Sweet Potatoes All Year Round
by Cathe Olson
Many people think of sweet potatoes only when Thanksgiving rolls around but they are actually a great food to eat all year long. Sweet potatoes are an excellent source of vitamin A (in the form of beta carotene) which is important for eyesight and fighting off viral infections. They also supply vitamin C, vitamin B6, iron, and fiber. Sweet potatoes are full of antioxidants and have been classified as an “antidiabetic” food because they help stabilize blood sugar and lower insulin resistance.
Sweet potatoes are not actually related to potatoes, nor are they yams as they are often called. There are about over 400 varieties. Some are shaped like potatoes, short and round, while others are long with tapered ends. Different types have different tastes and textures when cooked. Sweet potatoes with yellow or tan skins have a lighter flesh that is firm and dry. The reddish skinned varieties have dark orange flesh that is soft and moist.
When selecting sweet potatoes, chose ones that are firm and do not have cracks, soft spots, or moldy ends. Avoid those from the refrigerated section of the produce department since cold temperatures can give them an unpleasant taste. Store sweet potatoes in a cool, dark place and they should keep up to ten days. Do not keep uncooked sweet potatoes in the refrigerator.
It’s important to buy organic sweet potatoes because they pick up a musty taste from pesticides in the soil. With organically-grown sweet potatoes, you can eat the entire vegetable, including the skin. If you do get conventionally-grown sweet potatoes, be sure to peel them since the skin may be treated with dye or wax.
Sweet potatoes can be prepared in the same way as regular potatoes. They are delicious baked, boiled, steamed, and roasted. Unlike regular potatoes, however, sweet potatoes are delicious in sweet dishes and baked goods like cookies, cakes, sweet breads, and muffins. Cooked and mashed sweet potatoes can even replace up to 1/4 of the wheat flour in breads. The flavor of sweet potatoes is enhanced by spices such as cinnamon, nutmeg, ground cloves, cardamom, and allspice.
Forget about sweet potatoes smothered in brown sugar and marshmallows and try some of our favorite recipes below.
Roasted Root Vegetables
This is an easy way to prepare root vegetables and a delicious side dish for your Thanksgiving dinner. You can peel the vegetables if you like but if they are organic and the skins look good, just give them a good scrub. Don’t skimp on the oil. It gives the vegetables a crisp coating. Use any kind of root vegetables you like (white or sweet potatoes alone are delicious)—just make sure they add up to about 8 cups.
- 2 sweet potatoes, cut into 1-inch cubes
- 2 white potatoes, cut into 1-inch cubes
- 2 large carrots, scrubbed or peeled and thickly sliced
- 2 parsnips, scrubbed or peeled and thickly sliced
- 3 to 4 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 tablespoons chopped fresh herbs or 2 teaspoons dried (thyme, rosemary, tarragon, etc.)
- Sea salt and black pepper to taste
Preheat oven to 450ºF. Place vegetables in large bowl and toss with remaining ingredients. Spread on large baking sheet to form a single layer. Bake for 10 minutes. Reduce the heat to 400ºF and roast an additional 30 minutes, or until vegetables are tender when pierced with a fork.
Makes 8 servings
Black Bean and Sweet Potato Enchiladas
This delicious meal is high in protein, vitamin A, and iron. If you’re in a hurry, you can use prepared enchilada sauce instead of making your own.
- 2 teaspoons oil
- 1 small onion, diced
- 2 sweet potatoes, diced (about 2 1/2 cups)
- 2 cups or 1 (15-ounce can) cooked black beans with a little cooking water
- 2 cups chopped greens (kale, spinach, etc.)
- Sea salt and black pepper to taste
- 2 cups Enchilada Sauce (recipes follows)
- 8 large whole grain flour tortillas or slices mountain bread, or 10 to 12 corn tortillas
- 8 ounces nondairy sour cream
Preheat oven to 375ºF. Heat oil in large skillet. Add onion and sauté 5 to 10 minutes or until soft. Add sweet potatoes. Cover and cook about 10 minutes or until tender. Stir in beans and greens. Cover and heat about 5 minutes until greens are wilted. Add a little water if necessary to prevent scorching. Season with sea salt and pepper to taste.
Cover bottom of 9 x 13-inch baking dish with about 1/3 cup of enchilada sauce. Place tortilla or mountain bread on flat surface. Scoop a line of filling across the width of tortilla or mountain bread about 2 inches from the bottom. Spoon sour cream across filling. Roll enchilada up and place in pan, seam side down. Repeat until all filling has been used. Cover enchiladas with remaining sauce. Cover pan and bake 20 minutes.
Makes 8 servings
This may not be totally authentic but it is easy and it tastes great.
- 1 small onion, minced
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 2 teaspoons chili powder
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- 2 teaspoons dried oregano
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 3 cups tomato puree
- 1/2 cup water
- 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
Heat oil in medium pan over medium-low heat. Add onion and sauté 5 to 7 minutes, or until onion is golden brown. Stir in chili powder, cumin, oregano, and garlic. Saut— 1 minute. Add remaining ingredients. Bring to a boil and simmer 15 minutes.
Makes 3 1/2 cups
Cranberry-Sweet Potato Cookies
- 1/3 cup maple syrup, brown rice syrup, or agave nectar
- 1/2 cup softened butter substitute (like Earth Balance) or coconut oil
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- Ener-G egg replacer equivalent to 1 egg
- 1 cup mashed cooked sweet potato
- 1 3/4 cups whole wheat, barley, or brown rice flour
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 1/2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice
- 3/4 cup dried cranberries
- 1/2 cup chopped walnuts or pecans
Preheat oven to 375°F. Beat together sweetener and butter substitute or coconut oil until smooth. Add vanilla, egg replacer, and pumpkin and beat well. In separate bowl, sift together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and pumpkin pie spice. Stir flour mixture into liquid ingredients. Fold in dried cranberries and nuts. Drop by tablespoonfuls onto unoiled cookie sheets. Bake about 10 minutes, or until bottoms are golden. Cool on wire rack.
Makes about 3 dozen
Note: If you don’t have pumpkin pie spice, use 3/4 teaspoon cinnamon, 1/2 teaspoon cardamom, and 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg.
Recipes adapted from The Vegetarian Mother’s Cookbook copyright © 2005.