I think I first became aware of the Hungry Girl web site and mailing list when someone linked to her Rome Apple + Diet Dr Pepper recipe. Cooking with soda seems so inherently wrong that I had to try it. The baked apple itself was rather underwhelming, but I liked the upbeat, fun attitude of the site and the cute illustrations. Plus, all the recipes are low-calorie and aimed at healthy eaters.
Earlier in the month I was trolling around the Amazon best-selling books list, by no means doing anything as self-centered and vain as checking my own book’s Amazon ranking every hour (it was more like every day), when I saw that Hungry Girl, aka Lisa Lillien, has a book out too. How cool! I love to see writers who started on the Internet getting books published. Only, it wasn’t coming out until today. Eager to get my hands on it, I threw what’s left of my weight around and for the first time actually requested that someone send me a book for free. And they did. It’s amazing what you can get in life if you just ask for it. Thanks, St. Martin’s Press!
This book is a lot of fun, which is an odd adjective to use about a cookbook, but it’s true. There are lots of illustrations and all the recipes have fun names like “Lord of the Onion Rings” or “Fettuccine Hungry Girlfredo” or “Yummy Yummy Eggplant Goo” which almost makes me excited to eat something referred to as “goo.” Good titles can actually make a meal taste better, as I learned in Mindless Eating.
What I really like is that it’s not just a cookbook. As the subtitle says there are also “survival strategies.” The book has tips and facts scattered throughout to help you curb cravings and avoid the social pressures to eat more. There is also a really excellent final chapter called “Survival Guides” which gives you tips about how to eat healthy at different types of restaurants (Chinese, sushi, Italian) and in different scenarios (on a plane, on the road, at the office). The tip I loved is that it’s better to take a piece of cake at an office party and then not eat it than it is to refuse it outright. This way people won’t nag you about not participating in the fun, and most of them won’t notice you didn’t actually eat what was on your plate.
There are four pages of full-color photos of recipes in the book, but you can find pictures of all the recipes on the Hungry Girl book site. The book is graphically designed similarly to the Hungry Girl site, so everything seems like it’s part of a cohesive brand. All the recipes include nutritional information and Weight Watcher’s points values. There are also several single-serving recipes, which as a single woman I appreciate. Many times I make a new recipe from a cookbook and end up eating it for lunch and dinner for the rest of the week.
The only bad thing about the book is that I had to go on a scavenger hunt in the grocery store looking for some of the ingredients, like diet cocoa mix and sugar-free maple syrup. I had a hell of a time finding cornstarch because Kroger only had one box left stuffed all the way at the back of the bottom shelf next to the baking soda. I was also reminded of why I don’t buy entire bags of chocolate chips, even if I’m going to use them in a healthy recipe, because I just end up chomping on them straight out of the bag. The only other bad thing about the book is that it doesn’t come with someone to cook all the recipes for me.