I’d like to wish a happy and healthy Thanksgiving to all of my friends, family, readers, and fellow bloggers!!  I am truly grateful to all of you.  Thanksgiving is the one perfect American holiday where we do not have to stress ourselves out with anything other than feeding our loved ones.  There are no presents to give, just the presence of ourselves.  Revel in the day and enjoy fabulous food, wine, family, and friends!

One of my favorite things about Thanksgiving in my family is that I was able to spend the holiday with both sides of my family respectively.  Some years we went to Cincinnati, Ohio to see my mother’s family.  Back then, my dad would fly our family there in our  6 seater Piper Aztec plane.  My mom’s parents would pick us up at a smaller airport and we’d stay at their house.  My Grandmother Ruth always had prepared yeast rolls and the pies for Thanksgiving dinner.   Thanksgiving dinner was always at my Aunt Pat and Uncle Bill’s (my mother’s brother) house.  My Aunt Pat was a wonderful cook (her Thanksgiving dinner smelled and tasted the same as my mom’s).  I remember that my mom would do some cooking also.  My four cousins were all older than me and all super amazing competitive swimmers for the Pepsi Marlin’s swim team.  I recollect that they would get up very early to go the practice throughout the Thanksgiving holiday.  I spent most of my time there playing air hockey and Atari with my brother in the basement while scarfing down illicit cans of coca-cola. 

Other Thanksgiving holidays I spent in Long Island with my father’s side of the family.  This consisted of my family, my father’s brother’s family (Aunt Suzy, Uncle Richie, Chelsea, Tracy, and Kim), and my father’s parents (Grandma Val and Grandpa Wally).  Thanksgiving was always at my mom’s house and she did all of the cooking.  My aunt usually brought her yummy green bean casserole.  There’s nothing like my mom’s turkey, stuffing, gravy, and cranberry sauce.  My grandmother always contributed her famous Twice Baked Potatoes which we have carried on making to this day. 

Over the years, my sister and I have contributed different things to our Thanksgiving meal.  Laura does a fabulous carrot and parsnip dish and I used to make a really rich pumpkin cheesecake.  This year I have gone back to the basics by making the classic (Not Vegan) Twice Baked Potatoes and also an updated Vegan Spicy and Sweet Twice Baked Sweet Potatoes.  These are the recipes I will share with you today!

Twice Baked Potatoes (adjust this recipe for more or less potatoes and to your liking)

Preheat oven to 350F

4 baking potatoes (pricked with a fork all over)
1/2 stick of butter (room temperature)
1 c. milk (heat over low heat until ready to use)
3 tblsp. sour cream
salt and pepper to your taste

First bake the potatoes for 1 hr and 10 minutes (or until a skewer goes through it like butter).  Remove them from the oven and let cool until cool enough to handle.  Then split potatoes in half (so the flatest side will lay on the baking dish) and scoop the potato out into a mixing bowl (leaving a bit on the sides and bottom so the skins do not rip or split).  Use a potato masher to mash the potatoes and add the milk gradually (may need a little more or less than called for) along with the butter, sour cream, salt and pepper.  Keep tasting as you may need more or less of all ingredients called for.  when you are satisfied with the taste and the consistency of the potatoes, scoop the mashed potato filling back into the potato shells.  Sprinkle with a little paprika (I used smoked paprika) on the top.  I just do this because my grandmother did!  Bake in a 350F oven for about 20-30 minutes. 

Twice Baked Spicy and Sweet Sweet Potatoes
*This recipe was inspired by Heidi Swanson of http://101cookbooks.com recipe for Nikki’s Sweet Potatoes.

Preheat oven to 350F

2 1/2 lbs sweet potatoes (prick each potato all over with a fork)
1/2 c. coconut milk (heated over very low heat till ready to use)
1 tsp. fresh ginger grated
1 tblsp. agave or maple syrup
1 tsp of the Adobo sauce from Chipotle Peppers in Adobo Sauce (I used Goya)-more/less to your taste
1/2 to 1 tsp salt
pepper to taste
few splashes of olive oil
handful of pecans chopped
handful grated unsweetened coconut

Cook the sweet potatoes in the oven for 1 hr and 10 min until a skewer slides through it like butter.  Set aside and let cool.  When easy enough to handle, cut in half (so flattest side will sit on baking dish) and scoop out flesh (leaving some on bottom and sides of potato skins so it won’t split or rip) into a bowl.  Begin mashing the sweet potatoes with a potato masher.  Then add coconut milk, ginger, agave/maple syrup, Adobo sauce, salt, and pepper.  Continue mashing until desired consistency.  Adjust seasoning to your taste.  Scoop mashed sweet potato mixture into shells.  Sprinkle with chopped pecans and coconut.  Bake in a 350F oven for 20-30 minutes.