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Archive for the ‘Miscellany’ Category

Making Hot Dog Recipes at Home – From Scratch!

Stuff it!  (Your own sausages).  It’s not that hard, I do it a couple times a year, though it is definitely an easier task if you have a partner or two helping.

I’m not going to go through the whole process here, you’ll have to decide whether to use all beef, beef and pork, or poultry as a meat base, and whether to grind it at home or purchase pre-ground meat.  There are simple manual stuffing tools (I sometimes use a modified caulking gun), or attachments for devices like KitchenAid mixers.  You’ll have to learn about and purchase casings, natural or made from collagen.

This article is just focused on the seasoning mix, a very traditional hot dog flavor.  Here are the ingredients for 20 pounds of franks, cut down the recipe proportionately for less meat.


4 Level tsp. INSTACURE #1 (add only if smoking the sausages) 
8 Tb. Paprika
12 Tb. Ground Mustard
2 tsp. Ground Black Pepper
2 tsp. Ground White Pepper 
2 tsp. Ground Celery Seeds
2 Tb. Mace
2 tsp. Garlic Powder
8 Tb. Salt
4 Cups Non-Fat Dry Milk or Soy Protein Concentrate
8 Tb. Powdered Dextrose
4 Cups of Ice Water

Mix the dry ingredients and crush as needed with a mortar and pestle, and then  you’re going to blend these ingredients into your meat mixture making sure it is thoroughly distributed throughout the slurry. You’ll be much happier if you allow the mix to sit in the frig overnight so that all the flavors fully take, but it’s not absolutely essential.

From there, you’ll embark on the stuffing part of the task, and either refrigerate the finished franks, freeze some, or put them on the smoker before storage for additional old world flavor.

Home stuffed wieners

hot dog recipes

Applegate Naturals Uncured Genoa Salami Review

I’m not sure how many consumers even know what the word “uncured” means when they see it on processed meat packages, like deli meats, hot dogs, ham and bacon.   I am also not sure where there is an “official” government definition, but I personally take it to mean free of the preservatives generally found in such products, like sodium nitrites and nitrates.

Often, in my reading, I have seen references to these types of meats being ‘cured’ by celery juice or celery juice powder, substances which contain nitrates naturally.  Uncured meats must be kept refrigerated or they will spoil.

Applegate Farms makes a living selling uncured, natural, and organic meat products from a variety of protein sources. They say they source their meat from sources that raise animals humanely and do not use antibiotics.

In addition to the products mentioned in the first sentence, Applegate Farms also markets poultry products, including chicken sausages and turkey “burgers.”  They are based in New Jersey and have been around 25 years or so.  On the packaging, their UPC code is also used as a “barn code” and tells you where the meat was sourced.  In the case of my purchase, Uncured Genoa Salami,” apparently the pork came from farms in South Dakota, Illinois, Minnesota, Iowa, Ontario and Quebec.

The label says the pork was raised on “sustainable family farms in a stress-free environment that promotes natural behavior and socialization.”   Another thing I have no idea what it means, other than perhaps the piggies are allowed to socialize on Facebook prior being driven off to the kill zone.

After the piggies socialized, they went on a  (albeit brief) vacation to California, where (according to the USDA establishment number) they were manufactured into salami by Busseto Foods in Fresno, CA, decidedly a giant among pork producers.   In fact, their Genoa salami looks very similar to Applegate’s.

I’m one of those consumers that doesn’t really care if animals we’re going to kill are ‘raised humanely,” as it seems like a contradiction anyway.  At my age, I also don’t care about whether or not I ingest preservatives, maybe more of them will actually keep me on the planet a little longer.

What I care about, particularly with salami, is appearance, taste, texture and value.  Applegate meets the first three of those categories excellent, but at near $20 a pound, value isn’t at the top of their game.  But then, all meat is expensive now.  Seems to me like it dramatically shoots up weekly.

Bottom line, would I buy Applegate salami again? Yep.  It’s tasty, no matter how the piggies were raised or what they ‘et’ prior to my chowing down on them.

Postscript:   By coincidence, the following day I spotted Busseto’s product in another store, at the equivalent of $10 a pound.  Not organic, not uncured, but are those designators worth twice the price?  Not to me.

