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I’ve always loved Manhattans and Negronis…two different cocktails, yet similar in certain respects. Both use sweet vermouth. Both have a touch of bitterness: Manhattans will often include a few dashes of angostura bitters, where a Negroni gets its bitterness from Campari. So when I visited Food Network chef Geoffrey Zakarian’s The Lambs Club restaurant in NYC a few years ago, and tasted my first Boulevardier, I was instantly hooked.

Loosely translated, a boulevardier is a “man about town.”

The cocktail was created by Erskine Gwynne, the publisher of “Boulevardier,” a magazine for expats living in Paris in the 1920s. It’s basically a Negroni with whiskey instead of gin.

My personal preference for whiskey is bourbon, and one of my favorite bourbons to mix with is the very affordable Eagle Rare. And for sweet vermouth, nothing beats the grandaddy of them all: Carpano’s Antica Formula.

I was just reading an interview with food blogger and cocktail expert, David Lebovitz, in the Wall Street Journal, and he mentioned the Boulevardier as one of his favorite cocktails. I hadn’t had one in ages, and started digging in my bar inventory. Bourbon is something I always have…but I also found Campari and an unopened small bottle of Antica Formula. I was all set for a great night of quarantining!

Be very careful, especially with the vermouth. If you stray and buy some cheap brand, the drink will resemble nothing even close to what it could truly be!

 

 

2 oz. bourbon or whiskey
1 oz. Campari
1 oz. sweet vermouth (Antica Formula preferred)

 

Add some ice to a cocktail shaker. Add the ingredients and stir. Strain into a rocks glass with a large cube.

 

 

 

Perfection.

 

Eagle Rare bourbon: Everyone has their favorite bourbon, and I really enjoy this 10-year-old, because it mixes well and, at about $32 a bottle, is extremely affordable. Made by the Buffalo Trace distillery, who can pretty much do no wrong.

Campari: A liqueur, invented in 1860 by Gaspare Campari, considered an aperitif. Its alcohol content depends on the country it’s sold in. It’s unique bitter flavor is obtained from the infusion of herbs and fruit in alcohol and water.

Carpano Antica Formula: First invented in 1786 in Turin by Antonio Benedetto Carpano, it has survived in its original recipe thanks to the Fratelli Branca Distillerie. It costs more than the typical 5-buck bottle of vermouth, because it’s simply the best you can get. Buy it once and you’ll never buy another sweet vermouth again.

 

 

If you didn’t quite kick your diet into gear with the new year, now’s the time to do it. Think about it: if you cut your calories in half, the food you have stashed away during quarantine will last you twice as long! (Sorry, I don’t have any tips on how to double your toilet paper.)
Sure, it’s even tougher to eat less if you’re stuck at home and binge-watching your favorite programs….or if you’re baking batches of cookies to kill time.
I started my diet on January 2nd of this year. Now, on March 18th, I’m 20 pounds lighter! I knew it would work if I stuck with it…and I also knew it wouldn’t be easy.
I had my cheat days…even cheat weekends. But the main thing was to return to the diet as soon as possible and stick with the plan.
My goal was to look better for an upcoming vacation: I was going to St John USVI on April 11th. My plan was to drop 21 pounds before then. The trip, had it not been for the Corona virus, would be 3 weeks away, and I’m just a pound away from my goal weight!
Now the trip has been postponed until November, but the diet continues. I need/want to lose more weight, and I’m more determined than ever to do it.
As much as I see friends posting all the baking they’re doing while they’re quarantined at home (my daughter just cooked up a huge batch of s’mores brownies!), my philosophy is different: this is the perfect time to go on a diet! If the food in your pantry is getting scarce too quickly, eat less!
Sure, I’m still cooking…I have to keep this blog going, after all! But always with portion control in mind.
If you’re ready to diet, here’s my blog about my diet…how I started, and how it’s gotten me to this point. I posted this earlier in the year…
Like many people, I’ve done my best over the last few years to avoid the obvious: I need to lose some weight. Every time I get my yearly check-up at the doctor’s, he tells me: “You need to lose at least 20 pounds.” I nod my head, as if I’m going to give it a try, then head straight for Fellini’s pizza in Providence, for a couple of slices. The next year: same thing: “You need to lose at least 20 pounds.” I nod….
When I was young, I was rail thin and could eat anything I wanted without gaining a pound. When I got older, my metabolism slowed down, but my love of food did not–in fact, it probably increased, as I learned how to cook really well.

OMG…that was one skinny dude!

Now, here I am, writing a food blog. I travel for food. I plan six meals ahead at any given time.  I’ll be 62 in March of this year, and I have a 13-year-old daughter. Do the math, and you’ll realize, like I did, that I need to take care of myself to be around for as many of her upcoming life events as possible.
With a trip to Florida in March and a trip to the Caribbean in April, I have two deadlines set in place for reaching weight loss goals. As I put it to my daughter: “I want to lose enough weight so that women won’t vomit when I take my shirt off!” (She responded with the typical teenage eye-roll.)

My version of lox and bagels: home-cured wild-caught Alaskan salmon, whipped cream cheese (fewer calories), onions, capers, and toast pieces. Lots of tasty bites here. (A sliced, hard-boiled egg would only add 78 calories.)

There are a million diets out there, and everybody claims they have the secret to weight loss. But no matter what diet you’re on, what it really boils down to is the simple mathematical equation of calories in…versus calories out.
My buddy, Lee, a PhD in chemistry, and someone that dropped 50 pounds last year, told me about an article written by an engineer that lays out the basics. You can find it here:
As he states, losing weight is simply thermodynamics: you need to eat less calories than your body burns every day. If you do that, you will lose weight.

My stir-fry has chicken breast, broccoli, white rice (Uncle Ben’s), some onion, and my “Chinese Mix” of flavors: soy sauce, hoisin sauce, chili garlic sauce, and sesame oil. My trick to add flavor to the rice without calories is to add beef bouillon when I cook it. (I use Better Than Bouillon.)

