Strawberry Rhubarb Crisp

This recipe reminds me of my grandma so much! She had huge rhubarb plants and I remember thinking the leaves were surely something the dinosaurs ate way back when. I also remember her telling me the leaves are toxic but the stems are delicious when cooked. That fun fact fascinated me as kid!

Grandma Sweetie, as I used to call her, came over on Sundays with pies and desserts. She often brought stalks of green rhubarb from her garden and cooked them down with sugar and water. She called it “stewed rhubarb” and I could hardly wait for it to cool before digging into a bowl full. I started eating rhubarb at a young age so I am always delighted to see it as a leading ingredient in spring desserts as an adult. That being said, I know many people who say they don’t like rhubarb and I sure have to wonder what’s not to like!!

 For those people who are more apprehensive about trying rhubarb, this dessert combines two terrific flavor partners, sweet strawberries and tart rhubarb. These two dial up one another in a magical way. The fruit filling is easy to assemble. The topping also comes together simply as long as you use cold butter as directed. To serve this dish successfully, allow it to cool for at least an hour after baking so that the fruit mixture can firm up a bit. Because the moisture content of homegrown strawberries varies tremendously this desert produces a juicy filling. No worries, just serve your portions in a bowl.

 If you want to try an excellent vintage recipe guaranteed to blow your socks off, give this recipe for Strawberry Rhubarb Crisp a try! I know Grandma Sweetie will be smiling.

 Eat well this strawberry season,

Angie

Strawberry Rhubarb Crisp
Fruit Filling:
4 cups fresh rhubarb, sliced in 1-inch pieces
4 cups fresh strawberries, hulled and halved if large
¾ cup granulated sugar
2 tsp. grated orange zest
3 Tbs. cornstarch
½ cup orange juice

 Preheat oven to 350-degrees. Line a metal baking sheet with parchment paper. Butter bottom and sides of an 8-by-11-inch baking dish. Place baking dish on the baking sheet with parchment. Set aside.

 In a large 6-quart bowl, toss rhubarb, strawberries, granulated sugar and orange zest. Set aside. With a fork, stir cornstarch in orange juice until completely dissolved; about 1 minute. Add to the reserved fruit mixture. Mix thoroughly. Pour fruit mixture into the baking dish. Set aside.

Crumb Topping:
1 cup all-purpose flour
½ cup granulated sugar
½ cup light brown sugar, lightly packed
½ tsp. kosher salt
1 cup quick-cooking (not instant) uncooked or dry oatmeal
12 Tbsp. (1 ½ sticks) cold unsalted butter, dice each tablespoon into 4 pieces

 In a 2-quart bowl, mix together flour, granulated and brown sugar, salt and oatmeal. Distribute pieces of cold butter over top of the dry mixture. Using a metal forks, pastry blender or food processor combine butter into the mixture until crumbly. (Take care not to over mix; the mixture should be crumbly.)

 Sprinkle the topping over the fruit, covering it completely. Bake for 60 to 70 minutes or until the topping is golden brown. Allow to cool about 1 hour before serving.  (The crisp will be ‘soupy’ if served too hot.)  Serve warm with Eckert’s vanilla custard if desired.

 Makes 8 to 10 servings.

Eckert's Fresh Strawberry Dressing

I’ve eaten a lot of strawberries in my life which is why I am a self-appointed expert strawberry taster. In all my tasting years, I have to say these are the best I have ever had! Eckert’s strawberries are at their peak this week and they are solid red through the center of the fruit. They also drip like a peach when you take a bite out of one. I can’t believe that after all the ups and downs in temperature and eleven inches of rain in one week that these little jewels are glowing and growing! Maybe that is why everyone around the farm is calling them “miracle strawberries!”

 While my absolute favorite thing to do with strawberries is to slice them and eat them with Eckert’s Frozen Custard, once in a while I get creative with something less geared for my intrinsic sweet tooth. Today, I decided to try a recipe for fresh strawberry dressing for a greens salad. Four cups of pureed berries give this dressing gorgeous red color and the herb oil add something truly unique to the flavor profile. I served it with greens, fresh sliced strawberries, blue cheese and almond slivers. It was so pretty!! I am also planning to experiment with the dressing as a marinade on chicken breast in it sometime soon.

I hope you will come out to Eckert’s this week and taste what I am certain will be the best strawberries of your life!

 Eat well this spring,

Angie

 

Eckert’s Fresh Strawberry Salad Dressing

1 quart or 2 pints or 4 cups (1 ½ pounds) strawberries, stems removed
1 to 2 Tbs. Eckert’s Pure Honey
1/3 cup balsamic vinegar*
1 cup olive oil
¼ cup basil oil**
Kosher salt and pepper
1 Tbs. poppy seeds

 

Using a food processor, add strawberries, 1 tablespoon honey and vinegar. Process about 5 to 10 seconds to puree berries.  Taste and adjust sweetness with the remaining honey.

 With food processor running, slowly add both olive oils. Process about 5 to 10 seconds. Lightly add some salt and pepper; process about 5 seconds. Allow to dressing to sit about 5 minutes. Taste. Adjust seasoning. Add poppy seeds, process 1 to 2 seconds.

 Can be used immediately or cover, date and store in refrigerator.

Makes about 1 cup.

 *Aged or white balsamic vinegar can be substituted.

 **To make your own basil oil, roll 17 to 18 medium leaves or 8 to 10 large fresh basil leaves (cleaned and completely dried) and slice into ribbons. Add to olive oil and allow to marinate for 5 to 10 minutes. Basil oil can be made ahead, covered and refrigerated for 4 to 5 days. Before using allow to sit at room temperature about 5 minutes. The olive oil will turn solid when refrigerated, but returns to a liquid at room temperature. 

Eckert's Strawberry Freezer Jam

Well, I officially have more berries than your average strawberry eater knows what to do with, however, I am not your average berry eater!! The kids have been picking like mad now that the sun has been shining for several days over Eckert’s Farms so I am ready to make my first batch of Eckert’s Strawberry Freezer Jam.

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I will share some straight forward techniques in this post in case it is your first time making freezer jam. But let me first admit, I am not an expert canner! And in fact that is why I love freezer jam. Since we are storing the jam in the freezer (not at room temperature), there are no sterilizing/scalding steps involved, nor do you need to worry about sealing the jar. Instead, we will be using clean, freezer safe jars or containers. Truly, this recipe and technique is great for beginner cooks and hurried cooks like me.

