The dinner table is a favorite gathering place for many American families. Sharing an evening meal is a tradition because it gives all members a chance to connect, share stories, discuss and enjoy a bit of socializing before everyone dashes off to their next event.
Creating menus to keep everyone interested in making it home for the evening meal can be a challenge, especially if you’ve been preparing dinner for many years. And with more and more people looking for healthy meals, you may be looking for new options to serve your family.
One versatile ingredient that you can serve as a side dish, use to decorate fresh green salads or provide unique flavor for breads, is the sweet potato. Grown in the United States, raw sweet potatoes are fat and cholesterol free, and contain a wide variety of nutrients including: vitamins A, B6, C, E and K, folate, fiber and potassium.
The United States Sweet Potato Council offers these suggestions for serving sweet potatoes throughout the year:
- Scrub the skin, trim the ends and cut out bruised spots with a stainless steel knife.
- For baking in the oven or microwave, prick the skin several times with a fork. Bake at 400 F in the oven for 40 to 50 minutes or for four to six minutes in the microwave, turning halfway through the cooking time.
- Saute 1/4- to 1/2-inch thick slices or 1-inch cubes of sweet potatoes in 2 tablespoons butter or oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Stir frequently.
- For salads, peel and cut the sweet potatoes into sticks and serve with your favorite dip or grate and toss in a salad. To prevent them from turning brown, immediately rinse them in cold water, and store in ice water or a plastic bag with ice until serving.
If you’re looking for new menus to serve for your family dinners, and want to make sure they’re healthy and nutritious, check out what sweet potatoes can bring to your dinners. Visit the United States Sweet Potato Council’s site, www.sweetpotatousa.org for more information.
During the winter months you can use sweet potatoes to nutritionally enhance the comfort foods your family craves like the following soup recipe:
Sweet Potato Country Soup
1/4 cup olive oil
4 cups chopped onion
1/4 cup minced garlic
4 cups fresh sweet potatoes, washed and cubed
2 quarts chicken broth
2 bay leaves
4 teaspoons paprika
2 teaspoons ground turmeric
2 tablespoons dried basil leaves
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground red pepper
2 cups peeled and chopped tomatoes
1 1/2 cups chopped sweet green peppers
4 cups cooked or canned garbanzo beans
2 1/2 tablespoons light soy sauce
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
3 cups grated Parmesan cheese; for garnish
In a large saucepot, heat oil; saute onion and garlic for five minutes. Add celery, sweet potatoes, chicken broth and spices. Bring to boil; cover and simmer 15 minutes. Stir in tomatoes, green pepper and garbanzo beans; simmer 15 minutes longer. Carefully, in small batches, use a food processor or blender and process until smooth. Stir in soy sauce and lemon juice; heat through. Ladle 1 cup into each individual soup bowl and sprinkle with 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese.
And since sweet potatoes are available all year long, consider adding this sausage ball recipe as a great meat and veggie addition to dinners served both in winter and summer:
Sweet Potato Sausage Balls
3 cups Bisquick
1 cup sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
1 pound sausage
1 1/2 cups cooked, mashed sweet potatoes
Combine all ingredients well. Roll into balls and place on greased sheet pan. Bake at 350 F. for 20 minutes, until brown.