Excerpts for From Mama's Table to Mine : Everybody's Favorite Comfort Foods at 350 Calories or Less


When's Dinner?! Some Favorite Appetizers

You know that time of the day in the late afternoon when it's not quite dinnertime but your stomach just won't seem to believe you? I reckon that is just about the most dangerous time for trying to eat right. On the other hand, it's also a chance to eat some of the most delicious food of the day. Because that's the hour I start setting out appetizers. These first bites are some of my favorite foods, and I don't like to deprive myself of a good eating opportunity. So I've devised ways to be smart about what I choose at this time of the day.

I like to look at my appetizers as the first part of my evening meal. I mean, what is an appetizer besides the lead-in to the main course? It should work with my main meal, not against it. My first course does the job of getting my appetite in the right frame of mind for what's coming next. If I know what my main meal is going to be, I know what best to pair it up with on the appetizer end.

What I try to do is match a lighter-style appetizer with a heavier meal, and vice versa. If my main meal is going to be something like Grilled Filet Mignon with Vidalia Onions (page 64), I may decide on something like Pickled Shrimp (page 6) to start with. With an ice-cold beer in hand, these babies are a nice bright snack to keep me satisfied as the grill heats up. If I'm planning on something a little lighter for dinner, like Glazed Scallops with Pineapple Salsa (page 80), I may just go with something a little heavier to get me going, like Fiery Queso Fundido (page 12) or Sweet and Savory Meatballs (page 17).

And when I've got friends over for dinner, there's nothing more hospitable than starting the meal out with some really special appetizers. Setting out some beautiful, bite-size Mini Savannah Crab Cakes (page 14) or Spinach-and-Cheese-Stuffed Mushrooms (page 16) tells her my Mama raised me right.

As an added bonus, these recipes are fast and easy to pull together. In fact, most can be finished off before your guests even knock at the door, making for more relaxed entertaining. With these appetizers in your lineup, you'll find yourself free to leave the kitchen, mingle with your guests, and get in a few more bites of each tasty morsel of food you put out.

Bobby's Pimiento Cheese

Well, I guess we Deens are pretty well known for our pimiento cheese at this point. We just love it. That's why a book of healthy comfort food recipes with my name on it absolutely had to include a lighter version of this Southern classic. No matter what you do with it--spread it between two pieces of bread, slather it on top of a burger, or just serve it as is with some vegetable sticks for dipping--this recipe is one you're going to want in your collection. Makes about 2 cups / Serves 8 to 10

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, or using a handheld mixer, beat the cream cheese until fluffy. Beat in the Cheddar, mayonnaise, pimientos, Worcestershire sauce, onion powder, and pepper until well blended. Serve with celery sticks or any vegetable you like.

My Motivation

Pimiento cheese is my pick-me-up food. When I'm lacking the motivation to get myself moving to do some exercise, I promise myself a pimiento cheese sandwich as a reward for a hard workout. While it may sound funny, just having a goal in front of me makes me work that much harder. Find your own pick-me-up food and use it the next time you need a little extra motivation in keeping healthy.

2 ounces low-fat cream cheese (Neufchâtel), softened

2 cups grated low-fat Cheddar cheese

¹/³ cup light mayonnaise

2 tablespoons chopped pimientos, mashed with a fork

½ teaspoon Worcestershire sauce

Pinch of onion powder

Freshly ground black pepper to taste

Celery sticks, for serving


Before After

Fat 26g 3g

Calories 316 78

7g protein | 2g carbohydrate 0g fiber | 232mg sodium

Based on 9 servings, does not include celery sticks for serving

Pickled Shrimp

This is a true Low-Country classic, made even quicker and easier by using precooked shrimp. While my Mama keeps her pickled shrimp in pretty little mason jars, I make my mix-up and marinate everything the modern way, in a resealable plastic bag. Be sure to pickle your shrimp for at least twenty-four hours to give the flavors time to soak in. The pickled shrimp will last about a week in your fridge, so you can be sure that you'll never get caught out with nothing to serve when friends drop in for a visit. Serves 6

