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Southern-style dinner party ideas?

We are organizing a party where we'll be serving fried chicken (courtesy of a great Ina Garten recipe) and multiple types of pie. I'm trying to fill in the rest of the meal with some lighter options, but am getting a bit stuck. So far I'm also serving sweet potato biscuits and lemonade, but I'd love to get some healthy veggies in there somewhere...thoughts?

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  1. If you can find a healthy way to fry okra -- perhaps breaded and baked? -- that would rock.

    Collards of course, though the addition of bacon fat wouldn't make them too healthy. . .
    Squash is always good, find some sweet recipe but go easy on the fat.
    If you can find great corn on the cob (I haven't yet) go for that.
    Green beans seem like they would go well with chicken, maybe try a low-fat amandine recipe.
    If you've got good tomatoes, you don't need to fry them -- just slice and sprinkle with salt.

    1. Collard greens or fresh green beans. Unfortunately southern style means frying, like fried green tomatoes and fried okra, also mashed potatoes and gravy.
      I personally love grilled zucchini that's healthy.
      Good luck with your party!

      1. Sigh. I had the very same dilemma not long ago when my husband wanted to smoke ribs. I was in charge of sides. My conclusion was that until tomato season, "light" and "Southern" are almost mutually exclusive. I did see a couple recipes for cucumber salad/pickled salad type things in my research, but in the end I just decided to bag the whole light idea. I did collards (with a pork stock made from a ham hock), macaroni and cheese, baked beans and skillet cornbread. Oh, and one other thing -- hardly anyone touched the collards. I doubt okra would've been a hot seller either. For some reason, a lot of people seem not to like either.

        Good luck and let us know what you end up doing!

        5 Replies
        1. re: msbo78

          Good point, msbo: Since the OP has to ask, I guess it's safe to assume she doesn't live in the South. In which case, the okra -- which would be gobbled up down here -- might not fly.

          1. re: msbo78

            Foods that are stereotypically Southern, particularly special occasion items, may tend to be heavy, but if you looked at everyday food you would not necessarily find that.

            My Mom always cooks tons of veggies. Cut off corn, green beans, some sort of pea, slices of canteloupe...all this would typically be in the same meal. None of it cooked w/ pork (I never knew people did that 'til I was grown...possibly we were the odd ones out on that.) My grandmother cooked very similarly.

            One tradionally fried dish that my Mom makes is okra. Very lightly coated in flour/cornmeal mixture, pan fried in cooking spray on a teflon pan. My Yankee inlaws went INSANE for it.

            Slaw is a common southern dish, and can be made as healthy or unhealthy as you like.

            The ambrosia thing is a pain in the ass if you do it right. Section and remove the membranes from various citrus fruits, add coconut (fresh if you're real serious).

            1. re: danna

              Rather than ambrosia, I suggest pineapple upside-down cake -- made in a cast iron skillet, of course!

              1. re: Covert Ops

                Do you think that qualifies as a "lighter option" ? ;-)

                If we're going to talk about dessert, I have to vote banana pudding. Or coconut cake.

                1. re: danna

                  Or pecan pie. Or lemon chess pie. Or red velvet cake (though not created in the South). We're getting sidetracked here. :-)

          2. How about cole slaw? If you use low fat mayo, it will be pretty healthy.

            1 Reply
            1. re: mojoeater

              A vinegar slaw is also an option for a lighter version. I actually prefer vinegar slaws.

            2. Fresh corn on the cob? Black-eyed peas? I've been told fruit salad known as "ambrosia" is popular, although I've never eaten it down here, and I suspect the marshmallow & canned fruit concoction I've had up north isn't really the same thing. Oh, and if you try greens, I suggest googling for the recipe (I think it's on Food Network, probably Paula Deen or Ina Garten) using smoked turkey wings instead of hamhocks -- my mother-in-law made them that way and completely converted me.