Hello, hello!

For all my Ontario readers – can you believe that there was snow falling this past weekend?  Well, not too much in Toronto yet but I did see a few flurries.  It seems like only yesterday I was frequenting the farmer’s markets around the city and now I feel like I should be preparing to hibernate for the winter.

Winter’s not all bad – I’m looking forward to seeing Tyson experience his first Christmas and snowfall.  I love the brisk winter walks, followed by the cozy warmth of coming back indoors to a hot cup of tea.  With the winding-down of fall, I have started craving comfort food like soups, stews, and casseroles.  And with that comes lots and lots of root vegetables!

In my 8-month post about Tyson, I mentioned that one of his favourite foods was parsnips.  And they are actually one of my favourites as well.  I am shocked at how many people went on to tell me that they had never ever tried them!

I believe that to help our kids develop a healthy relationship with real food, they need to get to know it on a personal level. Our kids will be looking to us as parents to make these introductions, so as role models for healthy eating we need to develop these relationships first.  So for my first Real Food Close-Up, let’s get up close and personal with The Parsnip.

Oh Mr. Parsnip, you are so quiet and unassuming.  Most people pass you in the grocery store without even noticing that you are there.

For those of you that are unfamiliar with this wallflower of the produce department, you should know that parsnips are a root vegetable, and come from the same family as carrots, beets, potatoes and turnips.  Parsnips contain a high portion of complex carbohydrates, and are rich in fibre (which means they keep you full for a long time).  They are particularly high in Vitamin C and Folate, but also contain small amounts of a whole bunch of other vitamins and minerals.

I admit, I’m somewhat new to the parsnip party myself – I think made them for the first time about two years ago. Prior to that I’m sure I had tried them mixed in with other things but I couldn’t really remember if I  liked them or not.   They look fairly boring.  Kind of like a carrot, but not as pretty.  I assumed they would be bland and potato-like.

I was inspired to cook them by Angela from Oh She Glows when she posted about her Nut Butter Crusted Parsnip Fries.  When somebody says that a recipe changed their life, I have to try it!  Truthfully, I was not blown away at first, although I was definitely surprised by the taste.  I was expecting a pretty neutral flavour, but parsnips are far from bland.  They are sweeter and earthier than a carrot, and almost have a spicy bite to them.  It took me a while to get used to the unique flavour.

Since that day, I have continued to incorporate parsnips into my cooking, and over that time I have grown to absolutely love them.  I guess even as an adult it can take a few tries before you like a certain food  – so don’t give up!  Besides, we can’t tell our kids they need to try new things if we aren’t willing to do the same, right?  Now I can’t imagine my life without this gem of a vegetable.

Parsnips are amazing roasted, especially with other root vegetables like sweet potatoes, and turnip.  They are a fun mashed potato substitute and they make a great addition to any soup.  I recently heard from a friend that parsnips are delicious added to fresh juice.  I use carrots quite often in my juicer, so I guess it makes sense that a parsnip would work just as well.  I plan on giving this a try sometime in the next few weeks.

Parsnips do have a very dominating flavour, so a small amount goes a long way, especially if you are trying them for the first time.  But I guarantee that after a few tries, you and parsnips will be the best of buds 🙂

And this is a vegetable that I can almost guarantee most kids will like, so I encourage you try it with your little one.   I typically steam and puree it for Tyson and serve it on its own or mixed with applesauce , which is a great combination.

I’m sure most moms out there are familiar with how to make your own baby food, but for those that are new to it, or who have not reached that stage yet, I thought I would give a quick overview.

Making homemade baby food is as simple as these three steps:

Step 1: Peel and chop the fruit/vegetable (although with some fruits it is easier to steam first and then peel).

Step 2: Place in a steamer basket and steam until tender.

Step 3: Place steamed pieces in the food processor (baby bullet, blender etc.) and blend away until you reach the desired consistency.  Add water as required.

When I started Tyson on purees I usually aimed for the food to be the consistency of thick soup.  It shouldn’t be dripping off the spoon, but it also shouldn’t be so thick that you can turn the spoon over without it budging.  Obviously each baby is different, but I know that Tyson would not eat anything that was too thick when he first started eating solids.  Now that he is older, I usually only give things a quick whiz and leave them fairly chunky.

When I’m feeding parsnip puree to Tyson, it takes some pretty strong will power not to eat it all on him.  It’s that good!

For inspiration, here are a few great parsnip recipes to get you started:

Roasted Winter Vegetables with Cannellini Beans from Whole Living
Apple Parsnip Mash from Martha Stewart
Roasted Cauliflower and Parsnip Soup from Choosing Raw
Fall Salad from Healthy Green Kitchen

I’m also working on a recipe involving parsnips that I hope to share with you in the coming weeks.

So now that you and The Parsnip are on a first name basis, I hope this means you will be dining together soon 🙂

Have you ever tried parsnips?  If so, what is your favourite way to eat them?

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