Ditch the Marshmallows! Celebrate Savory Side of Sweet Potatoes

Simmer sweet potato cubes into chili for a touch of sweetness with the spice. Photo via Shutterstock

Anytime is a good time for sweet potatoes.

The nutrient-dense and delicious vegetable is available year-round in North Carolina, but it gets star billing everywhere in February – otherwise known as National Sweet Potato Month.

A favorite among those watching their carbs, the tuberous root is packed with calcium, potassium, and vitamins A and C. And for those cutting back on refined sugar, the natural sugars in a baked sweet potato can satisfy a sweet tooth without derailing a diet.

If you need more reasons why the orange superfood deserves a dedicated month of recognition, how about these from the North Carolina Sweet Potato Commission?

  • North Carolina harvests and distributes 60 percent of the country’s sweet potatoes and has been doing so since 1971.
  • The state of North Carolina plants 90,000 acres of sweet potatoes annually, according to the United States Department of Agriculture. This number is larger than the total sweet potato acreage in California, Louisiana and Mississippi – the second-, third- and fourth-ranked sweet potato producers – combined.
  • In 2017, North Carolina sweet potatoes generated nearly $347 million in annual sales, according to the United States Department of Agriculture, demonstrating their positive impact on the state’s economy.
  • The sweet potato industry provides jobs for thousands of workers across the state – from growers and harvesters to packagers and sellers.

Sweet potatoes are versatile and can be prepared in a variety of ways – baked, steamed, pureed and more. Simmer sweet potato cubes into chili, whisk pureed potato into pancake or waffle batter, or substitute for white potatoes in your favorite recipe.

Here are a couple of recipe ideas from the Sweet Potato Commission, but there are lots more on the website.

Try curried sweet potato apple soup with a grilled cheese sandwich.

Curried Sweet Potato Apple Soup
Yields 4 servings

2 large (1 pound) sweet potatoes
1 large (8 ounces) tart apple (such as Fuji, Honeycrisp or Gala)
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 large onion, coarsely chopped (2 cups)
2 to 3 teaspoons curry powder
1 can (14 to 14-1/2 ounces) vegetable broth (about 1-3/4 Cups)
1 3/4 cups unsweetened apple juice
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 container (6 ounces) plain low-fat yogurt
3/4 cup croutons, optional

Pierce sweet potatoes and apples with fork tines. Microwave sweet potatoes and apple on high until apple is very tender, about 6 to 7 minutes. Remove apple; set aside until cool enough to handle.

Continue microwaving sweet potatoes on high until tender, about 4 to 5 minutes longer. Set aside until cool enough to handle.

Meanwhile, in large saucepan over medium heat, heat oil. Add onion and curry powder. Cook and stir until onion begins to brown, about 5 minutes.

Add broth. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to low; simmer 5 minutes.

Transfer broth mixture to bowl of food processor; reserve saucepan.

Halve sweet potatoes and apple. Remove apple core, scoop potato and apple pulp from skin. Add to processor. Add salt; whirl until very smooth, gradually adding apple juice through processor feed tube. Transfer mixture to reserved saucepan.

Bring to boil over medium heat; whisk in yogurt. Reheat just until hot (do not boil).

Serve topped with croutons, if desired.

Try this sweet potato and chickpea veggie burger for a healthy cookout alternative.

Sweet Potato Burgers with Avocado
Recipe by Kim’s Cravings, yields 6 servings

1 large sweet potato, yielding 1 cup puree
1 15-ounce can garbanzo beans
1 1/2 cups panko bread crumbs
1/2 cup red bell pepper, diced
1/2 cup onion, diced
1/4 cup celery, diced
1 large egg
1 1/2 tablespoons taco seasoning
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper

Spring mix lettuce
Pickled onions
Your favorite burger buns
Guacamole topping

Bake, microwave, or boil your sweet potato until tender. Remove/discard potato skin and, using a food processor or blender, puree the sweet potato until smooth but thick. Transfer the sweet potato to a large mixing bowl.

Next, add rinsed garbanzo beans to the food processor. Pulse just a few times to break up the beans, still leaving lots of texture. Add beans to large mixing bowl with sweet potato.

Add bread crumbs to the sweet potato mixture. Then, sauté bell pepper, onion and celery over medium-high heat.

Once your veggies are cooked, add them, along with the egg and seasonings to the bowl with the sweet potato mixture. Stir to incorporate and divide burger mixture into 6 balls.

Cup each ball in your hands and squeeze, pressing it into a round compact patty. Refrigerate patties for about 30 minutes to set.

To cook, spray a large skillet with cooking spray and heat over medium to high heat. Cook for a few minutes on each side until the patty is golden and the center is warm. Cooking times will vary a bit depending on the size of your burgers and type of pan/skillet used, so aim for a crispy outside with a warm tender center.

Once done, pile a lightly toasted bun high with greens, patty and top it off with a generous helping of guacamole!

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