JOPLIN, Mo. —
Picture it: a long, curvaceous beauty sunning herself in a tropical paradise. That's how I like to imagine sweet potatoes growing. In actuality, their bulbous orange bodies grow safely underground while their pretty green vines crawl along the dirt in search of sunlight.
They're originally a tropical plant and crave an unbearably hot, wet summer.
You still have time to start growing your sweet potatoes inside. Simply suspend a sweet potato over a jar with some toothpicks. Fill up the jar with water so half of your sweet potato is submerged. Sprouts will shoot out in no time. Snap off the sprouts and put them in a vase with water in a sunny window. You get to enjoy the beauty of the vines in your window while roots grow. In a few weeks, transplant the sprouts or "slips" to your garden. By then the soil will have had plenty of time to warm up.
Sweet potatoes are great for the novice gardener. The only pests they're prone to are rabbits. Those pesky cuties will nibble the leaves until you're left with nothing. I speak from experience.
White potatoes have given sweet potatoes a bad rap, you may be surprised to learn that they're not related. Not even distant cousins. Sweet potatoes have a much lower glycemic index than white potatoes, which simply means they don't spike your blood sugar level the way a white potato does. They are packed full of vitamins A and C, calcium, potassium and fiber. Sweet potatoes are also easy to digest, making them a great first food for babies or anyone with a delicate digestive system. I've also heard them referred to as a skin super food.
If you're only familiar with sweet potatoes that are covered with marshmallows and served at Thanksgiving, it's time for you to branch out. Try substituting sweet potatoes for white potatoes in potato salad, potato pancakes and mashed potatoes. Get creative with sauces and add-ins to accommodate the mild sweetness of the potatoes. Tweak your traditional potato condiments with a little spice, honey or curry. They complement sweet potatoes so well. Or try any of these recipes with one or both of the sauces included. Your choice comes down to whether your feeling sweet or savory.
Bacon-wrapped sweet potato bites
2 medium sweet potatoes
1 pound bacon
2 tablespoons butter
1/2 teaspoon chipotle chili powder
1 tablespoon sea salt
4 tablespoons maple syrup, optional
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Peel the sweet potatoes and cut them lengthwise into quarters. Then cut each quarter in half, and then half again. You'll wind up with 32 bites. Melt butter over low-heat and stir in chipotle chili powder and sea salt. Toss the potatoes in the spiced, melted butter to coat. Cut the bacon slices in half, giving you 32 miniature slices of bacon. Wrap each sweet potato bite with a half slice of bacon, and use a toothpick to hold the bacon in place. Place on a baking sheet and bake for 45 minutes, turning once about halfway through.
These are done when the bacon is crispy and the sweet potatoes are fork-tender. Remove from heat, drizzle with maple syrup and let cool before serving.
Recipe adapted from foodrenegade.com
Sweet potato rounds
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Slice unpeeled sweet potatoes 1/2-inch thick and place in a single layer on a lightly oiled baking sheet. Roast until browned on bottoms, 30 to 35 minutes. Top with black beans, crumbled Mexican cheese and cilantro, or use the cheese of your choice, salsa, pesto or anything else that sounds yummy. These are a great gluten-free alternative to crostini and make an excellent appetizer.
Adapted from marthastewart.com
Oven-roasted sweet potato chips
3/4 pound sweet potatoes
1 tablespoon olive oil
11/2 teaspoons chili powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Cut sweet potatoes into 1/4-inch slices; set aside. Combine 1 tablespoon olive oil, 11/2 teaspoons chili powder, 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon ground cumin. Add sweet potatoes; toss gently to coat. Cover a lightly oiled, nonstick baking sheet with a single layer of potatoes; roast, turning once, until golden and tender (about 20 minutes).
Adapted from health.com
Cinnamon yogurt dip
1/2 cup plain Greek or regular yogurt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon vanilla
Sweetener to taste (I prefer honey or maple syrup)
Recipe adapted from fooddoodles.com
6 ounces fat-free, plain Greek yogurt
2 scallions, chopped
1/2 tablespoon lime juice
Salt and pepper to taste
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