Smoked Bacon Sweet Potato Soup

Have you ever wondered how much nutrition is left in the food you eat?

What is the best way to cook and store foods? Should I buy fresh, frozen or canned produce?

These are common questions asked by new and experienced cooks alike.

Food provides the ideal mix of vitamins, minerals and other nutrients. But the nutrients in food begin to decrease as soon as the fruit or vegetable is picked. The water-soluble vitamins, especially thiamin, folic acid and vitamin C, can be destroyed during improper storage and excessive cooking.

The three natural destroyers of vitamins in fruits and vegetables are: heat, light and oxygen — pretty hard to avoid. However cooking and storing methods can help retain nutrients. Here’s how:

Limit storage time. Try to use fresh fruits and vegetables as quickly as possible. The sooner you eat the food, the less chance of nutrient loss.

Store fruits and vegetables in the refrigerator to slow spoilage. However, there are a few exceptions, including tomatoes. Their flavor is destroyed in the refrigerator. Hold them at room temperature. If you want to store produce for a longer time, consider freezing it.

Cook minimally. Microwave cooking, steaming or using a pan with very small amounts of water and a tight-fitting lid are best. More nutrients are retained when there is less contact with water and a shorter cooking time with less exposure to heat. Cook fruits and vegetables when possible with their skins on.

Avoid slicing too far in advance. When we slice a vegetable or fruit, we expose the cut surfaces to heat, light and oxygen – the nutrient destroyers. Better to wait to slice foods until we are ready to cook and eat them.

Serve cooked vegetables promptly. The longer they stand, whether at room temperature or in the refrigerator, the higher their nutrient losses.

So back to the question of whether to purchase fresh, frozen or canned produce. Many people believe that fresh is always best. However this may or may not always be true. One reason canned and frozen produce sometimes rank nutritionally superior to fresh produce is they’re usually processed immediately after harvest, when nutrient content is at its peak.

For the most part if the fruits and vegetables are stored, prepared and properly used, all of them can contribute to a more nutritious diet.

Smoked Bacon Sweet Potato Soup

  • 3 slices smoked bacon, chopped
  • 1 medium red onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/4 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/8 teaspoon cayenne
  • Pinch of red pepper flakes (optional)
  • 3 sweet potatoes, peeled and diced (see note)
  • 4 cups low-sodium chicken broth
  • 1 tablespoon lime juice

In a large pot over medium heat, cook bacon. Transfer to a paper towel-lined plate and reserve 1 tablespoon fat. In the pot, sauté onions and cook until slightly softened, about 5 minutes. Add garlic and cook until soft and fragrant, around 2 minutes. Season with salt, pepper, smoked paprika, red pepper flakes and cayenne, if using.

Add sweet potatoes and stock. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low and simmer until sweet potatoes are tender, 27 to 30 minutes. Blend with immersion blender or transfer to a blender in batches and blend until smooth. Stir in lime juice, serve, sprinkle with bacon and enjoy!

Makes 6 servings.

Note: The size of the sweet potatoes will determine the consistency of the stew once blended. If you like thicker stew, get larger sweet potatoes and smaller if you like a thinner consistency.

Nutrition information per serving: 90 calories, 1g fat, 16g carbohydrate, 2g fiber, 460mg sodium.

Recipe from: North Dakota State Extension

Cami Wells is an Extension Educator for Nebraska Extension in Hall County. Contact her at (308) 385-5088 or at cwells2@unl.edu. Visit the Hall County website at www.hall.unl.edu

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