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Vegetarian Journal Nov/Dec 1999

Sweet and Savory Sweet Potatoes

By Debra Daniels-Zeller

Check out the recipes!

Cultivated in Peru, South America and throughout the Pacific islands, sweet potatoes were a dietary staple by the time Columbus arrived in the West Indies. During a feast given by a king and queen on Santo Tome, he sampled three or four varieties of sweet potatoes.

In 1824, The Virginia House-Wife--an early American cookbook--contained recipes for sweet potatoes which included boiled and stewed sweet potatoes, sweet potato pudding, and sweet potato buns--sweet rolls made with cooked, mashed sweet potatoes mixed with flour, sugar, spices, yeast, and butter.

Unrelated to potatoes and the nightshade family, sweet potatoes belong to the morning glory family. They grow as roots of trailing vines that need four to five months of warm, sunny weather to reach maturity, though some varieties have been developed to reach maturity faster. The sweetest-of-sweet varieties are commonly labeled yams, though true yams are a starchy tropical vegetable, native to Africa and not often seen outside of specialty markets here.

Generally divided into two types, sweet potatoes are referred to as moist-fleshed "yams" or dry-fleshed. The moist-fleshed, dark orange- to purple-skinned varieties convert most of their starches to sugar during cooking. The longer they are baked the sweeter they get. These are excellent for sweet puréed soups, puddings, and desserts. The dry-fleshed sweet potatoes with a cream-colored or yellowish flesh are starchier and less sweet when cooked, making them well suited for savory dishes and salads.

Rich and sweet in flavor with a heavy texture, sweet potatoes are rich in vitamin A and carotenoid antioxidants, and they contain vitamins C, E, and thiamin. They are also rich in complex carbohydrates and a good source of fiber--a medium sweet potato contains about 3.5 grams of fiber.

Definitely the most versatile vegetable around, sweet potatoes can be added to breakfast cereals for a sweet and creamy breakfast pudding; cooked with polenta and made into sweet or savory pies; cubed and added to pilafs, salads and sauces; baked as home fries; incorporated into bread, cake, or cookie dough; mashed and made into sandwich spreads; puréed and added to soups, stews, or baked beans; puréed into delicious puddings; or simply eaten plain! They go well with spicy seasonings, curries, sweet spices like cinnamon, nutmeg, and cardamom, and flavorings such as vanilla, anise, orange, and butterscotch. Any way you slice, bake, sauté, or purée them, make them part of your daily diet!

Here are a few of my recipes to get you started. Feel free to experiment--and most of all have fun!


Butterscotch-Sweet Potato Bread

(Makes one 9 x 5 inch loaf; 10 slices)

Better than banana bread, this sweet bread goes great with afternoon tea or as a sweet addition to a lunch box. Butterscotch flavoring is available in natural foods stores or specialty markets. If you can't find it, use 2 teaspoons of vanilla instead. Add 1/2 cup chopped dried fruit or toasted chopped nuts to batter before baking for variety.

2 cups whole wheat pastry flour
1 Tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup mashed sweet potatoes (about 2 medium, baked and skinned sweet potatoes)
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup soy or rice milk (use plain or vanilla)
1/2 cup maple syrup
1 teaspoon butterscotch flavoring
1 teaspoon vanilla

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly oil a 9 x 5 inch loaf pan.

Combine dry ingredients in a bowl, blending well. In a blender add sweet potatoes, olive oil, soy or rice milk, maple syrup, butterscotch, and vanilla. Purée until smooth. Mix wet and dry ingredients together until well blended. Do not overmix. Mixture will be quite thick like cookie dough. Spread in a loaf pan and bake for 45 minutes or until lightly browned and sides begin to pull away from the sides of the pan. Let cool in the pan about 10 minutes before removing to a cooling rack.

Total calories per slice: 203
Fat: 6 grams
Carbohydrates: 36 grams
Protein: 4 grams
Sodium: 230 milligrams
Fiber: 4 grams

Spicy Sweet Potatoes and Peas

(Serves 4)

A quick, easy dish served over whole grains like millet, quinoa, or brown rice. Use couscous if you're pressed for time. For variation try cauliflower instead of peas. (Pictured on front cover.)

