Monday, March 1, 2021

March 2021 Monthly Color Challenge - Yams!

Yams....or sweet potatoes? That is the question at hand when looking at March's focal color - red orange - for the Patterns By Jen 2021 Monthly Color Challenge . While the two are technically different, the names are interchanged for sweet potatoes. Let's take a closer look.

From the Library of Congress, "Yams are closely related to lilies and grasses. Native to Africa and Asia, yams vary in size from that of a small potato to a record 130 pounds (as of 1999). There are over 600 varieties of yams and 95% of these crops are grown in Africa. Compared to sweet potatoes, yams are starchier and drier.

The many varieties of sweet potatoes (Ipomoea batatas) are members of the morning glory family, Convolvulacea. The skin color can range from white to yellow, red, purple or brown. The flesh also ranges in color from white to yellow, orange, or orange-red. Sweet potato varieties are classified as either ‘firm’ or ‘soft’. When cooked, those in the ‘firm’ category remain firm, while ‘soft’ varieties become soft and moist. It is the ‘soft’ varieties that are often labeled as yams in the United States.

In the United States, firm varieties of sweet potatoes were produced before soft varieties. When soft varieties were first grown commercially, there was a need to differentiate between the two. African slaves had already been calling the ‘soft’ sweet potatoes ‘yams’ because they resembled the yams in Africa. Thus, ‘soft’ sweet potatoes were referred to as ‘yams’ to distinguish them from the ‘firm’ varieties."

Where does that leave me on color with the challenge? I chose to follow the sweet potato color way, and this year I am only making 4 blocks total. The 12" and 6" blocks for this month plus the same sizes for June. When looking at my stash, I did not want to use what has been seen - this was not about stash busting. So I searched for fabrics that called to me finding three old lines designed by Sandy Gervais for Moda through one of my local quilt shops, The Quilt Shop, called "Fall Back in Time", "Sweet Potato", and "Mix and Mingle". The colors coordinated perfectly and I formulated a plan to turn my blocks into a fun table runner. That table runner will be revealed later in the year.

I finally had the chance to use my new, wool pressing mat. It was time to truly test it by not using any type of sizing product. All my research suggested it should not be necessary. The two photos below demonstrate that using steam and the wool pressing mat, sizing products are not necessary. Not only was I able to press all fabric with success before cutting, it played well while sewing and pressed well (even on the bias) after piecing had been done. The pressing time compared to before had been significantly cut down with not needing the sizing product, but also due to the process working faster from the heat and steam coming back up through the mat from under the fabric working at both sides. This is one purchase I am glad to have made. 

The cut pieces for both blocks came out beautifully.

This perfect cutting helped my blocks assemble perfectly. First is the 12" block:

And the 6" block:

Make sure you head over to Jen's blog linked at the top of this post for instructions that include a how-to video for making the block. Jen's block instructions are always wonderfully written for quilters of all skill levels to follow. 

All this talk of sweet potatoes makes me hungry. Here's my go-to recipe for preparing them. It is a basic roasting roasting recipe I wrote up myself after researching many and settling on what would work for my family.

Roasted Sweet Potatoes

(serves 4-5)

3-4 medium sized sweet potatoes
2-3 tbsp. olive oil (can use virgin or extra virgin)
pink Himalayan salt (optional)

large mixing bowl
cutting mat or board
crinkle cutter or large chef knife
non-stick baking sheet or stoneware bar pan (large size for either)

Preheat oven to 425°
Bake time: 25-30 minutes

Peel and wash sweet potatoes.
Cut into 1" to 1 1/2" cubes.
Coat with olive oil in bowl and toss until even coated.
Spread evenly on baking surface.
Roast at 425° for 25-30 minutes. 
(Potatoes should be browned or even lightly blackened on sides and corner edges to show a crispy roasting has been accomplished for the exterior of each piece.)
Season with pink Himalayan salt if desired. 
Cool for a few minutes before serving.

I will roast and serve these with anything from chicken to beef to pork to venison or even fish. They are easily spruced up by adding different spices if you like. Other vegetables can be added (such as potatoes, carrots, mushrooms, onions, and more) to expand on this recipe. In our house, we generally keep this simple and to sweet potatoes only enjoying the wonderful flavor they offer. 

Make sure you head to the other bloggers pages to see what stance they took on the yam vs sweet potato conundrum. Also check out their blocks and any recipes they have shared for the month. 

Make sure to head over and visit all the sponsors for this quarter thanking them for their very generous prize contributions. We are so appreciative! Here are the prizes:

Whew! That's a lot of fun information. Thank you for joining me while I take a break from college life after work to get back on top of my quilty world. I appreciate everyone who visits and leaves a comment. Let me know what your favorite recipe for sweet potatoes is, or if you like yams better. I can honestly say that I don't think I have ever eaten them, nor am I sure if there is a local source to buy them. Do they taste like potatoes? Someone needs to let me know in the comments, please.

Keep quilting, no matter what's going on in life....take that break.


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