February days can be brutal. Weather is not conducive to outdoor hours. Time is not any more forgiving than any other winter month. Cooking is taking on a boring element.
In desperation, we resort to experimentation of culinary magnitudes. Can what is left in cupboards be combined to make a surprisingly edible something that is not completely off-putting and is somewhat like the imagined outcome?
At the same time — probably due to the common factor of boredom — the Powers That Be have declared the month of February be inundated with special food days. You know, those "holidays" that beckon us to eat a particular food? In the first 14 days of February there are 14 different food days. February’s last 14 days have a "holiday" for 17 more foods. It means you might have to eat banana bread, toast, and chili on the same day (the 23rd). That’s not so bad, but, how about chocolate-covered nuts and clam chowder together (the 25th)?
Referring to the second paragraph — the desperate experimentation — we opt for February 22 as our guide to gastronomical surprise. It is National Cook a Sweet Potato Day. We have one sweet potato left in the basket. Iit only takes about 20 minutes to cook in the microwave and yields a straight-forward half-cup of mashed potato. Now what?
Well, we could eat it just like it is, but remember, we are looking for exciting surprises. So we might mix it into some fudge. Or blend it into a can of tomato soup. Or spread it on a piece of toast and top with cheese, melting the whole thing under the broiler. Or we could mix it with pecans, brown sugar, butter, and a touch of cinnamon for a microwaved cup of soufflé.
We could wash the potato, dry it, slice it, and dip the slices in some water that is mixed with lemon juice or vinegar. That will keep the slices from turning brown (like preserving apples or avocados). Then pat the slices dry and fry them in deep oil for a small, one-serving batch of potato chips.
We could make one of my mother’s favorite winter suppers. She boiled a sweet potato or two, and when it was almost done she cooled, peeled and sliced it. In a skillet, she melted butter, added a cored, peeled, sliced apple (or two) and a bit of brown sugar. Over low heat she fried the potato and apple until soft and browned a bit. Sometimes she fixed a whole casserole of this mixture and baked it in a 325-degree oven for half an hour.
Yet another skillet dish is cubed sweet potatoes, sautéed in butter with a bit of orange juice, raisins, or dried cranberries.
But we wanted to use the sweet potato to the best of our abilities in regards to surprise twists, so this is what we did:
Here is how we made them. And when we passed them out, we put the secret ingredient in an envelope and let the recipient choose to know before or after as to what they were eating.
After all, what’s a day in February without a challenge?
Sweet Potato Brownies
• 1/2 cup cooked, mashed sweet potato
• 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
• 3 tablespoons water
• 1/2 cup vegetable oil
• 2 eggs
• 1 box (18.3oz.) fudge brownie mix (We used Betty Crocker)
1. In mixing bowl place potato, vanilla, water, oil, and eggs. Using electric mixer, beat until well combined.
2. Add the brownie mix and stir together using mixing spoon. Mix thoroughly, but do not beat hard.
3. Pour into a greased 13x9-inch baking dish. Bake in preheated, 350-degree oven for 20-25 minutes or until done.
4. Cool and cut. Can be glazed with dark, bitter, or milk chocolate.