Candied Sweet Potatoes

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Want your sweet potatoes to be even sweeter? Candied yams may be just what the doctor ordered.

Sweet potatoes were a popular food from early on. Columbus saw natives eating sweet potatoes when he landed in what is now Haiti in 1492. They were also found in America in the mid 1500’s and were abundant in Southern Europe around this time.

From there, explorers brought sweet potatoes to the Philippines, China and Africa.

No one is exactly sure when the first candied sweet potato recipe came into being. This was especially confusing considering all potatoes were simply called ‘potatoes’ without there being a distinction between sweet or baked. However, it has been determined the dish is American in origin and likely was first published in the late 1800’s or early 1900’s.

The idea for the recipe may have been born from a movement encouraging making marshmallows and other types of candy an ingredient in every day dishes. In 1917, Janet McKenzie Hill, founder of the Boston Cooking School Magazine was asked to create a booklet featuring recipes that incorporated candy. This is the first written evidence of the candied sweet potato recipe in existence.

From there, the dish became popular in the southern United States where its sweet taste is ideal for that market.

And while marshmallows are often used in candied sweet potatoes, the two ingredients are not married. The potatoes can also be topped with nuts, herbs, granola, bread crumbs, parmesan cheese, cornbread of nothing at all. More savory options include chestnuts, crumbled bacon, lemon juice, orange zest, garlic, dried fruit, mushrooms or chipotle chili.

This candied sweet potato recipe is a must have at every holiday meal. A thick, rich brown sugar and maple syrup mixture surrounds sweet potatoes in this easy to make casserole.

You can serve it hot out of the oven without topping or you can top it with marshmallows if you’re a fan of that version; people seem to have a love/hate relationship with the marshmallow topping on their sweet potatoes. The original recipe from our family’s holiday menu doesn’t include marshmallows, but it’s been included for those who love it.

So, whether you serve your sweet potatoes with or without marshmallows, one thing is for sure, you will love this tasty side no matter what meal you are eating it with.

Ingredients:

1 can (40 ounces) sweet potatoes, drained and cut into 1-inch pieces
2 Tablespoons butter, melted
1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar, divided
1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
1 tablespoon maple syrup
2 cups miniature marshmallows (optional topping)

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Place the sweet potato pieces into a lightly buttered 2 quart baking dish.

2. Mix the remaining ingredients and pour evenly over the sweet potatoes.

3. Bake 40 minutes, stirring halfway through cooking time.

4. If you are using the miniature marshmallows as topping, remove the casserole from oven and stir gently to coat potatoes in syrup; then top with the marshmallows Bake, uncovered, additional 7 to 10 minutes or until the marshmallows are golden brown.

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