Salted Caramel Apple Goodie
Salted Caramel Pixie Crunch Apples
Salted Caramel Pixie Crunch Apples

We will begin picking Pixie Crunch apples on the farm soon. Pixie Crunch is a relatively new apple here at Eckert’s. But let me tell you, people LOVE it! Our staff gave it rave reviews in a recent tour of the farm. Some of them even liked it better than HoneyCrisp! Pixie Crunch is a sweet, crisp and juicy apple which makes it a perfect eating apple. This week, I decided to see how it performed in the kitchen in a modified version of my beloved Apple Goodie Recipe. I am calling my new concoction Salted Caramel Apple Goodie.

Salted Caramel Apple Goodie Ingredients
Salted Caramel Apple Goodie Ingredients

Last year, I came across a version of salted caramel apple filling and I have been in love with the idea ever since. Today I finally made the caramel filling and combined it with the Apple Goodie topping recipe. Caramel lovers watch out-this combo will have your mouth watering before it even reaches your lips!

Salted Caramel Pixie Apples
Salted Caramel Pixie Apples

This dessert takes a little time to make so be sure you aren’t in a hurry when you take it on. But I promise you, the resulting dessert will be well worth your time and effort.

I was very pleased with the flavor and texture of baked Pixie Crunch apples. This recipe would also be heavenly with Jonathon, Golden Delicious or Granny Smith apples.

When I am pinched for time, I will continue to make Apple Goodie (found on page 66 of the Eckert Family Fall Cookbook). But, when I have extra time to spare and a craving for caramel apples, I will be making Salted Caramel Apple Goodie for sure!

Eat well this Fall, Angie

Ingredients

APPLE FILLING

  • 7-8 cups of apples, peeled and sliced (I used Pixie Crunch)
  • ½ cup packed brown sugar
  • ½ cup granulated sugar
  • ¼ cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon
  • ¼ tsp. nutmeg
  • 1 ½ tsp. sea salt
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 4 Tbs. heavy cream
  • 4 Tbs. butter

    TOPPING
     
  • ¾ cup oatmeal
  • ¾ cup packed brown sugar
  • ¾ cup flour
  • ¼ tsp. baking powder
  • ¼ tsp. baking soda
  • 1/8 tsp. salt
  • ½ cup cold butter

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. In a large pot over medium heat, add all apple filling ingredients. Stir to combine as butter melts. Cook for 8-10 minutes or until apples are somewhat soft and the liquid has turned a golden color. Pour filling into and 8x8 or 9x9 baking dish. Set aside.
  2. In a medium mixing bowl, combine all topping ingredients. Cut in butter with 2 forks or fingertips until mixture is crumbly. Pour topping on apples. Bake for 35 minutes or until topping is firm and golden. Serve hot or cold. Serves 9.
Slow Cooker Vanilla Apples
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It is officially Apple Season here at Eckert’s! We are picking several varieties of apples on the farm and they taste so sweet and crunchy right off the orchard trees!

Pick Your Own Gala Apples
Pick Your Own Gala Apples

This week has been a transition for our whole family with a new routine of soccer practices, homework and school. I don’t know about you, but hectic schedules send me into “comfort food mode” and that meant a big batch of Slow Cooker Vanilla Apples this week.

I used Gala apples in this recipe because the kids just picked them from the trees going up to our house on the farm.  You can easily modify this recipe to accommodate the variety you have on hand. More on that later…

Homegrown Gala Apples
Homegrown Gala Apples

This recipe is handy because after you slice the apples, you can walk away. (In my house that means walk over to supervising homework and starting the next load of laundry.) To get this recipe started, I used my apple coring and slicing machine (made by Norpro and available for sale in our Country Store). Some of you are probably lucky enough to have inherited one from your grandma!! I adore this old-fashion, hand-crank device because it allows me to slice, peel and core a big bowl of apples in under 10 minutes.

Once the apples are ready, I placed them in the crock pot, topped them with sugar and cinnamon and cooked on high for 30 minutes. Next, I turned the crock pot to low and cook the apples for another hour before stirring in the vanilla extract. After dinner, I dished out the hot apples and topped them with frozen custard and pecan pieces. Comfort food to the rescue!!

Vanilla Bean Sugar and Apples
Vanilla Bean Sugar and Apples

A little note here about making vanilla sugar from our Eckert Family Fall Cookbook:

Vanilla sugar is very simple to make. Begin with two cups of sugar in a sealable container (preferably glass). Cut a vanilla bean in half lengthwise and bury it in the sugar. Cover tightly for at least 1 week to infuse flavor. Vanilla bean pieces may stay in the sugar indefinitely. Vanilla sugar is excellent on fresh berries, oatmeal, and French toast. Use the dried vanilla bean pieces in hot milk for custards or puddings.

Vanilla sugar adds wonderful flavor to this recipe without overpowering the apples. However, you can certainly use regular granulated sugar if you are in a pinch.

little note about apple varieties in this recipe:

Galas are medium in texture and they tend to soften faster than Honeycrisp and Fuji apples. When I follow this recipe with firmer apples, I cook them on low for close to 2 hours.

Eat well this Fall,

Angie

Ingredients

  • 3 lbs. gala apples, peeled, sliced (7 to 8 large apples; about 9 cups)
  • ¼ cup vanilla-flavored granulated sugar
  • ¼-1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp. pure vanilla extract

Instructions

  1. Place apples and sugar in 3-quart slow cooker; toss to coat. Add cinnamon to taste; stir. Cover with lid. Cook on high for 30 minutes. Reduce to low. Cook apples until soft and tender, about 1-2 hours. (Do not overcook or apples will become mushy. Taste test for desired texture.) Stir in vanilla extract. Makes about 8 servings, 1/2 cup each. Serve hot over Eckert’s® Frozen Custard with toasted pecans, if desired.
Grandma Ruth's Peach Cake
Eckert's Peach Cake
Eckert's Peach Cake

With my kids back in school this week, I have a little more time on my hands to bake! One of my favorite peach cake recipes belonged to my husband’s grandma. Grandma Ruth’s Peach Cake is not a complex recipe but it does require long mixing times and my undivided attention to make sure it comes out “just like grandma made it."  

