I will admit to rolling my eyes during Tim Allen’s “Pure Michigan” commercials. The montage of rivers, pine trees, and bald eagles all seemed a bit forced and overly dramatic.
Well, I was wrong. Michigan is unbelievably beautiful and the rivers, pine trees, and (yes, really) bald eagles we’ve seen
are as pure, wild, and breathtaking as Tim promises. In fact, he might be under selling it.
From Detroit, we shot straight across Michigan, then took our time driving up the coast of Lake Michigan. We explored some of the cutest beach towns, ate our weight in cherries (the local flavor around these parts), visited with a mini cow, and swam in the crystal blue water of the great lake.
On our last day “beneath the bridge” (how Michigan-ers differentiate Michigan’s “mitten” from the Upper Peninsula), we visited Sleeping Bear Dunes, a national lakeshore. Having spent my childhood summers on the Jersey Shore, my idea of dunes are small mounds of sand that separate the beach umbrellas from the ice cream stands. Here, though, shaped by glaciers, unforgiving waters, and harsh winters, the dunes are true mountains of sand, and hiking them is an exhausting and awesome endeavor. After sunset that night, we walked the beach, and the crashing waves and high sand cliffs emphasized that these lakes are indeed “great” and certainly a force to be reckoned with.
Of course, food is also always on the agenda, and this week I was inspired by all the cherry farms and roadside farmers markets we passed. So we grabbed some fruits and veggies and headed to the beach for an afternoon of swimming and lounging. You can’t go wrong with this basic salad, originally based on a recipe by Cookie and Kate. I have tweaked this one a million times, depending on what fruits and cheeses catch my eye.
Beachside Strawberry Salad
a few healthy handfuls of baby spinach
pint of strawberries, hulled and cut into bite sized pieces (or whatever fruit you prefer—we added a pear this time, since we had a ripe one in the van)
blue cheese, crumbled (I also love goat cheese with strawberries)
chickpeas, drained and rinsed
almonds, chopped and toasted
To make the dressing, combine ingredients, and whisk until emulsified. (I always use a plastic tumbler to make salad dressings, since it’s so easy to add the ingredients, shake it all together, and pour over the salad.)
Pull out your salad bowls, add a bed of spinach, and top with the sliced strawberries, chickpeas, toasted almonds, and cheese. Drizzle with dressing and dive in!