Food Spotlight | The Netherlands

Carrot Top - Why is this popular vegetable orange? Dutch roots!

Carrots are one of the most widely used, and enjoyed, vegetables in the world. And for good reason. They can be eaten raw with dips and in salads, or as a snack on their own. They can be served as side dishes, used as foundational elements for soups and stocks, or as the centerpiece of many sweet and savory main courses. It's no surprise that three of the most popular carrot recipes are carrot cake, cream of carrot soup and roasted carrots --- they're delicious! But there's always room for healthy and interesting updates to our favorite classics, especially when we are trying to cut down on refined sugar and animal fats.

Carrots have quite an interesting history; there are entire websites devoted to the orange vegetable.

Research suggests that carrots were first cultivated in what is present day Iran around 5,000 years ago. Those early carrots were purple and yellow, and they were tough and very bitter. Purple carrots made their way to the Mediterranean in the 10th century, and there is evidence that the orange carrot we know today was cultivated in The Netherlands in the 16th century. The debate among carrot historians is why orange carrots were cultivated in the first place. It has been reported that 17th Century Dutch carrot growers did this as a tribute to William of Orange, but others dispute the veracity of this claim. According to the writer Simon Schama, the carrot was used as a political weapon in the 18th Century by the Dutch Patriot movement, who opposed the continued power or the House of Orange. The Patriots declared that orange "was the color of sedition....carrots sold with their roots too conspicuously showing were deemed provocative." Whether or not WIlliam of Orange was in fact the inspiration for the orange carrot, everyone agrees that the Long Orange Dutch carrot is the variety from which the orange carrot we eat today was cultivated.

Carrots arrived in the "New World" with the Jamestown colonists in 1609, but their popularity ebbed and flowed with the times.

The popularity of carrots reached its lowest point in the 19th century when it seems most people thought of them as feed for livestock. The end of WWII saw a surge in carrot appreciation and uses, due, in some part, to a British propaganda campaign aimed at convincing the Germans that British soldiers could see in the dark because they ate a lot of them. According to an article in Smithsonian, "During the 1940 Blitzkrieg, the Luftwaffe often struck under the cover of darkness. In order to make it more difficult for the German planes to hit targets, the British government issued citywide blackouts. The Royal Air Force were able to repel the German fighters in part because of the development of a new, secret radar technology. The on-board Airborne Interception Radar (AI), first used by the RAF in 1939, had the ability to pinpoint enemy bombers before they reached the English Channel. But to keep that under wraps, the Ministry provided another reason for their success: "carrots."

While they might not actually help you see in the dark, the health benefits of carrots are off the charts, with a high fiber content and mega-load of cancer preventing beta-carotene being just the tip of the carrot's impressive nutritional qualities. Check out a full rundown on this Food Rating System Chart from the World's Healthiest Foods.

In the meantime, here's a healthy update to three of our favorite carrot recipes.



SERIOUSLY HEALTHY CARROT MUFFINS - makes 12 large muffins

If you are searching for a healthy alternative to carrot cake, look no further. These muffins have a lot of ingredients, which can seem daunting, but they are worth it the effort. The dates, pineapple, raisins and, of course carrots, provide a lot of sweetness, which allows us to cut way down on refined sugar. The wheat germ, walnuts and pumpkin seeds provide fiber and a host of nutrients, as well as a fabulous texture and flavor, and coconut oil adds wonderful richness. If you are using organic carrots, try leaving the peel on for extra nutrition. The frosting is optional, but it is delicious!

1 cup extra virgin coconut oil, at room temp

4 tablespoons unsalted butter at room temp (or substitute with a neutral oil like safflower if you want to go dairy free)

½ cup brown sugar

5 Medjool dates, pitted and very finally chopped

4 eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

2 cups fresh grated carrots

3/4 cup all-purpose flour

1 cup whole wheat flour

¼ cup wheat germ

2 teaspoons baking powder

2 teaspoons baking soda

2 teaspoons cinnamon

8 oz. crushed pineapple with juice

½ cup chopped walnuts

½ cup golden raisins

¼ cup raw pumpkin seeds for garnish (optional)

Frosting

1/2 cup softened butter (or Earth Balance vegan butter if dairy free)

8 oz. softened reduced fat cream cheese (or Tofutti vegan cream cheese if dairy free)

1 teaspoon vanilla

1/4 cup maple syrup

Line a muffin tin with lightly oiled baking cups and preheat oven to 350 degrees. Mix together the flours, wheat germ, baking powder and soda and cinnamon and set aside. In a large bowl, or Kitchen Aid mixer, cream together the coconut oil, butter, brown sugar and dates until well combined. Add the vanilla extract and then the eggs, mixing in one at a time, and beat on moderate speed. Fold in the carrots, pineapple followed by the dry ingredients, nuts and raisins, taking care not to over-mix. Fill the baking cups with batter (about 1/3 cup), sprinkle each muffin with some pumpkin seeds if not frosting them, and bake for 25-30 minutes, or until the muffins are set and a toothpick comes out clean from the center. If frosting, let muffins cool completely on a wire rack before either spreading frosting with a spatula or piping it with a pastry bag. Sprinkle pumpkin seeds on top.

