Originally Published in the Greenwood Daily Journal Saturday June 30, 2012
I feel like in the summer months I should preface each column with a disclaimer that I will talk about Indiana travel with my family and food. I feel like my summer break so far has been equal parts travel, recipe creation and family business. You know how it goes, when you are off of work you somehow become more busy than when you were at work.
That’s the way it is with me. Last year my kids’ only complaint when we went back to school was that I crammed too many activities in our weekday hours and that the next summer they only wanted to have “real” fun on the weekends. I thought that was strange but the more I thought about it the more sense it made. Actually, I felt the same way.
This summer I vowed to cut back our day trips to one a week with bigger ones on the weekend. The kids needed time at home to, well, be kids. I needed to catch up on some ongoing projects and try to carve out at least an hour a day to do nothing at all.
|This picture doesn’t do the beach area justice|
So here I go again, playing Indiana Travel Agent, but since we just got back and it is fresh in my mind I will share. I would have to say the highlight of summer, so far, has been our trip to Indiana Dunes in Chesterton. We left very early Saturday morning and got back late Sunday night. I had joked with the boys that we were taking them to ‘the ocean of Indiana’ but once we got there they sort of agreed. You just can’t imagine the expansiveness of Lake Michigan until you are standing with your toes in the sand and gazing upon it.
|Fun in the sand|
This was one of the easiest trips I have ever planned. We were not interested in visiting local shops, hitting an outdoor market or testing out the local fare. For us it was going to be nothing but sitting on the beach, bird watching and dune climbing for two days and that’s what we did.
Once we got there we headed straight to the Indiana Dunes Visitors Center, the mecca of all things related to family activities. We loaded up on information and drove the few minutes to the state park entrance. Here there is a large beach with lifeguards, a bathroom and best of all no hike to the water. When we walked out onto the beach the boys just gasped. What greeted us was clear, cool blue water and white powdery sand. The beach area was incredibly clean and we had no problem finding a place to lay a blanket and have lunch.
|I love this picture|
|A moment of quiet in the afternoon|
All my kids needed was water and goggles, since they are out of the toting beach toys phase of their lives. They ran straight for the water and incredibly enough, they waded out maybe 20 feet before it even went past their thighs, the water was so shallow.
Seeing they were content and happy I set about to laying out our picnic lunch I had brought from home. Not only had I brought the usual rolled up sandwiches and cut up fruit, but I had also brought a bowl of leftover grilled potato salad. This new favorite of ours is not only good at room temperature, but as leftovers the next day. You guessed it, it’s my recipe of the day!
|I had 2, he had 2.|
|Right outside our door|
The trip was made complete when we got to our bed and breakfast later that evening to clean up before heading to dinner. The Inn at Aberdeen in Valparaiso is by and large one of the best B&B’s I have ever stayed at and around Indiana. In an old mansion on a former horse farm, the accommodations were plush and the three-course breakfast was fantastic. Each room had a very large bathroom with a Jacuzzi tub (which I used twice) and our room walked out into the gardens. There was also a gazebo, which is where we stayed up late playing cards with the boys. Everything is so well thought out there and the personal touches are abundant. We will definitely be going back.
|Beautiful courtyard area|
|I had grilled pork tenderloin Marsala|
|Three Meat Lasagna|
We had dinner at a local eatery, Lucrezia Cafe in Chesterton. No surprise that I chose to have dinner at an Italian restaurant. After climbing the dunes in the hot sun all day we had worked up a big appetite. We were not disappointed either. The portions were large, their red sauce was to die for and the service was exact.
|Just one of the many thematic gardens|
Frogs were everywhere!
|Just one of the many train areas|
|History of railway|
We ended our trip on Sunday with a trip to Taltree Arboreum and Gardens and then on to Mt Baldy along the lake shore. Taltree not only has over 300 acres of impressive thematic gardens, but it also has a large area that boasts a miniature train garden. I could hardly describe this in the detail it deserves so please find them online. This alone was worth the 3 hour drive north.
Mt Baldy, Indiana’s largest living dune, sits at over 125 feet over the water. Currently you can climb along one side to the summit, which we did. Parking for the beach here is quite a hike from the water so be prepared and do not over pack. It is an interesting area because one minute you are in the lush woodlands of Northern Indiana then all of the sudden you walk out in the bright, blue-green sight of Lake Michigan.
Who knew it could be so beautiful. I feel like in the last 5 years we have seen more breathtaking sights, in our own backyard, that we didn’t know existed. All because we decided to be a tourist in our own home state. This trip was one for the record books and just what the doctor ordered. Not over planned and very laid back. I even read one whole trashy magazine while laying on the beach so I count that as a small victory. Plus, we went 2 whole days without a complaint from the kids. Sun, sand, and water, what more do you need?
Grilled Potato Salad with Lemon Dijon Vinaigrette
2 lbs small sized Yukon Gold potatoes
2 TB olive oil for tossing the veggies before grilling
1 small red onion cut into fourths
1 red pepper cut into fourths
3-4 TB chopped fresh basil
2 TB Dijon mustard
2 TB chopped fresh chives
1 lg lemon, juiced
1/3 C olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
pinch of kosher salt
fresh black pepper
Boil the potatoes until just tender, drain and allow to cool then slice in half. Add to bowl with the onion and pepper. Using your hands blend the oil and veggies. Careful to not make the onion fall apart.
While the potatoes are boiling, in a serving bowl add all of the dressing ingredients and whisk to emulsify. Set aside.
Grill the potatoes flesh side down to get good markings. Do the onions and peppers in a similar fashion but make sure not to char the skins off of the peppers. Remember, the potatoes are cooked, you just need to grill them for 2-3 minutes.
When sufficiently grilled to your liking remove and add to the serving bowl. Toss gently with the vinaigrette and serve. This is great at room temperature or cold.