10 Reasons to Give Thanks for Sweet Potatoes and 9 Recipes

10 Reasons to be Thankful for Sweet PotatoesPerhaps the official vegetable of the holiday season, sweet potatoes are a delicious addition to a healthy diet any day of the year.   It’s easy to eat well with sweet potatoes — they are packed with essential vitamins, minerals and other important nutrients that are naturally designed to help your body attain peak performance.  If you don’t like sweet potatoes, keep an open mind (and mouth) and look beyond your grandmother’s icky-sticky, marshmallow sweet potato casserole — there are so many delicious ways to enhance the taste of this sweet, mildly earthy tuber. In a list I originally compiled for Core Power, here are my top 10 reasons to be thankful for the humble sweet potato — my favorite reason may be #5 – a healthy source of complex carbohydrates. Unless logistically impossible, I always include sweet potato with my night-before-a-big-race meal. Also, don’t forget to read down to discover my collection of Family Favorite Sweet Potato Recipes:

  1. Inexpensive Eats: The cheap price tag on sweet potatoes (less than $1/lb.) chops the “it costs too much to eat healthy” argument to the core.
  2. Year-Round Availability: While peak season for sweet potatoes is in the fall, this produce department staple is easy to load-up on year round thanks to a long shelf life and global economy.
  3. Stockpile Friendly: Don’t rush out and buy a lifetime supply, but do fill your cart when you see a sale — sweet potatoes stay good in the pantry for a season or two. Freshness can be maintained for up to six months when stored in a pantry, cabinet, unheated garage or other dark, cool space ideally in the 50 F degree range.
  4. Versatile Veggie: Sweet potatoes are awesome baked and eaten plain or can be cooked with much for creativity. Try them mashed, grilled in planks, oven-roasted in wedges, or add chunks to salads, stews and sandwich wraps. Sweet potato puree also adds lots of interest to smoothies, soups and baked goods. See my round-up of personal sweet potato recipes below!
  5. Healthy Complex Carbohydrates: Natural sugars in sweet potatoes are the “good” kind of carbs that are slowly released into the blood stream, providing sustained and balanced energy to fuel your body and brain. No blood sugar spikes and subsequent sugar crashes with this tasty tuber!
  6. Amazing Antioxidants: Orange-fleshed sweet potatoes are a super source of beta-carotene (from vitamin A) that can help protect eyes and damage from the sun, among other things. Purple-fleshed sweet potatoes feature powerful anthocyanins which have important antioxidant anti-inflammatory properties.
  7. Vitamin Rich: Sweet potatoes are packed with vitamins, high in vitamin A, vitamin B5, B6, thiamin, niacin and riboflavin. In fact, this veggie offers 100 percent of the daily value for Vitamin A, a powerhouse shown to be beneficial for anti-aging, eyesight and cancer prevention.
  8. Quercetin Factor: Quercetin, a dietary flavonoid, is abundant in sweet potatoes. Studies have shown that quercetin can help lower LDL cholesterol, reduce inflammation and serves as a natural antihistamine to fight seasonal allergies. Additionally, studies on athletes have shown that this phytochemical bolsters health during the 3 to 72 hour window of impaired immunity following heavy training and also may help increase endurance.
  9. Potassium: Potassium is a mineral that helps your body balance fluids and minerals, maintain a health blood pressure, and keep your neuro-muscular system function normally. A medium, baked sweet potato offers about 450 mg of potassium (about12 percent of your daily value) — even more than the famous banana!
  10. Iron: Grown under the soil, sweet potatoes are a great source for iron, a mineral needed for oxygen delivery throughout the blood system. A surprising number of athletes are low in this important mineral (foot strike can actually be a contributor to deficiency) and an iron boost can help restore energy, resistance to stress and optimal immune functioning.

Family Favorite Sweet Potato Recipes for Thanksgiving, Holidays and everyday weeknight dinners.

Cinnamon Chicken Cashew Sweet PotatoI also love this no-recipe “recipe” from the CookingLight.com blog, Simmer & Boil — Cinnamon Chicken and Cashews on Baked Sweet Potato. Just toss a half-teaspoon or of ground cinnamon with warmed shredded chicken, pile on top of a baked and fluffed sweet potato, sprinkle with cashews and dig in!  What an quick and easy solution for busy weeknight dinners during the holiday season!

 

What is the one Thanksgiving dish you can’t live without? Do you have any big plans for the holiday?  Please share in the comments below – XOXO, Jennifer

 

Turk’y Cutlets with Fall Festival Couscous #OMGardein Holiday

If your life is similar to mine, that November and December datebook is packed full of year-end deadlines, holiday planning, seemingly never-ending shopping and all sorts of soirees, celebrations and family festivities. Oh, and don’t forget squeezing in running and working out so that you can charge into the New Year fabulously fit. All this whirlwind of activity can wreak havoc on healthy dinner plans, but I have a nutritious, quick and easy dinner idea planned with plant-based proteins from Gardein.

