Life Lately

Pumpkins, acorn squashes, buttercup squashes, and butternut are adorning the inside and the outside of our house. Slowly they make their way into the oven, meanwhile, we still have a fall harvest farm stand. We have small decorative pumpkins for sale too!


Doesn’t fall inspire you to get in the kitchen? Butternut cream soup, snickerdoodle bread, maple pumpkin pie (here’s the recipe), beef stew, homemade chai lattes, fresh apple cake…Ahhhh. Our tummies are warm and full. Baking season is in full swing in our farmhouse kitchen, and no one’s complaining. I’ve been putting some muffins and sweet loaves in the freezer for when the baby comes. A little prep will come in handy : )


The crisp air is uplifting, and since the evenings are shorter, we’ve done a couple day outings with Nathan. Even the flower colors are stunning! We hope to get out a few more times before the northern frigid temps settle in.


The older five children are in fall sports. It’s really low-key, but it’s so fun to get out there and kick the ball on cool Saturday mornings! They play a game of soccer followed by flag-football.


Just throwing in a delicious baby eating doughnuts, because he’s irresistible : ) Nothing speaks fall cozy like waking up on the weekend to enormous doughnuts Nathan’s picked up fresh from the bakery!

with love. Damaris


Honey-Apple Dutch Baby Pancake

We have a healthy relationship with honey in our household. It seems each time Nathan is working in the hives, the kids love to eat the raw honeycomb right off his tools. While this is their favorite way to indulge in our honey, perhaps a close second is this Honey-Apple Dutch Baby Pancake.

The cast-iron skillet heating in the kitchen, butter sizzling as it melts, and an eggy batter being whisked can only mean a sweet homemade Dutch Baby Pancake is about to please. Its flavors are pure and simple. This recipe is made with a very simple batter poured over honeyed apples. Baked in a very hot oven until puffed up and golden, it serves up like a giant popover with a honey-butter glaze. A light sprinkling of cardamom adds warmth and an undeniable woody aroma. Since this Dutch Baby Pancake can be made in just a matter of minutes and bakes up quickly, you’ll enjoy more time to savor the silky bites and take your time at the table.

We have used seasonal fruits like peaches or pears with delightful renditions of this delicate Dutch Baby Pancake. When it’s done baking, you’ll be pleasantly surprised to see the honey-glazed apple slices arranged like an upside-down cake. A sifting of powdered sugar adds just the touch of sophistication.

Honey-Apple Dutch Baby Pancake*

  • 4 tablespoons of butter

  • 1 or 2 apples, cored and sliced into thin wedges

  • 1/3 cup honey

  • 1/2 teaspoon cardamom

  • 4 large eggs

  • 1 cup milk (any kind will do)

  • 1 cup flour (used whole wheat with delicious results)

  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

  • powdered sugar for dusting over the top

Heat the oven to 400F. Melt the butter in a 10 or 12 inch oven-safe skillet. When melted, add the apple slices and cook until soft and golden. Turn off the heat and stir in the cardamom and the honey. In a bowl, whisk the eggs, milk, flour and salt. Pour over the hot cooked apples. Bake until puffed up and deep golden about 20 minutes. Slide the pancake onto a large plate or serve it up rustic -we do :). Dusting it with powdered sugar makes it extra special.

*This recipe was inspired by an old Martha Stewart cookbook I found 10 years ago at a garage sale : )

with love. Damaris


Maple-Pecan Granola

We’ve experimented with and enjoyed at least ummm….1,058 recipes of homemade granola! THIS one may be the best! It is the simplest granola to put together and absolutely scrumptious. It’s unpretentious, perfect balance of textures and crunch make it a winner in my book. It is just sweet enough to enjoy any time of the day.

We most often eat it like cereal – in a bowl with milk, but yogurt parfaits are delish too! Homemade granola is a staple when we go on vacation or camping because it is a no-prep, wholesome and gratifying breakfast. I love it when my friends inspire me! One friend of mine prefers her granola with milk and warmed in the microwave for a comforting breakfast with her morning coffee.