One 8-ounce can tomato sauc
1 cup wate
2 cloves garlic, presse
1 teaspoon each: coriander, cumin, chili powder
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
1/4 teaspoon each: cardamom, cinnamon, ginger, and cayenne
1 small onion, finely chopped (about 1/2 cup)
2 medium sweet potatoes, washed, sliced in half, and cut into bite-sized pieces
2 cups frozen peas
Salt to tast
1/4 cup toasted cashews

Combine tomato sauce, water, garlic, spices, and onion in a saucepan. Stir and cook on medium heat for 5 minutes. Add sweet potatoes and peas; cook for another 10 minutes or until fork tender. Add salt to taste. Serve over hot grains and top with toasted cashews.

Total calories per serving: 198
Fat: 4 grams
Carbohydrates: 34 grams
Protein: 7 grams
Sodium: 438 milligrams
Fiber: 7 grams


Savory Baked Sweet Potato Fries

(Serves 4)

A wonderful version of home fries without all the fat. These fries are good hot or cold and make an excellent afternoon snack! Experiment and vary the seasonings. For example, for spicy Mexi-fries blend 1 teaspoon chili powder, 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon, and 1/4 teaspoon chipotle chili powder or cayenne; add 1 teaspoon paprika and sprinkle over fries after mixing the oil with the fries. Or, for curried fries, omit paprika, and sprinkle 2 teaspoons curry powder over fries and mix in.

2 medium sweet potatoes, washed and cut into sticks about 1/2-inch thick
1 Tablespoon olive oil
2 teaspoons paprika
Salt to taste

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. In a bowl, pour oil over sweet potatoes and mix well. Add paprika and stir, coating all fries. Spread on a nonstick baking sheet and bake for 25 minutes, turning fries once halfway through baking. When fries are browned, remove from oven and sprinkle with salt to taste.

Total calories per serving: 88
Fat: 3 grams
Carbohydrates: 14 grams
Protein: 1 gram
Sodium: 6 milligrams
Fiber: 2 grams

Creamy Sweet Potato and Wild Rice Soup

(Serves 4)

Sweet potato season is from October to Mid-March, making this soup a wonderful complement to fall and winter menus. Caramelized onions, sweet potatoes, and the sweet yet pungent flavor of nutmeg, or the exotic, Indian garam masala available in natural foods stores or specialty markets, create a heavenly, creamy soup. White miso, a sweeter, lighter miso, is also available in natural foods stores or Asian markets. If you like a bit of heat, add a pinch of cayenne.

1/2 Tablespoon olive oil
1 onion, chopped
6 cloves garlic, peeled and sliced
4 cups water
4 cups peeled and cut-up sweet potatoes
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg or garam masala
1/4 teaspoon cayenne (optional)
1/4 cup rolled oats
1/4 cup light or white miso
1 cup cooked wild rice
1/4 cup chopped parsley for garnish

Heat a large heavy skillet over medium heat. Add oil, onion, and garlic. Stir, cover with a lid that fits directly over the onions and sweat the onions until soft and transparent. Remove lid and continue to cook until onions start to turn brown, stirring frequently. Remove from heat and set aside. In a large saucepan combine water, sweet potatoes, nutmeg, cayenne (if desired), and oats. Bring to a boil, cover, reduce heat, and cook on medium until sweet potatoes are very tender.

Remove from heat and purée in a blender, two cups at a time, until mixture is smooth and creamy. Purée in miso. Return to saucepan. If soup is too thick, add more water. Stir in wild rice and heat gently for a few minutes. Garnish with parsley before serving.

Total calories per serving: 473
Fat: 4 grams
Carbohydrates: 100 grams
Protein: 11 grams
Sodium: 674 milligrams
Fiber: 12 grams

Warm Lentil, Garlic, and Sweet Potato Salad

(Serves 6)

This warming winter salad that combines both cooked and raw vegetables with a spicy lime vinaigrette is a perfect meal for busy days or a welcome addition to a festive holiday dinner. Low in fat and rich in flavor, this salad makes a great filling for burritos or pita bread the second time around.

2 cups water
1 cup green lentils (use French lentils if you can find them, as they hold their shape  better than the flat lentils)
1 carrot, finely chopped
3 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
1 bay leaf
1/2 Tablespoon olive oil
1 leek, cut in half and thinly sliced, then washed under running water
4 cloves garlic, peeled and sliced
1 medium sweet potato, washed, cut in half, then cut into bite-sized pieces
1/2 cup each: finely chopped celery, red
pepper and parsley


Juice of 1 lime
1 Tablespoon rice vinegar
1 Tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon sweetener
2 medium cloves garlic, pressed
2 teaspoons chili powder
1/4 teaspoon salt (or to taste)

Combine water, lentils, carrot, garlic, and bay leaf in a saucepan. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer for 20 minutes or until done. While lentils cook, heat a heavy frying pan over medium heat. Add oil, leek, and garlic; stir and cover. Cook for about 5 minutes. Add sweet potatoes and cook until they are tender--another 5 to 7 minutes--adding a bit of water if necessary to prevent sticking. Do not overcook sweet potatoes or they will be too soft in the salad. Remove from heat.