There is a way to find out approximately how many calories a day your body uses to maintain its weight. It’s called the basal metabolic rate, or BMR. In my case, I need about 2500 calories per day to maintain my weight. So, like my friend Lee, I chose a diet where I eat no more than 1500 calories daily…a deficit of 1000 calories per day.
At the end of 7 days, I have eaten 7000 fewer calories than my body uses. Since about 3500 calories make 1 pound, I should be losing 2 pounds per week, according to this math.
Now, there are many variables to this, but basically this thought process holds true.
And the best part is: is doesn’t matter what I eat. If I want to eat bean sprouts, great. If I want Taco Bell, fine. As long as I don’t go over 1500 calories a day, it doesn’t matter what I put in my gut. This is really helpful for people like me, who get bored of eating the same old stuff day after day–a sure-fire way to give up on a diet. Carbs, fats, meat, dairy…all OK within reason.

Fish is an excellent source of protein, and I never ate enough of it. Now, I make a bowl of tuna poke pretty often, and it’s absolutely delicious!

My buddy, Lee, is a diabetic, and stays away from carbs. He eats lean meats, seafood, and vegetables. That’s how he lost his 50 pounds. His son, on the other hand, lost weight by eating mostly fast food, but still counting the calories and not eating more than 1500 of them per day. He also lost 50 pounds.
I’m not a big junk food person. I don’t buy cookies, cakes or chips. Ice cream (my kryptonite) is a rare treat, and rarely sits in my home freezer. I don’t put sugar in my coffee, and I don’t drink juices or soda. But my biggest weight-gain mistake was thinking I could use unlimited amounts of so-called “healthy fats” in my recipes. I was pouring olive oil over everything…spreading pork leaf lard everywhere…and buttering my butter! Now I measure everything, drastically reducing my fats, and I can’t believe how many calories I’m saving!

Sprays can be extremely helpful in keeping your calories low. Just be careful: they say “zero calories,” but that doesn’t mean you can spray a ton in your pan! Regulations allow them to say “zero” if a single serving is less than 1 calorie. That’s why a single serving here is a spray of about 1/5 of a second! (Seriously!)

Portion control is essential. I’ve found that I really don’t have to change many of my recipes in this livethelive blog, which is all the food I love. I just have to control my portion sizes. For example, a ribeye may be a delicious source of protein, but it’s also loaded with fat. (That’s why it tastes so good!) So now I only eat a small, 4-ounce serving at mealtime, not the 12-ounce slab I was eating before.
Having a deadline or a goal really helps. As I said, trips to Florida and the Caribbean, where I’ll be showing my gut to the world, is plenty of incentive. So I made a decision back before the holidays that I would start on January 2nd.
When I started my 1500-calorie-a-day diet, I was bloated from alcohol, salt, fat, and simply eating too much rich food. But once the diet really started rolling, I could step on the bathroom scale and see the bloat was diminishing, and rather quickly. At this point, it’s easy to deceive yourself in thinking that this is “real weight,” when it’s not. It’s just your body reaching its natural plateau. But that’s OK. When you see the weight go down, even by a tenth of a pound a day, it gives you the incentive to continue.
After about a week of bloat loss, the real diet and weight loss began.
The human body is full of constant change. So even once I started and steadily maintained my 1500-calorie-a-day diet, Lee told me not to expect to be dropping 2 pounds per week like clockwork. Some weeks, my body will retain more water, perhaps from eating too much salt. Some days, I’ll go to the bathroom more, some less. My bathroom scale itself may be off by a little, too. So what I see when I step on the scale needs to be taken with a grain of salt (pardon the pun.) On any given day, my weight can actually be plus or minus 2 pounds of what my scale shows.

Find a protein drink or bar you like. It can really help when the cravings get bad. But make sure you choose one that is low in sugar!

The secret of this diet (or any other diet for that matter) is persistence. Don’t give up because your scale hasn’t moved. Your body is going through changes–big changes. And if you maintain your diet, you will see results eventually…the keyword being: eventually. Over the course of a month or two, you will see significant results.
The secret for me is to find the food I like and then eat it in reasonable quantities. Variety is also really important, or I’ll get bored and give up. Other than avoiding too much salt, I have few dietary restrictions. So I’m able to eat whatever I want within my calorie guidelines.
So as you read this blog this year, you’ll see that many of my recipes haven’t changed, with the exception, perhaps, of fats used in cooking, because that’s one of the top calorie culprits. It doesn’t matter if you’re using butter, bacon fat, or healthy olive oil, all fats have a lot of calories, whether they’re healthy or not.
Another key to my diet’s success–and this is the one that everybody hates!–I write down every single morsel of food I eat every day, and then calculate how many calories that entails. Not everyone can be this anal, but I have no problem with it. Once I set my mind to it, it just comes naturally. I have a date book where I write my morning weight every day, and then everything I eat that day, with individual and total calorie counts. (Counting calories is easy, now that we all carry phones that let us simply Google that information.)
Using a simple digital kitchen scale (one that weighs ounces and grams) is KEY to making sure you’re not overeating. Buy one immediately!

Yes…I write it ALL down!

Fortunately for me, even alcohol can be included in this diet. That’s not to say that I’m boozing it up! I only allow myself alcoholic beverages on Friday and Saturday nights. At 100 calories for a 1.5 ounce shot of 80-proof booze, I can have 2 3-ounce martinis for a total of 400 calories. Of course, that still counts in my 1500-calorie-a-day plan. So that means I eat less…which can get me a little loopy on weekends! But as long as I’m not driving, that’s not a problem! Drinking alcohol gives me the munchies…so I have to be very careful with that.

Having a seat at great bars, like the world-famous Bar Hemingway at the Ritz in Paris, is a passion of mine. My diet still allows me to sip a fine cocktail without guilt! I choose drinks that are low in sugar.

