Hocking Hills: Camping Trip + Fireside Peach Pie

Last week, we got away for few days to Hocking Hills. We had never heard of it until a couple months ago, and it’s a spectacular state park in southeastern Ohio. Hocking Hills is only a four-hour drive for us, and so we were bound for the perfect camping trip! The rock formations and waterfalls make it a scenic wonderland.

The cool of the deep gorges was a nice respite from the sun, although the trails were also mostly wooded and shaded. We hiked through forestland framed by spectacular sandstone rock recess and caves. I was surprised at how potentially dangerous the deep cliffs were! The names of the trails are so mysterious. How could we leave without making it through all of them?! Old Man’s Cave, Conckle’s Hollow, Whispering Cave, Devil’s Bathtub, Ash Cave, Rock House, Cantwell Cliffs, and Cedar Falls did not disappoint.

We each had a favorite hike, but mostly the children can’t stop talking about the wading in clean, clear water and filling their canteens and water bottles at the many springs and waterfalls. We were surrounded by what seemed like a jungle. So much moss and fern made everything feel exotic and tropical. Can you tell one of the kids had just finished reading Jurassic Park?

Of course, it wouldn’t be a camping trip without roasting marshmallows and a late-afternoon fishing. Nathan grilled our hearty suppers over the fire. Burgers and brats never tasted so good!

As we made our way back home through gentle hills and rolling emerald pastures, we shared our blessings and the joy of spending time together. Having breakfast and Bible reading, the girls learning to pack lunches (waaaaay too much mayonnaise), and encouraging each other on to keep going as we all felt tired (6 hours of hiking each day) are some of the sweetest memories of our camping trip. Kudos to Nathan who carried Samuel in the back-carrier for all of it!

Fireside Peach Pie (Nathan’s creation – yum!)

  • peach pie filling can

  • white sandwich bread loaf

  • butter

  • Cinnamon sugar

Butter the bread slices, and add two or three spoonfuls of pie filling to one of the unbuttered sides of the bread. Top with the other unbuttered side. Sprinkle each buttered side with cinnamon sugar. Place pie in the cast iron sandwich maker (here). Cook for 3 or so minutes over the embers or until golden (grilled cheese looking). Enjoy the warm pie!

with love. Damaris

A Lovely Mother's Day Brunch: 5 quick and easy recipes

With Mother’s Day a couple Sundays away, I have been looking through recipes and making our menu. Since we head to church in the morning, breakfast will be baked oatmeal or maple muffins, but after church, we ‘ll slow down and gather. We’ll delight and give thanks for the joys of a full table, and then I’ll get to open several homemade, art-filled cards. Aren’t they the best?

Brunch is my all-time favorite meal, and surely there is no shortage of brunch menu options and incredible ideas. I compiled some of our cherished recipes which you’ll notice can all be made in advance. We have enjoyed making all of these recipes over the last few years, and they have become faithful appearances on the spring-summer menu.

I plan to prepare only the grapefruit when we come home from church. Meanwhile, the tart, quiche, and coffeecake go into the oven at a low temperature to warm up for 30 minutes or so. This will give the boys time to cut some flowers from the front yard or a branch of crab-apple (or dogwood- the prettiest) to make the best and happiest Mother’s Day table. The only thing that will make this brunch menu better is a fresh brewed coffee. With a little cream. And a little sugar.

All the quick and easy recipes are linked!

Broiled Grapefruit

A simple caramelized topping makes it a surprising favorite. This sweet and tangy pleasure can be served first or right along the rest of the brunch dishes. It is light and immensely refreshing.

Asparagus Tart

This tart makes the most elegant side dish. Roasted asparagus, creamy cheese, and a flaky crust come together so simply and so perfectly. What a beautiful way to showcase the springtime vegetable! Make it ahead and warm it in a low oven (although it is tasty at room temperature too). And when the recipe boasts only three ingredients, you’ve got to try it! Guaranteed to be a delicate delight at the table.

