Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Upside Down Turkey

My "upside down" turkey

Did you notice how expensive turkeys were this year?  I read that Heritage turkeys are the closest the what the pilgrams dined on and that the turkeys we have today are far inferior in taste.  The only problem is that the Heritage turkeys that I saw started at over $100.  But, lo and behold, across from the million dollar Heritages, I spotted a Maplecrest 12 pounder for $24.99.  Sold! 

Such a bargain!

Now, you will notice this isn't exactly a "skinny" recipe.  It's a holiday - live it up!  And, for the most part, my sides were low fat.  Those recipes will follow in the coming days.

The prep

On the night before Thanksgiving I unwrapped the turkey and covered it inside and out with sea salt and put it back in the fridge (covered).  When I got home from the gym on Thanksgiving I took the turkey out to come to room temperature on the counter.  Again, I covered it in salt and this time added plenty of pepper.  In the morning I took the unsalted danish butter from the fridge so it would be soft.

Ready for the oven

Just before cooking, I covered the bird with butter - on and underneath the skin.  Make sure to dry off the bird with paper towels so the butter will stick.  (Did I mention this isn't exactly a "skinny" recipe?)  I stuffed the bird with quartered lemons, and roughly chopped yellow onions and garic.  I left the skin on for added flavor.  After all, you won't be eating them.

Fill the roasting pan with chicken stock

Bobby Flay has a great trick for keeping the turkey moist.  Fill your roasting pan with chicken stock.  Be sure your pan has a rack so the bird isn't poached.  I basted the turkey with stock I reserved on the counter so I wouldn't have the open too long when I basted.

Upside down

My friend Alan at the Y said his wife Kathy turns their turkey upside down for part of the cooking.  I had never heard of this.  But, coincidently, the package said to do it too.  The 12 pounder would take 3 hours to cook at 350 degrees and the package said to cook it upside down for the first two hours and rightside up for the final hour.

Parsnips and baby carrots in the roasting pan while cooking

I would say the only mistake I made was not to truss the bird.  I thought the weight of the bird would keep the legs in place, but they shifted during takeoff and the bones peeked through on one of the legs.

Turkey when I turned it rightside up at 2 hours

When I flipped the bird over at 2 hours I was a bit concerned.  It looked totally raw on top.  And I think it probably was - maybe a bit poached from the chicken stock.  But, after an hour it was golden brown.

After the fact: I trussed the bird when I turned it over

I think the point of cooking the bird upside down is to cook the dark meat first - which takes longer.  Many turkeys have dry white meat because it's overcooked.  This little trick worked.  The white meat was really juicy and the dark meat was cooked to perfection.

How delicious does this look?

I cooked parsnips and thick baby carrots throughout.  They, too, were delicious - they fell apart when pierced with a fork.

Be sure to let the turkey rest for at least an hour

After three hours I took the bird out of the oven, covered in foil and let it rest for an hour.  I set the timer for 30 minutes and started cooking the sides at that point, and everything was ready at the same time.


One 12 lb turkey
Two lemons, quartered
Two parsnips
3 cups baby carrots
1/2 - 3/4 cups sea salt
Two bulbs garlic, roughly chopped, skin on
Two yellow onions, roughly chopped, skin on
1/8 cup coarse black pepper
1/2 cup butter (did you ever think you'd see that on this blog?)
3 cups fat free chicken stock


Pre-heat oven at 350 degrees
On the night before, cover the turkey with half of the salt; inside and out
Cover and place in fridge overnight
On the next day, take turkey out of fridge and let it come to room temperature - about 2 hours
Let the butter come to room temperature (take it out of the fridge that morning)
Dry the bird with paper towels
Cover with remaining salt and pepper - inside and out
Fill the cavity with the lemons, garlic and onions
Smear the butter all over the turkey - gently lift skin and put butter there too - careful not to tear
Put the room temperature chicken stock in the bottom of the roasting pan
Add baby carrots and parsnips - my parsnips were too big to put under rack so I put next to turkey.  Be sure to peel the parsnips.
Truss the turkey and place upside down on the rack
Cook for 2 hours
Flip the turkey and cook for another hour
Remove turkey from the oven, cover loosely with foil and let rest for at least an hour
Serve and enjoy!

