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Garden Prep & Hot Cross Buns

   It's starting to feel a bit more like spring these days, which means it's time to clean up the yard and garden space. It's also time to put away those heavy winter recipes and look for light recipes such as salads, fresh vegetables-like asparagus and sweet green peas-and of course for our family; rhubarb.

 

   As I am looking out my window, I see some of our herbs are starting to wake up. Parsley and garlic chives are up and really, they could be cut and cleaned for a recipe. Sage is up as well and will start its spring and summer spread. Our pots are cleaned and ready for some container gardening that proved successful last year. We have a large tree that will be coming down as it was found to be rotten in the middle. That will give us the extra space with full sun to get two large raised garden boxes for tomatoes, green onions, lettuce and cucumbers. Our peppers did great last year in the container garden so we will keep that going.

   Our main focus this spring is pruning our lavender plants. Even though we gave this perennial a prune last fall, we will need to do a bit of tidying up for a new season of growth. We plant lavender plants in between our red rose bushes and when everybody is in full bloom they are just beautiful together and get along well. The silver foliage is also pretty all winter long. A good spring clean up stimulates growth and prepares the plants for their beautiful blooming season in summer. There are several different lavender plants, but for our zone we find that English lavender is winter hardy and comes back with no problems. Lavender flowers are a wonderful pollinator so we usually wait until the flowers dry out in the fall and the bees lose interest before we give them a slight cut, so cleaning up in the spring is very important.

 

All of our bulb plants such as crocus, daffodils, and tulips are up about 2 inches now and will be in full color in about another week. This makes struggling through the winter months worth it. It seems like a gift that is being opened. Get those gardening gloves, boots and your special tools and get outside on these beautiful days and prepare your gardens for flowers and vegetables for a great season.

 

The spring clean up also happens inside our home as well. It's time to check smoke alarms, clean out and check your dryer vent, replace filters, check your pipes for leaks and the one thing I'm most ready for is cleaning my windows! When the sun shines through you can't help but see all of the winter build up, and that makes me grit my teeth!  The time change is another welcomed event that we look forward to. The increased light helps our mood and energy levels. Spring is just a wonderful time of year where everything is new and fresh.

 

Spring also provides us with those special food items that we wait for all year long. One of those for us is hot cross buns (one a penny, two a penny, hot cross buns). I remember my mom would sing that to me in the spring and to this day I love hot cross buns, but they are getting harder to find in our stores and local bakeries. They were usually made for Good Friday and Easter. This year Mike and I decided to try to make them, and they turned out great! Nothing better than a bun and a hot cup of fresh coffee. We bought frozen bread dough balls and let them rise and the process was fast and easy (see recipe below). Try them, I think you will make them a tradition every spring in your house. I believe your children will enjoy making them as well. Just remember to sing the song along with the baking process. *wink*

   We can say we made it through another winter and now let's make this year great. I hope you enjoy our spring recipes.

 

Hot Cross Buns (made from frozen rolls)

18 frozen dinner rolls, thawed to room temperature

3/4 cup dried raisins

1 tsp cinnamon

1/4 tsp nutmeg

1/4 tsp allspice

Frosting: 1 1/3 cups powdered sugar

                  1 1/2 teaspoons orange zest

                  1 teaspoon orange juice

                  1-2 tablespoons milk

   Let dough balls rise (about 4 hours) then press each one out a little and place raisins and orange zest inside. Re-form back into a ball and place into a greased cupcake pan to rise again for another hour.

Bake at 350 degrees for about 15 minutes or until golden brown. Let cool. Pop them out of the pan and continue to frost.

   Mix frosting together and with a small teaspoon, form a cross on the top of each bun.

 

Lemon Asparagus

3 pounds asparagus, washed and trimmed to equal length

1 cup bread crumbs

1/2 cup butter

1 1/2 teaspoon grated lemon rind

Salt to taste

   Cook asparagus in boiling water until crisp-tender. Drain and place on a serving platter; keep warm. Brown bread crumbs in butter over medium heat. Add lemon rind and salt. Sprinkle over asparagus.

 

Spring Strawberry and Lettuce Salad

Leaf lettuce

Sliced strawberries

Mix as much as you like and add dressing

Dressing:

3/4 cup sugar

1/2 cup red wine vinegar

1/4 cup olive oil

1 teaspoon paprika

1/2 teaspoon pepper

2 cloves garlic, minced

   Mix lettuce and strawberries in a large bowl. Mix dressing ingredients in a microwave-safe bowl. You can serve this warm or cold over the salad.

 

Until next time...

More from Dana...

Old Soup Recipes & Old Aprons

   With the cold and winter weather upon us the first thing we tend to want is a warm bowl of soup. Chili is our favorite and while I grabbed an apron out of the closet so that I wouldn't get the soup splashed up on my white shirt, it made me think that people really don’t use aprons anymore. They were a staple in the kitchen back in the day. All mothers and grandmothers got up in the morning, put their daily clothes on and picked out an apron to wear. They wore them all day and didn't take them off until the dishes were done after supper.

 

   My Mom made many aprons and I am blessed to have a pretty pink and white one she made for me. There are several designs of aprons. There is a full apron or, the half that just ties around the waist. They all have different uses such as to grab a hot handle from a pot on the stove or, to wipe a tear from a crying child's face. People also use aprons to carry produce from the garden or carry fresh eggs from the chicken coops. I can remember my Mom and Mamaw snapping beans into their aprons then transferring them to a pan. How quickly when an unexpected guest pulled in the driveway, the apron turned into a dusting cloth on the furniture. I can remember many times after I came in from playing outside my mom would wipe my mouth off with an apron and maybe a little spit!

By Dana Hyland-Horner | Photos by Mike Horner

   Now that I have my apron on, let's get this chili started. We usually make a large pot and enjoy it for lunch, then freeze the rest for another cold and dreary day. While chili is our favorite, potato soup is a close second. There is an old recipe that we have in our family. When someone gets sick, it's time to make a pot of bland potato soup. Nothing special just potatoes, celery, onions cooked down and add milk or cream. It fills you up and warms your insides. It really is healing. In the winter when we go out to eat, we usually like to go to someplace that serves good soup. If you like a little Asian flare try Speakeasy Miso located at 101 W. Main Street in Troy and try their Ramen soups. We tried was the Cheese Ramen. It is a creamy cheddar cheese broth with noodles topped with crispy fried chicken, pork pieces, corn, green onions and garlic oil. It was delicious and very filling. They have several others to choose from and I'm sure they are all just as good. Another great place for a hot bowl of soup is The Coldwater Cafe located at 19 E. Main St. in Tipp City. The menu changes frequently for soups but all of the ones we have sampled have been delicious, such as wild mushroom bisque and coconut carrot soup, which is vegan. When shopping at the antique stores in West Milton, drop by Pearson House Restaurant for a big bowl of their beef barley soup and never go away without ordering a slice of their homemade pies, it's worth the trip!

 

   For me and Mike, we just like putting our aprons on and enjoying the process of making homemade soups at home. Just smelling them cooking most of the day makes you feel real cozy. The winter is still young and we have many recipes to get to. We will share a few with you and hope you will enjoy them as much as we do.  Also, go buy an apron!

Chili

2 Tbsp. cooking oil

1 onion, diced

2 stalks celery, diced

1 green pepper, diced

1 clove garlic, minced

1 pound ground beef

1 tsp. salt

1 Tbsp. flour

2 1/2 tsp. chili powder

2 cups tomatoes, diced

1 cup hot water

3 cups beans (chili beans, kidney beans)

   Sauté onion and garlic, then add the hamburger. Brown meat and sprinkle with salt, flour, and chili powder.

Add tomatoes and hot water. Cover and simmer for 1 hour. Add beans and heat thoroughly.

* We double this recipe to put extra in the freezer.

 

Cream of Broccoli Soup (Slow Cooker)

1 small onion, chopped

2 Tbsp. olive oil

1 (20-oz.) pkg. frozen broccoli

2 (10 3/4-oz.) cans cream of celery soup

1 (10 3/4-oz.) cream of mushroom soup

1 cup grated American cheese

2 soup cans full of milk

   Sauté onion in oil in skillet until soft. Combine all ingredients in a slow cooker. Cover. Cook on low 3-4 hours.

 

HOBO Soup

2 pounds of ground beef

1 can tomato juice

1 can carrots

1 can new potatoes (sliced)

Salt and pepper to taste

   While meat is browning, in a large pot, combine tomato juice, carrots and potatoes.

Add meat to mixture and simmer for about an hour. Salt and pepper to taste. You may add other vegetables to this easy recipe for a warm winter soup.

 

Until next time...

Santa

By Dana Hyland-Horner | Photos by Mike Horner

Santa & Cookies

   We all know Saint Nicholas; also known as Santa Claus or Kris Kringle, or just Saint Nick. Whatever you choose to know him by, we have the “real deal” in our lives. We know him as just Jerry. Jerry Reese, a resident of West Milton, and his sweet wife (and elf) Pat has been playing Santa Claus in the Miami Valley for 51 years. You would call him a true servant. He served in the Air Force Reserves, and has been employed by several businesses in the area, and was a volunteer fireman and paramedic before retiring. He recently turned 80-years-old and still serves Miami County businesses, local organizations and personal homes as Santa Claus.

   From now until after Christmas, he and Pat are completely filled up with visits this year. Pat carefully drives his sleigh (car) and they go from house to house to fill the children with joy, with long lists and the vision of really seeing him in person. Some children run and jump on his lap and stare at him before giving him their lists, while others take one look at him and run for the hills! He gently gets down on one knee and talks to them and gives them high fives and they soon come around.

   It takes a special person to be committed to this every year, starting right after Thanksgiving. Jerry and Pat love to see the excitement the children have when they first see him and that is what keeps them doing this year after year. When Jerry started this with his brother 51 years ago, they advertised and got several appointments, and that was the last time they had to advertise, now it is all by word of mouth. Pat made his Santa suit and recently had to add new white fur to it. As far as the beard and hair, well.....it's the real deal. If you see Jerry and Pat out and about going to one of their visits, just look for that twinkle in his eye, I promise you, you will definitely see it.

   Of course there is one thing that all Santas love - cookies. I recently met the Cookie Queen of West Milton. Her name is Joan Helton. She makes the most delicious cookies I have ever eaten. She is a member of Transfiguration Church in West Milton and recently made over 800 cookies for an event at the Lange Estate where many Nativity Scenes from all over the world were on display. They were made of wood, paper, glass, pottery and other materials. Her cookies were a big hit at this event and I can sure see why!

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   This is the time of the season when I start digging out old cookbooks that I have collected over the years and start trying new and different cookie and sweet recipes. While I love the old favorites like Chocolate Chip cookies, Gingerbread men and women and my Moms Fudge and Applesauce Cake, there is always room for something new. I read a cookbook like a novel from front to back. I have had some hits and some misses but that is the fun of it all. I like to tweak recipes by adding my own spin on them. I try to make them as low fat as possible by using Almond flour and Splenda for the sugar content. So far, my husband Mike has given me the stamp of approval on most of them. I hope you will try one of my recipes this Holiday Season. If you like it, write it down on a recipe card for the generations after you. I have all of my mom and grandma's recipe cards and I cherish them. It brings you close to them to see their handwriting every year at this time. Enjoy the recipes and have a wonderful holiday season!

 

Scotch Shortbread

3/4 cup butter, softened

1/4 cup sugar

2 cups all-purpose flour

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Mix butter and sugar. Work in flour with your hands. Roll 1/2 to 1/3 inch thick on lightly floured, cloth-covered board. Cut into small shapes (cookie cutter for the season). Place 1/2 inch apart on an ungreased cookie sheet. Bake until set, about 20 minutes. Remove immediately from the cookie sheet.

 

Pecan Slices

1 cup powdered sugar

1 cup butter, softened

1 teaspoon almond extract

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 cup finely chopped pecans

Mix powdered sugar, butter and almond extract. Stir in flour and salt. Shape into roll, about 2 inches in diameter. Roll in pecans. Wrap and refrigerate for at least 4 hours. Heat oven to 400 degrees. Cut the roll into 1/8-inch slices. Place about 1 inch apart on an ungreased cookie sheet. Bake until light brown, 8-10 minutes. Remove immediately from the cookie sheet. (If dough seems dry, mix in 3-4 teaspoons milk)

 

French Lace Crisps

2/3 cup packed brown sugar

1/2 cup light corn syrup

1/2 cup shortening

1 cup all-purpose flour

1 cup finely chopped walnuts

Heat oven to 375. Heat brown sugar, corn syrup and shortening to boiling over medium heat, stirring constantly; remove from heat. Stir in flour and nuts gradually. Keep batter warm over hot water. Drop by teaspoons about 3 inches apart onto a lightly greased cookie sheet. Bake only 8 or 9 cookies at a time. Bake until set, about 5 minutes. Let stand 3-5 minutes before removing from the cookie sheet.

Until next time...

YMCA

Miami County YMCA Offers Options for Those with Disabilities

   Everyday an adult or child with a disability faces roadblocks on how they can get physical fitness that they may need on a daily basis. The Robinson Branch YMCA in Miami County can fulfill the needs of almost every disability at every age level.

   Sierra Woodyard, Director of Health and Wellness at this branch, says the facility can accommodate any disability big or small. Miss Woodyard teaches several Silver Sneakers classes every week using balls, light weights and bands and chairs if needed. The class is large and many have to work through their own disabilities such as arthritis, strokes, heart issues, ALS and those rehabbing from broken bones and falls. During the classes she will help direct the right amount of weights or an easier way to move your muscles without hurting. This is a valued asset in the senior community.

By Dana Hyland-Horner | Photos by Mike Horner

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LEFT: Director of Health and Wellness Sierra Woodyard RIGHT: Aquatic Director Micah Bray

   Another feature that the YMCA offers is the pool and all the benefits that it may offer an adult or child with disabilities. The Aquatic Director Micah Bray says that the chair lift in and out of the pool has been a great asset for people who may be in a wheelchair and cannot get themselves in and out of the pool on their own. He said all of his staff know how to use it and can assist in the process.