Crustless Quiche Lorraine

Eggs and bacon – no two foods were ever more perfectly paired! The hint of smoky gruyere complements the salty bacon in this scrumptious, easy recipe. Quiche is a staple that pleases everyone at the gathering and is perfect for making ahead (freezes very well).

Lemon-Raspberry Coffeecake

This coffeecake has a creamy center that will be a delightful surprise when served. It can be prepared very quickly if the butter and cream cheese are at room temperature already, and it bakes up perfectly every time. This sweet treat is well suited for making in advance (and even freezing). The slight citrus flavor and the moist crumb, make this gorgeous coffeecake inviting. Enjoy it with a dusting of powdered sugar! It’s especially delicious warm.

Non Alcoholic Apple Cider Mimosa

It is so fun to enjoy a colorful drink! Equally special and healthy, these mimosas are perfect for Mother’s Day brunch! The children will not be able to hold their excitement at our table when they see this treat. The recipe is only two ingredients! Orange juice and sparking cider make it the simplest, quickest drink.

with love, Damaris

Easy Scones and Crème Fraiche

For years I only every made muffins for a quick snacking or breakfast food, but a friend (an amazing baker too) enlightened me to the wonders of scones. Same one-bowl idea, quick in the oven, and a crumb that delights all palates, scones are amazing. I have tried many recipes since then depending on what ingredients I had on-hand (buttermilk recipes, no egg recipes, you name it), but this one is by far the most dependable.

Scones have a subtle different texture than biscuits since they’re less creamy/buttery. This simple scone recipe will prove that they are a dense, crumbly deliciousness. Sometimes we sugar dust the scones before baking, but the traditional treat just takes a little spreading of jam for sweetening. Dried currants as an add-on is so authentic, but dried currants are not easy to come by. Some of our favorite combinations have been lemon extract and dried blueberries, orange extract and dried cranberries, and vanilla extract and diced dried apricots.

The perfect topping to this tasty treat is the delicate addition of the crème fraiche. It takes the place of British clotted cream with a silkier texture. Crème fraiche literally makes itself on your counter, and the results couldn’t be dreamier! Pretty soon, you’ll be using crème fraiche in all sorts of recipes! I promise you’ll feel very accomplished in the kitchen and be forever grateful that you learned to make it.

Easy Scones*

  • 2 1/2 cups flour

  • 2 tablespoons sugar

  • 4 teaspoons baking powder

  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

  • 1/3 cup room temperature butter

  • 2 beaten eggs

  • 3/4 cup heavy cream

  • 3/4 cup dried currants or raisins or any dried fruit (chocolate chips would be fun)

  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla or your favorite extract

Heat oven to 375° F. In a medium bowl, combine all the dry ingredients and use your hands (a fork, two butter knives, pastry blender) to break up the butter so that the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. We mostly use the food processor and pulse until crumbly. Add the eggs, heavy cream, extract, and dried fruit at once and stir until moistened. Turn your dough onto a lightly floured surface. Form it into a ball and with floured hands, gently press it into a round or square. You may need a rolling pin. For American sized scones, cut into 8 wedges or squares (cut outs are good too, but they bake faster). For traditional scones, cut into 16 wedges, round cut-outs, or squares. Place on a parchment paper lined cookie sheet. Brush scones with milk or cream and dust with coarse sugar (optional). Bake at 375F for 15 minutes or until golden brown. Serve warm with crème fraiche and strawberry jam (lemon curd is amazing too). They freeze well.

Crème Fraiche**

  • 1 cup heavy cream

  • 1 tablespoon buttermilk

Combine the cream and the buttermilk and warm in the microwave or stove until lukewarm (not to exceed 90F or 32C). Pour the mixture onto a glass jar and cover lightly (so steam can escape). Let it stand at room temperature overnight (warm place – 70F) or all day (up to 24 hours) until it is has thickened. Stir, cover, and refrigerate for the flavor to develop and the crème to thicken even more. Before refrigerating, try stirring in vanilla beans (just a 1/4 teaspoon will do) for an over-the-top treat! If you’d like to try the crème sweetened, stir in powdered sugar to taste. Crème Fraiche is delicious in savory dishes too (no vanilla).

