With the warmer weather beginning to move in on a consistent basis and longer evenings with lots of outdoor activities planned, we need easy recipes to make ahead that don’t heat up the kitchen! I love combining common ingredients that love you back into tasty dishes that you will not only love, but can also whip up without a fuss! The star of today’s show is the carrot, and it was actually the star of my Market Watch segment on California Bountiful TV. If you missed the segment, be sure to check it out to see me shop for carrots at the Farmers’ Market and then make this very recipe in my kitchen! Now, for some fun info about carrots…
Shop smart: There are over 100 species of carrots, and they come in a variety of colors, including orange, purple, white, yellow and red, with purple, yellow and red the only carrots grown before the 15th century! Choose carrots that are firm, smooth and relatively straight, and the deeper color, the better (more carotenoids). If possible, buy carrots with brightly colored greens and larger diameter of the carrot typically means sweeter since the sugars tend to concentrate in their core. Avoid wilted greens and/or carrots that are excessively cracked, limp or rubbery. To minimize the amount of moisture they lose, keep them in a cold part of the fridge in a plastic bag, away from apples, pears, potatoes and other fruits/veg which produce ethylene gas, since it can cause the carrots to become bitter. If you buy carrots with the green tops attached, cut them off before storing, as they will pull moisture from the roots. Wrap the greens in a damp paper towel and use them quickly (finely chopped in a soup or salad), as they will begin to wilt.
Eat Smart: While many of us may recall Bugs Bunny encouraging kids to eat their carrots for their eyes, the health benefits afforded to regular consumers of these colorful root veggies extend far beyond maintaining our night vision and protecting us against age related macular degeneration and senile cataracts. Some of the most exciting new research identifies as little as 1/4 cup of carrot intake per day packs a powerful punch against cardiovascular disease and stroke risk and can slow the rate at which our cells age. Carrots offer a huge array of nutrients including: Vit A (in the form of several carotenoids), biotin, Vit K, fiber, potassium, Vit B6 and other special phytonutrients, including falcarinol and falcarindiol. Together in the whole food, these nutrients support many body functions related to our skin, immune system, GI tract (from fewer cavities and healthier gums to inhibiting the growth of colon cancer cells), and liver’s ability to flush out toxins. When it comes to the health of our skin, they protect against dry skin, hair and nails, premature aging/wrinkling, acne, blemishes and uneven skin tone. Carrots have even been used as a powerful antiseptic used on cuts (shredded raw or cooked and mashed) and can be made into a face mask – try mixing grated carrot and honey.
Cook Smart: Organically grown carrots will only need to be gently scrubbed (do not peel). Many of the nutrients in carrots are tightly encased in protein sacs, but are amazingly heat stable, and are much more available to your body cells (up to 600% more) when broken free by heat (cooking) or mechanical action (grinding, grating, blending, proper chewing). Whole food sources of fat also help the absorption of the powerful carotenoid nutrients, since they are fat soluble. Think about enjoying carrots with avocado, sesame seeds, almonds, peanuts, olives, sunflower seeds, or walnuts. Carrot greens are very fresh tasting, and slightly bitter, so I like to enjoy them in my lentil and split pea soups!
Zippy Citrus Carrot Salad
This recipe quickly became one of my favorites, it was basically love at first bite. Our California Bountiful cameraman’s reaction was a testament to it’s tastiness, “I could eat this all day!”
2 medium to large carrots*
2 tangerines or cuties*
2 tablespoons fresh mint, chopped
¼ cup red onion, diced*
½ cup garbanzo beans
¼- ½ tsp citrus zest
2 tablespoons sesame seeds
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 Medjool date (pit removed) OR 1 tablespoon maple syrup
¼ teaspoon red chili pepper flakes
1/8 teaspoon black pepper
Zest the tangerines or cuties, and combine with the rest of dressing ingredients in a blender with a small jar (or use an immersion blender). Peel, section and dice the citrus, shred/grate the carrot, and add the onion, mint, garbanzo beans and dressing. The flavors of this salad get better and better as the flavors marry. If you have any leftovers, they should keep in the fridge for 3-5 days.
Timaree’s Prep Smart/Cook Smart/Eat Smart Tips:
* Since the skin of the carrots is packed with nutrition, no need to peel them, just scrub them under running water, and use a food processor or box grater to grate/shred. You will want about 2 cups of carrots for each batch of this recipe.
* Always remember to zest citrus before peeling! Zest can help protect us from skin cancer!
* If you don’t have any red onion on hand, you could substitute scallions!
Timaree Hagenburger, a registered dietitian, certified exercise physiologist and nutrition professor at Cosumnes River College. Timaree also conducts corporate wellness work and has a regular segment on California Bountiful TV. For more of her fun and delicious recipes, be sure to get a copy of her cookbook, The Foodie Bar Way: One meal. Lots of options. Everyone’s happy. available at www.FoodieBars.com