This recipe starts out by beating two eggs for 8 minutes. Set your timer and BE SURE TO MIX THE FULL TIME! While I watched my timer tick along, I moved on to peeling and  slicing 2 large, very ripe, Crest Haven Peaches (which were Ruth’s favorite variety) and I placed them in a buttered baking dish. Next, I sprinkled the peaches with 1/8 cup sugar (half of what is called for in the recipe below for this step) because they were very ripe. If you are using firmer peaches,  use 1/4 cup sugar as recommended in the recipe below.

Grandma Ruths Peach Cake Steps
Grandma Ruths Peach Cake Steps

After beating the eggs for 8 minutes, I added one tablespoon of sugar at a time to the eggs, beating after each addition for about 1 minute before adding the next tablespoon (this part takes about 12 minutes). Then, I stirred in flour and baking powder before adding boiling water. Note: Heat from the boiling water activates the baking powder so be sure your water is truly boiling. Once the boiling water well distributed into the batter, pour the batter over the sugared peaches and place the dish in the oven for 35-40 minutes.

After baking, allow the peach cake to cool for at least 30 minutes before serving with Eckert’s Frozen Custard or whipped cream.

I can’t wait to serve up Grandma Ruth’s Peach Cake to my kids when they get off the bus today. The first days of back to school sure are sweet around here!!!

Eat well this summer, Angie

Ingredients

  • 1 Tbs. butter, softened
  • 2-3 peaches, peeled and sliced ( I used 2 Fancy size peaches)
  • ¾ cup plus 1/4 cup granulated sugar, divided *
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 cup boiling water
  • Whipped cream (garnish)

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Butter 8 × 8 glass baking dish. Arrange peaches in prepared baking pan and sprinkle peaches with 1/4 cup sugar. In mixing bowl with electric mixer, beat eggs until very light, about 8 minutes. Add remaining sugar 1 tablespoon at a time, beating for about 1 minute after each addition.
  2. Stir in flour and baking powder. Gradually add boiling water and mix well. Pour batter over peaches. Bake for 35-40 minutes; do not remove from pan while cooling. May be served warm or cool. When ready to serve, cut into 6 pieces and turn to see peaches. Top with whipped cream. Makes 6 large servings.
Freezing Peaches (without sugar)
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Freezing Peaches Step by Step
Freezing Peaches Step by Step

With the end of peach season nearing, I decided I best get freezing this week! The kids picked arm-loads of peaches a few days ago because the ripest trees just so happened to be directly out our front door.  After making several desserts this week, I still had a box full of perfectly ripe peaches to spare. Freezing peaches without a syrup is super simple. I usually freeze a little of each different variety throughout the season. Then in the winter months,  we have some fun blind tasting the different batches. (Spoiler alert: You will not be able to tell the varieties apart if you do this at home!) This summer has flown by however, so this is my first go at freezing.

Here are my simple steps to freezing peaches without a syrup:

  1. Select as many or as few peaches as you like.
  2. Rinse and pat your peaches dry with clean towels.
  3. Peel peaches with a soft skin peeler (I recommend the Zyliss brand soft skin peeler! It is amazing and less than $10, available at Eckert’s of course.)
  4. Slice peaches away from the pit with a sharp paring knife and place slices in a large bowl.
  5. Sprinkle some “Fresh Fruit” on the peaches according to the package directions and stir gently to combine. Note: Fresh Fruit’s ingredients contain the same chemical formula as Vitamin C and they prevent browning. You can skip this step if you don’t mind a little discoloration.
  6. Spread the peach slices in a single layer on a sheet pan lined with parchment paper.
  7. Place sheet pan in the freezer for at least 24 hours.
  8. Remove peaches from freezer. Peel from parchment and place in freezer safe storage containers or bags marked with the date.
  9. Pick more peaches and repeat!
  10. Use within 1 year.
Double Crust Fresh Peach Pie
Baked Peach Pie
Baked Peach Pie

How can it be August before I have found the opportunity to bake a fresh peach pie? At a dinner party last night, I remorsefully confessed that I haven’t made a single peach pie yet this summer. So, you can imagine what was placed at the top of the priority list this week …. Double Crust Fresh Peach Pie! It is the peak of Loring season, a sweet and juicy free-stone peach, here at Eckert’s and because of that, Theo and I knew our peaches were destined to become the best peach pie of the season. And thanks to record peach size this year, it only took four Loring peaches to make up our six cups of sliced fruit. Impressive to say the least!

Peach Pie Prep
Peach Pie Prep

Theo lent me a hand in making our first peach pie of the summer. He helped me combine the peach slices with flour and sugar before pouring them into the pie shell. As it turns out, he is an expert pie crust fluter! He sealed the peaches into the pie shell by trimming the extra pie dough and pinching the top crust around the perimeter of the pie.

Next, we stole a few tips from Eckert’s Bakery as we cut a center vent into our crust and marked the sides with three “x”s to indicate it as a peach pie.  Inside the oven, excess juices escaped from our pie vent while sweetening the air in the kitchen.  In about an hour, our pie was baked to perfection and the rest is history.

Homemade Peach Pie with Fresh Peaches
Homemade Peach Pie with Fresh Peaches

After about an hour and a half of cooling, we sliced our pie and topped it with frozen custard. Honestly, I can’t imagine a better summer dessert.