Turk'y Cutlets with Fall Festival Couscous

My recipe for Gardein Turk’y Cutlet with Fall Festival Couscous is perfect for a quick weeknight meal but also gorgeous enough for any holiday company that may be dropping by. Full disclosure — I definitely eat beef, chicken, fish  . . . . and, lots of plant-based proteins too – I love variety and all the foods! However, I have a non meat-eating family member visiting every Thanksgiving and Christmas, so I’m always on the lookout for vegetarian recipes that he and the entire family will enjoy. Dinners featuring a Gardein Turk’y Cutlet are proven winners with me, my kids and my company – they cook up in just 15 minutes, have a delicious crunchy exterior texture and offer 22 grams of protein. Serve these versatile cutlets on top of my fall-inspired nut and fruit Fall Festival Couscous and you have a vibrant vegetarian meal with a comforting vibe!

Gardeom Turkey Cutlets on Fall Festival Couscous

Fall Festival CouscousSweet Potato, Cranberry and Pistachio Couscous

The beauty of couscous is that it cooks in less time than the quick and easy Turk’y Cutlets, so you don’t have to worry about delaying dinner while you wait for brown rice, quinoa or another grain to finish up.  I suggest the larger “pearl” couscous, also known as “Israeli” couscous – it can be found near the  whole wheat.  Other nutritious ingredients in this colorful side dish include dried cranberries, shelled pistachios and diced sweet potatoes.Mini Crabless Cakes from Gardein

Gardein Turk’y Cutlets aren’t the only product you’ll love. The company sells over 20 different varieties of plant-based proteins made with non-GMO soy and wheat, ancient grains and veggies – the taste and texture is excellent!  Hungry holiday guests always seem to require appetizers to distract them from the delicious smells of the main course coming from the oven. Gardein has many quick-to-cook and simple-to-serve protein options that make an excellent starter for your gathering. For example, the Gardein Mini Crabless Cakes can be served with an easy dip such as honey mustard sauce, a tomato-based cocktail sauce, ranch style dip or mayonnaise mixed with Sriracha  — I’m serving them up at my next party sprinkled with feta and pomegranate arils with a berry vinaigrette for dipping.

 

gardienLook for these products in the freezer aisle to use in my recipe for Turk’y Cutlets with Fall Festival Couscous and test out your own creativity with the succulent, seafood-inspired Gardein Mini Crabless Cakes  — and you can also visit the Gardein Holiday Recipe Page for lots of quick and easy recipes with a festive flair and a money-saving  coupon download.

 


Gardeom Turkey Cutlets on Fall Festival Couscous
Turk'y Cutlets with Fall Festival Couscous
Print Recipe
This quick and easy meal featuring Gardein plant-based protein brings the special flavor of the fall holidays to every night weeknight dinners.
Servings Prep Time
2 servings 5 minutes
Cook Time
15 minutes
Servings Prep Time
2 servings 5 minutes
Cook Time
15 minutes
Gardeom Turkey Cutlets on Fall Festival Couscous
Turk'y Cutlets with Fall Festival Couscous
Print Recipe
This quick and easy meal featuring Gardein plant-based protein brings the special flavor of the fall holidays to every night weeknight dinners.
Servings Prep Time
2 servings 5 minutes
Cook Time
15 minutes
Servings Prep Time
2 servings 5 minutes
Cook Time
15 minutes
Instructions
  1. Heat oven to 400 F degrees and cook Turk’y Cutlets for 15 mintues, flipping once. While cutlets are cooking, prepare couscous (below):
  2. Add olive oil to 1 quart pot and bring to medium heat. Add sweet potatoes and par cook for 3 minutes, stirring continuously.
  3. Add parsley, onion, pepper, couscous and vegetable broth to sweet potatoes and stir until combined.
  4. Bring mixture to a boil and turn heat to low, cover and simmer for 5 minutes. Remove from heat and let stand, while still covered, for another 5 minutes.
  5. Stir in cranberries and pistachios.
  6. To serve, make a mound with ½ the couscous mixture and top with 2 Gardein Turk’y Cutlets. Drizzle with warmed gravy packet, if desired.
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East-West Shishito Pepper and Mushroom Saute

Shishito Pepper and Mushroom Saute packed with loads of veggies and bold umami taste - TheFitFork.com

Food science nerd alert – I’m talking about umami again. You know, our fifth taste receptor, the newfound “delicious essense” those Japanese waxed so poetically about in the 20th century.  It’s all about the high concentrations of glutamates and nucleotides found in certain foods and how combing these foods creates a meaty, savory crave factor that is just really hard to describe in words. In fact, research has shown that pairing up glutamate and nucleotide rich ingredients magnifies their joint umami effect up to 8 times as much.  I’ve found that using a few umami-rich ingredients in healthier recipes is an easy way to create an amazing and indulgent-seeming eating experience.