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Thanksgiving Workout

Running the track during boot camp

Jonathan Wood, the fitness director at the Y, really pulls out the stops on Thanksgiving morning.  This year he had a 90 minute boot camp from 10 - 11:30 AM, core strength from 11:30 - Noon and spin from 12:15 - 1 PM. 

The Macy's Parade outside the door of the Y

All of Manhattan is a madhouse on Thanksgiving morning.  I was able to elude the crowds viewing the parade - and even glimpsed a few floats on the way. I love living in New York!

More Parade!

Jonathan just returned from a conference where he learned all sorts of new ways to torture his students.  All kidding aside, I really admire how he is constantly learning new things so his classes are always fresh and challenging.

Jonathan and his dog Xander

Boot camp on Thanksgiving included a warm up, tons of push ups, running the track, cardio, lower body - you name it.  A complete workout from stem to stern.  Sometimes we do spin but there were so many people in class there weren't enough bikes.  Jonathan keeps things light despite the arduous workout.  He's really funny and that makes the workouts fenjoyable.  The same gang does the class every week, so we're a community.  This is integral to any workout plan.  When people expect you to be there and if you don't show you get tons of emails and phone calls asking where you were.  I actually feel guilty if I miss a class and if I go on vacation everyone knows about it.

Core Class

Jonathan had us lunge and put our hands on our steps and jump and lunge down again.  Ouch!  Core is 30 minutes of pure abs.

More abdominals

Jonathan also has us lie on our backs with our knees bent and feet flat on the floor.  We have a medicine ball over our heads on the floor.  We slowly lift our arms shifting the ball from behind our heads to over our knees.  We then roll back to the floor one vertebrae at a time.  Do the move slowly so you don't let momentum make the exercise easier.

Spin class - 45 minutes on the bike

Last came spin class.  It's 45 minutes on the stationary bike.  The music is blaring, the lights are out and we're climbing mountains or sprinting down the other side.  Spin is my favorite class.  I close my eyes and imagine that I'm outside on a beautiful mountain pass or sprinting along a beach in Maui.  It's about putting yourself in an uncomfortable place for short periods of time - two minutes is a long time.  You figure:  I can be uncomfortable for 2 minutes - especially if there's gelato as a reward after dinner.  TMI: I have to put towels under my bike because I literally sweat a huge puddle - I can actually see myself in the reflection if I don't put down towels.  I feel like a million bucks when it's over.

If you take spin, get a heart rate monitor

After the two hours and 45 minutes of rigorous exercise I burned 1244 calories.  My heart rate peaked at 159 beats per minute, which is actually on the low side for me - I can get up to 173 beats per minute.  I sauna and steam before and after the workout and am glowing when I leave the gym.  Third helpings of turkey with stuffing and gravy please!

Monday, November 28, 2011

'Twas the Night Before Thanksgiving

Dinner improvised

I was so smug about getting my Thanksgiving dinner purchased on Monday that I completely forgot about what to do for dinner on the night before Thanksgiving.  On Wednesday after work, I stopped by Fairway and Citarella and both were mob scenes.  It was time to forage in the freezer to see what I could come up with.  I know that I live in NYC and there are a million delivery options.  But I think it's a waste of money and it always ends up being something fattening.  I was going to check my freezer to see if dinner could be cobbled together.

Frozen lobster tail from Whole Foods

I looked in the back of the freezer and found a package of frozen lobster tails.  I remember buying them a few months ago and I though they lacked flavor.  But desperate times call for desperate measures (OK, I'm exaggerating a bit), so I defrosted a lobster tail along with some spicey marinara.  They took no time to defrost.  To my surprise, the lobster tail wasn't flavorless at all.  It tasted pretty good.  I served it on top of the marinara along with fresh squeezed lemon juice.  It was delicious - and will be part of my repertoire from now on.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Thanksgiving Countdown!

"I prefer chocolate cake," my spin instructor, Alex said in class on Monday.  "You can have the pumpkin pie, I'll take chocolate."