 Start by selecting freezer safe jars. Many brands will note on the packaging which ones are safe for the freezer. In general, they are jars with straight sides as opposed to jars that taper at the top. Next, clean the jars in the dishwasher or with soap and water and dry completely. Labels the jars with the date and jam’s name. Then, clean and completely dry your strawberries. I like to put washed berries on a paper towel-lined rimmed baking sheet. I shake the berries gently and set them aside for 20 minutes or so to let them dry fully.

 Next, remove the green tops and place your berries in a flat-bottomed dish and crush with meat or potato chopper. You will need 1-2 quarts of fresh-picked berries to make 4 cups of crushed strawberries. Kitchen alert: Your house will smell amazing during this step!!

 Then you are all set to follow the directions below or those found on the packet of Mrs. Wages No-cook Freezer Jam. In my house, we use freezer jam as frozen custard topping, waffle topping and we like to stir it into plain yogurt. This pectin packet also works with other fruits like blackberries and peaches. Give this recipe a try next time you have some extra fruit on hand and let me know what you like serve with it!

 Eat well this strawberry season,

Angie

 Strawberry Freezer Jam

INGREDIENTS(as stated on the packet)
4 level cups of crushed Eckert’s Strawberries (do not over fill the measuring cup)
1 Mrs. Wages™ No Cook Freezer Jam packet (1.59 oz)
1 ½ cups granulated sugar – level measure with straight edge

EQUIPMENT
2 quart flat-bottomed dish or bowl
5 clean 8-ounce freezer jars (other freezer safe containers may be substituted)
5 lid flats
metal canning rings
Meat chopper or potato masher
Large bowl
Large spoon or ladle

 Wash jars and lids in hot soapy water; rinse well. Or clean in a dishwasher. (No need to boil water to scald any of the equipment). Mix crushed berries, sugar and the pouch of no cook fruit pectin for about 3 minutes. Spoon or ladle the “jam” into jars or containers, being sure to leave ½ inch of space from the top of the jar to allow for expansion during the freezing process. Use a damp cloth or paper towel to wrap off any jam that is on the jar top or the sides. Place lid flat on jar. Add ring and twist to secure lid.  Let stand at room temperature 30 minutes to thicken jam. Jam can be stored in the freezer for up to one year or used from the refrigerator within 5 days.

Makes: 5 cups or 5 8oz jars

 

Fresh Strawberry Cookie

In spite of the cold and rainy days we have experienced over the past two weeks, Eckert’s strawberry plants are holding their own on the farm. Thankfully our healthy and resilient plants are loaded with ripe strawberries and we are kicking off the pick your own season on our Belleville farm this week (and very soon on our Kentucky farm).

 This week, my kids have been bravely venturing out in the rain on the golf cart with boots on and buckets in hand in search of freshly rain-washed strawberries. Last night they picked some of the most gorgeous berries I have seen so far and we decided to toss together a simple dessert. This recipe reminds me of fruit pizza I made years ago. The cream cheese spread tastes yummy with just about any kind of fruit so you can get creative as the seasons change. If you like a little shine to your fruit, you can heat up a little Eckert’s Apple Cinnamon Jelly for 30-60 seconds in the microwave and drizzle it on top of the fruit.

 If you are looking for a pretty dessert for your next shower or gathering or to add a little excitement to your dinner plan, this recipe is a winner! It is easy to assemble and downright beautiful!!

Eat well this Strawberry Season,

Angie

 Fresh Strawberry Cookie

10 to 12 baked (unfrosted) Eckert’s Sugar Cookies (about 3-inches)
8 ounces regular cream cheese, softened
1/3 cup granulated sugar or vanilla bean sugar*
About 4 cups fresh strawberries, sliced
¼ cup Eckert’s Apple Cinnamon Jelly (optional for glaze) 

Combine cream cheese and sugar in a small bowl. (Cream mixture can be covered and refrigerated for 3 days.) If refrigerated allow mixture to set out about 30 to 45 minutes before spreading on cookies. About 30 minutes before serving, spread mixture evenly over top of cookies. Arrange fruit on topping. If desired, heat jelly in a small glass bowl for 30-60 seconds in the microwave and drizzle on fruit. Serve within 1 hour.

 *Note: To make your own vanilla bean sugar, half a vanilla bean pod. Place pods in an airtight container and fill with 2 cups granulated sugar. Seal with lid. In about 2 weeks, the sugar will be ready to use. Shelf life is 8 to 9 months. 

Fresh Strawberry & Custard Parfaits

As usual, strawberry season is off to a bashful start at our Belleville and Versailles farms! Just when we start seeing ripe berries in the field, Mother Nature sends a series of cool and rainy days our way. And even my nine year old knows “that can’t be good for the strawberries!” He knows our whole Eckert’s team is itching to open for our first pick-your-own crop of the year and as a self-appointed crop scout, he also knows there are lots of green berries in the field awaiting direct connection with the sun.

 So while we wait for sunnier days ahead, I did manage to find a few ripe berries this week and sneak off into our classroom test kitchen. This is for sure the prettiest recipe I have made all year! I am going to make these Fresh Strawberry & Custard Parfaits again for Mother’s Day because I know they will be a hit with kids, moms and dads alike at our family’s celebration. The meringues can be made a day or two ahead and the recipe completely reminds me of my grandma’s recipe for nighty night cookies. You bake the meringues at a low temperature. Then you turn off the oven and let them “sleep” in the oven overnight. My daughter is all over making this part of the recipe for me so I will have it easy there!

 The custard layer in this recipe is a classic custard recipe. It is similar to cream pie filling that I make for coconut cream. This step is somewhat time and attention-consuming and as I stirred, I heard my grandma saying in my ear that I just have to have patience and stir it for the full 10-12 minutes. (No toggling your phone or texting, stay focused here!)

 Then the final step is a little like assembling a lasagna. Be sure to select the prettiest glasses you have to show off the colorful layers. These parfaits can be made in large servings or even in 4 oz jam jars for mini desserts. Whatever size you choose, they are guaranteed to be a sweet sensation!


Eat well this strawberry season, Angie

 

Strawberry & Meringue Parfaits

For meringues:
4 egg whites, reserve yolks
1 tsp. cream of tartar
1 tsp. almond extract
¼ cup granulated sugar

For custard:
1 1/2 cup granulated sugar
¼ cup cornstarch
4 egg yolks
3 cups half and half
¼ cup butter
2 tsp. vanilla extract
1 quart fresh strawberries, sliced

 Preheat oven to 200 degrees. Beat egg whites at medium speed with an electric mixture until foaming. Add cream of tartar and almond extract and beat until blended. Gradually add sugar beating until stiff peaks form. Using two metal spoons, evenly drop the meringue mixture onto a parchment lined cookie sheet in 18 similar size “drops.” Bake meringues for 2 hours without opening the door. Then turn off the oven and let stand in the oven for 8 hours more. (Meringues can be made up to 2 days ahead and stored in an airtight container.)