Applegate Farms Uncured Genoa Salami


Applegate Farms Uncured Genoa Salami


Applegate Farms Salami

Bussseto Brand










Applegate Naturals Uncured Genoa Salami

Popeyes Cracked Pepper Shrimp Review

Rolled through the old ‘hood today, zipped thru (Louisiana fast) Popeye’s to try their LTO of Cracked Pepper Butterfly Shrimp with “blackened” tartar sauce.

Eight shrimp, fries and a biscuit for $4.99.  The shrimp, like Popeye’s chicken, were diminutive in size, but no matter, as it’s Mrs Burgerdogboy’s fast food of choice, especially the red beans and rice (large).  She was AWOL for my visit today, so I passed on the beans, but amped up the order by adding a side of green beans.


Big news from Popeyes this week;  as I have written about before, the genius of founder Al Copeland was that when he sold the chain, he kept the recipes and a contract to make the ‘secret ingredients’ seasoning and sides and sides.  He had a separate company that did those tasks called “Diversified Seasonings.”   Al passed away a couple years ago, and this week, the heirs sold the recipes and secrets to the Popeye’s parent….for  a cool $43 million.

Compare and contrast the marketing photo and the real deal.  Bottom pic is the dippin’ sauce.

Popeyes Shrimp Review


Popeyes Shrimp Review


Popeyes Shrimp Review
Popeye's Louisiana Kitchen on Urbanspoon
Popeyes Cracked Pepper Shrimp Review

Steak N Shake Shooters Review

Steak N Shake Shooter Review Started in Normal, IL, in 1934 by  ex marine Gus Belt, Steak N Shake is so named for its focus on ‘steakburgers’ and milk shakes. The marketing slogan “in sight it must be right” referred to the fact that originally, the beef was ground in plain sight of the customers, and originally was a grind of T-bone, sirloin, and round.  Gus passed in 1954, and the chain went through a number of ownership changes. It’s currently  held by the diversified holding company of Biglari Holdings, based in San Antonio.

Today, more than 400 restaurants dot the Midwest, Southern, and Southwestern United States, and the company seems in growth mode.  Open 24/7, the Steak N Shake menu not only includes steakburgers, fries and shakes, but has been enlarged to include breakfast items, other sandwiches, salads, and different variations of chili on spaghetti noodles, the way one might find in Ohio chili chains.

I’ve long been a fan, and stop at one when I pass through a city that has some of the outposts.  I’ve written about other menu items in the past.

The occasion for my recent stop was to check out some of their new menu items.  As Steak N Shake’s competitors are on a tear with menu additions, newly remodeled stores, and spin-off concepts, the company seems to be putting its new focus on increased menu items as well as value-pricing with a substantial number of “$4 dollar meals.”

I tried out their “shooters”, the Steak N Shake version of sliders, mini hamburgers with different flavors available singly or in multiples.

The “Three shooters plus fries” plate came in at the $4 price point, and I opted for the flavor choices of garlic, “Frisco,” and buffalo.

Each came with a ‘slather’ of the designated sauce, buffalo ala Frank’s Red Hot Wing Sauce, Frisco, which was described to me by the waitperson as “exactly like thousand island dressing”, and a garlic butter.   The buns receive a light brush of butter, and otherwise, the burgers are devoid of condiments and cheese, unless you request same (slight charge for cheese).

I liked them all, even though I usually passionately avoid anything with thousand island.

Steak N Shake’s fries are always properly fried shoestrings, with the right amount of salt.  On each table is a bottle of their “Fry Seasoning” if you want to amp up the fries or burger.  It’s kinda like Season Salt, but in my opinion, much tastier.  And no MSG if you care about that kind of thing.

One “secret menu” item at S n S is the 7X7, seven burger patties, seven slices of cheese.  I’ll get to that someday.

Anyway – the shooter platter is a great way to try out their new flavors, or feed the kids on a very economical basis.  Find a Steak N Shake near you.

Steak N Shake Shooter Review

Three Shooters and Fries

Steak N Shake Shooter Review










Steak N Shake Shooters Review

Gilberts Froman Frank Review

Gilberts Froman Frank ReviewBased in northeastern Wisconsin, Gilbert’s Craft Sausages are touting their all natural, uncured line of franks and sausages. I picked up a package of their “Froman” franks, which I assume is a riff on the character of Abe Froman, the “Sausage King of Chicago” in the Ferris Bueller movie.  Gilbert’s grew out of a passion two friends had for microbrews in 2008.