We were beginning what turned out to be a gruelling 45 minute class.  My heart rate monitor indicated that I burned close to 700 calories after we finished.  At the 40 minute mark when most teachers start the cool down, Alex threw one last challenge at us.  I had geared myself towards cooling down at this point, and during this last push my heart rate burst up to 165 beats per minute.  All of a sudden, when I'm seeing stars and gasping for breath, Alex shouted: "Turkey!  Cranberry sauce!  Stuffing!  Chocolate cake!!!"  And then it hit me: this is what it's about, for me, anyway.  You put yourself in the uncomfortable zone, but not for very long, really.  Try not to look at spin class as 45 minutes or an hour of torture.  Break it down into small units of discomfort.  There are usually a few intervals of recovery, which I savor like chocolate cake.  If you do that, you can enjoy your Thanksgiving dinner free of guilt.  When Alex asked if he forgot anything, I yelled "Gravy!!!!"

Wild and crazy Alex

A few hints as promised:

Go for the 1% milk or even skim rather than half-and-half or cream.

Choose non-fat yogurt instead of whole-milk yogurt.

Select low-fat cheeses like farmer's cheese or pot cheese instead of bleu cheese, swiss or Camembert.

For dessert, choose sorbets or gelato.  Gelato has fat, but not as much as traditional ice cream.  And have a piece of fruit before you have dessert.  It helps to satiate your craving for sugar.

Enjoy a salad but watch for things that add calories and fat, such as salad dressings, bacon bits and croutons.

Tomorrow morning I'm taking a special 90 minute boot camp class.  The gang I always take class with will be there and Jonathan, the instructor and my good friend, will teach. He keeps things light and funny - even though he just returned from a conference where he learned new techniques to torture us!

After that, I won't feel guilty saying, "Pass the gravy!"

Happy Thanksgiving!

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Thanksgiving Menu

I've always loved the Peanuts gang -
though their Thanksgiving special isn't their best!

I'm trying to make it a Skinny Gourmet Guy Thanksgiving with a few fattening elements so I don't feel deprived.  This is my busiest time at work and I'm really wiped out, so I want to keep things simple, but I want a turkey roasting in the oven all afternoon so the apartment has those wonderful holiday aromas.  But I want to keep the side dishes easy and skinny.

This is my commute through Central Park each morning -
looking very Thanksgiving-y

As always, I'll be taking pictures of the preparation of dinner, but I'll actually be preparing it on Thanksgiving so the pictures and stories will appear after Thursday - hopefully my recipes will be useful over the Christmas and Hannukkah holidays.


Roasted Young Turkey - I haven't decided whether or not I will brine the bird this year.  Last year I got a little carried away with the salt and chugged water all night long.  Williams-Sonoma has a prepared brine.  I'll go there tomorrow and if the lines aren't too fierce I'll give their's a try.

I'm still checking recipes but a friend recommends cooking upside down for the first hour then flipping right side up.  When it browns I'll tent with tin foil.  My friend Pat Galloway sent this link that demontrates cooking a turkey -
I shopped around and noticed that turkeys are really expensive this year.  Then, yesterday, I was shopping in Fairway and found young turkeys on sale - I got a 12 pounder for $24.  I snapped it up and am virtually done with my shopping - not battling the masses tomorrow! 

Roasted Brussells Sprouts with Onions - I'm cooking the turkey first and while it rests I'll prepared the veggies.  This dish is as easy as falling off a log - I've posted about it several times but without the onions.  I got medium sized Vidallia onions which I'll peel and quarter.  I got extra large Brussells Sprouts which I'll cut in half.  Put 2 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil and mix well; season with salt and pepper.  Roast in a 450 degree oven for 10 minutes.  Flip with a spatula (don't forget the oven mitts!) and roast for another 10 minutes.  I'm cooking parsnips and baby carrots in the same pan as the turkey.

Sweet Potato Substitute - instead of sweet potatoes with marshmellow fluff broiled on top as my mother used to make, I'm having a healthy alternative.  I'm microwaving winter squash (zero fat).  I'll saute walnuts and dried cranberries and sprinkle liberally on top and pop in the oven to see if I can get a crust.  I'll saute in a bit of extra virgin olive oil and a  pad of butter.  I've never tried this before and made it up when I saw the ingredients at Citarella.  I'll post the results!

