PLATES AND PLACES JULY 2017 – Back to the Bay

Back to the Bay
–by Jennifer Ruple

 Jennifer Ruple
Jennifer Ruple







A view of the harbor from Rita’s Cantina at The Boardwalk at Put-in-Bay.

It’s funny how per-ceptions can change over time. Could it really have been two decades since we had visited Put-in-Bay, the Key West of the North as it’s nicknamed? It had been at least that long, considering we’ve been married for 20 years.

As youngsters, we knew South Bass Island, aka Put-in-Bay, to be the place to escape the daily grind of work, get away with friends on a Saturday, and get a little crazy, or a lot crazy I should say. With this in mind, I was leery of reporting on the island for a baby boomer publication.

We opted to make the trip on a Thursday, the better weather choice and hoped there would be less of a crowd.

Getting there is half the fun
The quickest way to the bay is the Jet Express. Board at Port Clinton, sit on the top level for the best view and enjoy the approximately 30-minute boat ride to the island. If you plan on visiting on a day other than a Saturday, take advantage of the Jet and Cart for Two offer, which includes: two adult round-trip tickets and a two-seater golf cart to zip around in when you get there, which I highly recommend so you can explore the entire island. There are some exclusions to the offer though … it’s not valid the day of purchase so book in advance, on Saturdays or on blackout dates. For details, visit

The Jet Express in Port Clinton, Ohio

A blast from the past
We arrived on the island around noon, picked up our golf cart, which was an extremely easy process and no lines. As we drove around, we were pleasantly surprised at how pretty the island looked with flowers blooming everywhere. Next, we strolled around the downtown area and visited old haunts such as the historic Round House Bar. The 1873 establishment is known for its mural-painted plaster walls, overhead canopy, live entertainment and buckets of beer. The last time we were there, it was wall-to-wall partygoers spilling drinks all over each other. However, this time and being a Thursday afternoon, there were a few dozen folks enjoying some beer and great live music.

The Round House Bar

A bite to eat
After our walk, it was time for lunch. There is no shortage of burgers and fries on the island; however, we were in the mood for something with more Florida flair. We chose The Keys Restaurant, which not only afforded us gorgeous views of the lake and harbor but a Caribbean-style menu with dishes such as Blackened Mahi Tacos, Lobster Salad Sliders and Chicken Teriyaki and Veggies.

Teriyaki Chicken at The Keys Restaurant


Taking in the scenery
Following lunch, we hopped on our golf cart and set out to see what else there was on this 2 x 4-mile island. Our first stop was the Perry’s Victory and International Peace Memorial. Unfortunately, the observation deck, rotunda, and plazas are closed in 2017 for cleaning and repairs; however, the visitor’s center is open to the public from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily until October 1. From the monument, we headed northwest along the coast and enjoyed the ride while taking in the scenery of quaint cottages and beautiful homes situated just feet from the water. Also along our self-guided tour, we came across Heineman’s Winery and South Bass Island State Park beach and campgrounds.

And, for the adventurous, we found a myriad of services on the island that offer activities such as charter fishing, parasailing, jet skiing, tubing and paddle boarding.

A fond farewell
Prior to our departure for home, we wrapped up our island excursion with tropical cocktails from Rita’s Cantina at The Boardwalk. Put-in-Bay was certainly different this time around for us in a very good way, providing us with that relaxing, island getaway we were hoping for.

Heineman Winery



Watercraft rentals


Rocky Point Winery is a stone’s throw away
–by Jennifer Ruple


 Jennifer Ruple
Jennifer Ruple







111 W Main St
Lakeside Marblehead, OH
(419) 967-5344

Chris Redfern’s charismatic personality keeps his customers entertained as they wait for their drinks to be poured at his Rocky Point Winery in Marblehead, Ohio. Redfern, and his wife Kim, opened the winery, along with the Red Fern Inn, in the historic 1893 Marblehead Schoolhouse in January 2015. The shift to business owners was a major life change for the couple as Redfern is the former chair of the Ohio Democratic Party and former State Legislator, and Kim was a commercial property investor and a lobbyist.

