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Chef Virginia Willis is the author of Lighten Up, Y'all, Bon Appétit, Y'all and Basic to Brilliant, Y'all, Okra: A Savor the South Cookbook, and Grits by Short Stack Editions. The Chicago Tribune praised her as one of "Seven Food Writers You Need to Know." Her legion of fans love her knack for giving classic French cooking a down-home feel and reimagining Southern recipes en Français.

She writes the popular comfort food blog called Down-Home Comfort that celebrates comfort food cooking for Food Network and the Cooking Channel. Her eponymous food blog, tagged as a favorite blog by Saveur magazine, receives rave reviews for her recipes and stories celebrating her Southern heritage and classic French training. She is a contributing editor for Southern Living and her articles have appeared nationally including Food52 and CNN as well as All Recipes, Country Living, Eating Well, Family Fun, and Fine Cooking. As a nationally recognized Southern food and beverage authority she has been featured in the Washington Post and USA Today, and quoted in the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal.

She is the former TV kitchen director for Martha Stewart Living, Bobby Flay, and Nathalie Dupree. She was the producer of Epicurious on the Discover Channel and Home Plate for Turner Studios. In front of the camera, Virginia has appeared on Food Network's Chopped, Fox Family and Friends, Martha Stewart Living, Paula Deen's Best Dishes, and as a judge on Throwdown with Bobby Flay.

Her culinary consulting company, Virginia Willis Culinary Enterprises, Inc specializes in recipe development, content creation, culinary editorial services, culinary video production, spokesperson representation, and media training. Recipe development clients include Georgia Pecan Commission, Roland Foods, Uncle Ben's Rice, Sodexo, Preserving Place, and Whole Foods Market. Her recipe for Sweet Onion Confit won Best of Georgia in 2014. Video content and media training services clients include CharBroil Grills, Roland Foods, The Lisa Ekus Group, and the Ritz Carlton.

She is a member of the International Association of Culinary Professionals, Chef's Collaborative, Les Dames d'Escoffier, Georgia Organics, and the Southern Foodways Alliance. Virginia is on the Monterey Bay Aquarium's Seafood Watch Blue Ribbon Task Force. As an Atlanta chef, she is proud to be on the Atlanta Community Food Bank Advisory Board as well as the Atlanta Community Farmer's Market Advisory Board. She participates in Chef's Move to Schools and is also part of the No Kid Hungry Blogger Program for Share our Strength.

Living Well: Whole Grain Recipes

whole grainsSeveral weeks ago I was asked by Dr.Oz’s website to do a 7-day Vegan challenge. I approached it with a plan of eating as many minimally processed fruits, vegetables, and grains, as possible. I knew that bean, umami-rich vegetable, and toothsome whole grain recipes would the keys to my success.

Whole grains are key part of a healthy lifestyle and balanced diet. Whole grains contain all three parts of the grain or kernel: the bran, endosperm, and germ. Typically, the refining process removes the bran and the germ, leaving only the starchy endosperm. Whole grains are high in fiber and have the highest protein-to-carbohydrate ratio. Protein, along with fiber, helps quell hunger and make us feel full. I knew that if my family was going to give up all animal products for the week, I needed to make sure we still felt satiated.

I realized over the course of the week that I can do without meat, but dairy is my weakness. I drink 2% milk in my coffee. Milk is the rich, creamy liquid from a cow. Flax, almond, quinoa, soy, rice, and coconut milk are not. (Before anyone gets frothed up and faux-milk flustered, the great thing about me not particularly liking vegan milk means there’s more for you.)

To be honest, being vegan felt a bit limiting, but it was also truly enlightening. I relish experimenting and trying new things with food. Kathy Hester’s incredible Oatmeal “Sausage” Crumbles made from steel-cut whole grain oats (as seen below) are definitely something I will make again. It was really cool to try steel-cut whole grain oats in a new way. Click here to read the rest of this recent blog.