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Pass the sweet potatoes, please

I was always asked to bring candied sweet potatoes to the Thanksgiving table, but I must admit if someone was only interested in eating healthful fare, they would have snubbed my version.

They were so candied they were almost translucent and the sauce was sticky, caramelized sugar, maple syrup, a bit of molasses, sliced oranges with whole cloves stuck in them, melted marshmallows and generally a diabetic’s nightmare! But oh, so good! I still love super-candied yams or sweet potatoes.

Technically, I don’t think we have any true yams in our markets, as all the varieties we see are sweet potatoes. (But I suppose a specialty market might have the rare true yam available if you look hard enough.)

Anyway, I thought I would round up some sweet potato recipes for you to look over. You might already have a family favorite, but just in case you’re looking for something different, here you go!

Candied sweet potatoes Adapted from a recipe by Emeril Lagasse.

8 large sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 8ths 3 1/2 cups dark brown sugar 1 cup water 1 cup orange juice 1 teaspoon vanilla 2 teaspoons orange zest 1 teaspoon cinnamon 1/2 teaspoon salt 1/2 cup bourbon (I once used Kahlua and liked it) 1 stick butter, cut into pieces

  1. Preheat oven to 375. In a large heavy pot, combine the sweet potatoes, sugar, water, orange juice, vanilla, orange zest, cinnamon and salt. Over high heat, bring mixture to a simmer, lower the heat, cover and cook, stirring occasionally, about 20 minutes or until the potatoes are tender but not mushy. Strain the potatoes and place in a greased casserole dish. Return sauce to the pot.

  2. Add bourbon to the sauce and continue to cook another 15 to 20 minutes, or until the syrup has thickened. Pour the syrup over the potatoes and place casserole dish in the oven. Bake until the sweet potatoes are browned, about 10 to 15 minutes. Remove from heat and add butter, stirring gently so the butter blends well with the sauce. Serve immediately.

Sweet potato salad with orange maple dressing

Dressing: 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil 2 tablespoons pure maple syrup 2 tablespoons orange juice 2 tablespoons sherry wine vinegar or balsamic vinegar 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice 2 teaspoons peeled, minced fresh ginger 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Salad: 6 pounds sweet potatoes (raw), peeled and cut into 3/4-inch cubes 1 cup chopped green onions 1 cup chopped fresh parsley 1 cup pecans, toasted and coarsely chopped 1/2 cup golden raisins 1/2 cup regular raisins Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

  1. For dressing: In a small bowl, whisk all ingredients together. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

  2. For salad: Steam sweet potato cubes in batches until potatoes are just tender. This will take about 10 minutes per batch. Transfer to a large bowl and cool to room temperature.

  3. Add green onions, parsley, pecans and both types of raisins. Pour dressing over and toss gently to mix well. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Can be made 2 hours ahead. Let stand at room temperature.

Sweet potato and bacon biscuits 2 cups flour 2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder 1/2 teaspoon baking soda 1/2 teaspoon salt 1 stick cold, unsalted butter, cut into pieces 1 cup cooked, mashed sweet potatoes, cooled 2 tablespoons packed light brown sugar 5 slices crisp-cooked bacon, drained and crumbled 3/4 to 1 cup buttermilk

  1. Preheat oven to 425. Lightly grease a large baking sheet. In a mixing bowl, add flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt; blend well. With a pastry blender (or use your fingers), cut in the cold butter until coarse crumbs form.

  2. In another mixing bowl, whip the sweet potatoes with the brown sugar until mixture is smooth. Add to the dry mixture and with your hands, mix together thoroughly. Add 3/4 cup of the buttermilk and the crumbled bacon and gently work to make a smooth dough. It should be slightly sticky. If necessary, add more buttermilk 1 teaspoon at a time until you reach the right consistency.

  3. Turn dough out on a lightly floured surface and pat out into a rectangle that measures about 1/2-inch thick. With a biscuit cutter, cut out 10 biscuits and place on prepared baking sheet. Bake in preheated oven for 15 to 18 minutes, or until the biscuits have risen and turned a golden brown color. Remove from oven and serve hot with butter. Makes about 10 biscuits. (I use scraps left over from using cutter for even more, but be careful not to overwork or add too much extra flour.)

Sweet potato cheesecake This recipe comes from a Mississippi Sweet Potato Festival back in 1994.

Crust: 1 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs 1/4 cup sugar 1/3 cup butter, melted

Cheesecake: 3 packages (8-oz. each) cream cheese, softened 1 cup sugar 1/4 cup light brown sugar 1 3/4 cup cooked, mashed sweet potatoes 2 eggs 2/3 cup evaporated milk (do not dilute) 2 tablespoons cornstarch 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon 1/8 teaspoon nutmeg Topping: 2 cups sour cream 1/3 cup sugar 1 teaspoon vanilla

  1. For the crust: Preheat oven to 350. Combine crumbs, sugar and butter in a bowl. Press on bottom and 1 inch up sides of a 9-inch spring form pan. Bake in preheated oven for 6 to 8 minutes. Do not allow crust to brown. Remove from oven and cool.

  2. For cheesecake: In a large bowl, beat cream cheese, sugar and brown sugar. Beat in sweet potatoes, eggs and milk, then add cornstarch, cinnamon and nutmeg. Beat well and pour mixture into prepared crust. Bake in preheated oven for 55 to 60 minutes or until cheesecake sets.

  3. For topping: In a medium bowl, combine sour cream, sugar and vanilla. Spread mixture over warm cheesecake. Return to oven and bake for 5 minutes. Cool on wire rack, then remove sides of springform pan. Chill several hours or overnight.

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