Conscious Cook: The sweet taste of spring comes with a side of carrots

Carrots are a vibrant and versatile ingredient.

Carrots are a vibrant and versatile ingredient.

Metro Creative Connection / Contributed photo

“Spring-time sweet! The whole earth smiles, thy coming to greet.” —Unknown

A kaleidoscope of color is unfurling as spring begins its merry parade. Perky crocuses reveal their beautiful purple and yellow petals. Daffodils begin to display their varied array of ivory, cream, pale yellow and bright orange flowers. The sweet scent of hyacinths perfume the air, and color begins to restore us. There is such joy in the eternal beauty of Spring with its promise of rebirth and renewal.

Easter Sunday is a magnificent day of rebirth and many celebrate with a festive and delicious meal.

Whether it be brunch, lunch, or a full-scale dinner, an Easter meal is a wonderful opportunity to serve plenty of naturally nutritious produce. Carrots are a delicious vegetable to include on the Easter table.

A favorite of children and adults alike, carrots are a tasty, crisp and crunchy snack. Organic carrots have a particularly pleasant flavor and are well worth seeking out. Whether roasted, sauteed, grilled, baked, pureed into smoothies, soups or sauces, juiced, grated and added to slaws and salads, stir-fried, or baked into breads, muffins, pancakes, or cakes, carrots are a vibrant, versatile ingredient.

After a long winter of cold weather that may have dehydrated and roughened skin, carrots are packed with plenty of restorative nutrients. The potassium content of carrots may help rejuvenate and nourish overly dry skin. The beta carotene found in carrots may also help achieve glowing skin, as well as providing some protection from sun damage and wrinkles and giving a boost to hair health. Many major beauty companies now offer healing, soothing, products that include carrots on their ingredient lists.

Carrots are available in many sizes and colors. Pre-peeled, bright orange, baby carrots are a convenient refrigerator staple. Pair with little containers of hummus or salad dressing for school or desk lunches.

Rainbow carrots come packaged with ivory, pale yellow, orange and a purple tinged variety with a bright orange center. These beauties, sliced or peeled into ribbons and piled high on a platter with a sprinkling of fresh dill, sliced almonds, goat cheese, golden raisins, and a drizzle of apple cider vinegar-based dressing make for a spectacular Spring salad.

Roasted carrots drizzled with maple syrup or rolled in olive oil and cooked with garlic and herbs make a super simple, yet sensational side dish for baked ham, roast lamb, chicken or salmon.

Carrots have a natural affinity for many flavorings and herbs. Apples, ginger, orange juice, parsley, tarragon, thyme, cinnamon, brown sugar, lemon, cayenne and smoked paprika will all marry well with the classic sweetness of carrots.

Smile as you celebrate Spring and prepare your delicious life.

Sweet Spring Carrots

Serves 6

1 pound organic carrots, (peeled, washed and cut into 1 inch sticks or slices)

1/4 cup freshly squeezed orange juice

3 tablespoons pure maple syrup

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Dash of cayenne pepper (optional)

1 tablespoon butter

1 tablespoon grated orange zest

1 tablespoon fresh dill

1 tablespoon fresh parsley

Fill a pan with cold water. Bring water to a boil, add carrots. Reduce heat to a simmer and cook carrots for 5-7 minutes, until tender but still crisp. Drain the carrots and return to the pan. Add orange juice, orange zest, maple syrup, salt, pepper and butter to the pan. Add a dash of cayenne pepper if using. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly until carrots are well coated and the glaze thickens. Taste, continue to cook until desired tenderness. Remove carrots from heat, stir in orange zest, dill and parsley and serve.

Robin Glowa, HHC AADP, “The Conscious Cook,” writes about preparing a delicious life and presents healthy food workshops throughout New England. She is a professional cook, organic gardener and a graduate of The Institute for Integrative Nutrition and Columbia University Teachers College.