Oh, you’re going to love this! This hearty casserole made with sweet potatoes, apples, cranberries, bacon, and pecans is the ultimate side dish for Thanksgiving, guaranteed to win everyone’s heart around the holiday table. It’s also stellar as a rib-sticking breakfast. Since it freezes well, I recommend that you make a double batch and tuck some away for Christmas, when things are wild and crazy and time is of the essence.
This will be the dish you are requested to bring to every function you attend, September through February. And not in that polite way: “Oh, Aunt Susie…we’re so glad (cough cough) you’re bringing your famous corn and oysters to Thanksgiving again this year”.
See how short this recipe is? It’s not one of my typical three-page-marathon recipes. You’ve just got to give it a whirl! This dish can be changed to suit your preferences, of course. Double the cranberries, omit the bacon (or try ham), substitute maple sugar for brown sugar, or walnuts for pecans.
If you plan on making this ahead and freezing it, it’s best to do so right after it’s put in the casserole dish, not after it’s baked. Be sure to bake it for at least an hour if your casserole is going straight from the freezer to the oven, and test to make sure the veggies are hot and fork tender.
½ cup coarsely chopped raw cranberries (frozen berries are fine, too)
4 pieces of bacon, cooked and broken into small pieces (optional)
⅓ cup brown sugar, packed firmly
¼ teaspoon cinnamon
1 cup miniature marshmallows (optional)
Heat oven to 350 F.
Peel sweet potatoes and cut into bite-size pieces. Place in medium saucepan and cover with water. Bring to a full boil and cook for 1 minute. Drain well.
Peel and core apples. Cut into bite-size pieces.
Place sweet potatoes and apples in a large bowl. Add melted butter and toss to coat.
Add all remaining ingredients except for the marshmallows and toss.
Place in a lightly greased 2½-quart casserole dish, leaving at least ½-inch of space at the top. If you don't have that size, the mixture can be pressed firmly into a 2-quart dish, (any extra can be put in a "bonus" ramekin) or a 3-quart casserole can be used, but it may not need as long in the oven.
Bake uncovered for 40 minutes. (30 if you are using a 3-quart casserole)
Remove from oven, fluff lightly with a fork, and cover with marshmallows. Return to oven and cook for 10–12 minutes, or until marshmallows are golden brown.
Here are some of the ingredients. I always use what the grocery stores call “yams” (they’re not, really), with the orange flesh. They really are sweet potatoes, but I believe they are more flavorful than the pale sweet potatoes. Your choice!
The pig wouldn’t cooperate and stay on the table, but bacon (or ham) really jazz up this dish.
Peel and chunk the sweet potatoes. (I know, I know…call them “yams” if you must!)
Cover with water, bring to a boil, and cook for 1 minute.
Cut apples (whatever kind you like) into bite size pieces.
If you’re doubling the recipe, use a HUGE bowl for the following step:
Toss apples and cooked potatoes in melted butter. Add cranberries and nuts…and everything else except the marshmallows.
In the recipe I mentioned the different options for casserole dishes. A 2 1/2-quart dish is your best bet. I squeezed mine into a very deep pie pan (because it was so pretty) which was fine, but with less headspace, I couldn’t get too carried away with the marshmallows. Boo!
I used a deep pie pan.
Using a 3-quart casserole means you’ll need to cut the baking time down to 30 minutes, since the ingredients are more spread out. The upside is, you can go crazy with the marshmallows!
In a 3-quart casserole.
If you really want to get fancy, and no—I haven’t tried this yet—spoon the mixture into lightly greased ramekins and let each person have their own mini-casserole.
If there ARE any leftovers, they won’t get pushed to the back of the refrigerator with the dressing and green bean casserole (and those nasty corn and oysters), I promise!
Delicate maple leaf wafers are perfect for decorating your favorite fall desserts, or, of course, for eating—one after another after another. They’re light and crispy, like the thinnest of potato chips, but the sweet maple flavor of these dainty cookies is even more addictive. (Bet you can’t eat just one!) Jazz them up with fall colors if you’d like, or leave them golden brown. Either way, these treats are quick, easy, and fun to make!
Crunchy brown leaves bursting with maple flavor.
You will need either silicone baking sheets or parchment to bake the cookies on. Trust me on this! I was resistant to both for years, but have now fully embraced their usefulness. There are several ways you can make these leaves, and I’ll show you all of them, but my favorite method involves a stencil (I made my own by sacrificing a silicone sheet and cutting leaf shapes into it), parchment, and a broad pastry brush.
The photo below shows my stencil option on the top, and a simple printed template with parchment over it on the bottom. Both methods work, but the stencil definitely makes things go faster!
Two options: A stencil over the parchment or a template under the parchment. (For the template you would paint inside the lines, directly onto the parchment.)
If you are making brown leaves, the maple flavoring will be added to the bowl along with the melted butter. If you are making colored leaves, separate the batter into small bowls (how many will depend on what colors you want to use). In one of the bowls, stir enough maple flavoring into the batter to achieve a rich brown color. Stir food coloring into the others.
This is pretty obvious, I guess, but it doesn’t hurt to mention: the colored leaves won’t taste like maple! If you add maple flavoring to the bright colors, they will turn muddy. And nobody wants THAT, so…if you want your leaves to taste like maple, you’ll need to use more brown batter in each leaf.