Follow this diet and you, too, will succeed. It doesn’t matter if you need to be gluten-free or not. It doesn’t matter if you’re avoiding carbs or not. It doesn’t matter if you’re vegan, vegetarian, or a total carnivore. Keto, Atkins, whatever. What matters is counting your total calories per day…and sticking to the diet every day…no cheating. No business lunch excuses, breakfast buffets, and 48-oz. steaks.
A great tip is to start by eating everything you love, even if it’s not really good for you, just in smaller quantities. Don’t eat real junk food, but worry about total calories first, not whether what you’re eating is “health food.” (Like my buddy, Lee’s, son who still lost weight eating Taco Bell.) Your first goal should be to limit calories. Then, as you get comfortable and progress, start making better and healthier food choices. Anyone who starts a diet by chewing celery after a lifetime of steak and potatoes is going nowhere!
After I reach my goal weight, which is my wedding weight of 217 pounds (that’s a 21-pound drop), I can choose to continue my diet or go back to my daily intake of 2500 calories to maintain my new weight. (That’s still fewer calories than I was consuming every day before I started the diet, but after 1500 a day, it’ll feel like I’m cheating!)
What I’m learning with this diet, as I cook healthier, measuring how much fat I put in a pan before frying…cutting my huge steaks into smaller pieces and trimming off the fat…is that I never want to go back to my old way of eating again. I can still eat anything I love…just a little bit less.

I cut the middle out of my bagel and weigh it!

 

That right there, after cooking, is 90 calories. Nothing brings the flavor like bacon!

 

My breakfast sandwich: the bottom of an everything bagel, a strip of bacon, and a fried egg. 349 calories, including a tablespoon of butter! A sprinkle of everything bagel seasoning adds flavor and just a couple of calories.

 

WHAT I’VE FOUND….
Bad…
1 tablespoon of butter has 100 calories. I used to load my 400-calorie everything bagel with 300 calories of butter…and then I had breakfast! A tablespoon of whipped butter has only 50 calories, so I use that instead.
Same thing with mayonnaise. I love Hellman’s. But it’s got 90 calories per tablespoon. Enter Hellman’s Light: 35 calories and I can still indulge!
Cheese is not a dieter’s friend. It’s a calorie and salt nightmare. And light cheese tastes like crap. So I stick to small amounts of lower calorie cheeses, like feta (70 calories per ounce) or whipped cream cheese (40 calories per tablespoon), and save pizza for very rare occasions.
Good…
Boiled Shrimp is our friend at just 80 calories for 4 ounces, and lots of protein.
A hard-boiled egg, which I love, is just 78 calories…an excellent protein bomb that fills you up. (And don’t worry about the cholesterol unless you’re eating a dozen a day!)
You can still have bacon! My thick-cut bacon is 90 calories a slice after frying. Now I have one slice for breakfast instead of six! (Read the package.)
A diet saves you money! I can’t believe how much less food I buy at the supermarket! Sure, I’m buying more veggies, but a steak that used to be one meal is now three! As a nation, Americans eat way too much food, and what we eat is mostly unhealthy. A diet that focuses on veggies and lean proteins is good for any body. Michael Pollan’s quote is more valuable now than ever: “Eat food, not too much, mostly plants.”
A successful diet is all about being creative. I can’t have a BLT in the usual sense anymore, and that’s my all-time favorite sandwich. But I can have BLT lettuce wraps that drastically cut the calories and still satisfy my cravings.

My BLT. Limiting the bacon and mayo makes it diet-friendly.

 

Adding that strip of toasted bread really adds to the flavor and texture!

Of course, any exercise you do in addition to this diet is only a bonus. If you use a treadmill or stationary bike, it will tell you just how many calories you’ve burned. You can subtract that from your daily calorie count.
You WILL lose weight if you diet without exercise. You WILL lose weight FASTER if you diet AND exercise, assuming you don’t gorge after your workout. You will NEVER lose weight eating the same junk, thinking you can “work it off.”
As I write this blog, it is Day 17 of my diet and I’ve lost 9 pounds! But for the last couple of days, my scale has been holding steady, teasing me…taunting me!  I know I’ve got to keep doing the right thing…and that’s going to get me through those days until I step on that scale and see that downward movement again.
I can do it! So can you!

In these crazy times, our supermarkets are running out of everything from toilet paper to hand sanitizer. But probably the one thing we can stock up on is corned beef and cabbage!

St. Patty’s Day is this Tuesday, and supermarkets are full drumming with packages of processed corned beef in preparation for the big celebration. Too bad corned beef isn’t an authentic Irish dish!

The phrase “corned beef” was actually coined by the British, and although the Irish were known for their corned beef throughout Europe in the 17th century, beef was far too expensive for the Irish themselves to eat and all of it was exported to other countries. Owning a cow in Ireland was a sign of wealth, and the Irish used theirs for dairy products, not beef.

The Irish ate pork, and a lot of it, because it was cheap to raise pigs, and they traditionally prepared something like Canadian bacon to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day in Ireland.

In the 1900’s, when the Irish came to America, both beef and salt were more affordable, and the Irish, who lived in poor, tight-knit communities, often next to Jewish communities, bought much of their beef from Kosher butchers. So many of the Irish learned how to corn their beef using Jewish techniques, but adding cabbage and potatoes to the mix.

It takes about 3 weeks to make corned beef. But now that you know it’s not Irish anyway, that’s OK!  Doing it yourself is not difficult. It just takes time to get a really delicious slab of beef.

Corned beef has nothing to do with corn. ‘Corning’ is a technique for preserving raw meats for long periods by soaking it in salt brine. This method was used in England before the days of commercial refrigeration. Back then, the large salt kernels used in the brine were called “corns.”

Brining is a time-honored way of preserving meat and it prevents bacteria from growing. Both pastrami and corned beef are made by this method. Both start with a brisket of beef. Corned beef is then cooked–usually boiled–and served. Pastrami is made when the brined meat is rubbed with more spices and then smoked to add extra flavor. So corned beef and pastrami are the same meat, just treated differently.

Saltpeter is an ingredient that has been used in brining beef for years. It adds the traditional red coloring to the corned beef and pastrami meat. But since saltpeter can also contain carcinogens, I leave it out. The meat may not be the usual bright red color, but the flavor and texture of the meat will not be affected.

