Gabriela Pacheco 0000-00-00 00:00:00
With a bit of creativity and inspiration, you can show your students that carrots are versatile, nutritious—and tasty! Food Focus REGARD THE HUMBLE CARROT. As vegetables go, it’s not particularly exotic. It arguably lacks the menu versatility of, say, the potato or tomato. As one of the top-five baby food flavors, it has ready familiarity with most kids. It’s a common movie cliché to see someone return from market shopping with a bag overflowing with carrot tops (and a loaf of French bread). And, in fact, it is the second-most popular vegetable in the world (after the aforementioned potato). So, it would be entirely fair if you started this article wondering, How much is there to possibly learn about carrots? Turns out—plenty! Because, it’s quite likely that you don’t know where carrots originated, what health benefits they can provide (beyond vision improvement), how they differ from most other vegetables in delivering nutrition and many other fascinating facts (not to mention a few long-held fictions). At the Root of It All Let’s start with some basics. While it is difficult to pin down when domestication from their wild inception took place, it is known that almost 5,000 years ago, carrots were first cultivated in the Iranian Plateau and then in the Persian Empire. The name carotid (referencing the garden carrot) first appeared in the Roman writings dating back to 200 A.D. and in a book on cookery in 230 A.D. Modern research has shown that there are two distinct groups of cultivated carrots from which the carrot we know today derives. These two groups are distinguished by the colors of their roots—which is, of course, the edible vegetable. The Eastern carrot (anthocyanin) is identified by its purple and/or yellow branched root, while the Western carrot (carotene) is identified by its yellow, orange, white or red unbranched root. One hypothesis is that Western carrots originated later in Asia Minor, around Turkey, and could have formed from a mutant that removed the anthocyanin (purple color). Others assert that Dutch carrot growers in the 16th century invented the orange carrot in honor of the House of Orange, the Dutch royal family. Horticulturalists of that time reportedly cross-bred pale yellow carrots with red carrots. Today, carrots also can be found in purple, white, red or yellow varieties. The features of the leaves and flowers also signify different carrot groups. Truth Time Now, let’s take a look at some of the conventional wisdom that has long been associated with carrots. Like all vegetables, the nutrition in carrots offers a number of health benefits; specifically, they are important for healthy eyes, skin, hair, growth and immune systems. Also, consumption of carrots can help lower cholesterol and prevent heart attacks, as well as reduce the risk of certain types of cancers. But how about some of the other purported characteristics that you may have heard at your grandmother’s knee? Urban legend—or supposed myth that actually is based in fact? Do you know what’s true and what’s not? Take the following challenge to test your knowledge—but don’t skip ahead to the answers! ■ If you eat enough carrots, you won’t need glasses anymore. Fact or Fiction? ■ If you eat too many carrots, your skin will turn orange. Fact or Fiction? ■ Since carrots are high in sugar, they should be avoided when dieting. Fact or Fiction? ■ It is possible to get vitamin A poisoning from eating too many carrots. Fiction? If you eat enoughcarrots, you won’t need glasses anymore. Fiction. Your mother was right when she told you to eat your carrots to make your eyes stronger, but carrots will not correct your vision or liberate you from the annoyance of contact lenses and eyeglasses. Carrots cannot reverse poor vision or slow age-related decline of vision. What they can do is help protect your night vision, due to their high content of beta-carotene (the highest of all vegetables). Your liver converts the beta-carotene in carrots into vitamin A, which travels to your retina. There, the vitamin A is transformed into rhodopsin, a purple pigment that is necessary for night vision. (Pretty cool, huh?) If you eat too many carrots, your skin will turn orange. Fact. This condition, called cartonemia, may be played for laughs on medical-based television comedies, like “Scrubs,” but it is a real condition. It is a discoloration