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.

Spicy Peanut Noodles

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Spicy Peanut Noodles are my go-to recipe when I need to bring a dish to share at a potluck or cookout or some other gathering that involves people coming together with food to share. Except when I bring dessert. Which is pretty much always because I do not go to a whole lot of get-togethers that do not involve people I know quite well, and those people prefer I bring dessert.

At least I think they do. Maybe next time I will bring these noodles and find out if they like me for who I am or are using me for my cookies.

I suppose I turn to spicy peanut noodles for gathering occasions since it was at one such occasion when they were introduced to me. Three years ago, my sister and I threw our parents a surprise party to celebrate their 40th anniversary. Our family friend Bert introduced the party goers to these noodles, and I have loved them ever since. They give my other party favorite, Sweet & Crunchy Slaw, a run for their money.

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More recently, I brought this dish to a potluck picnic with a new group of people. Given those people were Charlotte food bloggers, I was nervous curious about what they would think. I am happy to report the noodles were a hit, as was every single thing there. I like this thing that happens when food bloggers get together! Check them out:

I guarantee you will find some great recipes, amusing stories and pretty photos along the way. Enjoy!

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Spicy Peanut Noodles
Serves: 4
  • 8 oz. spaghetti or angel hair pasta
  • ¼ cup good quality oil such as olive or sesame
  • ½ teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 3 tablespoons honey
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ¼ cup cilantro, chopped
  • ¼ cup roasted peanuts, chopped
  • ¼ cup green onions, minced
  • sesame seeds, for garnish
  1. Bring the pasta to a boil in a pot of salted water.
  2. While the pasta cooks, stir together the oil and red pepper flakes in a saucepan over medium heat. Allow the red pepper to infuse the oil for about two minutes.
  3. Stir in the honey, soy sauce and salt until dissolved, then set this dressing aside.
  4. Once the pasta is cooked and drained, place it in a bowl and add the dressing.
  5. Stir or toss to combine, then cover and refrigerate at least four hours, preferably overnight.
  6. Immediately before serving, stir in the cilantro, peanuts and green onion.
  7. Sprinkle with sesame seeds to garnish.
This recipe is easily doubled to use a full 16 oz. box of noodles. The cilantro, peanut and green onion measurements are not set in stone, so feel free to add more or less depending on your preferences.

Spicy Peanut Butter Cookies with Dukka

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I had high hopes the weekend would provide something of interest to write about, but as I sit down with this post at 10 p.m. on Sunday, I have nothing. Unless you want to hear about the four hours I spent at the auto shop, the next four hours I spent reading the last third of The Orphan Master’s Son, and the multi-episode Game of Thrones bender I went on yesterday. I followed Saturday up by making tremendous messes in the kitchen today. So, I may not have anything to write about, but at least you shall have some recipes!

This recipe for spicy peanut butter cookies with dukka (also known as dukkah) is actually a carry over from last weekend. The reasons it caught my eye are two-fold. I loved the idea of a spicy peanut butter cookie, and I had no idea what dukka was. I have since learned it is a mixture of nuts, seeds and spices with origins in Middle Eastern dishes.

For this cookie, the dukka is comprised of peanuts, sesame seeds, cumin and coriander. In terms of nuts and seeds, there is quite a bit of variation out there, but the use of coriander and cumin seems consistent across the board.

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These cookies are not at all like the chewy peanut butter cookie I am used to. They have an almost cracker-like texture, and they sort of melt in your mouth after the first bite. I was not so sure about them, but when I shared, they received positive reviews.

As it is written below, the recipe yielded double the peanut dukka I needed. You could try to halve it as best as possible, or simply use the leftovers to amp up the flavor of hummus or other dips and sauces. Though I would not recommend it with the peanut variety, a number of people have indicated dukka is a great spice mixture to sprinkle over eggs. This variety might pair better with popcorn or flatbread instead.

One of my favorite dukka ideas is to toss it with roasted vegetables. That recipe, and four more, are available via this blog post from The New York Times. Or you could just make more cookies. Enjoy!

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Spicy Peanut Butter Cookies with Dukka
  • For the Peanut Dukka
  • 3 tablespoons white sesame seeds
  • 1½ teaspoons cumin
  • 1 teaspoon coriander
  • ¾ cup roasted peanuts
  • 1 teaspoon Hungarian paprika
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • For the Cookies
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ½ to 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1½ cups creamy peanut butter
  • ¼ cup unsalted butter
  • 2 tablespoons light brown sugar, packed
  • 2 large eggs
  1. To prepare the dukka, combine the three types of seeds in a skillet over medium heat and toast until the sesame seeds are lightly browned and the seeds are aromatic, about 2-3 minutes.
  2. Transfer the mixture to a food processor and pulse a few times to partially grind the seeds.
  3. Add the peanuts and pulse a few times more until they are finely chopped and well blended with the seeds. Take care not to over process into a paste.
  4. Finally, add the paprika and salt and pulse a final few times to blend.
  5. Transfer the mixture to a shallow bowl and set aside.
  6. To prepare the cookies, whisk together the flour, baking soda, salt and red pepper flakes in a medium bowl.
  7. In a large bowl, stir together the peanut butter, butter and brown sugar.
  8. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, until well blended.
  9. Add half of the flour mixture to the peanut butter mixture and stir until combined, then stir in the remaining flour mixture and stir until well incorporated and a smooth dough forms.
  10. Roll a tablespoon of dough between your palms to form a ball, then roll the ball in the dukka to evenly coat. Repeat until all of the dough has been used.
  11. Place the coated dough balls onto parchment-lined baking sheets, keeping about two inches of space between each dough ball.
  12. Lightly press the balls with the bottom of a glass to flatten. Twisting the glass as you pull up from the dough will help it to relase from the cookies.
  13. Bake at 350 F until the cookies are firm to the touch, about 20 minutes.
  14. Allow to cool on the baking sheets for a few minutes before transferring to a wire rack to finish cooling.