Monday, July 16, 2018

Here Come the Veggies - Joining a CSA

A few years ago, I overheard a couple of coworkers having a lively conversation about a CSA or Community Supported Agriculture program they had just joined. 

My first CSA share

I heard them talk about shares and half shares, drop-off locations, and who would pick up the box each week. I also heard them talk about their goals of eating healthier, ways to get more vegetables into their diets, trying new recipes and learning how to can. I was intrigued by their discussion and wanted to know more about CSA.

A CSA program allows the consumer to invest in a farm by purchasing a share in its bounty and its risks of growing. In return, the consumer receives a box of fresh vegetables or farm goods straight from the grower each week or bi-weekly.

It sounded like fun. I’d be doing something good for myself and for the local farming community. I did worry a bit about just me and my husband being able to use up all the produce each week – wasting any of it would defeat the purpose. I ultimately decided to purchase a half-share with a friend, each getting a half a box every other week. That sounded like a reasonable amount to me.
I accepted that this culinary endeavor could be a challenge at times, considering there are a handful of vegetables on the list that I’ve never prepared before such as beets, swiss chard and kohlrabi. The goals that I set for myself for this project are simple – eat more veggies, broaden my produce go-to list, and share ideas with others participating in a CSA or those who are simply enjoying the overflowing bounty at area farmers markets.

This first week I started with peas and asparagus. Here are a few dishes that I made with my first CSA box.

Tortellini with Asparagus and Peas

Tortellini with Asparagus and Peas
Tender and flavorful asparagus spears are paired with peas in this creamy pasta. Serve it as a main or side dish. For a lighter version, substitute half-and-half for the heavy cream; the result is just as tasty.

3 - 4 servings
9 ounces cheese tortellini
½ small onion, diced
1 cup peas
1 cup asparagus, sliced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 cup heavy cream
½ cup grated Parmesan cheese
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
4 slices cooked bacon, chopped
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oi

Cook tortellini according to instructions. Drain and set aside.

In a sauté pan, heat olive oil over medium. Add onions and cook until soft.

Add peas and asparagus and cook until they begin to soften. Add garlic and season with salt and pepper. Stir well and cook for about 5 minutes.

Pour in cream while stirring. Add cheese and stir until melted.
Gently stir in tortellini and cook for a couple of minutes. Stir in cooked crumbled bacon and serve.

(Recipe by Jennifer Ruple) 

Peas and Pancetta
Tender peas get a boost of flavor from pancetta and a shallot. The addition of fresh mint at the end infuses another level of flavor.

4 servings
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 ½ ounces pancetta, chopped
1 large shallot, minced
1 cup peas
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon fresh mint leaves, julienned

In a medium sauté pan, add the pancetta and shallot. Cook over medium heat for 5 to 7 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the pancetta is browned, and the shallot is tender.

Add the peas, 1 teaspoon salt and ¼ teaspoon pepper and cook over medium-low heat until peas are tender.

Stir in mint, taste for seasonings and serve hot.

(Recipe adapted from

Roasted Balsamic Beets

Roasted Balsamic Beets
I’ll admit, no beet had ever stepped foot in my kitchen until now. As I gazed over the pile of ominous orbs, I wondered how I would take them from their freshly “dug up from the earth” stage to the soft and beautifully colored ingredient that graces grocery store salad bars. Roasting was the solution.
4 servings

4-5 assorted medium-sized beets, cleaned, peeled and quartered
1 medium red onion, cut into 8 wedges
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 ½ teaspoons dried rosemary
1 ½ teaspoons dried thyme
½ teaspoon sea salt
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

Heat oven to 425 F. Drizzle vegetables with olive oil, divide in half, and wrap each half in foil. Place foil packets in a shallow baking pan.

Roast vegetables for about 30 minutes or until tender when pierced with a small knife. Toss beets, onions, oil, rosemary, thyme and salt in same baking pan.

Roast for 20 more minutes. Drizzle balsamic vinegar over vegetables. Roast 5 minutes longer or until vinegar is the consistency of syrup. Gently toss vegetables before serving.