Give this easy peach pie recipe a try if you haven’t made peach pie yet this summer! Eat well this summer, Angie

Ingredients

  • 3/4 cup plus 1 tsp. granulated sugar, divided
  • 1/3 cup flour
  • 6 cups sliced peaches
  • 2 Tbs. cold butter, cut into small pieces
  • 2 (9 inch) Eckert’s Frozen Pie Shells
  • 1 Tbs. milk

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. In a large bowl, combine ¾ cup sugar, flour and peaches. Stir until well coated. Transfer one pie shell to a glass or aluminum baking dish if desired. Spread peach slices in the bottom of pie shell. Top with butter pieces. Cover with second pie crust and trim to fit. Seal edges of top crust with thumb prints. Slice a small circle in the top crust to allow juices to vent the pie during baking. Mark as desired (I made 3 “x” marks.)
  2. Place pie on a baking pan and bake for 30 minutes. Remove pie from oven, brush with milk and sprinkle with remaining sugar. Return to oven for 15-20 minutes. Cool for 1 hour before slicing and serving with Eckert’s Frozen Custard. Makes one 9” pie.
  3. Note: If edges of pie brown too quickly, cover the edges with foil before returning to the oven for the second baking time.
Individual Peach Crisp
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Peach Crisp Ingredients
Peach Crisp Ingredients

I chose this week's blog recipe for my TV spot on FOX 2 as well. I love this recipe for Individual Peach Crisps because you can gift it to friends. Afterall, if you really want to make someone's day peachy, deliver them their own little bowl of peach deliciousness!

For my TV spot, I divided this recipe in half. I had to bake some ahead to show and sample to the lovely ladies at FOX. My recipe was a hit because before I left the studio, every morsel was accounted for and they loved Eckert's Frozen Custard too!

Give this recipe a try and I promise you'll earn kudos from your friends and maybe even some from TV stars!!

KTVI Newscasters with Angie Eckert
KTVI Newscasters with Angie Eckert

Eat well this summer, Angie

Ingredients

  • 10 medium, peeled and sliced
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 3/4 cup flour
  • 10 (4 1/2-inch) mini pie tins or ramekins

    Crumb Topping
  • 2 1/2 cups flour
  • 1 2/3 cups brown sugar
  • 1 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 1/4 cups quick cooking oats
  • 1 1/4 cups chilled butter, cut into pieces (2 1/2 sticks)

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Combine first 3 ingredients in a large bowl and stir well. Divide peach mixture evenly between greased 4 1/2-inch pie pans or ramekins; set aside. Combine dry ingredients in a medium bowl. Cut in butter with pastry blending tool until crumbly. Divide topping evenly between tins. Place tins on a cookie sheet. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes or until evenly browned. Makes 10 servings.
Peach Tomato Motz Salad
Peach Tomato Motz Salad
Peach Tomato Motz Salad

It is homegrown heaven at Eckert’s this week! The peach trees are loaded, the vines are dripping with blackberries and colors are popping by the dozens daily in the veggie patch! All this vibrant produce in combination with temperatures in the 80’s has me literally picking dinner every night!

Last night’s family dinner was divine. Platters full of Peach Tomato Motz, Farmer BKT fixin’s (bacon, kale and tomatoes), sweet corn on the cob, roasted summer squash and sliced peaches & blackberries decorated the counter. We enjoyed a pleasant evening on the patio overlooking the peach orchard. What a perfect summer dinner!

Peach Tomato Motz Salad Ingredients
Peach Tomato Motz Salad Ingredients

My personal favorite of the night was Peach Tomato Motz which is a variation of a classic Tomato Caprese Salad. This version features two unlikely partners: tomatoes and peaches. It is hard to imagine but tomatoes and peaches are absolutely incredible together. Sweet peach flavors compliment the intensity of sun-ripened tomatoes. Give this simple salad a try and I am sure you will be craving it every day this summer just like me!

Ingredients

Peach Tomato Motz

  • 2 medium homegrown tomatoes, cored and sliced
  • ½ tsp. Kosher salt
  • ½ red onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 tsp. granulated sugar
  • 2 medium peaches, peeled, sliced
  • 2 Tbs. olive oil
  • 1 Tbs. apple cider vinegar
  • 8 oz. fresh mozzarella
  • Fresh cracked pepper

Instructions

  1. Layer tomato slices on a rimmed platter. Salt tomatoes. Top with red onion. Top with peach slices. Sprinkle with sugar. Drizzle with olive oil and vinegar. Top with mozzarella and fresh cracked pepper. Makes 4 servings.
Peach & Blackberry Cobbler with Streusel Topping
Homemade Blackberry Cobbler
Homemade Blackberry Cobbler

I am hard-pressed to think of a summer dessert I love as much as Peach & Blackberry Cobbler with Streusel Topping. This cobbler recipe, from the Eckert Family Summer Cookbook starts with six cups of ripe fruit baked in a custard-like filling and finishes with a crunchy, buttery topping. Out of the oven it delivers sheer summer deliciousness!

That is why this recipe was my go-to dessert for a recent gathering with dear friends and family. Saturday evening we hosted a private pick-your-own party at our home on the farm. Immediately following a dinner of freshly harvested veggies from the farm and locally produced meats, our eager group took a spin on the tractor and wagon around the farm. The first stop was a block of blushing Red Haven peach trees. The lush trees seemed to be relieved as we harvested arm-loads of peaches, instantly lightening their load.

Pick Your Own Fruit St. Louis
Pick Your Own Fruit St. Louis

Next, we stopped at the blackberry patch where we were greeted with a seemingly endless supply of ripe berries. I wish I had a timer handy because I think it took only five minutes for the kids to fill their peck boxes to the rim with berries. Even Rosie and Zephyr (our Goldens) were excited to be in the rapid picking action!

Pick Your Own Blackberries St. Louis
Pick Your Own Blackberries St. Louis

After returning to the house, we dished out bowls of cobbler, Eckert’s frozen custard and heaping spoons full of sliced fruit. This dessert was the perfect celebration of great company and a bountiful harvest.

Peach and Blackberry Cobbler
Peach and Blackberry Cobbler

Eat well this summer, Angie

To learn how to make this recipe step-by-step, click here for a step-by-step video.