“I had grown up on Lake Erie; the lake has been in my blood,” said Redfern. “Kim and I were looking for investment properties, and we were looking to fill a niche in Marblehead that was missing. We are not a bar. We’re a winery, and we offer folks a full selection of wine, craft beers and liquor. We’ve built a fun and relaxing environment for adults as well as the whole family, and that was missing in Marblehead,” explained Redfern.

L-R: Unnati Marde, Urvashi Marde Millen and Carrie Millen are served wine by Chris Redfern

Located at 111 W. Main St., just a half mile from the iconic Marblehead Lighthouse, Rocky Point Winery is known for its selection of Midwestern wines. “We use grapes that are grown primarily on North Bass Island, near the Canadian line. There are 65 acres of grapes there,” said Redfern. “We carry 50 additional labels, 25 craft beers, and a wide variety of liquor. We try to focus on Ohio wines and beers, and we have Michigan and Canadian wines and beers as well.”

The patio at Rocky Point Winery is open for the summer season.

For those who’d like a bite to eat with their wine, Redfern mentioned, “We offer a variety of cheese plates, chocolates and crackers. We’ve recently added fresh baked bread, and we are introducing a bruschetta.” The winery also partners with the Marblehead Galley restaurant and nearby Bruno’s Pizza, which will both deliver tableside to guests at the winery.

A newly built 1,200 square foot pavilion is now open for guests to enjoy their wine outdoors under a covered area. “Our goal is to not only accommodate more guests, but to hold a number of special events here like wedding receptions, bridal showers and graduation parties,” said Redfern.

The garden at the winery is a lovely setting to relax and enjoy a glass of wine.

For those wishing to extend their stay in Marblehead, the Red Fern Inn, located on the second floor of the schoolhouse, is a perfect setting for a romantic retreat or for a trip to the lake with the family. The inn features two, 1 bedroom suites and two, 2 bedroom suites.

In addition to cozy accommodations, guests have access to bicycles, a private lounge on the grounds of the winery and several fire pits where they can enjoy a view of the lake.

The Pink Perch boutique offers whimsical and fun gift items.

Before heading home, don’t miss The Pink Perch located right across the street from the winery. The gift boutique is the Redfern’s newest venture. “We wanted to offer a unique gift shop where one can enjoy whimsical gifts and fun items. It’s geared toward the traveling public with a more critical eye.”

The historic Marblehead Lighthouse is 1/2 mile away from the winery.

The winery is open seven days a week through Halloween and features live music on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays. Plenty of parking is available and bus tours are welcome.



Get the unexpected at Fangboner Farms
–by Jennifer Ruple


 Jennifer Ruple
Jennifer Ruple







1179 S. Crissey Rd.
Holland, Ohio

They say that opposites attract which seems to hold true when you meet the creators of Fangboner Farms Jan Aguilar and Roland Richardson. She’s a midwestern gal; he’s a southern boy. She’s urban; he’s rural. She’s spicy, and he’s sweet. Although, I think they are both pretty sweet.

Jan Aguilar and Roland Richardson with their 1944 Farmall tractor at the entrance of Fangboner Farms.

The all-natural herb farm, located at 1179 S. Crissey Rd. in Holland, Ohio, was planted in 2009. It’s the perfect blend of the couple’s passions – Aguilar’s love of cooking and growing culinary herbs and Richardson’s love of landscaping and farming. Their desire to meld the two created a truly unique and unexpected business.

Cynthia and Jim Nowak check out the candles at the Fangboner Farms open house.

“We’re not really sure how we came up with the idea, but we think it was over a bottle of wine,” laughed Aguilar. “We try to set ourselves apart from everyone else. Our personalities are very different too, and we take a different approach to our business,” she added.

At Fangboner, you will find dried herbs, spice blends, tea blends, soy candles, natural care products and unique gifts, as well as herbs and perennials for sale. “We have close to 40 varieties of perennials and everything is grown in our organic compost,” explained Aguilar. “We call it our Cosmic Compost because it makes everything grow out of this world,” added Richardson.

Soy candles are available in seasonal fragrances such as eucalyptus and lavender; sweet orange with hot chili pepper; and rosemary, mint and lavender

Fangboner Farms is open one weekend a month.
Each month features a different theme and delicious food and tea samples.

