Southern Illinois STRONG

Southern Illinois STRONG is the new name for the companion group to the Help Others Section of ASOSI/A Slice of Southern Illinois.  It will be a publicly listed group on Facebook. Currently, it is still showing as private, however that is expected to change soon. People are encouraged to share efforts in Southern Illinois to help others out as well as encourage and support people and small businesses who are doing positive things in our region (I-70 the the southern state line. )

Help Others:

https://asliceofsouthernillinois.com/eat-more-to-help/

Everyone has the ability to help someone.

The group gives people an opportunity to help identify Southern Illinois local fundraisers (such as those for school groups, teams, medical needs, folks who have experienced loss, etc.) or regional combined efforts to help elsewhere. All are subject to admin approval, and may be added to the Help Others section of the app/blog.

People who are looking for ways to help out and connect with their community can check back regularly to see if there is something even simple they can do such as save soup labels or buy something they might have otherwise ordered online to help out someone locally.

The ASOSI app is available as a free download in the Google Play Store and in the Apple App Store. ASOSI is a tool packed with links to area info for locals and tourists that shows support for locally owned shops and eateries.

Showing support for locally owned businesses also strengthens our region. It is so important to our survival and ability to thrive as a region to support each other in the positive things when possible. Small business ownership is not easy. Those of us who grew up watching Harriett and the Olson family on “Little House on the Prairie” saw the rich business owners as being snotty (except poor Nels) to the other townsfolk and living in luxury. This not the case for most. If you read much literature on small businesses, many do not make a profit in the first few years, and owners work other full time jobs to make ends meet. A while back, I spoke with a local banker who advised that the majority of small businesses actually operate in the red. Owners sometime work extra jobs to make ends meet and provide for their families. Many of us have no idea what type of sacrifices our neighbors have made to keep their doors open and services available to us.

When we have a negative experience with a local business, before we rush to slam it on social media, the mature response woud be to perhaps discuss it with the business and allow a chance to make amends or correct misunderstandings. Easier said than done, I know… However when we just start reacting, crucifying, stirring, and jumping onto scapegoat bandwagons, we really don’t paint a pretty picture of ourselves. That hurts all of us. Would you really want to visit, shop, eat, and spend hard-earned money in a place that seemed hell-bent on finding someone to tar and feather? Perhaps if you are into the whole mystery dinner thing, you might try it once… (If you do, please don’t tell me. That gives me too much insight into your personality type…)

Having said all of that, let’s get in the habit of acknowledging when a person or a business in Southern Illinois steps up to help someone. There is enough angry, hate-filled news in the world. Let’s make our little corner a bright one. It is much better to build each other up than tear each other down. The group is also a place to give acknowledgment to people for helping out or doing a good job at something in Southern Illinois. If someone has been battling health issues, and his or her yard is a hot mess, let’s acknowledge the compassionate people who step up and step in to help-not those just out to make a buck. There are plenty of other formats for those to those who just want to complain about the temporary aesthetics to be able to see their words in print. (Seriosuly, you could play a game by tallying the predicted snide and often useless remarks of arm chair critics to news stories…) Let’s support and encourage those who are actually going to take positive action–not condemnation– toward solutions.

A friend posed the question on social media as to what made our area special. It reminded me of that May 8 storm that left so many without power for many days. Southern Illinoisans really stepped up and helped each other through a tough time. That same spirit still thrives among many. We are Southern Illinois STRONG!

https://www.facebook.com/groups/2402600916667909/

For the Birds?

I didn’t slide driving around this morning, but a poor, large bird almost flew into my vehicle crossing over Crab Orchard Lake…

Please be safe driving around in Southern Illinois.  The temperature is right on that line of freezing, and some folks are reporting a few slick spots. Big, fluffy snowflakes have been falling in the Marion area. Some actually are sticking to the geound.

Can you imagine the challenges of being a migrating bird in Southern Illinois? Whiplash could be an issue. “Get in formation, we are heading south for winter.” Then a few miles over, “Hey, it’s almost 70 degrees. Time to go north.” Another few miles: ‘Ugh. Snow. Put it in reverse, we’re heading south again…”

I guess we easily forget the wide range of weather we have, and how quickly it changes. On Christmas, it was so warm outside that we seriously considered dining al fresco on the deck.

That’s not the first warm December we have had. I can remember a December in Carbondale in the late 90’s (1998?) when it was exceptionally warm. Friends and I went to see Aerosmith at the SIU Arena. Later, we all sat out in front of La Roma’s on The Strip eating pizza at midnight and didn’t freeze. I miss La Roma’s…and those concerts. But, I digress…

Above: Carbondale, file photo

I also remember a cold May in the 90’s when a friend and I nearly froze trying to walk around at Fort de Chartres at Prairie du Rocher.

I guess the flipping back and forth of temperatures gives our region more character. It also means perhaps would should cut those poor birds some slack when they poop on our windshields. They must be stressed from all the weather changes.

Above: Our beloved Heidi (Heidi’s Angel Brigade of Southern Illinois was created to honor her memory) on a walk during a prior winter

Help Others

The ASOSI app has been modified a bit to include a “Help Others” icon that corresponds with the “Eat & More to Help” section of the blog/website. This area includes local verifiable charity events, benefit dinners, fundraisers, volunteer opportunities, and more.

The section can be accessed by clicking the “Help Others” icon on the ASOSI app (free download in the Google Play Store and the Apple App Store. )

You can also get there by clicking on the Menu of this blog/website and choosing “Eat & More to Help.”

