Good Eats: Rustic Blueberry Tart

By Debra Knapke

We are into the luscious time of summer when the tomatoes are coming on, zucchini is bountiful, and local blueberries, blackberries and peaches are waiting to be picked or bought from nearby growers.    All are tasty in their raw state, but the fruits beg to be used in muffins, pies, tarts and cobblers.  To beat the summer heat, I have been baking early in the morning or late at night and then use our attic fan to pull cooler air into the house.

I’ve never been a fan of two-crusted pies.  The fruit should take center-stage, not the crust.  A rustic tart is a fun way to create a tasty, quick one-crust dessert.  I decided to play with a filling recipe that I have been using for years and below is the result.  Also included is a butter-based, food processor crust.  The original pie crust recipe calls for 8 tablespoons of butter (one stick), but I have reduced that to 6 tablespoons.  You may have to add another tablespoon of water on low humidity days, but otherwise, the crust has a good, crisp texture.  One caution: do not over-process, which is easy to do.  As with all recipes, experience will make you a master.

Preheat the oven to 425°

Pie Crust – Food Processor technique for one 9” crust

1 ⅓ c      flour (for a richer flavor split the flour: ½ white & ½ whole wheat)

½ tsp     salt

½ tsp     cinnamon or ¼ tsp nutmeg (optional)

6 TBL      very cold, unsalted butter

¼ c          ice water

Chef Deb’s granddaughter, Analise, obviously enjoys her job as pie taster.

In a food processor, mix the flour, salt and spice of choice.  Cut the butter into 6 pieces and add to bowl. Process with the pulse speed until the mixture is the texture of coarse cornmeal.  It is OK if you can see pieces of butter.  With the processor running, add the water in a thin stream pulsing towards the end so you don’t over process the dough.  The dough is done when you see clumps forming.  Remove the dough from the work bowl and press it together and pat into a flattened round.  Roll on a lightly floured surface to a 9-10” circle.

Lay the crust out in a shallow bowl or pie pan.  Pour the fruit into the crust.  “Hug” the crust around the fruit by gathering up the crust to form a shell.  This is a rustic presentation, so perfection is not the goal.  Drizzle the filling over the fruit evenly.  Put into oven for 10 minutes, then reduce the heat to 350° and bake for 30 to 35 minutes.  The filling should be bubbling evenly across the top.


1 TBL      butter, melted

1 c           sugar – scant if the fruit is sweet

2-3 TBL  flour – more for juicier fruit

2 TBL      fresh lemon juice

1              egg

4 c.         blueberries

Combine first four ingredients.  Just before you pour the filling over the fruit, beat in the egg.  This is to avoid curdling of the egg.

Posted in Good eats


Good Eats: Cherry Berry Pie

By Teresa Woodard

Cherries and berries make a great combination.  I prefer sour cherries from our backyard and wild black raspberries from the preserve near our house, but this week I used store-bought raspberries since the black raspberries aren’t ripe yet.  The recipe also works well with frozen fruit.  In fact, we freeze some cherries and berries for a pie for Christmas Eve dinner.

Cherry Berry Pie

Based on a recipe from Williams Sonoma

Basic pie pastry for a 9-inch double-crust pie

2 TBS quick-cooking tapioca

1 c sugar

¼ TSP salt

3 c pitted sour cherries

3 c raspberries or blackberries

2 TBS unsalted butter

Preheat an oven to 425 degrees.  In a large bowl, stir the tapioca, sugar and salt.  Add the cherries and berries and toss to mix well.  Pile the fruit mixture into an uncooked pastry-lined pan and dot with bits of the butter.  Cover with the top crust, trim, flute the edges and cut vents.  For another option, try a lattice top.  Bake for 20 minutes, then reduce the heat to 350 degrees, cover edges of crust with foil and bake for 35-40 minutes.

Good Eats: Rhubarb Cream Pie

By Debra Knapke

It is difficult to find time to sit down at the computer and compose articles about food as I am so busy in the garden planting, weeding and spreading compost, all the while salivating as I dream of the riches to come.  One “fruit” that we are harvesting now is rhubarb.  It is strange to call the stem of a plant a fruit, but we tend to call our sweet foods fruits and our savory foods vegetables.  And, this is definitely a sweet ending to a meal.

