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Cooking For (& With) Kids: Citrus Sweet Potatoes, Two Ways

Cooking For (& With) Kids: Citrus Sweet Potatoes, Two Ways

By Amalah

Sweet potatoes are magic. I mean, the word “sweet” is right there in the name, but instead of sugar, these lovely root veggies are chock full of good things: Vitamin A, potassium, beta-carotene (just to list a few). They’re one of the perfect first foods for babies – cook, mash, serve, oh thank goodness, my baby likes it. My baby REALLY likes it! Okay, slow down there, your diapers are going to be day-glo orange if you eat anymore sweet potatoes today.

Citrus Sweet Potato Mash Recipe by Amalah for Alphamom.com

AND YET. As soon as we leave the baby food purees behind, people start doing awful things to sweet potatoes. We add sugar and sweeteners and freaking marshmallows. We deep fry and coat them in too much salt. It’s like, FINE, I will swap sweet potatoes for white potatoes because mumble mumble healthy reasons but I’m going to go out of my way to minimize the nutritional benefits and murder the natural flavor.

And I speak as one of those people, who once had a vague understanding that sweet potatoes were a “better” choice than the white ones, but would translate this squishy notion into bagged sweet potato chips and processed fries and tots from the freezer section. And then I finally glanced at the ingredient labels and realized how much added sugar, salt and questionable oils these products contain. (And don’t even get me started on the preservatives.) I was serving my kids tots with a TON more cane sugar than the regular white potato variety, and seriously, my kids do NOT need anymore sugar in their daily lives. So much for my “healthy” swap.

But my kids LOVE sweet potatoes. And they really did love those frozen tots, and I loved the convenience of them.

(Cue infomercial segue of THERE’S GOT TO BE A BETTER WAY!)

Citrus Sweet Potatoes: Tater Tots Recipe by Amalah for Alphamom.com

There is! This recipe, right here (below), is everything you could possibly want from a sweet potato recipe. It’s simple but not boring, delicious as a grown-up side dish (pairs amazingly with this pork tenderloin recipe, BTW), and is an awesome step-up from plain purees for your sweet-potato loving toddler.

The only sweetener is a touch of fresh-squeezed orange juice, the salt is minimal, and the nutmeg is a lovely change from the traditional cinnamon. (Although cinnamon most certainly works! You do you.)

And then! Add a wee bit of flour (any kind, though I find whole wheat or rice flour work best) and a touch of cornstarch and BAM. You’ve got yourself a sweet potato tot. Shape, freeze, bake. All the convenience with none of the added garbage. They’re a very soft-on-the-inside tot, probably more of a puff, but that citrus-y zing makes them a delicious little bite-sized treat.

Citrus Sweet Potato Mash & Tater Tots Recipes for kids by Amalah for Alphamom.com

This is my 7-year-old’s favorite recipe to make (and eat…stay tuned for an additional post on even more ways we use it!), so if you’d like to get your kids involved in meal prep and learn some safe, basic skills, this one fits that bill as well. Peeling the cooled potatoes, mashing them up, juicing the orange, stirring and shaping…it’s all good (albeit slightly sticky) fun.

Citrus Sweet Potatoes: Two Ways (Mashed & Tots) #cookingwithkids #foodprep by Amalah for Alphamom.com

I typically double or even triple the recipe below, so I’m left with an adequate yield for both the mashed and the tot option. It’s super easy to make a big batch – the mash keeps in the fridge for about a week but can also be portioned out and frozen along with the tots. If you need a time shortcut, the potatoes can be boiled or even nuked instead of roasted – I just love the natural caramelization that roasting brings so I don’t mind the extra passive cooking time.

CITRUS SWEET POTATOES (Mashed & Tots)

(Adapted from Gourmet)

    • 1 pound sweet potatoes
    • 1 teaspoon orange zest
    • 2 tablespoons fresh orange juice
    • ¼ teaspoon salt
    • 1/8 to ¼ teaspoon fresh grated nutmeg (we usually just grate-n-taste until we think it’s enough)

FOR MASHED VERSION:

2 tablespoons unsalted butter (optional, and olive oil works too)

FOR TOTS:

  • ¼ cup flour of your choice
  • ¼ teaspoon cornstarch
  • Whole wheat or panko breadcrumbs (optional)

Recipe for Citrus Sweet Potato MASH:

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Pierce potatoes all over with a fork and arrange on a baking sheet or dish. Roast in the middle of the oven until soft and bubbling slightly, about 1 hour.

When cool enough to handle, peel off the skins. Transfer to a large bowl.

Citrus Sweet Potato Mash & Tater Tots Recipes (kid cooking prep) by Amalah for Alphamom.com

Add orange zest, juice, salt and nutmeg. Mash with a fork or potato masher – don’t puree or mash it to death, just a quick rough mash. Lumps welcome and encouraged for better texture!

Give it a taste and add more zest/juice/salt/whatever. My kids like these really “orange-juicy” while my husband prefers a lighter citrus flavor with more of the nutmeg.

If serving as a mash or side dish, go ahead and add the butter here as well. (Again, it’s optional but does add some really nice richness.) DON’T add any butter or oil to whatever you plan to use for the tots.

