Sunday, August 25, 2013

Easy, tasty, healthy Sweet Potato Salad

Hello from the North! Surprised to hear from me? I know, I’m not much of a contributor. But I’ve got a new challenge in a life and a great recipe to go along with it, so I figured it was time to share.

At the beginning of the summer, I was diagnosed with Celiac disease. This is after a year and a bit of major digestive issues, during which time I pushed my doctor for more than just a diagnosis of Irritable Bowel Syndrome (because that’s essentially a non-diagnosis and you are stuck doing elimination diets on your own) and leaned heavily on Mara as my go-to friend for discussions about topics (like poop) that aren’t typically on a phone call with your girlfriend (Thanks Mara!). In retrospect, I’ve been gradually developing celiac symptoms for about 10 years, but never realized that the issues I was having were related (iron deficiency, arthritis, lactose intolerance, fatigue, etc). So I was really relieved to have a clear diagnosis and treatment (a strict gluten-free diet for life – no wheat, barley, rye, and oats are a questionable one so it’s out for the first year at least).

However, once I started reading labels, I was amazed at how many things contain gluten. I had to give away my entire fridge door shelf of Asian cooking sauces! And I even have to be careful of lotions with gluten, which I thought was weird since I’m not eating the lotion, but the reality is that anything you put on your body is absorbed into your system (a good reason to buy organic). Luckily for me, the gluten-free thing is pretty popular these days, and at home it’s very manageable as we were already healthy cooks and it’s easy to adapt most things (with a few new kitchen supplies, some gentle reminders to avoid contamination, and a larger grocery budget since GF food is significantly more expensive).
With the abundance of gluten free blogs and books, there are lots of recipe ideas and ingredients available, even up here in northern AB. The specialty liquor store in town even stocks 16 types of GF beer (expensive, but on a sunny Friday after work sometimes you just gotta have a beer!). The hardest part is going to other people’s houses, events, potlucks…. a common summertime activity. Resisting moist chocolate cupcakes at a wedding and greasy sausages and pancakes the morning after (especially when hungover) requires serious mental toughness!!
This weekend was a going-away party for a couple co-workers. Typical backyard BBQ fare, burgers/hotdogs/creamy coleslaw, with a few home-made (delicious-looking but definitely not permitted) desserts thrown in the mix. I decided to make a salad that I knew I could eat, and I wanted it to be hearty and filling because it sucks to be hungry at a bbq (or anytime, really). I know lots of people don’t like trying new recipes for an event, but I figure it’s the best time because if I don’t like it, I’m not stuck with a giant bowlful for leftovers that week. I googled potato salad… then switched to sweet potato salad (more nutrients), and ended up with a great recipe that was really easy and quick, and I already had all the spices in my cupboard (which is a real plus… one thing I’m finding with the new GF life is there are so many new ingredients/flours/baking gums to buy- which can be fun, but also a little overwhelming. Sometimes you just want something quick and simple, right?).

Overall, this Moroccan Sweet Potato salad was a total success! My finished product looked exactly like the photo on the recipe, which to me is always a good sign. And lots of people asked for the recipe. So I figured I should share it with the SSS group too. I wouldn’t say it was the most WOW thing I’ve ever made, but that’s probably because I like things spicier, but didn’t want to increase the heat for a group setting. These spice proportions in the recipe were good for potluck, and even the kids ate it.  I used the white sweet potatoes but would also try it with the yellow yams, because I think they have a bit more flavor, although they might get mushier – these cubes held up nicely. It only took 15 minutes for them in the oven, on parchment paper. So the whole process was literally about 30 minutes, a definite plus for a weekday dinner side dish.

I made 1.5 times the recipe and it was all eaten up at the potluck (Tyler was disappointed I didn't leave him a little bowlful for when he got home late from work!).  
The directions say to serve it at room temperature; I did a taste-test while it was still warm and thought it was really good. So room temperature or warmer is my recommendation.
The close-up photo to show how much it looks like the one on the website (hers is more orange cause she used yams).

Here’s the blog I got it from, I haven’t looked at her site much but based on the ease of this recipe, I’ll have to see what else she has.
I will definitely make this salad again, but with a few modifications (yams, up the spice quotient, add more nuts and seeds to increase protein). I think it's a good potluck dish, for any season. Or make a big portion on the weekend and have leftovers for weekday lunchs.
If anyone else is doing GF diet these days, let me know and we can compare thoughts on cookbooks, blogs, recipes. I'm in the learning stage about celiac disease... and there is a lot of learning to do. I made some good GF/DF scones last weekend, but frankly nothing compares to scones made with regular flour and butter! Over time I'm sure my taste buds will adapt and I'll get used to it. Tyler (the real baker in our family) has promised me not to worry,  he will figure out ways to make delicious Christmas baking so I will still gain those 5 holiday pounds that he "gives" to me every year!  
Cheers- mb


  1. Nice Michelle - shitty about the celiac, but I'm sure you're in for a lot less tummy pain with the diagnosis. A friend of mine that we eat with at least once a week, if not more, is gluten-free, so I've been learning a lot about the sauces thing (Chinese is actually pretty tricky - you can find gluten-free soy sauce from what I understand, but a lot of the other sauces have gluten). Indian cooking has so far been pretty easy, a lot of curries are already GF. We've also eaten a lot of things like salad rolls, pho, subtitute rice flour for a quick fix for burgers (no bun), and mexican in general, obviously sticking to corn tortillas etc. is a pretty safe bet too. I'm definitely no expert, but it's been amazing to me, just by hanging out with someone who's GF how much more aware of it I am these days. Smithers is also one of those places that is pretty easy to have alternative diet choices :)

    If you're interested, I'll ask Casda for her pie crust recipe - it one 1st prize at the fall fair!! :) and get her to post here.

    Good luck and keep the recipes coming!

    also - a bunch of potato chips are GF as far as I understand (definitely not all) there's still hope for a little indulgence at a BBQ!

  2. So happy to have you post! And glad to hear you're finding alternatives to changes are always so hard especially when you really can't cheat. I've also tried gluten-free beer--so nice to have it when you need it, that's for sure. I've pretty much quashed my entire SCD diet (was making me worse) but have an appt. with a nutritionist next month to talk other options as well as probiotics. So hopefully my tummy will get some reprieve from bad days as well.

  3. Hey Mara - have you tried kefir? super high in probiotics, and you can buy cultures to make it yourself (saving a lot of coin on probiotic pills). Takes some getting used to - the whole fermented milk thing...good luck at the nutritionist!

    a spelling correction to my previous comment: "it one 1st prize" should be "it won 1st prize" - how embarrassing! :)

  4. Hi ladies, thanks for the comments and suggestions!

    In the last few weeks I've become a regular at the organic store and grocery shopping at the regular store now takes me about double the time... but I've found lots of alternative flours as well as some GF Asian sauces and curries -- so a major relief. Surprisingly, Winners stocks a variety of GF snacks (isn't that store so random?). And the GF beer that I bought is actually really good - expensive, but worth it for these last few sunny days of summer when beer tastes oh-so-good.

    Alana-- I'd love to have that pie crust recipe from your friend!

    Mara - would love to hear what the nutritionist recommends. let me know if you ever want to talk direct to my mom too! She's a big advocate for probiotics but I agree with Alana that they are expensive (Costco has good deals on Align).