The first time I tasted rhubarb in a palatable form was in a pie made by my mother-in-law.  It was difficult not to ask for thirds.  It is now the pie of choice in our house in May and into June.  Our children assume that rhubarb pie will make an appearance on the Mother’s Day and Memorial Day weekends.  It’s non-negotiable.

As a plant, rhubarb makes a bold statement in the garden, and the bloom is gorgeous.  Once it sends up the flowering stem, you need to stop harvesting.  First, you need to stop robbing the plant of its leaves.  Secondly, the stems will become very sour which is a sign that the oxalic acid content has increased past the point for safe eating.  Never eat the leaves or roots.  Some sources recommend that you not eat rhubarb stems after July.  I find it to be too sour by the end of June.

Rhubarb Cream Pie

Based on a recipe from my mother-in-law, Mary Knapke

Your pie crust of choice for a 9” pie pan.  My preference is a butter-based pie crust that I create in my food processor.  You do not need to pre-bake the crust.


3½ to 4 c.      of rhubarb, cut into 1” pieces

1½ c.               sugar; to deepen the flavor use: 1 c. white and ½ c. brown or half white and half brown

3 TBS              flour (2-3 more if rhubarb is very juicy–usually at beginning of season and if we have had a lot of rain)

1 TBS              butter, melted

2                       eggs

Blend sugars, flour and butter.  Add eggs and beat until smooth.  Pour over rhubarb in a 9” crust.  Bake at 450 degrees for 10 minutes, then reduce the heat to 350 degrees for 30 to 40 minutes (the middle should barely wiggle when done).


Good Eats: Roasted Collards and Carrots

Posted March 19:

Here on the last day of winter, Teresa and Michael are delighting in their latest garden harvests.  Teresa dug winter carrots that she sowed last fall, and Michael’s been enjoying a covered row of collards through this mild winter.  Now, they just need Debra to create a good recipe with the two ingredients.  For next season, they’re making more plans for multiple crops.  Michael has a cold frame ready to plant tomato seeds, and Teresa recently planted peas and lettuce seeds.  What vegetables are you planting this spring?

Debra’s Response:  Most of the Midwest has experienced a very moderate winter with respect to temperature.  The collards and carrots that Michael and Teresa are enjoying have a sweetness to them that is born of being frosted, but not frozen.  Today, while planting peas, I noticed that our kale has resprouted from the stems that I cut back last month after we harvested, what I thought, was our last kale.  It has been a most surprising winter!

For a quick yet very satisfying side dish, try roasting carrots and collards.  Again, I’m offering a free-form recipe; a cooking technique rather than a specific dish.

 Roasted Collards and Carrots

Preheat the oven to 425°.

Scrub or peel the carrots, 2-3 per person depending on the size, and slice them into 1 ½” pieces

Toss with 1-2 TBS of olive oil – I use Extra Virgin – and herbs of your choice.  One of my favorite combinations is dill, shallot pepper (from Penzy’s) and salt.

Spread the carrots out on a roasting pan.  About pans: I have round deep steel pans and stoneware baking sheet pans.  Both are great.

Roast for ~25 minutes or until you see the carrots starting to carmelize.

While the carrots are roasting, wash and chop the collards (or kale) into 1-2” pieces.

When the carrots are at where you want them, toss the collards on top, mix quickly, and cook for 5 minutes.  The collards will slightly crisp and take on a toasty flavor.

An optional addition: toss some sesame seeds on top of the vegetables when you remove them from the oven.


Good Eats: Currant Jam

Currant jamBy Debra Knapke

We are now enjoying the currant jam that we made in July.

This is a hands-on, work-with-it recipe…. in other words, you need to be flexible and work with the amount of fruit that you pick.  Also, be aware that different moisture levels in the soil will affect the water content in the currants.

There are many ways to make jellies, jams and preserves.  This is a recipe my husband has been working on for several years.

Tony’s Currant Jam

Pick the currants, rinse and remove berries that are rotten or green.  Under-ripe fruit is OK as long as it isn’t hard.

Wash your jars in very hot water and pour boiling water over your canning lids and rings.

Mash the currants in a large soup pot, bring to a boil and gently boil for 3-5 minutes.  Put the cooked fruit through a food mill and press out as much juice and pulp as you can without forcing small pieces of skin through the holes.

Measure the juice as you return it to the soup pot.  For every 1 ¾ cups of juice/pulp, add 1 cup of sugar.  Mix well.