of the skin that occurs when excess beta-carotene builds up in the blood from eating an abundance of carotenoid-rich foods, such as carrots, sweet potatoes and oranges. The skin actually turns a yellowish color, which is why the condition often is mistaken for jaundice. Since carrots are high in sugar, they should be avoided when dieting. Fiction. While they do contain complex carbohydrates and some simple sugars, a cup of raw carrots contains just 50 calories! And you won’t want to miss their other attributes when dieting. Carrots also contain fiber (which, along with antioxidants, aids in fighting inflammation) and some protein, plus they are high in certain vitamins and minerals, potassium, calcium and folate. They are very low in saturated fat and cholesterol. The B vitamins present in carrots aid in regulating the body’s circulation by ensuring that the heart and lungs have the needed nutrients to function effectively. Carrots also have been found to help lower high blood pressure and reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease. It is possible to get vitamin A poisoning from eating too many carrots. Fiction. This is actually impossible, as they provide vitamin A only indirectly. As noted above, the beta-carotene in carrots is converted by the body into vitamin A—but only what it needs. If you’re hungry for more carrot facts, check out “‘14-Carrot’ Gold” at right for some additional interesting tidbits. Get Creative With Carrots Fun facts aside, let’s segue into the area that’s most important to school nutrition professionals: how to menu, prep and serve carrots in school meal programs! Following are some tips and suggestions, and be sure to check out the recipes throughout this article for more carrotrelated menu ideas and inspiration. ■ Raw carrots are naturally sweet and juicy; however, boiling them in a little hot water or microwaving them for just a few minutes can enrich their flavor and enhance the bioavailability of nutrients. ■ Fresh raw carrots can be enjoyed by themselves as a simple snack or used in combination with other ingredients in vegetable or fruit salads. ■ Unlike most vegetables, cooked carrots are more nutritious than when eaten raw. Because carrots have tough cellular walls, much of the nutrition is locked up and indigestible. Cooking, however, partially dissolves cellulosethickened cell walls, freeing up nutrients by breaking down the cell membranes. Of course, this depends on your cooking method. Guard against overboiling, which can cause nutrients to leach out. One way to do this is to boil or steam carrots whole and then cut them up. ■ Carrot juice makes for a refreshing drink, whether enjoyed alone or blended with apple or another fruit juice. ■ Indeed, carrots also blend well with many vegetables, including green beans, potato and green peas, in a variety of recipe forms, including stews, curries and stir-fries. You can slice mixed carrots with other root vegetables like radishes, beets or kohlrabi. ■ Create a delicious sweet dish from Southeast Asia, called gaajar halwa, which is prepared using grated carrot, almonds, cashews, pistachio, butter, sugar and milk. ■ Add shredded carrots to casseroles, breads and meatloaf. Or, conversely, serve shredded carrots with added raisins. Eat More Orange Veggies! There’s a reason that School Nutrition chose to showcase carrots in its annual vegetable profile. As most of you know, serving more orange vegetables is one of the criteria in the HealthierUS School Challenge initiative. In addition, minimum quantities of red/orange vegetables have been established in the new meal pattern regulation released by the U.S. Department of Agriculture in January (see “The Wait Is Over,” page 15). Students in Grades K-8 must be offered a minimum of 3/4 cup of red/orange vegetables each week; the amount increases to 1 1/4 cups for students in Grades 9-12. Those are laudable goals, but we all know that orange vegetables—or any vegetables for that matter—can be a hard sell for school-aged children. With that in mind, a small sampling of school nutrition directors around the country were asked about the different ways they offer and serve carrots to students—and which approaches receive the best acceptance! The unsurprising winner: Fresh baby carrots served with lowfat ranch dressing. Their popularity derives from being small, easy to handle, very “dippable” finger