   Children with disabilities can also get wonderful benefits from using the pool and attending swim classes. Riverside of Piqua will soon be using the pool for a 6-week lesson. The benefits of swimming for people with disabilities can range from muscle strengthening to improved mental health. For a person with a disability, swimming in a body of water can offer the sense of freedom while building a healthy heart and lungs. It provides an all-over workout.

   Jeff Boyce who has a visual impairment of con/rod dystrophy, and relies on getting around by an electric wheelchair, benefits from several pieces of equipment at the Y including the Nustep and Cable Tower. He is able to use the swimming pool as well with assistance and says that he can get his wheelchair around all of the equipment in the gym with no problem.

   The YMCA is very accommodating to everybody, says Jill Gilfillen, who is blind with a service dog named Digger. When she inquired about coming to several classes that are offered for Senior Citizens she and Digger were welcomed with open arms. She and Digger attend several classes now and even though Digger is her service dog, he provides comfort and healing to those around him. He has made many friends on his own in the classes, but when he is helping Jill get around in the building, he is all business and folks know not to bother him. During classes which can be up to 2 hours, Digger gets to lay on a comfortable bed next to Jill and not on the hard wooden gym floor. He is spoiled at the Y!

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Jill Gilfillen and Digger

   Jenny Blatterman the Locker Room and Towel Attendant for the YMCA was offered a job she couldn't turn down, as her son Sean has autism and the two of them get to work side by side in the laundry room. Sean, who graduated, gets to have a job where his mom is close at hand. He washes and folds the towels and delivers them to the different areas of the Y. During his down time he can use some of the workout machines to help build his strength. He has grown so much by having this job, says Jenny, it also keeps him calm throughout the day. Sean also has a service dog named Maggie.

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LEFT: Jenny and Sean Blatterman RIGHT: Youth and Sports Director Noah Prunty

   The Youth and Sports Director, Noah Prunty, said the kids love the YMCA day camps and sports, and it offers children with disabilities time to interact with other children. The camp kids take it as some of their responsibility to keep the disabled kids out of harms way and help them in every aspect of games and sports at camp. It's a good combination, Noah says, they learn from each other. Noah keeps all the sports events running smoothly by lining up coaches, referees and keeping parents updated on all upcoming events. It's a very large group of kids and they love having the kids with disabilities with them. The time spent together gives them all time to learn and grow. Noah said he recently received a letter from a parent that he would like to share:

 

   "My oldest son who is mentally challenged and also diagnosed with mild autism has been involved with the YMCA summer Youth Camp day program for 3 years now. The YMCA/Summer day camp has allowed him to keep active daily as well as to be involved with peers and also teach him more responsibilities. He enjoys helping out and looks forward to returning each year. The YMCA and summer day camp employees have been understanding and accommodating of his diagnosis and his abilities. I appreciate all they have done for us."

 

   I myself attend the Y several times a week to help with my disabilities. I have diabetes and arthritis that both have been controlled for several years. If you have never visited the YMCA in Troy, please stop by and get a tour and let them help you figure out a plan to make your life much easier.

   Enjoy a couple of diabetic snacks you can eat before going to the gym.

 

Fruit + Protein

An apple with peanut butter

Berries

A few slices of turkey and a handful of nuts

 

Starch + Protein

Whole grain crackers and cheese

1/2 sandwich

Light yogurt

 

Sugar Free Berry Smoothie

13.5 ounces of coconut milk (1 can)

2 cups frozen mixed berries

1/4 cup xylitol

1/8 teaspoon stevia

1/2 teaspoon vanilla

Place all ingredients in a blender and blend ingredients until smooth. Enjoy!

Jams and Jellies

By Dana Hyland-Horner | Photos by Mike Horner

Jams & Jellies

   This may sound silly, but I know it's time for Mike and I to start canning jams and jelly when the first fall flowers start to bloom. All of our fruit has been gathered and put in the freezer until this time comes. The holidays aren't that far away and we like giving jams and jellies as small gifts for the season.

 

   While we all enjoy the beauty of spring bulbs and flowers that move us right into our summer gardens, fall is not far behind. The flowers of fall are just as beautiful in their array of colors; yellow, red, purple, orange and so many shades of green. Mums and sunflowers are our favorites. We enjoy going to fields where you can pick and take them home. There are also many fields where you and your family can get pictures taken inside the fields with the backdrop of sunflowers. I like to pick about 6-7 sunflowers and add some greens, this makes a beautiful fall table arrangement. When the flowers start to wilt and die, I take the heads outside and tie them upside down on my bird feeders. The redbirds love to finish off the seeds. Maybe even a squirrel or two enjoy them as well. 

 

   Another fall favorite is the chrysanthemum (mum). They are easy to grow in a garden bed, or bought in a planter at most outdoor stores and groceries. They come in many colors and their flower heads can be different as well. Some can have a head that looks like a daisy, others look like a pompom which have tightly packed blooms. Spider mums have long tubular petals that give them a spider-like appearance. There are so many more, I think it's just your preference of flower head and color. The Tipp City mum Festival is the perfect place to buy your mums for the season. The festival runs from September 22-24 this year and you can purchase mums of every color and size to meet your fall decorating needs.

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   Another place to get fall flowers, especially mums, is the Covered Wagon Farm Market in Union, Ohio. They have a large greenhouse filled with mums of all colors. Don't forget to pick up a pumpkin or squash there too! Now that we have our fall flowers taken care of, it's on with canning jams and jellies.

   The season has come full circle and while the gardens are coming to an end, it is always a delight to can and freeze the bounty. This year Pat and Jerry Reese of West Milton gifted us with two large bags of blackberries that were grown in the wild on their property. Pat said she would go out every few days and pick the berries as they turned black and kept a bag of them in the freezer as she collected them. We haven't had fresh blackberry jam or jelly in years so this is going to be a real treat. These may just get hidden when finished. Another jam we are making is pineapple jalapeno that will be great paired with a cream cheese block and some crackers on a cool evening. Jams are so easy to make. It is a great project to do with your children as well. Purchase the small jelly jars as they are quick to fill and make great gifts. As we say farewell to all of our fruits and vegetables of this past season, gather up some jars, buy a few mums and celebrate a good year. Here are a few of my family and friends jam recipes. Enjoy!

Grape Jelly

1 pound concord grapes

1 pound sugar

3 T. water

Combine all ingredients. Boil for 20 minutes. Put through a food press. Pour into jars and seal.

 

Pineapple Jam

1 20oz. can crushed pineapple and liquid

2 cups sugar

1 cup Karo syrup

Cook pineapple and sugar together for 20 minutes. Add Karo syrup and heat to boiling point. Pour into jars and seal.

 

Rhubarb Jelly

5 cups rhubarb, diced

4 cups sugar

(1) 6 oz. box strawberry Jell-O

Combine rhubarb and sugar. Let stand overnight. In the morning, cook rhubarb for 5 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in Jell-O. Pour into jars and seal.

 

Blackberry Jam

4 cups blackberries

2 cups sugar

2 tbsp. lemon juice

2 tsp. lemon zest (optional)

Combine blackberries, sugar and lemon juice in a large bowl. Use a large spoon or potato masher to crush berries, then transfer mixture to a medium saucepan.

Heat saucepan over medium heat and bring to boil. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the jam is thick, 15 to 20 minutes. Skim any foam that has risen to the surface and stir in lemon zest if using. Transfer to a clean glass jar and let cool completely. Tightly secure lid and refrigerate. This is for refrigerator jam only.

 

*For canning and preserving guidelines, go to Ball Mason Jars www.ballmasonjars.com.

 

Until next time...

Pickles

It's All About Pickles!

Its canning season now and most everyone with a garden that has cucumber plants has an abundance of them. It gets to a point that they come on so fast you can't even give them away before they go bad. Our container gardening experiment went well for us this year. We had 3 tomato plants that started bearing early in the season, two different pepper plants, green onions and just one cucumber plant; all in pots and all gave more than needed for two people. If you don't have room in your yard for a garden, try container gardening next year.

By Dana Hyland-Horner | Photos by Mike Horner

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   Right now is the time to start making pickles of all kinds. This is an easy process and they sure taste great in the winter months, and make great gifts as well. Pickles, the last few years have been a big craze. Besides the obvious jar pickles you can purchase at your local grocery store, you can get just jars of pickle juice to drink, pickle flavored potato chips, chocolate covered pickles and the list goes on and on. Pickles are a good probiotic source for both gut health and electrolytes; but I'm not sure I want to eat pickle popcorn, pickle pizza or have a stick of pickle gum. I'll pass. I do like good dill pickles on a hamburger, or a homemade sweet pickle relish in tuna salad. My husband Mike loves a good homemade bread and butter pickle made from an old recipe from his youth. You can add so many things to that recipe to switch it up, like bell peppers, onions and even jalapenos.

 

   Cucumbers can also be made into pickles for the freezer as well. You brine them, add all the ingredients that you like in your pickles and freeze them in freezer containers. When thawed, they taste just as fresh as when you made them. Another pickle we like to make are fresh dill pickles. You can make them whole out of small cucumbers or in spears, or in slices. They are simply brined and loaded with fresh dill out of our herb garden. Sometimes, I will add fresh garlic which gives them a slightly different taste, but our absolute favorite pickle is a refrigerator pickle that my sister Patty makes. She lives in Charleston South Carolina, and every visit we have enjoyed those glorious pickles, to a point we now expect them! Her small grandchildren are even learning how to make them as well. It really is a simple recipe but once they are cold, they go fast. They are a good addition to any meal, or just get a small bowlful and eat. We call them "Patty's Pickles" and with our abundance of cucumbers, we have already made our first batch, with probably several more to make and give out. This is the kind of recipe that will surely be handed down through generations just like our grandparent's pickles are now. I'm going to share her recipe with you in hopes that you will give them a try and add them to your keep box for years to come.

Patty's Pickles

On a mandolin slice 8 cups of cucumbers ( Be careful!)

Salt them down well and let them stand for a couple of hours. ( This process will make them crisp)

After you drain the water  mixture off, leave most of the remaining salt on cucumbers, go to the next process.

Mix:

4 cups sugar

2 cups vinegar 

2 tsp. celery seed

2 tblsp. dill ( fresh if you have it)

salt and pepper to taste

1 onion, sliced ( I use 2 as we like pickled onions)

Pour this mixture over the rinsed cucumbers.

Let chill for up to 24 hours in your refrigerator.

Pickles can be kept in the refrigerator for up to 3 weeks.

 

Lazy Pickles

1 Onion

4 cucumbers

1 1/2 cups sugar

1 1/2 cups vinegar

1T. salt

1/2 tsp. turmeric

1/2 tsp. celery

1/2 tsp. mustard seed

Slice cucumbers and onions in a quart jar. Combine remaining ingredients. Mix thoroughly ( do not heat) . Pour cold mixture over cucumbers. Store in the refrigerator. They will be ready to eat in 5 days.

 

Freezer Pickles

3 quarts cucumbers

2 lbs. onions, sliced

2 red peppers

2 green peppers

1 bunch celery

1/2 cup pickling salt

6 cups sugar

4 cups vinegar

Slice cucumbers, onions, red and green peppers and celery Cover with mixture of water and 1/4 cup pickling salt and let stand overnight. then drain. Mix sugar and vinegar and stir until dissolved. Pour over vegetables. Put in freezer containers and freeze.

Will keep indefinitely.

 

until next time...

BakeBread

Let's Bake Bread!

Several weeks ago, while it was storming and gloomy outside, I was content reading a summer book curled up in my favorite chair, and my husband Mike was busy on his phone looking up things to do, when out of nowhere he said, "Let's bake bread" I said "What??!! It's raining out! Can you bake bread when it's raining out?” He said, “Let’s find out.”

 

   So into the kitchen we went gathering up flour, yeast, sugar, salt and oil. He found a great recipe online and we began the process of baking bread for the first time together. The first one didn't come together well, so we started on a new one and it came together so well we even made a cinnamon swirl one that was delicious. The smell of the bread baking was just what we needed on that gloomy day. We don't usually eat bread on a regular basis, and maybe we will buy a loaf once a month, but this could become a problem! It came out of the oven and we let it cool for about 15 minutes, cut into it and with some fresh cream butter we ate our first piece of homemade baked bread. It was actually easier than I thought it would be.

By Dana Hyland-Horner | Photos by Mike Horner

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My mom used to make yeast cloverleaf dinner rolls every Christmas and that was the same smell I remembered when ours was baking. Homemade bread isn't a new trend; in fact it goes hand in hand with canning, baking, quilting and everything domestic. Sure we don't need to make strawberry jam, or grow our own tomatoes and cucumbers, but it seems like doing it yourself just makes it so much better and meaningful.

 

   Baking bread is a process that takes time and patience which is part of the appeal. It's not like whipping up a batch of cookies or baking a cake. You have to let bread rise, often more than once depending on your recipe, kneading and shaping your loaf just perfectly; it’s not like stirring a pot of vegetable soup. It's careful and tactile and at the end of this process you get that fresh baked bread!

 

   If you feel that baking your own loaf is not your idea of a fun day, then you have several options in Miami County that can satisfy that need for homemade bread. Adam Berning, owner and baker at Sweet Adaline's in Tipp City, Ohio offers several varieties of homemade bread including potato, rosemary, focaccia, and their best seller cinnamon bread with a crunchy topping of a cinnamon mix. He says the buttermilk loaf is also a customer favorite. He rotates his bread variations on a regular basis. His bakery is a little European with a touch of modern. Mr. Berning enjoys being a small town baker, supplying the community with different baked goods. Tipp City has been such a success that he is opening a new bakery at 6052 Wilmington Pike in Centerville (coming soon).

