Sweet On Sweet Potatoes

Sweet potatoes aren’t just for Thanksgiving! I found this recipe for Chili-Bathed Sweet Potatoes from the NYT. Drooling over this mix of hot and sweet flavors on a cold winter’s night made me want to share the benefits of enjoying this incredibly delicious vegetable with you. Keep it simple and bake one for dinner, or make some baked sweet potato fries with lunch, or have a bowl of left-over mashed sweet potatoes with crumbled bacon for breakfast. Sweet potatoes also make a great dip or spread for snacks, appetizers or even on your morning toast. Check out some recipe ideas I’ve included below!

A Bit of History

Sweet potatoes, one of the oldest known vegetables, are native to Central America and have been consumed since prehistoric times as evidenced by relics found in Peruvian caves that date about 10,000 years or more. After his New World explorations, Columbus brought this root vegetable back to Europe. In the 16th century, cultivation of sweet potatoes began in the southern parts of the US where they continue to be a staple part of a southern diet. Sweet potatoes remain a featured ingredient in recipes around the world including Japan, China, Indonesia, Uganda, India, Vietnam and Latin American cultures.

Benefits of Sweet Potatoes

  • Important source of copper, iron, manganese and Vitamin B6.
  • An unrivaled source of beta carotene – approximately 262% of your daily requirement in only 3 oz of baked sweet potato! A high intake of beta carotene can significantly reduce your risk for certain types of cancer. Note: It’s important to include a minimum of 3-5 grams of fat in your meal to considerably increase your uptake of beta carotene from sweet potatoes. May I suggest a pat of butter or a dollop of melted coconut crème and lime juice, chopped walnuts or pecans?
  • Low glycemic index vegetable that fits perfectly into a low-carb lifestyle with only 10 grams of carbs per quarter cup. That makes sweet potatoes a great substitute for other starches such as rice, potatoes, and corn.
  • Provides a very substantial source of dietary fiber which promotes a healthy digestive system. One sweet potato (with its skin) has more fiber than a bowl of oatmeal. Fiber may lower your risk of colon cancer as well as lower total and LDL (“bad”) cholesterol.
  • Provides one-third the requirements for Vitamin C which, among its immune boosting properties, has been associated with an increase of “good” cholesterol which lowers heart disease.
  • Good source of potassium, helping to maintain fluid and electrolyte balances in the cells of the body normalizing blood pressure, heart function and nerve function.

If you’re lucky, you might find purple Japanese yams. They are literally purple fleshed and high in anthocyanin, an antioxidant which help reduce blood pressure and inflammation, and protect against cancer and Type 2 diabetes. I prefer to mash these rather than use for fries as they are starchier.

Recipe: Sweet Potato Fries

Summary: In the States, sweet potato and yam are used interchangeably, though generally both are called sweet potato (in comparison to a Russet white potato). Frankly, I’m confused by their labeling and what I’ve read to help identify hasn’t been very helpful. This article, “What’s the Difference Between Yams and Sweet Potatoes?” might help you. To me, the orange fleshed tubers are usually referred to as yams – Garnet and Jewel being the 2 most common in local US markets. Yams generally have orange to red-orange skin. Sweet potatoes have a golden tan skin and yellowish-white flesh. Personally, I like both for fries. Yams are sweeter tasting and sweet potatoes tend to be more potato-like and great for mashing. 

I always make extra fries as they are good cold or reheated for breakfast.

Ingredients

  • One medium to large sweet potato per person.

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350F.
  2. Wash and dry the potatoes. (We leave the skins on for the fiber and mineral content.) Cut out any soft spots, “bad” spots, or cut areas.
  3. Slice into fries – thin or thick, your choice. Put them in a bowl with a bit of olive oil and sea salt and mix well. I use a covered bowl so that I can shake them around and make sure they are well-coated.
  4. Spread them out evenly on a parchment paper lined baking sheet.
  5. Bake for about 10-15 minutes. Turn fries over. Bake another 10-15 minutes depending on how thick you have sliced them. (If thick, fries may need to cook up to an hour.)
  6. Serve with a tomato aioli, chipotle aioli or spicy ginger ketchup.

 

Other Favorite Sweet Potato Recipes

Roasted Sweet Potato with Spicy Feta-Olive Salad – I agree with the author of this one when she writes “The contrasts between hot and cold, sweet and salty, crunchy and soft are mind-blowing!”

Maple Pecan Sweet Potatoes – Sweet and tangy and a little bit nutty!

Savory Mashed Sweet Potatoes The Parmesan cheese gives it the savory but can be omitted if dairy free. Use coconut butter or ghee instead of butter as needed.

Spicy Sweet Potato Dip – Very much like hummus but with a twist of flavors. Serve with crudités such as carrots, celery, fennel, radish, turnip, and jicama.