Some cookbooks ignite a spark of interest, while others make a big impression. "Southern Living Community Cookbook" makes that big impression. It is one of the best cookbooks I have read in a long time.

In an effort to compile a cookbook that truly spotlights our Southern cuisine, author Sheri Castle read every recipe published in Southern Living magazine from February 1966 to February 2014. This was more than 45,000 recipes. By doing this, she was able to put the very best community cookbook recipes from around the South into this one cookbook.

Believe it or not, Southern cuisine is much more than turnip greens, fried chicken, cornbread, biscuits and rich desserts like pecan pie.

When I started to read the recipes, I couldn't help but think how much I wished this book had been available when I got married many years ago. I found that much-needed recipe for gravy.

There are some great recipes from Cajun/Creole country as well as the "low country" in the Carolinas, Tex-Mex recipes from the Texas area, and Burgoo from Kentucky. Can't forget the Spanish influence, as well as French and Italian.

There are many old-fashioned Southern recipes and some not quite so familiar. Several years ago, I received a request for a recipe for Maque Choux. I had never heard of it, but here it is in this cookbook.

The dessert chapter shares some of the best from our Southern past, such as fresh coconut cake, Lane cake, delicious cheesecakes, cobblers and much more. For just a bite of something sweet, try the Saltine Cracker Candy.

The South has a food heritage of which we should be proud, and this cookbook captures much of it. You can be sure that I will keep it close at hand so that I can use it often.

SALTINE CRACKER CANDY

  • 24 saltine crackers
  • 1 cup butter
  • 1 cup light brown sugar, firmly packed
  • 12 ounces milk chocolate morsels
  • ½ cup chopped pecans or walnuts

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Line bottom of a 13x9-inch baking pan with aluminum foil. Arrange crackers in a single layer in pan. Microwave butter and brown sugar in a microwave-safe glass bowl on high for 3 to 4 minutes or until sugar dissolves, stirring occasionally. Pour butter mixture over crackers. Bake at 325 for 15 minutes or until bubbly. Remove from oven, sprinkle chocolate morsels evenly on top, and let stand 30 seconds or until melted. Spread melted chocolate over surface. Sprinkle evenly with pecans. Cover and chill at least 2 hours. Cut into 1-inch squares or break into pieces. Store refrigerated in an airtight container.

MAQUE CHOUX WITH ANDOUILLE SAUSAGE

  • 4 ounces andouille sausage, diced
  • ½ cup sliced sweet onion
  • ½ cup chopped green bell pepper
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 3 cups fresh corn kernels
  • 1 cup peeled, seeded and diced fresh tomato
  • ¼ cup chopped green onion tops
  • 1 cup sliced fresh okra (optional)
  • 1 teaspoon Cajun seasoning

Cook sausage in a large skillet over medium high heat for 3 minutes or until browned. Add onion, bell pepper and garlic and cook 5 minutes or until almost tender. Add corn, tomato, onion tops and okra, if desired. Cook, stirring often, 10 minutes or until tender. Add Cajun seasoning. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve warm.

Contact Prudence Hilburn at prudencehilburn@aol.com.