*Adapted from Home and Gardens New Baking Book

**Adapted from Super Natural Every Day, Heidi Swanson

with love. Damaris

White Wine Herb Chicken: Instant Pot Lessons

There’s some irony here. In my world of loving slow, we have completely embraced our Instant Pot.

When I was growing up, my mom would leave me in charge of her time bomb ticking in the kitchen pressure cooker. It often contained some kind of stew. The steam valve would go off and spin angrilyspitting steam all over the kitchen while making the loudest shrieks. Today, we can enjoy electric pressure cookers that are very safe and the functions take all the guess work out of the experimentation.

This meal has so much flavor! If you choose not to use white wine, you can substitute chicken stock. The wine flavor is very mild but marries beautifully with the sweet garlic and oregano. A healthy and wholesome dinner cooked in the Instant Pot is perfect for a mid-week busy night. We’ve enjoyed this chicken several times, even this past Monday night. So, so good and tender!

White Wine Herb Chicken

3 lbs. bone-in (skin on or off) chicken thighs and/or drumsticks

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1 tablespoon minced garlic

1 tablespoon dried oregano

2 cups white wine (substitute chicken stock)

salt and fresh ground black pepper

Turn the Instant Pot to the sauté function and add the olive oil. When heated, add the chicken, salt generously and brown well on both sides. Add the garlic, oregano, pepper, and wine. Set the Instant Pot to the poultry function (automatically sets for 15 minutes) and keep the steam vent closed. That’s it! I allowed it to slow release and stay warm until we were ready to eat. Disclaimer: I did not cook the potatoes with the chicken. I did take the chicken out and added small red potatoes to the broth in the Instant Pot. Turned it on to pressure cook for 7 minutes and allowed to slow release. The little potatoes will melt in your mouth. You’ll love it!

Tell me when you make it, and I do so love to see your pictures!

with love. Damaris

A Stroll Down Comfort Lane and Chicken Potpie

Why do mom’s Sunday pot roasts, buttercream cupcakes for birthdays, and home-churned peach ice cream on Independance Day fill us with comfort?

Our favortie foods connect us with people and friends whose presence made these meals so pleasurable. The real magic is in the gift of sharing and generously serving our people. Comfort isn’t merely the food, but the gathering of grateful feelings and lasting memories.

Dinner at our house is an event we look forward to all day, and when a savory pie is in the oven, everyone starts to feel good long before the first bite. The steam and aroma of creamed vegetables and chicken promise warmth through and through.

Can I offer some advice? Don’t shy away from making a pie just because you are intimated by its crust! The one I used this time is store-bought, and it was delicious. If you have time, this recipe is my favorite. I only lay a crust over the top of the creamy chicken and vegetables, but you could have a bottom and top crust for a heartier rendition. I have been making a variation of this potpie recipe for years, mostly of what I have on hand. This time I wrote down the measurements to our favorite version, so I could share the recipe with you!

Comfort food doesn’t need to be a guilty pleasure. This chicken pie is loaded with green vegetables! Simple enough to enjoy as a weeknight meal, it’s outrageously good – warm, tasty, crusty, thyme-kissed, oven-baked goodness. Make it ahead of time, keep it covered in the fridge, and bake it when you get home from errands, or when you have people over. It all cooks in one pan! A generous hot portion of this pie and a salad makes a most perfect dinner.

Chicken Potpie

  • pie crust

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil + 2 tablespoons butter

  • 1/2 yellow onion, peeled and chopped

  • 1 celery bunch, trimmed and chopped

  • 2 cups green peas (frozen)

  • 2 cups cooked chicken (perfect use of leftovers)

  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme

  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

  • 2 tablespoons flour

  • 1 cup milk (any kind works well)

  • fresh ground pepper (to taste)

  • egg wash (1 yolk + a little water) (optional)

Turn the oven on to 375F. In a large skillet on medium-low heat, melt butter with the oil and cook the onions and celery until soft. Add the frozen peas, chicken, salt, pepper, thyme and flour. Mix in the milk stirring constantly as it thickens. Taste for salt and add more to your liking. Pour the creamy chicken and vegetable mixture onto a baking pie dish and cover with the pie crust. Cut little vents (make little cuts) on your crust, and brush the egg wash (optional). Bake for 20 minutes. When you see some evidence of it bubbling inside, it’s ready to enjoy!

