Katy Wilkens

You Are What You Eat: Early Strawberries!

By Katy Wilkens, MS, RD

My strawberries are really early this year, probably due to that nice spell of hot weather we had a few weeks ago. Unfortunately, early berries in commercial fields are bad news because there aren’t enough pickers to harvest them with high school students still in school.

If you are lucky, like me, you tucked a few strawberry plants here and there in your yard last year. Then you will be enjoying this short, but oh so flavorful, season. Otherwise, try farmers’ markets or local berry stands. If you are ambitious, or just love our dark red flavorful berries, head up near Carnation, Marysville, Mount Vernon or Bellingham, where you will find lots of “you pick” places. Bring berries home and freeze them, make jam, and eat them in yogurt, salads and desserts.

Besides being delicious, strawberries are high in antioxidants, vitamin C and folate, and they are a fair source of fiber and potassium, which help kidney and heart health.

My favorite way to serve local berries is European-style. Just fill a bowl with sliced berries, top with a small dollop of sour cream and sprinkle with brown sugar. It doesn’t get any better!

Try these other delicious ideas too.

Polly’s Easy Microwave Strawberry Jam

3 cups fresh or frozen strawberries, chopped
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 1/2 teaspoon butter or margarine
2 tablespoons lemon juice

Put berries in 3-quart ceramic bowl. Add sugar, butter, lemon juice. Let stand for 30 minutes. Crush slightly with fork.
Cook in microwave, on high power, for about 5 minutes. Stir every 2 - 3 minutes until jam has cooked for about 15 minutes total.
Remove about 1 tablespoon of jam, put on a plate and cool in freezer for 5 minutes, then test the consistency. If you like it thicker, reheat jam to boiling, boil for 2 minutes, and then test again.
Store in refrigerator, where it will keep for several months, or freeze.

Nutritional information: calories: 40, carbohydrates: 10 g, protein: 0 g, sodium: o mg

Strawberry Pavlova
Meringues:
4 egg whites
¾ cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon white vinegar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon cornstarch

Whipped Cream:
1 cup whipping cream
2 Tablespoons granulated sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2-3 cups sliced fresh strawberries
Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees. Cover large baking sheet with parchment paper.
1. Beat egg whites in a large bowl with an electric mixer, on high, until stiff peaks form. Slowly add ¾ cup sugar and beat for 4-5 minutes or until the mixture is stiff and glossy. Sprinkle vinegar, vanilla and cornstarch over the egg white and beat until well blended.
2. Spread egg mixture on the baking sheet to form an 8-inch circle, making the outside edges higher than the middle, like a shallow bowl. You can also make several small bowls, up to 8, for individual servings.
3. Place in the oven and reduce the temperature to 200 degrees. Bake for 1 hour.
4. Turn off the oven and leave the baked meringue to cool in the oven with the door slightly open for at least 1 hour. Place meringue on a serving plate.
5. Combine ingredients for whipped cream and beat until stiff peaks form.
6. When ready to serve, fill cooled meringue with whipped cream and top with berries. Serve immediately.

Nutrition Information: 8 servings. calories: 211, carbohydrates: 26 g, protein: 3 g, sodium: 39 mg

The information in this column is meant for people who want to keep their kidneys healthy and blood pressure down by following a low-sodium diet. In most cases, except for dialysis patients, a diet high in potassium is thought to help lower high blood pressure. These recipes are not intended for people on dialysis without the supervision of a registered dietitian.  

[Katy G. Wilkens is a registered dietitian and department head at Northwest Kidney Centers. A recipient of the Susan Knapp Excellence in Education Award from the National Kidney Foundation Council on Renal Nutrition, she has a Master of Science degree in nutritional sciences from the University of Washington. See more of her recipes at www.nwkidney.org.]

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