(Recipe adapted from

Monday, May 14, 2018

Desert Design - Planting and Caring for Succulents

Equipped with garden gloves, planters of all shapes and styles, and their creativity, close to 100 adults of all ages gathered at Hoen’s Garden Center on a recent Saturday afternoon for a free workshop to learn how to create and care for succulent gardens.

A variety of succulents are arranged in a wreath.

Call it spring fever or succulent fever, enthusiastic guests listened to garden center owner Theresa Hoen present planting ideas and tips on how to care for succulents.

“There are no gardening mistakes, only experiments,” she said, urging participants to use their imaginations when designing their containers gardens.

Theresa Hoen presents tips on planting and caring for succulents. 

For the remainder of the two-hour workshop, guests wandered the greenhouse to choose plants for their gardens, received planting advice from garden center staff, and enjoyed lively conversation with other succulent fans.

Workshop participants shop for succulents to include in their arrangements. 

Succulent Planting Tips from Theresa Hoen

·        If it can hold soil, you can plant in it. Choose unusual items to plant in such as watering cans, bowls or old shutters.

·        Finish off with toppers. Tuck in moss or add texture with stones. Let the color and style of the container inspire you.

·        Fill clear glass containers with colored or regular sand. You can literally plant succulents inside the sand.

·        When designing your container, incorporate three components: thrillers, the showstoppers or attention getters usually taller plants; fillers add mass and fill up the pot; and spillers, plants that overflow the pot.

Valerie Moffitt creates her succulent container garden.

·        When planting, don’t use potting soil which is usually a heavy mixture and tends to hold too much water. Use a peat-based soil made from decomposed sphagnum moss plants instead.

·        The number one mistake people make with succulents is overwatering. Give plants a good 2 ½ to 3 weeks between watering.

·        Let the soil dry out before adding more water.

Linda Grant and Patty Golden are hard at work on their arrangements.

·        Pinch leaves when plants get too tall. With your thumb and forefinger, nip back the tip of a stem. Pinching helps to produce a bushier, fuller plant.

·        Avoid watering over the top of the plants. Always water at the base.

·        Give the soil the chocolate test. If the soil looks like milk chocolate, it’s dry. If it looks like dark chocolate, it’s wet.

Incorporate thrillers, fillers and spillers into arrangements for visual impact.

Hoen’s Garden Center is located at 1710 Perrysburg-Holland Rd., in Holland, Ohio.

Thursday, March 29, 2018

Monday through Thursday

As I sat down to write this post, I originally intended to reflect on previous Easter celebrations, talk about what I’m cooking for Sunday brunch, how I decorated our dining table, and all things Easter Bunny. But honesty, I can’t stop thinking about this funny moment from just about a year ago.

It was early in the week prior to Easter and our news staff was frantically working on deadline for the following week’s paper. Our publisher asked if I could help out and call the churches listed in our guide for their holiday schedules. Of course, I happily agreed.

I went about calling each church receiving a verbal account of each church’s activities, including Ash Wednesday, Good Friday and Holy Saturday. Deep into my second phone call, the woman said something I could barely hear. My reply was, “Did you say Monday through Thursday?”

As soon as I asked the question, I realized what I had said. Laughter filled our tiny newsroom, and I knew it was directed toward me. My cheeks, 50 shades of blush, tried to contain my giggling as I finished my conversation with the very polite church lady. 

In all defense though, it was really hard to hear over the phone.

I wish you a very happy Maundy Thursday. By the way, here's our dining table.

Monday, March 26, 2018

Egg-cetera... Easter brunch for a couple or a crowd

Easter is on its way. Whether you plan to spend the holiday in your PJs with your bestie or with your Easter bonnet and the entire family, you’ll need delicious and easy-to-prepare dishes to feed every-bunny. Here are three egg-centered recipes, created by me and my husband that can be adapted to feed two or twenty - Egg Infused English Muffins; Green Chile, Egg and Cheese Burritos; and Mini Frittatas. Each recipe makes six servings, and all of them can be prepared ahead of time and warmed just before serving.

