Potatoes. Make mine sweet.

Aside from the turkey and dressing (we'll get to those in a couple of days), nothing quite says Thanksgiving like sweet potatoes. Don't get me wrong, we eat sweet potatoes at least once a week throughout the year; they just aren't sweet sweet potatoes.

Sweet Potato Casserole is a treat we reserve for Thanksgiving or Christmas. The creamy sweet potatoes are covered with a wonderful, slightly crunchy coconut pecan topping. (In the picture above it's right in the middle next to the green beans; we failed to get an individual shot before it hit the table.) This casserole really should be considered a dessert, and it probably has more calories and sugar per serving than pumpkin pie. Nonetheless, it's a served as a side dish on our table. There are many versions of this recipe, all varying slightly in the amount of sugar or number of eggs. I think this one started out from Southern Living, and we've made a few changes over the years.

Sweet Potato Casserole

3 cups cooked, mashed sweet potatoes
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 milk
1/3 cup melted butter
1 tsp vanilla extract (please use the real stuff, not imitation)
2 eggs, beaten
ground cinnamon

Mix well. Spoon into greased 9"x13" baking dish. Sprinkle generously with cinnamon.

1 cup shredded coconut
1 cup brown sugar
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
1/3 cup butter, softened
1/2 to 1 cup chopped pecans

In medium bowl, mix together until butter is evenly incorporated. Sprinkle over sweet potato mixture.

Bake at 375 for 25 minutes or until topping is golden.

There really is a lot of room to play with this recipe. We use a 9"x13" dish, but if you want a thick layer of sweet potatoes and a really thick layer of the topping, use a smaller dish. Generally, we only use half of the topping if we use a smaller pan because 1) it doesn't fit and 2) it's just too much sweet on top (I really just said that...). The leftover topping is great over ice cream and works well as a kind of streusel topping (Just slice some pears or apples, throw them in a pan sprayed with nonstick cooking spray and top them with as much of this yummy stuff as desired. Bake in a 350 oven until the fruit is tender, about 20-30 minutes depending on how much you're cooking.).

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