Sweet Potato Pie for Mr. Worthington


Years back, I was a camp counselor for a summer program called Rec-Pac. If you're a Fairfax County, Virginia kid, you're probably familiar with this program. It gave kids a structured summer and parent's an all-day babysitter. I did it for several summers during college. It was an interesting job filled with stress, laughter, and drama. I found that it was possible to overcome any obstacle, so long as the staff worked together. Sound cheesy? You try getting a gymnasium full of screaming 3rd graders to sit down and shuddap solo.

Supporting the counselors were counselors in training (CIT). They were basically Rec-Pac's version of unpaid interns! Most were high schoolers looking for a way to build their resume or whose parent's didn't want them playing video games all summer. Due to the age difference, CIT's and counselors didn't really interact like that.

And then there was Brandon, the CIT that managed to wiggle his way into my heart. In this blog, I typically reference him as "Kuya" which means brother in Tagalog (neither of us are Filipino).

The day before the kids arrived, the staff set up their assigned school. There was the usual awkwardness as a bunch of strangers were brought together. I was in the art room when Brandon showed up. He was very quiet but had all the markings of a break dancer. The shoes. A hat. The arm band. I was wearing Adidas shell toes, a popular dance shoe back in the day. We both kept giving each other the up and down. Does he break? Does she break? Then I caught him doodling someone break dancing and the ice was broken. 

From that moment on, Brandon found his new punching bag. He hit me with dodge balls, chased me with food carts, and tripped me using cheesy kung-fu movie moves (leaf whirl wind kick). At the same time, he was one of the sweetest, most level-headed people I'd ever met- regardless of our age difference. To be this awesome, his parents must have been doing something right.

And no joke, his parents were strict. They were just as bad as my mother. I remember walking over to the van to ask his dad if Brandon could go to a break dance competition one weekend. Mr. Worthington was just like his son: sweet, polite, and level headed (and the answer was "no"). The entire family makes you feel welcome and loved. You can't walk in the door without a happy greeting and a hug. Who would have thought 7 years later, I'd be making birthday pie for his pops? Madness.

This is a basic sweet potato pie. Honestly, I didn't see much variation from one version to the next online. The key difference seems be the use of evaporated milk vs. whole milk and the presence of brown sugar. The crust I used is buttery and flaky (thanks again Smitten!) while the filling is smooth and spiced.I tried to create a pie merging the best traits of all versions. Hope you enjoy!

Sweet Potato Pie
adapted from allrecipes.com

1 unbaked chilled pie crust- store bought or my favorite my Smitten!
1 lb sweet potato
1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup whole milk
2 eggs
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon coriander
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 tablespoons of brown sugar on the side

Make sure your pie crust is ready to go and in a 9-inch round pan. Set in the fridge to chill. If you're making it from scratch, I always recommend making it the night before to save time.

Preheat oven to 375. Bake sweet potatoes  wrapped in aluminum foil with skin for 60-90 minutes, or until tender. Let cool and then peel off skin.

Break apart sweet potato in a mixing bowl. Add butter, and mix well thoroughly. Stir in sugar, milk, eggs, nutmeg, cinnamon and vanilla. Beat on medium speed until mixture is smooth. Set in fridge.

Preheat oven 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Once it's hot, take out the chilled pie crust and sprinkle the 2 tablespoons of brown sugar on top. Pour the pie crust on top. Bake for 55 to 60 minutes, or until knife inserted in center comes out clean. Pie will puff up like a souffle, and then will sink down as it cools.