Mystery Solved: Those Pretty Pink Succulents

During my trip to the Marion Farmer’s Market this morning, I looked at all of the pretty succulents at The Potager Garden’s booth. I noticed that some had some pink on them.

Recently, there have been photos circulating on social media of gorgeous pink succulents. Friends and I have been trying to locate some. Searches have not really netted any results.

I decided to ask if there were succulents that just came pink, or if they could turn pink. Since I’ve bought several plants from The Potager Garden, I knew that the Christiansons were very knowledgeable of their plants and would have an answer. They did not let me down. Justin explained that sometimes succulents can get a bit of a sunburn that makes them pink. It doesn’t hurt the plant, but its color changes. The extra sun is necessary to “stress” the plant. I was assured that this type of “stress” is not hurting it though. Succulents with color beyond the basic green require more light to maintain vibrant. Otherwise, their color can revert back to green.

I decided to get a Pencil Cactus. Actually, I’ve wanted to get another since I lost my large one several years ago. I had one that grew to be a couple feet tall from a start my sweet cousin had given me on a trip to see family in Louisiana years ago. I was sad when I lost it.

In addition to the Pencil Cactus, I found some lemongrass and lavender–both for culinary purposes as well as the garden.

Unfortunately, I didn’t arrive in time to make it to every booth. Since we are still under many COVID-19 pandemic restrictions, what should have been a five minute ATM visit at the bank took about half an hour because the cars in line for the other lanes had blocked the ATM lane…

I was able to pick up some Burning Bushes Shrub, one of the specialty flavored drinking vinegars, from Glacier’s End. Although they had just sold their last container of coffee steak rub, I was happy to find Volcan, Costa Rican coffee beans, at Cold Blooded Coffee Co. Their lemonade was delicious too! It was much appreciated after walking around in a hot face mask/bandana. Even on a cooler day, those masks can really warm a person up quite a bit…

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

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.

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

Saturday in Salem

A Slice of Southern Illinois had the pleasure of spending this past Saturday in Salem participating in the vendor fair for Royal Kids Camp and visiting familiar Salem icons. Each vendor donated items to the quarter auction to raise money for foster kids from group homes and in foster families to be able to attend the special camp this summer. Even though the weather outside was rainy and chilly, we had a great time.

I grabbed lunch at the concession stand at the event. Evergreen Christian Church does in fact have some great noodle makers. The nachos supreme looked pretty good too.

My young interns drove through one of the spots that former Salemites tend to visit when they come home: Chico’s Mexican American Restaurant.

After the craft show, we had an opportunity to visit family in the area. Then this Salem Wildcat/Selmaville Rocket alumnus decided to drive around a bit. I didn’t go by as many places as I wanted to see because the weather was not ideal. I did parallel park across from Sweney’s Drug Store, or rather, where it stood, to take some pictures. The building has been gone at least a couple of decades, but there is now mural on what was once an inside wall.

Sweney’s was not only a pharmacy. They sold gift items and had an elaborate soda fountain. Back in the day, Sweney’s was known for their five cent Cokes. I can remember standing in line at the pharmacy counter with my mom as a young child. On a weekend, I would be listening to Casey Kasem host “America’s top 40” on WJBD radio and staring with fascination at the huge, decorative glass container of blue liquid. I always wondered what was in that thing. At Christmastime, my parents would get boxes of chocolates at Sweney’s to give as presents. I liked to watch the store clerk expertly wrap each box.

The ABC Pub sits next to Sweney’s Corner. Of course, I have no childhood memories at pubs or bars, and I’m really not sure if they served food when I was living at Salem. I do know that it is now known for having great food. A few years ago, my high school class had our reunion there. The food was wonderful, the people were nice, and it was a lot of fun catching up with friends. We even walked next door as a class to Sweney’s Corner and released balloons in memory of classmates who are no longer with us.

I

The old movie theater, now used for local and guest performances, sits across from the ABC Pub. The first movie I saw there as a kid was “The Unidentified Flying Oddball.” This was before everyone rented movies, multiplex cinema was everywhere, and you could just stream movies at home. We would wait with anticipation to see which movie came to town each week and looked forward to going to the show with friends on weekends. “St. Elmo’s Fire,” “The Secret of My Success,” “Big,” and many more great movies once graced that screen.

I finally got to visit GoGoGourmet in the newly rennovated Orchard strip mall (formerly Southern Gardens Shopping Center.) This is a place where I could really be a kid in a candy shop. I’m sure fellow foodies could relate. Lisa Lamb and her staff have done a great job with the shop. They had multiple gourmet teas, coffees, chocolate, and even a variety of finishing salts. We tasted some delicious dip mixes, dipping oils, and balsamic vinegars. I loved it. A surprise bonus was getting to visit with a friend at the shop who I had not seen since high school. We had a good time reminiscing and catching up with each other.

After we left GoGoGourmet, we headed toward Selmaville School. We inadvertently took a long route because things looked so different on roads that I used to know by heart. Houses where I played with friends and attended slumber parties have been remodeled, and there are more houses scattered along the way. I’m glad that I didn’t get us lost. That would have been embarrassing.

