Thursday, November 19, 2009

Sweet Potatoes: The Wonder Vegetable

Sweet potato is one of the few things I know my picky kids will eat, so I make it a lot. Here are some suggestions for preparing this very nutritious vegetable. When selecting sweet potatoes, I tend to go by the philosophy that the smaller the potato the better the flavor (and the faster the cooking time).
  • Baked Sweet Potatoes. Turn the oven to about 375 degrees on and toss them in. It's that simple. I find that they cook faster when I put them in a cast-iron skillet and cover them with foil. When they are soft, you can serve them just like a baked potato.
  • Mashed Sweet Potatoes. After you bake them (as described above), you can cut them open and scoop out the potato into a bowl. Serve them like mashed potatoes. You can add a little butter, oil, brown sugar, cinnamon, and/or nutmeg to jazz them up. Although it's not necessary, running them through the food processor or mixer makes the potatoes a bit more fluffy and creamy.
  • Fun with Straws. Kids love to drink anything from a straw, so why not mashed sweet potatoes? It works surprisingly well if you use those giant straws (only $1 from the local Chinese market).
  • Sweet Potato Fries. This requires a little more effort, but it is totally worth it. When prepared this way, the sweet potatoes caramelize and have a slightly crispy texture. This has become a favorite recipe in our family. My kids love it! First, peel the sweet potatoes (2 or 3 potatoes are usually enough). Although the skins are tough, a good quality peeler (like Kitchen Aid) makes it a very easy task. Cut the potatoes into pieces the size of french fries. Put the fries in a bowl and coat them generously with olive or vegetable oil. Then lay them out in a single layer across a baking sheet (a cast iron skillet works best for me). Bake at about 375 degrees until the potatoes are soft on the inside and have a slightly crispy, caramelized outer layer.
  • Sweet Potato Casserole. I have a wonderful family recipe I will share in an upcoming post. It's a traditional southern recipe we've modified over the years to reduce the fat and sugar.
You can also freeze the mashed sweet potatoes in ice cube trays. I've done this with lots of different fruits and vegetables. Because the cubes are small, they defrost quickly. These are some of the ways I've used frozen puree cubes. It's a great way to sneak extra nutrients into to a recipe without dramatically changing the taste.
  • smoothies
  • pancakes
  • french toast
  • vegetable soup
  • spaghetti sauce
Sweet potatoes are also the perfect baby food. Wholesome Baby Food an excellent resource for making homemade baby food.
Sweet Potatoes: The Wonder VegetableSocialTwist Tell-a-Friend