The other weekend I got lucky again: My neighbors Salia and Steven were kind to share with me and Lili the bounty of their backyard veggie patch again. The girls foraged some cucumbers, tomatoes, beets, a couple blooming sprigs of basil, and a harvest of carrots. Salia said those might be the last of the carrot crop; their season was almost up.

fresh carrots

As she said that I knew I had to do something special with mine.

Have you ever bit into a carrot that was dug and rinsed just moments before? It might be sweet, it might be juicy but it is definitely crunchy and smells and tastes like earth. It doesn’t need scrubbing, and I can still taste a little bit of soil residue stuck in its many ridges . . .  I like its imperfect shape and the small hair-like roots growing out off of it . . .  I love to know that it is at its freshest.

backyard carrots

So what would you do with about four pounds of carrots this fresh? My initial impulse was to gobble them up raw with a sprinkle of sea salt and a drizzle of a healthy oil and juice the rest. Lately I’ve been into juicing carrots, beets, and apples into a healthy drink to enjoy first thing in the morning.

freshly picked carrots

So the first morning I juiced that batch of carrots, I made a “discovery” that decided their fate: My juicer had two ends to it! The carrot pulp that was coming out its back looked so pretty that I couldn’t help but try it. It tasted good, and I figured it might be just as nutritional. There was no way I was throwing out all that fiber! I immediately thought of a couple of recipes I could fold it into.

carrot muffins

You can use it pretty much in every recipe that calls for shredded carrots—slightly increasing the amount of other liquids—and especially in those recipes that don’t benefit from a lot of moisture.

I spent the entire weekend in the kitchen—cooking, learning, experimenting. The sight of fresh carrots with their green tops still attached, the scent of cinnamon that I used in every recipe, and a printed sheet of paper with general guidelines for cooking at an altitude kept me good company. I didn’t cut off the carrot leaves until the moment I had to use them though it is recommended to remove them straight away since they draw moisture from the roots.  

healthy muffins

healthy breakfast muffins

The results were a slew of healthy breakfast muffins made with carrots, zucchini, and sunflower seeds. A tad on the sweet side, they were delish with a smudge of salted butter.

I also made a couple batches of carrot and cheese fritters and a lovely carrot-ginger soup. The latter is also known as complexion soup due to loads of beta carotene and vitamin C in it that are beneficial for the skin. I based the soup on the chicken stock I’d made at home a few weeks before with the aromatics from Salia and Steven’s garden; but you can use vegetable stock instead.

It is perfect with a salad for lunch.

healthy lunch

The fritters are a breeze to make if you keep the following pointers in mind: Make sure your batter is on the dry side by straining the cottage cheese overnight and using the carrot pulp. Do not shred your carrots because excess moisture will make it difficult to shape patties, or they’ll swell and fall apart during the frying. I also don’t recommend soaking your raisins to soften them up; just purchase fresh ones. If you don’t have a juicer, finely grate your carrots and squeeze out as much water as possible. You can also increase the amount of cornstarch—an excellent binding agent—by half a tablespoon.

healthy breakfast

"golden" fritters

These thin-crusted fritters with a tasty curd cheese, carrot, raisin, and cinnamon filling make a substantial breakfast if served with sour cream or yogurt and a drizzle of honey. And a cup of coffee, of course. Perfect for a cool Saturday morning in early fall . . .

Thank you again, Salia and Steven!

Recipe for Gluten-Free Carrot, Zucchini & Sunflower Seed Mini Muffins

Ingredients:

1. ¾ cup white rice flour

2. 2/3 cup brown rice flour

3. ¼ cup potato starch

4. 1/3 cup tapioca starch

5. 2 teaspoons baking powder

6. ¼ teaspoon baking soda

7. 1 teaspoon cinnamon

8. 1/8 teaspoon nutmeg

9. 1 cup low-fat kefir or buttermilk

10. ½ cup natural cane sugar

11. ½ teaspoon kosher salt

12. 1 large egg, slightly beaten

13. 1/3 cup canola oil

14. 1/3 cup fresh carrot juice

15. 1 cup tightly packed carrot pulp

16. ¾ cup shredded zucchini

17. ¾ cup raisins, roughly chopped

18. ½ to ¾ cup roasted unsalted sunflower seeds

Directions:

1. Heat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Coat two mini muffin pans with butter or nonstick cooking spray.