Egg Infused English Muffins topped with blueberries

For a couple:
Store leftovers in the refrigerator and have breakfast ready for the rest of the week. Just reheat muffins, frittatas or burrito filling in the microwave.
For a crowd:
Double or triple the recipes as needed. Wrap prepared muffins, frittatas and burrito filling in foil and keep everything warm in the oven until guests arrive.

Egg Infused English Muffins
“Infused means that the muffin is soaked in the egg mixture so that all its nooks and crannies are filled with the eggs,” explained Mr. Ruple. He prefers to use Thomas’ English Muffins. Any of their flavors work – try their original, blueberry, cinnamon raisin, or any of their seasonal varieties such as banana, pumpkin and cranberry.

A banana version of the Egg Infused English Muffins

Serves 6
1 package English muffins, split
6 eggs
¼ cup milk
Maple syrup
Fresh fruit for topping
Powdered sugar for dusting

In a medium bowl, whisk together eggs and milk.

Over medium heat, warm a large skillet, coated with non-stick spray.

Dip 4 muffin halves into mixture and let them soak for 2 to 3 minutes.

Cook muffins cut side up until the eggs are set on the bottom of the muffins. Flip the muffins over and repeat.

To serve, top with maple syrup, fresh fruit, and a dusting of powdered sugar.

(Recipe by Lynn Ruple)

Green Chile, Egg and Cheese Burritos

Green Chile, Egg and Cheese Burritos
Spicy and filling, these burritos are our version of the ones we fell in love with at the Santa Fe Farmers Market in New Mexico. At the market, the insanely popular breakfast burritos are served with your choice of fresh green chile sauce or red chile sauce ladled over the top. If you’re feeling adventurous, you can ask for Christmas, which is a generous helping of both sauces.
Serves 6
12 ounces frozen roasted potatoes, onions and peppers mixture such as Trader Joe’s brand, thawed
6, 8-inch flour tortillas
6 eggs
¼ cup milk
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
4 ounces chopped green chiles
1 ½ cups shredded Mexican cheese blend
Chopped cilantro

Heat oven to 350 F.

In a large skillet coated with non-stick spray, cook potato mixture over medium heat until the potatoes begin to brown and the onions and peppers are soft. Reduce temperature to low.

Wrap tortillas in foil and heat them in the oven until soft, or for about 4 to 5 minutes.

In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together eggs, milk, chiles, salt and pepper. Pour the egg mixture into the potato mixture and cook over low heat, stirring with a wooden spatula, until eggs are done.

Fill each tortilla with egg and potato mixture and ¼ cup of cheese. Wrap the burritos and serve them with more green chiles and cilantro.

(Recipe by Jennifer and Lynn Ruple)

Mini Frittatas

Mini Frittatas
It’s never been easier to serve eggs to a crowd. We’ve made these petite frittatas in all sorts of combinations. Feel free to experiment with our recipe and add your choice of veggies, meats and cheeses. Try cooked meats such as bacon, crumbled sausage or chopped ham. Go veggie with bell peppers, mushrooms, broccoli or roasted squash. Make it cheesy with swiss, cheddar or Monterrey Jack. The possibilities are endless.

Serves 6
1 cup fresh mushrooms, coarsely chopped
½ cup sweet onion, diced
1 tablespoon butter
8 eggs
¼ cup milk
¼ teaspoon kosher salt
teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 cup cooked bacon
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
Chopped parsley for garnish

Heat oven to 350 F. Spray a 12-cup muffin pan with cooking spray.

In a large skillet, sauté onions and mushrooms in butter until veggies are soft. Remove from heat and allow to cool slightly.

In a large bowl, whisk together eggs, milk, and salt and pepper. Stir in veggies, cooked meat and cheese.

Divide mixture evenly among muffin cups. Bake for 20 minutes. Sprinkle with chopped parsley.

(Recipe by Jennifer Ruple)

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Super Bowl Snacks

Don’t fumble over what to feed your Super Bowl party guests. Gain yardage with a big platter of Pepperoni Pizza Pinwheels. These tasty appetizers can be filled with just about anything you can top a pizza with, so feel free to get creative. Serve them with a zesty tomato sauce and get that extra point.

