November – Gratitude – Recipe

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The original of this recipe was as a pie, directly from a colleague who was born and raised in New Orleans. Sweet Potato Pie is a traditional Southern dessert, very similar to pumpkin pie, although I think a little bit sweeter. I was on a trip to Virginia a couple of years ago, and was ecstatic to find a sweet potato pie in the local McDonald’s alongside their apple pies. It was amazing! Even years later, I miss it in my northeast home.

My mother could not grasp the idea that this pie was dessert or that it is typically eaten chilled. For her, it was a side dish and that’s what it became in our house for Thanksgiving.

Over the years I’ve changed it, and sometimes when I can’t find the extra large Keebler graham cracker crust I will make it as a casserole. That is the recipe that I’m going to share with you this November.

I know that this is a fall type food, but I will eat this all year round.

​Sweet Potato Casserole

This started out as a pie, but then I got a little lazy, and it became a casserole. It is still pretty awesome!

Ingredients:

1 lg can of yams or sweet potatoes

1 stick of unsalted butter

1/4 cup brown sugar

1 tsp cinnamon

1/2 tsp nutmeg

1 bag of mini marshmallows

Directions:

1. Cook the yams on the stovetop. When hot, drain and return the yams to the saucepan and mash.

2. Add the stick of butter, brown sugar, cinnamon, and nutmeg, and mix thoroughly either by hand or with a mixer.

3. Transfer the smooth yams to a casserole dish. Cover with the marshmallows.

4. Bake in an oven at 350° for thirty-five minutes or until marshmallows are golden brown.

5. Serve as a side dish. Yummy.

Sweet Potatoes are My Comfort Food

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​Whenever comfort food is brought up, whether it’s a writing assignment or discussion or online meme, my head goes straight to chicken noodle soup and/or Kraft Macaroni & cheese in the blue box, although not eaten together of course. I will eat the mac & cheese as a leftover, but there is nothing like the taste of the macaroni from the blue box, hot and creamy, right when it’s first made.

Out of the pot even.

However, for real comfort, my heart goes to an evening that I was probably about eleven, maybe as old as twelve, where I am sitting in my mother’s bed, my legs sticking out from a nightgown that I hated wearing, with my back against the headboard.

The only light coming brightly from the hallway and that dim blue from the television just beyond the end of the bed. I was watching whatever happened to be on. There were not many options for change before remote controls, and with everyone else in the family downstairs, I was stuck with whatever it was.

On my lap was a plate, and on the plate, I am using my fork to smoosh around a thick piece of butter melting on a warm, soft, sweet potato. The orange flesh absorbing each bit of butter dripping off the pat. Long after this day, I’ve seen people put cinnamon and brown sugar, even caramel and marshmallows on sweet potatoes, but for me all it needs is the hot insides and the sweet, melting butter. 

Even today, the perfect, succulent, sweet potato brings me back to that sick day in bed, the smell, the taste, the warmth from the plate on my legs still warming me decades later.

50-46 – Sweet Potato Pie

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I met a woman at my first job after college who was from New Orleans. She brought a level of multiculturalism to the curriculum that reflected our clients – the children of the US military. We were in their child development program and I learned more there than I had ever expected.

She held a multicultural night for the staff and we each brought in something from our cultures to share. Food is the best way to come together.

I brought latkes. I have a vague memory of a table filled with fabric covers representing cultures and foods placed carefully on top. What I remember most of all, though was Sylvia’s sweet potato pie. It was the perfect consistency with beautifully browned marshmallows on top and it was amazing. I can practically taste it now.

From that moment on, I made that sweet potato pie for my family’s Thanksgiving feast. The only problem was my mother refused to believe that it was a dessert, and she served it warm and as a side dish. I could never convince her otherwise.

That was twernty-four years ago and it has remained a family tradition. I make it, not only for Thanksgiving but also for Christmas and Rosh Hashanah, sometimes even Passover. It is a family favorite. The last couple of times, I haven’t wanted all the bother of making a pie, so I’ve used the recipe, or my version of it without the graham cracker crust and called it a sweet potato casserole. It tastes just as good.

