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Parsnip Spice Cupcakes with Maple Frosting

March 2014 006 Edited Parsnip Spice Cupcakes with Maple Frosting

March. That time of year when spring tries to break through but can’t quite out muscle winter just yet. I think Dickens described it best: “It was one of those March days when the sun shines hot and the wind blows cold: when it is summer in the light, and winter in the shade.”

Said with less eloquence: March is a tease. I can shiver through a morning in a hooded sweatshirt and follow it up by a jog in shorts and a t-shirt. Nothing thrills me more than bright yellow daffodils blooming and warming up the landscape, but most everything else stays stubbornly brown.

March can’t make up its mind, and in some ways, neither can I. Don’t get me wrong; I am ready for warm spring days and light in the sky past 6 p.m.  But I am not quite ready to give up the two things I enjoy about winter (can “enjoy about winter” qualify as an oxymoron?).

March 2014 045 Edited Parsnip Spice Cupcakes with Maple Frosting

Those two things I enjoy are dark beer and parsnips. I relegate parsnips to winter list since I pay them no mind after the cold months where roasted root vegetables are the in-season choice. Unless someone starts selling bags of prepared parsnips like baby carrots, they probably have a good three weeks of kitchen life left until I remember them again come November.

Fortunately, I have found a new way to enjoy parsnips via this spice cake recipe. Carrot cake is one of my favorite desserts, so it was really no surprise that I liked this parsnip cake too. The spice cakes are so incredibly similar that I don’t know that I would be able to tell them apart in a blind taste test. Which may beg the question, why bother with the parsnips in the first place?

I don’t know. Because it’s fun to cook and bake with something different every once in a while. Or it’s a pleasure to find a new way to use something I love (parsnips) in a way (baking a cake) that I love. So until spring arrives, I’ll pair them with a few dark beers.  Enjoy!

March 2014 020 Edited Parsnip Spice Cupcakes with Maple Frosting

Parsnip Spice Cupcakes with Maple Frosting
Serves: 16
  • For the Cupcakes
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 tablespoon ground coriander
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup vegetable oil
  • 1⅓ cups granulated sugar
  • ½ cup unsalted butter, melted
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 3 large eggs
  • 2 cups (peeled and) grated parsnips (from 4 to 6 parsnips)
  • For the Frosting
  • 4 tablespoons butter, softened
  • 4 ounces cream cheese, softened
  • 5 tablespoons confectioners’ sugar
  • ¼ cup maple syrup
  • ¼ cup chopped walnuts
  1. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, coriander, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt. Set aside.
  2. In a large bowl, whisk together the oil, sugar, melted butter and vanilla.
  3. Whisk the eggs, one at a time, into the large bowl of wet ingredients.
  4. Next stir the dry flour mixture into the wet ingredients until combined.
  5. Fold in the grated parsnips.
  6. Spoon the batter nearly to the top of each well of a paper-lined muffin tin.
  7. Bake at 350 degrees F for 20-25 minutes; a toothpick inserted into the center of a cupcake will come out clean.
  8. While the cupcakes cool, prepare the frosting.
  9. Beat the butter and cream cheese until smooth.
  10. Sift in the confectioners’ sugar (always sift to remove lumps) and continue to beat until smooth.
  11. Add the maple syrup and whip until well combined.
  12. Dollop the frosting onto cooled cupcakes, then immediately sprinkle with walnuts to garnish.
Some parsnips have a tough, woody core. (These cores remind me a lot of stringy ginger.) To avoid using this part of the parsnip in the cake, grate the side of the parsnip until you hit the core (it will get tougher to grate once you hit it). Keep grating along the sides, as opposed to holding the parsnip perpendicular to the grater, until you have the two cups you need.


Cherry Chocolate Cookies

Cookies February 2 082 Edited Cherry Chocolate Cookies

I would love to explain my absence by saying I have been sailing around the Caribbean. Or visiting the islands of the South Pacific. But no, I have been here all along. Watching my website crash (literally) and burn. But I think it’s back.

