Thanksgiving Tip #3 – Healthy Veggies!

Yams and sweet potatoes (they’re different vegetables altogether) are tasty sweet treats that many of us think of as “comfort food” and are most often served during the winter months. Invariably baked with sweetly pungent spices they give a delicious scent to the whole house when they are baking. Sweet potatoes, by the way, are great sources of vitamin A (they have more than carrots). They’re also a good source of fiber, which for us is important because dietary fiber can help offset the constipating effects of antihistamines, tricyclic antidepressants and prescription painkillers.

Ever wonder what it is that makes leaves red and yellow in autumn? It’s carotenoids, the same family of plant pigments that color yellow fruits and vegetables. It’s the carotenoids in fruits like apricots and peaches and vegetables like yams and sweet potatoes, that gives us vitamin A. Although they are frequently seen on tables at Thanksgiving, Americans eat less sweet potatoes these days than we used to. In rural America in the 19th century, root crops such as these were stored after harvest in a “root cellar” a small space under the house where the cool air kept these vegetables fresh for months. During long winters, sweet potatoes were a source of vitamins A, C, and pantothenic acid (a nutrient that helps our body’s cells make energy). Here is a simple but very tasty recipe for fresh sweet potatoes. It’s based on one I acquired many years ago from an elderly lady in New Hampshire. In the northeastern U.S., maple sugar is a favorite sweetener.

Maple Baked Sweet Potatoes (servings 3 or 4)

maplebakedsweetpotatoes2 fresh sweet potatoes (not yams)
1/4 cup stick margarine
1/4 cup maple syrup
1/4 teaspoon almond extract
1 dash nutmeg
margarine, vegetable oil, or non-stick cooking spray

Coat a 1-1/2 quart casserole dish with margarine or non-stick cooking spray, or lightly coat with vegetable oil. Peel sweet potatoes and slice in half-inch thick slices. Melt margarine in a saucepan then stir in maple syrup, almond extract, and nutmeg, mixing thoroughly. Toss potato slices in the liquid mixture to coat. Spoon slices into the casserole dish, pouring remaining liquid over them. Cover and bake at 400 degrees F. for 35 minutes or until potato slices are soft.

While yams are an entirely different root vegetable from sweet potatoes, we often think of them as being the same because they can substitute so easily for each other in recipes. This is a quick-to-make recipe for yams. The fruit used in this recipe can be varied according to your bladder’s sensitivity. Of course the safest fruit for us are pears, but apricots and peaches can be delicious in this recipe if your bladder can tolerate them. If your family would prefer peaches or apricots, you might also try this: use peaches on half the dish and pears on the other half (or make your serving separately with pears).