The earliest cultivation of sweet potatoes dates back to 750 BCE in Peru, although archeological evidence shows cultivation of the sweet potato might have begun around 2500-1850 BCE.
By the time Christopher Columbus arrived in the ‘New World’ in the late 15th century, sweet potatoes were well established as a food source in South and Central America.
Sweet potatoes are typically recognized by their copper-colored skin and vibrant orange flesh, though the hundreds of varieties grown worldwide display colors such as white, cream, yellow, reddish-purple, and deep purple.
This Sweet Potato Chicken Stew with Black Beans & Corn is the ultimate healthy comfort food with so much flavor.
Sweet Potato Chicken Stew with Black Beans & Corn
2 chicken breasts
Salt and pepper to taste
2 tablespoons olive oil , divided
1 yellow onion diced
2 celery stalks diced
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon paprika (or use smoked paprika powder for spiciness)
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
3 cups chicken broth (homemade if you can)
1 14-oz can fire-roasted diced tomatoes
1 sweet potato, peeled and chopped into 1/2 inch pieces
1 14-oz can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 14-oz can corn, drained
1/2 cup fresh cilantro, chopped
Season the chicken with salt and pepper on both sides.
In a large skillet, heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Place the chicken in the preheatedskillet, and allow to cook on high heat for 5 minutes each side or until nicely browned.
Move the chicken to one side of the skillet and lower the heat to medium. Add 1 more ablespoon of olive oil and the diced onion and celery. Sauté the onion and celery for about 3 minutes, or until they start to sweat.
Add the garlic powder, ground cumin, paprika, and dried oregano (1/2 teaspoon each), and season with a pinch of salt and pepper. Continue to sauté for another 3 minutes, then remove from heat. The chicken breasts will not be fully cooked yet, that’s OK!
Carefully transfer the chicken breasts, onion, and celery to a 4-5 quart soup pot. Add 3 cups of chicken stock and can of diced tomatoes (with the liquid).
Cover with a lid, bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to simmer for 10 minutes.
Use tongs to carefully remove the chicken breasts onto a large plate or cutting board. Use forks to shred the chicken.
Add the shredded chicken back to the pot. Add the diced sweet potato and drained black beans.
Stir, bring to a boil, and lower heat to low and simmer for about 10 minutes, or until the sweet potatoes are fully cooked and easily pierced with a fork.
Stir in fresh chopped cilantro and season with additional salt and pepper, if desired, and remove from heat.
One of the easiest and most useful ways to cook sweet potatoes is to roast them.
For perfect roasted sweet potatoes every time, make use of these simple rules (high lighted – bold letters).
I personally opt for roasting at a super high temperature.To get the charred look and flavor – roast at 400 degrees for 30 minutes – place chopped tossed sweet potatoes on a metal cookie sheet lined with aluminum.
If you just want a nice golden char, then use a glass baking dish.
Both methods will be cooked on the outside with a custardy smooth inside.
Diced or chopped. That depends on how you will use them.
Diced would be great to use in omelettes, scrambled eggs, tossed into a salad among others.
Now chopped would be great as a finger food, or just a wonderful addition to a meal as a side dish.
One inch or bigger diced or chopped means more surface area per bite for delicious caramelization.
Aim if possible for equally sized potato pieces so that each piece cooks at the same rate.
As for the sweet potato skin – it is up to you to dice or chop with the skin on or you can peel it off.
Removing the skin is totally up to you. There is no harm in peeling it off. The only thing you’ll lose is some added nutrients and especially the fiber.
The most popular varieties sold at your local market are, Covington Sweet Potato, O’Henry Sweet Potato, and the Japanese Sweet Potato.
The popular food magazine, also found on line, Saveur says that shopping for sweet potatoes, particularly during the Thanksgiving holiday (USA), you can came across a surprising range of varieties, 16 to be exact.
They go on to say that a consumer can find both heirlooms and new hybrids alike, all which are being grown in the United States.
Our feature recipe – Roasted Sweet Potatoes And Figs – uses three different types of sweet potatoes, which are the speckled purple sweet potato, which is named because of their flecked magenta flesh.
