Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

THE DIET RETURNS!

Posted: November 1, 2021 in Uncategorized
Tags: , , ,
“You’ll never out-exercise a bad diet.”
That’s not my quote…but it’s absolutely true.
For me, the start of a new year usually means the start of a diet. But I plan on traveling in mid-January, and I want to lose some weight before then…so I have to back-time it to…right about now.
Granted, the holidays are coming, and I will allow myself an occasional cheat day. But I’m not going to “devour everything in sight,” as is the usual case over the holidays, so I think I’ll do just fine.
I’m going to adhere to the same diet I’ve successfully used before, where I lost a total of 25 pounds. I’ve gained about 5 of those back now, so my goal is to drop that 5 and more, if I can.
Giving myself 10 weeks before my trip means I could, in a perfect world, lose up to 20 pounds. (I’ve found that I really don’t gain more than 2 pounds a week when I’m bad…and I don’t lose more than 2 pounds a week when I’m on this diet.) So 10 weeks x 2 lbs/wk = 20 pounds. We’ll see!

I started last year at 238. I got down to 213! But the key was to write everything down: my weight, and exactly what I ate. It takes determination, but it works.

 

After seeing my blog posts featuring ribs, pastas with cheese, huge roasts, and cheesecake, I had several friends ask me how I didn’t weigh 500 pounds! My answer was simple: I cook everything. I just don’t eat everything. That’s what this diet is all about. I might cook a large portion, but I eat a small amount of it, portion out the rest of it, and put it in my freezer for another day. I also share it with family and friends, who are more than happy to oblige!
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 64 in March, and I have a 14-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.

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 70 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 a couple of years ago, 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. Those diet pills that claim to burn your body fat, allowing you to lose 17 lbs. in a week, are about as believable as that con man, Dr. Oz, himself. You didn’t gain the weight overnight. So anyone that tells you you can lose it overnight is full of it.

My stir-fry has chicken breast, broccoli, white rice, some onion, and my “Asian 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 homemade chicken broth instead of water when cooking.

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–even alcohol…all OK within those calorie limitations.

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. I don’t put sugar in my coffee, and I don’t drink juices or soda. And I don’t like beer! 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 (or larger!) slab I was eating before.
Last year, 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 (or more) 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 weigh and 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! If you think you can simply eyeball measurements, you’ll find that you are WAY OFF!

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 (without olives.) Of course, that still counts in my 1500-calorie-a-day plan. So that means I have to 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 also 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.
And no “rewarding” yourself with treats because “you did good” for a couple of days. Those things need to happen every few weeks, not every few days.
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. Get a feel for it. Then, as you get comfortable and progress, start making better and healthier food choices. Let’s be honest: anyone who starts a diet by chewing celery after a lifetime of steak and potatoes is going nowhere!
After I reached my goal weight last year, I went 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 felt like I was cheating!)
What I learned with this diet, as I cooked healthier, measuring how much fat I put in a pan before frying…cutting my huge steaks into smaller pieces and trimming off the fat…was that I never want to go back to my old way of eating again. I can still eat anything I love…just less of it.

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 and pasta dishes for very rare occasions.
Good…
Boiled Shrimp is our friend at just 80 calories for 4 ounces, and lots of protein. Shrimp cocktail makes you feel like you’re splurging, but it’s low in calories if you go easy on the cocktail sauce.
Lobster, too: super-low calorie. Just go easy on the butter!
Raw oysters: packed with protein and a ridiculously low 10 calories, on average, per oyster. Eat all you want, but go easy on the cocktail sauce.
A hard-boiled egg, which I love, is just 70 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, the digital readout will accurately tell you just how many calories you’ve burned. You can subtract that from your daily calorie count. But, that being said, one of the biggest diet mistakes people make is to over-estimate how many calories they’ve burned during exercise.  If you’re guessing…you’re WRONG! Guaranteed, you burned FAR LESS than you think you did!
I know the health clubs may not want me to say this, but you DON’T have to exercise to lose weight. Reducing your caloric intake alone–if you reduce it enough and for long enough–WILL make you lose weight. Exercise alone WILL NOT.
Here are my calorie charts from last year. You may not like all the foods I’ve got listed here, but I think it’s a good start. As I mentioned earlier, you can pretty much Google the calorie count of any food. That’s basically what I did….and I read a lot of labels!
One last tip: There will be times where the bathroom scale will be teasing you, taunting you: where your weight won’t budge for several days at a time. Don’t let this get to you! Your body is still changing for the better! This is where you need to be strong! Keep doing the right thing, and you will see that at the end of a couple of months, when you chart your progress, you really did lose almost 2 pounds a week.
I did it last year! I’m gonna do it again! So can you!