Citrus Sweet Potato Mash Recipe for kids by Amalah for Alphamom.com

Recipe for Citrus Sweet Potato TOTS:

If making the tots, add the flour and cornstarch and combine well. I’ve made these with soooo many different flours (including gluten-free), so go ahead and use whatever variety you prefer. Just be prepared that the measurements might be different and will require a little eye-balling. Add enough flour until the mash becomes “shapeable” and holds together in a small ball or mini-tot shape fairly well. (Chilling the mashed potatoes for a bit makes this part much easier.)

Citrus Sweet Potatoes: Tater Tots by Amalah for Alphamom.com

 

For a crunchier tot, roll them in some breadcrumbs, like whole-wheat or panko. I usually add a touch more salt and nutmeg to the coating, when I’ve bothered with this step. If you shape your tots on the larger side, however, I recommend using the breadcrumbs for a better crunchy-to-soft-inside texture ratio.

If freezing, put the shaped tots on a baking sheet, cover with plastic wrap and put in the freezer. Once frozen, transfer to a plastic freezer bag.

Bake on a lightly greased baking sheet at 425 degrees, flipping occasionally, 15-20 minutes, or until tots are heated through and lightly browned on all sides. Serve with your kiddo’s favorite dipping sauce.

Citrus Sweet Potato Tater Tots Recipe by Amalah for Alphamom.com

 

Photos by Jen Tilley

Amalah
About the Author

Amy Corbett Storch

Amalah

Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy’s daily mothering adventures at Ama...

Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy’s daily mothering adventures at Amalah. Also, it’s pronounced AIM-ah-lah.

If there is a question you would like answered on the Advice Smackdown, please submit it to amyadvice@gmail.com.

Amy also documented her second pregnancy (with Ezra) in our wildly popular Weekly Pregnancy Calendar, Zero to Forty.

Amy is mother to rising first-grader Noah, preschooler Ezra, and toddler Ike.

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Comments

  • KB

    Love this, can’t wait to make these with my nephews ?.

  • Great new feature! (Also: I’ll read anything Amalah writes, so … more, please!)

  • Jen

    Let’s just take a moment and recognize Ezra’s gorgeous eye lashes! To die for! 😀

    I’m super excited for this series, I’ve always loved your food related blog and Smackdown posts.

  • Heidi

    You said on your blog you freeze and then put in school lunches. But…you must fully cook before going to school. So do you do the last step and then freeze and then put in lunchboxes to defrost? or do you cook them in the morning?
    I know I could figure this out on my own, but I want to know how you do it
    (yay)

  • Melanie

    So excited about this new feature! And these tots!

  • Lily

    Yeah…. like Heather, I’ll read anything Amy writes. And I’m super obsessed with a lot of her recipes (wheat and oat toaster pancakes FTW!). So I love this new column. I will definitely be making this for/with my four-year-old and one-year-old!! Going to try the frozen tot version. Yum! Thanks Amy!

  • yasmara

    Hahahahahaha, my super picky eater (who I mentioned yesterday) haaaaates sweet potatoes and everyone else in the family loves them! 

  • Re: lunches! You stinkers, there’s a part 2 coming soon :). I don’t usually send the tots to school, those are a convenient kid dinner thing. For lunches, I freeze the cooked mash and then nuke it and put in a thermos. Sometimes with some pumpkin seeds mixed in, but okay, I will write the lunchbox post ASAP because it’s so fun and I use this a BUNCH of ways.

  • Laurie

    I’ll try this but imma say right now: my 8 year-old only eats the sweet potatoes with protestation. I don’t know what happened between the purees and the growing into very-verge-of-tweenhood but several those great things he loved as a baby/toddler (sweet potatoes, toaster pancakes, avocados, non-fried seafood, lasagne – or anything with “sauce”) are now unacceptable. He tells me his tastebud have changed. I keep checking to see if they’ve “changed again” to limited avail.

  • Alicia

    I keep saying I want to involve my kids more in food preparation  because a) my long-term secret plan is to make them cook US dinner when they are tweens and b) I think healthy cooking is a life skill you should absolutely know.  But I put it off because gah–the mess, the hassle, of cooking with kids.  This looks like an approachable and easy entry recipe–thank you!

  • Melissa

    Thank you for starting this series! I am cooking challenged but my son loves to do it, except i dont even know what to tell him to do.  “Put pizza on rack?”  Very much looking forward to more of these! 

    • Also, we have a newish series at Alpha Mom called Recipes Kids Should Know How to Make Before Leaving Home by our newest contributor, Jane Maynard that may work for your family as well… depending on the age of your son. It’s geared towards older elementary and tweenage kids but she is starting off with the basic recipes and the tips are written specifically for kids. Between Amalah’s and Jane’s series, hopefully we can help your family out. 🙂

  • CeeBee

    Thank you so much for this!

  • Amy

    I made the tots for lunch today. I didn’t mind them, but neither my 18 month old or my 3.5 year old would eat them. Both are fairly good eaters, but didn’t seem to like the texture or taste of the tots. The citrus taste was a bit too strong in my opinion. I used panko bread crumbs to roll the tots and that made a nice crunch.. I’m not that great of a chef, so it’s possible it’s my lack of skills that ruined the recipe.:)

  • That sounds delicious!! I so wish that my son wasn’t so picky and would try new things!! I might make this for us, though and try and sneak some yummy in! 🙂