Local Folks Foods

Excellent Kosher Food

October 27, 2009

Food Q & A's (A little fun)

This is really more out of being bored than anything so I figure I would Q & A myself (somewhat). Actually, people have asked me the following questions over time (just in conversation). Nothing major or heated this is right and this is wrong. Just some simple things to consider. So some of this could help someone down the road.

Q: How can you make soup thick?
A: I have used corn starch, flour and things such as rice but this is something I tried a while back. Ever tried using a roux in a soup such as a chicken & noodles/dumplings? It worked like a charm for me. It was pretty thick and the roux complimented the natural thickness of the noodles or dumplings. I have to admit one thing. I don't always get it right.

Q: Fresh garlic or garlic powder?
Both depending on what you're making. A sauce or a roast I would prefer fresh garlic but I'm not above using powder if that's all I have. If you making something like a rub, I ALWAYS use powder. It's consistant with the rest of the spices (all of which are dry). If I use garlic powder for a soup or sauce, that is the last ingredient I add. In fact, I may add some when I reheat the meal. Some people may take offense to that but that's how I feel.

Q: What about food allergies?
A: I'm allergic to fish & seafood. In fact, shell fish will kill me within 30 minutes or so (if I don't get treated). That's something I don't believe many people think about. I worked with a guy who had allergic to nuts (any type), another to soy, and yet another to wheat. So this is something people should really take seriously. If you want to find out more, I would say do an engine search of "food allergies" and some very good resources will come up. Check out this video featuring Trace Adkins, whose daughter is allergic to nuts, dairy and eggs.

My parents know first hand as Trace Adkins did when my shellfish allergy first showed up (around age 7). They let people know of my allergy when I would go to their homes and all my relatives and friends know of my condition as well. It's bad enough where if fish has been cooked (airborne), I risk having a reaction. I've experienced a few episodes of anaphylaxis, a serious allergic reaction that is rapid in onset and may cause death. Trust me. It doesn't feel good. In fact, when I was younger, my parents brought some food from an ethnic restaurant. They told the owners of my situation and let them know to please put my order and all non-seafood dishes in different bags. They also asked if seafood and meat were either handled or cooked with the same tools? They were told no. Guess what? I ate mine and I had a reaction. Needless to say, my folks called the place and gave them an earful (aka spoke their peace). As a result, they quit eating at this place.

Q: I can't cook Macaroni properly so how can you cook it so well?
A: People make more of making Mac & cheese than it need be. It is SO SIMPLE I've done it since I was 9. First, can you boil water? Good. Now can you read the box? Better. So far, we're doing very well. Next. The cheese. Generally, I the yellow box (aka, Velveeta) every time. Cut it into thing pieces and after the pasta is done, put the cheese in and let it melt slowly. I don't drain all the pasta water because there is some start in it (which will make it thick). Now that the pasta is cooked, can you open a can? More on that later.

Now here's where it gets fun. When you boil the water, make sure you put some salt and olive oil in the water. This will make sure the pasta doesn't stick. I also add pepper and some other seasonings to it that I will add once the pasta is done. As for the cheese, you can use just about any cheese you can find- goats milk (had that in Maui years back), colby, jack or a mix of whatever cheese you like. I don't think mozzarella works alone personally but that's my preference. Remember the "open the can" comment I made earlier? Well this is where you can really let your imagination fly. This is just a sample of things I put in macaroni- mushroom, tomato, various chiles and peppers, onion (raw, roasted, sautéed, grilled), and chicken just to name a few- fresh or canned works. Or you can mix whatever you put into the macaroni, place it in the over and finish it that way. I prefer to top with bread crumbs towards the end of cooking. Again, be aware of who your cooking for, especially if you add cheese, egg, milk or dairy. Some people are allergic to one, some to a few things I mentioned and some people to all.

Q: What's one of the strangest things or mistakes you ever made that actually turned out well?
A: I made some chicken & noodle soup once. My Mom had made some black eyed peas and had some left over. So I decide that I would mix the two and it worked. In fact, I've done it several times since, more when I cook black eyed peas and know I will make chicken & noodle (or rice but not so much with dumplings). One of my personal best successes from an accident. It's not like discovering the french dip, but it tasted good to me.