Ingredients

Cobbler

  • 4 cups sliced and peeled peaches
  • 2 cups blackberries
  • 2/3 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 ¾ cup granulated sugar
  • ¼ tsp. cinnamon
  • 5 eggs
  • 1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
  • ½ cup heavy cream

    Topping
     
  • 1 cup flour
  • 2/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 2/3 cup butter, cubed and slightly cold
  • 1 tsp. pure vanilla extract

Instructions

  1. To prepare cobbler: Preheat oven to 375. Combine peaches and blackberries in a 13 x 9 baking dish. In a mixing bowl, combine remaining cobbler ingredients and beat until smooth. Pour mixture over fruit and bake 30 minutes. Remove from oven.
  2. To prepare streusel topping: In a medium bowl, whisk flour and sugar. Cut in butter with two forks or a pastry blender until crumbly. Add vanilla and mix well. Top cobbler with struesel topping and return to oven for 30 more minutes. Remove from oven and cool slightly before serving. Makes 10-12 servings.
Sauteed Pick-Your-Own Veggies with Herb Butter
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  Thanks to much rain and some long-overdue sunshine, the veggie garden at Eckert’s is exploding with flavor!

Eckert's Vegetable Garden
Eckert's Vegetable Garden

Guests on the farm celebrated the holiday weekend by picking tomatoes, corn, peppers, squash, onions and green beans from our fields. Fun was had by all, especially the kids! I saw quite a few smiles on little faces as our pint-sized guests marched proudly through the farm with baskets of freshly harvested veggies. And I know from experience that nothing makes mom and dad prouder than seeing kids excited about vegetables!

Pick Your Own Veggies
Pick Your Own Veggies

My goal this week was to create a recipe including all of our veggies and I am thrilled to have perfected one, Pick-Your-Own Veggies with Herb Butter.  The key to this recipe is adding the vegetables to the pot at different times based on their ideal cook times. The outcome is a masterpiece of veggies cooked to the perfect texture.

I used some herb butter from my freezer to punch up the flavor but plain butter is delicious as well. If you want to preserve some of your pickin’s for later, simply cool this dish in the refrigerator before transferring it to air tight containers. Date the containers and freeze them for up 6 months.

I invite you to come out to our veggies fields here at Eckert’s in Belleville and pick a little of everything. Take it home and celebrate your bounty with my Sauteed Pick-Your-Own Veggie recipe. Your taste buds will be astounded by fresh-picked flavors!

Ingredients

Herb Butter (plain butter can be substituted)

  • ½ cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 garlic clove
  • 1 tsp. lemon zest
  • 1/4 cup mixed herb leaves, firmly packed

    Veggies
  • 1 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 1 clove of garlic, minced
  • 1 bell pepper, diced
  • 8 oz green beans, trimmed and cut in half
  • 1 small yellow squash, sliced into rounds then quartered
  • 1 small zucchini, sliced into rounds then quartered
  • 1 large tomato, seeded and chopped
  • 4 ears of corn, kernels cut from the cob
  • Kosher salt and pepper to taste
     

Instructions

  1. To make herb butter, process softened butter, garlic and lemon zest in a food processor until smooth. Add herb leaves (we recommend a mixture of herbs such as basil, thyme, chives etc.). Pulse 3 to 4 times or until finely chopped. Transfer to a small bowl and store in refrigerator for up to 1 week or freeze for up to 3 months.
  2. In a large pot, heat the oil over medium-high heat, add onion, garlic and green pepper. Saute for 2-3 minutes, add ½ cup warm water and the green beans. Cover and cook for 5 minutes. Add squash and tomato to the skillet and stir to incorporate. Cover and simmer for 5 more minutes. Stir corn into the veggie mixture, cover and simmer another 3 minutes or until vegetables are tender. Pour off cooking juices from the pot. Season veggies with 2 tablespoons of herb butter and salt and pepper to taste. Serve immediately or cool and freeze in air tight containers or zip top bags for up to 6 months.
  3. Makes 8-10 servings.
Eckert's Blackberry Muffins
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Homegrown Blackberries
Homegrown Blackberries

It’s blackberry season here on the Belleville Farm and we are picking loads of giant Eckert’s blackberries! My kids and their friends have been picking and eating berries like mad this week! Since we have an abundance of fresh berries at home, I have been experimenting with various muffin recipes.  My new favorite is a slightly-modified version from one I found on the Taste of Homewebsite. I had to cut our blackberries in half to make this recipe work. In my first batch of muffins, I used whole berries but it resulted in sinking, inconsistently baked batter.

Blackberry Muffin Ingredients
Blackberry Muffin Ingredients

My second attempt with halved berries was a yummy success! Cutting the berries made them easier to disperse evenly into the batter. This muffin batter is nice and thick allowing it to soak up the juices generated from the baking berries without getting soggy. You can certainly top these muffins with sugar or a homemade crumb topping but I like them as is. Enjoy Eckert’s Blackberry Muffins as a treat during the day or better yet, pass them off as breakfast on the go!

Eat well this summer, Angie

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup butter, softened
  • 1 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 cups milk
  • 2 cups Eckert's blackberries, cut in half

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. In a large bowl, cream butter and sugar. Add eggs, one at a time, and beat well after each addition. In a small bowl, combine flour, baking powder and salt. With the mixer running, gradually add the dry ingredients to the butter and sugar mixture, alternately with milk. Beat until well combined.
  2. Gently fold in blackberries with a spatula. Fill paper-lined muffins cups about two-thirds full. Bake for 25-30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean. Makes about 18 muffins.
Fresh-Picked Blackberry Smoothie
Blackberry Smoothie
Blackberry Smoothie

What a perfect morning for blackberry picking! The kids and I had our minds on breakfast smoothies today so we headed out to the blackberry trellises first thing. On this bright, low-humidity morning, we had no problem finding plump, ripe blackberries. We snacked a little as we picked, of course! As you can see, the “wall” of thornless blackberries is a dream to pick. The vines provide a little shade and the berries are easy to spot against the dark-green foliage.

Pick Your Own Blackberries
Pick Your Own Blackberries

After we each had a few cups of berries in hand, we headed back to the house to whip up some quick smoothies. Ella and I have been experimenting with lots of different blackberry smoothie recipes and this one is our favorite. The banana is key to adding sweetness and smoothing out some of the seedy texture from the blackberries. Because we do not add any ice cream or sugar, this recipe can be considered breakfast instead of dessert. There’s really nothing to the prep, this recipe is all about fresh-picked blackberries.  Whirl one up and let us know what you think!

