Pleased with Parsnips

Parsnips: carrot’s ugly cousin? Maybe. But they are sweeter, have more of a nutty flavor and are a bit mellower than the carrot, and personally, I like them more.

Parsnips have long clusters of stems with bright green leaves springing out from above the ground, but just beneath the surface of ground are long roots anchoring these green plants down into the earth- the root vegetable. (The leaves are often said to be toxic and can cause a rash similar to poison ivy, though some people have used them in recipes without any adverse reactions.)

You’ve heard the importance of eating the rainbow before, right? So why I am praising this whitish, gnarly looking vegetable? White vegetables actually have a pigment called anthoxanthins, and though they don’t provide a vibrant color, they do have important roles that contribute to reducing risk of heart disease, reducing allergy symptoms, and reducing inflammation in the joints, gut, blood and other organ systems.

Parsnips have antioxidants, which have been shown to be anti-inflammatory, antifungal and have anti-cancer properties.

  • Parsnips are a terrific source of fiber, vitamins B (particularly folate), C, E and K.
    • Folate helps produce new cells and is extra important in during pregnancy and early life.
      • It also helps produce red blood cells in the body, helping to keep the body anemia-free and allowing for oxygen to be transported through the body.
    • Vitamin E contributes to the production of red blood cells.
    • Vitamin C helps stimulate the production of white blood cells, which help attack diseases in the body.
    • Vitamin K is important because it helps in blood clotting- this is why we don’t continuously bleed when we get a small wound.
  • The vegetable holds many minerals, such as iron, copper, calcium, manganese, potassium and phosphorous.
    • Manganese helps produce hormones and phosphorous helps prevent cardiovascular disease because of its ability to reduce blood pressure and stress on heart.
      • It does this by regulating the fluids in the body and balancing the effects of sodium.
    • Phosphorous helps our bones and teeth.

So, from our skeletons to our blood, heart and happy digestive and immune systems, parsnips are a food that contribute wellness throughout the entire body.

They are a starchy vegetable and some people tend to steer clear of them for this reason, thinking that starch is a “bad carbohydrate”. While they are starchy, gram per gram, they contain about half as much starch than that of a potato carries. Starch breaks down into glucose in the body and becomes a great source of energy and is needed particularly for proper brain function. Starch plays an important role in our diet, so why not allow parsnips to fill the starchy portions of our plates?

Fun Fact:

Parsnips were often used as a sweetener before sugar cane was introduced to Europe. You could find parsnips in recipes for desserts and jams, for example. A fun activity may be to have your students come up with ways that parsnips can replace sugar. (For example: perhaps using parsnip juice or puréed parsnips for sauces and frostings. Or maybe dehydrating parsnips and grinding them into powder to use as a sugar substitute.)

Parsnips can be eaten raw, roasted, steamed, made into soups, stews, chips, fries, a mash, a hash, used in cakes, etc. The first is parsnip fries. Studies have shown that sensory qualities such as color can largely effect what we think we are tasting and our willingness to want to try something (particularly with kids). Because parsnips have very similar coloring to potatoes, this could be a great alternative to the extra starchy common French fry (or potato chips).

Parsnip Truffle Fries – SHORTER RECIPE

Serves: 6

parsnip-fries

Ingredients

  • 2 lb parsnips, batonnet
  • 1 ounce fresh parsley, finely minced
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely minced
  • 2 tbs olive oil
  • 1 tbs truffle oil
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 2 tsp pepper

Instructions

  1. Preset oven to 425°F
  2. Combine parsnips and olive oil in a bowl and mix until coated evenly.
  3. Spread parsnips over wax paper on a sheet pan.
  4. After 20-15 minutes, flip and let roast until they begin to brown and reach desired crispiness (about 15 minutes).
  5. Sprinkle garlic over fries in the last 3 minutes.
  6. Toss parsnips, truffle oil, parsley and salt in a bowl and serve.

 

Parsnip and Carrot Soup – LONGER RECIPE

  • 6 cups vegetable broth
  • 2 lbs parsnip, rough chop
  • ½ lb carrot, rough chop
  • 1 medium red onion, rough chop
  • 3 cloves garlic, left unpeeled
  • 2 tbs olive oil
  • 1 tbs salt
  • 1 tbs pepper
  • 1 ounce white wine
  • 1 tbs balsamic
  • 1 tbs fresh tarragon
  1. Preheat oven to 375
  2. Coat parsnips and carrots and whole, unpeeled, garlic cloves evenly in olive oil and black pepper (reserve a small amount for sweating onions). Occasionally stir the vegetables and remove once they have softened (about 30-40 minutes).
  3. Let the garlic cool enough to squeeze out of skin and set aside
  4. In a stockpot, add a small amount of olive oil and the onions over medium-low heat. Stir regularly until the onions have become translucent.
  5. Add the garlic to the pot and stir for just a moment so the flavor is incorporated and fragrant.
  6. Add wine and let reduce by ½.
  7. Add roasted vegetables to the pot.
  8. Add stock and bring to simmer for about 15 minutes until very tender
  9. Using an immersion blender, puree the ingredients in the stockpot until smooth.
  10. Once the soup is complete, use a ladle to transfer to a soup bowl.
  11. Drizzle ½ a teaspoon of balsamic over the top of each bowl for garnish along with ½ a teaspoon of fresh tarragon.

