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Archive for the ‘Local Food – Chambana’ Category

August 27: Urbana, IL

The Urbana Sweetcorn Festival brought the 80s band Survivor to town!

I didn’t get any corn (for the second year in a row), but I did eat some funnel cake and rock out with my friend Natalie.  Carnival food is sometimes the best worst indulgence.

About to hear “Eye of the Tiger”!

September 2: Urbana, IL

Knowing that the Animal Sciences in the College of ACES at the University studies livestock, they have to do something with the livestock.  I had heard rumors of a meat sciences laboratory.  A lab where I could buy high-quality, local, and very fresh meat at competitive prices.  It became an adventure to find it, and buy some meat.

Well, apparently, the locals know all about it.  And they also know about the eggs sales in the meat sales room, too.  It pretty much looks like a butcher shop with cases of lamb, veal, beef, pork, and chicken you can buy.  It also has cases full of sausages and brats that you can buy.  Here’s what I got:

Hot and spicy polish sausage, smoked brats, rib eye filets, and sliced ham.  The best part is all the packaging says University of Illinois!

The shop also had some helpful posters about beef and pork:

Cuts of beef and where they’re from.
Pork parts labeled.

I cooked the rib eye and ham, but those recipes are in the next post.

How to find Farmer’s Markets in IL

Find a place in Illinois near you that offers fresh farm goods by using Illinois Farm Direct – the farmer-to-consumer directory of locally produced foods.  It’s an excellent source of consumer information.

Thought for the week: “A man loves the meat in his youth that he cannot endure in his age.” – William Shakespeare (1564-1616)


For this week, I was inspired by the humidity of the previous week to try out some truly Southern dishes.


It was necessary to fortify myself before simmering the main dish for an hour – I washed off some organic raspberries.  I also smeared some local Prairie Fruit Farm herb goat cheese I had picked up at the Urbana farmer’s market on some Carr’s table water crackers, topped off with some spicy, jalapeno-infused jelly that I bought at the Charleston Marion Square farmer’s market.  I had set them out all of these ingredients about 30 minutes earlier to make sure they were room temperature so that smearing was easier.

Jalapeno-jelly with goat cheese on table crackers. Excellent, rich appetizer.

If you want to make your own jalapeno or habanero jelly, just mix it in with either strawberry or grape jelly.  Here are some recipes: Habanero Pepper Jelly and Jalapeno Pepper Jelly with pectin.

Main Course

Meanwhile, I had my mama’s recipe of shrimp jambalaya in mind.  First, I had to cook the bacon (an entire pound!) and rice to get things going.

Basmati rice was all I had, and then some bacon, and in the background the vegetables to chop up - onion, green pepper and okra.

While the bacon cooked and the rice absorbed the water, I chopped vegetables and mixed together the spices.  Once the bacon was done, I put together the green peppers and onions in the bacon grease with the spices.  I added in the shredded bacon and frozen shrimp (there’s no fresh seafood in the Midwest) but no sausage (not my thing).  Then I put in the 2 cans of the tomatoes and okra.  Okra can get slimy if you put it into a dish too early, which is why most encounters with it are fried.  I added the rice and stirred it all together, then added about a cup of water to make it more saucy.  Here’s a similar recipe.

This is how it looked before it simmered for an hour.

It was a delicious meal, with plenty of freezer-ready leftovers.


While the shrimp mixture was simmering, I shredded 2 cups worth of carrots and mixed together the batter for my Southern-style carrot cake.  I baked two layers of cake and let them cool overnight.  The icing, with coconut and walnuts instead of pecans, I made the next morning and put together the cake.

Two-layered carrot cake with coconut and cream cheese icing, infused with walnuts.

The cake was intended for sharing – it was huge!  And I made double the icing to make sure there was enough to cover the cake.

Recipe Search Engines

There are a lot of recipe search engines out there.  So which one should you turn to?

Recipe Puppy is one that is unsponsored.  It’s good for looking up what you have left in the fridge and figuring out what to make that night.  Another one is Recipe FinderCookzillas is one that is heavily photo-based.

