I once watched Paula Deen’s Food Network show, Paula’s Home Cooking, in jaw-dropping shock, as Paula and her son Jamie prepared oatmeal. They giggled while they added two tablespoons of butter and a lump of brown sugar to a mug full of oatmeal. Then Paula chided her son, in that charming southern drawl of hers, ”Now what did we forget?” And with a triglyceride-rich glint in his eye he poured heavy cream all over the oatmeal. Those were the days.

With Paula’s diagnosis of diabetes, things were forced to slow down, and brother Bobby has stepped in (along with help from Melissa Clark) to create a cookbook that lets you eat like a Deen, but the new lean kind of Deen. And they ain’t scrimpin’ on taste, y’all. This is a cookbook of delicious-sounding offerings. Mac ‘n’ cheese is slimmed down, along with other Southern favorites such as Smothered Chicken and Ham and Maple biscuits. There’s even tailgate party food that has enough melted cheese on it (albeit low-fat melted cheese) to satisfy.

Spoiled for choice, I chose to make a heart-healthy red velvet cake in honor of Valentine’s Day last week (but it's a dessert year-round). In the recipe, applesauce replaces butter, and an egg white replaces a whole egg. Neufchatel cheese is used in place of cream cheese in the frosting, and no extra butter is added. Never you mind, because you won’t miss it. The calories also get lopped because it’s only an 8-inch one-layer cake.

And while I find it a tad of a challenge to take a low-calorie diet book seriously that has a recipe for doughnut bread pudding (instead of 4 eggs, use 2 whole eggs and 2 whites!), the boy gets points for trying. The cake was satisfying, and I only missed the rich crumb of a butter cake a little. Sanctimony tastes good, too.

Marissa Rothkopf Bates runs the blog Sugar and Spouse.

Red Velvet Cake

From Mama’s Table to Mine

Bobby Deen with Melissa Clark


1 ¼ cups all-purpose flour

1 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder

½ teaspoon salt

½ teaspoon baking powder

½ teaspoon baking soda

½ cup granulated sugar

¼ cup unsweetened applesauce

1 large egg

1 large egg white

¾ cup 1% buttermilk

2 tablespoons canola oil

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

½ teaspoon apple cider vinegar

2 teaspoons red food coloring


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

1/3 cup confectioners’ sugar, sifted

½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1. To make the cake: Preheat the oven to 350° F. Lightly spray an 8-inch round cake pan with cooking spray.

2. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, cocoa powder, salt, baking powder, and baking soda. In a separate large bowl, whisk together the granulated sugar, applesauce, egg and egg white. Whisk in the buttermilk, oil, vanilla, and vinegar. Whisk the flour mixture into the batter, then whisk in the food coloring.

3. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and bake for 25 to 30 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Let the cake cool completely on a wire rack, then invert it onto a serving plate.

4. To make the frosting: In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, or using a handheld mixer, beat together the cream cheese, confectioners’ sugar, and vanilla until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Spread the frosting over the cake, cut the cake into slices and serve.

Breakin’ It Down

Before After

Fat 16 g 7 g

Calories 311 199