Southern Snacks Cookbook

The Southern Sympathy Cookbook

I'm P.C., and I have studied food and cooking around the world, mostly by eating, but also through serious study. Coursework at Le Cordon Bleu London and intensive courses in Morocco, Thailand and France have broadened my culinary skill and palate. But my kitchen of choice is at home, cooking like most people, experimenting with unique but practical ideas.

I live, mostly in my kitchen, in my hometown of Memphis, Tennessee.

Sweet Potato Pralines

I aspire to be, but am not much of a candy maker. I get a little nervous about the candy thermometer and the exactitude. In fact, I first started making pralines when I learned how to do them in the microwave. But I have been experimenting and expanding for awhile, and have come to discover making candy is not nearly as intimidating as I had feared. Sure, it takes some organization and patience, but the reward is so great, it’s utterly worth it.

As with a great deal of cooking, what really gets me interested and motivated is old community cookbooks, those treasure troves of local knowledge that always inspire and excite me. Many of these gems have whole chapters on candy making, everything from fudge to toffee to divinity and parlaines. And that is where I found this recipe for “yam” pralines. The idea intrigued me so, I had to try it. With a little tweaking and modernization and some interpretation from a clearly expert praline maker to a real novice, I got this version just right.

These pralines are incredibly autumnal, as sweet and luscious as the original, but with this lovely earthy undertone from the sweet potatoes. And they are celebratory – everyone is impressed with homemade candy. Wrap these individually in little cellophane bags tied with ribbon for a sophisticated Halloween treat, stack them up in a Mason jar as a hostess gift for friendsgiving, or lay them out on a pretty silver tray for the Thanksgiving dessert display.

Sweet Potato Pralines
  1. 3 cups granulated white sugar
  2. 1 cup heavy cream
  3. 1 ¼ cup cooked, mashed sweet potato*
  4. pinch of kosher salt
  5. 1 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
  6. 2 cups chopped pecans
  1. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper and set near the stove.
  2. Combine the white sugar, heavy cream, sweet potato and salt in a large, heavy saucepan with a candy thermometer clipped to the side. Stir to blend thoroughly, then cook over medium heat until the thermometer reaches 234 degrees (sift-ball stage. Stir occasionally. Meanwhile, melt the brown sugar in a heavy saucepan. When the sweet potato mixture reaches 234, quickly stir in the melted brown sugar and the pecans until thoroughly combined. Remove the pot from the heat, then quickly drop large tablespoons of mixture onto the prepared baking sheets. Leave to cool for several hours until firm and dry. These will keep for at least a week in an airtight container.
  3. Makes about 2 dozen
  1. * You can cook about 2 sweet potatoes by pricking them all over with a sharp knife and microwaving for 10 minutes until soft when pressed. When the potatoes are cool enough to handle, but still warm, cut in half and scoop the flesh into the bowl of a food processor. Process until you have a smooth puree, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed. Leave the puree to cool. I have, however, also used a canned sweet potato puree – just sweet potatoes, not candied yams. I find these at better grocery stores.
The Runaway Spoon

Turkey, Pumpkin and White Bean Chili with Cranberry Relish

Turkey, Pumpkin and White Bean ChiliOne of my stand-by kitchen recipes, one I make for friends, family and just for myself on a regular basis is my Tuxedo Chili, made with chicken, black and white beans and warming spices. It even won a recipe contest! It’s a perfect one bowl meal, filling and comforting and perfect for the first chilly nights. With Halloween and Thanksgiving around the corner, I wanted to give my standard a little seasonal twist. So I’ve combined all the comforting flavors of fall into a delicious, hearty treat.

I swapped out chicken in the recipe for the more seasonally-loved turkey, and added rich pumpkin for depth of flavor and a nice, creamy dose of white beans. Once I had the chili sorted, I couldn’t resist a sweet and tangy cranberry and cilantro relish to top it off, adding another layer of autumn. All in all, this makes for the kind of meal I love to serve family and friends. Make a big pot of chili, put out the various toppings and some good bread and let everyone build their own bowl. For an even more thematic meal, make a batch of Pumpkin Cornbread to serve alongside. I think this is the perfect meal to warm up post trick-or-treating or a trip to the corn maze!

