Thursday, December 12, 2013

Skinny Showbiz - The Sound of Music Live!

Carrie Underwood has been vilified for her
performance in The Sound of Music Live!
Say what you will about Carrie Underwood in The Sound of Music Live!  She delivered an audience of close to 20 million viewers and is ushering in a new era of traditional Broadway musicals being broadcast live during upcoming holiday seasons.  I, for one, think this is cause for celebration. Craig Zadan and Neil Meron, the producers of SOM Live, have committed to doing it again next year with another family friendly property.
Underwood delivered the audience
Not since the live Broadcast of Peter Pan in March of 1955, starring Mary Martin as Peter and my upstairs neighbor Sondra Lee as Tiger Lily, has such an undertaking been attempted.  I haven't seen the DVD of that broadcast in years (and, no, I didn't watch it live as I wasn't born yet.  (Haters need Jesus!!! to quote CU)
The incomparable Audra McDonald
While the cast was packed with Broadway stalwarts, including Tony winners Audra McDonald and Christian Borle.  McDonald really hit Climb Every Mountain out of the park.  I rewound it and watched it three times in a row (does that mean I'm a theater queen?)  But without Underwood's star power the project wouldn't have gotten off the ground.  And I understand it took 10 months of rehearsals and planning to put this show on the air. It really was an act of love.   Remember Smash?   There was oodles of Broadway talent on display, but theater queens alone couldn't keep the show on the air - you need a major star to bring in the heavy duty ratings.  (Sorry Angelica Huston.)
If the show were that much of a dog the ratings wouldn't have been consistent throughout the 3 hour broadcast.  Jay Leno had blockbuster numbers even though it was a re-run.  In fact, NBC announced today that it will re-air the program this Saturday, December 14th at 8 PM.  (Sorry about that It's a Wonderful Life - you've been bounced to Friday.)
People are so mean!!!!
So, thank you Carrie Underwood.  I'm grateful to you and I can't wait to see what they'll do next year - and who will be brave enough to brave the Tweeters out there who denounced The Sound of Music Live before it was even over.

What could have been!


Friday, December 6, 2013

Skinny Snacks - Have Your Sweets and Eat Them Too!

I try to stave off my late afternoon sweet tooth by eating a late lunch.  But eventually I just need a something sweet no matter how late I had my soup and salad.  Rather than having a giant cookie or candy bar, I have a two-pronged approach to having my snack and eating it too! 

First, I always have a box of Teddy Grahams on my desk.  I have as many of them as I want - 24 pieces are only 130 calories with 35 coming from fat. I might have 12 pieces if I'm really hungry.  They satisfy my craving but so I don't feel totally bereft I mix in a little bit of chocolate.

Frans Chocolates
I usually buy a bar of high quality dark chocolate.  The flavors are so intense that one square is all I need.  But every so often someone will send chocolate as a gift.  Recently Camilla, a colleague from our Bevery Hills office, sent me Frans chocolates.  They are the perfect size and sprinkled with sea salt.  Between the two along with a cup of coffee (with Splenda) my snack attack is defeated. 
So, next time you want something sweet try combining low cal with a little bit of decadence!

Friday, September 13, 2013

Skinny Cautionary Tale?

Ready for my close-up?
At this time three weeks ago today, I was waking up in the recovery room at the Hospital for Special Surgery.  I had a very large tear in my right shoulder rotator cuff.  You have four tendons attached to your rotator cuff.  Pictures from the surgery showed that three of mine had torn completely away from the bone with just one hanging by a thread.  Dr. Lawrence Gulotta anchored the tendons back in place.  I also had a torn bicep tendon which he couldn't repair.  He told me that he's operated on Yankee team members who also had torn bicep tendons that couldn't be repaired and they're still playing.  So, hopefully I'll be back on the Yankee roster next year!  It's frustrating not being able to use my right arm.  I've even grown my hair back in (what's left of it) because I don't have the dexterity to shave my head.
I've had quite a summer.  I had my varicose veins fixed in May - three sessions of very painful shots.  At least they're healing nicely and I should have great gams soon!  In early June I was diagnosed with a herniated disc (L5 S1).  I had a series of steroid injections, accupuncture and physical therapy.  I am slowly getting better.  And the pain associated with the herniated disc far surpassed the pain in the shoulder.  However, I have been getting injections in my shoulder since 2010.  The shots worked like magic.  I instantly felt better (not so with the shots for the back).  But I think the combination of steroids and pain killer in the injections just masked the problem as it got worse.
Was too much exercise the culprit?
Besides reminding me that I'm getting old, a lot of people say my exercise regime may be to blame.  (And if one more person says I'm old they will pay the consequences!)  I'm torn (pun intended).  I have never felt better, and had a sense of accomplishment, when I finished taking boot camp, Pilates, yoga and spin. When I leave the West Side Y after a workout, I feel like a million bucks.
I have a long road of physical therapy ahead and I'll work with the therapist on setting up an exercise plan where I can stay in shape without enduring another health crisis.  Fortunately, my Skinny Gourmet Guy diet is keeping me trim.  I've actually lost 10 pounds since June (as I've posted before).  Admittedly, I don't have much of an appetite, but it's returning slowly but surely.  I'll post about my progess in the coming months.
Happier times - with my friend Hank Swank
on Fire Island last summer

