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The Ginger & The Sweet Potato

    I am the sweet potato. I can remember running my tiny fingers across the delicate lace table cloth in my Nanny & Poppy’s dining room, the place where my nickname was born. The little old Italian couple loved having their family over for Sunday dinner every week. In the sea of dark hair and skin sitting around the elegant lace I, with my fire red hair, stood out like a sore thumb. My guidette, Brooklyn born and bred, mother was a rebel for marrying an Irishman- and I was the result of that. Through even he had black hair. Hence, my nickname was born- “Little Irish Sweet Potata.”

    The sweet potato is home. What started out as a joke soon became a comfort. Even after my Poppy passed away and my Nanny developed Alzheimer's I would find that every time there was a family event, someone would make sure to make a sweet potato dish for me. I don’t even think I ever stated I liked sweet potatoes- it was just assumed. Now, 21 years into life, they’re my favorite food and I think addiction is a word that purely describes my relationship to the particularly orange potato. 

    The official vegetable of North Carolina is in my opinion, one of the most versatile, easiest, and healthiest options you can incorporate into your diet. Sweet potatoes are an excellent source of vitamin A (in the form of beta-carotene). They are also a very good source of vitamin C, manganese, copper, pantothenic acid and vitamin B6. Additionally, they are a good source of potassium, dietary fiber, niacin, vitamin B1, vitamin B2 and phosphorus. According to theLos Angeles Department of Public Health, sweet potatoes contain magnesium, the go-to mineral for distressing. It promotes relaxation, calmness and a good mood, as well as artery, blood, bone, muscle and nerve health, according to Psychology Today.  They’re also fewer calories then your run of the mill white potato. They’ll help your eye site, lower your blood pressure, help your skin, hair, and digestion- and they taste damn good.

    If I haven’t sold you yet, you should also know they can be eaten for every meal of the day. When I tell you that there is a sweet and savory recipe in every color of the rainbow to match any type of craving your having- a sweet potato can satisfy that. Period cravings? Forget the chocolate. Bake a sweet potato for 45 minutes at 450 degrees and add some cinnamon- might as well be pudding. 

    My sweet potato journey may have started at a young age, but that doesn’t mean that yours had to as well. Over the five days I will be blogging, just for you, about the starchy yet sweet, mouth watering, divine, savory, and rich food that just happens to be the same color as my hair. 


Day 1

    I woke up in a terrible mood. It was raining, I had work at 9am, and all I wanted was to slip back into sleep in my warm bed. Also, I was out of K- cups, every college student’s nightmare. While mid- curling my hair and brushing my teeth at the same time, I remembered I had a baked sweet potato in the fridge from the night before. I had 30 minutes and a determination to not go to work hungry. 

    I ran into the kitchen, grabbed the sweet potato with such vigor I almost fell over, and I started to heat a skillet. This vegetarian was planning on not getting hangry any time soon.

    Not only is this recipe quick and easy, but it’s also healthy as hell and made me feel like I just had a shot of expresso. I went to work and gave tours as a Hawk Host full of energy and, thankfully, not hangry. 

Sweet Potato Egg Frittata
Serves
: 1 

Ingredients:
1 tbsp Coconut oil
1 baked potato
1 egg
Sprinkle of vegan almond mozzarella cheese
Shake of salt & pepper

Instructions:

1. Skin the sweet potato
2. Place in hot skillet and wait till it browns on bottom
3. Crack egg on top of sweet potato
4. Add salt & pepper, then sprinkle on vegan cheese
5. Wait until egg is fully cooked, then enjoy!


Day 2

    Let me paint a picture for you: it’s Saturday, the sun is shining, the leaves are finally changing color, the air has a beautiful brisk bite to it, and the zit on my chin finally went away. I was ready to go apple picking, or pumpkin throwing, or getting a PSL at Starbucks, or even just going outside and stomping on leaves or something. 

    Instead, my roommates and I went to Trader Joe’s and I forced them to help me make sweet potato cupcakes. 

    Not only did these sweet potato cupcakes taste like the perfect fall afternoon, but they paired perfectly for a roommate night in watching Halloween Town.

