We are spicing things up in the second blog in our “From the Kitchen of “ series. Keep reading for more ideas on how you can make flavorful recipes at home! 

We are happy to feature Rebecca Hardeman. Chef Becca is a University of Georgia Cooperative Extension Coordinator, Family and Consumer Sciences agent, and a mom. 

Rebecca has mastered ways to make traditional southern foods healthy without losing the great flavors of our cuisine here in Georgia. 

African American female chef wearing black apron and smiling


Rebecca’s Healthy Alternatives to Southern Favorites

Who doesn’t love good ole’ southern fried chicken? Rebecca has a delicious alternative recipe that uses a fraction of the fat. One of Rebecca’s favorite ways to serve these baked chicken nuggets with a creative twist is with whole wheat waffles or biscuits. 

Baked Chicken Nuggets

chicken nuggets piled on black platter


Serves 4 

  • 1 ½ cups Panko Breadcrumbs 
  • Cooking spray 
  • 1 teaspoon salt 
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper 
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder 
  • 1 teaspoon paprika 
  • ½ teaspoon garlic powder 
  • ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper 
  • 2 large eggs 
  • 2 tablespoons milk 
  • 1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts 


  1.  Preheat oven to 400°F.
  2.  Wash hands with soap and water. 
  3.  Spread panko breadcrumbs onto a large baking sheet into one even layer and spray breadcrumbs with nonstick cooking spray. 
  4.  Bake in oven for 2 minutes.
  5.  Stir breadcrumbs and bake for 2 more minutes until breadcrumbs are just golden. 
  6.  Transfer breadcrumbs to a medium bowl or zip-top bag, add all spices into the breadcrumbs, seal bag, and mix around. 
  7.  In a separate medium bowl, whisk together the eggs and milk. Wash hands with soap and water.
  8. Line the large baking sheet with foil and spray with nonstick cooking spray.  
  9. Cut chicken breasts into 1 inch cubes.  Wash hands, cutting board and knife with soap and water. Wipe down any surface touched by raw chicken. 
  10.  Dip each chicken cube in the egg mixture, then into breadcrumb bag. 
  11.  After tossing in the bag to coat with breadcrumbs, place on baking sheet at least one inch apart. 
  12.  Wash hands with soap and water. 
  13.  Spray nuggets with nonstick cooking spray. 
  14.  Bake in oven for 15-20 minutes or until internal temperature reaches 165°F with a thermometer.


  • See recipes below for how to make spice blends at home. Different seasonings in the bag (ranch, Cajun, etc.) can completely change the flavor of the nuggets. 
  • Preparing the panko and nuggets ahead of time can be a time saver.  Bake the breadcrumbs, cool completely, and place in an airtight container.  Cut chicken into pieces and place in refrigerator overnight. When ready to cook the next day, preheat oven 400°F, wash hands with soap and water, and skip to step 11 to finish cooking the nuggets. 

baked chicken nuggets nutrition label

Slow-Cooker Seasoned Collard Greens

Another southern favorite is collard greens. Rebecca shared a tasty alternative to the traditional collard greens with less than half the sodium but all of the flavor. 

Learn how to plant collards, chop collards and some delicious ways to prepare these healthy vegetables in our Collard Green blog. 

cooked collard greens with turkey bacon pieces inside white bowl


Serves 6 

  • 3 cups low-sodium chicken broth
  • 4 pieces smoked turkey bacon (cooked) 
  • 1 jalapeno pepper 
  • 1 onion
  • 1 scallion
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 teaspoon thyme 
  • 1 teaspoon ginger 
  • ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper 
  • ¼ teaspoon black pepper 
  • 1 pinch salt 
  • 2 pounds greens (mustard, turnip, collard, kale or mixture) 


  1. Wash hands with soap and water. 
  2. Gently rub greens, garlic, scallion and onion under cold running water. 
  3. Scrub pepper with a clean vegetable brush under running water. 
  4. Peel the onion and garlic and chop into small pieces. Remove stem of scallions and thinly slice. Remove stem of jalapeno, cut vertically and remove seeds. Then finely chop the jalapeno.
  5. Wash your hands with soap and water.
  6. Prepare greens by removing stems. Tear or slice leaves into bite-size pieces. 
  7. Place all ingredients into the slow-cooker. 
  8. Cook on high 1 hour.
  9. Turn heat to low and cook 3-4 more hours.

slow-cooker seasoned greens label

Seasoning Tips From Rebecca

Try making these easy homemade seasonings to bring loads of flavor to your southern favorites. They are an inexpensive, low-sodium alternative to the store-bought option.   


  • 2 tablespoons garlic powder 
  • 2 tablespoons onion powder 
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder 
  • 1 tablespoon paprika  
  • 1 tablespoon parsley 
  • 1 ½ teaspoons black pepper
Total cost per recipe = $1.05 compared to $2.99 for Store-bought Salt-free Seasoning Blend


Enjoy this salt-free seasoning to add flavor to:
  • greens 
  • eggs 
  • chicken, fish, beef or pork 
  • grits  



  • 2 ½ tablespoons parsley 
  • 2 teaspoons dried dill 
  • 2 ½ teaspoons garlic powder 
  • 2 ½ teaspoons onion powder 
  • 2 teaspoons dried minced onion  
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper  
  • 1 ½ teaspoons salt 
Total cost per recipe = $ .99 compared to $1.99 for Store-bought Ranch Seasoning Blend
Note: The Ranch seasoning blend listed above contains 45 mg of sodium (salt) per 1/4 teaspoon. Standard Ranch seasoning mix contains 65-70 mg sodium per 1/4 teaspoon.


Use this ranch seasoning to:
  • Sprinkle on popcorn 
  • Season poultry (especially oven fried chicken) 
  • Sprinkle on baked fries 
  • Add to salads (macaroni, potato, etc.) 



  • 1 ½ tsp salt 
  • 1 tablespoon oregano 
  • 1 tablespoon paprika 
  • 1 tablespoon cayenne pepper  
  • 1 tablespoon black pepper  
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder 
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder 
Total cost per recipe = $.69 compared to $.81 for Store-bought Cajun Seasoning Blend
Note: The Cajun seasoning blend listed above contains 40 mg of sodium (salt) per 1/4 teaspoon. Standard Cajun seasoning mix contains 80 mg sodium per 1/4 teaspoon.


Cajun seasoning can be used on:
  • Collards 
  • Beans 
  • Jambalaya 
  • Gumbo 


african american hands chopping vegetables on a cutting board in front of an electronic tablet

Making Healthy Changes with the Family

Rebecca knows the value of cooking and eating as a family. When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, she found a creative way to still include the whole family in making a healthy meal together. Rebecca would send the list of ingredients for a recipe to her extended family. Then, her family would meet virtually or over the phone to prepare the healthy meal together! We encourage you to involve your family when trying these southern favorite recipes, whether in person or on a distant call. 

Be on the lookout for the next blog in our From the Kitchen of series! 


Written by Leslie Davis, MS, RDN, LD, CDCES | edited by Darci Bell, RDN, LD, Ph.D. Candidate, and the Nutrition Education Team 

Posted on July 20, 2022