Sweet Potato Chicken (or Turkey) Poppers

Sweet Potato Chicken (or Turkey) Poppers  –  These tasty little bites were ranked as the favorite recipe in a recent cooking class…even by those who claim not to like sweet potatoes!  For added convenience, the poppers can be prepped in advance, covered, and stored in the fridge until ready to bake.

Sweet Potato Chicken (or Turkey) Poppers  –  These tasty little bites were ranked as the favorite recipe in a recent cooking class…even by those who claim not to like sweet potatoes!  For added convenience, the poppers can be prepped in advance, covered, and stored in the fridge until ready to bake.

 

 

On some level, we all know what hunger feels like.

It may begin as growling or a gnawing feeling in the pit of the stomach.  Some may develop a headache or even become lightheaded.  Others may seem a tad grumpy – hence the growing use of the term “hangry” in modern vernacular.

True hunger, however, is altogether different and not to be taken lightly.  But how does “hunger” differ from “food insecurity,” a term that’s becoming more and more common these days?

Food insecurity refers to the inability to consistently access or afford adequate food.  Hunger, in turn, is a physiological condition that may result from food insecurity.

According to Brenda Buescher, the coordinator of Lighten Up Lancaster County, nearly 10% of our county’s population (or over 52,000 individuals) is food insecure.  It’s a sobering statistic, especially when contrasted with the abundant farmland that surrounds us.

Anyone can be food insecure, but certain groups are more likely to be affected: households with children, lower-income households, African-American and Latino households, and households where the primary breadwinner has a low level of education.

Brenda further explained that researchers have consistently found links between food insecurity and poor health. For example, this group is more likely to develop Type 2 Diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, and obesity.

Children who lack adequate food have increased risks of birth defects, anemia, cognitive problems, aggression, depression and anxiety, asthma, and poor oral health.

Charitable organizations that serve these individuals know of the difficult choices that some must make between food and other essentials, such as medicine, utilities, and housing. In one survey of low-income families, 83% of the respondents reported purchasing inexpensive, unhealthy food to meet their food needs.

In an effort to help, Brenda and registered dietitian Janelle Glick recently offered a “menu makeover” workshop in conjunction with the Lancaster County Council of Churches and Central PA Food Bank.  Staff and volunteers who serve community meals or low-income clients were invited for a day of cooking lessons and practical tips on how to prepare healthier meals.

I was privileged to be a part of this class, which stressed that for so many individuals, the problem is quality of food, not quantity.  Accordingly, it’s important that food pantries and community meal providers offer healthy food – because they’re serving the people who need it most.

As a dietitian, Janelle aims for recipes that will be well accepted but also provide plenty of fiber, protein, vitamins, and minerals to boost nutrition.  Because it’s easy to get inexpensive, processed food with lots of calories and little nutrition, Janelle focuses on nutrient-dense food.  Colorful, plant-based foods are the easiest way to accomplish this.

During the workshop, we prepared a full meal using wholesome ingredients like beans, sweet potatoes, quinoa, and kale, all of which are becoming more common in local food banks.

After dining on the fruits of our labor, which included a build-your-own grain salad, creamy pinto bean dip, and sweet potato chicken poppers, Janelle polled the group to determine everyone’s favorite.  The feedback was overwhelmingly positive, even from those who were initially skeptical of some of the ingredients.

Sweet Potato Chicken (or Turkey) Poppers  –  These tasty little bites were ranked as the favorite recipe in a recent cooking class…even by those who claim not to like sweet potatoes!  For added convenience, the poppers can be prepped in advance, covered, and stored in the fridge until ready to bake.

The recipe that caught my attention most was the meatball-like popper recipe, because so many who claimed to dislike sweet potatoes ranked it as their favorite recipe.

I made the recipe at home soon after and it garnered high praise, even from those who would sooner choose a French fry over a sweet potato.

Sweet Potato Chicken (or Turkey) Poppers  –  These tasty little bites were ranked as the favorite recipe in a recent cooking class…even by those who claim not to like sweet potatoes!  For added convenience, the poppers can be prepped in advance, covered, and stored in the fridge until ready to bake.

