You don't have to wait until Thanksgiving to enjoy sweet potatoes -- in a salad, as a side dish, or for dessert.
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Pierce 4 medium sweet potatoes (2 1/2 to 3 pounds) several times with a fork; place on a rimmed baking sheet. Bake until tender, 45 to 60 minutes. With a paring knife, cut an X in the top of each potato, and spread open. Add desired topping, and serve immediately.
BASIC: Dot with softened butter, and season with coarse salt and ground pepper.
SOUTHWESTERN: Layer with black beans, salsa, shredded Monterey Jack, and chopped cilantro.
FRENCH: Crumble blue cheese over top, then sprinkle with chopped toasted pecans.
ALL-AMERICAN: Dollop with sour cream; sprinkle with crumbled bacon and chopped chives.