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Sweet Potatoes vs Yams – What’s The Difference?

Looking forward to yams this Thanksgiving?

Well I’ve got a Turkey Day side dish alert for you – chances are those yams you’ll be digging into are actually sweet potatoes!

What?

It’s true, sweet potatoes have been masquerading as yams for years!

Is this all just a case of mistaken identity? Or is there something more nefarious going on here?

Well, we did a little digging; here’s what we learned…

Two Peas In A Pod? Uh, No.

You might think yams and sweet potatoes are a lot alike.

Both are root vegetables loaded with healthy nutrients and enjoyed around the world.

Baked, boiled, roasted, fried – both yams and sweet potatoes can be cooked an almost endless number of ways and served up either savory or sweet.

Sweet potatoes need to be harvested by hand.

Unlike traditional white potatoes, sweet potatoes are usually harvested by hand because they scrape and bruise easily.

So sure, yams and sweet potatoes may have a few things in common – but biologically, these two tubers are worlds apart.

And in fact, their physical characteristics are so different, it’s pretty easy to tell genuine yams and sweet potatoes apart with just a quick glance!

Let’s take a closer look at each …

Sweet Potatoes – Tubers For Your Sweet Tooth

Known as Ipomoea batatas to science nerds, these are the sweet potatoes Americans are most familiar with.

And let’s clear one thing up right now: Sweet potatoes are not technically potatoes. All the common spuds you know and love like russet, red, white, fingerlings, and others belong to the nightshade family.

Sweet potatoes hail from a completely different family tree – the Convolvulaceae, better known as the “morning glory” family of plants.

A sweet potato vs yams comparison: Here's a Hannah sweet potato on the left, and a Jewel sweet potato on the right.

Both of these are actually sweet potatoes. That’s a Hannah variety with the off-white flesh on the left, and a Jewel sweet potato on the right.

Most sweet potato varieties (there are around 400) have at least one tapered end and a fairly smooth surface. Skin colors can be white, yellow, red, copper and even purple.

Here are the two types of sweet potatoes you’re most likely to find at your local grocery store:

1. Golden-colored skin with a firm flesh inside that’s either a light yellow or a creamy white. This sweet potato remains fairly firm after cooking (more like a white or russet potato) and with a somewhat drier and kind of waxy texture. Common varieties here include Hannah and O’Henry. Grocers often just label these “white sweet potatoes.”

2. Darker, copper-brownish skin with a soft flesh that ranges from a light shade of orange to a darker, red-orange color. Sweet taste with a soft-silky texture, these sweet potatoes are very moist when cooked. Some of the popular varieties you’ve probably seen in your grocer bins include Jewel, Garnet, Beauregard, and Covington. Supermarkets often label these orange-fleshed tubers as either “sweet potatoes” or “yams” or a combination of both.

Yams – Roots In Africa and Asia

These are the real thing. Authentic yams.

The scientific name for these beauties: Dioscorea.

No relation to traditional potatoes or sweet potatoes at all.

Yams come from yet another big, happy plant family, the Dioscoreacae – their closest kin include lilies and grasses.

Real yams imported from Africa

Cultivated yams are historically tied to Africa and Asia, but are now grown in Latin America, the Caribbean, and other tropical regions. Any true yams that show up in specialty stores in the USA are likely imported.

There are some 600 varieties of yams that grow in a very wide range of sizes and shapes, with skin and pulp colors that are equally diverse. Some can reach lengths of five feet or more and tip the scales at over 100 lbs. One of the most commonly cultivated and distributed yams is easy to distinguish just by its dark (brown or black) skin that feels very rough and scaly – almost like tree bark.

Compared to sweet potatoes, yams are generally less sweet, contain more starch, and are a bit drier than sweet potatoes.

So those are just some of the distinguishing characteristics of true yams.

Don’t sound familiar to you?

That’s probably because you’ve never had a real yam before.

Which also means the bright orange root veggies you’ve been eating all this time are actually sweet potatoes and not really yams!

So Why Are My Store’s Sweet Potatoes Labeled “Yams”?

How in the world did sweet potatoes come to be called “yams” when they’re not even remotely close to the real deal?

The answer is here, in a two-part tale that spans centuries and continents …

Part one: Back in colonial times, enslaved Africans transported to America called the sweet potatoes grown here “nyami” because the tuber reminded them of the taste and texture of their native yams. That West African word was shortened to just “yam” and gradually became an acceptable descriptor for sweet potatoes in the New World.

