Sweet Winter Harvest Parsnips

IMG_4903I love parsnips.  We only see them in the winter which makes them a little more unique than their cousin the carrot.  This is a very fast and easy recipe that will go with practically any meal.  It takes about 15 minutes to make.  I call these Honey Parsnip Fries for kids because they are super sweet and they have a great texture.

Just like carrots these root veggies have a lot of sugar, similar to that of a banana actually.  Because of this they are not suitable for diabetic diets but they are great for kids!  Parsnips provide lots of dietary fiber, vitamin C, Folic Acid, B complex vitamins, minerals like iron, calcium, copper, potassium, manganese and phosphorus. Potassium is an important component of cell and body fluids that helps controlling heart rate and blood pressure by countering effects of sodium.  As in carrots and other members of apiaceae family vegetables, parsnip too contains many poly-acetylene anti-oxidants such as falcarinol, falcarindiol, panaxydiol, and methyl-falcarindiol.  Several research studies from scientists at University of Newcastle at Tyne found that these compounds have anti-inflammatory, anti-fungal, and anti-cancer function and offer protection from colon cancer and acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL).  Read more about nutrition in this and other foods you eat here.

 

IMG_4896Step One: Scrub the outside of the parsnips but don’t peel them.  The skin makes a nice crispy texture and provides a lot of nutritional value.  Peeling veggies is one of the biggest mistake we make when it comes to nutrition.  Cut the parsnips into french fry size sticks, but not too small.  You want some surface area to caramelize and brown in the pan.

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Step Two:  Heat up your iron skillet to medium high temp with some olive oil and a pad of butter.  Place the parsnips around the skillet, careful to not overcrowd and make sure all the parsnips are touching the pan.  If the pan is too crowded they will steam and you won’t get a nice crispy texture.  Add some thyme leaves if you have them and sprinkle with salt.  Cook for 5 minutes with lid off, cover for 5 minutes then turn over all the parsnips to crisp again.  Cover if they are still too firm.

 

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Step 3:  Add 2 tablespoons of balsamic vinegar and cook for a few minutes with the lid off to allow the balsamic to caramelize.  Toss the parsnips in the glaze in the pan.  Serve with sprigs of thyme as garnish.

Sous Vide – the modern mom essential

IMG_3265If you are like most of the world  you have no idea if sous vide is a cooking term or a sexual position.  Until recently it was the stuff of serious food geeks but as of this winter you can be cooking like a top chef for under $300.  For the record sous vide is not a sexual position, it’s a cooking method that sounds fancy, expensive and complicated but really isn’t.   Sous vide literally means cooking in a vacuum.   The technique involves vacuum sealing food in plastic bags and then cooking in a water bath at very low temperatures for very long periods of time. The result is perfectly cooked meats that are very tender, veggies that are exactly the right texture with no nutrient loss and foods that will freeze or keep longer in the refrigerator because they are vacuum packed. I’ve been using this technique to create frozen meals for my daughter for close to a year.  Why do I think every mom should know about it?  It’s easy, the active time is very short so you can create large batches of meals in advance very easily, it makes food more healthy because you aren’t losing any nutrients (the bags are BPA free so don’t stress about cooking in plastic), it improves texture and flavor for many of the foods you already enjoy, it saves money and finally it saves time.  When you’re chicken is moist and tender every time you’ll wonder why you didn’t do this sooner.  Think of it as the ultimate crock pot but with no crock pot to clean and everything made ahead and ready in your freezer for meals in minutes.

IMG_3268Working in large batches I fill a freezer with sous vide meals that are perfectly portioned and fully cooked with very little effort.  In this photo I’m creating garlic rosemary chicken breast in perfect size portions for my daughter and I.  In a few hours I can do 2 months worth of meals.  It’s also no mess cooking.  Everything is in the bag so there are no pots and pans to clean.  The food thaws quickly and then I simply sear it in my iron skillet. Viola, dinner in 15 minutes. Best part is that the meal is gourmet worthy and very healthy. There is also a budget aspect to this. By cooking low and slow (think the ultimate braise with no moisture loss) you can give cheaper cuts the texture of fillet minion. I cooked some rump and shoulder cuts from grass fed beef that were simply melting in your mouth and packed with flavor.  Because I’m using cheaper cuts I can splurge on the best possible grass fed beef and improve the health of what my family eats.

So why have you never heard of this amazing way of cooking? Well up until this year the equipment needed was very expensive. Entry level was around $500 and then you had to buy the equipment to do the vacuum sealing.   As of this year there are three immersion circulators (what you are actually cooking with when we say “sous vide”) that are priced under $300.  Here is the low down on the three contenders.

