Blogs > News-Herald Food and Travel

Food and travel captivate Janet Podolak, who chronicles both for The News-Herald. Get the back story of her three decades of stories here. Guest bloggers and fellow News-Herald staffers also periodically share details of their trips.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Making ricotta style cheese

Thursday's Food story will have some great recipes for late season produce, including baked tomatoes topped with ricotta and basil. You can buy ricotta, which  is a fresh cheese that should be eaten within a week. But it's easy to make, especially if you can find good organic whole milk and cream that's been pasteurized but not homogenized. Any good milk and cream will do, but as any good cook knows the results are closely related to the ingredients, so find the best milk and cream you can.
You can make a lighter cheese by eliminating the cream and using another cup of milk instead. Or you can blend cow's and goat's milk together for a tangier cheese. Want a drier cheese? Drain for about 8 hours. Prefer it creamier? Drain for 3 hours or less.
The recipe is from the newly published Locovore's Kitchen from Ohio University Press

(Makes one pound)
7 cups whole milk
1 cup heavy cream
1/4 teaspoon kosher or sea salt
3 Tablespoons distilled white vinegar
Rinse a large, very clean, heavy nonreactive pot with cold water. (This helps prevent scorching of  milk) Add the milk and cream. Stir in the salt. Place pot over medium heat and heat, stirring occasionally, until very hot but not boiling, about 180 to 185 degrees. Check temperature with a thermometer. Remove from heat and add vinegar, stirring gently until fine grains begin forming. Cover with a dry clean, lint-free cotton towel and allow to sit undisturbed for at least 3 hours and up to 8 hours. Dampen a few layers of cheesecloth or a clean, lint-free cotton cloth, and line the inside of a small colander or strainer suspended over the sink or a pot. Pour or ladle the ricotta into the prepared colander and let it drain freely for two hours - less if you want a creamier ricotta, more if you want it drier. Lift the cheesecloth up and twist gently to extract excess water (which should appear cloudy, not clear) Turn the ricotta out from the cheesecloth into a container with a tight-fitting lid and refrigerate. Enjoy within a week.

Labels: , , ,

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Special butter for fresh corn

The video with Thursday's Food column makes my mouth water all over again for freshly prepared corn on the cob. While presiding at the ICASI booth at Chardon's Friday farmers market,  Chef John Sheehan handed out samples of just picked Geauga yellow corn drenched with garlic lime butter. He says it's the best corn he's tasted in 30 years, and as the retired planning administrator for the city of Chardon he's been through many harvest seasons in Geauga County.

Here's the recipe for the butter along with instructions from the cooking school on how to grill corn. Make sure it's freshly picked for the best results.

Grilled Corn with Garlic Lime Butter
 6 ears of sweet corn
1 stick (4 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 heaping Tablespoon lime zest
2-1/2 teaspoons minced garlic
1 teaspoon salt
Optional heat: red pepper flakes and/or Tabasco
Whip butter with zest, garlic and spice if used. Cover and chill. Before grilling corn, peel back husks (do not remove) and remove corn silk with dampened paper towel. Place corn with attached husks in a pot of cold water and soak 15 to 45 minutes. After soaking, remove corn and shake off excess water. Take half the chilled butter and spread it evenly on corn cobs. Wrap the cobs back up in their husks and make two foil belts for each ear to seal the husks. Place corn directly on medium flame and grill 15 minutes, turning periodically. Carefully remove corn from grill, peel back husks and apply remainder of butter. Serve warm.

Monday, August 22, 2011

My name is Sean and I am a Christmas addict

For those of you who read my recent post about our trip to Frankenmuth, Mich., you knew this was coming. For those of you who didn't catch that blog, you can find it here.

The trip was a last-minute decision thanks to hot, humid, uncomfortable weather that caused my wife and I to rethink our planned camping trip.Somewhat recent conversations with Mom had given my wife and I cause to consider a trip to Frankenmuth wherein lies Bronner's Christmas Wonderland.

I guess I'm kind of addicted to Christmas. I enjoy few things more than creating my holiday display each November. Come on, there are worse things to which I could be addicted . My addiction won't hurt anyone - except when the electric bill arrives in December and January.

We set off on Monday morning and arrived in town around 4 p.m.

The first day, we were unable to visit Bronner's because a thunderstorm had knocked out power to the area. Later that evening, after power was restored, we took a drive through Bronner's grounds - alive with displays and lights that might just make the folks at the North Pole a little jealous. (No, not the real North Pole. I'm talking about the one where Santa lives. Duh!) Bronner's keeps the lights on well into the evening.

On Day Two, after another trip into town, it was time to head to what was sure to be the highlight of the trip,  and Bronner's did not disappoint!

