Saturday, January 26, 2013

Pantry Staple – Lemons

(wilted spinach with garlic, pine nuts and lemon)

For those of you who don’t use a lot of lemon I bet this one is a bit of surprise. However I always have lemons in my house and I use them every day, multiple times per day.  I wanted to share with you many of the different uses I have found for lemons.

Health benefits of lemons

Lemons haven’t always been a staple in my house.  However over the last few years I have come to rely on them for many things.  I love that they are a good source of vitamin C and that it contains a substance (modified citrus pectin) which binds to heavy metals so those are removed through our waste rather than being reabsorbed into our blood stream.  Lemons are also a good source of vitamin A, B1, B6, potassium, magnesium, folic acid and limonene.  The limonene is found in the pith, has shown promising anti cancer properties.

If you plan to use the lemon zest it is best to buy organic lemons to avoid pesticide residue which is commonly found on lemons. Whether you buy organic or not it is important to scrub the lemon well before cutting is so that you don’t introduce any dirt of bacteria from the surface of the lemon into the flesh while cutting it.

Storing lemons

Lemons can be stored on the counter if you are planning to use them quickly.  I buy large bags so I keep mine in a bag in the refrigerator crisper to get the longest shelf life.  If you find that you bought more than you can use there is another option. Zest and juice the lemons and pour that into ice cube trays and store in the freezer.

(lemonade for sale at the farmers' market - loved the sound of this flavor combination)


Most people are probably familiar with lemon in tea which is delicious. But did you know that adding lemon to your green and white tea enhances the EGCG you absorb from the tea?  Needless to say we add lemon to our tea.  I add the lemon after the tea has finished steeping since the vitamin C is heat sensitive.  I want to get the maximum healthy benefits from my food after all.  ;-)

(hibiscus tea with lemon)

Another favorite use for lemon at our house in the winter is to add to hot water.  Since tea (and coffee) interferes with our ability to absorb iron from green vegetables we don’t drink tea within an hour of having our green smoothies.  Instead of tea we have either herbal tea (with lemon) or hot water with lemon.  Hot water and lemon is something that I used to do 30 years ago and forgot about until earlier this year.  I really enjoy it. If you haven’t had it you might want to give it a try.  With our current cold snap now may be the best time to try it out.

You can also make healthy homemade lemonade with lemon juice, sparkling water and stevia.  We find this to be very refreshing in the warmer months.

(spa water)

There is always the classic cucumber and lemon water that I call spa water since my mother started making it after a trip to the spa 40+ years ago.

Seasoning food in lieu of salt

I have mentioned many times that we gave up using salt in our food at home so I won’t cover that again here. However, when you stop using salt you need to find other ways to enhance the flavor of your food.  Acids like vinegars and citrus juice somehow brighten the flavor of food.  I wish I could explain how and why it works but I haven’t researched it.  However I do know that it works.  I often either serve food with lemon wedges or squeeze fresh juice over the food just before serving and it does lift the flavors considerably.

(lemon marinated veggie salad)

Marinating veggies

Another one of my favorite uses for lemon juice and lemon zest is to flavor raw veggies.  You have probably seen massaged kale salads on the web.  I do something similar but a healthier version.  I use lemon juice and zest to marinate a variety of raw veggies.  All you do is thinly slice or shred the veggies and add lemon zest and juice and toss the veggies.  If you like you can add no-salt seasoning or other herbs and spices. Then put the veggies in the refrigerator to marinate.  Periodically open the container and stir the veg.  You can do this in the morning before work for lunch or dinner that day.  I have also let this sit for a couple of days and it is still fine.  The lemon softens the veggies and adds a lot of flavor. 

(green salad with veggies, baked falafel and lemon tahini dressing)

Salad dressing

Lemons make a wonderful base for salad dressings.  I like to use them in a variety of dressings. They are great in a lemony raw cashew Caesar dressing (lemon juice, lemon zest, raw cashew, water, raw garlic and a touch of soy sauce), lemony “honey” mustard (lemon juice, lemon zest, Dijon mustard and stevia) and lemon poppy seed (lemon juice, lemon zest, raw cashews, water and stevia blended then add poppy seeds).  The dressing options are endless but I wanted to mention a few of the ones that I make often.

(lemon sorbet at Jaleo)

Sorbet or Granita

I think people are either lemon or chocolate people though you may disagree. Personally I love lemon in just about anything and sorbet is one of my favorites.  I make a very intense (extra lemony and stevia) lemonade and put that in my ice cream freezer. You could also turn it into granite by freezer the liquid in a shallow pan and scraping the mixture periodically when it is partially frozen to form crystals.

Cleaning your cutting board

The last use for lemons that I will mention today is to use the juiced halves with kosher salt to scrub, bleach and disinfect your cutting board.  This is something that I do at least once a week and sometimes more often.
I hope all of these tips give you some ideas encourage you to keep lemons in your house.