1 pound cooked, peeled and deveined medium shrimp, with tails

½ small red onion, cut in half lengthwise, then cut crosswise into thin slices

½ medium yellow bell pepper, cut in half lengthwise, then cut crosswise into thin slices

¾ cup fresh lime juice

½ cup white wine vinegar

1 jalapeño, seeded, if desired, and sliced into thin rings

1 tablespoon black peppercorns

½ teaspoon dried oregano

½ teaspoon salt

¼ teaspoon dried minced garlic


Before After

Fat 18g 2g

Calories 170 104

18g protein | 4.5g carbohydrate .5g fiber | 201mg sodium

Put the shrimp, red onions, bell peppers, lime juice, vinegar, jalapeños, peppercorns, oregano, salt, and garlic into a ­gallon-­size resealable plastic bag along with ¾ cup water. Seal the bag and turn it over a few times to mix the flavors together. Have a quick taste of the marinade and add a pinch or two more salt, if you like. Seal it up again, place the bag in a medium bowl, and refrigerate overnight, turning occasionally. To serve the shrimp, just empty the entire contents of the bag into a big serving bowl and let your guests dig in.

Tails It Is

There are two reasons I keep the tails on my pickled shrimp. First off, I think it just looks a whole lot better. But more important, with the tails left on, you've got something to grab on to and no need for fiddly toothpicks. And, trust me, when this shrimp is brought out, there will be a whole lot of grabbing going on.

It's a Party Guacamole

Game day can be the downfall of anyone's healthy diet. The temptations are just too great, y'all! But with this guac, I can enjoy the game with my buddies and still feel good about what I've eaten. I make sure to serve this with some healthy dipping options like veggie sticks or baked tortilla chips so that I don't blow it all on the fried chips. Makes 1½ cups / Serves 6

2 ripe avocados, pitted, peeled, and finely chopped

¾ cup fat-free sour cream (or use low-fat; optional)

½ teaspoon lime juice

½ teaspoon salt

¼ teaspoon ground cumin

Pinch of cayenne pepper

1/3 cup finely chopped tomatoes

3 tablespoons thinly sliced scallions (white and light green parts only)

¼ cup shredded low-fat Mexican cheese blend

Veggie sticks or baked tortilla chips, for dipping


Before After

Fat 22g 8g

Calories 262 112

3g protein | 10g carbohydrate 13g fiber | 280mg sodium

Using the back of a fork, mash the avocados in a medium bowl. Stir in the sour cream, lime juice, salt, cumin, and cayenne. Scoop the mixture into a serving bowl and sprinkle with the tomatoes, scallions, and Mexican cheese blend. Serve with veggie sticks or baked tortilla chips.

Shore Is Good Seafood Dip

If you're from Savannah, chances are you've enjoyed a version of this dip at most gatherings you've been to. And if you've ever been to our restaurant, The Lady & Sons, I sure hope you had the opportunity to sample it there. This here is a version you can feel good about treating yourself to any old day of the week. Makes 6 cups / Serves 12 to 16

1. Preheat the oven to 325°F. Lightly spray a 2-quart casserole with cooking spray.

2. In a large nonstick skillet coated with cooking spray, cook the celery, bell peppers, and onions over medium heat until the bell peppers and onions begin to soften, 3 to 5 minutes.

3. In a medium bowl, mix together the crabmeat, shrimp, Parmesan, yogurt, mayonnaise, evaporated milk, lemon juice, Worcestershire sauce, paprika, and pepper to taste. Stir in the cooked vegetables from the skillet. Scrape into the prepared casserole and bake for 30 minutes, or until warmed through.

Take Your Lumps

I like to splurge and use lump crabmeat in this dip because it contains the sweetest, most tender meat of the crab. By using this high-quality meat, you don't need to dress it up too much with added fat and sugar. It's so tasty on its own, you'll want its great flavor to shine through.

