Saturday, November 21, 2009

Guest Blog: The Sweet (Potato) Side of Thanksgiving

One of my greatest pleasures is spending time in the kitchen with good friends.  Today, we're delighted to have Jenn Colman join us in our Cozy Kitchen.  Jenn is my niece and long-time kitchen buddy who also happens to be a fabulous cook and baker.  Please join us in welcoming her to The Romance Dish~PJ

Halloween has come and gone and if you have managed to shake off the sugar-induced coma long enough to venture out, you'd be hard pressed to miss the explosion of holiday decorations.  If you live in Florida like I do,  this is the only indication that the holiday season has arrived.  The average temperature here is still in the 80s!

The holidays are my favorite time of year.  Everything seems to slow.  The hustle and bustle of everyday life ebbs (I do my shopping online!), if only briefly, allowing us to focus on the things in life that endure.  For me, this is the love of my family.  There is nothing more important to me, and it's this time of year that really makes me want to not only embrace every second of joy they bring me, but to also show my thanks for their never-ending love and support.  It's my personal belief that there is no better way to do this than through food.

Brings a whole new meaning to love handles!

I was lucky enough to be given a wonderful culinary education from a very young age and most of my most cherished memories happened in a kitchen.  The family recipes I've collected are much like a diary of my life; every one of them has a story on which I look back fondly.  When I make chocolate chip cookies, it's as if my Aunt Patty is in the kitchen with me, helping me work that beautiful culinary magic while trying to keep my fingers out of the cookie dough.  Whenever I felt homesick at college, I would try to recreate my dad's amazing pancakes and remember all the weekend mornings he'd wake up early to make breakfast for all of us.  I can't even look at sugar cookies without thinking of every Christmas holiday during which my grandmother and I spent hours decorating Christmas trees, angels and reindeer.

With only a few days until Thanksgiving, this post is to honor my mom's sweet potato casserole.  After inquiring as to the recipe's origins, she informed me that she really couldn't say, but it was something she adapted from numerous different recipes she came in contact with.  It might not be a recipe that has been in my family for generations, but it has been a feature at every Thanksgiving dinner I can remember, and it always fills me with a sense of warmth and peace.  It is home and family and everything I love.

 And it has streusel.  Who doesn't love streusel?

Mom's Sweet Potato Casserole

4 medium sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into chunks

1 cup white sugar

2 beaten eggs

2 teaspoons vanilla

2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

1 1/2 teaspoons ground nutmeg

1/2 stick butter*


2 cups packed brown sugar

1 cup flour

1 cup chopped nuts (optional)

2 teaspoons cinnamon

1 stick melted butter*

1.  Preheat oven to 350°.  Boil sweet potatoes until fork tender.  Drain.
2.  Using electric mixer, mash sweet potatoes.  Gradually add sugar, eggs, vanilla, butter, cinnamon and nutmeg.  Mash until smooth.  Turn mixture into your favorite baking dish.
3.  Combine topping ingredients and mix until crumbly.  Sprinkle evenly over potato mixture and bake for 30 minutes or until topping is crusty and brown.
4.  Throw your scale out the window and have a moment of silence for your waistline.  Elastic waist pants are advised.
5.  Enjoy!
The best thing about this casserole is that it can be used as a side dish or even a dessert!

* My mom always uses salted butter in cooking.  If you prefer to use unsalted butter, I would suggest adding 1/2 to 1 teaspoon of salt to the potato mixture.

Photographic evidence of my lack of self-control.

Tell me about your favorite family recipes!  Are they generations old or something new you developed?  Do they have interesting family stories to go along with them?  What are your quintessential holiday dishes?


  1. Hi Jenn! Welcome to The Romance Dish. :)

    For me, Thanksgiving isn't complete without sweet potatoes. I'm cooking the side dishes this year so this recipe comes at just the right time.

  2. Hi! and welcome! Ever since I heard about this recipe a few days ago I've been waiting on pins and needles for it.
    Since this is the first year I am hosting Thanksgiving dinner,I've been looking for some new recipes to try, I'm definitely adding this to my menu!
    Thank you so much!
    I especially love Step #4.
    I'll get back to you with my favorite family recipes, for now I'm off to bed, tomorrow I do all the shopping for T-day!

    Good night everyone!

  3. Jenn, wow a sweet sweet potato recipe! Here in Australia they're only used for savoury dishes as far as I know. You're expanding my culinary horizons.

    Traditional family recipes? So many. We don't celebrate Thanksgiving but my two all time fave family recipes for holidays are Christmas cake and Christmas pudding (a hot steamed pudding made with lots and lots of fruit). My grandma used to put silver coins in the pudding (ones that had been boiled clean) and as kids we were so excited if we got one! The rest of the pudding tasted terrific too.


