A Little More Please!

More sweet potatoes, more family, and more Thanksgiving is always better.

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A Timeworn and Beloved Recipe

I’m pretty sure I’m totally capable of making sweet potato caserol on my own. Of course, I don’t know for sure because my mom has always helped me.

One of my family’s top two favorite Thanksgiving dishes (tied with my dad’s cornbread dressing) is Mom’s Senator Russel’s Sweet Potato Soufflé. Ok, so in reality, any idea of who Senator Russel was has been lost to time, and from my understanding, the finished side doesn’t fit the definition of a soufflé, but oh my goodness, all cares about the name are completely forgotten as soon as the smells of roasted pecans and sweet potatoes start wafting out of the oven. The second the casserole dish is taken out of the oven, it takes a lot of will power not to dive in before anyone else knows it’s cooked.

The magnetic deliciousness of this dish is why my extended family (and now some lucky friends with the recipe) jump at the chance to bring it to any holiday gathering possible. It’s been to every work and friends’ Thanksgiving in memory, and I’m pretty sure I even brought it to a baby shower a few years ago. You can never ever have too much sweet potato soufflé! Which brings me to another point.

You also can’t seem to have enough help making these sweet potatoes either.

Each time someone offers to bring Senator Russel’s potatoes, my mom starts looking visibly anxious. I’ve come to find out this is because she’s just adding this newest offer to the list of at least five other times the dish will be made the week before Thanksgiving, and it’s implied that she will personally help make it each time. To be clear, I never ask for her help, but it always seems to arrive. Sometimes, the sweet potatoes are even pre-baking in the oven before I can personally get to Kroger to buy the ingredients. Just as arriving at dinners with a warm bowl of bright orange sweet potatoes and crusty sugared pecans has become a tradition, knowing my mom will tell me when I’ve mashed the potatoes enough or even taking the spoon from my hand to show me a “better” way to stir together the crisp topping has become completely expected.

When I first started making this dish, I found the extra help just a smidge annoying. Did my mom think I wasn’t a good cook? Why wouldn’t she just cook something else when I could handle this? I wondered. However, after a few years of this supervision, I realized even though I could make the dish by myself, I didn’t really want to. I think the rest of my family has learned the same thing, too. Every time we cook sweet potato soufflé, there’s  a Hallmark movie in the background, and at some point, my mom and I will both get tickled when pecans start flying out of the mixing bowl as someone stirs too vigorously. With so much help in the kitchen, the festivities begin before the dinner even starts, and the dish has always turned out perfect with extra eyes on the recipe.

So, my recommendation is to use this dish as an excuse to have yet another festive meal, and as a way to make memories with loved ones in the kitchen.

The Recipe:

Filling

  • 4 cups baked sweet potatoes (4 medium sweet potatoes)- lightly mashed
  • 1 cup regular, granulated white sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1/2 cup melted butter
  • 2 eggs lightly beaten

Topping

  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1/3 cup flour
  • 1 cup chopped pecans
  • 1/3 cup softened margarine

Preheat oven to 350.

For the filling, add all filling ingredients to a large mixing bowl. Stir till combined. Empty this mixture into an oven safe casserole dish.

For the topping, add all topping ingredients to a smaller mixing bowl. My mother uses two butter knives to cut the margarine into the other ingredients with a crisscrossing motion. I have achieved the same results just staring with a spoon when she isn’t looking. The stirring method is personal choice. Once the topping is combined, sprinkle (don’t press) the crumbly mixture on top of the sweet potato mixture in the casserole dish.

Bake at 350 for 45 minutes. Let cool slightly, but serve while warm.

*The recipe can be mixed and added to the casserole dish and kept in the refrigerator overnight to be baked the next day.

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Before…
After!

Enjoy!

A Cake Pattern…or Recipe for Party Success 

Confession: my name is Erica Marchbanks, and I’m moderately addicted to patterns.  I love bright, cheerful, repeated designs. The more pattern, the better! My mom thinks it’s precious, my sister thinks I need help, but I just think about Lilly Pulitzer…and sometimes Vera Bradley…which sometimes gets me in trouble.

To be specific about my love of pattern, blue & yellow based motifs are pretty great, green & pink are even better, but I’m a major sucker for any shade of blue & red/coral images splashed across whatever product you may be selling. For instance, I’ve gone so far as to call Lilly’s She She Shells “my pattern.”

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Photo credit: The Juice Stand Blog

So, it’s no surprise I was quite smitten with Vera Bradley’s Marina Paisley a few years ago. I looked at the magazine, spied that pattern, and marched myself straight into the Saddle Creek Vera store, determined to purchase something great.  This would all be well & good if I had chosen something even slightly useful…but alas, that was not true.

book 1

I bought a recipe holder. Ok, well, maybe it would be useful for other people, but at the time my cooking skills were sub par, and I didn’t have five special, go-to recipes to my name. What was I to do? My recipe holder was so beautiful. I had chosen one where my favorite part of the pattern was front and center (a vital part of shopping for the pattern lover). It was clearly the best, not overly expensive object in the store. It was looking great in its new home. I had to keep it. I just decided it would have to look nice empty. So I called my grandmother, a fellow pattern lover, to tell her all about my new recipe book.

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It was just the phone call I needed (how do grandmothers always know what to do?). Along with patterns, my grandmom shares my love of chocolate. She offered me her favorite Kahlua cake recipe to add to my new organizer and told me she would love a piece of cake if I wanted to try the recipe that night.  I tried the recipe, & to my surprise, it really was easy and delicious!   I brought my grandmother half the cake, and carried some to a friend’s birthday party.  Everyone asked how to make this dessert. I was on a roll! The first recipe in the booklet was now my go-to recipe! I couldn’t thank my grandmom enough!

Book 3

Over the last few years, I have brought this cake to many events, & with different garnishes, it has fit every occasion! Somehow, following my seemingly silly interests melded with a little grandmotherly magic and mixed into a cake for any party.

So without further ado….

Here’s the recipe for

My Grandmother’s (Very Easy) Kahlua Cake:

Ingredients:                                                                                                                        

(Remember, it’s tasty. I didn’t say healthy.)

 1 box               Duncan Hines Devil’s Food Cake mix                                                                

1 small box   Jello brand instant chocolate pudding mix                                                      

2 cups             Sour Cream                                                                                                                

4                       Eggs

3/4 cups        Vegetable Oil

1/2 cups        Kahlua

6 oz                  Semi Sweet Chocolate Chips

 

Directions:

 Mix everything except chocolate chips. 

Mix in chocolate chips. 

Pour into a greased bunt pan.

Bake at 350 degrees for 1 hour.

 

Decorate for the occasion if you want to….mine isn’t that beautiful, but looks aren’t everything…it’s perfect as it is.

Cake…just don’t take it to a party I’m going to…unless you want double the Kahlua cake!

Enjoy,                                                                                                                   

Erica