If you are aware of an upcoming charitable event or verifiable need within Southern Illinois (roughly, I-70 to the southern state line or the 618 area code…,) please either message through the A Slice of Southern Illinois Facebook page or send an email to: asliceofsouthernillinois@gmail.com

Although app listings are normally limited to locally owned businesses, if a national chain or corporation is having an event or program that benefits a local charity, we may choose list it as well. For example, some stores have loyalty cards that give an option to donate a percentage of purchases to local schools or organizations. If we know those organizations, we may be able to list them.

Thank you! Together, we can keep Southern Illinois Strong.

Warm Thoughts…

These were some of the first videos posted on YouTube by A Slice of Southern Illinois on the Slices of Southern Illinois channel.

It was a few summers ago, extremely hot, and as usual, the AC didn’t work in the house we were renting. The oven may or may not have been working, but when it’s already about a hundred degrees, who wants to add heat? So, we tried to make the best of it.

Yes, there is a learning curve to making videos. We are still somewhere on the bendy part…

Sundried Tomatoes Part One

Sundried Tomatoes Part Two

A Walk Through the Winter Farmer’s Market

I decided to take a short video as I made my first lap around the stands at the Carbondale Community Farmer’s Market this morning. The video has been posted on YouTube. (If all goes well, it is also embedded in this post…) I was amazed at the quality and variety we have here even during the dreary winter months. Fresh greens, herbs, mushrooms, and more were available.

The market meets on Saturdays from 9:00 a.m. to noon at Carbondale Community High School through March 28, 2020. Some of the upcoming events, besides the weekly Fit program, are a seed swap, kids’ day, and plant give away.

It is definitely worth crawling out of bed to visit on a dreary morning. I found dried ancho chili peppers as well as a bunch of fresh salad greens to play with this week…

Local root veggies

Southern Illinois honey

SNAP/LINK can go further on healthy food at a Farmer’s Market than on junk food elsewhere.

More quality locally made products
Fitness Fun at the market…
Live entertainment
More veggies…

Citrus & Spice and Everything Nice…

One of my favorite ways to marinate turkey breast is with citrus. I’ve learned that you can somewhat replicate sour oranges (often used in Cuban mojos) by combining the juice from regular oranges and limes.

This time, I actually used about 7 clementines and 8 key limes. I mixed that juice with a bit of olive oil (maybe a fourth of a cup,) about a tablespoon of chopped ginger root, a couple cloves of smashes garlic, teaspoon black pepper, and a teaspoon kosher salt. I poured that whole mixture over a double bagged 5 pound turkey breast and let it marinate for about 45 minutes in the refrigerator.

Then I mixed some of my Sazón of Little Egypt with a bit of brown sugar and black pepper and added enough olive oil to form a paste. I made a rack for the turkey breast with the squeezed lime and orange halves after filling the cavity with a cut up onion, a couple smashed garlic cloves, and a few of the citrus halves. Then I placed the turkey breast on the makeshift rack, cavity side down, and drizzled it with olive oil. I used a silicone brush to paint on the sazón paste mixture before pouring the remaining marinade in the bottom of the pain for some moisture. Next, it went into the oven for a couple hours at 350 degrees Farenheit until it reached an internal temperature of 165 degrees Fahrenheit. I believe it would have been fine at a slightly higher temp for a crisper skin because all of the marinade did a great job of tenderizing.

I think any leftovers might be good with some avocado and crostini…or maybe in a salad? Then again, some toasted bread, cheddar cheese, and sandwich fixings sound pretty good too… Since this is Illinois, a horseshoe made with with turkey over a pile a fries smothered in cheesy goodness would also work.

How Do You Do Chicken & Rice?

Chicken and rice sounds like a specific meal request, right? In Southern Illinois, we are blessed with so many wonderful food choices that you may need to clarify your choice. Between brick and mortar sights and food trucks/carts, there are many ethnic variances on this classic dish.

It seems pretty much every culture has some version of the meal. They may vary by cooking methods, sauces, spices, and sides. Below, you will see just a sampling of some of the wonderful local options for chicken and rice. What are your favorites?

As this is by far not a comprehensive list, I know there are other mouth-watering options out there. Please comment and let the rest of us know about them! Give your favorite locally-owned Southern Illinois eatery a shout out…

Above: Chicken Tiki Masala from India Delight in Marion

Above: Jerk chicken from Caribbean Hut in Cambria

Above: Mini chicken chimichangas from El Paisano in Carbondale

Above: Chicken Shawarma from Pita Alley in Carbondale

Above: A delicious plate from La Cocina Mexican Restaurant in Salem

Above: Hibachi Chicken from Fujiyama in Carbondale (they also have sites in Mt. Vernon and Effingham with a new site on the way in Marion.

Happy 20 Years!

Beer Can Alley

If you’ve driven around in the country by Salem, this serene scene might be familiar…

Beer Can Alley, a name that appears to make no sense now, was once lined with beer cans, among other things. That changed dramatically when the recycling movement really took off in the late 70’s and early 80’s.

Fortunately, the stretch of road was cleaned up, but the name Beer Can Alley stuck. Locals still affectionately use the name. It remains a beautiful, fairytale-like path to memories of home or visits to Salem for many.

This photo card is now available in the A Slice of Southern Illinois collection at Irons in the Fire, downtown Carterville.

https://instagram.com/ironsinthefire_?igshid=x451gntejvj2