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A Faux Mashed Potato Recipe? No, It's Better Than That!

Posted Jan 23 2010 12:00am

Few months ago, I briefly mentioned several ways to help you boost your intake of fruits and vegetables . One of the strategies was to rework the classic mashed potato by either adding in pureed cauliflower or substitute in mashed sweet potatoes. Many people will probably have doubts as to how successful these substitutes are since mashed potato is one of the highly ranked comfort foods that is dear to many people’s hearts and cannot be easily replaced. In this post, I will go into greater details as to how well cauliflower and sweet potato can serve as healthier alternatives to the classic buttery and creamy mashed potatoes.

In the past, I’ve tried pureed cauliflower on its own and I found that it cannot mimic mashed potato but it does have its unique place in a well-balanced diet. I find that it has a much more “liquidy”, less starchy and more fluffy texture to it. Plain pureed cauliflower does not taste very exciting, but it can be a very suitable complement to a creamy, rich topping. The plain vegetable puree acts as a blank canvas which will accentuates the topping’s flavours, and the lightness of the puree will balance out the richness well. Plus, don’t forget that you’re boosting your vegetable intake too! Pairing a calorie-dense sauce or topping to a vegetable-based, low-calorie puree is a great way to showcase a flavourful sauce, allowing you to truly indulge without adding additional, non-essential calories.

My favourite combination: pureed cauliflower + Italian meatballs with spicy salsa = long-lasting satisfaction without needing spaghetti to fill me up!

Sweet potatoes come in many varieties, some are more mushy and sweeter than others. Finding the variety that is starchy and slightly sweet will yield the best mashed sweet potatoes. Starchy varieties will give the most creamy texture when mashed. For me, the best way to enjoy mashed sweet potatoes is to have it plain because somehow the natural sweetness of it really has me hooked on it – I keep eating one bite after another! Mashed sweet potato is not the same as mashed potato by any means. But to me, it can be an equally satisfying and comforting side dish because of its luscious, creamy mouthfeel and its unique sweet flavour that makes it surprisingly cravable!

My favourite preparation method:

  • Peel and rinse sweet potatoes, cut into large cubes
  • Use a microwave steamer to steam the sweet potato cubes until fork tender
  • While hot, mash with a fork or potato masher (if desired, add milk to thin out)

This combination best mimics the texture and taste of mashed potatoes. The starchiness of the sweet potatoes yields a creamy texture and the blandness of the cauliflower will balance out the sweetness of the sweet potatoes. Together, this composition has just the right texture and the perfect clean (but not boring) flavour. This can be the ideal substitute for those who have been longing for a lighter, healthier yet delicious alternative to mashed potatoes!

So how good is it really? Well, I did a little experiment on my brother! I served this over Italian Meatballs and tomato sauce , and told him that it was meatballs with mashed potatoes. He finished the whole dish and literally scooped every last bit from the plate. Only when he finished that he casually mentioned that the mashed potatoes seemed lighter and not as dense than the usual. So, although my brother did detect a slight difference between this faux mashed potatoes and the real thing, he still had a very satisfying meal and did not feel missed out on regular mashed potatoes. In short, pureed cauliflower and mashed sweet potatoes can truly be the ultimate healthy comfort food!

Pureed cauliflower may not work for everybody, but that doesn’t mean you cannot make mashed potatoes a little more healthier. Start by incorporating just a tiny amount of sweet potatoes (or cauliflower, or whatever other vegetable puree that you fancy) into your mashed potatoes and see if you like the taste and the texture. If you enjoy it, then you can experiment further by adding a little more; or if you dislike it, then explore with other vegetables!

It does not really matter how much or how little of vegetable puree that you are adding to mashed potatoes, the key is that you are doing something to improve the nutrition profile of mashed potatoes and that thought alone puts you one step closer to embracing a lifelong habit of healthy eating!

Here are a few of my favourite ways to lighten up mashed potatoes (without sacrificing flavour, of course):

  • Instead of using Russet potatoes, try mashing Yukon Gold potatoes. They stay moist and fluffy when cooked and mash beautifully, giving you that heavenly creamy texture!
  • Hold the butter as you mash potatoes, instead add a dollop of butter as you serve. Seeing the butter melt into the mashed potatoes satisfies you visually and helps you to taste that buttery flavour better
  • Use brown butter. It has a more intense, nuttier flavour so you only need to add in a small amount to jazz up the dish (Here’s a short video on how to brown butter).
  • Substitute lower-fat milk or buttermilk for cream. Yukon Gold potatoes will mash into a creamy texture naturally so you don’t need cream to add on the richness.
  • Sprinkle in herbs and spices to add flavour, rely less on butter. I like to add in a few cloves of garlic, and salt and pepper and a small pinch of nutmeg.
  • Serve it with a lower-calorie topping. Instead of serving a fatty sauce like gravy over mashed potatoes, I like to top it off with spicy salsa (I love that extra kick!).

These options are only a few of the many methods that you can try to transform mashed potatoes from being the ultimate comfort food to a more nutritious dinner table staple. Play with these options, add in your own creative touch and soon or later, you’ll discover a whole approach to eating mashed potatoes (or better yet, you’ll fall in love with my faux mashed potatoes!).

How do you like to enjoy your mashed potatoes?

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