Pepperoni Pizza Pinwheels
Makes 24

1 can refrigerated crescent rolls
½ cup shredded mozzarella cheese
½ cup shredded provolone cheese
4 ounces sliced pepperoni, chopped
2 tablespoons each diced mushrooms, onions, green peppers and black olives
1 teaspoon of Italian seasoning
Parmesan cheese for sprinkling
Pizza sauce for dipping

Heat oven to 350 F. Coat a mini muffin pan with non-stick spray.

Separate crescent rolls into 4 rectangles. With a rolling pin, slightly roll out in both directions.

Sprinkle each rectangle with mozzarella and provolone cheeses, pepperoni and veggies. 

Sprinkle with Italian seasoning.

Carefully roll each rectangle then cut into 6 pieces.

Place pinwheels into muffin pan. Bake for 10 minutes or until dough is lightly browned.

Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese and serve with pizza sauce. 

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Soup's On!

Whether you refer to it as borscht, bisque, consommé, or bouillabaisse, a big steaming bowl of soup is sure to add warmth and nutrients to your day. Aside from being simple and affordable to prepare, soup is good for you and an easy way to get your daily servings of protein and veggies. 

In honor of National Soup Month, I reached out to local culinary expert and “soup magician”, Liz Donaldson who graciously shared her recipe for Italian Wedding Soup. 

As the manager of Elroy's Deli Market in Fremont, Ohio, Donaldson has recently added soup to the deli’s menu. “We serve Italian Wedding Soup every day; it’s a classic,” said Donaldson. “I make a two gallon pot each morning, and it’s usually gone. The cheese rind really makes the soup, adding that silky texture.”

For more of Donaldson's soup recipes, check out the January 9 issue of the Sylvania AdVantage at

Italian Wedding Soup
1 stick butter
3 cloves garlic, minced
3 stalks celery, diced
3 carrots, trimmed and diced
6 cups chicken stock
2 cups tiny meatballs
1 cup acini di pepe
1 package fresh spinach
Rind of Parmigiano-Reggiano

In a large pot, melt the butter and sauté the vegetables until softened.

Add the chicken stock and the meatballs. Bring to a boil and then reduce to medium.

Add the acini di pepe and the cheese rind and allow to simmer 20-25 minutes. Add the fresh spinach and cook for 10 minutes.

Monday, December 4, 2017

Shop Local - Buy the 419

This holiday season, do something good for your family and friends that also benefits our community. Shop locally! Our community is rich with artists and small business owners who put color, culture and creativity in our region. So, why not hit the pavement and enjoy holiday shopping the good, old-fashioned way? Here are some great area shops and boutiques to help send you on your very merry way.

Cream Velveteen

Where to find - Home Décor

Cream Velveteen
119 N. Ontario St., Toledo
Owner Sharon Perry has brought shabby and very chic style to downtown Toledo. Celebrating its one-year anniversary, Cream Velveteen is housed inside Rustbelt Coffee and carries refreshed furniture, decorative items, candles, chalk paint, gifts and more. While shopping, sip on a delicious chi latte or holiday wassail.

Cream Velveteen

Cottage on the River
24202 Front St., Grand Rapids, Ohio
Christmas décor, home accessories and custom painted furniture.

Lily’s at Levis
2110 Levis Commons Blvd., Perrysburg
Unique gifts items and home accents. 

Where to find - Art and Music 

Toledo Museum of Art 

The Museum Store
Toledo Museum of Art
2445 Monroe St., downtown
The premier place to shop for collectors of all ages, the Museum Store features a fabulous selection of glass, jewelry, books, stationary and items for children. Also available for gift giving are the 2017 Limited Edition Goblet and Ninth Edition Ophelia Ornament.

Toledo Museum of Art

River Centre Gallery
5679 Main St., Sylvania
An extraordinary selection of gifts showcasing regional and local artists.

Culture Clash Records
4020 Secor Rd., Toledo
Flip through the record bins and peruse the area’s largest selection of vinyl.