  4. Hi Jenn what a wonderful post and a great receipe as I too live in Australia like Annie yes we use sweet patoatoe as a savoury dish.

    I am so with you Annie on the Christmas cake and Christmas pudding actually I made another Chrissy cake today (I make 6 every year 4 as gifts and 2 our family eats) and I make the pudding in the cloth and as a child we had the coins in them as well and I know I still have a bag of sixpences somewhere that my Mum kept when we changed to dollars. My Nana used to give me the biggest piece because I loved the pudding but my cousins only wanted it for the money LOL.

    Have Fun

  5. Hey Jenn! It is great to have you with us today, and talking about food - YUM!

    My favorite dish to eat at Thanksgiving and Christmas is my mother-in-law's sweet potato souffle. It's is so yummy and makes me feel so good - LOL!

  6. Helen and Annie, can you tell us about your Christmas cake? What kind of cake is it?

  7. Hi, Jenn! Thanks for sharing with us today. I've heard so much about you from PJ that I feel like I know you!

    Your sweet potato casserole recipe is just like mine. It's one of our must haves for Thanksgiving! And I could just have it for dessert. Yum!!

    My two youngest children insist that I make my double layer pumpkin pie every year. I think they'd stage some sort of mutiny if I didn't. *g*

  8. Gannon, that double layer pumpkin pie sounds sinfully delish. Will you share the recipe with us?

  9. Hi Jenn! Your SP casserole sounds and looks delish! Question: Can it be assembled ahead of time then cooked later?

    Being Cuban-American my mother never really had any traditional Thanksgiving recipes. Our turkey was always served with a side of frijoles negros and white rice;) And being a fellow Floridian, many times we enjoyed our Thanksgiving feast with the dining room sliding doors open overlooking the swimming pool!

  10. Sure thing, PJ! Here it is:

    Double Layer Pumpkin Pie

    First layer:
    4 oz. cream cheese, softened; 1 Tbsp. milk; 1 Tbsp. sugar; 1 1/2 c. Cool Whip; Graham cracker pie crust

    Second layer:
    1 c. cold milk; 1 (16 oz.)can pumpkin; 2 (4 serving size) pkg. vanilla instant pudding mix; 1 tsp. ground cinnamon; 3/4 tsp. pumpkin pie spice

    Mix cream cheese, 1 Tbsp. milk, and sugar in lg. bowl w/ wire whisk until smooth. Gently stir in Cool Whip. Spread on bottom of crust. Pour 1 c. cold milk in bowl. Add pumpkin, pudding mixes, and spices. Beat w/ wire whisk until smooth. Mixture will be thick. Spread over cream cheese layer. Refrigerate 4 hours or until set. Garnish with whipped cream if desired.

  11. Maria, I grew up in Florida, and I remember many Thanksgivings and Christmases when we wore shorts. :)

  12. Maria, I grew up in Florida, and I remember many Thanksgivings and Christmases when we wore shorts.

    Ditto! I lived in southwest Florida for 24 years. I never minded a warm Thanksgiving but, after growing up in Michigan, could never get used to a tropical Christmas. It just never seemed quite right. ;-)

  13. Jenn will be popping in at some point today to say hello and answer your questions. When I talked to her yesterday she said there was a chance she would have to work today so it may be later before she gets here.

  14. The sweet potato casserole sounds yummy.

    Pumpkin pie is the one thing that has to be on the table for Thanksgiving in our house. I'm excited this year because I'm using a new pie crust recipe that uses butter as the shortening element and ice cold vodka as the moistening agent. It's a pain to handle when you are rolling it out but it is the best pie crust I've ever tasted.

  15. I'm using a new pie crust recipe that uses butter as the shortening element and ice cold vodka as the moistening agent.

    Clarisse, that sounds like an interesting pie crust recipe. Could you share it with us?

  16. Hello and welcome to The Romance Dish, Jenn! We're delighted you could join us today. :)

    I'm the odd person out here because I don't like sweet potatoes in any way, shape, or form, but your recipe looks a lot like my mom's and everybody RAVES about how good it is!

  17. Good luck hosting Thanksgiving dinner, Dorthy!

    Annie and Helen, what a neat idea about the coins in the pudding!

    Maria, I was born and lived in Florida until I was 30, so I can totally relate to wearing shorts on Thanksgiving. And Christmas. And New Year's Day. And.....

  18. Thanks for your responses everyone!

    Dorthy: Thank you! I hope you and your family enjoy it as much as we do! Feel free to customize as you like too. Sometimes I add less sugar and more cinnamon, or I do a mixture of brown sugar and white sugar in the potatoes. Have fun with it!

    Annie West: I love sweet potatoes sweet and savory! One of my favorite ways to eat them are roasted and tossed in olive oil and thyme.

    I've read so much on traditional Christmas puddings and I've never gotten up the nerve to try it! If you'd be willing to share your recipe, I'd love to try it!