 To make the custard, combine 1 ½ cups sugar and cornstarch in a large saucepan over medium heat. Gradually whisk in egg yolks and half and half; cook milk mixture, whisking often, 10-12 minutes or until thickened*. Increase heat to medium high. Bring milk mixture to a boil and stir constantly for 1 minute.  Remove mixture from the heat and stir in butter and vanilla extract. Cover and chill 6-24 hours. Spoon half of custard into 6 glasses or parfait dishes. Top with half of sliced strawberries and three meringues. Repeat layers two more times for a total of 3 layers of each ingredient. End with one meringue on top.

 *This is a critical step and full attention is needed for the full 12 minutes. Stir often and be sure to the bottom and sides of the pan to prevent browning. 

Eckert’s Italian Sausage and Asparagus Cream Pasta

It's asparagus season in the Midwest and I am eagerly digging through my files of asparagus recipes. I came across this one and decided it just had to be dinner this week.

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 On the Belleville farm, we are in the midst of preparing 5 acres of ground for our first ever asparagus plantings. Although it will take about 3 years to get a sizable crop of asparagus spears, I am already excited to the moon and back because it is my favorite spring veggie!!

 Asparagus is a perennial plant which means, once it is established, it will produce for us indefinitely. Our farm guys will be learning a lot as they plant the first roots next week. I am sure we will be sharing video and shots on Instagram soon, so stay tuned!!

 Back in my kitchen, I decided to bring fresh asparagus, pasta and Eckert's sausage together. I started by choosing a cone-shaped pasta called Gigli (also called Campanelle) because its ruffled edges hold thick sauces so well. Other pasta choices worth substituting are fusilli or farfalle. Gigli is a fun one to use if you can find it, because of its story (of course it is available at Eckert's Country Store in Belleville). Gigli is shaped like a lily which is the symbol of Florence where this pasta is made. (cool huh?)

 This recipe is fairly simple and it really allows the flavors of the sausage and asparagus to stand out in a basic white cream sauce. Be careful not to overcook the asparagus or it really loses its nice texture and snap. When making this recipe, I used Sauvignon Blanc, a dry white wine. Sauvignon Blanc is one of my favorite white wines when the temperatures warm up and it compliments spring vegetables perfectly.

 I hope you will give this recipe a try the next time you pick up some fresh asparagus and be sure to check out our asparagus planting progress at Eckert's soon on social media!

Eat well this spring, Angie

Eckert’s Italian Sausage and Asparagus Cream Pasta

1 pound Gigli or Penne uncooked pasta
1 pound hot or mild fresh Italian sausage, casings removed and meat crumbled
1 Tbsp. olive oil
½ to ¾ cup frozen chopped onion, slightly defrosted
1 garlic clove, minced
½ tsp. red pepper flakes, optional
1/3 cup dry white wine
¾ cup low-sodium chicken broth
1 cup plus 2 Tbsp. heavy cream
2 to 3 cups fresh asparagus, trimmed and cut into ¾-inch pieces
¾ to 1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
Salt and Pepper to taste

Boil water and prepare pasta according to package directions.

Brown sausage in a 12-inch skillet over medium heat until lightly browned, about 6 to 8 minutes. Transfer sausage to plate.

 In the skillet, add oil and heat over medium heat until oil is shimmering. Add onion and cook until softened about 4 to 5 minutes. Add garlic and pepper flakes and cook about 1 minute. Add wine and simmer until almost evaporated, 2 to 3 minutes.

 Increase heat to medium high, add broth and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low; add 1 cup cream and asparagus pieces. Simmer for 4 to 6 minutes* or until asparagus is slightly tender, but firm and sauce is slightly thickened. Mix in sausage and grated cheese; continue to cook 1 to 2 minutes; season with salt and pepper.

 Place cooked pasta and cream sauce in a large warm serving bowl. Toss with the remaining 2 tablespoons cream. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Makes 6 to 8 servings.

 * exact cook time may vary based on thickness of asparagus

 

Sweet Cherry Mojo Sauce (for Ham)

Easter is around the corner and I have a fun twist for your traditional holiday ham to share! Mojo sauce is a classic sauce in Cuban cooking that uses garlic, olive oil (or lard) and citrus. And since Chris’ parents were in Cuba earlier this year, I think this sauce will be a fun addition to the Eckert family Easter table!!

Mojo sauces are used as marinades for meat, most commonly pork, or they are served as condiments for vegetables or breads.  In this version, we have added Eckert’s honey and sweet dark cherries to sweeten up our sauce and add texture. A little heat infuses the oil with intense garlic flavor making it an amazing topping for ham! You will want to taste your version and doctor the sweetness and acidity to meet your preferences.

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We recently served this sauce in a wine class in mini bowls with crostini and goat cheese and we paired it with Velvet Devil Merlot by Charles Smith Wines. It was so well received we decided to taste it with ham this week and it was just incredible. If you are looking for a way to put an International spin on your holiday ham, give this Sweet Cherry Mojo Sauce a try!

Eat well this Easter, Angie

Sweet Cherry Mojo Sauce (for Ham)

16 garlic cloves, peeled and very thinly sliced lengthwise
1 cup onion, finely slivered (1 medium)
1 tsp. ground cumin
1 tsp. salt, divided
1 cup olive oil
1 ½-2 cups frozen Nature Blessed sweet dark cherries, defrosted*
1-2 cups fresh orange juice, divided (from 3 or 4 oranges)
Reserve zest from 1 orange, finely mince
½ cup fresh lime juice (from 2 or 3 limes)
Reserve zest from 1 lime, finely mince
1 Tbsp. white wine vinegar
2-3 Tbsp. Eckert’s Pure Honey

In a medium bowl, combine garlic, onion, cumin, ½ teaspoon salt. Set aside.

Heat olive oil in a medium sauce pan over low heat. Add onion mixture and cook about until softened, 10 to 15 minutes. Stir occasionally.

*In a microwave proof 1-quart bowl add cherries; microwave on high heat about 2 minutes; stir. Microwave another 1 to 2 minutes until fully defrosted. Cut each cherry in half. Set aside.