2 celery stalks, finely chopped

1 medium yellow bell pepper, finely chopped

1 medium onion, finely chopped

8 ounces lump crabmeat, picked over to remove bits of shell

8 ounces cooked, peeled, and deveined shrimp, coarsely chopped

1 cup grated Parmesan cheese

½ cup fat-free Greek yogurt (or use low-fat; optional)

½ cup light mayonnaise

2 tablespoons 2% evaporated milk

1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce

½ teaspoon paprika

White pepper to taste


Before After

Fat 20g 4g

Calories 205 94

10g protein | 4g carbohydrate 0g fiber | 315mg sodium

Gather Round Artichoke and Spinach Dip

If you like your dips decadently cheesy and lusciously creamy, then this is the dip for you. I like to make my own pita crackers to serve alongside. Cut up healthy whole-grain pitas into triangles, give them a spray with some cooking spray, and sprinkle them with sea salt. Then pop them into a 400°F oven for 5 to 7 minutes to crisp up. They're supereasy and a great alternative to higher-calorie options. Makes 4 cups / Serves 12

2 cans (14 ounces each) artichoke hearts, drained and chopped

1 package (10 ounces) frozen spinach, thawed, drained, and squeezed dry

1 cup grated Parmesan cheese

1 cup fat-free Greek yogurt (or use low-fat; optional)

½ cup light mayonnaise

1 garlic clove, finely chopped

Freshly ground black pepper to taste

Veggie sticks or healthy crackers, for dipping

Breakin' It Down

Before After

Fat 31g 4g

Calories 650 86

6g protein | 7g carbohydrate 1g fiber | 414mg sodium

Does not include veggie sticks or healthy crackers for dipping

1. Preheat the oven to 375°F. Lightly spray a 1½-quart casserole with cooking spray.

2. In a medium bowl, combine the artichokes, spinach, ¾ cup of the Parmesan, the yogurt, mayonnaise, garlic, and pepper to taste. Spoon the mixture into the prepared casserole and sprinkle with the remaining ¼ cup Parmesan. Bake until golden and bubbly, 30 to 40 minutes. Serve with veggie sticks or healthy crackers for dipping.

Flavors That Pop

My Mama and my Aunt Peggy used to add a healthy dose of hot sauce to their artichoke dips. If you go in for a little spice, go ahead and shake some in the mix here. But be careful--besides a kick, hot sauce is a hidden source of sodium.

Fiery Queso Fundido

Made with just four simple ingredients, this warm dip is brimming with true Mexican flavor. I like to use a hot, hot salsa in my fundido, but feel free to go milder if that's how you like it. Just be sure to use the fresh salsa you find in the refrigerator case at your supermarket (not the jarred kind in the chip aisle). You can taste a world of difference between the two. Makes 4 cups / Serves 10

2 cups fresh salsa (from the refrigerator case)

1 package (8 ounces) fat-free cream cheese (or use low-fat; optional), softened

1 package (8 ounces) shredded low-fat Mexican cheese blend

1 can (4 ounces) sliced jalapeños


Before After

Fat 19g 2g

Calories 241 63

6g protein | 4g carbohydrate 1g fiber | 560mg sodium

1. Preheat the oven to 400°F and position a rack in the upper third of the oven.

2. In a medium bowl, combine the salsa, cream cheese, and Mexican cheese. Blend and mix well. Scrape into a shallow 1½-quart baking dish and top with the jalapeños. Bake for 30 minutes, or until golden and bubbly.

Fat-Free Flavor

Sprinkle on some fresh cilantro when you put this dip out. The cilantro adds another level of great Southwest flavor and it looks nice too. I tend to sprinkle fresh herbs on most dishes just before I dig in. It's a great way to up the flavor of the dish without adding calories.

Hush Puppies

Hush puppies, sweet and spicy dip, and a cold beer. Now that is a recipe for a good night. And this recipe will help you keep your calorie count down, leaving room for that beer. Or maybe even two. Makes about 2 dozen / Serves 8

1. Preheat the oven to 450°F. Lightly spray a rimmed baking sheet with cooking spray.

2. In a medium bowl, combine the cornmeal, flour, baking powder, salt, and cayenne.

In a separate bowl, mix together the milk, eggs, oil, and chives. Fold the milk mixture into the cornmeal mixture until the dry ingredients are just moistened.

3. Spoon tablespoon-size dollops of the batter onto the prepared baking sheet, about 1 inch apart. Bake for 10 minutes, or until the hush puppies are firm to the touch and golden brown around the edges.