Another great place to get a fresh loaf of bread is Bakehouse Bread and Cookie Company located in Troy, Ohio. Owner and baker Bryan Begg said that this quaint cafe offers several varieties of sandwiches made on their daily homemade artisan breads, handmade with all natural ingredients. On any given day, you can go in and see the baking process for yourself in an area that is designated for you to watch and smell the baking of their products. Their breads have no artificial preservatives, no corn syrup or refined sweeteners. Each loaf is shaped by hand and their sourdough starter is over 20 years old. That makes for the best sourdough bread flavor. Some of the breads they offer are: New York rye, cherry oatmeal, cranberry-poppy seed, raisin-walnut and seasonal savory, just a few on a long list.

Bakehouse Bread clerk, Sara Lins holding a fresh baguette bread that was freshly sliced. All Bakehouse breads can be sliced for your convenience.

   While the big box stores all carry bread, there is nothing like warm fresh bread out of a local bakery. Support our small town bakeries and feed your families the best!

 

   Man can’t live on bread alone they say, I beg to differ. Enjoy a few bread recipes.

 

Health Bread

6 cups whole wheat flour

1 cup wheat germ 

1 tsp. salt

3 tsp baking powder

2/3 cup brown sugar

3 cups shredded raw carrots

2 pounds raisins

1 cup soybean oil

2 cups warm milk

2 tsp. cinnamon

Mix dry ingredients together. Mix wet ingredients, then add all together. Place in oiled loaf pans and bake for 1 hour at 350 degrees. Makes 3 loaves.

 

Homemade Dinner Rolls

1 pkg. yeast

1/2 cup sugar

1 tsp. salt

2 cups lukewarm water

1 egg

7 cups flour

3 tbsp. melted shortening

Mix in order given. Let rise till double in size. Knead. Make out into 3 dozen rolls. Let it rise again. Bake at 375 degrees until golden brown, about 15 minutes.

 

Sally Lunn Bread (featured at Williamsburg, Va.)

1 cup milk

1 pkg. active yeast

1/2 cup butter

1/3 cup sugar

3 eggs

4 cups sifted flour (all-purpose)

1 tsp salt

Heat milk until a film forms. Skim, cool until lukewarm, then sprinkle in the yeast to dissolve. Meanwhile, work the butter until soft, then add sugar gradually and continue working until creamy. Beat the eggs until very hard. Sift flour and salt together. Beat in the flour and milk mixtures alternately. Cover the dough with a tea towel and set in a warm place until it doubles in size. Knead very hard again and pour into a greased 10" tube pan. Let rise again until double the size. Then bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for 45-50 minutes, or until nicely browned on top.

 

Until next time...

The Sights and Sounds of Summer

   Have you ever just stopped to think about why just hearing the word "summer" excites us so much? We struggle through the cold winter months knowing that relief is on its way with summer. The kids are out of school, vacations are in the process of being finalized, and just being able to sit outside with the warm sun on your face is the best, isn't it? I think the composer George Gershwin said it best in the lyrics to Porgy and Bess the musical, "Summertime, and the livin' is easy." 

   We seem to always be more relaxed and eager to get outside and do all of the fun things we associate with warm weather. Summertime is a state of mind. It's the season when many of our most precious memories are made. The pool for instance. Just walking in the gate to find that certain spot you like, to the smell of chlorine and sunscreen and the screams of excitement from the children as they jump right into that beautiful blue water.

 

   Summer is full of so many outdoor pleasures in Miami County such as camping, the fair, the music events in all of our communities, fishing, tending to our gardens, eating outdoors and catching lightning bugs. It's a time to get out as much as you can for as long as you can. A few years ago we had some of our family from Utah come to spend a week with us, and every night they would stay up very late at night to watch the lightning bugs. They just couldn't get enough of the little blinking lights we have in the summer. They don't have them in their state and said we were so lucky to be able to enjoy such a sight. The things we take for granted are as simple as that. 

By Dana Hyland-Horner | Photos by Mike Horner

Summer
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   Summer is that time to slow down, swing in the hammock, drink the freshly made iced tea while reading that good beach book you have been waiting all season to read. Summer is book ended by several holidays, Memorial Day, 4th of July, and ending with Labor Day all of which are times to gather with family and celebrate. Picnics, and all of the food we wait all year to enjoy such as watermelon, fresh corn on the cob, strawberries and green beans. The grill will be used a lot for hamburgers, hotdogs and steak. You know when someone in your neighborhood has something good on the grill because you can smell it for miles. It's a season to commune with the change of nature. Take a hike at one of our beautiful parks, ride your bike on the many bike paths we have and just listen to the birds. That is the first thing I notice after a long winter of silence is the chirping of birds when I finally get to open my windows.

 

   Other sounds that go with summer are lawn mowers, chirping of crickets and those occasional afternoon thunderstorms. My husband will say, " I can smell rain coming" and sure enough it will rain. The earthy smell of rain develops because plants secrete oils during dry periods, and these oils accumulate in the soil and rocks around the plants. When the rain falls, the oily compounds combine with other compounds to create the smell we have come to know. Now when he says it's going to rain, I just pull the car in the garage no questions asked.

 

   The one thing that screams summer to me is homemade ice cream. In our family, it was a staple for the 4th of July, and we looked forward to it. Mom would cook the custard and let it cool, then we all had to take our turn cranking the ice cream machine putting crushed ice and ice cream salt on the top to get it to the right consistency. I usually got to lick the wooden paddle when they pulled it out. Now, we have machines that will do it for you. But oh the memories I have of those hot summers with that ice cream.

 

   Growing up in the country, the first signs of summer were the tractors and combines in the fields and the fresh smell of hay. Putting in hay is a hard job that most youth did then. I still love that smell today. Then you have the fishermen and women that just cannot wait to purchase that bait of choice, pick a nice shady place along the river, lake or pond with a cool drink and pass the time waiting on the " big one". There is nothing more relaxing. Mike and I love to fish and yes, I put the worms on the hook like a boss! Fishing in Ohio in the summer is excellent. FISH OHIO records show that the three most popular species, largemouth bass, saugeye and crappie are abundant across our state, so get the poles out and prepare to have a summer fish fry.

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   Whatever you do to celebrate summer, make it safe and memorable. Take pictures and remember it doesn't last long so enjoy every minute! Here are a few summer recipes to enjoy:

 

Pan Fried Bass

1 tablespoon all-purpose flour

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon pepper

1 tablespoon water

1 large egg white

1/4 cup seasoned bread crumbs

2 tablespoons cornmeal

4 (6-ounce) bass fillets, skinned

2 teaspoons vegetable oil

1 teaspoon butter

4 lemon wedges

Step 1) Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Combine flour, salt and pepper in a large zip-top plastic bag. Combine water and egg white in a shallow dish, stirring with a whisk. Combine bread crumbs and cornmeal in another shallow dish, stirring with a whisk.

Step 2) Working with 1 fillet at a time, place fish in a bag; seal and shake to coat. Dip in egg white mixture, and dredge in bread crumb mixture. Repeat the procedure with remaining fillets, flour mixture, egg white mixture and bread crumb mixture.

Step 3) Add vegetable oil and butter to the pan; cook until butter melts. Add fillets to the pan, and cook for 5 minutes on each side or until the fish flakes easily when tested with a fork. Serve with lemon wedges.

 

Crappie Tostada

(4) 6-8 ounce crappie fillets, skin removed

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon pepper

2 tablespoons vegetable oil

2 ears fresh corn, shucked

8 corn tortillas (fried flat in oil and drained on a paper towel)

1 1/2 cups cooked black beans, drained

2 cups jack cheese, shredded

1 red onion, thinly sliced into rings

1 1/2 cups green chile salsa

8 slices of ripe tomato

2 cup romaine lettuce, shredded

1/4 cup sour cream

Season fish with seasoned salt and pepper. Heat oil in a large pan over medium-high heat and cook fish on both sides. Remove fish from the pan and add corn kernels. Cook for 3 to 4 minutes. Break fish apart into large chunks.

For each tostada, place one tortilla on a plate. Top with one-fourth of the beans and corn. Top with 1/4 cup cheese, a few onion rings, some of the fish chunks and some of the salsa. Place the second tortilla over the salsa. place 2 tomato slices on the tortilla. Add some more fish, then some extra salsa, lettuce and more cheese, and finish off with a tablespoon of sour cream.

 

Homemade Ice Cream

Heat 9 cups milk

Mix in a bowl: 

3 cups milk

1 cup brown sugar

2 3/4 cups white sugar

5 egg yolks

10 tablespoons flour

1 tablespoon vanilla

Add this to 9 cups of milk once it comes to a boil. Stir until it cooks again. Put in a cold water bath until it cools. Then add vanilla, 2 cups cream, and 5 beaten egg whites. Put in your ice cream freezer and freeze.

 

Summer Dandelion Salad

4 cups dandelions

3 eggs, hard-boiled

3 slices bacon

Dressing:

2 tablespoons sugar

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 1/2 cups water or milk

1 tablespoon Miracle Whip

Vinegar to taste

Wash and chop dandelions or you can use watercress. Fry bacon and cut into pieces. Mix dry ingredients. Use drippings from bacon and add to some flour. Brown a little; add liquids and cook until thick. Pour over dandelions. Add chopped eggs and mix. Very good with mashed potatoes or baked potatoes.

Note: To remove bitter taste from the dandelions, soak in salt water for 30 minutes. This was a popular summer recipe along the banks of the Ohio River.

 

Until next time.....

4th of July

By Dana Hyland-Horner | Photos by Mike Horner

Celebrating the 4th of July with Food

If there is one thing that marks the 4th of July other than flags, parades, and fireworks, it is the BBQs and food. Celebrating the 4th with good food is actually an old southern tradition that dates back to the beginning of this country. Just after the revolution, Americans celebrated Independence Day with public dinners that everyone in the local town was invited to. This grew larger through the years to become 'family' 4th of July traditions.

 

   My husband Mike's family (he is one of 13) always had a large 4th of July celebration that included the whole neighborhood. He remembers that the focal point was food and music, as many of them played instruments. Hamburgers, hot dogs, and ribs were a crowd favorite. The challenge was always what sides to have with the grilled meat. For our families it was most likely always fresh half runner green beans with new potatoes, corn on the cob, cucumbers and onions, and of course tomatoes. The kids would run through sprinklers, moms would gather and share recipes and dads would stand guard at the grill drinking cheap beer out of red solo cups discussing the price of gas. Everyone would be anxious to see what was for dessert, of course most all households back then had homemade ice cream with the old hand crank machines. Blackberry pie was another dessert on most tables as it was right at the time when the berries were ripe for picking.

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   Another berry that was popular then was mulberries. They are a fruit from a tree that resembles that of a smaller blackberry and very much tastes the same. They make delicious pies and are good dried. They are considered a 'super fruit'  as they promote good liver health and control blood sugar levels, as just some of the benefits to this berry. Most people have no idea where and what they are. Here's a clue: birds love them and you may notice this on the windshield of your car. Yup, that's the mulberry. Mike and I have recently discovered several mulberry trees on our property, and we are taking advantage of  this delicious fruit as they are only on the trees for a couple of days. We have picked so many berries that after we use them for decoration on a cake we will be freezing the rest for jam, or a pie at a later date. This 4th of July we are making a flag cake that most of you readers have seen in magazines or have made yourself. Our cake part of this recipe will be strawberry cake mixed with fresh strawberries, white icing with fresh sliced strawberries as the stripes of the flag and mulberries as the stars on the flag.

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   A red, white, and blue theme is so easy for decorating for your holiday cookouts. Put flags everywhere. A milk white bowl filled with fresh strawberries and blueberries will give your guests that American vibe. Watermelon is another favorite for the 4th BBQ. One idea that we used several years ago is layering up a skewer with watermelon chunks, a blueberry, a strawberry, then a mini marshmallow to stand up in a clear vase. This 4th of July, take a minute between cooking, and maybe playing a game of cornhole, to remember our brave service men and women that are keeping us safe and free. Fly your flag high and sing GOD BLESS AMERICA!

 

Mulberry Pie

* Use a store bought crust, prepare as directed

For the filling:

3 1/2 cups mulberries, cleaned and sorted

1 cup sugar

1/4 cup wheat flour

2 tablespoons butter

Combine and pour mulberry mixture into a prepared bottom crust. Cut butter into pieces and place over fruit. Bake in a 350 degree oven for around 45 minutes. Serve with vanilla ice cream.

 

Mulberry Jam

2 cups ripe mulberries

Juice from 1/2 a lemon

2 cup sugar

1 packet vanilla sugar

1 packet Certo liquid pectin

After thoroughly washing the berries and removing the small stems, put them in a medium sized saucepan. heat it over a medium heat, pressing down on the berries to release the juices.

Bring to a boil, then add the sugars and lemon juice. Reduce the heat and stir the mixture until the sugars dissolve.

Bring back to a boil again. Add 1 packet of liquid pectin and continue to stir often. Put on a simmer and leave it to thicken up a  bit.

In the meantime, sterilize your jars in a large pot on the stove. When the jars are ready and your jam has been brought back up to a boil for a few minutes, bottle and seal the jam tightly.

This jam is good over pancakes or french toast.

 

Happy 4th of July!

Until next time.........

Frid Bologna

Fried Bologna is Making a Comeback!

 

   When Mike and I were young and growing up in southern Ohio, Bologna was a staple in most homes. It was inexpensive and you could make it stretch in so many ways. You just knew when you saw the grease stain on your brown paper lunch bag that you had a fried bologna sandwich for lunch.

 

   My Papaw owned a small country store in Franklin Furnace Ohio and carried long rolls of bologna. He used to say it was his best seller. If you didn't live on a farm where you could butcher pigs for bacon, you didn't have it for breakfast. Bologna was the next best thing coupled with some scrambled eggs and toast.

