Last Saturday, after scouring cookbooks and my latest food magazine issues, I decided to cook a meal from Lisa Fain’s The Homesick Texan Cookbook. Normally I plan my time better, but we’d spent longer than we expected at the local arts festival with the kids, so I was late getting started and my timing was off. I chopped and prepped and cooked for about 2 hours before the meal was finished. It didn’t help that my blender decided to misbehave each time I used it – all three times. [I’m kicking myself for not splurging on that Vitamix.]
I was so proud of our meal – starring chicken enchiladas with sour cream sauce and refried beans, all made from scratch – and was looking forward to getting off my feet and enjoying it with my family. And that’s when my 5 year old, Oliver, declared that he HATED the enchiladas (without tasting them, mind you) and pushed his enchilada right off of his plate.
Some time ago, I might have caved, gotten up from the table, and made him a hot dog, but not that night. Not now. After informing him – not so gently – that his rudeness was not going to cut it at my dinner table, and with him in tears afterwards, he had a meal of refried beans alone. He never did try that enchilada, and I’m okay with that. We’re both pretty stubborn, but I can win at the stubborn game. I refused – and still refuse – to make him something else when I’ve worked hard to prepare a meal for the family. He’ll eat what I place before him, or he won’t eat.
We went through a similar phase with Madeline when she was younger. She’s eight now, and she’ll try anything at all that I put in front of her. I never make her eat every bit of food on her plate. My only expectation is that she tries a bite, to see if she likes it. And almost all of the time, she does. She’s become my adventurous eater, and it’s one of the many things I love about my firstborn.
I know that Oliver will eventually move on from this defiant stage. I’m certainly ready for it to happen. It can’t come too soon.
The one food that Oliver has always liked – that both of my kids have loved from the beginning – is sweet potatoes. But, really, who doesn’t like sweet potatoes? After the enchilada incident, I made these mashed sweet potatoes for us the next night. The dish was a treat, and it was one we all deserved after sitting through that awkward meal the night before.
Mashed Sweet Potatoes
Yield: Serves 4.
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 1 hour
This is an easy side dish and one that makes both children and adults happy. You can even make this up to 2 days in advance and store in the refrigerator. When ready to serve, simply reheat in a 350 degree oven or in the microwave.
2 pounds medium sweet potatoes
1 tablespoon fresh orange juice
1 tablespoon unsalted butter, melted
2 tablespoons heavy cream
1/2 teaspoon course salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 tablespoons honey
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
With the tines of a fork, poke a few holes in each sweet potato and wrap in foil. Place on a baking sheet and bake until soft, about 1 hour. Remove from oven, let cool slightly.
Cut each sweet potato in half and carefully scoop out flesh into a large bowl. Mash the sweet potato flesh using a potato masher or by putting it through a food mill or potato ricer. Add orange juice, melted butter, cream, salt, cinnamon, and honey, and stir well to combine. Add additional salt to taste.