The website circling the drain was just part of the glory of the past three weeks. Somebody tried to steal my credit card. The hot water heater conked out. And of the 2o buildings that make up the complex I call home, only the exterior lights on my building have decided not to flicker on this week. At some point, all you can do is laugh.

Cookies February 2 099 Edited Cherry Chocolate Cookies

And wonder what the heck is going on. I had no sooner said just that when it came to my attention that I could blame it all on Mercury retrograde. With that explanation in hand, everything felt normal again. Which should probably say something (not flattering, I am sure) in and of itself.

The good news is we are down to less than 12 hours. At 9 a.m. tomorrow morning, Mercury turns direct. Even more good news is the oven never quit working, so I’ve got cookies. These rich chocolate cookies are studded with sweet dried cherries and chocolate chunks.  Just the combination to provide a little pick-me-up when nothing else seems to be going right. Enjoy!

Cookies February 2 093 Edited Cherry Chocolate Cookies


5.0 from 1 reviews

Cherry Chocolate Cookies
Serves: approx. 26 cookies
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • ½ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ½ cup butter, softened
  • 1½ cups light brown sugar, packed
  • 2 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup dried cherries
  • 1 cup bittersweet chocolate chips or chunks
  1. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda and salt; set aside
  2. In a mixing bowl, cream the butter and sugar together for one minute.
  3. Add the eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each addition, followed by the vanilla.
  4. Slowly add the dry ingredients to the mixing bowl and mix until just combined.
  5. Fold in the cherries and chocolate until dispersed throughout the dough.
  6. Drop the dough by rounded tablespoons onto parchment-lined baking sheets.
  7. Bake at 375 degrees F for 10 to 14 minutes. The edges will be set but the centers will be soft when done.


Winter Salad

Winter Salad 014 Edited Winter Salad

A lot of people like snow. I find it to be an unnecessary freezing of water. ― Carl Reiner

That sounds about right. I can appreciate winter – nature needs to take a nap, humans (apparently) need to experience the cold so we appreciate  warmth –  but why does it have to stick around for so long?

I am quite confident in my ability to appreciate warmer temperatures, landscapes colored with shades beyond white and brown, and light in the sky past the end of work day.

Two weeks of such nonsense should do it. In fact, I will go so far as to accept winter throughout the entire month of December and January 1. Come January 2, things better start to shape up.

Winter Salad 031 Edited Winter Salad

I say this on the heels of thoroughly enjoying approximately eight inches of snow over the past two days. I love how quiet it gets when it snows, and how it brings the oftentimes meaningless hustle and bustle of daily lives to a stop for a moment.

I can also pause to fully revel in the snow because instead of four or more months of the crap, I live where temperatures will be in the 60s within one week.

In the meantime, I will settle for a winter salad. Roasted root vegetables and few bites of fruit top a bed of fresh spinach. Add warm bacon and goat cheese and ordinarily blah vegetables turn into a meal I look forward to. Enjoy!

No winter lasts forever; no spring skips its turn. ― Hal Borland

Winter Salad 029 Edited Winter Salad

Winter Salad
  • For the Salad
  • 4 carrots
  • 2 parsnips
  • 2 apples
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3 slices thick-cut bacon
  • 2 tablespoons crumbled goat cheese
  • 2 tablespoons dried cranberries
  • 4 cups spinach
  • For the Dressing
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
  1. Peel the carrots and parsnips, then chop or slice as desired. Do the same for the apples, leaving the peel on if desired.
  2. Place the prepared vegetables and apples in a large bowl and toss with the olive oil and a dash of salt.
  3. Spread the mixture across a baking sheet and place in an oven heated to 400 degrees F. Roast for 35-45 minutes until the vegetables are tender. (Stirring the vegetables from time to time is okay, although the apples will crumble if moved too often).
  4. While the vegetables and apples are roasting, cook the bacon until crisp. Drain the grease and, when cool enough to handle, cut into bite-size pieces.
  5. Divide the spinach across two plates. Top with the roasted vegetables, bacon, goat cheese and cranberries.
  6. Dress with the olive oil and vinegar.
Optional additions: roasted beets and sunflower seeds.