Thursday, December 27, 2012

Christmas in Times Square

Okay. I had to speak up. Many of you have probably have seen this pic.
Some folks paid a ton of money to buy this spot to convey their message to the masses. Hey, it's a free country and I can roll with that. But when I look at the orphanages, hospitals, soup kitchens, and worship spaces endowed with pure beauty created by the so-called 'myth-makers'?

Hell, where to I sign up?

And here's why: Cuz it's only in those wild and joyful orphanages, hospitals, soup kitchens and churches that I will truly experience the 'merry'.

I love serving a good meal to everyone. Especially if they may not find one anywhere else.

Who's with me?

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Why Evil?

Man, just after I post something on Facebook asking if the darkness can get any darker, some guy forces himself into an elementary school with some semi-automatics and wreaks mind-numbing havoc.

Some pundits will chalk it up to more gun control and some will assign it to mental illness. But hey…maybe we should own up to the fact that evil exists in our world. And some people are just, well, evil. No excuses and no government action will change that fact.

A friend posted a quote from Mr. Rogers. You know him. The guy from the Neighborhood. Went something like this: "As a child whenever I saw something horrific on TV my mom would say, 'Yes, but look at all the helpers."
That, folks, is pretty deep. Sure, we had an evil young man gun down innocent kids and adults.

But look at all the helpers.

Teachers who shielded kids. Dozens, of cops swooping into harms way (hell, they didn't know what to expect). State troopers screaming in. Helicopters hovering. The FBI. Priests, ministers, rabbis stepping up. Neighbor embracing neighbor….

One evil man dented the goodness of our world. And hundreds…no thousands of people responded with their own goodness. One evil man. Thousands of helpers...

To anyone who asks "Why is their evil in the world?" I have to ask "Why is there so much more goodness?"

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

What's Better Than Cheap? How Bout Free.


I'd always determined not to sell my crap on my blog.

But this is different. It's FREE.

That's right. Free. This Wednesday and Thursday Amazon will be giving away free copies of my romantic-comedy-adventure novel Dive and Fly to anyone who owns a Kindle.

Don't have a Kindle, you say? Not to worry, you can use the Kindle Cloud to download it to your Mac, PC and other devices (It's what I do since I don't own a Kindle yet.)

So there you have it. If you are looking for a great beach read and you don't want to spend any cash, this would be a great opportunity for both of us.

Why? Because the book will hopefully bring a smile and more than a few laughs to you...and if you like might feel moved to write a review on Amazon or post about it on your blog, Facebook page, twitter, etc.

And if you don't like it? can always rip the pages out and use them to wrap fish or house train that new puppy.

But don't take it from's one review (and no...we are not related):

"Looking for Summertime reading? Dive and Fly is it! From the moment I read the opening paragraph I was totally hooked - the characters are a blast, the story line never slows down and its just so well written that if feels easy to read. Taking place in Florida adds to the summertime-read feeling of this great fiction. Grab this book. It belongs in your beach bag - you will love it!"

So check it out this Wednesday and Thursday here: Amazon.

On Friday I will be back and dishing out my regular servings of blog buffoonery.

Thanks for indulging. See you on Friday!


Saturday, June 16, 2012

If Absence Makes the Heart Grow Fonder...

...Then ya'll should be head over heels with me by now!

I know, I know. I made a promise to post weekly.

And lately I haven't.

But in the immortal words of Curly Howard (of Three Stooges fame): "I'm a victim of coicumstance."

See...I have been writing. A lot. Just not here.

Lemme explain.

I've had a novel in the works. A romantic-comedy-adventure. It's called Dive and Fly. But it sorta sat around. Then my cookbook started to do really well. So the publisher asked me to get the novel together for editing. I did. It's what I've been doing for the past few months. Tweaking. Re-writing. Deleting. And rewriting some more. Now it's out...

I know. A lame excuse for shrugging off my blog. But I think it was worth it.

Intrigued? I hope so. Dive and Fly is available on Kindle for free if you are a Prime Member. (Otherwise it is $2.99). The paperback has been discounted to $9.37 on both Amazon Here and Barnes & Noble Here. Hopefully you will add it to your summer reading list.

Heck. What am I saying? Why don't you be the judge? Here's the synopsis:

"Imagine…You were born with a rare condition. Synesthesia. You taste color. You feel sound. Now imagine how that would impact your job. Your love life. Your future.

