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September 5, 2017

Muffa-burger, Part One: Burger Beast Experiment

So here's a new, on-going experiment. Burger Beasts!!! I have various condiments at home. Labor Day had plenty of BBQ (thanks, Dad)!!! This idea came into my head a few month back. What did I do? I took a burger and kicked it up a bit. You want some flavor and desire to try something different, you may consider trying what I'm about to share.




Now what you see is a bottle. This product was the inspiration for this project. I had some of Marconi Food's Muffuletta Mix (1) for some time but never had a chance to really use it. One of the most popular sandwiches in NoLa is the muffuletta. New Orleans has a wide variety of people and culture mixing together in one big symphony. While many know about the Creoles and the Cajuns (those who migrated from French Acadia after not signing allegiance to Great Britain.  While many know of the French influences of New Orleans, there are others nationalities that are pretty well represented are well. The muffuletta sandwich was born in this city sometime around 1906 by Salvatore Lupo, owner of Central Grocery company. You can see the obvious Italian influence in the type of bread (Sicilian round bread but focaccia or the like is seen more today), Italian meats and cheeses. It also has a sauce. To me, the muffuletta olive sauce is like giardineria (celery, cauliflower, carrots), only a bit more olive and carrot intensive.


So what did I do? I took some of the hamburger Dad did on the grill, melted some cheese and then added some of this sauce. The result was a very different take on a burger. I was quite pleased!!! I called this part one because I want to take it further. I will post some of my "experiments" I have done over the last year. For those who follow me on my InstaGram account                                       (https://www.instagram.com/emptyplateadv/) or Twitter (@emptyplateadv), you may have seen some of the crazy things (at least I'll concede as unusual) that I have posted there. There are no style points for this picture so let it speak for itself. Make sure that the mix is cold. It will provide a nice contrast to the hot burger and cheese (the same way as a pickle or raw onion). I'm going to take this further soon but for now, this will have to do. Step out of your comfort zone. Try something new. I liked this very much and think may of you will as well.  Enjoy!!!





Gut essen..... mangia bene...... comer bien!!!!!! It was nice to FINALLY get something back in writing and hope to do more as time permits. If you're not familiar with Marconi Foods, give them a chance. They a great product line and I doubt you'll be disappointed!!! If you're bored, tell them the Empty Plate Adventures sent you. No deals as of yet.


Worked Cited/Reference:

1. Photo taken from the Marconi Foods Internet site at https://marconi-foods.com/


April 18, 2017

20 Questions and an Update

                                           


Well. It's been two years in the making since I last posted here. There has been some transitions in my life (which I'm still dealing with) but I want to get this thing fired up again. It was so much fun to do but time hasn't been on my side. 

Now, I want to say what has gone on. Most of you know, I am still on Twitter and have been active on the various chats. I even went to open an instagram account (the account is @Emptyplateadv so by all means, check it out). That's a fun medium. 
        


I looked at Snapchat and right now, that may not be the best fit. From time to time, I still duck in on Pinterest as well. Today, I went Duck Confit crazy. Those three social media platforms seem to fit what I want to do best. So now, I want your participation as time permits. Going forward, I want this blog to be a combination of food related topics. I mean recipes, types of pork, food history, or whatever come to my mind to write. Some of the experiment's I have done, I hope to share with you as well and will finish the Mac Mac Experiment I began some time ago. 

Below are 20 questions that are all food related. They tend to bounce around a bit but they do the job. I will do my responses first and then you can do yours. There are the 20 question below my finished answers you may cut and paste. I hope a few of you will respond. I must say, it's fun to be back here again!! It's like I woke up and hit the ground running.



  1.    What are the food item(s) you can’t live without?
- - On any given day, habanero sauce, onions, & garlic. At least one of those three. 

  2.   What food is the one you eat the most, but know you shouldn’t? In other words, you guilty pleasure?
  - Anything combines with cheese and pasta or a saucy dish with rice or potatoes. 

  3.   The one kitchen item you use most?
 - Chefs knife (8").

  4.   The one kitchen item that you use but many could take for granted?
- - Utility knife. They really don't come up often when the subject comes up.

  5.   If you could take two kitchen items and have a love child (for lack of better words), what would that be? If you have a name for this item, share it.
  - I'd try to mix a steak knife & a paring or utility knife, called the American Chef Kitchen Knife. 