  19. Oh my goodness, Gannon, THANK YOU for posting this recipe! My husband *loves* pumpkin pie and cheesecake so I'll have to make this for his birthday on Tuesday. ;-)

    Sounds yummy, Clarisse!!

  20. Oh my gosh, Clarisse! That crust sounds amazing! Will you share the recipe with us?

  21. Morning, Jenn!

    You know, I've never tried sweet potatoes any other way but "sweet" or plain. Roasted with olive oil and thyme sounds wonderful. I'll have to give that a try.

  22. I feel like I am watching the food network, one of my fav stations to watch of course, next to books food is a close second on subjects I love. It is just my son and I now so our dinner is small. What was strange when my mother was living was "the family" always wanted her to make spaghetti for the holidays. Are we italian, uhh no, Irish if you really wanted to try and pin it down....LOL

  23. Jenn, I will have to try to the sweet potatoes with the olive oil and thyme. Sounds great!

  24. Andrea, you're welcome, and I hope your hubby enjoys it! It never lasts long in our house. *g*

  25. I feel like I am watching the food network..

    LOL. It does seem that way, Dianna. Everyone seems to be discussing food and favorite holiday recipes lately. Makes me hungry for Thanksgiving goodies right now! :)

  26. Helen: Thank you so much! I'd love to try your recipe too if you wouldn't mind sharing! Cakes make wonderful gifts, don't they? My boyfriend's mother loves me because every Christmas he'd go home to visit (He's Japanese), I'd send a fruit cake with him for her. I'm telling ya, cakes could end wars!

    Gannon: HI!! PJ's talked a lot about you too. Very nice to meet you :) PJ mentioned to me that you had a recipe that was pretty much the same as mine, which means it must be good! And a double pumpkin pie. Oh the only pumpkin pie eater in the house, I would be 40 lbs heavier and blissfully happy! How do you make a double layer pumpkin pie?

  27. (Gannon, I just saw your recipe post. That is being put on my “to make” list!)

    Maria: Hello! Thank you! I’ve never actually assembled it ahead of time, but I don’t see why it couldn’t.

    The only thing I would suggest would be to wait and put the topping (which can be made pre-made) until right before you bake it. I have visions of all that delicious streusel sinking into the murky sweet potato depths while sitting in the refrigerator! If the casserole is going straight from the fridge to the oven, the cooking time might be longer, but I’m not sure by how much. Longer cooking time shouldn’t affect the integrity of the dish, but if the topping starts to brown too much, it can just be covered with foil to help prevent it.

    I love the Fusion Thanksgiving thing you have going on. My boyfriend is Japanese and I do a lot of fusion cooking myself. It’s amazing how delicious food can be when the best of two cultures are combined.

  28. Clarisse: Thank you! It is fabulously yummy and my mom can’t go a Thanksgiving without making it (out of fear of rioting, of course). It’s kind of ironic considering she doesn’t really like sweet potatoes.

    I LOVE pumpkin pie and have been guilty of polishing off an entire one by myself (no one else really likes it and there’s no way I’m letting all that deliciousness go to waste!) Your vodka laced pie crust intrigues me! I’ve been having difficulty recently finding a good crust recipe, so I’d love to try out your recipe if you’d like to share it!

    Andrea: Thank you for the warm welcome! I’m delighted to be here! My mom doesn’t like sweet potatoes either, but she makes this recipe every year without fail because she knows how much everyone else loves it. In gratitude of her selflessness, I always tackle the turkey. :) Do you have any other recipes that you enjoy over the holidays, sans sweet potatoes?

  29. Dianna: Food Network is my favorite channel too! I get a lot of ideas (and cravings, sadly) from it. There’s a lot to be said for small Thanksgivings. A few years ago it was just me and my boyfriend (who doesn’t even like turkey), but it was fun because all we had to worry about was pleasing the two of us. It certainly cut down on the dishes!

    It’s amazing how traditional meals can differ in America. It is certainly a product of all the diversity, which I think is wonderful. I think that holiday food is really just comfort food, and people want to eat what reminds them of home and family, whether that is turkey and stuffing, black beans and rice (YUM), or some seriously awesome spaghetti!