Billy Shakes is a successful writer whose synesthesia helped him create six killer novels. But he has hit a slump so his agent urges him to get out and take his ‘disease’ on the road. Take some risks. Get those creative juices flowing again. He does.

Billy meets Maureen at a Florida film festival, and to Billy her shimmering bronze skin tastes of crème brûlée. But the barely married Maureen tastes adventure. Since they share a love for movies, Billy suggests a weekend trip to the Chicago Film Festival. Thus begins a kaleidoscope of events involving Maureen’s brutish husband, a feisty best friend, a deadbeat fiancé, two inept hit men, an alcohol-infused Scientist, a riot grrrl with a penchant for large automatic weapons…Oh, and Eden, an old friend with her own mysterious condition who longs to take a few risks herself.

Through a series of missteps, close calls and mistaken identities, this dysfunctional group ricochets off one another as they storm into Chicago. After causing a near riot at the Art Institute, Billy and Eden find themselves poised on the edge of the roof. As a dozen security guards rush toward them with guns ablaze, Billy and Eden are forced to take one last risk - with wondrous and surprising results."

But hey...I don't blog to sell my crap. So if you'd like a good beach read and you don't have a lot of spare change, I have a few advanced reader's copies on hand. I'd love to send you one for free. And if you like it? Spread the word or write a review. Post your e-mail address here or e-mail me at and I will send 'em them as long as I have 'em.

But either way...more blog buffoonery is coming. Thanks for being patient!

Friday, May 18, 2012

Pass the Salt. No, Really.

I've been in a state of transition over the past few weeks what with moving back to the beach and all. And with the upheaval, I'm finding that I have to eat out more than I like too (for those who are new…I'm not a big fan of dining out. See blog post But it's not always the wait staff that frustrates me. It's the incredible amount of salt that many restaurants hide in their dishes.

Somewhere, somehow, in our drive to eat healthier: low fat, low carb, slow food, etc. we've seemed to have lost our way regarding salt. It appears that restaurants are placating our desire to eat low fat/low carb foods with items that deliver.

But with a price.

And that price is sodium.

That's why I title this post "Pass the Salt". Because that's what I want you to do. Pass it. Right by me. I won't be needing to add any to many of the offerings I find in my local restaurants.

Let me explain.

Subway has ensconced itself in our psyche as being one of the places to pick up a quick and healthy meal. And to a good extent they've succeeded with several sandwiches and wraps. Now they offer breakfast. And since we're convinced through spokespeople like Jared and Apolo that their offerings are wholesome, why not skip Mickey D's and head over to Subway for their appetite-satisfying Foot Long Mega Omelet Sandwich. Sounds good, eh? But wait…

This particular b'fast sandwich packs 1,430 calories, 90 grams of fat, and 3,530 milligrams of salt. Well, we all know how those 1,430 calories fit into a 2,500 calorie diet. And we know how those 90 grams of fat fit into a diet that recommends 50 - 70 grams of fat: with a crowbar. But how much is 3,530 mgs of salt? Well…that's over 1-1/2 teaspoons.

When was the last time you poured 1-1/2 teaspoons of salt on anything, let alone a sandwich?

Okay. Forget breakfast. Let's grab some lunch.

Stir fry sound good? Oh yeah!

How about PF Chang's Beef and Broccoli? Think about it: thin strips of beef and broccoli stir-fried to perfection. Wait. Hold on. This dish packs 1,090 calories and 65 grams of fat. Okay, we might be aware that many restaurant food choices tip the scale in the calorie and fat department. Even if it's stir-fried. But this dish also contains 3,752 mg's of sodium - A tad more than the b'fast we just passed up!

So, forget lunch. How bout a salad for dinner? I hear Chili's has a Boneless Buffalo Chicken Salad to die for. That would be better than a slab of ribs or a burger, eh?

Think again.

While this salad boasts chicken, it's far from healthy. Why? It packs 1,110 calories and 79 grams of fat. But here's the kicker: 4,150 mg's of sodium. That's nearly 2 teaspoons! Let me ask you, when you make a salad at home, do you even consider tossing 2 teaspoons of salt into each bowl?

I didn't think so.

But here's the surprising thing. None of these dishes taste really "salty". This is why folks smarter than me call it "hidden salt".

Oh…and you know that little packet of ketchup you get at McDonalds? The one that just may coat three or four fries? Well, that little baby packs nearly as much salt as the order of fries you just purchased. And who uses just one small packet of ketchup on their fries?

