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You Want Me to Make Thanksgiving More... Healthy?

Had an interesting phone call today... a guest that is coming for our thanksgiving dinner has recently committed to "eating healthier and engaging in a more active lifestyle". I seriously applaud her efforts and I support her - her REAL reason in calling? Making sure that she would have somewhat healthy choices at thanksgiving dinner.

I am a creature of cultural habits, so she KNEW that I would be making some "killer" traditional Southern and Italian dishes that weren’t the most ah... healthy? I can be pretty accommodating and besides - who can’t afford to make better choices at the holidays? I really would like to fit into the dress I have picked out for a New Year’s Eve party.... So, on to better choices for holiday side dishes! I found this recipe for Spicy Sweet Potatoes & Apples and thought I would give it a try for our Thanksgiving dinner. Sweet potatoes and apples - how can you go wrong with that?

I really like the quick 15 minute prep time on this dish, because I know that on Thanksgiving we are going to be having multiple items in the oven at the same time - this will be able to slide in at any point! This vegetable dish also seems like a great alternative because the ingredients are all relatively "common" ingredients. I won’t have to send my husband on some crazy grocery store run on Thanksgiving morning to find the one unique / random ingredient that I forgot to buy because I couldn’t find it on an earlier store run. Then I ran out of time and forgot to go back to get it! Nothing like a little pressure around the holidays, right?

If you are looking for a great side dish for Thanksgiving, let me show you how easy this one is to make!

Heat the oven to 375 F. Melt 1/3 cup butter in a 13 x 9 inch baking pan in the oven. It should take about 2 to 4 minutes. I use a glass baking dish for this kind of recipe. It makes it easy to serve from and it’s easy to clean up.

Then, stir in 2 tablespoons of orange juice.

Add 1 tablespoon "stone ground" mustard. Ok, I’ll admit - when I saw "stone ground" mustard, I totally thought I was going to a specialty store. Take note - you can actually use a spicy mustard to achieve the same effect.

Then add 1 tablespoon honey.

Now, grate the peel of an orange to get orange zest. Use about 1 teaspoon of orange zest.

The last ingredients to add in are 1/4 teaspoon of salt and 1/8 to 1/4 teaspoon of ground red pepper. Mix all the ingredients together.

Next, peel 2 large sweet potatoes. Cut the sweet potatoes into 1/2-inch pieces. Then place 4 cups of the cubed sweet potatoes into the baking dish.
The recipe says you can use sweet potatoes or yams. This is quite a controversy in our house - Is there a really a difference? Apparently so. I liked this recipe because I can use either –It depends, sometimes you just want to use one or the other, sweet potatoes or yams. If someone in the house accidentally gets the wrong one…no harm! Thanksgiving is still safe and this isn’t the cause of a family "incident." I must confess I can’t tell the difference between a sweet potato and a yam unless there is a sign posted by the aisles in the grocery store. There. I said it.

Ok, therapy session over - back to cooking! Evenly mix the butter mixture to coat the sweet potatoes.

Cover the pan with aluminum foil and bake for 25 to 35 minutes or until the sweet potatoes are tender when you place a fork into them.

When the sweet potatoes are ready, stir in the pecans. I have to warn you – the sweet potatoes smell amazing when you remove the foil! I gladly "checked" them to see if they were fork-tender! I made sure I left some for the rest of the recipe - it gets even better!

Then add 2 cups apples that have been cut into 1-inch cubes.

Stir to evenly coat the apples, pecans and sweet potatoes.

Place the baking dish into the oven and continue baking uncovered for 15 to 20 minutes. Don’t forget to stir once during that time! I baked these for around 18 minutes - the apples were tender at this point.

The recipe calls for chopped parsley. You can add it, but we felt it was fine without it.

Here is the dish ready to be served up for Thanksgiving dinner!

There is a certain level of craziness that people go through around the holidays. But, family is family - the most important thing is that we are all together. If I can change one part of our holiday traditions it would be to make the holiday more special for another family member, I’m all for it! However, that being said - when dessert arrives.... she’s on her own!

Give these Spicy Sweet Potatoes & Apples a try for a new holiday side dish, and make sure to come back and rate and review the recipe.

In a few days Emily will share a dessert idea that would be perfect for Thanksgiving.

Alex is paid to write for the Land O’Lakes Recipe Buzz® Blog.


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I started to eat healthy about 10 years ago. About 5 years ago we all went Gluten Free. It has done wonders for our health! Lowered my Blood Pressure and meds. Some I don't even need to take!
Holidays we pick and choose on what well put on the table. Christmas is my Birthday, my Mom always made me cheesecake for my birthday, since she has passed we carry on the tradition for the kids. The cheesecake is from Grandma this is the only GF unhealthy full fat thing we cheat with. We do this only once a year. Thanks Mom if you did not hand off the recipe before you died I would not be able to make it. It's not just a run of the mill cheesecake. It's on a ladyfinger crust and about 5 inches thick! Topped with strawberries and white chocolate!

Posted Nov 18 2013 by Ann

That girl that called up is rude! She should enjoy the day and just eat what she knows is healthy!

Posted Nov 20 2011 by Hester

i enjoyed reading this recpit .it sounds good i would like to try it .

Posted Nov 19 2011 by Rosemary K.

Although my sweet potato dish looks very different. it is similar. I layer chunky applesauce then rounds of cooked sweet potatoes and I top it off with whole cranberry sauce mixed with apricot and marmalade and bake till thoroughly heated. I get rave reviews and I can make it ahead. It does not use butter but you could melt butter and cinnamon in a separate dish and dip the potato slices in the butter then add to top of apples for more flavor.

Posted Nov 18 2011 by Pascali B.

Love Alex's comments, This looks good . I might try fresh or dried cranberries with it.
Joan T

Posted Nov 18 2011 by Joan T.

Looks so yummy! Haha I would love to try :)

Posted Nov 17 2011 by Missy McDonald

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