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Explore Your Roots With Sweet Potatoes

Updated on July 31, 2010

Let's get one thing straight right off the bat - sweet potatoes and yams are different, and what you're buying at the market are probably sweet potatoes. Yams are the tubers of an African climbing plant, and you're unlikely to find them in the United States unless you shop at markets specializing in obscure tropical ingredients. Sweet potatoes are also tubers, but of a different family entirely.

Sweet potatoes are rich in vitamin A and betacarotene, powerful antioxidants that help neutralize those nasty free radicals that break down cells and help age your body. Antioxidants decrease the risk of some kinds of cancer, help ward off heart disease, and even help you maintain mental acuity.

Perhaps it's the "sweet" in their name that first inspired cooks to candy them. It must have been something, because tubers and marshmallows are an unlikely combination. In case you're fresh out of marshmallows, or are just looking for some sweet potato alternatives, your choices are legion.

The easiest way to prepare sweet potatoes is simply to bake them in their skin and serve them with butter and salt. But you can sneak them into all kinds of dishes:

  • Mash them like regular potatoes and add some ginger and/or orange zest.
  • Use them in curries, either in chunks or pureed to add body to the sauce.
  • Roast them with turnips and parsnips.
  • Substitute roasted sweet potato for squash in soup.
  • Puree 2 parts sweet potato to 1 part apple, season with cloves or cardamom, and serve with pork or game.
  • Instead of preparing them as a side dish, use small chunks of cooked sweet potatoes in your turkey stuffing.
  • Try a sweet potato pie as an alternative to pumpkin.
  • Deep-fry them and serve either with salt and hot sauce or sugar and cinnamon.
  • Flavor a sweet potato puree with bourbon and toasted walnuts.

Kickin' Sweet Potato Fries

2 sweet potatoes, cut into wedges or traditional fries shape
1 tbsp vegetable oil
2 tsp salt
1 tsp pepper
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
1/2 tsp cumin

Preheat oven to 425°F.

1. Place potatoes in a large bowl and drizzle with the vegetable oil. Toss to coat.

2. In a small bowl, combine all the seasonings and mix to blend. Sprinkle over potatoes and toss again so each piece gets some seasoning.

3. Place potatoes on an aluminum foil lined baking sheet in a single layer and bake for 30 minutes. Turn the fries over and bake another 30 minutes.

Serve with aioli or a southwest dipping sauce.

Honey Glazed Sweet Potatoes

2 Tbsp butter, melted
2 Tbsp honey
1 Tbsp fresh lime juice
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
2-3 red-skinned sweet potatoes
salt and pepper

1. Peel the sweet potatoes and cut into 1/3" rounds.

2. In a large bowl, whisk together butter, honey, lime juice and cinnamon. Add potato slices and toss to coat evenly.

3. Arrange potatoes in a single layer on a greased baking sheet. Season with salt and pepper and bake at 375°F for about 25-20 mins, or until tender.

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