Growing up as a Caribbean heritage girl in London (UK), one of our food traditions was to have fresh carrot juice with our Sunday dinner. Sweet and delicious tasting and spiced with nutmeg and vanilla, I remember helping my mum in the kitchen with grating the carrots and squeezing out the juice. I must admit though to not appreciating the experience I was receiving at the time, but time can beautifully change our perception of our experiences.
The thing about cultural food is that, delicious as it may be (and often it is to us), it’s not always healthy is it? You know that, right?
So the thing with that delicious carrot juice from my youth is that, it was also made with full fat diary milk (no semi-skimmed available back in those days), a tin of sweetened condensed milk and vanilla essence, not vanilla extract! It is still made that way today, which is not very health promoting. I do know that the intention was always to provide a healthy drink for our families, especially because carrots are a root vegetable that is a good source of antioxidants. Carrots are also rich in vitamin A, Vitamin C, Vitamin K, vitamin B8, pantothenic acid, folate, potassium, iron, copper, and manganese.
I still love my Sunday carrot juice, so it’s important to remember that carrots are already naturally sweet, no added sugar is required. There is also a difference between vanilla essence and vanilla extract – both vanilla essence and vanilla extract are used as flavoring agents, and using organic ingredients, natural vanilla extract is what you should opt for.
Generally speaking, vanilla essence is a chemically manufactured flavouring, whereas vanilla extract is a natural product derived from vanilla beans.
Remember also that too much artificial flavouring can leave a bitter aftertaste, especially in drinks and cookies, so be careful about that. Add the your extract or essence at the end of your recipe if possible.
Variations in the spices you use can create stunning new flavours, so I like to add fresh ginger into the mix. For liquid, to create volume, replace dairy milk with a nut milk or good clean water.
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