  6.   How many cookbooks do you own now? 
  - As of now, I only own a few. I lost the rest but that's a different story. 

  7.   Of those cookbooks, which one(s) (say a maximum of 3 books or 5 names) are your favorites?
  - Off the top of my head, Emeril's "Real & Rustic" was the first cookbook that opened my eyes to what can be done with food. It simplified dishes I thought would be MUCH more difficult. I also enjoy John Madden's Tailgating book. Fun recipes and good stories as well. Rick Bayless' books are very good as well. I can ignore Julia Child either. 

  8.   Of all the bad cookbooks you’ve ever seen, which is the worst of the worst? In other words, Razzie/Zero Rotten Tomatoes bad.
  - It's between Boy George's Karma Cookbook and Kris Jenner's book. Both seemed like it was something to do instead of something they really believed it. 
   
  9.   Share a favorite food memory as a child. There’s only one catch. It CANT be from a holiday or special occasion such as a birthday.
  - The first time I ate hog intestines and liked them. My family (parents, grandparents, etc) would cook them after Christmas and as close to New Years as possible. They teased me a bit because I wouldn't eat them (the smell is POWERFUL). Anway, as a 12 year old, I finally tried them. They knew the game was over after that. Either that or Pizza Night every Friday. 

  10. Here. One specific food and travel memory. You visited a particular country or region which may have a specialty or two and you never had them before. Where was it at and what were the dish(es) you got hooked on from that moment until now?
  -  I was in Jamaica (Montego Bay), as a 15 year old with my parents. I had various meals before but two things hooked me that week. Jerk chicken and oxtail. I think I went to the buffet each night & that's all I ate (oxtail). For the longest time, it was something NO ONE would eat You could go to the story and get the latter CHEAP ($2.99/lb or less). Then, before I knew it, $5.99/lb. My secret is now gone. 
  
  11. The strangest item in your refrigerator is…..?
  - Horseradish sauce. 

  12. The strangest combo either you or someone you’ve known eat in a given setting? 
  - My pregnant female friends take care of that. One friend took fresh snow and put it in a cup. She then took some vanilla frosting and pickles an another. Then ate the latter while washing it down with the snow. I thought it was strange but then again, she was pregnant. No, I wasn't the father either. 

   13. Do you know of anyone who is allergic to any food? What is it and when they visit you, what accommodations do you factor in to give this person a great meal?
  - Most of my chat pals know I'm allergic to seafood. I found out when I was six but mu cousin developed the same thing as an adult. Anything seafood was kept away from everything else. It may also be placed in a (color or labeled) dish to let me know to not eat it. 
  
   14. Game (or for that matter, Race) Day. Build your tailgate off the top of your head.
  - Wings, brats, burgers, JUMBO hot dogs, potato/mac salad & cole slaw, ribs if time permits. If I have extra time, maybe a chili or gumbo. I can't forget chips and salsa either. 

   15. Movie food. Now that theaters are more like restaurants, do you still sneak in your own food?
   - Depends. I don't do it often but if I get delayed trying to get something before I go but get the order late, what am I supposed to do? I don't make it a habit though. 

   16. A night in. Regardless if it’s watching a sports network, movie, food network, and so on, what’s the meal or snack of choice? 
  - I try to do something quick because so often, I get home late. I'll make a nice sandwich or have some leftovers. 

   17. Name a food that you CAN’T stand & if you had a choice, would never eat again? 
  - Ok, foodie snobs. I have tried Brussel sprouts 9 ways to Sunday. I don't like them. I eat my Mom's sprouts because she made them. That's the bottom line. 

   18. The one dish/entrée you’ve always loved to eat but were afraid to try and make yourself is…??
  - Turducken. 
<                          

                
                             
 
      

    19. Your favorite restaurant had an item you REALLY enjoyed but out of the clear blue, they stopped selling it. What was that dish? 
  - I was a HUGE fan of Outback's No Rule's Burger. Just about anything you can put on a burger was on in. To give you an idea of what I mean, go to Five Guys. Look at the thing you can put on a bacon burger. That's about as close as you'll get to recreating it. The No Rule's was also much bigger than the Five Guys rendition. 

   20. One drop of Carolina Reaper (2,000,000+ scoville units) with no ranch or sour cream will net you $100 Million dollars AFTER taxes. Would you take the one drop to get the money? 
   - You know it!!! 


Well that was fun. Now it's your turn. If you're game, let's have some fun with this. Ready? Omaha... Omaha... 319.... 319.... Blue 80... Blue 80 .... set go!! The 20 Question Game. Cut & Paste in the reply section to play. 