Add 1 cup orange juice, lime juice, orange and lime zest, and vinegar to onion mixture. Over low heat, cook another 10 minutes for flavors to blend. Add dark cherries. Stir in honey and ½ teaspoon salt to taste and cook 4 to 5 minutes stirring occasionally. Taste, adding additional honey as needed for sweetness. Add tablespoons of reserved orange juice to balance the flavor. (You may not use all the orange juice.) Remaining orange juice can be added to the ham roasting pan. 

Serve as a side condiment to warm ham.

Makes about 3 cups of sauce.  Sauce can be make 3 or 4 days ahead of time. Pour sauce in 1-quart canning jar, cover and refrigerate. Heat thorough before serving. 

Mexican Crustless Quiche

A few weeks ago, I hosted a breakfast for a dear friend and her new baby boy! I needed an easy dish that would feed a group of 12 so I pulled out an old favorite called Mexican Crustless Quiche. I forgot how much I love this crustless dish! In fact, I am going to make it again for Easter since it came together so easily and it was enthusiastically received.

I have learned a new kitchen hack with cottage cheese. I love to puree it in my food processor to create a smooth texture. The resulting smooth cheese is more similar to ricotta cheese making it great for quiches and lasagnas!

The combination of cottage cheese and shredded cheese gives this dish its intense cheesy flavor while Nature’s Blessed white corn adds texture and a hint of sweetness. I tossed in sweet pepper and green onion in this version but I have also swapped the corn, pepper and onions with other veggies and sometimes I toss in a half a pound of browned Eckert’s sausage (FYI pork sausage and mushrooms make a tasty combination).

I don’t think you will have many left-overs but just in case you do, this dish reheat well too. I hope you will give this recipe a try for your next breakfast or brunch celebration! Easter is around the corner, what are you serving?

Eat well this spring,

Angie

Mexican Crustless Quiche
1 ½ cups Nature Blessed super sweet white corn kernels, defrosted*
2 cups (16 ounces) cottage cheese, pureed**
12 large eggs
¼ cup all-purpose flour
¼ tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
½ tsp. ground black pepper
1 large bell pepper any color, small diced (about 1 cup)
4 spring top and bottom green onions (scallions), small diced (about ¾ cup)
1 lb. Mexican style grated cheese blend (about 4 cups)
About 2 cups Eckert’s Fresh Tomato Salsa

Preheat oven to 350-degrees. Butter a 9 x 13-inch baking dish.  In a large mixing bowl, beat eggs about 1 minute with electric mixer or large wire whisk until well blended. Mix in pureed cottage cheese.
In a small bowl, combine flour, baking powder, salt and pepper.  By hand, using a large mixing spoon, fold flour mixture to eggs mixture until well blended.
Add bell pepper, green onions and corn; stir to combine.  Mix in grated cheese. Pour mixture into butter baking dish. Bake for 40 to 45 minutes or until center slightly firm and top is golden brown.
Allow to set about 5 to 6 minutes before cutting into 8 to 10 pieces. Serve with Eckert’s Fresh Tomato Salsa on side.
*In a microwave proof 1-quart bowl add corn, microwave on high about 1 minute; stir. Microwave about another minute until slightly defrosted. Set aside.
**Using food processor or immersion blender, puree cottage cheese until smooth about 30 -40 seconds. Set aside.
This recipe may be made the night before; refrigerated and bake the next day. Bake about 5 to 10 minutes longer.

Make 8 to 10 servings

Fresh Chive Cheese Drop Biscuits
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I couldn’t wait to get my hands in the dirt this week after our second delivery of herbs arrived from Kaiser Hill Farms. We have been working with Kaiser Hill for more than 10 years now and they are just terrific! Mark and Beth grow our custom herb selections in their greenhouses located in New Haven, Missouri. They are terrific herb growers and dog lovers so we hit it off from the very start!

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We have 40+ kinds of herbs in our greenhouse in Belleville which made it a little challenging to narrow down the choices for my first planter. Chives are a must have herb for me though! After a little herb inspiration, I couldn’t wait to get into the kitchen to cook something with herbs.

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Our classroom staff made this recipe for Fresh Chive Cheese Drop Biscuits in a recent cooking class. It was an instant hit with men and women alike. As you might guess, the fellas did prefer the version with bacon. Even though we baked a few extra biscuits, there was not a crumb to be found by the end of class.

Since baking requires exacting techniques, Lana, our culinary instructor, shared hers with the students:

1.       Fluff your flour with a fork or spoon before measuring.
2.       Check the dates on your baking powder and baking soda to make sure they will produce           the desired leavening.
3.       Be sure to use cold butter.
4.       Don’t substitute anything else for the buttermilk.

 After the class Lana and I were discussing how versatile this recipe is! You can try it with many different herbs and experiment with your favorite cheese. I am sure we will be making this again soon for the classroom or in our home kitchens. Wouldn’t these be great for Easter Brunch??

Eat well this Spring,

Angie

 Fresh Chive Cheese Drop Biscuits

2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour, stirred before measuring
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder (check expiration date)
3/4 teaspoon baking soda (check expiration date)
2 teaspoons granulated sugar
1 teaspoon regular table salt
6 tablespoons (3/4 cup) cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2 inch cubes
4 ounces (1 1/2 cups) large-hole grated aged sharp cheddar cheese, slightly packed (For example: 1833 Barber's - England)
1/2 cup fresh onion or garlic chives, washed, patted dry and snipped
1 1/4 cups cold buttermilk, well-shaken before measuring

Preheat oven to 425°F.

Whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, sugar and salt in a medium mixing bowl.  Cut in cold butter with pastry blender until mixture is like coarse meal.  (You may see tiny pieces of the butter).  Gently stir in cheese and chives.  Add buttermilk and stir until just combined, about 1 to 1 1/2 minutes.  Do not over stir.

Drop dough in 12 equal mounds about 2 inches apart onto a parchment-lined or greased shiny baking sheet.  Bake in middle of oven until golden brown about 12 to 15 minutes.  Remove from baking sheet to cool slightly before serving.  Serve hot with Amish butter and an Eckert's savory jam of choice.  You may need 2 baking sheets since these biscuits are so large.

Another herb combination:  1/2 cup fresh snipped dill fronds (no stems or seeds) and 3 slices cooked Eckert's bacon finely chopped; reduce salt to 1/2 teaspoon.

Makes 12 (3 inch) biscuits.