food. Other suggestions from this small sampling of operators included cut-up raw carrots (“regular size”), offered self-serve with ranch dressing; in combination with other fresh veggies; in combination with other colored carrots; and steamed with a honey glaze. Most of the directors interviewed for this article indicated that they offer carrots daily on a salad bar. Toot This Root! Naturally sweet, delicious and crunchy, carrots are healthy additions you can and should make to your—and your students’— diet. Along with a variety of other veggies offered every day, they can contribute to the building of a HealthierUS generation. ORANGE GLAZED CARROTS YIELD: 50 servings* PER SERVING: 60 cal., 1 g pro., 11 g carb., 1 g fiber, 2 g fat, 1 g sat. fat, 0 mg chol., 260 mg sod., 1 mg iron, 32 mg ca. INGREDIENTS Carrots, sliced—1 1⁄4 No. 10 cans Butter or margarine—1⁄2 cup Brown sugar, packed—1⁄2 cup + 3 Tbsps. Orange juice concentrate, frozen, thawed — 3⁄4 cup Cornstarch—2 Tbsps. + 2 tsps. Cinnamon, ground—1 tsp. Raisins—1 cup Nutmeg, ground—1 tsp. (optional) DIRECTIONS 1. Wash the carrots before slicing, then drain, reserving 1 cup of liquid. 2. Arrange the carrots in a 12x20x2 1⁄2-in. steamtable pan. 3. To make the glaze, combine the carrot liquid, butter or margarine, brown sugar, orange juice concentrate, cornstarch, cinnamon and optional nutmeg in a saucepan. Stir to blend. Bring to a boil. 4. Remove from heat. Add the raisins. 5. Pour the mixture over the carrots. Bake in a conventional oven at 375°F for 20-30 minutes or in a convection oven at 325°F for 15-20 minutes. 6. Portion into 1⁄4-cup servings. Recipe & recipe analysis: California Raisin Marketing Board, www.calraisins.org *Note: To recalculate the recipe for a larger number of students, visit www.calraisins.org/raisin-recipes/recipe/892 and type in the desired number of servings, then select “recalculate.” KITCHEN WISDOM SAYS . . . • Use a butter substitute instead of butter or margarine to reduce the fat content. • Frozen carrot slices may be used in place of canned. • Consider using only half the amount of glaze per serving as directed for “just the right amount of flavor and consistency” and “a great presentation on the tray.” • Make the glaze the day before service and add it after the carrots are steamed. • As a variation, bring the cooked carrots to temperature by roasting and stir them into the finished sauce f or a caramelized effect. • The inclusion of nutmeg and raisins may not find favor with students, so experiment and possibly reduce or eliminate these ingredients. • For a large-quantity version of this recipe (680 servings) developed by one of the Kitchen Wisdom panelists, see www.schoolnutrition.org/snmagazinebonuscontent. PEAR UP CARROT SALAD YIELD: 48 servings PER SERVING: 68 cal., 1 g pro., 15 g carb., 2 g fiber, 1 g fat, 1 g sat. fat, 0 mg chol., 161 mg sod. INGREDIENTS Carrots—1 3⁄4 lbs. or 2 qts. Celery—1 lb. or 1 qt. Onions—1 lb. or 1 qt. Parsley—1 oz. or 1 cup Salt—1⁄2 Tbsp. or to taste Honey mustard dressing, reduced-fat, prepared—1 1⁄2 cups Pear halves, canned, drained—48 DIRECTIONS 1. Wash, peel and coarsely shred the carrots. Finely dice the celery. Finely chop the onions. Chop the parsley. 2. Combine the carrots, celery, onion, parsley and salt in a bowl. 3. Stir in the dressing until all ingredients are well mixed. 4. For each serving: Mound 1⁄4 cup of the carrot-dressing mixture on each pear half. Photo, recipe & recipe analysis: Pacific Northwest Canned Pear Service, www.eatcannedpears.com LETTUCE WRAPS WITH MANGO, TURKEY & CARROTS YIELD: 8 servings* INGREDIENTS Olive oil—1 Tbsp. Garlic cloves, small—4 Carrots—1⁄2 cup Black pepper—1 tsp. Turkey, ground*—1 lb. Sweet and sour sauce, prepared—1⁄2 cup Rice vinegar—1⁄4 cup Soy sauce, low-sodium—3 Tbsps. Sesame oil—1 Tbsp. Pepper, red, crushed—1 tsp. Mango cubes, partially thawed — 2 1⁄2 cups Butter lettuce—2 heads DIRECTIONS 1. Wash, peel and coarsely shred the carrots. Finely chop the garlic. Cut off the stems of the lettuce heads and separate the lettuce into eight leaves. 2. Heat the olive oil in a large skillet and sauté the garlic and carrots for 3 minutes. 3. Add the turkey and season with the pepper. Cook and stir until the meat is no longer pink, crumbling into small pieces. Drain well. 4. In a separate bowl, mix together the sweet and sour sauce, vinegar, soy sauce, sesame oil and crushed red pepper. Stir the combination into the turkey mixture. 