Turkey, Pumpkin and White Bean Chili with Cranberry Relish
Serves 4
For the Chili
  1. 2 Tablespoons olive oil
  2. 1 medium yellow onion, finely diced
  3. 2 garlic cloves, minced
  4. 1 pound ground turkey
  5. 2 teaspoons dried oregano (preferably Mexican)
  6. 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  7. 1 1/2 teaspoons chili powder
  8. 1 teaspoon salt
  9. 1 teaspoon black pepper
  10. ½ teaspoon sweet paprika
  11. 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  12. 2 cups (16-ounce cans) pumpkin puree
  13. 1 (15.5 ounce) can white beans, rinsed and drained
  14. 1 ½ cups chicken broth
For the Relish
  1. ½ cup dried cranberries
  2. 4 green onions, white and some green parts
  3. ¼ cup loosely packed cilantro leaves
  4. juice of ½ a small lime
To serve
  1. Sour cream
  2. Lime wedges
For the Chili
  1. Pour the oil into a large pot, add the onions and cook over medium-high heat until the onions are soft and wilted. Add the garlic and cook a few minutes more. Add the ground turkey and cook, breaking up the meat with a spoon or spatula, until it begins to brown.
  2. Mix the oregano, cumin, chili powder, salt, pepper, cinnamon and paprika together in a small bowl and sprinkle over the meat in the pot and stir to distribute the spices evenly. Scrape in the pumpkin puree and stir well, then pour in the chicken broth and stir. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat to medium and add the drained beans. Cover the pot and simmer for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Uncover the pot and cook until the chili is thickened, about 10 minutes, stirring frequently.
  3. The chili can be cooled, covered and refrigerated for up to two days and freezes beautifully. Add a little broth when reheating if needed.
For the Relish
  1. Place the cranberries in the bowl of a small food processor and pulse to break them up. Cut the green onion into pieces and add to the bowl with the cilantro. Pulse until you have a loose relish. Stir in the lime juice.
  2. Serve the chili with a spoonful of the relish and a dollop of sour cream, with some lime wedges to squeeze over.
  1. Easily doubled!
The Runaway Spoon

Pumpkin Tres Leches

Pumpkin Tres Leches

Moist, sweet and tender Tres Leches cake is a favorite of mine. A classic of the cooking canon of many Hispanic cultures, “three milk” cake is simply a delicate cake soaked in a combination of milks. For years, I used a recipe given to me by a friend from Nicaragua that used a box cake mix and it was always a big hit. I eventually developed a from-scratch recipe, and then adapted that to become one of my favorite Christmas dessert, Eggnog Tres Leches. It’s a fabulous holiday dish, because it needs to be made ahead and can serve a crowd. So for Thanksgiving, it seemed only right to come up with a pumpkin version.

Pumpkin Tres Leches is a great treat for any seasonal entertaining, and with its origins is a great choice for a Day of the Dead celebration. Serve it up as a post trick-or-treating feast of Chicken Enchiladas with Pumpkin Sauce or Spicy Chorizo, Pumpkin and Black Bean Chili (because you can’t have too much pumpkin on Halloween). And it is a natural for Thanksgiving and is imminently portable if you are headed to another house for the celebration. An artful dollop of whipped cream and sprinkle of nutmeg add an elegant touch if you’d like.

