Stefania Patinella, the founding director of the Children's Aid Society's Go!Healthy cooking and nutrition program, says this isn't the case in many other food cultures. In Malawi, for example, she says sweet potatoes are used to make cake-like cookies, called mbatata. It was this dessert that inspired her own sweet potato cookie recipe in her new book, The Anti-Inflammatory Family Cookbook ($22).
All the recipes in Patinella's book—and there are over 100 of them—feature ingredients that are linked to lowering inflammation. And here's the kicker: They're all kid-friendly, too. The tubers (high in vitamin A, fiber, and potassium) are blended with whole wheat pastry flour (full of protein, fiber, iron, and vitamin B6). In place of table sugar, honey and cinnamon are used for sweetness—the latter of which helps keep blood sugar levels steady. Raisins are also added—a good source of antioxidants, fiber, and iron.
Get even more intel on the health benefits of sweet potatoes from a top RD:
Patinella says it took a little trial-and-error, experimenting with different flours and natural sweeteners until she got the cookies just right. "We chose honey for its rich taste and the chewy texture it imparts," she says. "All of our desserts are only lightly sweetened, and frequently the sweetness comes from a whole fruit or veggie—in this case, the sweet potatoes! We have since continued to experiment with this recipe, and one more version we really like is to use half almond flour and half gluten-free flour—delicious for gluten-free folks."
While Patinella's recipe calls for butter and milk, she says it can easily be adapted to be vegan—just replace the butter with coconut oil and the alternative milk of your choice in place of the whole milk. Whether you make these substitutions or follow the recipe as is, she says there's one cooking tip to keep in mind to ensure your sweet potato cookies come out perfectly. "The recipe says to shape the cookies using 'clean, lightly wet hands.' Take that tip seriously and it will be a breeze—especially if you're cooking with kids," she says. "If dough does begin to stick to your hands, pause to wash them off and then continue."
Anti-inflammatory sweet potato cookies
Yields 24 cookies
1 cup mashed cooked sweet potatoes
4 Tbsp unsalted butter, melted
2 Tbsp whole milk
1⁄3 cup honey
1 Tbsp plus 1 tsp baking powder
1⁄2 tsp salt
2 tsp ground cinnamon
2 cups whole-wheat pastry flour
1⁄4 cup plus 2 Tbsps raisins
1. Preheat the oven to 350°F.
2. In a large bowl, combine the mashed sweet potatoes and butter.
3. Add milk, honey, baking powder, salt, and cinnamon and mix to combine.
4. Fold in the flour until it is evenly incorporated. Then fold in raisins until they are evenly distributed. The batter will be thick and sticky.
5. Working with clean, lightly wet hands, pinch off a piece of the batter and roll into about a 1" ball between your palms. Then lightly press it into a disk shape and put on a baking sheet. Repeat with the remaining batter, yielding 24 cookies. If dough begins to stick to your hands, clean them and start again, always with slightly wet hands.
6. Bake cookies for about 17 minutes. They will be firm but still pale on top. Remove from oven and let cool 10 minutes before serving.
Reprinted with permission from The Anti-Inflammatory Family Cookbook by Stefania Patinella, Alexandra Romey, Hilary McClafferty, MD, FAAP, Jonathan Deutsch, PhD, and Maria Mascarenhas, MBBS. Published by Adams Media. All rights reserved.
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