Archive for October, 2012

Apparently, Nutella is the newest thing in food circles.  I heard this a few months back on The Splendid Table (I, of course, was unaware of this new trend).  I first tasted Nutella when I lived overseas in my mid-twenties.  It was silky, rich, and decadent.  Slathered on bread (or maybe just eaten from the jar), I believe it was mostly a 3am, home from the clubs, snack.  Now I see commercials on American television for Nutella as a healthy breakfast alternative for kids and moms on the go.  Really?  Can a drunken craving really become a healthy kids breakfast …. I don’t think so.  Well, I did succumb to the popularity trend and found a Nutella Banana Bread recipe that I had to try.  I liked it, in general, just because of the pockets of ooey-gooey chocolate, but overall, I left like you lost the lovely, sort of smokey, hazelnut flavor of the Nutella.  I think I’ll stick to the now, 8pm, at home – again, snack.


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I attended the “Farm to Table” workshop at the Central Illinois Green Expo last Friday morning to learn more about the issues surrounding local food systems and locally grown foods.  A representative from the Edible Economy Project gave an overview of their project which is working to create three pilot food hubs in Central Illinois (Peoria, Bloomington, and possibly Decatur) to address issues of transportation and logistics in getting local foods to the people, suppliers and restaurants who want it; as well as a representative from the Spence Farm Foundation, promoting and teaching sustainable small family farming, which grew out of Spence Farm, the oldest family farm in Livingston County.  These are exciting projects doing innovative things for the local food movement.  A diverse panel of local farmers and chefs from June restaurant and Harvest Cafe in Delavan, discussed the real world challenges facing both suppliers and buyers.  There are definitely issues of education, of both chefs and farmers, of things like “not all the tomatoes you order will be the same size and shape” to “no, I can’t harvest 100 lbs of XYZ in 1 hour”.  Like most things in life, it’s complicated and inter-connected.  People are making it happen because they are passionate, energetic, and of the “not getting paid” type, “but that’s okay”.  I guess that’s why this business and these issues are so fascinating to me – this un-wavering commitment to something that is good for them, good for all of us and good for the earth.  For many, it boils down to educating the average consumer about the benefits of local food and convincing them to purchase it and support those businesses that use it.

If you want to eat and/or buy locally in Central Illinois, the Illinois Stewardship Alliance has a 2012 “Buy Fresh Buy Local” guide available for download with a listing of restaurants, farms, grocery stores, and farmer’s markets who offer locally grown food.  I found a lot of places I never knew about (not many in Peoria, but all well).

Shout outs to Anne at Living Earth Farm and Anthony at ICC for a great presentation and Expo.

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I used to work in the Pilsen neighborhood, the home of Chicago’s Mexican-American population, and one of the things I miss most is the food … Nuevo Leon, El Milagro and the many bakeries that lined Blue Island.  Well, one of those bakeries moved to Peoria, yes Peoria.  They moved into the old Peoria Bread Company building owned by Dave Koehler.  Thanks, Senator Koehler for being willing to support local foods and sorry about the Bread Company.  My mom doesn’t know where to buy bread now.

So the panaderia in the ‘hood.  It’s open from like 5 in the morning to 9 at night so you have no excuse for not going.  It’s a traditional Mexican bakery with glass cases and cooling racks of breads, croissants, American donuts, Mexican cookies, cakes, and a bunch of stuff that I have no idea what it is, but it all looks fresh and pretty, especially the bright pink cookies with powdered sugar.  Walk in and take a metal tray and some tongs and have at it….choose what you want, take it to the counter, and pay up.  How ingenious is that – giving the customer the power of the tongs – to choose themselves without having to feel embarrassed for asking for 1 of this, 1 of that, 2 of this, and 5 of that.

My advice is just choose what looks good to you and try it.  Come back next time and try new things.  Nothing is marked so it’s a big surprise every time.  Here’s what I got:

Pink cookies with powdered sugar – tastes like a traditional sugar cookie dough but not as sweet
Custard Looking Cake – a layer of traditional yellow cake and a layer of custardy-cake, but not quite custard, and not really sweet (it’s a theme)
Sugared Croissants – good for dunking in coffee
Bolillos – soft, crusty bread for sandwiches or just butter and eat  (go for the ones on the cooling trays)
Tamales – pork with red or green sauce; I liked the green better, but both were hot, homemade and ready to eat from behind the counter


Panaderia Ortiz Bakery
1404 NE Monroe St.
Peoria, IL
5am-9pm everyday

Serving Pizza Now … Call to Order in Advance and Pick up

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Melancholy Chocolate Cake

It was just a “I need a chocolate cake” weekend … missing my girl (but she’s having a vacation to remember); packing up my brother’s house of ten years (but the new house has character and space); walking around historic Springdale Cemetery talking to dead people (the Prairie Folklore Theater does a great job on tours).  Do I need to say more?

I was delicately balancing between laying on the couch all weekend and not moving OR staying so busy I couldn’t remember my name.  I ended up somewhere in the middle and this recipe was perfect.  The name says it all Nigella Lawson’s Store Cupboard Chocolate Raspberry Cake – everything you already have in your cupboard and mixed in one pot.  I should have cooked mine just a bit less so it was still all-over gooey, but hey it’s a chocolate cake!  Put some ice cream and chocolate sauce on top and hopefully I can stay “somewhere in the middle” the rest of the week.

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