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Skinny Scallops!

Simple, delicious and skinny!
My gameplan to stay skinny while I'm recovering from my back injury is to keep everything low fat, to avoid carbs and make preparation quick and easy.   And by avoiding fat, I even mean to limit the "good" fats like olive oil. 

I dust the scallops in flour to help them brown on the grill
Extra virgin olive oil is good for you, but I have a few tablespoons on my salad at lunch (along with balsamic vinegar) so I'm already getting a good daily dosage.  The George Foreman Grill has a non-stick surface so I don't need oil on the grill when cooking scallops.  If you don't have a George Foreman Grill you can use a cooking spray like Pam.  The instructions on my grill says not to use Pam on this surface - but if you're using a regular frying pan Pam, spray away!  There's no calories or fat.

Food Network star Anne Burrell says when you flour food before grilling you should only do it for a few seconds before cooking.  Don't leave your scallops in the flour for longer than that.  It will cake up.  Grill the scallops until golden brown  - about 80 seconds on each side. When they're just about done, drizzle champagne vinegar over them.  I was out of champagne vinegar last night and substituted balsamic - it worked like a charm.

Served with grilled asparagus, grape tomatoes,
lemon and garlic - recipe to follow!
Scallops are low in fat and calories.  They make for a delicious star of your main course and are quick and easy to cook.  The asparagus, tomato and garlic side dish takes longer to cook.  Here are the nutritional facts on scallops:
Nutrition Facts
Serving Size 1unit 2 large or 5 small (30 g)
Per Serving % Daily Value*
Calories from Fat 2
Total Fat 0.2g 0%
Saturated Fat 0.0g 0%
Polyunsaturated Fat 0.1g
Monounsaturated Fat 0.0g
Cholesterol 10mg 3%
Sodium 48mg 2%
Carbohydrates 0.7g 0%
Dietary Fiber 0.0g 0%
Sugars 0.0g
Protein 5.0g
Vitamin A 0% · Vitamin C 2%
Calcium 1% · Iron 0%

A delicious, easy to prepare and skinny dinner!

5 - 6 sea scallops per person
1/4 - 1/2 cup flour
2 tbspns champagne vinegar (or your favorite kind)
Lemons to taste
Herbs de Provence or parsley to garnish
Pre-heat grill to medium/high heat
Dredge scallops through flour when about to cook, shake off excess
Cook until golden brown - about 80 seconds per side - but eyeball it
After you've flipped scallops drizzle with vinegar for the final 20 - 30 seconds
Close lid of grill
I cut a lemon in half and put on grill after transferring scallops to plate
Sprinkle with Herbs de Provence or chopped parsley
Serve and enjoy!

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Skinny Nightmare: Sidelined by a Back Injury

I've lost 12 lbs since this picture was taken last summer
At the beginning of June, I started having intense pain going from my right lower back all the way down the leg to my foot.  I've had some bumps and bruises but nothing compares to this.  I went to a pain management doctor, had an MRI and found I have a herniated disc (L-5 S-1) that's impinging on my sciatic nerve.  Yes, boys and girls, I have sciatica.
Taking 11 classes a week on a regular basis for the past 8 years, I thought I was indestructible.  From "indestructible" I went to being unable to walk.  I was in intense, radiating pain 24/7.  I went several days without sleep because I literally could not find a position where the pain was relieved.  I couldn't even force food down and lost 12 pounds in a matter of weeks.  I've gone from my usual 150 lbs to 138 lbs (very light on a 5'10" frame).  Now, six weeks later and after a series of painful steriod injections, acupuncture and physical therapy, I am on the road to recovery.  But I am far from out of the woods and I am unable to do any rigorous exercise for the foreseeable future.
Healthy Choices
So, I will be posting how I maintain my weight without my usual punishing workout schedule.  I am ahead of the curveball having lost weight and become the "too skinny chef."  But as I get better my appetite will return.  My challenge will be to maintain my 150 lb weight while enjoying delicious food that won't pack on the pounds until I'm able to exercise again.  For now, walking is about it so keep checking back as I get creative with skinny recipes.  And please share your experiences with healthy choices while recovering from injuries.
Stay skinny!  

