By Lisa Messinger
“Bobby Deen’s Everyday Eats” by Bobby Deen (Ballantine Books, $22)
If readers didn’t know Bobby Deen, they might think the “Everyday Eats” in the TV chef’s new “Bobby Deen’s Everyday Eats” were buttermilk-fried chicken, buttery mashed potatoes, grits, sweet tea, pecan pie and other Southern specialties.
But, like his famed mom Southern belle Paula Deen when it comes to a propensity to pack on some unwanted pounds, Bobby Deen waged war long ago to get back into shape.
Now the “From Mama’s Table to Mine” and “Y’All Come Eat” author enthusiastically serves up 120 new recipes that, besides each being 30 minutes or less to prepare, are all under 350 calories. A full week’s worth of calorie-controlled menus are even provided, as well as tips for eating out and stocking a well-prepared pantry.
Much more than just lip service or a savvy marketing idea, Deen — who, along with his TV chef brother Jamie, mom Paula and her husband Michael, has lost more than 180 pounds in the last few years — walks the walk and slices the celery stalk daily. He started more than 10 years ago and writes that he feels if he “invests time in the gym, why wouldn’t I pay close attention to what I eat? Because I work so hard on the physical side, I don’t want to blow it all on the food I put in my body.”
He’s also an innovator. All diet cookbooks would do well to have an organizational strategy like his. You know he more than just means well when his first chapter is “Salad Meals.” It’s followed by low-calorie yet filling chapters like “Soup Suppers,” “Seafood,” “Poultry,” “Meatless Mains,” “Fire Up the Grill” and “Good for You Grains.”
This means inventive and fun selections with a twist, like a Hoppin’ John Salad reimagining the Southern favorite as a room temperature, black-eyed pea rice salad with a fresh orange juice-flavored dressing; a White Bean and Tomato Stew with poached eggs; Baked BBQ Tofu; and grilled Whole-Wheat Flatbreads topped with fresh rosemary.
He knows how to cook — well. This is evidenced by how he can make the usually watery choice of 1 percent milk taste as creamy as full-fat in his creations, like a light chocolate mint shake made with the no-milk ingredient of sorbet and a Southwest Corn Chowder that also, besides new potatoes, relies only on low-fat sharp cheddar cheese for its thick texture. Not depending much on chic choices like quinoa or Greek yogurt, Deen instead reminds us why plain yogurt and brown rice, couscous and bulgur have been good suggestions from nutritionists for decades.
Even the dessert chapter is stuffed with wise choices like Minted Berries with Yogurt Cream, Strawberry Angel Food Cake and Raspberry Mousse, whose base is light whipped topping, and — in one of many spots where Deen shows he hasn’t lost his family’s trademark sass — an optional splash of tequila.
Page 2 of 2 - HOPPIN’ JOHN SALAD
• 1 (15 1/2-ounce) can black-eyed peas, rinsed and drained
• 1 1/2 cups cooked brown or white rice
• 1 cup chopped yellow bell pepper
• 1 cup grape tomatoes (about 1/4 pound), halved
• 2 scallions, white and light green parts only, chopped
• 1 T olive oil
• 1 T fresh orange juice
• 2 t red wine vinegar
• Pinch of Cajun spice blend
• Salt, to taste
• Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
In a large bowl, toss together the black-eyed peas, rice, bell pepper, tomatoes and scallions.
In a small bowl, toss together the oil, orange juice, vinegar, Cajun spice blend, and salt and pepper, to taste. Pour over the pea and rice mixture and toss to combine.
Yields 6 servings.
LIGHTER CHOCOLATE-MINT SHAKES
• 1 pint chocolate sorbet
• 1 cup 1 percent milk
• 1/8 t peppermint extract, or to taste (see recipe instructions)
• 8 T prepared whipped light cream
In a blender, combine the sorbet, milk and peppermint extract, and blend until smooth. When the blender is off, use a teaspoon to taste and add more peppermint extract if desired.
Divide among 4 (8-ounce) glasses and garnish with the whipped cream.
Yields 4 servings.
Lisa Messinger is a first-place winner in food writing from the Association of Food Journalists and the author of seven food books, including “Mrs. Cubbison’s Best Stuffing Cookbook” and “The Sourdough Bread Bowl Cookbook.”