Published October 11th, 2017 at 6:00 AM
Many of us find comfort in food, but finding comfort food without the guilt can be a bit more challenging. In Hungry Girl Clean & Hungry Obsessed!, Lisa Lillien believes she found a new way to enjoy comfort food, offering up her take on nachos, cheesesteaks, and brownies.
“I live by the 80/20 rule, wherein 80 percent of the time I make smart food choices,” Lillien said. “I don’t believe in complete deprivation. There’s always a time and place for comfort food.”
Lillien is the face and name behind the Hungry Girl brand, which has powered a website, television programs, and 12 cookbooks designed to help eaters become cooks.
“Everything was real world with Hungry Girl,” Lillien said. “Not being a trained chef, I wanted to make sure that these were dishes that anyone and everybody could make. Accessibility is key.”
The hook for readers with Obsessed! is that all of Lillien’s recipes — whether it’s meatloaf, French toast, or pizza — are under 375 calories per serving. Many dishes feature vegetables in lieu of carbohydrates, such as her “pasta swap,” of spaghetti squash for noodles in the recipe for Lasagna-Stuffed Spaghetti Squash below.
“A lot of people sneak in veggies. I celebrate the veggies,” Lillien said. “Vegetables are front and center in this book.”
Lilllien recommends her take on lasagna whenever spaghetti squash is available. Spaghetti squash is harvested in the summer and fall, but its ability to be stored for long periods of time means that it’s available nearly year round.
“What I love about spaghetti squash is you can eat a lot of it and it’s a really satisfying portion,” Lillien said. “You feel like you’re having a decadent Italian meal.”
Lillien is slated to be in Kansas City for a Rainy Day Books author conversation about Hungry Girl Clean & Hungry Obsessed! at 7 p.m. on Oct. 17 at Unity Temple on the Plaza (707 W 47th St.). Lillien has been here previously and she’s circled Fiorella’s Jack Stack Barbecue on her dining itinerary.
“I think Kansas City has the best barbecue in the world, just don’t tell my husband who is from Memphis,” Lillien joked.
Lasagna-Stuffed Spaghetti Squash (4 servings)
This dish takes 10 minutes to prep and cooks for 55 minutes. Each serving is 1/4 of the recipe. Here’s the nutritional information per serving: 215 calories, 6g total fat (3g sat fat), 538mg sodium, 17.5g carbs, 3.5g fiber, 7.5g sugars, 23g protein.
1 to 2 large baking pans, medium bowl, skillet, nonstick spray
1 spaghetti squash (about 4 1/2 pounds)
3/4 cup canned crushed tomatoes
1/4 cup light/low-fat ricotta cheese
1 1/2 teaspoons chopped garlic
3/4 teaspoon onion powder
3/4 teaspoon Italian seasoning
2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
12 ounces raw extra-lean ground beef (4% fat or less)
1/4 cup shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese
Make The Dish:
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Microwave squash for 6 minutes, until soft enough to cut. Halve lengthwise; scoop out and discard seeds.
Fill a large baking pan with 1/2 inch water. Add squash halves, cut sides down. (Use 2 pans, if needed.) Bake until tender, about 40 minutes.
Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, combine crushed tomatoes, ricotta, garlic, onion powder, and Italian seasoning. Add 1 tablespoon basil, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and 1/8 teaspoon pepper. Mix until uniform.
About 10 minutes before squash is done baking, bring a skillet sprayed with nonstick spray to medium-high heat. Add beef, and season with remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt and 1/8 teaspoon pepper. Cook and crumble for about 5 minutes, until fully cooked.
Reduce heat to low. Add tomato mixture to the skillet. Cook and stir until hot and well mixed, about 1 minute.
Remove baking pan from the oven, but leave oven on. Remove squash halves, and blot away excess moisture.
Empty water from baking pan. Return squash halves, cut side up. Fill squash halves with beef mixture. Top with mozzarella and remaining 1 tablespoon basil. Bake until filling is hot and cheese has melted, about 5 minutes.
Copyright © 2017 by Lisa Lillien and reprinted by permission of St. Martin’s Griffin.