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Fall Fuel: Healthy Spiced Sweet Potatoes and Apples

Twin sisters Laurel and Rebeccah Wassner, both professional triathletes and major foodies, are as accomplished in the kitchen as they are on the racecourse. (Laurel raced in the Ironman World Championships in Kona, Hawaii, this past weekend; Rebeccah, who is pregnant with her second child, has won the New York City Triathlon three times.) Their blog, Athlete Food, features recipes, all documented by their friend, food writer Melissa Lasher, that help fuel them through their super-active days.

These spiced sweet potatoes and apples—a healthier rendition of the Barefoot Contessa’s smashed sweet potatoes with apples—is perfect for warming up on cooler days and maximizing apple season. “Slashing the fat and calories in this dish, however, doesn’t devastate the flavor the way similar cuts would in a chocolate chip cookie or birthday cake,” writes Lasher. “My healthy, everyday version has even earned a place at our Thanksgiving table, partly because it allows me to budget more calories for stuffing.”

We’re sold. You will be, too.

Spiced Sweet Potatoes and Apples

Serves 8
For the Sweet Potatoes
  • 5 pounds garnet yams or sweet potatoes
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon, freshly grated or high quality
  • 1 tsp. freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1 tsp. kosher salt
  • 7–8 grinds black pepper
  • ¼ cup good quality fruity olive oil
For the Apples
  • 4 large Granny Smith or other tart apples (about 1¼ pounds)
  • 1 tbsp. lemon juice
  • ½ tsp. cinnamon, freshly grated or high quality
  • ½ tsp. freshly grated nutmeg
For the Topping
  • 1/3 cup hazelnuts, halved
  1. Set the oven to 375° F. Scrub sweet potatoes and poke holes all over each one with a pairing knife. Set sweet potatoes on a sheet tray and put the tray in the oven. Don’t wait for the oven to heat up to 375° F; let the oven heat up with the sweet potatoes inside. Bake until very soft: 45 minutes for small potatoes, up to 1½ hours for large ones. At this point you can continue with the recipe or store the sweet potatoes in the refrigerator for up to three days before serving the dish.
  2. Mix the sweet potatoes and spices: Cut each sweet potato in half horizontally and scoop out the insides, taking care not to include any bits of skin or the fibrous layer under it. Put sweet potatoes into the bowl of an electric mixer or other mixing bowl. Discard the skin and fibrous bits.
  3. Add the cinnamon, nutmeg, sea salt, black pepper and oil to the sweet potatoes. Whip the potatoes with a stand (or handheld) electric mixer on medium high until the texture looks smooth and fluffy. This takes about a minute in a stand mixer. If you don’t have an electric mixer, stir the mixture forcefully with a wooden spoon until it appears smooth.
  4. Transfer the spiced sweet potatoes to an 8-inch-by-8-inch glass or ceramic serving dish. Smooth the potatoes with a spatula to create a flat surface. At this point you can continue with the recipe or store the sweet potatoes in the dish in the refrigerator, covered.
  5. Prepare the apples: Preheat the oven to 350° F. Peel the apples, if you like, then cut them into half-inch half-moon-shape slices. (I do this by cutting the apples with an apple slicer, then halving each slice.) In a large frying pan, toss the apples with the lemon juice, ½ teaspoon cinnamon, ½ teaspoon nutmeg and 1 tablespoon water. Combine well, using your hands to distribute the spices evenly among the apples. Set the pan over medium high heat, stirring gently with a rubber spatula for 4 minutes to soften the apples.
  6. Add the apples to the sweet potatoes, either lining them up in three tight rows or scattering them in a single layer. (If they don’t all fit, use the extra for a snack either as is or topped with granola and yogurt.) Sprinkle the hazelnuts over the apples.
  7. Bake: To warm the dish, place in the oven for 20 minutes. Serve.
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