Look to the Side

Sweet Potatoes. Yams. I’m still hazy on the differences. All I know, and what counts the most, is that my kids both love them and they happen to be the most nutritious vegetable on the planet. Super score on that one. That’s the gods way of saying “We know you deal with clothes battles and homework battles and sibling battles quite a few days of the year…we’re throwing you a bone with this one.”

Yes, Thanksgiving is about Giving Thanks. And thanking those moxie-brimming Pilgrims for their sacrifices and their tenacity. And for America. And for our families, our homes and every little thing that we have to be grateful for in our lives.

And Thanksgiving dinner is about the sides. When else do we ever concentrate more on what we are serving along side the main event? Usually we are just thinking a starch and a veggie and let’s call it a day. But nooo-ho-ho…not on Thanksgiving. Yes, we love the turkey (I almost like the post-Thanksgiving turkey manifestations better) but the sides bring the house down and have you piling your plate sky high.

There’s the sweet potato vs. mashed potato debate (sweet for me).

There’s the canned cranberry jelly vs. the whole berry compote (whole berry for me. Honestly, the SOUND of that jelly slipping out of the can with that suctioned “foomph” just grosses me out. Add to that it comes out of the can shaped exactly like the can. No sale. One year to be a good hostess, though, I did serve it for some of my guests who I know prefer it. The only way I could muster that was if I used cookie cutters and made it into little shapes. Maple leaves. My concession. Cue husband rolling eyes. Guests were happy. Downside was that it made our table look Canadian, with these reddish maple leaves on every plate).

There’s the stuffing-in-the-bird vs. stuffing-in-a-casserole-dish debate (out of bird here. Sticking my hand in that bird is bad enough. Don’t want to have to rifle around in there a second time for something as delish as the stuffing).

You know, I have never once in my life had that green bean casserole thing that is advertised with great vigor each and every year…you know, the one with the little onions scattered on top that seems to have held a spot on most folk’s list since the 70s. How did that recipe even survive? Is it really that good? I do remember snacking on those onion crunchy things when I was a kid. And how exactly did THAT even happen…here kid, have some ONIONS to snack on. What child will happily reach for an onion product? That’s some serious marketing genius at work there.

Being the sweet potato girl that I am, I have found a great recipe that has graced our table now for a few years. I will warn you, they look a little funky. Kind of fun, kind of funky. Haven’t decided yet. BUT, they are rather tasty, if I say so myself. If you also love coconut (like me) then this is for you. Yes, there is a marshmallow present and this recipe could almost be considered a dessert, but heck, it’s a holiday. Live a little. Mashed potatoes be damned.

Sweet Potato Balls, courtesy of Paula Deen

4 large sweet potatoes
2/3 cup packed brown sugar
2 Tb. orange juice
1 tsp. orange zest
1/2 tsp. grated nutmeg
2 cups shredded coconut, sweetened
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1 large marshmallow per potato ball

Preheat oven to 350.

Bake the potatoes (in oven or microwave) until tender, then peel and mash them. Stir in brown sugar, orange juice, zest and nutmeg. In a separate bowl, toss the coconut with the sugar and cinnamon. Press mashed potatoes around each marshmallow, creating a 2-3 inch diameter ball. Roll the balls in the coconut mixture. Bake for 15-20 minutes. WATCH CAREFULLY during the last few minutes of cooking. The expanding marshmallows can cause the ball to burst open.

3 thoughts on “Look to the Side

  1. yes to sweet potatoes… NO to cranberry sauce AND jelly~ jelly grosses me out too, and for the past 16 yrs, I’ve had the vision/memory of my oldest nephew (now 19) taking his first spoonful of cranberry sauce- and it promptly coming back up- all over the the Thanksgiving table. Nope… can’t do cranberry sauce either!! And that green bean casserole- never had it either- what IS that all about? A loves sweet potatoes/yams…. C needs some convincing- these sweet potato balls might be just the thing!!

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