Lisa Lillien is not a nutritionist. She is not a dietitian. She is not a chef.
She is just hungry. And she loves her apple pie and crème brûlée, which can pack a mighty calorie punch while she’s trying to maintain her figure.
But now, by following the recipes in her recently published eighth book, “Hungry Girl 200 Under 200: Just Desserts,” the Los Angeles-based author, and other sweets lovers, can ditch the guilt trip and simply indulge, she said. East Enders will also get the chance to meet her in person during a talk and book signing on Saturday, May 11, at 3 p.m. at the Westhampton Free Library. The talk will be co-hosted by Books & Books in Westhampton Beach.
“I used to think crème brûlée was impossible, but it’s not. I think anything’s possible to get under 200 calories, I really do,” Ms. Lillien, who grew up in Nassau County, said last week during a telephone interview from the West Coast. “I think this book runs the gamut, whatever you want. Peanut butter, chocolate, caramel, pies, cakes, cheesecake, fruity desserts, cupcakes, cake pops. They’re all there. I think anything’s possible.”
Though not without a few tricks, she said. A major player is portion control, which Ms. Lillien explores in the book’s opening chapter with “Cake Mugs & More Desserts in a Mug.” Using a standard 12-ounce coffee mug, chefs can whip up a variety of baked desserts sized for one, such as Salted Caramel Chocolate Cake, Chunky Monkey Cake, So S’mores Cake, Coffee Cake, Perfect Piña Colada Cake and an assortment of crisps, including apple, blueberry and peach.
The Cake Mugs also appear in a list of single-serving desserts listed in an index broken down into a number of subcategories, such as “30 Minutes or Less,” “Chocolate Madness!” “Red Velvet Revolution,” “Loco for Choco-Coconut,” “Say Cheesecake” and “Apple-Mania.”
The author believes in sticking close to the old “an-apple-a-day” adage, she said.
“There are definitely a lot of apple desserts. I love apples so much. It’s easy to replicate the flavor of apple pie,” Ms. Lillien said. “I use Fuji apples, corn starch as a thickener and a tiny bit of sugar and cinnamon. It’s easy to get that ooey, gooey apple pie filling for not a lot of calories. The key is to find something to put it in.”
For each recipe, her goal is to take an extremely fattening pie crust or pastry (or whoopie pie, one of her favorites) and replace it with a more unconventional ingredient—rice cakes, ice cream cake cones, wonton wrappers or phyllo shells—with a lower calorie count.
“Sometimes I make these pie sandwiches and use graham crackers for the bread, for lack of a better word,” she said. “I’ll try everything.”
Unafraid to break rules, Ms. Lillien’s last chapter explores the concept of desserts in disguise: Crazy for Caramel Apple Pizza, Sassy S’mores Quesadilla, Pumpkin Pie Pot Stickers, Dreamy PB Chocolate Ravioli Puffs, Tropical Fruit Waffle Tacos and DIY Cannoli Nachos, to name a few.
“I love to be clever and creative and find new spins on things,” she said. “People get bored. If they’re watching what they’re eating and counting calories, they think they have to eat things that are boring. I like to turn everything upside down and give people ideas on how to have fun.”
An admitted “mad scientist in the kitchen,” Ms. Lillien has mastered swapping out high-calorie ingredients for healthier and low-calorie options. Mix defatted peanuts with a little water and they double as peanut butter. Two tablespoons of a fat-free liquid egg substitute is the equivalent of one large egg white. Replace fat-free milk with light vanilla soy milk, or to avoid soy, Blue Diamond Unsweetened Vanilla Almond Breeze or unsweetened coconut milk. And use Splenda No Calorie Sweetener when possible, which has 90 percent fewer calories than sugar, she reported.
“I feel like, honestly, in a lot of cases the taste is better,” Ms. Lillien said. “Now, the Hungry Girl Cheesecake, will it taste like an outrageous, 1,000-calorie piece of cheesecake from the Cheesecake Factory? No, it’s not. But in most cases, it’s a satisfying swap that any woman is going to taste and say, ‘Wow, this is really delicious.’”
With chapters separated by hot pink inserts and bubbly cartoons, Ms. Lillien’s audience is, easily, 95 percent women, she said.
“Well, it’s called ‘Hungry Girl,’” she laughed. “And everything is so cute and pretty and girly looking. It’s relevant to anyone, so I guess there could be a lot of closet Hungry Boys out there.”
Lisa Lillien will speak about “Hungry Girl” and sign copies of her books at the Westhampton Free Library on Saturday, May 11, at 3 p.m. The talk will be co-hosted by Books & Books in Westhampton Beach. For more information on Lisa Lillien’s eighth book, “Hungry Girl 200 Under 200: Just Desserts,” visit hungry-girl.com.