I Yam What I Yam, Except When I’m Not

It all started with Thanksgiving dinner. I took sweet potatoes to the family dinner and got a bit carried away with the quantity, so my sister ended up with a generous amount of leftover yams in her refrigerator.

A few days later, she emailed all of us a recipe for sweet potato biscuits. They were good, she said, and a great way to use up leftovers. Being fond of both biscuits and sweet potatoes, I printed the recipe with every intention of trying it.

But since I do like sweet potatoes so much, what I do with the leftovers is heat them up in the microwave and eat them. The biscuit recipe sat on my counter for weeks, and I never managed to save enough extra yams to try it out.

This week, needing to take something to a potluck, I had an inspiration. Why not try the recipe with pumpkin instead?

Usually, for me, the words “inspiration” and “cooking” should not be used in the same sentence. At the end of my life, I may be remembered fondly, but it certainly won’t be for my culinary skills.

This time, though, I figured I was on safe ground. Sweet potatoes, pumpkin—what’s the difference, really? They’re both vegetables that are good for you. (Or is pumpkin a vegetable? Can something still count as a vegetable if you use it primarily in pie?) Anyway, once cooked, they look a lot alike—a squishy orange ingredient is a squishy orange ingredient, after all.

Except for that one little substitution, I followed the recipe exactly—more or less. I did add some salt, and some sugar, and I used pumpkin pie spice instead of nutmeg because I didn’t have any nutmeg. But otherwise I put in everything pretty much as called for. I was so confident that I even doubled the recipe.

I sampled a biscuit as soon as they came out of the oven, needing to know whether we had to allow time for a stop at the Safeway deli on the way to the potluck. It was good, even if it had a bit of an identity crisis—not quite a dinner roll, yet not quite sweet enough to pass itself off as dessert.

I took the biscuits to the potluck, not exactly going out of my way to announce that I had made them, but prepared to claim responsibility if challenged.

And a remarkable thing happened. After the meal, a woman came up to me and asked what those biscuits were. Pumpkin, I admitted warily.

"They were just delicious," she said. "I ate two. Next month, could you bring the recipe?” 

Managing to maintain my composure, I told her I’d be delighted to share the recipe. And I was delighted. This was a momentous occasion. It was only the second time in my life that anyone had asked me for a recipe.

I’d better hurry and write it down before I forget what I did.

Sweet Potato Biscuits (Original Recipe)

1 1/4 cup flour

1 Tbsp. baking powder

1/4 tsp. cinnamon

1/8 tsp. nutmeg

1/4 cup butter

1 cup cold mashed sweet potatoes

1/4 cup milk

Sift together flour, baking powder, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Cut butter into flour mix, then add sweet potatoes and milk, and just stir until it comes together. Put on floured board and knead for about 30 seconds. Shape into a roll and slice into 12 biscuits. Place on ungreased baking sheet and bake at 425 for about 15 min. Combine a tablespoon of melted butter with 1/4 tsp garlic powder and 1 Tbsp parsley flakes. Brush tops of hot biscuits and serve warm.

Pumpkin Biscuits (Adapted Recipe. Your Results May Vary; Mine Usually Do)

1 1/4 cup flour

1 Tbsp. baking powder

1/4 tsp. cinnamon

1/8 tsp. pumpkin pie spice

1/4 tsp. salt

1/4 cup sugar

1/4 cup butter

1 cup canned pumpkin

1/4 cup milk

Sift together dry ingredients. Cut butter into flour mix, then add pumpkin and milk, and just stir until it comes together. Put on floured board and knead for about 30 seconds. Shape into a roll and slice into 12 biscuits. Place on ungreased baking sheet and bake at 425 for about 15 min. Brush tops of hot biscuits with butter and serve warm.

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