My diet has been what I call clean for the last few years, but recently I've really amped up my vegetable & fruit intake even more. Obviously we would all benefit from making these the bulk of our diets, so I'd like to start featuring not-so-common or under-appreciated vegetables & fruits, sharing some of the ways we use them. My hope is to encourage people to try new or intimidating foods & eat more fruits & vegetables.
I am using citrus more & more, whether in juices, cooking, or simply freshening water glasses. It adds a welcome brightness to our kitchen as spring slowly creeps in.
I never thought I would cut into a grapefruit grown in my own state, squeeze juice from lemons grown only a couple hours away, or peel back an orange that may have very well been picked that same day.
A couple weeks ago, my mom asked for suggestions on ways to use all the lemons she had accumulated from Bountiful Baskets, a Food Co-op. It is not a CSA, but they do try to source as locally as possible & even offer organic options in some areas. Living in a rural area, where produce is often limited & expensive, BB has been a great option for my mom & sister. My mom grows a huge garden in the spring & summer, but BB gives them a variety of produce to get through the winter months & has exposed them to many fruits & vegetables they might not have tried otherwise.
One of the easiest ways to use a lemon is simply squeezing it into water. Cool lemon water is refreshing & a glass of warm lemon water is a great way to start the day. It's like a mini-detox & gently flushes your system first thing in the morning. Sometimes I will have this right when I wake up, about 30 minutes before I eat anything.
To be quite honest, Dave & I can eat lemon wedges straight up & often do. Meyer lemons are an especially nice treat; they are sweeter & have softer segments.
I love lemon-based dressings & dips; it complements so many different herbs. This weekend I made a dressing by blending together 1-2 T tahini, 3/4 cup finely chopped fresh dill, 5 snipped chives, salt, pepper, & 10 T lemon juice. Sometimes, squeezing just lemon juice over a salad is all it takes to make it something special. One of my favorite dinners is roasted broccoli, seasoned simply with sea salt & pepper, & dressed with lemon juice. We used to dress up white fish by baking it with slices of lemon laid right on top. We do the same when roasting baby artichokes. As I'm typing this, I think lemon slices & balsamic would be a perfect match when roasting asparagus or brussel sprouts. A drizzle of lemon is lovely over pan-fried or broiled tofu as well; or if you want to go the extra step, make a warm dipping sauce with lemon & butter or olive oil.
I learned to love lemon juice long ago but hadn't done much with the zest before moving to Arizona. It really adds a punch & heightens a dish by adding more of the citrus qualities without the acidic tartness. We add it to baked goods, like muffins; dressings; cooked grains, like quinoa or barley; or to sea salt for citrus salts. A regular grater works fine, but my zester is one of my favorite & most used kitchen gadgets.
Heidi at 101 Cookbooks offers a great starting point & basic recipe for citrus salts. Faith's lemon & thyme sea salt at Gracefulfitness sounds lovely. If you use a strong salt, like the black Hawaiian sea salt pictured above, I suggest using at least 2 - 3 tablespoons zest per 1/2 cup of salt. Smoked sea salt with lemon is next on my list.
Dave asks for these muffins often. They are our absolute favorite & adapted from Super Natural Every Day. Below is the version I made this weekend. The flour combination is gluten-free, & I usually make these vegan.
makes 12 muffins
Preheat oven to 400*F. Prep a muffin pan with oil or butter or line with paper liners. I like my silicone baking cups, which I place on a regular baking sheet.
- 140 g amaranth flour*
- 140 g teff flour
- 50 g (scant 1/3 cup) raw millet**
- 1 tablespoon poppy seeds
- 1 tsp aluminum-free baking powder
- 1 tsp baking soda
- 1/2 tsp fine sea salt
- 8 to 10 ounces yogurt (I use dairy-free Amande yogurt made with cultured almond milk)
- 2 eggs or flax “eggs”*** (whisk together 2 T freshly ground flaxseeds with 6 T warm water & let thicken ~10 minutes)
- 1/2 cup coconut oil, melted
- 1/2 cup brown rice syrup or honey
- grated zest from 1 lemon & 2 T juice from half the lemon
Combine flour, millet, baking powder, baking soda & salt in a large bowl. In a separate bowl, whisk together yogurt, "eggs", oil, sweetener, zest & lemon juice until smooth. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients & mix until flour is incorporated. Divide the batter among the muffin cups, filling to the rim.
Bake for 15 minutes until muffin tops are golden brown & just beginning to crack. Let cool for 5 minutes in the pan, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.
*I have made these several times with different flours with success: kamut is our favorite for wheat muffins; all teff is also nice for gluten-free. I have combined the two as well. I just follow the ratio rule & always weigh out 280 grams of total flour. Amaranth has a fairly distinct, almost nutty flavor; the lemon isn't as obvious with it.
**Sometimes I add 60 grams (1/2 cup) of millet, because I love the crunch it adds. When I do this, I probably add a little more yogurt.
***I have made these with flax "eggs" many times. Usually it is when I use kamut flour or a combination of gluten & gluten-free flours. I have not tried a gluten-free version without eggs.
Lemon juice also works to condition your hair! Though I have switched to apple cider vinegar, I was amazed how easily I was able to comb through my hair the first time I used a lemon rinse. I didn't notice any "bleaching", but keep in mind it might make your hair more sensitive to sunlight. Lemon juice can also be used in homemade, all-purpose cleaning products. I don't use it in glass cleaners as the oils in the lemon tend to leave streaks.
How do you use lemons?
Please let me know if you would like me to feature a specific fruit or vegetable.