The first explorers to the Americas found many foods they didn't have in Europe -- sweet potatoes, tomatoes, chili peppers and corn for instance.
Although yams and sweet potatoes are botanically different, they are both in the sweet potato family, but what is marked "sweet potatoes" in the store are often yams.
Whether you serve yams or sweet potatoes, the orange-skinned tubers are always a holiday favorite.
Their trademark color is the result of the antioxidant beta-carotene, which helps protect against cancer and heart disease, according to the American Institute for Cancer Research.
They are also a good sources of fiber. Their natural sweetness comes from complex carbohydrates that move into the bloodstream more readily than the added sugar in prepared desserts.
This benefit is lost when sweet potatoes are candied with sugar or marshmallows. Instead, try tossing sliced yams with apple juice concentrate, arrange them in a heat-proof dish under a layer of thinly-sliced apples brushed lightly with melted butter and baked until tender.
A high oven temperature concentrates their natural sweetness. You can also bake a sweet potato in a microwave oven -- wrap it in a wet paper towel first and then cook it for about five minutes, depending on the size. When it is fork-tender, it is ready.
Whipped sweet potatoes can be made by combining either baked or boiled potatoes with apple juice or cider.
Roasted Yams with Grilled Pineapple
1 tablespoon raw pumpkin seeds
4 medium yams, peeled -- about 1-1/2 pounds
3 fresh pineapple rings
2 tablespoons vinegar
2 tablespoons apple cider or apple juice
1 tablespoon walnut or canola oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spread pumpkins seeds on baking sheet and bake for six minutes, stirring once, or until seeds are crisp and lightly colored. Set aside to cool. Coarsely chop the cooled seeds -- you can do this the day before, storing the seeds in an airtight container at room temperature.
Increase oven temperature to 400 degrees to roast yams until fork-tender, between 40 and 60 minutes, depending on size.
Remove yams from oven and raise temperature to broil.
Once yams are cool enough to handle, cut into bite-size pieces and place in mixing bowl.
Arrange pineapple slices on baking sheet or foil and broil for two minutes, turn and broil another two minutes. Cut slices into bite-size pieces and add to yams. Add pumpkin seeds.
In a small bowl, mix together vinegar and cider (or juice). Whisk in oil. Add salt and pepper then drizzle combination over yams, toss to coat.
Serve warm. Makes four servings.
Fruit 'n Spice Sweet Potatoes
1, 40-ounce can sweet potatoes
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1 cup raisins
1-1/2 cups diced apples
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1/3 cup chopped and toasted pecans (optional)
In large pot combine sweet potatoes, cinnamon, nutmeg and ginger.
Add raisins and mix well; heat to a simmer.
Combining diced apples and lemon juice; add to sweet potato mixture and simmer five minutes.
Before serving, sprinkle with pecans, if desired.
Grilled Sweet Potatoes with Rum Raisin Glaze
4 raw sweet potatoes, peeled and sliced into 1/2-inch thick pieces
2 teaspoons Caribbean jerk seasoning
Preheat grill to medium-low heat. Spray medium mixing bowl with nonstick cooking spray. Place sliced sweet potatoes in bowl and add jerk seasoning, then toss to coat thoroughly.
1/4 cup molasses
1/4 cup dark rum
1/2 cup dark brown sugar
1 tablespoon Caribbean-style jerk seasoning
3/4 cup raisins
2 tablespoons butter, softened
To prepare glaze, combine molasses, rum, brown sugar, and jerk seasonings in small saucepan. Heat over medium-high heat and let simmer five minutes. Add raisins, lower heat and simmer on lowest setting five minutes more. Remove saucepan from heat, add butter, and mix well.
Place grilled sweet potatoes in medium mixing bowl, add glaze, toss to coat and serve. Makes six servings.
New Orleans Sweet Potato Raisin Pie
6 medium sweet potatoes, peeled, or 6, 15-ounce cans, cut sweet potatoes
4 cups water
1 cup sugar
6 tablespoons butter, softened
1/2 teaspoon salt
1-1/4 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 cup raisins
1 prepared, 10-inch pie shell, baked for 15 minutes at 350 degrees
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Cut sweet potatoes into 1-inch cubes, place in 4-quart saucepan and add water. Cover and cook over medium heat for about 20 minutes or until very soft. Drain.
If using canned sweet potatoes, simply drain, these do not need to be cooked, so the water is not necessary.
Puree sweet potatoes in blender or food processor until smooth, then transfer to a large bowl. Blend all remaining ingredients well in food processor, except raisins. Add to sweet potatoes, then fold in raisins.
Pour mixture into partially baked pie shell and bake for 30 minutes at 350 degrees. Reduce oven temperature to 325 degrees and bake for another 15 minutes. Allow pie to cool to room temperature. Pie goes well with whipped cream or butter pecan ice cream. Makes six servings.
Recipes and information from Family Features, Inc. and American Institute for Cancer Research.