Feasting at Home : December 2011

December 24, 2011

Roasted Parsnip Soup with Toasted Hazelnuts

I broke through another layer into joyfulness. 

It's Christmas Eve. 
Our work is finally done for the season and all we have left to do for the next few days is relax.
 As as I type the snow begins to fall... just in time for a White Christmas.
The last few days have been dreamy and beautiful.
 The trees are perfectly flocked. The sun breaks through and
everything shimmers outside.
Even the air is glittery ...sparkling with snow dust.

It catches me by surprise...the beauty of it all.
 And for a moment everything stops.
I am awestruck.

The holidays are difficult without the ones we love. Last year was.
But in its gradual way,  loss becomes a little easier to hold.
 Somehow our hearts become lighter.  Joyful even.
I don't understand it, but after loosing someone,
 being alive feels more precious. 

And moments of beauty, more deeply felt.
Perhaps it's because loss teaches us
that nothing lasts.
All we have is this moment.

Lately, I find myself whispering up to the trees,
to the birds,
 to the snow flakes...
thank you.

To be here in winter,
we must look for the gifts...
even the small ones.

So -to the rough skinned parsnips
for becoming your best,
your sweetest
during the cold
 thank you. 

Parsnips have come to be one of my favorite winter vegetables.
 They are considered a winter vegetable because their flavors are not fully developed
until the roots have been exposed to near-freezing temperatures
for 2 to 4 weeks in early winter.
They are a root vegetable, meaning they grow underground,
 like a carrot, similar in shape, but white in color. 

Their exterior is quite rough looking, and when you get past the superficial surface, there is something extraordinary about them.  They have a sweetness, an earthiness and a complexity that makes them interesting and memorable.  Kind of like my favorite people.

This soup is fairly easy to make, because you roast most of the ingredients in the oven....
and while this is happening, it gives you time to do other things.

Because Apples and onions roast at different speeds,  they are cut into different sizes to ensure they don't get over cooked, or undercooked. The apples are cut into big pieces because they will cook the fastest.

The onions are thinly sliced as well as the parsnips... they will help them cook faster.

Some may think this lazy, but I don't peel the parsnips for this recipe....I just scrub them well under running water. Since the soup will be blended anyway, the outer skin does not bother me too much, and in my mind, I believe I am getting more nutrients. This is not fact,  just something I choose to believe.

But consider this for a moment. Could it be possible that how we feel about food, might actually change the food itself ? It has been observed with water molecules by Dr Emoto, a Japanese researcher. His research shows that water molecules that receive positive feelings, words or intentions from people, actually change in their physical appearance. Its quite remarkable. If this intrigues you...you may find this interesting. Perhaps saying grace before dinner ...also makes it more nutritious. Just a thought.

Toss the apples, onions and parsnips in a bowl separately with a drizzle of olive oil and salt and pepper.

And place them on a parchment lined sheet pan in separate sections.
Place in a 400 F oven and set your timer for 30 mins. Remove the apples and let the onions and parsnips roast for 15-30 more minutes until they are fork tender.

Toast some hazelnuts in the oven as well...for 8-10 mins. Once cooled, crush them.
I put them in a zip lock bag and roll a rolling pin over them on the counter a few times.

Get your stock ready. I used Better than Bouillon Veggie Base. One Tablespoon mixed with 5 cups of water. You could use chicken stock as well.

Blend in batches with the rest of the ingredients...being careful not to fill the blender too high and making sure to hold down lid tight with a kitchen bowl. This will help prevent a messy explosion. 

Heat your blended soup on the stove top, sprinkle with crushed hazelnuts
 and a drizzle of hazelnut oil.

A roasted parsnip and apple soup with toasted hazelnuts

Prep time:
Cook time:
Total time: 60
Yield: 4


parsnips:1 ½ lbs

apples:2 med

onion:1 medium white

chicken or veggie stock:5 C

half and half:½ C

cardamon:½ teaspoon

white pepper:¼ teaspoon

Toasted hazelnuts:¼ C

hazelnut oil (optional) :1 teaspoon

Pre heat oven to 400 F

Cut apples into thick 1 inch wedges. ( its ok to leave skin on)
Wash and scrub parsnips. You can peel if you want to... but I leave the skin on. Slice into thin 1/4 inch slices.
Slice the onion into to 1/4 inch slices.
Line a baking sheet w/ parchment.
Toss apples in a med sized bowl with drizzle of olive oil and pinch of salt.
Place on one side of the baking sheet.
Toss Onions with olive oil and salt. place in the middle of the baking sheet.
Toss parsnips with olive oil and salt and place on the far side baking sheet....keeping them separate.