Brining the beef brisket

Brining the beef brisket

Step one: corned beef…

beef brisket (about 8-10 pounds)
2 teaspoons paprika
1/4 cup warm water
3 cloves of minced garlic
2 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon mixed pickling spices
3/4 cup salt
2 quarts water

Place the brisket in a large container made of non-reactive material, like glass or plastic.

In the 1/4 cup of warm water, dissolve the sugar, minced cloves, paprika and pickling spices.

Dissolve the 3/4 cup of salt in the 2 quarts of water. Pour in the sugar/garlic/paprika/pickling spices mix and stir everything together. Pour the mixture over the meat in the container. Make sure the meat is totally beneath the surface of the liquid. (You may need to weigh it down to do this.) Cover the container.

Refrigerate the container and its contents for 3 weeks, turning the meat once or twice per week. At the end of the third week, remove the container from the refrigerator and take out the meat. Soak the meat in several changes of fresh cold water over a period of 24 hours to remove the excess salt.

At this point, if you want corned beef, prepare and cook it using your favorite recipe. But I’m all about the pastrami!

Step two: making Pastrami…

pastrami

 

Brined and rinsed corned beef brisket from above recipe, patted dry with paper towels
1/4 cup Kosher salt
1/4 cup paprika
3 tablespoons coriander seeds
2 tablespoons black peppercorns
2 tablespoons yellow mustard seeds
1 tablespoon white peppercorns
3 tablespoons brown sugar
1 tablespoon granulated garlic

Combine the coriander seeds, black and white peppercorns and mustard seeds in a spice grinder and grind coarsely. Place in a bowl. Add the salt, paprika, brown sugar and granulated garlic. Mix well.

Rub the mix into the brisket well, covering all sides.

Heat your smoker to 225 degrees and smoke for several hours using a less intense wood, like oak. When the internal temperature of the meat has reached 165 degrees, it’s done. It isn’t necessary to smoke pastrami as long as you would a regular brisket because the long brining time makes the meat tender.

It is very important that absolutely everything that comes in contact with the meat is very clean. (This includes your hands.) Also, make very sure that every inch of the meat reaches the 165 degrees before it is removed from the smoker. The corned beef is now pastrami.

 

Happy St. Patty’s Day! Celebrate safely!

Through years of tireless experimentation, I’ve come up with a barbecue sauce that I feel is the best I’ve ever made. Granted, everybody has their favorites, but I prefer a slightly sweet and tangy barbecue sauce. Unless I’m making a classic pulled pork sandwich, I usually avoid vinegar-based sauces.

What makes this sauce special is the citrus. I originally used lemon juice for this recipe and it was good. Lime juice with lime zest was better. I also tried oranges, tangerines, even Meyer lemons. But my breakthrough happened on a day when I was craving barbecued chicken and all I had in my fridge was a grapefruit. I thought: how bad could it be? Turned out to be the perfect foil to the sweetness of the brown sugar and ketchup.

My favorite chicken pieces are the leg quarters: thigh and drumstick all in one. Chicken breasts, even on pastured birds, are pretty flavorless and dry, so I pass on them for the darker meat that’s juicy and fatty. (Honestly, I find it hard to trust anyone that won’t eat meat off a bone.)

Cooking chicken in the oven before putting it on the grill has several advantages. I don’t have to stand over the grill, constantly worrying about the meat burning or the fire going out. I can simply set a timer when I need to brush on the barbecue sauce or remove the chicken pieces. And the chicken cooks evenly…one piece won’t be burned while another piece is undercooked. Cooking them low and slow in the oven keeps the chicken juicy and tender. And I’m assured that my chicken is thoroughly cooked…no worries about salmonella.

I pre-heat the oven to 350 just to get it nice and hot. I line a sheet pan with non-stick aluminum foil, placing the chicken pieces on it. I rub each piece with a little olive oil, and season them lightly with Lawry’s Seasoned Salt. The chicken goes into the oven and I immediately lower the temperature to 200 degrees.

While the chicken is cooking, I combine all the barbecue sauce ingredients in a sauce pan, bring it to a boil, then reduce it to a simmer, letting it cook for about 20 minutes, until it has thickened. Then I turn the heat off and set the pan aside.

I’ll bake the chicken for about an hour, taking the sheet pan out of the oven to brush the barbecue sauce on the pieces before returning to the oven again, now bringing the temperature up to 300 degrees. (Because there’s sugar in the barbecue sauce, I don’t want to crank the heat or it will burn.)

Taking the chicken out of the oven and brushing it with sauce.

 

In 30 minutes, I take the sheet pan out a second time, and brush the sauce on the chicken pieces again…then back in the 300-degree oven for another 30 minutes.

Once the chicken’s back in the oven, it’s time to start the grill. For projects like this, I like to use a small grill I bought for our family camping trips. It’s like a mini-Weber, and it grills enough food for 4 people easily, without wasting charcoal like a larger grill would.

These small grills are just 20 bucks, and they save you a ton of otherwise wasted, unused charcoal.

 

I use a smaller charcoal chimney for this project, and I use charcoal briquets, not hardwood, because I want an even fire. The coals are ashed over in just 10 minutes.

Out of the oven and onto the fire! The grill grate was nasty and rusty, so I just grabbed a clean one I had handy and popped it right on top. (I hate scrubbing grills!)

 

Once the chicken has cooked its total of 2 low-and-slow hours in the oven, I bring the pieces outside. I spread the coals evenly on my little grill, and place the chicken pieces on it, flipping the pieces so that both sides get nice and smokey with a little bit of char…about 5 or 10 minutes per side will do the trick.

Getting that char on the chicken is key to making it taste like it’s been on the grill all the time.

 

The chicken goes back to the kitchen, and while it’s still hot, I brush with the barbecue sauce one last time before serving.

 

 

Perfectly done…perfectly delicious!

