Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Weekly Recipe #54: Sweet Potato Gnocchi

By Gwen Hill MS, RD, LD

Happy Sweet Potato Month! Sweet potatoes are what we consider a “nutrient dense food.” They are filled with many important nutrients that your body needs and are low in the nutrients you should limit. One medium sweet potato has only 100 calories, less than one gram of fat and 41 mg of sodium. Yet it gives you a high amount of several important nutrients, including:

Fiber - 13% of RDA
Vitamin C - 25% of RDA
Vitamin A - 730% of RDA!

All of these nutrients are important for different reasons. Fiber helps our body regulate blood sugar, reduce bad cholesterol and stay regular. Vitamin C is an important antioxidant, helps maintain our immune function and is a key player in collagen synthesis, which gives our skin its healthy and resilient qualities.

Though many great nutrients are found in this vegetable, Vitamin A is the real star. Sweet potatoes have a high amount of carotenoids, which are a precursor to Vitamin A. Carotenoids are responsible for the signature yellow/orange color - the deeper the color, the richer the level of carotenoids the veggie contains. Vitamin A plays many roles in the body, including helping the body determine which white blood cells it needs to make in order to fight infection and other immune functions. It is also important for vision. Vitamin A deficiency is the most significant cause of blindness in the developing world.

Eating nutrient dense foods, like sweet potatoes, will help improve your overall health. The recipe highlighted this week incorporates sweet potatoes into gnocchi. As a starchy vegetable, it is easy to see how this potato could provide necessary hearty components to this dish. Enjoy the recipe after the jump!

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Weekly Recipe #53: Sweet Potato Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting

By Jeanne Foels, Marketing & Outreach Coordinator

For our third week of celebrating National Sweet Potato Month, we think it's time to demystify a common point of confusion: what's the difference between a sweet potato and a yam? Are the terms interchangeable?

According to our friends at the Wedge Co-op and other sources, if the tuber in question is grown in the United States, it's most likely a sweet potato, no matter what the label reads. Ninety-five percent of yams are grown in Africa, and these large vegetables are starchier and drier than sweet potatoes. Though they are both tubers, sweet potatoes and yams are not related, and they vary in taste and texture.

The standard story about the start of this mix-up assigns the confusion to African-born slaves calling sweet potatoes "yams" because they resembled the yams they knew in Africa. Since there are two main varieties of sweet potatoes, the U.S. Department of Agriculture decided to label the sweeter, orange-fleshed kind as "yams" and the paler-fleshed kind as "sweet potatoes."

Today the USDA requires labels with the term "yam" to be accompanied by the term "sweet potato." Unless you find real yams in international markets, you are most likely eating sweet potatoes whenever you buy "yams" from grocery stores.

Now for a treat after all that etymological history! Here's a delightful sweet potato cake that can be made in advance of special occasions. Use the softer, sweeter type of orange-fleshed sweet potato for this recipe -- and quiz your dining companions on its real name with your new-found knowledge.

Sweet Potato Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting
Adapted from Kitchen Confidante

(Makes one 9" round cake or a 13"×9" rectangular cake)

2 cups sugar
2 cups all purpose flour
2 tsp. baking soda
2 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. salt
4 large eggs
1 1/4 cups canola oil
3 cups grated sweet potato (about two sweet potatoes)

1/2 cup butter, softened
8 oz. reduced fat cream cheese, softened
2 cups powdered sugar
1 tsp. vanilla

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Butter the baking pan. If using a round springform pan, use parchment paper on the sides of the pan, if desired.
2. In a medium bowl, whisk together the sugar, flour, baking soda, cinnamon and salt. In a large mixing bowl, beat the eggs until light and frothy. Beat in the oil. Add the flour mixture in two additions, until just incorporated, scraping down the sides of the bowl. Stir in the sweet potato.
3. Pour the batter into the pan and place in the oven. If using a 13"×9" pan, bake for 45-50 minutes or until the cake is springy and a toothpick inserted into the middle comes out clean. If using a springform pan, lower the temperature to 325 degrees and bake for 45-50 minutes or until a toothpick comes clean.
4. Remove from oven and let cool completely. If using a springform pan, remove sides and invert onto a wire rack or serving plate. Remove bottom of springform pan. Wrap the cake well and refrigerate until ready to frost. This can be done a day or two in advance.
5. Make the frosting by whipping together the butter and cream cheese. Add the vanilla. Slowly add the powdered sugar and whisk well. Frost the cake and refrigerate.
6. Remove the cake from the refrigerator about 10-15 minutes prior to serving.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Weekly Recipe #52: Sweet Potato Kimchi Pancakes

By Jeanne Foels, Marketing & Outreach Coordinator

This week's recipe pairs sweet potatoes with kimchi, a spicy pickled cabbage condiment that is used liberally in Korean cuisine. Savory and garlicky, these pancakes can be an adventurous addition to your breakfast table or a hearty appetizer, snack or side dish.