Happy thoughts:
  1. Today has been a very long day.  I didn’t get into bed until 5am and was up by 8am so you know I was tired.  Fortunately it was an easy day today which is about all I could have handled. I am grateful for my easy day today.
  2. Somehow I managed to get some work done today which was surprising given my energy level. I am thankful that I found the oomph to get a few things accomplished.
  3. Late Friday afternoon I made another batch of veggie burgers which we haven’t tried yet.  I am hoping that I got the texture right this time.  If I do I will be sharing the recipe with you very soon.
  4. I want to send another shout out to my friend Matt who has still not had a cigarette. In fact it has been so many days that I have lost track but I think Saturday will be day 17 for him.  How impressive is that?  Not only has Matt quit smoking but he has dropped the meat from his life and started adding things like hemp seeds, beans and artichokes.  You rock Matt!  Keep up the great work.
  5. Friday in Baltimore was another cold (high of 27) and snowy day.  Fortunately I didn’t have to go out in that unpleasant weather.  Snow is pretty when you can stay inside and look at it through the windows.  Being outside in it, particularly when you have to drive, is not my idea of a good time.
  6. I have some errands to run tomorrow so I am grateful that the snow is predicted to end early.  Hopefully that will mean I can get out and knock a few things off my to-do list.  *fingers crossed*  If not I am sure that I can find something productive to do at home.  It’s not like there isn’t plenty to choose from.  ;-)
  7. Next week, assuming the weather forecast holds up we are supposed to reach 60 on Tuesday.  That sounds like a trip to the marina is in order to me. I have been missing my Zen boat time and just want to sit on the back deck, soak up a little sun and feed the water fowl.  Maybe a little meditation time will sneak in there too. Can you think of anything better to do for a few hours than that?

Signing out:

By the time you see this the weekend will have started.  I think we should all do something to celebrate though I don’t know what at the moment. If you have any celebratory ideas, or any other thoughts, please feel free to share.

I hope you have something fun planned for the weekend and that your weather is better than ours.  Looking on the bright side


  1. I loved this one, Ali. You know I love lemons & use them all the time, so it's great to read about their health benefits, too. Makes me want to have even MORE lemon in my life!!

    1. Gloria,

      I don't think you can ever have too many lemons. ;-) When I was at Wegman's this weekend I bought another 2 bags and considered grabbing a 3rd. :-)

      hope you are having a good week so far,

  2. I almost always add a squeeze of lemon over soup right before I take portions out of the pot. You're right, it does 'lift' the flavors.

    Do you have Meyer lemons on the East coast?

    1. Jackie,

      I also add a little lemon to cooked dishes. Did I forget to mention that one? Thanks for the reminder. I wish I knew why the lemon trick works, but I guess the only thing that is important is that it does. :-)

      We do have Meyer lemons but you have to look for them. I can buy them at Whole Foods and Wegmans. I have a Meyer lemon tree for a few years. But moving it in and out of the house got to be a pain so I gave it up. Not that he complained much but I am sure Dan was happy to see it go since he was the tree mover. ;-)

      happy Tuesday,

  3. I've actually just started using lemons. I only go through one a week now (for homemade hummus) but it's a start at least.

    I was thinking about your post on treats the other day, and I had an epiphany (otherwise known as an idea :->). I love making dinner rolls and have made my basic recipe a lot healthier, but I love bread and will eat the whole pan in one evening. So I ordered 4 mini loaf pans. I made my normal dough, cut it into 12 pieces, froze 8 of them, and put the other 4 side by side into the mini load pan. They rose like normal and were the best rolls I've ever had...and I only ate two. I froze the others in two of the loaf pans, so I'm hoping all I have to do on days when we have soup is put the pan in the fridge at night, let it sit on the counter for a bit when I get home to warm up, then we'll have fresh rolls.

    1. Good morning Statch,

      Don't forget to add lemon to your tea. It really changes the flavor, in a good way, as well as improving the nutrition you absorb. :-) Plus adding lemon to your tea is an easy change and we all like those.

      Brilliant idea with your dinner rolls. I LOVE anything carby like bread and know that it is one of my weaknesses. Since I don't have the world's best self control I just don't keep it around. When I make bread for Dan I get the leftovers in the freezer immediately. I am far too immediate gratification based to wait for something to thaw so freezing works to keep me out of stuff. I think we all have to learn what works for us. I love your idea. Thank you for sharing it. :-)


  4. I have a suggestion for a possible future post: where do you get your inspiration and information from? I've read that you like Dr. Fuhrman, and have been curious how you feel about Dr. McDougall's writings. Who else? And which blogs do you read? I follow a number of vegan and/or health-oriented blogs, but I always feel like I must be missing some really good ones.

    1. Statch,

      That is a good idea so I will make a note of it. Of all the "healthy" doctors Fuhrman is definitely my favorite b/c he has the most science behind his work. I also like that he changes when the science changes which I think is important. Dr. Greger is another one that I really like for the same reason. Dr. Barnard is next on my list. I put Dr. McDougall at the bottom. I don't agree with his idea of so many carbs and no fat because the science doesn't support that. The body needs fat (either thru what you get from weight loss or from food) to help you process fat soluble vitamins. Dr. McDougall ignores that point completely and I think it is a big deal.

      I actually don't read any blogs regularly now b/c I don't have time. I wish that I did but since I spend so much time writing mine I just don't have time. If you ever read anything and wonder what I would say about it let me know to check it out otherwise I might not hear about it.

      Most of my information for posts comes from reading I have done. I use PubMed a lot for my information. About once a week I do a search on various topics and keep up with the new science. Dr. Greger and Fuhrman do the same thing. I think that is why those two are my favorites. Dr. Greger has a site ( which you should check out. If you like science he is definitely your man.

      Hope that helped,

  5. I choose lemon over chocolate every time.

    1. Andrea,

      Absolutely I am with you. I almost always choose lemon over chocolate. I say almost always because hormone fluctuations do impact my decisions. But absent that I am a lemon girl too. ;-)

      hope you are having a great week so far,


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