I know a lot of folks aren’t as crazy about herring as I am. But I was raised in a Lithuanian home, and it was everywhere. Over the years, I learned to love it. Growing up on Long Island, outside of New York City, there were dozens of great Jewish delis that served herring in white cream sauce, one of my favorite ways to enjoy it. Whenever I had the chance to go back home, I’d always make a stop and buy some to snack on.

But when I can’t get home, and the craving hits me, I go to my herring hack.

 

 

I buy a jar of Blue Hill Bay herring in wine sauce, available at Whole Foods. Blue Hill Bay is distributed by what I consider the best salmon/herring/smoked fish company in the country: Brooklyn’s own Acme Smoked Fish.

I grab a couple of sweet onions, like Vidalias, and I peel them and slice them as thinly as possible.

I take a quart-sized container with a lid, and I line the bottom with some of the onions. I then pour some of the contents of the jar of herring into the container. I then take a couple of spoonfuls of sour cream (gotta be Breakstone’s–I’m a New Yorker) and place it on top. Then I keep working in layers: onions, herring, sour cream…until it’s all gone and jammed into the container.

I place the lid on the container and shake it vigorously to combine the ingredients. Then I place it upside-down in a dish (in case of spills) and put it in the fridge.

 

A few hours later, I’ll turn the container right side-up and let it sit in the fridge some more.

The wine sauce will blend with the sour cream to make a delicious cream sauce, and the onions will slowly break down and soften.

After a few hours–if I can wait that long–it’s time to eat! A slab of bread is always good on the side.

 

 

I have to say my herring hack is good. Not New York Jewish deli good. But enough to satisfy my craving until I can return.

I’ve got to post this before October ends, since it’s #NationalPorkMonth! Time to get piggish!

Few slabs of meat are as amazing as a pork butt or shoulder, rubbed with a special dry rub, then slow-smoked for 8 hours (or more), pulled and slathered with amazing barbecue sauce. It takes time, but it’s not really that hard to do.

My electric smoker allows me to set the time and temp and walk away.

Here’s how I do it…

First, I get a hunka pork. The kind of pig I get matters to me, so I buy a heritage breed, like Berkshire (also known as Kurobuta), from a farm that raises them humanely. I’m willing to pay the extra bucks.

But going to a supermarket or butcher shop for pork is what most people do. The names of the cuts of meat can be a bit confusing. Despite its name, pork butt is not from the back-end of the pig.  (The term “butt” referred to the barrel the meat was stored in when the only method of preservation was salting the meat and storing it in barrels.)

The pork butt is actually the shoulder of the pig. The pork shoulder picnic is a lower cut of the same area. These cuts can also go by the names: Boston shoulder roast, Boston butt, Boston roast, shoulder butt, pork shoulder picnic, and shoulder-blade roast. Whatever the name, these are all nicely marbled hunks of meat that usually weigh in anywhere from 6 to 8 lbs, are easy to find, and are rather inexpensive. Barbecue fanatics claim the bone-in pork butt is more flavorful, but boneless is all you can find, that’ll work, too.

Once I’ve got my slab of pork, I remove the skin if it has any. I want my pork rub to make contact directly with the meat, so I always remove the tough skin. No skin? No problem. But leave the fat on!

