Monday, December 26, 2011

Happy Holidays!

I love the small pool at the Y

I am really enjoying my time off.  I'm doing a stay-cation this year and one of my favorite things to do is swim in the small pool at the Y.  They keep it at 90 degrees.  There are beautiful hand painted tiles and stained glass windows.  I'm taking classes every day, too (except for Christmas day when the Y is closed).  I'm about to take Pilates with Julie and then take a swim.

My posts will be a bit uncertain this week.  I lost internet service at home and the repairman isn't coming until Thursday.  (My service is Verizon which you should avoid.  I'm thinking of doing the Time Warner "triple play" for $89 a month.)

I still have to work over the break and now I have to come into the office with no internet at home.  But it's nice having the time off anyway, and I'm settling in to my new office.

Have a Skinny 2012!  Oh, and good health, success and the happiness that comes with being skinny!

Friday, December 23, 2011

Porgy and Bess: A Masterpiece Brought to Life on Broadway

OK - I know it's December, but let's just hold the Tony Awards now and give them all to The Gershwin's Porgy and Bess.  Let me be the first to admit: I am not an opera person at all.  I've never seen Porgy and Bess  though I know the music as just about everybody does.  The production that is in previews on Broadway may make me want to check out an opera or two.  

Audra McDonald and Norm Lewis

Let's start with the voices.  Audra McDonald has a gorgeous instrument.  She manages to have a legit quality voice without sounding "opera-y."  Her voice is crystal clear and soars in this production.  The opening number - as us theater queens would call it - is "Summertime," sung by Nikki Renee Daniels - a gifted soprano.  Audra revives it later in the show and it sent shivers up my spine.  Norm Lewis as Porgy has a beautiful voice and lands each of his songs effortlessly.  Everyone, including Lewis, has the acting chops to back up their splendid voices.  Porgy has a severe leg deformity and, in the opera, travels around on a cart pulled by a goat.  In the Broadway production, he walks with a "stick" and eventually gets a leg brace.  Having worked with someone with a similar disability, I was struck by how precisely and genuinely Lewis gets down the limp.  I think it's more effective than being carted around because his herculean effort and resolve to walk really fleshes out the character, and it's heartbreaking.  

I was skeptical about David Alan Grier as Sporting Life.  Particularly in "It Ain't Necessarily So" he seemed to be out classed as everyone in the production has an incredible singing voice  (and acting and dancing skills) and Grier's voice is merely serviceable.  But he really pulled off "There's a Boat That's Leaving Soon" (for New York).  It was then I realized that he is perfectly cast.  

Amazing choreography

Similarly, Audra as Bess has a hideous scar on her left check which fleshes out the character well.  I think she may have to figure out a place to put her 5th Tony Award.  And a special shout out to Joshua Henry as Jake, Philip Boykin as Crown and Natasha Yvette Williams as Mariah.  There's not a weak link in the cast.  It's also interesting that there is no music for the bows, as is done with operas.  The audience went wild, so while there was no music to accompany the bows, the cheers from the audience made up for it. 

The only thing I would quibble with is the set.  It's extremely spartan - Catfish Rowe is just a bunch of boards mounted haphazardly, to the point that when Porgy nurses Bess back to health in his bed, his room is defined by a sheet and pillow on the floor.  So, no Tony Award for best sets.  But take this advice: get thee to the Richard Rodgers Theater and buy yourself a ticket before Porgy and Bess becomes as impossible a ticket as The Book of Mormon. 

Thursday, December 22, 2011

More Vacation Lunch Ideas

Tuna on brioche with radicchio and hot peppers

I was walking Hubbell along Riverside Park today and suddenly, I was famished.  It was 3 o'clock and, so far all day I had only had a bowl of cereal with strawberries and raisins.  This morning, I took a spin class and swam for a half hour.  Despite my aim to watch the carbs, I knew I had to have a sandwich.  During spin I burned over 600 calories, according to my heart rate monitor, so some carbs would be OK. 

Imported Italian tuna in oil

I've stopped buying Bumble Bee tuna in water because the tuna was getting mushy.  Even though the can said albacore, which I consider to mean it will be solid tuna, it was still like baby food.  I recently started buying imported Italian tuna in oil and the difference is night and day - the tuna is solid and the oil gives it a nice taste.  True, the olive oil has fat, but it's "good" fat.  And, with the tuna in water, I'd add mayonnaise which has calories and fat, so I consider it a wash.  All I add is a bit of champagne vinegar and lemon and it's done.  The radicchio adds a nice color and it tastes great.  Just bear in mind that canned tuna is high in mercury so plan accordingly. 