Upcoming dates are May 13-14 and June 10-11.
Hours are Saturday 10 a.m. – 5 p.m. and Sunday noon – 5 p.m.


Spice blends and dried herbs such as basil and chives line the shelves at the farm.

Lemon Rosemary Loaf
Yield: 1 loaf (12 slices)

“I love the contrast of sweet and savory. And I love lemons. And sweet loaf breads. Add it all together and you get a yummy sweet and savory lemon loaf,” said Aguilar.

½ cup butter, softened
1 cup sugar
2 large eggs
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 tablespoon grated lemon peel
1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
⅛ teaspoon salt
¾ teaspoon ground rosemary
½ cup 2% milk

½ cup confectioners’ sugar
2 tablespoons lemon juice

Heat oven to 350 F. In a large bowl, cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs, lemon juice and peel.
Combine the flour, baking powder, salt and rosemary; gradually stir into creamed mixture alternately with milk, beating well after each addition.
Pour into a greased 8×4-in. loaf pan. Bake for 45 minutes or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean.

Combine glaze ingredients. Remove bread from pan; immediately drizzle with glaze. Cool on a wire rack. Serve warm.

Snickerdoodle Cookies
These warm sugar cookies with cinnamon remind Aguilar of her grandmother. “I decided to change them up just a bit – Fangboner style. Lavender gives them just an extra special touch – perfect with a cup of tea.”

1 cup butter, softened
1 ½ cups sugar
2 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 ¾ cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons cream of tartar
1 teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon ground lavender
¼ teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons sugar
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

Preheat oven to 400 F.

Cream together butter, sugar, eggs and vanilla. Blend in flour, cream of tartar, baking soda, lavender and salt. Shape dough by rounded spoonfuls into balls.
Mix the 2 tablespoons sugar and the cinnamon. Roll balls of dough in mixture. Place 2 inches apart on ungreased baking sheets.
Bake 8 to 10 minutes, or until set but not too hard. Remove immediately from baking sheets.

Jennifer Ruple is the author of the blog



Sharing the IKEA experience
–by Jennifer Ruple


 Jennifer Ruple
Jennifer Ruple







Four hours and nine minutes to be exact, is the amount of time co-editor Mary Helen Darah and I shared meandering the aisles of the mother-of-all home furnishing and accessories stores known as IKEA. With no time constraints (for once) and no regrets about it either, we donned our most comfortable walking shoes and set out to discover the latest in design trends, gather decorating ideas for spring, and enjoy a relaxing lunch.

Founded in 1943 in Sweden, IKEA is in 48 countries. The closest one to the Toledo area is just a little over an hour’s drive north in Canton, Mich., which makes the destination perfect for a day trip.

Colorful flags mark the entrance to home furnishings store IKEA in Canton, Mich.

Let the fun begin
As we approached the store, the large groupings of flags and the massive lettered parking lot evoked memories of childhood theme park visits. Only this time the thrills would be choosing which counter stools to buy. Upon entering the store, we each borrowed a big yellow bag to carry smaller items that we wanted to purchase while perusing the home furnishings department on the second floor. Up the escalator we went.

After a few runners’ stretches, we were ready to embark on our journey. Along the winding path, we were treated to vignettes for every area of the home from living rooms and kitchens to office spaces and bathrooms. There were even full home displays that show you how to live large in very small spaces. We checked out sectionals, ottomans, computer desks and armoires.

Lunch break
At the end of the path on the second floor is the IKEA Restaurant. Halfway through our adventure, it was time for a quick break. I opted for the iconic Swedish meatball platter with fresh veggies, mashed potatoes and a dollop of lingonberry jam, while my colleague chose the smoked salmon salad. We each selected a bowl of corn chowder which ended up barely lukewarm after one of us felt the need to capture the perfect photo of our lunches. The dessert bar was stocked and tempting, but we turned it down for other options later.

Swedish meatballs, lingonberry jam and mashed potatoes are served at the IKEA Restaurant.

