Think beyond baby carrots and cooked slices – variety is the spice of this nutritious vegetable’s life.
Carrots are a go-to fresh vegetable choice during the winter months. With a little creativity you can uncover menu ideas to brighten winter meals.
Carrots are a family favorite, from baby’s first tastes to being staples in senior meals. Too often carrots are treated to the same recipe routine. Changing it up lets these vegetable superstars shine.
Varying the shape of carrot in your recipes creates interest that is sure to please everyone at your table.
Nutritional Benefits of Eating Carrots
Carrots are vegetable superstars in the nutrition department, too. Naturally sweet, carrots do not need special attention compared to veggies with more bitter aspects.
Rich in beta carotene, the major plant form of provitamin A, carrots help support the health of your largest body part – your skin. Vitamin A supports a healthy immune system through its anti-inflammatory actions.
Your body converts provitamin A to the active form of vitamin A. The main active form of vitamin A is retinol, usually found in animal foods. The animal version is more easily absorbed and used by the body. The plant version plays health support roles beyond conversion to active vitamin A, although the exact actions are still being studied.
We now know that converting provitamin A to the active form varies between people. This variance is another reason to balance your intake with both animal and plant sources of vitamin A.
Meet your vitamin A needs with a varied diet including dark orange vegetables and fruits. Three or four servings of colorful vegetables, such as carrots, a week and a couple glasses of milk daily should meet needs for most people. This suggestion helps meet DASH Diet recommendations, which emphasize veggies, fruit and lowfat dairy products for lower blood pressure.
Carrots may seem run-of-the-mill vegetables. Changing the shape of carrots in recipes can be menu magic. And don’t we all need a little mealtime magic? Especially during the waning days of winter as we wait for spring?
My collection of ideas include ribbons, shredded, sticks, chunks, slices, and pureed.
Ribbons or Shaved:
Ribbon Salad – Combine carrot ribbons (4 cups) with thinly sliced onion (1 cup) and fresh herb leaves (1/2 cup basil, cilantro, or parsley). Dress with a mixture of canola oil and lime juice (2 T of each), lime zest (1 tsp) and sugar (1/2 tsp).
Nutty Carrot Toast – Combine of shaved carrot (1/3 cup), chopped flat leaf parsley (1 T), EV olive oil and apple cider vinegar (½ tsp each) and let stand 5 minutes. Spread nut butter (cashew, almond, etc.) on a toasted slice of whole grain bread. Top with carrot mixture, a tsp of chopped nuts (same as the butter) and a tiny dash of cracked pepper and kosher salt.
PRO COOKING TIP#1: Use a vegetable peeler to create long, thin strands from the full length of carrots.
Car-Pot Pancakes – Substitute home shredded carrots for half the shredded potato in your favorite potato pancake recipe.
Carrot Muffins – Substitute shredded carrots for the shredded zucchini in your favorite bread or muffin recipe.
PRO COOKING TIP#2: – Fresh carrots shredded in a box grated have more moisture than store bought shredded carrots and may work better in these recipes.
Ginger Glazed Carrot Sticks – Pan steam carrot matchsticks in a skillet over medium heat (1/4 cup water to 1 cup carrots) until tender. If needed, increase heat to boil off any remaining liquid. Add chopped crystallized ginger, butter and thawed orange juice concentrate (1 T of each per cup of carrots). Heat and mix thoroughly.
Carrot Oven Fries – Line a baking pan with foil or parchment and lightly spray surface with nonstick spray. Spread 6-inch length carrot sticks evenly and spray top surface of sticks lightly. Bake in 400°F preheated oven until tender and slightly brown.
PRO COOKING TIP#3: Carefully cut carrots in half lengthwise and place the cut side down to prevent rolling. For matchstick size, slice the length of carrot into 3-inch lengths (or use baby carrots). Cut each length into sticks, roughly ¼-inch. For oven fries, cut in 6-inch lengths by ½-inch sticks.
Oven Roasted Carrots – Cut whole carrots (scrubbed, peeled if desired) into 3-inch chunks. Line a baking pan with foil or parchment and lightly spray surface with nonstick spray. Spread chunks evenly and spray top surface lightly. Bake in 400°F preheated oven until tender and slightly brown.
Crisped, Smashed Carrots – Cut whole carrots (scrubbed, peeled if desired) into 3-inch chunks. Place in microwave safe bowl and add water to cover chunks. Microwave on high 5-8 minutes with cover on bowl until carrots are soft. Line a baking pan with foil or parchment and lightly spray surface with nonstick spray. Place chunks on sheet and “smash” with a fork. Drizzle top of each smashed carrot with olive oil, fresh minced rosemary, fresh ground pepper and sea salt. Bake in 400°F preheated oven, about 15 minutes until slightly brown.
Quick Pickles – Use ¼-inch fresh slices with your favorite quick pickle recipe. Slices will be tender crisp in about 2-3 days. Keeps in refrigerator for 2 weeks – if they last that long!
Carrots Almondine – Cook thin carrot slices in a skillet over medium heat (1/4 cup water to 1 cup carrots) until tender. If needed, increase heat to boil off any remaining liquid. Add olive oil (1-2 tbsp)and dried thyme leaves (¼ tsp); stir until carrots are coated. Add toasted almond slices and serve.
PRO COOKING TIP#4: A mandolin makes thin and even-size slices easy – just be sure to use the guard to avoid cutting your hand on the very sharp blace.
Carrot Soup – Cook carrots in vegetable broth (2 cups carrot to 4 cups broth) until soft. Use an emersion blender or food processor to puree until smooth. Add spices of choice to flavor. Simmer to reduce soup to desired consistency.
Carrot Butter – Season cooked, finely ground or pureed carrot with savory herbs or sweet spices for a twist on a bread spread.
PRO COOKING TIP#5: Take care when pureeing hot vegetables to avoid burns.
Shine the spotlight on nutritious carrots in your meals with these easy and tasty ideas. Carrots are a cold storage vegetable, so they are “in-season” during winter months. Carrots are affordable during the winter as you wait for fresh spring vegetables. Once you try these ideas, you and your family will be enjoying carrots year ‘round.
For another root vegetable recipe, check out Avocado Beet Citrus Salad.