Take a Bite Out of Michigan’s Produce Season

To celebrate Food and Agriculture Month in Michigan, we asked blogger Liz Della Croce of The Lemon Bowl to tell us how to take advantage of Michigan’s fresh produce season with fun family outings and a few delicious Michigan made recipes.

Photo courtesy of The Lemon Bowl

Photo courtesy of The Lemon Bowl

Spring is right around the corner which means one thing here in Michigan: the growing season has finally arrived! As one of the nation’s largest exporters of produce, we do not take this time of year for granted. From ripe cherries to crisp apples to juicy blueberries and more, here are few fun ideas to make the most out of produce season and create long lasting memories with your family:

Visit a Farmers Market: Nothing gets kids excited about eating fresh fruits and vegetables quite like a visit to a farm stand.  Whether you visit the same farmers market regularly or only pass a farm stand a few times a month, let your kids pick out a new fruit or vegetable each visit. Getting little ones involved in the buying process is an ideal way to get even the pickiest of eaters excited about trying something new. Check out this Farmers Market locator to find one near you!

Head to a U-Pick Orchard: Take advantage of the warmer weather and head to a nearby orchard. Picking your own fruits and vegetables is one of the best ways to get the freshest produce available while also sneaking in a little exercise.

Photo courtesy of The Lemon Bowl

Photo courtesy of The Lemon Bowl

Be sure to bring the whole family and get the kids involved. Little hands are great for picking ripe blueberries or sitting on Daddy’s shoulders to reach that perfect peach. This Michigan U-Pick Guide will help you find a nearby orchard and also guide you through what is in season and when.

Eat Seasonally: From the first asparagus spears in early spring to late-fall apples, eating with the season is one of the best ways to ensure that your family gets a full range of nutrients throughout the year. Additionally, when you eat fruit that was picked just a few miles down the road, you will get maximum flavor and peak freshness.

Create Something Delicious: As you eat your way through the season, here are a few tasty ideas for Michigan’s most popular fruits and vegetables:

Photo courtesy of The Lemon Bowl

Photo courtesy of The Lemon Bowl

Apple Recipes:

Asparagus Recipes :

Peach Recipes:

Cherry Recipes:

Blueberry Recipes

What are your favorite ways to take advantage of Michigan’s world-class produce and agriculture? Do you have a favorite farm stand or u-pick orchard? 

Learn more about Michigan Agriculture in the video below.

Screen Shot 2014-03-06 at 3.15.39 PMLiz Della Croce is the creator and author of The Lemon Bowl, a healthy food blog. Since 2010, Liz has been creating delicious recipes using real ingredients with an emphasis on seasonality. Liz has appeared live on the TODAY Show and tapes regular cooking segments for her local NBC affiliate station.  She is a contributor for The Huffington Post and Cooking Light. Liz’s recipes and food photography have been featured on several websites including Shape Magazine, Food Network blog, The Cooking Channel, TODAY Food and more. 

Ten Reasons to Participate in
“Cool Brews. Hot Eats.” 2014 in Grand Rapids

Save your appetite – Cool Brews. Hot Eats. starts on February 17, 2014! For the second year in a row, Grand Rapids chefs prepare to wow the masses with two weeks of unique menu items, off-the-wall beer and food pairings and putting a twist on eating out in Beer City USA. Here are 10 reasons to participate in this year’s event from Experience Grand Rapids

Photo courtesy of Experience Grand Rpaids

1. It’s year two!  In case you weren’t involved last year, Cool Brews. Hot Eats. (CBHE) was born in 2013 as a community opportunity to celebrate the rich brewing culture we’ve cultivated in West Michigan.  It’s a chance for chefs and brewers to meet in the middle and concoct wacky pairings that will truly boggle your palette.  It’s also a chance to draw attention to some restaurants that utilize beer year round.

2. Cider is in!  This year, the powers at be have also encouraged chefs to utilize the abundance of local cideries to try a menu item with hard cider.  This is truly great news if you’re gluten free or not a huge beer lover. Check out One Trick Pony’s Cider Charcuterie option.

3. There’s no pricing structure that restaurants have to follow!  During Restaurant Week in Grand Rapids, many chefs prepare amazing meals based on a decided “two-for $” price, which can limit the ingredient options for chefs and the capacity to sample for the guest.  For CBHE, you can get one collaboration item off the menu to try, and hop all over town eating as many menu features as you can handle.

Photo courtesy of Experience Grand Rapids

4. On the other hand, these two weeks could be your chance to attend a full beer dinner affordably.  At an assortment of participating businesses, you can enjoy the full cooking with beer experience in five courses, aka the commitment meal.  Check out Amore Trattoria Italiana’s five course Beercentric Menu for a delicious example.

