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Carrots offer slices of sunshine

This time of year, not many fresh fruits and vegetables can be found at the market. But the bright orange carrot can be bought in abundance.

Luckily there is more to do in the kitchen with the sweet root veggie than taking a dip in ranch dressing.

Beekeeper Virginia Webb says her specialty is a dish of cooked carrots with local honey.

“It’s only carrots, honey and butter,” said Webb, who owns Mountain Honey in Clarkesville. “I like to use whole carrots, not the baby carrots, and I scrub them good. I personally don’t peel them because I just scrub them real good ... I know a lot of nutrients are in all of the carrot.”

She slices the carrots about 1/4 inch thick and puts them in a microwave-safe dish with a little bit of water, where she microwaves them on medium for about four to five minutes.

“I should tell you that’s a whole bag, a one-pound bag of carrots,” she said. “I stir it about halfway through. You want to stir them good.”

The carrots are then drained and she adds three tablespoons of butter and a 1/4 cup of honey to the dish.

“I put it back in the microwave for about one minute on medium — not high because high will burn it — and let the butter and the honey melt and I stir it and serve it hot,” Webb said.

Webb said adding a little cinnamon will enhance the flavor of the carrot dish, along with the type of honey you choose.

“I like to use a light and mild honey when I cook in the microwave,” she said. “I don’t want to use a dark honey; a light clover honey works well, or you can use a citrus honey like orange blossom.”

At Longstreet Cafe in Gainesville, carrot and raisin salad is one of the more popular side dishes served at breakfast and at lunch.

“A lot of different people make it different ways, but to make ours ... we grind up our carrots and then put a little bit of powdered sugar, we use raisins, maraschino cherries, we use a little bit of celery, marshmallows and a little mayonnaise,” said Bobby Peck, general manager at Longstreet Cafe. “Not a whole lot (of mayonnaise), but enough to give it a little tang to it. That gives it a little liquid, especially when it sits, and it’s going to be kind of juicy.”

The carrots are run through a food processor on the julienne setting and the rest of the ingredients are chopped.

“We mix it up real good, cover it and let it sit,” Peck said. “We put it on the salad bar and we do use it sometimes at breakfast and we have people ask for it at lunch ... it’s a really good side item with barbecue.”

Tina Roberts, owner of 2 Dog Restaurant in Gainesville, agreed that baby carrot salad was a perfect carrot dish. But she and husband, chef Tim Roberts, had some other ideas.

“His favorite is carrot cake, but some other ideas are glazed carrots with brown sugar and butter,” Tina said. “He likes to do stewed carrots in balsamic vinaigrette; stewed carrots are almost like a soup, so you keep boiling them down. And another thing we do is smoked mashed carrots, served as a side.”

And for a healthy side dish that’s a little different, cook up some baked carrot fries. Wash the carrots well, slice them in half and bake in the oven until they are tender. The fries can be topped with a variety of seasonings while they are baking.

“You can (try) brown sugar and bake them in butter, and that’s a great way to get kids to eat carrots,” she said.