 

   Then there was the famous bologna salad that most families back then made. It was very much like ham salad today. They would grind a large chunk of bologna and add sweet pickles, boiled eggs, celery and mayonnaise. It was so good on a fresh slice of bread. Oh, the memories of long ago. But, now bologna is making a comeback in so many upscale restaurants across the country. It has become a feature on many menus. One such place in Miami County is Sam and Ethels located in Tipp City, which has been offering delicious food since 1944. You can always order a fried German bologna sandwich with a side order of chips. If you want to get a little fancy, you can add cheese and lettuce.

 

   Just the smell of bologna frying in the skillet can take you back to another time. I remember you have to cut an X in the middle of the meat so it won't buckle up in the middle and if you press your fork on the X it will make a noise like a pig squealing. Why I remember this, I have no idea! 

 

   Another restaurant in Miami County that offers this new comeback meat is Moeller Brew Barn located in Troy. They offer their bologna sandwich with fried onions, American cheese, honey chipotle mustard aioli, on a pretzel bun, and it is one of their crowd favorites.

 

   Chefs across America are starting to take bologna in many different directions such as grilling and smoking the meat. The main ingredient in bologna is ground meat, which can be any combination of pork, beef, chicken and turkey or only one of these meats. Hot dogs and bologna technically fall into the same category, just presented in different ways. Hot dogs were made to be long, skinny, and small, much like how ordinary sausage is produced, while bologna is made for the express purpose of being cut into thin slices.

   There are so many types of bologna, but the ones we have tried over the years are garlic bologna and Lebanon bologna, which was probably my favorite. It is a type of cured, smoked and fermented beef sausage. It is darker in color and more dense and is used as a cold cut but can be used as an appetizer with a chunk of cheese and a sweet pickle. Mike and I decided to give a gourmet bologna sandwich a try. We toasted bread, fried several slices of bologna, diced white onion and tomatoes and lettuce and topped it off with a fried egg. I have to say it was really good and filled us up for sure. Is it healthy? Probably not, but we laughed the whole time making it, remembering those grease stained brown bags. It was good then, and still is!

 

Fried Bologna Casserole

  • 8 Slices bologna

  • 3 tablespoons butter

  • 1 Onion, chopped

  • 4 cups warm mashed potatoes

  • 1 1/2 cups shredded Cheddar cheese

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 1 1/2-quart baking dish.

Heat a skillet over medium-high heat. Fry bologna slices in the hot skillet until browned on both sides, about 1 minute per side. Drain on a paper towel-lined plate. Wipe excess grease from the skillet, reduce heat to medium, and stir in butter and onion. Cook and stir until onion has softened and turned translucent, about 5 minutes. Stir the onion into the warm potatoes. 

Spread half of the mashed potatoes into the prepared baking dish. Layer with half of the fried bologna, and sprinkle with half of the cheese. Repeat with the remaining ingredients.

Bake uncovered in the preheated oven until the cheese is bubbly, and the center is hot. About 30 minutes.

 

Bologna Salad

  • 1 (16ounce) package bologna

  • 4 large hard-boiled eggs, peeled and chopped

  • 1 cup creamy salad dressing ( such as Miracle Whip)

  • 1/2 cup sweet pickle relish, or to taste.

Grind bologna and eggs in a meat grinder with a medium blade.

Transfer ground mixture to a large bowl; stir in salad dressing and relish until well combined. Cover and refrigerate until chilled, 2 to 3 hours.

This is good on crackers.

 

Until next time.....

By Dana Hyland-Horner | Photos by Mike Horner

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Strawberry Season in Troy   

   When the first of June rolls around here in Miami County, we all lose our minds for everything strawberry. The city of Troy paints berries on the streets, we paint berries on our driveways and hang flags with strawberries. Even businesses paint their windows with that beautiful red luscious berry. Needless to say, recipes start flying from house to house with new and different ways to capture the goodness these berries provide. Troy, known as the capital of strawberries, truly lives up to its name.

   Our local grocery stores have been getting some very good tasting berries this year, but there is nothing like that fresh farm-picked strawberry from Fulton Farms. They are the suppliers of berries for The Strawberry Festival held on the first weekend in June. While my husband, Mike, and I love the festival it is sometimes hard to find that perfect strawberry treat. There are many offered and all delicious, but my favorite is, as my mom would call it, ‘Strawberry Goo Pie’. It’s a pie loaded with all of that wonderful jelled goo and berries topped with whipped cream.

 

   While working at the newspaper, I discovered the perfect pie at JJ's Lunchbox, located at 810 S. Market Street, here in Troy (formally Ording's). The tradition of selling whole strawberry pies still stands at JJ’s. This started many, many years ago and to this day you can walk in when the berries are ripe and purchase a whole pie. They taste just as delicious as they did for me 20 years ago. Jason Pierce and his wife, the owners of JJ's for the past five years, have come up with a new creation called the 'Jason-inspired' Stuffed Strawberry with cheesecake filling, which can be purchased now and for the festival. They also offer their own version of strawberry shortcake, which they let us sample, and it was out of this world good. While JJ's has a wide selection of deli items, including their always delicious chicken wings and pizzas, it is the strawberry pies that people remember; handmade and always cold. 

By Dana Hyland-Horner | Photos by Mike Horner

Strawberry Season

   Another favorite offered this time of year is Strawberry Salsa which can be purchased at Haren’s Market, located at 2 E. Main Street, in Troy. It has the perfect combination of sweet and spicy flavors with the main ingredient being strawberries. It is delicious with tortilla chips, fresh cut cucumbers and celery. I experimented with it last year and poured it over four chicken breasts and a small package of cream cheese in a crockpot. It came out so tender. Run to Haren’s to get a jar before the festival begins.......your welcome!

   Strawberry Season isn’t complete without the refreshing brews from Moeller Brew Barn, located at 214 W. Main St., also in Troy. This year they are offering Strawberry Square Wheat and Strawberry Marquita Seltzer, both of which you can pair with their yummy Strawberry Fields Salad. You can't go wrong with one of their brick oven pizzas or smoked wings for a fun night out. There is really so much offered in one weekend out of the year in Miami County.

 

   Mike and I have decided to try a new recipe this season, one that I remember my Mamaw making when I was a child. A plain strawberry cooked pie with lattice topped crust. We all have made or heard of strawberry rhubarb pie, but this is just a cooked strawberry version. We are heading in the kitchen to try it, but here is the recipe to share with your friends and family.

Old Fashioned Strawberry Pie

CRUST:

3 cups all purpose flour

2 tablespoons granulated sugar

1 teaspoon salt

1 cup cold unsalted butter, cut into small chunks

1/2 teaspoon lemon juice

6-7 tablespoons ice cold water

FILLING:

5 cups sliced strawberries

4 tablespoons cornstarch

3/4 cup granulated sugar

1 pinch salt

a splash of lemon juice

FINISHING:

1 egg

1 tablespoon water

1-2 tablespoons coarse sugar

INSTRUCTIONS:

Add the flour, sugar and salt to a large bowl to make by hand. Add chunks of cold butter one at a time and knead the dough until it resembles coarse crumbs. Add the lemon juice slowly and knead until the dough pulls away from the sides of the bowl. Depending on the weather, use anywhere between 5-8 tablespoons of water. Pick up with your hands to form a ball from the dough. Place in a pie pan gently until you are ready to roll it out.

Filling: Add the sliced strawberries to a bowl, along with the cornstarch, sugar, salt and lemon juice. Toss just until combined. Set the filling aside while preparing the crust for baking. Preheat your oven to 375 degrees. Roll out the dough on a counter surface and gently put in the pie pan and pinch pretty edges. Add the strawberry filling to the pie crust and with the 2nd ball of dough, use a pizza cutter and roll out long strips to add to the top of the pie making a lattice pattern.

Beat 1 egg with 1 tablespoon of water and lightly brush the top of the unbaked pie crust. Dust the top with sugar. Bake for 35-45 minutes until the crust is brown and the fruit filling is bubbly. Let cool before slicing.

 

Until next time.....

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Kentucky Derby

By Dana Hyland-Horner | Photos by Mike Horner

The Kentucky Derby

   My husband Mike and I were taking a ride the other day on one of our beautiful warm days and noticed just how many horse farms there are in Miami County. Many horses were out grazing and looking their best, of course. I then remembered that the Kentucky Derby was always run in the spring. When we got home I looked it up and sure enough it's on Saturday, May 6th. It's one of the first springtime festivals for our neighbor-state Kentucky. It's a two-week-long celebration of everything related to the love of horses. The competition is a Grade 1 stakes race for three-year-old Thoroughbreds at a distance of one and a quarter miles at Churchill Downs, and it is exciting. It is the most-watched horse race of the year in the United States and is considered one of the most important sporting events in the country.

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   I love horses but never had the opportunity to own one. I love the area in Kentucky as you drive by all the white fences in areas with beautiful green grass and the horses grazing. When I was a child, probably around 4 years old, my dad gave me a long piece of rope that was knotted at both ends and I would pretend I was on a horse by holding this rope. I would run all over the woods behind our home. His name was Buddy and we spent many hours exploring. I would tie him up at night and begin new adventures the next day. Buddy and I never made it to Louisville, but I still have a piece of that rope and all the memories it holds. 

   The Kentucky Derby was begun by Meriwether Lewis Clark, a prominent Louisville citizen who developed the Louisville Jockey Club. He began construction on the race course in 1874 on land leased from two relativities, John and Henry Churchill. The course was patterned after the English classic, the Epsom Derby. There are so many traditions that go along with the Derby, one of which is the Garland of Roses that is presented to the winning horse. They have nicknamed it " Run for the Roses". The garland has more than 400 red roses sewn into a green satin backing with the seal of the Commonwealth on one end and the Twin Spires and number of the race's current renewal on the other. The Kroger Company has been crafting the garland for the Kentucky Derby since 1987, taking over the duties from the Kingsley Walker Florist.

   One thing that sets the Kentucky Derby apart from other sporting events is all the beautiful and unique HATS!  All shapes, colors, and styles of hats. These extravagant hats really became associated with the Derby sometime around the 1960's. If you choose someday to attend the Derby, start a year ahead to purchase the right hat to go with your outfit. Another tradition of the Derby is of course the Mint Julep. It is the official drink during the celebration. It is a cocktail made of sugar, bourbon, and mint leaves. Each year over 120,000 Mint Juleps are served during race weekend. It became the official drink during the 1930s when Churchill Downs started serving it in souvenir julep cups. The normal price of a Mint Julep at the track is about $11, but for the swanky spenders, the concoction can be priced at $1,000-plus because it's sometimes sold in a 24-carat gold plated souvenir cup with a silver straw. Ok, I'll just have a Coke please.

   Some of the best foods of Kentucky are offered during the festival, such as the famous Kentucky Hot Brown, Kentucky Beer Cheese and of course Chocolate Bourbon Pecan Pie. Not to mention at the event you can also get great fried chicken, golden biscuits and  pimento cheese. By far, I believe the Kentucky Hot Brown is the most recognized Derby food. It is made with turkey, bacon, cheese and egg and topped with a ripe tomato. Then, toasted to perfection. So many wonderful traditions to sum up the Running of the Roses, and someday I'm going to make a big ol’ hat, take my $20 bet, with my piece of Buddy in my pocket and go to the races. See you there.

 

Kentucky Derby Drinks:

 

Bourbon Shake

In blender, combine:

1/4 cup bourbon

2 cups mint chocolate chip ice cream

Blend to desired consistency. Pour into tall glasses.

 

Mint-Vodka Martini

In a cocktail shaker, muddle 6 mint leaves with 1 Tbsp. simple syrup.

Add 1/2 cup ice and 1 1/2 oz. vodka; shake vigorously. Strain into chilled martini glasses.

 

Whisky Smash

3 lemon wedges

2 ounces bourbon

3/4 oz. simple syrup

4 mint leaves

Garnish: mint sprig

Muddle the lemon wedges in a shaker. Add bourbon and simple syrup, mint leaves and ice, and shake until well blended and chilled. Double-strain into a rocks glass over fresh ice. Garnish with mint sprig.

 

Strawberry Basil Smash

1.5 oz. Aberfeldy 12 year old Single Malt Scotch Whisky

3-5 strawberries

3 basil leaves

.75 oz. lemon juice

.5 oz simple syrup

Shake all ingredients; pour over fresh ice and rock glass. Garnish with a strawberry and basil leaf.

 

Southern Sweet Tea Jam

2 oz. Seagram's Sweet Tea Vodka

1 oz. lemon juice

.05 oz. simple syrup

1 bar spoon strawberry jam

Add all ingredients to a cocktail shaker with ice. Shake hard to chill and combine ingredients. Strain into your glass over fresh ice.

 

Until next time...

Earth Day Activities

   Today my husband Mike and I spent the afternoon starting a few plants to put in our upcoming victory garden. When the warm weather hits the Miami Valley, you can't help wanting to get outside and clean up the winter debris, mow the grass, and get your garden ready for spring planting.

By Dana Hyland-Horner | Photos by Mike Horner

Earth Day
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   I got some soil and pots to get things going. We started peppers, thyme, dill, and Morning Glories by seed. I recently saw in a farm magazine that the best way to start plants by seed is to use the containers that you get from carry out food. For example, Chinese food containers or the ones that you would get chicken dinners in from Kroger or Meijer. Just wash, fill them with soil, plant your seeds, spritz with water and put the lid back on them. This creates a greenhouse effect. After 3 days, we started seeing them sprout. This is perfect for the home gardener. Earth Day is fast approaching on April 22nd, and it is meant for us to be more aware of the things we can do to keep our planet happy! Planting trees and plants and picking up litter is just the tip of the iceberg. Over a billion people celebrate Earth Day by doing many things that can help protect our planet from pollution and deforestation. There are so many things we can do to help this process like riding our bikes, buying reusable bags, using a refillable water bottle, getting produce from a farmers market, or planting our own victory gardens.

