Cover of Lighten Up, Y'all the James Beard Award-winning book by Chef Virginia Willis

Good and Good for You with Virginia Willis

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Cover of Lighten Up, Y'all the James Beard Award-winning book by Chef Virginia Willis

Are you overwhelmed with the emails about Dry January, New Year/New You, and Weight Loss? Well, Lighten Up, Y’all! 

I am excited to announce that my James Beard award-winning book Lighten Up, Y’all! is back in print as a paperback as part of the launch of Good and Good for You, my new life’s purpose. I am really, truly honored and thrilled to be able to do this with you. 

This is the Good and Good for You inaugural newsletter. We’ll be sharing weekly content that will offer the tools, encouragement, and support to empower folks to live a better life. Face it. Change is hard. It’s overwhelming. You need a cheerleader!  Read on for more information about how Good and Good for You will help YOU live a better life — and for this amazing Broccoli Mac and Cheese recipe I know you will love. 

What does “Good and Good for You” Mean?

Good and Good For You is a real-life approach to health and wellness initiated by my personal experiences with weight. I’ve lost 65# and kept it off for more than 3 years. In the process, I realized it was NOT about weight loss, but health GAIN.  And, health gain is rooted in all kinds of consumption, not just food and drink. It’s what we read, what we scroll, what we hear, what we see…  I explain it a bit more on Instagram.

Nuts and Bolts

I am a nuts and bolts kind of person. I want the basic, practical details of how I can make my life better and this is what we’re going to share with you.

Good and Good for You is dedicated to succinctly giving readers the information they need to make confident decisions. I’ve made it my mission to help you create a better life. Each edition is filled with the motivation and tactics you need. Think of it as an evolving self-improvement guide with recipes.

Good and Good for You offers

* healthful recipes 
* best-life living tips
* self-care techniques
* info and inspiration from reliable sources and experts across the health and wellness space.

We’ll get into it more, but in the meantime here’s a post that shares a bit more about my approach and staying motivated.

Tips, Techniques, and Inspiration

Today’s version is uber abbreviated with the launch, but I wanted to share a lagniappe of what’s in store each week.

Best-Life Living Tips

My number one tip on improving your mood is to smile. Smiling can actually trick your brain into happiness. Check out this piece on the power of a smile from the British Psychological Society.  I make an effort to smile. It may seem silly, but this practice works for me.

Self Care Techniques

Insight Timer is a free app that can help with meditation. I’ve used the free version for several years and love it. A guided Yoga Nidra can be exceptionally helpful in calming your mind and helping you get to sleep. One of my favorite guides is Sarah Blondin. Give her a listen.

Info and Inspiration

There is so much bad health information on the internet and social media, people sharing misinformation and just downright falsehoods. The good news is that fantastic people have a publishing platform in their back pocket, too. I’ll certainly be sharing more about Jackie in the future, but I’d love to kick off today with a hat tip to Jaclyn London. She’s hilarious and her fad diet debunking on instagram will make you laugh out loud.

Virginia Willis before and after

Finding Purpose in Life

It is my honor to begin this journey and growth of Good and Good for You with you. I feel like I have found a renewed life purpose. Every day I get a form of outreach – letters, DMs, emails, texts, phone calls — from someone whom I’ve inspired to make a change in their life. And, I’m able to share this message in cooking classes — as well as public speaking, corporate events, and seminars.

It’s mind-boggling, but it shows me that this is what I am meant to do.

I am grateful and filled with JOY! It continues to show me that if you put good stuff in, you will get good stuff out.

Bon Appétit Y’all!

Virginia Willis


makeover broccoli mac and cheese on

Cover of Lighten Up, Y'all the James Beard Award-winning book by Chef Virginia Willis
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Makeover Broccoli Mac and Cheese

From the familiar blue and white box to fancy eight-cheese combinations, Americans can’t seem to get enough of mac and cheese. It’s rich, simple, and satisfying, friendly and familiar, but never dull. I’ll tell you a secret. For years, I didn’t have a microwave, but if I felt down in the dumps, my food sin was frozen Stouffer’s Macaroni and Cheese. I would go to the store to buy it, remove the pasta Popsicle from the plastic container, transfer it to a baking dish, and bake it in the oven for the suggested hour. I knew how ridiculous it was and that I could have made far better in the same amount of time. Let me just say that macaroni and cheese will make you do crazy things. Instead of making a béchamel, I whisk flour into low-fat milk to make a slurry, and I sub out some of the cheese with low-fat cottage cheese. The end result is that this macaroni makeover is equally creamy and comforting, but without the crazy calories.
Course: dinner, Main Course, Side Dish
Cuisine: American, Southern
Diet: Low Fat
Keyword: casserole, mac and cheese, macaroni
Servings: 10
Calories: 161kcal


