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Indian-Spiced Parsnip Soup with Apples and Coconut Milk

More! My turn! More!
More! My turn! More!

One of the side effects of owning a food business is bringing home loads of excess ingredients, like five pounds of delicious, organic parsnips from Driftless Organics, and extra spice mixes from Indian dinners. One cannot waste these things! I set about to turn it into a soup and thought it was really yummy. But what surprised me most of all, was my kids going ga-ga over it. Even my young sons — who pretty much only get excited about hot dogs — were begging for more. I call that a five-star recipe.

This mild vegan soup gets sweetness from the apple, and brings parsnips to life with ginger, garlic, and spice mixes from chicken tikka masala and gajar matar. Some tomato and coconut milk round out the flavor with creaminess and acidity.

Indian-Spiced Parsnip Soup

You can purchase the spices in the bulk section of most co-ops or organic grocery stores.
If you want a shortcut on the spices, substitute with 2 tablespoons of curry powder.

Indian-Spiced Parsnip Soup
with Apples and Coconut Milk

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium onion
1 tablespoon ginger, minced
1 teaspoon garlic, minced
2 pounds parsnips
1 small apple
3 teaspoons salt
Indian Spices (see below)
One 32-ounce vegetable broth
1 cup whole, peeled tomatoes (1/2 a 14-ounce can)
One 15-ounce can coconut milk
Extra water, as needed
Chile oil or red pepper flakes, for garnish
Indian Spices
1 bay leaf
2 teaspoons ground coriander
2 teaspoons paprika
2 teaspoons ground cumin
½ teaspoon chili powder
½ teaspoon turmeric
½ teaspoon garam masala
2 cardamom pods


1. Prep ingredients. All the ingredients are going to be puréed, so they don’t need to be perfect.
> Onion > Cut onion in half and trim the top off; remove skin. Rough chop.
> Ginger > Use a peeler or a spoon to scrape the skin off the ginger. Rough chop.
> Garlic > Place the garlic on the cutting board and lay your knife on top of it, broadside. With the heel of your hand, smash down onto the side of the knife, then remove skin.
> Parsnips > Peel the parsnips. Trim off the top, and coarsely chop the thick parts of the parsnips.
> Apples > Wash the apple and peel (julienne peels if you want to use them for garnish). Quarter lengthwise and remove the core.

2. Soften the vegetables. Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan over medium high heat. When hot, add the onions and cook for several minutes. Then add the ginger and garlic, cook for another couple of minutes. Add the parsnips and apple , continue cooking until the onions begin to brown and caramelize.

3. Make the soup. Stir in the salt and Indian spices, cook until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Pour in the broth, scrape the bottom of the pan to set any brown bits free, and add the tomatoes. The liquid level needs to be about 80-90% covering the vegetables, add water as needed. Cover, bring to a boil, then reduce heat to medium high and simmer for about 20 minutes, until the parsnips are tender.

4. Purée the soup. Discard the bay leaf and add the coconut milk. Working in batches, transfer the soup to a blender. Do not fill more than half full, to reduce risk of splatter. Hold the lid down with a towel, to avoid burns, and purée until smooth. Transfer to a large mixing bowl and continue with remaining soup. Mix in more hot water if it is too thick.

5. Serve. Ladle the soup into bowls. Garnish with apple peels, if desired, sprinkle with chile oil or pepper flakes, and serve.

COOK TIME: 45 minutes


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Dinner Hacks for Wholesome Meals in Less Than 15 Minutes

The wind is a’ changin’ and with it comes new schedules to go with the weather. Seems like the perfect time to review some dinners that are done in 15 minutes or less — you know, the kind that may leverage a jarred sauce or spice mix for a super short grocery list. Serve some mixed greens or shredded cabbage on the side and your crazy fast dinner is ready.


Fish Sandwiches

[threecol_one]You’ll Need
Skinless boneless cod (about 4 ounces per person)
Old Bay or other fish seasoning
Hamburger Buns
Remoulade or Tarter Sauce
Toppings like tomatoes and lettuce

[/threecol_one][threecol_two_last]To Make
Heat some oil in a non-stick pan. Lightly oil the fish then rub the seasoning all over it (sprinkle with salt if there isn’t any in the seasoning). When hot, add the fish and cook until it is opaque about 2/3rds up, then flip the fish and cook the other side. Meanwhile, butter the insides of the buns and toast or broil them until light brown. Layer the bottom of the bun with lettuce, tomato, and the cooked fish. Spread remoulade on the top bun and top the sandwich. [/threecol_two_last]

Potstickers with Sauce

[threecol_one]You’ll Need
Frozen potstickers
Soy Sauce
Chili Sauce
Chinese Hot Mustard*

[/threecol_one][threecol_two_last]To Make
Steam the potstickers as directed on the package. Meanwhile, whisk together equal amounts of soy sauce, chili sauce and mustard together. Dip the potstickers in the sauce before eating.
*Regular mustard works, too. Chinese-style is just better.[/threecol_two_last]