 

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An Apple a Day. . . Makes a Difference

Snow White and Adam and Eve did not have the best of luck with apples. Even Johnny Appleseed couldn’t keep the doctor away when he died of pneumonia. But studies have shown that though an apple a day might not keep the doctor away, they can greatly reduce risk of certain diseases and the need for some medications. No wonder this juicy fruit has been a long time token of respect and gratitude given to teachers. So how to get more apples from your students? Share some apple history, explain their nutritional benefits and show them new ways to eat these tasty treats.

A fruit with a story

Not every fruit has a good story behind it, but this one is worth talking about, at least a little bit, and I bet your students will enjoy it. At first, when Johnny Appleseed spread apples across America, they were a very bitter fruit and not palatable enough to be eaten, so instead they were swigged. On frontiers that didn’t have safe drinking water, they drank apple cider.  In other places, they were fermented into the alcoholic form of “hard apple cider.” During prohibition, FBI agents began chopping down these sour, bitter hard cider apple trees in order to prevent consumption of the “hard stuff.”  In order to survive, apple growers had to adapt so they started promoting them for their nutritional value instead.  Hence the proverb “an apple a day, helps keep the doctor away.”  Through natural and artificial selection, the sweet apple as we know it today has made its stamp in the culinary world.

Apples for health

Apples are full of vitamin C, and as the seasons are changing, your students might need a good boost of this to keep their immune systems strong.  Vitamin C is an important ingredient for healthy skin and will help fight against the awkwardly embarrassing acne. How cool is it that your students might actually be able to improve their skin by eating more vitamin C and possibly even improve their confidence?

  • Apples have a good amount of fiber, which slows the rate at which sugars are released into the blood stream.
  • This is helpful in weight loss, maintaining a stable energy level and promoting digestive regularity.
  • Fiber is largely contributive to a healthy heart, because it lowers cholesterol levels naturally.
  • Due to the fiber’s anti-inflammatory abilities and the large amounts of antioxidants, particularly polyphenols, the fruit is a great shield against cancer.
  • While apple juice tastes great and still contains some vitamins and minerals, eating the apple whole is a much more nutritive option, because it contains fiber and the many nutrients in the skin of the apple.

Also found in apples are a load of potassium. Potassium benefits our heart and kidneys. It has been known to reduce anxiety and stress, and even help strengthen muscles and regulate fluids in our body. Apples have even been said to improve symptoms of asthma, improve moods and decrease the risk of neurodegenerative diseases, such as Alzheimer’s.

Fun fact:

Upon first bite, apples are already helping us out. They have shown to actually help keep our teeth clean by removing plaque. The astringent quality in their skin helps kill bacteria and reduce tooth decay. Of course nothing can maintain a healthy smile like a good old-fashioned toothbrush, but apples are useful in maintaining their pearly whites. Apples (particularly green apples) are often used as a palate cleanser. After eating, pass around apple slices and have your students notice the clean mouthfeel.

So what to do with them?

Apples are such an easy item for your students to throw in their backpack and eat at lunch or as a snack. It sounds strange, but this is a fruit that is easy to eat in its natural form. It’s not messy when eating, doesn’t require silverware, and doesn’t damage easily when transporting. Help your students realize how easy it can be to eat well without needing to deal with extensive preparation!

And apples can be fun to cook with too- all day, any day, any meal, and at any course. So what can you do with them? Here we go: poach, steam, stew, bake, caramelize, braise, purée, put them on a spread, use them as a crudité. . . you get the idea, the options are kind of endless.

This first recipe is a super simple way to make a grilled cheese a healthier option. Use whole grain bread, “real” unprocessed cheese, and sneak fruit and vegetables into a normally fruitless sandwich. . . because let’s face it, nobody wants to give up a creamy grilled cheese delight. The second recipe can be used as a dessert, snack, and side dish or as a condiment. This might be a good way to let your students experience apples in a new way, which a completely different flavor profile than what the ordinary apple can provide.

Apple Grilled Cheese

Apple Grilled Cheese.jpg

Serves: 1

Ingredients:

  • 2 slices whole wheat bread
  • ½ granny smith apple, sliced thin
  • 2 slices Swiss cheese
  • 2 tsp vegetable oil
  • pinch of cinnamon
  • pinch of salt
  • 1/4 cup onions, thinly sliced

 Instructions:

  1. Heat 1 tsp of oil in a pan on medium high heat. When hot, add the onions to caramelize, stirring occasionally until golden brown. Cover and set aside.
  2. Brush the remaining oil on one side of both pieces of bread and sprinkle the cinnamon and salt on the oiled side of bread.
  3. Flip one piece of bread over and layer the apple slices and caramelized onions in between the pieces of cheese. Put the other piece of bread on top with the oiled side up.
  4. With the stove on medium-low heat, place the sandwich on a pan and carefully flip over once the bottom piece of bread starts to brown. Remove from the pan once both sides are browned and the cheese is melted.

Apple Chutney

Yield: about 2 cups

Ingredients:

  • 5 pound apples, cored, cut into 1/2-inch pieces, with the skin left on
  • 1 small yellow onion, diced
  • 2 tbs fresh ginger, minced
  • 1 tablespoon garlic, minced
  • ½ cup honey
  • 1 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1/2 cup raisins or dried cranberries (unsweetened)
  • 1/2 teaspoon whole mustard seed
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes

Instructions:

  1. Bring all ingredients to a boil in a large saucepan and then reduce to a simmer until the mixture thickens and the apples are soft (about 45 minutes).