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Sherrie Norris Lovin’ Spoonful Cooking Column: Helping to Bridge the Gap With”Sweet Potatoes” and More

My husband, Van, and I had a unique opportunity recently to attend the Second Annual Dinner in the Gap, a farm-to-table gala that attracted about 200 farmers, friends, food industry leaders and supporters from the mountains to the coast. 

Hosted by the Blake Brown family —Blake, Ann, Daniel, Alex and Meredith — the event celebrated all things agriculture, bringing to the table products from across the state in celebrating the industry and its leaders. And yes, it was about “bridging the gap” in more ways than one.

Some of the area’s well-known chefs, sous chefs and caterers prepared and put the finishing touches on the locally-grown food which was served before and during the “culinary journey,” narrated by Lisa Prince, who now leads the NC Egg Association; for several years Prince was a familiar personality to many of us as former television host/producer for Flavor, NC on public television.

The event also featured an auction that greatly benefitted F.A.R.M. Café in Boone, with over $13,000 in bids.

(Read more about the event in another article on the HCP website.)

We shared a table with Prince and other dignitaries representing local and state agriculture at its best; we learned from the event’s major sponsor, The NC SweetPotato Commission, that sweetpotato is now considered one word. Who knew? 

According to Michelle Grainger, NC Sweetpotato Commission’s Executive Director, the agency “deliberately” spells it as one word, unless directly quoting a source where it is spelled as two words. Scientifically — and botanically — Grainger shared, sweetpotato is actually spelled as one word, and adopted officially as same by the National Sweetpotato Collaborators in 1989.

So, herein as we focus on one of my very favorite and healthy vegetables, we will adhere to the wishes of the leaders by using the one-word phrase.

I know that I’m a little earlier than usual in putting out those “sweetpotato” recipes, but I learned new ideas through the gala that I just can’t wait to share. We will bring the more traditional recipes back before the holidays.

Pina Colada Sweetpotato Popsicles

(A delicious and refreshing tropical-inspired treat that is sure to please both kids and adults.)

½ cup coconut cream

¾ cup mashed and cooked sweetpotato

¾ cup diced pineapple

2 Tbsp. honey

1 Tbsp. lime juice

Coconut flakes, optional

Mix ingredients in a food processor or high-speed blender. Transfer popsicle batter to molds (with popsicle sticks inserted). Freeze for 3-4 hours. Top with optional coconut flakes. Enjoy!

Crispy Sweetpotatoes

2 large sweetpotatoes (about 3 pounds)

3 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil 

2 Tbsp. chili powder

1 tsp. ground cumin

1 tsp. garlic powder

Salt and  freshly ground pepper 

Preheat the oven to 425°F. Wash and dry the sweetpotatoes and cut them into 3/4 -inch rounds. Place rounds in a mixing bowl and add olive oil, cumin, garlic powder, salt and pepper. Toss well to coat. Arrange sweetpotato rounds in a single layer on a baking sheet. Roast sweetpotato rounds for 20 minutes or until just tender.

Remove baking sheet from the oven and set oven on broil. Use a sturdy glass to mash each sweetpotato round. Return baking sheet to the oven and broil for 3 minutes or until crispy and golden brown. 

Serve with the dips of choice by mixing ingredients for each in a small mixing bowl and whisking to combine.

Spicy Korean Dip

¼ cup sour cream

¼ cup mayonnaise

1 Tbsp. Gochujang Korean Chili Paste

½ lime, juiced

Salt to taste

Maple Mustard Dip

1/4 cup maple syrup

¼  cup Dijon mustard

¼  cup whole grain mustard

Freshly ground pepper to taste

Sweetpotato Cheesecake Parfaits

Graham Cracker Layer:

¾ cup graham cracker crumbs

4 Tbsp. butter

½ tsp. cinnamon

¼ cup brown sugar

Cheesecake Filling:

8 oz. cream cheese softened

½ cup mashed cooked sweetpotatoes

⅓ cup brown sugar

2 tsp. vanilla extract

1 tsp. ground cinnamon

¼ tsp. ground ginger

½ tsp. ground nutmeg

¼ tsp. salt

Other Ingredients:

Cool whip

Chopped pecans

For the graham cracker layer: combine ingredients in a medium sized bowl until the mixture is crumbly.

For the cheesecake filling: using a hand mixer, blend the cream cheese until smooth and creamy. Then add in the remaining ingredients and blend until smooth and creamy.

In small serving dishes of your choice, layer the graham cracker crust, followed by the cheesecake filling, followed by the cool whip. Repeat the layers one more time.

Top with pecans if desired. Serve immediately or chill before serving.

For more information, visit www.ncsweetpotatoes.com