To make the frosting - place the butter and cream cheese in a bowl and beat on a medium speed until blended. Add vanilla and maple syrup and blend until smooth and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Refrigerate until ready to use.

CLEANSING CARROT SOUP – serves 4

Fragrant cumin and coconut oil give this soup its unique character. Fennel is known throughout the world for its medicinal qualities, especially with regard to digestive health. It has half the daily requirement of Vitamin C, which is a potent antioxidant, has a high potassium content, which lowers blood pressure and inflammation, and is high in fiber. It also has a lovely, subtly sweet licorice flavor which pairs beautifully with carrots. The roasted beet here is optional but it really adds nice texture and color as a garnish.

2 tablespoons extra virgin coconut oil

1 tablespoon ground cumin

1 bulb fennel, tough outer layer, core and long stem removed and chopped

1 large onion (preferably Vidalia), peeled and chopped

2 lbs. carrots, peeled and chopped (or you may leave the peel on if using organic)

5 cups chicken broth

salt to taste

½ teaspoon fine ground white pepper

two medium beets

a handful of lightly toasted pumpkin seeds*

If you are using the beets, preheat oven to 400 degrees. Peel and dice beets and place on a baking sheet. Toss with a drizzle of olive oil and a sprinkle of salt. Roast for 15 minutes, remove and set aside (you can do this while you are making the soup). In a medium to large pot, melt the coconut oil over medium heat and add the cumin and white pepper. Cook for a moment, until you start to smell the cumin, add the onion and fennel and cook, stirring occasionally, until onion is translucent, taking care not to brown. Add the carrots, stock, and a healthy pinch of salt. Bring to a gentle boil, cover with the lid ajar, and cook for about 20 minutes, or until the carrots can be very easily pierced with the tip of a knife. Turn off heat and blend soup with an immersion blender until very smooth. Check seasoning. Ladle into bowls and top with a tablespoon of beets and a sprinkle of pumpkin seeds.

ROASTED CARROTS WITH RED ONIONS, FARRO AND GOAT CHEESE – serves 4

1 lb. carrots, scrubbed clean, or peeled if not organic (if your carrots are small and thin, you will need 2 lbs.)

2 cups farro

two large red onions

¼ cup extra virgin olive oil

3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

4 oz. semi-soft goat cheese

¼ cup loosely chopped dill

¼ cup lightly toasted sliced almonds*

for the dressing

1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil

3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

a healthy pinch of kosher salt

freshly ground black pepper

Make the dressing by whisking the olive oil into the lemon juice, salt and pepper in a steady stream. Set aside. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Slice carrots on the diagonal into ¼ inch rounds. Peel and slice the onion into ¼ inch slices. Toss carrots and onion with olive oil, balsamic, and a healthy sprinkle of kosher salt and arrange on two roasting pans so that vegetables are in a single layer and not overcrowded. Roast for 20-30 minutes, stirring once to make sure onions are not burning, until carrots are tender and balsamic has caramelized. While carrots and onions are in the oven, cook farro according to package's instructions, making sure you salt the water. When done, drain and cool and place on a large platter and toss with the dressing. Remove vegetables from oven and gently toss them into the farro mixture. Crumble the goat cheese over the top followed by the almonds and the dill.

*To toast almonds or pumpkin seeds, place on a backing sheet and bake for 4 minutes in a 350- degree oven.

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10 Endangered Animals to Weep Over

Celebrate Endangered Species Day.

An endangered species is not a tragedy, because if a species is endangered, then they aren't yet extinct.

Sadly, there are millions of endangered species across the world, all facing threats that mostly stem from human activities. Still, it's not too late. Take a gander at these majestic animals, and then donate to a wildlife fund or environmental activism group of your choice.


Of course, nature doesn't need saving—humans do—and climate change and environmental destruction are threats to humans as well as animals, but if you need a reminder of the beauty and fragility of the natural world, check out these extraordinary species.



SPONSORED

Do Non-Melatonin Sleep Aids Really Work?

Objective makes a chocolate square.

I Can't Sleep.

I truly cannot remember the last time I had a good night's rest. Even before the stay-at-home orders, I was just a little ball of nerves.

But lately, it's been awful. I toss and turn, it's always too hot or even too cold, sometimes I make myself tea and read for a bit, but when I'm still up at 1 a.m., I reach for my phone and then I'm up until 3. My sister and I have a weekly call, and our small talk about our exhaustion turned into an hour long conversation about sleep.

