Sunday, March 10, 2013

Yam Good

Did you know that there’s a difference between a yam and a sweet potato?

According to The Library of Congress, yams and sweet potatoes are not related botanically and the two look-alikes are often confused for one another.

The difference between the two is explained in an "Everyday Mysteries" excerpt on The Library of Congress website. Here's what they say:

"In the United States, firm varieties of sweet potatoes were produced before soft varieties. When soft varieties were first grown commercially, there was a need to differentiate between the two. African slaves had already been calling the ‘soft’ sweet potatoes ‘yams’ because they resembled the yams in Africa. Thus, ‘soft’ sweet potatoes were referred to as ‘yams’ to distinguish them from the ‘firm’ varieties.
Today the U.S. Department of Agriculture requires labels with the term ‘yam’ to be accompanied by the term ‘sweet potato.’ Unless you specifically search for yams, which are usually found in an international market, you are probably eating sweet potatoes."

I received two gigantic yams in my Bountiful Basket a few weeks ago and needed to figure out what to do with these orangish, tasty and versatile root vegetables.

A gigantic heart-shaped yam
Yams come in hundreds of varieties and sizes and they are rich in vitamins B6 and C. They are also packed with potassium, which can help control blood pressure and as complex carbohydrates, they retain more of their nutrients and the body digests them slower than simple carbs, like white bread.

First, I washed and peeled the skin off of one of my yams, which I made into a few different things and it was enough for three separate meals!

Quick Oven-Roasted Yams:

• half of a GIGANTIC yam or 1 large yam, washed and peeled
• 1 generous tablespoon extra virgin coconut oil
• 2-3 tablespoons nutritional yeast flakes
• salt and pepper to taste
• garlic and herb seasoning
• non-stick cooking spray

- Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
- Slice the yam into thin pieces, as thin as you can get them
- Melt the coconut oil. In a large bowl, toss the yam slices in the oil, nutritional yeast flakes, salt and pepper and garlic and herb seasoning.
- Spray a foil-lined baking sheet with non-stick cooking spray and spread the yam slices out on the baking sheet. Spray the tops of the yam slices with a little more non-stick cooking spray.

- Bake for about 10 to 15 minutes, making sure to check that your yams aren't burning! Take the yams out of the oven and flip the slices over. Spray with a little bit more non-stick cooking spray and bake for about 10 more minutes, or until the yam slices are crispy and browned, but not burned.

(I was making this recipe up as I went along with it one night for dinner and ended up cooking the yams using too high of a baking temperature. It might take a little longer for them to cook and become crispy at 400 degrees, but I think that the lower temperature will prevent the yams from burning as much.)

Remove the yams from the oven and try them in a wrap or enjoy them as a side dish. I had mine rolled up in a sun dried tomato wrap with hummus, salsa, some leftover quinoa and spinach.

It's a wrap.
I mashed the other half of my gigantic heart-shaped yam with salsa, nutritional yeast flakes, broccoli, peas and salt and pepper and rolled everything up in another wrap for a quick weeknight meal.

Wrap #2

There are tons of recipes out there on the Internet for yams and sweet potatoes ranging from pies and fries to the popular Thanksgiving side dish of candied yams, complete with vegan marshmallows on top!

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