The first book in the Wind Chime Novels, Wind Chime Café, centers around a quirky island café and explores the complex seafood culture of the Chesapeake Bay region. Growing up on the Eastern Shore of Maryland and around the great food of that area, I decided to include some of my favorite recipes in the series. All of the recipes from the books are featured below, along with several more. I'd love to hear what you think if you get a chance to make any of them. Also, if you have a recipe from your own collection that you'd like to share, I'd be happy to feature it here as well. Drop me a line through my contact page or send me an email.

Maryland Crab Cakes

1/2 cup chopped fresh basil
1 slice white bread, crust removed
1 pound crab meat
3/4 cup mayonnaise
3/4 teaspoon dry mustard
2 teaspoons Old Bay Seasoning
1 egg
Juice of half a lemon
Salt and pepper

Pinch the slice of bread into tiny pieces, then toss everything in a big bowl and mix together. Form into balls using an ice cream scoop and drop heaping scoops onto a platter. Sprinkle more Old Bay Seasoning on the top. Be generous! Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for one hour. (This isn’t crucial, but it helps keep the cakes together.) When you’re ready to cook, heat about 1/4 inch of cooking oil in a large pan until it sizzles when you throw a few drops of water into it. Fry the crab cakes on both sides until golden brown. Serve hot with cocktail sauce and lemon wedges.

Maryland Crab Dip

3 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 shallots, diced
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 tablespoon Old Bay Seasoning
1 1/2 teaspoons dry mustard
3/4 cup half-and-half
8 ounces cream cheese
1 1/2 tablespoons sherry cooking wine
4 ounces sharp white cheddar cheese
3 tablespoons lemon juice
2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
10 ounces lump crabmeat
1/2 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
1/4 cup chopped fresh basil
2 slices white bread with crusts removed, torn into small pieces (or) Panko bread crumbs
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1 teaspoon olive oil
crackers for serving (or a bread bowl)

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Melt 2 tablespoons butter and add shallots, cooking until soft. Add 1 tablespoon water and simmer for about 30 seconds. Stir in the cayenne pepper, Old Bay Seasoning, and dry mustard. Pour in the half-and-half and bring to a simmer. Add the sherry and the cream cheese and stir. Add the cheddar cheese, a little bit at a time. Heat the mixture until it's close to bubbling (about 2 minutes). Remove from the heat. Add the lemon juice and the Worcestershire sauce and stir. Finally, add the crab meat and half the parsley and the basil. Transfer the mixture to an oven proof baking dish and sprinkle with pieces of bread or breadcrumbs. Drizzle a little olive oil on the top, over the bread. Sprinkle with more Old Bay seasoning. Bake for about 18 minutes, or until the top is golden brown. Garnish with remaining parsley and serve hot with crackers.

Rockfish with Lemon and Thyme

1 pound rockfish fillets
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
1/4 cup olive oil
2 tablespoons chopped fresh thyme
1 teaspoon chopped fresh oregano
salt and pepper to taste

Place the fillets, lemon zest, lemon juice, oil, thyme, and oregano in a plastic bag and let the fish marinate in the fridge for about an hour. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Transfer the fillets and the marinade to a baking pan and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Bake for about 13 minutes, until the fish flakes apart with a fork.

Smith Island Cake

For the cake:
2 sticks unsalted butter, cut into chunks
3 cups flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 heaping teaspoon baking powder
2 cups sugar
5 eggs
1 cup evaporated milk
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 cup water

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease 10 nine-inch round cake pans. Sift together the flour, salt and baking powder. Combine the butter and sugar and beat until light and creamy. Add the eggs one at a time and continue to beat. Add the dry ingredients. Add the evaporated milk. Add the vanilla and water. Beat until smooth. Place about 2/3 cup of batter in each of the cake pans and spread out evenly with the back of a spoon. Bake 2 to 3 layers at a time on the middle oven rack for 8 to 9 minutes. Watch the oven closely as the layers bake pretty fast, and you might want to give each of them a minute on the highest rack so they get a nice blast of heat on top.

For the icing:
3 cups sugar
1 large can evaporated milk
1 stick butter
2 heaping tablespoons unsweetened cocoa
1/4 teaspoon salt

Bring all the ingredients except the vanilla to a boil. Continue to simmer on low while stirring until the chocolate thickens (about 15-20 minutes). Take off the heat. Add the vanilla. Mix by hand until the chocolate is thick enough to spread (about 15-20 minutes). The icing will thicken and turn into fudge so you have to be ready to ice the layers as soon as it thickens to the point where it won’t just drip down the sides. Ice each layer as you stack it on top of the next one and then cover the sides and the top with icing, too. Enjoy!

