BUGGS BUNNY had it right. He ate carrots because he liked them. But even if he hated carrots and liked, oh … parsnips, or Brussels sprouts … he should have chomped on the long orange sticks anyway because they are healthy.
Kids, like bunnies, almost universally have no trouble getting carrots down. The vegetable has texture, and it is sweet and colorful. What kids don’t have to know is that carrots are chock full of vitamin C, vitamin B6, vitamin B, vitamin B3, and vitamin A. Plus, they are almost overflowing with magnesium, calcium, phosphorous, molybdenum, manganese, and potassium. Plus, there are antioxidants in there. It’s nice to have a food that you like — and likes you back.
My favorite way to prepare carrots is to simmer them in water. That’s all. It brings out the natural flavor without much work. Skip peeling if you have a good vegetable brush. Now go the extra mile. Just a pinch of salt teases a little more sweetness from the roots. Add a drop of maple syrup or a pinch of brown sugar to amaze your friends. If you have a cinnamon stick, add that to the pot.
For an adult party, toss cooked carrot coins in butter and a little rum or bourbon. Cook it until there is just a film left on the vegetable.
Invest in a ripple cutter if there isn’t one in your kitchen catch-all drawer. Curly slices are more fun than flat ones for kids and adults. Get surprised looks when you put them in a stir fry with ripple cut celery and cucumber.
When you have leftovers on purpose, they’re called planned-overs. Make more carrots than you need for one meal, then heat the extra in a little butter in the microwave. Now mash them. Serve alongside mashed potatoes for great color and taste contrast or stir them in for a ripple of color.
We don’t usually think of carrots as a dessert ingredient — other than carrot cake — but when it’s cold in northern India they get out the carrots and grater and whip up a big batch of Carrot Halwa. It usually takes a lot of time and labor, but, thanks to the food processor and microwave, it becomes a simple — and quick — task. The recipe below is adapted from “Veg Recipes of India.”
Since you have the food processor out, how about some carrot puree to perk up a morning smoothie? Whizz a bunch of carrot and a little ginger until it’s smooth. Keep it covered in the fridge until morning. You could make the puree in a blender, but you have more control of the ginger balance when you have it ready and can taste it before you use it. From the carrot, add in orange juice, banana, yogurt, milk, and cinnamon. Ice is optional.
Roasted vegetables are trendy and if you haven’t tried them, you’re in for a treat. Toss one-inch chunks of root vegetables — carrot is the star of this show, so use lots — parsnips, turnip, rutabaga, butternut squash, sweet potato, beets, and potatoes in olive oil and garlic. Spread the chunks on a rimmed baking pan and let them roast about 45 minutes at 450 degrees Fahrenheit. Check and turn them at 30 minutes. They are done when the edges start to brown and the natural sugars make the pan sticky.
If you can find more root veggies, feel free to toss them in too. Or, leave some out.
Thinly sliced carrots or carrot sticks tossed with honey, a little olive oil, and a sweet spice will cook quicker in a baking dish at 425 than you would have to wait for the medley. Try cardamom, cinnamon, fennel, or allspice. Isn’t it nice to have a vegetable that tastes good be good for you?
MICROWAVE CARROT HALWA
2 tablespoons melted butter
2 cups grated carrots
1/2 cup milk
5 to 6 tablespoons sugar
1/2 cup evaporated milk
2 tablespoons cream
1/2 teaspoon cardamom powder
2 tablespoons almond, pistachios or cashew slices
Mix the melted butter and grated carrots in a large microwave-safe bowl and microwave on high power for two and a half minutes. Add milk, sugar, evaporated milk, cream, and cardamom powder, then microwave for eight to nine minutes on high power. Mix well and let stand five minutes. Garnish carrot halwa with slices of almond, pistachio and cashew nuts. Serve carrot halwa hot or cold. An American adaptation might use a dollop of whipped cream.
column by TRENT ROWE
Trent Rowe is the Food Editor of Central Florida Health News.