When lentils are done, remove from heat, drain, remove bay leaf, and stir in celery, red pepper, and parsley.

Mix dressing ingredients in a small bowl. Pour over lentil mixture. Add sweet potatoes and leeks and mix well. Serve warm or refrigerate and serve at room temperature later.

Total calories per serving: 124
Fat: 4 grams
Carbohydrates: 20 grams
Protein: 4 grams
Sodium: 32 milligrams
Fiber: 4 grams

Sweet Potato-Apricot Pudding

(Serves 4)

This quick dessert is good alone or as a pie filling. If you like a strong maple taste, use a darker grade of syrup.

2  1/3 cups vanilla soy or rice milk
10 dried apricots
1 cup cooked, mashed sweet potato
2 Tablespoons maple syru
2 Tablespoons arrowroot (found in natural foods stores)
1/4 teaspoon salt
Freshly grated nutmeg for garnish

Pour 1 cup of the soy or rice milk over apricots and refrigerate overnight (or until apricots are soft, a few hours). In a blender, purée apricot and soy or rice milk until smooth. Add remaining milk, sweet potato, maple syrup, arrowroot, and salt and blend until creamy and smooth. Pour mixture into a saucepan and heat gently over medium heat for about 10 minutes, stirring frequently. Pour into bowls and chill until set, about 1/2 hour. Garnish with freshly grated nutmeg.


Orange-Date-Sweet Potato Pudding: Use 2/3 cup orange juice, 11/3 cups vanilla soy or rice milk, 4 large, pitted, chopped dates, and 2 tablespoons maple syrup. Combine with sweet potatoes, arrowroot, and salt in a blender, then cook and chill as directed.

Maple-Butterscotch-Pecan Pudding: Use 2 cups vanilla soy or rice milk; a dark grade of maple syrup, or increase maple syrup by 1 tablespoon; and 1 teaspoon butterscotch. Combine with sweet potatoes, arrowroot, and salt and cook as directed. Stir in 1/3 cup toasted, chopped pecans and cool.

Total calories per serving: 227
Fat: 4 grams
Carbohydrates: 40 grams
Protein: 7 gram
Sodium: 260 milligrams
Fiber: 4 grams

10 Ideas for Leftover Sweet Potatoes

1. For an easy breakfast, slit a cooked sweet potato down the middle, add some leftover whole grains, a dash of salt, and a bit of maple syrup. Mix gently. Heat in an oven at 350 degrees for about 10 minutes, or in a microwave for about 1 minute. Stir again and serve.

2. Add to your cooked oatmeal or other cooked whole grain breakfast with a dash of salt.

3. For a sandwich spread, mash 1 cup cooked sweet potatoes with 1 tablespoon peanut or other nut butter, 1 tablespoon rice syrup, and a dash of salt. Mix in grated carrots, chopped celery, or green

peppers for a crunchy texture.

4. For a sweet, creamy soup base, use 1/2 to 1 cup cooked mashed sweet potatoes, puréed with 1 cup of your soup. Stir mixture into soup pot.

5. Slice and pack in a lunch for a sweet afternoon snack.

6. Make a sauce for whole grains or pasta. Purée 1 cup mashed sweet potatoes with 1 cup water. Add your favorite herbs or spices and a pinch of salt or 1 tablespoon light miso and 1 tablespoon arrowroot. Blend until smooth. Heat gently over medium heat until thickened.

7. For sweeter mashed potatoes, mash 1/2 to 1 cup leftover sweet potatoes with potatoes, a little soy or rice milk, and 1 tablespoon light miso. Or add a dash of salt and pepper and serve.

8. Make a savory pie by adding 1 cup leftover sweet potatoes to cooked polenta or millet, a dash of salt and pepper, and cooked vegetables or beans. Press gently into a 9-inch pie pan. Let cool until sliceable, about 20 minutes.

9. Cube and add to any cooked grains, soups, or pasta dishes.

10. Add to pies, cookies, cakes, or quick breads in place of pumpkin.

Excerpts from the Nov/Dec Issue

The Vegetarian Journal published here is not the complete issue, but these are excerpts from the published magazine. Anyone wanting to see everything should subscribe to the magazine.

This article was converted to HTML by Jeanie Freeman

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