Sweet potatoes are a nutritional powerhouse, offering ample amounts of vitamins A and C in addition to calcium, potassium and fiber. Sweet potatoes are actually tubers, more closely related to taro and cassava than the white potato. Because their starches turn into sugars as they mature, sweet potatoes taste sweet, making them an appropriate vegetable prospect for children and other finicky eaters. A bowlful of mashed sweet potatoes adds color and flavor to the dinner table.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
Wash potatoes, scrubbing if necessary to remove dirt.
Place sweet potatoes in the oven to bake for about 55 to 60 minutes. A toothpick inserted in the center should come out easily when they are done. Take them out and let them stand for about 15 minutes.
Peel the potatoes and place them in a large bowl.
Heat the half-and-half in a small saucepan just until bubbles form at the surface edges.
Mash the potatoes with the potato masher until you have achieved a coarse consistency. Chunks should still be visible.
Add about 50 percent of the half-and-half, along with the butter, and continue to mash the mixture until it is nearly smooth. Add the rest of the half-and-half and mix with a heavy spoon until thoroughly blended. Stir in the vanilla extract.
Arrange the potato mixture in a serving dish and sprinkle with cinnamon and/or nutmeg if desired.