Thursday, February 23, 2012

Sweet Potato Month

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By Chef Diane,

Did your parents ever tell you about the tough time they had growing up?  My mother's story was she had to walk 10 miles, uphill, in the snow and carry hot sweet potatoes in her pockets to keep her hands warm, and then eat them for lunch.  She loves sweet potatoes, but only cookies them for the holidays.  She just likes them plain, with butter and topped with marshmallows.

When my dad started frying turkeys at Thanksgiving, he sliced sweet potatoes and fried them too, made chips.  Now you can even go to restaurants and order sweet potato fries too.  Seems to have been a big explosion in the awareness of sweet potatoes with good reason too.
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Did you know that the sweet potato ranks number one in nutrition?  Sweet potatoes are high in the following: beta-carotene, vitamin A, vitamin B6 and vitamin C; fiber, thiamine, niacin, potassium and copper. They are also a good source of protein, calcium, vitamin E.  Sweet potatoes rank highest in Vitamin A and beta carotene.  Vitamin A promotes good vision, especially in low light. It may also be needed for reproduction and breast-feeding. Vitamin A helps form and maintains healthy skin, teeth, skeletal and soft tissue, mucus membranes, and skin. It is also known as retinol because it produces the pigments in the retina of the eye.

Beta-carotene is an antioxidant. Antioxidants protect cells from damage caused by substances called free radicals. Free radicals are believed to contribute to certain chronic diseases and play a role in the aging processes.

My great state of Mississippi produces 19% of the country's total sweet potato crop.  Mississippi has about 150 farmers growing sweet potatoes on about 8,200 acres (33 km2), contributing $19 million dollars to the state's economy. Mississippi's top five sweet potato producing counties are Calhoun, Chickasaw, Pontotoc, Yalobusha, and Panola. The National Sweet Potato Festival is held annually the entire first week in November in Vardaman (Calhoun County), which proclaims itself as "The Sweet Potato Capital", they also elect a Sweet Potato queen who goes on to participate in the Miss Mississippi Pageant.
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Since sweet potatoes are being recognized all month, you have plenty of time to try them, try some new recipes, or eat sweet potato fries instead of regular fries.  Who knows you may like them better, they are better for you too.

Another way to eat them is in bread.  A friend of mine gave me her sweet potato bread recipe, so I’m sharing it with you.  Enjoy!

Sweet Potato Bread
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  • 3 Cups sugar
  • 3 cups self rising flour
  • 2 cups cooked mashed sweet potatoes (cook in microwave until done, scoop it out of the skin)
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 cup oil
  • 1 cup chopped pecans
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon coconut extract
  • 1 cup shredded coconut (optional)

Mix all ingredients well, pour in greased loaf pan, bake in preheated oven at 350 degrees for an hour, or until done.

Sweet Potato Nutrition Facts (for one medium size sweet potato)
  • Calories 130
  • Fat 0.39 g
  • Protein 2.15 g
  • Net Carbs 31.56 g
  • Dietary Fiber 3.9 g
  • Calcium 28.6 mg
  • Sodium 16.9 mg
  • Potassium 265.2 mg
  • Foliate 18.2 mcg
  • Vitamin C 29.51 mg
  • Vitamin A 26081.9 IU

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