Friends gather for the holidays

And, during the holiday season, it's always good to remember to have something to eat before the cocktail hour!  Yesterday my workout consisted of a total body conditioning class with Julie for an hour, core strength with Julie for a half hour, spin with Kathy for 45 minutes, and a half hour swim.  After all of that, I thought I could eat just about anything I wanted, though I kept things in moderation.  I made sure to have a good lunch (turkey chili and pita chips) so I had food in my stomach when the civilized cocktail hour arrived.  My friend Stephen (to my left above next to Marianne) drove to NYC from Provincetown to see the Radio City Christmas Spectacular.  He stayed at a hotel across the street from my apartment called On The Ave with his (our) friend, David.  It's a great hotel, and they have a terrace on the 18th floor - it was warm enough to have cocktails on the terrace (Hubbell was there but skipped the cocktails).  We had dinner afterwards at Coppola's, also in my neighborhood.  As I posted yesterday, I had eggplant parmesan and it was delicious.  

Tomorrow, I'll take cardio body sculpting with Julie, and then I'm seeing a special holiday matinee of The Gershwin's Porgy and Bess.  I'm going to try to do my Christmas Eve and Day food shopping on the way home.  The stores here get absolutely packed during the days preceding Christmas, so wish me luck.  I at least hope to buy a turkey to cook on Christmas.  I will wait until Saturday to do my Feast of the Seven Fishes shopping for that night.  If the stores are too jammed I may have to come up with a Plan B.  Stay tuned . . . 

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Lunch During My Time Off . . .

Turkey Chili with pita chips

I have the good fortune to work for a company that closes for two weeks over the holidays.  My last day in the office was December 16th and I don't return until January 3rd.  Try not to hate me.  If it's any consolation I'm working from home for an hour or two each day - the ticket and travel business never takes a vacation.

When I'm working I have a huge salad for lunch that I make at my desk.  I have a side of a low fat soup such as lentil or split pea.  At home over the weekends I usually have a sandwich on a brioche roll.  When I'm on vacation I like to change the usual routine so I won't be having salad every day.  But I don't want all that bread from the sandwich either.  So, I've had the radicchio roll ups and today I had turkey chili.

My friends Stephen and Marianne 
aka Troy Montana and Tiffany Chatsworth in my tiny kitchen

Plus, I'm having dinner with my friends including Stephen and Marianne.  We're going to Coppola's, an Italian joint in my neighborhood, so I'll be having plenty of carbs and don't need the bread this afternoon.  (I'm thinking eggplant parmesan with a side of pasta.) True confessions:  I heated up prepared turkey chili from Citarella's, but here's a good recipe to make your own:

  • 1/2 teaspoon olive oil 
  • 1 cup bell peppers - chopped
  • 1 cup onions - chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic - minced
  • 30 ounces dark red kidney beans, canned -- drained and washed
  • 29 ounces crushed tomatoes
  • 1 cup water
  • 3 cups turkey white meat, skinless, cooked and cubed
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon coriander
  • 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper 
  • 1 teaspoon salt 
  • 1 cup fat-free cheddar cheese, grated (optional for topping)


In a skillet, heat oil over low heat. Add bell peppers, onions, and garlic. Cook until tender.
Add beans, tomatoes, water, turkey, chili powder, coriander, red pepper flakes, and salt. Simmer 25 minutes.
Recipe makes eight servings.

Nutrition Information:
  • Calories: 243
  • Fat: 2g
  • Protein: 24g
  • Carbohydrate: 30g
  • Cholesterol 36mg
  • Sodium: 884mg

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Feast of the Seven Fishes

Branzino will be one of the seven

I can't believe it's almost Christmas!  Wasn't it Thanksgiving just the other week?  This year I'm doing the traditional roasted turkey for Christmas, but the real fun will be Christmas Eve and the Feast of the Seven Fishes.  I did a test run of branzino last night - it came out perfectly - the picture above was taken while I cooked. 

Lidia is on tonight!

I don't know if I'll actually do all seven fishes, but I'll have at least a few.  I'm going to get inspiration tonight from Lydia Bastianich.  She's doing a special Lidia's Italian Kitchen episode tonight on the Feast.     
I'm going to be watching and gathering ideas.  But I can predict mussels will also be on the menu and maybe shrimp. 

Lidia's show airs tonight on Public Television - in NYC it's channel 21 at 8 o'clock PM.  Tune in with me!