Now I need to season it. I’ve found that a simple rub is the best way to go for the sauce I’m going to use later.

After 8 hours in the smoker, the rub makes a crust on the meat that is just fantastic!

BASIC DRY RUB

1/4 cup kosher salt
1/4 cup black pepper (freshly ground is best)
1/4 cup paprika
1/4 cup brown sugar
2 tablespoons granulated garlic
2 tablespoons granulated onion

Place all the ingredients in a jar with a lid and shake it up to blend.

Once I’ve made the rub, I generously sprinkle it all over the pork, and rub it in really well. Ideally, I let the pork shoulder sit in the fridge for 24 hours before smoking, bringing it out an hour beforehand to have it come up to room temperature.

I have a digital smoker at home, which allows me to set the temperature to cook and smoke my pork butt. I place the pork butt on a rack, put a drip pan with water underneath it to catch the grease, and set the smoker for 250 degrees. I cook the pork at 250 for 8 to 10 hours, depending on the size of the meat, adding hickory chips to the smoker every few hours. The marbled fat in the pork butt slowly melts over time and the pork becomes incredibly tender and flavorful.

I remove the pork butt from the smoker and let it rest, covered with aluminum foil, for at least 20 minutes before pulling it apart with a couple of forks, or chopping it up with a cleaver.

While the pork is cooking and smoking, there’s plenty of time to make two other very important parts of this recipe: a vinegar-based barbecue sauce, and the cole slaw.

Slaw on the side or on the sandwich…up to you!

BARBECUE SAUCE

2 cups ketchup
3/4 cup water
6 tablespoons cider vinegar
6 tablespoons white vinegar
6 tablespoons brown sugar
3 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
1 tablespoon chili powder
2 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons black pepper
2 teaspoons cumin

Mix all the ingredients in a saucepan and simmer until the flavors have blended, about 20 minutes. Remove from the heat and cool it to room temp. If you store it in an airtight container in the fridge, it’ll stay good for several weeks.

COLE SLAW

My unusual cole slaw recipe uses an interesting ingredient: pickle juice! Just a splash of juice from your favorite jar of pickles is all you need.

1 package of cole slaw veggies
splash of pickle juice
1/4 cup mayonnaise (more to taste)
teaspoon celery seed (not salt)
salt and pepper

There are no real specific measurements for cole slaw, because I’ve found that some people like it dry, others wet…some peppery, some not. Play around with it and make it your own. I prefer a more mayonnaise-y cole slaw, and usually err on the wet side.

In a bowl, combine all the ingredients. Cover it with plastic wrap and chill. When ready to use, re-mix it, and taste for seasoning before using. Letting it sit overnight before serving is best.

OK…time to make that sandwich!

You can either go Carolina style and place the cole slaw right on top of the pulled pork in the bun, or simply serve the slaw on the side. No rules!

Whether you go through all these steps yourself or not, it’s nice to appreciate a labor of love that is worth every bit of time and trouble invested in it.

Sometimes the happiest of cooking accidents happen with bacon. My original plan was to make Chinese-style honey ribs for dinner. But instead of pulling a nice rack of ribs out of the freezer, I accidentally took out a slab of pork belly. I only realized my mistake after I thawed it, so I decided to use it! The results were pretty damn tasty.

 

