Cheesy Parsnip Spread and Butternut Squash Tortilla Pizza

Cheesy Parsnip Spread

I’m rarely at a loss for words. As a member of what my friend Jim has dubbed “the professionally verbose,” I usually have at least something to say—probably quite a few things to say. But yesterday and the day before, I as I scrolled through your hundreds of comments on my change is gonna come post, I was actually speechless. So I will humbly say no more than this: thank you. You cannot begin to know how much each and every comment meant to me.

Today, let’s take a little break from career change, and talk about our collective passion here at CR: food. As you all know, I am a huge fan of the “nut pate”—a raw foodism staple that’s basically a paste of ground nuts, water, lemon, salt, and various seasonings. Nut pates are delicious, protein-rich, easy to prepare, versatile, and they’re useful for raw foodists who like spreads and dips, but who don’t eat legumes (hummus) or tofu (which is the base of many other vegan spreads and dips). I have a bastion of raw nut pate recipes on this blog—I encourage you to check you my dilly sunflower cheese, my raw “pizza cheese,” and my garden pate—but today, I actually want to talk about alternatives to nut pates.

You see, while many of us raw foods lovers consider ourselves nut pate aficionados, still others struggle with them, mostly because they tend to be quite calorically dense (even for a normal person with an active lifestyle, 1/4 cup, or four tablespoons, of nut pate is a reasonable portion size). They’re also rich in fat, which should not in and of itself be a deterrent—we need healthy fats in our diet—but it may be a drawback for a person who’s quite overweight or trying to diet. As I mentioned once upon a time in my green pea guacamole post, I like catering to all of my readers—not only readers who are at healthy weights, but also readers who are trying to lose weight or monitor their food intake—which means constantly thinking of food options to suit everyone.

It’s also worth noting that nut pates and avocado dips work nicely for vegans and raw foodists like me, who aren’t getting concentrated doses of fat from animal foods like cheese, cream, or meat; it’s part of why I enjoy these foods liberally. But if you eat a diet that is more rich in animal foods, nut pates and the like may actually tip the scales too far forward. A good number of my clients do eat meat and dairy, so I have to modify the recipes and advice I give them accordingly. Yes, I’ll deluge them with raw dinner and lunch ideas, but those ideas have to fit within the scope of what they’re eating the rest of the time.

And that’s how this recipe came about. I had a client who eats quite a bit of meat—enough that she and I are working to reduce it dramatically—but who wanted a vegan idea for a cheese sauce or spread to replace some of the soft cheeses she’s used to. I didn’t want to go the way of cashew cheese, only because I knew that my client’s diet was already quite calorie-dense. Instead, I racked my brains for a vegetable base that would be starchy enough to create a thick texture and mouthfeel.

The answer? Parsnips. These are one of my favorite veggies (Leslie, I know you hate them!) for many reasons: they’re sweet, they’re starchy, they’re comforting, and they have just a hint of spice. They make for a mean root veggie mash, and they’re a more complex and interesting substitute for carrots in many recipes. You cook these guys just as you would carrots or other root veggies: roast at high temperatures, puree into soups, or, if you want a raw option, check out my delicious raw root veggie salad. But if you want your parsnips to imitate Boursin or another spreadable cheese, try pureeing them with lots of nooch, a bit of salt, and some water. You’ll be amazed at how simple and tasty the results are.

IMG_4278 (500x333)

Cheesy Parsnip Spread (yields about 2 cups, but that will vary with the size of your parsnips)

4 medium/large parsnips, peeled and chopped
1/3 cup nooch
2 tbsp white miso
salt and pepper to taste

1) Steam the parsnips (or boil them) till totally fork tender. Drain and let cool for a moment.

2) Add the parsnips to a food processor fitted with the S blad, and pulse to break down.

3) Add the nooch, miso, and a dash of pepper and salt. Run the motor so that the mix starts to form a puree. Add water as needed, but be sure not to add too much; a thick texture is good here. When the spread is the right consistency, texture, and you’ve checked to see if it needs more salt or pepper, you’re ready to serve!

IMG_4281 (333x500)

I could have eaten my whole batch with a spoon and been done with it, but instead I decided to put it to good use, and make a simple Ezekiel tortilla pizza. I spread about 1/4 cup onto an Ezekiel tortilla (of course you could use any kind you like):

IMG_4283 (500x333)

And topped it with a generous dose of steamed butternut squash and raw arugula:

IMG_4285 (500x333)

IMG_4286 (500x333)

This got paired with an arugula, radicchio, and pear salad:

IMG_4291 (500x333)

And became a perfect meal:

IMG_4295 (500x333)

Simple, healthy, semi-raw, and delicious.

