Until recently, I viewed sweet potatoes as strictly a Thanksgiving/Fall kind of food. This may be because I had only experienced them as part of a super-sweet marshmallow-topped casserole, which is not a side dish I would normally serve year round. Then, after eating a plain baked sweet potato for the first time a few years ago, I was hooked! I now try to find ways to incorporate them into our meals frequently and became even more of a fan after reading about the health benefits of sweet potatoes. They are a very rich source of vitamin A and also provide a good helping of vitamin C and fiber. Perhaps best of all, I have found a serving of sweet potatoes to be sweet enough to curb the crazy sugar cravings that have come with this pregnancy!
This particular sweet potato recipe was inspired by a sweet potato casserole I prepare this past Thanksgiving. I loved the crunchy nut topping but found the added sugar, butter and cream to be a little too sweet and rich. This version is healthier than the casserole and is prepared right in the sweet potato skins for easy, individual servings. The resulting recipe is hearty enough to serve as a whole meal, especially when served with a salad of leafy greens. I’ve included walnuts in the streusel topping because they are another food that is often listed as a pregnancy “super food”, but this could also easily be prepared with pecans, or almost any other kind of nuts. Many articles that I read about sweet potatoes mentioned that the vitamin A is most easily absorbed if the sweet potatoes are prepared with a small amount of fat and he butter in this recipe provides a bit of fat without going over the top. If you are trying to avoid sugar, I think the streusel topping could easily be prepared without the brown sugar; just sprinkle the walnuts, cinnamon and bits of butter right on top of the potatoes and broil until the walnuts brown a little bit.
Serves 2 as a main dish or 4 as a side
2 medium sweet potatoes
1 Tablespoon butter, cut into small pieces
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 Tablespoons brown sugar
1 Tablespoon cold butter, cut into small pieces
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 cup toasted, coarsely chopped walnuts
1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Scrub the sweet potatoes until clean and prick them all over with a fork. Place the potatoes in a small oven-proof dish and bake in the preheated oven for 1 to 1 1/2 hours or until tender. Sweet potatoes will ooze sticky, sweet juice all over your oven if they are not in a dish or pan, so you really don’t want to skip that step!
2. Once sweet potatoes are baked through, remove from the oven and cool for 15 minutes, or until cool enough to handle comfortably. Make a slit in the center of each potato and scoop the soft flesh out into a medium mixing bowl. Leave enough potato flesh on the sides of the potato to give the skin some structure so that the potato skins can be refilled later on.
3. Add the butter, cinnamon and vanilla extract to the mixing bowl with the scooped out sweet potato. Mash it all together with a large fork until everything is well mixed and the mixture is smooth, with some small lumps remaining.
4. Prepare the streusel topping: Measure the brown sugar and butter into a small bowl and mix them together with a fork until the brown sugar is well moistened. Stir the cinnamon and walnuts into the brown sugar mixture until well mixed.
4. Line a large baking sheet with foil and place the sweet potato skins on the foil. Scoop the sweet potato mixture back into the potato skins, evenly distributing it so that they are both filled up. Top each sweet potato with half of the streusel mixture, pressing it lightly into the sweet potatoes so that it sticks well instead of tumbling off onto the pan. Alternatively, if you are serving this recipe as a side dish, spoon the mashed sweet potatoes into a small, oven-proof baking dish and sprinkle all the streusel topping evenly over the potato mixture in the dish.
5. Turn the oven broiler on high and cook the sweet potatoes under the broiler until the walnuts are golden brown and the brown sugar has begun to melt. Watch the potatoes closely while they broil as the walnuts can burn very quickly.