Part two: Thanks to some old school selective plant breeding back in the 1930s, agriculturalists at Louisiana State University came up with a new sweet potato they were really proud of. It was a bright orange cultivar from a Puerto Rican tuber. So bright, they thought, that it made rival sweet potatoes grown in Maryland, Virginia, and New Jersey look pale in comparison. This sweet potato, the scientists surmised, deserved a completely new name. So LSU lobbied the U.S. Department of Agriculture for a name change. What did they want to call them? You guessed it: “Yams.” The USDA said okay, but with the proviso the newly-christened yams would also be labeled as “sweet potatoes.”

So that’s how the term “yams” came to be associated with just about every orange sweet potato you see in U.S. grocery bins today.

You Say Potato, I Say Yam…

Well what’s in a name, right?

At the end of the day, it doesn’t really matter that much whether sweet potatoes sometimes get mistaken for yams or vice versa.

What counts is that no matter how they are cooked, orange sweet potatoes packed with vital nutrients and filling fiber will continue to be a great choice for healthy diets like paleo.

And as a bonus, sweet potatoes (aka yams) are pretty sweet to have around during the holidays, wouldn’t you say? Especially when prepared with a little extra love and shared around the table with family and friends.

Lemon-Coconut Paleo Protein Balls

Let the good times roll with this easy paleo recipe for lemon-coconut balls packed with your favorite protein powder.

This is a tangy little variation on another bite-sized, gluten-free treat I posted earlier this summer, my 10-minute chocolate-cranberry energy balls.

My Hubs, a die-hard chocolate guy, actually likes these little balls of goodness even more – go figure!

Well if you love your sweet stuff with a tart lemony taste, you’re gonna like this super-easy recipe too.

These are naturally sweetened with dates. You get a little extra crunch from the chopped pecans inside. And that lemon zinger comes from a fresh-squeezed lemon along with a bit of lemon zest sprinkled in just to amp up the tartness even more.

There’s nothing to cook with these of course. Just some simple ingredients you blend together and then mix with shredded coconut, pecans and your favorite protein powder. I used three scoops of Primal Kitchen’s Primal Fuel Vanilla Coconut – really good stuff!

Just roll them up into little balls, glide them over some loose shredded coconut to coat, and these are ready to enjoy.

Just one tip: If your final mix seems a little too wet to form into balls, just add a bit more shredded coconut to firm them up. Or if the mixture turns out a little on the dry side, a tiny bit of coconut oil should solve that problem.

Have fun with this easy paleo recipe, and as always, let me know what you think!

easy paleo recipe for paleo protein lemon balls treat

Quick and Easy Lemon-Coconut Paleo Protein Balls Recipe

September 22, 2017

easy paleo recipe for paleo protein lemon balls treat

Ingredients

1/2 cup almond butter

1/2 cup dates, pitted

2 tbsp fresh-squeezed lemon juice (save the rind for the zest)

1 tsp pure vanilla extract

3 tbsp protein powder (I used Primal Kitchen's vanilla coconut protein powder)

1/3 cup shredded coconut, unsweetened

1/3 cup pecans, chopped

1-2 tsp lemon zest

2-3 tbsp extra shredded coconut to roll the balls in for a nice finishing touch

Directions

1Add the almond butter, pitted dates, lemon juice, and vanilla extract to a blender and purée

2Scrape mixture from blender into a medium mixing bowl. Mix in your protein powder, shredded coconut, chopped pecans, and lemon zest

3Roll mixture into small balls, then lightly roll each over some additional shredded coconut to coat

4Keep sealed and refrigerated (up to 2 weeks) until ready to serve

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Grilled Salmon Taco Wraps with Avocado Sauce

Get ready to grab a handful of healthy goodness with this easy paleo recipe for light and luscious salmon lettuce wrap tacos.

These are yummy, nutritious, Whole30 compliant, and so very simple to make.whole30 compliant recipe mark

Grill some salmon, pop the pieces into a buttery green cup, add a layer of fresh cole slaw mix, and finally top it all with this sensational Avocado Sauce. That’s all there is to it!

For the grilled fish seasoning, I used my Everyday Seasoning Salt. It adds another layer of savoriness to the grilled salmon – but just about any seasoning you have handy that complements fish will do the trick.

For my “soft shell” tacos, I chose butter (bibb) lettuce. A great alternative would be Romaine leaves or even plain old iceberg lettuce would work too.

For the fixings in this paleo fish wrap, I simply went with a fresh coleslaw mix. Shredded cabbage or shredded carrots are good alternatives if a pre-packaged slaw mix isn’t your thing. Just a little lime juice, fresh cilantro, oil and dash of salt is about all you need to jazz up the crunchy slaw mix. Toss in a sliced Anaheim or jalapeño pepper if you want to turn up the heat a little.