If you’re on the lookout for one of those recipes that can easily be made ahead and expanded for guests, this is perfect. I always make a double-batch of this granola when we have company overnight and serve a sweet bread loaf with butter on the side. When we go to a friend’s house for a playdate, or a neighbor is feeling under the weather, Eva and I jar up some, as well. It’s such an easy way to show gratefulness or extend practical hospitality. This crispy, golden granola looks beautifully delicious in a pint or quart mason jar with turns of red and white butcher twine and a hand-written tag! Enjoy and bless others!

Maple-Pecan Granola

  • 3 1/2 cups oats

  • 1/2 cup shredded or flaked unsweetened coconut (can be omitted)

  • 1 cup roughly chopped pecans or walnuts (can be omitted or substitute for sunflower seeds)

  • 1 teaspoon salt

  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon (optional- I can’t decide which is my favorite way -with or without)

  • grated zest of 1 orange or 1 tablespoon of orange peel

  • 1/2 cup maple syrup

  • 1/2 cup melted butter/coconut oil/ any other oil

  • 1/2 cup golden raisins (substitute with dried cherries or dried blueberries)

Preheat the oven to 350F. Line with parchment a large rimmed cookie sheet (10×15). In a large mixing bowl, combine all the ingredients except the raisins. Stir until everything is well coated. Spread the mixture into a thin, even layer. Bake for 10 minutes and check to ensure even baking. May need to stir and add 5-10 more minutes. It burns quickly! Remove from the oven let cool completely. Store in airtight container at room temperature.

with love. Damaris


We'll Make Cocoa.

While writing this post, I found out that today is National Hot Chocolate Day. Coincidental?!

Our family loves celebrating these snowy days with mugs of hot cocoa! Making a big pot of homemade hot chocolate is easier than remembering to always be stocked up on those little packets of the powdery mix. I’m sure you’ll agree that homemade hot cocoa is waaaaay better! In just a couple of minutes, you’ll have a rich, comforting cup of hot cocoa goodness waiting for you and everyone else coming in from the cold this winter. This recipe is a sumptuous chocolate treat without the heavy richness that sometimes keeps me finishing other mugs of specialty drinks. Enjoy this classic hot drink that’s the creamiest dreamy hot chocolate with a hint of warmth from a cinnamon stick and splash of real vanilla!

Below is the basic recipe that’s especially kid-friendly, but adding a drop of peppermint extract, a pinch of cayenne, or substituting some of the milk for a flavored coffee creamer makes for a delightful variation. Next time you look out the window, and it’s dreary outside, cheer up! Have yourself a merry little cup of hot cocoa!

Homemade Hot Chocolate

  • 2 quarts of whole milk (you can substitute half and half or even heavy cream for 1 or 2 of the 8 cups)

  • 1/3 cup cocoa powder

  • 2/3 sugar

  • 2 tablespoons vanilla

  • 1 or 2 cinnamon sticks

In a medium pot, warm all the ingredients while whisking. The cocoa will dissolve completely. No need to bring it to a boil, but keep it on simmer for the cinnamon stick to open up and flavor the hot cocoa. Sometimes, we don’t wait- ha! Ladyfingers, biscotti, or marshmallows make delicious fun additions when serving. Leftovers can be stored in the fridge for days! Just reheat and enjoy ’til it’s gone!

with love. Damaris


Holiday Bucket List

Is anyone else feeling behind on all the holiday stuff? Presents, decor, tree, wreaths, outdoor lights, cards, family pictures, BREATHE! But really, all we have to prepare for this Christmas is our hearts. Daily advent readings are such a cure for all the distressing about to-does! You can find readings for your simplified advent here.

