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Toss Some Bunny Food in Your Easter Basket!

Published: Thursday, March 28, 2013 11:38 a.m. CDT

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A look around your Hy-Vee produce department will reveal vibrant carrots cut into a variety of shapes for your convenience or culinary needs.

Thanks to their sweet flavor and versatility, carrots are one of the most commonly consumed vegetables in America today.

Parsnips, a close relative to carrots, have been around since ancient times. In fact, parsnips were a staple food for the Greeks and Romans prior to the introduction of the potato.

While parsnips may be less likely than carrots to appear on your plate today, in the past they were often reserved for rich, indulgent savory dishes and were also used to sweeten jams and cakes before sugar became widely available.

Parsnips resemble carrots in shape but are white/cream-colored and are considered a “cousin” to carrots. If you’ve never tried parsnips, you’re in for a treat — sweet, nutty and somewhat potato-like, their flavor is easy to love!

Nutritional highlights and

health benefits

Nutritionally, carrots are known for their carotenoid content. Carotenoid’s job in plants is to protect chlorophyll and parts of the photosynthesis system; carotenoids absorb wavelengths in the light spectrum that have the potential to be damaging to plant cells. They act as an antioxidant by soaking up high energy by-products generated by the plant’s metabolism. Carotenoids can do the same thing in our body once we’ve eaten them and our body has converted them to Vitamin A.

Parsnips are known for their high-fiber and low-calorie and carbohydrate contents. Parsnips also provide Vitamin C and over 10 percent of your daily needs of folate and manganese.

Bring out the sweetness

Carrots are convenient for snacking raw, but the sweetness of carrots and parsnips is enhanced by roasting. Roasting is a simple oven-cooking method at high temperatures (generally at 450 degrees F) that allows the natural sugars stored in vegetables to caramelize.

Roast carrots and parsnips together to bring out their natural sweetness and you’ll be left with a delicious, easy, weeknight side dish.

Parsnips and carrots have year-round availability but are considered “in-season” from mid-August through March. Choose parsnips and carrots that are firm and heavy for size, without pits or excessive knicks and dings.

The smaller, more slender vegetables may be more flavorful and tender — and larger, older ones may taste somewhat “woody.” Refrigerate carrots and parsnips unwashed in an unsealed bag in the vegetable crisper of your refrigerator for up to three weeks. Parsnips are sometimes sold with a thick wax covering to extend their shelf life, so be sure to peel prior to cooking.

Try using parsnips in cakes or muffins instead of carrots, toss them in soups or stews, or roast alongside other root vegetables.

Perhaps one of the best ways to use parsnips is to use them as a stand-in for potatoes; roasted, mashed, pureed or made into fries, parsnips have fewer calories and carbohydrates than potatoes but twice the fiber.

Both carrots and parsnips remind us of spring and both deserve a place at the table this Easter. Toss them into your shopping (or Easter) baskets this year — and once you start exploring the deliciousness and ease of these nutritious vegetables, you’ll be glad you did so!

Oven-Roasted

Carrots & Parsnips

3 medium carrots, peeled, halved lengthwise and cut into thirds

3 medium parsnips, peeled, halved lengthwise and cut into thirds

1 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil

Hy-Vee salt and Hy-Vee cracked black pepper, to taste

½ tsp dried dill

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Place carrots and parsnips on a baking sheet. Drizzle with olive oil. Season with salt and black pepper, as desired, to taste. Roast approximately 45 minutes, stirring halfway through roasting time. Sprinkle with dill & serve. Serves 6.

The information is not intended as medical advice. Please consult a medical professional for individual advice.

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