickly was modified by memories of watching my Dad “saw ” it with a serated knife. So I got one of those out. I felt his presence very strongly with me as I worked away on it, along with the memory of the pineapple of my 10th birthday party. Such an exotic thing in January. Where did that pineapple even come from in those days at that time of year?

As I told my friend, pineapples have always been cut by the men in my life. First my Dad, and then Michael’s Dad. Each had a particular way of doing it. So I stayed out of it. In later years, I would not have stayed out of it, but it was no longer in my skill set to try. But last night it was. And as I began my friend’s “way,” my Dad’s “way” came back to me, so that I was sawing off the sides, rather then slicing them away. Or so it seemed. And maybe there was a memory in my hands of that. It was very interesting, and much easier than I had anticipated, though I had to be careful not to let it slip out of my hands. I modified as I went in ways that would work for me. And I realized how much better at chopping and slicing in general I now am. Not fast fast, but more able, my hands working less like paws and more like hands. There it is again. That image of hands that have had to paw becoming more hand-like again.  Just enjoying I could do it all, even cutting the top off, and not going blank about what the first step might be.”

I am a big supporter of locally grown produce, and a pineapple in Northern Idaho is far from that ideal. It felt decadent to buy even a half one for myself. But I did it anyway, letting it be one of those beautiful exceptions that proves the rule. And because part of me always reverts to being a kid when my birthday comes around. And longs for something exotic. But who needs Fairy Tale Town or ice cream cake when I can savor a pineapple in the middle of Winter? My body thanks me for the antioxidant and anti-inflammatory boost, and I don’t need a throne or any crown (other than the spiked blue green leaves of the pineapple) to feel like a queen.


Maria (moonwatcher)



Leave a Comment

{ 30 comments… read them below or add one }

1 SusanV (admin) January 8, 2013 at 1:37 pm

Let me be the first to say Happy Birthday, Maria! The cookies look delicious, and coincidentally, I was just eating fresh pineapple. It was the last quarter of one I cut a few days ago, and I’m not ashamed to say, I ate the whole fourth. So good!

Thanks for sharing the story of your father and the pineapple. What a happy memory! Hope you have a great birthday month.


2 moonwatcher January 8, 2013 at 1:53 pm

Thanks, Susan! And glad to hear you were indulging yourself–more power to the pineapple! I am so glad you liked the story of my father and the pineapple. It is one of my favorite memories.


3 Ellen January 8, 2013 at 8:32 pm

Happy Birthday! What a wonderful memory of your father. I love fresh pineapple, too, and also wonder how he got his hands on one in January in the 1960’s.



4 moonwatcher January 9, 2013 at 8:18 am

Thanks, Ellen! I’m definitely with you on the mystery of how he was able to come up with that pineapple. 🙂


5 Sally January 8, 2013 at 8:35 pm

Happy Birthday Maria. 🙂 The cookies do look delicious. I made some of Susan’s Mexican Lasagna today, adding some spinach that no one knew was there. I enjoy your stories – we can all empathize. My birthday is in July and was always when school was out and everyone was on vacation and … it was still great!


6 moonwatcher January 9, 2013 at 8:19 am

Thanks, Sally! And very nice to hear how it felt on the opposite seasonal spectrum of the birthday-go-round as a kid. 🙂


7 Nicole O'Shea January 9, 2013 at 7:41 am

Happy Birthday, Maria!




8 moonwatcher January 9, 2013 at 8:19 am

Thanks, Nicole!


9 kally January 9, 2013 at 9:26 am

could I use something else besides amaranth? I don’t have a gluten problem. Thanks this looks great.

I remember my parents organized a birthday party for me when I was 10. They took myself and 4 girlfriends out to the country where some rich friends lived. They let us stay out in the shed ,(sort of an out building) which didn’t have entire walls. We had food, candles and a ouija board. We were scared senseless, but it was memorable.


10 moonwatcher January 9, 2013 at 9:37 am

Hi kally,

Thanks for telling me about your 10th birthday experience–sounds like an adventure for sure.

About the amaranth. . . it really does make the cookies hold together, since it is a seed, and small, and flavorful. The fat content in it helps bind the cookies together. If you are not averse to using whole wheat flour of some kind, you could try substituting some of that and see how it works. But since I’ve never done that, I couldn’t tell you. I just know the texture of the cookie will be different, less substantial. I have tried making other flavors of this cookie with cooked teff, since it is also a tiny seed, and that works well too. But to my taste, the amaranth works best. It’s loaded with protein, too. I wouldn’t use quinoa, because the taste would be a little too strong. You might also try grinding up some barley, which is not gluten free. That might be good, but again, it won’t have the same texture as the tiny cooked seeds. Experiment and let me know how it goes.