Culture Clash Records

Where to find - Wine and Cheese 

Bottle Shop at Mancy’s Italian
5453 Monroe St., Toledo
Get in the spirit of the season at the newly opened Bottle Shop, located inside one of the area’s favorite Italian restaurants. Shop for that fabulous hostess or the wine lover in your life from a large selection of wine and craft beer, priced to fit all budgets.

Bottle Shop at Mancy's Italian

Paula Brown Shop
912 Monroe St., downtown Toledo
Shop an eclectic mix of home accessories, stationery, jewelry, wine and gourmet food products.

Sofo’s Italian Market
5400 Monroe St., Toledo
Create a gourmet gift basket from Sofo’s selection of wine, cheese and Italian specialty foods.

Sofo's Italian Market

Where to find - Clothing and Accessories

V Collection and Barber Lounge
5630 Main St., Sylvania
Shop for the well-dressed man at V Collection men’s clothing store. Include a gift certificate to Barber Lounge for an Executive Shave with a hot towel and neck massage or one of the many hair, shave and skin care treatments offered. 

V Collection

FiddleStix Boutique & Gallery
4165 Chappel Dr., Perrysburg
5693 Main St., Sylvania
Two locations to find one-of-a-kind items plus the largest selection of Vera Bradley, S'well Bottles, Yeti Coolers, Alex and Ani and Lokai in northwest Ohio. The boutique also specializes in personalized gifts and invitations for all occasions. 

FiddleStix Boutique & Gallery

Monday, October 30, 2017

Delve into Dexter

Although Dexter Michigan is the state’s newest city, receiving its charter in 2014, the former village’s history dates to 1824 when the area was first settled. Located just 15 minutes west of Ann Arbor, Dexter’s 14 parks, charming downtown, and unique businesses and eateries, make it one small town worth delving into.

Dexter Cider Mill
Don’t let fall slip away without a visit to Dexter Cider Mill for apple cider made the same way for 120 years, using an oak rack press. Located on 3685 Central Rd., the mill is the oldest continuously operating cider mill in Michigan.

Dexter Cider Mill

The mill also offers homemade sweet, cinnamon donuts and other apple-related goodies such as pies, strudel, turnovers, caramel apples and apple butter. Hours are 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Wednesday through Sunday until Thanksgiving. 

Mill Creek Park North

Parks and Recreation
Opportunities abound for recreation in Dexter. Bordered by three metroparks - Hudson Mills, Dexter-Huron and Delhi, outdoor activities near Dexter abound. In addition, Mill Creek Park North and South is easily accessible from downtown. Split between Main Street, the park has two distinct areas. 

The north side consists of 2.15-acres of parkland along Mill Creek, a picturesque, old stone railroad bridge, and a boardwalk for bicycling, running and walking your dog.

An elevated walkway under the old stone bridge at Mill Creek Park North.

The south side features four more miles of parkland, foot trails and an elevated walkway which winds through wetlands.

Asters line the walkway at Mill Creek Park South.

Stroll along the wetlands at Mill Creek Park South.

Cowboy Cuisine
When it’s time for some chow, mosey on down to Hotel Hickman's Chuck Wagon BBQ, 8050 Main St., where proprietor Scott Thomas and his Hotel Hickman Gang rustle up barbecued pulled chicken and pork, Texas style beef brisket, smoked sausage and baby back ribs. Enjoy your grub on the covered pavilion or in the adjacent Mercantile where you can also pick up some cowboy cookware, penny candy and Hotel Hickman’s “Not so world famous” Whiskey Bent BBQ sauces, seasonings and slaw dressing. 

Hotel Hickman's Proprietor Scott Thomas. 

Finish your meal with apple, cherry, or bourbon peach cobbler, or opt for the bread pudding all of which are served from cast-iron skillets. 

Texas style beef brisket, I-44 potatoes and cobbler at Hotel Hickman's Chuck Wagon BBQ. 

And…  don’t leave without asking how the 1-44 Potatoes got their name and for the story behind Hotel Hickman. The Chuck Wagon is open Thursday – Sunday for breakfast, lunch and dinner, 6 a.m. to 7 p.m. 

Monument Park and Downtown Dexter, Michigan.