[Sweet potatoes are one of my favorite baking staples–they add sweetness, density, and fiber to your baked goods. And they taste amazing! These Mini Sweet Potato Chocolate Chip Muffins are to die for–and all refined sugar-free, gluten-free, dairy-free, egg free, soy-free, nut-free and yeast-free, too. Suitable for Stage 3 and beyond on an anti-candida diet.]
[photo credit: Celine Saki]
Let’s just say that my mother was not an overly adventurous cook. She habitually repeated the same six or seven dishes over and over, with the occasional new recipe from Family Circle, my aunt, or someone in her Mah Jong group thrown in on occasion. So we were treated to salmon patties and potato boats (called “twice-baked potatoes” these days), hamburgers with mashed potatoes, grilled cheese sandwiches, or tuna salad over cucumber, tomato, and iceberg lettuce on a rotating basis.
Fresh fish? Forget it. Artichokes? Don’t make me gag. Fresh herbs? Bah! Who needs ’em?! (Once, when I was visiting during March break, in a moment of temporary insanity I wondered aloud if we might purchase some dried oregano for the pantry. It was as if I’d taken a cup of steaming clam chowder and poured it over her bare feet. Actually, no. Clam chowder was too exotic for our house.)
So. When I finally discovered the beauty and gustatory appeal of sweet potatoes at a visit to a restaurant here in Toronto, it was truly a revelation. Allen’s (known primarily for its extensive selection of specialty scotches, come to think of it–how odd! What on earth was I doing there??) to this day still serves up a killer dish of sweet potato fries with mayonnaise. In my mother’s house, on the other hand, those off-color interlopers had never once been allowed to sully our doorstep (don’t forget, this was the woman whose entire repertoire of herbs and spices consisted of onion powder, paprika, and dill).
It wasn’t until years later that I finally began to cook the sweet spuds myself, and my next encounter with sweet potatoes, unfortunately, wasn’t all that auspicious. I had just been put on a very restricted diet by my naturopath and was feeling pretty resentful of all this crunchy-granola, health-foodie, good-for-you-five-to-ten-a-day foods. Sweet potatoes? Well, if I couldn’t have them after they’d been immersed in a vat of 400-degree, week-old restaurant fat for 20 minutes or so, then I didn’t want them at all! Besides, weren’t they only appealing to commune-living, hemp-smoking hippies (or–gasp!–Southerners)? I’d never actually tasted one without the benefit of hydrogenated enhancements (though I did suspect I’d enjoy Sweet Potato Pie, what with all the sugar, eggs, and cream they added to it).
Turns out sweet potatoes were my savior. During a period when I could eat NO sweeteners or fruits of any kind, sweet potatoes quickly became my favorite sweet treat. I ate them for breakfast (baked, with a drizzle of sweet almond sauce over top–delicious!), lunch (raw, sliced, as a base for raw almond pate), or dinner (heavenly, spiced sweet potato “fries,” which were really baked). Later on, once I was allowed to broaden my diet, I began to experiment with sweet potatoes in baking, and created recipes for sweet potato muffins, mini loaves, pudding, pie, and several other sweet treats.
Besides being high in fibre, vitamin A (as beta carotene) and other minerals, sweet potatoes are also a good source of vitamin C, vitamin E and iron, and even contain a contribution of protein. According to Paul Pitchford in his phenomenal tome, Healing with Whole Foods, Traditional Chinese Medicine uses sweet potatoes for their cooling nature and to promote chi energy in the body; they are also useful to enhance functioning of the spleen and pancreas. And because they’re a source of phytoestrogens (plant-based estrogen), sweet potatoes can help mitigate those pesky symptoms of perimenopause and menopause. In addition, they are also alkalizing in the body, which is great if you tend to drink a lot of coffee, eat a lot of sugar, or prefer to discourage the growth of cancer cells in your body.