An heirloom variety with pale orange skin and flesh, and not to forget theHannahs varity which has tan skin and an off-white interior. When roasted the flesh takes on a yellow cast, a lightly sweet flavor, and a dry texture.
Here is what you will need to prepare – Roasted Sweet Potatoes And Figs in your own kitchen.
12 scallions or green onions (white and green parts), cut into 1 1/2 inch segments
1 red chili,halved, seeded, thinly sliced
My mother had two fig trees in her garden, both a black and green variety. Fresh figs can be very fragile, and need to be eaten within a day or two of harvesting. We used dried figs in our recipe because they are just as versatile as fresh figs when re-hydrated.
Preheat oven to 475 degrees. Scrub potatoes and slice each one into wedges.
Toss wedges with 3 tablespoons of olive oil, s teaspoons of Himalayan salt, and a few grinds of black pepper. Spread on a baking sheet. Sprinkle and roast until soft, about 25 minutes.
Meanwhile, place the dried figs in a medium saucepan with lemon zest, juice, ginger, and 1 tablespoon of sugar. Cover with fresh water by 2 inches. Bring to a boil and simmer until figs return to plump fig pose.
Scoop figs from saucepan with a slotted spoon and drain on some paper towels. Let dry, and quarter the figs, cutting away the stems.
In a small saucepan, stir together the balsamic vinegar, and remaining 1 1/2 tablespoons of sugar. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer until thickened, about 4 minutes.
Arrange roasted sweet potatoes on a serving platter. Pour remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil into a sauce pan and heat. place in onions, and chili. Fry for about 4 to 5 minutes, stirring often. Spoon the oil, onions, and chili over the sweet potatoes.
Nestle the figs among the wedges and drizzle with the balsamic reduction. Suggested to serve at room temperature.
Maybe you are wondering what to do with the water solution that was used to dehydrate the figs? Put it into your Nutri-Bullet or blender, and blend for about 30 to 40 seconds and drink down a nutritious anti-inflammatory drink.
Food crops harvested in winter months with the use of hoop houses or hot houses (such as used in California, USA) and other methods that extend the natural growing season, and old-fashioned storage vegetables like cabbages and potatoes all mean that there are plenty of winter produce to choose from.
What winter produce that is available, is sufficient to enjoy delicious winter salads along with great homemade dressings and vinaigrette’s.
The different crops available in the winter months include among others:
Broccoli: Thisand all othercruciferous vegetables can be grown year-round in temperate climates, but broccoli tastes best when harvested in the cooler temperatures of fall in most climates.
Warm Winter Salad with Apples Spinach Blue Cheese and Walnuts
Brussels sprouts: These vegetables are part of the cabbage family. They grow on stalks, and they last somewhat longer than when sold packaged or removed from their stalks.
Cabbage: This vegetableis crispy when raw with bitter flavor, though it mellows and sweetens the longer it’s cooked.
Sweet Potatoes: This root vegetable is often referred too or interchangeable with yams. The two vegetables are different though.
Most yams in the USA are sweet potatoes. Yams are dry and starchy, and grown mainly in Africa and Asia. They can weigh up too 100 pounds.
Sweet potatoes store very well and are available year round in warmer areas. Though their season is from late summer through winter.
Other vegetables available in fall to winter months include, radicchio, radishes, turnips, winter squash, rutabagas, parsnips, chard, collard greens, cress, spinach, kale, carrots, leeks, fennel, and celery among others.
There are also a verity of fruits in season during the winter months that you can enjoy in fruit salads, or as a snack. To view the available in season winter fruits link here: Fruits Info – Seasonal Fruits.
Salads To Enjoy In The Winter Months
Chilly temperatures, and dark winter days are traditionally suited to cheese, meat, and vegetable casseroles, including pastas. A salad filled with raw vegetables may not seem appealing in the cold winter.
But what if you could prepare a warm winter salad, like this one – Warm Kale Salad with Dried Cranberries and Walnuts. This recipe is offered by a professional chef, author, recipe developer, educator and certified health coach at A Food Centric Life.
