Sweet Potatoes and Yams

Yams

It’s a yam!

Sweet potatoes are not yams. Let’s explore the myth that they are the same thing.

Sweet potato:

  • Ipomoea batatas – scientific name
  • sweet potatoes come from the same plant family as the morning glory
  • sweet potatoes are native to the Central American region
  • they grown on a vine
  • they come in many different varieties
  • starchy roots

Yam:

  • Dioscorea rotundata – scientific name
  • yams are their own plant family
  • yams are native to Africa and Asia
  • closely related to lilies or grasses
  • come in many different varieties (they actually have their own family name for “yams” which is Dioscorea)
  • starchy hard root tuber

Then how did two plants that are not near related botanically end up getting called the same thing?

I’ve found two main reasons for this perpetuation of incorrectness, both coming from very historic means.

Africa’s brought to America as slaves saw the native sweet potato and started calling them yams. Yams themselves were not that prevalent and easy to come by in northern climates so places started calling sweet potatoes “yams” to sell them as yams, and then the good ‘ol government continued the farce by labeling all sweet potatoes as yams.

Yams are a root tuber, like a ginger root, or iris roots, only on a larger scale. Yams can be as small as a traditional potato to as large as five feet in length. Sweet potatoes on the other hand don’t get much larger than a good sized baking russet potato and have tapered ends. Yams grow as tubers and sweet potatoes are more a clump of root storage system. A sweet potato vine will grow from a sweet potato scrap. I’ve never tossed a yam into my compost pile and had it grow, as I’ve never actually had yams (and thus not had the chance to toss them in my compost pile). I had a sweet potato vine pop out of on the edge of the compost pile. I had half a mind to dig it up and see what happened but it was so late in the season that it was mixed back into the pile.

This is what confuses me in todays world. We now have the ability to get yams shipped all over the world but yet sweet potatoes in a grocery store still get labeled as yams, and don’t even think about looking for an actual yam in a grocery store, they are virtually non-existant, at least in the north country where I live. I read that yams have become an invasive species in the south where the climate allows you to grow yams. Maybe in souther states you can pick up a yam at the grocer. Personally I have only ever witnessed a true yam at one grocery store, which happens to be known for it’s produce, and where I snapped the photo of yams. When I took the photo I was more surprised than anything else that they had yams for sale. They had the sweet potatoes right next to the yams.

So all those canned “yams” you’ve choked down every year at Thanksgiving have never been truly yams at all. I really want to go buy some yams, now that I know where to get them, and cook some up just to say I’ve actually had yams and can compare the difference.

But since I’ve never had yams here is the Husband’s favorite sweet potato dish

Carrie’s Sweet Potato Casserole

That is the original recipe, however that one forgets the how-to on the topping. Too bad. Here is the topping recipe:

  • 1 cup light brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 1/3 cup melted butter

Combine and mix well.

I double the recipe because I hate having a random 1/2 cup of evaporated milk left over. It’s light, fluffy, super sweet, and delicious. If the recipe is doubled I highly recommend a 9 x 13 pan to cut down on cooking time.

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Stuffed Pasta Shells

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We eat large amounts of pasta, all kinds. I think noodles is my go-to food group (if noodles could be considered a food group). One of those pasta dishes that we like to eat are stuffed shells, because they are SO EASY! Most of the time we just buy them frozen from Schawn’s, add a jar of sauce bake and DONE. Love it. It’s also meatless so it fulfills the eat less meat quota.

However, there is one problem with this delicious dish, one of the kids doesn’t like it. As in it makes her gag. Since she loves cheese and eat ricotta in other foods I guessed that it was a texture issue and not a taste issue. I decided to try and make my own stuffed shells that had enough other stuff in them to negate the texture off an all cheese ricotta stuffed shell. Experiment was a success.

It’s meatless, not dairy-less, obviously since it’s mostly cheese.

Recipe:

1 box jumbo shells – cooked to al dente
Prepared pasta sauce of your choice

Stuffing Mixture:
1 tbls butter
1 – 8oz package fresh mushrooms – chopped
1/2 red pepper – chopped
1/2 onion
1/2 onion – chopped
1 box frozen spinach – thawed, drained and remaining liquid pressed out
16 oz container of ricotta
1 cup mozzarella shredded cheese
1 cup parmesan cheese – shredded or grated
Salt and pepper to taste

Instructions:

1. Heat butter in sauté pan until melted, grate 1/2 onion using a box grater right into the hot butter. Let coot for a minute, then add mushrooms, chopped onions and red pepper. Why the grated and chopped. I wanted the grated onion to cook down, add moisture and flavor the ricotta. The chopped I wanted simply for creating a more corse texture.

Let the vegetables cook until just tender and then remove from heat.

2. In a large bowl combine the cheeses and add the spinach flaking it apart as you incorporate into the cheese. This does not need to be mixed well, the idea of adding the spinach now is just to make it a bit easier to combine when adding the other vegetables.

3. Let the vegetables cool for a bit, as you do not want them so hot that they cause the cheese to start melting. Add that to the cheese/spinach mixture and mix well to get an even distribution of ingredients.

4. Put a think coating of the sauce of your choice on the bottom of a baking pan. Then begin stuffing shells. A regular table spoon does the trick nicely. The ends of the pasta should be able to touch, you don’t want the shells so stuffed that the filling leaks out but a bit of a gab isn’t an issue. (see photo above) Place the finished shells seam side down into the baking pan. Once the pan is full top the shells with sauce and bake at 350 degrees until hot and bubbly.

Since I made this for just the girls and I, I only made a small pan, giving me ample amount of extra. I froze them on a cookie sheet in the freezer. Once frozen solid I tossed them in a gallon sized freezer bag. Now I have a meal at the ready.

