A bunch of carrots from the San Juan Capistrano Downtown Farmers’ Market goes a long way—feeding a family, supporting a diet and making the skin glow.
Richard and Michelle Runneboom, owners of the Dutch Bakery & Café in town bake fresh carrot muffins each day—it's one of their most popular menu items. “The carrots add flavor to a good recipe,” said Michelle. Her husband is the baker of the 11-year-old family business. He suggests adding pineapple and raisins soaked in water for 24 hours to further the moistness of carrot muffins.
The power of the carrot lies in its nutritional value as well as its convenience as a to-go snack or diet food. According to the World Carrot Museum, “carrots store a gold mine of nutrients.” This includes carotene, which converts to vitamin A. Free of fat and full of fiber make the carrot “healthy,” and it has only 30 calories for a 7-inch stalk.
The carrot is cultivated in many forms, from baby carrots to purple carrots (true—not all carrots are orange!). Fruits and Veggies Matter recommends selecting well-shaped, smooth, firm, crisp carrots with deep color and fresh, green tops. Carrots can be refrigerated in a plastic bag with tops removed for up to two weeks. The site also suggests 10 ways to use the vegetable, including to slow cook them or use them in casseroles and smoothies.
Carrots can also be used as a beauty product when added to a homemade facial mask. Blogger Beaute by Amour offers a homemade facial recipe, noting that a carrot facial mask with its vitamin A “is great for those with oily skin and helps repairs skin tissue and is great for acne control.”
For the meal table, here are two recipes using carrots.
Creamy Carrot Soup
8 to 12 carrots, peeled and chopped (one carrot can be chopped finely and saved toward end of process and used as croutons for crunch)
2 tbs butter
½ cup chopped onion
5 to 6 cups chicken broth
1 cup cream
1 bay leaf
Seasoning of choice (1/4 tsp ginger or Tabasco or nutmeg or curry, for example)
Croutons or pieces of Melba toast for topping
Basil, chopped small for topping (optional)
Sour cream for topping (optional)
Heat butter in soup pot. Add onion. Cook and stir. Add carrots and broth. Boil. Add bay leaf. Simmer 30 to 40 minutes. Remove bay leaf. Put through food mill, processor or blender. Add remaining ingredients. (To serve cold, add remaining ingredients while in blender.) Chill and serve. Small chopped pieces of carrot can be used as croutons to add crunch.
Power Gold Smoothie
(from Produce for Better Health Foundation by chef Carmen I. Jones)
2 ¼ cups chopped or grated carrots*
½ cup pineapple juice
1 cup fresh orange juice
2 tsp honey
3 to 4 ice cubes
½ cup vanilla low-fat yogurt
Place only chopped or grated carrots in blender and turn on high. Through lid, slowly drizzle in about 2 to 3 tablespoons of the pineapple juice, allowing the carrots to be puréed until smooth. Slowly pour in remaining juice with honey. Blend until smooth and somewhat frothy. Then, with blender on high, add ice cubes. Blend until ice cubes are blended smooth. Stop blender, add yogurt, return lid and blend until thoroughly mixed. Pour into chilled glasses. Calories: 143 per serving. Makes 4 servings.
*Chef’s note: If a smoother consistency is desired, microwave the grated carrot with 1 tbs of water in a covered microwave dish on high for 2 to 3 minutes. Proceed as directed above.