Monday, October 9, 2017

Apple Cranberry Crunch Salad

There are probably a few folks who think bringing a salad to a holiday gathering is sacrilege. Why would anyone bother with salad, when there are sweet potatoes, mashed potatoes, green bean casseroles, creamed corn, rolls and pies to gorge on?  Well, this is exactly why.

A trick I learned from Weight Watchers was to always bring a “safe food” for yourself. It may sound a bit selfish; however, what I found is that more people appreciate a big bowl of greens, fruits and nuts than I thought, especially those who have multiple events in one day.

This salad is the perfect combination of ingredients to serve throughout the fall. The glazed pecans provide the crunch and sweetness to balance the tartness of the apples and cranberries. If you happen to invite me, I’ll be bringing my “safe food,” but rest assured, I’ll bring plenty to share.  

Apple Cranberry Crunch Salad
Serves 8
1 cup glazed pecans (recipe below)
1 head romaine lettuce
1 head red leaf lettuce
½ cup dried cranberries
2 unpeeled apples (any variety) cored and sliced
4-ounce container blue cheese
Balsamic vinaigrette

1 cup pecan halves
1 tablespoon salted butter
2 tablespoons dark brown sugar

Melt the butter over medium-high heat. Stir in the pecans. Add sugar and stir constantly for two minutes.

On a baking sheet lined with parchment paper, spread out nuts, making sure they don’t touch. Allow to cool.

Wash, pat dry and arrange lettuces in a large serving bowl. Arrange remainder of ingredients over lettuce. Drizzle with your choice of balsamic vinaigrette.



Wednesday, September 27, 2017

A Taste of Italy in Fremont

Fall is the perfect time of year to take a drive and escape for an afternoon. The next time you are craving a wood-fired pizza or zesty meatball sandwich, head to Fremont, Ohio for lunch or dinner and some gourmet food shopping at the newly opened Elroy’s Deli Market. Located along the Sandusky River about 40 miles from Toledo, Fremont is easily accessible from the Ohio Turnpike or U.S. 20.

Elroy Kern Mural

Liz Donaldson, local culinary expert and recipe contributor to Boomers & Beyond magazine, has been busy helping Shawn Kern and his grandfather Tom Kern open Elroy’s, along with their adjoining Scarpetta’s Italian restaurant.

Deli Manager Liz Donaldson

Located in Fremont’s historic downtown, Elroy’s is a casual and bright Italian eatery that has been attracting crowds since it opened in July. Named after Shawn’s great-grandfather Elroy Kern, the market and deli features hand-tossed, wood-fired pizzas, a variety of subs and sandwiches, specialty salads, and classic Italian desserts including house made cannoli.

Specialty groceries are available at Elroy's.

Zach Beckman tosses fresh pizza dough.

Patrons enjoy hand-tossed pizzas and subs at Elroy's. 

Need a suggestion? Try the deli’s namesake sandwich, “The Elroy,” with melt-in-your-mouth, hand-rolled meatballs, pomodoro sauce and mozzarella on a rustic Italian roll or a Margherita pizza with crushed San Marzano tomatoes, fresh mozzarella and torn basil leaves drizzled with extra virgin olive oil. Hungry yet?

"The Elroy"

Elroy’s Deli Market and Scarpetta’s Italian are located at 105 & 107 South Front St., Fremont, Ohio. For more information, visit

Scarpetta's Executive Chef Brent Carlson serves mini Italian beef sandwiches
outside of Elroy's Market and Deli.

Monday, September 18, 2017

A Slice of Summer - Tomato Basil Pie

Technically it's still summer, right? It seemed pretty much like fall for a couple of weeks here; however, our weather has made an about face and we’re back to summer at least as far as temperatures go. All the more reason to take advantage of the late summer produce and make more veggie dishes. I found the most gorgeous heirloom tomatoes at our local farmers market this past weekend. Here is the excuse I came up with so I could buy tons of them.


