You are on page 1of 13



Lighten up,




Virginia Willis
Photography by Angie Mosier



Foreword by Art Smith vi
Introduction 1

C H A P T ER 3 :


C H A P T ER 1 :



Delicata Squash Chips 17

Sinless Seven-Layer Dip 18
Smoky Eggplant Dip 20
Hot Mess Spinach and Feta Dip 21
Slice-and-Bake Parmesan-Herb
Cheese Straws 22
Grilled Shrimp and Pepper Poppers 23
Lightened-Up Pimiento Cheese 24
Cornmeal-Crusted Chicken Bites with
Jalapeo Dipping Sauce 26
Barbecue Meatballs 28
Crab and Celery Rmoulade Wraps 30
Baked Onion Blossom 32

C H A P T ER 2 :



Shortcut Chicken Pasta Salad 37

Bacon-Wilted Greens with Warm
Pecan-Crusted Goat Cheese 39
Curried Shrimp Salad with Avocado and
Orange 40
Asparagus and Baby Vidalia Onion Salad with
Lemon-Tarragon Vinaigrette 43
Field Pea and Bean Salad with Tomato-Basil
Vinaigrette 44
Grilled Potato Salad with Bacon Vinaigrette 46
Broccoli Slaw with Light Buttermilk Ranch 49
Sassy Slaw 50
Quinoa Cobb Salad with Green Goddess
Dressing 52
Apple-Raisin-Carrot Slaw 55


Pan-Roasted Asparagus and Mushrooms 59

Spring Pea, Leek, and Cauliflower
Couscous 60
Sauted Green Beans with Summer Corn 61
Creamed CornStuffed Tomatoes 63
Spicy Eggplant Stir-Fry 65
Green Beans with New Potatoes and
Candied Garlic 67
Oven-Fried Okra 68
Summer Squash Casserole 71
Summer Squash Lasagna 73
Baked Zucchini Crisps 75
Braised Collards in Tomato-Onion Gravy 77
Collard Greens with Chipotle Potlikker 78
Brussels Sprouts with Raisins and Pecans 79
Roasted Sweet Potato and Pears 80
Pan-Seared Winter Squash 81

C H A P T ER 4:



Red Beans and Greens 85

New Soul Creole Dirty Rice 86
Broccoli and Cheese Rice Grits 89
Hoppin John and Limpin Susan 90
Farro and Cabbage 92
Southern Style Shepherds Pie with Grits 93
Buttermilk Potato Gratin 95
Makeover Broccoli Mac and Cheese 96
Sweet Potato Gratin with Herb Crumble 99

C H A P T ER 5:


C H A P T ER 8 :


Red Snapper Provenal on Stone-Ground Grits

with Parmesan and Herbs 105
Lemon-Basil North Georgia Trout 107
Pan-Seared Fish Steaks with Cherry Tomatoes
and Basil 108
Miso-Glazed Catfish with Edamame and
Spicy Winter Greens 110
Citrus-Grilled Shrimp with Bloody Mary
Cocktail Sauce 111
Beer-Battered Shrimp with Spicy Ketchup 113
Bacon and ChileWrapped Scallops with
Lemon Gremolata 115
Salmon Patties with Lemon-Caper Sauce 116
Gulf Coast Seafood Stew 118
Smoky Seafood toufe 120

C H A P T ER 6 :



Smothered and Covered Chicken and Gravy 125

Oven-Fried Chicken-on-a-Stick with
VidaliaHoney Mustard Dipping Sauce 127
Chicken, Apple, and Cheddar Burgers 129
Basil-Peach Chicken Breasts 130
Slow-Cooked Barbecue Pulled Chicken 132
Spicy Creole Turkey Cutlets with Holy Trinity
Tomato Gravy 134
Turkey Meatloaf with Mushroom Gravy 137
Sweet TeaBrined Turkey Tenderloin with
Chile-Peach Glaze 139
Roast Turkey Breast with Quick
Orange-Cranberry Relish 140
Honey Mustard Carolina Quail with
Grilled Grapes 142

C H A P T ER 7:



Cider-Braised Pork Loin with

Apple-Thyme Jus 147
Bourbon Grilled Pork Chops with Peach
Barbecue Sauce 149
Pulled Pork Tenderloin with Red Pepper
Vinegar Sauce 151
Cocoa-Crusted Top Sirloin with
Mushrooms 152
Spinach and ParmesanStuffed Beef
Tenderloin 155
Rack of Lamb with Pecan-Mint
Dipping Sauce 157
Grilled Balsamic Flank Steak 158
Coffee-Braised Pot Roast 159



