Colorful Cooking column: Keep your waistline in check with savory sweet potato cakes |

Colorful Cooking column: Keep your waistline in check with savory sweet potato cakes

Tracy Miller
VAIL CO, Colorado
Special to the DailyThese shrimp and pork meatballs are easy to make and low in fat.

Often you find this beautiful, autumn veggie served during the holidays topped with marshmallows or pecans. Consider getting your hands sticky with cakes of sweet potatoes gone healthy. As an appetizer, sprinkle extra coconut for a holiday look, or serve the cakes with shrimp and pork meatballs as a full dinner. The meatballs are easy to make and low in fat. For a rich finish, include a bowl of sweet dipping sauce and you have a colorful plate packed with vitamins.

Sweet potatoes are nutrient-rich, low in sodium, saturated fat and cholesterol and a good source of dietary fiber. Simply put, when you eat sweet potatoes you should have energy and stay full longer, so they are a wonderful choice if you are trying to keep your waistline in check this holiday season or, as my niece calls it, “eating season.”

Is it a sweet potato or yam? There is much confusion in this area due to an American marketing campaign in the 1930s that called all colorful tubers yams. In the U.S., we rarely see true yams, and most potatoes labeled yam are really a light-colored sweet potatoes. Sweet potatoes come in a rainbow of colors, including purple and orange.

The rich, orange potato is most commonly used and high in beta carotene, which helps protect your vision and skin. It is also a great source of vitamin A, vitamin C, manganese, vitamin B6 and potassium. Vitamin A is the moisturizing nutrient that helps keep our skin and mucous membranes supple, our eyes strong and our bones and teeth healthy. In addition to all the vitamins, sweet potatoes have the ability to actually improve blood-sugar regulation, even with a person with Type 2 diabetes. Those are just a few reasons to nosh on this colorful veggie.

The longer you cook this vegetable, the sweeter it gets. During the cooking process, enzymes attack the starch and break it down to maltose, a sweet sugar. Some potatoes turn into something that resembles syrup and tastes just as sweet. Another helpful hint: When boiling potatoes, start with cool tap water; they like to slowly heat up. ‘Tis the season to eat sweet potatoes – they are best October to January.

Sweet potato cakes

3 large sweet potatoes (about 1.5 pounds)

1 cup shredded coconut, divided

1/2 cup whole wheat or white flour

1/2 cup chopped cilantro leaves

1.5 teaspoons sesame oil

2 teaspoons chili sauce (optional)

Canola oil

Sesame seeds

Salt and Pepper

Peel and chop sweet potatoes into long slices. Place potato in a saucepan and cover with cool tap water. Bring to boil and cook for 10 to 15 minutes (after boil) until potatoes can be easily pierced with knife. Drain potatoes and place back in saucepan on low heat and cook for 3 minutes, stirring occasionally to cook off excess water. Set aside and let cool slightly, then mash potatoes.

Mix 1/2 cup shredded coconut and next four ingredients into mash. Mix well and add salt and pepper as desired. Lightly flour your hands and the surface area and form 1 1/2-inch balls from mash. Heat frying pan with 2 tablespoons canola oil over medium heat. Pat mashed sweet potatoes to make a round patty and coat both sides in shredded coconut and/or sesame seeds. Be sure to press the patty into the coconut/sesame seeds so it sticks to the potatoes. Place patty in pan (they should sizzle when placed in pan, if they don’t, turn heat on pan up) and cook for 2 minutes on each side or until done. Do not let the coconut burn. Serve with extra chili sauce and enjoy!

Pork and shrimp meatballs

Total time: 45 minutes.

1 pound pork

1/2 pound raw shrimp

1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon sesame oil, divided

1/2 cup green onions, finely diced

1 teaspoon garlic

2 teaspoons ginger

3/4 cup panko, Japanese bread crumbs

1 tablespoon sesame seeds

Sweet dipping sauce:

2/3 cup reduced sodium soy sauce

1/3 cup brown sugar

1/3 cup rice vinegar

1/3 cup water

Heat oven to 350 degrees. To make the dipping sauce: Combine all dipping sauce ingredients in saucepan, bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer until reduced by half, about 30 minutes. Make the meatballs: Place the pork and raw shrimp in food processor and pulse until everything is blended and ground. Add 1 tablespoon sesame oil and next four ingredients to food processor and blend. Form 1-inch meatballs (should make about 20). Mix 1 tablespoon olive oil and 1 teaspoon sesame oil and toss the meatballs in oil to coat before cooking. The balls have little fat, so this adds enough for cooking. Sprinkle sesame seeds over uncooked balls. Place balls on parchment lined cookie sheet and bake for 15-17 minutes.

Makes 20 meatballs.

Tracy Miller is TV8’s in house cook, features recipes Saturday’s on Good Morning Vail, teaches cooking classes at Colorado Mountain College in Edwards and hosts private cooking parties. Contact Tracy at

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