Southern Lights is Perfectly American Just in Time for Your Holiday Cooking Inspiration

 I stumbled upon Southern Lights, Easier, Lighter, and Better-for-you Recipes from the South, by Lauren McDuffie on the "new" bookshelf at the library, one of my favorite places to be. As I not only have a self-professed issue with cookbooks (a real addiction), the concept appealed to me because of my gravitation toward comfort food that is also nutritionally dense. McDuffie’s cookbook is filled with delightful recipes for whether or not you have an affinity for Southern cooking. 

I felt that finding this book was kismet, because a handful of the recipes reminded me so much of some of my grandmother's regular dishes, which I found interesting, because she wasn't Southern; she was from the upper Midwest, home to harsh winters and lots of pickling at Summer’s end. McDuffie's Thunder and Lighting is so similar to my grandmother's cucumber salad, made from the cucumbers she would grow in her backyard summer garden. Adjacent to each lovely recipe, McDuffie places small stories that give origin to the dishes. For the Thunder and Lightning salad, she paints an image of chefs running out to their gardens to save their crops shortly before an impending storm.  

Growing up in Florida is a unique culinary experience, and though I wouldn't describe Floridian fare as Southern, it is definitely influenced by Southern home-cooking. While McDuffie’s recipes are clearly Southern-inspired, they are more American than anything else because of how relatable they are, no matter what region of the country you call home. 

What I loved most about Southern Lights was the emphasis on making cozy well-known dishes healthier. I am very much so looking forward to making McDuffie’s Red Velvet Pecans (that are sweetened with maple syrup instead of sugar) and her Honey-Caramelized Tomato Upside-Down Cornbread (that’s of course gluten-free) for all of my holiday get-togethers this year.  

To shake up our dinner routine during the cold Florida months (exaggeration intended), I’m planning on the Smoky Pinto Beans with Vinegared Tomatoes, Crispy Coleslaw Pancake, and the Warm, Garlicky Beans with Shaved Cheese. For our big Christmas dinner, I’m going to make the show-stopping Quick Chicken and Apple Stuffing Skillet, which is a stuffing-lined Dutch oven, topped with chicken thighs and apple slices. 

What I might be most culinarily thankful for this year is stumbling upon Southern Lights, a cookbook that is full of flavorful, healthy, and easy-to-throw-together dishes, just in time to keep my family and I cozy throughout the Florida fall and winter months. 

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