My mom’s dad died when I was fairly young. We often talked about him as I was growing up…telling stories, and such. One thing that always stuck with me was his cake of choice for birthdays – a cherry nut cake. Very popular in the 50’s and 60’s. I’ve made the pink cake studded with cherries before, and always thought it would translate well to cupcake form. But you guys know me…I never got around to it.

When cleaning out the refrigerator this weekend, I happened upon about four jars or maraschino cherries lurking in the back of the shelves.  What to do with them? I had a local event that I was on the hook to donate some baked goods for…so the stars aligned in my kitchen, and I whipped up these delightful cupcakes!

I took my favorite vanilla cupcake recipe, adding almond extract and finely chopped maraschinos (used the food processor and pulsed a few times). I thought about adding some of the cherry syrup, but wanted to really showcase the cherry flecks. Plus, the vanilla cake really makes the pink frosting “pop” all the more…

And, the frosting. Oh my Heavens. Again, I used my basic buttercream recipe – and added the juice from the cherry jar, as well as a little almond extract for that almondy kick.

Topped with a cherry and a few sliced almonds for garnish, they’re positively perfect for spring or Easter celebrations! I think old “Grendad” would approve.

I’ve never been a breakfast person. Occasionally after a night after one-too-many cocktails, I’ll crave a good and greasy breakfast sandwich…but for the most part, I’ll go for some yogurt and fruit after my morning coffee in my day-to-day routine.

My favorite way to kick it up to the next level, and make it a little more substantial is granola. Sweet, crunchy, nutty granola. Good granola is kind of ridiculously expensive to buy from the store – and I find that it’s usually sub-par to begin with. What can I say? I like a high oat to nut ratio.

Luckily, homemade granola is super easy. And this version highlighting the flavors of almond, vanilla, and honey delivers the sweet crunch that I crave when it comes to granola. I like to use top quality extracts (Rodelle is my favorite go-to brand) for a true natural flavor. Also, I really bump up the nut factor with the addition of whole almonds, sliced almonds, walnuts, and pecans for tons of crunch! And nothing beats local honey, of course. We have an apiary here on Chincoteague now, so delightful to use honey harvested here on my little seaside island!

A brief stint in the oven, and some cooling time – and you have a ton of granola that is good for weeks in the pantry. I love to use it on everything – from crunchy streusel toppings, to yogurt parfaits, to ice cream…

If you’ve not made granola at home yet, definitely give this a try. A great recipe to make with the little ones, too. They’ll love having it for breakfast in the morning throughout the week!

Source: adapted from King Arthur Flour

Well, we got snow! 13 inches here on Chincoteague Island to be exact. I know that may not sound like much to many of you, but for our coastal area – it’s quite a bit. Have spent time outside playing in the snow with the boys, making batches of vanilla snow cream, and of course – baking!

These cherry streusel bars are a twist on one of my favorite go-to recipes. My favorite lunch spot here on the island, Sea Star Cafe, serves a very similar bar – usually in the raspberry or apricot variety. I can never resist adding one to my order when I see them in the case…So, with all this snow on the ground…I was really craving one with a cup of my Earl Grey. Sea Star is closed until the spring (as with most things around here). So, it’s not so easy to get my fix. What else is a girl to do, but get into the kitchen and make them for herself?

I must have been thinking ahead, because when I came across a jar of sour cherry jam – during my last pilgrimage to my nearest Whole Foods (“across the Bay”), I couldn’t resist putting it in my cart. I knew it would be just perfect for these bars!

And guys, I was totes right. The sweet-tart cherry jam, blanketing a layer of shortbread crust – and topped with a crunchy, nut-filled, buttery streusel topping. Heaven.

It’s going to be all you can do not to consume the whole pan, trust me…

Source: adapted from Barefoot Contessa Foolproof by Ina Garten

Happy New Years Eve! In light of the holiday,  I thought it only appropriate to share a festive cocktail this evening. And, I’m still working on using up those cranberries leftover from Christmas…

Fruit crushes are kind of synonymous with the Eastern Shore, we’ll take any fruit – muddle it with vodka – add a little seltzer – and call it a day. While they’re very popular in the summertime months, I really feel like the best time for them is in the winter – when citrus is at it’s peak.

I made a cranberry syrup by simmering some frozen cranberries, some sugar, and water on the stove. The cranberries will burst open and soften to a lovely consistency form a lovely chunky syrup. Syrup can be refrigerated for up to a week, which is handy.

he syrup is then combined with vodka (word to Tito’s, my go-to favorite), a splash of Triple Sec , a squeeze of fresh orange juice, and a splash of seltzer. And served over ice. A great way to keep the sparkle of the holidays burning a little longer while you have those cranberries to use up!

I hope everyone has a safe and Happy New Year! Best wishes to all in the coming year.