Pumpkin Tres Leches
Serves 12
  1. 1 (15-ounce) can pumpkin puree (not pie filling)
  2. 2 cups granulated sugar
  3. 1 cup vegetable oil
  4. 4 eggs
  5. 2 teaspoons vanilla
  6. 2 cups all-purpose flour
  7. 2 teaspoons baking soda
  8. 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  9. ½ teaspoon ground nutmeg
  10. ½ teaspoon salt
  11. ¼ teaspoon ground allspice
  12. ¼ teaspoon ground cloves
  13. 1/8 teaspoon ground cardamom
  14. 1 (14-ounce) can sweetened condensed milk
  15. ¾ cup evaporated milk
  16. ½ cup buttermilk
  1. Preheat the oven to 350°. Grease a 9 by 13 glass baking dish.
  2. Beat the pumpkin, sugar and oil together in the bowl of an electric mixer until smooth and well combined. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in the vanilla. Mix the flour, soda, spices, and salt together in a small bowl. Beat into the pumpkin mixture at low speed until thoroughly combined, scraping down the sides of the bowl occasionally.
  3. Spread the batter into the prepared pan and bake for 30 – 45 minutes, until a tester inserted in the center comes out clean. Leave the cake to cool to room temperature.
  4. Stir the condensed milk, evaporated milk and buttermilk together in a 4-cup measuring jug until completely combined. Poke small holes over the top of the cake using a skewer or cake tester. Slowly pour the milk mixture evenly over the top of the cake. Let sit for about 15 minutes, then carefully cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate. Leave the cake to soak up the syrup for up to 12 hours.
The Runaway Spoon

Milky Way Crazy Candy Bar Cake

Milky Way Crazy Candy Bar Cake

Milky Way Cake is a classic recipe and there are versions of it all over community cookbooks and the Internet.  Some are layer cakes with marshmallow frosting; some are sheet cakes with boiled fudge icing.  But I like this simple Bundt version.  This is a sweet cake, with a lovely caramel undernote and adding masses of thick gooey icing, in my opinion, would make this too achingly sweet and take away from the lovely flavor of the cake itself.  So I just make a very simple glaze, and affix some chunks of candy bar for decoration and a little extra sweet.  A cake like this is great for Halloween – and a way to use up those extra candy bars.

Milky Way Crazy Candy Bar Cake

I used seven regular candy bars and a bag of mixed mini size (smaller than funsize) Milky Way, Milky Way Dark, Snickers and Twix.

7 (1.84 ounce) Milky Way bars or the equivalent in mini size bars (about 50)

1 cup (2 sticks) butter, at room temperature, divided

2 cups granulated sugar

4 eggs

2 ½ cups all-purpose flour

½ teaspoon baking soda

1 ¼ cups buttermilk

1 teaspoon vanilla

For the Topping:

2 Tablespoons heavy cream

6 mini sized candy bars (Milky Way or Three Musketeers)

1 bag mini candy bars (as many as you would like to use!)

Preheat the oven to 350°.  Grease and flour a 12-cup Bundt pan.

Cut ½ cup (1 stick) of butter and the candy bars into pieces and place in a saucepan.  Melt over medium heat, stirring frequently, until smooth and combined.  Do not let the mixture scorch.

Meanwhile, cream the remaining ½ cup butter and the sugar together in the bowl of an electric mixer until light and fluffy.  Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition.  Add the flour and baking soda alternately with the buttermilk, beating well after each addition.  Add the vanilla.

Pour in the melted chocolate bars and beat until thoroughly combined.  Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and bake for 45 – 50 minutes, until a tester inserted in the center comes out clean.  Cool the cake in the pan, then turn out onto a platter.

For the topping:

Melt the cream and the candy bars in a small saucepan, or in the microwave.  Stir until melted and smooth, though a few flecks of nougat is fine.  Leave to cool for a few minutes while you chop the candy bars into pieces.

Spoon the glaze over the top of the cake.  Use the wet glaze to affix pieces of chopped candy bar to the cake.  Sprinkle any remaining pieces around the platter.

Serves 10 – 12

Pumpkin Pizza Party (Pumpkin Pizza Dough and Pumpkin – Tomato Pizza Sauce)

Pumpkin Pizza Dough and Pumpkin Tomato Pizza Sauce

I have always loved interactive food – where everyone gets to participate in the making and serving of a meal.  The pizza party is a great example of this – roll out the dough, choose the toppings, assemble the pizza and watch while they bake. It’s fun for kids and grown-ups alike.

Fall and Halloween are great times to gather around a fun kitchen project.  When the weather gets that little nip in the air, its nice to come inside to a warming meal.  Add some pumpkin to the mix and it is a real fall meal.  The pizza dough is simple to mux up and the sauce can be made ahead of time.  Clear off the counter and let everyone go to work on their own creation.

