Archive for August, 2012

I enjoyed my third year presenting in the Cultural Village at Erin Feis this weekend.  About 15 people enjoyed afternoon tea under the tent in 90 degree weather!  I served iced tea in concession.  We even had a birthday to celebrate in the crowd.

Ith gu leòir!

Irish Afternoon Tea Menu served with Barry’s Iced Tea

Honey Scones w/Jam*
Cucumber Sandwiches
Irish Lace Cookies *I re-named them
Black & Tan Brownies
Apple Cider Cake
Irish Whiskey Soda Bread

Honey Scones
2 cups flour
1/4 cup sugar
1 Tbsp salt
6 Tbsp cold butter
1/4 cup milk
2-3 Tbsp honey
1 egg

Sift dry ingredients, cut in butter, mix milk/honey/egg and stir into dry ingredients.  This can all been done by hand.  Knead lightly.  Pat into circle and cut into triangles.  Bake at 400 degrees for 12-15 minutes.  Brush with honey while still hot.  *Thank you to my neighbor for sharing her recipe with us.

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School has started and the Summer is winding down, but it’s not too late to fulfill that early Summer goal of freezing some of your farmer’s market or CSA purchases.  Tomatoes are in full bloom and I found this simple, impressive tomato sauce recipe in my Good Earth Food Alliance e-newsletter a few weeks ago.  Good Earth is another great CSA option for Central Illinoisans although I have not tried them, but I like their newsletter recipes!  This sauce is so simple and I loved the roasted, blistered veggies that turned into this lovely, deep red/orange sauce.

My mom also just cuts up tomatoes, green pepper, garlic, and onion and throws it in a freezer bag with some oil.  That’s super easy – and it still counts – even though you didn’t cook anything or boil any jars!

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Okay, well maybe the sheer size of the beaver is a little scary!  Beaver’s Coffee & Donuts sells mini donuts out of their truck in Chicago.  So tell me… what restaurant might they put out of business in Peoria?  What terrible catastrophe might occur if they parked at the Farmer’s Market on Saturday and sold donuts and coffee?  Hmmm…. might it bring more customers to the Market?  Perhaps it would signal to other entrpreneurs and innovative businesses that Peoria is progressive and open to new ideas.

The classic cinnamon and powdered sugar ones are hot and puffy and melt in your mouth.  Add some toppings like chocolate, coconut, marshmallow and sprinkles if you want, too!

Don’t mess with the beaver.  He’s comin’ for ya’ll in Peoria!

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I visited the Julia Child’s Kitchen exhibit at the Smithsonian in February of last year and it was delightful.  The copper pan collections, the video clips, the memorabilia, and the exact replica of her kitchen were fascinating to see.  On this, her 100th birthday, these are my brief thoughts based on the radio interviews I’ve heard and the books I’ve read.  I loved her infectious enthusiasm for life.  She didn’t seem to be bothered by society’s norms or anyone’s opinions about “what women should do” or “what people want to eat”.  She chose her path and moved ahead with confidence and grace and determination.  And she could laugh at herself and at life’s vagaries.  I salute you Julia (and will try to keep learning and challenging myself in your honor).

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I know, Woodridge is not exactly Central Illinois, but I was visiting family and we drove out to Clara’s Pasta because we had heard good things.  And it was definitely chock-full of good things….a family-owned Italian restaurant with photos of weddings, first communions, anniversaries, and graduations adorning the walls like you walked into someone’s house in Elmwood Park.  Not fancy, but the pasta is homemade and the preparations are much lighter and fresher than a lot of your standard Italian/American spots.  The lasagna was not a smothered tower of cheese and red sauce but a lightly layered creation with a fresh, chunky tomato sauce spooned over the top with lots of fresh basil flecks.

The outstanding dish for me was a creamy, garlicky, textured puree of cauliflower that was warm, and, oh so rich.  Served in a casserole dish hot from the broiler, I could use this in place of ricotta cheese in ravioli or lasagna or spread it on toasted peasant bread with a few tomatoes on top and a sprinkling of basil.  This is one of those deceptive dishes.  You know there  is more to the recipe than cauliflower and garlic but you don’t know what.  Maybe parmesan cheese?  I will keep you posted.

If you’re in the burbs, seek Clara’s out – featured on Chicago’s Best.  The true test of good food – I ate it all cold for breakfast again the next day!

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I heard about the Sustainable Business Center in Galesburg from a friend and I have been wanting to visit ever since.  An end-of-Summer kid-trip to the Galesburg Children’s Museum was the perfect excuse.  Not exactly on the beaten path, the SBC is a business incubator to assist the development of green, innovative companies through business support resources and services.  In addition to several green businesses, they have a commercial kitchen for rent and they operate En Season Cafe, offering a daily menu of locally-sourced food.  The Cafe is only open Wednesday-Friday, 11:00 am-2:00 pm and Saturday, 9:00 am-2:00 pm.  There are five local farms, including one dairy and one livestock, who provide much of the food served at the restaurant.

The menu changes daily depending on what’s available from the farm but usually includes a selection of soups, sandwiches, salads, entrees, and dessert, but maybe only 1 or 2 of each.  We had half a grilled cheese sandwich with white cheddar from Milton Farms in Iowa on multi-grain bread (it was excellent – I’ll find out where it came from) and a bowl of Provencal Pistou soup.  Doesn’t sound that exciting, but the grilled cheese is one of their specialties. The hot, gooey, richness of the wonderful cheddar was balanced by the hearty, chewy, crunchy multi-grain loaf.  The Pistou, a hearty French soup with potatoes, zucchini, corn, and an herbed “pesto” on top was actually lighter than it sounds especially on the 102 degree Summer day we were experiencing!  It tasted fresh and straight from the field.  Our lunches were garnished with the fattest pickle I have ever seen – and the taste was like nothing I have ever eaten.  It wasn’t as sharp and vinegar-y as a store-bought dill, but still had a distinct biting flavor and a nice, satisfying crunch.  I suspect someone had just made it.

The Cafe has an open kitchen with a counter for viewing and eating as well as traditional tables and chairs.  They sell some fresh produce and all kinds of grains, flours, dried beans, herbs, honey, and other dry goods.  On Wednesdays they host a small farmers market.  All-in-all, well worth a trip to experience the whole package and support our local farmers.  This is how eating out should be – a limited menu, fresh, fresh ingredients, and an open, easy atmosphere that’s efficient,  inexpensive and very, very enjoyable.

Learn more about En Season Cafe

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