Note:  Any biscuits remaining have the best taste and texture, when split in half and toasted.  Serve warm.  A smaller biscuit size can be made.  Baking time will be slightly reduced.

Herb Marinated Mozzarella

Planting season is just getting started at Eckert’s Garden Center in Belleville and our team couldn’t be more excited. Plants are arriving daily and our staff and I can’t wait to share our passion for plants with our guests!! This weekend we have two fairy gardening classes and a cooking class featuring herbs. With longer days and warm weather on the way, I simply cannot contain my plant enthusiasm!!

My senses went into overdrive when I saw all the herb plants in our greenhouse. I just had to make this recipe for Herb Marinated Mozzarella. It is a highly adaptable recipe and it’s fun to experiment with different combinations of your favorite herbs. The recipe begins by infusing the oil over low heat with fresh cut herbs. After the herb oil has cooled, it can be poured over the mozzarella. A period of time in the frig allows the bright herb flavors to infuse the mozzarella. This is a nice appetizer or side dish for pasta night and a great way to show off your herb growing skills!

Eat well this spring! Angie

Herb Marinated Mozzarella

1 Tbs. chopped fresh chives
1 Tbs. chopped fresh thyme
2 tsp. chopped fresh rosemary
1/4 tsp. crushed red pepper
2 cloves of garlic, smashed
3 strips of lemon zest, about 1” long
1 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 8oz ball of fresh mozzarella

Combine first 7 ingredients in a small pot over low heat. Cook 20 minutes, turn off the heat. Let oil mixture come to room temperature in the pot.

Slice cheese into 1/4” thick slices. Pour about 1/4 cup of the oil into an 8 x 8 or 9 x 9 glass or ceramic dish. Place cheese rounds in dish in a single layer. Pour another 1/4 cup of oil on top of slices. Repeat with another layer of cheese. Pour all remaining oil on top of the second layer of cheese. Cover pan and refrigerate 8-24 hours. Serve cheese with crusty bread. Reserve remaining oil for brushing on chicken before baking or tossing on cooked pasta or steamed vegetables.

 

Spanish Rice with Salsa Rose

This cold spell has sent my kitchen into a tail spin! Ella and I tend to cook when we are worried so when we saw the forecasted temperatures in the teens we fired up the oven and started baking. In the past five days, we have made chocolate chip cookies, brownies, beef brisket, pizzas, pasta, pancakes and Spanish rice! If we can’t control the weather, we might as well eat good food, don’t you agree?!

A couple of nights ago we had Taco Tuesday on Wednesday and thanks to the Lego movie, my kids think that is so much fun. Our taco night consisted of bowls of Eckert’s homemade salsa, Eckert’s taco dip, Eckert’s hydroponic lettuce and freshly grated Mammoth Cheddar. I removed Eckert’s chorizo from the casing before browning it in a skillet and serving it along with this recipe for Spanish Rice with Salsa Rose. We enjoyed this comforting meal around the dinner table while overlooking a frosty orchard.

The big hit of Taco Tuesday was my newly concocted Spanish Rice recipe. I love the Salsa Rose products from the folks at Reinneck Ranch because they are delicious and LOCAL! The owners of Reinneck Ranch live in Mascoutah, Illinois and they are always a pleasure to work with. Recently they sampled their salsas at our Wine and Food Festival and as usual, they sold their shelf clean.

I thought it would be fun to experiment with their salsa in a rice dish and now I know, I will never buy the packages of instant Spanish rice again. This dish gets it savory flavor from the onions and garlic and a hint of sweetness from the salsa. My kids topped off their plates with shredded cheese before eating their body weight in rice. Yes, I will be making this recipe again very soon.

Fingers are crossed these temperatures won’t harm the peach crop. In the meantime, I will keep my apron on and my oven full.

 Eat well this winter,

Angie

Spanish Rice with Salsa Rose

 2 Tbs. canola oil
½ white onion, chopped (about ¾ cup)
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 cups white rice (I used Basmati)
3 cups water
¾ cup Mild Salsa Rose

 Add oil to 10” skillet over medium heat. Heat until shimmering. Add onion and sauté for 5 minutes. Add garlic and saute for 2 more minutes. Add rice and stir constantly for 2 minutes. Pour in salsa and water. Cover and simmer for 20 minutes or until rice is done and liquid is fully absorbed. Makes 8-10 servings (or only 6 if you have rice lovers).

 

Baked Havarti with Apple Slices

If you are looking for a delicious appetizer to pair with an ice cold glass of local beer, here ya go! I love this simple appetizer and it is on my mind as we assign tasting tables to all the breweries that will be attending our biggest and best Wine and Food Festival this weekend!! The weather looks perfect and our outdoor seating area is already calling my name. CLICK HERE for more details..

Just a couple nights ago, Chris’ parents were over for an impromptu happy hour and I served up this baked Havarti. It was simple to toss together in a matter of minutes and the apple slice tie-in is fun and different.

Eckert’s pie shells are thin and flakey adding just the right amount of dough to this recipe. You can get creative with your own favorite mustard. I had a hard time deciding between Eckert’s Honey Mustard, Eckert’s Horseradish Mustard and Eckert’s Hot and Sharp Mustard. I really think they all would be delicious choices. Shine up your presentation with a little brushed egg (you could also use milk) and a sprinkling of poppy or sesame seeds. It is important to bake the cheese in a small dish with sides. I used a 3 cup oven-safe container but anything small will work. The cheese will run and ooze out of the pie crust but that is what I like most of all.

We will be sampling our baked Havarti recipe this weekend. Come on by the festival and give it a try!

Cheers, Angie

Baked Havarti with Apple Slices

1 Eckert’s frozen pie shell (9”)
8 oz. block Havarti cheese
1 1/2 Tbs. Eckert’s Hot & Sharp German Mustard
1 egg, beaten
½ Tbs. poppy seeds
apple slices for serving
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Place the frozen pie shell on a cutting board or flat surface. Allow shell to thaw at room temperature for 15 minutes. Spread mustard in the center of the shell. Top with block of Havarti cheese. Make four cuts (about 4 inches in length) around the edges of the pie shell towards the center. Pull outside edges of pie shell up and towards the center of the cheese, pinch dough shut over the top of the cheese. Once edges are well sealed, brush outside of dough with egg, sprinkle with poppy seeds and place in a small baking dish*. Bake 20 minutes or until dough is golden brown. Rest five minutes before serving with apple slices.

 *Note: The baking dish must be a snug fit to prevent the cheese from running outside of the pie shell. I used an 3 cup Pyrex container (7” x 5” approximately).