5. Mix in the mango cubes. 6. Divide the turkey-mango mixture into 8 even portions. To assemble one serving: Portion 1⁄8 of the mixture onto a lettuce leaf and serve. Photo & recipe: Dole Food Company, Inc., www.dole.com *Notes: Ground turkey may be substituted with the same amount of ground chicken. If this recipe passes the test with a small group of students, adjust the quantities for batch preparation and conduct a nutrient analysis. “14-Carrot”Gold For a vegetable that initially seems pretty straight-forward, this list of carrot-related facts (compiled from numerous national and international websites) offers a lot to chew on! 1. The heaviest carrot recorded in the world weighed nearly 19 pounds. 2. The longest carrot measured more than 16 feet long! 3. Carrots were first grown as a medicine, not a food. 4. When carrots were introduced in England, during the reign of Queen Elizabeth I, they caught on as a fashion accessory, as well as a food, as carrot tops were used to decorate ladies’ hats. 5. The settlers of Jamestown, Va., were the first to introduce carrots to North America. 6. Carrots were the first vegetable to be canned commercially. 7. The carrot is a member of the parsley family, which also includes celery, parsnip, fennel, dill and coriander. 8. Carrot seeds are so tiny that a teaspoon holds nearly 2,000! 9. It takes 65-75 days for a carrot to grow. 10. On an average day, the yearround operation at Grimmway Farms in California processes two and a half miles of trucks loaded with 10 million pounds of carrots. 11. Still, the United States is third as a world producer of carrots, behind China and Russia. 12. The ancient Greeks called the carrot a philtron (“love charm”). They believed the carrot made people fall in love. 13. The British developed high-carotene carrots during World War II to enhance the night vision of their pilots (via massive consumption). 14. Wild rabbits do not eat carrots (well, except for Bugs Bunny!). So, What Is a Baby Carrot, Anyway? Have you ever wondered where baby carrots came from? The origin story behind the petite version of the ever-popular carrot is quite interesting. In the 1980s, supermarkets expected carrots to be a particular size, shape and color. Anything else had to be sold for juice processing or animal feed, or just thrown away. So, one California farmer, Mike Yurosek, wondered what would happen if he peeled the skin off the gnarly carrots, cut them into pieces and sold them in bags. He made up a few test batches to show his buyers. One batch, cut into 1-in. bites and peeled round, he called “bunny balls.” Another batch, peeled round and cut 2 inches long, looked like little baby carrots. The bunny balls never made it, but the baby carrots were a hit and transformed the whole industry. CALIFORNIA CASSEROLE YIELD: 24 servings PER SERVING: 219 cal., 7 g pro., 296 g carb., 3 g fiber, 9 g fat, 4 g sat. fat, 6 mg chol., 438 mg sod. INGREDIENTS Margarine—1⁄3 cup Onions—1 cup Flour—1 cup Thyme, ground—1⁄2 tsp. Oregano leaves—2 tsps. Paprika—1 tsp. Curry powder—3⁄4 tsp. Mustard, dry—3⁄4 tsp. Water—3 2⁄3 cups Milk, 2%—7 cups Carrot coins, fresh—1 lb., 6 ozs. Cauliflower, frozen—2 lbs., 13 ozs. Broccoli cuts, frozen—2 lbs., 13 ozs. Potato puffs, frozen—3 lbs. DIRECTIONS 1. In a bowl, stir together the fl our, thyme, oregano, paprika, curry powder and dry mustard. Whisk or blend 2 cups of water into the fl our mixture to make a roux (a thick sauce). Stir continually until the roux is smooth. Cook the roux on a stovetop for 20 minutes, stirring frequently to prevent burning. 2. Stir constantly while adding the remaining water and the milk. Cook until the mixture thickens. 3. Melt the margarine in a sauté pan. Chop the onions and add them to the margarine, sautéing them until they become translucent. Set aside. 4. Cook the carrots until they are tender crisp; drain. Thaw and drain the cauliflower and the broccoli. 5. Add the carrots, cauliflower, broccoli and cooked onions to the roux. 6. Scale 6 pounds of the casserole mixture into each of two greased 12x10x2-in. pans. Top each pan with 1 1⁄2 lbs. of the potato puffs. 7. Bake at 350ºF for 50-60 minutes or until the potatoes are browned. 