Skinnier Southern Summer Recipes

By Libbie Summers
Photography by Chia Chong

Yogurt could be our summer salvation for keeping my thighs and my grandmother’s thighs differentiable. I’ve taken a few classic Southern summer picnic dishes and exchanged yogurt for the likes of sour cream and mayonnaise and all kinds of things that make me feel like I need an alter call during Sunday invitational. Cream Cheese used to be the duct tape of food. After today…I’m pretty sure Jesus would agree it’s yogurt.

Libbie Subbed yogurt for cream cheese in this DELicious mac and cheese!
Hot Bacon Mac and Cheese
(Greek yogurt takes the place of cream cheese in the bacon filled cheesy mac)
serves 6

7 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
1⁄3 cup all-purpose flour
2  cups milk
1 1/2 cups shredded extra-sharp cheddar cheese
6 cups cooked elbow macaroni (about 3 cups uncooked)
1 cup plain Greek yogurt
1⁄4 teaspoon kosher salt
1 tablespoon hot sauce
4 ounces bacon, cooked crisp and chopped
1⁄2 cup crushed butter crackers

1. Preheat the oven to 375 ̊F. Grease a 3-quart casserole dish and set aside.

2. In a large saucepan over medium heat, melt 5 tablespoons of the butter. Whisk in the flour and cook, stirring, for 3 minutes, until the mixture is blended and the flour gives off a nutty scent. Gradually whisk in the milk and cook, whisking constantly, until the mixture thickens. Stir in the cheese and continue stirring until all the cheese has melted. Remove from the heat and stir in the macaroni, yogurt, salt, hot sauce and bacon. Spoon the mixture into the prepared casserole dish.

In a small bowl, stir together the crackers and the remaining 2 tablespoons butter. Sprinkle over the macaroni mixture and bake for 30 minutes, or until golden and bubbly. Remove from the oven and let cool for 10 minutes before serving.

Beets and Yogurt make these deviled eggs skinnier and prettier!

Pretty in Pink Deviled Eggs
(a riff on a recipe I did for Better Homes and Gardens…still shockingly pretty and delicious, yet a dress size smaller)
makes 24/Serves 8-12

1 dozen large eggs
4 jarred whole pickled beets (about 3 ounces)
1/4 cup plain Greek yogurt
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
Kosher or flake sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
Celery leaves for garnish (optional)

1. Cook Eggs: Place eggs in a single layer in a large saucepan. Add enough cold water to cover eggs by 1 inch. Bring to a rapid boil over high heat. Remove from heat; cover and let stand for 15 minutes. Drain. Run cold water over eggs or place them in ice water until cool enough to handle; drain.
2. Make Filling: Tap eggs on a flat surface to crack shell all over. Peel eggs and cut in half lengthwise. Place yolks in a food processor; set whites aside. Add beets, yogurt, and mustard to yolks. Cover and process with several on/off turns just until smooth. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
3. Fill Eggs: Using a small spoon or piping bag, fill each egg white with beet mixture. Garnish with celery leaves (optional).

Lemon Yogurt Crispy Baked Chicken
(lemon yogurt gives the zing, panko adds the crunch, no oil makes it less sinful)
Serves 4

12 chicken tenders
1 cup lemon flavored yogurt
1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves
2 cups Panko
1/2 cup shredded parmesan
Kosher or flake sea salt
Coarsley ground black pepper

1. Preheat oven to 375ºF. Line a baking sheet with foil and spray with a non-stick baking spray.
2. Make Yogurt Mixture: In a medium bowl, stir together the yogurt, thyme, 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper.
3. Make Panko Mixture: In a medium bowl, stir together the panko and parmesan.
4. Coat Chicken: Season chicken with salt and pepper. Working one piece at a time, coat chicken in yogurt mixture (wiping away any excess) then coat in panko mixture. Place on prepared baking sheet.
5. Bake Chicken: Bake chicken until golden brown and cooked through (about 12-15 minutes). Serve with a fresh green salad.

These are just a few ideas for down-sizing your summer picnic menu. The possibilities for substituting a twangy yogurt for any of its more fattening cousins is endless.

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