Our Thanksgiving Table: Candied Yams

We’re all looking forward to a happy, healthy Thanksgiving shared with family and friends seated around a table piled high with our holiday favorites! We’ll all be indulging a little this holiday season. Let’s face it, Thanksgiving just wouldn’t be the same if we didn’t feature traditional recipes that make the best of the fall harvest.

Let’s gather round the FoodFacts.com Thanksgiving table. This week, we’ll be putting a healthier spin on candied yams – a traditional dish for many this holiday season.
Yams are a very healthy food choice. They’re a great source of dietary fiber, potassium, vitamin C, manganese and vitamin B6. They have an earth flavor and are naturally sweet. Yams make for a pretty filling side dish. In addition, they are a truly authentic addition to your Thanksgiving feast.

Yams and sweet potatoes were grown on American soil pretty consistently by the time Christopher Columbus landed on our shores in the late 15th century. When the colonists put together their first Thanksgiving meal, it would be safe to assume that yams were a component. By 1880 Americans were enjoying some sort of variation of candied sweet potatoes. American cookbooks, such as the widely published 1893 Boston Cooking School Cookbook by Fannie Farmer featured a recipe for glazed sweet potatoes.

Unfortunately, candied yam recipes tend to focus more on the sweet goodies in the average recipe than the yams themselves. The average  recipe contains over 400 calories per serving, 15 grams of fat and plenty of sugar. We have to remind ourselves that it’s this is only one of a variety of sides accompanying our turkey. It would behoove us to discover a more healthful recipe than our traditional method that often calls for plenty of brown sugar and corn syrup as well as marshmallows – which while tasty, offer nothing to the dish nutritionally.

So here’s our idea for a better candied yam recipe. You’ll need:

4 yams
1 jar of good quality sugar free apricot preserves (Nature’s Hollow would be a great example)
¼ teaspoon of orange zest
1 teaspoon of cinnamon
Nutmeg, ground cloves (just a pinch of each)
¼ cup unsalted butter
¼ cup finely chopped pecans

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees
2. Boil the yams just until tender (about 25 minutes). Cool completely.
3. Remove the skins from the par-boiled yams.
4. In a medium saucepan combine the jar of sugar-free preserves, butter, orange zest and spices. Stir over medium heat until melted.
5. Slice potatoes into rounds about ½” thick. Layer the slices in a 9” baking dish. Pour half the glaze over the layer. Layer the remainder of the potatoes and pour the rest of the glaze over. Sprinkle with the chopped pecans. Cover with foil.
6. Bake 375° for about 30 min. Remove foil and bake 15 min. longer. Cook until yams are fork tender.

This variation on the traditional recipe for candied yams produces a rich and flavorful dish. And in the final analysis, it is really worth the makeover. This new recipe has 206 calories per serving, 5 grams of sugar, 30 mg. of sodium and 11 grams of fat. It isn’t just lighter and lower in calories. It’s really a healthier alternative.

O.k., we’ll admit it – this dish does not include marshmallows so you may experience some resistance from the die-hard traditionalists. We actually think they’ll change their minds after they taste it.

FoodFacts.com will be inviting you to sit down to our Thanksgiving table every week until the big day. We’ll share all the wonderful nutritional information about the fruits of the fall harvest featured in our Thanksgiving feast and hopefully, give you new ideas on how to prepare that bounty in new and different ways. We’re already getting hungry just thinking about it!