Today I start working on my 30th year. At least I think that is how this works, right? I turn 29, but that means I’m working on my 30th year, correct? I sure as heck hope so since I’m structuring an entire blog post about it.
It seriously makes my brain explode when I think about the fact that I have been walking this earth for nearly 30 years. Maybe it’s because I’m so horrific at math (I froze in the back of a cab in San Francisco this past weekend when I had to tip the driver… disaster), or maybe it’s because I usually reserve the idea of “30 years” for long lasting marriages (which uh, by the way… how the HECK have those people not killed each other? they must not be snorers or cover-stealers).
But THIRTY years?!
As usual, I came to this party totally unprepared. If I was super creative or managed to think about something other than the next five minutes in front of my face, I would have made something completely chocolate-covered, bacon-infused, sugar-loaded and salty. Because salt is heaven.
But I didn’t. I made sweet potato casserole. Boring sweet potato casserole. Nothing worthy of birthday celebrations. Can I have an assistant? Not because I’m busy enough but because I need a second brain. It would help us all. Really.
So this whole turning 29 thing? I’ve never been one to freak about birthdays. I’ve never spazzed at the thought of turning 30 or 40 or even 50. I mean, yesterday I spent six hours on a plane listening to Kenny G on my iPod for the second time in 48 hours. I’m pretty sure I’m closer to age 50 than 29, right? Without all the wisdom and stuff.
As your typical product of the internet generation, I grew up assuring myself that by this age I’d have spent my college years being even cooler than Jessica Wakefield, the majority of my 20s gallivanting in and out of popular clubs in an even more popular city, and the rest of the time making millions of dollars, owning some kind of mansion on water somewhere, marrying someone who doesn’t come complete with a stuffed turkey, popping out four or ten Ralph Lauren polo-clad kids, and decorating my entire life a la Martha Stewart.
Raise your hand if you think I read too many fiction novels.
And thanks a lot to you too, MTV.
I definitely drank the koolaid.
Soooo. Here I am. I cook way too much food in my kitchen and then talk about something completely other than that food to my invisible internet friends. I pretend to know what I’m doing even though many days I honestly have zero idea… ever. I don’t wear ball gowns every weekend and I don’t sit at cool coffee shops and I don’t have a house in Malibu and I don’t have a wardrobe like Carrie Bradshaw. The money tree I planted must have began with faulty seeds because, uh… I see no bills laying in my backyard. Fail.
29 is so different at 29 than I thought it would be at 7 and 15 and even 21. But it’s just what I need and it certainly is… delicious? Yes. So I’m gonna eat up.
Lightened-Up Sweet Potato Casserole
Yield: serves 6-8, possibly more + can easily be doubled
Prep Time: 45 minutes
Cook Time: 25 minutes
Total Time: 1.5 hours
sweet potato layer
2 pounds sweet potatoes, peeled and cubed
2 tablespoons brown sugar
2 tablespoons maple syrup
1/3 cup canned lite coconut milk
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons butter
oatmeal coconut pecan crumble
1/2 cup whole, unsalted pecans, chopped
1 1/2 tablespoons brown sugar
1/4 cup unsweetened, flaked coconut
1 tablespoon whole wheat pastry flour
1/4 cup old-fashioned oats
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
pinch of nutmeg
pinch of salt
2 tablespoons butter, softened
1 cup mini marshmallows
Peel and chop sweet potatoes into 1 1/2 inch cubes. Add to a pot with cold water, then bring to a boil. Cook until potatoes are fork tender, about 20-30 minutes, then drain. While sweet potatoes are cooking, add butter to a small saucepan over medium heat. Whisking constantly, cook until little brown bits appear in the pan – about 4-5 minutes. Remove immediately from heat and set aside.
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
In the bowl of an electric mix (or a large bowl, using a hand mixer), add sweet potatoes. Add all remaining ingredients – sugar, syrup, spices, salt, vanilla extract, coconut milk and brown butter – and mix on low speed until combined about 30 seconds. Mix on medium speed for another 1-2 minutes, until potatoes are whipped. Spread in an oven-safe pan or dish. I used an 9 x 2 1/2 round tart pan.
Combine oats, flour, pecans, coconut, spices and salt in a bowl and mix to thoroughly combine. Add in softened butter, and use your hands to completely moisten the mixture and clump it together. Sprinkle the crumble around the outside of the dish, leaving room in the center for marshmallows. Add marshmallows to the middle. Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until crumble is golden and marshmallows are gooey.
Notes: If you want to skip the marshmallows, I suggest doubling the crumble mixture and covering the entire top with it. If you can’t find unsweetened, flaked coconut (I use Bob’s Red Mill brand), using sweetened is fine, but I would decrease the sugar by a 1/2 tablespoon (or more/less, depending on tastes). You can also sub in milk, cream or half and half for the coconut milk if you wish. However, the coconut milk does NOT add a coconut flavor to the casserole.
Since, like always, I spent so much time talking about myself, I forgot to tell you about that orange stuff up there. It’s good. It has less than half the sugar and butter than regular sweet potato casserole has. I threw a bunch of stuff in the dish and said a prayer that it would turn out. It has lovely coconut milk. Mmmmm. But! IT HAS BROWN BUTTER. That should be enough. Make. Now.