And to really speed up the prep on this one, just make the Everyday Seasoning Salt and the Avocado Sauce ahead of time (the sauce will keep fresh in your fridge for a few days.)

If grilling season has already passed you by, no worries.

You can oven bake your seasoned and oiled salmon fillets. Just place them skin-side down in a greased baking dish and cook at 400ºF for around 14-18 minutes.

Or, you can easily pan fry your fillets. First put them skin-side up in a frying pan with a little oil over medium-high heat for a few minutes until lightly seared, then flip the fillets over and cook skin-side down until the flesh feels slightly firm to the touch.

This recipe makes such an easy, healthy and light meal. Not a lot of carbs, plenty of protein, healthy omega-3, and an awesome avocado sauce that really takes these paleo salmon lettuce wraps to the next level.

That’s it friends. Just a simple paleo lunch or light dinner entrée you can whip up in no time. There’s plenty of room in this recipe to get creative and add your own personal touches, so have some fun with it.

Enjoy! Leave a comment and let me know what you think!

salmon taco wraps with avocado sauce easy paleo recipe

Grilled Salmon & Butter Lettuce Taco Wraps with Avocado Sauce Recipe

September 12, 2017

  • Yields: 4-6 salmon lettuce wrap tacos
salmon taco wraps with avocado sauce easy paleo recipe

Ingredients

1-2 tbsp Everyday Seasoning Salt recipe link here (or substitute with your favorite grilled fish seasoning)

1/4 cup Avocado Sauce recipe link here

2 fresh salmon fish fillets

1 head of butter lettuce (aka Boston or bibb lettuce)

2-3 cup cole slaw mix or shredded cabbage

1/4 cup fresh cilantro leaves, chopped

1 lime, juiced

Salt, to taste

Directions

1Ideally, prepare the Everyday Seasoning Salt and Avocado Sauce before starting (See recipe links in ingredients list above)

2Season salmon filets generously with Everyday Seasoning Salt (or your favorite seasoning). Lightly pat to adhere, and drizzle with some olive oil or avocado oil

3Heat grill to medium high. Grill salmon 5-8 minutes, turning once. Cook just until fillets easily flake but are still moist. Remove from grill and set aside temporarily to cool. (Instead of grilling, salmon fillets can be pan-fried or baked if desired)

4In a small mixing bowl, combine cole slaw mix (or shredded cabbage) with chopped cilantro leaves and juice of 1 lime. Salt to taste

5Rinse butter lettuce leaves, and spin-dry in salad spinner, or lightly blot dry with paper towels. Select the best cup-shaped leaves to create your lettuce wrap tacos

6Break apart cooled salmon fillets. Place salmon pieces inside lettuce wrap tacos, and sprinkle each with cole slaw mixture

7Finish each lettuce wrap taco with a healthy drizzle of Avocado Sauce

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Chunky Apple Spice Paleo & Gluten-Free Muffins

Just wishing fall would hurry up and get here hasn’t worked for me so far – it’s another triple-digit September day here in Arizona.

Apparently Mother Nature needs a little more encouragement.

I decided to bribe her by baking these paleo and gluten-free apple spice muffins.

Who can resist the sweet fall aroma of fresh-baked apples and cinnamon? I’m hoping she gets the hint. We’ll see.

In the meantime, I’m pretending it’s a chilly autumn day and enjoying these moist, not-too-sweet, chunky apple muffins with a bit of crunch from the chopped walnuts.

Delish hot out of the oven. With just a sprinkle of coconut sugar on the top. Sooo good!

No matter what the weather’s like where you are, I think you’re going to love this easy paleo recipe.

easy paleo recipe for apple muffins in storage container

These paleo and gluten-free chunky apple spice muffins can be stored on your countertop at room temperature for a few days. Seal tightly and freeze for longer-term storage.

You’ll need 2 apples. I chose the Granny Smith variety, but grab your favorite. Peel and core both, then shred one with something like a cheese grater and chop the other one into little bits.

If you don’t like nuts, you can leave them out. I really love the crunch and how the muffins look when you sprinkle a few nuts on top before baking.

The apples make these very moist, so you’ll definitely want to test these with a toothpick through the center to make sure they’re done. If your toothpick doesn’t come out clean, stick them back in the oven to allow the centers to cook through. Lower your oven’s temperature by 25º if you need to – that will help keep the tops from getting too crispy while they finish cooking.

These are best warm right out of the muffin tin, but you can also freeze these in a Ziplock-type bag. Just pop a frozen one directly into your microwave and zap for 20-30 seconds for a warm, moist, spicy apple muffin ready to enjoy.

And in case you’re curious, I used Primal Palate’s organic Apple Pie Spice.

