Summer is just around the corner for us here on the Chesapeake, and for my family – that means bushels of crabs steamed on the regular. My dad and Jon run the trotline early on Sunday mornings, and are usually home by 10 AM with a full bushel of #1 Jimmies (or males). This year, our oldest son Andrew – who just turned five, will be old enough to go out and help man the line and net. I know everyone is excited for that!

They haven’t had a chance to go out yet this year, as the water is just starting to warm up. But, I managed to get my hands on a few to steam, and then pick to make a delicious dinner out of to share with you guys. Crab Imperial is on just about every local restaurant menu here on the Eastern Shore. It’s usually used to stuff into fish or shrimp, which of course is delicious. But a GOOD crab imperial – well, I think it’s bright enough to shine on it’s own. Lump crab, tossed with a luscious cream sauce, then baked to perfection – it’s divine. I found the cute little vintage crab dishes at a yard sale, but a ramekin or shallow au gratin dish would be just fine to bake in as well.

I’m so thankful to live in an area where my boys can experience this – learning to crab from their grandfather, who learned it from his father before him – right here on the waters of the Chesapeake Bay.

Time to stock up on Old Bay and Boh, Maryland kiddos – summer is coming!

Grapefruit CrushI’ve made mention of the Orange Crushes that are a favorite of our Delmarva beaches. But, have you ever heard of the grapefruit crush? It’s exactly like the orange crush. But, you guessed it! You’re using lots of fresh juice from grapefruits – in place of oranges, to get this lovely cocktail.

The good folks at Karlsson’s sent me a bottle of their Gold Vodka to try. Ya’ll know me – I’m not one to turn down a bottle of booze! The minute I opened the bottle and gave it a whiff, I was impressed. While most vodkas don’t smell or taste like much of anything – this had all kind of floral notes going on. That’s probably because it’s made by a single distillation and is unfiltered – a rarity among vodkas of today. What also sets them apart is that they only use baby new potatoes, of several Swedish varieties in the mash process. This leads to a vodka with plenty of great flavor – I mentioned the floral notes, but also fresh herbs, and grapefruit. Highly recommended!

I hope everyone has a great weekend! We’re looking forward to the Salisbury Festival here, a local event that’s held annually. I’ll be at Parker Place selling cupcakes, for any of you locals out and about! Stop by and say hello. Don’t forget to enter the Magimix Giveaway if you haven’t done so already. Winner will be chosen Monday morning!

Easy Steamed ShrimpI’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again – I’m so fortunate to live here on the beautiful Eastern Shore, with the abundance of fresh seafood and wonderful produce available all throughout the year. Whether it’s buying crabs right off the boats in Crisfield in the summer, buying bushels of oysters from the Chincoteague Bay in December, or getting up early to do some rockfishing with Dad in the fall – it’s the environment that I’ve been raised in, and I couldn’t imagine it any other way. I’m so thankful to call this place home, and have the opportunity to raise my family here.

That being said, I’m very excited to announce that tomorrow I’ll (along with Jon) be heading to Charleston, SC to compete as a finalist in the Avalon Great Foods Of America Recipe Challenge at the Charleston Food & Wine Festival. It’s such an incredible honor to represent my great state of Maryland, and I can’t thank Avalon Winery enough for sponsoring it. For this foodie who also happens to be a history buff, visiting Charleston is pretty much a dream come true. I’ve got a couple restaurants lined up that I have to visit, and the old tree on John’s Island is on my list too. Any other must-do’s in that wonderful city? It’s going to be our first time visiting, but I’m fairly certain it won’t be our last!

Ok, so enough about me. Let’s talk about these shrimp! My favorite fish monger closes for a couple months after Christmas, but thankfully – he just reopened on Valentine’s Day! Ray has been a waterman for as long as I can remember.  He’s also had his restaurant, Ray’s Shanty for about as long as I can remember too. It’s the place to go for fresh fish, THE BEST hushpuppies known to man, and gorgeous fresh shrimp. There’s a seafood market on the side of the restaurant too – gorgeous scallops, heads-on shrimp, and various filets of fish; most of which Ray has caught himself on his charter boat. Ray taught my mom his way to cook shrimp over 20 years ago, and it can’t get any easier. While technically, they aren’t steamed – they are always perfect, and you’ll never have an overcooked shrimp again. They’re great to season with lots of Old Bay and eat as is, peel and serve in a martini glass for a fancy shrimp cocktail, or chill down and make shrimp salad with.

September. At long last. Andrew started preschool last week, which was – hard. He did great though, and is really enjoying being in a classroom environment. His little brother and I miss him in those morning hours, but we’ve been enjoying having some time as just the two of us too. We went apple picking this week, to the local orchard up the street, Vessey’s. They’ve had a rough year – in January they lost the matriarch of the family, Mrs. Nancy. The woman could talk your ear off about apples, or anything else for that matter for hours, and had peony bushes the size of small homes.  She was a gem, and is truly missed by many folks here in our community. Then, to make matters worse – it seemed like every crop took a nosedive. Flooding got to strawberries and then the dryness and intense heat in July fried the peaches. This week they mentioned that the pumpkins aren’t looking too hot either, so keep your fingers crossed!

But, I’m happy to report that the apples looked great. It was still a little early for picking, so I’ll probably go back in a couple of weeks to get a couple of bushels to make applesauce with. We settled for a peck, and promptly went home and make this pie. I’ve made it several times now, and it always comes out great. Which, speaks volumes considering pies have never been my strong suit. So many apple pies are so cloyingly sweet and cinnamon-ey, and I love this recipe because it isn’t. Hints of cinnamon, allspice, and nutmeg – and just enough sugar to make it sweet.  With a scoop of vanilla ice cream on top? What a perfect way to welcome fall!