  1.    What are the food item(s) you can’t live without?

  2.   What food is the one you eat the most, but know you shouldn’t? In other words, you guilty pleasure?

  3.   The one kitchen item you use most?

  4.   The one kitchen item that you use but many could take for granted?

  5.   If you could take two kitchen items and have a love child (for lack of better words), what would that be? If you have a name for this item, share it.

  6.   How many cookbooks do you own now?

  7.   Of those cookbooks, which one(s) (say a maximum of 3) are your favorites?

  8.   Of all the bad cookbooks you’ve ever seen, which is the worst of the worst? In other words, Razzie/Zero Rotten Tomatoes bad.
   
  9.   Share a favorite food memory as a child. There’s only one catch. It CANT be from a holiday or special occasion such as a birthday.

  10. Here one specific food and travel memory. You visited a particular country or region which may have a specialty or two and you never had them before. Where was it at and what were the dish(es) you got hooked on from that moment until now?
  
  11. The strangest item in your refrigerator is…..?

  12. The strangest combo either you or someone you’ve known eat?
   13. Do you know of anyone who is allergic to any food? What is it and when they visit you, what accommodations do you factor in to give this person a great meal?
  
   14. Game (or for that matter, Race) Day. Build your tailgate off the top of your head.

   15. Movie food. Now that theaters are more like restaurants, do you still sneak in your own food?

   16. A night in. Regardless if it’s watching a sports network, movie, food network, and so on, what’s the meal or snack of choice? 

   17. Name a food that you CAN’T stand & if you had a choice, would never eat again? 


   18. The one dish/entrée you’ve always loved to eat but were afraid to try and make yourself is…??


   19. Your favorite restaurant had an item you REALLY enjoyed but out of the clear blue, they stopped selling it. What was that dish? 


   20. One drop of Carolina Reaper (2,000,000+ scoville units) with no ranch or sour cream will net you $100 Million dollars AFTER taxes. Would you take the one drop to get the money? 


   Bonus question. Noticed what I did after typing "Ready" in this post. Those are pre-snap cadence calls of of 3 NFL Quarterbacks. Can you name them?

February 11, 2015

Prime Time: A Prime Rib Birthday Dinner


Prime rib!!!! This was part of the dinner my Dad and I served my Mom last week. As is customary in my family, you get what you want for your birthday. Mom chose lobster and since I can't eat seafood, she decided to have us make a Prime Rib for the rest of the meal. She actually found the roast at a very good price!! That helps a great deal.  On this post, it will be brief but to the point. The cut we used was graded prime. I hope to get a cut of meat like this during the summer. Imagine this coming off the grill!!! Yep, I thought so.


As you can see with the first two pictures, there is a prod connected to the roast itself. That actually connects to the over. THIS is the say to do a roast. This provides a nice way to eliminate any error in cooking. Mom actually started this. What was done is simple. Take the prod and connect it inside its slot into the oven. Then set the desired temperatures you wish to cook the meat and where you want the meat to be at. In this case, it was cooked at 375 degrees for about 2-2 1/2 hours. My parents prefer more towards medium, so the targeted meat temperature was 130 degrees. The roast itself was about 6 pounds (pre-cooking weight). If you're considering getting a new over, the ones with a prod thermometer feature is amazing. Once the desired internal meat temperature is reached, the over shuts off. The meat rested for about 30 minutes, covered in foil. Which leads me to the next part of this dinner. A pretty cleaver idea came to my head and it worked like a charm. 


Now this is what you may call the "educational part" of this post. Since I live in the midwest, it's pretty obvious that I won't get getting the farm fresh foods anytime soon. It's too cold to really grow
anything. The interesting thing is where much of our fruit comes from (in particular, where I live and during this time of year. 


As you can see from the top picture, we get a lot of fruit and vegetables from South America, namely Peru and Chile. That's a good thing in my book. We get the food we need, it's normally fresh, and some farmer in another country can male a decent living, selling fruits to places like where I live. I don't ever take being able to get decent asparagus at this time of year. I normally drift towards white asparagus since they're a bit sweeter (to my taste anyway) than it's other counterparts.

Now this is the new trick I tried to keep them asparagus warm. This is something I had not considered doing until I finished cooking these asparagus. I cooked them as I normally did (water and finishing with olive oil for about 5 minutes each). I would boil the water first, cook the asparagus in the water for about 5 minutes then add some olive oil to finish cooking them (3 to 5 minutes, to the point where they're soft but not soggy). I finished them as I normally do, seasoning with salt an pepper. Now the fun part. As you can see from the smaller picture, I pulled out the foil. Once I finished cooking the asparagus, I them cooled down the skillet I cooked them in, wrapped them in foil and that was it. I tried it on a hunch and it worked well. They stayed warm for the 25 minutes it took to cook the lobster.