The Marketplace
After refueling, we headed downstairs to The Marketplace where the accessories are located. Like two kids in a candy store, we filled our carts with pillows, tape dispensers, wooden spoons, napkins, candles, clocks and plants.

Jennifer Ruple looks over accessories in the garden section at IKEA.


Mary Helen Darah checks out a modern light fixture at IKEA.

Swedish Food Market
Our last stop before departing was the food market. Here we found items such as Swedish meatballs and salmon fillets, jars of lingonberry jam and mustard-dill sauce, and potato fritters and Swedish pancakes. Good thing we passed on dessert because it was time for a warm and gooey cinnamon roll. Two for the road, please.

If you go…

  • Visit on a weekday to avoid crowds and strollers.
  • Restrooms are conveniently located in the store’s entryway. Use them – it’s a long way till the next ones appear.
  • Wear comfortable shoes – the place is huge!
  • Secret passageways allow you to skip some areas of the store, but it’s best to stick to the path. You could become confused and lose all sense of direction.
  • Pick up a catalog. More than likely, there will be a few things you wished you had placed in the big yellow bag.
  • BYOB (bags). The only bags available at checkout are for purchase.

Jennifer Ruple is the author of the blog


An almost-spring getaway to Greenville
–by Jennifer Ruple


 Jennifer Ruple
Jennifer Ruple







At this time of year, we have those days when we can smell springtime right around the corner. And then there are those days when it feels like old man winter will never check out. Fortunately for me and my husband, we picked a somewhat sunny Saturday to scope out the quaint town of Greenville, Ohio.

A barn along SR 127, 10 miles north of Greenville, pays tribute to Annie Oakley.

Approximately a two-hour drive south on I-75 and another 30 minutes west on SR 36, the town of Greenville is the county seat of Darke County and is loaded with small-town charm. From its cozy downtown with coffee shops, restaurants and boutiques to its historical gems like Bear’s Mill and The Garst Museum, Greenville is full of treasures waiting to be discovered.

Bear’s Mill, one of a few operating water-powered mills in Ohio.

As you make your way into town, plan to stop at Bear’s Mill, located at 6450 Arcanum-Bear’s Mill Rd. Named Best Historical Site for Ohio Magazine’s annual “Best of Ohio” contest, the mill is one of only a few operating water-powered mills in Ohio today. Built in 1849, Bear’s Mill rests beside Greenville Creek, which is the source of power for the mill. Through a self-guided tour of the mill’s four floors, you’ll find antique machinery, art exhibitions, and the mill’s store which sells stone-ground flours, pottery and handmade items.

Once in Greenville, head to Annie Oakley Park located just south of the center of town. The park features a plaque and a larger-than-life bronze statue dedicated to the famous sharpshooter. Oakley, born in Ohio, was dubbed Little Sure Shot for her remarkable shooting talent and later toured with Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show. Although Oakley was born outside of Greenville, the city has adopted her as one of its own. There’s also a special exhibit about her at The Garst Museum, which is mentioned later in this article.

The Merchant House is a “Best of Ohio” winner in the casual dining category.

Next, take a stroll along Main Street (actually Broadway Street) where you can explore the many shops and boutiques. For lunch or dinner, take a seat at The Merchant House, also a “Best of Ohio” winner in the casual dining category. Located at 406 S. Broadway St., the eatery specializes in smoked meats such as beef brisket, sausage and chicken (pair them with Bacon Mac and Cheese and BBQ Green Beans).

Or, indulge in an authentic Detroit-style, deep-dish pizza, cooked to perfection in the restaurant’s stone oven.

Smoked bacon pizza rolls are a treat available at The Merchant House. i>


KitchenAid artifacts are on display at the KitchenAid Experience in downtown Greenville.

After lunch, head across the street to the KitchenAid Experience retail center where you can view an original Model H KitchenAid Stand Mixer and other KitchenAid artifacts in the center’s museum on the lower level. Upstairs in the retail center, enjoy shopping the complete collection of KitchenAid countertop and culinary products. There are even refurbished appliances available at a fraction of their original price in the center’s outlet store. And, to learn tips, tricks and techniques of the trade, cooking classes are offered in the center’s kitchen. Call 888-886-8318 for information on classes and times.

