Family Recipe: Grandmother’s famous sweet potatoes

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We recently asked for your favorite family recipes and the stories and photos behind them. Recipes are often handed down from generation to generation. They are a link to our past and provide  a connection to the special people and events in our family’s history.

We received so many great responses that we’re excited to include the highlights in our MyHeritage Holiday Cookbook. It will soon be available for download on our blog, just in time for the holidays!

We wanted to showcase one of the many heartwarming family stories that we received over the past few weeks.

Irene Jeppsen from Afton, Wyoming sent in her grandmother’s sweet potato dish. She chose to enter the recipe to honor her grandmother’s memory and highlight the memories of her ancestors. Although she is unsure of the origins of the recipe, she believes it came from her grandmother.

A family photo taken at Irene's grandparents J.R. and Lera Maughan's Golden Wedding in 1959. Irene

This was the sweet potato recipe served by my grandmother Lera Clark Maughan (1889-1974). She was an excellent and creative cook. My mother Alice Maughan Neilson also made this Thanksgiving dish. It is a light version of the often calorie-choked sweet potatoes served at most holiday meals.

My grandmother was the granddaughter and daughter of Mormon pioneers. She grew up in a time not too far removed from the wagon trains. Thus, she learned early how to work hard, make do with what she had, and be frugal.

She and my grandfather – J.R. Maughan – raised a large family on a farm outside Lava Hot Springs, Idaho. It was during the Depression, when many foods were rationed. Even with limited supplies of some food items, Grandma made use of everything, never wasted food, cut and sewed old clothing into strips and made them into colorful rag rugs. She preserved garden produce either by canning in jars or drying.

Sugar was limited in those days, and this recipe could easily fit in with those rationed supplies. She would make 25 loaves of what her children remembered as the “best bread” using just half a yeast cake! Summers were especially busy for her, as she prepared meals to feed her family and the hired man or thrashing crew, who came during the grain harvest.

Her creative cooking was passed down through her daughter Alice, and continues in Lera’s great grandchildren. None of us need a written recipe or packaged mix to cook up a delicious meal.

Thanksgiving Sweet Potatoes

5 medium sweet potatoes
2 Tbsp sugar
2 Tbsp butter
1 tsp lemon juice
6 large marshmallows
2 slightly beaten egg whites
2 cups crushed cornflakes

Cook sweet potatoes in jackets, peel and mash well. Season with sugar, butter and lemon juice. Make balls by shaping potatoes around the marshmallows. Chill one hour to firm. Dip into egg whites, then roll in corn flakes. Heat at 350F until hot (5-15 minutes depending on your oven). Marshmallows will melt inside.

It wasn’t only her sweet potatoes that Irene remembers:

I loved her chili sauce. It was made with chunks of tomato, onion, and green pepper with spices and was used as a condiment like catsup. As I got older, I asked her for the recipe. She said she did not have one. She just threw the items together and preserved them in jars. When she got too old and tired to can any more, she saved the last bottle of chili sauce for me.

Recipes and the stories behind them are another way for us to look back and remember our ancestors and our family stories. They evoke family memories and help preserve our heritage for future generations. Our ancestors, who came before, made us who we are today.

Do you have a holiday recipe or memory to share with us? Let us know in the comments below.

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  • Alysa Revell


    December 23, 2014

    What a small world! I own Lera’s childhood home in Farmington, Utah. Irene Jeppson was a lifesaver when we were restoring the home 15 years ago – she sent us a photo of it with Lera and her siblings out front in about 1892. I will frame this recipe and hang it on the wall of the kitchen where Lera learned to cook from her mother, Lucy Rice Clark. Any Clark-Maughn family members are welcome to contact me with any questions about the home or the Clark family at alysa_revell@yahoo.com

  • Jeannie Jardine


    December 27, 2014

    I have some very good recipes that have come down through the generations from both maternal and paternal sides of my family. They are such treasures for me and I will pass them on to my children and grandchildren. I have always considered them a great part of our families heritage. I also have collected several recipes from my husband’s mother that I treasure.

  • pattee jones


    January 27, 2015

    Martha & Raymond Chesney Yeast Cake, Isabelle’s Meat Balls & Sauce, Veria’s Peanut Butter Cookies, Veria’s Peanut Butter Cake, these recipes are old & some are from europe & Russia.