A few nights later, I made a dinner salad with butternut squash as its star, but I opted to take the cashew cheese route instead. I paired chicory, steamed squash, radicchio, and some lemon vinaigrette with some dollops of my raw, vegan “goat cheese.” It was a great salad.

IMG_4315 (500x333)

Obviously, none of us have to choose between higher fat options and lower fat ones. I get so many emails from readers who ask—anxiously—about nuts or oils or other fats. And their inquiries usually pit these foods against exclusively low-fat foods (the famous dichotomy here would be the “fruits vs. fat” debate in the raw world. I think these “either/or” mentalities are—for healthy people who have no special needs—totally absurd. It’s great to rotate higher fat dishes or meals with lower fat ones, and the same goes for higher-carb meals, higher-sugar meals, and so on. As long as an overall sense of balance exists, and the foods in question are healthy and nourishing (I’m talking cashew cheese here, not Velveeta), it’s fine to experience all sorts of them at different moments.

As I sign off, I wanted to announce quickly that my friends Andrea and Hadley, with whom I’ve lead two “cleanses” in the past, are doing their special New Year’s cleanse program again this January. I don’t think I have to tell you that I hate the word “cleanse” when it comes to diet, but I can assure you that their program isn’t like others, wherein you subsist on broth and green juice and diuretic tea. Instead, it’s a real-food, three meal-a-day way to jumpstart good habits in the new year. There’s still time to sign of for their early bird special, so please check out the deets at Spark! Wellness’s website.

I’ll be back here tomorrow with some special thoughts on the industry I called home for six years of my life: book publishing. Stay tuned.


This post may contain affiliate links. If you use these links to buy something I may earn a commission. Visit my privacy policy to learn more.

Categories: Uncategorized

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

  1. This sounds so good that I am making this right now! The only question is… what to put eat it with. I am out of celery, cucumbers, tortilla chips and bread… hmmm…

  2. Hello.

    My daughter has a severe nut allergy so I really like this recipe.:) The problem; however, is that she is also allergic to soy. Would you suggest any other alternatives to the miso? Thanks!


  3. I read “white miso” in quite a few recipes; the only one I have ever found where I live is unpasteurised brown rice miso. Does this change the flavour considerably? It has quite a strong flavour and although I use it on occasion, I am never quite sure if I love it 🙂

    • Brown miso does taste a little stronger and more “fermented.” I like it, but prefer the white stuff. I’d say you should simply use a little bit less.

  4. Hmmmm….I wonder if the spread would make a good gluten free mac and cheese along with the quinoa elbows I have sitting around. Well combined, too!

  5. I love parsnips – one of my favourite vegetables, and am always interested in new ways to cook them. This recipe sounds amazing! 🙂 Hope you have a great weekend!

  6. Hi there! I am a regular reader, though first time commenter. This spread looks delish! I also wanted to comment on your last post. I am a resident in Internal Medicine in Nebraska and I wanted to say congrats and good luck on your endeavors. Medicine is a very rewarding career and while I don’t know you, what I do know of you from what you share here, I think you will be great at it. And you will have a huge wealth of knowledge to share with your future patients with your nutrition background. There is sadly very little education on nutrition in medical training. I thought the education I received was sad. I had a great teacher with great knowledge/information, there was just way too little time spent on it. And once I got to residency, I found that among the schools represented in my residency program, I probably got the best nutrition education!
    I have enjoyed being able to educate other residents about the nutrition of a vegan diet, but also find myself thinking “we are all doctors, shouldn’t we all already know this?”
    If you have any questions about the process of medical training, feel free to ask, and good luck!

  7. Wow- that looks amazing! I’ve been reading your blog for quite a while now and always love the creative food you come up with. You even inspired me to eat one day a weak of entirely raw food over the summer. Unfortunately, school has not allowed me to continue that. But once summer rolls around again, I intend on trying it again – I love the diversity raw food offers!

  8. I just made a butternut squash tortilla pizza the other night too– I think I like your version better though, thanks to the inclusion of arugula!

  9. me, hate parsnips? i actually love them! 🙂 i’m still searching for a vegetable i don’t like – i haven’t found one yet! tough problem, i know.

    anyway, how funny you should post this recipe today, when my salad included a miso dressing, roasted parsnips, and a hefty sprinkle of nooch. our foodie minds are in the same place, as per usual.