Now you know why I don't dine out often.

However, I love the spirit of community, the shared drinks, and the good conversation that a night out provides.

So now I go light on the food. And the most salt I get is from the rim of my margarita glass. And if I'm in an Irish pub I pass on the margarita and order a Guinness or Smithwicks. I still have a great night out and I don't return home resembling a salt lick.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Cinco De Mayo But Hold The Mayo

Happy Cinco de Mayo, everyone! While not the largest south-of-the border celebration - that would probably be Dieciséis de Septiembre (Mexico's Independence Day) - Cinco de Mayo sure is a lot easier to pronounce if you happen to be a non-Spanish speaker. Especially after a few margaritas.

Cinco de Mayo commemorates the victory of the outnumbered Mexican Militia over the French Army at the Battle of Puebla in 1862. Brave Mexican warriors entered the fray shouting their three-fold battle cry “Viva Mexico!” (translated: Long live Mexico) while the French, sensing impending defeat responded with a battle cry of their own, “Oh non pas encore!” (translated: Oh no, not again).

Interestingly enough, Cinco de Mayo is pretty much a regional holiday in Mexico and is primarily celebrated in the state of Puebla. In the United States, however, it has fast become a major holiday celebration throughout much of the country. Of course, Americans are always open to new ethnic expressions of celebration – especially if a lot of drinking is involved. Which is one reason why Congress just recently recognized Reddition Française (French Surrender Day), which may be celebrated any day when you have too much beer in the fridge.

But back to Cinco de Mayo. Festival Broadway is considered the primo Cinco de Mayo celebration in the world. This event, held in an eleven block area of downtown Los Angeles, welcomes over half a million people where shouts of “Viva Mexico! (Long live Mexico), “Dios bendice México” (God bless Mexico), and “Averigüe los nuevos rines en mi Cívico!” (Check out the new rims on my Civic) fill the air.

In Scottsdale, Arizona, the Rawhide Wild West Town has celebrated Cinco de Mayo with an annual running of the bulls. However, this may be a dying tradition. According to spokesperson Gimpy Delgado, the rates for Goring by Bull insurance have skyrocketed since the unfortunate death in Pamplona last year when a 30-year-old tourist was gored in the throat. Especially so since the man was taking a shower in his hotel room at the time.

Not to be outdone by the event in Scottsdale, the town of Chandler hosts the Running of the Chihuahuas. This cultural classic features over 150 pint-sized dogs racing for the ultimate canine prize: a tasty biscuit and a pat on the head. While not as dangerous as her sister event in Scottsdale, the Running of the Chihuahuas does produce a number of nipped ankles and more than a few humped legs.

And in San Diego, you can down your share of margaritas at the Cinco de Mayo Zonkey Fest where the Zonkey – a small pony that looks like a donkey and is painted with zebra stripes – holds court. I don’t know about you, but it seems to me the idea of painting zebra stripes on a pony could only have been hatched during a previous margarita-soaked Cinco de Mayo celebration.

So…how are you celebrating Cinco de Mayo? Me? With a cooler full of Dos Equis, a pitcher of margaritas, and a platter of homemade fish tacos. Hold the mayo.


PREP: 10 minutes                    COOK: 5 minutes


1/4 cup all purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup beer
1/4 cup plain yogurt
1/4 cup mayonnaise
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
1/2 jalapeno pepper (or habernero for more heat), minced
1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
1/4 teaspoon dried cumin
1/4 teaspoon dried dill
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
pinch white pepper
1/2 pound tilapia, cut into ½-inch strips
4 corn tortillas
1/4 head read cabbage, finely shredded
1 – 2 cups canola oil (enough to cover your pan by 1-inch)


1. In a medium bowl, combine the flour, beer and salt. Mix until smooth.

2. In another medium bowl, combine the yogurt, mayonnaise and lime juice. Gradually stir in the peppers, oregano, cumin, dill, cayenne, and white pepper.

3. Add oil to medium skillet to a depth of 1-inch and heat over medium-high heat.

4. Dredge the fish pieces in the flour mixture and then into the batter. Add pieces to skillet a few at a time and fry until crisp and lightly brown, a couple of minutes per side. Remove and drain on paper towels.

