Growing up and for much of my adult life I wanted nothing to do with sweet potatoes. Most recipes covered them in brown sugar or marshmallows, which did not appeal to me or anyone in our family so it was easy to simply walk by them in the grocery store without a second look. A few years ago we began evaluating nutritional benefits of what we were eating and found a significant difference between regular white potatoes and sweet potatoes. This was not a change I looked forward to, nor did anyone else around the table, but once we understood the benefit to our heath we couldn’t ignore the impetus for change.
What is a sweet potato?
In stores you’ll find signs indicating Sweet Potatoes, Yams, Garnet Yams, Jewel Yams, etc., but the truth is they are ALL sweet potatoes. Yams, which are larger and rougher looking, are native to Africa and Asia as well as other tropical regions and can be found in specialty markets. According to the North Carolina Sweet Potato Commission, there are more than a hundred varieties of sweet potatoes ranging in color, sweetness, and texture. The confusion is perpetuated by the U.S. government continuing to label sweet potatoes as both sweet potatoes and yams in an attempt to distinguish the varieties.
Why choose sweet potatoes over regular white potatoes?
While both share a lot in common nutritionally, sweet potatoes offer more fiber, calcium, vitamin C, and beta-carotene, while not inducing spikes in blood sugar the way regular potatoes do. For in-depth nutritional analysis, visit www.whfood.com. For our family, it was clear this would be one of the changes we would make—of course, we would have to leave the brown sugar and marshmallows behind if it was going to qualify as a healthier alternative, but that was fine with us. As it turned out, it was the added sweeteners that were the turn-off to sweet potatoes, not the vegetable itself.
Beyond the marshmallow …
We have since tried several varieties and to be sure our favorite in most dishes is the light, cream colored sweet potatoes. Though the paler skin offers less beta-carotene, it maintains the other benefits and has helped the kid’s transition without much fuss. Mashed Sweet Potatoes with Roasted Garlic was our first introduction to the savory side of sweet potatoes and was a big hit. Since then we’ve tried Sweet Potato Hash Browns, Sweet Potato Fries (haven’t posted those yet!), and even Colcannon made with sweet potatoes for St. Patrick’s day. Basically, we have used sweet potatoes as a substitute for regular potatoes in just about everything, including chowders, stews, and dinner rolls with great success.
When our daughter moved to her own place last month, this dish was one of the first recipes she asked for (of course it was right in the middle of a meeting), but it really wasn’t a big deal to walk her through it by phone because the recipe is so simple. Savory Sweet Potatoes is a favorite side dish at the holidays and year round. Once herb-seasoned sweet potatoes are crisp in the oven they are topped with blue cheese and crumbled bacon for a slightly sweet, tangy, smoky side dish to complement just about anything. Who can argue with blue cheese and bacon, right?
During the holidays, you can dress it up a bit more with a sprinkling of pecans too, or serve it just the way it is here. It’s all good!