The leaves can be baked either on a silicone baking sheet or on parchment. I prefer parchment because the silicone sheet leaves a shiny, slightly bumpy texture on one side of each leaf. If you don’t mind that, the silicone sheets work really well. The parchment does tend to wrinkle slightly, giving some of the leaves a rippled effect, but I kind of like the look—like a soggy autumn leaf. And, having grown up in the Pacific Northwest, I remember a lot more soggy leaves than dry ones!
I brush the batter over the leaf shapes. Thin is best; they come out crispier, and can be beautifully lacy. But…they are also more fragile. Plan on losing a few. I think you’ll know what to do with the broken ones, right? Here’s a lovely brown leaf ready to go in the oven.
Thinly brushed batter will result in a delicate, lacy wafer.
I’ll give you the recipe (oh, so easy) and then show you some fun options.
Makes between 4 and 5 dozen wafer cookies, depending on thickness. You will need either a maple leaf stencil to go over the parchment (easily made by tracing a maple leaf cookie cutter onto a silicone sheet or cardboard and cutting shapes out with a craft blade) or a maple leaf template to slide under the parchment.
¼ cup butter
3 egg whites
½ cup superfine sugar (or for more maple kick, use fine maple sugar!)
½ cup plus 1 tablespoon flour
1 tablespoon heavy cream OR thick (Bulgarian style) buttermilk
½ - 1 teaspoon maple flavoring (like Mapleine) if making brown leaves. If making colored leaves, maple flavoring will be added to a small portion of batter. See instructions below.
Heat oven to 375 F. Cover two baking sheets with parchment or silicone baking sheets.
In the microwave or in a small pan on low heat, melt butter. Set aside to cool slightly.
In a medium bowl, beat egg whites and sugar together until foamy.
Add flour and cream. Beat until smooth.
Add butter and (if you are making brown leaves) maple flavoring. Beat on low until well mixed.
If you wish to make colored leaves, separate batter into small bowls and add maple flavoring to one of the bowls until you get a rich brown color. Add food coloring of your choice to the others.
If you are using a stencil, lay stencil on parchment covered baking sheet and brush batter over each leaf cutout. (Keep coating as thin as possible without leaving bare spots.) Carefully lift stencil onto the second baking sheet and repeat. If you are using a template, place it under the parchment and paint inside the lines, using a pastry brush or paintbrush.
For colored leaves, dip the pastry brush into two or three colors at a time and brush onto stencils, keeping brush strokes to a minimum to avoid muddy colors.
Bake one sheet at a time for approximately 6 minutes. Watch carefully and pull the leaves as they are beginning to turn a mottled brown. Even the colored leaves will pick up brown streaks.
Remove from oven and quickly but carefully slide a thin metal spatula under each leaf, moving them to a cooling rack or a piece of crumpled up foil, to create a curled shape.
If the leaves begin to harden before you've finished shaping them, they can be returned to the oven for 15 seconds to soften a little.
lift the stencil carefully and move to clean parchment for the next batch!
OR you can go with some bright fall colors. The best way I’ve found to make the colored leaves is to dip the pastry brush into two (or three) different colors, then brush onto the stencil, using the least number of brush strokes possible.
Go a little wild with the colors!
Ready to bake
Remember that I told you there were other methods? If you are a free spirit, you can simply brush leaves free-style on your parchment, using a large artist’s paintbrush, or put a template under the parchment and use it as a guide.
Painting leaves. (These were filled in with streaks of color.)
Or…brush brown leaves onto the stencil and then highlight them with colors, using a paintbrush.
You can also use that paintbrush to paint different streaks of color onto the stencil.
Kids might have fun just painting random shapes. If you go this route, I’d advise using a silicon sheet, because the parchment will slide around on the baking pan.
They bake quickly – exactly 6 minutes in my oven. Yours might vary, so watch them closely. They go from anemic to charred very quickly!
Slightly crumple a big piece of foil and have it sitting on the counter. As you lift each leaf, immediately lay it on the foil. It will shape itself over the hills and valleys of the foil into appealing fallen leaf shapes.
If your leaves start to get too firm to shape before you can remove them all from the baking sheet, put them back in the oven for 15 seconds. OR lay them on a baking sheet with crumpled foil and return to the oven briefly. As long as they weren’t over baked to begin with, they should soften and bend into interesting shapes. Or just embrace flat leaves!
I learned that if I always had a parchment covered baking sheet on the counter I could lift the messy stencil from the pan I was finished with and move it to the empty sheet to wait to be painted. Otherwise, I obsessively washed the stencil between batches, wasting waaaay too much batter. OCD much?
You can make the batter several hours ahead and keep it chillin’ in the refrigerator, covered tightly.
Besides just eating these sweethearts hand over fist, I love to use them for decorating pies, cakes, or cheesecakes. Here’s a maple cheesecake with leaf decorations.
(No…I’m not posting this cheesecake recipe. I’ve got to keep SOME of my good stuff for the cookbook I’m working on, and this is definitely one for the book!) I know, what a tease, huh?
Fun, easy, creative! This would be a wonderful project to do with kids. Perhaps to be arranged on little plates at each Thanksgiving place setting?