 

   When you see trash that has been thrown out, take a minute to stop and pick it up.  We all have to do our part to keep our Earth happy. Follow the 3 R's: Reduce, Reuse and Recycle. If you are new to this, you can start by doing some small things that will help like bringing your own bags to the grocery store, conserving energy at your home, turning off your tap, and replacing your lightbulbs to more efficient ones. It's not a lot, but it's a great start. There are so many ways you can teach your children about Earth Day like learning how to ID trees when taking a hike in the woods, picking up rocks to take home to paint, making a crown out of the first clover, doing some outdoor Yoga, taking them out stargazing and by all means supporting our local farmers. By buying from farmers markets you are cutting out fossil-fuel intensive transport by air. The produce is fresher, tastier and way more nutritious. You will also be adding dollars back to our local communities in Miami County.

 

   Some interesting facts about Earth Day: Senator Gaylord Nelson conceived the idea of Earth Day in the early 1960s. The first Earth Day was in 1970 and it went global in 1990. About a billion people recognize Earth Day each year. The Earth Day network says it's the" largest secular observance in the world," and it currently reaches people in more than 190 countries. Each year Mike and I plant more perennials in our vegetable and herb gardens as well as some flowers. Not only will these store more carbon, but no replanting is required. Some that do very well year after year are kale, some varieties of spinach, broccoli and rhubarb. Right now in our herb garden we have chives, rosemary, thyme, and parsley breaking through. In our flower garden we have a variety of hostas, peonies and columbine. Lavender will be the next plant to start showing some growth. This Earth Day, turn off the electronics, take a walk in the outdoors or do a project that will benefit nature and celebrate EARTH!

 

Bird Seed Tube

String

Scissors

Bird Seed

Butter Knife

Peanut Butter

Bamboo Skewer

Toilet paper roll tube

What to Do: Cut two holes at the top and bottom of the cardboard tube. Place the bamboo skewer through the bottom holes as a perch for birds to stand on. Spread peanut butter throughout the outside of the tube. Pour birdseed onto a plate and roll the tube in the seeds until it is completely covered. Thread twine into the top holes and hang outside.

 

Lemon-Garlic Kale Salad

2 cups sliced almonds

1/3 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice ( 2-4 lemons)

1 1/2 cups extra-virgin olive oil

4 cloves garlic, crushed

10 ounces washed and dried kale leaves

1 1/2 cups freshly grated Parmesan cheese

In a skillet lightly toast almonds, set aside. In a bowl, combine lemon juice and 1 heaping teaspoon of salt. Slowly whisk in olive oil. Add garlic cloves and set aside to steep. Working in batches, cut kale into thin ribbons: gather a large handful of leaves, bunch together tightly, and use the other hand to slice into 1/4-inch-thick pieces. This needs to be done very neatly; the idea is to end up kind of like slaw. Place chopped kale in a large bowl. Sprinkle the surface with almonds and then with cheese. Pour half the dressing over the salad and toss. Serve within 1 hour.

Veggie Pasta

! cup vegetables (fresh or frozen)

1 box pasta

1 tablespoon vegetable oil

2 cloves garlic

2 teaspoons dried herbs (your choice)

1 teaspoon red pepper flakes

4-6 quarts water

salt and pepper to taste

Bring 4-6 quarts of water to a boil over high heat in a pot. Add a pinch of salt to this after it starts boiling. In a pan, heat up vegetable oil on low and add in garlic, then add vegetables, salt and pepper, dried herbs and stir occasionally. When the pasta is done, combine with the vegetables, stir together for several minutes. Add pepper flakes at the end and enjoy!

 

Earth Day Orange Salmon

1.5 pounds salmon fillet or 4 smaller fillets

3 tablespoons packed brown sugar

1 tablespoon chili powder

1 teaspoon ground cumin

1 teaspoon smoked paprika

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon pepper

Grated orange peel from 1 large orange (about 2 teaspoons)

1 large orange, sliced

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place the salmon on a baking sheet lined with aluminum foil. Prepare the rub by mixing the first seven ingredients together (brown sugar through orange peel). Spread it on the salmon. Place the orange slices on top. Bake for about 20 minutes or until the fish flakes easily.

 

Until next time...

Dying Egg

By Dana Hyland-Horner | Photos by Mike Horner

Dyeing Easter Eggs Naturally

   So many things have changed since I was a child celebrating the Easter holiday. One of them is the dyeing and hiding of Easter eggs. Today you can just buy the colorful plastic eggs, fill them with candy and money, hide them and in a brief second they are found and cracked open to find the hidden treasures. When I was a child, it was a day long process. My mom and grandma would get those dyeing kits that you add vinegar to and use every coffee cup in the house to color two dozen or more eggs. My dad could never find a cup for his coffee when that process was in full swing. Once colored in the perfect shade they would lay them out on the kitchen counter to dry, then put them in the refrigerator overnight. The next morning, someone in the family would go outside and hide those eggs in the grass, shrubs, and at times even up in the trees. You were given a basket and off you would go in PJs hunting for those glorious eggs. Once found them we brought them back inside, counted them and back in the refrigerator they went. No money or candy inside them, just eggs waiting to be peeled and filled for Easter dinner after church services. These deviled eggs were only made at Easter and we all couldn’t wait to enjoy them with dinner. Eggs were the prized possession at Easter in those days as hens laid few to no eggs over winter because of the lack of sunlight. When spring arrived, the hens began to lay eggs again and Easter was usually the first time you could get them in abundance. Now, eggs are easy to get, used at every holiday and filled in so many different ways.

 

   We can’t forget the Easter Bunny; the rabbit that hides eggs for the children to find. How did that come about? I think Peter Rabbit had a hand in this. Remember he couldn’t stay out of the cabbage patch, so they just gave him a job to do. Actually, the significance of the rabbit at Easter is closely connected to its historical use as a symbol of fertility. Easter falls in spring, a time of rebirth and new life as flowers start to bloom and baby animals are born. As an Easter tradition, decorative eggs date back as far as the 13th century. Due to their ancient history and symbolism, many cultures have their own tradition of egg decoration. Before we had the egg dyeing kits, people had to dye their eggs naturally with items they had on hand, or were easy to get. My husband Mike and I decided to try our hand at coloring eggs naturally and they turned out great. They were soft colors and very easy to do. We used beet juice for pink eggs, coffee for a light brown egg and cooked blueberries for a light blue egg. There are so many natural items you can use, some of which I have listed:

 

1. Yellow: Two teaspoons ground turmeric

2. Pink: One cup shredded beets or beet juice

3. Blue: One cup of cooked blueberries

4 Purple: One cup red onion skins

5. Orange: Yellow onion skins

6. Green: Spinach

7. Dark Brown: Cold coffee

8. Light Brown: Black tea

9. Purple/Silver: Cooked red cabbage

10. Teal: Soak a "brown" egg in cabbage overnight

When using this method add 1 tablespoon of vinegar to your colored water.

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Here are some Easter facts you may not know:

  • The legend of the Easter Bunny began in Germany.

  • More than 1.5 million Cadbury Cream Eggs are produced every day.

  • The act of painting eggs originates from a Ukrainian tradition.

  • The world's largest Easter Egg is found in Canada. It weighs 5,000 pounds and is made of 3,500 pieces of aluminum.

  • The most expensive egg was made by Karl Faberge' in 1902. The enameled egg contains a multi-colored cockerel which at every hour pops out of the egg and flaps his wings, before nodding his head three times. it sold for 9 million dollars.

  • The greatest number of yolks found in one egg is nine.

  • Mature hens will lay one egg a day.

  • Hens will produce larger eggs as they grow.

  • There are more than four times as many chickens in the world as people.

Recipes for Hard Boiled Eggs:

Deviled Eggs

6 large hard-boiled eggs

2 tablespoons mayonnaise

1 1/2 teaspoon sweet pickle relish

1 teaspoon prepared mustard

1/8 teaspoon salt

Dash of pepper

+ Garnish: Paprika

   Cut boiled eggs lengthwise and carefully remove the yolks. Mash the yolks with mayonnaise. Add mustard, relish, salt and pepper. Stir well. Spoon egg yolk mixture into egg whites. Garnish with paprika.

 

Egg Salad 

For the salad part:

8 hard-boiled eggs

2 tablespoons celery, finely chopped

3 tablespoons red onion, finely chopped

3 tablespoons dill, chopped

3 tablespoons chives, chopped

 

For the dressing part:

1/3 cup mayonnaise

2 teaspoon lemon juice

1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard

1/2 teaspoon salt

Dash of pepper

1 garlic clove, minced

   Cook eggs and cool. Once cooled, peel and chop eggs and place into a salad bowl. Add finely chopped celery, red onion, dill and chives. In a separate bowl, combine ingredients for the dressing. Gently stir dressing into the egg salad until coated and serve on a bed of lettuce or on toasted bread.

 

Save your used Eggshells:

- Coarsely crumbled eggshells naturally repel plant-eating slugs and snails as well as cutworms, which kill seedlings. Generously pile broken shells in a ring around vulnerable plants to create a barrier that these "tender footed" creatures won’t cross.

- Eggshells make great starter cups for seeds. Plant your new seeds in a broken half eggshell and when the time is right, plant eggshell and all right into the ground.

- Eggshells decompose quickly contributing calcium to the soil as they break down. Add a handful of crushed shells to the bottoms of pots or holes before planting tomatoes, peppers, and eggplants.

 

   As the Easter season is fast approaching, I’ll be making my dinner menu and of course deviled eggs will be front and center. I hope they will be at your table too. But really my favorite holiday egg is brown and chocolate and solid, and yes I usually bite his ears off first.

Until next time...

Eastr Candy Stores

Getting Ready for Easter at Miami County Candy Stores

The daffodils are popping up and the trees are starting to bud. This means Easter is getting close and Easter baskets are going to be filled with an assortment of candies. There are so many varieties to choose from these days and in Miami County we have several candy stores to choose from.

  

   There is so much history revolving around that sweet goodness that we all love in one way or another. It is believed that candy dates back to the ancient Egyptians, at around 2000 BC. The first known candy was made of honey, nuts, and fruit pressed into bars. The word "candy" comes from the Persian word for "cane sugar". Before the Industrial Revolution, candy was mainly used as medicine to calm digestive problems or to cool a sore throat. Hard candies, especially sweets like peppermints and lemon drops, started to become popular in the 19th century. Good & Plenty is believed to be the oldest candy brand in the United States. The pink and white capsule-shaped chewy licorice was first produced in 1893 in Philadelphia. It is still found in most candy stores and concession stands today.

   One of the newest candy stores in Miami County is RAD Candy Company located at 114 E. Main St. in Tipp City. Owners Mark and Kari Underwood and Chad Mowen said they felt the store would make a good addition to the Tipp area. Kari said that they get customers of all ages looking for that special candy. She said, “I can tell pretty much what they might be looking for just by the age of the customer. For example folks in their 50s and 60s are now looking for Clark Bars, and the younger generation is looking for Sour Strips (made popular on Tik-Tok)”. She noted that they are the only store within 100 miles that carries all 12 flavors. Besides bulk candy and their diabetic section, they also carry hand dipped ice cream, a must for the upcoming summer season.

By Dana Hyland-Horner | Photos by Mike Horner

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   Moving on to Piqua, my husband and I stopped in This and That's Candy on Main, located at 408 N. Main St., where owner Tom Lillicrap says business is great for candy. He said their best seller is salt water taffy and they have many bins full of different flavors. It's that delicious memory of the beach and boardwalk candies that I think we all love. Another big seller for his store is imported candy from countries like Japan for instance. We all want to know what other cultures enjoy and compare it to our sweets. The one thing that caught my husband's eye was the very old Coca Cola machine that carries the "little" Cokes. For some reason drinking an ice cold little Coke tastes so much different and better. The brightly decorated windows will lead you directly into Tom's store.

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   After lunch, we headed to Troy and our home town store, Grandpa Joe's Candy Shop where you can find most anything you are looking for in candy. Located at 1 E. Main Street the store carries a large variety of nostalgic candies from years past such as Beemans Gum, Bun candy bars, Mallo Cups, the little paraffin bottles filled with juice, candy cigarettes, Necco Wafers, and the list goes on and on. They also have a large display unit of different flavored Jelly Belly jelly beans. This candy store opened in 2018 by Christopher J. Beers and has been a huge hit for the area. They also carry a nice variety of ice cream that is a must during summer music events on the Square.

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   Of course, we can't forget the delicious chocolates from Winan’s Chocolates + Coffees. They are a delightful addition for beautiful Easter baskets filled with different flavored chocolate cream eggs, jelly beans, and chocolate bunnies. Winan's, located at 10 W. Main St., now has several locations in our area to choose from. 

 

   When I asked Google “what is the most popular candy in the United States?” the answer was the Reese's Peanut Butter Cups, invented by H.B. Reece after he founded his candy company in 1923. Two other popular candies have been and still are the Hershey's milk chocolate bar and the famous Hershey Kisses. The first bar from the Hershey’s company was sold in 1900 by Milton S. Hershey. 

 

   Some of America's favorite candies are candy corn, Jolly Ranchers, Tootsie Pops, Milky Ways, Kit-Kats and M&Ms. I love making Easter baskets and getting the candy that I know that person loves. Our children are 40 and 42 and I still make them a basket. The tradition of the Easter Basket came to America in the 1700s when the children of German immigrants would add straw to little hats and boxes to create little nests and hide them throughout their homes the night before Easter. They hoped that on Easter morning, they would find the nests full of colored eggs. Now, they are filled with delicious candy. WIN! Here are a few candy recipes to try before Easter. 

