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Asparagus — the elegant vegetable

[APRIL 27, 2001]  Asparagus, a member of the lily family, is an elegant vegetable included in many gourmet menus. In ancient times, it was considered a luxury item, fit for a king. Today, the cost may still seem lavish, but the scrumptious taste is worth every penny. In our area, early spring is the season to enjoy locally grown asparagus, so plan to include it in your meals.

The greatest demand is for all-green asparagus, which is available fresh, canned and frozen. White asparagus is found in some areas, available fresh and canned. Some may grow a splendid, deep burgundy spear that looks purple until cooked, when it turns green.


Nutritionwise, asparagus is a good deal. One cup of raw asparagus has only 31 calories, 6 grams of carbohydrate, 3 milligrams of sodium, a trace of fat and no cholesterol. Green asparagus is also a good source of vitamin A.

When buying fresh asparagus, select green, tender spears with dark green, closed tips. Store asparagus upright so that only the cut ends are in water. For best quality use within two to three days, changing the water daily. Since asparagus deteriorates rapidly after picking, it should be eaten, processed or refrigerated as soon as possible.

To prepare the spears, break or cut off tough butts as far down as they will snap easily. Wash thoroughly, leaving stalks whole, or break or cut into pieces.

Asparagus can be steamed, boiled, sautéed, stir-fried or microwaved. Cook quickly and watch closely, as asparagus is done when it turns bright green and is tender with a bit of crispness.

To microwave, place 1 pound of spears in a two-quart, microwave-safe baking dish. Add a couple teaspoons of water, cover and cook on high for four to eight minutes, until tender-crisp. Let stand for a couple more minutes before uncovering and serving.


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The list of seasonings and garnishes that complement the flavor of asparagus is almost endless. Try with dill weed, chives, bacon or bread crumbs. Or cheese, lemon butter, hollandaise sauce or pimento. For the purist, toss freshly cooked asparagus with a teaspoon of butter and sprinkle with a dash of salt. Enjoy!

Asparagus-Ham Rollups

1 pound asparagus spears

2 tablespoons butter or margarine

2 tablespoons flour

¼ teaspoon salt

½ teaspoon dry mustard

1 cup milk

1 cup (4 ounces) sharp cheddar cheese, finely shredded

6 slices boiled ham, thinly sliced (about 6 ounces total)

Cook asparagus until tender. Melt butter in heavy saucepan, stir in flour, salt and mustard. Gradually stir in milk. Cook, stirring constantly, until thickened. Add cheese and continue stirring until cheese is melted. Be careful not to overcook. Divide asparagus into six portions. Alternate direction of flower ends within each portion. Place asparagus portions on and parallel to narrow end of each ham slice, extending flower ends over edges of ham. Roll as for jellyroll.

[Jananne Finck, nutrition and wellness educator, University of Illinois Extension, Springfield Center]

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Strawberries and nutrition

[APRIL 26, 2001]  Strawberries are not only good to eat, they are also a good source of vitamin C.  According to Jananne Finck, nutrition and wellness educator with the Springfield Extension center, strawberries are a nutritious fruit.  In fact, one cup of fresh berries provides about 88 milligrams of vitamin C.  This more than meets the recommended daily amount for most children and adults.

Strawberries are low in calories, too, with one cup of unsweetened berries weighing in at only 55 calories.  This makes these tasty berries a low-calorie way to add flavor, nutrients and pleasure to our meals.  They are also great for snacks.

Handle fresh berries carefully

Whether you pick your own strawberries or buy them at the local grocery, handle fresh berries gently.  According to Jananne Finck, fresh strawberries preserve their food value and quality if handled with care.

If you pick your own berries, avoid placing them in the sun any longer than necessary.  It is best to place them in the shade of a tree or shed. Avoid placing them in a hot car, if possible.

Cool strawberries as soon as possible after picking or purchasing.  Before refrigerating the fresh berries, sort them but don't rinse until just before using.  Store the fruit in a shallow container, uncovered, in the refrigerator.


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When you are ready to use the strawberries, wash them quickly in cold water.  Be careful not to let them soak in water.  Lift the berries gently from the wash water and drain well before the stems and hulls are removed.