A little bit about our blackberry growing system for the plant geeks (like me):

Homegrown Blackberries
Homegrown Blackberries

Our rotating-arm trellis allows us to separate the two kinds of blackberry canes as they grow.  Throughout the spring, we weave the new shoots through the trellis and clip them to the wires.  We clip fruiting vines (floricanes) to one side of the trellis and foliage-only vines (primocanes) to the other side. This growing technique allows us to rotate the trellis of fruiting canes to face the sun before flowering, resulting in more fruitful buds. We are very excited about this relatively-new growing technique here at Eckert’s because it has dramatically increased our blackberry production and made it easier for guests to pick their own.

We expect to have a bountiful crop of blackberries through July. Please check eckerts.com for pick-your-own hours and dates.

Eat well this summer,

Angie

Ingredients

  • ½ cup blackberries
  • ½ cup vanilla yogurt
  • ½ ice cubes
  • 1 medium banana, broken into 4 pieces

Instructions

  1. Blend until smooth.
Garlic, Onion & Chicken in Parchment Pockets
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homegrown garlic and onion
homegrown garlic and onion

It has been a busy week of harvesting late spring crops (in the rain) here at Eckert’s! This week we are thrilled to have 10 Eckert –grown items in our Country Store in Belleville. Last night I tried some chicken pouches using our fresh-picked green onions and spring garlic. After I washed and prepared our ingredients, Ella helped me assemble and fold Garlic, Onion & Chicken in Parchment Pockets. Thanks to Ella’s assistance, we had dinner in the oven in just under 20 minutes!

The whole family enjoyed eating their entrées out of parchment paper. In fact, it kind of feels like you are getting a present for dinner when you open your own delicious serving. The combination of mustard and lemon accents the mild flavors of the onion and garlic. Thanks to rave reviews around the dinner table, Ella and I will be making this dish again soon!

garlic, onion and chicken
garlic, onion and chicken

A few years ago when we first started growing onions and garlic here on the farm, I did not know much about either crop. Here are some of my culinary tips in case you are new to these crops as well:

Spring onions These are the same plants as the large, papery onions we are more accustomed to seeing in the grocery store. In fact, we will leave some of our onions in the ground to continue to grow for another month. Then we will pull them out of the soil and cure/dry them. This process will allow the outer layer of the onion to become papery.

Spring onions are much milder than cured onions with a hint of sweetness. Use the tops of spring onions like you would use scallions. Chris and I enjoy grilling spring onions, tops and all. Simply rub the greens and bulbs with a little olive oil and grill until the bulb is tender to a knife. Spring onions can be stored in the refrigerator to extend shelf life.

Spring Garlic Our garlic was planted last fall and harvested this spring. Unlike cured garlic we often see in produce departments, spring garlic is moist and fleshy and very mild-flavored. As a rule of thumb, I use two to three times as much spring garlic in recipes that call for cured garlic.

Spring garlic can be used immediately in your favorite recipes, or it can be dried for later use. To dry fresh garlic, hang heads in a dry, dust-free place like a pantry for at least 30 days. Remove and store bulbs on countertop. Dried garlic will keep up to a year.  Do not store in the refrigerator.

I hope you will experiment with spring onions and garlic soon in your kitchen!!

Eat well this late spring, Angie

Ingredients

Mustard Vinaigrette

  • 1 Tbs. Dijon mustard
  • 1 Tbs. whole grain mustard
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • 1/8 tsp. fresh ground pepper

    Chicken Pockets
     
  • 4 pieces of parchment paper, approximately 12” x 14”
  • 1 large lemon, sliced into 8 rounds
  • 2 spring onion bulbs, sliced thin
  • Green tops reserved from spring onions
  • 1 bulb of spring garlic, outer layers removed
  • 4 Eckert’s boneless, skinless chicken breast
  • 4 sprigs of oregano

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven 375 degrees. Whisk together mustard vinaigrette ingredients and set aside.
  2. Place 2 lemon slices in the middle of 1 piece of parchment. Cut green tops of onions into segments 4 inches long. Divide onion tops into 4 sections and top lemon slices with one-fourth of them. Place one-fourth of the onion bulb slices and two garlic cloves on top of the green onions before topping with chicken breast.
  3. Dollop 1 tablespoon of vinaigrette on chicken and a sprig of oregano. Pull together parchment ends and crease into a tight fold before folding down against chicken. Working with each open end, crease paper and fold over twice before tucking under the chicken breast to weigh it down during the cooking process. Repeat process of filling and folding with remaining 3 parchment pieces.
  4. Place parchment pockets on a rimmed baking pan and bake for 30 minutes or until the internal temperature of the chicken has reached 160 degrees.
  5. Serve in parchment pockets immediately with Amish noodles or rice. Makes 4 servings.
  6. This recipe was inspired by the blog site “Damn Delicious”- Lemon Chicken and Potatoes in Foil on June 13th. It was modified to utilize early summer veggies harvested at Eckert’s.
Summer Orzo Salad
Orzo Salad Recipe
Orzo Salad Recipe

Well, it isn’t officially summer yet but I am in summer recipe mode already! We picked a few tomatoes from the high tunnel greenhouse this week on our Belleville Farm and that was all it took to kick in my summer cravings for fresh veggie salads. Earlier this week when we had another family over for dinner, I knew I had the perfect salad recipe to compliment our grilled chicken.

What makes this salad so special you ask? First of all, pure Eckert’s honey adds a little sweetness to a tangy red wine vinaigrette. I like to dress this salad to taste and save the excess dressing for salad later in the week. Second of all, boiling the orzo in chicken broth gives this quick-cooking pasta a nice boost of flavor. Third of all, you can unleash your creative spirit with herb enhancements. This time I used salad burnet, purple leaf basil, lemon verbena and thyme. And lastly, this recipe is a home run combo of fresh veggies with crunch.

