feeding oliver, and a recipe: mashed sweet potatoes

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.

Yield: Serves 4.

Prep Time: 15 minutes

Cook Time: 1 hour

Mashed Sweet Potatoes

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.

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20 Responses to “looking back, looking forward, and a cocktail recipe: the st. honoré 75”

  1. Aimee @ Simple Bites — December 30, 2011 @ 3:50 pm

    Happy New Year, MJ, all the best to you in 2012. Enjoy the break…. xox

  2. Jennifer Hess — December 30, 2011 @ 3:57 pm

    Getting to finally meet you in person was a definite highlight of my 2011. Here’s hoping that your highs far surpass your lows in 2012, and that I get to hug you again real soon. xxoo

  3. Winnie — December 30, 2011 @ 4:46 pm

    Happy New Year and enjoy your blogging break MJ! Hope I get to see you again (and again) in 2012 🙂

  4. Winnie — December 30, 2011 @ 4:47 pm

    Oh, forgot to say the cocktail is gorgeous…cheers!

  5. Michelle Ledesma — December 30, 2011 @ 5:35 pm

    Wishing you a very happy and healthy 2012, MJ. Here’s hoping 2012 far exceeds your expectations. Enjoy your break. We’ll be here when you return. Cheers!

  6. Melanie Flinn — December 31, 2011 @ 9:07 am

    Great post. Looks like you have an exciting 2012 to look forward to. Wishing you the best for the New Year!

  7. Lynda — December 31, 2011 @ 11:06 am

    Happy New Year MJ! I too look forward to leaving this year behind and the start of a new year. May all of your wishes come true!

  8. Macaroni Mama — December 31, 2011 @ 10:01 pm

    Your chidren have been wonderful. Happy New Year, Merry Jennifer!

  9. Kim — January 1, 2012 @ 12:34 am

    It’s great to see you so optimistic about 2012, after the year you’ve been through. Hang in there, I agree that there are many milestones to look forward to.

    Cheers –


  10. Paula — January 1, 2012 @ 10:58 am

    Lovely cocktail Merry Jennifer! You are certainly starting off the New Year right by being hopeful and by taking some time to rest and recharge. May 2012 bless you by bringing all your hopes to a full reality.

  11. DessertForTwo — January 1, 2012 @ 8:30 pm

    I echo your sentiments about 2011.
    I hope lots of lots & happiness (and health!) flood your life in 2012 & beyond.


  12. Diane {Created by Diane} — January 3, 2012 @ 3:13 pm

    looks delicious, Happy New Year, looks like a wonderful set of plans for 2012!

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  14. Tickled Red — January 4, 2012 @ 1:50 pm

    Happy New Year to you and your lovely family darlin’! I hope that the new year brings you all that you long for, and if by chance it throws you some curves know that you have a shoulder and hand to hold you up. xoxo

  15. Robyn | Add a Pinch — January 6, 2012 @ 9:24 am

    Happy New Year, MJ! I hope you are enjoying a much deserved break!!!

  16. Elizabeth — January 6, 2012 @ 1:28 pm

    What a nice way to say goodbye to 2011. Cheers to making your dreams happen and enjoying the heck out of 2012!

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  18. Rose Rini — January 14, 2012 @ 10:44 am

    Hi Merry! I haven’t checked here in awhile love the post! Is that a cia knife i see in that photo? 🙂 loving my set as well. I decided to use my husband’s gift card “prize” to order some cookware from cia and have been having so much fun cooking. I’m hoping to take a weekend course in the spring. I embraced the champagne cocktail myself this season but used blood orange liquor and a raw sugar cube..heavenly. I hope all your new year dreams come true. Keep us posted!

    • Merry-Jennifer

      Merry-Jennifer replied: — January 14th, 2012 @ 6:50 pm

      Rose – it IS a CIA knife. 🙂
      So glad you stopped by, and I’m so excited for your weekend CIA course in the spring. I’d love to get back up there again.

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