Changing Holiday Tradition

Posted On Nov 25, 2013 By Jennifer Galardi

sweet potato casserole recipe

The holidays are approaching faster than Santa's sleigh and his reindeers, and for the past few years, the same debate carries on in my head: To go home (i.e., spend it with one of my parents and associated family) or not to go home.

I'm old enough where most of my friends have begun their own traditions with their new families, yet I don't have my own. Right now, I'm single with no children, and I feel lucky to have the privilege of spending the holidays however I want.

When this time of year hits, I always say I wouldn't mind being by myself for the holidays. It is a wonderful time to slow down, reflect, write, practice and create. Yet, I've done that before and inevitably, I feel nothing but loneliness.

One year, I decided to embark on a 10-day silent meditation retreat. I missed my grandmother so much that I think I became ill from my tears. Another year, I jetted to Jamaica for New Year's, solo.

Last year, I took off to Nicaragua with a man I barely knew for almost two weeks. Not seeing my nephews' joy while opening gifts was almost more than I could stand, but what a beautiful adventure. Thank goodness I had sunshine, salt water and Skype.

This year, I'm flying on Christmas Eve to spend time with my family, and then jetting off to NYC for a weekend with a new special someone.

What I am learning is that my tradition can be whatever makes me happy at the time.

When I do spend time with my family, I've often asked if I can modify tradition. While I don't go overboard and make everyone chant "Ommmmm" at the dinner table, I often will ask to re-do a side dish. For instance, one year for Thanksgiving I offered to replace the traditional sweet potato with marshmallow dish, in hopes they would find my healthy option as delicious as I did, and more importantly, worthy of Thanksgiving table status. (Leave it to America to take a naturally healthy, sweet and delicious jewel of Mother Nature and turn it into a dish that resembles candy). They reluctantly obliged, but were pleasantly surprised at how tasty my version was, turning this dish into a new tradition.

In the spirit of re-defining what tradition means to you, even if it's simply a new side dish, here is the recipe for my (now) famous sweet potato casserole!

Sweet Potato Casserole

 Sweet Potato Casserole

Note: Use a metal baking pan or broiler-safe ceramic dish as opposed to a glass baking dish, which may not be able to withstand the heat of the broiler.


  • 2 pounds (appx. 6) of sweet potatoes, peeled and chopped (I cut in 1/8-inch cubes
  • 1/4 – 1/2 cup organic agave nectar (use less for less sweetness and to reduce caloric content
  • 1/4 cup lite coconut milk
  • 2 tablespoons melted butter (or Earth Balance for vegan dish)
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 large organic eggs (or egg replacer such as Ener-g: read for equivalents)
  • Cooking spray


  • 1/3 cup or less of spelt
  • 1/3 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon melted butter (or Earth Balance)
  • 1/2 cup chopped pecans


  1. Preheat oven to 350*
  2. To prepare potatoes, place potatoes in pot or Dutch oven. Cover with water. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer 20 minutes or until tender and drain. Cool for 5 minutes
  3. Place potatoes in large bowl; add agave, and coconut milk, 2 tablespoons of melted butter (Earth Balance), 1/2 teaspoon of salt, and vanilla. Beat with mixer at medium speed (or just use large spoon and mix by hand) until smooth. Add eggs (or egg replacer) and beat well. Pour potato mixture into 13×9 inch baking pan coated with cooking spray.
  4. To prepare topping, combine flour, brown sugar, and 1/8 teaspoon salt. Stir with a whisk. Stir in 2 tablespoon melted butter (Earth Balance). Sprinkle flour mixture evenly over potato mixture and arrange pecans evenly over top.
  5.  Bake at 350º for 25 minutes or until just golden.
  6. Preheat broiler (remove casserole from oven)
  7. Broil casserole for 45 seconds or until topping is bubbly. Let stand 10 minutes before serving.