Sweet Potato Biscuits

Easy Sweet Potato Biscuits | Brittany's PantryMmmmm sweet potatoes.  How do I love thee?

Many ways.  And I hope that all of you do too!  I have discovered that there are really two kinds of people out there.  Those who ate sweet potatoes growing up and those who didn’t.  I, you may be surprised to learn, did not grow up eating sweet potatoes.  I think I had them a time or two, smothered in melted marshmallows at my aunt’s house at Christmas time.  Of course, I loved them.  Who wouldn’t love a thick, creamy, unidentifiable orange vegetable, sweet as candy and and covered in melted sugar goo?!  Seconds please!!  While I always considered myself a sweet potato lover, this was really the extent of my experience.  We didn’t eat them in our house and now that I think about it, I am really not sure why.  I should ask my parents one of these days.

I was introduced to sweet potatoes by a close friend who is originally from southern Mississippi.  At the time, we were living in Hawaii because out husbands were assigned to the same nuclear submarine.  When you are thousands of miles away from your family (and most of the time apart from your spouse as well), any little bit of home is welcome.  The first time she made her Granny’s Sweet Potato Casserole, it was a revelation.  It was outrageously good, as most food made by southern women is, and remains one of my favorite ways to eat them  But what really struck me was that she made them with fresh sweet potatoes.  Everyone else I knew just dumped them out of a can.  When I mentioned this to her, her jaw dropped.  In the south, I was told, they are so common they sell them on the side of the road in paper grocery bags. In more recent years, I have become profoundly grateful for this, as she frequently brings back several pounds for me when she makes the trip home.

So on that fateful day in Hawaii, I was hooked.  She taught me how to buy them-no large blemishes or moldy spots, nice and firm-and how to eat them.  I have been making them dozens of ways ever since.  This is one of my favorite creations.Easy Sweet Potato Biscuits | Brittany's Pantry Sweet Potato Biscuits
Sweet potatoes are a bright, versatile tuber that contain a wealth of nutrients.  If you haven’t experimented with them lately, this time of year is perfect.   They are cheap, plentiful in the super markets, and recipes for inspiration abound!  There is a reason they are the favorite first food of babies everywhere!  Feel free to use pumpkin or squash in place of the potatoes if you like.

Lightly butter or spray an eight inch round cake pan.
In a medium bowl mix together:
2 c flour
2 T  brown sugar
2 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking soda
Using a pastry blender, food processor, or two knives, cut in 6 T cold, unsalted butter that has been cut into small chunks.  Once the butter is the size of small peas, add:
1 c mashed sweet potato & 1/2 c low fat buttermilk, mixed together

Add wet ingredients to dry and mix lightly with a fork.  Using clean hands, continue to mix dough with your fingers, just until everything is incorporated and dough starts to come together in a ball.  DO NOT OVER MIX.  The less you handle the dough, the more tender your biscuits will be.  This dough will be very sticky.  Dust your hands with more flour as needed when handling the dough.  At this point you could roll and cut the biscuits, but I rarely do this due to time and mess.  Especially for this recipe.  I recommend dividing the dough into 7 equal parts (just eyeball it), patting each of them gently into a disc, and snuggling them into the greased cake pan.  They will hold each other up as they rise.  Sprinkle the tops with sugar and bake in a 400 degree oven for about 25 minutes, or until the tops are golden brown and the biscuits are firm.  Let cool in the pan 10 minutes.  These are incredible plain, but with honey or apple butter, they become absolutely fabulous.
Note: You can make mashed sweet potatoes several ways.  Bake or microwave the potatoes and then scoop out the flesh and mash with a fork.  You can also peel the sweet potatoes, cut into chunks and then steam them.  I usually don’t like to boil the potatoes for this recipe because it adds too much moisture, but use your own judgement.
Honorable mention:  These are great for brunch.  To make them really over the top, add 1/2 c finely chopped cooked bacon and one green onion, diced.

Fried Noodles: A Childhood Favorite

Fried Noodles W/Cheese | Brittany's PantryMy parents would probably think that this is a little funny.  You throw something together for dinner, trying to shake things up a little, and that small, insignificant side dish becomes one of your oldest daughter’s most favorite childhood dishes.  Not my Dad’s excellent chili or his bechamel sauce with seafood over linguine.  Not my Mom’s homemade bread, which, if I close my eyes, I can smell right now, salty butter melting all over it and dripping with honey.  And certainly not the oatmeal raisin cookies my brother and I once made with garlic powder instead of cinnamon.  My Mom wouldn’t let us bake and serve those, but Nathan and I did eat the dough.  But let me back up a little.

