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Slimming down your Southern Cooking

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We love our Southern cooking: fried chicken, mac and cheese, collard greens.

If just reading this is making you hungry, some good news!

You don't have to give up your Southern staples to get healthier.

To prove our point, we challenged Nancy Waldeck, a chef at the Piedmont's Cancer Wellness Center, to reinvent a typical Southern meal. She quickly got to work.

Waldeck started with what she calls a "Better-For-You Mac and Cheese." Her secret: she uses beans to add protein and lighten up the recipe.

She says, "It's still delicious, and you're still going to get all of the cheesy, wonderful goodness, but the beans in there balance the protein in there so your blood sugar doesn't go Whoa! and then come down."

For her base, and added protein, Waldek adds a can of drained white kidney beans and a cup of non-fat Greek yogurt to a food processor, the pureed them. Instead of salt, she adds pepper. She says, "I'm also going to use a little bit of cayenne pepper or red pepper. Not because I want it hot, but because I want a little bit of flavor in there because I'm not using a lot of salt."

For the cheese, she uses 6-8 ounces of 50%-lower fat cheddar cheese and 2-3 tablespoons of parmesan.

She says, "It will make the rest of the cheese taste cheesier."

For her macaroni, Waldeck chooses whole grain elbow noodles.

 

Next, she whips up some "lighter" collard greens. She says, "These are sauteed collard greens without the pork."

Her secret is smoked paprika, which she says, "is like bacon without the bacon."

The greens are sauteed with onion – the paprika - a tablespoon of olive oil.

For the main course, healthier fried chicken, she keeps the chicken, but loses the traditional frying.

She slices boneless, skinless chicken breasts in half, through the middle, which makes them thinner. Then, she dips them into a bowl coated with cooking oil. She says, "I take the whole wheat panko crust in a bowl just like this and I just press my chicken breast on either side."

Then, on aluminum foil or parchment paper, the chicken is baked at 325 degrees.

For flavor, Waldek adds lemon zest and cilantro. And she's done.

"There we go," she says, gesturing at a plate of crunch chicken and mouthwatering mac and cheese and collards.

She rose to our challenge: creating Southern cooking, lightened up.

 

 

Nancy Waldeck's Better for YOU Mac and Cheese

 

         

2 (15 OZ) Cans of *Cannellini Beans, Drained, Rinsed well

1 Cup Non Fat Greek Yogurt

¼  Tsp Cayenne Pepper (if desired)

Sea Salt and Freshly Cracked Black Pepper to taste

2 Cups Grated Sharp Light Cheddar.

2 TB Grated Parmesan Cheese

1 Box Whole Wheat Pasta, Cooked as package directs

1/2 Cup Whole Wheat Panko Crumbs

Olive Oil Spray

 

Step One

Puree the beans and the yogurt together in a food processor. Add in the cheddar and Parmesan. (Stir in the cayenne pepper if desired.)

 

Step Two

Pour into a casserole dish and stir in the cooked pasta  Sprinkle the panko over the top of the casserole and spray with the olive oil

 

Step Five

Bake uncovered for 30 minutes, until bubbly and browned at the edges. Serve immediately.

 

* Cannellini Beans are also called White Kidney Beans and are available at most grocery stores.

 

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