 

Coconut Nest Eggs

6 ounces white candy coating, coarsely chopped

6 drops green food coloring

1 drop yellow food coloring

1 cup sweetened shredded coconut

36 jelly beans

In a microwave-safe bowl, melt candy coating; stir in food coloring until blended. Stir in coconut. Drop by tablespoons onto waxed paper into 12 mounds. Make an indentation in the center of each with the end of a wooden spoon handle. Fill each with 3 jelly beans. Let stand until set.

 

Confetti Squares

Cooking spray

4 tbsp. butter

1 cup peanut butter

1/2 tsp. pure vanilla extract

Pinch of salt

2 cups chocolate chips

1 (10-oz.) bag mini rainbow marshmallows

Grease and 8x8" baking pan with cooking spray. In a medium saucepan over medium heat, melt butter, peanut butter, vanilla, and salt. Remove from heat and stir in chocolate chips. If necessary, return to low heat to finish melting chips. Let cool to room temperature. Stir in marshmallows. Pour mixture into pan and refrigerate until set, 3 hours. Cut into squares and wrap in parchment paper.

 

Easter Oreo Bark

1 package vanilla candy coating

3/4 cup M&Ms (Easter)

3/4 cup Spring Oreos, crushed

Spring or Easter sprinkles

Melt package of candy coating in a small pot on low heat-stirring constantly until all is melted. Pour over a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Sprinkle on crushed Oreos, M&Ms and sprinkles. Place in the refrigerator for half hour to an hour. Break into pieces.

 

Have a wonderful Easter Holiday!

Until next time...

Black HistoyMonth

Celebrating Black History Month

   February is Black History Month and it is celebrated in different ways to pay tribute to the rich history and contributions of African-Americans in the United States. February is the birth month of President Abraham Lincoln (born February 12), who issued the Emancipation Proclamation, and, African American author and orator Fredrick Douglass (born February 14th). During this month, we can learn and celebrate past achievements and future accomplishments of our fellow African-Americans.

 

   Black History Month has inspired schools and communities nationwide to organize local celebrations, history lectures and performances. One organization that is working in Miami County is I.D.E.A Troy, with President Tre' Heflin-King. I.D.E.A. Troy is a public partnership of the Troy community and is a fund of the Troy Foundation. They are a community of advocates developing and promoting cultural awareness through inclusion, diversity, and equity endeavors for a better Troy. Tre' says he enjoys living in Troy, and raising his children here in a peaceful community. Recently I.D.E.A. Troy donated books to the Troy-Miami County Public Library titled 100 African-Americans Who Shaped American History. I.D.E.A Troy is made up of four teams:

1. Juneteenth Troy Team

2. MLK Team

3. Troy Freedom Chasers Team

4. Diversity Awareness Team

   Their vision is to form a beloved community within the Troy/Miami County area where people from diverse backgrounds and cultures come together to develop community-led solutions to relevant issues. One of the biggest celebrations that Tre' and members are working on is Juneteenth Troy Freedom Day. The Juneteenth Walk and Celebration will be held on the third Saturday in June. This event will include live music, free food, vendor booths, educational booths and games. It will be a day filled with lots of fun and education. For more information, or if you would like to help, contact: troyjuneteenth@gmail.com

By Dana Hyland-Horner

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Books to Read this Month:

12 years a Slave -  by Solomon Northup

Up from Slavery -  by Booker T. Washington

Ruby Bridges goes to School - by Ruby Bridges

Tiny's Emancipation - by Linda Baten Johnson

Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl – by Harriet Jacobs

 

   In the culinary world southern African-American cuisine ranks very close to the top. Traditional African-American comfort foods include red beans and rice, fried chicken, corn bread, mashed potatoes and gravy, seasoned greens, macaroni and cheese, and ice-cold iced tea. Granted, these are not the healthiest of choices, but they kept the family together and are still passed down from generation to generation. Some of the best known dishes are gumbo, jambalaya, collard greens and Hoppin' John (a dish made with greens and pork). On a recent trip south my husband Mike and I picked up a cookbook called Mama Dip's Kitchen. It has become one of our favorite cookbooks with over 250 traditional Southern recipes. Here are a few of her recipes to try.

Hoppin' John

1 pound fresh pork neck bones

4 cups black-eyed peas, fresh or (three 10 ounce frozen packages)

1 cup onion, finely chopped

1 teaspoon garlic salt

1/2 teaspoon dried thyme

1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper

1 cup rice, uncooked

Wash neck bones, put in a pot of water enough to cover them, come to a boil. Turn the heat on low and cook slowly until tender for about 1 hour. Remove the neck bones from the pot, skim off the fat and strain the liquid. If necessary, add water to the broth to make 4 cups of liquid. Put the liquid back into the pot and add the peas, onions, garlic salt, thyme and red pepper. Come to a boil. Put in the rice. Stir well and cover. Reduce the heat to low and let cook slowly for about 30 minutes. Meanwhile, pick the meat of the neck bones. Add it to the peas and rice for a one-dish meal.

 

Buttered Okra

1 pound fresh okra

1 cup water

1/2 stick butter, cut into pieces

1 teaspoon salt

In a pot, add the butter and salt to the water and bring to a boil over medium heat. Add the okra. Cover the pot and let the okra simmer for 8-10 minutes or until tender. Stir occasionally to cook evenly.

 

Egg Custard Pie

1 cup sugar

2 teaspoons self-rising flour

1 teaspoon nutmeg

1/4 stick butter, melted

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

4 eggs, beaten

1 cup milk

1 unbaked 9-inch pie shell

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. In a bowl, mix together the sugar, flour, and nutmeg. Stir in the butter, vanilla, and eggs, and beat for 10-15 strokes. Add the milk and mix well. Pour into the pie shell and bake for 30 minutes or until firm.

 

Enjoy a piece of history for Black History Month!

Until next time....

Ivy Court

Ivy Court & Fun with House Plants

It's a new year! Happy 2023! Everything seems to have a fresh new start. New Year's resolutions are being made.

   This year my husband and I have decided to shop local in Miami County for many of the items that we would normally purchase in the larger brick and mortar stores. Small businesses always need our help, and they usually have the best deals.

   One such business for me is the plant and home decor store, Ivy Court located at 103 W. Main Street in Troy. It is a beautiful store loaded with plants and unique items for the home. The clerks are always very helpful and knowledgeable on plant information. Courtney and Ryan Hart, owners of Ivy Court, opened the store in Troy because of the growth the city has shown in recent years. One of the clerks, Brianna Slusher said, “The business is booming! We have so many regulars that come in for plants or pots or even wall art that we know them by first name.”

By Dana Hyland-Horner | Photographs by Mike Horner

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   Plants in general have become very popular especially in the cold winter months when you can't get outside to enjoy them. Plants provide so many benefits to us. Thanks to the studies by NASA and other organizations we now know that many plants can improve air quality among other things. They can improve one's well-being and reduce stress by just caring for a variety of plants in your home. A study in 2009 found that plants enhanced the outcome of surgery patients, and those in retirement homes and veterans’ homes. Horticultural therapy is growing as a practice of dealing with post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety and depression.

 

   Many people say, "I just can't have a plant in the house because I will just kill it". No worries, there are so many different varieties that require different needs such as with light and water. For instance, an indoor cactus garden is easy to grow with very little water needed, just good light. You can then take them back outside in the spring and summer months to enjoy. They also make good gifts. Ivy Court has an area inside where you can get assistance in choosing a pot, plant and help with planting right there. They will then guide you in the right direction on how to care for the plant you choose.

 

   Some items you need for home plant care are a good set of gardening gloves, scissors for leaf removal and light pruning if needed and a watering can with a narrow spout, this allows you to be more precise when watering smaller plants. Some plants such as the African violet do not like water on the leaves. Orchids only require a few ice cubes at the base of the plant for watering. I asked Brianna what some of the most popular plants are and easiest to care for. She suggested the pothos plant and the snake plant, and of course there is the air plant that many people put in clear glass hanging pots. The air plant needs no soil. They just need to be submerged in a water bath for about 20-30 minutes every so often, then shaken gently to remove excess water. They like bright light and good air circulation. This plant is fun for kids to get interested in growing.

 

   Indoor ferns and begonias are highly efficient at purifying the indoor air (your sinus' will thank you for these plants) as well as spider plants, rubber plants, peace lilies and English Ivy. The aloe vera plant is used in many kitchens for pharmaceutical purposes such as soothing a burn. You just break a piece off the plant and rub the jelly like substance on the burn for quick relief. We of course can't forget indoor herb gardens to get us through until we can get outside to plant our herb beds. Herbs are fairly easy to grow indoors in the winter months. The ones that tend to thrive are basil, chives, rosemary and thyme. You can start them by seeds or cuttings. We transplanted several of our outdoor plants inside for the winter and they are doing well. There is nothing better than a fresh basil leaf in soup or a sprig of rosemary in that chicken dish. You can purchase special grow lights for herbs if you feel there is not enough light.

 

   Remember for all your trendy plants and unique house needs, go to Ivy Court in Troy, you can't miss it, it's right past the courthouse with a beautiful garland of flowers around the front door.

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Books you might like about houseplants:

How to House Plant by: Heather Rodino

The Complete Houseplant Survival by: Barbara Pleasant

Houseplant Oasis by: Melissa Lo

Herbal Houseplants by: Susan Betz

Indoor Kitchen Gardening Handbook by: Elizabeth Millard

 

What you can do with kitchen grown Herbs:

Freeze into ice cubes

Flavor butter

Make Pesto

Whisk into salad dressings

Blend into smoothies

Infuse into olive oils

 

Fresh Herb Salt

3 cups fresh herbs of your choice

1/2 cup coarse sea salt

1 clove fresh garlic (or more if you desire)

Wash herbs, remove stalks/stems. Arrange in a single layer on a towel. Let air dry for about an hour until all moisture is gone. Place herbs in a food processor. Add garlic and salt. Process until it reaches a course consistency.

Place in a canning jar, and keep in the fridge. Be sure to give it a good mix/stir daily for about the first week.

Herb salt will keep for months in the refrigerator. 

 

Did you know?

Plants talk to each other.

Plants react to sound.

Plants sense gravity.

Plants use tricks to lure pollinators.

Plants know what time it is.

Plants release distress signals when under stress.

 

Enjoy your house plants this winter!

Until next time.....

Evertin Witer

Everything Winter   

   When that first cold spell arrives in the fall it makes you start thinking about the winter months ahead of us, and just how we are going to get through them.

 

   It seems like time moves a little slower in the winter, but we need to think of things that will keep us and our families busy. We tend to miss our shorts and cotton shirts as we transition into hoodies and sweatpants. Let's plan ahead, if you don't already have a pair, go out and buy yourself a nice pair of winter boots. Make sure they are comfortable and that you can wear them with anything. Then, a warm scarf and matching gloves for the win, and there you have a good start. Now let’s concentrate on our skin. Make sure you have a good moisturizer for your face and hands and a good lip balm. I usually carry one in every coat pocket as well as my purse. There is nothing worse than a chapped face or lips. The next winter item on my top 10 list is a nice warm blanket that I can cover up with while watching a good movie. I don't like to share mine, so last year I bought my husband an electric lap blanket that he loves. It always guarantees to make you fall right to sleep.

 

   If you are a "reader" this is a wonderful time to start a good book. While the snow is falling outside, you can be taken away to a far off beach somewhere in a book. Winter is my favorite time to read. Another addiction I got into recently is puzzles. I got one to try and 25 puzzles later I'm still going strong. I get ones with a larger amount of pieces (1000), and the feeling you get when you put that last piece in is wonderful! I will find myself getting up in the middle of the night and telling myself "just find one piece". Well, you can guess how that goes.

 

   If you find yourself feeling cooped up, try going to see a great movie. There are several good ones this year like, "Till", "Don't Worry Darling", "Top Gun: Maverick", and "Father Stu" just to name a few. Other activities you can do are bowling or roller skating. I think we forget about these until winter comes along. There is nothing better than a good competitive game of bowling and it’s good for all ages.

 

   One activity I enjoy doing is feeding and watching the birds in the cold months. We have several different kinds of feeders in our backyard that draw in many red birds, Blue Jays, woodpeckers (big and small), Mourning Doves, finches and even a Carolina wren that has the most beautiful call. It's good to feed the birds during the winter because it can be a struggle for them to find food sources. Some of the food you can put in your feeders are: peanuts, suet, cracked corn, mealworms and a good seed mix. We also have a 12 spike corn hanger for the squirrels to feed from. We have a lot of activity in the backyard in the winter.

By Dana Hyland-Horner | Photographs by Mike Horner

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   I love the season changes, although I'm not one to get out in the snow and play, but my husband loves outdoor activities. Snowman building, skiing, skating, you name it, he loves it. Snow blowing with the blower though, not so much.

 

   I make hot chocolate, that's what I'm good at in the winter. There is nothing that tastes better than a cup of hot chocolate when you or your children come in from a day of playing in the snow. If you want it ready and waiting, prepare it in a crock-pot and it will be warm when you are ready for it.

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   When I was 4 years old I got a wooden sled to play with in the snow, and of course I did. After all these years I have kept that sled and now I decorate with it. It is around 50 years old with a ton of memories that go along with it. When I was in high school, the farm boys would go to a scrap yard and cut the roof off of an old car, hook it to a John Deere tractor and pull it up to the top of a large hill and around 10 of us would pile in and down the hill we would go at a high rate of speed. With a bonfire at the foot of the hill, we would spend hours doing this. Yes, we are all still alive.

 

   If playing in the snow is not for you, try some new things like knitting or painting. Bake that new cookie recipe you have wanted to try or experiment with a new dinner recipe. There are so many things for us to do to get us through the dark short days of winter. Just think of it as preparing us for the new adventures of spring. 

 

Hot Chocolate

1/2 cup sugar

dash of salt

1/3 cup hot water

4 cups milk

3/4 tsp. vanilla extract

In a saucepan, combine sugar, cocoa and salt. Add water; bring to a boil. Cook and stir for 2 minutes. Stir in milk; heat to serving temperature (do not boil). Remove from the heat; stir in vanilla. Whisk until frothy. If desired, garnish with marshmallows, cream or cinnamon sticks.

