11/23/09

Healthy Sweet potato pie & graham cracker crust

If you've read my blog before a race, you know how much I love Outback Steakhouse. Nope, not for the steak...for the sweet potato and bread. Oh how I LOVE sweet potatoes.
My Thanksgiving is complete when I have a pile of those warm and delicious, smooth and creamy sweet potatoes on my plate. My mom makes the best sweet potato casserole with toasted marshmallows on top. Over the years, she has cut back on the butter and brown sugar but in my opinion, as long as my mom makes them, I will eat them.
Now, I can only speak for my family but we have a lot of healthy options at Thanksgiving. If you think about it, Thanksgiving is probably one of the few days during the year that people actually eat healthy. Think about it...all the fruits and veggies and protein. People aren't driving through the fast food window or popping a frozen meal in the microwave for lunch or diner. They are preparing recipes handed down generation after generation. If a Turkey Trot is in store, they are eating a healthy snack to get the morning started in order to do a little exercise for the day. Sure, there are easy and unhealthy ways to cook by using canned and frozen items and lots of butter and sugar, but when the food is passed around the table you are likely to have a few healthy options. However, when it comes to portions, I think that is where America get's a little unhealthy when it comes to Thanksgiving. Sure, there are high fat and high sugar recipes for Thanksgiving but a little of everything doesn't cause a person to gain even 1 lb overnight. It is only when a person eats high calorie, high fat and high sugar foods on a daily basis that a person will gradually gain weight.
I can understand that many people will not like my recipes at Thanksgiving because they aren't super sweet. They could probably use some salt, sugar and butter. I have heard from many people (including myself) that as you change your eating habits your taste buds change as well. Although I will always enjoy a small piece of an ooey-gooey brownie or a soft & moist nut and raisin cookie, I don't really find high fat, high sugar, high salt foods desirable. They just don't sit well in my mouth, or tummy. Now, this change in taste doesn't happen overnight but I think as you learn to appreciate more healthy food choices (which should still taste great!) you will notice that you crave those more nutritious food choices more often than the heart-unhealthy foods. Therefore, when you do choose to indulge in a sweet treat or a former favorite food, you will be able to control yourself due to your new-found love of healthier foods.
I remember when I met Karel and he would salt a lot of his foods. He told me that the foods just have to have salt, especially the recipes that his mom used to make. I taught him how to read food labels and that we only need around 1500-2000 mg of sodium per day. A year later, he stopped salting his foods and he hasn't picked up a salt shaker since 2007. I'm sure you can tell from my recipes that I don't use salt, white sugar (although I do use brown sugar just because I find it has a stronger taste for me) or butter (well, in my holiday recipes I've used a little butter). There is nothing wrong with certain foods in moderation but I have really found a joy for finding flavors in other food choices. If you think about it, you could cut back on 5 almonds during the day and add 1 tbsp butter to a recipe and not add any extra calories to your day. However, if you add 1 cup of butter to a sweet potato casserole, in addition to 1 cup of brown sugar, you are going to have to get really creative to find ways to enjoy your casserole and not eat more than 500 calories-worth of sweet potatoes. Sure, some recipes require salt, butter/oil or sugar for baking purposes (that is why I have a hard time changing recipes when it comes to baking) but I have found by cutting back on high sugar/high fat/high calorie foods you can still enjoy your favorite treats and feel good eating them.
I hope you enjoy my version of sweet potato pie. At the end of the recipe I will share with you my thoughts of how you can serve it on thanksgiving. :)
Enjoy!


Sweet potato pie and graham cracker crust


Crust:
6 graham cracker sheets
1/2 tbsp cinnamon
1/4 cup oats
3 tbsp reduced sugar applesauce (no need to buy cinnamon applesauce for this recipe. Per serving (1/2 cup) it has 50 extra calories compared to reduced sugar applesauce and since you are only using 3 tbsp for this recipe you will likely be enjoying your applesauce after Thanksgiving)

1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.
2. Place graham crackers in a ziplock bag and crush with hands or rolling pin (great to have your kids help with this one). Add cinnamon and oats and give a good shake.
3. Pour graham crackers in a bowl and add applesauce. Mix together (may be a bit clumpy).
4. In a non-stick pan sprayed with butter non-stick spray (just 1-2 quick sprays), press crust into bowl with a spoon (may need to spray spoon with non stick spray). spread crust evenly in pan until the bottom is covered.
5. Cook for 8-10 minutes until crust is toasted. May need to check around 6 minutes because you don't want a burnt crust.



Sweet potato mixture
1 egg white + 1 whole egg
2 medium sweet potatoes (or 1 1/2 large sweet potatoes)
1/2 tbsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp ginger
2 tbsp evaporated skim milk

1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.
2. Soften sweet potatoes until you can mash or cut them. If you choose to soften the potatoes in the microwave (as opposed to on the stove in hot water for 25-30 minutes) poke holes in potato with a fork and microwave for 8-10 minutes on a plate. Only do 1 potato at a time in the microwave.
3. Mix together eggs, milk and spices in a small bowl.
4. When sweet potatoes are soft, peel off skin and mash with a fork.
5. In a blender, food processor or mixer, add sweet potatoes and spices. Mix until soft like baby food. You may want to taste sweet potatoes and add more spices if necessary.
6. In your round baking dish, with the crust, pour sweet potato mixture and spread evenly with spatula.
7. Cook for 10 minutes at 425 degrees. Reduce heat to 350 degrees and cook for 20-30 more minutes. You will want to remove the pie when the top of the pie is firm to the touch.
8. Let pie cool for 5 minutes.
7. To remove pie, place a plate over baking pan and flip over. Give a tap to the baking pan (which is resting on the plate) and slowly lift the pan. Your pie will turn out crust-side-up and is ready to be served.






My suggestion for serving the pie on Thanksgiving:
Set up a sweet potato pie bar (similar to an ice cream bar) at the desert table (when ready to eat desert). Have toppings for the pie in small bowls with small spoons. Toppings could include:
*light brown sugar
*low fat vanilla yogurt
*yogurt ice cream
*fat-free cool-whip
*cinnamon
*fresh fruit (Ex. cranberries, strawberries)
*shredded dark chocolate
*melted dark chocolate
*raisins
*chopped nuts
*sugar-free syrup
*mini marshmellows