Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Diets I Have Tried That Really Do Work

One of the major traditions of every New Year is our penchant to lose weight, and hence, our adoption of the latest 'fad' diet.

Real Simple magazine recently posted a list of diets that are not only ineffective, but may just be hazardous to our health ( For instance, the Breatharian Diet, which insists that we get all of our sustenance through the simple act of breathing.

While I thought  this article beneficial, I felt that the world has had enough of 'diets that won't work'. So I thought that I'd share a list of diets I've tried that actually do work.

Bon appetit!

The Informatio Diet.  Unlike the Breatharian Diet above, on this diet one thrives on ideas. I've been on this diet since kindergarten. And here's the funny thing: even though my brain has gotten bigger, I haven't gained that much weight. Perhaps if we all focused more on our minds and less on our stomachs, we might be better off.'s just an idea...

The Don't Eat Anything You Can Eat While Driving Diet. Good meals are meant to be eaten while sitting down, but not while sitting down behind the wheel of a car. If we can eat something while weaving in and out of traffic, we might do well to pass on it.

The Don't Eat Anything You Can Eat While Taking a Dump Diet. For those of us who could not grasp the concept of The Don't Eat Anything You Can Eat While Driving Diet. Perhaps this diet will drive the principle home.

The Only Drink on Days that End in "Y" Diet. Studies show that alcohol consumption provides empty calories. So if one wants to lose weight, one should limit their alcohol intake. This is why I only drink on days that end in the letter  "Y". I perfected this one back when I figured out how to use a corkscrew. What can I say? I'm Irish.

The Miss Piggy Diet (or The Don't Eat Anything You Can't Lift Diet). I thought this would be a no-brainer until I saw a semi-truck hauling cattle sideswipe a tour bus hauling folks to Graceland. The semi then careened into a bridge abutment and burst into flames. As I pulled to the shoulder, 52 tourists in Bermuda shorts and flowery sundresses spilled out of the bus and converged on the burning cattle car. I watched in amazement as they dragged whole sides of beef into the median and had themselves one hell of a picnic.

The If You Cannot Pronounce It, Don't Eat It Diet. The next time you are tempted to pick up a prepackaged convenience meal at the grocery store, read the ingredients. If you find something listed that you cannot pronounce, don't eat it.

The Sounds Like a High School Chemistry Class Assignment Diet. And if you find an ingredient that sounds like it came out of your high school chemistry textbook, pass on it. (See above.)

The Grocery Store Perimeter Diet. First popularized by Michael Pollan and plagiarized by yours truly, this diet consists of eating only those things found on the perimeter aisles of the grocery store (along with the occasional foray down the frozen food aisle to snatch up some plain frozen veggies).

The If Paula Dean Made It, Screw It Diet. Okay, although I was not born in the South, I now live in the South. And I love a lot of southern cooking. But one must draw the line. So let's draw it here. Hey, it's a start.

The Fuppie Diet. Back in the 80's, the word Yuppie was coined to denote that cultural phenomena known as Young Urban Professionals. Soon after, the word Buppie was coined, denoting Black Urban Professionals. That's when I decided the world needed more Fuppies. Folks like me who just don't give a fup. Especially when it comes to fad diets. Who's with me?

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Enough with Redundancy. And While We're At It, with Redundancy as Well.

Words can be funny.

As someone who makes his living utilizing words, I am continually amazed at how much I have yet to learn.

For instance: During my live shows I've always made it a point to present myself with an air of humility and humor. I would be quick to point this quality out to an audience by telling them that I was "self-deprecating."

Unfortunately, for years I used  the words "self-defecating."

That is, until a good friend pointed out that what I was actually telling people was that I was really good at soiling myself.

I'm glad she had the courage to tell me. I just wish she hadn't waited three years (and who knows how many umpteen demos) before doing so. No wonder I got so many laughs.

So, yes. Words can be funny. And those of us who misuse them can often be funnier.

In many of my cooking demos, I feature Shrimp Scampi as one of the entrees. At a performance north of Tampa a few years ago, a little old lady in the front row asked me if I knew what the word "scampi" meant.

Well, being a professional speaker/chef and not knowing the answer, I did what most professional speakers/chefs do.

I lied.

"Yes," I said authoritatively. "It's when you sauté shrimp in some garlic and olive oil or butter until it is temptingly delicious."

Then I took a step back and basked in my ability to dodge yet another stray bullet fired from the audience. But she was not impressed, because she frowned, shook her head, and said, "Nope."

"Oh?" I said.

She smiled and said, "Scampi is the plural for the Italian word, scampo."

"Which means?" I said, feeling a bit uneasy.

Her smile broadened. "Scampo is the Italian word for...shrimp."

As the laughter in the audience died down, I said, "Really?"

"Yes," she replied. "Although technically it refers to the crustacean that we catch in the Meditaranean to make this dish. But it is very close to your large shrimp here in America."

"So what you're telling me is that Shrimp Scampi is actually Shrimp Shrimp?"

She smiled and nodded. "It's a lot like your "Pizza Pie" here in America. You see, "pizza" in Italian means..."

"Don't tell me," I said. "Pie..."

"Yup. Pizza pie is actually pie pie."

After the laughter died down, I continued with my show but I will never forget the laughter in her eyes.

I still enjoy making Shrimp Shrimp as well as Pie Pie. I've just learned to spare a few words in the process.

And here's a great recipe for shrimp and pizza. In fact it is so good, you just may want to say it twice.

Bon appetit!