11 stephanie January 9, 2013 at 4:33 pm

Happy belated birthday, Maria!
I made the previously posted recipe for the holy shadow cookies and I used millet because I didn’t have amaranth and was too lazy to go on a journey for it. They looked similar enough to me. I have never had amaranth before, so I don’t know if it tastes similar at all, but I doubt it. The millet seemed to suck the flavor out of them. They were not bad or gross or anything, just kind of bland. You could try subbing it if you have it and maybe add more spices and a couple extra dates.
As for me, am going to wait to try this until I can find the amaranth.
Oh, also, Maria, would mind sharing your recipe for steamed chard with us some time? It is delicious, a powerhouse of nutrition…and abundant in my garden! I am always looking for new ways to cook it! Every one should try it!


12 moonwatcher January 9, 2013 at 6:32 pm

Thanks, Stephanie! And thanks for relaying your experience with subbing the millet into the Holy Shadow Cookie recipe. The amaranath and the millet are different animals for sure. The amaranth has more fat and an earthy, nutty flavor millet doesn’t have. I like millet, but I can see how it was a bland ingredient in the cookie recipe. I like to use it as part of the mix in cornbread. It’s mild flavor goes well with cornmeal to me. The ancient Aztecs used to make a kind of sweet with amaranth and honey. I can see why. It takes well to sweet things.

Thanks for your request about my steamed chard. You have just inspired a future post. 🙂


13 stephanie January 18, 2013 at 10:33 am

I got my hands on amaranth and made these cookies. The amaranth really does make all the difference. These cookies are over-the-top yummy! Definitely the best fat free, sugar free, gluten free, soy free, vegan cookies I have ever had! You will not believe these are healthy when you eat one! Delicious!!!
Maria, I think I will try to make a version of that Aztec sweet you told me about, but with agave. ; )

14 Julie January 9, 2013 at 9:39 am

Happy birthday Maria! Thank you for sharing. You have inspired me to pick up a pineapple today. I may even have to bake those yummy cookies.


15 moonwatcher January 9, 2013 at 10:05 am

Thanks, Julie! Glad to pass on the pineapple inspiration!


16 Patricia Jackson January 9, 2013 at 1:06 pm

Happy Birthday, Maria! Your posts always makes me want to reach out and give you a warm, gentle hug. I am thankful to Susan for introducing us to you.

I am so glad you are doing better. My fibromyalgia was never as bad as yours, but the changes I have made to my diet greatly reduced my pain too, along with improving other medical issues I have. I hope you will continue to see improvement. *hugs*


17 moonwatcher January 9, 2013 at 2:05 pm

Hi Patricia! Thank you so much for your compassionate thoughts and for reading along with me. I really appreciate knowing you are here!


18 Sandy Moderhack January 10, 2013 at 4:57 am

First and formost, Happy Birthday, Maria!

This is the first time I’ve responded to your posts, which I really enjoy. I also want to thank, Susan, for asking you to post your stories!

We found out almost 5 years ago that my husband has MS. I enjoy reading your posts and on any insight you can give me on how to better help him deal with it. He does take shots and have for most of these 5 years.

I only started eating mostly vegan from reading “Eat To Live”. I really am learning a lot, trying different recipes for the last 3 months. I go to the Dr. today and am, hoping against hope, that I can get off my medicine.

My story on sleep overs was at a friend’s birthday, they gathered our bras and put them in the freezer for the night. They only got them out when we were getting dressed in the morning. It was something I probably wouldn’t have thought of, but thought it was a chilling idea.


19 moonwatcher January 10, 2013 at 9:16 am

Thanks for the birthday wishes, Sandy, and the wonderful comment! So glad you are reading along. I hope some of what I write helps you and your husband on his own path with MS. I have never taken any shots or MS meds, but I know it is helpful for some people. The Swank Foundation has a message board and recipe exchange that can be very helpful for folks with MS and their families. I believe there’s a whole thread dedicated to discussion of meds, as well as many other threads that might be of interest. You have to register to participate, but it’s not hard to do. Here is the link, in case you or your husband are interested. I think you can just read from here, without registering

Also, as has been mentioned here before, Dr. McDougall is conducting a study on low fat vegan diet and MS at OSHU. On his discussion board, also free, there is a woman with MS keeping a journal who has had very nice success with diet and going off meds. Here is a link to her very popular journal there, if you or your husband would like to take a look:


I loved this story about someone putting the bras in the freezer! OMG! I wouldn’t have thought of it either. Chilling idea indeed!! LOL


20 Sandy Moderhack January 11, 2013 at 4:09 am

Maria, thank you so much for the tips & sites. Going to check those out very soon!

I went to the Dr. yesterday! I had lost 39 lbs in a little over 3 months, so he is considering my diabetes as diet controlled for the next 6 months. I will only need to take 3 over the counter meds.


