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.

Monday, October 23, 2017

Perfectly Pumpkin Bars

It was a much-anticipated yearly tradition at my former workplace when coworker Marilyn Muranyi, often referred to as “mom” around the office, would bring her fabulous Pumpkin Bars. The giant sheet pan of mouthwatering seasonal treats, topped with sweet cream cheese frosting, was usually wiped out within an hour. 






These bars are the perfect sweet treat to accompany you to any fall family gathering, or simply, enjoy them with friends or your favorite coworkers.





Marilyn Muranyi
Marilyn's Pumpkin Bars

Bars:
2 cups sugar
½ cup oil
½ cup applesauce
4 eggs
2 cups canned pumpkin
2 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
½ teaspoon salt

Frosting:
3 ounces cream cheese
6 tablespoons butter
1 teaspoon vanilla
3 cups powdered sugar
2 tablespoons milk





Heat oven to 350 F. In a large bowl, mix all bar ingredients together.


Pour into a 10” x 15” greased pan with sides. Bake for 20-25 minutes. Allow to cool.


Combine frosting ingredients. Spread over cooled pumpkin bars.










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

Pecans
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 elroysdeli.com.




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 
browning.

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.

Glaze:
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 thebakingchocolatess.com)







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.

Allium



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








Dressing
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.