Heather Hunsaker
Special to the Tribune

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November 4, 2011
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Sweet as can be: Sweet potatoes

TRUCKEE/TAHOE - Sweet potato hash. Sweet potato fries. And sweet potato pies. No matter how you choose to slice, dice or devour this succulent vegetable, sweet potatoes are a healthy and versatile food to incorporate into your meal plan. Sweet potatoes that aren't just for Thanksgiving anymore!

Sweet potatoes are one of the oldest known vegetables and are native to Central America. They grow best in warmer, tropical climates and do not tolerate frosts or drought well. North Carolina leads sweet potato production in the United States; followed closely by California, Louisiana, and Mississippi. While these states produce sweet potatoes year round, they are at their peak from September through December.

Sweet potatoes are an excellent source of Vitamins A, C, B6, manganese, fiber, potassium, beta carotene and iron. They are a powerful anti-oxidant and studies have shown sweet potatoes are a top choice for fighting diseases such as cancer and heart disease; as well as helping maintain healthy blood sugar levels and reducing inflammation related to asthma, arthritis, and sore muscles.

When selecting sweet potatoes, choose ones that are firm with no cracks, bruises or soft spots. They should be stored in a cool, dark place where they will stay fresh for up to two weeks. Avoid refrigerating raw sweet potatoes, which will alter their flavor. Once cooked, sweet potatoes can be stored in the refrigerator for one week or frozen for four to six months.

Due to their unique flavor, sweet potatoes lend to both savory and sweet cooking applications. Enjoy them baked in breads and desserts, transformed into fillings for pies and tarts, diced up and roasted, boiled and mashed, and even diced up and added into slow cooked casseroles, stews and chilies.

These sweet potato fries are a great healthy alternative to traditional French fries because of their natural health benefits and due to the fact they are roasted and not deep fried.

Sweet Potato Fries

Prep Time: 20 minutes

Cook Time: 20-25 minutes

Serves: 4

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1 teaspoon garlic powder

11⁄2 teaspoon salt

4 sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into steak fries

1⁄3 cup olive oil

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

Put cut fries into large zip-top bag with olive oil, put in salt, garlic powder and cinnamon and shake to coat. Place fries onto baking sheet leaving space between fries. Put in oven for 10-12 minutes and then flip them over. Place back in for 10-12 more minutes. Once fully cooked, they should be soft on the inside and browned on the outside. Let cool for 5 minutes and serve.

Variations:

Spicy Sweet Potato Fries: Basic recipe above with the cinnamon omitted and add 1⁄2 teaspoon each chili powder and cayenne powder.

Tangy Sweet Potato Fries: Basic recipe above with 2 Tablespoons each soy sauce and balsamic vinegar mixed with the olive oil.

- Chef Heather attended and graduated from Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts, but has been developing family friendly meals since she was nine years old in her mother's-kitchen. She currently serves as-a writer and recipe developer-for meal planning.


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Tahoe Daily Tribune Updated Nov 4, 2011 03:47PM Published Nov 4, 2011 03:43PM Copyright 2011 Tahoe Daily Tribune. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.