Darke County history is on display at The Garst Museum.


And finally, don’t miss The Garst Museum, located at 205 N. Broadway St. The museum, operated by the D­­­­arke County Historical Society, is a 35,000-square foot campus that houses over 300,000 artifacts relevant to the history and culture of Darke County. There you will find The National Annie Oakley Center and exhibitions highlighting the Treaty of Greenville, Lowell Thomas and Ohio Native Americans. The museum is open Tuesday – Sunday and admission for seniors 60+ is $9 per person. Visit for times and information on special exhibits.

For those of you who feel like you’ve been cooped up way too long, keep a close watch on the weather, and hit the road to Greenville. You can always do laundry, work around the house or grocery shop on those “other” days.




Toasty spots to warm your heart 

–by Jennifer Ruple


 Jennifer Ruple
Jennifer Ruple






Baby, it’s cold outside! Stay cozy this Valentine’s Day, and the rest of the month, in some of the warmest spots in town. Whether you’ll be spending time with your sweetheart, your dad, your daughter, or your best friend, here are some toasty spots to take the chill out of your bones and warm up your hearts.

Glassblowing demonstrations are held at the Toledo Museum of Art Glass Pavilion.
Glassblowing demonstrations are held at the Toledo Museum of Art Glass Pavilion.

Feel the heat at the Toledo Museum of Art Glass Pavilion. Free glassblowing demonstrations are held in one of the Hot Shops Thursdays through Sundays throughout February. Demonstrations include gallery seating and narration of the process and techniques. Check the calendar for specific dates and times at

Delectable treats at Sweet Shalom Tea Room.
Delectable treats at Sweet Shalom Tea Room.

Enjoy a spot of tea at the Sweet Shalom Tea Room,
located at:
8216 Erie Street in Sylvania.

The warming effects of tea are only part of the healthy benefits of drinking a hot cup or two. Tea is full of antioxidants and is one of the great superfoods. Formal teas are held four times a week with two seatings on Friday and two seatings on Sunday. While sipping, enjoy Cherry Scones, Cucumber and Herbed Cream Cheese Sandwiches and Chocolate Lava Cakes…
just a few of the delectable treats on the menu created by the talented Chef Krissy Kruse.
For reservations, call 419-297-9919.

Snuggle up and enjoy a classic movie while basking in the grandeur of the Valentine Theatre downtown. Silver Screen Classics are shown on Friday nights throughout the year including To Catch a Thief on February 17 and Groundhog Day on February 24. Both movies begin at 7:30 p.m.

Cold, tall drinks, a full bar and popcorn are also available.

Admission is $5 per person,
and if you purchase any four films together, you can save $1 on each film.

For information regarding upcoming films in the series, visit:

Sherri and Donald Frazier of Toledo share a cozy moment at Ciao!
Sherri and Donald Frazier of Toledo share a cozy moment at Ciao!

Warm your inside and outside with a romantic dinner in one of these cozy area restaurants: Enjoy classic country Italian cuisine at Ciao! in Sylvania. For authentic Lebanese and fine Italian fare, family-owned Byblos on Reynolds Road is a classic. You can’t go wrong with their famous Shish Tawook.

The ever-elegant Georgio’s Café International downtown is always perfect for that special occasion date. Enjoy the house-made pâté. For fine steaks and seafood in an upscale atmosphere, visit Rockwell’s Steakhouse and Lounge in the historic Oliver House.

Find a peaceful spot in The Cloister at the Toledo Museum of Art.
Find a peaceful spot in The Cloister at the Toledo Museum of Art.

Join friends or make it a date night with Wine by the Glass Pavilion on Friday, February 17, 6:30-8:30 p.m. at the Toledo Museum of Art Glass Pavilion. Enjoy four wines from the theme Best Bordeaux Beverages: Wines from Bordeaux, France and light snacks during It’s Friday!

Tickets are $25 for members
$35 for nonmembers
and are available for purchase during museum hours by phone at:
419-255-8000 ext. 7448
or at the information desks.


Indulge in a spa day for couples.
Indulge in a spa day for couples.


Relax and invigorate, along with a friend or significant other, with an hour-long, side-by-side massage at Rêvé Salon and Spa
5633 Main St., Sylvania.