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

Did You Order An Instant Pot Recently?

Shortly after we were married, we received a quesadilla maker, and it never came out of the box. Sorry gifter! We don’t have a roaster, rice cooker, donut maker, toaster oven, electric griddle, panini maker, nor a microwave which tells you that it took a long time for me to grow increasingly intrigued by this of-the-moment appliance. I’m late to the party, but I’m in and I’m stayin’. It’s easy! It works! It’s delicious! -were all my expressions after using the Instant Pot for the first couple of weeks. I’m growing confident in the results and soon will join the amazing proficient Instat Pot users society. Some cooks are making close to magic in these, and I hope to at least have a growing collection of Instat Pot simple dinners on here. Fluffy cakes and crème brulee may still required a little more seasoning than I have. Today we’ll start with a quick and easy favorite recipe that you must make tonight, please! Don’t miss it at the end of this post.

It came as a surprise to me that Nathan ordered an Instant Pot before Christmas. The next day, we began with fresh French beans and then cubed potatoes. In the next couple of days, we tried several soups and rice puddings. Lentils and all dry beans are the best in the Instat Pot! I will never, not ever, simmer dry beans on the stove top for 4 hours checking on them every 40 minutes to makes sure they’re still submerged in water. Not to mention the residue of steam and stink- ha! The time saver and hands-off approach to cooking legumes is amazing. By the way, I have the Duo 8 quart.

This post is mainly a compilation of links and resources that I have used and hope both you and I can easily come back to for reference right here. As the Instant Pot recipe collection grows, I will link all the recipes to this post.

Here’s the official Instant Pot site. They have videos and information related to all the different models that they offer. Therecipe databaseit very helpful to gain confidence in using your old recipes and converting them.

Here are some of my favorite links for recipe inspiration: Most popular Instant Pot recipes from 2017 (The Kitchn) and Heidi Swanson’s Instant Pot Recipes (101 Cookbooks). I know there are countless more, but these are the two I have used so far. The soup we keep coming back to is Zuppa Toscana. Even if it isn’t a frigid winter where you live, you must make it. So, so good.

Instant Pot Zuppa Toscana

1lb. ground mild Italian sausage

1/2 lb. bacon, cut into 1/2 inch pieces

1 yellow onion, peeled and chopped

3 garlic cloves, peeled and minced

6 medium potatoes, thinly sliced

10 cups of chicken broth or stock

1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes

1 cup heavy cream or half and half

2 cups kale or spinach, for kale remove the stem and chop

Cook the Italian sausage and the bacon in the Instant Pot using the sauté function until crumbly and browned. Stir in the onions and garlic until translucent. Add the broth, potatoes and red pepper flakes. Select steam and set it to 4 minutes. Close the lid. Steam handle closed too. When the pressure cooking is done, allow 5-10 minutes of cooling and lay a folded towel over the steam handle. Turn the steam handl. When all the steam has been released, open the pot. Add the kale or spinach right away and it will wilt as you stir. Add the heavy cream or half and half. Enjoy again and again!

with love, Damaris

Families Warm The Winter Blues

January so far is anything but dull. Outside my window panes, the meadow and all her barren beauty, offer a frail salute to the new year. The maple trees need a good cold and snowy winter to produce ample sap in the spring. As we inch toward even more snowfall days, I’d say it looks a lot like a good ol’ traditional Michigan winter is underway. Today’s whirling whiteness asserts this winter is wild and woolly.

These days, we find beauty is in the stillness. We’ve settled snug for winter with a few episodes of speeding swiftly and smoothly down the cold, hard snow. Nothing could warm our hearts more than gathering close with piles of new good picks from the library and a whistling kettle nearby.

Today could appear dismal if we had grand eventful plans, but the simplicity of the smell of rosemary, sweet potatoes and apple cider fills me with gratitude for the chance to hold all my loves and keep them close. And when we do have to spend the day out, we relish the delightful consciousness of home waiting at the end.