 

Here is the magical barbecue sauce recipe…

1 cup ketchup
1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar
Juice and zest of 1 grapefruit
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper sauce, like Frank’s Red Hot
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon granulated garlic
1 teaspoon granulated onion
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
(no salt)

Combine all the ingredients in a sauce pan. Bring it to a boil and then turn it down low, and let it simmer for about 20 minutes, or until slightly thickened.

 

 

The original recipe for this white bean soup used bits of bacon. But it just so happened that I was planning on slow-cooking a pork shoulder in my smoker today. When the smoked pork met the white bean soup, it was a match made in pig heaven!

 

2 medium onions, finely chopped
1 medium fennel bulb, finely chopped
1 smashed garlic clove
3 cans (15 1/2 oz.) cannellini beans, drained and rinsed, 1 1/2 cups reserved
40 oz. veal bone broth or chicken broth (homemade is best)
1/4 teaspoon bouquet garni
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
Bacon fat and/or olive oil
A slab of slow-cooked smoked pork shoulder, pulled and shredded

 

In a large heavy saucepan, sauté the onion, fennel, and garlic in bacon fat or olive oil until they are tender, about 8 minutes.

Drain and rinse the cannellini beans, reserving 1 1/2 cups for later. Pour the beans in the saucepan.

Add the veal (or chicken) broth, the bouquet garni, and the salt and pepper.

Simmer for 15 minutes, then turn the heat off and let it cool for 15 minutes.

Puree the soup in batches in a blender or food processor, until smooth.

Return the soup to the pot and add the reserved beans. Heat it for 10 minutes, and then taste it, adding more salt and pepper, if needed.

 

 

To serve, place a mound of the pork, cubed or pulled, in the center of a bowl. Pour the soup on top, and drizzle with a touch of extra virgin olive oil. Chopped scallions, or fresh chives, or parsley on top never hurt!

 

 

 

Calamari is the official appetizer of the state of Rhode Island. And for good reason. Squid means big business, and what we catch in Rhode Island accounts for up to 50% of the east coast’s quota every year! Squid have a lifespan of 12 to 18 months, reproduce twice a year, and can be caught year-round, with very few catch limitations, making it lucrative for fishermen.

Great fried calamari is an art form. It may seem like a simple dish, but to make it light and crispy, you need to be on your game. That’s why it can be a real hit-or-miss item on most restaurant menus. And there’s nothing worse than getting what would have been a great plate of calamari had the chef not decided to pour sauce all over it, turning the crispy cephalopod into mush.

What makes great fried calamari are three basic elements: it needs to be wild-caught in the US (preferably Rhode Island!)…properly cleaned…it needs to be fried at the right temperature for the right amount of time so that it’s perfectly cooked and not greasy…and the coating needs to be light and crispy.

 

calamari

 

1 lb. wild caught cleaned squid (thaw if frozen)
1 cup flour
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1  teaspoon paprika
1 teaspoon dried parsley
1/2 teaspoon granulated garlic
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1 cup milk
1 large egg
oil, for frying (I use avocado oil)

Thaw the squid and slice them into bite-sized pieces. In a bowl, whisk the milk and the egg together. Toss in all the squid pieces into the bowl to coat. Place the bowl in the fridge for at least 15 minutes.

In another bowl, combine the flour, oregano, paprika, parsley, garlic, salt and pepper. Set it aside.

Fill a large pan halfway with oil…or use a deep fryer if you have one. Heat the oil to 350 degrees.

Working in small batches, remove the squid from the milk and egg mixture, letting some of it drip off, then place the squid in the flour mixture and toss to coat. Shake off any excess flour and place it immediately into the hot oil. Fry the squid until it’s golden brown, about 4 minutes. Serve it immediately with tartare sauce, tomato sauce, hot peppers, whatever you like. (But keep the sauces on the side for dipping.)

About the oil: I cook almost exclusively with olive oil. But for hot frying like this recipe requires, I go with avocado oil, which can take higher temperatures.

THE CHALLENGE OF DIETING

Posted: January 19, 2020 in Uncategorized
Tags: , , ,
Like many people, I’ve done my best over the last few years to avoid the obvious: I need to lose some weight. Every time I get my yearly check-up at the doctor’s, he tells me: “You need to lose at least 20 pounds.” I nod my head, as if I’m going to give it a try, then head straight for Fellini’s pizza in Providence, for a couple of slices. The next year: same thing: “You need to lose at least 20 pounds.” I nod….
When I was young, I was rail thin and could eat anything I wanted without gaining a pound. When I got older, my metabolism slowed down, but my love of food did not–in fact, it probably increased, as I learned how to cook really well.

OMG…that was one skinny dude!

Now, here I am, writing a food blog. I travel for food. I plan six meals ahead at any given time.  I’ll be 62 in March of this year, and I have a 13-year-old daughter. Do the math, and you’ll realize, like I did, that I need to take care of myself to be around for as many of her upcoming life events as possible.
With a trip to Florida in March and a trip to the Caribbean in April, I have two deadlines set in place for reaching weight loss goals. As I put it to my daughter: “I want to lose enough weight so that women won’t vomit when I take my shirt off!” (She responded with the typical teenage eye-roll.)

My version of lox and bagels: home-cured wild-caught Alaskan salmon, whipped cream cheese (fewer calories), onions, capers, and toast pieces. Lots of tasty bites here. (A sliced, hard-boiled egg would only add 78 calories.)

There are a million diets out there, and everybody claims they have the secret to weight loss. But no matter what diet you’re on, what it really boils down to is the simple mathematical equation of calories in…versus calories out.
My buddy, Lee, a PhD in chemistry, and someone that dropped 50 pounds last year, told me about an article written by an engineer that lays out the basics. You can find it here:
As he states, losing weight is simply thermodynamics: you need to eat less calories than your body burns every day. If you do that, you will lose weight.

My stir-fry has chicken breast, broccoli, white rice (Uncle Ben’s), some onion, and my “Chinese Mix” of flavors: soy sauce, hoisin sauce, chili garlic sauce, and sesame oil. My trick to add flavor to the rice without calories is to add beef bouillon when I cook it. (I use Better Than Bouillon.)