Cheating with the other sides - Citarella is right next door to Fairway.  I bought cranberry compote as a side and two non-Skinny Guy sides - Sausage Stuffing and Turkey Gravy!  I bought the gravy in case there are any catastrophies with my home made from pan drippings.  It will be good for left overs, too.  It's Thanksgiving weekend after all and I've logged in a zillion hours at the gym this year.

Dessert - It's not very Thanksgiving-y but I love gelato and will pick up some from Grom for dessert.

As promised - I'll have fat saving tips tomorrow.  The countdown to Thanksgiving has begun!

Monday, November 21, 2011

Thanksgiving Week

Stay tuned for tips on cutting calories and fat over the holidays -
postings start tomorrow!

Friday, November 18, 2011

Easy Skinny Dinner Take 3: Thai Garden Salmon with Roasted Asparagus

I go through a lot of citrus!

My cleaning lady comes every other Friday.  She has this magical ability to get the fishy smell out of my apartment, so in the days leading up to her cleaning day, I throw caution to the wind and sizzle all the fish I want.  Last night I chose salmon, which I think is one of the bigger offenders of making the apartment smell like fish.  Sure enough after she left today there was no fishy smell.  And keeping in the easy cooking motif, there's nothing easier than frying fish on your cast iron skillet.

Marinate in extra virgin olive oil and Thai Garden spice

Salmon can stand up to spices without being overpowered by them.  My friend Martena, who is from Thailand, found Thai Garden spice at Williams-Sonoma.  It's not very expensive and adds a nice layer of flavoring to the salmon.  Don't be too heavy handed though - a little goes a long way.  I marinated the salmon with extra virgin olive oil and about a half teaspoon of the Thai Garden spice.  In keeping with easy - I marinated the salmon right in the butcher paper from the fish monger.

Roasted Asparagus with tomato made easy

I have been relying on the store bought side dishes quite a bit this week so I decided to roast some asparagus and tomatoes.  I skipped the garlic cloves this time - it takes a bit of work to peel them and I was feeling too lazy to do even that.  I put them in the oven safe frying pan and measured 2 capfuls of canola oil - much less than usual.  I topped it with coarse sea salt and freshly ground paper and made sure the tomatoes and asparagus were well coated.  I roasted them at 375 degrees for 20 minutes.  The asparagus weren't that big and when I went to flip them they were well charred.  I turned the oven down to 250 degrees while I prepared the salmon.  The asparagus were the best I've ever tasted.

Well pre-heated pan and a good cast iron skillet makes the difference

For the salmon, I pre-heated my trusty cast iron skillet over medium heat for about five minutes. I put the flesh side down first and cooked for about 3 minutes on each side - use your spatula and peek around the edges. Once one side of the salmon is cooked you can check progress on the other side by seeing the raw color slowly disappear.

Let the salmon rest under tin foil for a few minutes

For the salmon, I pre-heated my trusty cast iron skillet over medium heat for about five minutes.  I put the flesh side down first and cooked for about 3 minutes on each side - use your spatula and peek around the edges.  Once one side of the salmon is cooked you can check progress on the other side by seeing the raw color slowly disappear.

I grilled a half a lemon along with the salmon

Dinner is served!


For the salmon

1/2 pound salmon per person with skin on
1 tspn Thai Garden spice
1 tspn extra virgin olive oil
1/2 lemon

Pre-heat cast iron skillet over medium heat for at least 5 minutes
Marinate salmon with oil and Thai Garden spice
Place salmon skin side down and saute for 3 - 4 minutes on first side
Flip with spatula once you have the char marks
Cook for another two minutes
Remove from heat and place on plate and cover with foil and let rest for a few minutes

For the asparagus

1 bunch asparagus
1 plum tomato
2 tspns canola oil
salt and pepper to taste

Pre-heat oven at 375
Place asparagus in pan
Cut tomato in half and add to pan
Drizzle olive oil and salt and pepper to taste
Mix well
Place in oven and cook for 20 minutes
Flip asparagus so it's cooked on all sides
Don't flip tomato
Reduce heat to 250 degrees and cook until finished = about 10 minutes

Serve and enjoy!

