Thankfulness Brings Increase + Parsnip Carrot Cake Oats



I cozied up with the first of the year baking dense loaves of rustic pumpkin + rosemary bread and drinking a good, strong pot of tea. I had a plan to identify main themes from the old year and move forward with a new vision and sense of putting 2014’s dis-ease to rest.


Though I know it’s not so simple as wiping the slate clean on New Year’s Eve and waking up in the new year free from the baggage that has accumulated, the introspective process of looking back at the bigger picture of the year helps me move foward into the new. From this practice, one particular message from Ryan Hall, an elite runner I follow, came to the surface and has since been floating around my consciousness. Nearly a year ago, Ryan shared about thankfulness, being thankful for what you have in the moment.


I can measure 2014 by the swinging polarity between connected and dis-connectedness, of being ready for life’s battles and feeling broken down and unworthy. I’ve often felt a sense of discontent, not-enough-ness, of missing out on living, especially when I look to social media. These feelings of inadequacy have been a catalyst for many negative behaviors in the past, and they were certainly a theme that stands out this past year.




On Thursday past, I was looking to shed light on what I can achieve in this new year to be more satisfied, to measure up. Instead, Ryan’s words came back and reminded me of what I can be. This winter season is one for filtering out the clutter, the noise, the comparing and measuring, to simply be thankful. What I have to offer–what I bring with me into 2015 that is less than I thought it should be by now–is exactly what I can be thankful for in the present.


When I get quiet, I know my truth is that everything I need will be provided at exactly the right time. There will be room for big achievements and worthy mountains to climb in the coming months. But for now, I am focusing my energy on looking for the good in each situation. This year, I plan to live more fully by Ryan’s words. Thankfulness brings Increase.




Parsnip Carrot Cake Oats, serves 1-2

We began the new year with a baked-version of these oats, but this is the one I’ve been making lately. It smells like the holidays are still with us, with the addition of spices and orange peel, but tastes oh-so-January with the hearty duo of carrots and parsnips. Use any type of oats. Sometimes I mix in a combination of old-fashioned and Scottish-style. Old-fashioned oats can be ground semi-fine with a coffee grinder or food processor to achieve the Scottish style consistency. 

1 1/2 cups water
1/8 tsp. salt
⅛ tsp. cinnamon
⅛ tsp. ginger
Pinch of nutmeg
1 small carrot (50 g), finely shredded
1 small parsnip (50 g), finely shredded
1/4 cup raisins or dates
3/4 cup old-fashioned oats 
orange zest
1-2 Tbs. ground flax seed

  1. On the stovetop, put the water, salt, spices, raisins, and shredded roots in a small saucepan and bring to a boil.
  2. Once it comes to a boil, turn down to medium and let cook until it is soft and nearly all the water has been absorbed, about ten to fifteen minutes.
  3. Take off the heat, and zest about 1/3  of an orange over the mixture. Stir in the ground flax.

Carrot-Parsnip Easter Cakes with Orange Cream Cheese Frosting

Last week, I had a pleasant surprise.  When teaching my young garden recruits, I had them taste parsnips at the end of the lesson.  We try to taste a seasonal vegetable each time we meet.  Since spring is so very late this year, and if we were truly eating locally, we’d be eating parsnips and wild nettles and very little else, I thought this would be a great new vegetable for my kids to try.  I didn’t expect the results.  Because I’m not a great fan of parsnips in their natural form, I figured my little munchkins wouldn’t be either.  Boy was I wrong!  I fried up some thinly sliced parsnip crisps and sprinkled them with a nice bit of salt and then brought along some raw parsnips to compare.  In two different groups, there was an astounding preference for the raw ones!  I was not only amazed but quite proud, since I really don’t want to encourage fried food amongst my young group!

While we’ve been eating quite a bit of parsnips these last few weeks, turning them into carrot-parsnip mini-cakes has got to be the best arrangement yet!  These are perfect for your Easter festivities, assuming you’ve forgotten to plan ahead today! If not, it’s still spring, and our greens are a bit behind, so go–try some parsnips.  I bet you’ve been missing out.

