For over 20 years the name Paula Dean has been known, both north and south, for her indulgent southern-style home cooking. From her first catering business ran out of her house, to hundreds of shows for Food Network, Paula has never failed to entertain and produce mouth-watering comfort food for America.

healthy Grilled Chicken recipeI was recently extended an opportunity to attend a Paula Dean Live! event in Pigeon Forge, TN. I felt a bit out of place, a 25 year-old dietitian born and raised in the mid-west, attending an event featuring a 67 year-old Southern icon whose favorite ingredient is butter. Fortunately, I quickly realized there is always room for more in Paula’s family.

“Thank y’all for loving me.” She said as she stepped onto the stage with her husband Michael. I was anticipating a few demonstrations of recipes, but Paula’s live show began to unravel as a personal story of her family and her culinary journey to where she is today.

Between cooking demonstrations, games, and jokes, videos of Paula’s life and experiences played on the TV monitors. Even through her divorce, diabetes diagnosis and recent accusations, Paula says her faith has never wavered. We even got a picture of Paul’s life today, viewing a video of her home in Georgia where she frequently entertains her family and friends. After decades of restaurant cooking, making TV shows, and writing cookbooks, you would think she would call it quits and retire with her beloved family in Georgia. Now Paula has an opportunity to share her story, her love for her family and her love for food to her fans through tears, laughter and fun. She is re-writing herself a new image, and I applaud her for it.

Arugula Salad with Corn and Tomatoes recipeAs a dietitian, it might be expected of me to disapprove of many Paula’s recipes and dishes. After all, the woman is known for cooking for her traditional southern flare of battered, fried, creamed, buttered, and sugared dishes. I’m a dietitian, not the food police, so I must admit there’s butter in my fridge too. I firmly believe there is room for a variety of foods in certain quantities in any healthy diet. It is likely, however ,you won’t see me using many of Paula’s less healthy recipes on regular basis but I did appreciate her “5 and Dime” recipe (below) she shared with the audience. It uses 5 affordable ingredients to create a balanced healthy meal in just ten minutes, showing Paul’s value for healthy economical meals for herself and her family.

I think something we can truly learn from Paula and her live show is that home cooking is more than buttery mashed potatoes and apple pie, it’s whatever we chose as parents to cook to nourish our family. Be it butter or olive oil; choose real whole ingredients to feed your loved ones. We put forth time and effort into meals to show our families we love and care for them. I truly fear for our society in which home-cooking is no longer important and convenience consistently trumps family centered meal times. I think we can all use a reminder of how beneficial it can be to involve the family in the planning, preparing and eating meals together. Our children can learn to appreciate the effort and love that goes into growing and preparing healthy foods that is vital for healthy happy life.

What did you cook today?

Grilled Chicken and Arugula Salad with Corn and Tomatoes #PDLIVE

Olive oil, for grill
2 ears corn, silks and husks removed
1 pound thin chicken cutlets (Springer Farm)
6 cups baby arugula
2 on the vine tomatoes, sliced into wedges
1/3 cup crumbled feta cheese
2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

  1. Heat a cast iron grill pan over medium high heat. Bring large saucepan of salted water to a boil. Brush grill pan with olive oil.
  2. Add corn to boiling water for two minutes. Remove from water with tongs and cool.
  3. Pound out the chicken until it’s ¼ inch thick (it should already be thin so just a few pounds each). Season the chicken on both sides with salt and pepper. Grill the chicken until nice and golden on each side, and completely cooked through, about 5 minutes total.
  4. Meanwhile, use a sharp knife to remove the corn kernels from the cob. 
  5. Add vinegar and oil to a large mixing bowl, add a pinch of salt and pepper, and whisk together. Toss in arugula, corn, tomatoes, and feta cheese.
  6. Slice chicken and toss into salad.

Serves 4
Prep time: 5 minutes
Cook time: 5 minutes
Total tie: 10 minutes
Level: Easy

For more information on the Paula Deen Live! event and a show schedule, check