Warm up winter with Maple Parsnip Soup

Maple Parsnip Soup

Maple Parsnip Soup - garnished with a drizzle of maple syrup

This Maple and Parsnip Soup earned a 9 out of 10 on the Murray-meter. That’s surprising considering it contains onions and dijon mustard – two things my spouse hates. No, make that despises! The recipe also calls for garlic, another ingredient on his “I don’t eat these foods because they taste or smell bad, or worse – taste AND smell bad!” list. I figured the soup would survive just fine sans garlic, so for his sake (and the sake of our marriage!), the garlic was omitted. However – the onions and mustard stayed. And the soup still got a 9 out of 10.

I have to agree with Murray’s rating. Maple Parsnip Soup really is good. In fact, very good! Parsnips give it its unique ‘sweet’ root vegetable taste. Maple syrup also adds sweetness while mustard provides some balance with its tangy flavour. You could proudly serve this soup as a “take the chill off winter” dinner starter, or for lunch or a light supper along with a sandwich or salad.

Maple Parsnip Soup

(Makes 6 servings)

3 tablespoons (45 mL) olive oil
1 lb (500 g) parsnips, chopped (2 to 3 parsnips)
1 large onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
6 cups (1.5 L) vegetable or chicken broth
1/4 teaspoon (1 mL) ground nutmeg
1/2 cup (125 mL) evaporated milk
1/3 cup (75 mL) maple syrup
1-1/2 to 2 tablespoons (22 to 30 mL) Dijon mustard
Salt, to taste (optional)
Optional garnishes: maple syrup, croutons or toasted pine nuts

Heat oil in a large saucepan. Add parsnips, onions and garlic; saute until onions are translucent, but not browned. Add broth and nutmeg. Bring to a simmer; cook until parsnips are soft, about 40 minutes.

Remove from heat; stir in evaporated milk. Process in a blender or food processor (in batches, if necessary) until smooth. Add maple syrup and mustard; stir until thoroughly blended. Add salt, if desired. Reheat gently.

Serve with a drizzle of maple syrup, or croutons or toasted pine nuts.

* Substitute whipping cream for the evaporated milk, if desired.
* Adjust the amount of Dijon mustard to your liking.
* Parsnips don’t need to be peeled. Wash well and trim any bruised or brown spots.

Recipe Source: Adapted from Simply in Season by Mary Beth Lind and Cathleen Hockman-Wert, Herald Press, 2005

What to eat or drink or do during cold and flu season

Have you been hit by the cold bug that seems to be making the rounds?  Or caught a nasty flu bug?

If you haven’t been afflicted yet, count your blessings, and pray your turn won’t come! Then read on so you’ll know what to eat or drink to prevent getting your turn, or what to do if your temperature begins to soar or you find yourself reaching for the box of tissues.

If you have caught one or both bugs, you should read on too. Some of the suggestions below may help lessen the severity of your illness, and prevent additional bouts of cold or flu this winter.

When it comes to curing what ails them, some people turn to herbal remedies, others to pills. There are those who have their tried-and-true, often home-spun remedies handed down through the generations. Some of these “cures” may seem a little bizarre, although their proponents will swear by them.

I suffered from a nasty cold over Christmas while visiting my family in Winnipeg. My mom suggested I try something from my childhood – a mustard plaster, minus the mustard! I was a bit apprehensive, but felt miserable enough to give it a try.

First I placed a warm wet towel on my chest. That was followed by a piece of plastic, then a dry towel that had been warmed in the microwave. (Tossing it in the dryer briefly would work too.) I put on my pajama top over the layers, and then pinned everything together with safety pins so the layers would stay in place. Logically, you should be lying in your bed at this point so you can just pull the covers up around you, stay toasty warm, rest and get better. But I decided to wander around the house for a few minutes, then crawl into bed. By this point the warm towels had cooled off considerably.

I believe the theory here is that the heat of the layered towels will sweat out the virus/germs or whatever is causing the chest congestion/aches/pains/cough and you will feel much better the next day.

So, did it help?

Let’s just say it didn’t make things worse! To be fair, the towels had probably cooled off too quickly to be really effective.

I recall mustard being involved somehow in this treatment of my youth. I think a paste was made with dry mustard, flour and water and that concoction was applied directly to the chest. The towels and plastic were then layered over top. You had to be careful you didn’t leave the mustard plaster on too long or you could burn or blister your skin. Guess the layers generated a fair amount of heat that warmed the chest and and cleared out the congestion. Probably if you’d chowed down on a hot dog at the same time, you’d have been healed in minutes! LOL!

Here are a few other supposed “cures” for the common cold and influenza.  (Please Note: I haven’t tried any of them. I’m not endorsing any of them. I’m just reporting what I’ve read or heard because I find some of these suggestions rather entertaining. If you’re intrigued or brave enough to give the more interesting ideas a whirl, please proceed with caution! Following this list is a link to the Mayo Clinic’s remedies for colds and flu. Let me know if you have any remedies you swear by.)

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Hot Hearty Soup Melts Winter Chill

Hamburger Soup

Thick, rib-sticking, hearty, beefy soup to warm you from the inside out! On a cold day like today in Kitchener, a bowl of homemade Hamburger Soup is a welcomed comfort food in our house.

You could probably complete this soup in about 50 minutes, adding uncooked pasta, barley or rice in the last 15 to 20 minutes. I prefer to leave the soup lazily simmering on the stovetop for a couple hours to allow the flavours of the simple ingredients (ground beef, canned tomatoes, broth, carrots, celery, onions and seasonings) to meld and turn into a thick and delicious melange.

One might question whether the end result is really a stew masquerading as a soup, and meant to be eaten with a fork rather than a soup spoon. And if you make the soup with crushed tomatoes instead of diced tomatoes as I have on occasion, you will end up with an even thicker soup! Call it Hamburger Stewp and dig in with a fork, or add broth to thin the mixture a little.

Instead of thyme, Italian seasoning can be used to flavour the soup. Once fully cooked, check the soup for overall seasoning, adding salt and pepper if you find it necessary.

Serve Hamburger Soup with bread, buns or biscuits, and add a salad, if you wish. It’s a simple meal perfect for a cold January day.

This soup freezes well, and as with many soups, it tastes even better the next day!

Hamburger Soup
(Makes 8 servings)

1 lb (500 g) extra lean ground beef
1 large onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
3 carrots, thinly sliced (about 1-1/2 cups/375 mL)
3 ribs celery, thinly sliced (about 1-1/2 cups/375 mL)
1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon (1 to 2 mL) dried thyme
1 can (28 oz/796 mL) diced tomatoes
1 cup (250 mL) tomato sauce or 1 can (10 oz/284 mL) condensed tomato soup
4 cups (1 L) beef broth or bouillon
1/2 cup (125 mL) uncooked barley or broken spaghetti
Chopped fresh parsley (optional)

Cook beef, onion, garlic, carrots and celery in a large frying pan or soup pot over medium-high heat until meat is thoroughly cooked, stirring frequently; drain off any fat.

Stir in thyme, tomatoes, tomato sauce, and broth. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 20 minutes to 1-1/2 hours.

Stir in pasta; simmer until pasta is tender, 10 to 15 minutes.

Serve garnished with parsley, if desired.