When I begin to feel the overwhelm, I try to see it all thought the eyes of a child. When our hearts are full of wonder, it’s easier to delight in the small things – we enjoy what we already have and are more ready to share it with the loved ones that surround us! When we celebrate the simple things, we can find rest and even recharge during the holiday hullabaloo. Since I’m a list-maker extraordinaire, I’m sharing today our Christmas bucket list! We plan to enjoy these favorite activities during the school/work break of the holidays. Most of these we do every year and anticipate them for weeks, but some activities are new additions which may well become a special tradition. Here it goes… our holiday bucket list:

  1. playing board games with a mug of hot chocolate

  2. sleeping “under” the tree

  3. baking wheels of brie

  4. making bread loaves for all the neighbors on our road

  5. going to Panera for coffee and bagels

  6. making chocolate bread pudding

  7. trying our hand at a lattice apple pie

  8. eating croissants and chocolate for breakfast

  9. watching special Christmas movies

  10. baking and frosting cut-out sugar cookies (recipe in an upcoming post!)

  11. Cracker Barrel brunch and sitting by the fire to play checkers with Dad

  12. making monkey bread

  13. Christmas caroling at neighbors’

  14. making cream puffs

  15. taking the kids treasure hunting at a nearby antique mall

  16. enjoying huge cinnamon rolls on Christmas morning

There you have it! It’s the most wonderful time of the year!

with love. Damaris


December: Preparing For The Season

The twinkling lights glowing day and night and the extra greenery brought inside fill our home with wonder. With little effort, we all can turn our homes into a snow mountain lodge overlooking the frozen lake (that’s what imaginations are for- wink!) This is the month for stringing up a little tinsel, sneaking a kiss under the mistletoe, and sampling the entire array of hot chocolates – embracing all the simple joys! yay!

Our family loves December because it’s the month we get to spend extra time together! …and Christmas! Full of advent readings and carols, we also enjoy the mood with a few fun activities. Over the years, many of these have become traditions.

Here are the activities we’ve been up to:

  1. wearing our flannel plaids

  2. making stock pots of soup

  3. listening to Christmas music all day long

  4. trekking across a tree farm for the perfect Christmas tree cutting

  5. burning seasonal candles like “mulled cider” and “fresh balsam”

  6. diffusing essential oils that complement our freshly-cut tree (3 drops cedarwood+3 Douglas fir or 2 wintergreen+2 rosemary+2 peppermint)

  7. trimming the tree and decorating the house – the kids love it!

  8. making cookies

  9. advent readings

  10. popping giant bowls of popcorn

  11. roasting chestnuts

  12. filling up our Christmas book basket

  13. making homemade hot chocolate (recipe coming soon-yum!)

  14. writing cards to friends near and abroad

  15. taking the obligatory cheesy smile portraits

  16. making a bucket list for our upcoming Christmas break (sharing it on the blog tomorrow)

What do early December days look like at your house?

with love. Damaris


Happy National Cookie Day!

Happy National Cookie Day!

I don’t make cookies often really, but these frosted eggnog cookies were the favorite ones I made last Christmas, so they’re making an encore! Everyone in Nathan’s office was very pleased, and the ladies at the gathering I took them to, raved about the eggnog addition. They are so easy and ever so soft! The fresh nutmeg is warming and the eggnog makes these cookies festive. Much lighter than the traditional sugar cookie, these are fluffy and have a very tender crumb. They are perfect for the holidays. You’ll be smitten by these cookies even if you’re not an eggnog lover. The frosting is incredible, and the dough is foolproof – never bakes flat. I’m sharing my favorite recipe which uses yogurt instead of extra butter. Doesn’t that mean we can eat these cookies for breakfast? hah!