Friday, February 8, 2013

Skinny-Not Chicken with White Wine Mushroom Sauce

This was my Christmas dinner.  Not exactly skinny, but delicious!
Every so often you have to go off the diet.  You have to live a little, and I think throwing a dietary curveball to your system is a good thing.   I've heard if you eat the same diet foods all the time, your metabolism gets used to it and it becomes harder to lose weight.  This really isn't based on scientific fact, but it's a good enough reason for me to throw caution to the wind and chow down.

Start by grilling your chicken
I start by heating up my George Foreman Grill.  If you don't have a countertop grill you can use a cast iron skillet - a must for every serious home cook.  I set my grill to 400 degrees - it beeps when it's pre-heated.  If you're using a skillet, turn on medium high and let sit for at least 5 minutes.  Next, I dry the chicken with paper towels and then pat with oil.  You can use Canola oil or Extra Virgin Olive Oil. 

Multi-task if you dare
If you are super-focused you can start on the mushrooms while the chicken grills.  Otherwise, tend to the chicken first, set aside, and then saute the mushrooms.  I buy the mushrooms already sliced.  These are just plain old buttom mushrooms.  But you can use cremini, mini portabello - any one of your favorites, or you can get creative and combine a few different types.  I cooked them in an oven safe skillet as the pan will be transfered to roast to cook the inside of the chicken.  Grilling only cooks and browns the outside and leaves the center raw - not a good thing with chicken. 

Necessity is the mother of invention
As the mushrooms are just about finished browning, add the additional ingredients.  I had planned to use cherry or grape tomatoes, but found I was out of both when I started to cook.  I did, however, have sun dried tomatoes.  These turned out to add a wonderful depth of flavor to the sauce and I'll use them from now on when I cook this dish.  The last of the dry ingredients is chopped garlic cloves.  They burn very quickly so toss them in when the rest of the mixture is just about done.  Overcooked garlic tastes bitter and will ruin the dish.  Next I deglazed the pan with white wine.  As Ina Garten, aka the Barefoot Contessa, says - use a wine that you would drink.  Don't use cooking wine you find at the market.  

Ready for the oven
Here's the part where we enter a parallel universe and I  use the B word.  Butter.  Throw in a hardy tablespoon or two.  Leave the butter on the counter for the afternoon so it's nice and soft when you're ready to cook.  And add salt and pepper to taste.  Squeeze a half to a full lemon over the sauce.  Let the mixture cook down a bit. 

The finished product
Add the chicken to the sauce and place in a pre-heated 250 - 300 degree oven till finished.  I like to cook it low and slow so I don't have to worry about the chicken burning or coming out dry.  Cook it for about 30 minutes.  You know it's finished when the aroma of delicious chicken and wine start to waft through the house.  You can keep it warm in the oven at 200 degrees while you set the table or have a pre-dinner cocktail or glass of wine. 
While certainly not the usual Skinny fare, this holiday meal was delicious.  And still better than turkey with stuffing and gravy which contains more fat and tons of carbs.  I'm not waiting until Christmas to have it again!  It would be especially good on a snowy night like tonight.
1/2 chicken breast per person
1/2 - 1 full cup white wine suitable for drinking
1/2 package sliced white mushrooms or 2 cups of your favorite mushrooms chopped into slices
3 garlic cloves
1/4 cup sundried tomatoes
2 tbspns Canola or olive oil
Butter to taste - 1 - 2 tbspns
Juice of one lemon
Salt & pepper to taste
Pre-heat grill or skillet until piping hot - 400 degrees for grill
Warm an oven safe nonstick skillet for the mushroom gravy
Dry the chicken breast with paper towels
Smear 1 tbspn oil on chicken breast
Place skin size down and brown - about 3 - 5 minutes - keep an eye on it
Flip breast and cook other side for about 3 minutes
Meanwhile, turn up heat on skillet
Add olive oil and butter
Toss in mushrooms - about 2 cups
As they brown add 1/4 - 1/3 cup sundried tomatoes, cut in slivers
Add garlic cloves, crushed
Add in 3/4 cup white wine
Add in lemon juice
Add salt and pepper to taste - about 1 tspn salt and 1/2 tspn coarse ground pepper
Bring to a simmer and let reduce - about 5 minutes
Add the chicken breast (when it's been browned)
Transfer to pre-heated 300 degree oven
Cook for about a half hour
Reduce heat to 200 degrees to keep warm until you're ready to serve
Check with a meat thermometer - it's done when 160 degrees
Serve and enjoy!

