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Sweet Potato is Queen of Fall Feasts

 

From pies to fries and everything in between, the sweet potato lends its color and flavor to autumn and winter meals. Packed with vitamin A, fiber, complex carbohydrates and antioxidants, sweet potatoes may taste like an indulgence but are actually a healthful and nutritious food.

 

The sweet potato (Ipomoea batatas) is native to South America. It arrived in North America by way of the Caribbean islands, and is one positive legacy of the slave trade. Sweet potatoes were cultivated extensively in colonial Virginia, Maryland and Pennsylvania. Today, there are sweet potato cultivars available that grow well as far north as Michigan, so most home gardeners with enough space to accommodate vining plants can grow their own. The early varieties of sweet potato were yellow or red in color, but today's sweet potatoes range in color from yellow to orange to bronze-purple. The more colorful varieties have the greatest number of health benefits. All sweet potatoes contain vitamin A, calcium and iron, but the red-purple varieties contain anthocyanins. Anthocyanins are antioxidants that have anti-inflammatory properties and contribute to overall health and well being. Add to all of this a high fiber content, and the sweet potato becomes a total anti-aging package.

 

Steaming, baking and mashing are the traditional methods for preparing sweet potatoes, but sweet potatoes fill more niches than just being side dishes:

● Use mashed sweet potato pulp in place of squash or pumpkin in breads, cookies or pancakes.

● Sweet potato fries are an easy to make taste treat. The sweet-salty flavor, crunchy texture and orange color make these a must-have for breakfast, lunch or dinner. Potatoes can either be julienned for french fries, or sliced in 1/4" thick rounds for cottage fries. Serve with ketchup or maple butter.

● Sweet potato pie is an alternative to pumpkin pie. It is a little less custardlike, because the potatoes contain less water than pumpkin.

 

Following is a recipe that uses leftover mashed sweet potatoes and cranberries. Bread can be dusted with powdered sugar, topped with a confectioner's glaze or served plain.

 

Sweet Potato - Orange Tea Bread

1/4 c. butter

1/2 c. sugar

1 egg

1 c. all purpose flower

1 1/2 tsp baking powder

1 tbsp. orange zest

1/2 tsp. orange extract

1/2 tsp ground cinnamon

1/4 tsp ground ginger

1/4 tsp salt

1/2 c cold mashed sweet potatoes

2 tbsp milk

1/4 dried cranberries, or 1 c fresh cranberries

 

In small mixing bowl, cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add egg, orange zest and orange extract - mix well. Whisk together the flour, baking powder, cinnamon, ginger and salt; add to creamed mixture just until blended (batter will be thick)

 

Combine sweet potatoes and milk. Mix into batter until blended. Fold in cranberries.

 

Preheat oven to 350. Transfer batter into two 5 3/4 x 3 x 2 loaf pans. Bake for 35-40 minutes or until lightly browned and a cake tester comes out clean. Cool for 10 minutes before removing from pans.

 


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