Books & Cooks: Paula Deen

As a Southern belle, I am inclined to fatten up and feed my family copious amounts of food whilst mixing pitchers of mint juleps, iced tea, and the occasional vat of Kool-Aid. As the wife of an African nationalist, I am expected to execute flawlessly, the traditional dishes of Senegal, West Africa whilst making cup after of the national drink, besop (BEE-sop). As a cooking instructor, I am expected to be clean, organized, knowledgeable, and above all: professional, in my dealings with food.

Of all of these different hats I put on, none of these comes close to physician, dietitian, or aerobics instructor. In the words of Paula Deen, "I'm your cook, not your cardiologist..."

BUT ...because of that bold statement, I have a job. I love spending hours "in the test kitchen" tweaking, sampling, dissecting, disseminating recipes to make them healthier and ever more flavorful. I believe my BestHealth guests enjoy reaping the benefits of my labor. Labor of love, that is!

I took four of Paula's recipes and turned them into low-fat, low-calorie marvels that still have plenty of flavor, color, and taste of the original recipes. I've learned that if there is a lower/reduced fat (calorie, cholesterol, salt, gluten, allergen) version of something, go ahead and use it! No one has perished from eating too healthily.

I think.

Paula's Original Recipe
Tomato Grits & Shrimp Florentine
2 cups water
3/4 cup milk
1 teaspoons salt
1 cup quick cooking grits
1 stick butter, plus 1 tablespoon butter
1/3 cup green onions, diced
6-ounce garlic cheese roll
2 1/2 cups Cheddar, shredded
10-ounce can diced tomatoes and green chiles
2 eggs, lightly beaten

2 tablespoons butter
1 clove minced garlic
12 shrimp, peeled and deveined
1 to 2 lemons juiced
White wine, for deglazing
1 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup grated Parmesan or Grand Padana
2 cups fresh spinach, packed down
1 dash ground nutmeg
Salt and pepper

Fat adds flavor and when you cut the fat, flavor has to be added in other ways that won't raise your blood pressure, cholesterol, or waist line (or bottom line, if you're anything like me). I added squash because a little veg never hurt anyone. Antioxidants and vitamins made us feel good.

Nikki's Tomato Grits with Shrimp FlorentineTomato Grits
2 cups Kitchen Basic fat free/low sodium vegetable stock
3/4 cup non-fat milk
1 cup quick cooking grits¼ tsp salt
non-stick cooking spray
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/3 cup green onions, sliced
1 1/4 cups reduced fat cheddar, shredded
4 roma tomatoes, seeded and diced
2 jalapeños, sliced/1 poblano pepper, diced
½ cup Better N Eggs egg substitute

Shrimp Florentine
1 tsp Smart Beat
1 clove minced garlic
12 shrimp, peeled and deveined, chopped
1 tablespoon No-Salt Seasoning1 to 2 lemons, juiced
½ cup dry white wine, for deglazing
6 oz nonfat, fat free plain yogurt
1/4 cup grated Parmesan
2 cups fresh spinach, packed down

1 medium squash, diced
1 medium zucchini, diced
3 dashes ground nutmeg
¼ tsp saltcracked black pepper, to taste

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
To make the tomato grits, in a saucepan, bring the water and milk to a boil. Add the salt. Slowly add the grits and return to a boil; stir for 1 full minute. Reduce the heat, cover, and cook for 6 minutes, stirring occasionally until the grits are thick and creamy.

Remove from the heat and set aside. Spray sauté pan with nonstick spray and saute the onions, garlic, jalapeños for one minute. Add 1 cup of the cheddar and the onion mixture to the grits, and stir until cheese is melted. Add the tomatoes and mix well; stir in the Better N Eggs.

Pour the grits into a 8x11x2-inch casserole lightly sprayed with nonstick spray. Bake the casserole for 40 minutes. Sprinkle the remaining cheese over the casserole for the last 5 minutes of cooking time.

On medium heat, add Smart Beat to sauté pan and let it melt. Add minced garlic and shrimp, No-Salt seasoning and cook for 3 to 5 minutes, or until shrimp are no longer opaque. Deglaze pan with lemon and wine. Add yogurt, cheese, spinach, and nutmeg. Reduce, season, to taste, with salt and pepper and pour over grits.