Or for the ultimate indulgence, schedule a Spa Day created specifically for couples. The intimate experience includes a 60-minute massage, essential facial, dream pedicure, almond manicure, and shampoo and blow dry.
The package includes a $100 gift certificate to Ciao! for a romantic dinner.

To schedule a Spa Day call:

Stay warm out there!

Jennifer Ruple is the author of the blog


Rediscover the 419 – Downtown Toledo
–by Jennifer Ruple


 Jennifer Ruple
Jennifer Ruple





Downtown Toledo is happening! If you haven’t been there in a while, you’re in for a pleasant surprise. The landscape continues to evolve as new opportunities to dine, sip, shop and be entertained are popping up all over.

Toledo Farmer's Market
Toledo Farmer’s Market

If you happen to be visiting downtown on a Saturday, begin your trip at the Toledo Farmers’ Market located at 525 Market Street. The market is enclosed and heated during our frosty winter months and a great place to shop for local items. Each week, you’ll find homemade pies, breads and pastries; jams and jellies; seasonal produce; honey, syrup, coffee and cheese; as well as unique handcrafted soaps, candles, mittens and more. Winter market hours are 9 a.m. – 1 p.m. (Dec. – April).

Middlegrounds Metropark
Middlegrounds Metropark

Next, bundle up and take a stroll along the banks of the Maumee River at Toledo’s newest urban park. Middlegrounds Metropark is located at 111 Ottawa Street and offers a 1.5-mile walking and biking path that begins at the Anthony Wayne Bridge and meanders along the river with scenic views.

Brooke and Grant Perry of Rustbelt Coffee
Brooke and Grant Perry of Rustbelt Coffee

Afterwards, warm up with a signature crushed espresso or a cup of chai latte at
Rustbelt Coffee
119 N. Ontario St.

Open since August, the coffee shop has quickly become a trendy hangout for families, college students, and the downtown business crowd. Its massive interior is decorated in sleek, urban industrial style but remains cozy with its leather couches, comfy throws and seasonal decor. While there, spend some time browsing at Cream Living, which is located toward the back of the coffee shop. The boutique offers new, vintage and repurposed treasures for the home. Also located within Rustbelt is a small gathering room that can be rented by the hour for meetings, showers or other special events.

Pam’s Corner
Pam’s Corner

When it’s time for lunch, head to the Davis Building, 151 N. Michigan, where you’ll find Pam’s Corner.
Owner Pam Weirauch has been cooking breakfast and lunch for downtown diners for decades. The bright and cheerful space serves a variety of salads, soups and sandwiches and offers specials like the Crabby Abby salad with crab balls. The macaroni and cheese is incredible. Tip: get there early.

Paula Brown of Paula Brown Shop
Paula Brown of Paula Brown Shop

For an eclectic and one-of-a-kind shopping experience, step into the

Paula Brown Shop
912 Monroe St.

and just across the parking lot from Pam’s, offers a wide variety of products including home accessories, stationary, jewelry, linens, beer, wine, specialty foods and gifts for everyone including children and babies.

The Pub, a full-service bar located within the shop, is always open during shop hours and on Thursday-Saturday evenings. Live entertainment and special events including wine tastings and tap takeovers are held weekly. For current events, check The Pub calendar at

Don’t let the wintery weather keep you cooped inside all month. Go out and get some fresh air and take in some new scenery in our own hometown.

Jennifer Ruple is the author of the blog


Get the party started with hearty holiday hors d’oeuvres 
–by Jennifer Ruple


 Jennifer Ruple
Jennifer Ruple








The gathering season is upon us, and chances are you’ll be hosting a get-together or two this month. Instead of a traditional sit-down dinner, try an hors d’oeuvres buffet. The following three recipes, from my grandma, my mom and me, are substantial enough that your guests will feel satisfied but not overly full. Pair them with an assortment of cheeses and some crudités and you’ll have a meal that’s just right for the occasion. Happy hosting!

Tangy Cranberry Meatballs













Tangy Cranberry Meatballs
This recipe has been in my family for years. I can remember my grandmother rolling hundreds of these scrumptious little meatballs for her parties. Just a warning – they go fast! Makes approximately 4 dozen meatballs.

