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.

Roasted Seasonal Vegetables W/Pasta is adaptable to whatever veggies are fresh t the time!  {Brittany's Pantry}OK.  So I know this is the second pasta entry in a row, but in reality, we didn’t eat them close to each other.  And you can never have too many quick, easy, and healthy pasta recipes in your repertoire, right?  This recipe falls into all those categories.  I think I created this two, maybe three years ago.  Its hard to remember because I make it quite often so it seems like I have been making it forever!  I was trying out different combinations in pasta that didn’t include grilled chicken, something we always have an abundance of in our fridge during the summer.  I am always grilling boneless, skinless, chicken breasts drizzled with olive oil and seasoned with salt and pepper.  I highly recommend this as we use it to make dozens of meals at a moments notice, and without heating the house.  Chicken and Black Bean quesadillas, Simple Soup w/Chicken, BBQ Chicken Sandwiches, Chicken Salad (recipe to be posted soon), Chicken Cesar Salad Wraps…you get the idea.  While this is a very versatile ingredient, it can get a little repetitious.

The result of my experimentation yielded a light, healthy, and veeeeeerrry addictive pasta dish.  We never get tired of eating it and every time I make it we always go, “Oh my goodness!  This is sooo goood!”  If you are ever a guest in my home between the months of March and October, expect this on the menu.  While, as usual, I encourage you to experiment and add what you like, this recipe is the best combinations we have found.  Even though I could change it up, I don’t.  The only change is that I make it with asparagus in the spring and summer, instead of squash.  We found a winner and I don’t want to mess with perfection! 🙂Roasted Seasonal Vegetables W/Pasta is adaptable to whatever veggies are fresh t the time!  {Brittany's Pantry}Roasted Seasonal Vegetables W/Pasta is adaptable to whatever veggies are fresh t the time!  {Brittany's Pantry} Vegetables with Pasta-Recipe updated 10/13
I call this veggies with pasta because I usually try to make it a 2-1 ratio.  Its healthier, lighter, and… well…prettier!  Any small pasta shape is good.  You want the pasta and bites of vegetable all about the same size.  Bow ties, rotini, penne, and penne rigate work the best.  This serves four, but it is really easy to double or simply keep the recipe the same but add 3/4 of a pound of pasta instead of only a half.  Any leftovers taste great the next day, no need to reheat.

1/2 lb bite sized pasta cooked according to package directions
2 sweet Italian turkey sausage links
1 small butternut squash or 1/2 large, peeled, seeded and cut into bite sized chunks
1 large onions, sliced into half circles
2 medium zucchini, cut into bite sized chunks
8 oz portabello mushrooms, sliced (feel free to use any mushrooms available)
1/2 c grated Parmesan cheese
extra virgin olive oil

Toss the squash and onions with a bit of olive oil and season with salt and pepper.  Spread in an even layer on a baking sheet and roast at 425 for 15 -20 minutes, or until squash is soft when pierced with a fork and onions are caramelized.  Meanwhile, remove the sausage from the casing and brown in a skillet over med heat, crumbling as you cook it.  If you use turkey sausage, you won’t have to drain the meat, but if you use pork Italian sausage, you may need to remove the fat.  Place the sausage in a large serving bowl.  Put the skillet back on the stove (no need to clean it) and add the mushrooms.  Saute in the leftover fat from the sausage, adding a little olive oil of the pan is dry.  Don’t crowd the mushrooms or they will steam instead of brown.  Just a few minutes till they are cooked, but still firm in the middle, and add them to the bowl with the meat.  Next add the zucchini.  A little olive oil, a sprinkle of salt and pepper, med to med high heat for 3 minutes or so just till they get some color on them.  We don’t want anything to be mushy.  Add to the serving bowl.  Add the pasta and the roasted squash and onions.  Toss ingredients together.  Add cheese and toss gently and taste.  Add salt and pepper as needed and a drizzle of olive oil if it is dry.