My Love Affair with Sweet Potatoes

Sweet Potatoes at the Farmer's Market

Confession: I love sweet potatoes.

As a child, I remember visiting sweet potato fields in South Carolina with my grandmother. My cousins and I would run through the fields getting our shoes and clothes covered in the grayish, brown dirt from the farm. I’m sure this was not appropriate—but it was fun. We’d head home with a bag full of dusty sweet potatoes knowing some good eats were in our future.

The next morning we’d have my grandpa’s fried sweet potatoes. That weekend, the treat would be Grandma’s “potato bread” which was not bread at all. Instead it was a blend of pureed sweet potatoes, sugar, butter, eggs and milk baked until the edges turned golden brown. I must have been 8 years old then and today (more years later than I’ll disclose), I still love sweet potatoes. However, I’ve learned to appreciate them in a different way.

And for good reason. Sweet potatoes proudly flaunt their superfood status. At just 100 calories per serving, sweet potatoes are one of the highest sources of beta carotene and are a good source of vitamin C, fiber and potassium. Sweet potatoes are a good addition to any plate.

Now Back to the Kitchen…
Large, unwieldy sweet potatoes have their place, but not in my kitchen. I opt for small sweet potatoes as they tend to deliver the sweetest, richest flavor. The key is to enhance the natural sweetness not drown it in sugar, butter and marshmallows. And roasting instead of boiling is a great way to preserve that sweet potato flavor and maximize nutrient retention.

Here are some of my favorite ways to prepare sweet potatoes:

Bake Them
On any given Sunday from October to March, I scrub four to five sweet potatoes and bake them whole until the sugars caramelize. (Ahhh. I can smell it already.) Throughout the week, I enjoy baked sweet potatoes as a quick side at breakfast, lunch or dinner. A sprinkle of cinnamon and nutmeg is all it takes to create the perfect side dish. The pulp can also be used for a blended sweet potato soup, as an oatmeal stir-in or as a base for mashed sweet potatoes. With so much versatility, this is my all-time favorite way to cook sweet potatoes.

Add Peanut Butter
This is my favorite new way to enjoy sweet potatoes. It may sound strange but don’t knock it ’til you try it. Open a warm baked sweet potato and top with a dollop of natural peanut butter. Sweet potatoes and peanuts go together like tomato and basil and well…peanut butter and jelly. In fact, this combo stars in the popular West African dish called Groundnut Stew.

Spice It Up
Who doesn’t love a sweet, smoky and spicy flavor combination? Cube a fresh sweet potato. Toss with a drizzle of olive oil, a sprinkle of kosher salt and a generous dose of chipotle chili powder. Roast the potatoes until tender and serve as a side dish.

Sweet potatoes also pair well with black beans, delicious Georgia pecans and yes the occasional pie crust. I could go on but I’d like to hear from you. What are your most creative ways to serve this gorgeous orange super food?

 

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Image courtesy of flickr user wikioticsIan

 

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