3 pounds lean ground beef

2 eggs

1 cup unseasoned bread crumbs

Salt and pepper to taste

3 tablespoons chopped parsley


12-ounce jar Heinz Chili Sauce

14-ounce can jellied cranberry sauce

2 tablespoons brown sugar

2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce

Squeeze of a lemon

In a large bowl, combine meatball ingredients. Roll into 1” balls. Bake at 350 F for 15 minutes or until no longer pink. Drain on paper towels.

In a saucepan, combine sauce ingredients and cook over medium heat, stirring to break up jellied cranberry.

Add meatballs and simmer 30 minutes.

(Recipe from Ann McGrath)

Meatless Stuffed Mushrooms
Meatless Stuffed Mushrooms









Meatless Stuffed Mushrooms
Each time my mom serves these hearty hors d’oeuvres, she is asked what type of meat is in them. Surprisingly none! Instead of discarding the mushroom stems, they are diced and mixed with spices to create a savory filling. Makes 6 appetizers.

6 large white mushrooms

2 tablespoons butter

¼ cup onion, diced

½ teaspoon minced garlic

Salt to taste

Italian bread crumbs

Parmesan cheese, shaved

Snap off the stems of the mushrooms. Set aside. With a teaspoon, scoop out a bit of the mushroom cap to create a larger hole for the stuffing. Dice the stems and extra mushroom scooped from the cap.

In a frying pan, melt butter. Sauté onions until they begin to soften. Add garlic, salt and diced mushroom pieces and sauté until soft. Add bread crumbs and heat until mixture thickens.

Fill each mushroom cap with stuffing. Top with Parmesan cheese shavings. Bake at 425 F for 20-25 minutes or until mushrooms are soft and cheese forms a crust.

(Recipe from Carol Alexander)

plates and places _2994
Sausage Polenta Rounds









Sausage Polenta Rounds
Finally, here is my contribution to the trio of holiday munchies. I was excited to find pre-cooked polenta at Sautter’s Food Center in Sylvania, which sped up the process considerably. Also, feel free to get a little spicy by using sweet, mild or hot Italian sausage.

¾ pound bulk Italian sausage

1 cup marinara sauce

24-ounce tube pre-cooked polenta

Olive oil for frying

Grated Parmesan cheese

Fresh basil for garnish

Heat oven to 350 F. In a frying pan, cook sausage until no longer pink. Stir in marinara sauce. Set aside.

Slice polenta into ½ inch thick rounds. With a spoon, gently scoop out a bit of polenta from the center of each round, creating a shallow well. In a frying pan, heat 2 tablespoons of oil and cook polenta rounds a few minutes per side, in batches of 5-6.

Transfer polenta rounds to a baking sheet. Fill wells with 1 tablespoon of sausage mixture. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese. Bake for 10 minutes or until polenta is slightly brown and cheese has melted. Garnish with basil leaves.

(Source Jennifer Ruple)

Jennifer Ruple is the author of the blog



Fall naturally with neutral home accents
–by Jennifer Ruple


 Jennifer Ruple
Jennifer Ruple

November kicks off the season of entertaining and cooking for family and friends, so it seems only fitting that we give the ‘plates’ of this column the spotlight this month.

Over the past years, I’ve used many color combinations while decorating for fall – pumpkin and eggplant, pumpkin and sage, and my favorite pumpkin and turquoise. While I love rich color, I decided to give the natural, tone-on-tone palate a try this year. A neutral palate can be simple and elegant at the same time, and it can enhance any style of home – traditional, contemporary, country, and of course, the increasingly popular farmhouse style.

 Stacked single-hued plates create drama at the table.
Stacked single-hued plates create drama at the table.
 A large, chipped concrete urn corrals mini pumpkins.
A large, chipped concrete urn corrals mini pumpkins.

Here are some tips for incorporating neutrals into your fall or Thanksgiving table design.

Play with texture. An absence of color doesn’t mean an absence of excitement. Use a combination of textures like linen, rattan, metals, and earthy elements to provide interest and richness to your space.

