It’s hard to believe that it’s only 14 days until Christmas. For some reason, it hasn’t felt quite like the holidays this year. Maybe it’s because our constant stream of Christmas parties hasn’t started yet. Regardless, there’s always at least 3 Christmas eating events that we attend, and that means that we need to prepare and bring at least 1 dish for every event. As you can imagine, if you don’t strategically plan, it can make a small dent in your wallet compared to your normal grocery budget.
Our favorite dish during the holidays is sweet potato casserole. A few years ago, I took on the responsibility of bringing this sugary, buttery, majestic dish to family gatherings at Thanksgiving and Christmas. Partly because I love to make it, and also because I can control how many ingredients are in the dish that will clog your arteries. Another factor is that my grandparents place a large pecan order around this time of year, because my grandfather starts preparing for his famous pecan pie, and they always get a few extra bags to give to me, which I store in the freezer until I’m ready to use so they stay fresh. Up until this year, I used a family recipe that contained at least 2 sticks of butter, 2 cups of sugar and at least 1/2 of cup of milk. Since we’ve cut back on animal products and tried to reduce our sugar intake, I went about scouring the internet for a “healthy” recipe for sweet potato casserole. I have to admit though, each time I make this casserole, it’s always different. I’m always experimenting different recipes for the same dish, seeing what it can do without, and what I can substitute. One thing that has been consistent in all my iterations, is using real sweet potatoes instead of canned yams. When the sweet potatoes are fresh and you have those little chunks of sweet potato, I feel that you can really taste the difference and that sets it apart. My favorite recipe -so far- was from this past Thanksgiving. I utilized this recipe from Crunchy Creamy Sweet, as a baseline, and modified it with a few changes that fit our eating lifestyle.
My favorite part of sweet potato casserole is the pecan topping, which I’m sure is just about anybody’s favorite part. If you were hoping for a marsh-mellow topped monstrosity, I’m afraid that you’ll need to take your sugar fiend-ing ass elsewhere. My favorite type is the kind that has a stick of butter and at least 1 cup of brown sugar, but let’s be real here, my waist size can’t handle that anymore, and Mr. RRR is already testing the limits of his pants before he even takes a bite of the holiday food. But that doesn’t mean I had to skimp on the best tasting part. This year, I used a vegan butter, because 1. we didn’t have any butter, and 2. my stomach can’t handle regular diary butter anymore. And let me tell you, I have not been disappointed when using this alternative vegan butter. It’s healthier, and no one has noticed a difference. I also doubled the original recipe for topping and added in rolled oats, to make it more of a crunchy topping and to make it go a little further.
Budget Friendly Sweet Potato Casserole
- 2 lbs sweet potatoes
- 2 large eggs*
- 1/2 cup packed brown sugar**
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 2 Tbsp butter*
- 1 cup packed brown sugar**
- 6 Tbsp all-purpose flour
- 4 Tbsp butter melted and cooled
- 1/2 cup chopped pecans
- 1/2 cup rolled oats
- Butter casserole dish. Set aside.
- Peel and dice sweet potatoes. Cook in a pot with water until soft.
- Preheat over to 350 degrees F.
- When potatoes are cooked, drain and mash. Add butter, eggs, brown sugar, vanilla, salt and eggs. Mix well. Spread mixture in prepared casserole dish and set aside.
- In a separate mixing bowl, mix together sugar, flour, pecans and oats. Add melted butter and stir with a fork until crumbly dough forms. If using maple syrup or honey: mix flour, pecans and oats; add melted butter/oil and syrup/honey and stir with a fork until crumbly dough forms.
- Sprinkle topping over sweet potato mixture.
- Bake casserole for 25 minutes, or until topping has reached desired golden brown color.
- Cool before serving.
*Vegan Alternative: Substitute 2 eggs for flax “eggs” [mix 1 Tbsp Milled Flaxseed + 2.5 Tbsp water together and let stand 5-10 minutes] or 1/2 cup applesauce or 1/2 mashed bananas. Substitute butter for vegan butter or coconut oil. I used Melt Organic from Sprouts, made from plant-based oils.
**Slightly Lower Sugar Alternative: Substitute 1/2 cup brown sugar for 1/3 cup of maple syrup or 1/3 cup of honey. And substitute 1 cup brown sugar for 2/3 cup of maple syrup or 2/3 cup of honey.
Aldi Shopping List:
- 3 lbs. of Sweet Potatoes: $1.69
- Maple Syrup: $6.79
- Rolled Oats: $2.39
- Pure Vanilla Extract: $3.49
- Eggs: $0.70 (prices on eggs are always changing. They were $.17 right after Thanksgiving, so keep checking back for deals like that on eggs!)
- Chopped Pecans: $4.99
- Flour: $0.99
- Brown Sugar: $0.99
- Honey: $3.49
- Butter: $2.69
- Milled Flax Seed: $2.49
Obviously it goes without saying that prices may vary by store and location. But, you get the gist.
And there you have it! The primary source of all our hibernation energy. We feel that even though it’s a guilty pleasure, it can also be incredibly frugal, especially since you probably have most of these ingredients in your kitchen already. Bonus: A couple helpings of this at family Christmas, and you can skip right past the presents, and go ahead and hit the sack, saving yourself the trouble of faking how much you love those terrible socks that you received.