Pumpkin Shrimp Recipe

Recipe contributed by Luciana Mitzkun Weston,
Alexander Gardens Community Services Director

“Camarão na moranga” is a typical dish of the Brazilian south coast, delicious and impressive for special occasions. The recipe was created in 1945 in Ubatuba, a town along the northern coast of state of São Paulo. 
Pumpkin is a Central American vegetable very common in Brazil. It is versatile and is used to make a infinite number of sweet and savory recipes.


  • 5lbs flat pumpkin (sweet pumpkin)
  • For the prawns in cream sauce:
    • 2 lbs medium prawns
    • 2 tablespoons olive oil
    • 2 tablespoons butter
    • 1 garlic clove chopped
    • 1 small onion chopped
    • 2 cups tomato sauce
    • salt and ground pepper or chilli pepper
    • 1 bay leaf
    • 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
    • 1 cup whipping (heavy) cream
    • 1 cup coconut milk
    • 2 cups cheese cream
  • Garnish:
    • large sized prawns
    • salt
    • 2 tablespoons olive oil
    • 1 garlic clove
    • 1 shot cognac

Preparation method

Preparation of the pumpkin: 
1. Wash the pumpkin and cut the “lid” to make the pumpkin into a “bowl”. 
2. Scrape the inside with a spoon to remove seeds. 
3. Bake the pumpkin at 250° for about 1 hour, until the pulp is soft.

Preparation of the prawns in cream sauce: 
1. Sauté the onion and the garlic finely chopped in oil and butter.  
2. Add the tomato sauce, the bay leaf, salt, black pepper and cook for 2 minutes.
3. Add the peeled prawns and cook a few minutes. 
4. Dissolve the flour in a little of coconut milk or whipping (heavy) cream. 
5. Add the whipping (heavy) cream, the coconut milk and flour dissolved to the mixture, a little at a time, and stir frequently until the cream is thickened. 
6. Season with salt and black pepper; remove and discard the bay leaf. 

To assemble the dish:  
1. Fill the baked pumpkin with the prawns in cream sauce and the cheese cubes. 
2. Bake the filled pumpkin at 350° until the cheese has melted. It takes about 15 minutes.
3. Decorate the filled pumpkin with prawns sautéed with olive oil and garlic and flambéed with cognac. 
4. Pumpkin is not only a bowl but is part of the dish so, serve the pulp of the pumpkin with the prawns in cream sauce. Serve with white rice. 

Yield: 4 – 6 servings.

5 Reasons Seniors Should Join a Book Club in When Living in Assisted Living

Senior Reading

The Book Club at Alexander Gardens Assisted Living is one of the many life-enriching activities offered to our residents. We understand leading a full and meaningful life is important at any age but when seniors move to an assisted living community a good life enrichment program will improve the quality of their lives. Staying active in an Assisted Living community is vital in reducing depression and isolation.

Book clubs are important in assisted living because research shows reading helps long term memory, focus and concentration. In her article, Being a Lifelong Bookworm May Keep You Sharp in Old Age, by Marina KorenSMITHSONIANMAG.COM, JULY 3, 2013, she talks about giving our brains a workout. Reading and retaining words requires more mental energy than, watching TV or playing Solitary on an IPad.
According to Koren, “In particular, people who participated in mentally stimulating activities over their lifetimes, both in young, middle and old age, had a slower rate of decline in memory and other mental capacities than those who did not.” No matter your age it’s important to read and these are some of the reasons seniors should join a book club.
1.    Socialization, in addition to giving your brain a workout, a book club can be social. It brings together residents in a group environment to share their ideas about the book they are reading. They may have so much fun and meet someone new.
2.    Expanding resident’ horizons beyond the walls in assisted living. Reading brings the outside world to the resident’s world without leaving the building. Books offer a glimpse into the lives of other people, different cultures, and current events.
3.    Practicing effective communication skills in a book club helps residents clarify what they have read in the book. Residents will question each other about ideas and opinions. In addition, they will provide feedback to each other when discussing characters and plot.
4.    Setting goals for reading is a good thing for residents. Sometimes residents get over whelmed if they feel pressure to join an activity or group especially if they were not social when living in their home. But reading is an individual activity and can be done at one’s own pace. Whether the resident chooses to join the conversation or sit and listen it’s up to them, but both are better than staying in their room.
5. Getting out of their comfort zone. Sometimes residents get comfortable and won’t try new things. When they commit to joining a book club they may have to read books that they ordinarily would not read. And they may have to discuss topics they are not exposed to on a regular basis.
Improving long-term memory in seniors through the book club is just as important as exercising. The mental challenge of reading and retaining information helps delay the onset of dementia. A science advisor Dr. Zaven Khachaturian, to the Alzheimer’s Association published an article in USA TODAY, states, “ brain-challenging activities build a reserve of neuronal connections, making it take longer for the Alzheimer’s process to destroy enough neurons for symptoms to emerge.” As the residents read and discuss the material in the book they are retaining the information and helping the brain stay young.
Reading no matter what your age is good for your brain. It helps improve concentration, focus and thinking skills. Coupled with a book club makes reading a positive and rewarding experience for seniors living in assisted living.
If you are looking for a book for your book club try reading, Happy for No Reason, by New York bestselling author, Marci Shimoff. Why not start your year off right and learn how to reset your happiness button. Take the Happiness Quiz from Happy for No Reason Questionnaire. According to Aristotle, “Happiness is the meaning and the purpose of life, the whole aim, and end of human existence.” Make 2020 the year of the book and join the club.