Strawberries may be kept fresh in the refrigerator for three or more days, depending on the initial quality of the berry. After a few days in storage, the fruit loses its bright color and fresh flavor. The berries also tend to shrivel.

For more information on freezing strawberries or other fruit, contact your local University of Illinois Extension Office, 732-8289.

[Logan County Extension Unit news release]


Animals for Adoption

These animals and more are available to good homes from the Logan County Animal Control at 1515 N. Kickapoo, phone 735-3232.

Fees for animal adoption: dogs, $60/male, $65/female; cats, $35/male, $44/female. The fees include neutering and spaying.

Logan County Animal Control's hours of operation:

Sunday    closed

Monday  –  8 a.m. - 5 p.m.

Tuesday  –  8 a.m. - 5 p.m.

Wednesday    8 a.m. - 5 p.m.

Thursday  –  8 a.m. - 5 p.m.

Friday  –  8 a.m. - 3 p.m.

Saturday  –  closed

Warden: Sheila Farmer
Assistant:  Michelle Mote
In-house veterinarian:  Dr. Lester Thompson

Big to little, most these dogs will make wonderful lifelong companions when you take them home and provide solid, steady training, grooming and general care. Get educated about what you choose. If you give them the time and care they need, you will be rewarded with much more than you gave them. They are entertaining, fun, comforting, and will lift you up for days on end.

Be prepared to take the necessary time when you bring home a puppy, kitten, dog, cat or any other pet, and you will be blessed.

[Logan County Animal Control is thankful for pet supplies donated by individuals and Wal-Mart.]  

The Logan County Animal Control has a near-full house. There are about 16 dogs plus six young puppies and about 20 cats, with four litters of kittens and another litter due any moment.

Warden Sheila Farmer and her assistant, Michelle Mote, look forward to assisting you.

[Five 6-week-old chow/shepherd-mix pups, boys and girls Will be medium-sized dogs. These darlings were found dumped in an alley.]

[The other four piled up and went to sleep. He absolutely demands attention by crooning you a song. He's gonna find his home first if he has his way.]

[7-week-old Lab mix This sweet little gal performed to the camera. Striking her best little sitting pose, she's assuring you she'll be good if you just take her home. She makes strong eye contact, postures playfully, and she's quiet to boot.]

[Two approximately 3-month-old Lab/Dalmatian pups wait for good family homes. Their short hair makes them low maintenance for more playtime.]

[Young, Lab/shepherd mix Said to be "really friendly." Picked up loose in New Holland and never claimed.]

[A 6- to 7-month-old mixed male Very friendly, loves people, reminds you of a Sesame Street character. Will make a great family pet. He was a stray.]

[Approximately 3-month-old female boxer mix Picked up as a stray, she's very attractive and is shy at first.]

[Puppies' mama, 4-year-old lab mix Very friendly, happy, gentle character. Will make a great family pet.]

[A young, friendly, black mix]

Ten reasons to adopt a shelter dog

 1.  I'll bring out your playful side!

 2.  I'll lend an ear to your troubles.

 3.   I'll keep you fit and trim.

 4.   We'll look out for each other.

 5.   We'll sniff out fun together!

 6.   I'll keep you right on schedule.

 7.   I'll love you with all my heart.

 8.   We'll have a tail-waggin' good time!

 9.   We'll snuggle on a quiet evening.

10.   We'll be best friends always.


[Logan County Animal Control is thankful for pet supplies donated by individuals and Wal-Mart.]  

The Logan County Animal Control has a near-full house. There are about 16 dogs plus six young puppies and about 20 cats, with four litters of kittens and another litter due any moment.

Warden Sheila Farmer and her assistant, Michelle Mote, look forward to assisting you.

In the cat section there are a number of wonderful cats to choose from. There are a variety of colors and sizes.

Farm cats available for free!

[Young male tomcat Attractive, attentive and very friendly, he's ready to talk to you about anything.]

[Approximately 9-month-old female calico Pretty and young, very sweet, has a style all her own. Will capture your heart with her tender demeanor.]

