Stay Cool with Cucumber

Cucumbers and zucchini have started appearing in the most unusual places!

There is a big pile of them in the break room at work, with a pleading sign, "Take some, please?" The other day a pile appeared next to my neighbor's mailbox. Last night when I got home, there were three anonymous zucchini on the front porch, like babies left on the doorstep.

This nice, hot weather has brought cucumbers and zucchini out in full force. Take advantage of these great vegetables by having them in salads on days when it's too hot for lettuce to be in its prime.

Greek salads with cucumber are great but usually high in salt, thanks to olives and feta cheese. Everyone needs to watch salt in their diets since too much can raise blood pressure and put a strain on kidneys. A good goal is less than 2,000 milligrams of sodium per day. That's a teaspoon, which is probably more than you'd sprinkle from a shaker. But remember that 90 percent of the salt you eat hides in processed and packaged food.

Try these recipes for a low-salt, cooling cucumber or zucchini salad and easy, salt-free pickles that will save the sunny flavor of summer well into the dark months of winter.

Cool Cucumber Salad

1-2 cucumbers, or zucchini, peeled and chopped (about 3 cups)
2 firm medium tomatoes, or 1 cup cherry tomatoes, chopped
½ cup chopped onion
½ cup low-fat yogurt
½ cup low-fat sour cream
1 teaspoon ground cumin
½ teaspoon ground mustard
¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
4 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro, parsley or tarragon.

Mix all ingredients and let chill for half an hour. Try it served with barbecue chicken or flank steak. Serves six.

Nutritional  information:
Calories 37, Carbohydrates: 8 grams, Protein: 3 grams, Sodium: 52 milligrams

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Summer in a Jar: Salt-free Refrigerator Pickles

Northwest Kidney Centers patient Chuck Minger adapted this recipe found on the internet. He was so impressed with the pickles, which don't require canning, he made them as gifts for friends.

5 long cucumbers or zucchini, sliced thinly (about 10 cups)
1 bunch fresh dill or tarragon
2 cups white sugar
2-3 cups white wine vinegar
2 cups red wine vinegar
2 cups cider vinegar
2 tablespoons dill weed
1 teaspoon black pepper
2 teaspoons celery seed
½ teaspoon dry mustard
1 teaspoon turmeric

Slice cucumbers or zucchini and layer them in eight (8) pint jars with fresh dill weed or fresh tarragon. In a pitcher, stir the sugar into the vinegars, until dissolved. Add the remaining seasonings. Pour over the cucumbers. Put lids on the jars and store them in the refrigerator. They will keep for nine months in the refrigerator. Serves 36.

Nutritional information:
Calories: 55, Carbohydrates: 12 grams, Protein: 0 gram, Sodium: 5 milligrams

The recipes above are 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 Wilkens, MS, RD

Contributor Katy G. Wilkens is a registered dietitian and department head at Northwest Kidney Centers. She has a Master of Science degree in nutritional sciences from the University of Washington.

Healthy Recipes Never Age!

See more of Katy Wilken's recipes at www.nwkidney.org and in past issues of the Seattle-King County Advisory Council on Aging & Disability Services newsletter: