I’ve Been Making This For The Past 3 Months

It’s been silent here on the blog for a while, but there’s a really good and special reason for that. We’re having a baby!

Many of you know about my history of miscarriage and the struggles that James and I have gone through to start a family. We are overjoyed to be able to share with friends and family that we will be welcoming a baby this August.

This has been a long and painful road for us, albeit a much shorter road than many have to endure. We started trying to have a baby not long after our 1-year wedding anniversary. After finding out that we were pregnant for the first time, we suffered 3 miscarriages in a row in less than a year. Just after our second wedding anniversary, our plans of starting a family came to a screeching halt as we tried to figure out the cause of my miscarriages, navigate major career changes, move across the country from D.C. to Austin, and find new doctors. Thankfully, I have found a wonderful doctor here in Austin who has been incredibly supportive of our efforts to start a family.

Despite our joy, this pregnancy has not been without its challenges.

We found out we were pregnant just after Thanksgiving. My parents were visiting for the holiday, and the day after Thanksgiving, we took a day trip up to the historic Georgetown square to see the annual Christmas tree lighting. I remember feeling off and completely exhausted. We tried to take a picture as a family and my dad had us retake it several times because my eyes were glossed over in exhaustion. When my parents left the next day, I told James that we should go out and buy a pregnancy test because something was definitely off with me.

Praise the Lord, the test came back positive! I called my doctors the following Monday and scheduled appointments to have lots of blood drawn and make sure everything was good. In my previous pregnancies, we discovered that I had extremely low levels of Progesterone which made it impossible for the baby to develop. This time around, I was taking a steady dose of Progesterone in addition to medication for hypothyroidism and other supplements prescribed by my doctor.

The first several weeks of my pregnancy were complete torture. I was overanalyzing every tiny sensation in my body, making anxious trips to the bathroom, fearing that at any moment I would see the little drops of blood that would tell me that I’m losing another baby.

I made an effort to turn every anxious thought into prayer instead. Every time fear came over me, I would pray and ask God to keep our baby safe. I would thank him for no signs of miscarriage. I would repeat Luke 1:45 to myself over and over again, 100 times a day. Blessed is she who has believed that the Lord would fulfill his promises to her.

We were scheduled for an ultrasound at 6 weeks, and I was a nervous wreck. The appointment weighed on me so heavily, knowing that I was going to find out if my unborn child was alive or not.

We walked out of the doctor’s office elated with a picture of our perfectly healthy 6-week baby in our hands! We went back in two weeks later for another ultrasound and got nothing but good news! James and I were over the moon. My anxiety started to lessen and we told our families and close friends.

But then, while visiting my family for Christmas, I got a call from my doctor on Christmas Eve. She had been looking over my test results and found that my Progesterone levels had taken a dip, despite the fact that we had not changed my medication. I was already pretty close to maxing out the allowed dosage of Progesterone, and my doctor informed me that I would need to switch to Progesterone injections. We discovered that these injections are only offered at specialty pharmacies that apparently don’t exist in Atlanta, and I was given a new prescription for an even higher dose and told to come in as soon as I got back to Texas.

Those few weeks in Atlanta were incredibly difficult. But when I made it back to the doctor, we checked on the baby and found that his or her heart was still beating strong. My Progesterone levels had come back up, and I didn’t have to get injections (at least for now).

We’re now into the 2nd trimester and our baby is the size of a Georgia peach, which of course I love. I haven’t suffered any morning sickness, which is great, but the exhaustion and nausea have been pretty terrible. Poor James has been living off of cereal and Pop Tarts because the only thing I can stomach is Cheerios and potato chips. Now that we’re in the 2nd trimester, I almost feel back to my old self, but not quite. I’m ready for that 2nd trimester energy to kick in any time!

I had an appointment with my doctor again today to check to make sure everything was good with the baby now that the first trimester is over. I got to see my baby’s heart beating. The baby was squirming around, waving its hands in front of its face, and kicking its little legs. I held in my tears of joy until I got in the car. I finally have a healthy baby. I finally get to tell people that I’m pregnant. I finally get to allow myself to get excited about a nursery and baby clothes and baby showers.

I can’t stop praising God! The song on my heart for the last few weeks has been Great Is Thy Faithfulness. 

