Chicken Noodle Soup with Parsnips and Dill

I don’t need an excuse to make soup. But a friend of mine gave me a good reason this week. He passed on some parsnips that he grew in his garden last summer and that he dug this spring.

So, with a bag full of the vegetable that looks like a carrot except that it is yellow instead of orange, I proceeded to look for a recipe. What I came up with was chicken noodle soup recipe that also includes carrots. The result was quite yummy.

And on a day that comes on the heels of snow on May 1, it’s just what the doctor ordered to warm the body and the soul.

Chicken Noodle Soup with Parsnips and Dill
1½ quart canned low-sodium chicken broth or homemade stock
1 onion, chopped
4 carrots, halved lengthwise and cut crosswise into 1-inch pieces
4 parsnips, halved lengthwise and cut crosswise into 1-inch pieces
1½  teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon(s) fresh-ground black pepper
1  pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts (about 3)
1  cup wide egg noodles (about 2 ounces)
¼ cup chopped fresh dill
¼ cup chopped fresh parsley (optional)
In a large pot, combine the broth, onion, carrots, parsnips, salt and pepper and bring to a simmer. Add the chicken breasts to the pot and simmer until just done, about 10 minutes. Remove the chicken; bring the soup back to a simmer. When the chicken breasts are cool enough to handle, cut them into bite-size pieces.
Meanwhile, stir the noodles into the soup. Simmer until the vegetables are tender and the noodles are done, about 5 minutes. Return the chicken pieces to the pot and then stir in the dill and the parsley.
Yield: Serves 4.

Vegetable Soup

I haven’t planted a seed yet this spring, but my gardening already has started, and with it, the first pot of soup with fresh vegetables.

How’s that, you say?

Well, for the third straight year, I left a row of parsnips in my garden over the winter. And just like the first two crops, this spring’s bounty was nothing short of spectacular.

I harvested enough parsnips for a couple of meals (they’re great sliced and fried in a little butter, seasoned with salt and pepper) and about a half-dozen bags (vacuumed sealed) that wento into the freezer.

And then, there’s the soup. Along with the fresh parsnips, I added some carrots, an onion, a couple of stalks of celery, a handful of pearled barley, a bag of frozen green beans, about 8 to 10 cups of broth, a pint of homemade tomato juice and a few tablespoons of tomato paste.

The result was really delicious, and it proves the point that you don’t need meat to make a good soup.

As many of my friends and readers know, I’m kind of a soup nut. I usually make a pot at least once a week, even when the weather turns warmer. I’m lucky to be able to go home for lunch, and having a bowl of soup is a great way to stay on the straight and narrow if you’re trying to maintain your weight.

I’ve recently come across a couple of other soup recipes that look pretty tasty. One — Italian Harvest Vegetable Soup — is from a publication called Delicious Living, which is available at must Hugo’s supermarkets. The other — Spicy Sweet Potato and Black Bean Soup — was on one of our wire service’s Web site.

Both are loaded with colorful vegetables, which means they’re also loaded with vitamins and minerals.

Italian Harvest Vegetable Soup
2 cups chopped celery (4 to 5 stalks)
2 larges carrots, peeled
1 large sweet onion, such as Vidalia or Walla Walla
2 tablespoons organic canola or safflower oil
4 medium cloves garlic, minced
½ red bell pepper, sliced into ½-inch strips
½ green or yellow bell pepper, sliced into ½-inch strips
6 cups water
1 28-ounce can diced San Marzano or fire-roasted tomatoes, undrained
1 cup fresh or frozen and thawed corn kernels
1 cup chopped fresh fennel bulb (1 small bulb) or 1 teaspoon whole fennel seed
1 teaspoon dried oregano
½ teaspoon dried thyme
½ teaspoon dried rosemary
4 to 5 ounces fresh baby spinach leaves, roughly chopped
1 small zucchini, sliced into ½-inch pieces
Chop celery, carrots and onion into ½-inch dice
Heat oil on medium-high in a large, heavy-bottom pot. Add carrots, celery and onion. Saute until edges are golden brown, about 10 minutes. Reduce heat to medium and add garlic and bell peppers. Stir frequently for 1 to 2 minutes, then add water, tomatoes, corn, fennel, oregano, thyme and rosemary. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer 30 to 40 minutes. Add spinach and zucchini, simmer another 5 minutes, salt and pepper to tasted and serve.
Yield: Serves 8.
Approximate nutritional analysis per serving: 101 calories, 33 percent of calories from fat, 4 grams fat (no saturated), no cholesterol, 3 grams protein, 15 grams carbohydrates, 273 milligrams sodium.

