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

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.

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/

Corn, Ranch Dressing, and Giardiniera

Contestant Robyn opened her cooler on this Sunday night’s episode of “Worst Cooks in America” and found the following three ingredients: corn, ranch dressing, and giardiniera. These foods had been chosen to represent Illinois. (Technically, the dart she threw at the map to choose her state landed in Southern Illinois –more specifically, Southwestern Illinois… ) I spent commercial breaks researching how ranch dressing and giardiniera were indicative of Illinois. Since the official state vegetable is sweet corn, the official state snack is popcorn, and as of this New Year’s Day, the official state grain is corn, I get that one.

An internet search revealed that giardiniera, a pickled vegetable condiment, is reportedly very popular in the Chicago area served with foods such as Italian beef and pizza. Guess what. Southern Illinois has some pretty great Italian food too (Can you say, “Herrinfesta Italiana?”) We also have locally made giardiniera. Louie’s Seasonings in Johnston City makes both hot and mild giardiniera as well as muffaletta and olive salads.

As for the ranch dressing….well, that one was more of a stretch for me. The best I could determine is that it was perhaps a veiled nod to Miracle Whip. Although it is not mayonnaise, it has similar color and appearance. Ranch dressing often has mayonnaise in it. As for the Miracle Whip connection to Illinois, it has been reported to have been developed in Salem. Originally, it was said to be Max Crosset’s X-tra Fine Salad dressing as used in Max Crosset’s Cafe. He reportedly sold its recipe to Kraft Foods for $300 in 1931. As with other things (like internet and sticky notes…) there are some conflicting reports regarding the invention of the famous salad dressing.

Whether or not she was familiar with Illinois or the three ingredients, Contestant Robyn did win the burger creation challenge for the Red Team. In fact a couple of the ingredients she chose to incorporate into her burger creation had elements that are representative of Southern Illinois: pepperjack cheese and barbecue sauce. Peppers seem to grow well here. Darn Hot Peppers has a wide variety of products featuring them. Good BBQ is also readily available in Southern Illinois. 17th Street Bar & Grill, Smoked to the Bone, Pat’s BBQ, The Wylde Hog, and Southern Que are just some of the options. Chef Anne seemed impressed with the Illinois burger, and it did look delicious.