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Fran’s Favorites: Ohio travels and Ohio honey and spice cookies

Governor DeWine and First Lady DeWine in front of Buckeye Furnace with current owners.


by Fran DeWine for the Sidney Daily News

As we approach the end of summer, Mike and I took a couple of days to promote Ohio tourism and have a little fun with our grandkids before they go back to school.

Our first stop was Hocking Hills State Park. The first thing we wanted to see was the progress on the park’s new lodge, which is under construction and scheduled to open next year. The old dining hall was destroyed by fire several years ago. We all donned our hard hats for the tour. The new lodge is going to be beautiful! We couldn’t leave the park without taking a hike and loved seeing Old Man’s Cave and all the other beautiful rock formations.

From there we went to Lake Hope State Park in Vinton County. Many of our state parks have naturalists that teach kids about local plants and animals. Our grandkids loved learning from the naturalists! We also enjoyed swimming in the lake and cooling off in the beach area. We spent the night in the park in one of the cabins. We also visited the old Hope Schoolhouse, and the nearby old abandoned Moonville Tunnel. The beautiful brick-lined tunnel is part of a hiking trail. We heard stories about the legends of the ghosts who dwell there!

We next traveled to Jackson County where, near Wellston, we visited the old Buckeye Iron Furnace owned now by the Ohio Historical Connection. It was built in about 1852, and there were many of these in the region the last half of the 19th century. The sandstone furnace stacks were three stories high. The iron ore was dropped into the top. Each ton of iron required six cords of wood to make the charcoal to heat it to the required 2,300 degrees to make the pig iron. During the Civil War, Ohio led the nation in both quality and quantity of iron. It was used to produce cannons, rifle-barrels, bullets, and steam engines for ships.

In Jackson we visited a very modern-day industry, Bellisio Foods. While donning our hairnets and masks, we walked through the incredible facility that employees 1,000 people and makes tons of food every day. They make frozen entrees for Michelina Foods, Adkins Diet, and Boston Market. The kids were most excited about the pizza bites — including seeing a machine’s endless tubes of pepperoni and tomato sauce, then watching dough get cut into pieces and fried in a matter of seconds. After packing the product into boxes, a robot machine helped stack it into cartons. The kids were fascinated by all the freezers, and machines, and robots, but their favorite part was getting to sample the pizza bites at the end of the tour!

We finished the evening by driving to Chillicothe where we picked up some delicious barbeque and ate at the Great Seal State Park. We checked out the grove of trees we have planted there to honor all those who have died of COVID and the health professionals who have led the fight against COVID. We also checked out the Story Book Trail.

We finished the trip by watching the incredible “Tecumseh! Outdoor Drama.” The kids loved the live action and horses! They were excited to learn that a lot of the story of Tecumseh actually took place not far from our home.

All is quiet now that the kids have gone home. Our favorite cooking project while camping was just making s’mores. But they also like some cookies I have been making recently for meetings I have been having at the Governor’s Residence. I call them Ohio Honey and Spice (and Everything Nice) Cookies. They are a simple cookie that I bake and then cut out as soon as they come out of oven. I use a small Ohio cookie cutter and cut some into stars too. I arrange them on a platter with some buckeye brownies for a pretty treat.

Ohio Honey and Spice Cookies

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Mix together in a bowl:

1 cup brown sugar

1/2 cup vegetable oil

1/4 cup honey 1 egg

Mix in:

2 cups flour (I use part whole wheat)

1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon ginger

1/2 teaspoon cloves

Divide dough into halves. Shape 1 half into 2 15-inch by 3-inch strips, about 3 inches apart on lightly greased cookie sheet. Sprinkle with sugar. Bake until edges are light brown, about 6 to 7 minutes. Cool a minute or two. Then cut each strip into 1 inch slices, or cut with Ohio cookie cutter or stars or hearts. Remove from cookie sheet. Repeat with rest of dough.