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Carrots can be eaten in a variety of ways

Carrots can be eaten in a variety of ways

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With the beginning of the New Year, our thoughts usually turn to making healthier food choices. The Montana Harvest of the Month, a Montana program that showcases Montana grown foods in Montana schools, institutions and communities, has selected the root vegetable carrots as their focus for January.

Carrots are a perfect choice for starting out this New Year since they are rich in nutrients and a perfect choice to include in a healthy diet. Carrots are well-known for containing high amounts of beta carotene, an antioxidant which is a form of Vitamin A. Beta carotene is important for eyesight, skin and normal growth. It may also help reduce chronic disease, such as cancer and heart disease.

Did you know that beta carotene was first discovered in carrots, therefore its name came from carrots? Carrots are also a source of potassium and vitamin C, and like most vegetables a source of fiber.

Don’t limit yourself in the ways you can enjoy carrots, since they can be eaten in a variety of ways. Besides eating them raw, they can be roasted, grated, boiled or steamed, included in baked goods such as muffins, breads, cakes and cookies, and also preserved for later use. Carrots are a great addition to a pot roast, stews and soups. If you have fresh carrots with the green tops still attached, don’t toss the tops since they can also be used to make pesto and included in salads.

When you are planning your garden for this spring, be sure to include carrots since they are easy to grow and kids love to dig them for a healthy snack. I also at times leave some in the garden over the winter covered with leaves and have fresh carrots in the spring.

Carrot cake is always popular and you will find this cake to be a trusted “keeper” — an amazingly, scrumptious, moist, delicate-crumbed cake you will make time and time again. It is easy to put together, can be made a day in advance, and freezes well for up to a month. If freezing the cake, wait until serving to glaze it.

Carrot-Poppy Seed Bundt Cake with Lemon Glaze

(Servings: 12)

Ingredients:

Unsalted butter for the pan, at room temperature

3 cups all-purpose flour, more for dusting the pan

2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

1 teaspoon baking soda

½ teaspoon kosher salt

½ teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg

2 cups granulated sugar

1½ cups canola or other neutral oil

2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

3 large eggs

3 cups peeled and finely shredded carrots (3–4 large carrots)

¼ cup poppy seeds

For Glaze: 2½ cups confectioner’s sugar

5 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

Directions:

Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 325 degrees. Butter a 10-inch (12-cup) Bundt pan (preferably non-stick). Sprinkle the pan with a big spoonful of flour and then tilt and tap the pan to distribute the flour evenly. Turn the pan upside down over the sink and gently shake out the excess flour. In a large bowl sift together the flour, cinnamon, baking soda, salt, and nutmeg. Set aside. In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, or in a large bowl using a hand-held mixer, beat together the sugar, oil, and vanilla on medium speed for 2 minutes. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. On low speed, add half of the flour mixture and mix just until the flour disappears. Mix in the remaining flour just until combined, stopping and scraping down the sides of the bowl once with a rubber spatula. Add the carrots and poppy seeds and mix on low speed just until thoroughly combined. Gently pour the batter into the prepared pan, spreading it evenly. Bake until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean, about 60–70 minutes. Let cool in the pan on a wire rack for 30 minutes. Run a table knife around the inside edge of the pan to loosen the cake sides, then invert the cake onto the rack and let cool completely. To make the glaze, whisk together the confectioner’s sugar and lemon juice until the sugar is dissolved. With the cooled cake still on the rack, drizzle the glaze evenly over the top, allowing the glaze to drip down the sides. Place a sheet of waxed paper under the cake rack to catch the drips. Transfer the cake to a cake plate and cut into wedges to serve. Source: “Roots, the Definitive Compendium with more than 225 Recipes,” Diane Morgan.

Carrot Salad

(Servings: 4)

This easy salad is a cross between a slaw and a pickle. It makes a nice simple snack or side dish, but it is great in a sandwich or taco or burger. You can substitute lemon juice for the lime juice, or use vinegar. You can also substitute parsley or cilantro for the mint.

Ingredients:

3 large carrots, scrubbed or peeled

Juice of one lime and grated zest of half a lime

1 teaspoon honey

½ cup chopped fresh mint leaves

Roasted sunflower seeds or peanuts (opt.)

½ teaspoon salt

Directions:

Grate the carrots on the large holes of a box grater. Stir in the lime juice and zest, honey, salt, mint, and sunflower seeds. Taste the salad and see if it needs any adjustment of ingredients. Serve right away or store covered in the refrigerator for up to three days. Source: Montana Harvest of the Month and Chop Chop.

Roasted Ginger Carrot Soup

(Servings: 8–10)

Another root vegetable, parsnip, is combined with carrots to make this healthy soup. Roasting the vegetables gives them a richer and deeper flavor over the usual simmering method for soup. Ginger is a special complement to the carrots.

Ingredients:

1½ pounds carrots, peeled and cut into halves lengthwise

1 pound parsnips, peeled and cut into quarters lengthwise

1 large onion, sliced

1 (3-inch) piece of fresh ginger, peeled and chopped

6 tablespoons butter

1 tablespoon brown sugar

8 cups or more chicken broth or vegetable broth

Salt to taste

1/16 teaspoon cayenne pepper

¼ cup crème fraiche for garnish

¼ cup minced fresh chives for garnish

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Combine the carrots, parsnips, onion, and ginger in a shallow roasting pan. Dot with the butter and sprinkle with the brown sugar. Pour 2 cups of the broth over vegetables. Bake, covered with foil, for 2 hours or until vegetables are very tender. Place in a large stockpot. Add the remaining 6 cups broth, salt, and cayenne pepper. Bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer, partially covered, for 10 minutes. Puree the soup in batches in a blender or food processor or in the stockpot with the use of an immersion blender, adding additional broth if needed. Return the soup to the stockpot. Adjust the seasonings to taste. Cook until heated through. Ladle into bowls. Garnish each with a dollop of the crème fraiche and sprinkle with the chives. Source: “Living Well, More than a Cookbook,” National Extension Association of Family and Consumer Sciences.

Bernie Mason writes the Local Flavor column for Lee Montana Newspapers. She was a Yellowstone County extension agent for 24 years. Mason grew up in Sidney in a family of German and Danish ancestry.

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