  30. Hi Jenn
    My fruit cake is very easy to make and very nice to eat as well.

    Melt and Mix Christmas Cake

    3lb mixed fruit
    1/2 cup sherry rum or brandy
    1 green apple
    1 tablespoon honey or golden syrup
    1 cup brown sugar firmly packed
    4 large eggs
    8 oz butter
    1 & half cups plain flour
    1/2 cup self raising flour
    1 teaspoon mixed spice
    2 tablespoons sherry rum or brandy extra

    Place mixed fruit in large basin. add apple sherry peeled and coarsley grated apple honey sugar and eggs mix well with wooden spoon or hand to break up any large clumps of fruit. Add cooled melted butter and sifted flours and spice mix thoroughly. Place into deep 9 in round or 8 in square cake tin which has been lined with 3 sheets of greasproof paper. Make sure papers stands up around edge of tin to a height of about 2 in this is to protect the top of the cake during cooking time.
    Bake in slow oven 3 & half hours until cooked when tested. Remove from oven and brush evenly with extra sherry cover tightly with aluminium foil leave until cold. Remove from tin leaving lining paper intact. Wrap cake tightly in plastic wrap then in foil store in a cool dark place or if weather is humid in refrigerator. This cake will keep for 3 months.

    I hope you get to try it.

    the Boiled Chrissy pudding is very long to write out I will try and get some time this evening and email it to you.

    Have Fun

  31. Hi, Jenn! It's great to "see" you here. Your mom's sweet potatoe dish sounds like our Senator Russell's Sweet Potatoes, always on our table at holiday dinners. Pecan pie is another family favorite, and the boys always demand banana pudding--the old-fashioned kind my grandmother made.

  32. Jenn said: Do you have any other recipes that you enjoy over the holidays, sans sweet potatoes?

    The thing I look forward to most is deep-fried turkey. I can munch on that all day long. And usually do! lol I also love my sister's broccoli cheese casserole, my aunt's homemade mac and cheese and my green bean bundles. Oh!--and my mom's homemade rolls. :)

  33. Janga, my mamaw made the best banana pudding! Yummy!

  34. Thank you Helen! I'll definitely have to try that recipe!

    Hi Jenga! I love a good old-fashion banana pudding. Yum!!

    Andrea: I've never deep fried a turkey but it seems so popular nowadays. With my luck, I'd burn my house down :P

  35. Jenn, every year there are reports of people who actually do burn their house down frying a turkey. I'll let someone else do it for me. :)

    You need to try it sometime. It's wonderful!

  36. Jenn is working tonight but she'll check in when she gets home (after 11).

  37. Vodka Pie Crust

    Foolproof Pie Dough
    From America's Test Kitchen

    Vodka is essential to the texture of the crust and imparts no flavor—do not substitute. This dough will be moister and more supple than most standard pie doughs and will require more flour to roll out (up to 1/4 cup).

    For one 9-inch Double-Crust Pie
    2 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour (12 1/2 ounces)
    1 teaspoon table salt
    2 tablespoons sugar
    12 tablespoons cold unsalted butter (1 1/2 sticks), cut into 1/4-inch slices
    1/2 cup chilled solid vegetable shortening , cut into 4 pieces
    1/4 cup vodka , cold
    1/4 cup cold water

    1. Process 1 1/2 cups flour, salt, and sugar in food processor until combined, about 2 one-second pulses. Add butter and shortening and process until homogenous dough just starts to collect in uneven clumps, about 15 seconds (dough will resemble cottage cheese curds and there should be no uncoated flour). Scrape bowl with rubber spatula and redistribute dough evenly around processor blade. Add remaining cup flour and pulse until mixture is evenly distributed around bowl and mass of dough has been broken up, 4 to 6 quick pulses. Empty mixture into medium bowl.

    2. Sprinkle vodka and water over mixture. With rubber spatula, use folding motion to mix, pressing down on dough until dough is slightly tacky and sticks together. Divide dough into two even balls and flatten each into 4-inch disk. Wrap each in plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 45 minutes or up to 2 days.

  38. Wow! I'm definitely hungry now. I'm going to try this recipe for Thanksgiving this year. Thanks a ton for sharing it!

    Tami Brothers
    Petit Fours and Hot Tamales blog

  39. Rest of the vodka pie recipe:

    3. Remove 1 disk of dough from refrigerator and roll out on generously floured (up to 1/4 cup) work surface to 12-inch circle, about 1/8 inch thick. Roll dough loosely around rolling pin and unroll into pie plate, leaving at least 1-inch overhang on each side. Working around circumference, ease dough into plate by gently lifting edge of dough with one hand while pressing into plate bottom with other hand. Leave dough that overhangs plate in place; refrigerate while preparing filling until dough is firm, about 30 minutes.

    Proceed with whatever filling you are using

    For a single crust pie (like pumpkin pie) Bake at 425 degrees for 15 minutes and then turn down heat to 350 degrees and finish baking for 35 minutes

    For a double crust fruit pie bake at 400 degrees for 30 minutes and then turn down heat to 350 and continue to bake for 30 minutes more

  40. Many thanks to Helen and Clarisse! I'm definitely going to try both of your recipes!

  41. Jenn, thanks for guest blogging with us today and sharing your mom's delicious sweet potato recipe. I'm looking forward to making some for myself! *vbg*

  42. Thanks for having me, and thank you everyone for your comments and recipes! I can't wait to try all of them :)