5. Lightly fry the tortillas until just beginning to crisp. Remove to paper towel.

6. Slather sauce on each tortilla, add fish and top with shredded cabbage.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Ten Irish Facts, a Hot Bowl of Beer and Cheese Soup, and Why the World Will Never Run Out of Guinness

In honor of St. Patrick, whose name I humbly bear as my saint name, I offer these valuable Irish facts and a recipe for a traditional Irish soup. Now let's raise a glass and toast our forefathers and mothers - those saints and sinners who brought so much inspiration and laughter to our lives. And even if you don't have a drop of Irish blood in you, we are all Irish every March 17th.



1. Legend has it that St. Brendan discovered America 1,000 years before Columbus. Legend also has it that when he arrived at 10 am and saw that the pubs were not open yet, he turned ship and headed back to Ireland.

2. The Seven Celtic Nations are: Ireland, Scotland, Wales, Isle of Man, Cornwall, Brittany, and Galicia. For nearly 100 years South Boston has petitioned to be included, but that would've meant re-printing all the Seven Celtic Nations t-shirts, posters, flags and other stuff, so it never really gained traction.

3. The phrase "tying the knot" originated in Ireland and referred to the ancient marriage custom of "handfasting". It has nothing to do with what randy newlyweds may do when presented with a four-poster bed and a handful of neckties.

4. Just a few years ago there were more Polish folks in Ireland than there were native Irish. That this occurred because Ireland had a surplus of vowels and was running low on consonants is purely speculative.

5. One of the largest and most famous festivals in the world starts on St. Patrick's Day, March 17th when over 500,000 people line the streets of Dublin to watch the St. Patty's Day Parade. Then they will flood the local pubs to carry on the celebration, which will continue uninterrupted until March 16th of the following year.

6. There are over 36 million United States residents with Irish ancestry. That's nearly 12% of the population. However, if one were to count just the beer and whisky drinkers, those with an Irish ancestry make up 127% of the population.

7. Ireland's top star in the sport of hurling is Sean Og O'Hailpin who plays for the County Cork Team. America's top star in hurling is Danny "The Whale" O'Shannon from Chicago. You can catch Danny in action every Friday night down at Schaller's Pump. For the best hurling, wait until after 11 pm when he has already downed a couple of pints of Smithwick's and a few burgers.

8. The Irish Academy of Engineers recommends that an under-sea tunnel be built to link Ireland and Wales. They envision trains running at speeds of 150 mph between Rosslare and Fishguard, Wales. Currently, there is no financial backer for such a project mainly because they have yet to figure out why anyone from Ireland would want to visit Wales.

9. The tallest identical twins ever born (7ft 2in) were the Brothers Knipe from Magherafelt, County Derry in 1761. However, due to their size, one Knipe brother was born in March while the other was born sometime in late April.

10. Why the world will never run out of Guinness: the original Guinness Brewery in Dublin has a 9,000 year lease on its property and they pay an annual rate of 45 Irish pounds a year, which is about 75 bucks in US dollars.


While corned beef, colcannon and Irish stew take top food billing at most St. Patty's Day celebrations. One can't go wrong with this hearty soup made with sharp Cheddar cheese and a bottle or two of Harps. Or as we Irish like to call it: Breakfast.

This will serve about six. Face it. It's too good not to share with friends.

Prep:  15 minutes        Cook: 25 minutes


2 leeks (white and pale green parts only) or onions cut into 1/4-inch dice (2 cups)
2 carrots cut into 1/4-inch dice (1 cup)
2 celery ribs, cut into 1/4-inch dice (1 cup)
2 teaspoons finely chopped garlic
1 bay leaf
4 tablespoons unsalted butter (1/2 stick)
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
2 cups whole milk (or half and half for a creamier soup)
1-3/4 cups chicken broth
1 (12-oz) bottle of Harps (or Smithwick's for a nuttier taste)
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon dry mustard
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 lb extra-sharp Cheddar, grated (4 cups)
4 bacon slices (to garnish
Chopped parsley (to garnish)


1. Wash leeks in a bowl of cold water to remove any grit then drain.

2. Melt butter in a dutch oven over medium heat. Add leeks, carrots, celery and bay leaf and sauté until vegetables begin to soften, about 6 - 8 minutes. Add garlic and sauté for 2 additional minutes.

3. Meanwhile, cook bacon in a 10-inch skillet over medium-high heat until nicely crisp. Let cool a bit then crumble and reserve.