Great is Thy faithfulness
O God my Father
There is no shadow of turning with Thee
Thou changest not
Thy compassions they fail not
As Thou hast been
Thou forever will be
Great is Thy faithfulness
Great is Thy faithfulness
Morning by morning new mercies I see
And all I have needed Thy hand hath provided
Great is Thy faithfulness
Lord unto me
Pardon for sin
And a peace that endureth
Thine own dear presence to cheer
And to guide
Strength for today
and bright hope for tomorrow
Blessings all mine, with ten thousand beside

I’m lost for words trying to describe how blessed I am beyond measure and undeserving of all that God has done for me. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that the month after I shared publicly about our miscarriages, that we find out that we are pregnant with this baby. After opening up about our losses, we had so many people praying for us, and I truly believe God heard and answered those prayers. I cried out to God. I begged God to make me like Hannah or Sarah or Elizabeth or Rebekah or any number of the childless women in the Bible to whom God gave children. I knew that if we were going to have children, God would have to perform a miracle. And He did! For nothing will be impossible with God. (Luke 1:37) His is the greatness, the power, the glory, the victory, and the majesty (1 Chronicles 29:11). We give all the glory to God for this miracle baby that he has given us.

Thank you to those of you who have been praying for us. We are overwhelmed with joy and hope that you’ll celebrate this gift with us!

And for those of you still fighting your battle with miscarriage and infertility, you are not forgotten. I still think of you, pray for you, and want to offer you love and encouragement. God has a plan for you. In the meantime, I’m here to walk with you.

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10 Tips for Hosting Thanksgiving Dinner

I had the opportunity to host my first Thanksgiving dinner last year. I have dreamed of hosting Thanksgiving for years and started planning months in advance. At the time, James and I were living in our little house in Virginia. We had no dishwasher, a small table with four chairs, and we needed to make room for six people.

We had to use a plastic folding table and a bench for extra seating. It was crowded, but we had a great time. My brother-in-law claimed that it was the best Thanksgiving dinner he had ever had!

For all of you ladies out there who thrive on decorating and setting a beautiful table, I commend you. I wish that I could be like you. There’s nothing wrong with spending time setting the table and making centerpieces. But what really matters at Thanksgiving is food and fellowship. Whether you’re celebrating with family or friends, people will remember the food, the conversation, and the laughter.

Thanksgiving is a time to be thankful, and one way that you can show those you love that you’re thankful for them is by creating a comfortable and welcoming space for them. That means good food and a spirit of peace and joy. The quickest way to take the joy out of Thanksgiving is to demand that your guests stick to a specific menu or schedule. Create a space where others can relax and enjoy themselves.

With that being said, I’ve come up with 10 tips to give you the perfect Thanksgiving dinner — one that you and your guests will enjoy!

1. Keep it simple.

We all love to see the beautiful dishes in Southern Living magazine and Food Network, but spending hours making fancy dishes isn’t necessarily the best use of your time. It’s okay to have one or two elaborate sides, but stick to the basics. Rolls, mashed potatoes, green bean casserole. Those are the things that your guests are looking forward to, and you don’t need to individually wrap each stalk of asparagus with chives and prosciutto to make your guests ooh and ahh.

2. Buy a turkey roasting pan with a lid. 

The turkey is easily the most stressful part of making Thanksgiving dinner. Opening the oven door every 30 minutes to baste the turkey causes your oven to lose heat and lengthens the amount of time that it takes for your turkey to cook. Investing in a roasting pan with a lid like mine will be a huge time saver for you. The lid of the roasting pan creates steam which keeps the turkey moist and prevents it from drying out.

3. Failing to plan is planning to fail. 

Plan your Thanksgiving menu in advance. Buy your turkey about 2-3 weeks before the big day (check your local grocery stores for sales to find the best price). You can buy non-perishable groceries like canned pumpkin, wine, and broth ahead of time. Use the week of Thanksgiving to knock some items off your to-do list so you’re not trying to do everything on Thanksgiving day. Make your pie crust ahead of time and store it in the freezer. Assemble casseroles and other sides the day before. Chop vegetables the night before to save time on the big day.

4. Use the slow cooker to your advantage.

Many of your favorite side dishes can be made in the slow cooker. Using the slow cooker can free up oven space for your turkey and other oven-essential foods. Mashed potatoes, glazed carrots, green bean casserole, and even rolls can all be made in the slow cooker. Put your crockpot to work and sip on a glass of wine while your Thanksgiving dinner cooks itself!

5. Don’t forget about breakfast. 

You may be completely focused on the turkey but your guests and family are not. You can go simple with some bagels or donuts, or try an overnight breakfast casserole or cinnamon rolls. Just make sure you have some coffee and breakfast foods for your family. If not, you’ll be sure to answer the “is it ready yet?” question about a hundred times before you finally sit down to eat.

6. Keep the appetizers light. 

As your guests arrive, they’ll be smelling the delicious food and their mouths will be watering. Make sure you have a little something to snack on to keep them happy. A simple fruit and veggie platter, cheese tray, or dip will keep your guests out of the kitchen and stop your husband from stealing the fried onions off the top of the green bean casserole. Thanksgiving appetizers should never take more time to prepare than they do to eat. You’ve got more important things to do. Save the crostini and stuffed mushrooms for another time.

7. Taste is more important than tradition.

Some people may disagree with me on this, but I believe you should enjoy your Thanksgiving meal. Growing up, my family never ate pie. Our Thanksgiving dinners would feature cheesecake and brownies, and we loved it! If you find yourself topping your sweet potato casserole with pecans and then everyone in your family picks them off, just forget the pecans. Too often people sacrifice what they really want to eat for the sake of tradition. If you don’t like it, start your own tradition!

8. Delegate.

Nobody said you have to cook this whole meal on your own. If you have friends coming over, ask them to bring a side or a dessert. Enlist your kids or your husband to help you in the kitchen. Ask your family to help you clean up the dishes, bring flowers for the centerpiece, or bring over a pot of coffee. Let go of your inner control freak and let your kids help out in the kitchen, even if the mashed potatoes are a little lumpy or the pie doesn’t look as pretty. Your family and friends will prefer a warm home and a happy host over a 5 star meal any day.

9. Variety is key. 

The best part about Thanksgiving is loading up your plate with 10 different dishes and seeing how much you can fit onto your plate. When you think of Thanksgiving, you think of turkey, potatoes, dressing, and pie. And while those are all wonderful things, you need to provide a little bit of balance to your meal. Take a look at your menu. Strive to have at least one or two green vegetables. If you find yourself with too many sweets like sweet potatoes and honey glazed carrots, try adding a savory side like macaroni and cheese or hash brown casserole. Be sure to include some dairy free or gluten free sides for your friends with dietary restrictions. Lots of options just means lots of leftovers!

10. Enjoy the day.

If you find yourself running around the day of Thanksgiving, bickering with your family, and worrying about everything, you’re doing it wrong. You should be able to sit down and enjoy a glass of wine or a mug of hot cider and chat with your family. Do whatever you need to do to give yourself that time. Whether it’s making your side dishes the day before, using disposable baking pans, or using shortcut ingredients, make sure you have time to enjoy the time with your family and friends.

Best of luck! I can’t wait to hear how your Thanksgiving dinners go!

Be Your Own Butcher And Save Tons of Money

If you’ve visited my blog before, you know that my husband is a bearded, mountain man, deer hunting hunk, and I haven’t bought ground beef in two years because we always have a freezer full of wild game. I absolutely love it. In fact, we just found out that we’re having dinner guests tomorrow night and I just went into the freezer, pulled out a giant venison roast, and set it out on the counter to thaw. I love having a freezer stocked with meat.

But eating red meat for every meal can get old pretty fast, so I’m always on the lookout for great deals on chicken, pork, and other meats. This past week, I picked up a massive 8.3 lb pork loin for $1.89/lb.

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Pork loin is the cut of meat that we get pork chops and pork roasts from. You can see from the diagram below where the loin is. This giant pork loin gave us two small roasts and 18 chops.

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So why go to all this trouble? Why not just buy the chops from the store already cut? Because it saves you tons of money. I paid $12.38 for this pork loin at $1.89 per pound. At my local grocery store, the price goes up to $3.49/lb for pork chops and $2.49/lb for roasts. Had we purchased the exact same cuts of meat already butchered for us, we would have spent $26.67. That means the price doubles just by having the butcher slice the meat for you!

Now, I know that the idea of hacking into giant chunks of raw meat doesn’t really sound appealing. When James first enlisted me to help him process venison, it sounded disgusting and I really wasn’t excited about it. I like for my food to look as unlike the animal that it came from as much as possible. But there’s very little difference between handling a whole pork loin and handling individual pork chops, which you probably do all the time. So give it a try! I believe in you!

So James and I got to work in the kitchen. I began prepping and labeling bags for the vacuum sealer (you can use freezer bags but this vacuum sealer is pretty amazing) while James started preparing the pork loin. He cut the ends off of the loin which became our roasts and then cut the remainder of the loin into 1-inch chops. After 30 minutes and a little bit of work, we had 11 vacuum sealed bags of pork. That’s meat for 11 meals for a little over $1 per meal!

The roasts can be tossed in a slow cooker to make carnitas. The chops can be grilled with BBQ sauce, baked with a sweet apple cider glaze, or my personal favorite, flattened, breaded, and fried into schnitzel. We have the makings of 11 delicious meals just sitting in our freezer. I can’t wait!

While we had the vacuum sealer out, we packaged five bone-in skin-on chicken breasts which I purchased for $1/lb. Each chicken breast can be boiled to yield about 2 cups of shredded chicken breast and about 1 cup of bone broth. One chicken breast is enough to make chicken enchiladas, chicken pot pie, or my homemade Southern Chicken n’ Dumplings. If you find yourself buying boneless skinless chicken breasts only to cook and shred the meat for tacos or casseroles, you’re really overpaying. Try buying split chicken breasts instead. You’ll get the same delicious breast meat AND homemade bone broth from the bone and skin.

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After an hour of quality time with my husband, we have the meat prepared for a total of 16 meals sitting in our freezer. Does anyone want to come over for dinner? We’re ready for you!

An Open Letter to the Woman Who Just Wants To Be A Mom

To the Woman Who Just Wants to Be a Mom,

I know exactly how you feel.

I know how hard it is for you to see your friends having babies, how jealous you get when they fall pregnant every time they sneeze. I understand the pain that the upcoming holidays bring. The costume you don’t get to buy. The stocking you don’t get to hang.

I know you see baby clothes in every store and wonder if you’ll ever get to buy them. You see children’s books and think of how much you want someone to read them to.

I know how you feel when your friends talk about how exhausting and difficult motherhood is, and you think about how you would give anything to have a baby to keep you up all night.

I know how much you dread going to the doctor’s office. Another test, another ultrasound, another question with no answer.

I know how much you consider buying the pregnancy tests in bulk on Amazon but don’t because each month you’re hoping this will be the last time you need to buy one.

I know how you analyze every twinge and sensation in your body during the two-week wait. I know that every month you get your period and the weight of disappointment crushes you and you feel like you can’t breathe.

I know how the pain grips you from out of nowhere and you blink through the tears, just trying to get through traffic so you can cry in peace at home.

I know the heartache you feel when you introduce yourself to a new acquaintance and they ask you if you have children. You ignore the stabbing pain in your chest and say, “no” and hope that the quiver in your voice doesn’t give you away.

I know you don’t want to admit it, but you look at some women and wonder why they get to have children and you don’t. You ask God “why not me?”

I know that you thought this time last year that you would be pregnant by now. But the holidays, your birthday, your anniversary comes along and you can’t believe that you’re in the same place you were a year ago.

I know you read stories of women who have battled infertility for years or suffered tremendous loss and try to tell yourself that you don’t have it so bad. But the enormity of their suffering doesn’t make yours any less painful, it just makes you feel like you can’t talk about it.

I know you’re thinking about the baby you carried but never held. I know you remember the day you lost something you loved so much and how it feels so unbelievably cruel that no one realizes that today is the anniversary of the worst day of your life.

I know that you have scoured the internet for every word of advice and wisdom. I know that you are looking for anyone to share in your grief so that you don’t feel so desperately alone.

I’ve been there. I am there. You’re not alone.

He settles the childless woman in her home
as a happy mother of children.
Praise the Lord.
-Psalm 113:9

My Story of Miscarriage and Loss

October 15th is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day. My world has changed so much between October 15, 2017 and October 15, 2018. And I’m deviating from my normal posts about bread and dessert to open my heart to all the women who are suffering today as they remember the babies that are no longer with them.

On October 15, 2017, one year ago today, I found out I was pregnant for the first time. My period was a few days late and I woke up early and sneaked into the bathroom to take the pregnancy test. When I saw that plus sign, I couldn’t believe it! I was so overwhelmed, I ran into the bedroom and woke James up with the news. We curled up together on the bed and I cried tears of joy and tried to think of what my life was going to be like with the baby growing inside of me. We talked about baby names. We planned out fun ways to tell our families. Suddenly, minor frustrations during the day meant nothing to me because nothing was as important as my tiny baby.

But, just a few weeks later, I was on the same bathroom floor, sobbing uncontrollably as I unexpectedly miscarried in the middle of the night. I don’t use this word lightly, but it was traumatic. The weeks that followed were full of blood tests, ultrasounds, and doctor’s appointments. Doctors assured me that these things happen and most of the time there’s nothing that can be done to prevent it. I learned that this happens to 1 in 4 women, and that I’m not alone. By the grace of God, we began to heal with the help of friends, family, pastors, and even strangers. I am still so thankful for the people who reached out to us and prayed for us during one of the worst moments in my life. But that’s not the end of my story.

Just after Christmas, James and I found out that we were pregnant again. There were no tears of joy this time. I couldn’t bring myself to get excited, not knowing if I would be able to meet this baby or not. I found myself reading pregnancy announcements from friends and grew jealous of their blissful ignorance. I felt robbed that they could see a positive pregnancy test and feel nothing but happiness while all I felt was fear.

A few days into the New Year, I started experiencing concerning symptoms. The doctors were concerned that I had an ectopic pregnancy, and they scheduled an ultrasound for later that day. Thankfully, the results showed that I didn’t have an ectopic pregnancy, although the baby was measuring a little smaller than expected and they couldn’t detect a heartbeat. I was told to come back in a week for another ultrasound to see how the pregnancy was progressing.

A week later, James and I went back for the follow-up ultrasound, and I mentally prepared to receive bad news. I knew the doctors were going to tell me that I was going to lose another baby. I couldn’t bring myself to look at the screen until I heard the ultrasound technician say, “And there’s the heartbeat!” My heart stopped and I started crying again as I watched our baby’s little heartbeat flicker on the screen. Even still, the baby was measuring small and my hormone levels were lower than normal. We left the doctor’s office with cautious optimism and were told to come back again in a week.

But we didn’t make it a week. Only 5 days after seeing my baby’s heart beating, I started experiencing the same miscarriage symptoms as before. I went back to the doctor’s office and wept as the ultrasound technician said, “I’m so sorry” and they escorted me out the back door of the office so I didn’t have to face the women with healthy pregnancies in the waiting room. I was crushed.

My world changed dramatically after losing my second baby. Suddenly, I went from being one of the 25% of women who will experience a miscarriage in their lifetime, to one of the 2% of women who experience two consecutive miscarriages. This time it wasn’t a fluke. It was me. Something was wrong with me. My body had utterly betrayed me. I would lie in bed at night and be overwhelmed by my grief. My heart was completely broken. I had lost two babies. Two babies in less than 3 months. Two babies and I have no idea what they look like. But that’s not the end of my story.

James and I decided to wait a few months before trying to get pregnant again. We started the healing process over again and slowly started to learn our new normal. It’s hard for anyone who hasn’t experienced a miscarriage to understand. Half of our country believes that what we’ve lost wasn’t a baby and has no worth or value whatsoever. So we grieve in silence. But by the grace of God, we came to terms with our losses and just before Mother’s Day, we found out we were pregnant again!

I remember squinting at the results window of the pregnancy test. It was faint, but it was there. A plus sign! I told James that I had decided to be happy about the pregnancy. I had withheld all excitement in my second pregnancy and the miscarriage was just as painful as the first. So I might as well let myself be happy. There were two more pregnancy tests in the box, so I took another one the next day, hoping to see that really clear plus sign. I was already pregnant, what did I need to save the other tests for? It was still pretty early and again I saw the faint little plus sign, and I resolved to wait a few more days before taking the third test.

I woke up on Mother’s Day and took the third pregnancy test first thing in the morning, ready to finally see that super clear plus sign. Instead the test came back negative. In hindsight, I shouldn’t have taken that test on Mother’s Day. I cried all through church that morning and James and I decided to go out and buy a digital pregnancy test after church. Maybe the last test was a fluke? It wasn’t. The digital test came back with those words “NOT PREGNANT” and my heart sank into my stomach. I stared at the pictures I had taken of the first two tests for hours, zooming in and trying to convince myself that I wasn’t crazy for seeing those plus signs. Two days later the miscarriage symptoms came.

The doctors confirmed that I had experienced a very early miscarriage called a chemical pregnancy. I was relieved to hear that my grief was justified, but at the same time I felt like I wasn’t allowed to call it a miscarriage. If a chemical pregnancy is, by definition, a miscarriage, then why doesn’t anyone call it that? I felt like I wasn’t supposed to be upset about my loss. How long do I have to know about my baby before I’m allowed to be upset about losing it? Why is it that, months later, I still feel like I’m not allowed to count that baby? Thankfully, I have scoured the internet and found that many, many other women who have experienced chemical pregnancies feel exactly the same way. And so I can say, giving each of my three babies the recognition they deserve, I have had three miscarriages. I have lost three babies in less than a year. I have three babies who I will never meet this side of heaven.

As I write this, I wish I had good news. I wish I could say that I’m healthy and everything is fine and we’re expecting a healthy baby. But I can’t. The doctors don’t know why this keeps happening to me. We may never know. But I can tell you what God has taught me through all of this, and if you’re one of the 1 in 4 women grieving a miscarriage, then I hope you find comfort in these things.

  • Your circumstances don’t change who God is.
  • There is hope for the broken.
  • God knows exactly what you’re going through because He lost his only son.
  • God gives children to barren women and uses those children to do unbelievable things for the kingdom. Here’s an extensive list.

He settles the childless woman in her home as a happy mother of children. Praise the Lord. – Psalm 113:9

I remember my heart being overcome with dread days before my second miscarriage. It’s like my soul knew I was losing my baby before my body did. But the Spirit kept repeating the words of a worship song to me. The lyrics say, “Hallelujah, all I have is Christ. Hallelujah, Jesus is my life.” Through tears I remember thinking, “why am I saying hallelujah to having nothing but Christ?” Hallelujah? I have no job, family, friends, house, comfort? All I have is Christ? Why is that a good thing?

And finally I understood. Everything that we have can be taken from us. But Christ still remains. As John Piper said, “When we have little and have lost much, Christ comes and reveals himself as more valuable than what we have lost. And when we have much and are overflowing in abundance, Christ comes and he shows that he is far superior to everything we have.” It’s only when we’ve lost everything that we realize that Christ is the only thing that can satisfy us.

If you are grieving a miscarriage today, I hope you find encouragement in knowing that God sees you. He knows your heart. He hears your cries. He knows your pain. Call out to Him. He wants to comfort you.

And please know, whether I know you or not, if you’re grieving a miscarriage or battling infertility, I want to bear this burden with you. I want to pray for you and hear your story. Let’s praise God together knowing that He is good above all and in all.

Blessed is she who has believed that the Lord would fulfill his promises to her. -Luke 1:45

Sticky Sweet Maple Donuts

These donuts are sweet with a hint of maple in the batter and a maple icing on top. My kitchen smelled heavenly while these were baking. I almost called these Pancake Donuts because the smell of the maple syrup wafting through my apartment just made me want a giant pile of buttermilk pancakes.

My husband is not a big breakfast person. I’m constantly trying to get him to eat breakfast, sneaking muffins or granola bars into his bag. But inevitably, we’ll get in his car on Saturday and I’ll find the granola bars I forced him to take to work with him in his cup holder. He just doesn’t usually eat breakfast. I don’t get it. I structure my entire day around food. ANYWAY…

Last week I made some apple butter cinnamon sugar donuts and James loved them. Each morning I packed up two donuts for him to eat for breakfast and he excitedly took them to work with him. No Saturday cup holder donuts this time!

So I decided to try a new donut recipe in hopes that we’ll have another solid week of breakfast for James.

In honor of the first day of October (and the giant bottle of maple syrup that I bought at Costco last week) I decided to try out some maple donuts. These donuts are sweet with a hint of maple in the batter and a maple icing on top. My kitchen smelled heavenly while these were baking. I almost called these Pancake Donuts because the smell of the maple syrup wafting through my apartment just made me want a giant pile of buttermilk pancakes.

I used donut pans for these baked donuts, but if you don’t have a donut pan, you can use a muffin pan instead. They won’t look like donuts but they’ll certainly taste good! I hope you love them as much as I do, but make sure you have a friend to share them with. These donuts are addicting and I may or may not have eaten way more than I should have.

Enjoy!


Sticky Sweet Maple Donuts

  • Servings: 12
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

A sweet breakfast treat for a crisp fall morning


A muffin tin can be used in place of a donut pan for these fall-inspired treats.

