This was the first thanksgiving I spent with friends instead of family. Planning holidays with a family dispersed at all points of the United States can be tricky and obviously pretty expensive. I suspect that as my sisters create families of their own it will evolve into something way more complicated, but the thought of  all three of us settling in different regions of the country gives me more of a heartache than a headache. Growing up, we lived within 5 minutes of all of our 19 cousins and spent almost every weekend together. Somehow we've created the complete opposite in this second generation of our lives, living in New York, Seattle, and Miami and seeing each other a few times a year.
I'll be spending Christmas in Seattle this year and I look forward to getting in the kitchen with my momma, cuddling on the couch with my sisters, and lots of yoga all together.
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I loved sharing the annual feast with a bunch of buddies, such great celebratory vibes. Oh and the ridiculously delicious Old Fashioned cocktails and two-day brined turkey.

Sweet Potato Casserole

Sweet Potato Filling

3 1/2 pounds sweet potatoes (none larger than a pound)
3 to 4 tablespoons maple syrup (Grade B preferred)
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons buttermilk
1 medium to large orange
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted (plus additional to grease pan)
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 egg yolks

Pecan Date Crumble Topping
6 medjool dates, pitted and quartered (about 1/2 cup)
1/3 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
1/4 cup gluten free (or regular) all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
3 tablespoons butter, softened & cut into 3 pieces
1/3 cup coarsely chopped pecans
1/3 cup rolled oats

  1. Preheat oven to 400º F with rack in the lower middle position. Line a rimmed sheet pan with foil. Pierce each sweet potato several times with a paring knife. Bake until cooked through, 60 to 90 minutes depending on the size of the potatoes. Remove from oven, and cut in half to allow steam to escape. Allow to cool for 10 to 15 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 375º F.
  2. While sweet potatoes are baking, butter 2-quart baking dish, and set aside. Zest and juice the orange. 1 teaspoon of zest will be used in the topping, and 1/4 cup juice will be used in the filling.
  3. Also make the crumble topping while the potatoes are baking. Combine the orange zest, dates, coconut, flour, salt, and spice in the bowl of a food processor fitted with the blade attachment. Pulse until no large date pieces remain, 5 to 6 pulses. Add butter and pulse until mixture starts to become crumbly, another 5 to 6 pulses. Add pecans and rolled oats and pulse until mixture is combined, and few largish pieces of pecans remain, another 4 to 5 pulses. Transfer mixture to a bowl. Return food processor bowl and blade to processor.
  4. Use a spoon to remove sweet potato flesh from skins. Transfer half of the flesh to a food processor, and half to a medium to large bowl. Break the pieces in the bowl into roughly 1-inch chunks.
  5. Add orange juice, 3 tablespoons maple syrup, buttermilk, melted butter, salt, spice, cinnamon, and vanilla to the food processor. Process until smooth about 20 to 30 seconds. Taste for sweetness, and add additional maple syrup if needed. Add egg yolks, and process until well combined, about 10 seconds.
  6. Transfer sweet potato mixture from processor into bowl containing sweet potato chunks. Fold together gently but thoroughly so the chunks remain intact. Transfer the mixture to the buttered baking dish. Smooth into an even layer with a rubber spatula.
  7. Evenly distribute the crumble topping over the sweet potato mixture, leaving about a half inch rim of uncovered sweet potato around the edges (to prevent over-browning of the topping.)
  8. Cover with foil. Bake for 15 minutes, then remove foil, and bake and additional 20 to 25 minutes, until the edges have puffed and the topping has browned. Allow to cool on a wire rack for 10 to 15 minutes before serving.

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