Frosted Eggnog Cookies

6 tablespoons butter, softened

3 tablespoons yogurt (plain/vanilla/Greek yogurt)

1 1/2 cups sugar

1/2 cup eggnog

1 teaspoon vanilla

2 egg yolks

2 1/4 cup flour

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon nutmeg (freshly ground makes a big difference)

Frosting: 1 cup powdered sugar + 2 tablespoons eggnog

Freshly ground nutmeg to sprinkle over the frosted cookies (optional)

Preheat the oven to 300 degrees. In a bowl, cream the butter, yogurt, and sugar until smooth. Add the eggnog, vanilla and egg yolks. Mix well and add the dry ingredients. Mix only until combined (not overbeating it!). On a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper (or greased), drop cookie dough by rounded teaspoons. Bake for 20-25 minutes until bottoms are lightly browned. Transfer to a cool surface immediately to allow cookies to cool. Mix powdered sugar and eggnog in a small bowl and dip the cookies face down into the frosting. It makes 48 small cookies.

with love. Damaris


Wishing You A Happy Thanksgiving!

Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth!
Serve the Lord with gladness!
Come into his presence with singing!

Know that the Lord, he is God!

It is he who made us, and we are his;
we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture.

Enter his gates with thanksgiving,

and his courts with praise!
Give thanks to him; bless his name!

For the Lord is good;

his steadfast love endures forever,
and his faithfulness to all generations.

Psalm 100

Tomorrow morning, as we sit around the quiet breakfast table feasting on praline baked french toast (skip the corn syrup) and listen to instrumental hymns of praise, we will be thankful. As we remember the Pilgrim’s faithfulness, courage, and sacrifice by reading excerpts of Thanksgiving: A Time To Remember, we will be thankful.

Over the years we have all memorized Psalm 100, and I expect we will say it together again. Finally, we’ll continue to build this tradition of sharing our gratefulness with one another and add our last tags on the Thanksgiving Tree. Amidst the succulent food, enjoying the day off work, family games and talks, we’ll seek to center around recognizing our God’s perfect provision for our family and His lavishing grace. Our desire is that our home and yours be filled with biblical thankfulness this holiday!

“…for SOLEMN THANKSGIVING and PRAISE: That at one Time and with one Voice, the good People may express the grateful Feelings of their Hearts, and consecrate themselves to the Service of their Divine Benefactor; …”

First Thanksgiving Proclamation of 1777

with love. Nathan and Damaris


November Homebody

November air is chilled with the breath of coming winter. We have been waking up to a frost-covered meadow, and it’s magical to see it glisten in the morning’s first light. Everyday, the children look closely at the frost hoping it’s snow, but soon enough, my loves, soon enough. Crowded days of school go swiftly by, and our moments are full. November has also brought evenings of cozy reading aloud while drinking spiced tea. Does this time of the year turn you into a homebody too?

A good day is a slow one at home with a little nesting and a little baking. Time to read and time to make is what has been filling our November so far. The children helped put this list together of our favorite activities:

  1. Collecting leaves and pressing them

  2. Enjoying a bonfire for roasting marshmallows

  3. Taking a leisurely drive to see the colorful trees

  4. Making caramel brulee lattes: 1/4 cup strong coffee, 1 hot (steamed) milk, 2 tablespoons vanilla syrup, 2 tablespoons caramel ice cream topping.

  5. Making a pumpkin pie

  6. Harvesting our autumn garden: butternut and buttercup squash, Brussels sprouts, sweet potatoes, and kale – always more kale.

  7. Adding Thanksgiving books to the fall book basket. You can read about our favorite Thanksgiving books here.

  8. Making applesauce and serving it hot

  9. Making the best apple cake with the apples we preserved

  10. Making lots of homemade hot chocolate

  11. Looking forward to spending time with cousins for the holidays and dreaming up a delicious menu

  12. Taking turns adorning the Thankful Tree (full blog post coming tomorrow!)

    As November’s autumnal splendor swiftly fades into all shades of pale, let’s reserve a slow day at home and savor the small slices of life that make us smile.

    with love. Damaris


    The Secret Is In The Dough

    Yeast intimidates me a little – OK, a lot. A few years ago, when I had more time, I made our bread on a somewhat regular basis. It was good, but never too consistent. The recipe I used the most made three loaves, and I baked it once a week. I don’t think that would last even one day around here now! The older kids have such a passion for the smell of yeast and working with a lump of dough! I think it’s because they remember our afternoons in the kitchen and the overflowing bowls of leavened dough.