Q: Gas or charcoal grill?
A: There are some places in the country where if you said gas, they don't know you. I used a gas grill once and didn't like it at all. I might as well as cooked it inside. Now some of the combo grills (with the burners for pots and pans) would be nice to have during the summer. When it's hot outside, you can cook the entire meal outside and not heat up the house. I prefer charcoal because that is what I am used to. The prep of building the fire and keeping the temperature where it needs to be is almost second nature to me. Plus, I've spent so much time trying to learn how to grill and bbq properly I would be clueless if I had to use a gas grill.

For example, about 2 years ago, I did some slow cooking. I cooked a piece of pork shoulder (about 3 lbs) and took about 6 or 7 hours. I kept the hear low so I can cook it properly and not hurry. Most of the best meats have been done over indirect heat and over a long period of time (not cooked over 225 degrees). A grill is almost like a sauna. One day, I might build a pit (aka, an emu as seen in Hawaii). In order to use an emu, you must have the proper lava rocks (which are like gold because those who have them won't give them up). So if you have the time and the patience to do this, you won't be sorry but you may need to keep your schedule clear.

Q: Is bison, elk and deer that good?
A: I love them all. Each is a bit different in taste, which is pretty hard to explain. In fact, I had gone years without eating deer when my Dad brought some home his friend gave him. He didn't tell me it was deer until after I ate it. Had he not told me the difference, I would have never known. All of those meats (along with ostrich) are actually better for you than regular meat. All very low in cholesterol and fat. In fact, you may need to add some fatty meat (such as a small portion of beef) to keep it from shrinking. If you cook any of those meats more medium, you're better off eating you shoe because of how lean it is. If I could hunt regularly or could afford to buy these meats, I would eat them exclusively.

Q: Veggie you hate the most?
A: Brussell sprouts. I CAN'T STAND brussel spouts and will avoid them at all costs. I have tried to eat them cooked every way possible and still don't like them. If they're in front of me, I'll eat them but would prefer not to if I don't have to. I know some people in this world have a lot less than that to eat but I still prefer not to eat them.

Q: Create a date meal?
A: Haven’t ever really dated. Nothing that would warrant that anyway.

Q: Create a dream meal.
A: That's a difficult one but I'll try. How about a rib eye or a porterhouse (2 cuts of meat on the same plate, can you beat that), macaroni & cheese, asparagus and/or some mixed vegetables (like steamed peas and sautéed mushrooms, creamed spinach or all of the above). Would I put a salad in here? Sure, with say ranch or blue cheese dressing. I don't think rolls will hurt the case either. A soup? Well, you could add a french onion on the one hand or have jambalaya or gumbo on the other. Then again, the latter two are a meal on their own. In other words, the theme is simple. Something that is:
1. red and dead.
2. nice and cheesy or creaming.
3. veggie(s) with a subtle flavor and a healthy dose of garlic mixed in.

Q: You're having a gathering of people at your home. Pick your favorite TV Chefs and what dish you would ask them to make. Anyone and as many as you like.
A. First, I would get Chefs Prudhomme, Lagasse and Justin Wilson (lets say he's still alive for this). One cooks gumbo, one jambalaya, and the third red beans and rice. Draw straws to see who makes what. Then, I would call Jack McDavid (he could bring Flay for a "Grillin & Chillin" reunion) and the Neely's to cook some special BBQ such as ribs and beef brisket. Since there are only two of them, they flip a coin to see who does what. Now for a south of the border flavor, I cal Rick Bayless for some grilled banana leaf pork, roasted mecian chicken, salsas amd guacamole (of course you need the chips). Aaron "Big Daddy" McCargo & "Chef Jeff" Henderson can cook as they sees fit (seafood aside and keep it simple). I would have Paula Deen make the side dishes (macaroni, potato salads, baked beans) because I know she'll knock them out of the park (or to speak more formally, she will do them VERY well). The Iron Chefs can create some soups and sauces to complement the meal. Deserts? I'll leave that to Warren Brown and Sandra Dee. Paula could make come of those gooey gooey browies or even a chocolate-pecan pice (which I am a HUGE fan of; I made it once). You leave this event hungry, that's on you.

October 26, 2009

Quickie's (in Florida)

Seriously though. 4-lb burger. I imagine someone will be working on this for a while now (via


October 22, 2009

A Chilehead's Quest for Fire

This is a bit long (even in this now shortened version) but I really enjoyed putting this together over the couple of weeks. I actually was doing this for a different blog. So I thought I would share this here. I posted this a while back, but wanted to change some stuff on it. This is for the interested, the curious, or the bored.

