During my week-long stay in the hospital for my collapsed lung and restorative surgery, I found my habits for eating at home could not be replicated exactly.

I longed for fresh fruits and vegetables, whole wheat crackers, or a cup of hot cocoa at a moment's notice. But, I had learned coping skills in ordering off the menu by the last day of my visit.

Although the menu included some interesting sounding entrees, I never felt hungry enough for that kind of food. It took 45 minutes to an hour for the items ordered via the phone to be delivered to my room.

The first morning, I was excited to order a veggie omelet, but after the doctors' rounds, I got sent off for a test and didn't have a chance to eat my omelet until noon. Fortunately, the nurse could warm it up in a microwave on the floor.

I sat on the side of my bed, with the arm table in front of me and my husband watching me from his chair on the other side. After a hesitation, I said, “You'll have to feed me.”

Although I could use my left arm, I could hardly move my right arm, without a lot of pain. Apparently having the tube inserted into my right lung also affected my right arm.

I liked the tomato basil and Moroccan lentil soups, but wasn't crazy about eating white soda crackers with them. In an attempt to get fresh fruit, I ordered it off the menu, hoping for wedges of apples or pineapple to pick up and eat. Instead I got a cup of blueberries that were on the verge of spoiling.

The “snack” menu filled in between for some of my cravings. I ordered celery and carrot cups twice and got prepackaged bags of popcorn, which we munched on while my husband and I watched the Super Bowl on Sunday. One night I ordered two “large” root beers and two servings of vanilla ice cream, so we could sip on root beer floats together.

All week I'd been thinking of ordering the chef salad. But when I did, I didn't order enough dressing, so had to wait another hour for it to be delivered, while I ate the really wonderful chocolate pudding topped with whipped cream.

I loved the oatmeal raisin cookies, which I would save to eat later.

During my home recovery, I've been able to cut an apple into wedges and sit small bowls of finger fruits bedside to nibble on while I read or type on my laptop. I've kept using my covered water cup from the hospital, also handy at bedside.

Not long after coming home, we headed to the cabin to check on things and where I have the best bed in the world.

Before we left, I'd asked my husband Dale to go the Eyota Market early and pick up a roasted chicken for our supper. I've learned these are ready by 3:30 p.m. and usually gone by 5 p.m. Taking the leftovers to the cabin, I planned to make a batch of chicken noodle soup, much like the recipe former Eyota mayor Wes Bussell once shared with me.

Meanwhile, we'd gone to Hayward for lunch on Saturday at the Angry Minnow, Dale's favorite for craft beers and mine for foods that are healthy and not calorie heavy.

For supper, I found a wild rice soup mix on sale at our favorite store, L&M Fleet.

I sauteed chopped mushrooms, onion and celery in butter before adding the mix and prescribed water amount. Then I chopped up the leftover chicken and added it.

Now that was a great soup! Served with a heat and serve whole wheat bread loaf, it was a satisfying supper. Plus we had plenty of leftovers to take back home. I should also admit that I chopped fresh parsley, and stirred it in before serving.

Remember how Dale cooked the eight-can soup for us the night I returned home from the hospital? Well, he is now thinking how he could make the wild rice soup for himself when he's up at the cabin working on improvements and I am back at home.

“Could I add a can of chicken breast meat (like was in the eight-can soup)?” he asked.

“Sure,” I said.

He also really liked all the mushrooms and extra onion and thought he might add them too. I felt encouraged how he'd learned some simple cooking methods and was getting creative. If he can learn, I can teach others to be creative cooks.

Taste is more difficult to teach. Although we know how important it is to include more fresh fruits and vegetables in our diets, I sometimes find it challenging getting young eaters to try what I serve.

I try to find which veggies or fruits my grandkids will eat. At Christmas, I had a plate of fresh fruit with slices of fresh pineapple, flanked by mounds of fresh blueberries on one side and big juicy blackberries on the other.

Oddly, at the end of the evening, I noticed the pineapple was gone, but the berries were still there. My stepgranddaughters told me they had been served fresh pineapple at school and hadn't minded chewing the meat off from the bumpy skins. Then I recalled how they really like red raspberries and wished I'd purchased them instead of blackberries.