5. Reduce heat to medium-low and sprinkle flour over vegetables, then cook, stirring occasionally, 3 minutes. Slowly add milk, broth, and beer in and whisk until it simmers. Continue to simmer (adjust heat accordingly) for 5 minutes, whisking occasionally.

6. Stir in Worcestershire sauce, mustard, salt, and pepper. Add cheese by handfuls, stirring constantly, and cook until cheese is melted, around 3 - 4 minutes (do not boil). Discard bay leaf.

Ladle into warm bowls and sprinkle with chopped bacon and parsley.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

If I Didn't Have to Spend My Hard Earned Cash on Stupid Things Like Food and Shelter, I'd Buy All This Cool Kitchen Gear

Have you ever had a summer bash or cookout where you had more thirsty guests than you had bottles of cold brewskis? (Which necessitated implementing the proverbial "beer run" strategy).

Or have you ever ended the month with more bills than had money to pay them? (Which necessitated implementing the proverbial "bounced check" strategy).

I didn't think so.

So we should approach this next topic as purely hypothetical.

There's a lot of cool kitchen gear out there. And I'm not talking about top-of-the-line KitchenAid mixers or Viking Gas stoves or even that thirty-seven piece All Clad cookware set you've been drooling over ever since your neighbor auctioned off a kidney and purchased one.

Not that this stuff isn't cool. It is.

No, what I'm talking about is the *really* cool kitchen gear. Cool as in what would Anthony Stark (from Iron Man) have in his kitchen given his financial horsepower and quirky sense of humor.

I'm talking the kind of stuff I would buy if I didn't have to waste all of my hard earned cash on stupid things like food, clothes and shelter.

I'm talking ultra-cool stuff like this:

Electric Spaghetti Twirler

Who has time to twirl spaghetti? I don't. That's why I'd buy this electric spaghetti twirler. Load it up with a couple of AAA batteries and you're good to go. (I hear it's also good for cleaning the lint out of your navel and the wax out of your dog's ears).

Herb Scissors

Snipping and chopping herbs is another huge waste of time. With these babies you can blast right through this menial chore. This gadget would also be great for cutting the kids' hair. You can get done in 1/4 of the time, which will give you more time to enjoy your:

Kernal Cutter

At first glance, this appears to be a real time saver. But to me, this looks downright scary to have around the house. Especially if your wife gets ticked off real easy. I think I'd rather have a loaded weapon lying around than one of these babies. Maybe something along the lines of:

The BA-K-47
Made of pure bacon, this semi-automatic weapon is perfect for warding off trespassers, burglars, and those pesky vegetarians who just cannot shut up about the glories of their chosen diet.

So...if you had the financial horsepower of Tony Stark, what cool things would you add to your kitchen?

Monday, February 27, 2012

Don't You Go and Give Me Any Sauce, 'Cuz Child, I Got Sauce That's Older Than You.

Some things improve with age. I'm thinking about things like scotch, blue jeans, baseball mitts, and most wines.

Some things do not. Like bread, lettuce, Silly Putty, or my ability to impress beautiful women.

But there is one item that definitely will improve with age: Chinese Looing Sauce.

This sauce was created over 2000 years ago and is used to braise a wide variety of meats. Technically, this is called a Master Sauce but in some culinary corners it is referred to as a Loo Shui Sauce. I prefer to call it Looed Sauce. Mainly because it sounds so weird.

You can use this sauce to braise chicken (see below), pork, beef or lamb (but never seafood).

And the best part? The more you use it, the better it gets. Just be sure to skim the fat and re-fresh the ingredients every now and then. After each use, freeze, then bring to a boil before using again. Some Master Sauces in China are over 100 years old and are passed down from generation to generation.

Below I've included a recipe for "Chicken in Master Sauce". Of course, when I serve it to guests I prefer to call it by its other name: "Looed Chicken". I always love to see the look on their faces. Oh, and for the record, my looing sauce is over 20 years old (yet another point I mention to get rise out of my guests.) I hope to pass it on down to my grandkids someday.


2 cups water
2 cups soy sauce
1/2 cup rice wine or dry sherry (not so-called "cooking wine")
5 slices peeled fresh ginger
2 cloves garlic, peeled
1 tablespoon brown sugar
2 whole star anise pods
1/2 stick cinnamon
1 pound chicken wing pieces or thighs


Bring all the ingredients to a boil in dutch oven over high heat. Add the wings and reduce heat to low. Simmer for about 20 minutes. Serve wings hot or at room temperature. Freeze sauce until next use.

