Sweet potatoes are not only delicious, but they are very nutrient rich; they are loaded with vitamin A, vitamin C, fiber, and several B vitamins. They are easy to make and can be served as fries, spirals, baked potatoes, smashed/mashed potatoes, or as puree. We usually eat them as fries along side a variety of proteins such as chicken, lamb, ground turkey, meatballs, fish, or burgers. This week, our little 7 month old is ready for smashed sweet potatoes, so I decided to make them for the family. After all, family style dining is great for modeling eating with your children.
Baking the sweet potatoes is pretty simple. I have a short sequence of things that I do to make sure that they are cooked fully through to the center and stay nice and moist. Here is the general summary: wash your sweet potatoes really well and then wash them again; cut off any funky spots or long roots growing out of the potato; pat them dry with a towel or paper towel and let them dry for a few minutes on your cutting board; poke holes over the skins using a fork – not too deep, just enough to help them release steam and cook; rub some oil on the skins and then wrap them loosely in foil so that the air can circulate around the sweet potato (this is one of the only times I use foil directly on my food). Put them on a cookie sheet and bake them in the oven for 45 to 60 minutes on 400 degrees (oven times may vary slightly). Check them by peeling back the foil carefully and piercing the potato with a sharp knife. If it goes in easily to the center, it is done. If it is not done, put it back in for a few minutes at a time, checking it periodically to prevent overcooking.
Once they are done, turn off your oven and leave them in there on the cookie sheet or right on the rack (whatever you like) for another 5 minutes with the oven off. Take them out once your timer beeps and carefully open the foil packets and let them cool on your cutting board. Slice down the centers to help them release hot steam. After about 5 minutes, they should be cooled enough to handle. Using a spoon or fork, scoop our the insides and peel off your skins. I don’t eat the skins when made this way because it is soft and sticky, which also can be a choking hazard for children and people with swallowing disorders. If you want to, you can just eat the sweet potatoes just as they are – fresh and sweet. If you need a little more pizazz in your meal, smash them with a fork and have smashed potatoes, or keep mashing and add a little liquid to get a puree. You can add spices for sweet or savory flavors, and a little non-dairy butter can be complimentary as well. However you decide to have them, they are a nice addition to almost any protein!
Last night we had smashed baked sweet potatoes with ground turkey and lightly cooked, garlicky green beans. The baby had smashed sweet potatoes with ground turkey (I pureed the meat 90% of the way) and a little bit of apples. The photo I included here is what it looked like after smashing it with a fork – easy and delish!
- 2 large sweet potatoes
- optional: non dairy butter
- optional: basil, cinnamon, black pepper, or parsley
- All you need is some foil, a fork, a cookie sheet (optional technically if you want to use just your rack), and your potatoes.
- Wash them really well with a scrub brush, then wash them again; once all the dirt is off, trim off any funky spots or ends.
- Pat them dry with paper towels and let them sit for at least 5 minutes; poke with a fork so that you get lots of surface holes, but they don't need to go deep.
- Rub oil on the skins and wrap loosely in foil so they are covered but have a little pocket of air to let steam circulate.
- Place the potatoes on a cookie sheet in the oven to bake for 45 minutes to an hour (depends on the size of your potatoes and your oven).
- When they finish cooking, you can peel back your foil, carefully, and pierce with a sharp knife. If it goes in super easily, they are done. If not, cook them for a few more minutes and recheck.
- After they are done, turn off your oven and leave them in there for another 5 minutes.
- Once you are all done cooking, take them out to rest on your cutting board. Open the foil, slice them down the center length wise and let them cool - this way you won't burn your hands on the potatoes! After about 5 minutes, you should be able to handle them more safely.
- Use a fork or spoon to scoop out the sweet potato 'meat', leaving your skins behind. I don't eat the skins when they are baked this way because they get very soft and sticky which is a choking risk for kids and people with swallowing disorders. You can certainly eat them if you prefer.
- You can serve them as full baked sweet potatoes just like this, straight out of the oven - no more work for you to do.
- Or, you can smash them with a fork and have 'smashed potatoes', or...you can mix them even more and get a puree.
- Some people like to add a bit of cinnamon and a drizzle of orange juice. Other people do butter and parsley with black pepper. The options are endless, so have fun with it.