The Humble Carrot, Elevated
Are you following your New Year’s resolutions? Were you seduced by the grocery store’s alluring displays of exotic fruits pressed into juices with eye-popping price tags, or the latest wave of supplements or shakes packed full of mystery substances purported to be the new superfoods? If you were (as I was and bought a superfood shake mix that the Internet claimed “tastes just like chocolate ice cream,” but most decidedly does not), fabulous news: I have a fun juice smoothie recipe for you! If not, no worries, I’ve got you covered with some delicious snack-sized cheesecakes.
Both are featuring a forgotten favorite, the chock-full-of-beta-carotene carrot. It’s not a trendy veggie, but it is easy to come by, affordable, and sweet. Carrots also pack a wallop of vitamin A, among other antioxidants, and if you use the whole carrot or its puree, it has quite a bit of fiber as well. So, can you consider the carrot cake cheesecakes, below, healthful because of the fiber? Ehhh.
Individual Carrot Cake Cheesecakes
Yield: 12 cheesecakes
My significant other is a carrot cake fanatic, but while I try in vain to make carrot cake everything, it’s hard to get the flavor right when you don’t have a creamy component to mimic the classic cream cheese frosting. Here, that cream cheese is built right in. You might think that using extra fine coconut (you’ll see it labeled “desiccated” in the bulk or health food section, it’s in very tiny pieces) or grinding up the walnuts is an unnecessary step, but we’re looking to mirror the smooth texture of the rest of the filling – just how in real carrot cake, the walnuts and coconuts disappear in the cake’s crumb.
4 graham crackers, finely crumbled
2 tablespoons melted butter
2 teaspoons sugar
8 ounces cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup carrot purée (puree from fresh, frozen, or cooked—or my secret, carrot baby food)
1/4 cup fine desiccated coconut
1/4 cup walnuts, ground or finely chopped
1/3 cup powdered sugar
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line 12 muffin tins with paper liners.
2. Blend the graham cracker crumbs, melted butter, and sugar. Evenly divide into the muffin cups, press into the bottom to form a crust.
3. Using an electric mixer, blend the cream cheese on medium speed until lighter in texture, about 3 minutes. While the mixer is running, add the carrot, blend completely, the eggs, and then the remaining filling ingredients. The mixture will be thin.
4. Pour the filling into the prepared muffin cups. Bake in the preheated oven for 12-13 minutes, or until the edges are beginning to set but the center seems underdone (increase the timing to 15 minutes if you are using free standing silicone baking cups). Turn off the oven, leave the cheesecakes in the oven for 30 minutes, this prevents cracking.
5. Chill and serve.
Carrot in the Tropics
Yield: 2-3 servings
This simple smoothie is a great, sunny pack of vitamins, reminiscent of a carrotized piña colada, and works well if you don’t have one of those industrial-strength blenders. You could use an increased amount of carrot puree, thinned with a little water or more ice, if you have some left over from the carrot cake cheesecakes, above.
1 cup carrot juice
1 cup pineapple chunks (canned is OK)
½ cup ice
¼ cup coconut cream
1. Combine all ingredients in the bowl of a blender.
2. Blend on high until the ice is fully crushed, serve.
Hilary Diodato is passionate about cooking and saving money and writes a bi-monthly column for Forever Young.