Sweet Potato Cupcakes
Serves: 24 cupcakes

Ingredients:

2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup butter, softened
1 1/2 cups sugar
3 eggs
1 17.2 ounce can vacuum-packed sweet potatoes (unsweetened), mashed
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1 recipe Cream Cheese Frosting

Instructions:

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2. Spray cupcake pan with coconut oil
3. Mix together flour, baking powder, cinnamon, baking soda, and salt in medium size bowl
4. Mix butter with electric mixer (or enough vigor to make up for being a college student who lacks an electric mixer) then add sugar and stir for two minutes.
5. Add the three eggs, sweet potatoes, and vanilla. Beat until all combined, then add the flour and repeat. 
6. Put batter in divided cupcake trays, place in oven, and bake for about 20 minutes or until fully cooked.
7. Once cooled, add cream cheese frosting. 


Day 3

    Well, the perfect fall afternoon turned into a rainy Sunday. And my zit was back. Not that I was getting sick of eating sweet potatoes, but I wanted to change it up a little bit. Variety is always good in life, so I figured it’d be good for sweet potatoes too. 

    So yes, I did rub sweet potatos all over my face.

Sweet Potato Face Mask
Serves:
1 face

Ingredients: 
1 sweet potato
1 tbsp of honey
1 tbsp of milk

Directions:
1. Boil sweet potato until it is soft enough for the skin to be peeled off. 
2. Remove from water and drain.
3. Blend sweet potato in medium sized bowl with honey and milk.
4. Let mask cool and then apply to face for 20 to 25 minutes.

   I found this “recipe” online from a brain cancer survivor, Indie Lee, who started her own line of natural skin care products. This mask not only soothed my skin, but because there’s so many antioxidants in the sweet potato it repairs damaged skin cells and and hydrates it. My zit did not despair out of thin air... But it did shrink it in size and I felt fabulous after. Basically, 10 out of 10, would recommend. 


Day 4

    On this gloomy Monday morning I woke up stressed about school and ready to eat the most unhealthy thing in my kitchen. Though, I made this commitment of having sweet potatoes for 5 days straight so I sure as hell was going to stick with it. Another benefit of sweet potatoes is you can fool yourself into thinking your eating junk food, but really you’re being super healthy! So of course I made sweet potato fries.

Sweet Potato Fries with “Dip”
Serves:
2

Ingredients
1 tbsp Coconut oil
2 sweet potatoes
2 tbsp butter
1 tbsp brown sugar

Instructions:
1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
2. Skin the sweet potatoes and then cut into thin slices
3. Spray pan with coconut oil and then place the sliced sweet potato and put in oven. Cook for 45 minutes.
4. While sweet potatos are cooling, place butter and brown sugar in bowl, microwave for 30 seconds.
5. Dip your fries and enjoy!

    Maybe the dip wasn’t all that healthy, but I really didn’t feel as bad as I would have if I drove through McDonalds, and I certainly was equally as satisfied. Baking them for 45 minutes gave them the perfect crispiness. If you try this recipe, don’t be afraid of them getting dark or burnt looking- that’s normal! 


Day 5

    It’s my last day and I’m going all in. I’m making ice cream! This one took a little bit more prep then expected, but so worth it. You will need to prep the night before, and oat milk is hard to find, but just visit your local Whole Foods and you are set!

Sweet Potato Ice Cream
Serves:
4 cups

Ingredients:
1
large sweet potato, peeled and sliced into 1/2-inch-thick pieces
1/2 cup pure maple syrup
2 cups low-fat, unsweetened oat milk
1/2 cup raw honey
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
1 tsp pumpkin pie spice

Instructions:

1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Place potato in baking dish. Pour maple syrup all over.  Bake for 30 minutes to 1 hour, depending on how long it takes to soften.
2. Remove from oven and immediately put in refrigerator. Refrigerate overnight to further soften potato.
3. In the bowl of a food processor (or in a magic bullet if you’re a broke college student pt.2), purée potato until creamy, about 4 minutes. Scrape bowl to prevent syrup from settling on the bottom. 
4. Add milk and blend. Then add honey, vanilla and pumpkin pie spice and process until mixture turns from dark orange to light orange in color and becomes creamy, about 4 minutes.
5. Pour mixture into a 9 x 9-inch metal cake pan and freeze for 12 hours, until solid. To serve, remove from freezer and let rest for about 5 minutes, until scoopable.


    Now that my 5 days of sweet potatoes is over, I wonder if I still would have done this if it hadn’t been for my nickname growing up. I like to think that I would have found my way to them eventually. Every time they’re mentioned or anytime I have them I remember sitting around that lace table cloth with my family every Sunday, and a little part inside of me feels like I’m at home.