Best of all, sweet potatoes are low on the gylcemic index (the measurement of how food influences your blood sugar levels), registering at 54 (surprisingly, lower than white potatoes, with a score of 88-93), so they are a great food for type II diabetics or plumpers like me. And when baked, their natural sugars caramelize, producing the most ambrosial sweetness.
Though most North Americans consider the more orange-fleshed, moister vegetables to be yams, they are, in fact, just another type of sweet potato alongside the lighter-fleshed, dryer ones. (According to North Carolina Sweet Potatoes, a true yam has light ivory-colored flesh, and “is a starchy edible root of the Dioscorea genus, and is generally imported to America from the Caribbean. It is rough and scaly and very low in beta carotene.”).
Sweet potatoes have become a true staple in our home, and are definitely at the top of my list of favorite vegetables. And now, one of my favorite baking ingredients, too.
[photo credit: Celine Saki]
Mini Sweet Potato and Chocolate Chip Muffins
reprinted with permission from Naturally Sweet & Gluten-Free, © Ricki Heller, Sellers Publishers
The original Sweet Potato and Chocolate Chip Mini Muffins from my first book, Sweet Freedom, were by far one of my favorite recipes. It took about 5 years, but I finally revamped the recipe to be free of gluten and refined sugar in my second book, Naturally Sweet & Gluten-Free. The sweet potato in this recipes lends both moistness and additional sweetness. All in all, this is a stellar combination, and remains one of my (and the HH‘s) favorites. (Note: If you are using a 12-cup muffin pan for regular-sized muffins, fill the cups around the edges (rather than the center) so the muffins will bake evenly).
1/2 cup (40 g) coconut sugar
1/2 cup (120 ml) unsweetened plain or vanilla almond milk or other nondairy milk of choice
1/8 tsp (.5 ml) pure stevia powder or 1/4 tsp (1 ml) pure plain or vanilla stevia liquid, or to taste
1/3 cup (80 ml) sunflower or other light-tasting oil, preferably organic
2 tsp (10 ml) finely ground flax seeds (from about 1 tsp or 5 ml whole seeds) or flax meal
1 tsp (5 ml) pure vanilla extract
1/2 tsp (2.5 ml) apple cider vinegar
1/2 cup (120 ml) canned or homemade unsweetened sweet potato puree
2 Tbsp plus 2 tsp (40 ml) whole psyllium husks
1 cup (130 g) Ricki’s All-Purpose Gluten-Free Flour Mix
2 tsp (10 ml) ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp (2.5 ml) ground ginger
1/4 tsp (1 ml) ground cloves
Pinch ground nutmeg
1/2 tsp (2.5 ml) baking soda
1/2 tsp (2.5 ml) baking powder
1/4 tsp (1 ml) fine sea salt
2/3 cup (135 g) unsweetened chocolate chips or carob chips
Preheat the oven to 350F (180C). Spray 18 mini muffin cups or 6 regular muffin cups with nonstick spray, or line
with miniature or regular paper liners.
In a medium bowl, mix together the coconut sugar and milk; stir until the sugar melts. Add the stevia, oil, flax, vanilla, vinegar, sweet potato, and psyllium; whisk until well combined. Set aside while you measure the dry ingredients, or at least 2 minutes.
In a large bowl, sift the flour, cinnamon, ginger, cloves, nutmeg, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. Pour the wet ingredients over the dry and stir to combine (do not overmix). Gently stir in the chocolate chips. Using a small ice-cream scoop or tablespoon (15 ml), scoop the batter and fill the muffin cups about 3/4 full.
Bake 15 to 20 minutes, or 25 to 30 for regular-sized muffins, rotating pan or cookie sheet about halfway through. If you are using a 9- or 12-cup muffin pan, insert a tester in a center muffin; they are done when the tester comes out clean. Allow to cool completely before removing from the pan. May be frozen.
Suitable for: ACD Stage 3 and beyond; refined sugar-free, gluten-free, dairy-free, egg free, soy-free, nut free, yeast-free, vegan.
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