Desserts, Lunchbox Worthy, Vegetable Side Dishes

The Sweetest Parsnips

Parsnips may be a winter food, but it is in the spring that they are at their most sublime.  Allowed to rest in the ground through the coldest season, starches in the parsnip convert into sugar.  The same thing happens when commercial farmers harvest in the autumn and then store the parsnips at around 0° for at least two weeks.  My dad just harvested his parsnips, a fine crop of huge but tender white roots that smelled sweet, earthy, and mysterious.  As a kid, I thought parsnips tasted like unlit cigars.  I still find something exotic about their taste, especially when roasted, a taste like incense, and well, tobacco.  Maybe my taste buds are weird because I could not find them described this way anywhere.

Anyway, I’ve been hearing whispers of putting parsnips in desserts for years and decided that I had to try it.  I used Union Street Cafe’s Morning Glory Muffin recipe, tweaked the spices and grated in rich, earthy parsnips in place of the carrots.  All went well.  They baked beautifully, and when they cooled, Molly and I slathered them with Cream Cheese Frosting.  They are subtly parsnip-y, a taste that fits very well, as it turns out, with cinnamon, nutmeg, and ginger.

Parsnip Cupcakes
I waited until the kids were halfway through eating their cupcake before I revealed the secret ingredient.  They still ate them and asked for more.

2 C. Grated Parsnip
2 C. Flour
1 C. Sugar
2 t. Baking Soda
2 t. Cinnamon
1 t. Ground Ginger
1/4 t. Nutmeg (freshly grated is awesome, but pre-ground works, too)
1 t. Salt
3 Eggs
1 C. Vegetable Oil
2 t. Vanilla
Line a 12 cup muffin tin with liners or grease well.  Preheat the oven to 350.  Combine the parsnips, flour, sugar, baking soda,
cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg and salt in a large bowl.  In another bowl, whisk the eggs, oil and vanilla.  Pour the egg mixture over the parsnip mixture and mix gently until thoroughly combined.  Spoon batter into cups and bake for 20-25 minutes, until springy and firm.  Let cool on a rack while you make the frosting.

Cream Cheese Frosting

12 oz. Cream Cheese
½ C. Softened Butter
1 T. Vanilla
3 ½ C. Icing Sugar

Pulse in food processor just until smooth and creamy.Top each cupcake with a generous swirl of frosting and maybe grate a little nutmeg on top.

Roasted Parsnips
Perhaps the best way to prepare most root vegetables, roasting capitalizes on every bit of parsnip’s natural sweetness and is super-easy to boot!

1 lb. Parsnips, peeled and cut into 1 inch chunks
2 T. (or more) Olive Oil
1/2 t. Salt

Preheat oven to 400.  Toss parsnips, oil, and salt in a bowl, then spread in a single layer on a cookie sheet with sides.  Roast for 20-30 minutes, stirring from time to time, until parsnips are tender and caramelized.