published Wednesday, October 17th, 2012

Pierce: 650 recipes for guilt-free eating

  • photo
    Lisa Lillien is Hungry Girl, the entrepreneur who turned a daily email blast to friends into a nation-wide nutritional brand that includes cookbooks, TV shows and a partnership with Weight Watchers.
    Photo by Contributed Photo /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

“Supersize” is the food-industry buzzword infamously equated with upsized entrees. But when I say that Lisa Lillien, aka Hungry Girl, has supersized her newest cookbook, it’s all good: 650 recipes for guilt-free eating.

“Hungry Girl to the Max!” (St. Martin’s Griffin, $28) hit store shelves Tuesday. Her seventh cookbook takes the recipe exchanges she’s known for — faux fries, egg mugs, jalapeno swappers — and expands on them, as well as including hundreds of new recipes (more than 50 percent of the cookbook).

I recently had the chance to interview her, and I was as excited as if a rock star were calling — well, she is a rock star in the world of Weight Watchers.

A self-proclaimed “mad scientist in the kitchen,” she’s constantly showing her readers how to make substitutions in favorite recipes that will cut calories but not taste. For example, she uses crushed Fiber One cereal as breading in her faux fries. Or she’ll sub a 15-ounce can of pure pumpkin for the eggs and oil in chocolate cake mix in her brownie muffin recipe. Lately, she’s touting the pairing of House Foods’ Tofu Shirataki noodles and Laughing Cow light cheeses for her Fettuccine Hungry Girlfredo dishes.

Lillien said she and her staff worked on this cookbook for a year, but it contains recipes they’ve been developing for seven years.

“Every recipe was tested at least three times. I spent a lot of time thinking about what are the types of recipes that really define Hungry Girl. That was what I thought people would really love and appreciate,” Lillien explained.

The book covers the gamut from cocktails to crockpot entrees. You’ll find 40 faux fry recipes, 30 egg mugs, numerous foil wraps and eight variations on her popular “Lord of the Onion Rings.”

I’ve been a Hungry Girl fan ever since a reader tipped me off about her email blasts three years ago. I love her witty style of writing, and I admire her business acumen.

Beginning with just a daily email blast to her friends talking about new foods she had tried and ways to cut calories, she now has 1 million followers. From that start, this entrepreneur built her own nutritional empire with six cookbooks (all of them landing on The New York Times best-seller list), TV shows on Food Network and Cooking Channel, columns for Redbook magazine and website content for Weight Watchers.

She’s believable because she writes from her own weight-loss experiences.

“I lost about 25 or 30 pounds, not on Weight Watchers, but then I joined Weight Watchers in the early 2000s for maintenance. I lost 25 pounds by cutting out dry carbs: no bread, pasta, potatoes, rice, anything like chips for a full year.

“I knew it wasn’t realistic to eat that way forever, so I turned to Weight Watchers to learn how to incorporate those things back in my life. I heard all my friends talking about counting points, so I started putting points in the email blasts,” she said, recalling her start.

One year later, she was contacted by Weight Watchers, whose reps asked her to provide weekly content on the company website and, in exchange, she had permission to use the points count. She said as the email blasts expanded, books and TV shows “grew organically” out of her brand’s popularity.

She’s already working on her eighth book, which will be 200 desserts under 200 calories. She hopes readers will discover her guilt-free recipes can change their eating habits.

“Hungry Girl is not a diet; it’s a lifestyle,” she said. “You have to think about the big picture and find a way to eat that you are comfortable with forever.”

Glaze-of-Sunshine Apricot Chicken

1/2 tablespoon light whipped butter or light butter spread

1 tablespoon cider vinegar

1/2 tablespoon cornstarch

1/4 cup sugar-free apricot preserves, room temperature

1/2 tablespoon onion soup/dip seasoning mix

2 16-ounce boneless, skinless chicken breast cutlets, pounded to 1/2-inch thickness

Salt and pepper, to taste

Heat oven to 375 F. Lay a large piece of heavy-duty aluminum foil on a baking sheet, and spray foil with nonstick spray.

In a small, microwave-safe bowl, microwave butter for 15 seconds (or until just melted.)

In a large bowl, combine vinegar with cornstarch, and stir to dissolve. Mix in preserves, melted butter and soup/dip mix. Add chicken and flip to coat both sides.

Place chicken on center of the foil and top with any remaining preserves mixture. Cover with another large piece of foil. Fold foil pieces together, sealing all four edges to form well-sealed packet.

Bake for 25 minutes or until chicken is cooked through. Remove from oven, cut packet to release steam before opening entirely.

Makes two servings, 233 calories per serving.

— “Hungry Girl to the Max!”

The Original Jalapeno Swappers Faux Fry

1/2 cup Fiber One original bran cereal

Dash each salt and black pepper

Dash garlic powder

1/4 cup fat-free cream cheese, room temperature

1/4 cup shredded fat-free cheddar cheese

5 jalapeno peppers, halved lengthwise, seeds and stems removed

1/4 cup fat-free liquid egg substitute

Heat oven to 350 F. Spray a baking sheet with nonstick spray.

In a blender or food processor, grind cereal to crumbs. (Or place cereal in sealable bag, squeeze out air and seal. Using rolling pin or flat end of a meat mallet, pound cereal until crushed.) Transfer crumbs into a wide bowl, and mix in seasonings.

In a small bowl, thoroughly mix cream cheese and shredded cheese. Evenly spoon and spread mixture into pepper halves.

Place egg substitute in another bowl. Coat pepper halves, one at a time, with egg substitute. Shake to remove excess, then coat with crumbs.

Evenly place pepper halves on baking sheet, stuffed side up. Bake until outside is crispy and pepper halves have softened (25-30 minutes).

Yields five servings; 50 calories per serving.

— “Hungry Girl to the Max!”

about Susan Pierce...

Susan Palmer Pierce is a reporter and columnist in the Life department. She began her journalism career as a summer employee 1972 for the News Free Press, typing bridal announcements and photo captions. She became a full-time employee in 1980, working her way up to feature writer, then special sections editor, then Lifestyle editor in 1995 until the merge of the NFP and Times in 1999. She was honored with the 2007 Chattanooga Woman of ...

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