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Carrie's Kitchen: Singing the praises of sweet potatoes

So as I mentioned last week, this month I'm writing about a different food that I'm thankful for each week in honor of Thanksgiving.
Last week was butter, which was the first thing that popped into my mind and couldn't be bumped from its top place by anything else. But choosing the other three, or rather, narrowing it down to just three others, has been incredibly difficult. So I am repeating my disclaimer - these are not necessarily my top four foods, but they are foods that I eat quite regularly and truly appreciate.
Which leads me to today's choice: sweet potatoes. Maybe sweet potatoes are really on my mind because of Thanksgiving and maybe they wouldn't have made the list if I was composing this in April, but I do eat sweet potatoes year-round and greatly prefer them over white potatoes or baked potatoes, even over French fries.
For one, they are sweet. Not as sweet as the ridiculously sweet sweet potatoes most people prepare in some sort of casserole form for Thanksgiving, but they have a really nice, natural sweetness to them. One of my favorite preparations is to make a marinade of olive oil and honey, then lightly salt them and dust with cayenne before roasting them in chunks in the oven.
I also like them because they have enough starch to be filling, but they are lower in the glycemic index than traditional potatoes, which means they don't turn into sugar by your body as quickly and mess with your blood sugar and insulin levels. I asked my husband for an explanation of why a sweeter potato would cause less of a sugar spike in your body and, well, it's more complicated than I can explain here. But if you want to learn more about that, just research the glycemic index in general.
I like to roast sweet potatoes, grill them, mash them (for both myself and my baby), I like putting them in biscuits and I'm going to say it - I think they make a better pie than pumpkin. Pumpkin pie is a little too custardy to me, but sweet potato has just the right density and almost identical flavoring if you use the same spice ratio.
So there you have it - that is why I am thankful for sweet potatoes. Here comes the fun part: some new ways to use them. The first recipe is for a corn muffin with sweet potatoes and jalapeno. These aren't your standard muffins - they've got sweet potatoes, cream cheese and Greek yogurt in them to make them very moist. I thought they would be perfect with chili, so why not look for a chili starring sweet potato as well? The second recipe is for chili featuring sweet potatoes, and labels the meat as optional.
The third recipe is for a sweet potato and Brussels sprouts hash. It calls for "veggie crumbles," so that it can be vegetarian, but I say go ahead and use sausage if you prefer.
Enjoy!

Sweet potato jalapeno corn muffins
2 sweet potatoes
4 eggs
8 ounces low fat cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup nonfat Greek yogurt
1/3 cup agave nectar
1/2 cup olive oil
2 cups yellow cornmeal
1 cup flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon chipotle chili powder
3 jalapenos, thinly sliced, seeds removed

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Pierce potatoes all over with a fork and then wrap in aluminum foil. Bake until tender, about 45 minutes.
Lower oven to 375 degrees. When potatoes are cool enough to touch, remove the skins and mash with a fork. In a large bowl, whisk together the sweet potato, eggs, cream cheese, Greek yogurt and agave nectar. Stir in the olive oil.
In a separate bowl, whisk together the cornmeal, flour, baking powder, salt, baking soda and chili powder. Whisk the cornmeal mixture into the sweet potato mixture until just combined.
Split the batter among one cupcake tin. Top with jalapeno slices. Bake for 25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean. Let cool before eating.
Source: http://joanne-eatswellwithothers.com

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Slow cooker sweet potato chili
1 cup corn, frozen and thawed
1 pound ground beef sirloin (optional)
1 28-ounce can diced tomatoes
1 23-ounce can tomato sauce
1 teaspoon chili powder
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 tablespoon ground cumin
2 teaspoons paprika
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 large sweet potatoes, peeled and chopped into 1-inch pieces
1 medium onion, coarsely chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 15-ounce cans kidney beans, rinsed and drained; or 3 cups cooked kidney beans
1 cup chicken broth

Roast the corn until most pieces have a dark/charred corner, either in your slow cooker, if it has that function, or on the stove top. A dry pan or pot works best. Set aside corn and brown the meat (if using) on stove top.
Combine all ingredients in the base of your slow cooker and stir to mix well. Cook on low for 8 hours.
Source: http://anomadsdream.com

Sweet potato and Brussels sprout hash
2 cups sweet potato, diced
2 teaspoons olive oil
½ cup red onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 12-ounce package of veggie crumbles
2 tablespoons paprika
¼ teaspoon cayenne
3 cups Brussels sprouts, quartered (about ¾ pound)
1 cup red pepper diced, (about 1 medium pepper)
¾ teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons lemon juice
¼ cup fresh parsley, chopped
Freshly ground pepper to taste

In a medium pot, bring eight cups of water to a boil. Add sweet potato and cook until soft, about 8 to 10 minutes. Drain.
In a large skillet, heat olive oil. Add red onion and garlic and saute about 2 minutes. Stir in veggie crumbles, paprika and cayenne and cook another 3 minutes. Add in Brussels sprouts and cook another 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Stir in red pepper and continue cooking another few minutes or until all vegetables are cooked through but still firm.
Stir in salt, lemon juice, parsley and pepper and serve.
Source: http://www.homemadelevity.com

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