Part 2

A visit to St. Charles and Geneva

By Penny Zimmerman-Wills

[APRIL 14, 2001]  The  phrase "river town" brings to mind bustling, rough-and-tumble spots — places like St. Louis or New Orleans. The river constantly brings new people and new opportunities, then carries them away again. But there is another kind of river town, the kind where the waters offer a bit of tranquillity, an antidote to change. That’s what the little Fox River brings to St. Charles and Geneva, busy Chicago suburbs that nevertheless have managed to hang onto their past. A vibrant downtown, beautiful old homes, vintage red barns and the timeless river all combine to give the towns a restful dignity.

St. Charles

Nestled in the heart of the Fox River Valley, the shopping and dining districts of Century Corners and Old St. Charles reflect the city’s early beginnings. The Hotel Baker and the restored Arcada Theater, both located on Main Street, pay tribute to the roaring 1920s, and the Municipal Center, built in the 1940s, even manages to blend in with its historic neighbors.

The copper-clad gazebos on the Main Street Bridge offer a nice vantage point from which to view the Fox River rushing over the small dam and take a closer look at the city’s four bronze foxes, which each represent a vital element of the community — business, education, religion and recreation. The pieces of art were made in France and given to the city 30 years ago by Herbert Crane, a local resident and businessman. They certainly are not the only foxes around. Stone foxes decorate yards, and toy foxes pop up in shop windows. The Thirsty Fox pub welcomes parched visitors.

Although for several years I had intended to visit this area, partly because of the touted monthly Kane County flea market, it was only recently on a warm winter day that my husband and I spent a weekend in the area. We did hit the flea market for a few hours one day, but I was more impressed by the charming demeanor of the area and surprised by the historic feel of the two communities.

Just off Main Street lies Century Corners, home to an eclectic mix of small shops. You’ll find the Stonehouse on Cedar store, which is part art gallery, part gift shop and even has a small shed tucked away behind the main building stuffed with antiques like salvaged concrete, turn-of-the-century urns from an Iowa bank and vintage farm tables.

My favorite discovery, and a required stop for anyone who loves to garden, is Scentimenal Gardens, which is filled to the brim with a variety of things related to plants and flowers. Several rooms offer a wide variety of items including antique Majolica roof tiles, dried flowers, hand-painted furniture, vintage oil paintings of pansies and roses, wicker plant stands, leather furniture, candles, and pottery. The owner of the shop is also a landscape designer, and in the warmer months the shop features antique roses, kitchen herbs and potted plants.

Across the street is Town House Books and Cafe, a shop crammed with both books and personality. The maze of shelves invites you to wander, perusing books at random as the floorboards creak beneath your feet and the homey smell of coffee whets your appetite. Sit down and have a snack there, or you can wander just down the street — maybe the town’s airy chimes will be playing as you go — to the Warehouse Confectionery. This spot combines folksy antique store and yummy candy shop, including homemade chocolates. Don’t miss the chocolate-dipped gingersnaps.

Also in this area of town is a store called Panache, located in a restored 1800s cottage,
which owner Cheryl Herman has filled with an eclectic array of antiques, home and garden accessories, French soaps, and dishes and linens.

Main Street is also a shopper’s paradise, with shops lining both sides of the street. Prairie
Gourmet offers unique high-quality kitchenware, cookware and gifts for the gourmet cook, plus an array of cheeses and many other specialty foods. The shop also offers on-site cooking classes.

There are several places to spend the night, but if you want to splurge and feel pampered, rest your head at the Baker Hotel. Built by Edward J. Baker, a local philanthropist, businessman and millionaire who is also responsible for Baker Memorial Community Center and many local buildings, this 55-room hotel opened in 1928 and has become one of the most famous spots in town. The hotel, called the Crown Jewel of the Fox, has hosted many famous entertainers in its famous Rainbow Room, including Tommy Dorsey, Guy Lombardo, Louis Armstrong and Lawrence Welk. In 1996, the hotel underwent a $9 million historical renovation. Even if you don’t spend the night, you should take a peek at this small hotel with grand illusions. The marble floors, hand-stenciled woodwork, original antique walnut furnishings and lighted dance floor are just a few examples of why this hotel earned a reputation for being the grandest small hotel in the Midwest.

