Blackberry-Thyme Vodka Collins [featuring Heritage Distilling Co.]

Blackberry-Thyme Vodka Collins - Sarah J. Hauser

My husband and I just got back from a (kid-free!) vacation in Sedona, Arizona, and while I was ready to come home and see the kiddos, I'm still feeling the vacation vibes. I can't quite keep track of what day it is (although that's often true even during a normal week), and I'm perfectly content having a quiet and (relatively) lazy week. I didn't expect the slow week, but that's sort of the way things shook out.

Apparently I'm getting older, because on the last day of our trip as we were packing to leave, I lifted my suitcase and tweaked my back. I'm choosing to use the term "tweaked" instead of "threw out." Somehow the latter makes me feel like I'm deteriorating at faster rate than I care to admit. But then we sat in the car for a few hours, had a three and a half hour plane ride, and finally another hour car ride. The next day, I could barely get out of bed and only did so with ridiculous pain rivaling that of my C-section recovery. 

I'm on the mend and moving much better (thanks to chiropractic care and having physical therapists as friends!), but my husband and I decided we're going to start fresh on Monday and give ourselves a grace week to get back to normal (whatever normal means).

So here's to another week of relaxation, whether caused by vacation or immobility. Cheers!

Blackberry-Thyme Vodka Collins - Sarah J. Hauser
Blackberry-Thyme Vodka Collins - Sarah J. Hauser
Blackberry-Thyme Vodka Collins - Sarah J. Hauser
Blackberry-Thyme Vodka Collins - Sarah J. Hauser

A vodka collins is a light, refreshing cocktail (based on the Tom Collins) that's perfect for summer. I added blackberries and thyme because I love the fruit and herb combo. You can use whatever you have on hand, like strawberries, basil, blueberries, or rosemary!


Blackberry-Thyme Vodka Collins
Yields 1 drink

1 ½ ounces vodka (I used Heritage Distilling’s Batch No. 12 Vodka
1 ounce freshly squeezed lemon juice
½-1 ounce simple syrup (depending on how sweet you like it)
Small handful of blackberries
2-3 sprigs of thyme
Club soda or seltzer
Fresh lemon slices for garnish

Add the vodka, lemon juice, simple syrup, blackberries, and thyme to a highball or Collins glass. Muddle using a cocktail muddler or the back of a spoon. Add ice and stir thoroughly. Top with club soda. Give it another gentle stir, and garnish with a slice of lemon.


Sweet + Savory No-Cook Brunch Boards

Sweet + Savory No-Cook Brunch Boards - Sarah J. Hauser
Sweet + Savory No-Cook Brunch Boards - Sarah J. Hauser

Sometime the best recipes are the ones that require no recipe at all. You throw together a soup with leftover produce or create a pasta dish with whatever's in the pantry. Creativity in the kitchen often comes when there are restraints. After all, necessity is the mother of invention, right? 

Lately, I've been in a rut in the kitchen. I don't know if it's because I don't feel like grocery shopping, I don't want to turn the oven on in 90+ degree heat, or I'm tired of trying to convince my toddlers to try new dishes. But whatever the reason, no-cook meals sound pretty much perfect right now. You can change them up to use whatever you have on hand (toast, other cheese, cured meats, etc.) or whatever your family will eat! And while these no-cook brunch boards were originally created for, well, brunch, there's no reason you can't take the same idea and tweak it for a weeknight dinner. 

Sweet + Savory No-Cook Brunch Boards - Sarah J. Hauser
Sweet + Savory No-Cook Brunch Boards - Sarah J. Hauser
Sweet + Savory No-Cook Brunch Boards - Sarah J. Hauser
Sweet + Savory No-Cook Brunch Boards - Sarah J. Hauser
Sweet + Savory No-Cook Brunch Boards - Sarah J. Hauser

This isn’t so much a recipe as it is a compilation of ideas. I created two different variations of brunch boards - one with more sweet ingredients and one that leans savory. Play around and use whatever you like! Add a few different types of cheese if you want that to be the star, or serve charcuterie, fruit, and nuts for a paleo option. Make it all about bagel toppings with different cream cheeses, jams, and smoked salmon, or use this as an excuse to clean out your refrigerator and pantry (don’t worry, I won’t tell!).

