As we approach the end of August and the end of summer, we’ve been trying to fit in lots of activities both at home and at the residence before the kids go back to school.
We had a great time once again hosting the Thomas Worthington High School cross country team for camp on our farm in Cedarville. We love to host the team — our grandson is on the team and our son-in-law is a coach. It’s a time of team bonding and fun and eating, and it turned out to be beautiful weekend for camping outside. There were spirited games of volleyball and ping pong — and it’s amazing how much food 70 runners can eat in three days!
My daughter Jill does all the planning and recruits some other great parents to help her. Jill just gives me a list of things that she wants me to make — pizza from the pizza oven, homemade chicken and noodles, black bean salsa, hot fudge pudding cake to go with Young’s Dairy ice cream, and sausage gravy and biscuits for the final breakfast Sunday morning.
I asked some kids what they liked best. Did they like the cross country trail? The games? The outdoor propane showers? They answered: the food! So I’ve included a couple recipes below.
At the Governor’s Residence we also recently hosted different groups to the house and gardens as part of the Columbus City Schools summer lunch program.
The first group made the pizza like we did at the fair, with the kids grinding the wheat, making dough and topping their pizza. Our second group of about 50 kids from different areas around Columbus got to experience cooking in a very large paella pan. Chef Suzy DeYoung and Julie Richardson, who work with food rescue in Cincinnati, brought up a huge 4-foot paella pan with its own propane burner. We set up stations so the children could chop the vegetables (with expert help), and open cans. Cathy Corbitt’s group chopped tomatoes, onions, garlic, peppers and pineapple to make a delicious fruit salsa. Some children mixed lime juice and sour cream to make wonderful crema. Others picked flowers from the garden to make pretty bouquets for the tables.
Then we all gathered in a huge circle to prepare the paella. First we added the olive oil and onions and some of the older kids stirred it with giant paddles. Then the peppers, celery and garlic. Then others poured in the rice and beans and broth. Most of the food was from the garden or from food rescue. Of course it all smelled so good while it was cooking! We served all the children around tables in the great room. They really seemed to enjoy the bowls of the rice-bean-vegetable combination, especially when topped with the fruit salsa and a dollop of crema. Some kids ate three or four bowls!
The last few days we took some of our grandchildren to southern Ohio to check out some of the wonderful sites we have here in our state. Our first stop was Serpent Mound in Adams County, managed by the Ohio History Connection and operated by the Arc of Appalachia. It is the world’s largest surviving example of an ancient animal effigy mound. It winds 1,348 feet over the ground. Its value to the original builders in unclear, but there is a perfect alignment of the serpent’s head with the direction of the setting solstice sun. We all climbed the observation tower overlooking the effigy to really see how unbelievably big it was, and the kids speculated on just how many buckets of dirt were required to make it!
In Brown County we visited the Rankin House, and all the kids learned about the Underground Railroad in Ohio. Then we went to Georgetown where we visited President Grant’s boyhood home and Grant Schoolhouse.
We stayed overnight in one of the cabins at Shawnee State Park. It is one of our great parks that has a beautiful lodge and pool. Naturalist Jenny Richards, also known as the “snake lady”, showed the kids the box turtle and snakes and butterfly gardens, and the kids loved her! After dinner we made a little campfire and prepared our favorite dessert — s’mores. It’s just not camping without them!
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Sausage Gravy & Biscuits
1 lb. bulk sausage – Brown in heavy skillet. Leave some bits to stick to bottom of skillet and brown. This gives good flavor and color to gravy. Removed browned sausage to a plate. Leave about 1/4 cup of drippings in skillet. (If sausage was lean, add butter to make 1/4 cup.)
To drippings, add:
1/2 cup flour. Stir over medium heat until bubbly.
2-3 cups cold milk. Stir over medium heat until thickens. Add reserved sausage to gravy and heat. Serve over hot biscuits.
Black Bean Salsa
2 – 15 oz. cans black beans, drained
1 – 15 oz. can whole kernel corn, drained
2 – 15 oz. cans petite-diced tomatoes
1 red onion, finely chopped
1 bunch cilantro, chopped (optional)
2 jalapeno peppers, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
4 Tablespoons lime juice
4 Tablespoons vinegar
Mix all together in a bowl. Serve with tortilla chips.
First Lady Fran DeWine is a Cedarville resident, Yellow Springs native and guest columnist.