Chef Lou's Blue Cheese Zinfandel Butter

Eckert’s Wine and Food Festival is approaching quickly and I am getting more excited by the day because we are going to have more tasting opportunities than ever before! Click here for details

At last year’s festival, it was a thrill to have the acclaimed Chef Lou Rook from Annie Gunn’s in Chesterfield, Missouri as our guest chef. Chef Lou shared recipes in our cooking classroom and signed copies of his cookbook called Rook Cooks, Simplicity at its Finest. This recipe is called Domestic Blue Cheese Zinfandel Butter in the cookbook and it can be found on page 141.

This week, we made Chef’s butter recipe and decided to freeze it for tasting during this year’s festival. This recipe is packed with interesting flavors and would make a great topping for grilled steaks, hot pasta and fresh bakery bread. After whirling some up, we decided to serve it on toasted bread with sautéed mushrooms and a slice of cured sausage. Wow, was it delicious! Needless to say, our demo samples only lasted a couple minutes as the store staff gobbled them all up!

This recipe comes together quite easily using a couple of tips from Chef Lou. First of all, take your time cooking the shallots and garlic over medium to low heat. The wine is used to deglaze the pan and capture the flavors that adhere to the skillet. Next, it is a slow reduction process to thicken the wine adding more richness to the butter. After cooling the wine mixture and combining it with the butter, we tasted it before adding small amounts of salt and pepper. I remember Chef saying “salt is not a flavor, it is a flavor enhancer.” He cautioned the crowd to use salt sparingly and to let the natural flavors be predominant. After the butter was seasoned to our liking, we placed it on waxed paper and rolled it into a log before placing it in an air tight container. This butter can be refrigerated or frozen for future use. In our case, we will be freezing it for a couple weeks. 

Chef Lou’s Blue Cheese Zinfandel Butter is truly a WOW recipe. It is exploding with flavors that will instantly add complexity to grilled meats, pastas and more. Give it a try when you are looking to add a gourmet twist to your next dish. Please consider this an official invitation for you to come to Eckert’s and taste it for yourself during our Wine and Food Festival!

Cheers, Angie 

Chef Lou's Blue Cheese Zinfandel Butter

1 Tbs. minced shallots
1 Tbs. minced garlic
1 stick plus 2 Tbs. unsalted whole butter, room temperature and cubed
2 tsp. honey
¼ cup red zinfandel
1 cup crumbled blue cheese
1 Tbs. minced chives
1 Tbs. minced Italian parsley
Kosher salt, to taste
Peppermill, to taste

In a medium sauté pan, sauté the shallots and garlic in the 2 Tbs. butter over medium heat until they are lightly toasted.Add the honey to the pan, then deglaze with Zinfandel. Reduce wine by three quarters and allow to cool at room temperature or in the refrigerator. When the reduction has cooled, combine the stick of butter, blue cheese and the reduction in a food processor or blender. Blend on medium speed for 2 to 3 minutes.Finish the butter with chives, parsley, salt and pepper. Blend until incorporated, about 1 minute

Melted Manchego Cheese, Rosemary and Honey Wedges

We are less than a month away from one of my favorite events here at Eckert’s, our annual Wine and Food Festival!! This year’s festival will be held on March 4 & 5th, 2017 in our Country Store in Belleville from 12-6pm. I am excited to announce our new partnerships that will make our festival bigger and better than ever!!!

First of all, we will be sharing $5 from each wine/beer tasting arm band sale with Belleville’s Art on the Square. We are thrilled to be supporting Art on the Square’s youth outreach programs with proceeds from our event. We are also partnering with Angela Ortmann, St. Louis’ very own “wine girl.” Angela will be at Eckert’s both days of the Festival to interact with wine tasters and share her robust wine knowledge. In addition to our wine tasting tables featuring more than 40 wines, we will also have beer from local breweries. Local vendors including Salsa Rose, Thompson Farms, Ropp Dairy and more! Click HERE to learn more about tickets to our wine festival.

All of this event preparation has me daydreaming about wine friendly food! So, when it was time to select a recipe for my next Show Me St. Louis episode on KSDK, coming up February 16th, this recipe for Melted Manchego Cheese, Rosemary and Honey Wedges instantly came to mind. It is a nice and light bite to pair with a variety of dry whites or light bodied red wines. The honey can be dialed up or down according to taste and wine preference. It also features, a personal favorite of mine, Manchego cheese! Aged Manchego is a spectacular cheese for pairing with dry red wine and it can be sliced with a potato peeler to create small shavings that are packed with flavor.

In addition to all the wine and beer being served during our Wine and Food Festival, Eckert’s culinary educators will be sampling a variety of wine friendly foods and sharing tips on how to create a cheese board for pairing with wine and beer. Come taste this recipe for yourself by stopping by our classroom during our 7th Annual Wine and Food Festival. I look forward to seeing you there!!

Cheers! Angie

Melted Manchego Cheese, Rosemary and Honey Wedges

1 Eckert's pizza round, defrosted
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
6 ounces Manchego or another semi hard cheese,* cut into curls with vegetable peeler or cheese plane
1 to 2 tablespoons fresh rosemary leaves, chopped
2 to 3 tablespoons pure honey

Preheat oven to 375°F.  Place pizza crust on parchment-lined baking sheet.  Brush pizza crust with olive oil.  Bake about 6 to 8 minutes or until lightly browned.

Arrange cheese on the top and return baking pan to the oven.  Bake about 5 minutes or until cheese is melted.

Sprinkle melted cheese with rosemary.  Drizzle honey over crust.  Cut into wedges.

Makes appetizers for 4 to 6.

*Marisa, Dry Jack, Gruyere are other cheese examples

Super Chicken, Apple & Butternut Stew

I rediscovered this recipe when I was sorting through my old Cooking Light magazines and I was thrilled to find it because it will be a perfect fit for my Super Bowl gathering! I love the idea of a yummy chicken stew to go with all the typical party appetizers and I think it will pair perfectly with beer as well.

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I also love that I can use Eckert’s cider, homegrown butternut squash and Granny Smith apples to put a local spin on this recipe. Lana and I tested the recipe in our cooking classroom to make sure all the cook times were accurate and they were, so we really didn’t change Cooking Light’s recipe version much. I did switch to chicken breast instead of thighs because our chicken breast is excellent at Eckert’s and knew it would be able to handle the heat without getting tough.

