I've never been a big fan of turnips. Mainly, I just haven't eaten them much. I don't recall my mother serving them when I was a boy in central Ohio.
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But when Thanksgiving rolled around last week and my wife put me in charge of mashed potatoes, she asked me to try something new: add turnips to the spuds and mash them together.
I'm usually game to at least try a new twist on a familiar recipe, and this turned out to be a good one. The bite of the turnips added a nudge of flavor to the mashed potatoes. Honestly, if I hadn't known there were turnips in the mashies, I might not have noticed them.
Turnips are a healthful food. They are low in calories, saturated fat and cholesterol. They are also a good source of vitamin B6, folate, calcium, potassium and copper, and a very good source of dietary fiber, vitamin C and manganese.
Turnip greens are also edible and contain even more nutrients per cup than turnip roots. The greens can be served raw in mixed-greens salads or cooked like spinach.
The skin of turnip roots can be white, green or purplish, but when peeled, the flesh is white. Cookbook author Missy Chase Lapine prepares turnips for her children as she would potatoes. Lapine is known for her "Sneaky Chef" books. She suggests cooking and pureeing vegetables and adding them to foods kids love, such as chili, pancakes, meatballs or brownies.
"If you can make a meatball with eight hidden vegetables and two whole grains, why wouldn't you?" she said. "As long as it still tastes amazing."
Lapine said she mashes turnips — or other root veggies — with potatoes.
"I also cut up turnips into french fries. I do that with other root vegetables, too, and they become delicious," she said. "I serve them with ketchup, and call them turnip fries. Roast them on a high heat, so they get a little crisper."
She serves root-veggie fries with soy sauce or ketchup — anything to get kids to try them.
Lapine said the Sneaky Chef approach is about more than just hiding vegetables in kids' meals. She also wants kids to learn to accept vegetables as they are.
"When you serve Sneaky Chef style," she said, "always show the vegetable in its natural state."
Lapine's website, www.thesneaky chef.com, provides recipes and information about her approach to getting kids to try unfamiliar vegetables. The Sneaky Chef philosophy was Lapine's way of getting her children to eat healthfully. But she also wanted to reduce the stress over family dinners.
"It's all about having a good time — peace at the table," she said. "People don't learn under fire. It's hard for kids to want to eat something new when I'm coming at them with a forkful of broccoli."
2 medium to large turnip roots
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1/2 teaspoon salt