Cook for approximately 25 minutes at a gentle boil.  Skim off excessive foam off the top.  As you get close to 25 minutes, test the juice by cupping some on a spoon. If it covers the spoon and slightly gels, it is ready for putting into jars to be canned or to be refrigerated.  In high moisture years (like 2011), you will need to cook longer, up to an hour.

To judge how many pint jars, lids and rings you will need to wash and sterilize, here are the last two years of currant jam data:

2010:  13 cups of juice and 7 ½ cups of sugar yielded 12 cups of jam (6 pints)

2011: (too much rain, a lot of the fruit rotted before we realized that the fruit ripened earlier than usual) 7 ½ cups of juice and 4 ¼ cups of sugar yielded 8 ½ cups of jam (4 pints and the leftover went into the refrigerator)

To can or not to can: freshness of flavor – the more you process, the more cooked the jam will taste.  We prefer to refrigerate and not can our currant jam.  The room in the refrigerator is worth it.

A note about pectin — never had to use it as currants normally have a high pectin content.  Last year, it might have been a good addition.

Posted in Good eats



Good Eats: Pesto Scuffins

By Debra Knapke

July, through October is the time to make and freeze pesto so that you can savor the taste of summer in the middle of winter.  While basil pesto is a favorite, there are many types for this burst of flavor.  This past year, sage, celery, and garlic scape pestos joined the basil pesto in my freezer.  The recipes for these pestos will be presented in the summer blogs, but for now, here is a recipe where you can use the pesto that you, hopefully, made last summer.

Basil Pesto Walnut  Scuffins

  • 1  c.           whole wheat flour
  • 1  c.           unbleached white flour
  • 2  Tbs       brown sugar
  • 1½  tsp     baking powder
  • ½ tsp        baking soda
  • ½ tsp        salt  (scant)
  • 1 Tbs        flaxseed meal (optional)
  • 2 tsp         quinoa flakes (optional)
  • 1 c.            yogurt or buttermilk
  • ¼ c.           extra virgin olive or canola oil
  • 1                egg
  • ¼ c.           basil pesto (yours will always be better, but commercially prepared is fine)
  • ¾ c.           walnuts, coarsely chopped (pecans, cashews or pine nuts, too)

Preheat oven to 400°F (convection: 375°F).  Lightly butter 12 muffin cups.  (If you make mini-scuffins: 2 recipes make two pans of 24 minis)

Combine flours, sugar, baking powder, and salt in a large bowl.  In a smaller bowl, whisk together wet ingredients and pesto. Mix well.  Make a well in the dry ingredients, and pour wet ingredients into dry.  Add walnuts and fold the dry ingredients into the wet.*

Spoon batter into prepared pans.  Scuffins: bake for 20-25 minutes; mini-scuffins: bake 10-12 minutes.  Remove baked muffins from pan after 5 minutes and cool on wire racks.

These muffins freeze well.

* The secret with scuffins — even more than with muffins — is not to overmix them.  I use a sturdy spatula, and use a “folding” movement instead of stirring.

Another scuffin note:  yogurt or buttermilk reacts quickly with baking powder and baking soda.  You will notice a spongy texture forms as you spoon the dough into the muffin cups.  Try not to compact the forming sponge, work quickly and get the scuffins in the oven where the heat will finish the rising process.

Posted in Good eats


Good Eats: Sweet Pickles

By Debra Knapke

Pickles… the vegetable preserve that we put up in July to October.  Plunked on hamburgers, added to our potato salad or just eaten because they taste so good, cucumber pickles are reminders of the taste of high summer.  For those of you who like exact measures and exact recipes, sorry to disappoint you.  No matter how many times I make pickles, each season’s offering seems to process a little bit differently from the year before.  But, each year’s pickles taste the best ever.

So why offer this recipe to you now instead of July?  Because you are eating those pickles now, and you just might remember to look back into our archives to retrieve this recipe.  If not, we will remind you, in July, that it is here.

Many people are represented in my garden by the plants they have given me.  Many people are represented in my kitchen by the recipes they have given me.  The following recipe was given to me by a dear friend who lives not only in my heart, but in my kitchen.

Mother Elssa’s Sweet Pickles

 A family recipe handed down to my friend Jane Cooper and then handed over to me

30           6″ or so cucumbers, sliced ¼”  (Adjust thickness for desired crispness.) 