image

Marinade:
¾ cup light soy sauce
6 Tablespoons hoisin sauce
5 lbs. pork belly
Zest and juice of 1 lemon
2 whole star anise
2 cinnamon sticks (3”)
1/2 cup honey
4 cups chicken broth (preferably homemade)
image
Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees.
Mix the marinade ingredients. Set them aside.
Cut the pork belly into pieces that are about 2 inches square. Place them in a large pot. Cover them with water and bring the pot to a boil. Boil for 5 minutes. Drain the water.
Place the pork belly pieces on a sheet pan lined with non-stick aluminum foil. Coat them with the marinade. Let them sit for 10 minutes.
Bake the pork belly pieces on the sheet pan in the oven for 30 minutes.
While the pork belly is baking, start the sauce in a large non-stick pan or pot: combine the lemon zest and juice, star anise, cinnamon sticks, honey and chicken broth. Bring it to a boil, then reduce it to a simmer.
When the pork belly pieces have finished baking, add them to the sauce pot and simmer (covered) for about 15 minutes or until meat is tender.
Turn the heat on high, uncover the pot and cook until the sauce has reduced to a glaze that coats the ribs. Reduce the heat as the sauce thickens to avoid the sugars in the honey from burning. When the pieces are sticky and gooey, they are ready!
Devour them just like that, or…
Let a piece of pork belly cool, then slice it to your desired thickness and fry it like regular bacon. It’s great with an omelet!
image

PASTA WITH WHITE CLAM SAUCE

Posted: October 12, 2021 in Uncategorized

This is a recipe that I’ve made for many years. It’s incredibly easy and doesn’t require opening any clams…just opening cans!

 

 

Since clams are super low in calories, I like to overindulge in them!

Extra virgin olive oil
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 tablespoon fresh parsley, finely chopped
1 teaspoon fresh basil, finely chopped
2 cans minced clams
1/4 cup dry white wine (I like an unoaked chardonnay)
4 oz. dry pasta (I use bucatini)

 

Cooking the clams doesn’t take much time at all, so get your salted water boiling and start cooking the pasta.

 

My garlic mincer. Just roll it back and forth over the cloves.

 

In a pan, add the olive oil and garlic. Cook the garlic under medium heat until it just starts to brown. You don’t want to burn it.

 

When chopping the herbs, I rolled up tightly together and then mince.

 

 

Pour the clam juice from both cans (save the meats for later) into the pan, and stir. Add the parsley and basil.

 

If you leave a small part of the can lid attached, it’s easier to pour the clam juice out without spilling the clam meats.

 

Let it cook for a minute, then add the wine, stirring again.

Now add the clams meats from both cans, and cook under medium heat. You don’t want to overcook the clams, because they’ll get rubbery!

 

 

Once the pasta is al dente, place it in the pan with the clams and toss it all together.

 

 

Serve in a bowl with bread on the side to soak up all that clam sauce!

 

RATATOUILLE MY WAY

Posted: October 6, 2021 in Food, Recipes, Uncategorized
Tags: , , ,

The classic French Ratatouille uses eggplant, peppers, wine and herbs. Mine does not. So maybe it’s not ratatouille but a distant cousin. The taste, however, is awesome, and I like to use it in many ways.

 

Veal and pork meatballs with my ratatouille, smothered in mozzarella cheese and baked!

4 strips bacon, chopped
1 large onion, chopped
2 medium green zucchini, diced
1 cup chicken broth (homemade is best)
1 (28 oz.) can diced tomatoes
salt, pepper to taste
granulated garlic, to taste
olive oil

 

Using a large pan, heat a little olive oil and toss in the bacon. Cook it until crisp, then add the onions. (Don’t remove the bacon fat!)

Sauté the onions until translucent and then add the zucchini. Season with salt, pepper, and granulated garlic.

Once the zucchini has softened just a bit, add the broth and the diced tomatoes, mixing well.

Cook over medium heat until most of the liquid has evaporated and you have a nice, thick ratatouille.

Serve it as a side dish, or, as above, as part of a main dish.

 

It goes great with a pan-seared steak!

 

 

 

This is a simple salad you want to make now, while corn and tomatoes are still in season, but I’ve found that frozen organic corn and greenhouse tomatoes work pretty darn well.

2 lbs. fresh or frozen organic corn
1 container grape tomatoes, chopped
1 small red onion, finely chopped
6 oz. mild crumbled cheese, like cotija or feta
1 package (5 oz.) organic baby arugula
1 teaspoon Fleur de Sel
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 tablespoon capers, drained
2 teaspoons white balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

If you’re using fresh corn, remove it from the ears, then pan sauté it  in a little olive oil, but leave it nice and crisp. If you can roast the ears of corn over some coals, even better. If you’re using frozen corn, pan sauté in a little olive oil. Set the corn aside to cool.

