Food Adventures with Connie

Sweet Potatoes

Growing up my mom made sweet potatoes maybe once a year and if she did, they were for Thanksgiving and they came out of a can.  Fast forward 25+ years to a more health-conscious Connie with a BS in Nutrition and Food Management and you’ll see sweet potatoes on the family table on a regular basis.  They are a superfood, dontcha know?

sweet-potatoes-cover

Sweet potatoes, Ipomoea batatas, are not yams (Dioscorea species) and they are not related to the common Irish, white, russet, red-skinned, or gold potatoes (Solanum tuberosum) that take up half a produce aisle at the grocery store.  (They are actually in the morning glory family, Convolvulaceae.)  They tend to garner just a sliver of retail shelf space but they are there and you should buy some.

One medium sweet potato provides more than a day’s worth of vitamin A.  Vitamin A supports immune function and vision and may help prevent cardiovascular disease and cancer (Source: Wardlaw’s Contemporary Nutrition).  It will also give you 35% of the daily recommended amount of vitamin C.  It is a very good source of manganese, copper, pantothenic acid, and vitamin B6 and a good source of potassium, dietary fiber, thiamine, riboflavin, niacin, and phosphorus.  In addition, sweet potatoes are a low glycemic index food (medium glycemic index if you don’t consume them with the skin), which means they don’t lead to fluctuations in blood glucose and insulin levels like other potatoes do.

Sweet potatoes are very versatile.  You can prepare them in sweet or savory dishes, consume them raw, boiled, sautéed, or roasted, or even puree them to sneak them into dishes so your kids don’t know they’re there (not that I’m admitting to that tactic).  Roasting them is my favorite, and you can switch up the spices to match your mood.

Braised Pork Roast and Moroccan Spiced Roasted Sweet Potatoes

plate-of-braised-pork-and-roasted-sweet-potatoes

This meal was borne from a need to use what we already had in the house.  I’m not saying you have to make these two dishes together, but they do complement each other nicely.  The pork recipe is adapted from a New York Times recipe.

Pork Roast Ingredients:

pork-shoulder-roast

  • 3-4 pound bone-in pork shoulder roast
  • 2 cups water
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • ½ teaspoon Tabasco sauce
  • 2 tablespoons red-wine vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1 tablespoon molasses
  • 1 teaspoon cumin

Pork Roast Directions:

Place the pork in a cast-iron Dutch oven with a lid.  Add the rest of the ingredients listed above.  Bring to a boil.  Reduce heat to simmer and cook for 75-90 minutes, turning roast every 15 minutes.  While it’s cooking prepare the sweet potatoes (see below).

braised-pork-roast

Check temperature – you want it to be between 145 and 160°F.  Remove roast to platter to rest.

Reduce cooking liquid and drizzle over sliced roast when serving.

Sweet Potato Ingredients:

  • 4 sweet potatoes (about 2 pounds), peeled and cut into 6 wedges, then cut in half
  • ½ red onion, sliced
  • ¼ cup fresh thyme
  • 1 ½ teaspoon Dry Harissa Moroccan Spice Blend (contains crushed red pepper, salt, cayenne pepper, garlic, paprika, sumac and other spices)
  • 2 tablespoons canola oil (olive oil would be good, but I’m all out)
thyme-in-snow

This thyme plant is a champ – everything else in this patio pot has succumbed to the winter ice and snow.

Sweet Potato Directions:

Preheat oven to 450°F.

roasted-sweet-potato-ingredients

Mix all ingredients in a large bowl.  Spread on a half sheet pan (AKA a large cookie sheet).

sweet-potatoes-and-onions-before-roasting

Roast for 15 minutes, stir so browned sides of sweet potatoes are up, and roast for 15 more minutes or until they’re crispy on the outside and soft on the inside.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.  Serve warm.

sweet-potatoes-and-onions-after-roasting

Sweet Potato Resources from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln

For information on growing sweet potatoes check out this Acreage Insights article Sweet Potatoes in Nebraska.

For information about how to select, store, and cook sweet potatoes check out this webletter November: Sweet Potato Awareness Month.

Sources:

  1. Wardlaw, G., A. Smith, and A. Collene.   Nutrients Involved in Body Defenses, Chapter 10 in Wardlaw’s Contemporary Nutrition: A Functional Approach. p. 341-343.
  2. Pepin, J. Braised Pork with Sweet Potatoes.  Accessed at http://cooking.nytimes.com/recipes/3651-braised-pork-roast-with-sweet-potatoes 1/28/2017.
  3. Hammond, V. Sweet Potatoes in Nebraska.  Acreage Insights.  Accessed at http://acreage.unl.edu/june-2011#SweetPotato 1/28/2017.
  4. Franzen-Castle, L. November: Sweet Potato Awareness Month.  Accessed at http://food.unl.edu/documents/November_Webletter_SweetPotato_10_29_14.pdf 1/28/2017.

You’ll find tons of information about sweet potatoes online.  Here are a couple articles I enjoyed reading as I wrote this post:

  1. Husted, K. Why America Is Growing the Most Sweet Potatoes Since WWII. NPR’s The Salt.  Accessed at http://www.npr.org/sections/thesalt/2017/01/19/510436364/why-america-is-growing-the-most-sweet-potatoes-since-wwii 1/28/2017.
  2. Szalay, J. Sweet Potatoes: Health Benefits, Risks & Nutrition Facts.   Accessed at http://www.livescience.com/46016-sweet-potato-nutrition.html 1/28/2017.
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