Monday, December 19, 2011

Grilled Chicken with Lemony Cremini Mushrooms, Shallots and Garlic

A Picture's worth a thousand words

I really think the key to getting - or staying - skinny is to cut out red meat altogether.  But that doesn't mean you have to give up burgers.  I've posted about salmon and tuna burgers - and have featured chicken burgers, too. This recipe is just a bit different. 

Cremini mushrooms are delicious!

The important thing to realize about chicken burgers is that you have to be careful not to overcook them - they can become dry very quickly.  So I make the burgers really fat - I fry them in my super-hot cast iron skillet just long enough to get the grill marks - about 3 - 5 minutes on each side.  Then I finish them off in the oven - at 350 degrees for about 8 minutes. 

Don't wash your mushrooms - wipe them with a damp paper towel

To keep them juicy I cover them in sauteed cremini mushrooms with garlic, shallots and lemon.  Wipe the mushrooms clean with a damp paper towel - don't wash them.  They will absorb the moisture and become water logged. That's a great thing about mushrooms - they are absorbent.  So they drink in the flavors of the lemon, butter, extra virgin olive oil, garlic and shallots.  Just be sure they don't drink in a ton of water or they're ruined. 

Make big patties

Grill for about 3 minutes on each side

The line up: mushrooms, garlic, shallots, lemon and garlic
That's broccoli rabe from Citarella's on the side

Saute all together - start with the mushrooms

While the chicken is finishing off in the oven I prepare the cremini mushroom mixture.  I start with the mushrooms because they take the longest - after a few minutes add the shallots, lemon and garlic - in that order.  Garlic burns very quickly and easily so save those for last.  If you look closely you will see that there are kalamata olives in the mix.  They really didn't stand out so I omitted them from the recipe - but if you like them, toss them in and see if you like the taste.  

A thing of beauty is a joy forever, or at least until you eat it!

A juicy, delicious and skinny dinner


1 lb ground chicken (makes 2 burgers)
1/2 lb cremini mushrooms (or your favorite mushroom)
3 cloves garlic
2 tspns extra virgin olive oil
1 pad butter
2 small or one medium shallot
1 lemon
Salt & pepper to taste


This dish has a number of ingredients.  It's a good idea to be your own sous chef and prepare everything before you start to cook.  I also use a cast iron skillet that can go from stovetop to oven. 

Pre-heat cast iron skillet over medium heat (pre-heat for at least 5 minutes) for the burgers
Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees
Pre-heat non-stick skillet over low heat
Form the ground chicken into burgers (1/2 lb per burger)
Chop the mushrooms into medium slices
Crush and chop garlic
Slice shallots
Cut lemon in half
When pan is extremely hot add the burgers.  My pan is already seasoned and doesn't even need oil.  If you don't have a seasoned pan, spray with PAM or use 1 tspn extra virgin olive oil.
Don't move the burgers around in the pan.  Cook just until you get the grill marks - about 3 - 5 minutes each side.  Lift just a bit using tongs and flip when the grill marks appear.  The sides of your burger should look pink (raw). 
Transfer pan to oven.

For the mushrooms:

Add oil to non-stick pan - swirl around until entire surface is covered
Add the butter
Add the mushrooms - stir around - add salt and pepper
After a few minutes add the shallots, cook a minute or so, and then add the garlic
Squeeze the juice of half the lemon over mixture, toss in lemon
Cook until the mushrooms are soft and caramelized - they should look like the picture above. 

Remove burgers from oven and plate
Cover with the mushroom mixture
Squeeze the other half of the lemon over everything
Serve and enjoy!

Friday, December 16, 2011

Grilled Eggplant and Tomato with Lemon

Ready for their close up

This is another Vincenzo recipe.  It couldn't be easier.  You need to use baby eggplant for this dish.  Peel it in a striped pattern, leaving some of the skin on and slice horizontally. Grill in extra virgin olive oil. (Don't let the radicchio fool you - it's just a prop - not included in this dish.)

Don't peel all of the skin off

Cook over medium heat

Eggplant is a hardy vegetable and it takes a while for it to cook so only heat the pan to a low to medium heat so you don't burn the outsides while the insides end up on the raw side. If you're preparing the protein part of the dish yourself, you can put the eggplant and tomatoes in the oven to stay warm and finish cooking while you grill the chicken.

Once the eggplant looks like it's done toss in the cherry tomatoes

Though this is Vincenzino's recipe, I couldn't help but add my own special touches.  Once the eggplant nears being done, I toss sliced cherry tomatoes into the pan.  They cook very quickly and don't need as much time grilling as the eggplant.  And, we all know I'd squeeze lemon on oatmeal, but it's much better with eggplant and tomatoes so when the tomatoes near being finished I squeezed lemon juice on top, and seasoned with coarse sea salt and freshly ground pepper.  I toss the lemon itself in the pan, too!

