Wednesday, January 18, 2012

My Favorite Vegetable 1 - Parsnip Fries

Ever since I started my crazy bean diet, I have tried to find new and interesting ways to eat vegetables. After all, one can only eat so many baby carrots and steamed broccoli. As I made dinner tonight, which included one of my favorite new vegetables, I decided to write a series of posts highlighting my most-beloved ways of preparing them.

Enter . . . Parsnips.

I'm only slightly embarrassed to admit I had never had a parsnip before the bean diet. I'm not sure I would have even recognized one in a line-up if asked. So here is a picture of a parsnip, in case you wondered. Our local store, The Pig sells them pre-packaged in bags, usually containing 8-10 parsnips, perfect for feeding our family of 4.

I begin by peeling and cutting the parsnips into fries. Since they can be rather odd-shaped, thick at one end and itty-bitty skinny on the other, I usually quarter the thick end and only half the skinny end to keep them similar in size.

In a separate bowl (sorry no picture - who do you think I am? The Pioneer Woman?) mix 1/2 tsp. paprika, 1/2 tsp. garlic powder, 1/2 tsp. fresh ground pepper, 1 tsp. salt, and 1/8 tsp. cayenne pepper (less if you don't like much heat). To the spice mixture add 3 Tbsp. olive oil. 

Coat the parsnips with the spice and oil mixture and put in a 425 degree oven for 40 minutes, stirring every 15-20 minutes. In case you wondered, I had used some of the parsnips for another dish (this one!) and so my pile is a bit smaller than it would have been if I had used the whole bag.

When they are done, they will be crispy and slightly dark. That is okay. They taste sweet and spicy with the cayenne and are really good. Even my kids eat these up.

Try them some night as a side dish. You might be surprised, like I was, at how tasty they can be!

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

 Despite consistent failure, every year I make a list of resolutions. Some years it has only been one or two things which I want to focus on completing, and some years it is a full-on list of many decisions that I view would make my life better. For the last couple of years, I have worked more around a general theme that encompasses some of what I want to change.

In 2011, I wanted to Love More. For reasons I won't get into, I felt like I had spent the years before kind of in a state of withdrawal, partly because I had been hurt and partly because I had selfishly taken on too much in the name of serving God. I had been working myself into quite a state trying in my own power to do everything I thought God wanted or expected me to do. It took a good friend to remind me that Jesus told us His yoke is easy and His burden is light. And it didn't seem that way at the time, so Dan and I took a deliberate effort to slowly unwind those binding cords and focus on what we knew God had given us.

So, along came last year and after a good 12 months of stepping back, I really wanted to take one baby step forward. I wanted to actively love others, outside of my immediate family, since I felt like I had lacked in that area. But then I found out I was pregnant, and the endless Dr's appointments and subsequent surgeries and stays in the hospital (which Dan lovingly called our most expensive home) and bed rest helped push that goal completely out of my mind.
Then we lost Stephen and I was consumed with grief. And that focus took up most of the rest of the year. And while I won't say I'm no longer grieving, it is different now. Not quite as raw, the moments that I'm overtaken are further apart and shorter. Basically, I'm able to function now, quite normally, while still tending my aching heart and trying to help my children process the grief as well.

Then 2012 stared sneaking up on me. And I was back on the bandwagon of resolutions (exercise more, lose weight, read more, stay in contact with family better, etc. . . ) But I felt like 2011's theme was wasted. That I didn't really love anyone better last year. Once again, God sent a friend to remind me that even though last year didn't look a thing like I had planned, He was still working in me. And although my loving others didn't pan out like I had envisioned, He was growing in me love, and a desire to help those who are hurting and love the unlovely. He cultivated a new compassion, tender young sprout that it is, and He was faithful to bring me to His goals, without my direct involvement. And while I could wax eloquent about the theology behind "working out your own salvation with fear and trembling" I had certainly not given adequate emphasis on the "for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure." (Phil. 2:12-13)

So for this "make-a-list-and-stick-to-it" girl, it was exactly what I needed to learn in 2011. 

Sunday, January 08, 2012

Beef Stew with Molasses and Raisins

Quite possibly the best thing I have ever eaten. And I'm not exaggerating . . .

Beef Stew with Molasses and Raisins

1/3 c. flour
2 tsp salt, divided
1 1/2 tsp pepper, divided
2 lbs beef stew meat, cut into 1 1/2 in pieces
5 Tbs oil, divided
2 medium onions, sliced
1 can diced tomatoes, drained
1 cup beef broth
3 Tbs molasses
2 Tbs cider vinegar
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 tsp dried thyme
1 tsp celery salt
1 bay leaf
8 oz baby carrots, cut in half lengthwise
2 parsnips, diced
1/3 c. golden raisins

1. Combine flour, 1 1/2 teaspoons salt and 1 teaspoon pepper in large bowl. Toss meat in flour mixture. Heat 2 Tbs oil in large skillet or Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add half of beef and brown on all sides. Set aside browned beef and repeat with 2 additional tablespoons oil and remaining beef.

2. Add remaining 1 Tbs oil to skillet. Add onions and cook 5 minutes, stirring to scrape up any browned bits. Add tomatoes, broth, molasses, vinegar, garlic, thyme, celery salt, bay leaf and remaining beef and boil 1 minute.

3. Transfer mixture to Crock pot. Cover, cook on low 5 hours or on High 2 1/2 hours. Add carrots, parsnips and raisins. Cook 1 to 2 hours longer or until vegetables are tender. Remove and discard bay leaf.

*My Modifications: I didn't have diced tomatoes, so I used a large can of whole tomatoes and cut them up, but added the juice also. I probably added another 1/2 cup broth, because I wanted it with a bit more juice, and I didn't add the celery salt because I didn't have any.

Also, I did all of this in my dutch oven and put it in a 300 degree oven (even added the vegetables right away) and let it cook for about 3 1/2 - 4 hours.

It was perfectly divine. Definitely 5 stars on this one!