Monday, March 12, 2012

Parsnip Parmesan Bread

I'm currently having a another revival of my Delia Smith books. For those not in the UK, I've written about the TV chef I grew up watching before, but this time round I'm obsessed with her breads in "How to cook book 1". She has a couple of interesting breads; one using potatoes and the other parsnips. Her recipes really are pretty much foolproof; she pays good attention to detail to ensure the end product really does look (and hopefully taste) like hers.

With bread in mind, I got some fresh parsnips at my local farmers market; my town of Suffern is having a fabulous monthly winter market.  I love parsnips but the supermarket ones are usually bendy and thoroughly unappetizing, so I happily snapped up a couple of lbs of the fresh ones.

In addition to the bread, I was planning on making a fantastic parsnip gratin with some of them.  That will have to wait, as my husband and I  enjoyed the bread so much that I made it twice, the second time doubling the recipe. No parsnip gratin this weekend.

As an aside, my kids are not so fond of this bread.; it's got quite an assertive flavor for a 3 year old. I did try the hard sell on "cheesy bread"; it oozes parmesan goodness when still warm, but still "no thank you" was the response. Onwards in my veggie eating quest.

I have changed a few things about this recipe as usual; Delia recommends sage in this recipe but I was all out so I added Dijon mustard. No regrets, although the sage would be delicious. I also subbed in some wholewheat flour and found it needed more milk than her recipe.

Parmesan Parsnip Bread


3/4 cup /4oz self rising flour (see below)
3/4 cup/ 4oz whole wheat pastry flour or white whole wheat flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
6oz peeled and grated parsnips
2 oz Parmesan cheese roughly chopped into 1/4 " cubes
3 tablespoons milk
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard


  1. Preheat the oven to 375
  2. In a large bowl, whisk together the flours salt and baking powder 
  3. Add the parsnips and toss together ( I find clean hands work best) 
  4. Toss in the cheese and mix again 
  5. In a medium bowl, lightly beat together the eggs, milk and mustard 
  6. Add the egg mixture to the flour.
  7. Mix until just combined; Delia suggests using a pallet knife, I use my hands but with a light touch
  8. The dough will be loose and sticky, if it seems too dry (such as in the winter here) add another tablespoon of milk 
  9. Form the dough into a ball and place on a floured baking sheet or pizza pallet 
  10. Flatten the ball into a disc approx 6" diameter 
  11. Cut a cross on the top and place the bread in the oven 
  12. Bake for about 50 mins or until golden on top 
  13. Cool on a wire rack and serve

I love this with soup or a creamy cheese and sliced apples or pears.

Tips on this recipe:
Don't have self rising flour? For each cup of regular all purpose flour add
1  1/2 teaspoons baking powder and 1/2 teaspoon salt. In this recipe where only 3/4 cup self rising flour is required, I would add 1 teaspoon baking powder, 1/4 teaspoon salt to a scant 3/4 cup all purpose flour.


Monday, March 5, 2012

Healthier Chocolate Chip Cookie Bars

Healthier Chocolate Chip Cookie Bars
(with cranberries)
I was reflecting on my posts from this time last year and unsurprisingly my thoughts are moving in a similar direction; panic about what the winter months have done to my waistline. How on earth will I fit in my summer clothes without too closely resembling the muffins I make?

So, when it came time for my monthly girls get together, and therefore another excuse for me to bake, I chose to take the high road. I pulled out my Food and Wine Magazine, March 2011 issue and there was the perfect healthier recipe. It hit all my requirements; wholesome and yet totally quick and easy.

The cookies do have some butter for flavor but also a little canola oil, plus they are made entirely with whole wheat pastry flour. If you can't get that, I would suggest white whole wheat flour or half and half regular flour with regular whole wheat flour. You can choose to bake them as bars (as I did) or cookies (a little more time than I had available). The original recipe calls for toasted chopped pecans in addition to the chocolate chips but I didn't have any so added some cranberries.

My guinea pig buddies were enthusiastic and the recipe was requested; a good sign of success I think. They are really quite like a blondie with an extra bite.

Healthier Chocolate Chip Cookie Bars


4 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
2 tablespoons canola oil
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons light brown sugar
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 large egg
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups whole wheat pastry flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup dark chocolate chips (I used 60%)
1/2 cup cranberries 


  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F
  2. Butter a 9 x 13" baking pan then line with parchment paper
  3. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda and salt. Set aside
  4. Using your mixer, beat the butter, oil and sugar until creamy
  5. Add the egg and vanilla and beat again until smooth
  6. With the mixer on low speed, beat in the dry ingredients until just incorporated
  7. Finally add the chocolate chips and beat on low again until just mixed
  8. Turn the dough out into the baking pan and smooth out the top evenly using a spatula 
  9. Place the baking try in the oven and bake for about 18-20 minutes or until golden and just set in the center
  10. Cool the bars in the pan and then lift them out onto a cutting board
  11. Peel away the parchment from the sides and cut into squares
Alternative substitutions that I think would be tasty: 
  • white chocolate chips and chopped dried apricots
  • Dark chocolate chips and cherries
You could successfully freeze the cookies in the pan prior to baking (if well wrapped) or after baking. After baking I would not cut them, leave them as a slab and triple wrap in cling film.


Saturday, March 3, 2012

Pea and Broccoli Soup

Pea and Broccoli Soup

My husband's parents recently visited us from Scotland. Actually they were at the end of an enviable round the world trip so were full of great stories. My Mother in law makes a great soup, so I immediately put her on soup duty while staying with us. She did not disappoint.

After they left and inspired by her, I resolved to make soups more often. My little one who is extremely veggie averse, will often eat a soup. It needs to be pureed into an orangy red color though... This one unfortunately doesn't meet her requirements but is nevertheless a delicious soup. It's creamy and smooth, hearty and healthy. I loved it, my older daughter enjoyed it and my husband could not get enough.

In was in "use it up" mode when I made this soup; I had a small amount of split peas needing finished, broccoli reaching the end of it's life and half a carton of veg broth needing used up. Here it what happened:

Pea and Broccoli Soup


1 medium onion chopped finely
3 cloves garlic, minced or chopped finely
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 pinches dried thyme (or fresh if you have it)
3/4 cup split peas
3 small heads of broccoli chopped into small florets and stems chopped
1 1/2 quart/ approx 1 1/2 litres broth/stock ( I used half chicken half veg broth)


  1. Heat the olive oil in a large soup pot on medium heat 
  2. Add the onions and garlic and reduce to medium/low for approx 15 mins 
  3. Cook the onions until softened and translucent not caramelized 
  4. Stir in the thyme and cook a further couple of minutes 
  5. Add the broth and split peas and bring to a boil 
  6. Reduce to a simmer and cover for approx 15 minutes 
  7. Add the broccoli and simmer a further 10 minutes or until everything is soft 
  8. Adjust seasoning as needed the puree the soup

This soup has a creamy almost cheesy note to it, but if it's not hitting the spot, crumble either feta or goats cheese on top.