In addition to the uncured frank, Gilbert’s has a gluten free beer brat, a chipotle mozzarella lime smoked sausage, and an uncured smoked sausage with blue cheese.

“Uncured” meats are those without sodium nitrates or nitrites, which are commonly found preservatives in processed meats.

The ingredient list for the franks is straightforward: Beef Sirloin, Beef, Water, with 2% or less of the following: Seasoning Blend (Natural Spices, Paprika, Natural Flavors), Sea Salt, Sugar, Cherry Powder and Evaporated Cane Syrup, Cultured Celery Juice Powder, Sodium Phosphate, in a Beef Collagen Casing.

The franks are packaged four in a pack, and come individually wrapped, which is kinda nice.  They ARE spendy, however, at about $6.50 per four pack (10 ounces), (online price) or $1.62 per wiener.  That’s steep compared to other premium products.  I generally pay between $4 – $5 for a six wiener package of all beef, natural casing franks, which is my own preference.

I bought them today because they were in the ‘scratch and dent’ section of my grocer, and being sold at $2.00.

The first thing I noticed about the uncooked wiener was its smell, or lack of it.   The slight aroma from the uncooked sausage is actually kind of sweet – as opposed to any kind of smokey odor I would expect.

Aside from the mildness, the flavor is similar to any all beef frank.

It’s a very fine grind sausage, and the collagen casing gives it a little ‘snap.’   Putting a little char on it adds to  the ‘bite factor.’ Would I buy them regularly?  Probably not at this price.  On sale?  Maybe.  But I much prefer natural casings, but that’s just me, and a mere 5 % of hot dog buyers in the U.S.  Buyers looking for all natural dogs and who eschew preservatives will really enjoy this company’s offerings.

Knowing how hard it is to launch a meat biz, and get shelf space, I greatly admire these guys for the progress they are making.

Find Gilbert’s at a store near you, or shop online.

Gilberts Froman Frank Review


Iowa Machine Shed Review

Iowa Machine Shed Review“Dedicated to the American Farmer” – was the slogan of a restaurant we used to pop into in Davenport Iowa.  The “Iowa Machine Shed”, just outside of town, served wholesome American food in large quantities.   We had moved to Davenport to build the first radio station I owned.  Back in Marconi days.   Today there are a half dozen Machine Shed restaurants in Iowa, Illinois, Wisconsin and Minnesota.

The restaurant cooks from scratch and uses top notch suppliers.  Some people might compare it to Cracker Barrel, and I guess there is a similarity, but Machine Shed is better, in my opinion.

These places seat a big mess o people, so remember that when setting out to visit.  They are open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, with slightly different menus at each meal.

After your drink orders are taken, the server will bring the table complimentary “fixins”, which is comprised of an ample bread basket with super soft large dinner rolls, a family sized bowl of slaw and one of cottage cheese.  I love cottage cheese, and this has to be some of the best I have had, ever, anywhere.  High milk fat content, small curd.

This trip, I ordered the country fried chicken, which was nice and crisp on the outside and juicy inside.  Dinners come with a vegetable and your choice of a large variety of spud preparations.  I got fries and some nice gravy to go with it.

If you’re in for breakfast, or need a little sweet thing (besides Mrs. Burgerdogboy), they have these massive breakfast rolls in a couple of different varieties, and I swear, they must weigh two pounds.

Next time I zip through the Upper Midwest, I’ll angle to hit a Machine Shed at breakfast, as they have a platter which covers all the breakfast pork options.  Nice.  And BTW?  There is no better place to be during summers in America than the farm belt.  County fairs, small town festivals, block parties.  The best.

Typical dinner menu.

Iowa Machine Shed Review

Complimentary “fixins”


Iowa Machine Shed Review

Country Fried Chicken


The Machine Shed on Urbanspoon


Iowa Machine Shed Review

Contract Writer for Food and Travel Available

Contract Writer for Food and Travel

Opening a new or refreshed hotel or resort?  Creating new tour opportunities?  Launching a new food product, giving tours of factories or restaurant openings?  “Celebrity judge” for a food-related or other competition?  Contract writer available!

About Me

I am a well-traveled (see map below) independent traveler with a strong following on this, and other blogs, as well as having a high Klout rating and being rated “most influential” in several categories on  I have touched down in over seventy countries on five continents, and lived on three continents.

