There is nothing that says “comfort food” more than a pot of beans bubbling on the stove. I got this recipe a couple of years ago from my friend and part-time neighbor Nancy, I’ve mentioned them before. We met at this bloggers event hosted by Maryland Tourism, and it turned out they have a vacation house next door here on Chincoteague, literally. It’s a small world after all.

Nancy’s husband Len and their daughter Kelsey own and operate Louthan Distilling in Baltimore, who offer amazing locally distilled whiskey and bourbon. Needless to say, we became fast friends, and usually will get together for a potluck type situation when they are down. I always ask that Nancy bring these beans when we do…

Pintos, tomatoes, onions, garlic and spices are simmered in a beer broth for a couple of hours, to make for a flavorful and tender bean – that lends itself great for burritos, or tacos, or on top of cornbread. Also great mashed up and served refried. If you don’t have the time to spare, you can make them in under an hour (from dried state) in the Instant Pot – you’ll find directions for that included with the regular recipe below.

A hefty dose of cilantro stirred in at the end, and a pint of beer on the side – and you’re good to go. Speaking of beer and locally crafted goodness, have you guys heard that we now have a brewery here on Chincoteague Island? The first on the the Eastern Shore of Virginia. W00t!  I know, I know – so exciting!

Black Narrows Brewing Company opened their doors at the end of December, and we couldn’t be happier that they’re here. It’s run by a wonderful family, they use local ingredients, and their beer is epic. If you’re visiting the island make sure to stop by and see them on Chicken City Road – right behind the Brant.

Enjoy a pint, and get a yourself growler (or three!) to bring home. The Louthans are heading into town this weekend actually, and I can’t wait to get up there with them and enjoy a pint. Have a great weekend, everyone!

Have you guys ever heard the song “Coconut” by Harry Nilsson? We’re talking old school here, kids. If you haven’t, listen to it – it’s such a fun song. A song that I can’t help but singing out loud when I’m making mixing these babies up. My apologies in advance, it’ll be stuck in your head for a week! One of the lyrics is “put the lime in the coconut and you’ll feel better”… Harry was onto something – these little bites are a true taste of summer days, something that I’ve desperately been needing a dose of lately.

Macaroons are kind of an old fashioned sweet made with egg whites and shredded coconut. They’re great, because they’re really adaptable to switching up with different flavor combinations. But to be honest, you’re not going to want to look any further than the addition of the fresh zesty lime…

I got the recipe from my friends at Main Street Shop & Coffeehouse, who offer them in the afternoons when they’re open in season. I’m missing so many things now that everything is closed for the winter here on Chincoteague Island. Spring can’t come soon enough, y’all.

These macs couldn’t be easier to whip together, using just a few simple ingredients. Since they don’t have a bunch of butter, or oil, or egg yolks – they’re not too bad on the waistline. Also gluten-free for all you folks looking out for that.

After baking until golden brown, I let them cool and then give a nice drizzle of dark chocolate. They freeze beautifully, it’s nice to have a few on hand to package up as a little treat for someone you love. This recipe makes a dozen, so if I’m baking for a crowd I’ll often double it. They always fly out the door at bake sales! 

Source: recipe adapted from Martha Stewart via my baking friend Karen

Instant Pot Macaroni & Cheese

Pressure cookers are definitely the hot “it” appliance right now. I’ve had an old stainless model for years, that I use for canning – but at 16 quarts too big to use for general use in my kitchen. So this fall I hopped on the old bandwagon and purchased an 8-quart Instant Pot, and haven’t looked back since!

I’m hesitant about unitaskers in my kitchen, and I was skeptical how much I’d actually use the thing on a regular basis. Turned out I was pleasantly surprised, using it at least two times a week in my kitchen. To be able to make a quick chicken or vegetable stock in under an hour blows my mind.

Not to mention other tasks like potatoes cooked to perfection in a few minutes, dried beans that taste they’ve been simmering all day long in an hour, or this easy macaroni and cheese – which goes from pot to table in two shakes of a lamb’s tail (just a little over 10 minutes).

You could take it to the next level by pouring the finished mac into a baking dish and topping with more cheese (or breadcrumbs, if that’s your thing) and popping into the oven for a few minutes to melt. But, we usually don’t get that far. I’ve also been known to throw in a cup of diced ham and a chopped head of broccoli to bulk it up and make it a one-dish meal that everyone always loves.

Do you have an electric pressure cooker? What are some of your favorite recipes to make in it? Share in comments!

Well, we managed to make it through the Christmas season – now for the onward trudge to New Year’s. We’ve been super busy around here making merry for the past couple of weeks, and busy with school and Cub Scouts prior to that. It’s nice to have this time to kick back with family and relax, with no obligations other than maybe an evening get-together with a few friends down the street…

Drinks are in order, of course. And with as cold as it’s been the past couple of days, one that warms your bones and your belly is the only way to go. I’ve been missing the chai lattes from Sea Star Cafe now that they’re closed for the season (is it March yet?) – so I decided to do a boozy riff on that.

I used the fruit cream liquor Amarula, made by fermenting the marula fruit found in Africa. They’re doing a campaign through the end of the year to donate $1 for every bottle sold to WildlifeDirect to help save African Elephants. Delicious drinks and a good cause – win/win.

So, about that latte. I brewed a really strong chai concentrate, that can be kept in the refrigerator for up to a week. Then, when I was ready to put it together I just warmed the concentrate. Topped off with some steamed milk and froth, and a dash of cinnamon.

The flavors of the chai – cardamom, cinnamon, star anise, black pepper, and ginger all played beautifully off of the fruity richness of the Amarula. It was such a treat, the flavors all together really reminded me of rice pudding. But like, the best rice pudding that you’ve ever had in your life….

It would be great as just a plain chai latte too, without the booze. Then again, where’s the fun in that?