Monday, January 10, 2011

Sweet Potatoes / Mashed Potato Casserole

These both freeze well!
Sweet potatoes can be cooked and mashed ahead of time, then frozen. We used to grow sweet potatoes in our garden and harvest several bushels at one time. That's when I learned to freeze them! Now when sweet potatoes are on sale, I like to stock up, because the prices fluctuate greatly. Autumn is when we find the best prices in the US. Bake the washed sweet potatoes in a Dutch oven or roaster pan with a small amount of water added for moisture. Bake at 350 F. for about an hour (check for tenderness). When cool enough to handle, peel, mash and freeze in freezer bags. It's as simple as that! I like to freeze sweet potatoes without salt or seasoning, so they can be used for sweet potato casseroles, bread, muffins and pies. Of course, freezing a casserole flavored with ingredients such as butter, salt, brown sugar (or sucanat), cinnamon or cranberries also works very well. It's wonderful to go to the freezer and take out a dish already prepared, except for thawing and heating! If you are able to freeze your casserole in the same dish you plan to set on the table, that saves even more time.

A last minute tip: Brown sugar or sucanat, from the health food store, placed around the outside edge of the casserole not only looks and tastes good, but it allows those who prefer not to have sugar to reach into the center for a scoop. Color and texture give the dish more appeal, so why not add chopped walnuts and/or dried cranberries, sprinkled around the edge or only in the center?

Five or ten pound bags of white potatoes are often "Buy One -- Get One Free," so in order to take advantage of these special prices, without them spoiling, you can cook, mash and freeze them for multiple casseroles to use later. Sometimes I cook the potatoes and mash them, adding some of the cooking liquid, butter and salt - and freeze them in a casserole dish until needed. Before serving them, I thaw the potatoes, heat them in the microwave, add a little milk as I mix them up with a potato masher and they are ready to serve! They can also be held over in the oven, covered, until the rest of the meal is ready.

Or here is a delicious and convenient recipe from the More-With-Less Cookbook by Doris Janzen Longacre. If your family does not like spinach, try substituting grated carrots or other vegetables, although it is very good plain, with vegetables served on the side. If potatoes are the only vegetable your children will eat, try mashing a few cooked carrots or some sweet potato in with the white potatoes. When I've done this, my family thought I had added cheese. For extra nutrition and a yellow tint, an egg can also be added as the potatoes are whipped. A sprinkle of dried dill weed mixed into the potatoes as well as over the cheese before (or after) baking adds extra flavor and color.

Cook and mash: 3-4 large potatoes.
Add: 1/3 cup sour cream or plain yogurt
1 tsp. salt
dash of pepper
1/2 tsp. sugar (given in recipe, but certainly not necessary)
1/4 cup butter
Add just enough milk to bring to proper consistency and beat until fluffy.
Add: 1/8 tsp. dill seed
2 tsp. chives, chopped
1 cup cooked spinach, well drained, chopped (optional)

Place in greased casserole and top with 1/2 cup grated cheddar cheese. May be made a day or two ahead and refrigerated, or make a double recipe and freeze half to add to a future oven meal. Or freeze now to use during the ho