Photo courtesy of Katy Wilkens.
Cut: Citrus fruits.

You Are What You Eat: Citrus power!

By Katy Wilkens, MS, RD

I love citrus. I have six lemon trees in my living room that I baby all winter long. I love the smell of the blossoms when I move the trees inside. And I look forward to hummingbirds pollinating the second crop of flowers in the spring when I move the trees back to a sunny spot on the deck.

I have so much fun making homemade marmalades, lemon and lime curd and the Italian liqueur limoncello. What did I request from my husband when he went to Florida on business this year? Key limes! Meanwhile I am thoroughly enjoying the candied orange peel I made from the navel oranges and tangerines that are in season right now!

Citrus is a great, bright flavor you can add to almost any sweet or savory dish. Use it in place of salt to help keep your kidneys and heart healthy. Try these ideas to add some zip to your winter!

Homemade Limoncello
10 lemons
1 750-milliliter bottle of inexpensive vodka
3 cups water
2½ cups sugar

Use a vegetable peeler to remove the lemon peels in long strips (keep the lemons for another use). Use a small, sharp knife to trim away the white pith from the lemon peels; discard pith. Place lemon peels in a 2-quart pitcher. Pour the vodka over the peels and cover with plastic wrap. Steep the lemon peels in the vodka for 4 days at room temperature. Stir the water and sugar in a large saucepan over medium heat until the sugar dissolves, about 5 minutes. Cool completely. Pour the sugar syrup over the vodka mixture. Cover and let stand at room temperature overnight. Strain the limoncello through a mesh strainer and discard the peels. Transfer the limoncello to bottles. Seal the bottles and refrigerate or freeze until cold, at least 4 hours. Lasts up to 6 months.

Nutritional Information (serving size: ¼ cup):
Calories: 85, Carbohydrates: 13 grams, Protein: 0 grams, Sodium: 1 milligram

Limoncello Vinaigrette Salad Dressing
¼ cup limoncello
2 teaspoons lemon juice
1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
1½ teaspoons Dijon mustard
¼ teaspoon ground red pepper flakes
½ cup olive oil

Pour all ingredients into a small bowl or decorative bottle. Refrigerate leftover dressing. Use within a month.

Citrus Power Marmalade
3 cups prepared fruit, peeled
(about 3 oranges and 2 lemons, or 6-7 limes or tangerines)
1½ cups water
1/8 teaspoon baking soda
5 cups sugar
½ teaspoon butter
1 pouch fruit pectin (Certo or Ball brand)

Use a vegetable peeler, box grater or zester to remove the colored peel from the citrus, leaving behind the white pith. Cut into thin slices with a sharp knife if in big pieces. Cut rest of pith away from fruit and remove fruit segments without the casing as much as possible. In a saucepan, add peels, water and baking soda and bring to a boil. Simmer 5 minutes, until slightly soft but not mushy, and drain.

Add reserved citrus pulp and juice to make 3 cups. Add sugar and butter, which will reduce foaming. Stirring often, bring to a rolling boil on high heat. Stir in pectin, and then bring to a boil again. Stir for one minute. Remove from the burner and skim off foam. Pour into glass containers and refrigerate for up to one month. To keep longer, follow directions for hot water bath canning.

Nutritional Information:
Calories: 23, Carbohydrates: 6 grams, Protein: 0 grams, Sodium: 2 milligrams

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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