5 Cost Free Gifts How to Give the Gift of Love


How to Give the Gift of Love

5 Cost Free Gifts

By Mary Brook

If you are an average American consumer then you are expected to spend $942.00 on holiday gifts this season. 37% of Americans say they will spend $1,000 or more and 16% say they will spend less this year than last year. These are all record amounts of spending for this average holiday season. According to a Gallup Poll initial, it should be a good spending season for retailers.

But if you are senior or live on a fixed income these numbers can be overwhelming. How do you find a gift that won’t break the bank? What is the best gift you can give this year that doesn’t cost a dime? I believe it’s the gift of love. Love comes in all shapes and sizes and it may or may not be wrapped up and put under the Christmas tree. Love has different meanings to different people. But the true meaning of the holidays is sometimes forgotten. Take a moment to remember it’s not about buying presents but about giving.

What is the best gift you can give this year that doesn’t cost a dime? The gift of love. Love comes in all shapes and sizes and it may or may not be wrapped. Love has different meanings to different people. The Oxford dictionary defines the word gift, “as a thing given willingly to someone without payment, a present.

“The true meaning of the holidays is not about buying presents
but about giving.”

I hear again and again from seniors the number one gift they want for Christmas is to spend time with their family. Sharing your time, energy and unconditional love with no strings attached is celebrating the true meaning of the season. Visiting family because you want to not because you have to create good feels for everyone. Anyone can go to the store and buy a present, but if you take the time to visit with family it will mean so much more. The time you spend together will be a memory for that last throughout the year.

5 Cost Free Presents!

The Gift of Time: One of the hardest things to do is slow down and take the time to connect. Put down the cell phone, and listen to what the other person is saying is a gift of love.

The Gift of Nature: Take a walk together when you are outside with your loved ones it is a refreshing change of pace. Getting out of the house and into nature is good for everyone. The loving feeling of being together in nature will create a memory that will last.

The Gift of Play: Play a game together and have some fun. One of my favoritesScattergories, a creative-thinking based game that can be played in teams. There is a lot of laughter and a lot of conversation when you play together.

The Gift of a Handwritten Letter: Instead of buying a card that says I love you. Write a letter to your loved ones. Put into words your feelings and let that person know why you care about them. A letter is something they can keep and look at throughout the year.

The Gift of Kindness: Being kind to others costs you nothing but a smile or a few kind words. The effect of kindness makes you feel better and will let the other person know you care enough to connect. Being kind to strangers standing in line at the grocery can lift the spirits of everyone in line. When you ask someone how they are doing it may be their only social connection that day. For some seniors who live alone, it means a lot. Especially when they don’t expect it.

It’s challenging not to get caught up in the spending spree that has become part of the holiday season. But what will your family remember two days after Christmas? The store-bought presents or the time you spent engaging in meaningful activities and connecting. To give the gift of love at the holiday season is the best gift of all.

Make This Year the Best Thanksgiving Ever!


Make This Year the Best Thanksgiving Ever | Eliminate the Holiday Stress in 5 Easy Steps, by Mary Lynn Brook

Over the River and Through the Wood, a poem, written by Lydia Maria Child in 1844 and later set to music conjures up childhood memories of a trip to Grandma’s house for a family Thanksgiving dinner. The memories are sweet but those memories may not be your reality. Listen Now

Your reality may begin with the congested holiday traffic on the 101 freeway the day before Thanksgiving. Like so many other busy parents, you worked up to the moment of departure and are now joining the thousands of families on their way to visit with their family. You thought about taking time off of work to leave early but decided against because you didn’t want to miss a day of pay. You can feel the stress of the holiday starting to build even before you leave the house. After filling your tank with gas at $4.00 per gallon, then packing the car with suitcases, for your two kids and a dog for a few days at Grandma’s house.  Just thinking about the holidays causes one to pause and take a deep breath.