How good does this look?

I made the eggplant to go with grilled chicken that I bought at Citarella.  This is part of my series of dressing up prepared foods to taste homemade.  This eggplant dish is delicious, and only takes a few minutes to prepare.

Store bought grilled chicken, the eggplant and roasted beet leftovers

I remembered I had leftovers from making roasted beets the night before so I dressed up this dish with those ingredients.  Suddenly I had a hardy dinner for pennies and very little effort.


1 medium eggplant or 2 baby eggplants
1 tspn extra virgin olive oil
1/2 cup cherry tomatoes
1/2 fresh lemon
Salt & pepper to taste


Heat grill pan over low to medium heat
When the pan is hot add the oil
Slice the eggplants horizontally and add to pan
Cook for a few minutes each side
When the eggplants are almost cooked add the cherry tomatoes (sliced in half)
Squeeze lemon over the mixture and toss lemon into pan
Stir over medium heat until the eggplant and tomatoes are charred

Flesh out with grilled chicken and/or any leftovers you have in the fridge

Serve and enjoy!

Dinner is served!

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Moving Day

My souvenir ducky from the Intrepid days

This is the busiest week of the year for people doing Broadway house seats (that would be me).  I am literally moving tens of thousands of dollars in tickets every week in December.  And yet, I had to move offices today.  Last night, the painters arrived to paint my old office.  They were literally moving furniture around me as I frantically typed out a few remaining house seat requests for the day.

I still made sure to have a healthy lunch

I had been on the 15th floor of our building and am now on the 16th floor.  I worked on the 16th floor for the first 7 years that I had this job.  I went down to 15 about a year and a half ago and am now back.  It was sad to bid adieu to my friends on 15 but I feel like it's a homecoming returning to 16.

Disaster area

So, I'm slammed again today and working in chaos, but once everything is put away and the pictures are hung, I'll be happily settled.  And, I made my usual salad for lunch instead of coping out and ordering in. 

Post office party dinner with friends and colleagues Theresa and Deana

Deana and Lonnie - while I was good at lunch today
we went off the Skinny Guy template last night!

Last night was another story, however.  My friends and colleagues Theresa, Lonnie, Deana and I went for dinner at the Old Homestead after our office party last night.  We had french fries.  We had mashed potatoes.  We had steak - my first since last July.  I didn't make much of a dent in it, but Hubbell will be in doggie heaven for his next few meals!

Tomorrow is my last day in the office until January 3rd!  I'll work from home a bit but I plan on spending lots of time exploring new skinny recipes and posting about them.  Stay tuned!

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

I Love Lidia!

“At the heart of Lidia Celebrates America is my own immigrant experience. When I came to this country at the age of 12, I had already spent two years in a political refugee camp. Whenever I meet American families with roots in other countries I know immediately that we have something in common.”
— Lidia Bastianich

An Italian Christmas Eve. A Mexican-American Christmas Day. A Chinese New Year. A Passover Seder. Four holidays, four very different tables and traditions. Join celebrity chef and culinary author Lidia Bastianich as she travels across America in a celebration of culture through food in the new PBS prime-time special, Lidia Celebrates America: Holiday Tables and Traditions, airing Tuesday, December 20, at 8pm on PBS (check local listings).

I have an advance copy of the show and will screen it over the weekend and post about it next week.  Stay tuned!

Monday, December 12, 2011

Radicchio Roll-Ups

A new idea for a lower carb lunch

I try to limit my carb intake where possible, but I'm not a fanatic about it.  For example, I have cereal for breakfast every day.  There are plenty of carbs in most cereals, but I think that's a lesser evil than the fat you encounter with bacon and eggs.  I had been limiting sandwiches to the weekends, but I tried something new this time around and I really liked it!

High quality tuna with radicchio

Being a creatur of habit, I often have tuna sandwiches on big brioche hero rolls.  I figured I don't have sandwiches on the weekdays - I opt for soup and a salad - so those two brioche rolls over the weekend aren't a big deal.  But I thought I'd try serving my sandwiches in radicchio leaves this week.  It's really tastey and I wasn't missing the bread at all.  Radicchio is a white-veined red leaves.  They are on the bitter side - and make for a stunning display. 

