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So much more to sweet potatoes than sticky casserole

By Deirdre Parker Smith

deirdre.smith@salisburypost.com

Now here’s a food that can fit just about any diet. Plus, it’s beautiful, tasty and available locally. It’s sweet potato time.

Sweet potatoes are showing up in all kinds of stores, and there are so many ways to use them, from savory to sweet, from smoothies to fries, that they are even more versatile than our dinner staple, the white potato.

A cup of baked sweet potato has half of your daily vitamin C requirement. And 400 percent of your vitamin A needs. Both are important during cold and flu season, and Vitamin A helps with healthy skin, vision and organ functioning. A and C vitamins also are antioxidants. If you want the most antioxidants, look for a purple sweet potato (I’ve only seen them once).

Here’s another skin benefit — manganese. And a cup of sweet potato has 15-30 percent of B vitamins.

The natural anti-inflammatory compounds in sweet potatoes will help reduce swelling all the way down to the cellular level, and can be part of a diet for diabetics and those with heart disease.

The starch in sweet potatoes is combined with high fiber, so it won’t spike blood sugar.

If you can eat a sweet potato in its skin, you will get 950 mg of potassium, twice the amount in a banana. That’s a plus for lowering blood pressure and regulating heart rhythm.

And some of the starch in the potato is a filling substance your body does not digest and absorb, so it would help with weight loss.

Steaming or boiling sweet potatoes preserves the most nutrients. So half a boiled sweet potato, drizzled with a little olive oil, is a good way to start the day.

When steaming, cut the sweet potatoes into 1/2-inch slices and steam for just 7 minutes. You can add cinnamon, nutmeg or cloves for flavor and a nutrition boost.

And beyond all that common sense information, sweet potatoes taste good and are endlessly versatile.

Covington sweet potatoes are a very popular variety in North Carolina, which is the No. 1 sweet potato producing state.

Butter-Roasted Sweet Potatoes

2 pounds sweet potatoes (about 2 large)

4 Tbsp. unsalted butter, melted and cooled, ghee, or coconut oil

1/2 tsp. kosher salt

Arrange a rack in the middle of the oven and heat to 425 degrees. Peel the sweet potatoes and cut them into 1-inch-thick rounds.

Place the rounds on a rimmed baking sheet. Drizzle with the butter (or ghee or coconut oil), sprinkle with the salt, and toss to coat. Arrange in a single layer, with at least 1/2 inch between the rounds.

Roast for 20 minutes. Using tongs, flip the rounds, then roast for 20 minutes more. Serves 4.

Smoky Sweet Potato & Black Bean Casserole

Cooking spray or olive oil
2 Tbsp. olive oil
1 medium yellow onion, diced
2 pounds sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1 (28-ounce) can fire-roasted diced tomatoes, drained of juices
1 (15-ounce) can black beans, drained and rinsed
3 cups shredded smoked mozzarella cheese (about 7 1/2 ounces), divided
1 Tbsp. smoked paprika
1 Tbsp. kosher salt
2 cloves garlic, minced
For serving:
Plain yogurt
Coarsely chopped fresh cilantro
Arrange a rack in the middle of the oven and heat to 400 degrees. Coat a 9-by-13-inch baking dish with cooking spray or olive oil; set aside.

Heat the olive oil in a large frying pan over medium heat until shimmering. Add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, 8 to 10 minutes. Add the sweet potatoes and cook until just heated through, about 5 minutes (they will not be cooked through). Transfer the mixture to a large bowl.

Add the black beans, drained tomatoes, 1 cup of the mozzarella, smoked paprika, salt, and garlic and stir to combine. Transfer to the baking dish and spread into an even layer. Sprinkle evenly with the remaining 2 cups mozzarella cheese.

Spray a large sheet of aluminum foil with cooking spray or coat with olive oil. Place the foil greased-side down over the baking dish and cover tightly. Bake for 30 minutes. Uncover and bake until the sweet potatoes are tender and the cheese on top is browned in spots, about 30 minutes more. Let cool 10 minutes before serving topped with yogurt and cilantro. Serves 8

Roasted Sweet Potato Salad with Honey Lime Vinaigrette

2 pounds sweet potatoes, peeled

1/4 cup olive oil

1 red bell pepper, diced

1/4 cup parsley

2 Tbsp. red onion, finely chopped

2 Tbsp. rice vinegar

1 tsp. garlic, minced

2 tsp. honey

1/3 cup canola oil

Slice potatoes into 3/4-inch slices. Cover potatoes with lightly salted cold water, bring to a simmer and cook, covered, until just tender (10-15 minutes).

Drain and allow to cool.

Brush slices with olive oil, season with salt and pepper, and grill on a hot char-broiler on both sides. Remove and allow to cool.

Dice potatoes into cubes. Mix lime juice, rice vinegar, garlic, honey and canola oil for the dressing and toss gently with remaining ingredients, adding any seasoning adjustments if needed.

Sweet Potato Breakfast Brownie

2 cooked sweet potatoes, pureed

1 cup nut butter (sunflower, almond, cashew)

1/4 cup maple syrup

1 tsp. cinnamon

1/2 cup cocoa powder

Preheat over to 350 degrees and grease a small loaf pan or an 8-by-8-inch square baking dish. Mix together the sweet potato puree, nut butter, maple syrup, cinnamon and cocoa. Pour into greased pan and bake for 20-25 minutes. Allow to cool and enjoy. You could frost these brownies with a protein kick.

Protein Frosting
2 scoops chocolate protein powder
1-2 Tbsp. granulated sweetener of choice
1-2 Tbsp. nut or seed butter of choice
1 Tbsp. milk or liquid
Add all ingredients in a mixing bowl and mix well. Using a tablespoon, add dairy free milk until a very thick batter is formed.

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