Carrot-Parsnip Mini-Cakes with Orange Cream Cheese Frosting, adapted from Dishing Up Oregon
Makes 5 jumbo size mini-cakes or about 10 regular mini-cakes.
1/2 cup raisins
1 1/2 Tbs. white or dark rum
1 cup whole-grain gluten free flour mix (or 1 cup whole-wheat pastry flour)
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. xanthan gum (omit if not making gluten-free)
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp. ground nutmeg
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/4 plus 2 Tbs. grapeseed or canola oil
2 eggs or 2 flax eggs
1/4 cup unsweetened applesauce
1/2 tsp. pure vanilla extract
3/4 cup finely grated peeled carrots (about 2 medium)
3/4 cup finely grated peeled parsnips (about 2 medium)
Orange Cream Cheese Frosting
4 ounces cream cheese
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 1/2 cups powdered sugar
1/2 tsp. pure vanilla extract
1/2 tsp. orange zest
1-2 tablespoons orange juice
  • Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.  Line five jumbo muffin tins.
  • Combine the raisins and the rum in a microwave-safe bowl.  Cover the bowl and microwave the raisins for about 30 seconds.  Uncover and set aside to cool.
  • Sift the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, xanthan gum, cinnamon, and nutmeg together in a medium bowl.
  • Beat the brown sugar and grapeseed oil together on medium speed in the bowl of an electric mixer.  Add the eggs, one at a time.  Mix in the applesauce and vanilla.  Mix in the flour mixture, scraping down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula as needed.
  • Fold in the carrots, parsnips, and 2/3 of the raisins until combined.  Fill the prepared muffin tins 3/4 full.  Bake until they are golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean, about 30 minutes.
  • Remove the cakes from the oven and cool slightly before removing from tin.  Set aside on a cooling rack to cool completely.
  • For the frosting:  Blend the cream cheese and butter in a medium bowl on medium speed. Mix in the vanilla, orange zest and one tablespoon orange juice.  Sift in the powdered sugar, beginning with 1 1/2 cups.  Add more as needed to reach desired consistency.  Add remaining tablespoon orange juice as needed.
  • Ice using a decorating tip or knife.  Top each cake with remaining raisins if desired, just prior to serving.
My Whole-Grain Gluten Free Flour Mix
2oo grams brown rice flour
200 grams millet flour
200 grams sorghum flour
100 grams buckwheat flour
150 grams tapioca starch
150 grams arrowroot starch
  • Sift all the flours together.  Use 1 cup for this recipe and save the remaining for other uses.

Celebrate St. Patrick’s Day with Shepherd’s Pie

I’ve always been a big fan of St. Patrick’s Day.  Chalk it up to green being my favorite color since the beginning of time (hello emerald birthstone), my bright orange hair, and seriously Irish last name.  Then there was the actual living in Dublin for study abroad and then summer internship.  I’d like to say I’ve gotten familiar with the cuisine–and the St. Patrick’s celebrations that go on there versus here (hint:  we Americans like an excuse to throw a big party).

Though a great deal of people think first of Corned Beef and Cabbage when it comes to traditional Irish food (which you’d be hard-pressed t0 actually find in Ireland these days), I’d like to introduce  you to one of our true favorites–Shepherd’s Pie.  This is an awesome end-of-winter comfort food and a g0-to for myself and W when we are feeling the need to use up extra ground beef.  Truly, we eat it all the time and it’s always special.  Perhaps because our version showcases a few of W’s favorite ingredients–in a pie (okay not a true pie, but still).

Though our version wouldn’t exactly be in the way of the traditional form (not a big fan of eating lamb here), and we like to stir in lots of extra vegetables, I’d have to say we truly enjoy this version better than those you’d find in a standard Irish pub.  Serve it up with some nice Irish Cider–or Guinness, if that’s your style.  Sláinte!

Shepherd’s Pie
For the Topping:
1 pound potatoes, peeled and chopped, (about 1 large potato)
3 oz. parsnips (about 1 large), peeled and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1/2 cup plain yogurt or any type of milk
salt and freshly ground pepper
For the Filling:
Drizzle of extra-virgin olive oil
1 medium onion, finely chopped
2 stalks celery, finely chopped
2 medium carrots, finely chopped
1 cup chopped shiitake mushrooms
1 garlic clove, minced
1 pound ground beef
1 tsp. dried thyme
rounded 1/4 tsp. chili powder
1 heaping Tbs. potato or arrowroot starch
1 cup frozen peas
salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Make the topping:  Bring potatoes and parsnip to a boil in a medium pot, covered with water.  Cook until tender, about 20 minutes.  Drain, reserving 1 cup of potato liquid. Mash the potatoes and parsnips and stir in the yogurt or milk along with about 1/4 teaspoon salt. Season with pepper.
  • Make the filling: Heat the oil in a skillet over medium heat. Cook onion, celery, carrots, garlic, and mushrooms, stirring until tender, about 10 minutes.
  • Add the ground beef. Cook, breaking up any large pieces, for about 5 minutes. Stir in 3/4 tsp. salt, the thyme, chili powder, and then season with pepper.
  • Whisk together the potato starch separately in a small amount of cold water. Then stir it along with the reserved potato liquid into the beef and veg mixture. Boil for about a minute and then stir in the peas.
  • Transfer the filling to a 2-quart baking dish and top with the mashed potatoes and parsnips.  Bake until bubbling and the top is beginning to brown; about 35 minutes.