Create a focal point. Bring in a large, birch bark pumpkin and embellish it with pinecones, leaves and acorns for a show-stopping centerpiece.

Colored glassware is back. Add a subtle pop of color to your neutral tablescape with colored glassware. Also abundant this season are colored glass candle holders and shimmering blown glass pumpkins.

Get personal. Craft something new from something old. Napkin rings created from vintage metal buttons I received from an Aunt bring a sense of nostalgia and sparkle to the table. Every time I use them, I think of her.

Create balance. Flank mini cotton topiaries on each end of the dining table to add natural texture.

Pile on the layers. Stack single-hued dishes to add dramatic appeal.

Be playful. Add a touch of whimsy with playful accents like miniature ceramic owl salt and pepper shakers.

Set the mood. Dim the lights and add softness with the glow of white or cream candles.

Don’t forget the sides. Don the buffet with a statement piece like a large, chipped, concrete urn filled with white, and a few green, pumpkins and gourds.

 Utilize items with texture in a tone-on-tone display.
Utilize items with texture in a tone-on-tone display. 
  Amber glassware plus golden preserved leaves provide a subtle pop of color in a neutral tablescape.

Amber glassware plus golden preserved leaves provide a subtle pop of color in a neutral tablescape.

Jennifer Ruple is the author of the blog:


Autumn excursion to Chelsea, Michigan

–by Jennifer Ruple

original pic of jens perfect hair_PC2
Jennifer Ruple








Autumn brings colorful foliage, crisp air and cozy sweaters; the perfect seasonal mix for strolling around the quaint, historic district in Chelsea, Mich. Located on State Route 52 between Jackson and Ann Arbor, Chelsea offers a myriad of shopping opportunities, world-class theatre, hip eateries and the 20,000-acre Waterloo State Recreation Area.

Begin the day by perusing the many gift shops and boutiques in the area. The Potting Shed features an eclectic mix of vintage and new items, including tableware, linens and holiday décor. Step outside into the shop’s courtyard and check out the assortment of art and decorative items for your garden. Violet and Moss are two women’s boutiques offering unique clothing, jewelry and accessories. For industrial-style furniture and home décor, visit La Maison. The shop also carries Annie Sloan® Chalk Paint®, brushes and other supplies. For a good read, visit the charming Serendipity Books. Find a relaxing chair, grab a complimentary cup of coffee or tea, and explore their vast selection of gently used books.

The courtyard at The Potting Shed offers garden art and plants.
The courtyard at The Potting Shed offers garden art and plants.

When hunger calls, look no further than Zou Zou’s Café and Coffee Bar, an intimate and artsy French-themed café offering gourmet coffees, crepes, salads and sandwiches. The café’s exposed brick walls are adorned with historic photos and local art. Breakfast sandwiches are available any time of the day as are five varieties of quiche. Before you leave, pick up a homemade raspberry white chocolate scone to go. Trust me.

While in town, don’t miss the opportunity to take in a play at The Purple Rose Theatre Company, which is located downtown at 137 Park Street. Founded in 1991 by actor, playwright and Chelsea native Jeff Daniels, the award-winning venue offers original American theatre performances. The 168-seat theatre’s interior is reminiscent of the 1930s and features art deco design touches throughout its lobby. Performances are 8 p.m. Thursday to Saturday, 3 p.m. Wednesday and Saturday, and 2 p.m. Sunday.
Ticket prices range from $22-$46
and can be purchased at:


Purple Rose Theatre Company _2041
The Purple Rose Theatre Company is celebrating its 25th anniversary!

There is no better time than fall to head outdoors. Just a few miles from town is Waterloo State Recreation Area, the largest park in Michigan’s Lower Peninsula. The park features several campgrounds, beaches, picnic sites, mountain biking trails and 47 miles of hiking trails, many of which can be accessed from the Gerald E. Eddy Discover Center located at 17030 Bush Road. Unfortunately, heavy rains the day we visited kept us from the trails and from getting any decent pictures. However, we’re keeping the park on our list for future hikes.

There’s so much to experience in Chelsea, make it part of your fall bucket list.

 Jennifer Ruple is the author of the blog