8. For each serving: Portion 8 ozs. of the casserole. Serve hot. Recipe: Barbara Scheule, Kent State University Photo & recipe analysis: Idaho Potato Commission, www.idahopotato.com Recipes obtained from outside sources and published in School Nutrition have not been tested by the magazine or SNA in a school foodservice setting, except for certain “Kitchen Wisdom” selections, which are evaluated by a volunteer pool of operators. When available, nutrient analyses are provided by the recipe source. Required ingredients, preparation steps and nutrient content make some recipes more appropriate for catering applications or adult meals. Readers are encouraged to test recipes and calculate their own nutrition analyses and meal patterns before adding a recipe to school menus. In addition, SN recognizes that individual schools use varying documentation methods and preparation steps to comply with HACCP principles; we encourage you to add your own HACCP steps to these recipes. TUNA EDAMAME SALAD YIELD: 4 servings* PER SERVING: 210 cal., 16 g pro., 27 g carb., 4 g fiber, 3 g fat, 0 g sat. fat, 25 mg chol., 350 mg sod. INGREDIENTS Edamame, cooked—1 cup Cherry tomatoes—1 cup Carrots—1 cup Tuna, water-packed, drained —6 oz. can Golden raisins—1⁄2 cup Red onion—1⁄4 cup Italian salad dressing, reduced-fat—1⁄4 cup DIRECTIONS 1. Cook the edamame according to the package directions. Cut the tomatoes in half. Wash, peel and shred the carrots. Drain the tuna. Dice the onion. 2. Mix the edamame, tomatoes, carrots, tuna, raisins and onion in a medium bowl. 3. Pour the dressing over the salad and toss until combined. Portion into 1 cup servings. 4. Serve with pita bread halves or whole-grain crackers, if desired. Recipe & recipe analysis: United Soybean Board, www.soyconnection.com *Note: To recalculate the recipe for a larger number of students, visit www.soyconnection.com/recipes/tuna-edamame-salad-recipe and type in the desired number of servings, then select “click here.” KITCHEN WISDOM SAYS . . . • Using a Robot Coupe or other food processor with the grater blade attachment to shred the carrots may be helpful. • Use a lowfat mayonnaise or salad dressing to reduce the fat content. • To add more sweetness, try adding honey or powdered sugar to the dressing. • The inclusion of the nutmeg, raisins and lemon juice may not find favor with students, so experiment and possibly reduce or eliminate these ingredients. • This recipe could work well served with a second salad. Kitchen Wisdom says . . . Try This! CARROT-RAISIN SALAD YIELD: 50 servings* PER SERVING: 116 cal., 1 g pro., 13 g carb., 2 g fiber, 7 g fat, 1 g sat. fat,5 mg chol., 87 mg sod., 18 mg ca. INGREDIENTS Carrots, fresh—3 qts. Raisins—4 1⁄2 cups Milk, nonfat*—1⁄2 cup Mayonnaise or salad dressing—2 cups Salt—1⁄2 tsp. Nutmeg, ground—1⁄2 tsp. (optional) Lemon juice concentrate, frozen, reconstituted—2 Tbsps. (optional) DIRECTIONS 1. Wash and peel the carrots, then shred them into coarse strips. Measure the carrots and raisins into a large bowl. Set aside. If using, reconstitute the lemon juice concentrate according to package directions. Set aside. 2. In a medium bowl, combine the milk, mayonnaise or salad dressing and salt. Add the optional nutmeg and lemon juice if desired. Beat until smooth. 3. Pour the dressing mixture over the carrots and raisins and toss lightly until well coated. 4. Cover the salad and refrigerate for 1 to 1 1⁄2 hours or until ready to serve. 5. Toss again before serving. Portion each serving with a No. 16 scoop (1⁄4 cup). Photo, recipe & recipe analysis: California Raisin Marketing Board, www.calraisins.org *Note: To recalculate the recipe for a larger number of students, visit www.calraisins.org/raisin-recipes/recipe/884 and type in the desired number of servings, then select “recalculate.” If preferred, the original recipe calls for reconstituted nonfat dry milk. KITCHEN WISDOM SAYS . . . • Using a Robot Coupe or other food processor with the grater blade attachment to shred the carrots may be helpful. • Use a lowfat mayonnaise or salad dressing to reduce the fat content. • To add more sweetness, try adding honey or powdered sugar to the dressing. • The inclusion of the nutmeg, raisins and lemon juice may not find favor with students, so experiment and possibly reduce or eliminate these ingredients. • This recipe could work well served with a second salad. Gabriela Pacheco is a school nutrition consultant based in San Diego, Calif. Photography by Image Source, iStockphoto and Hemera.
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