If all that shopping and walking leaves you hungry, there are many good options. Before
hitting the Kane County flea market early on a Sunday morning, my husband and I enjoyed a hearty but healthy breakfast at Colonial Cafe, a local tradition since 1901. The cafe is known for its all-day breakfast, home-style cooking and, maybe most of all, its "kitchen sink sundae," which is actually two banana splits served together in a
replica of a metal kitchen sink. We managed to resist the tempting dessert items, kitchen sink and all, but those who do indulge win a bumper sticker to prove they ate it all. The walls of the charming cafe are lined with old black-and-white photos of former employees as well as scenes from the restaurant’s past and its original owner’s humble beginnings as a small, local ice cream manufacturer. The restaurant also sells boxes of Colonial Ice Cream for those who want to take the taste home.

Most areas of interest are located within a short walking distance, and you can take a self-guided walking tour of the town’s historic sites, which include several museums.



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The Dunham-Hunt House Museum, located at 302 Cedar Ave., is open Tuesdays and Sundays in June, July and August.  Built in 1836 with locally made bricks, this restored 19th-century home is the oldest brick house in town and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. It was converted into a museum after being owned by one family for 140 years. The site features six different display rooms and hosts special holiday events.

The St. Charles History Museum, located at 215 Main St., is open every day except Monday and is housed in a remodeled 1928 service station. The museum features rotating exhibits and permanent displays on the history of the city, an extensive collection of Civil War, Native American and 19th-century household artifacts, as well as research archives and a gift shop.

The William Beith House, located at 1850 Indiana St., is open Tuesdays and Thursdays, June 6 though Aug. 24. This restored limestone Greek Revival home was developed as a preservation study house, and visitors can play detective discovering clues and piecing together the history of the house.

The Garfield Farm Museum, located at 3N016 Garfield Road in LaFox, is open Wednesdays and Sundays, June through September, and by appointment. Visitors can tour the only intact 1840s living history farm and former Teamster Inn in Illinois being restored as a working farm.

One of the things that make this area special is the meandering Fox River. Joggers trot by on walking paths, ducks slowly float by, and an occasional fisherman tries his luck on the water’s edge. Follow this river south, past small parks and Victorian homes, and it will take you to Geneva.


Although you can easily spend a relaxing afternoon exploring St. Charles, one of the best
things about this area is that just a few minutes away is the town of Geneva, which has even more quaint shops, historic homes, and more than 30 miles of biking and walking paths through prairies and woodland settings. I’m very glad we decided to drive a little farther and take time to discover this town.

A thriving downtown business district features more than 100 specialty shops located in historic storefronts and Victorian homes. Just on State Street alone, there’s a store called Dingers Dog Bakery and Boutique, selling low fat, all-natural dog cookies and imaginative gifts for the discriminating owner and pets; an aromatherapy shop and spa; and a European shop specializing in imported antique pine tables and French fabric.
This is a shopper’s paradise, where everything from clothing and housewares to gifts, jewelry and art is offered in shops along the tree-lined streets.

One of my favorite finds was Les Tissus Colbert — two floors of French fabrics, antiques and furniture from England, Belgium and France. Another whimsical store you won’t find just anywhere is Pariscope, which bills itself as a French department store and is a like a big candy store for adults who adore all things French. Everything from vintage fabric to soaps and furniture is scattered about.

For dining, I would recommend Le Berry Bistro, which is housed in the Berry House Shops. Built in the Greek Revival architectural style in 1854, the historic Samule Berry house has been expanded and now houses 12 shops and this restaurant on three floors, served by an elevator which opens to the garden level and upper decks. The restaurant’s specialties include leg of lamb, baked with crumbled bleu cheese and served with grilled eggplant and tomato basil sauce, and steak au poivre, a strip steak served with caramelized onions and bordelaise sauce.

If you’re just in the mood for a bit of light refreshment, don’t miss Graham’s Fine Chocolates and Ice Cream. Owners Robert and Beckie Untiedt are popular with local residents and tourists because of their gigantic chocolate-covered strawberries and coconut almond ice cream, among other tasty temptations. When I visited on an unseasonably warm winter afternoon, customers were enjoying their ice cream cones on Adirondack chairs plopped in the eatery’s front yard.

