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My Thanksgiving Family and Sweet Potato Casserole

November 15, 2010

I haven’t been “home” for Thanksgiving for the past 5 years, yet I can say I haven’t spent a single Turkey Day without “family”.  While it may be the unconventional kind that is so often created in the military community, it is family nonetheless.  This year will be the fourth year in a row we’ve celebrated with the same three fellow military families and I cannot properly express how dear they all are to my husband and I.    In years past part of me has been sad that I wasn’t back East, and now I’m sad knowing I won’t be able to celebrate next year with these people who have become my family.  I truly cherish the memories we have created as a group and they are just another reason I will be thankful this Thanksgiving.

Now that I’ve made myself all weepie, I will try to focus on the other great part of Thanksgiving: FOOD!  This week I will share recipes that help put a healthier spin on holiday classics.  Don’t worry!  Healthier does not mean boring, I promise!  Sadly I may not have many pictures to share this week, but I will do  my best.

I’ve decided to start out strong and share my absolute favorite Thanksgiving side dish: sweet potatoes!  These are not the canned ones you may remember from growing up and I can assure you the naturally sweet vegetable is incredibly delicious.  (Topped with mini marshmallows, they get even better.)  This is the recipe I use every year and I cannot wait to make it next week.

Sweet Potato Casserole
Yields: 16 Servings

2 1/2 pounds sweet potatoes peeled and cut into 1-inch cubes
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
1/4 cup butter softened
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup finely chopped pecans divided
Cooking spray
2 cups miniature marshmallows

1. Preheat oven to 375°.
2. Place the sweet potatoes in a Dutch oven, and cover with cold water. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat, and simmer for 15 minutes or until very tender. Drain; cool slightly.
3. Place potatoes in a large bowl. Add sugar and next 3 ingredients (through vanilla). Mash sweet potato mixture with a potato masher. Fold in 1/4 cup pecans. Scrape potato mixture into an even layer in an 11 x 7-inch baking dish coated with cooking spray. Sprinkle with remaining 1/4 cup pecans; top with marshmallows. Bake at 375° for 25 minutes or until golden.

Kate’s Thoughts:

Be sure to cut the sweet potatoes in small enough pieces to aid the cooking process.  The smaller the pieces, the faster they will cook, saving you time and making it easier to mash.

This casserole can be prepared ahead of time which is ideal on busy days like Thanksgiving.  Prepare the sweet potatoes until the point they are ready to be baked and refrigerate your baking dish overnight.  You can either remove the casserole from the refrigerator 45-60 minutes prior to cooking or extend the cooking time to 30-35 minutes.  They cane cook while your turkey is resting and being carved.  Enjoy!

The good news?  Only 180 calories per serving and they taste even better as leftovers!

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