Sweet Potatoes are not just for Holiday Dinners!

February is National Sweet Potato Month! As a child, I did not like sweet potatoes. I think this is because I was only served them from a can and I though the texture was too mushy. However, as an adult, I realized how delicious sweet potatoes were fresh! You can bake them, roast them, puree them into soup, make into French fries and more! I have a family favorite that even kids love—sweet potato and cranberry casserole. The recipe has evolved from using canned sweet potatoes and cranberry sauce to using fresh sweet potatoes, fresh cranberries and adding fresh pineapple and flaxseed which makes it healthier AND taste better. It can serve as a side or a dessert and it tastes wonderful as a leftover.

Sweet Potato Cranberry Casserole

6-8 lg. sweet potatoes or yams 2 lbs. fresh cranberries Sugar, white or brown 1-2 sticks of butter

1 cup freshly chopped pineapple Approx. 1 c. pecans (optional) 1 c. oatmeal 1/3 c. whole wheat flour 2 TBSP ground flaxseed (optional)

1/2 c. packed brown sugar

Cook sweet potatoes in microwave or pressure cooker and cook until soft but firm. Remove the skins and discard. Put potatoes into a bowl and chunk the potatoes into bite-sized pieces. Add 1/2 to 1 stick of melted butter. Exact amount depends upon potato amount.

Coat the cranberries with a small amount of white sugar. Prepare crisp topping by working together with your fingers or pastry cutter, 1/2 stick butter, oatmeal, flour, flaxseed and brown sugar (like a regular crisp topping).

In a large casserole dish, layer sweet potato, cranberries, pineapple, pecans, and then add the topping. Bake fairly hot (375 F or so) until the topping is crispy and the rest is heated through and bubbly. Can be made ahead and frozen for later baking.

Adapted from www.cooks.com

Now, I must tell you about the health benefits that go along with this delicious recipe. Sweet potatoes are a great source of Vitamin A (Beta-carotene), and fiber. Health benefits include eye health and decreased risk of some chronic diseases. Cranberries are high in antioxidants, which are beneficial to heart health and are a significant source of phytochemical which offer health benefits such as decreased risk of some types of cancers, reduction of inflammation and bacterial infections.

Cranberries are a great source of Vitamin C, which has antioxidant properties but also aides in skin health and increased iron absorption. Vitamin C is water soluble so it cannot be stored in the body and must be consumed regularly. Oatmeal is high in fiber and protein and known for its heart health benefits and lowering serum LDL cholesterol. Flaxseed, even in small amounts, is rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which are known for heart and brain health; and flax also offers fiber, protein, and iron! It also gives the casserole a nice subtle nutty flavor. Remember the Vitamin C from the cranberries will increase the iron’s absorption!

Bon Appetit!

Blog provided by: Alison St. Germain MS, RD, LD