Soy Glazed Roasted Sweet Potatoes and a New Approach to Feeding Picky Eaters

I love sweet potatoes. I love them baked. I love them mashed with butter and crunchy flakes of salt. I love them in kielbasa stew and inĀ hand pies. I love them forgotten to bathe in the fat of a slowly roasting chicken. But no matter how much you love something, no matter how much your children love something, boredom eventually creeps in. To keep the kitchen repertoire exciting and expanding, you have to push yourself to take a walk on the wild side regularly. So this weekend, we went wild with soy glazed roasted sweet potatoes: an Asian twist on a familiar favorite.

asian roasted sweet potatoesThese soy glazed roasted sweet potatoes were a hit with four out of six at our dinner table: wild success by my count. I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the pressure we put on ourselves to achieve 100% satisfaction at the dinner table, especially when you have picky eaters. Picky eaters complain loudly, and it’s tempting to avoid their disgusts by lowering the common denominator to try to please everyone, resorting to tried and true “favorites” like pasta with butter and chicken nuggets. This strategy of pleasing everyone just leads to bland dinners that people consume without noticing: food as fuel rather than food as pleasure. I’d much rather have an 80% satisfaction rate if that satisfaction means that more than half of those at my table are thrilled by what they’re eating. Over time, their enthusiasm will win over the remaining 20%.

Every child has picky eater moments. Even my adventurous Juju.
Every child has picky eater moments. Even my adventurous Juju.

Some nights, all the complaining is too much for me. If you open my freezer, you’ll find bags of chicken nuggets. When my kids have friends for dinner, I rarely rock the boat. You’ll find chicken nuggets and plain pasta at our table, but never on a regular weeknight. Our family dinners are our walks on the wild side. If anyone at the table is unhappy after taking a bite, they are welcome to get up and make themselves a cold cut sandwich and eat some fruit. More often than not, laziness overcomes the fear of novelty, and the picky eater in question just eats dinner quietly and resentfully, lowering my satisfaction rate but not the rest of the family’s enjoyment of dinner.

asian roasted sweet potatoesBut trying new sides like these Soy Glazed Roasted Sweet Potatoes is a relatively risk-free way to take a walk on the wild side of dinner. Making a side that no one likes is less devastating than making a bad main dish. But it’s a good way to get started, and these sweet potatoes are sweet, soft, and addictive, a real crowd pleaser, regardless of whether you’re 5 or 50.

Soy Glazed Roasted Sweet Potatoes
  • 3 large sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into wedges
  • ¼ cup of soy sauce
  • 4 tablespoons of mirin
  • 2 tablespoons of dark sesame oil
  • 2 tablespoons of brown sugar
  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. Peel and cut the sweet potatoes into wedges. Tumble them into a large Pyrex baking dish or another favorite ovenproof bakeware.
  3. Mix the soy sauce, mirin, and dark sesame oil together. Pour over the sweet potatoes and mix with a spoon to coat evenly.
  4. Cover the dish with aluminum foil. Bake for 40 minutes.
  5. Remove the baking dish from the oven. Increase the temperature to 450 degrees. Sprinkle the brown sugar on top of the sweet potatoes. Return the dish to the oven and cook for another 15 minutes.
  6. Serve hot. You can reheat these the next day in the microwave as well.

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