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Sweet potatoes are not to be mistaken with yams, even though the terms are often used interchangeably. Sweet potatoes are the common red-brownish skinned root vegetables with sweet orange flesh and semi-smooth skin; there is also a variety with yellow flesh, with a taste resembling a mix of potato and apple. Yams usually have a rough dark brown skin, similar in texture to tree bark, with a white, purple, or red flesh. Yams do not have orange flesh. Therefore, most of what you see in the supermarket labeled as a yam is in fact a sweet potato (thanks to the U.S. Department of Agriculture), so keep your eyes peeled, cause you're bound to be confused.
Sweet potatoes are one of the easiest vegetables to cook that taste like candy without adding too much sugar. I usually make two at a time to make enough for a couple portions. For the simplest and most comforting mashed sweet potato recipe, cube and boil them for 15-20 minutes, or keep whole, poke a few holes, wrap in foil, and roast in the oven for 45-55 minutes. When done, remove the skin without burning your fingers, add a teaspoon of butter and maple syrup (brown sugar or agave nectar also work) and mash with a fork. My mom likes to roast the orange and white fleshed potatoes together for color variation, and adds plenty of orange juice and a dash of cinnamon.
Sweet Potato Recipes
Pioneer Woman's Sweet Potatoes
Sweet Potato Spoon Bread
Sweet Potato Gratin with Onions and Sage
Sweet Potato Salad with Caramelized Onions and Guajillo Chile Dressing
Vanilla Mashed Sweet Potatoes [101 Cookbooks]
Sweet Potato and Sausage Soup [smitten kitchen]
Curried Lentils with Sweet Potatoes and Swiss Chard [New York Times]
Sweet Potato Fries w/ Basil Salt and Garlic Mayo [Food Network]
Alton Brown's Sweet Potato Waffles [Food Network]
Orange-Flavored Sweet Potatoes with Oatmeal Cookie Topping [Epicurious]