Thoroughly wash and scrub carrots to remove soil contaminants. Being root vegetables, carrots tend to end up with more pesticide residues than nonroot vegetables. You can get rid of much of it by peeling the outer layer and by cutting off and discarding one-quarter inch off the fat end.
Carrots are a great raw snack, of course. But their true sweet flavor shines through when cooked. Very little nutritional value is lost in cooking, unless you overcook them until mushy. In fact, the nutrients in lightly cooked carrots are more usable by your body than those in raw carrots, because cooking breaks down their tough cell walls, which releases beta-carotene.
Steaming is your best bet for cooking carrots. Take advantage of the fact that most children love carrots, raw or cooked. But avoid serving coin-shaped slices to young children; they can choke on them. Cut them into quarters or julienne strips.
For that fat-free carrot soup mentioned above, use carrots and leeks for thickening. Add onions, fat-free chicken stock, white pepper, and you're in business. In fact, the soluble fiber in carrots can add thickness to lots of foods, taking the place of high-calorie butter and cream. The stronger the flavor of the soup or sauce, the more it will hide the carrot flavor. You can even use carrots when baking as long as you puree them -- or add grated carrots to homemade quick breads.
Carrots can easily be added to soups, stews, or roasted in a pan with your favorite meats, to add healthy vitamins, minerals, and carotenoids to make any meal healthier.
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