Because it can be easier to find, I used ground turkey breast in place of ground chicken.  I repeated the recipe soon after with dark meat ground turkey, as I was curious if it would enhance the flavor.

Both options work well, although my favorite was actually the leaner turkey or chicken breast. Thanks to the inclusion of shredded sweet potato, the poppers were neither dry nor lacking in flavor.

For added convenience, this recipe may be prepped ahead, covered and refrigerated until ready to bake. You could also make mini burgers of sorts by using slider rolls.  Sliced avocado and barbecue sauce would be tasty toppers for these.

Janelle likes to serve the poppers with a small amount of dipping sauce. Several complementary suggestions are provided in the recipe, and I’ve included my easy method for making sriracha mayo and a simple fry sauce for those who may enjoy.

Sweet Potato Chicken (or Turkey) Poppers  –  These tasty little bites were ranked as the favorite recipe in a recent cooking class…even by those who claim not to like sweet potatoes!  For added convenience, the poppers can be prepped in advance, covered, and stored in the fridge until ready to bake.

Sweet Potato Chicken (or Turkey) Poppers
Yield: approximately 24 poppers or 4 entrée servings (or 8 as an appetizer)
For added convenience, the poppers can be prepped in advance, covered, and stored in the fridge until ready to bake.
INGREDIENTS
  • 1 pound uncooked ground chicken or turkey*
  • 2 cups uncooked, peeled and finely grated sweet potato (one 8-ounce potato will be enough with some to spare)
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil**
  • 2 tablespoons flour (I’ve used all-purpose, gluten-free, and garbanzo bean flour with great results.)
  • 2-3 green onions, finely chopped
  • 1 teaspoon each garlic powder, onion powder, and kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon smoked paprika or chili powder (or half and half)
  • Optional for serving: barbecue sauce, sriracha mayo***, guacamole, and ranch dressing, ketchup, or fry sauce (recipe follows).
INSTRUCTIONS
  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F and lightly grease a large baking sheet.
  2. Squeeze the excess moisture from the shredded sweet potato using a clean tea towel or between a few layers of paper towels. (Note: I recently forgot this step and the poppers turned out fine. Unless the shredded potato seems to be quite moist, I’d say you could safely skip this step.)
  3. Add all of the ingredients in a large mixing bowl and mix to thoroughly combine.  (Tip: To thoroughly combine the ingredients in this and other ground meat-based recipes like meatballs and meatloaf, I like to mix all of the ingredients except the meat first. Then this homogenous mixture can easily be blended into the meat without over-mixing, which can toughen the meat and lead to a denser finished product.)
  4. Roll the mixture into balls or slightly flattened poppers about one inch in diameter (aim for 20-25 poppers) and place them on the prepared baking sheet.
  5. Bake for 15 minutes or until just cooked through (internal temperature should read 165 degrees F on a quick-read thermometer). If desired, you may lightly brown under the broiler for 1-2 minutes, watching closely.
  6. Serve as is or with your favorite sauce for dipping.
NOTES

*My personal preference in these poppers is leaner breast meat, but dark meat may be used.

** The original recipe used coconut oil.  Feel free to use in place of olive oil, if preferred.

***To make your own sriracha mayo, simply stir sriracha sauce into plain mayonnaise.  Start with 1 teaspoon of sriracha per 1/4 cup mayo, adding more sriracha to taste.

  • For the fry sauce:
    Yield: 1/3+ cup
  • 1/4 cup (52 grams) mayonnaise
  • 2 tablespoons ketchup
  • 1/4 teaspoon white vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon sriracha sauce

Mix the ingredients together in a small bowl.  Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve.

The Fountain Avenue Kitchen https://fountainavenuekitchen.com/

Sources: https://hungerandhealth.feedingamerica.org/ and Lighten Up Lancaster County. Recipe adapted from Janelle at Lighten Up Lancaster and  https://unboundwellness.com/sweet-potato-chicken-poppers-paleo-aip-whole-30/

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Comments

  1. Joan Post author

    Hi Ann – tried these yesterday! Not many steps (my kind of recipe) although I think I did not grate small enough. They are really good – I am freezing some.

    Reply
    1. Ann Post author

      I’m so glad you made these and enjoyed, Joan…and how nice it will be to have some on standby in the freezer!

      Reply