Tomato Basil Pie
I call this a pie, but it’s actually a galette because it doesn’t require a top crust or pie pan. Just a simple fold over to cradle its contents. Feel free to use larger tomatoes or a different style if you prefer.

1 refrigerated pie crust, at room temperature

1 quart mini heirloom tomatoes, halved (seeds removed if preferred)

¼ cup fresh basil, thinly sliced

¼ teaspoon kosher salt

1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

2 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil

1 teaspoon Balsamic vinegar

½ teaspoon Italian seasoning

¼ teaspoon garlic powder

1 ½ cups mozzarella or Italian blend cheese

2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese

1 egg beaten

Heat oven to 375 F.

Pat tomatoes with paper towels to remove excess juice.

On a parchment-lined baking sheet, unroll pie crust. Set aside.

In a large bowl, combine tomatoes, basil, salt, pepper, oil, vinegar, seasoning and garlic powder. Toss gently to combine.

To the pie crust, add cheese leaving a 2-inch border of crust. Top with cheeses then tomato mixture. Fold the crust up and over the outer part of the filling, leaving the center of the pie open.

Whisk egg with 1 tablespoon of water. Brush over top of crust.

Bake for 25-35 minutes, covering crust with strips of foil after 15 minutes to prevent over 

Allow pie to stand for 10 minutes before slicing. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Apple Fritter Bread

Nothing welcomes fall like the smell of fresh apple fritters wafting through the air. Apple Fritter Bread has all the elements of the classic seasonal treat - soft apples, rich cinnamon, and a bit of crunch – drizzled with sweet glaze. The addition of walnuts is optional, but they are such a great complement to the apples. Why wait for the apple-pickin’ festivals? This bread is perfect for brunch, dessert or anytime.

Apple Fritter Bread 
⅓ cup light brown sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
⅔ cup white sugar
½ cup butter, softened
2 eggs
1 ½ teaspoons vanilla extract
1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
1 ¾ teaspoons baking powder
½ cup milk
2 apples any kind, peeled and chopped mixed with 2 tablespoons white sugar and 1 teaspoon cinnamon
⅓ cup chopped walnuts, if desired.

½ cup powdered sugar
2 tablespoons milk

Heat oven to 350 F. Coat a 9x5-inch loaf pan with non-stick spray or line with foil and coat with non-stick spray.

In a small bowl, mix brown sugar and cinnamon together. Set aside.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat white sugar and butter together until smooth and creamy.

Beat in eggs, 1 at a time until blended. Add vanilla extract.

In a medium bowl, whisk flour and baking powder together. Add into creamed butter mixture and mix until blended.

Mix milk into batter until smooth.

Pour half the batter into prepared pan. Add half the apple mixture, then half the brown sugar/cinnamon mixture. Lightly pat the apples into batter. If using walnuts, sprinkle the full ⅓ cup over batter/apples.

Repeat layers (except walnuts). Lightly pat the apples into batter. With a knife, swirl brown sugar mixture through apples.

Bake approximately 55 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the loaf comes out clean.

To make glaze, mix powdered sugar and milk together. Let bread cool for 15 minutes before drizzling with glaze.

(Recipe adapted from

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Explore the beauty of Hidden Lake Gardens

Nestled in the scenic Irish Hills of southeastern Michigan, Hidden Lake Gardens presents a wonderful opportunity to spend the day relaxing, recreating and discovering. While the setting is secluded, the gardens are only about eight miles west of Tecumseh and easily accessible from M-50.


Owned and operated by Michigan State University under the division of land management, the park includes six miles of paved drives for automobile or bike access, 10 miles of hiking trails, a picturesque landscape and an incredible collection of flowers, trees and shrubs.

Hidden Lake

Here are some of the many highlights of Hidden Lake Gardens. 

Butterfly Bush

The Conservatory

The Conservatory is made up of three distinct zones. The Temperate House includes a huge assortment of beautiful flowering plants. 