Orzo Salad Ingredients
Orzo Salad Ingredients
herb enhancement 1
herb enhancement 1

If you need an ideal dish for your next potluck, I highly recommend Summer Orzo Salad. It transports well and because it does not contain any dairy products, it holds up well during warm summer picnics.

Eat well this “almost summer,”

Angie

P.S. This recipe can be found in the Eckert Family Summer Cookbook along with many more of my favorite summer salads!

Ingredients

RED WINE VINAIGRETTE

  • 1/2 cup red wine vinegar
  • 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
  • 2-3 tsp. Eckert’s Pure Honey
  • 2 tsp. salt
  • 3/4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 cup olive oil
  • 4 cups chicken broth

    ORZO SALAD
     
  • 11/2 cups uncooked orzo
  • 1 (15-oz.) can garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed
  • 11/2 cups red cherry or grape tomatoes, halved
  • 1 cup peeled and diced cucumbers
  • 3/4 cup finely chopped red onions
  • 2 Tbs. chopped fresh basil leaves
  • 2 Tbs. chopped fresh lemon thyme or lemon verbena

Instructions

  1. TO PREPARE VINAIGRETTE: Mix vinegar, lemon juice, honey, salt, and pepper in a blender or shaker. Whisk in oil gradually. Season vinaigrette, to taste, with more salt and pepper if desired.
  2. TO PREPARE ORZO SALAD: Pour broth into a large, heavy saucepan. Cover pan and bring broth to a boil over high heat. Stir in orzo. Cook until orzo is tender but still firm to the bite, stirring frequently, about 7 minutes. Drain orzo through a strainer. Transfer orzo to a large, wide bowl and toss until it cools slightly (can put in refrigerator to speed up the process). Toss orzo with beans, tomatoes, cucumbers, onion, herbs. Add vinaigrette to orzo salad to your taste. Season salad with salt and pepper and serve at room temperature or chilled. Cover and refrigerate any remaining dressing for another salad. Makes about 1 3/4 cups dressing. Makes 6 servings.
Sensational Strawberry Smoothie
Strawberry Smoothie with homegrown strawberries
Strawberry Smoothie with homegrown strawberries

Today was the last day of school for my kids and they couldn’t be more excited about the start of summer break! Personally, I am looking forward to a reprieve from checking homework and trying to get everyone in bed by 8:30pm. Since it was their last day and their last bus ride for a few months, I planned a little classroom smoothie making party for them.

last day of school
last day of school

After drop off, we headed into Eckert’s Cooking Classroom to blend up refreshing berry treats. This is Ella’s favorite smoothie recipe and she often makes it through the winter months with frozen berries we have stored up from the previous picking season. Today, we opted for fresh berries that came from the field a few hours prior. Fresh squeezed orange juice gives this smoothie a nice snap of citrus flavor and the kids get a kick out of juicing oranges by hand.

Strawberry Smoothie
Strawberry Smoothie

After a few twists on a juicer and a whirl in our mini blenders, we had smoothies ready for sipping and topping with ever-so-fun spray whipped topping. Normally I would opt for fresh-whipping cream but today calls for a little something more fun for the kids!

Whipped Cream on Strawberry Smoothie
Whipped Cream on Strawberry Smoothie

Eat well this almost-summer,

Angie

P.S. Thanks to Theo for taking our smoothie pic! It looks great!

Ingredients

  • 2/3 cup whole fresh strawberries (5-6 medium berries)
  • 1/3 cup fresh squeezed orange juice
  • 2/3 cup ice cubes
  • ¼-1/2 tsp Eckert’s Pure Honey
  • Whipped topping (optional)

Instructions

  1. Place strawberries, juice, ice and honey in a blender. Whirl until smooth. Pour into a glass, top with whipped cream and serve immediately.Makes 1 generous serving (that means mom gets a few sips!)
Speedy Sponge Cake with Sliced Strawberries
homegrown strawberries
homegrown strawberries

Our family gathered to celebrate Chris’ birthday this week, strawberry-style! I hadn’t made Aunt Juanita’s Speedy Sponge Cake in nearly a year, meaning I was long overdue. This sponge cake is ever-so versatile because it goes well with Eckert’s homegrown strawberries, blackberries or peaches. Well-beaten eggs result in a batter that bakes to the perfect density for absorbing sweet fruit juices.

Sponge Cake
Sponge Cake

This recipe comes from Chris’ Great Aunt Juanita Eckert, who just loved to see spring arrive on the farm. She always sought me out to tell me how pretty our planters with flowers looked. Naturally, I think of her often this time of year as we plant up the pots for another season and begin the harvest season.

Slicing Strawberries
Slicing Strawberries

Aunt Juanita’s recipe for speedy sponge cake is the perfect complement for big bowl of lightly-sugared, sliced strawberries. My daughter sliced the berries while I beat the cake ingredients together. Thanks to our handy-dandy strawberry slicer tool, Ella had a bowl full of juicy berries before I even finished pouring the batter into a baking dish.

After about 25 minutes of baking, Ella and I presented a fantastic birthday dessert to Chris - sponge cake topped with sliced strawberries and a generous scoop of Eckert’s Butter Pecan Frozen Custard (Chris’ favorite custard flavor). Needless to say, we had a very happy birthday boy and family!

Strawberry Sponge Cake
Strawberry Sponge Cake

Eat well this spring,

Angie

Ingredients

  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • ? tsp. salt
  • ½ cup hot milk, not boiling
  • 1 Tbs. butter, melted
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F. In a small bowl, beat eggs until light and thick for 5 to 6 minutes. Slowly add granulated sugar and continue beating for 2½ minutes. Fold in flour, baking powder and salt. Add milk, butter and vanilla and mix well. Pour into a greased and floured 8x8 or 9x9 baking pan. Bake for 25-30 minutes or until top is golden brown and a toothpick inserted comes out clean. Makes 9 servings.
Strawberry Turkey & Goat Cheese Panini
Pick Your Own Strawberries Belleville
Pick Your Own Strawberries Belleville

It’s pick your own strawberries season here at Eckert’s and that means our family is eating fresh-picked berries at each and every meal! Strawberry season is short and sweet here so I try to slice as many as I can before they are gone. I love strawberries on Greek yogurt, breakfast cereal and with Eckert's Frozen Custard but sometimes I like to take them in a different direction altogether.