There is a way to find out approximately how many calories a day your body uses to maintain its weight. It’s called the basal metabolic rate, or BMR. In my case, I need about 2500 calories per day to maintain my weight. So, like my friend Lee, I chose a diet where I eat no more than 1500 calories daily…a deficit of 1000 calories per day.
At the end of 7 days, I have eaten 7000 fewer calories than my body uses. Since about 3500 calories make 1 pound, I should be losing 2 pounds per week, according to this math.
Now, there are many variables to this, but basically this thought process holds true.
And the best part is: is doesn’t matter what I eat. If I want to eat bean sprouts, great. If I want Taco Bell, fine. As long as I don’t go over 1500 calories a day, it doesn’t matter what I put in my gut. This is really helpful for people like me, who get bored of eating the same old stuff day after day–a sure-fire way to give up on a diet. Carbs, fats, meat, dairy…all OK within reason.

Fish is an excellent source of protein, and I never ate enough of it. Now, I make a bowl of tuna poke pretty often, and it’s absolutely delicious!

My buddy, Lee, is a diabetic, and stays away from carbs. He eats lean meats, seafood, and vegetables. That’s how he lost his 50 pounds. His son, on the other hand, lost weight by eating mostly fast food, but still counting the calories and not eating more than 1500 of them per day. He also lost 50 pounds.
I’m not a big junk food person. I don’t buy cookies, cakes or chips. Ice cream (my kryptonite) is a rare treat, and rarely sits in my home freezer. I don’t put sugar in my coffee, and I don’t drink juices or soda. But my biggest weight-gain mistake was thinking I could use unlimited amounts of so-called “healthy fats” in my recipes. I was pouring olive oil over everything…spreading pork leaf lard everywhere…and buttering my butter! Now I measure everything, drastically reducing my fats, and I can’t believe how many calories I’m saving!

Sprays can be extremely helpful in keeping your calories low. Just be careful: they say “zero calories,” but that doesn’t mean you can spray a ton in your pan! Regulations allow them to say “zero” if a single serving is less than 1 calorie. That’s why a single serving here is a spray of about 1/5 of a second! (Seriously!)

Portion control is essential. I’ve found that I really don’t have to change many of my recipes in this livethelive blog, which is all the food I love. I just have to control my portion sizes. For example, a ribeye may be a delicious source of protein, but it’s also loaded with fat. (That’s why it tastes so good!) So now I only eat a small, 4-ounce serving at mealtime, not the 12-ounce slab I was eating before.
Having a deadline or a goal really helps. As I said, trips to Florida and the Caribbean, where I’ll be showing my gut to the world, is plenty of incentive. So I made a decision back before the holidays that I would start on January 2nd.
When I started my 1500-calorie-a-day diet, I was bloated from alcohol, salt, fat, and simply eating too much rich food. But once the diet really started rolling, I could step on the bathroom scale and see the bloat was diminishing, and rather quickly. At this point, it’s easy to deceive yourself in thinking that this is “real weight,” when it’s not. It’s just your body reaching its natural plateau. But that’s OK. When you see the weight go down, even by a tenth of a pound a day, it gives you the incentive to continue.
After about a week of bloat loss, the real diet and weight loss began.
The human body is full of constant change. So even once I started and steadily maintained my 1500-calorie-a-day diet, Lee told me not to expect to be dropping 2 pounds per week like clockwork. Some weeks, my body will retain more water, perhaps from eating too much salt. Some days, I’ll go to the bathroom more, some less. My bathroom scale itself may be off by a little, too. So what I see when I step on the scale needs to be taken with a grain of salt (pardon the pun.) On any given day, my weight can actually be plus or minus 2 pounds of what my scale shows.

Find a protein drink or bar you like. It can really help when the cravings get bad. But make sure you choose one that is low in sugar!

The secret of this diet (or any other diet for that matter) is persistence. Don’t give up because your scale hasn’t moved. Your body is going through changes–big changes. And if you maintain your diet, you will see results eventually…the keyword being: eventually. Over the course of a month or two, you will see significant results.
The secret for me is to find the food I like and then eat it in reasonable quantities. Variety is also really important, or I’ll get bored and give up. Other than avoiding too much salt, I have few dietary restrictions. So I’m able to eat whatever I want within my calorie guidelines.
So as you read this blog this year, you’ll see that many of my recipes haven’t changed, with the exception, perhaps, of fats used in cooking, because that’s one of the top calorie culprits. It doesn’t matter if you’re using butter, bacon fat, or healthy olive oil, all fats have a lot of calories, whether they’re healthy or not.
Another key to my diet’s success–and this is the one that everybody hates!–I write down every single morsel of food I eat every day, and then calculate how many calories that entails. Not everyone can be this anal, but I have no problem with it. Once I set my mind to it, it just comes naturally. I have a date book where I write my morning weight every day, and then everything I eat that day, with individual and total calorie counts. (Counting calories is easy, now that we all carry phones that let us simply Google that information.)
Using a simple digital kitchen scale (one that weighs ounces and grams) is KEY to making sure you’re not overeating. Buy one immediately!

Yes…I write it ALL down!

Fortunately for me, even alcohol can be included in this diet. That’s not to say that I’m boozing it up! I only allow myself alcoholic beverages on Friday and Saturday nights. At 100 calories for a 1.5 ounce shot of 80-proof booze, I can have 2 3-ounce martinis for a total of 400 calories. Of course, that still counts in my 1500-calorie-a-day plan. So that means I eat less…which can get me a little loopy on weekends! But as long as I’m not driving, that’s not a problem! Drinking alcohol gives me the munchies…so I have to be very careful with that.

Having a seat at great bars, like the world-famous Bar Hemingway at the Ritz in Paris, is a passion of mine. My diet still allows me to sip a fine cocktail without guilt! I choose drinks that are low in sugar.