  • cup shredded 50 percent reduced-fat extra-sharp Cheddar cheese 
 4 ounces
  • ¾ cup shredded 75 percent reduced-fat extra-sharp Cheddar cheese 3 ounces
  • 2 tablespoons panko Japanese bread crumbs
  • ½ teaspoon paprika
  • cups 2 percent milk
  • 3 tablespoons unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup low-fat cottage cheese, pureed
  • ½ teaspoon dry mustard
  • Pinch freshly grated nutmeg
  • Coarse kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 8 ounces 2 cups whole wheat elbow macaroni
  • 12 ounces 4 cups broccoli florets and stems


  • Preheat oven to 450°F. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Coat an 8-inch-square (2-quart) baking dish with cooking spray. Combine the two cheeses. Mix ¼ cup of the cheese mixture, the bread crumbs, and paprika in a small bowl. Set aside.
  • To make the cheese sauce, heat 1½ cups of the milk in a large heavy saucepan over medium-high heat until simmering. Whisk remaining ¼ cup milk and the flour in a small bowl until smooth; add to the hot milk and cook, whisking constantly, until the sauce simmers and thickens, 2 to 3 minutes.
  • Remove from heat and stir in the remaining 1½ cups of the cheese mixture and the pureed cottage cheese until melted. Stir in the dry mustard, and nutmeg, and add salt and pepper to taste.
  • Cook pasta according to package instructions. In the last 3 minutes of cooking, add the broccoli florets. Drain well and add to the cheese sauce; mix well. Spread the pasta-broccoli mixture in the prepared baking dish; sprinkle with the bread crumb mixture. Bake until bubbly and golden brown, about 20 minutes. Remove to a rack to cool slightly. Serve warm.


Calories: 161kcal | Carbohydrates: 25g | Protein: 11g | Fat: 2g | Saturated Fat: 1g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 0.3g | Monounsaturated Fat: 1g | Trans Fat: 0.03g | Cholesterol: 6mg | Sodium: 211mg | Potassium: 249mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 3g | Vitamin A: 333IU | Vitamin C: 30mg | Calcium: 134mg | Iron: 1mg


Good and Good for You with Virginia Willis is a lifestyle brand that shares food, fun, and fitness through digital channels and online community; events, seminars, and speeches; and print media. For more information visit 

Let’s cook something up! If you are interested in hosting me for a speaking engagement, event, cooking class, or book signing, let me know! Send an email to and we’ll be back in touch as soon as possible.

I am not a doctor, RD, or health professional. I am simply sharing what works for me. My blog is for informational or educational purposes only and does not substitute professional medical advice or consultations with healthcare professionals.

Note that this post may contain affiliate links and I may make a commission if you use my affiliate link to buy the product.

Please be nice. Unauthorized use and/or duplication is prohibited. All photos and content are copyright-protected. If you wish to republish this recipe, please link back to this recipe on Thanks so much!

Virginia Willis cookbooks


Please note that this post may contain affiliate links.

Virginia Willis

Georgia-born French-trained chef Virginia Willis has foraged for berries in the Alaskan wilderness, harvested capers in the shadow of a smoldering volcano in Sicily, and executed the food styling for a Super Bowl commercial seen by over 160 million people. Virginia is a Beard award-winning cookbook author, chef, content creator, and motivational speaker. She has lost 65# and kept it off for more than 3 years. Because of her own health journey, she is a cheerleader for others seeking to make lifestyle changes to feel healthier and happier. Her experience inspired her to launch “Good and Good for You” a lifestyle brand rooted in culinary that shares health and wellness content through digital channels; public speaking; and print media. Fans love her approachable spirit and friendly down-to-earth style. For more information visit

This Post Has 7 Comments

  1. Anonymous

    Bought my cookbook at your cooking class in Nashville. Really miss your classes!

  2. Anonymous

    I am really looking forward to your ideas and plans. 🙂

  3. Anonymous

    Congratulations! I You are an inspiration! Thanks for the encouragement and upbeat vibe! I look forward to reading along!

  4. Anonymous

    Happy for you and your new journey. Excited to see where this path takes you!

  5. Anonymous

    Such a SCORE for 2024!!!! What an awesome kickoff to a healthier, happier New Year! Much love💕🎉

  6. Virginia, I look forward to what you are going to do with this. A great way to share your insights into how to live healthy as well as how to cook like a badass.
    Hope to see you soon. Your Episcopal; priest fan, David Galloway

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