Ten Days of Thanksgiving: Sweet potatoes

23 Nov

This post is dedicated to my Nanny Alice (October 14, 1917-January 26, 1997).  I attribute so many of my characteristics to her: my love of family, my stubbornness, and my ability to cook. And without her, my family would not have been enjoying this recipe for as long as I can remember.

Nanny and my newborn sister, Thanksgiving 1987

Nothing reminds me of Thanksgiving more than my Nanny’s sweet potato pie. While it’s more of a casserole than a pie, my family loves. This. Recipe. It was my, my sisters’, my cousins’ and everyone else’s favorite dish on the table. We all looked forward to the sweet potatoes more than any other food. I don’t know if it was the pineapple, the cinnamon or the marshmallows, but whatever it was, it. Was. Amazing.

The marshmallows! That was it! My Nanny’s sweet potatoes are made with 2 different types of marshmallows–fluff and the miniature puffy ones. As the dishes (because there were always 2) of sweet potatoes were brought to the table, you could see the gleam in all of our eyes as we surveyed the sweet potatoes, looking for the part that had the most marshmallows. It was a virtual contest to see who could get the most. I don’t think I ever won that particular contest but it’s OK. I still got to eat the sweet potatoes, surrounded by my family. That was good enough.

Now that my sister (not the one in the picture, my other sister) and I alternate hosting Thanksgiving, we keep the sweet potato tradition alive. And although, much to my dismay,  my sister usually makes it, it’s still an incredibly important dish. I don’t think that it’s a secret family recipe or anything (because, as I’ve recently found out, my Nanny was apparently a recipe thief. Yet another trait I inherited from her) so I don’t think that anyone I’m related to will be upset with me sharing this recipe.

Nanny’s Sweet Potato Pie


  • 6 large cans Bruce’s yams or sweet potatoes
  • 1 package dark brown sugar
  • 2 jars marshmallow fluff
  • 4 tsp cinnamon
  • 2 sticks sweet butter or unsalted margarine
  • 2 20 oz cans crushed pineapple in juice
  • 1 package mini-marshmallows


  1. Drain and mash the yams or sweet potatoes, first by hand then with an electric mixer (I use my Kitchen Aid stand-up mixer).
  2. Melt the butter or margarine, and combine with sugar and cinnamon.
  3. Mix butter, sugar and cinnamon with the fluff. Add to mashed yams and mix well with electric mixture to make it creamy in texture.
  4. Add the crushed pineapple with some of the juice. Mix well by hand.
  5. Spray a 13×9 inch pan with cooking spray and pour the mixture in (leave a little room for expansion).
  6. Bake at 350° for 30-45 minutes, until the top begins to look slightly solid and the rest is bubbling.
  7. Add the mini-marshmallows to the top and cook until the marshmallow melt slightly and brown, but are not burned.

This recipes makes a ridiculous amount of food.  I think Nanny picked such a huge recipe because, like any good Jewish grandmother, she wanted to make sure everyone had plenty to eat. But if you are having any less than 15 people, I suggest halving the recipe (unless those people are the defensive line for the New York Giants).

If you try this recipe, I hope you enjoy it as much as we do. Because even though she’s no longer with us, this, among so many other things, has become Nanny’s little piece of immortality. And, should your family try it, I know that Nanny will smile on your family the way I know she’s smiling on ours.


5 Responses to “Ten Days of Thanksgiving: Sweet potatoes”

  1. Barb @ 1 Sentence Diary November 23, 2010 at 9:15 pm #

    I’m so glad you’re back! Have a very happy Thanksgiving!

    • theemptykitchen November 24, 2010 at 8:30 am #

      thank you so much! i hope you have a happy thanksgiving as well!

  2. Robyn Berman November 26, 2010 at 4:13 pm #

    Guilty. This is the cousin who always stole the part with the most marshmallows…sorry JB.

    Like Jana, I miss and adore our Nanny more than words can express and cherish the small things that keep her close. However, also like Jana, I took on Nanny’s notorious stubbornness – a trait that this Thanksgiving I encourage everyone to reconsider.

    My cousin, with whom I was so close to growing up, and together shared so many special memories with our beloved Nanny, were actually estranged for several years. After time, give and take, and our shared love of family, we finally came back together the way it used to be while celebrating our Grandpa’s (Nanny’s husband of 57 yrs) 95th birthday over the summer.

    While sadly I wasn’t able to be with my family this Thanksgiving, I made Nanny’s sweet potato pie for friends that welcomed me to share this time of gratefulness with their family. I read Jana’s post before we ate. And I can say with the utmost certainty, Nanny was definitely there smiling.

    Thank you Jana. I love you.

    To the readers… stay tuned for Jana’s piece next fall on “Stew Soup Apple Cobbler”!!

    • theemptykitchen November 26, 2010 at 7:09 pm #

      i love you, too.

      and you read my mind about the stew soup apple cobbler. i was just thinking, yesterday as a matter of fact, about how to write that one!


  1. Tortellini soup « The Empty Kitchen - March 16, 2011

    […] cookbook was a collection of recipes from friends and family and contained a wide array of recipes: sweet potato pie, potato latkes, banana bread, broccoli casserole, sausage bread, 3 recipes for chicken marsala (the […]

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