Thursday, November 19, 2015

Throwback Thursday - - Cozy Kitchen Memories

And so it begins...
Here in the United States, our thoughts are turning to food as we prepare for our Thanksgiving celebration next week. For me, those thoughts center primarily on side dishes - specifically sweet potatoes and cranberry salad. Mmmmm. My niece, Jenn was a wee sprite when she first started helping me in the kitchen. Over the years, we've made hundreds of dishes together and, somewhere along the way, the student surpassed the teacher, becoming an accomplished - and creative - cook and baker (You should taste her biscuits. Heaven!). Jenn is a wife and mom now, living in Japan with her family, but she's home visiting her parents this Thanksgiving so I thought it would be the perfect time to revisit this post she wrote for the Dish the first year we were open, November 2009. 

My Mom's Sweet Potato Casserole

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!

Jenn and PJ (a/k/a Aunt Patty)

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.

Jenn and her mom (a/k/a best sister-in-law ever!)

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. *LOL* I love the photographic evidence of lack of self-control. I always bypassed the sweet potatoes--they were always covered in brown sugar and marshmallows and I wasn't a fan of dessert having a place by my turkey. (I'm one of those people where things on my plate can't touch and if they do, they better be in the same savory or sweet category.)

    Mom had a recipe for fresh cranberry relish: 2 bags of fresh cranberries, 4 oranges, quartered (peel still on 2 of them), and 8 cored sweet red apples.You grind up all of these items and then stir in a couple boxes of red jello and some sugar to taste (because the cranberries are tart) and then if you're particularly adventurous, we also stir in a cup of chopped pecans. Mostly though, we ate it without the pecans. It wasn't Thanksgiving without this dish.

    My brother Eldon had a recipe for Scalloped Oysters, which I don't believe was any long-living family recipe, but one he stumbled upon somewhere and decided to con one of us into cooking it every Thanksgiving. (If you wanted his help at Thanksgiving, you can to con him into peeling potatoes or something, he wasn't going to volunteer. *LOL*) The Scalloped Oysters were two sleeves of saltine crackers crushed, 2 cans of oysters, 2-3 eggs beaten with about 2-3 cups of milk and a dash of Worcestershire sauce and black pepper. In a casserole, put down one of crushed sleeves of crackers, sprinkle the oyster "juice" over crackers and layer the oysters evenly over the cracker layer. Sprinkle with black pepper. Repeat with 2nd layer. (Crap, there's like another layer of crackers--so crush more crackers over the top at this point.) Pour the egg-milk mixture over this and let it soak in a few minutes. Dot this with butter. Bake in the oven (350 is fine) for 40 minutes or so until it's set. Eldon loved the stuff and sulked if we weren't going to make it for Thanksgiving; and I enjoyed it but wasn't enamored with making it every time since I was usually cooking a dozen other things. My brother in law was the other biggest fan of this stuff. I liked it. No one else in the family would touch the stuff. *LOL*

    1. I'm not much for oysters but I sure would like to try that cranberry relish!

  2. I have more family dishes that I've come up with or altered. I like to change and add to recipes. I enjoy making stews and soups with whatever I have on hand. I always do the turkey and stuffing and dressing and lots of sides on Thanksgiving. Christmas I usually do a ham and lasagna or cheesy potatoes plus other various sides. I do a lot of Sunday dinners for my grown family so I'm always looking for ideas. Oh, and they all love my meatloaf and chili but I truly never make it the same way lol.

    1. I make meatloaf with my grandmother's recipe. It give it that extra dose of love. <3

  3. I think our sweet potato casserole is a variation of the same recipe--just without the cinnamon and nutmeg. I double the recipe, and the family fights over the leftovers. I love that most of our holiday dishes are recipes that were handed down from my mother, grandmother, and great-aunts. It is one of the ways that those who are no longer with us remain part of our celebrations.

    1. I love that most of our holiday dishes are recipes that were handed down from my mother, grandmother, and great-aunts. It is one of the ways that those who are no longer with us remain part of our celebrations.

      I agree, Janga. As I said in my meatloaf comment above, the memories that accompany those recipes bring that extra dose of love.

  4. Sweet potato casserole is my favorite. We top ours with Frosted Flakes.

  5. Your recipe sounds yummy! I don't have a specific sweet potato casserole, but my cornbread dressing is amazing. I use my mom's recipe with a few tweeks. My husband's family always had cherry cheesecake as one of the desserts, and we do that, too.

    1. I'd have no trouble jumping on board with cherry cheesecake!

  6. I use my paternal grandmother Catherine's stuffing recipe. She was born in 1879 I altered it by adding a little more bread chunks and onions to the recipe. We also make my M-I-L's spritz cookie recipe. Unfortunately, I can't find a German cookie press like hers. It resembled a meat grinder. The one's they sell in stores are so small and putzy and they don't hold up to repeated use.