Serve with steamed white rice.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

The Worst Valentine's Day Gift Ever.

Whenever I do cooking demonstrations, someone always asks if own a restaurant.

"No", I reply.

The restaurant business is tough when you have a family. Long hours. Working the holidays. You get the drift. And although I now love to cook, I never was inspired to do so when I was younger. In fact, the impetus for me to cook came about through what might be described as the worst Valentine's gift ever.

My wife and I had been married for a number of years when one of my young daughters called me at work to ask what I had gotten Mom for Valentine's Day. I froze. I had forgotten. "Something nice," I reassured her. Then I hung up the phone and raced to the mall.

Okay. I was in a panic. I wasn't thinking straight when I stumbled into the Waldenbooks store and frantically scanned the shelves. My eyes fell on a gourmet cookbook. That's it! I smiled and snatched it off the shelf. I even had the clerk gift wrap it for me.

At home, after dinner and when the kids had all presented their homemade Valentine's Day cards to my wife and me, Sherry handed me my gift, an envelope. I opened it and found a gift certificate for a free massage at a local spa. "Because", she said," You work so hard."

I gulped.

Then handed her my gift.

She felt the heft and I'm sure she thought it was some serious jewelry. She gingerly unwrapped it and held the cookbook in her hands. Time seemed to stop.

"A cookbook?" she asked without looking up.

I knew I was screwed. I woulda been better off buying her an iron or a vacuum cleaner.

"Do you like it?" I asked. "It's gourmet."

She glanced up and said, "You're lucky to get what I make with all these kids pining for my attention, Buster."

I gulped again. My mind raced. Then I blurted out, "The cookbook's not for you. It's for me!"

Her eyebrows scrunched up into "please-explain-mode".

"See," I continued. "I'm going to cook you a gourmet meal this Friday. We'll put the kids to bed, open a bottle of wine and feast on a meal that will be fit for the gods."

At that, tears filled her eyes and she hugged me like there was no tomorrow. She smothered me in kisses and later that night we made passionate love. My only regret? I wish I had bought her a cookbook years ago.

So that Friday, I cracked open the book and cooked up a meal. It came out great. And I enjoyed the process.

So I began cooking out of the book every Friday night. Then I bought some more books and began cooking every Thursday and Friday night. Soon I was cooking every night of the week.

I'd like to say it was all altruistic but the truth was, I was doing inner-city youth work at the time and some days were pretty intense. So coming home and pouring a glass of wine while I labored over a delicious meal was actually relaxing for me.

So yes, it was good all around. That was 25 years ago and I haven't looked back since.

This Chicken Diane recipe is one from those early days. It was originally very rich but I've since tweaked it to make it a little bit easier on my arteries. But it is still sinfully delicious. And in keeping with our cooking outside the lines theme, we're gonna toss this with a little pasta.


PREP: 10 minutes        COOK: 20 minutes


6 ounces linguine
1 tablespoon olive oil plus 1 teaspoon

2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts cut into strips
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper

1 tablespoon unsalted butter

1/4 cup finely chopped onions 

1 clove garlic, minced or pressed
8 ounces mushrooms, sliced

3 tablespoons brandy

1 tablespoon Dijon mustard

1 tablespoon Worcestershire sause
1/4 cup half-and-half

1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley


1. Cook pasta according to directions to al dente. Drain and rinse with hot water to wash off the starch, then rinse with cold water to stop the cooking process. Place pasta in a bowl and toss with 1 teaspoon olive oil to prevent sticking.

2. Meanwhile, heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a 10-inch skillet over high heat. Add chicken breasts and brown on all sides, about 4 minutes. Remove chicken to a plate and cover to keep warm.

3. Lower heat to medium-high and add butter. When butter melts, add the onions and sauté until soft and translucent, about 8 minutes. Add garlic and sauté for 1 minute. Add mushrooms and sauté for 5 minutes.

4. Remove pan from heat and add brandy. Turn heat to high and return pan to stove. Heat brandy to boiling for 1 minute, scraping up any brown bits. Whisk in the mustard and Worcestershire sauce. Stir in half-and-half and parsley.

5. Return chicken to pan and add pasta. Stir to reheat. Sprinkle with parsley and serve.

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...  :-)