Cake recipe used with permission from “Mrs. Kitching’s Smith Island Cookbook” by Frances Kitching and Susan Stiles Dowell, courtesy of Schiffer Publ., Ltd. The icing recipe is my own, passed down to me by my great-grandmother.

Della's Sweet Rolls

For the dough:
3/4 cup whole milk
1/4 cup water
1 1/4 ounce packet active dry yeast
1/4 cup sugar
6 tablespoons melted butter
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 3/4 cups flour
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg

Warm the water and milk in a saucepan. Remove from the heat and add the yeast. Sprinkle ½ teaspoon sugar on top. Let sit for five minutes, or until foamy. In another bowl, mix the melted butter, egg and vanilla. Add the yeast mixture to the butter mixture and whisk until combined. In a bigger bowl, mix the flour, sugar, salt and nutmeg. Add the yeast mixture to the flour mixture and stir. Place the dough onto a floured surface and knead for a few minutes. Shape into a ball and place in a large lightly buttered bowl. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let the dough rise at room temperature for about an hour, or until it has doubled in size. Take the dough out of the bowl, knead for a few seconds to remove excess air and then put it back in the bowl. Lay a piece of buttered plastic wrap directly over the dough, then cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 4 hours.

For the filling:
1 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1 stick melted butter
1/4 teaspoon salt

Combine brown sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, melted butter and salt in a large bowl. Stir until smooth. Remove the dough from the fridge and transfer to a floured surface. Roll into a 9x13 rectangle and then spread the filling mixture onto the dough, leaving a little room at the edges so it doesn’t spill out. Roll the dough into a log, using the longest edge to roll. Cut off about half an inch from each end and discard. Then cut eight to ten one-inch pieces from the log and lay in a buttered baking dish. (They will rise in the oven so leave some extra room in the dish. I fit eight pieces in a 9x13 dish and saved the rest of the log in the fridge for later.) Bake at 325 degrees for 30-40 minutes, or until golden brown.

For the icing:
1/2 stick melted butter
2 cups powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 teaspoons milk
1 cup toasted pecans

Combine melted butter, powdered sugar and vanilla in a bowl. Add 2 to 3 teaspoons milk, depending on the consistency you want. Spread the icing on the sweet rolls about ten minutes after they’ve come out of the oven, so they’re still warm, but not so hot that the icing drips off. Sprinkle with toasted pecans and serve warm!

Chocolate Eclair Cake

Submitted by Rosie in Pittsburgh, PA
For the cake:
1 box graham crackers
2 1/2 cups milk
2 packages vanilla instant pudding (3 ounces each)
12 ounces Cool Whip

Mix milk and pudding together until thick. Fold in Cool Whip. Grease a 9x13 pan with butter and line with graham crackers. Cover with half pudding mix. Make another layer of graham crackers. Add the remainder of the pudding. End with another layer of graham crackers.

For the icing:
3 tablespoons butter
1 1/2 cups confectioner sugar (sift)
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 tablespoons light corn syrup
2 ounces of Cool Choc-o-Bake (Liquid)

Melt butter. Remove from heat and add the remaining ingredients. Icing will be thin. Cover graham crackers with frosting. Refrigerate for 3 hours. Even better if made the day before! Enjoy!

Chocolate Toffee Crunch

Submitted by Dale S. Rogers in North Carolina
1 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup chopped walnuts or pecans
1/4 cup water
1 12-ounce package semi-sweet chocolate morsels

Combine sugar, butter, water, and salt in a heavy saucepan. Bring to a boil and reduce heat, stirring occasionally until mixture reaches 285 degrees. (Use a candy thermometer or watch as it puffs smoke and just begins to brown.)

Stir in nuts, then pour mixture onto a buttered cookie sheet, immediately spreading to about 1/8 inch thick. Cool in refrigerator. Melt chocolate, then smooth half onto candy and refrigerate. When chocolate is solid, spread remaining chocolate on other side. Cool, then break into pieces. (This is bark candy.) For best results, store in refrigerator.

Gingerbread Cake

Submitted by Emily in Topeka, Kansas
1/2 cup white sugar
1/2 cup butter
1 egg
1 cup molasses
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup hot water

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Grease and flour a 9-inch square pan. In a large bowl, cream together the sugar and butter. Beat in the egg and mix in the molasses. In a bowl, sift together the flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, ginger and cloves. Blend into the creamed mixture. Stir in the hot water. Pour into the prepared pan. Bake for 1 hour in the pre-heated oven, until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean. Allow to cool in pan before serving.