Mix the corn with all the other ingredients in a bowl. Cover and refrigerate.

Right before serving, taste and season it again, mixing well. I think it’s best a little cooler than room temperature.

I’ve been experimenting with my coffee rub, one that combines coffee with cocoa powder, brown sugar, salt, garlic and onion. I’ve tried it on various cuts of beef, on chicken, and pork…and it works well on everything!

 

A Berkshire pork belly, cured for several weeks, then rinsed.

 

I took some of the rub and cured a beautiful Berkshire pork belly with it, to make bacon. I simply scored the fat side of the belly, then massaged both sides of the belly with the rub, and placed it in a container in the fridge for several weeks. I flipped it over every few days to allow both sides of the belly to come in contact with the liquid that formed when the salt in the rub extracted moisture from the meat. After several weeks, I removed the belly from the container and rinsed it well with clean water, drying it with paper towels. I then re-rubbed the pork belly with more of the coffee rub and placed it in the smoker for 2 hours at 250 degrees, smoking it with hickory, my favorite wood for bacon.

 

The pork belly, re-rubbed and ready to smoke.

 

It just so happened that on the weekend I was smoking the belly, I decided to smoke a couple of racks of pork ribs for myself. These also came from a beautiful heritage Berkshire pig, and I coated them with the coffee rub, allowing them to rest in the fridge for 24 hours putting them in the smoker.

 

The Berkshire pork ribs, rubbed and ready to smoke. I cut the racks in half for easier handling.

 

Since the ribs and belly were in the smoker at the same time, the ribs first smoked at 250 degrees with hickory along with the bacon, for about 2 hours. Once I removed the bacon, I dropped the temperature of the smoker to 225, and smoked the ribs for 2 more hours. I then removed the ribs, sprinkled them with a little more coffee rub, and wrapped them in aluminum foil, before returning them to the smoker for another hour.

 

The ribs, and the bacon, were absolute perfection!

 

The ribs, smoked for several hours.

 

Re-sprinkling a little coffee rub on the ribs.

 

Wrapping the half-racks in foil. Some go back to the smoker, some head for the freezer to be enjoyed later.

 

Since I had 2 full racks of ribs, more than enough for several meals, I cut each rack in half before smoking for easier handling. Once I wrapped them in foil, I let a couple of them cool on the counter before placing them in a freezer bag and putting them in the freezer for future use. Already smoked and cured, all I’ll need to do is take a foil package out of the freezer, and place it in a 250-degree oven for a couple of hours to warm the ribs up and make them fall-off-the-bone tender.

 

The ribs, after another hour in the foil.

 

Here’s my coffee rub recipe. Make a lot of it and use it on everything from burgers to whole chickens to pulled pork sandwiches.

3 tablespoons brown sugar
1 tablespoon Kosher salt (I use Diamond Crystal)
1 tablespoon ground coffee (use your favorite)
1 teaspoon granulated garlic
1 teaspoon granulated onion
1 teaspoon unsweetened cocoa powder

 

Rib perfection!

 

I marinated and roasted both, lamb and chicken, with this marinade, and both worked great. So if you’re not as big a fan of lamb as I am, no worries.

 

The key to the success of this dish is to make sure you give the meat a lot of time to suck up the marinade, and to season the meat well.

1/4 cup Dijon mustard
The zest and juice of a lemon
2 tablespoons maple syrup
1 teaspoon garlic salt
1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
Fresh thyme and rosemary, chopped fine

Combine all the ingredients in a bowl and mix well.

 

Place the lamb and/or chicken in a Ziploc bag and pour in the marinade, squishing it around so that it really covers the meat. Marinate the meat for at least 3 hours, but overnight in the fridge is best. Make sure to squish the bag around every few hours to make sure all parts get the marinade.

The next day, pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees.

