Sweet Potato Casserole (aka “Leslie’s Camote”)

The holidays are around the corner, and without a doubt, my contribution to Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners will be sweet potato casserole. My family calls it “camote.” I can’t recall a time when this casserole wasn’t part of our family’s holiday tradition, and I’m not sure why I was tagged as sweet potato casserole queen. But, never have I seen an actual recipe. So when my sister-in-law asked me to share it with her, I had to go through the motions in my head and write down each step. I’m sharing this with you along with a few “tips” from my experience. 

INGREDIENTS: 

  • 6-7 small, round, red sweet potatoes – Several years ago, on the night before Thanksgiving, I braved the crowds and lines of last-minute shoppers at my neighborhood grocery store. My shopping basket was piled high with wine bottles, vegie trays, cheese platters, and other starters to the holiday season. On my way to the check-out counter, I passed through the vegetable section and was greeted by a lovely, petite, older African American lady who commented, “I can’t believe there are still some sweet potatoes left! Usually when I wait until the last minute, they’re picked over or sold out.” It wasn’t until then I realized I hadn’t picked up the ingredients for my casserole, so I grabbed a baggie and began looking through the pile of potatoes. “Always choose small, round, red Garnet potatoes. These will cook up nice and tender with no strings,” she said. I never understood the difference between sweet potatoes and yams, but I now know exactly what to use in my recipe. Now, every year when I shop for sweet potatoes, I think about that kind lady who made a difference for me and my casserole.
  • Butter – Real butter (versus margarine) works best, softened – 1 cube or 1/4 lb.
  • Carnation Evaporated Milk – Small can, shake well, open with a church key can opener (seriously, this is what it’s called).
  • Light brown sugar – Soft (if you happen to forget to buy this, regular sugar is okay).
  • Cinnamon, Allspice, Nutmeg, Pecans (diced tiny) – I don’t have measurements for these items. My practice is to sprinkle and taste, using a clean spoon each time, of course.
  • Medium-sized marshmallows –These are a hot commodity at holiday time so shop early. 

RECIPE:

Peel potatoes – Never put peelings into the garbage disposal! I promise, you’ll regret it. 

Cut potatoes into pieces about the size of a ping pong ball – Be careful not to cut yourself.

Boil potatoes for about 30 minutes or until tender when poked with a fork.

Drain potatoes in a colander and return to pan.

Add butter and just enough of the canned milk to achieve smooth consistency when mashed.

Add brown sugar, cinnamon, allspice, and nutmeg (to taste); mash by hand until smooth.

Fold in pecan pieces.

Spread mixture into a large casserole dish – 9×11 inch clear dish works well.

Place marshmallows evenly in rows on top of potatoes –Don’t burn the marshmallows! My family has been known to set them on fire!

Bake in 450-degree oven until marshmallows are golden brown. 

Serve and enjoy with lots of love and gratitude!

Author: Leslie J. Cox

Leslie Cox is a writer of creative non-fiction, focusing on personal essay and memoir. Her essay “My Favorite Chair” was a runner up in the WOW! Women on Writing Q1 2020 Creative Nonfiction Contest, and she published two essays in “Her Vase” in 2020. Her essay "Distracted" appeared in the Pure Slush anthology: "Love, Lifespan," and she has enjoyed contributing to guest blogs and book reviews. Prior to semi-retiring from health care administration in 2019, Leslie wrote and published trade articles and a guidebook for health care professionals for HCPro. When she’s not writing, Leslie tutors students K-12 in the craft of writing, and that fills her up!

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