5. As part of the Grand Rapids Beer Week leading up to Winter Beer Festival, Experience Grand Rapids is excited to release the Beer City Ale Trail Map to the public!  This map features an extensive listing of the finest breweries, wineries and cideries around, so make sure you grab one when you’re ready to hit the Ale Trail.

Photo courtesy of Experience Grand Rapids

6. Everybody’s doing it! The whole city is rallying behind our proud Beer City banner in the week leading up to Winter Beer Festival.  This is the second year Grand Rapids has won Beer City USA and the week warming up to it is expected to be big for beer tourism around the city and surrounding areas.

7. Tap Takeovers! These will be all over town so ask your bartender where to head next.  For example, the Mitten Brewing Co. and Our Brewing Co. will be taking over at The Green Well, who reportedly use 7-10 gallons of beer every week in their cookery!

8. Hotels are on board the beer train as well.  The Marriott Springhill Suites North is including Beer City pint glasses at check in, or check out CityFlats Hotel for a complimentary growler and fill at check-in.  Click here to check out other participating hotels.

Photo courtesy of Experience Grand Rapids

9. Many of these collaborations include locally sourced, Michigan focused foods. From Bistro Bella Vita to Bobarino’s, these collaborations are another chance for local chefs to source as much as possible from the Mitten state!  Try Frank’s Kielbasa, locally smoked cheddar cheese, or the “Tim Allen” at Derby Station – a Pure Michigan Turkey burger filled with diced bacon, Derby Spice Blend, topped with Tandoori sweet potato fries, jalapeno mango aioli, avocado salsa and Mud Lake Farms mixed greens on a Little Rooster Brioche Bun.

10. There are so many great restaurants in the Grand Rapids area. Why not break up winter and try a few during these two weeks?  Click here to see a full list of participating restaurants and their menus. Try not to drool!

For more information on Cool Brews. Hot Eats. 2014 and other winter events in Grand Rapids, check out the video below.

Did you attend Cool Brews. Hot Eats. 2013? Tell us about your experience. Let us know if you’ll be at this year’s event!

Author: Lyndsay Israel originated in Northern Michigan and is now a dedicated Grand Rapids resident.  When she grows up, the plan is to teach high school English and Chemistry classes.  She writes to show how much she loves the mitten state!  Look for her articles at The Awesome Mitten and Experience GR, or follow her on Twitter @lyndsayisrael.

Yates Cider Mill: Generations of Tradition

A trip to a Michigan cider mill for some apple cider and donuts is a true sign of fall in Pure Michigan. As Rochester Hills-based Yates Cider Mill celebrates their 150th anniversary, owners Mike and Katie Titus take us on a trip back in time to learn how Yates Cider Mill came to be a fall favorite in Michigan. 

Celebrating 150 years of operation, Yates Cider Mill was born in the days of Lincoln, years before the electric light bulb made its debut.  Six generations later, Yates continues to be a gathering place for many in and around the Rochester area.  Yates is a place where people come to share traditions, memories, and a special sense of community.

The Yates mill operation spans six generations.  Three generations of the Yates family and then three generations of the Posey family, have continued to keep the original turbine water wheel and machinery running, which operate the Mill to this day.

A Look Back at Yates’ History

Only a few pioneers attempted to venture to the Michigan wilderness until the mid 1820′s when the Erie Canal was complete and provided a dependable route from New York City to the Great Lakes.  Thanks to the canal, travel time from New York City to Detroit fell from one month in 1800 to two days in 1860.  By 1863 Michigan had more than 800 lumber mills and was also producing 3/4 of the Nation’s copper.

First Known Photo of Yates Cider MillIt was during this time in 1863, William Yates from New York, purchased an 84-acre tract of land and constructed a wooden dam across the Clinton River and built the original Yates Mill. The Yates family began the Mill as a lumber mill and soon after expanded as a grist mill, grinding grain into flour for local farmers.  As William’s client customer base began to grow, he recognized the need for a cider press.  Around the year 1876, Yates began to press apples for cider; first for local farmers who brought in their own fruit and paid a pressing fee, and then for the general public. Even grapes were pressed at the Mill.  Cider production continued to increase and with the demand, Yates needed to grow.

In 1894, the larger, existing Mill was built.  A 26-inch water turbine wheel from James Leffel and Company in Springfield, Ohio was installed with this construction and to this day, provides the Mill’s pressing power for cider production. The existing water-powered cider press was installed in 1924.

Today, Yates Cider Mill enjoys visits from thousands of people annually and is known all over the country for its rich history, premium apple cider, and delicious bakery products, including Yates very own legendary donuts.  In a world that seems to be changing faster every year that goes by, Yates Cider Mill remains a place to many where the clock seems to tick a little more slowly.  Where friends and families come together and make memories.

Have you been to Yates Cider Mills? Tell us about your experience.