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My Nutritarian Diary: Harvest Salad

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Lindsay Nixon’s “Harvest Salad” has been my go-to salad recipe this winter since it uses foods that are in season during the colder months. The star ingredient is the sweet potato. I had never really cooked with sweet potatoes before, but this scrumptious veggie has been one of my favorite discoveries since moving to a mostly plant-based eating lifestyle. They are especially good after I’ve roasted them in the oven.

While their taste is amazing, sweet potatoes are also just plain good for you. Their natural sugars release slowly into our bloodstream providing a balanced source of energy that does not spike sugar levels, and so does not result in weight gain and fatigue. They have wonderful anti-inflammatory properties, and they are a good source of vitamin B6 (which protects against degenerative diseases such as heart disease), vitamin C (which helps with a number of things to include warding off colds, aiding bone and tooth formation, and helping maintain the skin’s elasticity), and vitamin A (which provides eyesight protection and is an antioxidant).

Probably my favorite fact about sweet potatoes, though, comes from Michelle Schoffro’s article, 9 Health Benefits of Sweet Potatoes. “Sweet potatoes are a good source of magnesium, which is the relaxation and anti-stress mineral. Magnesium is necessary for healthy artery, blood, bone, heart, muscle, and nerve function, yet experts estimate that approximately 80 percent of the population in North America may be deficient in this important mineral.” (Emphasis mine.) Read more here.

If you try this recipe, you will be able to relate to Hippocrates’ oft-quoted line, “Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.” And this recipe, not sugar, as Mary Poppins like to sing, is just one more way to help our “medicine go down.”

Harvest Salad Collage2

Harvest Salad
Recipe from Happy Herbivore Light & Lean by Lindsay S. Nixon.

INGREDIENTS:
• 1 sweet potato, scrubbed, rinsed and dried
• 4 cups spinach or other salad greens
• ½ apple or pear, sliced
• walnuts or pecans (opt)
• 1-2 tbsp raisins or cranberries

MAPLE VINAGRETTE DRESSING INGREDIENTS:
• 1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
• 1 tbsp Grade B maple syrup
• 1-1 ½ tsp Dijon mustard
• dash of ground ginger

MY DIRECTIONS:
Preheat the oven to 420 degrees and line a cookie sheet with parchment paper.

Chop the sweet potato with skin on and place the pieces on the parchment-lined cookie sheet. I prefer to use orange-fleshed sweet potatoes known as garnet yams, even though technically they are not yams, which actually have a dark, almost bark-like skin and a different nutritional profile than sweet potatoes.

Spray them lightly with organic olive oil spray, and sprinkle them with salt. Roast them in the oven for about 45 minutes, flipping them halfway through the cooking process. (You can use alternative cooking methods that are quicker for this stage, but I find roasting the sweet potatoes draws out their sweet flavor best.)

When the sweet potatoes are cooked, put the rest of the salad ingredients together in a bowl. I chop, not slice, my apples (see picture). While not as pretty, this is a quicker method for me. I also usually use 1 tbsp of cashew pieces or almond slices, depending on what I have on hand, and I prefer Craisins in my salad to raisins.

After all my salad ingredients are in the bowl and topped with the just-out-of-the-oven sweet potatoes, I whisk the dressing together in a separate bowl and then pour it over the salad. I use organic Grade B maple syrup in my dressing because it contains more healthy minerals (such as zinc and manganese, which are both antioxidants and support our immune systems) than the Grade A version. (I got this maple syrup tip from Rebecca Katz’s cookbook, The Longevity Kitchen, which is chock-full of interesting facts about foods that are good for us, as well as packed with delicious recipes, some of which are plant-based.)

Now, all that’s left is to eat and enjoy!