Chinese Dumpling Soup

[threecol_one]You’ll Need
Frozen potstickers
Chicken broth

[/threecol_one][threecol_two_last]To Make
Boil the potstickers in the chicken broth. When the potstickers are cooked through, the soup is done. Add the spinach to the hot soup just before serving. [/threecol_two_last]

Mushroom & Broccoli Alfredo

[threecol_one]You’ll Need
Jar of alfredo sauce
Linguine noodles
8 ounces sliced mushrooms and/or one crown broccoli, broken into florets
Optional: One chicken breast, sliced thinly

[/threecol_one][threecol_two_last]To Make
Warm up the alfredo sauce in a small saucepan while you are boiling the noodles. (If you are using sliced chicken, add it to the sauce to cook it.) Drain the noodles when they are done, and return to the warm pan and cover with lid. In a saucepan, heat some butter and add the veggies and cook until the mushrooms are softened and juicy. Combine with the sauce and stir, then add to pot with noodles and coat to stir.[/threecol_two_last]

Egg Sandwiches with Mixed Greens

[threecol_one]You’ll Need
English muffins
Gruyère cheese, sliced
One egg per person
Mixed greens
Optional: Cooked ham

[/threecol_one][threecol_two_last]To Make
Heat some oil in a frying pan over medium heat. Meanwhile, open the English muffins and toast them in a toaster oven. Crack the eggs into the pan and fry sunny-side up until the bottoms are set. Flip the eggs, top with Gruyère cheese, sprinkle with some salt and pepper and cook for another couple of minutes until the cheese is melty. Butter the insides of the English muffin and place the egg with cheese inside. (If using ham, add under egg.) Grind some black pepper and top with lid and serve with mixed greens on the side.[/threecol_two_last]

Polish Sausage and Veggies

[threecol_one]You’ll Need
Polish sausage
Veggies to your liking — like halved Brussels sprouts or thinly sliced onions and red pepper
Dinner rolls

[/threecol_one][threecol_two_last]To Make
Heat a very large fry pan over medium-high heat. Slice the Polish sausage into 1/2-inch to 2-inch slices. Add to the pan and begin to fry them. When the fat begins to render, push the sausage to one side to continue cooking and add the veggies to the pan. Cook until the veggies are bright and tender, about 5 minutes. Serve with dinner rolls or mashed potatoes.[/threecol_two_last]

Peanut Soba Noodles with Veggies and Egg

[threecol_one]You’ll Need
One jar of Asian peanut sauce
Mixed veggies, like red pepper, broccoli, snap peas, etc. — cut into bite-sized pieces
Soba or rice noodles
One egg per person
Roasted peanuts (optional)
Hot sauce (optional)

[/threecol_one][threecol_two_last]To Make
Boil the noodles according to the package instructions. Meanwhile, heat some oil in a large fry pan. Add the veggies and stir fry until they are bright and tender, about 5 minutes, then remove from heat. Cook the egg how you’d like: either scrambled or sunny side up. When the noodles are drained, return them to the pot. Add the peanut sauce and veggies, and stir to combine. Add in scrambled egg, too, otherwise top the bowls with the sunny-side up egg. Serve topped with chopped peanuts and hot sauce.[/threecol_two_last]

Cheesy Pasta

[threecol_one]You’ll Need
Pasta, any kind
Any cheese like cheddar, mozzarella, blue cheese, etc. (Get creative, use several!)
Mixed greens
Optional: Cooked hot dog or shrimp, chopped

[/threecol_one][threecol_two_last]To Make
Boil the noodles as directed in the recipe, in salted water. (If using hot dogs or shrimp, cook in the boiling water, then chop.) Grate any firm or semi-firm cheeses. Set a mug or measuring cup next to the colander in the sink and fill with pasta water before drain the noodles. Add the noodles back to the warm pan and add the cheese(s). Stir, adding reserved pasta water to thin the sauce, until smooth. (Fold in chopped hot dog or shrimp, if using.) Serve with mixed greens on the side.[/threecol_two_last]

Tomato-Mozzarella Open-Faced Bagels

[threecol_one]You’ll Need
Fresh Mozzarella
Olive oil

[/threecol_one][threecol_two_last]To Make
Slice the bagels into halves. Layer each slice with mozzarella, a slice of tomato, and a leaf of basil. Place on a foil-lined pan and drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with coarse salt. Toast or broil for several minutes, until the mozzarella is melting. Let cool for a minute before eating.[/threecol_two_last]

Spicy Ramen with Egg

[threecol_one]You’ll Need
One package of spicy ramen*
One egg per person
Veggies to your liking — like oriental mushrooms, scallions, or spinach — chopped

