battles 17 & 18–day 1–carrots & kale

When I saw that carrots and kale were my next two battles after Brussels sprouts I had this reaction: this is kind of a stupid project, maybe no one will notice if I just quit.

Carrots, ugh.

Actually, I think of carrots as two different vegetables: raw carrots and cooked carrots. And I don’t really hate raw carrots. I sometimes snack on them at parties and think they are a totally fine vehicle for escorting ranch dressing to my mouth, and I have even been a relatively diligent raw carrot consumer ever since my mom put the fear of god in me that I would go blind if I didn’t eat them. But like cucumbers, I kind of think of raw carrots as a completely boring, totally nonessential vegetable. Except for that blindness bit. I have a physical reaction, however, at the mere thought of cooked carrots (like just now, writing it made the gag reflex in my throat do a little somersault and I’m pretty sure I threw up in my mouth a little bit). How can I have two totally separate feelings toward the same vegetable? Raw carrots? Fine. Cooked carrots? Vomit.

When I was setting up the project I really debated whether I should include carrots because I can stomach raw carrots, and if I like them one way, shouldn’t that technically excuse them from having to participate, because cooked carrots, eh, who needs em?  This was a real struggle with myself. I really had to talk me into the fact that conquering cooked carrots would be a valuable endeavor, too. The only reason I came to terms with adding cooked carrots to the list was because I really, really love pot roast and I don’t know a soul on earth who makes pot roast without them (well, other than me). So, on the list they went.

But then carrot week got here. And I almost quit the fucking project.

I sat around for a week and did nothing. The week did happen to coincide with me being sick and David and Christa being out of town, which I thought were completely reasonable reasons for not cooking, but in the end I was just so unmoved by carrots and so much more tempted by crackers and hummus that I never so much as opened my crisper and peeked at my carrots.

Of course, when the week ended I freaked out. Carrot week was over and now kale week was here. And because I was a goddamn baby about carrot week and avoided it altogether, the only thing left to do was to do them both at once. Carrots and kale. Stupid dumbshit project.

Obviously I immediately began to avoid this whole week, too. Monday I baked cookies and decorated our Christmas tree, which I thought was totally necessary and clearly not an avoidance strategy at all. Tuesday I was exhausted from all that non-avoidance and went to bed early. By Wednesday… either I was going to buck the fuck up or I was going to quit, so I spent the afternoon telling myself in my wimpiest, most unconvincing self-help voice: I win shit, I win shit, I win shit.

I went to the Decatur farmers’ market, bought some Russian red kale and some pretty little carrots, and then I headed home to psyche myself up for my big battle. I win shit. I win shit. But it was really cold. And I was tired again. And blah. And it was really touch and go there for a minute. For several long minutes. I win shit. I win shit. I trudged upstairs and sighed loudly, hoping someone would hear me and rescue me from this awful misery. Then I put my PJs on.

Is it just me, or are PJs totally transformative? I don’t know what it is about the cold of winter and the warmth of fuzzy, comfy PJs, but in the instant I change out of work clothes and into PJs I become like a whole new person. A whole new person who can win the shit out of carrots and kale.

I went downstairs and re-familiarized myself with my kitchen. My kitchen, my friend.  Since it has been a while since I’ve really gotten into dinner and project planning I didn’t have a big menu arranged for the night, I basically just had carrots and kale. I did have one recipe for carrots that was pretty basic, so I read that and got out all the ingredients I needed—honey, butter, balsamic vinegar—and started on the carrots while I tried to figure out what to do with the kale.

I thumbed through cookbooks and quickly remembered why planning and preparing is essential. Buying kale was an important first step toward creating a dish with kale, but if I wanted to make something with anything more than kale, like sweet potato, corn and kale chowder (which I absolutely did, doesn’t that sound amazing?), I would probably also need sweet potatoes and corn. And grapeseed oil, thyme, vegetable stock, rice milk and cashews. None of which I possessed, of course. I had kale and I had carrots.

While the carrots cooked (gaaaaggggg) I washed and chopped the kale and kept searching for an easy, minimal-other-ingredient recipe. Then I took the carrots out of the water, drained them and tossed them in the butter, honey and balsamic glaze I’d been heating on the stove. When they were done, I put them aside and eyed my kale, still unsure about its fate. Then I made the best snap decision of my life. OK, of this project. OK, I made the best decision of the night. I picked up the handful of chopped kale and I dropped it in the honey-balsamic glaze. For good measure I added a few pecans. I mean, why not? If I didn’t like it I could just try it again the next day (maybe with a little more preparation, maybe with sweet potatoes and corn for chowder), and if I did like it then I won some shit…big.

I win shit. I win shit. I win shit.

The carrots were definitely a coup because I’ve hated them so much for so long. I still don’t know if I’ll be able to do them in pot roast, but I’ll eat them with that super sweet honey glaze any time. Delicious. But the kale. Wow. I’m going to go in the kitchen completely, utterly unprepared and start making up stuff more often.

I’m just sayin. I win shit.

Honey Carrots

  • 16 oz baby carrots
  • 4 tbl spoons butter (1/2 stick)
  • 2.5 tbl spoons honey
  • 1 tbl spoon lemon juice
  • 1/16 teaspoon ground ginger
  • Combine carrots and enough water to cover in a large saucepan. Cook over med-high heat until tender, about 5 minutes, drain well.
  • Combine butter and honey in a large skillet. Cook over low heat, stirring continually, until well blended.
  • Add lemon juice and ginger to butter mixture and mix well.
  • Add the carrots to the skillet and stir to glaze. Cook, stirring occasionally, until heated through. Serve immediately.
  • Variation. For a twist on this traditional side dish, substitute balsamic vinegar for the lemon juice. (I used balsamic instead of ginger and lemon juice.)

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