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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10 Responses to “feeding oliver, and a recipe: mashed sweet potatoes”

  1. 1
    Wendi @ Bon Appetit Hon — March 1, 2012 @ 11:13 am

    Mashed sweet potatoes are a favorite at our house. I like to spice them up with a wee bit of adobo sauce from a can that seems to live in my fridge for months on end.

    I’m almost out of my super special Florida honey which makes me sad because I always use it to balance the adobo heat.

  2. 2
    JAN HALLQUIST THOMPSON — March 1, 2012 @ 11:52 am

    I love that you won that little battle with Oliver! I woulda fought to the finish myself! My parents felt that way with their children and I felt the same with mine. Today, we’re all pretty considerate, adventurous eaters! How kind of you to follow that with something that you knew would comfort Oliver and let him know all is well, again. I love how you love him!

  3. 3
    Macaroni Mama — March 1, 2012 @ 5:02 pm

    I love Jan’s comment. I, too, love how you love Oliver by making something he likes.:)

  4. 4
    Nelly Rodriguez — March 1, 2012 @ 8:39 pm

    I love mashed sweet potatoes but tend to shy away from the cinnamon in it, just because I never had it growing up. I added cream cheese to my sweet potatoes the other night and my husband was outraged. But…they we’re mighty delicious!

  5. 5
    Kiran @ KiranTarun.com — March 2, 2012 @ 12:55 am

    My mom had just one complain about me as a kid — I was a slow eater. That is all 😀

    Gosh, who doesn’t like a bowl of that mashed sweet potato goodness?! 😀

  6. 6

    I am so glad you didn’t cave. I think we can encourage picky eaters if we do. I had one rule; just one bite. If my kids didn’t like it they did not have to eat it but I didn’t prepare anything else just for them. More often then not their hunger won over their refusal to eat and now as adults they seem to have few foods they don’t enjoy.

    They don’t like green bell peppers but as a card carrying member of the ‘Green Pepper Haters Club’ I’m OK with that. 🙂

  7. 7
    Paula — March 2, 2012 @ 8:51 pm

    I love that you are firm but fair with regards to the meal eating rules with your kids. I was a very fussy eater as a child and raised in a household where we had to eat what was put in front of us, there was never the option of trying a bite or two, just Eat. It. All. before we we allowed to leave the table.

  8. 8
    Brian @ A Thought For Food — March 4, 2012 @ 8:51 am

    A wonderful lesson to teach your children. They’ll thank you one day. You’re a good mom. 🙂

  9. 9

    I’m SO with you on the eating thing. What age did you start doing that? I feel like with my 1 and a half year old, I have to get her to eat something, but when she gets older I’ll do the same as you. Or am I being too soft?
    These sweet potatoes look great! Love how they aren’t packed with brown sugar and butter (not that that is necessarily a bad thing–but it is good to have healthier everyday recipes).

    • 9.1
      Merry-Jennifer — March 4, 2012 @ 4:47 pm

      It’s hard when they’re that young, Rachel. I was softer when mine were that age, too. But once they’re two and beyond, it’s easier to do. As long as you remember that they won’t starve, it makes it easier.

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