Strawberry Turkey & Goat Cheese Panini is a delectable combination of sweet, tangy and savory flavors. I like to make this recipe with Eckert’s fresh-baked Farm Bread and my new favorite turkey from our Dietz & Watson deli line, called  Oven Classic Turkey Breast (if you like things a little smoky, try the Mesquite Smoked Turkey Breast).

Strawberry Panini Ingredients
Strawberry Panini Ingredients

A little goat cheese (feel free to substitute cream cheese) and Eckert’s Red Pepper Jelly help hold the panini ingredients in place as you brown the buttered bread in the skillet. I don’t have a Panini press so I simply place another skillet (to serve as a weight) on top of my sandwich as it is cooking. After about 2 minutes per side over medium heat, the panini is ready to serve!

This panini is so delicious it can also be found on our spring restaurant menu for the second year in a row. So if you have a craving but no gumption to cook, just stop by our country-style restaurant and give this yummy sandwich a try.

Strawberry Turkey Panini with Goat Cheese
Strawberry Turkey Panini with Goat Cheese

Watch Show-Me St. Louis, KSDK Channel 5 on Thursday, May 21st to see me make this recipe!

Eat well this spring,

Angie

Ingredients

  • 1 (4 oz.) goat cheese log, softened
  • 8 Italian bread slices
  • 8 oz. thinly sliced smoked turkey
  • 8 fresh basil leaves
  • ½ to ¾ cup sliced fresh strawberries
  • 2 tbs. Eckert’s red pepper jelly
  • 2tbs. butter, melted
  • 4 strawberry halves, for garnish

Instructions

  1. Cut goat cheese in 4 even portions. Divide turkey, basil leaves, strawberries and goat cheese evenly among 4 bread slices. Spread 1 ½ teaspoons pepper jelly on 1 side of remaining bread slices; place bread slices, jelly side down, on top of the goat cheese. Brush sandwiches with melted butter. Grill in pan 2 minutes per side. Garnish. Makes 4 servings.
Eckert's Fresh Strawberry Salsa
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Strawberry Salsa Ingredients
Strawberry Salsa Ingredients

Last night, Chris and the kids picked the first strawberries of the season! They had to look closely to find ripe berries but soon the field will be a sea of red, juicy berries.

Our strawberry fields on the Belleville farm will be open to the public for picking shortly. Please check our crop update  for details.

Pick Your Own Strawberries at Eckert's
Pick Your Own Strawberries at Eckert's

Ripe strawberries in my kitchen + Cinco de Mayo = DELICIOUS STRAWBERRY SALSA! I just couldn't resist the urge last night to make this scrumptious salsa and it was superb with our deli-made tortilla chips. Creamy avocado, sweet berries, pure honey and tangy lime juice give this salsa a beautiful balance of flavor.

Strawberry season only lasts 3-4 weeks here at Eckert’s, and I will be making strawberry-everything to capitalize on the season!!

Eat well this spring, Angie

Ingredients

  • 1 cup finely chopped Eckert’s strawberries
  • 1/4 cup chopped avocado (about 1/2)
  • 2 Tbs. finely chopped red onion
  • 2 Tbs. chopped fresh cilantro
  • 1/2 tsp. lime zest
  • 2 Tbs. fresh lime juice
  • 1/2 seeded jalapeño pepper, finely chopped
  • 2 tsp. Eckert’s Pure Honey
  • 2 Tbs. extra virgin olive oil

Instructions

  1. In a medium bowl, gently combine ingredients. Allow flavors to blend for 30 minutes. Serve immediately over grilled pork or chicken or with Eckert’s fresh tortilla chips. Makes about 2 cups.
Queso Fundido with Eckert's Chorizo
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Blog 1 sized
Blog 1 sized

With Cinco de Mayo right around the corner, I had the perfect excuse to give Queso Fundido a try this week! Until recently, I hadn’t even heard of Queso Fundido- how can that be?!? Usually, anything with melted cheese is on my culinary radar. Over the past couple of months, I have been collecting Queso Fundido recipes from magazines and recipe blogs in effort to discover my own perfect combination of ingredients.  

Blog2 sized
Blog2 sized
Blog 3 sized
Blog 3 sized

A popular Mexican appetizer, Queso Fundido means “melted cheese.” A broad description like that leaves the door wide open for a variety of interpretations and ingredients. Some recipes I found are vegetarian while others use Chorizo, some use the traditional Mexican cheeses like Oaxaca or Cotija, while others call for their American counterparts. I opted for a combination of creamy goat cheese and Eckert’s Colby Jack. I also decided to include chorizo since we make it here fresh in Eckert’s meat department. It is a seasoned pork sausage with a little garlic and a little kick

You will definitely want to experiment with the cheeses and the different kinds of peppers you can get your hands on because experimentation is what makes this recipe so fun!! I am convinced that no matter what you choose, your guests will be drooling over the bubbling, oozing skillet of goodness.  This recipe feeds a crowd so half the recipe and cook it in a smaller skillet if you don’t have a party on the calendar. (P.S. Reheated leftovers are absurdly delicious wrapped in tortillas!)

Eat well this spring & Happy Cinco de Mayo! Angie

Special thanks to my sister-in-law with Five Petals Photography for shooting again for me. I just love having her over for dinner!!! Visit her at: five-petals.com.