Ingredients

    Donuts:
  • 1/2 c. granulated sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1/4 c. maple syrup
  • 1 1/2 c. all-purpose flour
  • 2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 tsp. cider spices (or pumpkin pie spice)
  • 1/4 c. canola oil
  • 2/3 c. whole milk
  • Glaze:
  • 1 c. powdered sugar
  • 3 tbls. maple syrup
  • 1-2 tsp. milk

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. In a large bowl, cream together sugar and egg. Add vanilla extract and maple syrup and beat until combined.
  3. Add in remaining ingredients and mix just until the mixture becomes smooth. Do not over-mix.
  4. Using a piping bag, pipe batter into greased donut pans.
  5. Bake at 350 for 12-15 minutes until a tester comes out clean.
  6. While the donuts cool, combine powdered sugar, maple syrup, and milk and whisk until a smooth icing forms.
  7. Once the donuts have cooled, dip the top of each donut into the icing to coat.

Slow Cooker Apple Cider

There is something so comforting about a hot beverage. Whether it’s coffee, tea, hot chocolate, it really doesn’t matter to me. I love curling up on the couch with a warm mug, a good book, and my dog Willie in my lap. There really is nothing better.

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Today we have yet another rainy Saturday here in Austin. I’ve really been looking forward to breaking out the camping gear and going on an adventure, but the weather has forced us to stay inside. So I decided to make some homemade apple cider.

I’m always looking for ways to avoid food waste — using leftovers, adjusting recipes to use up what ingredients you have — and that’s one of the reasons that I love this apple cider recipe. I bought a bunch of apples at Costco the other week, and had a few that started to go bad before I could eat them. If you have some apples that are a little bit past their prime, this is the perfect use for them!

For my cider, I use apples, mandarin oranges, dried cranberries, and mulling spices. You could eliminate the cranberries, add pears, add cinnamon sticks or cloves. You could add some bourbon if you were making this for a party. This recipe is really very flexible.

Start by washing your fruit. While there’s no need to peel or core the apples, you’ll want to make sure they’re clean so that any bacteria or chemicals on the fruit won’t get into your apple cider. Then quarter the apples and mandarin oranges. Toss them into a slow cooker along with some dried cranberries and then fill the crockpot all the way to the top with water. In a few hours, the fruit will become soft and you can mash it to extract as much juice as possible. Then, strain through a fine mesh strainer, add your mulling spices, and you have apple cider!

A jug of apple cider from the grocery store will cost you around $6 and is often loaded with sugar. You’ll feel so good drinking this apple cider knowing that you’re saving money and avoiding all that added sugar, not to mention the satisfaction of telling your friends that you made the apple cider yourself.

I can’t wait to enjoy this apple cider with a delicious butternut squash muffin. What a perfect fall treat!

Slow Cooker Apple Cider

Ingredients:

4-5 large apples, any type
2 mandarin oranges (or one large orange)
1/3 cup dried cranberries
1 tbls mulling spices (I use this but you can make your own blend of sugar and spices)

Directions:

  1. Wash and quarter the apples and oranges.
  2. Place the apples, oranges, and cranberries in a large slow cooker and fill to the top with water. Cook on high heat for about 4 hours.
  3. After about 4 hours, the fruit should be soft. Using tongs or a potato masher, smash each piece of fruit, squeezing out as much juice as possible. Allow to cook for an additional hour.
  4. Place a very large heat safe bowl and fine mesh strainer in your kitchen sink. Carefully pour the contents of the slow cooker into the strainer and place the empty crock back into the slow cooker. Using a potato masher, mash the fruit through the fine mesh strainer until all the juice is extracted. Discard the contents of the strainer and return the remaining juice to the crockpot.
  5. Add your mulling spices to the cider and cook on low for an additional hour.
  6. Serve warm. Refrigerate leftovers.

What would you add to your apple cider? Let me know in the comments!

Weeknight Sausage and Chicken Jambalaya

On our drive from D.C. to Texas, James and I stopped in Shreveport, LA one night. For days, James could not stop talking about the amazing food he had in Louisiana, saying that Louisiana has the best food in the country! So recently I decided to make some chicken and sausage jambalaya for dinner. If you have 30 minutes and a cast iron skillet, you can make this delicious spicy meal tonight!