It’s a pleasant town to spend a day walking around, because everywhere you look you can see views of the river. Geneva owes its roots to the Fox River, which was formed by the melting of the Great Wisconsin Glacier that once covered the top half of what is now the state of Illinois. The river was the reason settlers first came to the Geneva
area, then known as the Big Spring. French traders and missionaries first came ashore in the early 1830s to trade with the Indians and settle. The city was called LaFox until 1850, when government records were officially changed to Geneva.

Geneva has a strong Swedish influence, due to the fact that when a branch of the Galena and Chicago Union Railroad, which was built in St. Charles, was extended to Geneva, Swedish immigrants began settling there. Chicago was the dispersal point for many of the immigrants from Sweden, and as the Fox Valley area became more populated with the Swedish newcomers, the city even designated a home for those who needed assistance.

Geneva has maintained its historical integrity, which can be witnessed at the Geneva Historical Center, located in Wheeler Park, which contains an interesting collection of rural and small-town artifacts, costumes and furniture.

Although the two towns are located approximately 40 miles west from the busy streets of Chicago and the main streets through town are usually packed with traffic, there is still a quiet, genteel nature to these cities. Despite obvious suburban sprawl surrounding the communities, glimpses of their history can be seen in the form of vintage red barns and farmhouses that dot the roadsides. Once you pass the shopping centers and new construction sites and enter the hearts of these two cities, it’s refreshing to see the
restored downtown areas look much as they did a century ago.

[Penny Zimmerman-Wills]

Part 1

A visit to St. Charles and Geneva

By Penny Zimmerman-Wills

[APRIL 13, 2001]  The phrase "river town" brings to mind bustling, rough-and-tumble spots — places like St. Louis or New Orleans. The river constantly brings new people and new opportunities, then carries them away again. But there is another kind of river town, the kind where the waters offer a bit of tranquillity, an antidote to change. That’s what the little Fox River brings to St. Charles and Geneva, busy Chicago suburbs that nevertheless have managed to hang onto their past. A vibrant downtown, beautiful old homes, vintage red barns and the timeless river all combine to give the towns a restful dignity.

St. Charles, Ill.

  • Population: 22,501

  • Website: www.visitstcharles.com

  • Located on the Fox River, 40 miles west of Chicago

  • Five museums, five downtown parks, 20 antique shops and three golf courses

  • Home to Hotel Baker, built for $1 million in 1927 as one of the finest small hotels in the Midwest. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places.


•  Downtown fine arts show

May 26-27

On the banks of the Fox River

Features a juried fine arts show and children’s area.

•  Fox Rox and Chord on Bluesfest

Aug. 3-5


Features tent sales, store specials, huge craft show and sale, live musical entertainment and children’s activities.

•  16th annual St. Charles Scarecrow Festival

Second weekend of October

Lincoln Park, Main and Fourth streets and citywide

Voted one of the top 100 events in North America last year by the American Bus Association. More than 100 whimsical scarecrow displays, huge juried raft show, live entertainment, children’s activities, carnival, food and more.

•  Kane County Flea Market

The first Sunday of each month and preceding Saturday afternoon. Noon to 5 p.m. Saturday and 7 a.m.- 4 p.m. Sunday.

Main Street and Randall Road, Kane County Fairgrounds

More than 1,000 antique dealers have displays in outdoor and indoor booths. (www2.pair.com/kaneflea/)

•  Night on Broadway at Pheasant Run Resort


4051 E. Main St.

Theater and dinner shows and weekday matinees for large groups.

Geneva, Ill.

  • Population: 12,617

  • Located on the Fox River, 40 miles west of Chicago

  • More than 100 shops

  • Established in 1887





•  Geneva French Market

Hamilton and River Lane

Sundays in May-October

Vendors offer fresh food, flowers and crafts under colorful canopies.

•  Swedish Days

June 19-21

This festival features six days of craft, art, rosemaling displays, music competitions, entertainment, a carnival and parade. Food stands throughout the downtown area offer Swedish and American food.

•  Festival of the Vine

Second full weekend in September

A festival featuring food, music, wine tasting and antique carriage rides.




[Penny Zimmerman-Wills]

[click here for Part 2]

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