 

Have you ever heard of making ice cream out of snow? It's fun and easy to do, and it's always a favorite activity to do after a big snow storm. Make sure you use CLEAN snow!

 

Snow Cream

1 can evaporated milk (12 oz.)

1 cup sugar

1 tsp. vanilla

Bowl of snow (about 1/2 gallon)

In a small bowl, mix the milk, sugar, and vanilla together until well combined.

In a large bowl, add about 8-10 cups of snow. Pour the milk mixture over the top and stir well to combine. The texture will be close to that of homemade ice cream, thinner than store bought. Serve right away and enjoy every bite.

 

Reindeer Food

3 cups Cheerios

2 cups M&M's

2 cups peanuts

2 cups pretzels

1 lb. white chocolate

Mix the first 5 ingredients. Stir melted chocolate into a dry mixture. Spread on wax paper on cookie sheets. Let cool and enjoy.

 

Peanut Butter Creams

1/4 cup powdered sugar

1 cup chocolate chips

1/2 cup sweetened condensed milk

1 cup peanut butter

Mix sugar and chocolate chips together. Add milk and peanut butter. Blend together. Drop by teaspoonfuls onto wax paper. Chill for a short time and serve.

 

Eggnog

1/2 cup sugar

3 egg yolks

1/4 tsp. salt

4 cups milk, scalded

1/8 tsp. salt

3 egg whites

1/4 cup sugar

1/2 tsp. vanilla

Beat 1/2 cup sugar into egg yolks. Add 1/4 tsp. salt and slowly stir in milk. Cook and stir constantly in a double boiler until the mixture coats the spoon. Cool. Add 1/8 tsp. salt to egg whites and beat until stiff. Add remaining sugar; beat well and mix thoroughly with vanilla. Add to the custard. Chill for 4 hours.

 

Winter Book Reads: "What Happens in Paradise" by Elin Hilderbrand

                                      "Disappearing Earth" by Julia Phillips

                                      "We Met in December" by Rosie Curtis

                                      "Always Remember Your Name" by Asdra and Tatiana Bucci

 

Troy Bowl | 1530 McKaig Ave. Troy

 

Cinemark Miami Valley | 1020 Garbry Rd. Piqua

 

Until next time....

It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like the Holidays

  

   The December month of holidays is run somewhat like a production: the children's plays, a visit with Santa, making your list of gifts so as not to forget anyone, making sure all the lights on the tree work, long lines at the checkouts, holiday cards, and don't forget the wrapping paper and tape! I'm tired just writing this. It all goes by so fast doesn't it?

   My husband Mike and I are finished with all of the above drama and are moving on to baking Christmas cookies to put in the freezer until we need them. We put up our Christmas trees the weekend before Thanksgiving this year to get a little more enjoyment out of them. We have a tree in the kitchen where I put dried oranges and small pine cones on it with white lights. At night the oranges look so bright against the lights. This tree we usually leave up most of the winter months.

By Dana Hyland-Horner | Photographs by Mike Horner

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   We have several small trees we put throughout the house, and this year I have collected a few bottle brush trees. The history of the Christmas tree started in Germany when devout Christians brought decorated trees into their homes for the celebration of the birth of Christ. The first decorations were roses made of colored paper, and sliced and strung apples and cranberries. In later years the trees were adorned with small candles and beautiful glass ornaments. An angel or star was then placed on top to represent the Angel Gabriel or the Star of Bethlehem. In some countries the Christmas tree is sometimes called the "Yule-tree".

   Lou Hoover was the first President's wife to decorate a tree in the white House but in 1961, Jackie Kennedy created the themed trees that still carry on holiday tradition today.

   The first artificial trees were actually made of goose feathers and spiky pine branches, some of the feathers were dyed green. My husband is a Native American Indian so we have always had feathers and a star on the top of our tree.

   So many traditions are carried on year to year. December 18th is the first night of Hanukkah for our Jewish friends and family. This holiday is celebrated in many ways. One tradition is lighting a candle on the Menorah each night. Other traditions include daily readings of scripture, recitation of Psalms, and singing of a special hymn. Another tradition is the Dreidel; a pointed, four-sided top normally made of wood or plastic, which is made to spin and played during Hanukkah. The meaning of the Dreidel is to celebrate "a great miracle happened there", a historical reference to the small amount of oil—enough for one day, which burned for eight days in the Temple of Jerusalem.

   Another celebration in the United States is Kwanzaa that honors African heritage in African-American culture. Kwanzaa is observed from December 26th to January 1st. It is celebrated by gift giving and a large feast. A Kwanzaa feast usually includes Cajun catfish, jerk chicken, jollof rice, collard greens and okra. Traditional African clothing is worn throughout the holiday. 

   Now, on to making holiday cookies! The first Christmas cookie tradition goes back to the Monasteries of the middle ages where monks had access to sugar and spices we now associate with Christmas cookies like cloves, ginger, cinnamon and cardamom.

   For the average American household at the beginning of the 20th century, sugar was a luxury, iceboxes were used to keep food cold and the baking was on a coal or wood burning stove. After the depression ended in the 1930s sugar cookies took America by storm and today the sugar cookie is the most popular Christmas cookie, followed by chocolate chip and gingerbread men...and women. The sugar cookies are my favorite along with a good cup of coffee. This year we plan on making several new cookies that I found in the best cookbook ever, The Betty Crocker Cookbook that every new bride receives at her wedding shower. This tradition still proves true today. Here are a few new recipes for you and your family to try during this holiday season.

 

French Apple Cookies

2 cups flour

3 tsp. baking powder

1/2 tsp. salt

1 tsp. cinnamon

1 tsp. cloves

1/2 tsp. nutmeg

3/4 cup shortening

1 1/2 cups brown sugar

1 egg

1/2 cup milk

1 cup raisins

1/2 cup pecans, chopped

1 cup raw chopped apple

Mix in order given and drop by spoonfuls on cookie sheet. Bake at 375 degrees for 12-15 minutes.

 

Farmhouse Shortbread 

1/2 cup butter

6 Tbsp. sugar

1 1/2 cup all-purpose flour

1/8 tsp. salt

Cream butter and sugar; gradually add flour and salt. Press into an 11" round cake pan; prick the edges with a fork. Bake at 325 degrees for 17-20 minutes until golden. Cut into wedges. Makes 1 dozen. Sprinkle with colored sugar while warm.

 

Hanukkah Sugar Cookies

3/4 cup unsalted butter, softened (not melted)

3/4 cup sugar

1 egg

1 tsp. vanilla

1 tsp. lemon zest

2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour

1/2 tsp. baking powder

1/2 tsp. salt

Icing Recipe

2 egg whites at room temperature

1/2 tsp. cream of tartar

4 cups confectioners sugar

1 tbsp. or more of warm water

In a large bowl, cream together butter and sugar until smooth. Beat in egg, and vanilla and lemon zest for another 2 minutes until combined well. In a separate bowl, stir together the flour, baking powder, and salt and mix just until combined. Do not over mix. Cover, and chill dough for at least 2 hours or overnight. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Line the cookie sheet with parchment paper and bake cookies for 7-10 minutes. Let cool then ice cookies with an icing mix as directed.

 

Kwanzaa Benne Wafers

8 tbsp. unsalted butter, room temperature

1 cup light brown sugar, firmly packed

1/4 tsp. salt

1/4 tsp. baking soda

1 tsp. pure vanilla

1 large egg

1 cup all-purpose flour

1 cup sesame seeds, toasted

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper. In a large bowl, cream together the butter, sugar, salt, vanilla, baking soda, and egg. Then add flour and mix until smooth. Stir in sesame seeds. Drop by spoonfuls onto the baking sheet. Bake the wafers for 8-10 minutes or until brown. Remove from the oven and let cool before storing in a container.

   It's not too late to get that Christmas tree or holiday wreath and roping. Lifewise Academy, located in Pleasant Hill behind 115 N. Main St., still has fresh cut greens and all proceeds and donations go to the school. Lowes in Troy and Menards in Tipp City still have trees and greenery left. Fulton Farm is giving their Christmas trees a growth season this year and will be closed. Plus, you can get all of your unique ornament needs at The Apple Tree Gallery located at 405 N. Main St. in downtown Piqua.

 

O Christmas Tree, O Christmas Tree

How lovely are thy branches.... Mike and I wish you all a very Merry Christmas!

 

Until next time....

By Dana Hyland-Horner

Thanksgiving Traditions and Recipes

   Thanksgiving is this week and I think most of us are wondering how it got here so fast. For many of us, Thanksgiving is one of the few chances we have where we can all gather with family and share a delicious meal together, get caught up on family gossip, but most of all just feel so blessed on so many levels.

   Most families have their own family traditions for this day. Ours is usually get up, turn the parade on, my husband Mike puts the turkey in the oven, and I get started on all of the sides. Each member of our family has one certain thing they love for me to make, and that wish is usually granted on this day only.

 

   When we sit down all together at the table, we pray, and then ask each person what they are thankful for. It could be unusual, crafty, athletic, funny, but always from the heart. I am always thankful that we can all be together. After dinner for our family it's usually a card game of PIT which can get brutal at times, and then a nice walk to reflect on the day. Some families take this day to celebrate the upcoming holiday season by exchanging Hanukkah gifts or ornaments for the Christmas tree, watch a holiday movie together or get the cookie recipes out and decide who will make which cookies for Christmas.

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   If you have travelers coming in, make them a small basket filled with bottled water, crackers, cheese, candies and a small note thanking them for making the trip and put it in the room where they will be sleeping.

 

   Creating memories is the most important thing to do with your family on this day. One year, for us the men in the family took over the duties of cleanup. They did the dishes, ran the sweeper, and took down the table all while we ladies had coffee and a relaxing after meal conversation. Now, mind you.....that only happened one time, but ohhhh what a wonderful memory!

 

   Now we come to what to do with the leftovers? When you wake up from that post Thanksgiving nap, you may have a lot of food to take care of. Don't panic! I tell my kids to bring Tupperware with them and they can pick and choose what they can take home for the next day. It works out great and then we usually don't have a lot to deal with. I'm going to break down a few things that our family does with those precious leftovers.

 

Turkey- Debone all of the remaining meat and put in a container for several other meals. Take some of the bones and add celery, onions and some herbs and boil for a delicious stock that can be used later for soup or gravy.

Mashed potatoes- We usually add minced onions, a small amount of flour and make potato cakes. This can be used as a breakfast side for later days. 

Corn- Add a can of green beans to your leftover corn and you have succotash.

Dressing- Add the remaining gravy and some leftover turkey meat and bake as a casserole. This is so good weeks later. You can also make a Turkey Pot Pie with all of these leftovers.

 

Cranberry sauce- I make homemade, but I do like the kind from the can. You can add the cranberry sauce to a round of Brie cheese for an elegant New Year's Eve appetizer.

 

Rolls- I usually never have rolls left over because that is my favorite food item at Thanksgiving: a cold turkey/dressing sandwich with a dab of cranberry sauce. But if you do, chop up your rolls into cubes and save for croutons. Add some butter to your skillet and lightly brown them. I add a little garlic powder to them as well. Delicious on salad.

 

   Thanksgiving is so rich in history that it is celebrated in Canada as well as in the United States. The English Colonists we call Pilgrims celebrated days of Thanksgiving as part of their religion. Our day of celebrating began in 1621 when the Pilgrims and the Wampanoag Indians came together to enjoy a peaceful harvest feast. There are only two surviving documents that reference the original Thanksgiving Harvest meal. They describe a feast of deer meat, wildfowl, cod and bass and the Native Americans brought a variety of corn that was eaten as cornbread and porridge. There was plenty to go around and that is why they called it a "feast". Whatever you do for Thanksgiving as a celebration, remember to always tell your family members how much you love them, and it's always ok to go back for that second helping without guilt.  Enjoy these leftover recipes. Mike and I wish you a very Happy Thanksgiving!

 

Potato Pancakes

4 cups mashed potatoes

2 eggs, well beaten

1/2 onion finely chopped

2 tsp. Baking powder

flour

Combine all ingredients and mix well. The flour may be added if needed so potatoes can be shaped. After they are shaped like a pancake, drop gently into hot oil (we prefer bacon grease) and fry until golden brown.

 

Turkey Barbecue

4 cups chopped, leftover turkey

1/4 cup butter

1/2 cup onion, chopped

1 cup celery, chopped

1/4 cup green pepper, chopped

3/4 cup catsup

1 tsp salt

2 Tbsp. brown sugar

1 1/2 tsp chili powder

1 Tbsp. Worcestershire sauce

Cook onion, celery, and pepper in butter until soft. Add remaining ingredients except turkey and cook for 5 minutes. Add turkey. Heat thoroughly.

 

Cranberry Salad

1-3oz.package raspberry Jello

1 cup hot water

1/2 cup cold water

1/2 pound cranberries

3 apples

2 oranges or 1/2 cup crushed pineapple

1/4 cup pecans, chopped

3/4 cup sugar

Dissolve gelatin in hot water, then add cold water. Cool mixture and set aside. Wash and grind cranberries. Pare and chop apples into small chunks. Stir together the ground cranberries, chopped apples and oranges ( I prefer pineapple), pecans and sugar.

Add to a slightly thickened gelatin mixture; then pour into a mold and chill until the salad is firm and holds its shape. Unmold on salad greens.

 

Succotash

1 package (10 ounces) frozen green beans

2 tablespoons butter

1/2 cup chopped onion

1/2 cup diced red pepper

10 ounces of leftover Thanksgiving corn

1 tsp. paprika

1/2 tsp garlic salt

1/2 tsp thyme leaves

1/4 tsp black pepper

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Cook the green beans as directed on the package, drain and set aside. Melt butter in a large skillet and add onion, red pepper and cook until tender. Add all the other ingredients and simmer for 3 to 5 minutes until heated through.