Perhaps if you listen really closely when you pull up to the school, you can still hear the echo of Mrs. Steinman’s seventh graders reciting their pronouns: “Subjective: I, you, he, she, it, we, they…” We really did have great teachers who cared about us and our futures. There are many great memories tied to that school. We were fortunate to be able to learn from many things beyond just books and classroom instruction.

Selmaville may have been a small school, but we had opportunities. It was a time before so much academic testing, increased regulations, and lofty government expectations that we could still be kids. We didn’t worry about being embarrassed on social media because unless the Salem Times Commoner or our small class newspaper printed it, it wasn’t going to be online for the world to see. “Online” was just bad grammar for being “on the line” in P.E. or sports. We still had class Room Mothers who were allowed to bring homemade treats.

We had good coaches, sponsors, and a wonderful music teacher that inspired me to pursue my music degree. Schoolmates and I lobbied for and eventually got to see and play on the school’s first girls’ basketball team. (They have come a LONG way since then.) We had a marching band and flag corp that actually placed in parades. If a sports team or the band did well at a competition or event, we were met with a police escort as we neared the school. We felt supported by our community. At ballgames, if it was a sport you didn’t play, you cheered on the Rockets and hung out with friends. We were not glued to cell phones. Granted, I couldn’t get by with anything too “horrendous” though because my dad was the principal…news did travel quick in a small school. Even if you were just making a mess by helping friends at your lunch table “operate” on green beans.

I thank God that many of us from my class stay in touch with each other. Part of me is sad that my kids did not have the full opportunity for the experiences that I had at Selmaville.

Eventually, we met my family at Pizza Man, another one of the places Salem people often crave when they move out of town. It was our opportunity to celebrate Mother’s Day and a couple birthdays together. Of course, the Family Pleaser with the famous French dressing (seriously, people buy it in containers to take home…) and Little Egypt Special was wonderful. (I also love the Salem Special, but not everyone likes olives and jalapeños…)

After dinner, it was still a bit rainy, but I wanted to show my faithful interns the Dairy Mart, a seasonal favorite that has been in Salem as long as I can remember. As a kid, my brother and I couldnt tolerate cow’s milk, but we were able to get slushies. My childhood favorite was the Grasshopper Slushie. No insects were harmed in the making of the minty ice drink, but it was grasshopper green. I dont think it has been on the menu for at least one decade though. Initially, I planned to just drive by and snap a few photos since we had just stuffed ourselves at Pizza Man. Then I saw the drive thru… I decided that since I would not have to get out of the car again, I shouldn’t pass the opportunity for one of their iconic lemon soft serve icecream cones…It was the perfect, sweet way to top off a visit to my hometown.

Corn & Salad Dressing

One of the go-to condiments in our house is a really quick corn dressing–mayo, Southern Illinois honey, and Sazón– to spread on corn of the cob. Sometimes I also sprinkle either parmesan or a cheese like feta or cotija onto it once it is on the cob.

When I couldn’t decide what to put on my chef salad for lunch one day, it hit me. I could easily use the corn dressing on my salad. I added the juice of a lime to thin it a bit, and that was it.

I love it when I can have homeade things all set to go that pull double duty. I’ve been using the homeade salsa fresca in my salad for other meals as well. My lettuce was already washed, chopped, and ready to go in a bowl in the fridge. The longest it took me to do anything was tear some thinly slice ham and turkey into pieces. That’s only because I’m still dealing with the chemo-induced neuropathy. Otherwise, it was a pretty quick and tasty chef salad.

Here is the basic recipe:

Ingredients:

1 cup mayonnaise

1/4 cup honey

1 packet of Sazón

Directions:

Mix all ingredients together. Adjust the thickness by adding more mayonnaise or honey.

Optional:

Add the juice or zest of a lime for variation.

Orange Bourbon Chocolate Brownies

These moist, indulgent brownies are the result of not being able to find my “good vanilla” and having to find suitable substitutions…

INGREDIENTS:

2 cups white sugar

1 cup butter

1/2 cup cocoa powder

1 tablespoon bourbon

The juice of 1/2 of a small orange

4 eggs

1 1/2 cups all purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

DIRECTIONS:

A Community Tradition of Harvesting Memories

The Carterville Lion’s Club Free Fair kicked off this Wednesday in Cannon Park with the Farmer’s Market and runs through Saturday, September 8, 2018. This year’s theme is 105 Years of Our Tradition: Harvest the Memories. The Free Fair is a family-friendly event where many gather each year for some good, clean fun.

Friday evening features a 5K Twilight Glow Run and Poker Walk as part of the event festivities. Jackson Junction will be performing from 8:30 pm – 11:00 pm.

Saturday’s lineup includes a parade at 10:00 am, the Lioness Cake Walk, and Stride Pro Wrestling. Debbie Browning is this year’s Parade Marshall. Some of this year’s free events are a pet fair, children’s eye screenings, Identi-Kid services, Emery Brothers Roller Skating, a Ping Pong Avalanche, and hands on healthy snack and eating demos from the Carbondale Neighborhood Co-op Grocery.

Carnival rides, games, and bingo will be operating Friday evening and Saturday. Arm bands are $24 and single tickets are $3.

Additional info is available on the event’s Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/FreeFairPageant/