Carrots are popular year round because not only do they pair well with other root crops in recipes for winter comfort foods, but their bright color and sweet flavor is also a welcome addition to spring meals. They are great as a snack for kids, adults love them for an easy-to-make side dish, and we all know rabbits are fans too!
Another reason to like carrots is for the nutrition benefits. A large carrot provides only 30 calories but also has lots of beta-carotene, a nutrient that helps to give you bright eyes and glowing skin. Whether raw or cooked, fresh, frozen or canned, carrots retain their vitamin A content. In fact, steaming carrots makes the beta-carotene more readily available.
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- If they are small, leave carrots whole. For larger carrots, you can julienne, grate, shred or slice into sticks or rounds. Add shredded carrots to cabbage or broccoli slaw for a touch of color. If you have a mandolin slicer, start with a crinkle cut, then give the carrot a quarter turn to create a waffle pattern.
- Steam carrots in the microwave, either in steam-ready bags or a covered casserole dish. On the stove top, try sautéing matchstick or julienned carrots as a quick side-dish. To roast, toss carrot rounds or baby carrots in just enough oil to lightly coat, place on a baking sheet, and bake at 400 degrees for about 20 minutes or until tender and lightly browned.
- Skip the butter and sugary glazes and sprinkle steamed carrots with parsley or dill. Carrots are part of the same botanical family that includes parsley, anise, celery, parsnips, fennel, caraway, cumin and dill. It’s no wonder that these herbs and vegetables are natural flavor pairings! Add fennel seeds and cumin to carrot soup to add savory flavor. Or, try adding tarragon and cinnamon to carrots to bring out their natural sweetness.
- The secret ingredient that adds flavor to soups, roasts and sauces is called a mirepoix, which is a combination of carrots, celery and onions. Add these vegetables to your lamb roast and savor the aroma while it’s cooking.
- And who can forget dessert! Carrots add moisture to cakes, breads and cookies. Use the recipe below to transform the traditional Easter dinner carrot cake into whoopie pies, complete with cream cheese frosting (recipe below)! Portion control and fat-free cream cheese help cut the calories so you can have your cake … and enjoy eating it, too.
Carrot Cake Whoopie Pies
Makes 12 servings
Prep time: 30 minutes
Cook time: 15 minutes
- 1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
- 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- ½ teaspoon baking soda
- ¼ cup butter, softened
- 2 Tablespoons canola oil
- ½ cup light brown sugar, packed
- 1 large egg
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract, divided
- 1 ½ cups grated carrots
- ½ cup seedless raisins
- 8 oz tub fat free cream cheese, soft
- ¼ cup confectioner’s sugar
Preheat oven to 375°F. Lightly coat 2 large baking sheets with butter or line with parchment paper. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, cinnamon, baking powder and baking soda. In a large bowl, cream together butter, oil, sugar, egg and 1 teaspoon vanilla. Fold in carrots and raisins. Add dry ingredients and mix until combined. Spoon batter into 24 mounds onto prepared baking sheets, flattening slightly. Bake for 10-12 minutes, switching sheets halfway through baking, until cookies are lightly browned and spring back when touched lightly. Cool cookies on sheets for 5 minutes, then transfer to racks to cool completely. For frosting, combine cream cheese with confectioner’s sugar and remaining 1 teaspoon vanilla. Sandwich cookies together with frosting.
Nutrition information per serving: 220 calories, 7g fat, 3g saturated fat, 30mg cholesterol, 220mg sodium, 33g carbohydrate, 1g fiber, 18g sugars, 6g protein
Sylvia Emberger, RD, LDN