Prep Time: 10 minutes     Cook Time: 25 minutes


3/4 pound large shrimp, peeled and de-veined
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 medium red or sweet onion, sliced thin
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
3 cloves garlic, crushed
1/2 cup grated mozzarella cheese
1/2 cup grated Fontina cheese (or mild Swiss)
1 cup cherry or grape tomatoes, halved
2 tablespoons crumbled goat or feta cheese (optional)
1 tablespoon grated Parmesan cheese
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
1 9" - 10" prepared pizza crust (i.e. Boboli or Pillsbury)


1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees.

2. Heat olive oil in a 10-inch skillet over medium heat. Add onions and sauté until soft and translucent, about 8 minutes. Add the oregano and garlic and sauté for 2 minutes. Add shrimp and sauté until they just turn pink, about 3 - 5 minutes.

3. Brush pizza with olive oil. Spread shrimp/onion mixture evenly over the pizza and sprinkle with the mozzarella and Fontina cheese. Add the tomatoes and sprinkle with the goat cheese and Parmesan. Drizzle olive oil over all and sprinkle with parsley.

4. Bake for 8 - 10 minutes until crust is brown and cheese is melted.

Serve with a nice Chianti Chianti.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

New Year Food Resolutions We Should All Embrace

Every year I make it a point to jot down a few New Year Resolutions and this year is no different... Although this year I started thinking about them before March.

So here they are. And because I wrote them down in a blog, it only makes sense that everyone else should embrace them as well.

I hope they inspire you. Uplift you. And, after reading mine, I hope you will feel really, really good about the one's that you made.

Now, let's fill our glasses and face the onslaught of the New Year with these, my New Year Resolutions:

- Make my New Year Resolutions before January 1st. (Crap. It's the 10th you say? Okay. I mucked up. Do over.)

- Eat less red meat. With the exception of steaks and ribs. And grilled lamb chops. (By the way, is bacon a red meat?)

- And while we're on the subject of meat: Don't buy anything from the meat department whose label is not sanctioned by the USDA or is not recognized by any other food authority.  I'm talking about cuts that might be creatively labeled "Canadian Butcher Free Range Sizzlin' Steaks" (frozen, of course).

Or how about, "Chuck Flank Mock Tender Steaks - Great for Grilling!" (not to mention plugging up the sink drain in case you misplaced the black plastic thing that came with the food disposal).

Or, "Young Grass Fed New Zealand Lamb or It Could Be Pork or Maybe a Large Fowl of Some Sort." (Either way, just cook the damned thing and serve with plenty of beer. No one will notice).

Or one of my favorites, "North Jersey Perth Amboy Brownfield Steaks." (But hey, for $1.98 a pound it was certainly worth a shot, even though they had a greenish tint and smelled like someone's car had just overheated.)

- Try the gluten-free thing. I understand that many folk are going gluten-free even though they are not gluten-intolerant and are touting the healthy benefits. Perhaps 2012 is the year I give it a long as it doesn't include giving up things like toasted Cuban bread or any type of pasta, I'm good to go.

- Drink more water and less scotch. Unless, of course, the scotch is in the water, then make it a double. If you're buying, let's set up a tab.

- Start jogging regularly again. However, two years ago I vowed to run 4 miles a day. But by the end of the first week I was like over 20 miles from home, so I said screw this. But this year I talked to an actual runner and he said if I'm going to run for 4 miles, I need to run 2 miles out and 2 miles back. Problem solved

- Buy more fresh produce from local growers at the farmer's market. (Except, perhaps, from that guy two-thirds of the way down whose citrus fruit is always stamped "Sunkist". I mean, what are the odds that a local grower would share the same name of a major conglomerate? I guess stranger things have happened.)

- Finish writing my next cookbook "Table for Two - Back for Seconds".

- Finish the novel. (I'm not writing one, I'm trying to finish reading one.)

- Love my friends more.

- Love my family more.

- Love God more.

And I'll leave you with this great quote from Ralph Waldo Emerson:

"Finish each day and be done with it. You have done what you could; some blunders and absurdities have crept in; forget them as soon as you can. Tomorrow is a new day; you shall begin it serenely and with too high a spirit to be encumbered with your old nonsense."

I mean, how could you go wrong with a quote from someone that was probably called 'Ralphie' or, gasp, 'Wally'(!) when he was growing up. You *gotta* listen to a guy like that.

So...Happy New Year dear friends and fellow food lovers. I'm looking forward to your ideas, comments, and wiseguy remarks in this upcoming year.

I would be a poorer man without them.

Now let's raise a glass!

And since it's the 10th, let's raise two. We have a lot to catch up on...

Now...what are some of your New Year Resolutions?

Saturday, January 7, 2012

The More Things Change...

...The more they stay the same.


I was just finishing up a blog post featuring my New Year's Food Resolutions (yeah, yeah, I's already January 7th. So, sue me...) when I stumbled across a rumor saying that the good(?) folks in the mega-cyber world will be discontinuing Google Friend Connect. First for folks then, eventually, for folks like me.


So...for those of my dear friends and fellow-food lovers who've signed up to follow via Google Friend Connect here to the left --> (under 'Seated Around the Table'), please take the time to follow me either by e-mail (you can see the sign up box in the above right) or via Facebook or Twitter (I think I have a button for each on this page somewhere).

For really committed friends, send me your phone number and I'll drop you a line once a month or so.

For you really die-hard followers, send me your address and I'll show up on your doorstep with a bottle of wine from time to time. Two bottles if you have dinner ready.

Sigh...I guess change is the nature of the beast with this internet/social networking/blogging thing.

But I'm thankful that some things don't change.

Like time-proven recipes and friends like you.

Now...please get up off your butt and answer the friggin' door. It's freezin' out here and this '42 Chateaux Mouton Rothschild is getting cold...  :-)