Over the last 15 years or so, I have really enjoyed very spicy foods. I eat stuff that is so spicy that you can smell it once the bottle or jar is opened. Most can’t handle that much heat. This little is actually something I have worked on for a while. I have even joined some of the spicy food and chili-related groups here. The timing of this is pretty ironic because I noticed that a former classmate angry about buying “XXX”, thinking it would be one thing but got something else. Well, guess what? I made that same mistake years ago. I also learned that (for the most part), the spiciest stuff you will find at Jewel or Dominic’s is Tabasco. There are some legit hot sauces from time to time (ala Louisiana Habanero Pepper Sauce), but that’s the exception and not the rule. I first began my “quest for fire” almost by accident. There was a store in downtown Naperville I visited while I was a North Central College student. They dealt exclusively with hot sauces, and I do mean hot. I didn't know what to expect. The funny thing is they actually had SAMPLES for you to try out. Form that point, I was hooked. They eventually closed their doors, partially because they were a bit ahead of their time (we're talking mid 1990's, when Chile Pepper magazine was still an unknown).

Now we’ll get down to the business of peppers. I want to mention 3 myths, as I see them. Myth 1 is that cayenne pepper is hot. To me, it’s more a coloring seasoning that adds a hint of flavor (also good for circulation as I understand). If you want heat (in particular, in dried form), get some Hungarian Hot Paprika. Myth 2 is that if a product says "XXX Hot"or "spicy" on the bottle, it’s not always true either. In fact, my parents don’t like spicy foods at all (Mom, in particular; Dad will eat spicy stuff but not anywhere near my tastes). Yet she tried a “Louisiana spicy” product and she like it (but in reality, it wasn't "Louisiania" spicy. Ask someone who's lived there). So if you’re looking for spicy, consider the source first. Myth 3 is the very popular “chipotle”, which is supposed to be “a super hot pepper” in many circles. My reply is phooey. A Scotch Bonnet or a Habanero makes the chipotle look like catsup. I will give you the 3 documented hottest peppers in the world. The first is the Red Savina Habanero, from Central America, is probably is the hottest pepper in the habanero family. I can attest to this. The Fatalli pepper is unique to South Africa, as I recall, hits the tongue in a hurry. I had these first 2 and I will tell you, yes they are HOT!! This third one I am holding back on. The Bhut (sounds like "beaut") Jolokia (also known as the Naga Jolokia, Ghost Chili, and Ghost Pepper depending on where you're from) is considered the hottest pepper in the world. It‘s from India. Now if you see any three of the last peppers I named, you're being warned that it WILL be hot.

Next are some suggestions in heat control and intensity. You have someone who tried this super pyro hot sauce with you. You’re holding on pretty well but you friend isn’t quite doing as well. You are feeling a mild rush but your friend’s face is beet red and they’re sweating profusely. Now how do you extinguish the fire? Dairy. I prefer having ranch mixed with some sour cream or some type of cheese slices but milk does the trick as well. It may take a while for them to eventually come down, but this should help. Also, if you run into a situation where the spice is not what you hoped it would be, this can easily be rectified by adding habanero sauce to whatever (salsa, enchilada sauce, etc) wasn’t hot enough for you. A few drops should be fine. Water or any drink is the wrong thing to do if your mouth is "on fire" (or at least feels that way). Why? The drink will make the burn even more intense (once you stop drinking). In other words, capsaicin acts with water like gas acts with fire.

One sauce I have become familiar with is “Bubba’s Butt Blaster X-tra Hot Sauce” after my folks saw this stuff while on vacation. My Mom said they thought at the very least, it would be something else for me to try. You want a rush? This sauce delivers a mean bite every time. It doesn't take much at all. I put some other brands and creators of hot foods and all of them can be found via an engine search. That is, if you don't wish to make your own.

Intense and complete line of products (sauces, salsas, etc) made by the following, all of which all I have personally tried. You can do an engine search for each or go to an Internet site like :
1. Blair’s. Some of their stuff is so hot, it is not intended for human consumption. Yet the various “A.M. reserve” lines have an almost cult-like following.
2. CaJohn’s Fiery Foods. This product line also delivers off the charts. If you want a laugh, do a Youtube search of CaJohn and see what comes up. The tape doesn’t lie.
3. Dave’s Insanity Gourmet. Their products are now available in most grocery stores.
4. Original Juan. This might have been the first “heat” product line I tried years back. I’m partial to their garlic habanero salsa.


