Hungry Girl: Fast & Easy-All Natural Recipes in 30 Minutes or Less by Lisa Lillien (St. Martin’s Griffin, 2021)
Lisa Lillien is a good friend of mine. Oh, I have met her only once in person at a book signing at Wegman’s in Woodbridge, NJ, but I get an e-mail from her every week day from hungrygirl.com. I feel like I know Lisa well because she thinks like I do.
Weight problems have been the bane of my existence since birth when my Grandma Ida would extol the virtues of my cute, fat, dimpled “pulkies.” (legs in Yiddish) When I was ten I could count the rolls of blubber around my stomach area and wonder how I would ever get rid of them or would I just keep accumulating more of them with every cookie I devoured?
Truthfully, puberty took care of the rolls of fat, which just moved magically to my bosom, giving me nice curves, and hours on machines at the gym tightened up the pulkies. The gym offered other benefits as well; I met my husband on the bicep-tricep machine 40 years ago this coming March 16.
The battle of the bulge is something that most human beings continually wage throughout our lives. In the beginning of Fast and Easy, Lisa introduces herself in this way, “It’s me. Lisa Lillien (a.k.a. Hungry Girl)! I’m not a nutritionist. I’m just hungry. I don’t have any fancy medical degrees, but I do consider myself a “foodologist,” because I love finding easy and healthy ways to eat delicious food . . . and a LOT of it!”
Lisa began her career as a “foodologist” by sharing ideas and new products on the market with her friends and family, which led to her blogging about her discoveries and innovations. That was 17 years and 14 cookbooks ago. I own most of Lisa’s cookbooks, and I use them continually because they are so simple and help the chef understand and innovate healthy meals based on premises that Lisa has used for years.
Previous books have included recipes under 200 calories, cocktail and party recipes, lean eating recipes, and meals made with fewer than six ingredients. With Fast and Easy, Lisa acknowledges that more people are cooking at home these days, but they do not want to spend hours in the kitchen or have to buy expensive ingredients that will be used for one dish only, and then shoved to the back of the closet never to be seen again.
“I decided to take things one step further on the simplicity scale and bring you a collection of super speedy and delicious meals that take 30 minutes or less to make---salads, slaws, skillet meals, sheet-pan meals, one-pot meals, and more! As an added bonus, I’ve included dozens of recipes for sweet treats, salad dressings, smoothies, and snacks!” Lisa explains in the preface. And, what is so wonderful about most of the recipes that she offers, is that the ingredients are already in your fridge and pantry. If they are not, there is a handy shopping list provided at the end of the book that you can take with you when you go grocery shopping.
My diet diligent daughter dutifully has a smoothie for breakfast every day, and she nurses it throughout the morning, so she is getting nourishment continually. Her smoothies are always green due to the kale or spinach that form the base, and my stomach clenches when I consider drinking something the color of Elfaba’s skin. But in Fast and Easy Lisa provides recipes for Strawberry Banana, Peanut Butter and Apple, Triple Berry, Cherry Vanilla, Blueberry Coconut, Chocolate Raspberry, and Pumpkin Apple Smoothies. All of these creamy drinks are around the 200 calorie range, and take no more than five minutes to prepare. And they taste decadent!
I find that salads are boring, and I am not wild about too many vegetables. Lisa gives two types of recipes that are more interesting and innovative. The first grouping are Power Bowls. A mango chicken power bowl is 266 calories and includes riced cauliflower, cooked, chopped chicken, chopped mango, canned beets, sweet corn kernels, and chopped fresh cilantro. Not only does one feel like she’s dining in the tropics, this lunch takes five minutes to prepare. Other bowls include creamy pesto chicken, Greek veggie, meatless burrito, Southwest Lentil, kale, turkey, and apple, and shrimp and blackened corn power bowl. If there is an ingredient that is not to one’s liking, it is easy to swap it out for something else.
The second new concept is preparing hoagie sandwiches, but instead of using dense rolls, Lisa makes them on cucumber halves. There are Buffalo Chicken, Ham and Provolone, Ranch and Bacon, and Club Sandwich Cucumber Subs to name just a few.
The first recipe that I tried from Fast and Easy is the Summer Chicken Sausage Stir Fry, which I had on the table in ten minutes. The ingredients in this dish include kale, yellow squash, chicken sausage sliced into coins, chopped walnuts, feta cheese, and dried cranberries. Just reading this recipe made my mouth water, and it was fabulous.
Aside from the wonderful recipes in Fast and Easy, the photographic representations of every dish are helpful in visualizing what the final product should look like when it arrives at the table. The layout of the book is colorful, and fun, and I promise you, Fast and Easy will sit on your counter, ready to use on a daily basis, not tucked away on some shelf with the condiments you used only once.
Lisa Lillien is an upbeat, positive force in the world of healthy eating. Obviously, I recommend Fast and Easy as an important staple among your cookbooks. But don’t forget to go to hungrygirl.com and sign up for Lisa’s daily e-mails, which let you in on all of the latest and best new low-cal products on the market as well as fresh recipes that Lisa and her team have devised. It won’t be long before you are referring to Lisa Lillien as one of your best friends too!