    • also, i should add that “totally absurd” is the best descriptor that i’ve ever heard of that (or most) debate within the “healthy living” world. eat a balance of foods, and enjoy. amen. 🙂

  10. Nutritional yeast and miso lend an amazing cheesy flavor. I haven’t had a parsnip puree but I can imagine this to be tasty. Chris would probably put it over some noodles.

    Thanks for the thoughts on all or nothing with fats and fruits; I agree.

  11. Ha – “professionally verbose.” I think that is an accurate description – and fabulously so! In fact, I would aspire to such a description so I hope you took it as a compliment.

    My first encounter with parsnips was not a happy one AT ALL. I ended up picking them out of the leftovers entirely. Perhaps I should have eaten them roasted as a first try, though, as I hear many people love them that way. Raw? Not so much. Considering that I prefer carrots cooked may be a good indicator that I should give parsnips another chance. I would like to like them!

  12. Yum! The texture looks amazing ( and the pics are wonderful too )… I really love the balance you show here.

    BTW, Is it cool if I don’t get that post to you until after the first of the year. I need to set up the facebook page and collect my thoughts a little more and I have really booked myself silly until after the first!

  13. I’ve been slammed and missed your ‘change’ post, but have just caught up on it and want to congratulate you: how super-exciting! I totally agree that regardless of time and expense, if it’s following your dream, it’s what you should be doing. I’ve had similar thoughts myself, having been a literature/linguistics person but always obsessed with dietetic stuff: my husband suggested med school. But I’m even older than you are and there are other passions that I’m gearing up to pursue more deeply. Congratulations again.

    I’ve been on a parsnip puree kick recently: would love to try it plus nooch and miso, sounds great!

    Thanks for all your well-balanced thoughts about high-this/low-that – I think you’re right on.

  14. This looks like a great cheese alternative! Can’t wait to try it.

    Thanks, previous commenters for sussing out what “nooch” was. Glad I’m not the only one who wondered!

  15. I can’t believe you didn’t mention people with nut allergies- I’m allergic to peanuts and tree nuts so I have to sadly ignore your recipes with nuts. This one looks great, though! Thank you!

  16. Thank you so much Gena for providing a lower fat option, I can’t wait to try this. As sombody that struggles with weight I do have to be mindful with the nuts. THANK YOU THANK YOU!!! Can’t wait to try it!

  17. I love parsnips! I recently made roasted parnsips with grated ginger and garlic and ate the entire batch in one sitting. I was amazed. They are a great alternative carrots, which tend to be less flavorful/sweet this time of year in the midwest.

    p.s. – I continue to be inspired by your ‘big leap’ reveal…I marvel at your courage, Gena.

  18. I am definitely going to make this. That’s why I love your recipes – not only do I want to make them, I actually have made lots of them and they are great and healthy. I’m trying to lose a little bit of weight so I have been staying away from nut pates and such and this looks like a great alternative!

  19. i am in love with parsnips! this comes at a great time as i’m still trying to figure out my triggers (too much fat at once i was eating upwards of 70-80g daily and dropped it to 30-40g, red meat and broccoli). i’m eating much more veg lately and dropped my protein from 60-70g daily down to 25-40g. i’m stunned that i’m functioning so well. every person is different and maybe i’m finally finding macros that support my system properly! thanks for this!

  20. So good! I had a bag of chopped parsnips and turnips from Trader Joe’s in the fridge so this is a perfect breakfast. It is so good I’m eating it with a spoon out of my food processor while I’m waiting for my kale to steam. I also have some raw stuffed mushrooms leftover from my dinner last night so I’m having the tastiest meal! Thanks for the inspiration – it’s really delicious!


  21. oooh, i just rediscovered my love of parsnips last night! i thought i hated them, but roasted in the oven with oil and spices, they were delightfully sweet and satisfying. and now… to not fear this “nooch” substance. that might take some work!

  22. This is like a cheezy hummus-ey dip without the beans or nuts! LOVE IT!

    I am the only blogger who doesn’t “love” humums. Well, I take that back, I do, but I can only handle a very small amt of beans in my diet. No matter “what Ive tried” yes, I have tried, only a small amt of beans work for me. Sigh. So when making dips, I like to make non-bean based dips as much as possible.

    And everything I just said about beans, same with nuts, and nut pates. Too hard for my tummy to digest them in large quantities.

    So I am digging this dip! And parsnips, turnips, heartier winter roasted root veggies…nice touch Miss Gena!

    Enjoy your holiday week and don’t work too hard 🙂