Follow this diet and you, too, will succeed. It doesn’t matter if you need to be gluten-free or not. It doesn’t matter if you’re avoiding carbs or not. It doesn’t matter if you’re vegan, vegetarian, or a total carnivore. Keto, Atkins, whatever. What matters is counting your total calories per day…and sticking to the diet every day…no cheating. No business lunch excuses, breakfast buffets, and 48-oz. steaks.
A great tip is to start by eating everything you love, even if it’s not really good for you, just in smaller quantities. Don’t eat real junk food, but worry about total calories first, not whether what you’re eating is “health food.” (Like my buddy, Lee’s, son who still lost weight eating Taco Bell.) Your first goal should be to limit calories. Then, as you get comfortable and progress, start making better and healthier food choices. Anyone who starts a diet by chewing celery after a lifetime of steak and potatoes is going nowhere!
After I reach my goal weight, which is my wedding weight of 217 pounds (that’s a 21-pound drop), I can choose to continue my diet or go back to my daily intake of 2500 calories to maintain my new weight. (That’s still fewer calories than I was consuming every day before I started the diet, but after 1500 a day, it’ll feel like I’m cheating!)
What I’m learning with this diet, as I cook healthier, measuring how much fat I put in a pan before frying…cutting my huge steaks into smaller pieces and trimming off the fat…is that I never want to go back to my old way of eating again. I can still eat anything I love…just a little bit less.

I cut the middle out of my bagel and weigh it!

 

That right there, after cooking, is 90 calories. Nothing brings the flavor like bacon!

 

My breakfast sandwich: the bottom of an everything bagel, a strip of bacon, and a fried egg. 349 calories, including a tablespoon of butter! A sprinkle of everything bagel seasoning adds flavor and just a couple of calories.

 

WHAT I’VE FOUND….
Bad…
1 tablespoon of butter has 100 calories. I used to load my 400-calorie everything bagel with 300 calories of butter…and then I had breakfast! A tablespoon of whipped butter has only 50 calories, so I use that instead.
Same thing with mayonnaise. I love Hellman’s. But it’s got 90 calories per tablespoon. Enter Hellman’s Light: 35 calories and I can still indulge!
Cheese is not a dieter’s friend. It’s a calorie and salt nightmare. And light cheese tastes like crap. So I stick to small amounts of lower calorie cheeses, like feta (70 calories per ounce) or whipped cream cheese (40 calories per tablespoon), and save pizza for very rare occasions.
Good…
Boiled Shrimp is our friend at just 80 calories for 4 ounces, and lots of protein.
A hard-boiled egg, which I love, is just 78 calories…an excellent protein bomb that fills you up. (And don’t worry about the cholesterol unless you’re eating a dozen a day!)
You can still have bacon! My thick-cut bacon is 90 calories a slice after frying. Now I have one slice for breakfast instead of six! (Read the package.)
A diet saves you money! I can’t believe how much less food I buy at the supermarket! Sure, I’m buying more veggies, but a steak that used to be one meal is now three! As a nation, Americans eat way too much food, and what we eat is mostly unhealthy. A diet that focuses on veggies and lean proteins is good for any body. Michael Pollan’s quote is more valuable now than ever: “Eat food, not too much, mostly plants.”
A successful diet is all about being creative. I can’t have a BLT in the usual sense anymore, and that’s my all-time favorite sandwich. But I can have BLT lettuce wraps that drastically cut the calories and still satisfy my cravings.

My BLT. Limiting the bacon and mayo makes it diet-friendly.

 

Adding that strip of toasted bread really adds to the flavor and texture!

Of course, any exercise you do in addition to this diet is only a bonus. If you use a treadmill or stationary bike, it will tell you just how many calories you’ve burned. You can subtract that from your daily calorie count.
You WILL lose weight if you diet without exercise. You WILL lose weight FASTER if you diet AND exercise, assuming you don’t gorge after your workout. You will NEVER lose weight eating the same junk, thinking you can “work it off.”
As I write this blog, it is Day 17 of my diet and I’ve lost 9 pounds! But for the last couple of days, my scale has been holding steady, teasing me…taunting me!  I know I’ve got to keep doing the right thing…and that’s going to get me through those days until I step on that scale and see that downward movement again.
I can do it! So can you!

I started a serious diet a few days ago, with the goal of losing some significant pounds before I travel in April to one of my favorite islands in the world: St. John in the USVI. This will probably be my tenth trip, but the first since the island was devastated by Hurricane Irma a few years ago. It’s time to return and pump some money into the local economy!

One of the drinks I’m dreaming about is a Caribbean classic. When traveling to St. John, a must for my friends and me is an all-day catamaran sail to the British Virgin Islands, to the home of what I call the Greatest Beach Bar on Planet Earth: the Soggy Dollar Bar.

One of the tastiest rum drinks you can make, and one that certainly brings you back to the Caribbean, is the legendary Painkiller. It was invented on the tiny island of Jost Van Dyke in the British Virgin Islands, at the Soggy Dollar. Located on White Bay, a stretch of the whitest sand in the Caribbean, surrounded by beautiful turquoise waters, there is no dock. You have to anchor your boat offshore and swim…hence the name: the Soggy Dollar.

 

Pre-Irma: after the hurricane, the Soggy Dollar, too, has changed, I’m sure. But it will be good to be back!

 

Daphne Henderson was the owner of the Soggy Dollar years ago, and she is credited for inventing the Painkiller, which used Pusser’s rum, a British rum that is available here in the United States. Charles Tobias, a businessman that received permission from the British Royal Navy to commercialize Pusser’s rum in 1980, tasted the Painkiller and realized the potential of this amazing drink. He took some Painkillers home to the island of Tortola, where he experimented in recreating that drink, coming up with what he thought was something that was as good as—if not better than—the original. He called it the Pusser’s Painkiller.

Tobias never found out what Daphne Henderson’s original recipe was, but when he brought his own Pusser’s Painkillers back to the Soggy Dollar, and had a tasting battle between the two recipes, his recipe apparently won 10 out of 10 times. With 5 Pusser’s bar and restaurant locations, Tobias quickly made the Pusser’s Painkiller the signature drink of these now-famous establishments…and perhaps the most popular drink among the sailing community in the US, Caribbean and West Indies.

