A foodie's quest to turn up the heat through strength and conditioning with whole food and a hungry mind.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Five for Friday: 5 Things to do With a Sweet Potato

Potatoes are an incredibly underrated vegetable. Both regular and sweet potatoes offer distinctive nutritional benefits, but are completely different vegetables from each other. These two potatoes actually come from two completely different families in the plant kingdom. While many sources hold sweet potatoes on a pedestal claiming they are far superior to the regular “baking” potatoes, they both have a welcome place in our diet.
Just like the regular spud, sweet potatoes come in many varieties and range in color from a pasty white to a deep red; each imparting unique tastes and textures. Although sweet potatoes do taste sweeter than their distant “white” cousins, they do not spike our blood sugar as much as the regular spuds. One reason for this is from the fact that sweet potatoes have almost double the amount of fiber than their counterparts; fiber plays a major role in slowing digestion and releasing sugar. Both varieties offer similar amounts of vitamins and minerals, but sweet potatoes come out on top for antioxidant content. So, don’t skip out on baked potatoes as they have a lot to offer in flavor and nutrition, but I want to focus on the sweet tuber today.
First, let’s look at how to select your sweet potato. WHFoods.com has great tips on how to select and store a sweet potato:
“Choose sweet potatoes that are firm and do not have any cracks, bruises or soft spots. Avoid those that are displayed in the refrigerated section of the produce department since cold temperature negatively alters their taste.
Sweet potatoes should be stored in a cool, dark and well-ventilated place, where they will keep fresh for up to ten days. Ideally, they should be kept out of the refrigerator in a cool, dry, dark place not above 60 degrees F / 15 degrees C, which would fit the characteristics of a root cellar. Yet since most people don't have root cellars, we'd suggest just keeping your sweet potatoes loose (not in a plastic bag, but if desired, a brown paper bag with multiple air holes punched in it will work) and storing them in a cool, dark, and well-ventilated cupboard away from sources of excess heat (like the stove).
After selecting a sweet potato or five following the tips above, here are some of my favorite ways to enjoy:
1. Sweet Potato Peanut Stew or BisqueEatingwell.com provides a great recipe I use and change as needed. Instead of the tomato juice their recipe calls for, I use canned chopped tomatoes; sometimes I toss some cubed and cooked chicken breast in after pureeing for a protein boost. The peanut butter provides healthy fat that enables the body to better absorb the beta-carotene in sweet potatoes.

2. Sweet Potato Pureed with Peanut Butter, Banana, and Honey – just like that, so good. Cube and steam the sweet potato in the microwave, throw all ingredients in a blender with a little milk, and blend away! This is great hot or cold and with or without roasted peanuts added for a little crunch.

3. Roasted Sweet Potato – either cut into fries or simply cubed, I love baking these in a 375 degree over for 30 – 45 minutes. The roasting brings out the sweetness of the spud and is even better with cinnamon sprinkled on top. For something savory, toss with whole garlic cloves, ground cumin, and parsley to roast in the oven; this is great served cold too!
4. Sweet Potato, Tomato, and Black Bean Salad – cubed and roasted or cooked in the microwave, mix the sweet potato with drained and rinsed black beans and fresh or canned chopped tomatoes; keep in the fridge to use as a quick go-to meal. Season with ground cumin, cayenne, garlic powder, and cilantro for extra spice; I like to use this mixture as cool topping on salad greens which is nice in this hot weather!  Try adding sliced avocado for a cool and creamy addition with extra nutrition.

5. Sweet Potato Pancakes – a great change from regular flour pancakes for a special weekend breakfast; try this recipe from Allrecipes.com, you will love it! I do not use as many eggs called for in the recipe, only 2 whole and 3 whites for me; also, I use half unsweetened applesauce and half non-fat plain yogurt instead of all yogurt. I whisk plain yogurt with peanut butter and honey to use for a tasty topping; sliced bananas with extra cinnamon is a great way to really up the flavor!

The potato is a versatile food and can be prepared in less than 10 minutes for when you have no time to spare. Kelley and I have found the Jersey Sweet Potato to be our favorite so far; we simply rinse and microwave for 4 -5 minutes and enjoy topped with plain, non-fat yogurt. Similar to my squash puree mixtures, I sometimes use cooked sweet potato instead; this makes for a very creamy and delicious treat when mixed with frozen berries or bananas.

Don’t be scared to eat more potatoes, both sweet and regular are great nutritional powerhouses. Buy organic so you can just rinse the skin and eat it to obtain the vital vitamins and minerals it has within. If you do not buy organic, you might be better off peeling the potato to limit the amount of pesticides you ingest.

How do you enjoy sweet potatoes?

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