Schweeeeeet Potatoes!

It’s pollen season here, but until the local farmers market is in full swing, we can rely on root vegetables to get us to the best that spring has to offer.  Sweet potatoes abound here, so it’s not hard to find wonderful local varieties almost year round.

Sweet potatoes may get a bad rap for their carbohydrate content, but they are complex carbohydrates, which means they are broken down in a controlled manner during digestion.  The healthiest foods (fruits, vegetables, and whole grains) primarily consist of carbohydrates and are packed with significant amounts of vitamins, minerals, and accessible energy, not to mention the substantial health benefits associated with dietary SweetPotatoesfiber.

The processed, highly refined “simple” carbohydrates have been stripped of all the health benefits of complex carbohydrates and are responsible for the public’s negative perception of carbohydrates.  Highly refined carbohydrates are easily broken down during digestion to the simplest form of carbohydrate, which is absorbed into the body as glucose.  Refined carbohydrates should have a bad reputation, however, this hasn’t translated into action in the right direction.  A 1996 survey showed that the average adult American eats 4 times as many refined carbohydrates on a given day than dark green vegetables.Information Plus  Additionally, only 3 vegetables made up half of the total vegetables served: potatoes (mostly consumed as fries and chips); iceburg lettuce (the least nutrient dense of all the greens); and canned tomatoes (probably a reflection on pizza and pasta consumption).

The benefits of a whole food, plant-based diet are gained from eating the complex carbohydrates found in whole grains, fruits, and vegetables.  Regular consumption of refined carbohydrates (even if the original substrate was a complex carbohydrate) could result in achieving a low-fat diet, but doing so is at the expense of your health, both in the short-term and long-term.  So choose to pay now‑ by building your willpower to chose the healthier option and by investing time in your health- to avoid paying much more later in life.

Start now by trying out one of the sweet potato recipes below and know that, in addition to the benefits of complex carbohydrates mentioned above, sweet potatoes have beta-carotene, selenium, and vitamins C and E.  Only ½ cup of cooked sweet potato counts as 1 serving of vegetables, and you need 4 or more servings of vegetables per day.Barnard 2008  Two cups of cooked veggies per day is very doable!!

 

Baked Sweet Potatoes

1 sweet potato per person, of uniform size for even cooking

Toppings, optional (see below)

Preheat oven to 400’.

Bake sweet potatoes on a baking sheet for 30 to 45 minutes, depending on size.  Line the baking sheet with Aluminum foil for easy clean up as the sweet potatoes will ooze liquid that will caramelize on the baking sheet.  When fully cooked, the inside of the sweet potato will be soft and the outside will have darkened.

Topping ideas:

Cinnamon, honey, maple syrup, or agave nectar

Pineapple, baked apples, raisins, or dried cranberries

Marshmallows (for the sweet potato-averse crowd)

Steamed Broccoli

Sautéed or steamed spinach or mushrooms

Sautéed or roasted onions

Black beans, salsa, or bothhttp://www.ncsweetpotatoes.com/

 

 

Oven Roasted Sweet Potato Fries

1 sweet potato per person

Spray EVOO

Salt

Seasonings, optional

 

Preheat oven to 450’.

Peel sweet potatoes if desired or if they are not organic.

Cut each sweet potato lengthwise into 8 wedges.

Arrange wedges on a lightly sprayed baking sheet, then lightly spray the wedges themselves.

Sprinkle with salt and any desired seasonings.

Bake potatoes for 15 minutes, then flip and bake another 10-15 minutes.

 

Individual Sweet Potato Pies

Dough for one pie crust to make 4 hand pies (I highly recommend Vegan Pie in the Sky by Moskowitz and Romero if you’re interested in making your own pie crust.  Otherwise it is not difficult to find pre-made pie crust dough that does not contain dairy or egg.)

Filling ingredients:

2 c mashed sweet potato (from 2 baked sweet potatoes)

1 ½ T organic cornstarch

¾ t ground cinnamon

¼ c sucanat or turbinado sugar

1-2 t grated ginger

Pinch of salt

 

Mix well or blend the filling ingredients in a medium sized bowl.

On a floured surface, roll the dough out into a rectangle that is twice as long as it is wide.   Cut the rectangle in half to form two squares.  Then cut each square in half to form four rectangles.

Place just less than ¼ c sweet potato filling on half of each rectangle.  Fold the pastry over to enclose the pie and moisten the edges to seal the crust.  Use fork tines to crimp the edges.  Then cut 3 small slits in the top of each pie to allow steam to escape while baking.  Transfer the pies to a parchment paper lined baking sheet.  Sprinkling a few grains of salt on each pie adds a really nice touch.

Bake at 400 for 20-25 min or until the edges are lightly browned, rotating the baking sheet if necessary to allow for even cooking.  Remove from the oven and let cool for 5 min before transferring to a cooling rack.  These pies may be eaten warm or at room temperature if you have that much patience.

 

Sweet Potato Apple Casserole

3 medium sized sweet potatoes, peeled and sliced about 1/8” thick

3 large granny smith (or other cooking) apples, peeled and sliced about 1/8” thick

½ c water

1 t ground cinnamon

1 t ground nutmeg

¼ c agave nectar

Optional: chopped pecans

 

Peel and slice the sweet potatoes and apples in similar thickness (approximately 1/8” thick).  In a casserole dish lightly sprayed with EVOO, arrange the slices in a visually appealing manner or just toss them in.

Add ½ c water, then sprinkle cinnamon and nutmeg.  Top with agave nectar.  Sprinkle pecans if using.

Cover and bake at 350’ for about 30 minutes or until sweet potatoes and apples are tender.

Serves 6.

 

References

Information Plus.  Nutrition: a key to good health. Wylie, TX: Information Plus, 1999.

Barnard ND, Reilly JK. The Cancer Survivor’s Guide. 2008

Sweet Potato Picture: http://www.flickr.com/photos/iita-media-library/5120663128/sizes/l/

http://www.ncsweetpotatoes.com/