I could live on a diet of Mexican food, salad, and pizza. That’s honestly all I need. But my sweet husband wouldn’t like that very much. He very kindly asked that I try to incorporate red meat into our meals at least once a week, which isn’t too hard with our freezer full of venison. I had a pretty steady rotation of meals in Virginia which included plenty of Mexican food — buffalo chicken nachos, venison enchiladas, crockpot chicken tacos, black bean tostadas — you get the idea.

The problem is, now that we live in Texas, James can’t stand the sight of Mexican food anymore. Every work lunch, every catered dinner, every event comes with fajitas and chips and salsa. So I have really had to revamp our dinner menu. No Mexican food for dinner anymore!

On our drive from D.C. to Texas, James and I stopped in Shreveport, LA one night. For days, James could not stop talking about the amazing food he had in Louisiana, saying that Louisiana has the best food in the country! So recently I decided to make some chicken and sausage jambalaya for dinner. If you have 30 minutes and a cast iron skillet, you can make this delicious spicy meal tonight!

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Spicy Chicken and Sausage Jambalaya

Ingredients:

2 cups cooked chicken breast, chopped
1 cup cooked sausage, sliced (kielbasa, andouille, whatever you like)
1 small onion, diced
3-4 sticks celery, diced
1 bell pepper, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 1/2 cups long grain white rice
3 cups chicken broth
cajun seasoning, to taste

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
  2. In a 10-inch cast iron skillet, sauté the diced onion, peppers, garlic, and celery in olive oil over medium heat. Sprinkle with cajun seasoning and stir until vegetables begin to soften and the onions become translucent.
  3. Add chicken and sausage to the skillet and stir, adding more cajun seasoning if desired.
  4. Pour uncooked rice into the skillet and stir until the rice is fully mixed in with the chicken and sausage. You should be able to see that the rice has been coated in olive oil and seasoning after stirring it around the skillet.
  5. Pour in chicken broth and bring to a boil.
  6. Once the rice has come to a boil, carefully place the cast iron skillet into the oven and bake at 375 degrees for about 30 minutes, until the rice is done.
  7. Serve immediately and enjoy!

This recipe could not be any easier! It’s perfect for a weeknight dinner, and a nice change of pace to shake up your weekly meal rotation.  Enjoy!

Butternut Squash Muffins (Dairy Free)

I have officially transitioned into fall mode. Last weekend, James and I spent the day in Fredericksburg, Texas. This adorable little town in the Texas Hill Country is full of shops, wineries, and restaurants. We ate German food, window shopped, and walked around enjoying the cool autumn weather.

Now, of course, we’re back up into the 80’s, but I got a taste of fall and I’m not looking back!

Now it’s time for pumpkin spice EVERYTHING, and while I’m mostly on board with that, sometimes I think it gets a little out of control. That’s why, for my first fall-themed recipe, I decided to skip the pumpkin and go for one of our most underrated fall vegetables — butternut squash.

 

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I had never had butternut squash until a year or two ago, but it’s actually really good. It can easily be made sweet or savory, and is somewhere in between a pumpkin and a sweet potato.

This recipe is adapted from my mom’s pumpkin bars, which she makes every year and serves with a thick layer of cream cheese frosting. I think you can expect to see that recipe in the next few months.

These muffins are perfect if you have leftover butternut squash in your fridge. The other day, I cut up a squash and roasted it with brussels sprouts, onions, and pecans. It was amazing, but I only needed about half the squash for the recipe. So I saved the other half and stored it in the fridge until I could come up with a way to use it up.

 

Enter these butternut squash muffins! They are unbelievably moist, cinnamon-y, and oh so yummy. They’re naturally dairy free and are sure to brighten your morning. I wish you were in my living room right now so we could enjoy them together with some honey butter and warm apple cider.

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Butternut Squash Muffins

Ingredients:

2 cups mashed butternut squash
1 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
4 eggs
3/4 cup canola or vegetable oil
1/4 cup apple cider
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 tsp cinnamon

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. In the bowl of your stand mixer, combine butternut squash, sugar, and eggs. Beat until smooth.
  3. Add oil, apple cider, and vanilla and mix until incorporated.
  4. Add the remaining dry ingredients to the bowl and mix just until all the dry ingredients have been incorporated, scraping the sides of the bowl occasionally. Do not overmix.
  5. Using a 1/3 cup measure, pour batter into muffin tins. Do not grease the muffin tins.
  6. Bake at 350 for 20-25 minutes, until a tester comes out clean. Yields 20 muffins.

I can’t wait to hear how your muffins turn out!