We entered at the West Entrance (yep, there are two entrances), and it took me 10 minutes to get past the first display.

After a few steps inside, it was clear I needed some direction or we'd be there for days (not that I would have minded that), so I found the customer service desk just inside the entrance and grabbed a map - that's right, a map - of the store. You'll need one, especially if you are like me and make a quick trip or two around to take it all in and then return to the areas you want to check out again ... and again, and again, and again.

I was like a kid in a candy store.

Everywhere we looked were ornaments, lights, nativity displays, indoor decorations, outdoor decorations, Christmas trees, garland ... I could go on and on, but to get a true feel for this place is to go there. I highly recommend going there.

Should you find yourself immersed in this wonderland, do yourself a favor and remember to look up. Anything in the store that has a tag on it is for sale. My wife and I had a little bit of a problem because on our first couple of rounds through the store, we were looking around, not up. We were missing a lot.

Being one who is constantly looking to add to and upgrade my outdoor holiday display, the lighting department was high on my list of must-sees (much to my wife's dismay, I'm sure). While I didn't make any lighting purchases - budget constraints cramped my style a bit - I certainly got some good ideas.

Holiday lighting has obviously changed over the years and Bronner's has some of the newest and coolest stuff around. They have it all - traditional lights, novelty sets, LEDs of all shapes and sizes. They also stock a relative newcomer to the world of holiday lighting - the "falling" or "dripping" icicle lights. If you haven't seen them, these lights seem to fall like shining snowflakes or shooting stars. They are awesome and soon will be a part of my outdoor display ... I hope. They're not cheap, but I'll work hard to save up. I hate waiting.
Believe me, next time I'll be packing a little more cash. There are some things that I simply must have. Sorry, dear.

We spent an hour or more browsing the Dept. 56 displays. If you are a collector of Dept. 56 villages and have difficulty finding a piece, check with Bronner's. They probably have it. I picked up something small, just so I can say that, "I got that at Bronner's." It is a companion piece to a retired building my wife recently purchased for me as an early birthday gift.

Then there are, of course, ornaments ... good grief, the ornaments ... my guess would be millions. I could spend a week at this place and not see everything there. Nearly any ornament sold there can be personalized at no cost. A special souvenir for some friends back home? Yep!

Four and a half hours disappeared during our visit on Tuesday. Tuesday night, having little luck finding something to take home to our daughter, we decided we'd go back on Wednesday before heading home. A set of peace sign lights was on our list.

Our return on Wednesday was preceded Tuesday night by yet another trip through the festive grounds. What else were we going to do? It wasn't time for bed and the place was right around the corner. We walked around the Silent Night Chapel, noticed lights we hadn't noticed the night before, and found some additional items we wanted to search for during our Wednesday visit.

Now, I'm not sure if there's some kind of time warp there, but it took us two and a half hours to pick up one set of lights on Wednesday. It felt like maybe 20 minutes, but trust me, it wasn't.

For me, this was an escape. Christmas music playing at just the right level, bright lights shining all around, beautiful displays and every employee happy to help. How could a person not be happy in a place like this?

I forgot about all my worries for about seven hours over those couple days, and I can't wait to forget again.

Bronner's motto is "Enjoy CHRISTmas, It's HIS birthday, Enjoy Life, It's His way." That's certainly something worth some thought and this is certainly someplace worth a visit ... again and again and again.

-- Sean Linhart

Labels: , ,

Friday, August 12, 2011

Releasing turtles along Mayan Riviera

USA 3000 flights and Apple Vacations make it really easy to to get from Cleveland to Mexico’s  Mayan Riviera, south of Cancun. It’s about a three hour morning flight and you can be on the beach before noon.
If you’ll be making your getaway   in the next week or so, you’ll want to check out Sunday’s Travel section (8-14) and my story about buying prescription drugs in Mexico. Videos of the Valentin Imperial Maya resort where I stayed and of Playa del Carmen, just a few minutes south of there, are imbedded in the online version of that story at
This is the season turtles hatch along the beaches of that Caribbean coast and a Playa del Carmen resort is awaiting the hatching of a batch of about 120 of round white eggs between late August and early September. I’m not personally familiar with the Mahékal Beach Resort, but I admire its initiative to invite guests to be part of the release of the baby turtles, which have been protected from predators since a Loggerhead turtle laid her eggs on the beach at the end of June. Several guests witnessed that event, the third time it’s happened in the past two years.. Loggerhead turtles weigh between 200 and 500 pounds and grow to almost 4 feet long.
“We will  invite our guests to name and personally release each baby sea turtle into the Caribbean Sea,” said Emilio Palazuelos, general manager at Mahékal Beach Resort.
Visit or call +011-52-984-813-0611 Ext. 113

Labels: , ,

Monday, August 8, 2011

Frankenmuth, Mich. - Michigan's Little Bavaria

Let me introduce myself. My name is Sean Linhart and I, along with being a copy editor at The News-Herald, am a Christmas nut. I know, the first step toward recovery is admitting you have a problem.

