Holiday sides explored

Published 4:06 pm Wednesday, November 7, 2007

By Staff
When thinking about holidays, I've come to the conclusion that Thanksgiving is my favorite of all the holidays.
I've said this before and even after all these years, I still believe it's my favorite. The main reason for my feelings on the holiday is because there is nothing else attached to it.
You don't have to buy gifts for everyone at Thanksgiving. There are no dyed eggs, no Easter baskets, no Valentines for every kid you've ever known, no trick-or-treat candy to buy and no costumes to make or construct.
Thanksgiving is simply a time to gather friends and family together for a good meal and a time for giving thanks.
I'm thankful for many things, but one of the things I'm most thankful for is my family. One of the ways I express those thanks is to prepare a meal filled with the foods they enjoy. The holiday gives me an opportunity to prepare dishes that I normally prepare only once in a year.
This week's recipes are ones that are great for the holidays - especially Thanksgiving.
Depending upon your choice of ham or turkey for the big meal could be a determining factor for what side dishes you prepare along with the main course.
If I'm serving turkey - which I always do at Thanksgiving - it is necessary to prepare dressing and dumplings. Other dishes are pretty interchangeable. If ham is the main course, then you have to have sweet potatoes.
After taking a brief poll among co-workers, it was decided that sweet potatoes is the side dish of choice regardless of the main course planned. Since that happens to be the case, I've decided to fill this space with recipes using sweet potatoes.
Everyone has their favorite way of enjoying sweet potatoes. I enjoy sweet potatoes in many ways, but I think my favorite is simply to bake them and drown them in butter. However, for the holiday meal it requires a little more work than throwing them in the oven.
Our sports editor, Adam, says he likes the orange stuff, which is the sweet potato casserole we're talking about first here. He likes the kind with the pecan topping. Lydia seems to think that's her favorite as well. I like the pecan topping more than the marshmallow topping and I have a great recipe for this dish. I hope you like it as much as we do. This one is so good it could be served for dessert!
If you don't want to take the time to bake your sweet potatoes for this recipe, canned sweet potatoes work just as well. Be sure to drain as much of the syrup from the canned potatoes as you possibly can, otherwise the casserole will be too moist. Canned sweet potatoes can be substituted for fresh ones in any of the recipes printed here.
Sweet Potato Casserole
3 cups cooked and mashed sweet potatoes
1 cup white sugar
1/2 cup butter
1/3 cup evaporated milk
2 eggs, beaten
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/3 cup butter, melted
1 cup chopped pecans
1 cup packed light brown sugar
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
Mix together sweet potatoes, white sugar, 1/2 cup butter or margarine, milk, eggs, and vanilla. Spread into a greased 9 x 13 inch baking dish. Mix together 1/3 cup melted butter or margarine, pecans, brown sugar, and flour. Spoon on top of sweet potato mixture. Bake at 350 degrees for 25 to 30 minutes.
If you're looking for a different way to prepare sweet potatoes, this next recipe is sure to be a hit - even with the children in your family.
Sweet Potato Puffs
1 cup mashed sweet potatoes
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon cinnamon
6 large marshmallows
1/3 cup graham cracker crumbs
Combine sweet potato, brown sugar, salt and cinnamon; shape a small amount around each marshmallow. Roll in crumbs. Place on a greased baking sheet. Bake at 350 degree for 6 minutes or until lightly puffed (do not overbake or marshmallows will melt).
Finally, if you're not into all that extra stuff mixed in with your sweet potatoes, you may want to go with something fairly simple like candied yams. It's not something I prepare much anymore, but they are tasty if you give them the attention they deserve.
Candied Yams
2 sweet potatoes
1/4 cup butter
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/4 cup orange juice
Boil cut-up sweet potatoes or bake at 350 degrees whole sweet potatoes until tender. In a frying pan, melt the butter and brown sugar together until bubbly. Add the orange juice and stir until smooth. Add the cut-up sweet potatoes and cook slowly, turning occasionally until the sweet potatoes are caramelized, about 20 minutes. If syrup is too thin, add a little more brown sugar.
I hope this helps you get an idea or two for preparing side dishes for your Thanksgiving meal. If you have a dish that you love and would like to share with readers of this column, I'd love to hear from you. I'll give you credit for sharing your recipes. Give me a call at 867-4876 or send them by email to
My plan is continue with recipes that would be great side dishes for your Thanksgiving table. Next week, I hope to pass along some vegetable recipes that include broccoli and asparagus. Don't forget to send in your ideas.
Until then, Happy Cooking!