My grandson Noah told me he likes fresh pineapple, but only if it was frozen. I'd never thought of that. So now, when I cut up a fresh pineapple in season, I will freeze the leftovers and keep the bags within easy reach.

I always thought of kiwi fruit as having to be peeled and sliced, yet one time when I got a two-pound plastic clam container of them, a plastic spoon with a knife handle was included. I could cut the kiwi in half, then scoop out the meat. It was so simple!

My granddaughter Sylvie proudly showed me how she was eating a kiwi with a spoon recently.

What I've learned offering samples of veggies at the farmers market is that kids (and even adults) can learn how good something they've never eaten before can taste. Fresh cucumber slices from a cuke just harvested has a taste that can't be replicated at a store. It's crunchy and sweet. A light sprinkle of sea salt further heightens the flavor.

The grandchild who gets the prize for loving fruits and vegetables is Hazel, who hasn't reached her second birthday yet. In the kitchen she drags my stepstool next to the kitchen counter, then climbs up and begs for bits of fruit or veggies. She's discovered from a young age that everything is good, especially bananas.

These past two weeks have been strange for me. I just started driving again. Being unable to drive made me more dependent, but led to wonderful times of sharing for my husband and I.

We've been working together to upgrade to smart phones and plan a vacation to California, which will also be a visit with three of my brothers, their children and grandchildren. Their wives are planning a get-together so I can see everyone.

When I planned a birthday party dinner for a son, Dale cleaned the house. I did the cooking, but being able to cook made life seem more normal to me. And I asked for help from guests when they arrived.

I was very sad that my first day home was also my Avon lady's funeral. Dale took me to Jean Booker's funeral. I will miss her calls asking if I need anything. Her husband remembered how I'd called to order Christmas gifts the day after she'd put in her order. However, since our Christmas was celebrated after Dec. 25, a two-week delay was just fine with me.

Instead of sharing a recipe, I want to share a list of my favorite fresh fruits, and simple ways to serve each. Watch your markets’ specials and pick up in-season fruits. Right now one can find good values on pineapple, kiwi, nectarines, strawberries and some berries.

I almost selected a cantaloupe at the store until I remembered I'd cut up and frozen ripe melon slices last fall from my son's harvest. Taking a tip from Noah, I think I'll eat them frozen, like the pineapple he likes, and they will be a special treat.

When I left for the hospital, I'd left a pineapple on the counter top. Nearly two weeks later, I finally cut it up. I was surprised to find the shrunken fruit still had some fruit meat I could use as a pizza topping. 

Easy ways for serving and eating fresh fruit

Strawberries: Rinse whole strawberries just before serving, draining them on a folded paper towel. Leave the green tops on as a handle for eating. (For little people, cut the top off and cut berry into bite sizes.) Store berries in the refrigerator.

  • Nectarines: Store at room temperature until fully ripe. Wash, then slice with a paring knife around the entire fruit, penetrating to the seed stone. Then, take the knife and cut sections off the fruit. If ripe, the sections will easily separate from the seed.
  • Kiwi: Cut washed fruit in half, then use a spoon to scoop out and eat the fruit. If not fully ripe, store at room temperature until they ripen. Flesh is soft enough to scoop out when ripe.
  • Pineapple: Store at room temperature. Greenish fruit will still ripen. Wash the pineapple thoroughly with a brush. Using a cutting board, slice off the green top with a serrated cutting knife. Cut in half lengthwise, then quarter lengthwise. Slice the tougher core off each quarter piece. For easy eating, leave the tough skin on and cut into width-wise slices, encouraging eating them like watermelon and discarding the skin. Or, using a sharp, smaller serrated knife, cut just inside the skin, saw toward the middle of the skin. Turn around and slip the knife in the other side, cutting again toward the center. Skin should pull easily from fleshy fruit. Cut width-wise into slices.
  • Cantaloupe or honeydew: Wash fruit. Cut in half and scoop out seeds. Cut into easy-to-pick-up slices. If desired, cut off skin before serving.
  • Grapes: Rinse in running water. Using a scissors, cut into smaller branches that can be picked up.
  • Apples or pears: Rinse, cut in half, then quarter. Pare off center of fruit with seeds. Slice into sections for easy eating. Be sure to eat the skin, it's the best part.