Live Fire Beef at the Salt Lick - TheFitFork.com

There was so much umami going on at the beef-centric Live Fire event I attended this week at with friends from BeefLovingTexans.com), I wish I could have taken all of you to this meat extravaganza at the famous Salt Lick in the Texas Hill Country.  Did what I had to do as a food blogger and made all the rounds to taste meaty, marvelous dishes from chefs from all over Texas. It’s amazing how versatile beef is – not only are there a zillion cuts to choose from (I even tried tongue), beef can be served up to conjure up a fond memories. Over the night, I felt like I had been at grandma’s house getting a hug from comfort food ( with the pimento cheese grits with burnt ends brisket) to being on an exotic vacation (with the Thai NY strip satay with green mango salad).

Essential Umami Ingredients to Stock your Pantry  - TheFitFork.comFind out more about umami from this past blog post, no need to rehash it all here. I’ve also curated a handy collection of essential umami pantry staples for Mode.com, check that out too! Some of the first foods people mention when asked about umami are steaks, mushrooms, red wine, fermented sauces and aged cheeses. It’s true, all these are delicious pairing. However, did you know that as far as vegetables go, mushrooms don’t have a monopoly on umami. Lot of other veggies are high in umami, including sea vegetables (like kelp), mushrooms, corn, peas, tomatoes, potatoes, peppers, winter squash, green beans, asparagus, Brussels sprouts, Swiss chard and kale.

Check out my vegetable-packed recipe for  East-West Shishito Pepper, Mushroom  and Corn Saute. Almost all the ingredient are umami-rich and it tastes super “meaty” just on it’s own – but I’ve used as a topping for brisket tacos and steak, and it was pure heaven.

Umami-Rich Mushrooms, Corn & Chile Pepper Saute - TheFitFork.com

Umami-Rich Mushrooms, Corn & Chile Pepper Saute - TheFitFork.com
East-West Shishito Pepper and Mushroom Saute
Print Recipe
This easy saute of mild peppers, mushrooms, corn, and onions will rock your socks off with bold umami taste! Great as a vegetarian dish but also fantastic atop a steak or beef taco.
Servings Prep Time
4 servings 10 minutes
Cook Time
5 minutes
Servings Prep Time
4 servings 10 minutes
Cook Time
5 minutes
Umami-Rich Mushrooms, Corn & Chile Pepper Saute - TheFitFork.com
East-West Shishito Pepper and Mushroom Saute
Print Recipe
This easy saute of mild peppers, mushrooms, corn, and onions will rock your socks off with bold umami taste! Great as a vegetarian dish but also fantastic atop a steak or beef taco.
Servings Prep Time
4 servings 10 minutes
Cook Time
5 minutes
Servings Prep Time
4 servings 10 minutes
Cook Time
5 minutes
Ingredients
Servings: servings
Instructions
  1. Heat olive oil in large skilled over medium-high heat.
  2. Add peppers and onion and saute for 2 minutes, or until softening.
  3. Add thawed corn and mushrooms to pepper mixture and continue to saute for another 3 minutes.
  4. Add soy sauce and stir until vegetables coated, cook for about 30 more seconds.
  5. Sprinkle with cilantro and serve as a side, on a salad, steak or taco.
Recipe Notes

This easy saute of mild peppers, mushrooms, corn, and onions will rock your socks off with bold umami taste! Great as a vegetarian dish but also fantastic atop a steak or beef taco.

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Sweet Potato & Cauliflower Mash + More Healthy Recipes

Sweet Potato & Cauliflower Mash - TheFitFork.com

Call me a clairvoyant, but I know you’re making sweet potatoes sometime in the next week. Everyone eats sweet potatoes on Thanksgiving Day, it’s the law. Even though my Kale & Caramelized Onion Sweet Potato  recipe was a huge hit at home, I really don’t like to make the same recipe for dinner twice in the same month!  So, tonight, I decided to cauliflower-ify my favorite tuber – and yum, yum, yum! Gosh, now what am I going to come up with for Thanksgiving dinner?

 Sweet Potato & Cauliflower Mash Recipe

  • 2 pounds sweet potatoes
  • 1 pound cauliflower florets
  • 3 tablespoons milk of choice
  • ¼ cup plain Greek yogurt
  • ½ teaspoon garlic powder
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Fresh chopped parsley for garnish (or Instantly Fresh Parsley)
  1. Peel and cut sweet potato into 1 ½ -inch chunks.
  2. In large pot with steam basked, steam sweet potato and cauliflower with 1 inch of water in bottom of pot. Vegetables will be ready in about 10 – 12 minutes, or when fork tender.
  3. Place in large bowl and mash the potato and cauliflower with the milk. Stir in the Greek yogurt, garlic powder, salt and pepper. If too thick, add milk 1 tablespoons at a time, until desired consistency is achieved. Garnish with chopped fresh parsley.
  4. Serves  4 – 6

Bowl of Mashed Sweet PotatoesHere’s the Kale & Caramalized Onion Sweet Potatoes I was mentioning.

jennifer fisher thefitfork sweet potato ruffle

Last year, I made this recipe for Sweet Potato Skillet Stack with Srirracha Orange Glaze – delish!

 

Of course, you know Cooking Light knows how to do up a sweet potato right, check out this gallery for additional inspiration.

Cooking Light Sweet Potato Recipes

So, how do you like to eat sweet potatoes best?