Recipe Spotlight

Southern Comfort Foods Make Holidays Cozy, Bright


Although we live in the South, the concept of Christmas seems to coincide with snow — a white blanket covering the world, snowmen, Santa’s reindeer pulling a sleigh. The classic songs talk of dreaming of a white Christmas, and we put an evergreen tree covered with fake snow in our living rooms. There’s a cozy sentiment attached to the snow and cold. 

Fortunately, in Florida we can enjoy the snowy theme and beautiful snow pictures from up North while still basking in a temperate climate. Even the foods we might choose in Florida, or anywhere south of the Mason-Dixon line, tend to be a bit different.

In the South, we use comfort foods to make Christmas cozy. Here are some favorites.

Holiday Ham
(Adapted from

Ham, 8-10 pounds bone in, fully cooked, spiral sliced
Pineapple, sliced, 1 large can or 20 oz
Maraschino cherries, 3/4 cup
Brown sugar, 1-2/3 cup packed
Salt to taste

Place pre-cooked ham on a rack in a shallow roasting pan, rub over ham a combination of brown sugar and salt, top with drained pineapple and cherries and secure with toothpicks. Gently pour pineapple juice over ham.  Bake at 325 F uncovered for 1-1/2 to 2 hours or until a thermometer reads 140F and ham is heated through. Baste often with brown sugar-pineapple juice mixture.

Old-School Squash Casserole
(Adapted from Southern Living)

Yellow squash, 3 pounds sliced 1/4-inch thick
Onion, 1 large, chopped fine
Butter, 6 tablespoons unsalted
Eggs, 2 large, lightly beaten
Sour cream, 8 oz
Cheddar cheese sharp, 1 cup shredded
Swiss cheese, 2/3 cup shredded
Parmesan cheese, 1/3 cup shredded
Buttery crackers, 2 sleeves coarsely crushed
Mayonnaise, 1/2 cup
Thyme, fresh, 2 teaspoons
Salt and pepper to taste

Place squash, onion, and salt in a large skillet with 3 tablespoons of butter. Cook, stirring often over medium-high heat for about 10 minutes, until squash is tender and liquid has evaporated. Place in a colander over a bowl to drain for 5 more minutes, then discard liquid.

Stir together eggs, Cheddar and Swiss cheeses, sour cream, mayonnaise, thyme, pepper and more salt. Fold in squash mixture and spoon into an 11×7-inch baking dish lightly greased. 

Microwave 3 tablespoons butter to melt, toss with crackers and Parmesan cheese and sprinkle over the casserole. Bake for about 20 minutes in an oven preheated to 350 F.

Sweet Potato Casserole With Marshmallows
(Adapted from


Sweet potatoes, 4 cups peeled and cubed
Eggs, 2 large
Unsalted butter, 1/2 cup melted
Milk, 1/2 cup
Dark brown sugar, 1/2 cup packed
Vanilla extract, 1-1/4 teaspoon pure
Salt to taste
Cooking Spray

Brown sugar, 1 cup packed
All-purpose flour, 1/2 cup
Unsalted butter, 4 tablespoons melted
Pecans, 1 cup chopped
Mini marshmallows, 3 cups

Cook sweet potatoes to fork tender in a large pot of water, about 15 minutes, then drain and allow to cool in a large bowl. Once slightly cooled, add eggs, butter, milk, brown sugar, vanilla and salt. Stir until smooth and combined, then pour into a 13-x-9-inch baking dish greased with cooking spray.

Meanwhile, stir together topping ingredients — brown sugar, flour and butter — until clumps form. Then stir in pecans and spread over potatoes. Top with marshmallows.

Bake in the oven preheated to 350 F about 30 minutes, until cooked thoroughly and marshmallows are golden brown.

Quick and Easy Red Velvet Cake
(Adapted from


Chocolate cake mix, 1 box
Baking cocoa, 2 tablespoons unsweetened
Eggs, 3
Sour cream, 1/2 cup
Vegetable oil, 1/4 cup
Water, 1 cup
Red food color, 1 oz
Baking spray with flour

Sugar, 1-1/2 cups
Butter, 1-1/2 cups softened
Milk, 1-1/2 cups
Flour, all-purpose- 1/2 cup
Vanilla, 1-1/4 tablespoons fresh

(Alternatively, you could choose to use a commercial cream cheese frosting.)

Beat together cake ingredients using an electric mixer for 30 seconds on low speed then 2 minutes on medium speed. Pour batter into two 9-inch cake pans sprayed with baking spray with flour. Bake cakes for about 33 minutes in the oven preheated to 350 F (25-degrees lower if using dark or nonstick pans).

Meanwhile, prepare the frosting by cooking flour and milk over medium heat, stirring constantly, until very thick, then cover with plastic wrap and allow to cool. After it reaches room temperature, in a separate bowl beat sugar and butter together on high speed until light and fluffy, then add flour mixture by tablespoonfuls and beat until smooth. Then beat in vanilla.

Once cake layers are baked and cooled, it’s time to prepare your masterpiece. Place 1 cake layer upside down on a cake plate, spread with frosting, top with the second layer top side up, so both bottoms are together, frost side and top of cake then store in the refrigerator.

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