Raspberry Shortbread Bars

These bars. These bars! Now, I know that I say that every recipe that I share is wonderful…which, they are. I don’t share anything that we didn’t like with you guys. That being said, these bars are seriously one of the best things I’ve baked in my kitchen. Don’t wait to make them!

A thick, soft bed of shortbread topped with raspberry jam and a crumble topping made with of a bit of reserved shortbread, granola, and a generous dose of nuts. Takes all of 10 minutes to put together, how easy is that? Like you can expect anything less from Queen Ina.

There’s a backstory to these bars, though. Sea Star Cafe, my favorite local spot for lunch or a quick bite here on Chincoteague recently closed for the season. They make a bar that is very similar to this, in both a raspberry and apricot variety. And they’re addictingly delicious! I became a regular visitor…like, verging on the edge of daily, just to get these bars when they had them available.  Since they close for a few months in the off-season, I had to find another source…

I’m an accomplished baker, I should be able to make a decent crumble bar, right? I’d tried a couple in the past, but they were lackluster attempts. This one is it!

I know I’ll be baking these once a week for a while, just to try different varieties of jam. They slice beautifully and keep for a few days too, making them great candidates for cookie trays or gifting!

Source: adapted from Barefoot Contessa Foolproof by Ina Garten, inspired by Sea Star Cafe.

Mexican Chocolate Eggnog

Eggnog is always something that everyone looks forward to at the holidays. As much as I’m ashamed to admit it, I’d never made a homemade version. So when Maker’s Mark asked me to come up with an eggnog recipe for their #GetCozyCocktail challenge, I couldn’t resist taking the opportunity to do so!

I wanted to go the traditional route, as far as construction was concerned…but mix things up a little bit when it came to the flavor profile. I’ve always loved the rich and earthy notes of Mexican chocolate, which is flavored with spices like cinnamon and nutmeg. And, usually a little bit of heat from cayenne to warm things up. It translated very well to eggnog!

Thick, chocolaty, frothy, and boozy…the spices meld beautifully with the bold flavor of the bourbon. It makes a relatively large batch, which is perfect for a party. But like most things in life, eggnog only improves with age. Some people swear by aging the stuff for up to a year!

I won’t go that far…but to make a batch now, to enjoy on Christmas Eve seems plausible. Not to mention the fact that it would make an awesome little “thank you” gift for a hostess or neighbor. Served in a jar simply decorated with a tag and a festive ribbon…come on, who wouldn’t be delighted to receive that?

Head on over to Maker’s Mark Instagram page and vote for my recipe by commenting and/or liking it, starting tomorrow through December 17th.  Then get to making the nog…after all, ’tis the season!

Disclaimer: I was provided with samples from Maker’s Mark. As always, all thoughts and opinions are my own.

Cheddar Bay BiscuitsGrowing up on the Chesapeake Bay, and now residing on the Eastern Shore and living a stone’s throw from the ocean, I’ve been to Red Lobster twice in my entire life. Literally. I’ve never felt that I was missing out on very much, except for when it came to the basket of biscuits that they serve to the table beforehand.

Tender buttermilk biscuits, studded with plenty of sharp cheddar cheese and a heavy dose of garlic flavor. How can you resist? They’re super easy and quick too, like 20 minutes and you’ve got biscuits! The simple ingredient list is just mixed together in a bowl, then dropped in biscuit-sized portions to bake. No labor intensive cutting-in of butter and kneading that regular buttermilk biscuits require.

Once out of the oven they’re given a hearty brushing of melted garlic-parsley butter…to which I also added a hefty pinch of Old Bay. I loved the flavor the celery seed lent, as well as the slight hint of color from the paprika. Plus, you know how we roll on the Eastern Shore – we put Old Bay on pretty much everything we can around here.

I made these to go alongside a batch of Manhattan clam chowder I’d made over the weekend, and it was sheer perfection. I usually serve some kind of crusty bread when I make seafood-based soups – but those days are done. Only these biscuits will suffice from now on!

This recipe is one for the books, guys. I’ll definitely be making this one again and again!

Source: adapted from Damn Delicious

Smith Island Cake

If there is one item that’s long been on my baking “bucket list”, it would be the Smith Island Cake. Baked by the wives and mothers of waterman on Smith Island to send off with their husbands and sons, who headed out to dredge oysters for days at a time in the fall and winter on the cold waters of the Chesapeake Bay. It’s legendary here on the Eastern Shore, and was named the official cake of the State of Maryland back in 2008.

It’s traditionally 10-layers, individually baked, and then layered and covered with a rich, fudge-like frosting. It’s spreadable when it’s warm, but then solidifies helping to hold the layers together as well as to seal in the moisture. Keeping the cake fresh and moist for the hard-working boys on the water who were out there digging up oysters for people’s Thanksgiving tables.

I finally tackled it for our 10 year anniversary a couple weeks ago, and I’ve gotta say – I don’t know why I was so scared. I used Francis Kitching’s recipe, the legendary hostess and cook of Smith Island. I only ended up with 9-layers, I should have used a little less than 2/3 cup, but I was still so impressed with myself I could barely contain my excitement. The cake baked up nicely, and the fudge frosting was easy to work with. So happy I gave this one a whirl and can finally say I have it under my belt. I look forward to experimenting with new flavor combinations in the future!

Add it to your bucket list , but do yourself a favor and don’t wait as long as I did to make it. It’s so impressive, a perfect cake to make for the holiday season!

Source: Mrs. Kitching’s Smith Island Cookbook