Foodily is Google’s recipe search engine, and pulls recipes from all over the Internet using the ingredients you have.  The LA Times Technology blog did an extensive overview of the website, the latter of which launched this past February.  Will Google come to dominate the recipe-searches, too?

Not if Microsoft has anything to say about it.  It apparently has a cooking search function that allows you to search within a single website, not that I could find it.

For a great overview of the foodie search options, check out the NY Times article, “Can recipe search engines make you a better cook?” from this past May.

Separately, there are lots of food Wikis out there, too – of particular note is Goons With Spoons, which has tasty recipes.

I hope this search-launching point prepares you with a wealth of great recipes to try.  Happy cooking!

Thought for the week: “Anyway, like I was sayin’, shrimp is the fruit of the sea. You can barbecue it, boil it, broil it, bake it, saute it. Dey’s uh, shrimp-kabobs, shrimp creole, shrimp gumbo. Pan fried, deep fried, stir-fried. There’s pineapple shrimp, lemon shrimp, coconut shrimp, pepper shrimp, shrimp soup, shrimp stew, shrimp salad, shrimp and potatoes, shrimp burger, shrimp sandwich. That- that’s about it.”Bubba character from Forest Gump movie, 1994

After a stressful week, I found myself listening to Tears for Fears and Queen’s “Fat-Bottomed Girls” and making chocolate pudding.  Not exactly my moment.

Or is it?  Is this just exactly what I need?  Do I need to feel like I’m in a late 90s chick flick dancing around the kitchen a la Meg Ryan/ Julia Roberts/ Sandra Bullock style with chocolate smeared on my cheek and a pudding-covered whisk to use as my microphone, singing “I just died in your arms tonight“?

Anyway, the pudding is actually just a step in making the audience-pleaser dessert: dirt.  A combination of chocolate pudding, crumbled Oreo, cool whip, and gummy worms, it’s a perfect Halloween display.  And I’m in luck.  I have a potluck Halloween party tomorrow night.

I used whole milk to make the pudding extra creamy.

Mixed pudding! I played with the whisk to make swirly patterns.

Crushed oreos added.

Mixed in the cool whip.

Close up. Irresistible.

I don’t have pictures of the pudding cups with dirt and worms since it’s just prep for tomorrow, but I will next week!

I also made some slow-cooker turkey chili.

First I had to brown the ground turkey on the stove with some olive oil.

Turkey turns a greyish color when cooked fully.

Grey. Told you. But I had to drain the liquid before adding it to the crock pot.

I chopped up my onions coarsely and smeared butter on the sides of the crockpot. The layering in starts with turkey then onions.

Then the kidney and black beans.

To avoid splashing, the condensed tomato soup went in next just before lots of spices, including chili flakes to give it a kick. So pretty!

The fun part is mixing those layers before setting it to cook. Ready to simmer for 4 hours.

After simmering. Turkey chili ready for eating.

Shredded some sharp cheddar cheese, some fat-free sour cream and some green onion on top. Mmm dinner.

This is a really tasty chili.  I don’t usually have sour cream with my chilis, but it added such a richness that I have to recommend the toppings.

University foodie explorations

Campus Recreation has a “healthy cooking” program that is surprisingly robust for being housed in the Athletic Recreation Center, or the largest campus gym (which even has an indoor rock climbing wall!).  I was tempted to join the cookbook club until I saw that it focuses on basic skill building (i.e. making chicken and rice).

The instructional video recipe archives are kind of cool.

Or you can see the list of recipes and cookbooks, which have a number of vegetarian options, if you’re looking for some ideas.

An interesting marketing ploy I noticed: the local grocery store County Market offers cooking classes and “healthy food tours” of their stores.  Ironic that the instructor’s name is Hope?

Only in the Midwest

Things like the Chicago Cubs Cookbook make me think the Midwest is cute.  Because you know that these athletes are consuming large quantities of their “all-star recipes.”  But despite a cover photo taken in a style stolen from The Rascals, I remain unconvinced that they make what they eat.  So posed, somewhat comical.

Published August 15, 2010! Order yours now!

Thought of the week from the 1980 movie, Popeye: “I would gladly pay you Tuesday for a Hamburger today.”