Kimchi can be found in the deli section of your local co-op or at Asian markets like the fantastic United Noodles. The spice level of kimchi can vary, so adjust the amount of chiles in this recipe accordingly.

Sweet Potato Kimchi Pancakes
Adapted from Gourmet

(Serves 8 as a small plate)

1 lb. sweet potatoes
1 cup packed kimchi (7 oz), very thinly sliced
1 1/2 tsp. finely chopped garlic
1 to 2 tbsp. chopped fresh serrano chiles (including seeds; amount depends on heat of kimchi)
1 cup thinly sliced scallions (from about 2 bunches)
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1 tsp. kosher salt
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
About 1/2 cup corn oil or lard

soy-vinegar dipping sauce

1. Peel sweet potatoes and julienne using slicer.
2. Stir potato together with remaining ingredients except oil. Let mixture stand at room temperature until wilted and moist, about 5 minutes, then stir again.
3. Heat 2 tablespoon oil in a 12-inch heavy skillet over medium-high heat until it shimmers. Filling a 1/3-cup measure halfway full with potato mixture for each pancake and working in batches of 5 or 6, tap out into oil, gently flattening pancakes with a spatula to about 1/4 inch thick. Cook until golden brown, 1 1/2 to 2 minutes. Flip, adding a little more oil if necessary, and cook until golden brown, 1 to 2 minutes more. Transfer to paper towels to drain. Add oil to skillet between batches as needed.
4. Serve warm with dipping sauce.

Cook's note: Pancakes can be fried up to two weeks ahead, then cooled and frozen. Reheat pancakes in a 375 degree oven.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Weekly Recipe #51: Sweet Potato Biscuits

By Jeanne Foels, Marketing & Outreach Coordinator

Happy National Sweet Potato Month! We're celebrating all month with recipes that highlight this healthy tuber.

The honeyed nature of the sweet potato lends itself perfectly to baked goods, making it a prime candidate for pies, breads and pancakes. This week's recipe for sweet potato biscuits will fill your kitchen with the caramel-y smell of baked sweet potato and a delicious bouquet of cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger and cloves.

Sweet Potato Biscuits
Adapted from the Smitten Kitchen

(Makes 12 to 14 2-inch biscuits)

1 lb. red-skinned sweet potatoes
1/3 cup (79 ml) buttermilk
2 cups (250 grams) all-purpose flour
1 tbsp. (15 grams) baking powder
3 tbsp. (38 grams) granulated sugar
1 tsp. ground (2 grams) cinnamon
1/4 tsp. ground nutmeg
1/4 tsp. ground ginger
1/8 tsp. ground cloves
1/2 tsp. (2 grams) table salt
5 tbsp. (71 grams) unsalted butter, cold

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Place sweet potato on a tray and roast until soft all the way through, about 45 to 50 minutes. Let cool completely in skin (the fridge can speed this up) then peel. Run potato flesh through a potato ricer or mash it until very smooth. Reserve 3/4 cup (191 grams) of this sweet potato puree (You can add a little melted butter to the rest and eat it for lunch!).
2. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees again. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside. Whisk 3/4 cup reserved sweet potato puree with buttermilk until smoothly combined. Keep nearby.
3. In the bottom of a large, wide bowl, whisk flour, baking powder, sugar, spices and salt together. If you have a pastry blender, add the butter and use the blender to cut the butter into the flour mixture until the biggest pieces are the size of small peas. If you don’t have a pastry blender, cut the butter into small pieces with a knife and work the butter into the flour mixture with your fingertips until the mixture resembles a coarse meal.
4. Add the sweet potato mixture and stir, breaking up the mixture until it's in big, soft chunks. Get your hands in the bowl and gently knead the dough into an even mass, using as few motions as possible — you want to warm the dough as little as possible.
5. Roll or pat dough out on a floured surface to a 1-inch thickness. Dip a 2-inch biscuit cutter in flour then form biscuits by cutting straight down and not twisting — this will help your biscuits rise. Bake biscuits on prepared sheet for 13 to 15 minutes, until puffed and slightly golden on top. Cool on rack and enjoy as soon as possible.