I Thought I'd Tried Everything. Even Melatonin.

My sister asked why I hadn't gone for the old staple, melatonin and I reminded her about the time we traveled abroad, and it gave me the weirdest nightmares (the horrible kind where you wake up in your dream and you're still in a dream). Chamomile tea didn't work, nothing worked.

She said she had a friend who swore by something I definitely hadn't heard of.

They Were NOT Pills, Teas or Anything I'd Seen Before.

A company called Objective makes Fast Asleep, a sleep solution delivered as chocolatey treats. They're created with saffron and GABA. If going to sleep was as easy as eating a piece of these chocolatey, minty delights every night, I'd be sold.

What Exactly Was In It?

Cocoa contains caffeine, so I didn't know how this would help me sleep. After talking with my sister, I went online and saw that the calming, sleep-supporting ingredients cancel out any of the very little caffeine content.

Saffron, the spice, is apparently known to help with staying asleep, and their GABA is a fermented version of the neurotransmitter that's known to help you relax and fall asleep faster. In a study, 100% of customers saw improvement in their sleep quality thanks to saffron. One hundred percent!

Do I Try It?

A bag of 30 pieces was only $40, and they had a money-back guarantee.

They're keto-friendly and only 30 calories a piece, so not too decadent before bedtime.

They were chocolatey-minty, which is my favorite flavor, so I was sold. I ordered a bag to try.

The First Night, I Wasn't Impressed.

I took one piece (super yummy!) - 30-60 minutes before bedtime is recommended - but when I climbed in, I didn't notice a difference. I was worried I'd wasted my money.

However, once I fell asleep, I stayed asleep until my alarm went off, which hasn't always been the case for me.

I checked the site again, and noticed that many people didn't notice a real difference until the third or fourth night - it builds up in your system over time, so I decided to keep an open mind the rest of the week.

The Second Night Was Completely Different

Without doing anything differently from the first night, my second night was amazing. I felt calm and sleepy as I was getting ready for bed, and once I hit the pillow, I was out the whole night.

It had to be these sweet treats. The next day, I even felt more balanced and relaxed - Fast Asleep helps boost serotonin levels and reduce cortisol (the stress hormone), and I definitely noticed a difference in my overall mood and alertness.

I Already Ordered More.

Just In Case! There's nothing habit-forming about this product, so it's completely safe to take every night, and I honestly always want to keep it in the house. I'd also love to offer it to anyone staying over in the guest room, whenever we have guests again.

Now that I'm getting a healthy 8 hours of sleep every night, I feel more equipped during the day to tackle the things I need to do and deal with some of my daytime stressors. I finally had the energy to clean the kitchen, which had been bothering me so much for the past few weeks.

With Objective's Fast Asleep, I get real sleep and balance my levels, so I don't have to feel tired during my waking hours. Sleep in the form of chocolate squares sounds so weird, but oh my goodness, do they work.

Our partners at Objective Wellness are currently offering a 25% discount if you use the coupon code STAYHOME. Check them out here!

Food & Drink

The Best Apps for Craft Beer Delivery

Try beers from all over the world–from your phone.

With breweries and distilleries out of business for the foreseeable future, your favorite beer may feel particularly out of reach this time of year, especially with the weather changing. But don't let quarantine suck all the fun out of summer. Luckily, thanks to technology, a lot of craft beer is now deliverable straight to your door step. Here are a few of the best apps to help make sure you stay up to date on the latest trendy brews.

Tavour

Tavour

Simplistic and elegant, Tavour allows users to easily fill up a box of beer over a period of time before shipping. The app offers more than 650 different breweries both local and national and is perfect for those who like to experiment. It's easy to use, and their menu rotates regularly so you and your beer never grow stale.

TapRM

TapRM

TapRM offers a wide range of both craft beers and hard seltzers. While based almost exclusively in New York City, the app offers fast, same day delivery from some of the best beer brands in the world. They also provide a unique selection of beers to help you find your new favorite. All you need to do is download the app and place your order!

Drizly

Offering a stark variety of craft beer, Drizly allows its users to mix and match 12-packs, sixers or by the bottle. Their guarantee is that they can have whatever you order delivered to your house in less than an hour. You can even schedule your delivery for a specific time, with each delivery taking around 20-40 minutes.

Saucey

Saucey takes delivery very seriously. When you order with them they guarantee that they'll deliver in 30-minutes or less, or they guarantee two day shipping. Also, beer aside, their entire liquor cabinet is also up for grabs. From tequila and whiksey, to vodka and wine, nothing is off the table for Saucey.

Beer Menus

BeerMenus

For those who enjoy strictly local beers, BeerMenus features a tap list from local bars and a broader stock list from your neighborhood beer store. With that, you can make sure to create a list of your favorite beers in your neighborhood, so that when they're in stock you can be ready to go.