In this cold and bleak winter, citrus is a great way to brighten up dinnertime with in-season produce while giving your immune system a boost.
Citrus fruits are most known for containing the antioxidant Vitamin C, which supports proper immune function. According to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, evidence suggests that for some people, high doses of Vitamin C might actually shorten a cold by as much as one to 1 1/2 days. In addition, Vitamin C fights free radicals to prevent or delay certain cancers and heart disease. It is essential for the growth and repair of bodily tissues, helps heal wounds and repairs and maintains healthy cartilage, bones, teeth and skin. Vitamin C also helps your body absorb iron from plant-based sources such as quinoa, beans and spinach.
There are more ways to enjoy citrus than simply pouring a glass of bottled OJ in the morning.
Juicing: According to the National Institutes of Health, fresh-squeezed orange juice is better for you than store-bought orange juice because it contains more active Vitamin C.
Fresh segments: Citrus segments can be added to fruit salad (or any salad) or used to top chicken or fish.
Zesting: The skin of citrus fruit is perfect for zesting to add pungent aroma to your baked goods, dry-spice rubs, tomato sauces, soups or salads. Citrus zest also makes for a beautiful and aromatic garnish.
The accompanying recipe uses the fresh juice of tangerines to poach lean chicken. Juicy minneola tangelos or Valencia oranges would also work well. Poaching is a low-fat, low-sodium cooking method for lean proteins that have a tendency to dry out. It offers a healthful alternative to frying. No oil or fat is required, and the result is succulent, tender and flavor-infused meat. In this dish, the chicken is enhanced by a sweet clementine-pomegranate relish.
The relish features two foods that offer endless nutritional benefits: clementines and pomegranates. Clementines are a type of mandarin orange, a group that encompasses a wide variety of sweet citrus fruit including satsuma, clementine and tangerine. In the United States, tangerines are the most common variety of mandarin oranges. All mandarin oranges are bright-skinned and easy to peel. Their inner segments are easily separated, making them a convenient, portable, low-mess and refreshing healthful snack. They’re also an excellent source of Vitamin C and a good source of Vitamin A. Look for oranges that are heavy for their size. They can be stored in a cool, dark place for a few days or refrigerated for up to two weeks.
Pomegranates add nutritious beauty to many recipes. In this recipe, the pomegranate seeds are tossed in the relish. You can enjoy pomegranate seeds by themselves or mix them in salads for a boost of potent antioxidants and phytochemicals that protect your heart, brain and body. Or try sprinkling them on entrees, cereal, pudding or yogurt. They are high in fiber and vitamins C and K, and they’re a good source of potassium, folate and copper. According to the National Cancer Institute, research suggests pomegranates have beneficial effects on oral health and cardiovascular disease, and they might even help with fighting cancer cells. It is not known whether the juice of the pomegranate has these same effects, so go for the seeds. Each seed contains an edible capsule that provides Vitamin B6, Vitamin C and potassium. Whole pomegranates can be stored at room temperature for several days or for two to three months in the refrigerator.
TANGERINE POACHED CHICKEN WITH CLEMENTINE-POMEGRANATE RELISH
In this recipe, the chicken is infused with winter citrus flavor that is enhanced by the sweet clementine-pomegranate relish — a great way to incorporate more fruit into your diet.
MAKE AHEAD: The relish can be assembled several hours in advance and refrigerated; add the avocado just before serving. The chicken can be refrigerated for 1 to 2 days; reheat in the microwave on LOW, or serve cold atop a salad.
For the relish:
For the chicken:
For the relish: Peel the clementines and separate their segments. Cut each segment into 3 equal pieces, transferring them to a mixing bowl as you work. Add the salt, pepper, garlic, scallions, shallot, avocado, pomegranate seeds, pomegranate juice and agave nectar; mix well.
For the chicken: Combine the juice and zest in a mixing bowl. Whisk in the agave nectar, shallot, garlic, salt and pepper until well blended, then pour into a large saute pan. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, then add the chicken and turn to coat. Reduce the heat to medium-low or low; cover and cook for 10 minutes.
Check one of the tenderloins for doneness by cutting it in half to make sure it’s cooked all the way through. If it isn’t, remove the saute pan from the heat and cover to rest for 5 minutes.
Divide the chicken among individual plates. Spoon relish over each portion. Serve warm.
Nutrition Per serving: 270 calories, 41 g protein, 21 g carbohydrates, 3 g fat, 1 g saturated fat, 100 mg cholesterol, 250 mg sodium, 3 g dietary fiber, 14 g sugar
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Gordon, a master of public health professional and a master certified health education specialist, is the creator of the healthful recipe siteEatingbyElaine.com. Find her on Twitter at@EatingbyElaine.