Woody’s in St. John makes a good Painkiller to go, but nothing beats the Soggy Dollar!

 

PUSSER’S PAINKILLER

4 parts pineapple juice
1 part cream of coconut
1 part orange juice
grated nutmeg
Pusser’s rum

Combine the first 3 ingredients, with lots of fresh grated nutmeg in a glass with ice. How much Pusser’s rum you use depends on how hammered you want to get! A Pusser’s #2 uses 2 parts rum…a Pusser’s #3 uses 3 parts rum…and a Pusser’s #4 uses 4 parts rum!

I’ve had several Pusser’s #4’s back in the day when there was a Pusser’s bar in Cruz Bay, St. John, many years ago. I’ve also sampled them in the BVI on Tortola.  But I still prefer going back to Jost Van Dyke and knocking back a few of the originals at the place where the Painkiller was born, The Soggy Dollar Bar.

SOGGY2

Thanks to my buddy, Dr. Chezwick for the photo, taken years ago. My daughter is now 13, and ready for a “mock” Painkiller! Dad wants the real deal!

 

This is a really delicious grilled steak full of wonderful Thai flavors. You do need to marinate it overnight, so keep that in mind. The overnight marinating is key to the intense and unbelievable flavor of the beef.

The original recipe called for skirt steak, but I didn’t have any in my freezer. I did have a fat ribeye, though, so once I thawed it, I sliced it lengthwise to get two large, thin steaks which would easily suck up the marinade I was going to make. And the ribeye was nicely marbled, so it stayed juicy and tender.

 

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1/4 cup toasted sesame oil
1/4 cup soy sauce
2 tablespoons grated ginger
2 tablespoons finely chopped garlic
2 tablespoons finely chopped cilantro
2 tablespoons chopped dry roasted unsalted peanuts
2 scallions, minced
1 tablespoon light brown sugar
1 tablespoon fresh squeezed lime juice
1 tablespoon chile oil
2 lbs. beef ribeye (or skirt steak or beef flap)
1/4 cup chicken stock (homemade is best)

In a bowl, whisk together the sesame oil, soy sauce, ginger, garlic, cilantro, peanuts, scallions, sugar, lime juice and chile oil. Transfer half of it to a shallow dish.

Add the steak to the dish and turn the meat to coat it well. Cover and refrigerate the beef overnight. Refrigerate the other half of the marinade in a separate container.

The next day, light a grill. While it’s warming up, get out a sauce pan and pour the chicken stock in along with the reserved marinade. I like to heat it to combine it well, but not letting it reach a boil. Remove it from the heat and let it come to room temperature. This will be the dipping sauce for the beef.

Take the marinated steak out of the fridge and let it come to room temperature. Season it with salt and pepper, and grill it over high heat until it’s medium-rare, about 5 minutes.

If it’s too cold to light a grill, or if you just want to use the oven, heat a cast iron pan on the stovetop, add a few drops of avocado oil or pork fat, and sear the beef on both sides before placing it in a pre-heated 375-degree oven to finish cooking.

Devour the beef with the dipping sauce!

 

Recently, I received a wonderful surprise delivery of fresh venison and bear meat from my buddy, Bruce, a hunter.
Bruce was fortunate enough to get two deer this year, and was nice enough to share some of that meat with me. I save the tenderloins to cook very simply: I slice them into medallions and dust them with a little bit of flour before sautéing them in a pan with butter, onions, and mushrooms. Those medallions, along with some farm fresh fried eggs, are truly the breakfast of champions! I learned all about that from my father-in-law, born and raised in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, a hunter from a very young age out of necessity: he was 1 of 17 children! Hunting with his father was simply the only way they could feed his large, poor family.
I also make jerky with the venison backstrap, which I think is superior to beef jerky. Wonderful flavor. I bring bags of it to work and it’s quickly devoured by my co-workers.

Bear meat is very dark, almost like liver.

I’ve only had bear meat once before, and again, that came from my father-in-law, who made summer sausage out of it. It was pretty tasty, but somewhat gamy…nothing a swipe of mustard couldn’t fix!
So when Bruce brought me some ground bear meat, I wasn’t sure what to do with it. He suggested that it’s best used in a recipe where you add seasonings to it…we’re talking meatballs, tacos, etc….or a chili or stew, where you cook it low and slow. Either  way, the meat needs to be cooked thoroughly, as it’s common to find a parasite in bear that can cause trichinosis. The general rule is “season it like beef, cook it like pork.”
I did some research and found that bears are omnivores, so the meat tends to taste like whatever they ate last. If that happens to be salmon, the meat can have a fishy, unpleasant taste. If he last ate berries, it could be really good. Bear fat can ruin the taste of the meat, so it tends to be butchered very lean, which also makes it somewhat dry and flavorless.
I figured the tacos were the way to go, since I use a lot of seasonings. Here’s my basic taco seasoning recipe…
1 teaspoon granulated garlic
1 teaspoon onion powder
1/4 teaspoon crushed pepper flakes
1 teaspoon dried Mexican oregano
1 teaspoon paprika
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 Spanish onion, finely chopped
olive oil

Sauteing it well!

 

I start with some olive oil or bacon fat in a pan, and saute onions until they’re translucent. Then I add the bear meat, and cook it well, adding the seasonings at the end.

I topped the seasoned bear meat with cheese, beans, and a tomato and onion salsa. I also drizzled a little bit of Thousand Island dressing on the top. (Personal preference) I used flour tortillas and the tacos were actually pretty tasty!
These days, when black bear populations get out of control in some areas of the northeast, hunters are allowed to step in and reduce the population. But back in the early 1900’s, bear meat was commonly hunted and cooked. We can thank Teddy Roosevelt for saving the bear when, ironically on a bear hunt, he refused to shoot a bear that was tied to a willow tree. A toy company marketed a stuffed bear to commemorate the incident, and the teddy bear was born. After that, bears had a cuddly image (think Smokey and Yogi), that kept people from eating it.