Sweet Potatoes Give Dessert a Healthy Spin

Sometimes getting children (and adults) to eat their vegetables is an uphill battle. It doesn't have to be that way when vegetables are part of a delicious dessert.

Sweet potatoes are nutritional powerhouses. In fact, the Center for Science in the Public Interest ranks sweet potatoes as the No. 1 vegetable for nutrition. Sweet potatoes offer almost twice the recommended daily allowance of vitamin A, 42 percent of the recommendation for vitamin C, four times the RDA for beta carotene, and, when eaten with the skin, sweet potatoes have more fiber than oatmeal. Sweet potatoes are also relatively low in calories.

Tasty on their own, sweet potatoes can add flavor to soups, sauces and other meal items; they're more than just a side dish. They also can be used in baked goods, including cakes, cookies and muffins.

Try using sweet potatoes in baking to replace much of the sugar and oil of traditional cake recipes. Their sweet texture will add moisture and much-needed nutritional value to treats. As a start, experiment with this recipe for "Sweet Potato and Chocolate Cake." The use of dark chocolate as opposed to semi-sweet or milk chocolate beefs up the antioxidant power.

Sweet Potato and Chocolate Cake

2 cups all-purpose flour

1 cup sugar

2 cups canned sweet potato, pureed or equivalent of fresh potatoes, stewed and mashed

1/4 cup vegetable oil

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon orange zest

2 teaspoons baking powder

2 teaspoons baking soda

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

1 cup dark-chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 F. Grease and flour a bunt baking pan.

Put sweet potatoes in a bowl and blend until mostly mashed and soft. Add the remaining ingredients, except for the chocolate chips. Mix on medium power for two minutes. Add the chocolate chips and fold into the batter.

Pour the cake mixture into the bunt pan. Bake in the center of the oven for 60 minutes.

For extra chocolate flavor, melt 1/2 cup of the chocolate chips in a double boiler, or microwave on low until melted. Pour over the cooled cake as a drizzle.

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