 

Turkey Prep:

Start thawing frozen turkey slowly 3 days before dinner. We cover the bird with butter and the juice from 2 large oranges, chopped thyme, sage and chives. Inside the bird we put onions, celery, sage and the chopped up oranges. This makes for a delicious gravy when cooked.  Enjoy!

We would love to hear from you on your thoughts and feedback from the articles and recipes. Contact us at: homeandawaywithdana@gmail.com

 

Until next time....

By Dana Hyland-Horner | Photographs by Mike Horner

Are All Squash Created Equal?

   When going to the grocery store I find so many people buying squash to decorate for fall, not knowing that you can eat all the squash as well. Each one is so delicious in its own way. I'm going to break down some of the differences for you so you can enjoy this fall treat in more ways than one.

  

   There is a difference between squashes and gourds. Squashes are grown and harvested to eat, while gourds tend to be cultivated for decorative purposes, with only a few you can consume. To start, the two differ in their blooms. Squash bloom during the day and are bright orange, whereas some gourds such as Lagenaria bloom only at night and produce white flowers. Some of the most popular gourds that we can decorate with are bottle gourds, snake gourds, sponge gourds, and apple gourds. There are a few edible gourds that we are familiar with such as acorn squash, watermelon, field pumpkin, and butternut squash.

All Squash Equal
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   We usually view one of the most common squash that we eat as a vegetable: the spaghetti squash. Spaghetti squash is actually in the fruit group because, botanically speaking, fruits contain seeds and develop from the flowers of a plant. And, since all types of squash have seeds and come from the flowering parts of the plants, all types of squash are then considered fruit.

 

   A favorite of my husband Mike and I, to eat is the Delicata squash. It is very similar to a large zucchini and has a bright yellow color with long stripes down the side. The skin is very thin and when roasted with honey, brown sugar and butter it tastes similar to a sweet potato. The acorn squash is shaped like its namesake and has a green and sometimes orange flesh. These can be prepared by cutting in half, scooping out the seeds and some flesh. Then, stuff them with a pan fried sausage or chicken mixture with onions and garlic and top with parmesan cheese. Bake until golden brown in a 350 degree oven. To test to see if done, insert a knife in the flesh of the squash, if it slides in easily, it's time to eat! It makes for a pretty fall presentation on the plate as well if you have company over for dinner.

 

   Butternut squash, which is another favorite of ours, is a winter squash that grows on a vine. It has a nutty taste similar to that of a pumpkin. It is a tan-yellow color with a fleshy pulp and contains seeds in the blossom end. You can use this squash in so many ways. You can cut it in half, scoop out the seeds and fill with brown sugar and butter for a side dish. Or we cut them up in small cubes for soups or stews. The skin is quite tough but if you pierce it a couple of places and put it in the microwave for a few minutes, it makes it very easy to peel. If you roast it and add cinnamon and maple syrup, it can be considered a dessert.

 

   Kabocha squash is a new variety for us in the Midwest this year. It is a winter-type Japanese variety similar to a pumpkin in texture. It has a bright orange flesh when roasted, and is known for its especially sweet flavor. It's great for mashing and pureeing for soups. Japanese squash is high in the antioxidant beta-carotene, also found in yellow, orange, and green leafy fruits and vegetables such as carrots, spinach and kale. 

 

   When we all use the colorful small gourds to decorate our tables in bowls and baskets, we have to remember that even though we can't eat them, as the skin is very hard, they are used in many other ways. Gourds are believed to be the earliest plant domesticated by man, in Africa, where they were used as bowls and bottles. The rattling dried seeds inside them enabled gourds to be used as percussion instruments; even today, gourds are used as resonating chambers on certain stringed instruments and drums, especially in the Caribbean. Gourds also make beautiful birdhouses. The most popular type of birdhouse gourd is the kettle gourd, also known as the martin gourd. These gourds are pear shaped and range anywhere from 6" in diameter all the way up to 12" in diameter. They attract several cavity nesters such as bluebirds, swallows, woodpeckers, screech owls and wrens. Gourd birdhouses usually last 5-10 years.

 

   As you can see, all squash are not created equal. They all have their different tastes, smells and uses. This fall venture out of the box and try some of the wonderful variety of squashes that are available to us in Miami County. Here are a few of our squash recipes for you to try.

 

Stuffed Spaghetti Squash

1 large spaghetti squash (cut in half)

2 Tbsp. olive oil

Salt and pepper

 

Stuffing

16 oz. spicy Italian sausage, crumbled

1/2 tsp. Italian seasoning (Herbs from Provence)

10 oz. fresh spinach

1 large apple, cored and chopped in cubes

4 oz. pepper jack cheese, shredded

4 oz. cheddar cheese, shredded

 

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Cut the squash in half and remove seeds and the fiber.

Drizzle olive oil over the cut sides and inside of the squash along with salt and pepper. Place the halves on the prepared baking sheet cut side down. Roast for 40 minutes on the middle rack in the oven. Check the squash by piercing the flesh and if the knife goes through easily, it is done. Remove from the oven. 

 

Making the Stuffing

Heat 1 Tbsp. olive oil on medium heat in a large skillet. Add sausage and cook until done. Drain the excess fat. Add seasoning to the sausage and stir to combine. Add fresh spinach in batches to the sausage and cook until it wilts. Add chopped apples and mix with the sausage and spinach mixture. Add mixture to the squash halves along with both cheeses. Bake the stuffed spaghetti squash at 400 degrees for 15 more minutes until the cheese melts.  *This was delicious.

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Roasted Acorn Squash

1 large acorn squash

1/3 cup grated parmesan cheese plus more for garnish

1-3 tbsp. dried herbs (such as rosemary, thyme, sage or a mix of all)

1 Tbsp. butter or ghee, melted

1/2 tsp. garlic powder

1/4 tsp. salt

1/4 tsp. black pepper

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Cut the acorn squash in half, from stem to tip, and scoop out the seeds. Then, cut each squash half into 1/2-inch thick moon-shape slices. In a bowl combine the parmesan, herbs, melted butter, garlic powder, salt and black pepper; toss until well mixed.

Spread the acorn pieces out on the baking sheet and spread mixture over each piece. Bake until tender for about 25 minutes. Garnish with remaining parmesan cheese and herbs. This is a great side dish for grilled steak or chicken. 

 

Kabocha Soup

Cut this squash up into pieces and roast until tender then add:

2 cups chicken stock/broth

1/2 onion

1 Tbsp. unsalted butter

1 1/2 cups milk

1/2 cup heavy cream

2 tsp salt 1/8 tsp. black pepper

Combine all ingredients together with the squash in a blender and blend until smooth. Reheat in a pan and garnish with fresh parsley.

 

Until next time...

Fall Leaves: Uses and Beauty

   The leaves are starting to fall fast which means grabbing a rake and starting the task of making that leaf pile to be picked up and bagged, but first the children and dogs have to run through it several times to complete that fall ritual.

 

   As gardeners, we know that a happy harvest requires hearty helpings of good organic matter, and leaves are an excellent source. Leaves are packed with wonderful minerals that trees draw up from deep in the soil. When this is added to your garden, leaves feed earthworms and microbes. They are a great source of carbon to balance the nitrogen in your compost pile. They also provide good insulation to new plants that you may have just planted in the spring.

 

   Shredded leaves make good mulch for your flower garden. It beds down perennials for the winter and newly planted bulbs for the upcoming spring. The shredding process breaks leaves into smaller pieces and prevents them from forming a thick mat that blocks air and water from reaching the soil. If you don't have a shredder just pile your leaves up and run over them with a lawn mower several times. Once shredded leaves can be tilled into clay or sandy soils to lighten their texture. Don't forget to put some around newly planted fruit trees to protect the tender roots through the cold months. Adding mulched leaves to your compost pile helps to balance the food scraps and other materials that are usually high in nitrogen.

 

   Have you ever wondered why leaves change colors in the fall? As summer fades into fall, the days start getting shorter and there is less sunlight. This is a signal for the leaves to prepare for winter and to stop making chlorophyll. When this process happens, the green color of leaves start to fade and the reds, oranges, and yellows become visible. In our area the maple and oak trees tend to start changing colors first, then the red maples which are beautiful this year come next.

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   My husband Mike and I have an oak tree in our backyard, and the squirrels are losing their minds trying to get all the acorns picked up and stored for the upcoming winter. Mike opened the grill up this afternoon only to find a squirrel had been putting nuts under the grate for safe keeping. He is going to be surprised when he starts looking for them. The fall color season in Ohio starts in the middle of September and lasts for about 6 weeks. Grab your sweatshirt and camera, go to one of Miami County's many beautiful parks and take some pictures, gather some leaves and take them home to make some crafts with your children. One that is easy to do and so pretty when you are finished is to take a paper plate and cut out the center, leaving a ring. Gather the leaves you have collected in different colors and staple them to the outside of the ring. As you are doing this, tell your children which tree the leaf came from. They are all different in shapes and sizes, so this will make a great indoor project to get them interested in the fall months.

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   While heading into the colder months, there is so much to do to prepare your garden for the spring. We have pulled up all of the tomato and cucumber plants and left the jalapeno plants as they are still producing. We cut sage for drying, and in a few days we will cut and dry our chives and basil. I have re-potted a basil plant and a rosemary plant to bring in the house for the winter. The parsley plant is a new one this year so it will just come up again next year like a perennial. The lavender is on its second blooming of the season so I cut some of it to bring in the house to dry. It smells so good. Our herb garden is close to the house so I can cut and use thyme until the first snow. 

 

   Right now is the time to plant garlic to be harvested in the spring. Don't forget if you love bulb plants in the spring, it's time to get them in the ground as well, like tulips and daffodils. Fall is a busy time, but take the time to just take a ride or walk and enjoy Ohio and its beauty.

Here are a few fall recipes to enjoy.

 

Pumpkin Soup

1/4 cup butter

1 cup chopped onion

1 garlic clove, chopped

1 tsp. curry powder

1/2 tsp Salt

1/4 tsp. ground coriander

1/8 tsp. crushed red pepper

3 cups chicken broth

1 3/4 cup (16-oz. can) Libby's solid pack pumpkin

1 cup half-and-half

Sour cream and chives-optional

In a large saucepan, melt butter. Sauté garlic and onion until soft. Add curry powder, salt, coriander and red pepper; cook for 1 minute. Add broth; boil gently uncovered, for 15 to 20 minutes. Stir in pumpkin and half-and-half; cook for 5 minutes. Pour into a blender container. Cover and blend until creamy. Serve warm or reheat to desired temperature. Garnish with a dollop of sour cream and chopped chives. Serves 4

 

Winter Goulash

1 can (10oz.) tomato soup

1 can (10oz.) peas

1 to 1 1/2 lbs. browned ground beef

1 to 1 1/2 cups uncooked macaroni

Cook macaroni. Mix all ingredients well in a large skillet.  This is simple and easy!

 

Zucchini Casserole (End of Season)

2 1/2 cups zucchini, diced

1 cup carrots, grated course

1/2 cup chopped onion

1 cup sour cream

1 can cream of chicken soup

1 package seasoned stuffing

Cook carrots and onions; add zucchini and cook for 5 more minutes. Drain. Put in a casserole dish. Mix sour cream, cream of chicken soup and dressing and add to the casserole dish. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes.

 

Easy Pumpkin Cake

1 box spice cake mix

2 cups pumpkin

1 egg

Put all ingredients in a mixing bowl and beat until well blended. Spray a 13x9-inch pan with Pam. Pour batter into the pan. Bake for 30 minutes at 350 degrees. When cool, spread with caramel icing or cool whip.

 

Until Next time ....

Apple Picking Time

   Fall is here. This means getting those hooded sweatshirts out, looking for your leather boots, and buying most everything pumpkin. This year try something different and take your family apple picking. 

   Apple picking is a great way to get the family out in this cool fall air while picking delicious apples. You just might be surprised how calming it is to be out in the orchard looking for the perfect ones. My husband Mike and I have been several times and there is nothing better than fresh apple pie. We make several to put in the freezer. When company comes we always have something on hand to serve. They freeze very well. I also like to purchase a gallon of apple

By Dana Hyland-Horner | Photographs by Mike Horner

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Apple Picking Time

cider. My family loves it at Thanksgiving warm on the stove with fresh apples, orange slices, a clove and a little cinnamon in a warm mug while waiting for dinner to be served. It makes the house smell so good as well.

 

   Apple picking brings families together. From families on a multigenerational outing to maybe a couple’s first date. It's so sweet to see a child take his first bite of a freshly picked apple with the juice running down his face. Take a picture, frame it and every year in the fall display it and see how they change from year to year.

 

   Some orchards will have apples already picked and ready to go for you. There are so many varieties of apples that are good for different recipes. Some are only good for applesauce, some just for eating, and of course those for baking. Apple butter is another favorite of ours. Both of our families used to make apple butter outside in large copper kettles over an open fire. It takes quite a while to cook down, but it sure is good when it's done.

 

   Every apple orchard will offer different types of apples so you might want to do a little research before you go to make sure it's the variety that your family will like, or maybe step outside of the box and try new and different ones. To pick an apple, gently lift the apple up toward its stem and twist. If it is ripe, it will fall right into your hand. Apples on the outside of the tree ripen first. That's where you should start. Always make sure to pick ripe apples because they do not continue to ripen after they are picked. They can sit out on your counter in a bowl for a few days if you plan to eat them right away, but after that it's best to keep them in the refrigerator's crisper drawer to keep them fresh and not spoiled. Look them over every few days for nicks or bruises. Remember...One bad apple really does spoil the whole bunch.

 

   This year we made apple dumplings, something we have never made before. They turned out delicious. Happy picking!

 

How to know your apples: