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If you have a question for Doctor John, send an email to moc.oohay@nevarkeerc

Dateline: January 1, 2007

Ask Dr John

Well, Happy New Year 2007 everyone ! Hope you all had a nice holiday. We have some good questions on a variety of subjects this month, so let's get right to them.

Kathy says: I have a question concerning canned kidney beans. How can I take some of the "gas" out of canned beans that are used used for chili? I have heard of Beano, but is there something natural that I could use, such as a potato ? Thank you.

Hi Kathy: I really don't have a good answer on this one. All the anti-gas information available is for cooking dried beans. As the canned beans are already cooked, that's out.

Recommended for cooking dried beans is soaking the beans overnight and then discarding the water and putting on fresh. Another site says to put some apple cider vinegar in the soaking water. The gas comes from natural digestion processes in the large intestine. Another article says to build up your bean immunity by starting with a small amount and then adding them to your diet until you build a tolerance for the beans. The Health Food folks all have remedies, but I have no idea of the effectiveness of any of those products. If you find something that works let me know. Thanks for writing.
Dr. John

Clara wants to count catfish calories: Can you tell me how many calories are in fried catfish? My husband and I are trying to lose some weight, and have been eating a child's plate of four small pieces of fried catfish and a few French fries. But I cannot find anything telling us how many calories we are eating. Can you help?

Hi Clara: One ounce of fried fish equals about 66 calories. One ounce of French fries equal about 94 calories. You will have to do the calculations from there. Thanks for writing.
Dr. John

Richard has chili questions: I am a chili connoisseur with what, I think, is an award-winning chili recipe. I have been honing my craft for ten years now. Lately I have been seeking to use a homemade chili powder instead of the store bought kind, but I am having trouble coming up with a consistent flavor.

Two questions. First, do you have any solid recipes for New Mexico and/or California chili powder? Second, do you have any recommendations for what you consider the best chili powders on the market? Thanks in advance.

Richard: I think what you are telling me is you are making your own "chili blend" chili powder with chiles and other spices. The term "chili powder" has come to mean chili blend.

A pure chili powder is made with only one kind of chile processed into powder. Chiles can vary from crop to crop. One year they can taste completely different from the previous year. What you do is when you find a good powder, you get a lot of it and store it in the freezer. It will keep a lot longer in there. You can experiment with various blends until you get your taste back.

An outlet like has a lot of different spices and powders to work with. Just keep experimenting.

I have an article in the archives of "Traditional Texas Fare" about making chili using dried anchos that are reconstituted. You might want to look into that. I think the article is titled "The Secret Life of Chili" or something like that. [Editor's note: You can find it at The Secret Life of Chili.] Thanks for writing.
Dr. John

Lana wants a natural thickener: I make hot sauce (I don't cook my hot sauce). I would like to thicken the sauce some and was reading about arrowroot as a possible thickening agent. Do I understand correctly that it must be cooked some in order for it to thicken? Info I read says it becomes thick at a lower cooking temperature than cornstarch. I really don't want to have to cook the thickening agent or have it add flavor. Can you offer a suggestion? Any help will be most appreciated.

Hi Lana: It's hard to give you an answer without knowing your recipe. The first thing that comes to mind is eliminating some of the liquid in your recipe. For example, if you use tomatoes, squeeze most of the juice out of them.

All the thickeners I know of require cooking. Would it be possible for you to cook some arrowroot into one of your liquid ingredients separately, then cool it and add it back into the mix? Arrowroot would be preferred as it has no taste and becomes clear when cooked.

There are fruit gums such as gum xanthan but I have no experience with them. I wish I had the magic cure all, but I don't. Thanks for writing.
Dr. John

Trevor has a yellow flame in his barby: Im in Brisbane (Australia), and my gas barby has started to burn with a yellow flame instead of the blue. Any clues as to the possible cause?

Hi Trevor: The yellow flame indicates the gas is not getting enough oxygen to burn completely. I don't know if your barby has an adjustment for the oxygen/gas mixture or not. There should be a mention in your owner's manual if there is. If not, and you are handy with mechanical things, take the burners and associated hardware apart and clean out any carbon accumulations. I hope this helps. Thank you for writing.
Dr. John

[Note: Dr. John got a quick email reply from Trevor saying that he had followed the advice, and the problem was cured. That's what we like to hear around here.]

If you have a question for Doctor John, send an email to moc.oohay@nevarkeerc
end article

Traditional Texas Food Articles
By Dr. John, Ph.B.

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