[/threecol_one][threecol_two_last]To Make
Begin to cook the noodles according to package instructions. When the noodles start to soften and you can tease them apart, crack the eggs into the pot, so the noodles create a cushion for the egg. Add any vegetables and cook until the noodles are a firm al dente. Remove from heat and let the noodles continue cooking while the soup cools for about five minutes. Divide between bowls.
*I like the Shin Ramyun Hot Spicy Noodle in the large, red and black package. Available at most grocery stores with a respectable ethnic section.[/threecol_two_last]

Butternut Squash and Basil Gnocchi

[threecol_one]You’ll Need
Gnocchi, frozen or dried
Butternut squash, frozen, cubed
Basil leaves, sliced thinly
Optional: Mild Italian sausage

[/threecol_one][threecol_two_last]To Make
Cook the gnocchi according to the package instructions, then drain and return to warm pan and cover with lid. In a large non-stick frying pan, heat up some butter and cook the butternut squash until it is cooked through. (If using sausage, open the casing and cook in the same pan, breaking it apart with a spoon until it is cooked through. Add the gnocchi to the pan and toss gently until the gnocchi is coated, adding olive oil if needed. Sprinkle with basil, coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper before serving.[/threecol_two_last]

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Getting Kids into the Clean Plate Club

Yes, actually, turning the food into a smiley face works sometimes!
Yes, actually, turning the food into a smiley face works sometimes!

For a little more than a year, my family has hardly eaten a dinner that wasn’t for a reason: recipe testing, retesting, testing a different cook method, finding a replacement meal for the one I originally planned, needing a photo of a dinner, needing to use up remnant ingredients, etc.

I gotta say, my kids are awesome. I am basically writing this simply to commend them. At the writing of this post, they are 14 months, 3 years and 4-1/2 years old. For the first two-thirds of this journey, I swear they were never served the same meal twice. Poor kids, all they wanted was a hot dog. Instead they were my unwitting world-travelers and culinary adventurers.

Without starting Homegrown Foods, I would have cooked dinner from scratch any way. But probably more like three meals per night and we probably would have rotated in our favorites more frequently. I’d like to style myself an expert on the topic now, here is my list of top moves:

1. Smiley face. I must admit, for my young children, turning the food on their plate into a smiley face actually does work to get them to try new foods.

2. Food equality for all. We treat all foods as equals—to be as excited about vegetables as chocolate chip cookies. Don’t make it sound like a punishment to eat vegetables, or a threat of no dessert if they don’t.

3. Bribery. When they absolutely refuse to try something new I am not above bribing them: “I’ll give you an M&M if you take a bite of this.” The goal is to get them to try new foods so they get used to the flavors. If I can avoid a dinner stand-off and get the food in their mouth for the mere price of an M&M, so be it. More often than not, they realize that there isn’t anything to be afraid of on their plate (and, if I may say so myself, they learn that their mom is a rock-star who cooks fabulous food!).

4. Grouping vs Combining. Deconstructed dinners often have more success than a fully plated dinner. (Surprise, surprise, kids will not eat something if a food they don’t like isn’t touching it.) On the opposite end of the spectrum, if there are a bunch of ingredients they are not used to they are more likely to eat it if the pieces are super tiny or puréed.

5. Give them the whole dinner. I always put everything on their plates, even when they screech that they don’t like it. I want them to get used to the look, smell, and hopefully taste of all the food we eat. They don’t have to eat it, but they have to look at it.

I don’t pretend to have the answers to kids eating wholesome foods. I try to remind myself that they probably won’t eat like we do until they are 25 years old. But I will say, I am amazed at the way my kids eat today. Last week, I tried a recipe from a new cookbook and I warned them, “Everything in this dinner is new. There is nothing on your plate you will have tasted before. You may like all of it, some of it, or none of it but I expect you to try it.” It was chicken stewed in a coconut-lime broth hotly spiced with curry paste along with a plantain-sweet potato mash seasoned with turmeric, and curried chickpea rosti (like thick, dense pancakes). My kitchen smelled like a foreign city. These were all new flavors and some new textures, and the kids were incredibly good sports and tried all of it, and each enjoyed different components of that meal.

Don’t get me wrong. My 14 month old still earnestly picks up every food from his tray that he doesn’t want to eat and deliberately drops it, watching it as it goes overboard and plunks to the floor. He is probably my pickiest eater but has no system to speak of it. One day that food is “in,” the next it hits the floor. My 3 year old periodically reminds me, “I don’t like butter!” (he actually does, he just likes to say that) if I deign to mention that butter was involved in the cooking process.

The other night I made miso-marinated black cod with seaweed salad and black rice. While delicious, none of it was a hit with the kids. Though, I was so impressed that my daughter actually grabbed a handful of the seaweed salad and popped it right into her mouth (then saying, “Mmm, this is good but I don’t really want any more.”) After a certain amount of effort, my husband and I got the kids to try everything.

They still didn’t like it so I said, “How about some hot dogs, guys?”

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