Pumpkin Pizza Dough

1 Tablespoon active yeast

1 teaspoon honey

½ cup warm water (about 110°)

3 ½ cups bread flour

1 cup pumpkin puree (from a 15 ounce can, remainder reserved)

2 Tablespoons olive oil

1 teaspoon salt

Sprinkle the yeast into the bowl of a stand mixer.  Add the honey and pour over the warm water.  Give it a little stir and let it sit until foamy, about 5 minutes.  Add the flour, pumpkin, olive oil and salt and mix with the dough hook on a low setting until it all comes together.  Scrape the sides of the bowl as needed.  Work the dough with hook on low speed for 8 – 10 minutes until the dough is a soft, elastic ball that has cleaned all the flour and bits off the sides of the bowl.  Push the dough back down if it starts to push over the top of the dough hook.

When the dough is kneaded, transfer the dough ball to a bowl greased with olive oil.  Brush the top of the dough with olive oil, cover the bowl with plastic wrap and leave in a warm place to rise until doubled in size, about 1 hour.

Preheat the oven to 425°.

Punch down the risen dough and leave it to rest for 10 minutes. Sprinkle your counter lightly with corn meal.  Divide the dough into 2 balls and shape each into a smooth disc Working one ball at a time, use your hands to push the dough outward from the center, turning the dough ¼ turn as you go, until you have a nice round pizza, about 10 – 12 inches around. Push and stretch the dough outward from the middle until it wont’ stretch any more.  Leave the pizza base to rest for 5 minutes. Repeat with the next disc.

Carefully transfer the pizza base to a baking sheet lightly brushed with olive oil.  If it loses its shape, press it back into the round.  Use your fingertips to press indentions in the dough to prevent it from bubbling up.

Spread on the tomato – pumpkin sauce and the toppings of your choice.  Bake for 10 – 12 minutes until the crust is golden and the cheese toppings are melted.


-You can make this a perfectly round pizza, or go more free form, just make sure the finished dough fits on your baking sheet.  If you are more artistic than me, shape the dough like a pumpkin.

-You can make four individual pizzas if you prefer.

-If you only want one pizza, freeze the second disc in a ziptop bag for up to a month.

Pumpkin Pizza with Taleggio, Pancetta and Fried Sage

Pumpkin Pizza with Taleggio, Pancetta and Fried Sage

Pumpkin – Tomato Pizza Sauce

2 Tablespoons olive oil

1 cup chopped onions (from about 1 small onion)

2 cloves garlic, minced

3 Tablespoon vermouth or white wine

the remaining pumpkin puree from making the dough (about 2/3 cups)

1 (8-ounce) can tomato sauce

2 Tablespoons chopped fresh sage

2 teaspoons sugar

1 teaspoon salt

½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

¼ teaspoon nutmeg

Place the olive oil and chopped onions in a high sided saucepan and sauté over medium high heat until translucent and soft and beginning to turn golden, about 10 minutes.  Add the garlic and cook for a further minute, then add the vermouth, scraping the bottom of the pan.  Cook until the liquid is evaporated and the onions are a pale golden color.  If the onions need to cook a bit longer to reach golden, add a few tablespoons of water and cook until its evaporated.

Add the tomato sauce and pumpkin puree and stir to combine.  Stir in ½ cup of water, the sage, salt, pepper and nutmeg.  Cook over medium heat until the sauce has thickened, stirring frequently to prevent scorching., about 10 minutes.

The sauce can be made up to a day ahead, covered and refrigerated.

Makes 1 ½ cups

Leftover sauce is excellent on pasta, particularly a cheese tortellini.


Topping ideas:

Taleggio cheese, prosciutto or cooked pancetta and fried sage leaves

Fontina cheese, cooked Italian sausage, thinly sliced red onion

Shaved parmesan cheese Roasted red and yellow pepper strips and mushrooms

Mozzarella cheese and bacon

Pumpkin Pizza with Fontina and Italian Sausage

Pumpkin Pizza with Fontina and Italian Sausage