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I grew up in Texas, a part of the world where folks love food almost as much as they love Jesus.

As a child, when summertime rolled around and church picnics were a regular event, feasting at the huge table filled with the homemade specialties of The Church Ladies was a truly religious experience.

And NO Church Lady was more dedicated to–and competitive about–cooking and sharing her food than my grandmother, Geraldine.

Since there are as many versions of potato salad in the south as there are shotguns, every church picnic involved at least a dozen. (Potato salads, not shotguns…)  But Grandmother–the competitive cook she was–always insisted I taste hers first and last because, as she often reminded us, it was the best.

A bucket of potatoes, boiled so long they looked almost mashed, along with chopped eggs, olives, onions and pickles, swimming in 2 cups of mayonnaise and secret spices, it really was delicious.

The fact that she is still alive at 98, and never once in her life weighed more than 100 pounds, is nothing short of a miracle…and a true testament to how much Jesus appreciated her generosity.

My metabolism, however, is not so blessed.  And, though it felt like blasphemy at first, I felt the call to resurrect Grandmother’s recipe… but in a skinnier and less death-defying way.

By using a few skinny cooking tricks and ingredients, this born again potato salad has just a fraction of the fat and only one quarter of the calories in the original recipe!

Hallelujah! And let the angels of skinny jeans sing!

This version uses almost all of the basic ingredients and secret spices of the original recipe, but lets nutrient rich and almost calorie free cauliflower stand in for half of the potatoes.

And instead of a dozen eggs with yolks, this version employs heart-safe Egg Beaters and liquid egg whites–cooked in a sneaky way that requires no shelling and no waste—which saves time, another 600 calories, and boat load of cholesterol and fat.

By cutting the olives (720 calories a cup) in half, bumping up the celery and pickles and adding red pepper, the calories and fat are reduced further while adding in even more nutrients and fiber.

But the biggest saving grace is in the new dressing.

By forsaking the real mayo–and its 3000 calories and 320 grams of fat–and using 260 calorie combination of low fat organic yogurt and fat free sour cream instead, this recipe has just 100 calories a cup instead of 400 but still has the same taste!

There are a couple of skinny cooking secrets I discovered while figuring out this copy-cat.  The first came from my father who learned it from his most trusted news source: The Golf Channel.

Host David Feherty, in Ireland to interview golfer Rory McIlroy, stopped by his parents’ home and revealed that the secret to their potato salad was draining the cooked potatoes and tossing them back in a hot pot to dry out before adding the dressing.

Voila! It worked!  Even though I was using no mayo, and cauliflower for half the potatoes–which could have made the salad too watery– by drying out the vegetables a bit,  the texture is now almost an exact match to the original.

The second new trick I learned was how to use Egg Beaters and Liquid Egg Whites to mimic the texture of real boiled eggs–which have 3 times the calories. Start with a small skillet, spray it with cooking spray, let it heat just a few seconds on medium, pour in the egg product and add a pinch of salt. Do not stir. Immediately turn it down to low and put a cover over it. As soon as it is almost–but not quite–cooked through, remove from the heat but leave the lid on so the top can firm up without browning the bottom.  Chop and use as egg yolks or whites.

The last secret is one southern cooks have known about for years: Beau Monde Seasoning. Made by Spice Islands, it’s a salty mixture of onion and celery seed that adds a distinct flavor to many southern dishes. It’s usually available in bigger supermarket chains like Safeway or Kroger. Seek it out, you’ll use in lots of dishes.


2 1/2 lbs russet potatoes, peeled and chopped into 1 inch chunks (about 6 cups)

1 head cauliflower, chopped into 1 inch chunks (about 6 cups)

16 c water

1 T kosher salt

1 c  Egg Beaters, cooked on low in a covered frying pan and chopped.

2 c Liquid Egg Whites, cooked on low in a covered frying pan and chopped

1 1/2 c dill pickles, small dice

1 1/2 c celery, small dice

1/2 c jarred green olives with pimento (packed in vinegar, not oil), chopped fine

1/2 c red bell pepper, chopped fine

1/2 c green onion, chopped fine


3/4 c plain low-fat yogurt

3/4 c non-fat sour cream

3 T Gulden’s Spicy Brown Mustard

2 T dill pickle juice from jar

1 T olive juice from jar

1 T sugar

1 t salt

1 t black pepper

1 t Beau Monde Seasoning

1/2 t Old Bay Seasoning, plus more to sprinkle on top for color

Peel and chop the potatoes and put them in a large pot with 16 cups of cold water and 1 T kosher salt. Put on high heat until water boils, about 20 minutes.

Once water boils, turn the heat to low and cook 7-8 minutes more and then add the cauliflower.

Cook another 25 minutes until both potatoes and cauliflower are both very, very soft.

Drain into a colander in the sink, spray pot with cooking spray, return the potato/cauliflower mixture to the pot and cook over medium heat another 5-7 minutes to dry them out. Turn off heat and set aside to cool a few minutes.

While potatoes are cooking, you’ll have thrown together your dressing, chopped the other vegetables, and cooked and chopped your Egg Beaters and Egg Whites.

When potatoes have cooled just a bit, toss everything together in the same pot you cooked in and stir very, very well. You want the potatoes and cauliflower to break apart a bit and give you a creamy texture.

Taste for seasonings and add a shower of fresh herb and a sprinkle of Old Bay on top if you like.


About Lisa McRee

After 25 years as a local and network anchor, Lisa was just another American mother struggling, and failing, to lose weight. Finally, she cracked the code, and lost 30 pounds, quickly and for good, by doing what she loves: reporting, cooking and eating! The Skinny is the inside story on how she did it, and how you can, too!
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