Sweet potatoes are one of the most delicious and nutritious vegetables. Vitamin A, vitamin C, B6, potassium, and manganese delivered in a silky sweet package. They really don’t need anything. But sometimes, we need variety. So, today we are making a variation on sweet potato “souffle.” To start, I cooked several sweet potatoes yesterday and tossed them in the fridge to cool. Mingus just got home from school – he’s ready for a snack and an activity – so we get to work.
While Mingus slices open the sweet potatoes, I turn on the oven to 400 degrees.
Mingus assesses his tools – to use his beloved knife? or switch to his Paul Bunyan spoon?
With spoon in hand, he nibbles the plain sweet potato and, exhibiting classic three-year-old-think, he concludes, “It is delicious because it is orange.”
I could be dismissive and say yes, orange is his far-and-away favorite color. But, he has not-so-accidentally caught a much deeper meaning. Kids like bright colors. And, in food, bright colors signal nutrition.
I sit back and give Mingus time to eat. As his hunger subsides, he becomes a much better chef, carefully scooping with his spoon and dropping large chunks of sweet potato into a bowl next to him on the floor.
Mingus scrapes out a vanilla bean with his scissors and adds it to the bowl.
I’ve strategically ordered the addition of each ingredient. The sweet potato went first so that he would consume it in quantity. Using the scissors to cut open the vanilla bean came next to entice him on from sweet potato art. We pour in 1/2 cup of milk. Next up is the tricky part: sugar. He loves sugar. As a little human, he is hardwired that way. I understand. But, there’s more sugar in this recipe than a hunter gatherer would have eaten in a year.
So, the next five minutes are a dance: taste, pour, mix, side-step the power struggle and skip on through to cracking an egg.
We have a nifty gadget – thank you Home Goods clearance section – for beating an egg. Crack the egg, close the globe, shake it up, and pour it out.
It doesn’t exactly go according to plan.
Four eggs later, Beluga ambles into the kitchen and takes over stirring the bowl. His job is to stir in/eat a stick of soft butter.
The eggs are pasturized, so I stand back as the brothers lick yolk off the desk and taste the buttery sweet batter from the bowl.
“Let’s make a crumb,” sufficiently stirs their interest to get the bowl up onto the counter. They mash butter, sugar and flour with their fingers….
eating much of it along the way…
until we shake the last clumps onto the sweet potato batter. Andy desperately questions, “Why? Why? Why?” as I lift it into the oven.
Meanwhile, Mingus huddles in the corner, defending the last of the crumb: “I want to eat it entirely by myself.”
I guess it must be good:)
4 Sweet Potatoes
A Vanilla Bean or 1 teaspoon Vanilla Extract
1/2 Cup of Milk
1 Cup of Sugar
2 Sticks of Butter (yes, this is dessert masquerading as a side dish)
A Dash of Salt
1/2 Cup of Flour
A day ahead, cook the sweet potatoes for 90 minutes at 400 degrees, or until soft and slightly caramelized. After they have cooked, cool them in the refrigerator. I like that I can cook the sweet potatoes even a couple days in advance and use them when convenient. To make the souffle, there are two main steps: the batter and the crumb topping. The batter: cut open and scoop the sweet potatoes into a large bowl, adding the vanilla, 1/2 cup of milk, 1/2 cup of sugar, 4 whisked eggs, a dash of salt and a stick of soft butter. Stir. To make the topping, mash up a stick of warm butter, 1/2 cup of sugar and a 1/2 cup of flour. Spread the sweet potato batter into an 8×8 inch greased pan, sprinkle on the crumb topping and cook at 400 degrees for 25 minutes, or until it has a nice brown crisp on top. My boys ate a lot of the topping raw, so I surreptitiously made extra.