As you can see, the above is the finished product.I have some of the asparagus break on me during my prep time. So those went to me. I ate them. So it doesn't exactly look pretty but it did taste very good!! I was very happy with how the meal turned out. Mom had one of the smaller pieces. This was the biggest piece, which since I'm a fairly big guy, it went to me. Dad has a piece a little smaller than this one. I'm not getting into the potatoes since they're so simple to do. Now imagine going to a fine steakhouse and getting a cut like this and a lobster tail (for Mom). Price tag is shell shocking. 



Another look at the "Diamond John" Cut. I'm guessing this piece is between 20-25 oz and since my piece was in the middle of the roast, mine was closer to medium rare (just as I like it). Sure, it's great to have a great meal like this but there is something greater at play here. I have several friends who have buried at least 1 parent. My Grandmother (Mom's mom) died earlier this year at age 96. Both of my parents are still alive and very well. I know that I can't spend as much time with them as I would like. If you get nothing more from this post, take this with you. You have loved ones who are still in your life, enjoy time with them every chance you get! This dinner was so much fun and every time there's a special occasion like a birthday, I want to make sure I can be there to enjoy with my parents. They're the only ones I have and quite frankly, I would not want anyone else. I am VERY thankful for my parents. I'm lucky to have them. Finding a good rib roast at a great price, great. Getting the meal, fit for royalty at home, even better. Enjoying a meal like that with great parents like mine. Priceless!!!




January 15, 2015

My Social Media Pages

For now, here me at BlogLovin: Follow my blog with Bloglovin

Here I am. I'm also working on a post on me & how I deboned a cooked turkey. I case you want to find me on social media, here is where I can be found. I was on BlogLovin & didn't even realize it.

Twitter: @emptyplateadv (https://twitter.com/emptyplateadv)

Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/emptyplateadv/

YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/user/emptyplateadventures

Foodie Blogroll: http://foodieblogroll.com/blogs/emptyplateadventures-blogspot-com

Google+: https://plus.google.com/+JohnDuncanemptyplateadventures/posts

OK. Short and sweet but that's how it goes. Quick but simple update.

January 11, 2015

The Mad Mac Experiment, Part 1: An Ad Lib Macaroni & Cheese

Look at the name of this blog. If any post might sum the title up, it might be this one. Looking at the title, you'll see macaroni and cheese as the subtitle. How can this subject become an adventure? Well, the main title is the subject for a year long journey into this very subject. Macaroni and cheese is a great dish (this straight from the Duh Files) but as I talk to people, I am a bit amazed how limited some people have gone with this. I call this The Mad Mac Series because my goal is to take this as far as I can. Use your imagination. Don't be limited to what you've seen and what you're "supposed to do" based on what you see others doing. You are about to witness a home cook flying by the seat of his pants. Sit tight.  I was inspired by Pinterest to do this series. I have a board named "Mad Mac" and it's exactly what the name implies (1). At last count, that particular board has 419 pins to date and I do intend on adding more. So here's where it all begins. 
This is conchiglie, boilded and placed in a plastic bowl. I would mix in some pasta water I reserved so it wouldn't get too tight or worse yet, turn into a glob. 

So I get home a couple nights ago and wanted to make some mac and cheese. Sounds simple right? Well as the moments ahead unfolded, it didn't exactly go as I had hoped. As you can see, I choose yo use conchiglie (seen above, pronounced con-KEEL-yay) as the main pasta this time around. I figured this would be a good one to use since it will hold cheese and the sauce quite well. The Italian meaning for this pasta, when translated, is seashell. The root word comes from the Greek root word Konkhe, meaning shell and the Latin Concha, meaning shellfish (2). That's what the pasta is shaped like (many Italian pastas get their names from body parts, shells or something similar). 

I will address that in this series as well. I decided not to use elbow since I wanted a pasta that would hold a sauce nicely. That's why I selected conchiglie instead. Now back to the pasta itself. I cooked it for about 10 minutes, drained and save the some of the pasta water. The water would eventually be the hero of this dish. NEVER dump your pasta water entirely. You just never know when you may need it. After I boiled, this is where the adventure begins. One of the rules I live by is never lose all of your pasta water. It has a natural starch from the pasta. It also works well to loosen pasta (should you store it like I did here) or in a sauce (which you will soon find out). After I boiled the pasta, I stored in in the bowl you see behind the water. I seasoned the pasta with salt, pepper, and a little Mexican oregano (mixed with a little pasta water).

