Healthy Cooking with Sweet Potatoes
Recently, my Mom gave me a whole bunch of fresh, organic sweet potatoes she couldn’t use up from her garden. A whole bunch of HUGE mammoth sweet potatoes! There must have been 20 pounds of them, I swear the biggest one was as large as a cat and probably broke a record of some kind, I should’ve photographed it. But this left me wondering what in the world I was going to do with them all. I do love sweet potatoes but there was no possible way I could use them all up before they went bad. So after a bit of Googling and research, I decided to have a massive food-prep session and cook and prepare them all at once and freeze for later use in meals, recipes, etc., leaving only a couple small ones fresh and uncooked to use for recipes I’ll be making in the near future. As it turns out, many people freeze their sweet potatoes with success, and enjoy having them around to use all year round. Do you freeze your sweet potatoes? If so, what is the method that works well for you? There are countless variations online on how to do this. I chose just to use freezer bags.
Look. how. huge. they. are!!!! This was a “small” one!
Sweet Potato Cooking Methods and Nutrition
You may wonder whether sweet potatoes are healthiest in their raw, or cooked form. Almost all vegetables and fruits are healthier raw rather than cooked, and the story on raw-eating, vs. the standard American diet, often known (understandably so) by the acronym S.A.D., is a whole topic in itself; but, I’ve done the research on this one for you, and sweet potatoes (as well as carrots) are an exception to that general rule.
Packed with Vitamin A, the nutrients of a sweet potato are actually more digestible and absorbable after it has been cooked. The method of cooking you choose for your sweet potatoes, though, does make a difference. Sweet potatoes are a carb, and are lower on the glycemic index than a regular potato; but the structure of carbs, sugars and starches in the sweet potato changes according to whether its been boiled, baked, steamed, fried, etc. In addition, the skins of the sweet potato are the healthiest part, just as apple skins are among the healthiest portions of the apple; and pack more than 10x the antioxidants of the inner flesh. TIP: Vitamin A is also a fat soluble vitamin: this means that eating your sweet potatoes in a dish (or meal) that also contains a small amount of healthy fat will actually help your body to absorb all those yummy healthy nutrients!
My research revealed that baking a sweet potato increases it’s amount of natural sugar; and in turn ups it’s glycemic index (GI) value. The quicker cooking methods, (aside from frying or deep-frying), such as steaming, are the healthiest options to retain the most nutrients. I believe this information is accurate, because I cooked my boatload of sweet potatoes in a variety of ways: steaming some, boiling others, and baking a handful of them as well. Indeed, the baked sweet potatoes were noticeably sweeter tasting than the boiled or steamed ones; but of course – all of them were great! I diced some and will use them in my hearty Rainbow Chili recipe which I’ll post soon when I make it again; and “smashed” others – boiled, mashed sweet potatoes with the skins left on – yum! Most though, I left in halves or large chunks, unseasoned, so they can be pulled out and defrosted for any assortment of sweet, savory, or spicy recipe at a moment’s notice. It sure is nice to have fresh ingredients on-hand at any time!
Okay, I just mentioned you shouldn’t fry them, and you could of course also brush sweet potato wedges with a little healthy oil and herbs of your choice and bake them – and I’ve also seen recipes for grilled sweet potato wedges and slices (and will be trying THAT out too!) but here’s a quick picture of one of my favorite not quite so healthy ways to eat sweet potatoes that I took awhile back the last time I made them – spicy homemade sweet potato wedges! YUM. Heavenly. Seared just for a few minutes on each side with healthy olive oil, garnished with a bit of green onion (or parsley if you want to pretty-ify them but don’t like onions), and tossed with whatever spices you prefer – I used cracked black pepper, just a tiny hint of salt, garlic, and paprika! Fabulous, I repeat, FABULOUS with spicy Jalapeno ketchup (if it’s not available in your area I’m crying for you on the inside, and I suggest you look into finding some, or get to Googling on how you could make some!), or just whatever ketchup or other sauce you usually prefer with normal french fries. I actually like these WAY MORE than regular fries now. Run-of the mill white potato fries seem so… boring, dull and lifeless. But these are packed with flavor! Mmmmm. Try ’em! If you really like things hot, some people also like these with hot sauce, too!
How to Freeze Your Sweet Potatoes
If you’re going to freeze your sweet potatoes; one of the most important things to remember is to let them fully cool to room temperature before packaging them and placing them in the freezer. Any condensation or moisture that forms inside of your freezer bags, Tupperware or similar containers will result in the dreaded “freezer-burn.” Also, you may find it helpful to label each bag with a Sharpie marker and list things like the amount, date, cooking method, and whether they are diced, chopped, seasoned or non, etc., since it can become hard to tell once they freeze up.
So now that I have lots, and lots and lots and lots, of sweet potatoes on hand to use up, maybe a few more sweet-potato-infused recipes will be hitting the blog. The timing could not have been better, because although it’s mid-May and I should be grilling and enjoying spring and summer salads and fruits galore – the weather has turned very cold the past few days. With the air outside feeling like fall and Football, I couldn’t resist doing a bit of healthy baking with my sweet potatoes first. Let me know what type of sweet potato recipes you would like to see here! What are your favorite ways to eat and use sweet potatoes, and what ways would you like to learn more about? This diverse vegetable can be used in SO many unique and unexpected ways that you may never have guessed. Stay tuned!
Here’s a sneak peek of the May. muffin. MADNESS? baking mania? I don’t know what to call it, that occurred in my kitchen as a direct result of the combination of suddenly cold weather and all these pretty orange potatoes taking up real estate space in my freezer. Several muffin recipes are on their way!