½ c          salt

2              medium onions sliced about 3/16-inch  (Can use more onions)

Cover with water; let stand for 2 hours; drain

5 c           sugar

1 qt        white vinegar

1 Tbs      mustard seed

1 Tbs      celery seed

4              black peppercorns/pint jar.

Heat thoroughly.  Add the cucumber slices and heat them through.  A shorter heating time will produce a crisper pickle; a longer heating time will produce a softer pickle.

Can the pickles while still hot:  Read the latest recommendations for canning cucumber pickles in Extension publications or in the Kerr and Ball Canning Guides.  Alternately (for crisper pickles), let the jars cool and refrigerate. Even if a hot water canning bath is not used, lids may seal, but don’t rely on that: refrigerate!!

This recipe makes between 8-10 pints; depends on the size of the cucumbers.

Good Eats: Apple Cranberry Muffins

By Debra Knapke

Winter is a time for comfort food, sustaining us in this dark and cold season. This harkens back to the time when we worked outside and needed substantial meals to keep hale and hearty.  While our need for lots of calories in the winter has decreased, our desire for filling, tasty food has not.  Below, an offering that is full of flavor, has a protein boost and will not significantly increase your belt size – unless you eat them all at one sitting!!

Apple Cranberry Muffins

  • ¾ c.        canola oil
  • 1  c.        sugar (scant this to bring out apple/cranberry flavors)
  • 2              eggs
  • 1  tsp     vanilla
  • 1  c.        whole wheat flour
  • 1  c.        unbleached white flour
  • 1 TBS     flaxseed meal (optional)
  • 1 tsp      quinoa flakes (optional)
  • ¾ tsp     baking soda
  • ½ tsp     salt
  • ¾ tsp     cinnamon
  • 1 ½ c.     diced apples
  • ½ c.        dried cranberries (or raisins)
  • ½ c.        chopped walnuts

Preheat oven to 400°F (convection: 375°F).  Lightly butter 12 muffin cups. Combine flours, baking powder, salt and cinnamon in a small bowl.  In a large bowl, beat or whisk together wet ingredients. Mix well.  Add dry ingredients to wet and fold just to combine.  Fold in apples, raisins and walnuts.Spoon batter into prepared pans.  Muffins: bake for 20-25 minutes; mini-muffins: bake 10-12 minutes.  Remove baked muffins from pan after 5-10 minutes and cool on wire racks.  These muffins freeze well.

*Psst! Here’s the secret to good muffins — don’t stir vigorously and over mix the batter. Instead gently fold ingredients together.

Good Eats: Baked Butternut Squash

By Debra Knapke

This time of year is light on fresh produce grown in the Midwest.* Traditionally, we have canned, dried, frozen or stored the bounty from the fall harvest. Pickles, preserves, dried fruits and vegetables were the mainstays of the winter diet before grocery stores offered out-of-season food.

What remains of our stored food is squash, potatoes and apples. Below is a recipe that uses butternut squash and apples along with a Midwest favorite: maple syrup. Enjoy!

*Check out your local Winter Farmer’s Markets. More farmers are growing cold tolerant vegetables and fruits in low-tunnel greenhouses and cold frames. Also, look for hydroponically grown food. It’s a growing trend.

¼ c. (1/2 stick) butter
¾ c. pure maple syrup
¼ c. apple cider or juice
1 tsp. cinnamon
½ tsp. allspice
½ tsp. salt
3 small butternut squashes, peeled, halved lengthwise, seeded, cut crosswise into 1/3″-thick slices
4 6-ounce Gold Rush (or other firm, tart apple) apples, peeled, halved, cored, cut into 1/4″-thick slices
Dried cranberries or golden raisins

Preheat oven to 400°F. Butter 13 x 9 x 2-inch glass baking dish. Stir butter, maple syrup and apple cider in small saucepan over medium-low heat until butter melts. Increase heat and boil until mixture is slightly reduced, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat; whisk in cinnamon, allspice and salt.

Layer the squash and apple slices: Arrange 1/3 of squash slices in prepared dish. Top with half of apple slices, 1/3 of squash slices, the remaining apples and finally the last third of the squash slices.  Scatter the cranberries or raisins as desired in the layers of the casserole. Sprinkle lightly with salt and pepper. Pour maple syrup mixture over. Cover baking dish tightly with foil.

Bake casserole until squash is almost tender, about 40- 50 minutes. Uncover and bake until squash is tender, basting occasionally with syrup, about 20 minutes longer. Spoon syrup from dish over vegetables and serve.

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