2. In a medium-size bowl, whisk together flours, baking powder, baking soda, and spices; set aside.

3. In a small bowl, combine kefir or buttermilk, sugar and salt, and stir until sugar and salt are dissolved; set aside.

4. In a large bowl, whisk together egg, kefir mixture, oil, and carrot juice. Stir in carrots, zucchini, and raisins. Add flour mixture and stir until all ingredients are well blended.

5. Spoon batter into each cup about ¾ full. Sprinkle tops with sunflower seeds. Bake for 11-13 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.

6. Cool pans on rack for 5 minutes. Remove muffins, cool on rack.

7. Grease the pans again and repeat with remaining batter, if need be.

Makes 24 mini muffins

 

Recipe for Gluten-Free “Golden” Carrot and Cheese Fritters

Ingredients:

1. 1 16-oz. (450gr) tub of salted low-fat cottage cheese, strained overnight or 1 cup of tightly packed farmer cheese

2. ½ cup tightly packed fresh carrot pulp (from about two medium carrots)

3. 1 egg

4. ¼ cup raisins, finely chopped

5. 2 tablespoons pure cane sugar

6. 1 tablespoon cornstarch

7. 4-5 tablespoons your favorite all-purpose gluten-free flour mix  (I used Jeanne’s Gluten-Free All-Purpose Flour Mix)

8. Pinch of cinnamon

9. 4 tablespoons canola oil

Directions:

1. Place the cheese in a cheesecloth that is inside a strainer suspended over a bowl. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight. Discard the liquid that will collect in the bowl. Puree the cheese in a food processor until smooth. You will end up with about 1 cup. You can skip the food processor step if you like large-curded cheese. If you are using farmer cheese, you can forgo the straining and pureeing altogether.

2. In a medium bowl, whisk together egg and sugar. Add cheese, carrot pulp, raisins, and cornstarch. Stir until well blended. The mixture will be wet and tacky. And that’s okay.

3. Combine flour and cinnamon in a shallow dish and heat oil over medium heat.

4. Working quickly with 1 ½ to 2 scant tablespoons of cheese mixture at a time, form 2 ½ -inch-diameter patties coating them in the flour mixture. Shake off excess flour and cook patties in batches over medium-low heat, flipping halfway through, until golden brown, about 2-3 minutes per side. Coating your hands with butter or oil will prevent the mixture from sticking to you.

5. Serve with sour cream, honey, maple syrup or jam.

Makes about 10 fritters

Recipe for Carrot Soup with Ginger, adapted from the May 2011 issue of Glamour

Ingredients:

1. 2 tablespoons olive oil

2. 1 tablespoon butter

3. 2 garlic cloves, minced

4. 1 cup diced white onion

5. 2 stalks fresh lemongrass, chopped into 1-inch pieces (or zest from 1 lemon)

6. 1 tablespoon ground coriander

7. 1 teaspoon ground cumin

8. 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

9. 2 ½ lbs. carrots, peeled and chopped

10. 6 cups chicken stock, divided

11. ½ cup orange juice

12. 1 ½ cups water

13. ½ cup sour cream, plus 2 to 3 teaspoons for garnish

14. 3 tablespoons minced fresh ginger

15. Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste

16. 1 tablespoon minced chives, for garnish

Directions:

1. In a large stockpot, heat the oil and butter over high heat. Add the garlic, onion, lemongrass (or lemon zest), coriander, cumin, and cinnamon. Cook for 5 minutes over medium heat, stirring constantly, until the onions soften, being careful not to let the mixture burn.

2. Increase the heat to moderately high. Add the carrots and 2 cups chicken stock to the pot, and cook, covered, for about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are softened.

3. Add the remainder of the stock to the stockpot, and simmer for about 30 minutes.

4. Let the mixture cool for 5 minutes. Discard the pieces of lemongrass, if using. Working in two batches, ladle the soup into a blender or food processor, and puree.

5. Pour the pureed soup back into the stockpot. Add the orange juice, water, sour cream, and minced ginger. Stir until well blended. Add salt and pepper to taste.

6. Heat the mixture for 3 or 4 minutes over medium-low heat; you can also serve it cold. Ladle the soup into bowls, and garnish each with 1 teaspoon sour cream and a sprinkling of chives.