Sweet potatoes are the hot cocoa of the vegetable world. Warm and cozy, sweet potatoes are exactly what I want in my belly when the temperature dips below freezing or, as I live in South Carolina, below 50 (which is essentially the same thing). Sweet potatoes are perfect for days like today, when I woke up to find our HVAC blower is out and it's 55 degrees in our house. Happy Valentine's Day to me!
It would be a perfect excuse to spend the day snuggled up by our fireplace watching movies, but my husband had to travel for work. So instead, I'm bundled up in front of the fireplace by myself watching The Wire, starring the second most important man in my life right now, Dominic West (<-- in LOVE). And eating a sweet potato, kale and brie quesadilla, which is helping me feel my toes again.
Sweet potatoes are the food I turn to when my body and soul are in need of a big 'ole hug. There's something so nourishing about them, beyond the nutrients inside.
Of course, the nutrients inside certainly help! You've probably heard how the most brightly colored vegetables contain the most nutrients? So think about how nutrient dense sweet potatoes must be!
One medium sweet potato contains over 200% the daily value for vitamin A, making them the richest food source of the vitamin, excepting liver, which I'll go out on a limb and guess most of you aren't eating on a regular basis, if at all Vitamin A is a vital nutrient for healthy vision, immune system, and cell growth. It's fat soluble, so make sure you enjoy your sweet potato with a little fat (I think a slice of creamy brie fits the bill!).
Just like the other orange food, sweet potatoes contain a hefty dose of vitamin C, a powerful antioxidant vitamin that promotes brain, heart and skin health.
Considering it has the word 'sweet' in it's name, you might not think sweet potatoes are helpful for blood sugar control, but there's over 6 grams of fiber in a medium sweet potato, which helps regulate blood sugar. Plus, there's research that shows sweet potatoes can help raise blood levels of adiponectin, a hormone that helps regulate insulin.
Sweet potatoes are a good source of potassium, which I like to call the anti-salt because of it's blood sugar lowering effect.
They're also a good source of magnesium, one of the most important minerals, yet almost 80% of people are deficient in it. Magnesium is important for brain health, bone health, digestion and sleep.
These sweet potatoes are kind of perfect in this quesadilla. Mashed with spices, sauteed onions and garlic, they almost add to the cheesiness of them, so you can get away with just a little bit of brie. These are also really great with creamy goat cheese or even feta, although it's a totally different flavor profile.
Serve this with jicama sticks or a side salad. This recipe was adapted from Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver.
Sweet Potato, Kale & Brie Quesadilla
2 medium sweet potatoes
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 onion, chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
1 1/2 teaspoons chili powder
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 bunch kale, chopped
6 ounces brie, cut into 6 thin slices
6 100% whole wheat tortillas
Hot sauce, salsa and sour cream, optional for serving
Preheat oven to 200 degrees F.
Wash sweet potatoes and pat dry with a paper towel. Poke all over with the tines of a fork. Wrap with a paper towel and microwave for 5-7 minutes until tender (press with an oven mitted hand to check it out). Carefully unwrap, cut into the center with a knife and set aside to cool a bit.
While potatoes are microwaving, steam kale for 5 minutes until wilted and tender.
When sweet potato is cool enough to handle, scoop sweet potato flesh out into a small bowl and set aside.
Heat olive oil in a skillet on medium-high heat. Add onion and garlic, season with salt and pepper and saute until translucent, about 3 minutes. Add chili powder and oregano and saute until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add sweet potato flesh and mash together while warming through. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
Spray a large nonstick skillet with olive oil and heat on medium-high. Add a tortilla. Place a slice of brie on one side of the tortilla and top with a small handful of steamed kale. On the other side, spread 1/6th of the sweet potato mixture. Flip the sweet potato side over the kale and brie side, pressing down with a spatula to flatten. Cook until cheese is melted and tortilla is crisp, about 4 minutes total.
Remove from skillet and keep warm on a baking sheet in the oven while repeating with remaining tortillas. Serve with sour cream, hot sauce and salsa.