Some of our favorite things this January are:

  • woolly socks – I wear these everyday

  • peach tea- reminds us that the sun will shine again

  • making candied nuts- recipe is at the end of this post!

  • felt sewing- hard to mess up and easy for kids

  • making indoor s’mores- first time trying, so fun!

  • new picture books for read alouds- we order online and swing by for pick up

  • game nights- this is our new favorite

  • Nathan reads missionary biographies sometimes in our bed and kids pile up- currently reading this one

  • chicken pie- our absolute favorite recipe coming soon!

  • robust soups and this crusty artisan bread

  • fleecy jogger pants- we live these 🙂

Candied Nuts

3 cups whole almonds, or halved pecans/walnuts

1 cups sugar

4 tablespoons butter

1 teaspoon vanilla

Line a baking sheet with parchment. Set aside. In a large skillet combine nuts, sugar, and butter. Cook over medium heat, carefully stirring constantly for 10 minutes or until sugar melts and turns to a rich deep brown color. Remove from the heat and add the vanilla. Spread the mixture onto the parchment liked cookie sheet. Allow them to cool and the candy will harden. We often fill a pint jar with these and give them as a hostess gift . They are delicious eaten straight or sprinkled on salads.

with love, Damaris

Crusty Country Bread

Recently I admitted to our eating too many carbs, and this is one of the culprits! This crusty country bread loaf doesn’t require kneading! It can also be left alone all night on the counter until the next day’s supper or whenever you have a couple of minutes to toss it into a very hot oven. I have been hearing of these recipes for years, but we didn’t have a pot that would work well for it. A couple of days ago, we just welcomed a fabulously gorgeous Dutch oven into our farmhouse kitchen! The very same night it arrived, we got are hands dusty with flour. Everyone was giddy with expectation! Eva’s first thought in the morning was to check on the rising dough – ha! She ran back upstairs with it, so we could all get our noses in the bowl. Does your family love yeasted carbs as much as we all do around here?

When you grow up in Spain, bread is a culinary fundamental for household happiness. But since my baking abilities are limited (and my time), we were thrilled to finally try our hand at this promising loaf! With only four ingredients that you already have in your kitchen and very little effort, this golden crusty loaf will yield an airy bread that is artisan quality. The long fermentation process allows for the development of good flavor, while the covered pot ensures the moisture needed for a crisp crust. This country bread recipe is as forgiving as it is flexible, too. We have often doubled it with great results. I can’t wait to experiment with aromatic herbs!

Crusty Country Bread

  • 3 1/4 cups flour

  • 1 teaspoon salt

  • 1 tablespoon yeast (I used active dry)

  • 1 1/2 cups warm water (95 to 110 degrees)

Incorporate all the ingredients in a bowl. This dough will be very sticky. Mix until there are no flour clumps left. Remember no need to knead! Cover the bowl with clear plastic wrap and allow it to sit on your counter overnight or around 8 hours. When the surface is covered in bubbles (2 hours), the dough is ready, but it can sit longer for more flavor. Cut a piece of parchment paper and dust it with flour. With heavily floured hands, or using a spatula or a spoon, remove the dough from the bowl and onto the floured parchment. Use as much flour as you need to have it not stick as your shape it, but not working any flour into the dough. Shape a round loaf (seam-side down) and cut a cross (x) or score it two or three times to allow for a better rise as it bakes. Cover it with the clear plastic wrap while you preheat the oven. Place the Dutch oven with the lid in the oven and turn it on to 450 degrees. When it reaches the temperature, pull out the pot and remove the lid (carefully-it’s ver hot!). Place your shaped dough into the oven-safe pot keeping the parchment paper under it. Cover with the lid and bake for 15 minutes. Uncover the Dutch oven and bake for 15-20 more minutes until it looks deeply golden and crusty.

You’ve got a huge, delicious, homemade bread loaf in your hands! Leave a comment (I love your pictures too!) if you’ve tried your hand at this easy recipe!

with love. Damaris