When I was a kid, my parents used to make pan fried noodles.  These are not connected in any way to Asian cooking.  They were literally egg noodles fried in a pan.  Well, not just any pan.  In an enormous cast iron pan with 4 inch high sides.  It was like a kettle or dutch oven, but it had a handle on it like a skillet.  I assume they still own this phenomenon, as I have never seen one anywhere else so I don’t know how they would ever replace it.  I cannot even begin to count how many pounds of hamburger with a diced onion I browned in that skillet, or batches of beef storganoff I mixed together.  And it was perfect to fry up a batch of noodles.  Now, this whole process is so easy its a little embarrassing.  You take some noodles and fry them.  Yup.  That’s it.  Its a little astonishing that this was my favorite meal to make in college.  Or that when my husband was deployed and I was facing months of nights cooking for only one person (something I do NOT like to do), that this was my go to meal.  My quick, easy, comforting and always tasty plate of goodness.  I will also add that with the exception of cereal, it is quite possibly the only meatless dish that I would pass off as a meal.  I would add leftover pulled chicken if I had it on hand, but…I can’t believe I am saying this…its better without.  As a kid, we ate it as a side dish with a protein and a vegetable.  It took a large bag of egg noodles and I don’t recall leftovers.  After learning to cook meals for 8 people, half of them boys and all of us athletes, it took years for me to scale back my portions when preparing food.  This recipe is perfect for a family of four.  I have added a few things over the years that my parents never bothered with.  I am pretty sure they just poured vegetable oil in the hot pan and dumped in cooked noodles.  Maybe some salt.  Mine is a bit more interesting, but every bit as true to the original.

Fried Noodles

1/2 bag of egg noodles, cooked according to pkg directions
1 T canola or olive oil
1 T butter
1/4 tsp garlic powder
salt and pepper
1/4 c Parmesan cheese, optional

Add the oil and butter to a skillet and heat over med high heat till foam subsides.  Add noodles and sprinkle with garlic powder and salt and pepper to taste.  Let the noodles fry for a minute or two.  If you toss them around they will steam and turn mushy without getting crispy.  Once they start to get some color, toss them a bit, letting them get crunchy, but not burnt.  Toss them a third time and pull off the heat.  If desired, top with Parmesan cheese.

Note: I used to use the cheapest curly egg noodles I could find.  When I found out the nutritional difference between those and the yolk free or cholesterol free noodles, I switched.  The curliness of the noodles fries up much better than any other kind I have tried.  Also, I use butter for flavor and oil so that I can fry at a higher temperature.  Feel free to use all heart healthy oils, but if you use all butter, it will burn the edges of your noodles before they can get crispy.

Roasted Pumpkin Seeds

Healthy Roasted Pumpkin Seeds via Brittany's PantryThey taste just as good as I remember them.  I haven’t had pumpkins seeds since I was a kid!  My Mom always kept them when we would carve pumpkins and from what I remember, they never lasted very long.  As in, we ate them all so quickly.  Granted, I have five siblings and food in general never really lasted that long.  Pumpkin seeds, sometimes identified as pepitas in the grocery store, are extremely good for you.  The are high in iron, protein, and magnesium, but click on the link for the complete low-down of their nutritional benefits.  And they are cheap!  Well, cheap if you are willing to gut a pumpkin and subject yourself to the slime within.  This is much easier if you have kids who will do it for you.  As my children are under the age of five, and I was holding an expensive camera (ie slime free zone) it was my husband who assisted in the carving and scraping of our pumpkins.  After we cleaned up the seeds and roasted them, my kids pounced on them as though we hadn’t fed them in days.  Even my 18 month old was snitching them off the sheet pan on the counter.  Now, you can shell pumpkins seeds, discarding the large outer shell in favor of the soft, smaller seed inside, but I honestly don’t know anyone who does that.  Its tedious, a lot of work for not much gain, and in my opinion, unnecessary.  If roasting your own pumpkin seeds is something you have never done I highly recommend  it.  You only get this chance once a year and its a great way to get involved with the spirit of the season.  Hopefully, you won’t have to share with three brothers and two sisters.Healthy Roasted Pumpkin Seeds via Brittany's Pantry Roasted Pumpkin Seeds

Once you have removed the seeds from the pumpkin, rinse thoroughly in warm water, taking care to separate the seeds from the stringy orange membrane.  They do not need to be spotless.  Any pumpkin piece left on the seeds will just add flavor, but I personally like them pretty clean.  Mix the seeds with a few drizzles of olive oil, just to lightly coat them.  Sprinkle with salt and pepper, and spread in an even layer on a metal baking sheet.  Roast at 325 for 10 minutes, toss with a spatula, and roast for another 10 minutes.  Let them go a little longer if you like them really toasted.  Once cool, them will last for a few days, tightly sealed on the counter, a few weeks in the fridge, or a few months in the freezer.

Variation:  Use season salt instead of salt and pepper.  Use a bit of cayenne and cumin if you like them spicy.  Use cinnamon and cloves if you want them a bit sweet.  These are great tossed in with granola or trail mix.