Take a Dip

I usually serve my hush puppies with a sweet and spicy dipping sauce. I stay away from the overly sweetened dips you may find on the supermarket shelves and make my own. I mix together some freshly squeezed orange juice with just the tiniest amount of marmalade to thicken it up, along with a dash of low-sodium soy sauce and some freshly sliced jalapeño for a good kick.

2/3 cup fine cornmeal

1/3 cup all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

¾ teaspoon salt

1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper

1/3 cup 1% milk

2 large eggs, lightly beaten

1 tablespoon canola oil

1/3 cup finely chopped fresh chives

Breakin' It Down

Before After

Fat 13g 3g

Calories 277 93

3g protein | 12g carbohydrate 1g fiber | 242 mg sodium

Mini Savannah Crab Cakes

In Savannah, I reckon there are about as many opinions on crab cakes as there are people. A few things we all agree on, though, are that they should be loaded with crabmeat, light on the bread crumbs, and spiced with Old Bay. In short, they should taste like they just jumped out of the sea. Hit them with a squeeze of lemon just before serving and you've got yourself a surefire winner. Makes 8 to 10 / Serves 4

8 ounces fresh or canned lump crabmeat, drained if canned

6 tablespoons dried bread crumbs

2 tablespoons finely chopped scallions (white and light green parts only)

2 tablespoons light mayonnaise

1 jalapeño, seeded and finely chopped

1 large egg white, lightly beaten

1 teaspoon Old Bay seasoning

1 teaspoon Dijon mustard

1 lemon, cut into wedges, for serving

Breakin' It Down

Before After

Fat 6g 1g

Calories 136 30

13g protein | 10g carbohydrate 1g fiber | 617mg sodium

1. In a large bowl, stir together the crabmeat, 3 tablespoons of the bread crumbs, the scallions, mayonnaise, jalapeños, egg white, Old Bay, and mustard.

2. Form the mixture into 1½-inch patties. Place the remaining 3 tablespoons bread crumbs in a bowl. Dip each crab cake in the bread crumbs to lightly coat. Spray a skillet generously with cooking spray and place over medium-high heat. Cook the crab cakes in batches, until golden, 2 to 3 minutes per side. To prevent sticking, spray the skillet with more cooking spray between batches.

Trim Tartar

If you'd like to serve these crab cakes with a dipping sauce, you can whip up a quick, lighter-style tartar sauce. Just substitute the mayonnaise with low-fat yogurt. You can mix in a tablespoon or two of low-fat mayonnaise to give it some body. To skip the extra sugar, use chopped-up pickles instead of pickle relish. Then mix in some fresh herbs like parsley or tarragon to give it a fresh flavor.

Spinach-and-Cheese-Stuffed Mushrooms

This is one of my favorite appetizers that my Mama makes. She packs hers with feta and spinach because she knows I just can't get enough of that combo. So all I needed to do here was cut the fat a bit by swapping in low-fat sour cream for the cream cheese. Oh, and I upped the feta because, in my book, you can't ever have too much cheese. Makes about 3 dozen / Serves 12

1 package (10 ounces) frozen chopped spinach, thawed, drained, and squeezed dry

1½ cups crumbled feta cheese

½ cup finely chopped scallions (white and light green parts only)

¼ cup low-fat sour cream

½ teaspoon The Lady's House Seasoning (recipe follows)

1½ pounds white mushrooms (about 36), stems removed

¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese


Before After

Fat 14g 5g

Calories 138 85

6g protein | 4g carbohydrate 1g fiber | 157mg sodium

1. Preheat the oven to 375°F and position a rack in the upper third of the oven.

2. In a medium bowl, combine the spinach, feta, scallions, sour cream, and House Seasoning and stir well. Fill the mushroom caps with the mixture and top with the Parmesan. Place the mushrooms on a rimmed baking sheet and bake for 15 to 20 minutes, until the topping is golden.