Fun fillings for the radicchio roll-ups

Minimal ingrients added to tuna

I buy the As do Mar tuna.  It's from Portugal, canned in Genoa and sent to the US for distribution.  It is packed in oil.  I had avoided tuna packed in oil for years until I discovered that they have more taste and character than your run-of-the-mill Bumble Bee tuna.  I was finding the Bumble Bee was getting mushier and mushier.  The As do Mar tuna has a darker coloring and firmer texture.  There isn't a fishy smell when you open the can.  It's delicious.  It should be noted that canned tuna fish can be high in mercury so best not to have it more than once or twice a month.  I added a bit of champagne vinegar and red pepper flakes and retained some of the oil it was packed in for extra flavor.  No need to add mayonnaise.

Arrange the radicchio leaves in a circle

Don't forget the lemon!

Hot peppers, red pepper flates, Meyer lemon rind

Make your own Lazy Susan

I arranged three layers of the radicchio.  I scooped the tuna mixture into them and around the sides I had the fillings: cornichons, hot peppers and Kalamata olives (pitted).  I ended up having all three fillers in each roll-up.  I also had two layers of the radicchio leaves for more texture and crunch.  Just chose your toppings, place on top of tuna and roll up the leaves to make little sandwiches (without the bread).  I found this a bit more fun than a traditional tuna salad with a scoop of tuna sitting on a bed of lettuce.


1 head radicchio - rinsed
1 small can As do Mar tuna in oil - or your favorite brand
1 tspn champagne vinegar
1/8th tspn Meyer lemon rind (or lemon zest)
1/8th tspn red pepper flakes
Fresh squeezed lemon juice to taste
Salt & pepper to taste

Side suggestions

1/4 cup cornichons
1/4 cup pitted kalamata olives
1/4 cup banana peppers (or your favorite peppers)


Mix the tuna, champagne vinegar, lemon juice and dry ingredients in a bowl
I keep the tuna in the fridge when I get it home from the store if you don't do this, chill the mixture before serving
Arrange radicchio leaves on the plate leaving room to put the fillings on the side
Scoop equal amounts tuna in each leaf
Add salt & pepper and serve

Friday, December 9, 2011

Pepper pasta ala Vincenzino

A colorful spin on pasta

Vincenzo plopped the yellow pepper on the counter, handed me a knife and commanded in his wonderful Italian accent: "Julienne!"

Cut the pepper in half, remove the seeds  and pulp

I didn't know what we were cooking but I got to work on chopping the peppers.  It turns out we would saute them in oil, add fresh oregano and toss into a bowl of pasta. 

Aren't these pretty?

This is another amazingly easy dish that is pleasing to the eye and the palate.  Vincenzo kept the dish simple using only the peppers and oregano.  I added cherry tomatoes for a little bit more color and, as you may have noticed, I love tomatoes!

Colorful dish

Saute the peppers first - they take longer to cook

Next add the tomatoes and (optional) lemon

Everyone in the pool!

This is great with any pasta - last night I used linguini

I had some pesto in the fridge and added that along with some parmesan.  You can use your imagination and see what's in the pantry if you want to put your own spin on it.  But the dish is probably best in its purest form - with just the peppers and oregano.

Et viola!


1 pepper - I like yellow - sometimes I use 1/2 yellow and 1/2 red - it's up to you!
1 tspn extra virgin olive oil
1 tspn fresh oregano (dried oregano works, too)
Optional pesto to taste - around 1 tpsn
1/2 lemon
1/2 cup cherry tomatoes sliced in half
Parmesan to taste
Salt & pepper to taste


Slice the pepper in half, remove seeds and white pulp
Slice the halves into a julienne - I cut mine on the thick side about 1/8" - 1/4"
Heat non-stick skillet over medium heat
Add the oil (don't get carried away with the oil - you don't want the peppers greasy)
Add the peppers - stirring occasionally until they soften
Cook the peppers until they soften - they take longer to cook than the tomatoes - about 3 minutes
Add the tomatoes (optional)
Cook peppers and tomatoes until they develope a brown char stirring every 30 seconds or so
Squeeze half the lemon over mixture; I toss in the lemon, too
Add the oregano (if you're using pesto you can skip oregano)

Meanwhile . . .

Cook the pasta of your choice - don't forget to add plenty of salt to the water
My linguini took 10 minutes to cook - I heated my skillet during the first five minutes
At five minutes I started the peppers
You can leave the pasta in the water while you finish cooking the peppers and tomatoes
Drain thoroughly and add pesto and parmesan to taste
You shouldn't need much salt if you salted the pasta water adequately
Add the pasta to the skillet with the peppers and tomatoes
Mix well and heat everything together so the flavors meld
Add additional parmesan if desired
Garnish your plate with a thin slice or two of lemon

Serve & enjoy!