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creative carrots…
and their ingenious usages

Vanilla Roasted Carrots

PHOTOGRAPHY BY: CATHY NELSON ARKLE

I love the resourcefulness of people when it comes to food and its’ utilizations. Here are surprising places that carrots have shown up in: bio fuel, warding off the devil, coffee substitutes, lasers, hat decor, antifreeze, wine, & hangovers (for too much carrot wine).

 “The day is coming when a single carrot freshly observed will set off a revolution.”
– Paul Cezanne (1839-1906)

And you might of thought they were something you dipped in ranch dressing.  So here is to a crazy carrot history that warrants its own Carrot History Museum in the U.K.
(Information was gathered from their site unless otherwise linked)

Carrot’s Eccentric Past

Carrots are speculated to originate in Afghanistan. Wild carrots were purple, red, white, and yellow, but never orange.  It is rumored that we can thank the Dutch for the cheery orange color. In the 16th century, Dutch carrot growers created the orange carrot in honor of the House of Orange (the Dutch Royal Family) by cross breeding yellow carrots with red carrots.

The newly born orange carrots made their way to England during the reign of Queen Elizabeth I.  The British adopted the crunchy veggie with arms wide open. At one point there was a glut of them, and the Government campaigned that carotene, which is believed to help night vision was largely responsible for the Royal Air Force’s increasing success in shooting down enemy bombers.

“This is a food war. Every extra row of vegetables in allotments saves shipping… the battle on the kitchen front cannot be won without help from the kitchen garden.” – Lord Woolton, Minister of Food, 1941 – So much for urban gardening being a new trend.

People bought this concept hook, line and sinker. This ruse not only reduced the surplus vegetables but also helped to mask the chief reason for England’s RAF’s success – radar. Imagine…. deception from the government that was beneficial for the public!

Britain continues the fun by manufacturing carrot wine. And…not wanting to be wasteful, carrot leaves were worn in ladies hats as decoration in the fashions of 17th C England.

Just across the English Channel, the Germans used finely chopped roasted carrots for a coffee substitute.

twisted carrotsThe Greeks also have their place in carrot history.  They called the carrot a philtron, which translates to “love charm.” The Greek foot soldiers that hid in the Trojan Horse were said to have consumed ample quantities of raw carrots to inactivate their bowels. Why haven’t the airlines taken this concept and run with it?  They should hand out bags of carrots instead of pretzels.

The packaging is already in place for the airlines. In what may be the best marketing campaign for vegetables since Popeye, baby carrots have been transformed into junk food. Well you just have to see this $25M ad campaign to believe it.
“Eat ‘em like junk food”

Wait…there is more! The Anglo-Saxons included carrots as an ingredient in a medicinal drink against the devil and insanity.  Ok, forget the airlines serving them as a snack…they should be serving them as a drink.

Not to be outdone, Two Scottish scientists found a way to convert the vegetable into an advanced material to make products from fishing rods to warships with a product called Curran.  If the airlines won’t serve carrots, maybe they could make a plane out of them.

I love that carrots are so versatile. I ask that you keep an open mind with this tasty recipe that I believe even the biggest cooked carrot haters will appreciate.

Vanilla Roasted Carrots

Vanilla Roasted Carrots with Cumin

Recipe adapted from Staci Billis.
You will be amazed how well these flavors go together! I learned how to cut carrots in squares at a knife skills class. I thought it looked fun….my husband thought they looked unnatural. So?

Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 1 lb carrots, washed and trimmed ( I cut them in squares)
  • ¼ cup cold pressed extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons agave or honey (I used coconut nectar because it is low glycemic)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 ½ teaspoon cumin
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • fresh parsley (optional)

Preparation

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
  2. Place carrots on a baking sheet and toss with all other ingredients to coat thoroughly. Bake for 25-35 minutes, until carrots brown in spots and are soft throughout.
  3. Garnish with parsley and serve!

I will leave you with one last bit of carrot trivia. Did you know the last meal on the Titanic included creamed carrots in the fifth course. For a taste of the adventure, click here for the original recipe.

I wonder what else could be done with creative carrots.
…and then, she paused for thought. 

 

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figs in a blanket…
and other things to make you squeal

Figs in a Blanket

PHOTOGRAPHY BY: CATHY NELSON ARKLE

One year my father decided to raise pigs. Another year my mother thought we needed a pig in the house… as if three kids weren’t enough! (Okay, it was a guinea pig) In some cultures they’re considered one and the same – something we learned after taking our pig fascination on a family trip to Peru. We weren’t prepared to eat the family pet, but when in Rome…

Photo on left: My mother playing with her food before eating it. I do believe I was admonished for this as a child. Hmm.

Guinea Pig for dinner in PeruWhich one is the real guinea pig….
the one on the plate, or the one with the fork and knife?

Peruvians have hundreds of guinea pigs living with them in their one-room houses. They consume an estimated 65 million per year. Wedding gift starter-kits include a male and female guinea pig, which soon multiply exponentially. We found all this fascinating until one showed up on our plate during dinner, compliments of our tour director. It didn’t taste like chicken, more like rabbit. Actually, it wasn’t that bad, though it left a nasty aftertaste. I think I got the one whose diet consisted of rank gym socks and sewer water. Continue Reading →

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bodacious beets…
what they did not teach you in school

Beet Salad by Cathy Nelson Arkle

Beets belong in the category of vegetables I hated as a child. Anything that slid out of a can was high on the “yuck factor.” It was only until my girlfriend Nan gave me the “roasted beet challenge.” She said don’t tell me you hate beets until you have eaten a roasted one. Since I always enjoy a good challenge, I bought a single beet as I didn’t want to have too much to throw out. I wrapped it in foil, threw it in the oven for an hour and silently anticipated it’s doomed fate. Well the joke was on me as I devoured that tasty sweet thang with vigor.

