Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Yam Session

Two contradictory forces drive my daily life: a voracious appetite, and vanity. I just love to eat, especially snacky things. But after gaining and then losing fifty pounds in my early 30s I live in mortal fear of putting on weight. I work very hard to keep myself in shape and I’m always on some kind of diet plan or other (actually, I prefer the term “eating plan” because it’s not always about losing weight--sometimes in the course of a new workout I do actually try to gain a little.)  

In general I have a very nutritious, very yummy, incredibly monotonous diet (I’ll post that another time), one that doesn’t include snacks. But once in a while I give myself a little leeway and allow a bowl full of something-or-other to sit on the kitchen counter.

Here’s my latest, and it’s a dilly!

One of my muscle-gaining menus includes a daily portion of sweet potato, because, like brown rice, sweet potatoes provide a sort of timed-release of carbs to get you through a heavy workout. So I thought I’d devise a snack with that in mind.

Hence, Sweet Potato Crispie Treats. You’ll need a dehydrator for this recipe.

  • 2 large sweet potatoes, raw, peeled and julienned in the food processor. (You can grate the potatoes if you don’t have a julienne blade.) 
  • 1 cup walnuts, rough chopped
  • 1 cup shredded coconut
  • 1 cup raisins
  • 2 very ripe bananas
  • 1/4 cup pumpkin puree
  • 1 Tbl dark rum
  • 1 tsp orange extract
  • 1/4 cup sweetener (I used Splenda, but honey or brown sugar would be really tasty)
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp ground ginger
  • 1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt

You get a lot of volume from julienning the taters, so place them in a very large bowl along with the walnuts, coconut and raisins and toss thoroughly with your hands. I used regular old Baker’s sweetened coconut, which probably ain’t the healthiest, so feel free to substitute an unsweetened variety.

Place the remaining ingredients (except the salt) in a blender and puree until completely smooth.(You’ll have leftover pumpkin if you use a normal sized can, so put it in a container in the fridge and add a tablespoon to your oatmeal or protein smoothie.)

Add the banana puree to the shredded potatoes, along with the salt, and toss with your hands, being sure all of the ingredients are well coated.

Spread on the dehydrator trays. The mixture will shrink during the drying process, so spread it nice and thick. The batch I made covered three of the four trays. It should be very moist, but not so wet that you’ll need a tray liner. 

Dehydrate until completely dry. Chances are you’ll eat these pretty quickly, but any remaining moisture in the potatoes leaves the potential for spoiling so be sure to dehydrate them thoroughly. And the crunch is half the fun! My dehydrator has just one setting (on and off) and it took about seven hours to dry (and smelled great the entire time.) When the layers are mostly dry on top you might want to flip them over to finish. You also might want to shuffle the trays halfway through--my dehydrator seems to work faster on the lower layers.

Allow the layers to cool completely and then break into cracker-size pieces.

These are really pretty healthy snacks and quite delicious. And not too sweet. And every once in a while you get a hit of salt, which is nice. They’re kind of like crunchy carrot cake without the cake. Or the carrots. The variations are endless: cut the sweetener in half and add dried herbs like rosemary or oregano and they'd go great with a Manhattan. Or crush them up over yogurt and top with a little honey. I’m munching them as I write this along with a glass of iced mint tea. 

And of course, store them in an air-tight container. Enjoy!

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