Grammy Award-winning country singer Trisha Yearwood may be best known for her musical talents, but she creates plenty of hits in the kitchen, too.
The 50-year-old superstar is not only a popular Food Network host, but she’s also a New York Times best-selling cookbook author who just unveiled her third release, “Trisha’s Table: My Feel-Good Favorites For a Balanced Life."
So what can fans expect from Yearwood’s newest cookbook? Aside from featuring even more mouthwatering recipes, including chicken tortilla casserole, beef brisket, and banana pudding cake, the wife of fellow country legend Garth Brooks is shaking things up. This time, Yearwood, along with her sister Beth Yearwood Bernard, are offering easy, drool-worthy recipes with lighter ingredients, all without compromising on classic, yummy flavors.
“Growing up enjoying my parents’ and grandparents’ comfort food taught me early on about taste,” explains Yearwood. “It was always hard for me to go on a traditional diet because I had been led to believe I had to sacrifice flavor to shed a few pounds, so that effort never lasted long. This girl likes food!" she exclaims.
“I think about food all the time, so making peace with eating is a daily battle for me,” she adds. “I won’t say I’ve completely figured it out, but I will say that right now, I win that battle more days than I lose it, and I believe that’s the key.”
Fox News Magazine spoke exclusively with Yearwood about making Southern dishes healthier, her favorite ingredients, and the meals Garth refuses to eat.
FNM: What was the inspiration behind your new cookbook?
TY: The first two books were really a gathering of all of my family recipes that have been passed down from generation to generation, so it was the natural next step that the new book focused on newer recipes and new ‘classics.’ It reflects the way my family and my sister's family eats more often than not. It includes the indulgent Southern recipes we grew up on, but it also includes newer dishes that are lighter and more day-to-day recipes for us.
FNM: What were some of the challenges that you faced in picking out recipes that were delicious, but also healthier?
TY: It is definitely a challenge to make something lighter and still tasty. I found that my friends in this challenge were spices, like red pepper flakes, rosemary and dill. And instead of adding butter to some dishes, I found the flavors of fruits, like adding raspberry to chicken and apricots to pork, really compensated for what I was leaving out.
FNM: Most people love Southern cuisine, but let’s face it — a lot of those dishes can easily pack on the pounds. What are more simple ways we can make Southern-style dishes healthier without compromising on taste?
TY: Baking instead of frying is a great way to save calories and fat … I have an un-fried chicken recipe that is so tasty, and you also don't have all the mess of frying. In some of the dishes where breading is called for, for instance my raspberry chicken recipe, you can actually leave out that step and the dish still tastes amazing. That particular recipe also calls for adding just a tablespoon of butter at the end for flavor, but sometimes I leave that out.
FNM: Is there one dish you would love to make, but just haven’t mastered yet?
TY: Yes. My mom's divinity icing. It's dependent on the humidity, the bowl you use … I just can't make it like mama did!
FNM: What are three surprising ingredients everyone should have in their pantry?
TY: I would say red pepper flakes, which is my seasoning of choice! I also like fire roasted tomatoes because you can make so many great dishes with these. And I also like old fashioned rolled oats. They’re not just for cereal — they’re also great ground up and used as flour in recipes and breading for baked chicken!
FNM: You mentioned in your new book that Garth is also a cook. How would you describe his style?
TY: I'd call Garth a freestyle cook! He never uses a recipe … always just thinks about what might taste good together, and he creates something fabulous every time.
FNM: What’s your favorite meal of his?
TY: His warm pasta salad or his taco pizza — both amazing, and even better because I get to relax while he cooks!
FNM: Is there any dish he just refuses to eat?
TY: He's an Okie and I'm very South Georgia, so there are some very Southern things that he just won't try, like grits or boiled peanuts.
FNM: You say that 80 percent of the time, you make good eating choices, and 20 percent of the time, you splurge. What’s your favorite ‘splurge?’
TY: I love something salty, like a good homemade cheeseburger and french fries. Yum!
FNM: You don’t claim to be an expert on healthy eating, but you certainly know what you’re talking about. What general tips can you give for home cooks concerning health?
TY: I really think it's about balance. If you never make cookies for your kids, they will dread eating at your table! Mix it up, and if it tastes good, your family will eat it. They won't ask if it's good for them. They will eat what you cook if it's tasty. Pretty simple!
FNM: How do you stay in such great shape, especially when on the road?
TY: I get plenty of sleep, drink tons of water, TRY to make healthier choices every night, and I make time to exercise on the road, whether it's a walk in the city, catching a local Zumba class, or heading to the hotel gym.
FNM: When you actually step out of the kitchen and head to a restaurant, where do you go?
TY: I love all kinds of cuisine, so it just depends. I love ‘home cooking’ restaurants — meat and threes are what we call them in the South, which is usually meat and three sides. I also love a good double pepperoni pizza on a thin crust. And ANY city that I'm in that has a Mario Batali owned restaurant in it, I'm there. His food is the BEST.