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Easy Dinner - Take 2

Little effort - tasty results!

"You look like you want to go home and crawl under the covers," the cashier said as I was checking out at the West Side Market.  She was right, but did I look that tired?  Another bruising day at work and I was ready to throw in the towel.  I knew just the dinner to prepare that would practically cook itself.  Not exactly a dieter's dinner but you have to splurge every so often. 

Meaty chicken breast

This is another recipe I learned from my mother.  You take a whole chicken breast, season with some salt and then cover it with barbeque sauce.

Easy as 1 - 2 - 3

So clean up is easy line your pan with tin foil.  Salt and pepper the breast and cover with a generous portion of barbeque sauce - I buy a prepared sauce to keep things simple.  The sauce seals in the moisture and you end up with a really juicy chicken.  Cook at 350 degrees for 45 minutes to an hour. 

I love Birds Eye frozen winter squash - zero fat

Prepared string beans from Citarella and half a package of frozen squash

See what I mean about juicy?

I split the breast in half after it's cooked - leftovers for the next day!

This is one of my favorite dinners to prepared when I'm tired.  The winter squash reminds me of sweet potatoes - and the orange with the red of the barbeque sauce makes a pretty plate.  This is real comfort food and the troubles of a busy day melt away.


1 whole chicken breast (you need the whole breast not half or cutlets)
1/4 - 1/2 cup prepared barbeque sauce
Salt & pepper to taste


Pre-heat oven at 350 degrees
Place the breast in a pan that is lined with tin foil (for easy clean up)
Season with salt & pepper
Cover the breast with a generous amount of barbeque sauce - so it's completely covered
Cook for 45 minutes to an hour
Serve with squash - I use half a package for one person - microwave per instructions on package - it usually takes 2 - 3 minutes
Serve immediately

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Quick and Easy Dinner

Dinner in 10 minutes

My office is insanely busy from October through the end of the year.  People like to celebrate the holidays for the entire months of November and December and I'm churing out hundreds of tickets per week.  I'm in charge of gifts and travel as well and I'm busier than a one armed coat hanger.  Much as I enjoy a leisurely evening getting dinner together, I'm really bushed so I want something quick and easy.  I'll be posting some of these recipes over the coming weeks.

Flounder is often substituted for the more expensive sole in some restaurants

I really don't want to order delivery dinners.  But there are short cuts to helping me put together a home cooked meal.  One big help is getting the vegetables prepared from high quality stores like Citarella.  I always pick up broccoli rabe, string beans, brussel sprouts and other veggies that I can heat up in the microwave.  And frozen peas are ready in a snap and taste great which you saute in oil and add cherry tomatoes. Then with a home cooked main item like flounder or rainbow trout it makes for a great dinner.  Inexpensive, too.

Dredge in flour

This piece of flounder cost about $6 bucks. I dry the filet well with paper towels, dredge in flour and pop in a non-stick frying pan with extra virgin olive oil and a pad of butter (36 calories for the butter). 

Sauté on both sides till golden brown

How delicious does this look?

It takes about 3 minutes or so for the filets to get that golden brown color.  Gently lift the side with a spatula and flip when they attain that golden color.  It amazes me that this crunchy crust is created with just a little bit of flour.

If I didn't know better, I'd think these were pork chops!

Be sure to squeeze fresh lemon juice on top - and if you want to cheat a little have some tatar sauce on the side.

Dinner is served!


1/2 pound or so of flounder filet per person
1 cup flour for dredging
2 tbspns extra virgin olive oil
1 pad butter (about a tablespoon)


Dry the filets well in paper towels - I let them sit in the towels for a few minutes with a plate on top to weigh down
Flounder filets tend to be long so I cut them in half so they flip easily
Pre-heat sauté pan over medium heat
Carefully add oil and butter
Put filets in and cook about 3 minutes per side
Using spatula gently lift sides to see if you get the golden brown coloring
Flip and repeat
Remove from pan, squeeze lemon juice on top and serve immediately.