Fran’s Favorites: Strawberries and Storybook trails

By Fran DeWine

Even with the rain, this has been a great week to open some of the “Storybook Trails” at our state parks.

Last year we opened four of them, including one of my favorites — close to my home — at John Bryan State Park.

In Ohio we have an incredible number of beautiful and fun state parks — 75! Last year, during COVID, we had more people than ever before visiting our state parks. Being outside at our parks was a safe and healthy thing to do for the whole family.

The Ohio Governor’s Imagination Library partnered with Mary Mertz, director of Ohio Department of Natural Resources, to make “Storybook Trails.” The books were chosen from the Imagination Library books that children are receiving. The trails are half a mile long through the parks. Pages of the books are blown up in panels, and the children walk from page to page and read the book. The books are usually about nature, and on each story board page there is an activity. Sometimes it is about spotting a flower, or looking in a hollow log, or listening for a bird.

At Great Seal State Park near Chillicothe, the inspiration for Ohio’s State Seal, the book chosen was “The First Strawberries,” by Joseph Bruchac. It is a cute Cherokee legend about how the sun created the first strawberries.

So today I thought I would share some of my favorite strawberry recipes. I love to make fresh strawberry pie and strawberry shortcake, but today I thought I would share my recipes for strawberry spinach salad and strawberry pretzel dessert.

Strawberry spinach salad

8 cups torn fresh spinach

2 cups sliced fresh strawberries

3/4 to 1 pound cooked turkey – cut into 1-inch cubes

1 cup fresh broccoli florets


1/2 teaspoon sugar

2 tablespoons orange juice

1 tablespoon vegetable oil

1 tablespoon vinegar

1 teaspoon poppy seeds

1/4 cup pecan halves

In a salad bowl, combine spinach, strawberries, turkey and broccoli. Combine sugar, orange juice, oil, vinegar, and poppy seeds in small glass jar. Cover and shake well. When ready to serve, pour dressing over salad; toss lightly. Sprinkle with pecans. Serves 6.

Aunt Mickey’s strawberry pretzel dessert


2 cups crushed pretzels

3 tablespoons sugar

1 stick melted butter

Mix and spread in 9-inch by 13-inch pan. Bake for 6 minutes at 400 degrees. Cool.


8 ounces cream cheese

1/2 cup sugar

9 ounces Cool Whip

Mix, spread on cooled crust.



1 6-ounce package strawberry jello

2 cups boiling water


2 packages frozen strawberries or 4 to 6 cups fresh strawberries

Chill until partially set. Pour over second layer. Chill.

By Fran DeWine

Ohio First Lady Fran DeWine is a Cedarville resident, Yellow Springs native and guest columnist.

Ohio First Lady Fran DeWine is a Cedarville resident, Yellow Springs native and guest columnist.