Sunday, November 15, 2009

Let the holiday cooking begin: Sweet Potato Casserole

As soon as my birthday rolls by in September, my mind immediately turns to the food extravaganza that is the Holiday Season. Sure, Christmas is great and Halloween is fun. (It finally dawned on me this year that Halloween, in its current over-commercialzed form, must have been created as an excuse for adults to gorge guilt-free on the subsequent kid-collected haul. Brilliant!) However, my favorite part of the Holiday Season (yes it's capitalized - it is that important) is the food, which is why Thanksgiving is my knock-down-drag-out favorite holiday of the year.

When I was in the Navy and stationed in Hawaii, my friends and I would take turns hosting Thanksgiving at our homes. Every year provided a new logistical challenge, as our quaint (read: tiny) military housing became increasingly cramped as we tried to pack in our growing broods. Still, we didn't care - after all, the holidays are about the closeness of family right? We were a family, and we loved sharing our favorite stories, jokes and dishes with each other.

Now that we've moved to Virginia, we have new Thanksgiving traditions. Every year, we drive out to share Thanksgiving dinner with my husband's family, then drive home so that I can prepare my own turkey the next day (otherwise, we wouldn't have Thanksgiving leftovers! The horror!).

Every year, even though no one seems to eat it but me, I prepare Sweet Potato Casserole. My grandmother taught me how to make it when I was very young; I've been making it for so long that I can't remember a Thanksgiving or Christmas when I haven't had it on the table.

It's not the Sweet Potato Casserole that has been buried under a mountain of marshmallows. This is a more traditional Southern version with an amazing brown sugar-pecan topping. I plan on making this in the next day or two, you know, just for quality assurance purposes in advance of Thanksgiving. I posted this recipe on Facebook the other day for a friend in need (I hope it turns out ok for her!), so I thought I might post it up here. If I'm sharing the love with my family at the Thanksgiving table, I might as well share the love online too!

Sweet Potato Casserole
Courtesy of Grandma Edna, who always called it "Sweet Potato Souffle"

3 cups cooked/mashed sweet potatoes
¼ cup granulated sugar
¾ cup light brown sugar
1/3 cup milk
½ stick butter, melted (DO NOT use margarine!)
½ tsp salt
2 tsp vanilla extract
¼ tsp pumpkin pie spice (or a mix of cinnamon, ginger and nutmeg)

1 cup light brown sugar
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup chopped pecans
½ stick butter, melted (again, DO NOT use margarine!)
sprinkle pumpkin pie spice (optional)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Spray baking dish with Pam or other non-stick spray (I prefer the butter flavored one!).

Mix first eight (8) ingredients and pour into a 9"x13"x2" baking dish. Mix remaining ingredients in separate bowl and crumble over top of sweet potato mixture.

Bake at 350 for 30 minutes or until bubbles appear around the edges. Serve warm and enjoy!

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