Saturday, April 25, 2015

Lighten Up, Ya'll - Cookbook Review

Lighten Up, Y'All: Classic Southern Recipes made Healthy and Wholesome by Virginia Willis

Virginia Willis is a name that has been on my radar for awhile.  I've seen her on Chopped and on shows with Bobby Flay and Paula Dean as well as countless mentions by some of my favorite chefs like John Besh and Carla Hall.  So when I saw this cookbook I couldn't resist.  I was even more intrigued that it claims to have Classic Southern recipes made healthier.  I'm always looking to cut fat and calories but I still want food that is made with real ingredients and that tastes good.  I was hoping this would fill that need.

There are definitely a lot of traditional Southern recipes including recipes for Cole Slaw, Oven Fried Okra, Summer Squash Casserole, Braised Collards in Tomato-Onion Gravy, Red Beans and Greens, Hoppin' John and Limpin' Susan, Smothered and Covered Chicken and Gravy, and an Old Fashioned Buttermilk Pie.  There are also a good selection of updated Southern recipes like Quinoa Cobb Salad with Green Goddess Dressing, Farro and Cabbage, Collard Greens with Chipotle Potlikker, Miso-Glazed Catfish with Edamame and Spicy Winter Greens, and the one that's really tempting me - Chicken, Apple, and Cheddar Burgers.

Flipping through this one there's a lot of recipes that are tempting but I'm not sure how many work for my weirdly picky family.  Basil-Peach Chicken Breasts sound amazing but they violate my husband's no fruit in main dishes rule.  As does the amazing sounding Sweet-Tea Brined Turkey Tenderloins with Chile-Peach Glaze.  So after much thinking I settled on this chicken dish to test:

Oven-Fried Chicken-On-A-Stick with Vidalia Honey Mustard Dipping Sauce

1 tablespoon 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 bread crumbs
2 tablespoons canola oil
2 large egg whites
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
freshly ground pepper

In a large bowl, combine the salt, 1 teaspoon of the paprika, 1/2 teaspoon fo the onion powder, and 1/2 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 can't 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 9x13 baking dish works well), combine the bread crumbs, the remaining 1 teaspoon paprika, the remaining 1/2 teaspoon of onion powder and the remaining 1/2 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 350.  Line a rimmed baking sheet with aluminum foil, then set an ovenproof rack on it.  Cat the rack with non-stick cooking spray.

Remove the chicken from the marinade, shaking off any excess and thread onto sixteen 12 inch bamboo skewers, dividing the meat evenly, about 1 strip per skewer.  Dip the chicken into the egg mixture, coating both sides.  Place in the bread crumb mixture one skewer at a time, sprinkle with crumbs to cover and press so the coating adhere to both sides.  Gently shake off any excess crumbs and place the skewers on the prepared rack.

Bake the chicken, turning halfway through, until golden brown and the juices run clear, about 25 minutes.  Serve warm with the dipping sacue.

Vidalia Honey Mustard Dipping Sauce
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
1 Vidalia onion, peeled and quartered
1 garlic clove
1/3 cup honey
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
1/2 cup canola oil
salt and pepper to taste

Put the vinegar, onion, garlic, honey, and mustard in the bowl of a food processor fitted with the metal blade.  Pulse until smooth.  With the motor running, add the oil in a slow steady stream until thick and emulsified.  Tate and adjust for seasoning with salt and pepper.  Store in an airtight container for up to 3 days.

I did make a small change in that I didn't use skewers but other than that followed the instructions and it worked out really well.  The chicken was moist and flavorful and I can see quickly becoming a weeknight go to recipe.  I wasn't as in love with the dipping sauce but part of the problem is that Vidalia's aren't in season and I had to substitute a sweet onion instead.

I served this with Buttermilk Potato Gratin also from this book but I made several changes to that for simplicity and time constraints.  Instead of infusing the milk mixture with fresh thyme I missed a little dried into the finished sauce and used regular Cheddar instead of low fat and Gruyere.  It was wonderfully rich and creamy and the heavy cream was definitely not missed.

Verdict?  While this probably isn't a cookbook I will use all the time there are a number of interesting recipes that I'd love to try.  The results of this recipe definitely make it worth the effort!  Also, there's a full length color picture that accompanies every recipe.

*Received from Blogging For Books in exchange for an honest review.

Linking up with Weekend Cooking hosted by Beth Fish Reads


  1. I received that one from blogging for books also. You are correct, not one I would use all the time but overall a nice book. I like your chicken dish here. Pity we aren't neighbors 😉

    1. Oh definitely! Thank of all the book sharing! This was very good but there's just not enough every day recipes.

  2. I saw that cookbook a while back and wondered about it. Oven fried okra? Interesting. Your chicken dish sounds good, although my husband doesn't like much onion taste in things. Or garlic. In any case, the recipes you listed sounded fun to read about.

    1. We eat a lot of garlic but my husband isn't sold on heavy onion either. I like onion and the sauce was too much for me!

  3. It is interesting how easy it is to make a recipe light and delicious.

    1. Oh definitely! I also think just eating at home for the most part lightens everything up as well!

  4. Mmmm...Chicken and honey mustard. I love honey mustard. And since chicken is like the only meat I eat, of course I loves it. Lol.
    The cover picture looks good. Some kind of broccoli pasta? I love me some broccoli and cheese.
    I always leave your Saturday posts starving. Lol!
    Happy reading!
    Brittany @ This is the Story of My(Reading) Life

    1. I think it's a cheesy broccoli chicken casserole. It definitely looks good but I'm the only one here who likes broccoli! Glad to help :)

  5. This looks like a great recipe! I'm such a sucker for honey mustard dip. I love a cookbook with great photos. Thanks for sharing this!

    1. I love honey mustard too though this was a little too onion-y for me. It was still lots of fun to look through!

  6. Well that chicken dish sounds awesome and we would eat fruit with main /meat dishes, so I might find more to make that you did. I'll have to see if the library has it.

  7. I got this one too! There are a number I won't do--same as your husband no fruit in main dishes kind of thing--but there were enough I'd be willing to check out :D I liked all the pictures and tried the baked zucchini crisps and they were pretty good!

  8. This looks easy and tasty. My family will love the Vidalia Honey Mustard Dipping Sauce.

  9. I like the sound of some of those flavor combinations (I'm adventurous... sometimes), so I may have to see if my library has this cookbook. That chicken sounds lovely!

  10. I like the fact that this is lightened up without artificial ingredients. Cheers from Carole's chatter