Spicy Sweet Potato and Black Bean Soup
1 teaspoon canola oil
1 sweet yellow onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 red pepper, chopped
1 carrot, chopped
1 medium sweet potato, peeled and chopped
1 cup frozen corn
1 14½-ounce can no-salt-added whole tomatoes
1 14½-ounce can fat-free, reduced sodium chicken broth
2 cups water
½ teaspoon pepper
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon cayenne
1 15-ounce can black beans, rinsed and drained
Heat oil in Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add onion, garlic, red pepper and carrot and cook, stirring frequently, until vegetables are tender. Stir in sweet potato and corn.
Drain tomatoes, reserving juice. Chop tomatoes. Add tomatoes and reserved juice to soup.
Stir in broth, water, pepper, salt and cayenne. Heat to a boil, reduce heat and simmer about 20 minutes or until sweet potatoes are tender. Stir in beans and cook 5 minutes.
Yield: Serves 6.
Approximate nutritional analysis per serving: 160 calories, 10 percent of calories from fat, 2 grams fat (trace saturated), no cholesterol, 28 grams carbohydrates, 9 grams protein, 334 milligrams sodium, 7 grams dietary fiber.

Fall Into Spring With Parsnip Spice Cake

I’m going to dig my parsnips today.

Some people might think that a bit strange — harvesting vegetables in the spring instead of the fall. But most gardeners know that parsnips are one of the few veggies that can be left in the ground over the winter — even with the harsh weather we sometimes have on the Great Plains and the northern Red River Valley.

Carrrots are another, but they’re a bit touchier. With carrots, you need to get them out of the ground nearly as soon as the frost goes out or you’ll end up with mush. Parsnips, on the other hand, stay firmer much longer.

My gardening buddy, Darrel Koehler, just dug the last of his two days ago and said they we as solid as a rock, with tap roots that went so deep some broke off. (Parsnips are readily available in most supermarkets.)

After digging my parsnips, I generally like to wash them, blanche them and then vacuum seal for use later in soups and stews. I’m thinking some of this year’s crop even would go nicely in a winter vegetable hash (recipe follows).

Of course, some of the parsnips almost immediately will be sauteed in a little butter and seasoned with salt and pepper for a nice side dish. And I’ve also come across another recipe for a parsnip spice cake that looks intriguing. It probably will be a lot like carrot cake.

It’s sure nice to have fresh veggies in the spring!

Parsnip Spice Cake with Ginger Cream Cheese Frosting
1½ cups all-purpose flour
1 cup sugar
1 tablespoon ground ginger
2 teaspoons baking powder
1½ teaspoons ground cinnamon
¾ teaspoon plus 1/8 teaspoon salt
¾ teaspoon ground nutmeg
¾ teaspoon ground allspice
¾ teaspoon ground cloves
3 large eggs
½ cup canola oil or vegetable oil
½ cup whole milk
1½ teaspoons vanilla extract, divided
2 cups (packed) shredded peeled parsnips (about 3 large)
½ cup walnuts, toasted, chopped
4 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
2 tablespoons butter, room temperature
2 teaspoons grated peeled fresh ginger
3 cups (about 12 ounces) powdered sugar
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter and flour 13-by-9-by-2-inch baking pan. Combine flour, sugar, ground ginger, baking powder, cinnamon, ¾ teaspoon salt, nutmeg, allspice, and cloves in large bowl; whisk to combine. Whisk eggs, oil, milk, and 1 teaspoon vanilla in medium bowl to combine. Pour egg mixture over dry ingredients; stir until just combined. Stir in parsnips and walnuts. Transfer batter to prepared pan. Bake until tester inserted into center comes out clean, about 25 minutes. Cool cake completely in pan on rack.
Beat cream cheese and butter in large bowl until smooth. Beat in fresh ginger and remaining 1/8 teaspoon salt and ½ teaspoon vanilla. Gradually add powdered sugar and beat until frosting is smooth. Spread over cake. (Can be prepared 1 day ahead. Cover and chill.)
Yield: Serves 12 to 16.

Winter Vegetable Hash
1 small celery root, diced
1 large turnip, diced
1 pound parsnips, diced
2 medium carrots, diced
1 medium potato, diced
2 cloves minced garlic
½ cup chopped onion
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 teaspoon chopped fresh rosemary
1 cup white wine vinegar
Peel vegetables. Cut into ½-inch cubes. Combine in a large bowl with garlic and onion and mix well.
Heat olive oil in a large, deep frying pan over medium-high heat. Add diced vegetables and saute for 15 minutes, turning occasionally with a spatula. Stir in salt, thyme and rosemary. Add vinegar and toss with the vegetables, turning rapidly with a spatula until vinegar has evaporated.
Place pan of vegetables in an oven preheated to 350 degrees. Roast for 45 minutes, or until vegetables are soft and top begins to brown.
Yield: Serves 8 to 10.