Lighten’ Up, Y’all by Virginia Willis
Virginia Willis is a trained French chef and a born and bred Southern woman---rich sauces and gooey cheesey dishes are a natural for her. Eating rich, deep fried foods takes its toll over the years and when this Food Network columnist decided to try and eat more healthfully and lose a few pounds, she was adamant she would not give up any of her favorite foods in the process. Instead, Willis took her knowledge of good, healthy foods and combined that with what tastes good, added a dash of Southern sass and created riffs on traditional Southern favorites such as macaroni and cheese (add broccoli to up the nutritional content and use less of more flavorful cheeses), cornbread (Willis perfected the ratio of vegetables to cornbread batter that will produce the dense, cake-like crumb that is so familiar) and when she needs to ramp up the flavor? Add a small amount of well-flavored bacon, well-cooked to render as much fat as possible, leaving behind only smoky goodness. While most of Willis’s tips are sensible, not everyone will want to spray their carefully dredged okra with cooking spray instead of using a small amount of olive oil and some may rather use less cheese than choose the low-fat versions Willis recommends. A chicken burger stays moist with grated apple and cheddar cheese; a mixture that would be equally at home in a stuffed bell pepper or hollowed out summer squash. Willis cooks seasonally and pairs sweet summer corn with juicy ripe tomatoes to make a light summer dish; she uses the ubiquitous Southern staple, sweet tea, as a brine for a turkey tenderloin, and no Southern cookbook would be complete without a biscuit and gravy recipe, turkey sausage standing in for a fuller fat pork sausage without sacrificing any taste. Breezy and chatty, Willis’s style is easy, her recipes approachable and full of easily found ingredients, leaving readers feeling as though they’ve made a new friend in the kitchen and eager to seek out Willis’s earlier cookbooks Bon Appetite, Y’all and Basic to Brilliant, Y’all when looking for something a little more decadent.
FTC Disclaimer: I received this book from the Blogging for Books program in exchange for this review.