Warm or cold, side dish or dessert, I could eat this every day.

Here’s my variation of the recipe that I’ve used the last decade or so, and will be making it to bring to my sister-in-law’s on Thursday. This is our first year without my mother-in-law and as tough as that is going to be, I want my kids to have something that they’re used to having at her house.

Cook one large can of sweet potatoes or cut yams. Bring it to a boil and then drain. Mash it smooth and add one stick of unsalted butter. Mix thoroughly.

Mix in about 1/4 cup of brown sugar. Add more if you like it sweeter.

Add cinnamon and nutmeg, about a teaspoon each, although I don’t really measure. I add it directly by grating over a microplane.

Pour into a pie crust or a casserole dish and cover completely with mini-marshmallows. If I use a crust, I use the Keebler graham cracker crust that serves two extra people.

Put in a 350 degree oven and bake for about 30-35 minutes. Take out when the marshmallows are melty and golden-browned.

If it’s a pie, let cool a little and cut with a cake/pie slicer. If casserole, scoop out with a large spoon.

Personally , I like it right side up, with the marshmallows on top. My family doesn’t usually care, and it drives me crazy.

50-7 – Sick. Bleh.

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In Food, posted Monday, I mentioned eating sweet potatoes when I was sick. The truth is I was almost never sick. I had the chicken pox like everyone of my generation and got a week off from school, staring out of the front window of our apartment with my brother who also had them that week. But I was never sick. I didn’t get colds, no ear infections. While my friends were out sick, I was always in school. I did miss senior skip day and I never went to class in college (or work later on) on my birthday and while I always worked Christmas, I never worked New Year’s. I also never called in because of having too much to drink.

So I was completely stunned when in my 20s, working for a child development center for the US Navy, I got an ear infection. Having never had one before I had no idea what it was except that I was certain that I was dying. The pain was unbearable. I tried to lie down to make it stop, not realizing that is pretty much the worst thing you can do for an ear infection. When I finally got diagnosed and on antibiotics, I thanked G-d for science and medicine and medical advances that would remove that pain.

Since then, I have had a few more ear infections, chronic ringing in my ears (thanks Stray Cats) and hearing loss (again, thank SC), but I still never really get sick.

My second pregnancy.

One or two bouts of food poisoning and a couple of flus, all after my kids were born. Kids wear you down. They really do.

I am pro-vaccine. I feel the need to say that in this world of maybe science doesn’t work, but science does work and vaccines save lives. I have the mark on my left shoulder from the small pox vaccine that my kids will never get because we eradicated it and no longer need a small pox vaccine in this country. I went to Jonas E. Salk Middle School, named for the man who discovered the vaccine against polio, a disease that killed our thirty-second president.

On Monday, I had my yearly physical, complete with a tetanus booster. I moaned in that childlike way of no like shots, but I took it and there was no doubt that I would.

It hurt for that split second and I went about my day, getting my hair cut, eating lunch which fit into my new prescribed diet (except for the diet coke which so far is the last one I’ve had). I watched Major Crimes. I slept and got up on Tuesday and went grocery shopping. I felt great.

Then I felt fine.

then I was achey and whiney, and my head was throbbing and I had a fever, but I was so cold that I needed a blanket and then another. I fell asleep in my office chair, which is an overstuffed living room chair.

I barely ate dinner. My eyes hurt (which is why I haven’t been here as often as I had planned), even as I listened to Containment on the television.

Wednesday was slightly better but not by much.

On Thursday, I was able to leave my bed, eat lunch and go to my meeting for the day of service for my church. I’m the secretary.

I will be calling the doctor today, although I should have called on Wednesday morning. I have never had a reaction to a vaccine before. Obviously, this is better than getting any of the things the Tdap prevents, but it was still pretty miserable.

I couldn’t even watch television which is usually very comforting when I ‘m not feeling well. Sweet potatoes and the blue glow of the television used to be the only medicine I needed.

Take your shots kids (and adults) and have some extra water, fruit, Netflix, wifi, and of course, sweet potatoes on hand. Just in case.