Wow, what a hiatus.  It’s October.

But I’m back.  And I’ve got lots of pictures and recipes to share.

Tonight, I made veal scallopini with a baby bella mushroom gravy.  I know it sounds fancy, but it’s really not, and it’s pretty easy, even though I modified the directions.


Veal frying with olive oil and butter.


First, I breaded and fried the veal.


Veal - pink au jus stage.


You can tell the veal finishes cooking when its juices run clear (as opposed to pink).


Breaded and cooked veal cutlets.


After I removed the cutlets from the pan, I deviated.  I decided to melt the rest of the butter to saute the sliced mushrooms.


Mushroom saute


Then I poured in the broth on top and mixed in the remnants of the fried dough.  I like thick gravies, so I let it simmer for about 30 minutes and stirred occasionally.  This really let the broth absorb the flavor of the dough, which then the mushrooms absorbed.  Oh, and I forgot to add the parsley, but I didn’t really need it anyway.


Simmered for 30-45 minutes to create a thicker gravy.


I served it with some real mashed potatoes!  …That I picked up from the grocery store pre-made.  Resorting to short cuts isn’t cheating if it tastes good, right? The whole meal was really tasty.


Veal in mushroom gravy with mashed potatoes on the side.



The close up


As a side note, I’ve switched over to using real, unsalted butter instead of margarine.  And I’m kind of into organic fruits now, especially berries.

University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

In other food-news, I have discovered some precious resources on the University of Illinois’ campus.  One is the Bevier Cafe located just down the block from my department office.  This is the “food laboratory” for students in the Food Science and Human Nutrition department, who also staff and manage it.  It.  Is.  Awesome.

The other resource, down the hall from Bevier Cafe, is the Spice Box.  This is the student-run restaurant in the Hospitality Department and appeals more to a fine-dining experience with a price fixe menu and two-course special menu.  I have plans to visit it shortly but it honestly takes more concentrated effort due to reservations and scheduled dining events, of which there are none in the immediate future.  I’ll keep my eye on it.

My cooking, plus endless new cuisine experiments, should tempt you East Coasters to come visit!  🙂  As far as the past items, I’ve been cooking, take a look below and tell me what you like.  Also I have random pictures from this past summer.

Bellamy Mansion, Wilmington, NC – late June


Some say the Bellamy House is still haunted by its former servants.



Bellamy porch. I have one of my other photos of the grounds hanging up in my apartment. Come see it!



The famous, modern servant staircase in the antebellum mansion.


Cooking in Chicago – mid-July to mid-August


Sisterly effort: this meal includes steamed asparagus and a turkey sausage and sun-dried tomato main (my contributions) and a mozzarella, tomato and basil paired with fresh sangria (from my sister).



I whipped together a penne pasta sauce incorporating: Trader Joe's organic vodka sauce as the base with added onion, black olive, and shrimp.



Lady Gaga singing live at Lollapalooza. We stood in a crowd for three hours, but it was worth it so I could dance to rah rah ah ah ahhh. My sister got this shot! I want her bra.


Cooking in Urbana-Champaign – late August-present


Local Curtis Orchard apples for some apple pie.



Gooey, apple pie sugar syrup. I added two tablespoons of cinnamon to the recipe.



Apples added into the mix.



Softening up those apples.



I'm getting better at my pie lattice-work.



Close-up of the finished pie.



Dinner: rib-eye steak with A1 sauce and sweet potato with a Blue Moon citrus splash on the side.



Zataran's dirty rice mix for a Southern-themed dinner party.



Dirty rice after simmering for a half hour. It was a hit at the party!



Dinner: salt and peppered, broiled pork and steamed asparagus with lemon juice.


Thought for the week (which fits nicely with my study of media): “It’s amazing how pervasive food is. Every second commercial is for food. Every second TV episode takes place around a meal. In the city, you can’t go ten feet without seeing or smelling a restaurant. There are 20 foot high hamburgers up on billboards. I am acutely aware of food, and its omnipresence is astounding.” – Adam Scott, author, The Monkey Chow Diaries, June 2006

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