Paula Deen's Original Recipe
It's Not Your Mamma's Banana Pudding Recipe
2 bags cookies (recommended: Pepperidge Farm Chessmen cookies)
6 to 8 bananas, sliced
2 cups milk
1 (5-ounce) box instant French vanilla pudding
1 (8-ounce) package cream cheese, softened
1 (14-ounce) can sweetened condensed milk
1 (12-ounce) container frozen whipped topping thawed, or equal amount sweetened whipped cream

I cut a considerable amount of sugar and calories out of this recipe. My mother doesn't eat bananas, doesn't like the taste, doesn't even want to look at them, so this recipe is DEFINITELY not hers. But I'm sure she'd like it sans bananas.

It's Not MY Mamma's Banana Pudding6 bags Nabisco 100-calorie pack LornaDoone cookies, crushed
6 to 8 bananas, sliced
3 cups nonfat milk
1 (4-ounce) box Jell-O instant sugar free/fat free vanilla pudding
1 (8-ounce) package fat free cream cheese, softened
1 (12-ounce) container fat free frozen whipped topping, thawed
2 tablespoons Chocolate Pillsbury Reduced Sugar Frosting, melted

Line the bottom of a 13 by 9 by 2-inch dish with 3 bags of cookies and layer bananas on top. In a bowl, combine the milk and pudding mix and blend well using a handheld electric mixer or whisk. Using another bowl, combine the cream cheese and the whipped topping. Add the cream cheese mixture to the pudding and stir until well blended. Pour the mixture over the cookies and bananas and cover with the remaining cookies. Refrigerate until ready to serve. Drizzle chocolate frosting across top of pudding before serving.
Paula's Original RecipePaula’s Coleslaw
5 cups shredded cabbage
1/2 cups almonds, toasted
1 1/2 cups dried cranberries
1/2 cup celery, diced
1/4 cup chopped green onions, white and green parts
1/2 cup chopped green bell pepper

1/2 cup mayonnaise
1 tablespoon sweet pickle relish
1 tablespoon honey mustard
1 tablespoon honey
salt and pepper
I am desperately allergic to ALL nuts. Tree, ground, and I stay away from granola and sesame because the nutty flavors remind me an allergy attack. I found a great substitute in soy nuts. Roasted, unsalted soy nuts. They come with skins and without. There is also a soy nut butter that kicks peanuts in the...pants. As far as mayonnaise is concerned, there are plenty of other options that are still mayonnaise, but I chose silken tofu because it's different, new, and adds protein whereas mayo just adds cholesterol.

Nikki's Coleslaw
5 cups shredded cabbage
½ cup roasted, unsalted soy nuts
1 ½ cups dried cranberries
½ cup diced celery
¼ cup chopped green onions (white/green)
½ cup chopped green bell pepper

1 cup silken tofu, blended to a smooth consistency
¼ tsp cayenne
1 tsp lemon juice
1 tsp yellow mustard
1 tablespoon honey
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar

Combine cabbage, soy nuts, cranberries, celery, green onions, and green pepper in a large bowl with a snap-on lid. Combine all dressing ingredients and refrigerate until ready to serve. When ready, pour dressing over slaw and stir well.

While tasting the slaw during class, I added extra cayenne (because I like it spicy) and I added apple cider vinegar because it married all of the flavors together.

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About the author

Nikki Miller-Ka

Nikki Miller-Ka

Ms. Miller-Ka is a classically trained chef with a BA in English from East Carolina University and a Culinary Arts Associate Degree from Le Cordon Bleu-Miami.

Formerly, she’s worked as a researcher, an editorial assistant, reporter and guest blogger for various publications and outlets in the Southeast. She has also worked as a catering chef, a pastry chef, a butcher, a baker, and a biscuit-maker. Presently, she is a food editor, freelance food writer, and a tour guide for Taste Carolina Gourmet Food Tours.

Leave a reply

  1. i'll have to try your banana pudding recipe. i tried one from scratch, made my own pudding, at Christmastime and we were so disappointed with it. maybe it's better with jello pudding? you think?

  2. Becca: Yeah, it's TOTALLY better with Jell-O pudding. And to be honest, the sugar free/fat free stuff doesn't taste bad and you can't tell the difference once you add stuff to it. It comes in white chocolate, pistachio and butterscotch, too.

  3. I've been looking to try a shrimp and grits recipe but agree with you that Paula's is not everyday fare. Thanks for the recipe!

  4. I don't watch Paula often but when I do catch a bit of an episode I cringe at all the high fat and high sugar recipes she prepares. I do wish more people would be motivated to do as you did and modify recipes to be healthier. Nice job!

  5. Very well written article. It was an awesome article to read. Complete rich content and fully informative. I totally Loved it.Deen Gift Online In Canada


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