Sweet Beets

Nutritionally speaking, the beet is a kindred spirit to the carrot, although it is much higher in sugar. In fact, of all vegetables, the beet has the highest sugar content. Not sure how I missed this opportunity to eat more sugar as a kid… oh yeah… my mother served it out of a can. It is estimated that about two-thirds of commercial beet crops end up canned. So sad.

Beets (everywhere else in the world they are called beetroot) are thought to have originated in prehistoric times in N. Africa. It is said that beetroot remains have been excavated in the Third dynasty Saqqara pyramid at Thebes, Egypt. I must of missed that when I was there.

Sand Storm at the Saqqara Pyramid in Thebes, Egypt

I couldn’t see much because I was too busy making a fashion statement in a blinding sand storm.

And the beet goes on…

Beet leaves have been eaten since before written history. The beet root was generally used medicinally and did not become a popular food until French chefs recognized their potential in the 1800’s. You have to love the French!  I wonder if they were the ones that came up with making beet wine.

Since Roman times, beet juice has been considered an aphrodisiac. Was that before or after it was made into wine?

If you are not getting your beets in wine, you might be able to get it in frozen pizza. Yep, some frozen pizzas use beet powder to color the tomato sauce.

Beets can even help melt snow! One way or another you are going to get your beets if I can help it.

Why? Because beets are loaded with lots of good stuff like antioxidants and nutrients, including magnesium, sodium, potassium and vitamin C.

Some experts say adding beet juice to your diet could provide a performance boost even beyond the blood, sweat and tears of more training. Does this mean I don’t have to go to the gym anymore?

Don’t take my word for it. According to the NY Times Blog, beets are among the 11 best foods you aren’t eating.

Cathy’s Bodacious Beet Salad

If this recipe was a piece of art it would be mixed media. I took a little of this and a little of that from different recipes to make this as I saw it in my mind. The Santa Monica farmers market provided the fresh ingredients for this salad. I used french thyme because that what was growing in my herb garden, but use what you like. The dressing generously Serves 2.

Beet Salad Ingredients 

  • 2 fresh red or yellow beets
  • 4 ounces goat cheese – rolled into balls I used Redwood Hill Farm’s traditional chevre
  • french thyme – a couple sprigs per ball, washed well and dried
  • 2 cups micro greens or any small leaf greens – washed well and dried I used sweet baby lettuce with edible flowers from Harry’s Berries
  • 1/2 cup walnuts, toasted – I used Peacock Family Farm’s locally grown walnuts

Walnut Oil Dressing Ingredients

  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 2 tablespoon white balsamic vinegar
  • 1/4 cup walnut oil – I used La Nogalera Walnut Oil I could just drink this stuff plain!
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • Coarse kosher salt, pepper

Preparation

  1. Preheat oven to 400°F. Line a roasting pan with aluminum foil. Place the beets in the pan, leaving a little of the root tail on. Rub olive oil over the beets, and sprinkle with salt. Cover the beets with another sheet of aluminum foil. Roast for 1 to 2 hours, depending on the size of the beets and how old they are. After 1 hour, test every fifteen minutes by poking a beet with the tines of a fork. Once the fork tines go in easily, the beets are tender and cooked. Remove from the oven.
  2. While beets are roasting, mix the dressing. Whisk the dijon mustard and balsamic vinegar together.  While you are whisking or using a hand blender, slowly add the walnut oil and then olive oil to make an nice emulsification. Add salt & pepper to taste.
  3. After the beets have cooled for several minutes, peel off the outer skins and discard. If you do this under running water you will avoid staining your hands. Cut the bottom of the beet so it will sit up straight. Then cut the beets into quarters, but not all the way through.  Place on a plate and open it up like a flower.
  4. Roll the goat cheese into little balls about 1/2” in diameter and roll in the fresh thyme.
    Place ball in the middle of the beet.
  5. Add your baby lettuce around it and drizzle the walnut oil over the salad.
  6. Add toasted walnuts

Ta-da! Long live the beet season. Thanks Nan for the beet challenge. I wonder what other yucky childhood vegetable will next on my discovery list?
…and then she paused for thought.

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Wild about Watermelon

watermelon on grill

PHOTOGRAPHY BY: CATHY NELSON ARKLE:

“…when one has tasted watermelon he knows what the angels eat…” – Mark Twain

square watermelon

Mark Twain and King Tut have different beliefs on who eats watermelon. Whether it’s angelic or royalty, Homer Simpson is the one who knows how to pick a proper one.

Click here to see the video.

I have read about an Egyptian tradition to put watermelons in the burial tombs of pharaohs as a present for their afterlife. As unusual as this sounds, numerous watermelon seeds were recovered from the tomb of King Tut.  I wonder if that meant King Tut ate the watermelons and spit out the seeds in his afterlife. Strange… I was in Egypt a few years ago and apparently missed the watermelon hieroglyphics. I went on a google pics quest to no avail, so I thought I would “imagine” what it would look like.

egyptian watermelon hieroglyphics

PHOTO ENHANCEMENT BY CATHY NELSON ARKLE

The current thought is that watermelon originated in Southern Africa, where it is still found growing wild, in the Kalahari desert.  What I love about watermelon is every part of the watermelon is edible, even the seeds and rinds. Now that is what I call “wholestic” eating!  Watermelon doesn’t contain any fat or cholesterol and is an excellent source of vitamins A, B6 & C, and contains fiber, potassium and lycopene. It doesn’t get much better than that! Continue Reading →

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