I do this because the apples will cook faster. You could use separate baking dishes if you want.

Place in the oven and check in 1/2 hour. Apples should be very soft, remove them. Mix the onions and parsnips and bake for another 15-30 mins until onions are translucent and parsnips are fork tender.

Blend apples, parsnips, onions in blender with stock and 1/2 and 1/2 in batches, being careful to hold the blender lid on tight with a kitchen towel. The heat will often cause the lid to fly off and create a huge mess. And always remember to start on low speed and then increase the speed gradually. Puree until smooth. I use a plastic spatula to scrape down the sides while the blender is going....this can be disastrous if you are not practiced....so be extremely careful. Place in soup pot over low heat. Add white pepper, cardamom, salt.

Pour into individual bowls and garnish with toasted crushed hazelnuts, a drizzle of hazelnut oil and a spring of thyme.

December 16, 2011

White Christmas Dream Drops

I happened to stumble upon the most beautiful vision. This month's cover of Sunset Magazine. There I beheld the most stunning picture of christmas cookies. White Christmas Dream Drops. Looking over the recipe, I was surprised at how easy it looked. Not only that, but recipe called for no butter or flour. It's pretty rare that you find a gluten free christmas cookie.  The recipe is also a "first place winner".  It all sounded so good.

December 10, 2011

Gift Ideas for Your Chef

Sometimes it can be challenging to find the perfect gift for the cook who has everything...
here are a few ideas to get you started.  Sometimes the best things are not always bright, shiny and new.  When I look around my kitchen, the things I love most are well used, worn in, handmade and handed down. 

 Vintage Cutting Boards

There are so many different styles...ultra modern to vintage.
Not only are they handy for cutting,
but make great platters for cheeses and cured meats.
Here are some of my favorites right now.

 Salt Boxes and Salt Bowls

vintage or new...

Great vintage salt boxes are a little hard to find...but if you are patient you can find them 
on Etsy, Ebay and sometimes at our local antique stores.

I just saw a couple at Pink yesterday behind the counter...they won't be there long.

new ones are great too.

Vintage Corkscrews

For the best vintage finds in Spokane visit....
Visit Pink (154 S. Madison),  Roost ( Main and Division) or Tossed and Found ( N. Monroe)

Finishing Salts

Last year my friend, Alison Collins, gave me a beautiful set of finishing salts that 
she put in old spice jars with handmade labels. Aren't they cute? 
Alison also makes incredible cakes and cupcakes. 
My favorite cupcakes are her vegan double chocolate chunk. 
These would make a nice gift too. 
To order her baked goods ....visit Boots Bakery .

The Kitchen Engine has a great salt bar with lots of selections ....as well as Rosauers and Super one. 

Salt sampler from terrrain

Salt from terrrain

 Wood bowls

I don't think I will ever have enough....
You do. Brian says.
He is reading over my shoulder.

I do have quite a few, I'll admit...but they are all so different.

A good friend Cheri and I are learning to carve wood bowls on a lathe.
It's super fun and very scary at the same time. Exhilarating.
I highly recommend it.

Dutch Ovens

 from The Kitchen Engine or Williams Sonoma

and retro Dutch Ovens from Etsy
Tres cool.

Mortar and Pestel...

used to grind seeds and spices and coarse salt.

Festive oven mittens and pot holders

Weck Canning Jars

The perfect way to preserve....
available at Crate and Barrel


Kitchen Chalkboards

 Planted Herbs 

It always nice to have something alive this time of year.

Our very own Traders Joe's has some potted Rosemary.

La Cloche Bread Baker

If your chef bakes bread......consider this.
 It makes bread crust, crusty. Available here.

and this Bread Book is amazing....

Treat your chef to a great bottle of wine every month.

Sign them up for the Wine of the month club at Vino!

A set of Spices from Dean and Deluca

Modern dishware and textiles from the Finnish Designers of  Marimekko

Marimekko Aprons

Kitchen timers

Kitchen Gadgets

Look around Williams Sonoma or the Kitchen Engine for the latest in kitchen gadgetry.


 dish towels from anthropologie

Cookbooks from Aunties Book Store

Caldrea counter spray,  hand soap, dish soap in my farovite....

Mandarin Vetiver
available at Lolo

Stylish French Press Covers from Coffee Coat Co.  

(I must confess, this is my little side business....)

 You could make a neat coffee basket with Doma Coffee from Lindamins.

Serving Pieces from CB2

Music to cook with

Here are a couple of my favorites right now...

Hope your holiday season is warm and sweet.