The pasta water came in handy in more ways than one. Remember how I mentioned the adventures in this post? It's about to start now. As for making a simple roux and sauce, well, I had to ad lib a bit (hence why "ad lib" is in the title). You might even think I'm making this up. I'm not. 



 So I begin to make a roux. I broke the rule a bit (as I do so well). One part olive oil (extra virgin, of course) and on tablespoon of butter. I melted them both down and then added the flour (a tablespoon at at time, so totally about 3 1./2 tablespoons). As you can see on the left, you can see the olive oil and butter mixture come together. On the right, you can see where I began to work the flour into the oil mixture. I kept the fire steady but not too high, for fear of burning the oil or the flour (or goodness forbid, both). So I'm feeling good. I'm expecting to make something fantastic. Then I go to the fridge for the milk. The milk I had on hand was 2%, not my preferred whole or heavy cream. So I used about just under a cup and mixed it in slowly. The paste from the roux began to loosen up. I realized that I didn't have that much milk left and realize it was getting a bit too tight. I had planned on adding sour cream as well. The only problem was that it had gone bad (almost taking a life form of its own). So I added the pasta water, spoonful's at a time where it won't get too tight. It didn't. In fact, it began to loose where I wanted it. If you look below, this is what the result was. I then added one egg along with it. I was pleased how it turned out. 



I cooked the sauce a little bit. You might notice the change in color. This is where I seasoned the sauce. I added some salt and pepper to start. Then I added some Spanish paprika and cayenne. Then stirred it until it properly mixed together. I also added some Mexican oregano, onion powder as well as granulated garlic (I had none of the latter two fresh). Now do you see how this is turning into an adventure of sorts? I normally have these things on hand but for whatever reason, I did not this time around. Not to mention the canned tomatoes and peppers that had also gone bad on me (I forgot I had those on hand, the went bad in December, 2013). Even after all of that, look below and see what the result was. As I stirred, I did add a little pasta water just to loosen it up a bit more. This entire process, due to the level of heat I used, took about 15-20 minutes. 


Then I added the cheese. I had some shredded cheddar and a couple other block cheese on hand. So I cut them up and the result is below. I stirred until the cheese had fully incorporated with the sauce (about 5-10 minutes). Just before this, I decided to add about 2 tablespoons of Miracle Whip (OK, it's my guilty pleasure and I like the taste). 


Above is the just before all the cheese melted fully. As you can see below, I became to fold the conchiglie pasta in with the sauce (slowly but surely). I didn't add it all at once but only mixed in about 1/3 of the pasta at a time. 


Below is the finished product. Since I seasoned as much as I did, I really didn't need to season any further. I let it rest for about 5 minutes before I ate it. I didn't eat much of it (since I made it as late as I did) but did give it a taste. All things considered, I'm pleased how it turned out for me. 


Even with all the mess with the ingredients (or lack thereof), it still came out well. This ends the first of many in my soon to be "legendary" (or at least hope it will gain cult status at the least), "The Mac Mac Series" blog posts. I'm not sure how often I'll do this but in a perfect world, I'll do at least 2 postings on this each month. If I can do more, fine. This isn't going to be some redo of various recipes alone. My intention is to try and think outside the box some. Go where some would never consider going. I was so excited to do this, I decided to start now. I can't recall when I did two posts in one day (ever). I guess there is a first time for everything. 


A final tip of the hat to today's hero, the pasta water. Thanks to the water, I managed to keep my pasta and the sauce loose. Below is my lunch (e.g., the finished product). The mac and cheese with some chicken and greens soup. I can't wait to do the next posting. I must admit, this posting was done almost ad lib since I really didn't prepare. I look forward to showing what you can do with macaroni. This is an adventure I really look forward to taking this year. I do have several ideas. Some may be fancier than others. Hopefully, you'll enjoy reading this series as much as I like doing these posts. I look forward to showing you what I considered doing with macaroni. You will see me make dishes that are not only hot but cold. In addition, I may marry the mac and cheese with something you might least expect. The journey has only begun!!!



1. Empty Plate Adventures "Mac Mac" Pin Board http://www.pinterest.com/emptyplateadv/mad-mac/

2. Definition taken from Online Etymology Dictionary,  http://www.etymonline.com/index.php?term=conch