Yelp Elite for five years running and top contributor to other review sites, I write approximately 400 blog pieces per month for a wide variety of industry websites and ezines.

Road Ready Contract Writer

100% unfettered, I am able to travel on a moment’s notice for short or extended periods.

Per-diem rates upon request,  first inquiry via email, but always include complimentary transportation, meals, accommodation and stipend. All payments through PayPal only.

In addition to domestic and international travel, also interested in grand openings, expansions, news from restaurant chains, behind the scenes tours of test kitchens,  food manufacturing and distribution companies.  Always packed.  Always ready for the road.


Contract writer for food and travel






Contract Writer



The US Version of the Cornish Pasty (review)

Michigan PastyHaving been fortunate to live and travel in many different parts of the world, I have always been interested in the fact that each culture, geographical area seems to have a dish that was ‘designed’ with the working man in mind.  That in a minimum ‘size’, the workman could take a rather complete meal on to the job each day.  In Japan, it was sushi.  In New Orleans, the muffaletta sandwich. Parts of Latin America, the empanada. In Cornwall, England, it was the pasty. Other parts of England, a variation, the meat pie.

The pasty (?pæsti/) is meat, vegetables and usually rutabaga, in a semi circular, (“d” shape) crimped baked pasty.  Though I have never known why, or how, and am too lazy to try and figure it out, somehow the pasty made its way to the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, and the Iron Range of Minnesota, and was largely associated with immigrant miners of Finnish descent.  In the UP, pasties are kind of a tourist attraction, with many shops selling them and there being celebrations and fests honoring the pastry.

Growing up in Minnesota, it wasn’t a regular feature at our dinner table, not sure I remember them at home at all, and as an adult, it’s never been something that attracted me – I have a real aversion to chicken pot pies, and the pasty reminds of them.

But I saw one at a grocery, made by a small firm in Michigan, the Pasty Oven, Inc. , and thought I would give it a whirl.  I picked the version that is beef and pork, and skipped the rutabaga. Other ingredients include potatoes,  onions, barley flour and seasonings.  No extra veggies in this one.

The label says you can microwave it, but I opted for the oven method, 45 minutes at 375.  In Minnesota, the pasty is often served with brown gravy, so I whipped some up for this experience.

Plated, cut, you’ll notice there isn’t a lot of liquid in these pastries like pot pies have.  That’s good, and provides for a better chance of having a nice crust on the pastry “wrapper.”

It’s actually tastier than I thought it would, and is very filling.  It could use a little seasoning, but brown gravy adds a lot.  Yes, i’d buy them again.  One pasty easily serves two. Want to give the  Michigan style pasty a try?  The company ships product, make your selection here.

Michigan Pasty






cornish pasty reviews

Great American Steak Company – Beef Filet Review

If you’ve been to one of America’s premier steakhouse chains like Ruth’s Chris, Mortons, Smith & Wollensky, or an upmarket independent operator in your local market, like me, it’s likely you have paid $30 – $50 for a premium beef filet, usually around 6 ounces. Add a couple sides and drinks and you’re easily at the hundred dollar market for dinner.

Frequently you’ll see ‘filets’ on sale at grocery stores, personally sized portions, usually about four ounces, for anywhere between $4.99 – $9.99.

Imagine my surprise when I found a bunch from “Great American Steak Company” for $1.99 each.

Great American is a retail brand of  the American Foods Group, part of the Rosen’s Group, a diversified operator founded in 1946 in Fairmont, Minnesota, about 100 miles southwest of Minneapolis.

Among their other brands are the Sheboygan Sausage Company and Big City Reds Hot Dogs.  According to the USDA plant number on the packaging, this beef was processed at another Rosen subsidiary, Skylark Packing in Omaha.

At the price, I was ‘afraid’ the product would be not real muscle meat, but instead a rolled or ‘pressed chopped and formed’ piece of beef.  I was wrong.

The steak was a moist, flavorful single cut of beef, wrapped in bacon.  Wish I had bought a hundred.

Great American Steak Review


Great American Steak Review

Filet cooked medium, cut in half


Great American Steak Company Reviews

Duluth, MN – Canal Park Brewing Review

A year old, operating kinks worked out, Canal Park Brewing has  great beer, updated menu adds spot on poutine. Menu.

Canal Park Brewing Review






Canal Park Brewing Company on Urbanspoon

Canal Park Brewing Review

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