Lighten Up, Y’all – Cookbook review

Do you love cookbooks?  If yes, is it because you actually like to cook the recipes or just drool over the photos?  Well, regardless of your motives for bringing home a new cookbook, I have one for you today that you definitely need to add to your collection! Lighten Up, Y’all: Classic Southern Recipes made Healthy and Wholesome not only has beautiful photos but it’s filled with yummy recipes that you’ll want to try today!

I’m a bit of a cookbook addict. I could spend hours looking through cookbooks.  While the gorgeous photos always pull me in and I could study them forever (I love to do food photography!), I also love reading the recipes and imaging how the dish tastes.  I can see it laid out on my table and surrounded by friends.

But…I usually only goes as far as admiring the photos and maybe giving a few of the recipes a try (without the pretty table or a house full of people…mainly because I’m an introvert and the idea of having a bunch of people over makes me twitch).  So, any cookbook that has gorgeous photos is instantly a winner in my book!

The Lighten Up, Y’all cookbook not only features gorgeous images, but totally do-able, delicious (sounding) Southern cooking that has been lightened up to make it healthier!

I’m sold.

I’m a southerner living up north, so what had me ordering this as fast as I could was the promise of good southern food without the hefty calories and fat!  As I flipped through the pages, I found recipe after recipe that reminded me of my childhood in Atlanta.  

Virginia Willis, the author, is not only a southerner, but a fellow Georgian!  So, I gotta support my Georgia girls!  She has truly captured the southerner spirit in not only her recipes, but in the book overall.

Overview of the book…

This cookbook covers you from starters, soups & salads, main dishes, side dishes, and desserts. Its very well organized and I love the additional commentary and background provided by Virginia.  The recipes flow easily and the ingredient lists include items that are easy to pick up in any grocery store.  

While I’m sure there are some recipes that are rather involved, it’s not one of those books that has really complicated, time consuming recipes.  These are straightforward and not too over the top.  In other words, anyone can do these and they won’t have to spend hours in the kitchen!

I love the photos in the book…they all had me drooling!

To give you an idea of what you’ll find inside, these are the sections within the book:

  • Starters and Nibbles
  • Salads and Slaws
  • From the Garden
  • Grains, Grits, and Other Starchy Goodness
  • Seafood and Shellfish
  • Poultry
  • Pork, Beef, and Lamb
  • Soups and Stews
  • Biscuits, Bread, and Baked Goods
  • Sweet Indulgences
Taking it for a Test Run…

Whenever I get a new cookbook I can’t wait to try one of the recipes.  The first thing I do is flip through each page, pour over the ingredients, and flag those that I know I have to make.  

Yeah…there’s a lot of recipes in here that I want to try!

 What was my first recipe, you might ask?  I couldn’t resist the Makeover Broccoli Mac and Cheese because…ummmm…it’s Mac and Cheese….

Baked Mac & Cheese with Broccoli

While mine doesn’t look quite as pretty as theirs (it’s the one on the cover of the book), it tasted soooo good!!  It was still cheesy enough to not taste like a ‘light’ mac and cheese and the broccoli was a nice addition.  I think i’ll exchange the broccoli for jalapeños next time to give it a little heat since I love me some spice!

Cheesy and yummy!

Now that I have one recipe down, the next ones on my list are:
  • Red Snapper Provencal on Stone-Ground Grits with Parmesan and Herbs
  • Salmon Patties with Lemon-Caper Sauce
  • Turkey Meatfloaf with Mushroom Gravy
  • Baked Zucchini Crisps
Final thoughts…

I highly recommend this cookbook!  I can put the southern seal of approval on it and assure you if you want some good southern cooking without the calories, then you need this book!

If you want to get your hands on your own copy, you’re in luck!  Amazon has it stocked and ready to ship out.

Once you whip up your first recipe, be sure to enjoy it on your back porch with a tall glass of sweet tea!


What do you think? Are you a fan of good ole Southern cooking?  If not, what is your favorite type of food?  Leave me a comment and let me know!

Note:  I received this book from the Blogging for Books program in exchange for this review, but all thoughts and opinions are completely mine.  This post also contains affiliate links. If you purchase the book by clicking on a link, it does help me out by adding a few extra dollars to my pockets.


    • 14


      Exactly! I loved the concept of this book…I’m always such a fan of making unhealthy recipes healthy (especially if they still taste good!).

  1. 17


    This cookbook sounds awesome! I love southern food but not all the calories that come with it haha. That broccoli Mac n cheese looks so good, and I think it looks just as good as the the cover. You should see what my food looks like, I go for taste not pretty, hence me never posting recipes.

  2. 19


    I have to say I will probably always be a fan of my full-fat-calorie-laden Southern classics, but I’m betting these recipes are pretty great (especially if you’re trying to be a little healthier). Looks like a beautifully put together book too! I love cookbooks with full-page photos… =)

    • 20


      I hear ya, Miranda! There are some foods that if you’re going to eat them, you just have to go the full fat route. But, it’s definitely nice to have an alternative that makes it a wee bit better, lol. If nothing else I can just enjoy the photos, hehehe.

  3. 21


    SO glad you got to try out this cookbook, too! You should def test out beer battered shrimp if you like shrimp – it was amazing! I will test out the broccoli mac and cheese soon because I am a HUGE mac & cheese addict! Yummm….

    • 22


      I LOVE shrimp, so that one is definitely on the list and pink sticky tabbed :). So many recipes to try! Love that you tried it too…fun to read your thoughts on it too. :)

  4. 23

    Leslie says

    I’d serious want to lick the pages. I’m in NC so I’m a southerner & I could totally do this cook book. I’m off to check it out!

    • 24


      LOLOL…I might’ve been tempted to do a little licking myself, shhhh! From one southerner to another, trust me, you would LOVE this cookbook!! :)

  5. 25


    OMG GIMME! I’m trying to get more into cooking (so I don’t spend a fortune eating out) while also being skinny! This is on my list to buy when my spending freeze is over!

    • 26


      You’ll love it, Allison! So many yummy recipes to pick from!! And, it should allow for some awesome leftovers! No true southern recipe is worth it’s salt if it doesn’t hold up well for leftovers (makes me thing of Steel Magnolias and the line about the ‘freezes beautifully’ section of the cookbook, lol).

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