Ingredients

Queso Fundido with Eckert’s Chorizo

  • 1 lb Eckert’s Fresh Chorizo, casings removed (4 links)
  • 1 red onion, chopped
  • 2 jalapenos, seeded and chopped finely
  • 2 cups Eckert’s frozen yellow corn, thawed
  • 8 oz goat cheese, crumbled
  • 12 oz Eckert’s Colby Jack, cut into 1/4” pieces
  • 1 large tomato, seeded and chopped
  • ¼ cup chopped green or spring onion tops
  • Cilantro, chopped (optional)
  • Thick tortilla chips for dipping

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a 12” cast-iron or oven-proof skillet combine chorizo, onion, pepper and corn. Cook over medium heat for 8-10 minutes. Drain fat if desired. (Note: Eckert’s chorizo does not generate drippings.) Add cheeses and stir to incorporate. Place skillet in the oven for 12 minutes or until bubbling. Remove from oven and top with tomatoes, green onions and cilantro if desired. Serve immediately with tortilla chips. Serves 12-15.
Spargel- German White Asparagus
asparagus bath
asparagus bath

It is white asparagus season here at Eckert’s in Belleville and across the globe, in Germany. Today, one of our culinary instructors, Sabine Vaughn, taught me how she grew up eating white asparagus in Germany. She replicated her mother’s traditional recipe for boiled white asparagus accompanied with ham, parsley and boiled potatoes. The asparagus was incredibly tender and mild-flavored thanks to a little salt and sugar in the cooking water.

As we cooked together, Sabine shared stories about how her mom used to peel white asparagus with a paring knife without even looking at her hands. Since we are little less experienced, we opted for a potato peeler and a close eye. We set each asparagus spear flat on a cutting board and grasped the tip gently with our forefingers. With the opposite hand we peeled the spear starting from just below the bumpy tip. Then, we refreshed the cut ends before adding the spears to boiling water.

Note: In Germany, peelings and trimmings are reserved for asparagus soup- another recipe I need to try.

peeling asparagus
peeling asparagus

After boiling the spears until they pierced easily with a fork, we plated the spears and topped them with finely diced ham. Sabine enjoyed eating Schinken with white asparagus in Germany. Unfortunately, she has yet to find the exact equivalent here in the states so we chose our favorite ham.

Traditionally, Spargel is served with a small pitcher of melted butter and Sabine has just the thing to keep it melted. She brought along a little, glass stand with an opening for a tea light. Genius!

asparagus and butter sized
asparagus and butter sized

Thanks to Sabine, you can to try this traditional German recipe with our locally-grown white asparagus. It is by far the best white asparagus I have ever had!

Eat well this Spring, Angie 

Ingredients

  • 1 tsp. table salt
  • 2 tsp. sugar
  • 1 lb of white asparagus, peeled from below the tip to cut end
  • 3-4 Tbs. melted unsalted butter

    Optional accompaniments :
  • Boiled, then peeled yukon potatoes, about 1 lb
  • Finely diced ham chunks or Schinken, about ½ cup
  • Finely minced parlsey leaves

Instructions

  1. In a skillet, bring about 1 cup of water, salt, and sugar to a simmer. Place the asparagus in the skillet. Boil the asparagus for 8-10 minutes or until spears are fork-tender. Remove from the pan, blot dry and place on platter. Serve with melted butter, potatoes, ham and parsley.

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Farfalle with Asparagus, Bacon & Mushrooms
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Homegrown Asparagus
Homegrown Asparagus

After weeks of anticipating locally-grown asparagus season, I am proud to announce our first harvest has arrived in the Country Store in Belleville! And thanks to a free night at home, our family enjoyed our first taste of the season.

Homegrown asparagus signifies the long-awaited start to homegrown harvest here in Southern Illinois and that is why our staff and regular customers look forward to seeing it arrive in our store so much. I try to prepare it as often as I can in during its all to brief eight week season.

Usually, I prepare asparagus by roasting it in the oven with a little olive oil to coat and a few sprinkles of kosher salt. In fact, my seven-year old son helps prepare it by snapping the ends off of the asparagus and rolling them in a little olive oil on sheet pan. After 10-12 minutes in a 400 degree oven, the asparagus is still crisp but tender to the prongs of a fork and ready to serve.

Sometimes when time allows, I get a bit fancier, like last night, when I made bow-tie pasta dressed in a creamy cheese sauce with earthy mushrooms, toasted walnuts, locally-raised bacon and crisp asparagus. I used baby bella mushrooms, also called porcini mushrooms in this recipe. Mushrooms and asparagus are truly a flavor match made in heaven and if you are lucky enough to have a source, you could really knock this recipe out of the park by using morel mushrooms!

Fresh Mushrooms & Asparagus
Fresh Mushrooms & Asparagus

Italian mascarpone makes this sauce outstanding and easy to prepare but if you have trouble finding it, here is substitution option: 8 oz of cream cheese, 2 tablespoons of sour cream and 2 tablespoons of heavy whipping cream.

To see this dish prepared step-by-step, catch me on Show-Me St. Louis on Thursday, April 16th at 10am.

Farfalle, Asparagus, Mushrooms and Bacon
Farfalle, Asparagus, Mushrooms and Bacon

Ingredients

  • 1 lb. uncooked farfalle pasta
  • 1 cup reserved hot pasta water
  • 3 Tbs. unsalted butter
  • 1 lb. cremini mushrooms or morel mushrooms, trimmed and sliced
  • 1 lb. thin asparagus, trimmed and cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 1 cup mascarpone cheese
  • Pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
  • ¾ cup toasted walnuts, coarsely chopped, divided
  • 4-5 slices of cooked bacon, fat drained and coarsely chopped
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • ¼ to ½ cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese


Instructions

  1. Add the pasta to a pot of boiling water and cook. Stir often to prevent the pasta from sticking together, until tender but still firm to the bite, about 12 minutes. Drain, reserving 1 cup of the hot pasta liquid. Meanwhile, melt the butter in a large, heavy skillet over medium heat. Add the mushrooms and sauté until they are tender and most of their juices have evaporated, about 5 minutes. Add the asparagus and sauté until it is crisp-tender, about 5 minutes. Stir in the mascarpone and nutmeg. Add the cooked pasta and toss until the cheese coats the pasta, adding the reserved cooking liquid ¼ cup at a time to moisten. Stir in ½ cup of the walnuts and the chopped bacon. Season the pasta to taste with salt and pepper. Mound the pasta in a large, wide serving bowl. Sprinkle with the Parmesan cheese and remaining ¼ cup of walnuts and serve. Makes 4 servings.