Creamy Broccoli-Parmesan Soup 163

Chicken Tortilla Soup 164
Chunky Chicken Noodle Soup 166
Garlic Chicken and Greens with Cornmeal Herb Dumplings 168
Quick and Easy Turkey Chili 171
Damn Good Dawg Chili 172
Beef and Farro Soup 174
Pork, Squash, and Chickpea Soup with
Collard Green Pesto 175
Georgia Shrimp and Corn Chowder 177
Peach and Tomato Gazpacho with
Cucumber-Herb Yogurt 179

C H A P T ER 9 :



Buttermilk Biscuits with Turkey Sausage

Gravy 183
Vegetable Corn Bread 186
Cheesy Jalapeo Beer Bread Muffins 188
LemonChia Seed Cake 189
Blueberry-Banana Muffins 190
Cornmeal Griddle Cakes 191
Multigrain Pecan Waffles 192

C H A P T ER 1 0 :



Spa-aah Fruit Cobbler 197

Brown SugarStrawberry Shortcakes 198
Baked Apple Hand Pies with
Salted Caramel Sauce 201
Old-Fashioned Buttermilk Pie 203
Yogurt Piecrust 204
Stovetop Apple Pie 206
Citrus Pudding Cakes 207
Chasing the Carrot Cake 208
Pineapple Right-Side-Up Cake 211
Big Rich Texas Sheet Cake 212
Chocolate Brookies 213
Claires Cream Cheese Swirl Brownies 214
Acknowledgments 217
Index 218


M A K E S 6 C U P S T O S ER V E 6

I told my mama about this soup and her slow response, in a very dubious drawl, was Peaches
and tomatoes? Ill admit my family can be a bit slow sometimes in accepting my version of
new Southern cooking. Guess what? She loved it and I think you will, too. This soup is indeed
summer in a bowl. Its light and refreshing, just the right balance of sweet peaches and slightly
acidic tomatoes. Best yet, this elegant soup may be made ahead. Take the time to chill the serving bowls, as well, for an extra special touch.

4 large peaches, peeled, pitted and

quartered (about 2 cups)
2 large tomatoes, cored and
quartered (about 4 cups)

sweet onion, coarsely chopped

3 tablespoons apple cider vinegar

Coarse kosher salt and freshly
ground white pepper

cup plain 2 percent Greek yogurt


cup finely diced peeled English

cucumber (about 3 inches)
2 tablespoons chopped fresh
marjoram or chives, plus more for
1 garlic clove, very finely chopped
Best-quality extra-virgin olive oil,
for garnish (optional)

peach, pitted and thinly sliced,

for garnish

Peach and Tomato Gazpacho

Calories 66
Fat .7 g
Carbs 14 g
Fiber 3 g
Protein 3 g

Combine the quartered peaches, tomatoes, onion, and vinegar in the

bowl of a food processor fitted with the metal blade. Season with salt
and pepper. Puree until smooth. Transfer to a sealable container and
refrigerate until cold, about 1 hour. (Take the time to chill the serving
bowls at this time, as well.)
Place the yogurt in a medium bowl. Add the cucumber, chives, and
garlic and stir to combine; season with salt and pepper. Cover and
refrigerate until ready for use.
When ready to serve, taste and adjust the soup for seasoning with
salt and pepper. (Chilling dulls the seasoning so it may need to be
adjusted.) Ladle the chilled gazpacho into the chilled bowls. Spoon
about 2 tablespoons of the cucumber-yogurt mixture into the center.
Garnish with a peach slice and a sprig of marjoram. Drizzle over a
few drops of extra-virgin olive oil.
Serve immediately.


These are two kinds of peaches: clingstone and freestone. Clingstone
have flesh that clings to the pit and are riper earlier in the season.
Freestone separates more easily and the pit can be removed by hand.

Cucumber-Herb Yogurt
Calories 6
Fat .1 g
Carbs .6 g
Fiber .1 g
Protein .6 g

Soups and Stews | 179

M A K E S 1 6 T O S ER V E 8

Who doesnt like food on a stick? Theres something naturally fun about handheld food. It
elicits memories of country fairs and football games. This recipe was inspired by the offerings
of a gas station in Oxford, Mississippi. I am a member of the Southern Foodways Alliance,
an organization based out of Ole Miss (the University of Mississippi, to the rest of you) that
documents, studies, and celebrates the diverse food cultures of the changing American South.
I generally pay a visit to Oxford each fall for the yearly SFA symposium. Being a Southern college town, there are robust opportunities for boozy carousing. Fried-chicken-on-a-stick is food
consumed late at night in attempts to mitigate hangovers or the next morning as an answer to
one. This recipe maintains the crispy flavor without the calories.