    A friend of mine, Salam, stopped to visit last week. I was telling her about my fears with yeast, but she didn’t sympathize! She seemed so confident in her recipe, her skills, her results! I was intrigued and pleaded with her to stay and make it with me. This isn’t the first time I’ve gleaned massive amounts of kitchen knowledge from her! Last winter she came to teach me how to make cheese! – I know, she’s a sweetheart! She told me a couple secrets to the no-fail, no-fuss dough recipe, that has worked every time. We’ve made four pizza braids since she was here, and we’ve loved them!

    I’ll let you in on her secrets to fool-proof dough:

    1. sift the flour

    2. use buttermilk, kefir, or milk with a dash of vinegar (even when recipes call for water or milk)

    3. sprinkle cornmeal on your pan for a crisp bottom

    This recipe is only 30 minutes hands-on. The dough comes together in a stand-up mixer or in a food processor. No kneading by hand means no flour messes all over the counters or sticky doughy hands – YES! My family loves all things pizza, and this braid is the easiest twist (pun intended) on a pizza.

    If you don’t know what to make for dinner tonight, I bet you’ve got these ingredients in your kitchen right now. We’ve served this pizza braid piping hot, but really the children prefer it after it’s been resting awhile. So, you can bake it early in the afternoon, and still serve a finger-linking supper a couple hours later! Don’t you love make-ahead meals?

    This recipe makes two pizza braids, two large pizzas (14-16 inches), or three 10 inch pizzas.

    INGREDIENTS:

    • 3 1/2 cups flour, sifted right into the mixer bowl (or food processor)

    • 1/2 teaspoon salt

    • 1 1/2 cups cultured milk (we used kefir, but buttermilk or milk-vinegar mix is perfect too)

    • 2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil

    • 1 tablespoon or 1 packet of instant or active yeast

    • a pinch of sugar and a couple teaspoons of warm water (around 110 degrees)

    • a sprinkle of cornmeal

    • melted butter or oil with garlic salt, Italian seasoning and parmesan to brush over the top of the braid (optional, but yummy!)

    • your favorite pizza sauce

    • your favorite topping and shredded cheese (we do pepperoni or salami)

    In a small bowl, mix warm water, sugar and dry yeast. While it bubbles up, sift the flour into your bowl, add salt and cultured milk (if you slightly warm it, your dough will rise a little faster).

    Add the yeast mixture and turn on the mixer with the hook attachment (I hear paddle works great too). It will begin to slowly come together into a ball, detaching from the sides. Add bits of flour if it’s still sticking.

    Add the olive oil, and continue to let the machine knead for about 10 minutes total. So easy!

    Add a little oil around the dough and on the sides of bowl. Cover it with clear wrap. Set it in a warm, dark (or cover with towel) place for 45 minutes to 1 hour. It should double.

    With floured hands, take it out of the bowl and feel it, if it’s sticky, dust it with more flour. Divide the dough in two for the braids (or three for smaller pizzas).

    Let it rest for 10 minutes while you grab the ingredients for the filling (or pizza toppings) and turn your oven on to 400 degrees.

    Stretch out the dough with floured hands gently to prevent holes in the dough. Grease and sprinkle cornmeal on your cookie sheet (pizza stone is great too). Lay the stretched dough on the pan and cut two inch diagonal slits into both sides of the dough.

    Spread sauce down the middle of your dough. Add shredded cheese and toppings on top of sauce.

    Fold strips up and over pizza filling, alternating sides to get a braided look. Brush the top of the braided dough with olive oil and then sprinkle with the garlic, Italian seasoning and Parmesan cheese.

    Bake for 15-20 minutes, or until golden brown. Let cool for a few minutes then cut into slices and serve. Freezes great and reheats well too!

    with love. Damaris