A Gentle Touch

You need a soft touch in removing the stems from white mushrooms so you don't tear into your mushroom caps. I suggest using a gentle back-and-forth motion on the stem until it literally pops out. You want those mushroom caps intact so they provide a clean little bowl for your filling. To clean mushrooms, never soak them in water. They are very porous, so you don't want them filling up with water. If they aren't too dirty, just give them a gentle wipe with a dry paper towel. For dirtier mushrooms, go ahead and use a damp paper towel.

The Lady's House Seasoning

While you can certainly buy a bottle of our Paula Deen House Seasoning, it's also really easy to make up yourself. Here's the recipe, y'all. I highly recommend you add it to your spice collection.

1 cup salt

¼ cup freshly ground black pepper

¼ cup garlic powder

Combine all the ingredients in a small bowl. Store in an airtight container for up to 6 months. Makes 1½ cups.

Sweet and Savory Meatballs

This hearty appetizer is a real crowd-pleaser. When I've got a few friends over for a sit-down dinner, I like to serve these superflavorful meatballs in small, deep bowls, with lots of sauce drizzled over and plenty of fresh parsley sprinkled on top. If I'm having a bigger crowd over for lots of finger foods, I serve these up on a big platter with toothpicks for people to spear them with. Makes 40 / Serves 8

1. In a medium bowl, combine the beef, ricotta, raisins, salt, and pepper and mix gently. Roll into forty 1-inch meatballs.

2. Spray a large nonstick skillet with cooking spray and place over medium heat. Add the meatballs in batches and brown on all sides, 7 to 8 minutes total. Set the meatballs aside on a plate.

3. Add the onions to the skillet and cook, stirring, until browned, 2 to 3 minutes. Add the tomato sauce and vinegar and bring to a gentle boil. Return the meatballs to the pan and cook, stirring carefully to coat with sauce, for 5 minutes, until cooked through. Serve the meatballs in small bowls topped with a generous amount of the sauce and a sprinkling of the parsley.

Raisin Right:

I think I'm gonna surprise y'all with this little fact. Raisins are something of a nutritional powerhouse. They are packed with vitamins and minerals, are high in fiber, low in sodium, and are a natural source of sugar. I love them in these meatballs. They add just the right amount of sweetness to the dish.

1 pound 95% lean ground beef

½ cup fat-free ricotta cheese (or use low-fat; optional)

½ cup raisins, coarsely chopped

¾ teaspoon salt

¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

½ cup finely chopped onions

1 can (15 ounces) low-sodium tomato sauce

1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar

¼ cup coarsely chopped fresh parsley, for serving


Before After

Fat 10g 2g

Calories 193 121

12g protein | 12g carbohydrate 1g fiber | 273mg sodium

Easy Ginger-Glazed Spareribs

These Asian-style sweet and tangy ribs will have your guests licking their fingers with gusto. I can't think of another appetizer that is so easy to prepare yet tastes so lip-smacking good. No matter what style of ribs you prepare, they always seem to bring the party with them. Serves 12 (about 3 riblets per person)

3 pounds Chinese-style pork spareribs, trimmed of excess fat

1½ teaspoons salt

¾ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

3 tablespoons molasses

1 tablespoon ketchup

2 teaspoons low-sodium soy sauce

2 teaspoons peeled and finely chopped fresh ginger

2 teaspoons sherry vinegar

1 garlic clove, finely chopped


Before After

Fat 43g 28g

Calories 547 320

19g protein | 4g carbohydrate 0g fiber | 415mg sodium

1. Using a sharp knife, cut and pull the white membrane from the bony side of the rack of ribs. Season the ribs all over with the salt and pepper. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 3 hours.

2. In a small bowl, make the glaze by stirring together the molasses, ketchup, soy sauce, ginger, vinegar, and garlic until combined. Cover and refrigerate until ready to use.

3. Preheat the oven to 325°F.

4. Place the ribs, bony side down, on a foil-lined rimmed baking sheet. Cover tightly with foil. Bake for 1½ hours. Uncover and brush the ribs lightly with half of the prepared glaze. Bake, uncovered, 15 minutes. Baste with the remaining glaze and continue to bake until the rib meat is very tender and the glaze is sticky, about 15 minutes more. Test for doneness by poking a fork between the bones. If the fork inserts easily, the ribs are done. Let them stand for 10 minutes before cutting them into individual ribs.