Warm Kale Salad with Dried Cranberries and Walnuts
1 large bunch of organic kale (Tuscan, Lacinato or Dinosaur)
Image Credit: A Food Centric Life
1 large shallot
2 teaspoons salt
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 large cloves of garlic, minced
Handful of dried cranberries
Small handful of chopped walnuts
1 tablespoon Balsamic vinegar (suggestion: infused balsamic fruit flavored variety like dark cherry)
Salt and pepper, to season
Bring a large pot (5 quart/liter) of water to a boil while you are trimming the kale leaves and slicing the shallot. Trim the ribs out of the center of the kale leaves, and then cut the leaves crosswise into ribbons. Slice the peeled shallot crosswise into thin rings.
When water boils, add 2 teaspoons salt, then drop the kale leaves into the water and cook for 2 minutes (called blanching). Drain well through a sieve and place kale on a clean kitchen towel. Alternatively you can steam your kale for 2-3 minutes, and then proceed with the recipe.
In a medium sauté or fry pan, heat the olive oil over medium low heat until warm. Add the shallot rings, then the garlic. Cook for 1-2 minutes, stirring until softened. Be careful not to let them burn. Add the cranberries, walnuts, and vinegar. Stir and cook for a minute, then add the cooked kale. Toss the kale ribbons to coat and warm, season up with salt and pepper, and then serve.
Make this a even more warm winter salad by either serving the warm salad as a side dish with roasted chicken, as Sally the author of “A Food Centric Life” explains, or as a foundation for roasted salmon. She also suggests placing the warm salad over a bed of quinoa for a vegetarian or vegan entree.
Sally says you can use a fruit flavored infused balsamic vinegar like dark cherry or fig when making the vinaigrette.
Another great warm winter salad you can enjoy is: Sweet Potato, Kale and Shrimp Skillet
Here is a great dish that we believe you don’t have to wait until the Autumn months to enjoy. Cranberries are harvested September thru November, and are found fresh in the stores in the months of November and December. Cranberries are always associated with Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners.
Cranberries freeze well for up to one year, so why not buy yourself a few extra bags to enjoy them other parts of the year.
Did you know that in January the packaged cranberries that have not sold are reduced in price, which has been from 98 cents to around $1.25 around the past few years. The bags that do not sell, the markets store away in their freezers until next year.
Cranberries are another food crop that depend on bees for pollination. The fruit is a berry, and it is larger than the leaves of the plant.
Once the berry starts to form, it is initially white, turning a deep red when fully ripe. The berry has an acidic taste that can overwhelm its sweetness.
Cranberries are related to bilberries, blueberries, and huckleberries.
A common misconception about cranberry production is that the beds remain flooded throughout the year, but rather the beds are irrigated regularly to maintain soil moisture during the growing season.
Beds are flooded in the autumn to facilitate harvest and again during the winter to protect against low temperatures.
Our feature recipe is an example of how you can enjoy those cranberries throughout the year, and here is what you will need to enjoy the flavors of – RoastedButternut Squash with Apples Cranberries and Candied Walnuts.
1 large butternut squash, peeled and diced into 1-inch cubes
In a large bowl mix in prepared fruits (yes butternut squash is actually a fruit). Next mix in spice mix and butter, mix in until well coated.
In a small bowl, mix together the flour, brown sugar, salt, and spice.
Spoon coated fruit mix into a 13 X 9 inch baking glass pan.
Roast 50-60 minutes for a tender dish, and for or a lighter crunchy bit, roast for 30 minutes. Test the squash to feel its crunchiness by forking the squash and eating it, and if the squash has a slight firm texture but not mushy, then it’s done roasting.We found these candied walnuts in the Whole Foods Market. The are walnut halves, which we broke up into pieces.
Spoon the roasted fruit into a serving bowl and top with candied walnuts. Before serving, mix walnuts in. You also have the option to serve the side dish with the walnuts on the side, allowing your family and guests to spoon on the walnuts if they wish.