21 moonwatcher January 11, 2013 at 8:48 am

Congratulations, Sandy, what wonderful news! Thanks for sharing with me. The McDougall site has the best advice about how strict to be. It is a refinement of the Swank Diet. Dr. McDougall considers Dr. Swank a mentor of his. The Swank site, though, has lots of good support and is a kind of “in between” between low fat vegan and standard American Diet. Here is the link (also on Dr. McDougall’s site) to a free talk on Diet and Multiple Sclerosis, which you and your husband might find helpful. Dr. McDougall gives background, siting Dr. Swank (now deceased) and also explaining the parameters of his own current study.


all the best to you and your husband!


22 Sherril January 12, 2013 at 8:28 am

Maria, I so enjoy your posts and look forward to new recipes to try. I decided to try gluten free this year, even though I had no “symptoms”. What I know about the hybrid wheat we have nowadays was enough. I have been baking with spelt only for a couple of years and really enjoy it. Today I made buckwheat-spelt-blueberry pancakes and they were good! Most of my plant-strong books do not address gluten issues and use ingredients that cause my eyebrows to rise. So I appreciate your recipes and experiences. Since I live on the opposite side of Idaho from you, in an even smaller town, finding ingredients can be challenging. Where do you get amaranth? Is it a Bob’s Red Mill product? I checked all the bulk food options here and came up empty handed.

Sounds like you grew up in Sacramento. I take my grandsons to FairyTale Town but I believe Gunther’s is gone now. We go to Yogurt Monkey 🙂

Sherril Twitchell


23 moonwatcher January 12, 2013 at 9:35 am

Thanks so much, Sherll! Your pancakes sound delicious. Just so you know: spelt is a form of wheat, and so is not gluten free. But it’s a great alternative to hybrid wheat for sure. About finding amarmanth: I agree small towns in Idaho are not the easiest place to find it! I am lucky that our co-op carries it in bulk. But yes, Bob’s Red Mill sells it, and you can get it directly from them or from Amazon on line.

And yes, I did grow up in Sacramento. So fun to know you’ve been to FairyTale Town with your grandsons! When I was growing up I was actually friends with the granddaughter of Gunther’s Ice Cream. Her mother was a teacher, along with one of our neighbors and my Mom, which is how we met. They sold the business though, I think. Vic’s is still there though! But times change, and as you say, now it’s off to Yogurt Monkey!


24 Sherril January 13, 2013 at 8:37 am

Maria, my lengthy comment from yesterday got lost in the ethers, so I will keep this one brief. Amaranth and coconut extract are not to be found on this side of Idaho. Coconut is easy: I can just add some flaked coconut. To replace cooked amaranth, I could use cooked quinoa or millet. Which do you think would work best? I can’t wait to try these cookies!

Sherril Twitchell


25 moonwatcher January 13, 2013 at 9:52 am

Hi Sherril–

I see your comment and my answer to it just above what I am writing here, so hope you can see them too!

Adding flaked coconut would be a great addition, if you can have it, but use sparingly as it is high in fat. I avoid it because Dr. Swank “forbid” it as a food for those with MS.
As I said in my reply above, the amaranth really does make the cookies. Someone else tried the original recipe with millet and was underwhelmed. I can see why. I like cooked millet, but it’s mild, and doesn’t “bind” in the same way the tiny cooked amaranth seeds do. The quinoa has almost the same consistency as the amaranth, but it has a very strong taste, too, which might seem too “grassy” in the cookies. Perhaps that could be offset my more sweetener or fruit. I would recommend splurging on some Bob’s Red Mill amaranth the next time you have to order something from Amazon. It really goes well in this recipe. Another suitable substitue is teff, which I tried out. It’s also a very tiny seed. That may be hard for you to find as well. Amaranth is really the “faux grain” of choice here, but do let me know how your experiments go! I’m wishing you the best with it all. 🙂


26 kelly January 13, 2013 at 9:43 pm

Happy belated Birthday, Maria! I too have a birthday in January. I just wanted to let you know how much I am enjoying your posts and recipes! I live in eastern WA, but hope to relocate to Moscow someday. Going to try your cookies tomorrow 🙂


27 moonwatcher January 13, 2013 at 10:49 pm

Thank you, kelly, and happy birthday back to you, too. Nice to hear from a “neighbor.” Hope you enjoy the cookies!


28 angela January 14, 2013 at 4:53 pm

Happy Birthday Maria! I hope this year is a wonderful one and that your health continues to improve.
I too love to read your stories.
Pineapples are just soo good. My first taste of fresh pineapples came when I lived in sunny Singapore. What a treat after cold old UK…but that was thirty odd years ago. Things have changed and now I live in sunny Australia where fresh pineapples are a plenty.
Love Angela XXX


29 moonwatcher January 14, 2013 at 9:29 pm

Thank you, Angela! And thanks for sharing your love of pineapples with me, too, from halfway around the world. And for being such a wonderful reader of my blog.


30 moonwatcher January 18, 2013 at 1:39 pm

Thanks so much, stephanie! It made my day to read you much you love the cookies! Yes, the powerhouse of that little tiny amaranth seed makes all the difference. Have fun experimenting with the Aztec sweet.


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