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My saving grace during the winter, where calorie-laden foods seem to be everywhere, is citrus fruits. The clementine is one of my favorites. It's juicy, sweet, and serves as the perfect snack. But what exactly is a clementine?

Many people think that a clementine is the same as a mandarin orange, but that's not entirely correct. A clementine is a variety of mandarin oranges, but they are not the same as what you buy in a can or fruit cup. Most canned mandarins are a variety called Satsuma, originally from Japan. Tangerines are also a variety of mandarin oranges.

Television commercials for clementines are generally marketed toward children because of their smaller-than-an-orange characteristic and their easy-to-peel nature. They're also sweet and seedless so that choking becomes less of a concern. But adults have proven that this citrus is not just for kids. The scent of a clementine at the office can linger many cubicles down, making the entire office staff jealous!

One clementine is only about 40 calories, and yet it is filled with vitamin C, folate and potassium. Besides snacking, clementines can be used in recipes calling for oranges, tangerines or mandarin oranges. Try them on salads, in smoothies, and salsas. Use them in an orange chicken stir-fry or toss them with cooked bulgur, toasted almonds and citrus vinaigrette. However you use them, they will sure to brighten your winter meals.

Clementine Poppy Seed Muffins

2 ¼ cups whole wheat pastry flour

½ cup granulated sugar

¼ cup poppy seeds

1 Tablespoon baking powder

1 teaspoon ground ginger

¾ teaspoon baking soda

3 clementines

1 cup low-fat plain yogurt

2 eggs

2 Tablespoons butter, melted


Preheat oven to 375°F. In a bowl, stir together the flour, sugar, poppy seeds, baking powder, ginger, and baking soda. Finely grate the rind of 2 clementines; add to the bowl. Peel all the clementines and coarsely chop the segments to make about 1 cup; add to the flour mixture and toss to coat. Whisk together the yogurt, eggs, and butter. Pour over the flour mixture; stir until just moistened. Spoon into 10 greased or paper lined muffin cups; filling two-thirds full. Bake for 20-25 minutes until golden. Transfer to a rack and let cool.

Yield: 10 muffins

Source: Utah State University
Nutritional analysis per muffin: 200 Calories, 6 grams fat, 40 milligrams cholesterol, 290 milligrams sodium, 32 grams carbohydrate, 3 grams dietary fiber, 6 grams protein