This stew is perfect comfort food for game day or cold winter nights. It is hearty enough to stand on its own or it can be a nice compliment to appetizers when served in mini jam jars or mini bowls. Whichever team you are cheering on this weekend, I hope you will consider this recipe for your game day fixins’!

Eat well this winter,

Angie

Super Chicken, Apple & Butternut Stew
2 lb. boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into 1” pieces
1 ¼ tsp. kosher salt, divided
1 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
2 Tbs. olive oil, divided
1 ½ cups chopped yellow onion
2 Tbs. fresh sage or 1 Tbs. dried sage
1 Tbs. peeled and minced fresh ginger
3 cups peeled and cubed butternut squash
1 cup peeled and diced parsnip
3 Tbs. all-purpose flour
1 ½ cup Eckert’s apple cider
1 ½ cup chicken stock
2 cups chopped Granny Smith apples

 

Sprinkle chicken with ½ teaspoon of salt and ¼ teaspoon of pepper. Heat 4 quart Dutch oven over medium high heat. Add 1 tablespoon oil to pan; swirl to coat. Add half of chicken to pan; saute 6 minutes or until browned. Remove chicken from pan. Repeat procedure with remaining chicken.

 Reduce heat to medium; add remaining 1 tablespoon oil to pan. Add onion, sage and ginger; cook 2 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add squash and parsnip; cook 2 minutes, stirring occasionally. Sprinkle vegetables with flour; cook 1 minute, stirring occasionally. Stir in cider and stock, scraping pan to loose browned bits. Stir in chicken, remaining ¾ teaspoon pepper; bring to a simmer. Reduce heat, partially cover, and simmer 25 minutes. Stir in apple; cook 5 minutes. Serves 6.

 Recipe adapted from Cooking Light Magazine November 2015

 

Meatloaf Italiano

Now that I am a parent of two busy pre-teens, I find myself in sheer amazement that my mom made dinner for three kids almost every night while we were growing up. And that she found a way for us to eat around the table on a regular basis in spite of all of our activities. That was my normal!

In today’s busy world, I am sure you agree, it is increasingly difficult to juggle kid activities, full work days and putting a good dinner on the table. I love to spend time cooking in the evenings while the kids work on homework but sometimes I just need a quick and easy recipe so we can get back out the door. This recipe for Meatloaf Italiano is an answer to that call and it happens to be one from my childhood.

My mom made Meatloaf Italiano for us regularly and when she brought me a dish of it a few weeks back (after inhaling it!), my mind went spiraling back to the dinner table in my childhood home! I hadn’t eaten this recipe in years but now it is going to be at the top of my “speed dinner” list because it so easy to make and oh so good. My mom formerly used bread crumbs when she made but she recently tried it with oatmeal and found that oatmeal works even better and makes the recipe gluten-free.

I am going to have to start doubling this recipe for my family because I am sure it makes great leftovers but I have yet to find out! Every morsel of this meatloaf is devoured every time I make it. I hope you will give this recipe a try soon and let me know what you think! 

Eat well this winter,

Angie

NOTE:
Eckert’s Country Store will be featuring Ground Beef for $2.99 on Fridays in February 2017! Come on in and take advantage of this great promotion!!

Meatloaf Italiano
¼ cup finely chopped onion
2 Tbs. butter
½ cup oatmeal (regular or quick cook) or breadcrumbs
½ cup beef bouillon
1 lb. ground beef
1 Tbs. chopped parsley
3 Tbs. freshly grated parmesan cheese
1 egg, slightly beaten
1 tsp. salt
¼ tsp. pepper
8 oz. marinara sauce
1 tsp. oregano

Sauté onions in butter until tender. In a large bowl, combine oatmeal and bouillon. Add all but the last two ingredients. Mix lightly until well blended. Shape into a loaf and place in a shallow baking pan. Bake at 375 degrees for 30 minutes. Pour sauce over top and sprinkle with oregano. Bake 30 minutes longer.

Recipe from Angie’s Mom, Janet

Hamburger Pie Pockets
Hamburger-Pie-Pockets

National Pie Day is coming up soon and I can’t wait to celebrate with all kinds of pie…. sweet and savory! This recipe for Hamburger Pie Pockets is a kid-favorite in Eckert’s Cooking Classroom. Kids love the familiar flavors and the opportunity to make their own masterpiece. Hamburger, ketchup and corn makes a yummy filling for our flaky humble pie dough. If you can’t swing by Eckert’s to get our 6” round pie dough pieces, substitute homemade or regular-sized pie crust. I made these pie pockets this week on Show Me St. Louis at KSDK Channel 5. They are a perfect finger food for National Pie Day or for your upcoming Super Bowl party.

What is your plan for National Pie Day? Will you be making a pie or pie pockets or will you take advantage of our best pie deal of the year at Eckert’s Country Store? On Monday, January 23, 2017, Eckert’s Bakery will be offering all pies “Buy 1 Get 1 FREE.” Call today to place your order 618-233-0513 x 2!

Eat well this winter,

Angie

Pie-Pocket-Ingredients
Placing-Ingredients
Crimping-With-A-Fork

Hamburger Pie Pockets

3/4 lb hamburger, browned
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon granulated garlic
3 tablespoons ketchup
1/3 cup frozen corn, thawed & drained                                                                                        
1 egg
4 Eckert’s frozen humble pie crusts (5” pie crust circles)

Hamburger Pie Pockets Plated

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Brown hamburger and drain.  Stir in salt, granulated garlic, ketchup and corn.   Place 2 tablespoons of meat filling on circle.  Fold dough in half over top of the filling.  In a small bowl, whisk egg.  Brush edges of pie dough with egg. Crimp edge closed with fork to seal. Brush top of dough with egg wash.  Cut a couple of slits in top.  Bake 20 minutes.  Makes 4 hand pies. 

Overnight Strawberry Cream Cheese French Toast Casserole

With an epic ice storm forecasted for our area, I can’t help but plan delicious lock-in meals to get my family through it all. I have no idea if it will get as bad as the weather experts are forecasting, but I do know I will be PREPARED for my family to eat well!

 I have been aspiring to make this Overnight Strawberry Cream Cheese French Toast Casserole for months and this is the perfect occasion to accept winter for what it is and get baking.

 There are several things I love about this recipe. Number one, it calls for our delicious frozen strawberries in the Natures Blessed line. We buy this product line directly from Michigan where the Coloma Company packages top grade fruits and vegetables picked at optimum ripeness. Their strawberries are divine.