Banana Plant Flower

The Tropical Dome, which is humid and warm, allows tropical trees, palms and fruit bearing plants such as bananas and limes to thrive throughout Michigan’s coldest winters.

Colorful plants in the Tropical Dome

The Arid Dome, which lacks humidity and moisture is perfectly suited for its collection of succulents and cacti.

Succulents in the Arid Dome

Bonsai Courtyard
An extraordinary display of miniature trees in the Bonsai Courtyard is accessible from the Conservatory.  Visitors can view the permanent display from May through October. 

Bonsai Courtyard

On Sunday, Sept. 17, from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. the gardens will hold its 5th annual event, The Art of Bonsai, featuring art inspired by bonsai, a bonsai show, vendors offering bonsai and pots and tools, and a lecture on how to get started in growing miniature trees. 

Daily admission applies and there is an additional $3 entry fee for the show. 

Hosta Hill

Touring the Grounds
Next to the lake, you’ll find The Benedict Hosta Collection, or Hosta Hill, which includes more than 800 varieties of the Hosta species. 

Woodland Drive is a winding scenic road through an oak and hickory forest. 

The Harper Collection of dwarf and rare conifers contains over 500 specimens. 

A picnic area is available to enjoy lunch or a snack in a covered shelter or under a shade tree. 

Potted succulents at the entrance to the Visitors Center

Stop by the Visitors Center and Gift Shop for more information about the park and trails and peruse the large assortment of garden-related gifts.

Water Lily

Hidden Lake Gardens is open seven days a week from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. through October 31. Winter hours begin November 1 and hours are 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Check the website for holiday closings. 

Admission is $3 per person, free for children age 2 and under (and free for your dog, on a leash, of course). The first Monday of every month is free (unless it is a holiday such as Labor Day).

Enjoy your visit!

Jerry’s Pub on the Lake
While in the area, take advantage of the early fall weather and grab a bite to eat at Jerry’s Pub on Wampler’s lake, located at 650 Egan Hwy. off M-12. 

A favorite among locals and visitors alike, Jerry’s outdoor deck overlooking the lake is the perfect spot to enjoy a burger, pizza or fish and chips. 

Jerry's Pub at Wampler's Lake

Monday, August 21, 2017

Pasta with Tomatoes, Basil and Fresh Mozzarella

With barely a parking spot to be found, Market Street in Toledo was the place to be this past Saturday as folks of all ages came out in droves to take in the samples and smells at the downtown farmers market. Farmers’ booths were overflowing with piles of fresh corn, zucchini, peppers of all kinds, and all types of beautiful tomatoes. Why does something so wonderful have to signal the beginning of the end of summer? Sigh...  So, take advantage and make all the marvelous dishes you can while it’s all still in season.

Pasta with Heirloom Tomatoes and Basil
Serves 6

12 ounces cooked pasta such as fusilli, gemelli or farfalle, cooled

1 quart heirloom tomatoes, halved

Mini mozzarella cheese balls, halved

Fresh basil, thinly sliced

½ cup extra virgin olive oil

⅛ cup balsamic vinegar

1 tablespoon honey

½ teaspoon salt

¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

In a large bowl, combine pasta, tomatoes, mozzarella and basil.

For the dressing, in a small bowl, whisk together oil, vinegar, honey, salt and pepper.

Pour over pasta mixture and toss to combine. Refrigerate for at least one hour to allow the flavors to meld.

Monday, August 14, 2017

Mexican Grilled Corn (Elote Asado)

Coated in a cream and rolled in crumbled cheese, Elote Asado is a popular way of serving grilled corn at festivals and markets in Mexico. Soaking the corn in their husks prior to grilling keeps them from burning. Plus the steam that’s produced inside the husks, keeps the corn moist.

Mexican Grilled Corn

Servings: 6
6 ears corn on the cob in husks
1 tablespoon butter, melted
½ cup Mexican crema or sour cream
1 teaspoon chili powder
1 lime
1 bunch fresh cilantro
Cotija cheese or other crumbling salted cheese such as feta

In a large bowl or bucket filled with water, add corn in their husks. Cover with a plate to be sure the corn stays immersed in the water. Soak corn for about 1 hour.