This is an easy meal to make but since there is a vegetable cooking step, a stuffing set and then a baking step it does require a bit of time before hand. It’s a great on hand meal for the freezer that could easily go from freezer to table in 30 minutes if the shells are already prepared. It took me about an hour to prep the shells, and that was including two screaming children and having to stop every five minutes to get kool-aid, a snack or just carry one of them around for five minutes to get them to settle down. It’s a do-able week night meal for sure but I think I’ll just try to keep them on hand in the freezer for the future fast fix meals.

Beans, the musical fruit, literally.

In and effort to save money I’ve been buying dry bulk beans instead of canned. Besides being less than a third the price of canned there is also the added benefit of less preservatives, sodium (salt) and whatever the hell else is in canned foods. (Really read the ingredients).

It does give up the convenience of canned beans, and not going to lie I still use them….all the time, but with a little forethought using dried beans can be just as easy as canned.

I want to try a black bean soup recipe that I found on pinterest – ahhh pinterest my crack cocaine of the internet world.

Spicy Vegan Black Bean Soup from Kalynskitchen.com

This recipe is part of a collection of “Fall Soups for Fall” pin that seems to be making the rounds. I think I’ve seen it daily on my pinterest feed.

Sometime this week I will be eating that soup, but it uses canned beans and I only like to use the canned beans when I’m in a bean-mergnancy, such as I have less than 10 minutes and need to bring a salad to a potluck. Hello beans, fancy meeting you in my pantry, you’re going in a salad. I hope you enjoy being delicious.

Thanks to the internet, and that the dry/canned bean ratio is easy to remember it’s a peach to figure out how many dry beans needed.

Here is the basic break down for Dry/Canned beans:

15 oz canned beans = 1/2 cup dry beans. (about 1 1/2 cups soaked/cooked)

1 lb dry beans (about 6 cups soaked/cooked) = 4 15 oz cans

Simple and easy to remember.

Put beans in a large bowl to soak. I try for over night.

As the beans are soaking I keep hearing a “pop” “POP!” “pop” all though out my house. It sounds like the snap a canning jar makes after it’s been processes. I can not figure out where this strange popping noise is coming from.

I look for the cat. Nope sleeping.

I check the kids. Nope they are sleeping too.

I check my pumpkins and the stove and the sink, and nothing that I check is making this strange and rather lout popping noise.

Then I walk by the table where the beans are soaking when one of them snaps.

Uh…what? The beans are popping as they are soaking and rather loudly. Every minute or two there is a snapping pop noise coming from my kitchen, so beans really are the musical fruit and I’m not talking about the music that comes out the butt after eating them.

Chickpea Pita

This recipe is a lie, I didn’t use a pita!

We only had taco shells in the house, so I used those and wrapped it up as a sandwich, however, a pita would have made it way more awesome.

Bean filling
1 15 oz can chickpeas (garbanzo beans) – rinsed and drained
2 Table Spoons olive oil
2 Table Spoons chili powder
1 teaspoon cumin
salt and pepper to taste

Cucumber-Yogurt sauce
1/2 cucumber chopped
1 teaspoon dried dill
8 oz plain greek yogurt

Pitas
Lettuce
tomato
cucumber
and other toppings as desired

1) Heat oil in a pain, add chickpeas (beans). Then add chili powder and cumin. Stir around pan so the chic peas are evenly coated with the spice mixture.
2) Cook for 10-15 minutes until the beans start to soften a bit and get start to get a nice browned outer layer or crust.

As the beans cook whip up the Cucumber-Yogurt sauce. Mix together all ingredients and add salt to taste. I like just a pinch of sea salt added.

Place beans, yogurt sauce and any toppings you would like in the pita and mow down. My toddler enjoyed this meal, eating almost a half of her wrap, or her that’s a major feat. Even the baby liked the beans if I cut them in half so she could gum them up.

This was a super easy and quick lunch to make in under 20 minutes and I was able to make it before one of the kids had a major melt down all while scooting around them as they played on the kitchen floor. The only down side was that the spice mixture really did a number on my pan and I had to soak the pan before scrubbing it out.

Enchiladas – Sans Meat

I was given a similar recipe a few years ago. I have since improved upon the basic rice enchilada to make something that now the Husband requests for meals. 

The filling recipe makes at least two full 9×13 pans of enchiladas. I typically make one pan to eat and freeze the other pan for an easy meal. Short on freezer space? It works great as topping for tortilla chips or taco filling for quick lunches, you can also freeze just the filling in a ziplock freezer bag if not planing on consuming it right away. 

Meatless Enchiladas

1 “Family Size” can of Enchilada sauce or 2 15 oz cans. (one can for each pan) 

2 cups cooked brown rice

1 can (15 oz) black beans  – drained and rinsed 

1 can (15 oz) corn – drained

1-2 chopped onions

1 bag shredded cheese – cheddar, Colby-Jack etc. 

Soft taco shells

2 tbls chili powder

1 tbls cumin 

(or for the lazy 1 packet of pre-mixed taco space) 

Salt & Pepper to taste

9×13 casserole dish

1) Mix all rice, corn, beans, spices in a large bowl

2) place enchilada sauce on bottom of pan, just enough to slightly cover bottom of casserole dish

3) fill the shells with the filling mixture, roll up and place seem side down in the casserole dish

4) Cover with Enchilada sauce, then cover with cheese

5) Bake in the oven at 350 degrees until cheese is melty and enchiladas are heated through

Serve with sour cream, salsa, avocado, fresh onions, tomatoes. 

The beauty of this recipe is that you can throw pretty much anything you want in the filling mixture. I’ve added Rotél Tomatoes, cheese, fresh peppers, just be aware the more you add the more filling you’ll end up with.