Beets

Beets are a very versatile and common root vegetable during the spring months. When looking in the grocery store or at farmers markets, you may notice that they come in different colors. This variety can add fun colors to dishes and make them pretty, fun and full of nutrients.

Packed with nutrients such as fiber, folate, iron, vitamin C, potassium and manganese, beets make a great addition to any menu. Fiber aids with digestion and managing blood sugar; folate helps with bone health, converting carbs to energy and the production of blood cells; iron helps transport oxygen in the body; vitamin C helps with growth and development and repairing tissue; potassium regulates muscle contractions, nerve signals and fluid balance; and manganese boosts the immune system and helps with overall health.

Whether roasted, pickled or made into chips, the sweet flavor of beets is great alongside a variety of dishes. Among them is Muhammara, a Middle Eastern dish usually made with peppers instead of beets. It can be served with pita bread, crackers or other vegetables as a side dish or appetizer.

Beet Muhammara Recipe

(marthastewart.com/1537501/beet-muhammara)

Ingredients

1½ cups walnut halves, toasted and cooled

2 pounds red beets, peeled and chopped (about 3 cups)

1 small clove garlic, peeled

2 tsp ground cumin

2 Tbsp fresh lemon juice

2 tsp ground Aleppo pepper or red pepper flakes

2 Tbsp pomegranate molasses, such as Al Wadi (or substitute maple syrup)

2/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Fresh cilantro, for serving

Instructions

Puree nuts, beets, garlic, cumin, lemon juice, Aleppo pepper and molasses in a food processor until combined (about 30 seconds). Stream in oil and puree to a coarse but even texture. Season with salt and black pepper. Cover and refrigerate at least one hour and up to three days. Serve, topped with oil and cilantro.

Carrots

No matter what time of year it is, you may notice that carrots are widely available due to their ability to remain fresh in cold storage. They can come in a variety of colors and sizes and are full of nutrients. As a good source of vitamin A and fiber, carrots help with eye health, growth, strengthening the immune system, bone health and digestive health. Making fun dishes with rainbow carrots and using them to add some color to a dish is a fun way to get in those extra nutrients.

Another option is to utilize their sweetness and bake them into things such as breads, muffins and cakes. Carrot cake and zucchini bread are wonderful ways to incorporate such vegetables into baked goods.

For a vegan option, swap out the egg for a flax egg (1 TBS flax + 3 TBS water = 1 egg) for the best quality. Nuts can be excluded or changed out for an allergen-free option. The coconut and raisins can also be omitted or replaced with different fruits. Using rainbow carrots may add some more color to the muffin but the colors do become muted with cooking. These lightly sweetened muffins are great for everyone in the family and are full of good nutrients.

Morning Glory Carrot Muffins

(kingarthurbaking.com/recipes/morning-glory-muffins-recipe)

Ingredients

1/2 cup raisins

2 cups flour

1 cup brown sugar, packed

2 tsp baking soda

2 tsp cinnamon

1/2 tsp ginger

1/2 tsp salt

2 cups carrots, peeled and grated (use rainbow carrots for some fun color)

1 large tart apple, peeled, cored and grated

1/2 cup shredded coconut, sweetened or unsweetened

1/2 cup chopped walnuts

1/3 cup sunflower seeds or wheat germ

3 large eggs

2/3 cup vegetable oil

2 tsp vanilla extract

1/4 cup orange juice

*For a vegan option, swap out the egg for a flax egg (1 Tbsp flax + 3 Tbsp water = 1 egg)

Instructions

Preheat the oven to 375 °F. Lightly grease a 12-cup muffin tin, or line it with papers and spray the insides of the papers. In a small bowl, cover the raisins with hot water and set them aside. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, baking soda, spices and salt. Stir in the carrots, apple, coconut, nuts and sunflower seeds or wheat germ. In a separate bowl, beat together the eggs, oil, vanilla and orange juice. Add this to the flour mixture and stir until evenly moistened. Drain the raisins and stir them in. Divide the batter among the wells of the prepared pan. Bake for 25 to 28 minutes, until they're nicely domed and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Let cool for 5 minutes before serving.

Jessica Stingle is a dietetic intern at Keene State College.