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Skinny Brussell Sprouts!

Mis en place

I love brussells sprouts but they tend to be the also-ran of the culinary world.  It may be because they're often boiled and can come out as a mushy, unappetizing mess.  That's a shame because not only are they delicious when prepared correctly - but they have strong anti-cancer properties that are lessened when they are boiled.  Research shows that grilling and roasting do not diminish their anti-cancer compounds.
Before becoming an avid tabletop griller, I roasted my Brussell sprouts, which is a great way to go, too.  This recipe does a bit of both.  If you don't have a grill (I've been using the George Foreman grill) you can use a cast iron skillet that has the lines so you get grill marks.  But if you're a serious home cook you should definitely buy an electric grill.  I may trade up to a better brand at some point, but at this point my George Foreman gets the job done.  And I bought it for $50!

Transfer from grill to oven-safe skillet
I start by cutting the Brussell sprouts in half. Baby Brussell sprouts do not work well with this recipe. You want the larger, meaty sprouts. Not only do they cook faster when you cut them in half, they don't roll around the grill.  I only grill them long enough to get the char marks on both sides.  Next, I transfer them to an oven-safe skillet and place them in a 250 degree oven.  If I want to serve them in short order, I'd put them in a 350 - 400 degree oven for about 10 minutes.

Chopped cherry tomatoes and garlic for a topping
I like the slow method.  When I get home from work I like to get everything underway for dinner and then relax before dining.  The Brussell sprouts can stay in the oven at this low temperature for a half hour to 45 minutes.  This way, I can unwind and snap dinner up in minutes when I'm ready to eat.  It also frees up the grill so I can cook the rest of dinner on my single grill.  When I'm about 15 minutes or so from eating I grill chopped cherry tomatoes and garlic until they start to brown.  Then I put the mixture on top of the Brussell sprouts and return the skillet to the low heat oven.  I grill a lemon and toss that in the pan.  It looks good an infuses its lemony goodness into the dish.
My main course is usually fish or chicken breast which cook up quickly, so that element goes on the grill 5 or 10 minute prior to serving. 

And I call myself the Skinny Gourmet Guy?!
The meal pictured above was my New Year's dinner.  I ended the year with a bang by tossing aside the Skinny Gourmet Guy rulebook and grilling a ribeye steak.  However, I always say it's important to splurge and this fat, juicy steak was worth the extra miles logged in spin class to burn it off.  The Brussell sprouts with tomato and garlic side went very well with it.  But whether it be steak or chicken or fish, this Brussell sprouts recipe elevates the also ran to the star attraction!
1/2 cup Brussells sprouts cut in half length-wise
1/2 cup cherry tomatoes cut in half lenght-wise
3 - 4 garlic cloves smashed an thickly diced
1 tbspn canola or extra virgin olive oil
1/2 lemon
Salt & pepper to taste
Pre-heat electric grill at 400 degrees, or warm cast iron skillet over medium heat.
Toss the Brussell sprouts in oil and add salt & pepper.
Put on grill or pan, cut side down.
Wait until they start to char (about 1 - 2 minutes depending upon size) and flip over and develop char on the other side of the sprouts.  I don't close the grill top.
Transfer to oven-safe skillet and bake in oven at 250 degrees. Bake for 30 - 45 minutes.
15 minutes prior to serving, grill the tomatoes.  After a minute or so add the garlic.  Grill for approximately 2 - 3 minutes.  I do close the grill top for this.
Add to Brussell sprouts and return to oven.
Grill lemon until it develops a char; add to Brussells sprouts, tomatoes and garlic.
Bake for anther 15 minutes or so.
You may want to pick out the garlic bits from the mixture, though I just serve the whole thing and avoid eating the garlic.
Serve and enjoy!