Paleo Cinnamon Cayenne Duchess Sweet Potatoes

This weekend's big storm left a blanket of white behind.

This semester, one of my classes is about global sustainability. To be totally honest, reading about climate change can be dry some times, but it can also be surprising. It's not surprising because I've been living under a rock--our winters here have been getting noticeably warmer every year, and months that used to be snowy are now sunny. Only the biggest of storms manage to leave some snow on the ground. What is surprising is calculating your own impact. A few weeks ago we were asked to take this quiz that calculates the number of planets your life requires in order to sustain it. While I've never considered myself the most green of people, I try: recycle everything I can, never use grocery bags, buy organics, local when possible, and walk places when I can.

The quiz didn't ask about this in detail. They asked about what kinds of food I ate and how many people live in my house. They asked what kind of car I had and how many flights I take a year. At the end, I was taken aback by the result: 4 Earths. Yes, my lifestyle requires 4 Earths to sustain. And get this: that's well below average. This is not only disheartening, but also a bit discouraging. It felt like no matter how hard I tried, I would never be able to change my lifestyle and make it sustainable. 

Even though I have different views with the creators of the quiz on what it means to farm sustainably, this exercise made me start looking at my daily life with more scrutiny. Are my clothes organic? How often do I replace them? Am I eating seasonally right now? How far did my food travel to make it here, in my oven, on my plate, to my stomach? 

While eating seasonally in Colorado, where the growing season is short-lived is hard, it's not impossible. It's something our society is out of touch with, as everything from tomatoes to strawberries are available at my closest super market today, or whenever I want them. So what's in season now? What grows in this snowy mess outside my window? Well, dark and hearty greens, like kale, grow pretty much all year long. I was surprised last week, when the snow had melted away, to find oregano leaves flourishing and daffodil bulbs beginning to sprout. Sweet potatoes, while grown in summer, have a good shelf life. There's also something comforting about sweet potatoes in the middle of winter. They're satisfying, warm, and sweet. 

The natural sweetness of sweet potatoes are emphasized with cinnamon in this recipe, and juxtaposed with cayenne, which adds heat. Duchess Potatoes are traditionally made by mixing pureed potatoes with milk, butter and eggs, and then baking them until puffy and golden. This version uses coconut milk and coconut oil, which add all of the richness that a tradition version might have, but keep it allergy friendly. They're crispy on the outside, toasted like hash browns, and creamy and caramelize on the inside. Eat these may not solve all of my green-living problems, but they taste amazing, and are help me root down with good, locally grown produce.

Paleo Cinnamon Cayenne Duchess Sweet Potatoes 

1 pound sweet potatoes

2 teaspoons coconut oil

2 tablespoons coconut milk

1 egg

2 teaspoons cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon cayenne (if you are spice-sensative, go lighter here; I you like to bring the heat, use a heaping spoon)

1/2 teaspoon maple syrup or raw organic honey

Salt to taste


1. Peel and chop the sweet potatoes into evenly sized cubes. Cook them until tender by steaming them in a covered pot with one inch of water over medium heat. 

2. Once the potatoes are softened through, place them in a blender or food processor along with the coconut milk, oil, spices, maple syrup, and salt. Once pureed, open the food processor and allow the mixture to cool for 10-15 minutes. 

3. Preheat the oven to 450°F. Crack an egg into the sweet potato mixture, and pulse in the blender until fully incorporated. 

4. Spoon the mixture into a frosting bag fitted with a piping tip (alternatively scoop the mixture into a ziplock, seal it, and then cut the last 1/2 cm of one of the bottom corners off of the ziplock). Grease a cookie sheet. Working in a spiral motion, apply gentle pressure to the frosting bag, creating the duchess potato puffs as you do. Continue to do this until all of your mixture has been used. Puffs should be about 1 inch apart and about 2 inches tall. Place in the center rack of the oven and bake until golden and crispy on the outside, 12-15 minutes.