 

 

Place the marinated meats on a sheet pan with non-stick foil. Season the meat with salt and pepper.

Pour whatever marinade is left in the bag into a bowl and use it to baste the meats as they cook. (Don’t use any of the marinade without cooking it–it has touched raw meat!) Bake until medium for the lamb, or all the way through for the chicken. At the end of cooking, toss the meat under the broiler for a few minutes to get a nice char.

 

 

Grilling is certainly an option for this dish. Lamb can be cooked directly on the grill, all the way through. Chicken will require to be pre-cooked in an oven or cooked over medium heat on the grill to make sure it’s cooked all the way through before that final char.

Cooler weather always gets us craving for comfort foods, and this is one we discovered on a trip to Spain in 2014. Croquettes are the Spanish equivalent of chicken nuggets: they’re found on every kids’ menu…and my daughter ordered them just about everywhere we went! So it’s no surprise that I “got the order” to make a batch of croquettes once we got home…and I’ve been making them ever since.

You can make these days ahead of time and then freeze them, re-heating them whenever you have guests. These are way better than your average snacks when that football game is on!

 

image

 

I found a great recipe for croquettes in Saveur magazine, and decided to try it out. I was a bit clumsy at making them at first–they do need a bit of finesse–but by the end of the batch, I got the hang of it. And to make them gluten-free, I simply substituted GF flour and breadcrumbs for the all-purpose flour and Panko. (The best tasting GF breadcrumbs are the ones you make yourself. Buy a loaf of frozen gluten-free bread, like Udi’s, and toast it in your toaster oven. Crumble the slices into a food processor, processing them until the breadcrumbs are the size you like.)

 

image

 

2 lbs. raw potatoes, peeled and cut into 1″ cubes
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 onion, minced
1/4 to 1/2 cup heavy cream
6 oz. cheddar cheese, grated
6 oz. ham, finely chopped
salt and pepper
1 cup all-purpose flour (or gluten-free flour like Cup4Cup)
2 eggs
2 cups Panko breadcrumbs (or gluten-free breadcrumbs)
avocado oil for frying

 

image

 

Peel the potatoes, cutting them into 1″ cubes. Boil them in salted water until tender. Drain them and set them aside.

Melt the butter in the same pot the potatoes were in, then add the onions and sauté them until they’re translucent. Put the potatoes back in the pot and add 1/4 cup of the heavy cream. Mash the potatoes with a potato masher until smooth. Add more cream, if needed, but be careful not to make it mushy.

Add the cheese and mix until it has melted in. Add the ham and mix again. Season with salt and pepper.

Pour the contents of the pot into a metal bowl and place it in the freezer to cool, stirring every 10 minutes until the mashed potato mix is cold, but not frozen.

Line up three bowls: all-purpose flour (or GF flour) in the first bowl, eggs (scrambled) in the second bowl, Panko (or GF breadcrumbs) in the third.

Remove the mashed potato mix from the freezer, and with floured hands, grab enough to gently roll a small meatball in your hands. (I’ve found that starting with a round shape makes it easier to work with.)

Roll the ball in the flour, then the egg, then drop in the Panko and roll again. With the ball in your hand, gently squeeze into a tubular (or small football) shape, and then place it on a sheet pan lined with non-stick aluminum foil. Continue with the rest of the potato mixture. (You may need to add another scrambled egg or two if you run out.)

Once you’ve rolled all the croquettes, place the sheet pan in the freezer for 20 minutes to firm up.

Heat a pan with 2″ of oil to 350 degrees. Remove the croquettes from the freezer, and working in small batches, fry them until golden brown. Place them on paper towels, and quickly season lightly with salt while hot.

 

image

 

 

The croquettes freeze really well, so this batch goes a long way. Once they’ve been fried, let them cool completely to room temp. Place them in freezer bags and store them in the freezer. When it’s time to cook them, let them thaw for about 15 minutes, then place them in a pre-heated 325 degree oven and cook for 15 minutes.