Wing Sauces:
1. Buffalo Wild Wings (Blazin'): It has heat and plenty of it. This is their hottest sauce by far. I went to a BW3 when they first popped up here with some co-workers. I said I wanted 12 blazin' wings and person taking my order thought I lost my mind. So here they come. With 1 glass of coke, 1 small side of ranch, and the wings were gone within 20 minutes or so. She said that in the 4 months she had been traveling (opening BW3's), I was one of 3 people who could finish it and the only one who didn't shed a tear. The 3 sauces below it (wild, habanero mango, and hot) should be ok for those who want to venture out a bit. It's for the pure chili head at heart and not for the squeamish.

2. Wingstop (Atomic flavor). This can easily pass as a cousin to the BW3 Blazin' sauce. Again, it's not for the squeamish.

BOTH are hotter than Hooter’s hottest sauce.
3. Anchor Bar. The place where the buffalo wing was created (Buffalo, NY). The “hotter” and “suicidal” fit the bill for the heat-seeker.

BBQ Sauces (in no order). All of these companies do have their own Internet sites. So if you’re interested, type the names in a search engine. Again, if habanero is too hot, leave these alone:

1. Butch's Smack Your Lips BBQ Sauces. I tried this group at Naperville Ribfest. Butch came off as truly one of the nicest people on earth. If he wasn't busy, he would talk and shake a few hands. Some of you may have seen him on a Bobby Flav special a while back. Now for the chiliheads!!! There are 2 sauces that you may like, pyrogenic and the one I like more (Super-pyrogenic). The "super" has an almost delayed burn, when the spices kick in about 3-5 seconds after eating.

2. Pigfoot BBQ. The "Killer sauce is another that I would call a slow burner as well. This is another Ribfest fav of mine.

3. Desperado BBQ. If you want heat, try the "Hotter than H" bbq sauce hit's the tongue from the moment you bite into it. Now how hot is this sauce? A friend of mine, who is not a chili heat, mentioned that there was a lunch bandit at work. You know the type. Someone who believes they’re entitled to someone else’s lunch. I gave him a suggestion. I told him save a few slices of chicken for me and I’ll meet with him later. I brought some of this sauce with me. Anyway, I put some of this sauce on the chicken, told him to take it to work, and leave it there for a couple of days. I told him that if this sauce wouldn’t flush this person out, nothing will. The worst case was I would eat it myself. So he calls me a few days later and says guess what? He figured out who did it. He also told me that he didn’t tell management about knowing this guy ate his food. I asked him why and said that I was right. The guys tongue was burning and his eye are blood red from eating the chicken. He said that he enjoyed watching this “poor” guy suffer. He actually did tell one colleague about our plan and they laughed as hard as my friend.

Well, well. There we have it. The first food adventure I have shared here. TRUST me, there are many more to come. I would have you consider trying any of these products if you wish to feel heat. If you have family or friends who like this type of heat, now I have given you some information you could use with them. A little reference material if you will. Enjoy.

Intro to the Emply Plate Adventures

So after starting a blog on general things (in other words, what I felt at the time), I did notice one thing. I did not realize how many blogs I followed were food-related. So what did I do? I decided to do one myself. Food. You can't live without that. I noticed that many food blogs tend to be more high-end/gourmet and others more on the lines of quick and easy. This one should be somewhere in the middle. Will I mention what I cook? I think it's a safe bet that I would.

As a view of the Food Network since 1994, it has become a guilty pleasure of mine when I can watch it. There are some episodes and shows I like a great deal (Triple D being one that I am especially fond of) and as I find clips I enjoy, I will post them here. I might even post an article I noticed or even mention a different blog writer if I see something I like. Another channel is Create TV (there are some very good shows there as well). One thing is that you will not see anything relating to fish or seafood because I am allergic to them (deathly allergic to shellfish). This should be a lot of fun to do.

So now comes the title. What's the best way to make a chef or cook happy? Make sure your plate is empty when you're through eating. Only non-edibles (e.g., bones, etc) should be left on the plate. In fact, an old saying holds true that says an empty plate is a good sign. An empty plate is a great compliment to the chef or cook who prepared it. So here the journey starts. You may see what I like and dislike food-wise. I may not know what direction this thing will go, but it's worth a try to find out (especially if someone would be crazy enough to pay me to do it). For the record, I am not in the food business and am not professionally trained chef. I open my pantry or fridge and I make something. I go out, look at the menu, order and eat. Pretty simple I would say. Eating sometimes can be an adventure, especially if it's a place or type of food you may not be familiar with. Goodness knows I have enough and will share them in the days ahead. This blog will be written one empty plate at a time. This should be fun to do.