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The Anova – Retails at $199.  This one seems to be favored slightly among the food geeks.  It has a slightly smaller size but the other two seem to be easier to operate.  Along with the Sansaire it has a larger capacity so would be better suited for larger projects. There are only US versions in black available and I’m guessing they won’t be around long so don’t hesitate to buy or you’ll be waiting.  Order Anova Here

The Sansaire – Retails at $199.  The Sansaire is much loved for ease of use and larger capacity.  Sadly it is currently sold out.  Check back with them here to see when a new shipment will be available.  Currently no date is listed.   Get Sansaire Information Here

The Nomiku – Retails at $299.95 – This is adorable and easy to use.  It rather looks like a sex toy actually.  This one is really designed for the home cook with ease in mind.  They were even featured on Rachel Ray.  I was in the first run of these from Kickstarter and I absolutely LOVE mine.  That said, it’s the most expensive and has the smallest capacity.  I have a sous vide supreme that I still use, often having the two side by side on my massively cramped counter.  Order Nomiku Here

Serious Eats has product tests and a great comparison between the three.  Click below for the full review.

Serious Eats Sous Vide Review

10 Minute Witch Fingers

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If you live near a Trader Joes or Fresh and Easy you can have which fingers in 10 minutes! They are whole wheat, they have no sugar, dye or other bad stuff, and they are super fun for kids to create and eat. The only downfall is they really need to be made the same day, so you’ll need to carve our 10 minutes plus the time to clean up and plate, but I took these to a friends house and the kids devoured them! My 5 year old enjoyed making them with me and then proudly served them to her friends.

What You’ll Need

Trader Joe’s Whole Wheat Pizza Dough (or pizza dough from Fresh and Easy)
One egg white
Course salt, kosher or sea salt
Almond slivers
Pizza Sauce for dipping (Trader Joe’s is good, be careful of some store bought varieties that may contain artificial sweeteners)
Olive oil for the pan
Flour to keep dough from sticking to your hands

Prep – Place dough on counter to come to room temp. Preheat oven to 425.

Step 1 – pinch off small balls of dough with your fingers. Using flour so the dough doesn’t stick roll the dough into a finger shape with your hands and place on oiled cookie sheet.

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Step 2 – add almond slivers for the fingernails

Step 3 – brush with egg white. Sprinkle generously with salt.

Step 4 – bake at 425 for 5-8 minutes until just starting to brown slightly.

Step 5 – put plastic right rings on the fingers if you wish and serve with pizza sauce for dipping.

Halloween mock-tails pt. 3

Vampire Punch

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What You Need
Silicone Cupcake Molds
Plastic Bugs (I used glow in the dark ones) MAKE SURE THEY ARE MORE THAN 1.5 INCHES WIDE.
Trader Joes Sparkling Pomegranate Juice
White grape juice
Grape or cherry juice

An important note on this is that the bugs need to be big enough to not be a choking hazard and I’d recommend this only for bigger kids.

Step 1 – place the bugs in the molds
Step 2 – fill molds with white grape juice
Step 3 – freeze
Step 4 – combine equal parts juice
Step 5 – add the ice cubes at the last minute before serving.

Superfood Prickly Pear Recipes

Superfood Prickly Pear Recipes

imgresPrickly Pear Cactus is now being called a superfood for it’s cholesterol lowering and antioxident properties.  Here’s a link to some fantastic sounding recipes I’ll be trying soon.  Great news is that Prickly Pear is so sweet you can use it to sweeten things without sugar, plus it’s a really fun neon pink color.  You will find it in latin markets and in some parts of the country you find it in the grocery store when in season.  Here is an online source for some prickly pear products http://www.arizonacactusranch.com/order-our-products.html

Spooktacular Halloween Mock-tails Pt. 2

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Witch’s Brew with Spider Ice Cubes

What You Need:

Silicone mini muffin molds

Spider Rings

White Grape Juice

Pineapple Juice (or whatever other juice you’ve got around)

Sparkling Apple Cider

Step 1 Put the muffin mold on a cookie sheet or plate that will fit in your freezer.

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Step 2 Place Spider rings inside muffin molds face down.  Squish them down a bit because they will want to float.

Step 3 Pour white grape juice into the molds.

Step 4 Freeze for at least an hour, but can be made weeks in advance.

Step 5 Combine equal parts fruit juice and sparkling apple cider.  If you can’t find good sparkling apple cider in your area you can use a bit of club soda or sparkling water.

Step 6 Just before serving add the ice cubes.