Holiday Baking With Sweet Potatoes

Holiday Baking With Sweet Potatoes

Holiday Baking with Sweet Potatoes

Sweet potatoes. They’re knobby and gnarled. Some folks might even describe them as downright ugly. But just like a diamond in the rough, beneath the homely exterior lies a real treasure.

This holiday season, discover what home cooks in North Carolina have known for generations--sweet potatoes add a delicately sweet flavor, vivid color, moist texture, and a nutritional punch to all kinds of baked goods.

“North Carolina is the nation’s largest sweet potato producer and rightfully known as the sweet potato capital of America,” says Sue Johnson-Langdon, Executive Director of the North Carolina sweet potato Commission. “As a result, North Carolinians have been cooking with sweet potatoes for many years.”

For consumers outside of North Carolina, however, there is often some confusion surrounding the sweet potato, and it has to do with how it’s marketed. In most grocery stores you’ll find sweet potatoes and yams sold separately. However, what’s labeled as a “yam is actually a kind of sweet potato that has coppery skin, orange flesh and moister texture than other types. Because of the differences among sweet potato varieties, grocers began using the term “yam” over the years to create a distinction. True yams, though, are actually rough, scaly, starchy tubers native to Africa. They are not widely imported to the United States. “So, regardless of whether you call them yams or sweet potatoes, they are amazingly versatile when it comes to holiday baking,” notes Johnson-Langdon. She adds, “They can be substituted in almost any recipe that uses potatoes, apples or squash. And, they’ll kick up the nutritional value of any recipe more than a few notches.”

That’s right, sweet potatoes add more than just vibrant color and flavor to recipes. They’re loaded with antioxidants--beta carotene and vitamins A, C, and E--which many studies indicate may help prevent heart disease and cancer, bolster the immune system and even slow the aging process. They’re also fat-and cholesterol-free, low in sodium and a good source of dietary fiber. What better gift to give your family and friends than to serve them something so great tasting and nutritious?

Traditionally sweet potatoes appear on the holiday dinner table in candied form, but the following recipes illustrate just some of the many other ways they can enhance a special meal. Why not start a new tradition and accompany your Thanksgiving turkey or Christmas ham with Baked Sweet Potatoes with Tropical Orange-Raisin Sauce? Simply bake or microwave sweet potatoes, split them open, then top with a deliciously tangy sauce studded with pineapple chunks and plump raisins. They’re quick and easy to make, impressive looking, and virtually fat-free.

When it comes to dessert, we’ve got some recipes for which you’ll definitely want to save room! One bite of decadent Sweet Potato Pecan Bread Pudding and you’ll know life doesn’t get any better than this. Silky and studded with chunks of velvety sweet potatoes, this pudding is sure to win rave reviews from holiday guests. For sweet potato fans a bit more on the traditional side, serve Old Fashioned Sliced Sweet Potato Pie. Top warm slices with scoops of vanilla ice cream and no one will every go back to plain old apple or pumpkin pie again.

And for a great food gift idea, try Amazing Spiced Sweet Potato Mini-Loaves. Heady with cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves and allspice, these divine little quick breads show just how valuable sweet potatoes can be in low-fat baking. The recipe has only 1 1/2 tablespoons of oil and yet--thanks to sweet potatoes’ rich, moist texture--no one but you will believe they’re low fat!

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