Citrus sensations

A fresh take on the childhood treat - combine the homey goodness of rice pudding with the...

A fresh take on the childhood treat - combine the homey goodness of rice pudding with the refreshing taste of oranges. (Courtesy of the Florida Department of Citrus)

RITA DeMONTIS, National Food Editor, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 9:17 AM ET

Has this eternal winter have you pining for a taste of spring?

Peel yourself an orange. Dig into a grapefruit. Spritz some lemon in the air.

Not only will this revive your sagging spirits, but -- it's all good for you. Citrus foods like orange juice are packed with essential vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. And sometimes a shot of fresh orange juice is just what you need to get you feeling great and help you shake off the last of winter's dregs.

"This is the time of year is when we start to focus on those new year's resolutions and put some emphasis back on proper nutrition," says Lydia Knorr, MHSc and registered dietitian with the Florida Department of Citrus. "Full of vitamin C and potassium, incorporating 100% pure orange juice into your daily diet will help keep your body healthy and strong."

Not only is fresh juice a delicious and nutritious snack, it's also a great ingredient to add to your favourite recipes:

-- Add orange juice to a breakfast smoothie or morning shake.

-- Combining orange juice and grapefruit juice with some of your favourite fruits and yogurt is a delicious, healthy and filling start to your day.

-- Substitute orange juice in place of water when making couscous or rice.

-- Include orange juice in marinades for chicken, fish meat or tofu.

However you eat it, drink it or cook with it, citrus juice is one of the best and fastest ways of giving you a head start on summer.

And -- boy, can we use that!

Here's a selection of recipes courtesy of the Florida Department of Citrus.

CITRUS MOUSSE WITH ORANGE CANDIED PECANS

With a creamy texture and clean citrus taste, this dessert can be made to fill any favourite glass and tucked into the refrigerator for up to 2 days. A great make-ahead dessert that can be shared with friends for any special occasion.

3/4 cup (175 ml) orange juice

1/2 cup (125 ml) grapefruit juice

2/3 cup (150 ml) granulated sugar

3 egg yolks

1 envelope (7 g) unflavoured gelatin

1 cup (250 ml) 35% whipping cream

Orange Candied Pecans:

1/3 cup (50 ml) Florida orange juice

1/3 cup (75 ml) granulated sugar

1 cup (250 ml) pecan halves

Candied Pecans: In a small saucepan, bring orange juice and sugar to boil. Boil for about 3 minutes or until sugar is dissolved and starting to turn golden. Remove from heat and stir in pecans until well coated. Using slotted spoon, remove pecans from sugar syrup and set syrup aside. Spread pecans onto parchment paper lined baking sheet. Bake in 350F (180C) oven for about 15 minutes or until golden and fragrant. Let cool completely and break apart any stuck together, if necessary.

In a saucepan bring orange and grapefruit juices and sugar to boil. Add reserved syrup from pecans and boil over medium high heat for 5 minutes. Whisk into egg yolks until well combined. Sprinkle gelatin over mixture and whisk until well distributed. Let cool, whisking occasionally for about 1 hour or until room temperature and consistency of egg whites.

Whip cream and whisk half into juice mixture. Gently whisk in remaining whipped cream. Pour into parfait or wine glasses. Cover and refrigerate for about 1 hour or for up to 2 days until ready to serve. Top with candied pecans before serving.

Makes 6 to 8 servings.

ORANGE GRANITA WITH BALSAMIC AND MINT STRAWBERRIES

This timeless Italian dessert is the perfect successor to a delicious meal. Full of purifying antioxidants from simple ingredients like 100% orange juice, it

will satisfy your sweet tooth and your body's nutritional needs. This refreshing finish will make you feel a world away.

1Ā/4 cup (50ml) sugar

1 3Ā/4 cup (425ml) orange juice

1Ā/4 tsp. (1ml) black pepper (optional)

1 Tbsp. (15ml) lemon juice

3 cups (750ml) sliced fresh strawberries

3 Tbsp. (45ml) fresh mint cut into long, thin strips

1 Tbsp. (15ml) balsamic vinegar

Place sugar, 1Ā/4 cup (50ml) orange juice, and black pepper (optional) in a small saucepan, and bring mixture to a boil. Remove from heat and stir in remaining orange juice and the lemon juice. Pour mixture into a 9-in.by 13-in. shallow pan and place in freezer. Every few minutes, stir and scrape granita with a spoon to create an icy texture. This procedure takes about 30 to 45 minutes depending on your freezer.

Combine sliced strawberries, mint and balsamic vinegar in a small bowl and let sit while granita freezes. Divide granita into four individual dessert bowls. Top with strawberry mixture.

Serves 4.

ORANGE CREAMSICLE RICE PUDDING

Rice Pudding

1 cup (250ml) half-and-half

1 cup (250ml) milk

1 cup (250ml) 100% orange juice

1/3 cup (75ml) sugar

1/2 tsp. (2ml) pure vanilla

2 Tbsp. (30ml) chopped orange zest

3 whole eggs, beaten well

3 cups (750ml) warm cooked basmati rice (right out of the steamer or cooking pot)

1/3 cup (75ml) dried cranberries

10 fresh mint sprigs

Preheat oven to 350F (180C). Combine half-and-half and milk in medium saucepot. Add sugar, vanilla and orange zest. Bring to a simmer over medium heat, while stirring continually, until sugar is dissolved. Mixture should smell like a creamsicle. Place beaten eggs in medium mixing bowl. Slowly pour hot liquid into eggs while whisking constantly until all liquid is absorbed. Whisk in orange juice; then stir in rice and cranberries. Pour mixture back into saucepot and cook, stirring constantly over medium heat until mixture becomes hot and slightly thickened, about 3 to 4 minutes. Coat a 9-in.x9in. baking dish with non-stick cooking spray. Pour warm pudding mixture into dish and bake for 15 minutes. Check to see if pudding is softly set (it should jiggle when shaken). Use large tablespoon or ice cream scoop to portion out rounded spoonfuls of hot pudding into ten pudding or parfait dishes. Drizzle over with orange cranberry glaze and garnish with fresh mint.

Serves 10.

ORANGE CRANBERRY GLAZE

1 cup (250ml) 100% orange juice

1/2 cup (125ml) honey

1/3 cup (75ml) dried cranberries

Handful fresh mint sprigs

Place orange juice and cranberries in a small saucepot. Bring to a simmer over medium heat and reduce by half, about 15 minutes. Stir in honey. Rub mint leaves and stems vigorously between your hands and stir into the glaze. Let stand 10 minutes then remove mint. Be sure to squeeze any syrup that clings to mint back into glaze.


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