Canned yams. That's what my mom cooked for Thanksgiving. Or opened, or whatever you do with them. Year after year, they committed culinary crimes on our Thanksgiving table--with their usual 1970s accomplices-- Cool Whip, canned pineapple, and Jell-O. As good a cook as she was, she didn't know what to do with sweet potatoes. I feared them.
Fast forward to now, where sweet potatoes are available, fresh, at every grocery store. They're delicious cooked so many different ways. I never in a million years would have predicted that sweet potato fries would be a thing, but I'm so glad they are. It's one more thing to be thankful for this Thursday.
This is it! Thanksgiving week. If you’re hosting the party you already have your menu planned. Your table is set, you’ve got a turkey thawing in the refrigerator, sweet potatoes and white potatoes in the cabinet, a detailed plan to balance oven space and cooling time, a seating chart to separate the different political breeds, and a perfectly calibrated astrological chart to determine at precisely what time your meal should start…
Okay, just joking. If you’re hosting Thanksgiving, good for you! I’m sure you’ll have a lovely time. Just take a deep breath and remember to enjoy your party. If you’re showing up at someone else’s house, and perhaps bringing a dish or two, I’m sure you’ll have a lovely time also. Just remember to enjoy the party. And help with the dishes
At Thanksgiving I feel like I'm on the top of the holiday roller coaster. I enjoy roller coasters, so it’s all good from here, but boy does it go by fast. People approach holidays the way they approach rides--some grip tightly and close their eyes, waiting for it all to be over, while others let go, take a good look around and enjoy the ride.
Another way the holiday season is like a roller coaster is that you're starting out at the top of the calorie-mometer (I just made that up, but I like it). The rest of the holiday season is full of calories too, so be prepared. I’ve heard that the average American gains ten pounds over the holidays. I've always believed it—let's just say that I need to wear certain jeans by the end of December. I decided to research this little tidbit, to find out if the number might actually be higher, and I was surprised with what I found. According to WebMd, the average American gains an average of… (drumroll please) one to two pounds over the holiday season. Really? That’s it? Well, that’s the average American. I am above average, after all. Apparently it takes approximately 3,500 calories to gain a pound. So I will have gained about seven pounds after my Thanksgiving meal alone, according to my calculations...
Thanksgiving is not the holiday to start a diet. Or to try to use non-fat sour cream, or imitation whatever to cut the calories. Just make the real deal. It’s one meal, and every single dish on the table is a spectacular creation packed with so much flavor, memories, and love, that you don’t want to shortchange anyone’s hopes by presenting them with a shadowy doppelganger of their favorite dish.
Learn from my mistakes—I’ve done that. I’ve make plain roasted vegetables or a simple salad, only to have people look at my dish as if it were an alien thing, usurping the rightful spot of a truly fantastic calorie bomb. Those simple “healthy” dishes miss the mark somehow. As much as people say they want to be healthy—and they really do, honestly—they just don’t want to do it on Thanksgiving. Thanksgiving is all about the food, so give them real food. If someone is truly watching their weight, they will take smaller portions, but each bite will count.
Basically, this sweet potato dish is like a sweet potato pie. It is sweet. SWEET! So if you like your sweet potatoes savory, with perhaps a dash of salt and pepper, this may not be the dish for you! It’s a sugar/fat/flavor party. My husband and children all liked it just as it was. So that's how I'm presenting it. If you would like to reduce the sugar, especially in the body of the sweet potatoes, that would work. For some reason, sweet, creamy dishes go well with turkey, probably because they have to have some flavor muscle to compete with the others.
Here's a friendly reminder--don’t forget to thaw your turkey. At 24 hours for each 4-5 pounds of turkey, if you have a 12-15 pound bird, it should be in your refrigerator already. If it isn’t, don’t panic, just put it in the fridge. The top of the fridge is a bit warmer than the bottom, so if you’re looking for a quicker thaw, put it higher up. If you rotate it, it will thaw more evenly.
Whether you make these sweet potatoes or Great Aunt Edna's canned yams with marmalade (I shudder at the thought), have a wonderful Thanksgiving!
Oh So Sweet Potatoes
5 Sweet potatoes
2 Eggs, beaten
4 Tbsp. butter, melted
½ Cup brown sugar
½ tsp. cinnamon
½ tsp. vanilla extract
½ tsp. cinnamon
¼ Cup brown sugar
½ Cup pecans, chopped
2 Tbsp. butter, chopped
Preheat oven to 375˚
Scrub sweet potatoes. Pierce with a knife or fork, wrap in foil, and bake for 1 hour, or until very soft.
Reduce oven to 325
Spray casserole dish (app. 13 x 9).
Take sweet potatoes out of oven and scoop cooked sweet potato out of skin. Place in large bowl. Add beaten eggs, melted butter, brown sugar, cinnamon, vanilla extract, and a dash of salt. Mix well. Transfer to greased casserole dish, smoothing the top.
Distribute the following evenly across the top: pecans, ½ tsp. of cinnamon (or just sprinkle it evenly from the bottle), ¼ cup of brown sugar, chopped butter.
Bake at 325˚ for one hour. Remove and check for doneness.
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