Coming together as adults in your childhood home for the holidays can also be a stressor. Having a houseful of grandparents, parents, your sister’s children, your children, and a couple of dogs for a few days brings some challenges. The kids may have fun but living on a different schedule with other family members may take some adjustments.

Make this year the best Thanksgiving ever by reducing stress with these easy tips.

1. Focus on the positive

When faced with the negative challenges of being with your family, focus instead on the positive experiences of being together. Let go of the expectation of being perfect and acknowledge that each family member has valid feelings and agree to disagree. Just laugh when your brother reminds you of how you failed that college entrance exam 20 years ago. It doesn’t matter - let it go. Think about all the good things that came out of that experience. Don’t engage in past events that you cannot change or don’t want to talk about.

2. Manage the Money

Many families face money challenges during the holidays. Taking time off of work to travel to Grandma’s house or buying airline tickets for a family of four may be a financial sacrifice. If travel is a financial burden, it can put a damper on the occasion. If you can’t make the trip this year, be honest with your family and explain the situation to them. Maybe next year, everyone could meet in the middle of the country and start a new tradition. If you don’t have the money, don’t spend it.

Another way to save money is by finding gifts that are meaningful but don’t cost a fortune. Bake your favorite cookies and put them in a holiday cookie tin or frame a current photo of the family. Grandmas love these gifts! Gifts don’t have to be expensive; it’s the thought that counts.

3. Don’t Fret About the Food - it’s Just food

Believe it or not, Thanksgiving is not all about the food. However, if the turkey is the tradition that you absolutely will not compromise, plan with the prep work. Ted Allen’s article in Food Network Magazine called Ted’s Tips for a Stress-Free Thanksgiving, walks you through some useful information on food prep. Read Now

4. Find Joy in the Simple Things

Taking a walk together after dinner and forgetting about the dishes is a good time to reflect and share good feelings. Getting out of the house and stretching your legs will make you feel 100 percent better than if you were to sit in front of the TV. Holding hands, laughing, and playing in the snow is a good bonding opportunity for families. It lets the holiday spirit grow within the family.

5. Be Thankful

Reminiscing about loved ones who are no longer with us can be a worthwhile conversation. Talking about certain traditions they started and you are continuing means you are passing on a part of that person to others. Whether it’s a food tradition, like roasted parsnips or pecan pie vs. pumpkin, every time you eat those foods you will remember them.

Holidays come every year and the timing is predictable. Around Halloween, the stores start stocking for Christmas and grocery stores advertise canned pumpkin. However, each year presents new situations and challenges. It’s how we choose to meet those challenges that will determine the quality of the holiday we enjoy with our family. If the whole process becomes overwhelming, stop and prioritize what is important to you and your family. Remaining calm and positive will have a lasting effect on the people around you. You can set the tone for the season by your choices. It’s OK to set limits on your time and energy. Choose what feels right to you and everything else will fall into place.

The Advantages of Having a Roommate in an Assisted Living Community

The Advantages of Having a Roommate in an Assisted Living Community

Joseph Newlan, LVN, Associate Executive Director, Alexander Gardens Assisted Living Exerts from Starlight Homes Assisted Living 2019

Roommates in assisted living can have several advantages that you should consider when choosing a room.  Having to decide to share living space with another person, often someone you have never met can be difficult for both the resident and the family.  Here are some valuable benefits to consider:

  • Saving Money – The most obvious of the benefits of sharing a room is sharing the cost of accommodations. The savings are approximately 30-40% on average.
  • Easing Transition– Having a roommate promotes socialization.  Having a roommate can provide the first person you get to know   Your roommate can give you advice on how to better navigate within the community’s unique culture.
  • Decreased Loneliness – Too much seclusion is not a good thing. It is easy for loneliness to set in. Many seniors will stay in their rooms most of the day sleeping or watching television.  This lack of socialization can sometimes contribute to loneliness and worse, depression.  A roommate can dramatically diminish the feeling of isolation and/or loneliness.
  • Additional Monitoring – You should consider the benefit of the additional monitoring that a roommate provides. Because they see each other every day, roommates can be the first to notice changes that occur in the health or ability of a senior. There is great value in noticing a pattern early that might otherwise go undetected for a longer period.
  • Longer Life Expectancy – A variety of social studies confirm that social relationships augment one’s quality of life and extend our life expectancy. Having a source of consistent companionship in the form of a roommate can increase mental and emotional stimulation and therefore contribute to overall health and longevity.

Roommates aren’t just for starving students or young people but can be beneficial for people of all ages.

When choosing a room in assisted living there are many options to consider and a shared room or private room is worth considering.