On the sweet side: Orange you hungry for some colorful potatoes?

KEARNEYSVILLE – Local cooks sure are sweet on sweet potatoes. I recently chatted with three kitchen experts and got them to share some great ideas for using this boldly hued vegetable. And now I’ll share their recipes with you.
Shirley Simpson of Shepherdstown makes a mouthwatering Sweet Potato Casserole. “It is very simple to prepare,” Simpson told me.
Here’s what she does: Take three cups mashed sweet potatoes (not yams) and add three well-beaten eggs, 1 teaspoon vanilla and a stick of melted butter. Mix all ingredients, pour into casserole dish. For the topping, in a separate bowl, blend 1/3 cup melted butter, 2/3 brown sugar, 1/3 cup flour and 1 cup chopped nuts. Spread over sweet potatoes in casserole dish. Bake 350 degrees for 30 minutes.
Sonya Sholley, executive secretary to President Suzanne Shipley at Shepherd University, makes terrific Candied Sweet Potatoes.

Most people in the United States use the terms “yam” and “sweet potato,” but cooks prefer sweet potatoes.

Sholley starts by heating her oven to 350 degrees. Not one to feel beholden to precise measurements, Sholley says she peels “around a dozen” small sweet potatoes – enough to fill the roasting pan she uses.
Quarter your sweet potatoes and boil in water until slightly softened. In a large roasting pan, melt 2 sticks butter (no margarine please). Add one two-pound bag of light brown sugar and approximately three-quarters of a jar of Brer Rabbit Full-Flavor Molasses. She says you can add more for preferred strength.
Stir ingredients until the brown sugar is completely melted and then add 1/2 cup grated orange peel. Place your slightly softened sweet potatoes into the syrup so each one is lying flat on the bottom of the roaster and or baking dish. Place into oven. Turn the sweet potatoes in the syrup every hour for approximately three hours.
You can make individual servings of the sweet potatoes and or place in bowl to serve on table.
My friend Lisa DeGrave makes a Mashed Potato Layer Bake that you’ll want to try. What you will need: 3¼ pounds baking potatoes (about seven), peeled, chopped and cooked; ½ pound sweet potatoes (about three), peeled, chopped and cooked; 1 tub (8 oz.) Philadelphia Chive & Onion Cream Cheese Spread, divided; ½ cup Breadstones or Knudsen Sour Cream, divided; ¼ teaspoon each salt and pepper; ¼ cup shredded or grated Parmesan cheese, divided; ¼ cup shredded Triple Cheddar Cheese, divided.
Heat oven to 375 degrees. Place your peeled, chopped and cooked potatoes in separate bowls. Add half each of the cream cheese spread and sour cream to each bowl; season with salt and pepper. Mash until creamy. Stir half the Parmesan into white potatoes. Stir half the Cheddar into sweet potatoes. Layer half of each of the potato mixtures in a two-quart glass casserole. Repeat layers. Bake 15 minutes and top with remaining cheese and return to oven for another five minutes or until the cheese topping has melted.
If you prefer to make this dish ahead of time, assemble casserole as directed, but do not add the cheese toppings. Refrigerate casserole and cheese toppings, separately, up to three days. When ready, bake casserole uncovered as directed, increasing baking time as needed until casserole is heated through. Top with remaining cheeses and continue as directed.
Finally, Oven Sweet Potato Fries are a favorite side dish of mine. You can test with spices depending on your taste. Take two medium sweet potatoes, well-scrubbed, and cut as you would to make homemade French fries. Place the pieces in a Ziploc bag along with 1 teaspoon chili powder, ½ teaspoon seasoning salt, ½ teaspoon onion powder, ¼ teaspoon cumin, 1 tablespoon vegetable oil and 1 tablespoon hot water.
Seal and shake until all your fries are coated. Place on a cookie sheet treated with cooking spray. Bake at 400 degrees for 20-30 minutes until tender and golden and somewhat crispy. Turn every 10 minutes.

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