Eating potatoes delivers lots of great nutrients

In food-economics terms, the potato is an inexpensive, versatile and healthy choice in any family's diet.

Posted on Feb. 2, 2014 at 2:38 p.m.

This winter has been a great time to cook and bake. When it was really cold we were preparing great comfort food on the stove and in the oven.

I truly enjoy the aroma of the food when it is really cold outside, the heat of the oven and, most of all, the eating. February is national potato month and I have been on a hungry-for-potato eating binge. When I was a child and would experience a hunger for a food, my deceased mother would share that my body must be needing the nutrients that this food supplied. Not sure there was truth to this, but I am working on curing my hunger for these baked potato strips.

I enjoy potatoes baked in the oven as I really like them to be fluffy. We have also been creating Parmesan baked French potatoes in the oven — these are really good.

When talking economics in meal planning, a natural wholesome food that comes to the top of the list is the potato. The potato and all the ways it can be prepared is a compact package of good things for you and your family. The potato is versatile, economical and loaded with important nutrients. For you to make the most of your food dollars you have to prepare potatoes in their raw form that you buy in the produce section, not the freezer deli, or packaged aisle.

Potatoes are nutritious and a good source of vitamins. A medium-sized potato, which is three potatoes per pound, provides almost one half the vitamin C recommended daily for an average adult. Potatoes also supply B-1 and niacin to the diet.

No single food can provide all the iron needed every day. Therefore, it is essential to eat several iron-source foods daily. Potatoes, because of their popularity, actually provide more iron to the American diet than any other vegetable even though lima beans, brussel sprouts and peas, for example, contain more iron per 100 grams. Ninety three percent of the iron in potatoes is usable by the body.

Carbohydrates are essential to the body but are often misunderstood as meaning fat. The body needs more than three times as much carbohydrate as protein in order to provide necessary energy to the brain, heart, lungs and muscles. In addition, the potato gives good nutritional return for every gram of carbohydrate it contains.

Before I run out of space I need to write about our cast iron baked potato strips. Begin by setting the oven for 450 degrees, you can use a glass baking pan or a cookie sheet if you don’t have the cast iron skillet but these baked potato strips are best prepared in the cast iron skillet. Scrub the potatoes; pat dry; with a sharp knife cut in four pieces lengthwise. Now cut each of these pieces in half. Place the cut-up potatoes in a flat-bottomed bowl and sprinkle a little oil on them and stir or toss.

Next, create your favorite seasoning mix. I like using parmesan cheese, coarse cracked pepper and a little seasoning salt. Mix this together and then sprinkle on the potatoes and toss. Now pour the seasoned potatoes into the hot skillet and place the skillet back in the oven. Set the timer for 10 minutes, then remove the skillet and use a metal spatula and flip the strips over, return to the oven and bake until fork tender — about 7 minutes or more. I can’t give you an exact baking time as it depends on how thick you have cut the potatoes.

The baked potato sticks are best if eaten warm. You can also hold them on a baking stone or in a casserole but don’t tightly cover as they will steam and become soggy. The potato sticks are great served with cocktail sauce, warm cheese sauce and, of course, all American ketchup.

Mary Ann Lienhart Cross is county extension director and and extension educator in health and human sciences at Purdue Extension Elkhart County. Reach her at 574-533-0554 or lienhart@purdue.edu.

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