I love everything about the holiday.

Having planned a camping trip that was thwarted by hot, humid, unpleasant weather, my wife and I were looking for another option. We settled on a trip to Frankenmuth, Mich. No reservations, no big plans, just winging it on a 4 1/2-hour trip.
For those of you who might not have heard of Frankenmuth, the small town has a reputation as home of the Bronner's Christmas Wonderland, the largest Christmas store in the world.

We left on a Monday morning, GPS in hand, sugarplums dancing in my head along with the thoughts of what I might find at Bronner's and what this tiny town might be like.

Upon arrival in Frankenmuth, we started searching the GPS for the Frankenmuth Motel.
It was the least expensive lodging we could find while doing a little research on the Internet - trying to save the $$ for ... well ... Christmas stuff!

We found the motel with little trouble, checked in, unpacked (OK, threw the duffel bag on the bed) and headed into town. By the way, the motel was GREAT! Very clean and close to town - perfect!

We found Bronner's closed because of a nasty storm that had rolled through just prior to our arrival, knocking out power to much of the area.

So we headed further into town in hopes of finding electricity and a bite to eat.
We found a nice place to park right in the middle of town - by the way, parking is free there - I mean everywhere there.

After browsing some of the shops for a bit, we decided it was time for dinner.

Zehnder's is well known for it's all-you-can-eat chicken dinners, so off we went.
If you leave this place hungry, it's YOUR fault!

The meal starts with appetizers including: homemade chicken soup, liver pate and cheese spread on large homemade croutons, cranberry relish, cottage cheese, cole slaw and bread with homemade preserves.

Then it's time for the main course: chicken, dressing, mashed potatoes, vegetable and buttered noodles with crushed saltines on top - a true comfort food if ever there was one.

After all that, if you have room, there's sherbet or ice cream for dessert.
Oh yeah, did I mention it's all you can eat?

On Tuesday, it was time to hit a few more shops and head for the Christmas store - more on Bronner's in a future blog entry. It deserves its own.

Before heading to Bronner's, we went to town to check out a couple more shops, a concession to my wife for the undoubtedly long hours she would be forced spend among the millions of Christmas decorations that awaited.

Hunting for something specific - a gift for Mom - we were told to head for Satow Drugs.

Exiting the car early in the morning, we smelled bacon and assumed it was coming from the hotel next door. Entering the drug store, we found a diamond in the rough, a small restaurant ... OK. Time for breakfast. It was a quaint little place - something out of the past and one of those places that we simply need more of.

Our bellies full of perfectly cooked eggs, toast, bacon and hashbrowns, we headed off to those shops, including the Frankenmuth Clock Shop (for a souvenir of our stay for which we got a coupon at the hotel) and The Front Porch Quilt Shop (for the wife). I gotta give a little.

Then, after a fantastic lunch including a huge, locally produced brat and fries at T-Dub's, it was time to head for Bronner's.

Again, this deserves its own entry, so more on that in the near future.

Labels: , ,

Friday, August 5, 2011

Travel is an attitude

The Long Weekend of Fun set for this weekend at Wildwater Kingdom in Aurora is a perfect opportunity to test the attitude of travel. If you haven't gotten away this summer the exotic animals to Radio Disney dance parties on the wave pool deck, will be a true getaway from the everyday and a great way to wind down to fall.Festivities will kick off Saturday (Aug. 6) with Jungle Terry showcasing his hand-raised animals and reptiles on the wave pool stage from 1:30 p.m. to 2:30 p.m. It's a hands-on, interactive program in which you can pet and hold reptiles including snakes and baby alligators. Exotic birds from Parrot Hope Sanctuary will be located near the main gate.
On Sunday, August 7, Radio Disney teams up with Chevrolet for a high-energy show on the wave deck pool from noon to 2 p.m. Then on Monday, Aug. 8, Cleveland Indians’ Chris Perez and Slider will visit Wildwater Kingdom. Perez will greet guests and sign autographs from 2 p.m. to 3 p.m. near the front gate of the outdoor waterpark. Before that, Slider, the Indians’ mascot, will be wandering around the park mingling with guests starting at 11 a.m.
Beat the heat to challenge the 60-foot-tall Liquid Lightning tornado slide, frolic in the surf of the 390,000-gallon Tidal Wave Bay wave pool or slide down one of seven slides at Thunder Falls, Ohio’s tallest waterslide complex. Children play in Little Tikes Town or splash and soak everyone on one of Splash Landing’s four-stories of watery fun.Details: 330.562.8303