Heat grill to medium. Place corn on grill and cook for 15-20 minutes, turning with tongs occasionally.

In a small bowl, combine crema, chili powder, juice from half of the lime, and two tablespoons of chopped cilantro. 

Remove corn from grill and allow to cool slightly. Remove husks and silk and brush corn with butter. Grill over high heat for another 5-8 minutes.

Remove corn and brush with crema mixture. Roll corn in cotija cheese and sprinkle with more chopped cilantro and lime juice.

(Recipe by Jennifer and Lynn Ruple) 

Monday, August 7, 2017

More to Dundee than meets the eye

Oftentimes, the first thing that comes to mind when you hear the words Dundee, Mich. is Cabela’s, the behemoth retail outlet for all things outdoors, visible from U.S. Route 23. Located just 17 miles from the Ohio – Michigan border, this small town has realized significant growth since 2000 thanks to the influx of visitors to Cabela’s and the restaurants and hotels that serve them. However, there's much more to Dundee than meets the eye.

Ford Park

Ford Park East and West
Located in the historic district of Dundee is Ford Park East and West. The park extends from both sides of the River Raisin and M-50. Amenities include a scenic riverwalk connecting the two parks, blooming perennials, three picnic shelters, fishing access, and a canoe and boat launch area. Free parking is available on the west side of the park behind Swan Creek Candle Company.

Day lilies line the Riverwalk at Ford Park.

River Raisin Canoe Livery
Rent a kayak or a canoe and spend the day paddling down the River Raisin. Half-day and full-day trips are offered daily through Labor Day and on weekends only through October. Reservations are recommended. Call 734-529-9029 or visit

Relax on the banks of the River Raisin.

Dundee Farmers Market
If you happen to miss all the Saturday farmers markets in the area, don’t despair. You still have a chance to catch the Sunday market in historic downtown Dundee right in the triangle of Riley and Park Place. 

The market, which features locally grown produce, herbs and plants, homemade soaps and candles, honey and handcrafted items, is held every Sunday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. through mid-October. On Sept. 17, the market will also include a Vintage/Antiques Street Market with antiques, vintage, and re-purposed items.

Dundee Farmers Market

River’s Edge Pizza Pub and Grille
A good choice for lunch or dinner is River’s Edge Pizza Pub and Grille located at 135 Riley St. The family-friendly restaurant is popular with visitors and locals alike and features hand tossed pizzas, slow-roasted ribs and pulled pork, mouth-watering burgers and pasta. 

River's Edge Pizza

Try a burger with fried jalape├▒os and cheddar, a Sicilian specialty pizza loaded with veggies and sans the sauce, or the summer special flatbread with basil pesto, mozzarella, fresh tomatoes drizzled with balsamic glaze. A second restaurant is located at the Carrington Golf Club in Monroe County.

Swan Creek Candle Outlet

Swan Creek Candle Outlet
While in downtown, visit the Swan Creek Candle Outlet. The company’s flagship location was established in 1997 and is located at 129 Riley St. in three restored historic buildings. There you will find over 5,000 square feet of candles, candle -related accessories, antiques and coffee.

Michcato is the wine of the summer.

St. Julian Winery Tasting Room
Sample award-winning wines at the St. Julian Winery Tasting Room, located at 700 Freedom Ct. in Dundee. At nearly 100 years old, St. Julian Winery, headquartered in Paw Paw Michigan, is Michigan’s oldest winery offering reds, whites, pinks, sparkling and dessert wines, plus ciders and spirits.

Shop the large selection of wine-related gifts.

While sampling, peruse the large assortment of wine-related and food items in the gift shop. Hours are Monday – Saturday 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Sunday 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tasting is $7 per person and includes six samples of your choice and a complimentary logo glass to take home. 

Diego enjoyed wading in the River Raisin.