Years ago, when Charlie was very little, we had an Australian nanny named Mary Rose. Mary Rose was the ultimate in nannies. She read "The Tale of Benjamin Bunny" to Charlie at least a thousand times. She took him to the park every afternoon. She played with Charlie endlessly while Ted and I were off at work. She really was wonderful and Charlie loved her.
Because of the kind of job Mary Rose had, she didn't dress up. Usually she wore jeans and a gray sweatshirt. Occasionally she would wear a black sweatshirt but she always wore dark colors, probably to camouflage the evidence of hanging out with a two year old all day.
So, imagine my surprise when one morning Mary Rose came into the kitchen wearing a bright pink sweatshirt. It was like a breath of fresh air, although I had never really noticed that she always wore dark colors until that exact moment. The brightness of the sweatshirt made me realize how dark all her other clothes were.
I feel the same way about carrots. In the winter months I always forget how drab everything is until I see the splash of color that are carrots. The orange is so bright and cheerful, a lot like Mary Rose's pink sweatshirt was. When I see carrots, I instantly feel the winter doldrums lifting.
Imagine that. Not only are carrots a mood enhancer, they're good for you too. You couldn't ask for more.
Recipe: Olive-Oil-Braised Carrots with Warm Spices
(Fine Cooking Magazine, December 29, 2011)
1-1/2 lb. carrots (about 10 small), peeled and halved lengthwise (if large, quartered lengthwise)
3 medium cloves garlic, sliced
1/2 cup lower-salt chicken or vegetable broth
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp. ground nutmeg
Pinch of ground cayenne
Position a rack in the center of the oven and heat the oven to 375°F.
Fit the carrots in a snug single layer in a shallow 9x13-inch baking dish. Nestle the garlic slices among the carrots.
In a small bowl, whisk the broth, olive oil, cinnamon, nutmeg, cayenne, and 1/2 tsp. salt and drizzle over the carrots. Cover the baking dish tightly with aluminum foil.
Braise the carrots in the oven until completely tender and easy to pierce with a fork, about 45 minutes. Uncover the dish and continue to braise until the spices on top have toasted and are mahogany-brown and the carrots look a little shiny, about 15 minutes more. Serve warm or at room temperature.