What I learned in France Part 1: Mashed Parsnips

Hi friends!

Have you guys ever gone on an awesome trip only to have it feel like a distant memory within a week of getting back? 

Why does that happen? While I'm traveling I always have these thoughts,  in this order:

1. It's good to get away from the "daily grind". 

2. I should really be more laid back at home during the "daily grind". 

3. I wonder if I could do my "daily grind" from this place. 

4. I should just quit the "daily grind" and move here.

5. Ok, that's not realistic, but I really am going to remember to not take things so seriously when I get home. 

Then I get back to the real world and enter the "daily grind" and those thoughts are a distant memory. I'm trying not to do that this time. 

I recently got back from an AMAZING trip to the Provence region in France with my mom.

It was just the two of us and we had the ultimate foodie experience. We took 3 cooking classes, ate at some awesome Michelin star restaurants, ate at some awesome restaurants that weren't Michelin star, and drank our fair share of French wine (did someone say rose?! #sohotrightnow). 

I thought it would be fun to write about some of the interesting food tricks, eating customs, and cooking techniques I learned along with a recipe inspired by our trip. So, here we go with part one:

               NOTHING goes to waste in the kitchen and everything is better than water. 

On our last day in Aix-en-Provence, we took a cooking class at L' atelier des Chefs where we met Benjamin. Benjamin LOVES what he does and LOVED making sure we were learning something. Oh, and he LOVES vegetables! While I learned a lot that day, the biggest thing I took away was that nothing goes to waste in the kitchen...NOTHING and that everything is better than water. After shopping at the market, we peeled and prepped our veggies. All of the peels went into a pot of simmering water to make our stock for the day. It was such a simple thing but something that was so eye-opening for me. We peeled quince (similar to an apple) to make our tart tatin and the peels went in another pot of simmering water which would later be reduced and used as a garnish for our dessert plate. We blanched broccoli and the vitamin-rich water was later used to cook pasta. We didn't salt the stock but it added another layer of flavor to whatever we were making. Not to mention, using the peels that way adds another layer of nutrients to our meal as well. Nothing goes to waste in the kitchen! 

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Since being home, I have been saving the scraps from my weekly veggie prep and simmering it in water for 45 minutes to an hour. This is not only an easy way to make use out of scraps that are otherwise wasted, it is a great money saver and a great way to add some flavor and nutrition into dishes. I have been adding everything to my stock; onion peels/cores, garlic peels, stems from fresh herbs, ends and peels of carrots, and stems of peppers. Depending on what I am using the stock for, I try not to add strongly flavored vegetables like broccoli, cauliflower, asparagus, etc. My weekly veggie prep usually includes carrots, potatoes, garlic, onion, and other seasonal veggies...roots this time of year! 

Side Note: I only do this with using organic produce. The peel is the part of the vegetable that contains the most pesticide. I try to buy organic whenever I can, but when I buy conventional, I just discard the peels.  

One of the things we used our stock for during the cooking class was to make some mashed parsnips...omgtheyweresogood. And omgtheyweresoeasy. I hadn't cooked much with parsnips before but that is about to change. If you're not familiar with parsnips, they look like a giant white carrot. They are a great source of potassium and also contribute to your daily intake of vitamin C, calcium, magnesium, iron, and some B vitamins. Their flavor is so unique and delicious...I have literally been craving them daily since being home. 

This parsnip mash is a great alternative to mashed potatoes without all the starch. I'm even debating having mashed parsnips on the menu in place of mashed potatoes (gasp!). They are just that good.

Mashed Parsnips

Makes about 2 cups

*You can use water in place of unsalted vegetable stock. I would stay away from a strongly flavored vegetable broth. I used a red pepper we bought in France. It is very mild, almost like a sweet paprika. If you don't have sweet paprika, you can use black pepper. 

4 cups parsnips, peeled and chopped into 2 inch chunks (about 3 medium parsnips)

2 cups unsalted vegetable stock, plus more as needed*

1 tablespoon Earth Balance

Salt and pepper to taste*

1. Add parsnips and vegetable stock to a medium pot. You want enough stock to barely cover the parsnips. Bring stock to a boil and reduce heat to medium. You want to maintain a low boil. 

2. Boil, uncovered, until the stock is evaporated, about 30 minutes. 

3. Mash parsnips, add Earth Balance and stir to combine. Season with salt and pepper to taste. For a creamier mash, use an immersion blender or food processor and process to desired consistency (I used an immersion blender in the photos)