Hope you like this easy paleo recipe chunky apple spice muffins!

Send me your comments if you try this recipe, and some cooler weather if you have any to spare!

easy paleo recipe for apple and nut gluten free muffins

Chunky Apple Spice Paleo & Gluten-Free Muffins Recipe

September 4, 2017

  • Yields: About 12 muffins
easy paleo recipe for apple and nut gluten free muffins

Ingredients

3 eggs

2 apples (one will be shredded, the other chopped – see Directions)

2 cup almond flour

1/3 cup pure maple syrup

1/4 cup coconut oil

1/3 cup walnuts, chopped

1 tsp cinnamon

2 tsp apple pie spice

1 tsp baking soda

1/4 tsp salt

Coconut sugar (optional) sprinkle on top of muffins after baking

Directions

1Stir all dry ingredients together in a bowl (except the walnuts)

2In a larger bowl, mix together all the wet ingredients (except apples)

3Peel and core 2 apples. Use a cheese grater to shred one apple. Chop second apple into small pieces

4Pour the dry ingredients into the bowl with the wet ingredients and mix together well

5Stir in both the shredded and chopped apples

6Stir in the walnuts (save some to place on top of muffins before baking if desired)

7Pre-heat oven to 350ºF

8Fill silicon or paper baking cups about 3/4 full and place inside a muffin tin

9Bake at 350ºF for approximately 20-23 minutes (check for doneness with a toothpick through the center – if the toothpick comes out clean, the muffins are done)

10Remove from oven and lightly sprinkle tops with coconut sugar if desired. Allow to cool before enjoying

Cover muffins and store at room temperature up to a few days, or can be frozen in a zipper lock bag to enjoy later.

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Strawberry-Mango Grilled Paleo Chicken Salad

Wow, we’re already at the end of August and quickly turning the corner toward fall!

I don’t know about you, but I’m going to savor these last few weeks of summer.

Not because I love the heat. Believe me, here in Arizona we start wishing for fall in early July!

But I do love all the late summer fresh produce piled high in our grocery stores and farmer’s markets right now.

I was inspired to make this easy paleo salad recipe when the Hubs brought home a couple of ripe mangoes last week. They were so sweet and juicy, I just had to come up with the perfect salad for them.

I added strawberries, avocado and a little red onion to make this paleo salad a really tasty ensemble. For the protein, I decided a few pieces of grilled chicken generously seasoned with my Everyday Seasoning Salt would be perfect. The seasoning adds an extra savory kick to the chicken without overpowering the natural sweetness of the fruit.

I drizzled everything with my favorite honey-lime vinaigrette, and sprinkled this colorful creation with slivered almonds to add a little extra crunch.

I love summer meals like this one! They taste so good and they’re super easy to whip together.

This would be a really easy paleo recipe to serve at your Labor Day BBQ. It’s a delicious way to say farewell to summer and it’s a guaranteed crowd pleaser.

Try this light and delicious paleo recipe while the grilling weather is still good.

Enjoy, and as always, let me know what you think with a quick comment!

simple paleo and gluten free chicken salad with strawberries and mango

Strawberry-Mango Grilled Paleo Chicken Salad Recipe

August 24, 2017

  • Yields: Serves 4
simple paleo and gluten free chicken salad with strawberries and mango

Ingredients

1 1/2 lbs Boneless chicken breasts

Everyday Seasoning Salt (to taste) Link:1 1/2 cup Fresh strawberries, sliced

1 1/2 cup Fresh mango, diced

1/4 cup Red onion, sliced

1/4 cup Slivered almonds

1 Avocado, pitted and sliced

Approximately 8 cups of salad greens, your choice (I used an arugula-spinach blend)

Honey-Lime Vinaigrette

1/4 cup +2 Tbsp Avocado oil

2 Limes, juiced (about 4 tablespoons total)

2 tsp Dijon mustard

2 tsp Raw honey

1/2 tsp Garlic powder

Salt & Pepper, to taste

Directions

Vinaigrette Directions

1Add all the vinaigrette ingredients to a small mixing bowl. Stir well to combine and set aside

Salad Directions

1Season both sides of uncooked chicken breasts with Everyday Seasoning Salt (or another seasoning blend of your choice). Next, lightly drizzle both sides with olive oil

2Pre-heat grill to medium to medium-high heat. Oil grill grate, place chicken breasts on grate, and cook about 5-7 minutes per side. Chicken is done when internal temperature reaches 165ºF

3In a medium salad bowl, add salad greens, diced mango, sliced strawberries, and sliced red onions. Mix lightly to combine

4Add honey-lime vinaigrette as desired, and garnish with avocado slices and sprinkle with slivered almonds

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