 The second thing I love is that I can use Eckert’s Bakery’s Irish Soda Bread. Our Irish Soda Bread is very popular and nothing like it can be found in our region. We make scones out of it for our restaurant and we slice loaves of this unique bread daily in our Country Store.

 Third, this recipe calls for a sweet cream cheese to be spread on top of the Irish Soda Bread and then topped with strawberries. After that, the dish is soaked with creamy custard. I think you will find a slice of this yummy breakfast casserole to be a little piece of heaven on a plate.

 I must admit, this recipe requires a bit more time to prepare than most of mine. But, with the forecasted ice storm, you might just be looking for something to do and to warm the souls within your household.

 Stay warm and eat well this winter,

Angie

 

French toast ingredients
12 oz. cream cheese, softened
1 tsp. cinnamon
½ tsp ground nutmeg
2/3 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg
1 tsp lemon juice
1 loaf of Eckert’s Irish Soda Bread (about 12 slices)
20 oz or 3 cups frozen strawberries, sliced

Custard ingredients
¾ cup milk
¾ half and half
10 eggs
1/3 cup pure maple syrup
2 tsp. vanilla extract

Optional: Eckert’s Strawberry Syrup or Jam for topping

Butter a 9x13 baking dish. In a medium bowl, beat cream cheese until light and fluffy. Add cinnamon and nutmeg and beat to incorporate. Beat in sugar for 1-2 minutes. Then beat in 1 egg and lemon juice.

 In a large bowl, whisk together custard ingredients: milk, half and half, ten eggs, maple syrup and vanilla. Set aside.

 Spread cream cheese mixture on one side of each slice of bread, then top cheese with sliced strawberries. Repeat with all bread slices. Using a serrated knife, cut bread (with topping) into one inch cubes. Place 2/3rds of the cubes in the baking dish. Top with remaining strawberries and remaining cream cheese. Top with remaining bread crumbs. Then pour custard mixture over the top. Lightly press the mixture down with the back of a spoon. Cover and place in the refrigerator overnight.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Remove plastic wrap and cover with foil. Bake 30 minutes. Remove foil and bake for another 30-40 minutes or until nicely browned. Serve with Eckert’s Strawberry Syrup or Jam. Serves 12.

20 Minute Italian Chicken Breast

Back to school, back to work, and back to healthier eating is not nearly as much fun as Christmas! However, I must admit, I was craving a little more routine in my house this week. As we ease back into the schedule of early out the door, piles of homework and party-less nights, I am finding the need to rely on my simplest recipes to get on the dinner table. This week I made a super quick, clean chicken recipe using our hand-trimmed chicken breast from the meat department in our Belleville Country Store.

 I wanted to compliment (not overpower) the mild flavor of the chicken so I chose three simple ingredients: extra virgin olive oil, Italian bread seasoning and parmesan cheese. Bread seasonings are sold in tins or grinders at Eckert’s and while they are designed to be added to a bowl of olive oil for bread dipping, they can also provide great flavor to meats, pizzas, noodles and potatoes. If you don’t have access to bread seasonings, don’t worry, you can make your own seasoning mixture and customize it to your preferences.

I paired the chicken with Eckert’s bake at home bread, some of Ella’s homemade noodles (more on that in a later post!) and a salad made with our home-grown hydroponic lettuce. Believe it or not, I had dinner on the table in less than thirty minutes and that felt like a major accomplishment of 2017!

 Our chicken breast are on sale at the butcher counter in Eckert’s Belleville Country Store the whole month of January. If you haven’t tried them already, I bet they will be the most tender chicken breasts you’ve ever had! And, you can have this simple and delicious dish on your table in under thirty minutes!

 Eat well this new year,

Angie

20 Minute Italian Chicken Breast
4 trimmed chicken breast (8 oz each)
2 Tbs. extra virgin olive oil
2 tsp. Italian Bread Seasoning*
4 Tbs. parmesan cheese

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Line a 9x9 baking dish with foil. Drizzle 1 tsp olive oil on the foil. Place chicken breast in dish. Drizzle remaining oil on top of chicken. Top chicken with seasonings, then parmesan. Bake 20 minutes or until the internal temperature registers 165 degrees.

 *To make your own Bread Seasoning combine these ingredients in a small bowl:
1/2 tsp. kosher salt
1/4 tsp. garlic powder
1/2 tsp. dried parsley
1/2 tsp. dried oregano
Few grinds of fresh cracked pepper

5 Fabulous Appetizers for New Year's Eve

New Year’s Eve is just a couple days away and I am finally finding myself with enough gumption to plan a menu! I needed a few down days after Christmas to reset my brain after the shopping and celebrating frenzy. Thanks to some warm and cozy sweater time spent on the cushy couch, I am game for hosting another party!

There is no need to reinvent the wheel, so I simply selected the appetizer category on the blog and scrolled through my past recipes to find these fabulous five! We are looking forward to a small get together with a few friends and kids. I think these recipes will suit a variety of ages and food preferences with a little wiggle room for creativity from the consumer!­

First of all, Queso Fundido makes a large dish of cheesy, meaty deliciousness. Eckert’s homemade chorizo sausage is a stand out with our homemade tortilla chips for dipping. This dish is fun to serve and filling.

Our recipe for Loaded Baked Potato Appetizers can be completely personalized to your liking. I am planning to prebake the potato slices and serve the toppings a la carte. A DIY station comprised of little bowls of shredded cheese, chopped scallions, bacon pieces, bacon jam and sour cream in a piping bag will attract the attention of the kids and adults alike!

Next up, I love the Apple Butter Meatballs because they have a sweet and savory-ness to them. They can be made ahead, then warmed up and held in the crock pot. Love that!

Apple nachos are easy and fun to make! Dress them up with your favorite toppings as well. I think I will let the kids help me make this one. I will give them choices of chocolate chips, granola, marshmallows, melted caramel, chocolate sauce and slivered almonds. (Don’t forget to dip your apple slices in a bowl with 2 cups of water and 1/8 tsp of salt to prevent browning.)  

And last but not least, Mac and Cheese Bites are perfect for all ages. This recipe turns a favorite comfort food into a two-bite appetizer.

Now that I have my menu planned, I need to get working on my sparkling and still wine selections. I will be strolling around our wine department at Eckert’s to see what is new. I know I want to pick up an inexpensive sparkling wine to serve with cranberry juice and frozen, sugared raspberries. My sister-in-law served this on Christmas Eve and I am still thinking about it!!!

Hope you give one or more of these recipes a try this new year. Wishing you a tasty start to 2017!!

Eat well in the New Year,

Angie