1 tablespoon coarse kosher salt

2 teaspoons paprika
1 teaspoon onion powder
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 cup low-fat buttermilk
3 boneless, skinless chicken breasts,
trimmed (1 1/2 pounds)
2 cups panko (Japanese) bread
2 tablespoons canola oil
2 large egg whites
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
Freshly ground black pepper
VidaliaHoney Mustard Dipping
Sauce, for serving (recipe follows)

Oven-Fried Chicken-on-a-Stick
Calories 204
Fat 6 g
Carbs 16 g
Fiber .7 g
Protein 20 g

In a large bowl, combine the salt, 1 teaspoon of the paprika,

12 teaspoon of the onion powder, and 12 teaspoon of the garlic
powder. Add the buttermilk and whisk until the salt is completely
dissolved and the spices are dispersed in the liquid.
Cut the chicken lengthwise into about 1-inch-wide strips. Add to
the marinade and let stand at room temperature for 30 minutes.
(Do not marinate any longer or the chicken will be too salty. If you
cant cook it right at the 30-minute mark, remove the chicken from
the marinade and refrigerate until ready to continue.)
In a large shallow dish (a 9 by 13-inch baking dish works well),
combine the bread crumbs, the remaining 1 teaspoon paprika,
the remaining 12 teaspoon of onion powder, and the remaining
12 teaspoon of the garlic powder. Add the 2 tablespoons oil and toss
well to coat. Whisk together the egg whites and mustard in a second
large shallow dish. Season both mixtures with pepper.
Preheat the oven to 350F. Line a rimmed baking sheet with aluminum foil, then set an ovenproof rack on it. Coat the rack with nonstick cooking spray.


Poultry | 127


M A K E S 1 6 2 - I N C H S Q UA R E B R OW N I E S

These are what I like to call grown woman brownies. These are not PTA bake sale brownies. These are dark, rich, knock-your-socks-off chocolate brownies. I was actually bribed for
this recipe before the publication of this cookbook. Howd I do it? I have a friend Claire Perez,
a French-trained pastry chef, to thank. It may seem counterintuitive to seek assistance from
a chef who worked with the master chefs of butter and confection, Jacques Torres and Pierre
Herm, for a lightened up brownie recipe. But Claire delivered the goods!

4 ounces reduced-fat cream cheese

1 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar

teaspoon pure vanilla extract

2 large eggs, at room temperature


cup whole wheat pastry flour


cup cocoa powder


teaspoon baking powder


teaspoon fine sea salt


cup canola oil

6 ounces best-quality semisweet

chocolate, finely chopped
1 cup sugar

cup low-fat buttermilk


cup unsweetened applesauce

2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

Calories 199
Fat 9 g
Carbs 27 g
Fiber 2 g
Protein 3 g

Preheat the oven to 325F. Spray an 8-inch square baking pan with
nonstick cooking spray.
In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment,
combine the cream cheese, the 2 tablespoons of sugar, and vanilla,
stirring until creamy and smooth. Separate one of the eggs, reserving
the white for later use, and add the yolk to the cream cheese mixture.
Stir to combine, then set aside.
In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, cocoa, baking powder, and
salt; set aside.
In a medium saucepan, heat the oil and chocolate over medium heat,
whisking until the chocolate is melted. Whisk in the sugar and stir
until melted. Add the buttermilk, applesauce, and vanilla. Remove
from the heat. Add the remaining whole egg and the reserved egg
white, whisking constantly until incorporated to prevent the eggs
from curdling. Add the reserved flour mixture, mixing until just
combined. Transfer brownie batter to the prepared pan.
Using a tablespoon, drop 9 dollops of the cream cheese mixture on top
of the brownie batter. Draw the tip of a sharp knife or skewer through
the two batters in a criss-cross fashion to create a swirled effect.
Bake the brownies until the top is just firm to the touch, rotating
halfway through baking, about 40 minutes. Let cool completely in the
pan on a wire rack.
Coat a serrated knife with nonstick cooking spray and cut into
16 squares. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator up to
3 days.


Copyright 2015 by Virginia Willis

Foreword copyright 2015 by Art Smith
Photographs copyright 2015 by Angie Mosier
All rights reserved.
Published in the United States by Ten Speed Press, an imprint of the
Crown Publishing Group, a division of Random House LLC,
a Penguin Random House Company, New York.
Ten Speed Press and the Ten Speed Press colophon are registered
trademarks of Random House LLC.
Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
Willis, Virginia, 1966Lighten up, yall : classic Southern recipes made healthy and
wholesome / Virginia Willis.
pages cm
1. Cooking, AmericanSouthern style. 2. Low-fat dietRecipes.
I. Title.
TX715.2.S68W5563 2015
Hardcover ISBN: 978-1-60774-573-0
eBook ISBN: 978-1-60774-574-7
Printed in China
Design by Katy Brown
10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1
First Edition