So I have a serious thing for maple. Like, borderline a problem. I went to college in northern Vermont where there are two things you can always count on: Ben & Jerry’s and 100% pure maple syrup. There is no going back from either. Suffice it to say you will never find “pancake syrup” or any bottle in the shape of a large black lady wearing a babushka in my fridge. Naturally, when I discovered that Trader Joe’s now carries organic maple sugar, that is, granulated sugar made from maple syrup, a delicacy I could normally only find on special order for quite a hefty price, I got a little bit too excited. If you haven’t experienced the wonders of maple sugar, I highly recommend it. At only $4.99 for a 6oz pouch, it will bring unique depth of flavor to your recipes for little money. Try substituting it anywhere you would use regular sugar – cakes, cookies, oatmeal, fruit topping. Of course I already have 1000 ideas for creative ways to employ this heavenly substance, but the first I am sharing with you is, as you might have guessed, Maple Roasted Sweet Potatoes – a simple, down-home favorite with an elegant twist.
I love sweet potatoes all year round – they are not only satisfying but incredibly healthy. I make a mix of maple sugar and various other spices on my rack. I coat the potatoes with olive oil, salt, pepper, and the spices, and roast them in a pan in the oven until they are deliciously soft and slightly caramelized. Then I give them a quick mash with a bit of maple syrup and butter. Heaven. Leave the skins on for extra texture and nutrition. Though it’s not pictured, I highly recommend topping with pecans before eating. This recipe (or any sweet potato recipe) is hearty enough to serve as a meal on its own. In fact, the picture above was my entire dinner. When you consider that each potato was 69 cents at Trader Joe’s and the rest of the ingredients I already had in my kitchen, I essentially fed myself dinner for $2.07. Yes, I could have had it as a side dish, but truthfully I didn’t need anything else. I was perfectly satisfied without an ounce of guilt. That, friends, is how the starving artist does it.
Important Note About Spices
The starving artist uses whatever he or she has on hand. This means that you should NOT go running out to buy the spices I list in this (or any) recipe. Use what you have. Having said that, I believe that spices are always a good investment, since you buy them once and will have them at your disposal for numerous recipes. But of course, as is my motto when it comes to cooking, do what you like and don’t apologize. Hmm, this sounds like it could be its own blog post…