The Inspired Cook

Giving thanks

During the weeks and days leading up to Thanksgiving, I count my blessings and give thanks for the wonderful people who have touched my life in some way, shape, or fashion over the years. My maternal great-aunt Clara Compton Pickle always makes my thankful-for list each year.

Growing up, my sister Beckie and I called her and her dear husband A.D. by their given names. Why, you ask? Well, she insisted on it. We never asked her the reason for this, we simply respected her wishes.

Anyway, Clara was a wonderful cook. In fact, she was great at everything she ever attempted. Her hands were never idle. I particularly remember she knitted, crocheted, or did some other type of needlework while she watched TV. She said it relaxed her.

My, my, how her fingers could fly!

Since she and A.D. never had children of their own, they devoted themselves to entertaining Beckie and me whenever we were around. Children love to receive undivided attention from adults as it makes them feel special and loved. We certainly felt their love for us, and we adored them for it.

In her honor, I’m sharing with you today one of my original recipes, inspired by her recipe. It’s a casserole simply called sweet potatoes and apples.

It would be a perfect side dish for Thanksgiving. In fact, Clara made her recipe quite often for the holiday.

Clara cooked as my mom did—by eyeballing ingredients instead of measuring. Therefore, the recipe that she gave me didn’t have any measurements listed. Imagine that!

After searching online, I found several recipes for sweet potatoes and apples. Most called for ingredients that hers didn’t, specifically spices such as cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves.

Anyway, I made an educated guess about how much of the ingredients she would have used. My results proved to be very tasty and almost identical to hers. Charles, my better half, thoroughly enjoyed it. I hope you do, too.

Sweet Potatoes and Apples


3 lbs. sweet potatoes

3-4 cooking apples such as Granny Smith

1/2 c. packed brown sugar

1/4 c. butter, cut into small cubes

2 1/2 c. miniature marshmallows


Peel potatoes and cut them into quarters or large pieces of equal size. Place them into a large saucepan or Dutch oven. Cover them with water and bring them to a boil over high heat.

Reduce the heat to a simmer and cover the pan with a lid. Cook for about 15 to 20 minutes or until a knife easily can pierce through the potatoes. Drain and set aside.

While the potatoes are cooking, preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Coat a deep 2- to 2.5-quart casserole dish with cooking spray; set aside.

Peel and core the apples. Cut them in half and then into 1/2-inch thick pieces; set aside.

When the potatoes are done, place a layer of them on the bottom of the prepared pan. Then, place a layer of apples on top of them.

Repeat this layering process and then sprinkle the brown sugar on top. Dot with small pieces of butter.

Bake the dish for 45 to 50 minutes or until the apples are tender when easily pierced with a fork. Top with the marshmallows and bake for an additional 5 minutes or until they have melted, being careful not to over-brown them.

Yield: 6-8 servings

Hot, Russian Tea Mix


3 c. sugar

3/4 c. instant tea

2 (0.23-oz.) pkts. orange-flavored Kool-Aid drink mix

2 (o.23-oz.) pkts. lemonade-flavored Kool-Aid drink mix

1 t. ground cloves

1 t. ground cinnamon

1/2 t. ground cardamom


Into a large mixing bowl, place all of the ingredients, whisking well to combine. Place the mix into an airtight contain to store.

To prepare the tea, place 2 heaping teaspoons or more if you like of the mix into a cup. Add 6 to 8 ounces of boiling water and stir until the mix is dissolved.