Every dish in the ferial cuisine, however, provides a double or treble delight: Not only is the body nourished and the palate pleased, the mind is intrigued by the triumph of ingenuity over scarcity - by the making of slight materials into a considerable matter.
— Robert Farrar Capon

I (loosely) stick to two rules when I create a board. 

1. Make sure everything is convenient to eat. For example, slicing hard cheeses in advance makes it easier for guests to grab a piece. (I don’t slice soft cheeses ahead of time because that gets messy.) Prepare fruits and vegetables by cutting peels from citrus, remove pits from dates, etc. (I didn’t hull the strawberries on my “sweet” board because I like the look of unhulled ones, but I probably should have.)

2. Pick all your ingredients, then leave out a couple. If you’re like me, you can easily go crazy and include every possible combination. Less is more sometimes, so err on the side of simplicity. I bought quite a few more ingredients than I ended up using for these boards, and it would have been overkill if I tried to incorporate them all. In the end, I stuck with 9 different items for each board. 

Scroll down to see what I used for my sweet and savory versions. I also included other ideas I hope will help spark your creativity as you make your own. Have fun with it!

Sweet + Savory No-Cook Brunch Boards - Sarah J. Hauser
Sweet + Savory No-Cook Brunch Boards - Sarah J. Hauser
Sweet + Savory No-Cook Brunch Boards - Sarah J. Hauser
Sweet + Savory No-Cook Brunch Boards - Sarah J. Hauser
Sweet + Savory No-Cook Brunch Boards - Sarah J. Hauser

Sweet + Savory No-Cook Brunch Boards

This isn’t so much a recipe as it is a compilation of ideas for how you can assemble a no-cook brunch board. It’s a simple way to ease the cooking load, you can make enough for a crowd or a few friends, and they look beautiful enough to act as your table’s centerpiece. 

I created two different variations of brunch boards - one with more sweet ingredients and one that leans savory. Play around and use whatever you like! Add a few different types of cheese if you want that to be the star, or serve charcuterie, fruit, and nuts for a paleo option. Make it all about bagel toppings with different cream cheeses, jams, and smoked salmon, or use this as an excuse to clean out your refrigerator and pantry (don’t worry, I won’t tell!).

I (loosely) stick to two rules when I create a board. 

1. Make sure everything is convenient to eat. For example, slicing hard cheeses in advance makes it easier for guests to grab a piece. (I don’t slice soft cheeses ahead of time because that gets messy.) Prepare fruits and vegetables by cutting peels from citrus, remove pits from dates, etc. (I didn’t hull the strawberries on my “sweet” board because I like the look of unhulled ones, but I probably should have.)

2. Pick all your ingredients, then leave out a couple. If you’re like me, you can easily go crazy and include every possible combination. Less is more sometimes, so err on the side of simplicity. I bought quite a few more ingredients than I ended up using for these boards, and it would have been overkill if I tried to incorporate them all. In the end, I stuck with 9 different items for each board. 

Below is what I used for my sweet and savory versions. I also included other ideas I hope will help spark your creativity as you make your own. Have fun with it!

Sweet: 

Croissants, Brie, raspberry jam, green grapes, dried apricots, walnuts, Medjool dates, white cheddar cheese (to balance out all the sweet items), strawberries

Savory: 

Toasted bagels, chive and onion cream cheese, cucumber slices, cherry tomatoes, almonds, smoked salmon, Manchego cheese, hard-boiled eggs*, fresh parsley for garnish

*Okay, this isn’t entirely no-cook, but if you’re feeding a crowd, buy eggs that are already hard-boiled so you’re not peeling eggs all day!

Other Ideas:

Prosciutto or other cured meats, crackers, toast, baguette slices, butter or compound butters, cream cheese varieties, chutney, marmalade, lemon curd, other types of cheese, strawberries, apples, pears, sliced oranges, dried apricots, dried cherries, candied pecans, sliced radishes, olives, marinated artichokes, fresh basil or other herbs


Coffee, Peanut Butter + Banana Smoothie [featuring FreshGround Roasting]

Coffee, Peanut Butter + Banana Smoothie - Sarah J. Hauser

It's Friday. Phew. Take a breath. I love having a holiday in the middle of the week, but I'm not going to lie. It kinda' throws me off my rhythm a bit (as if I had any rhythm to begin with). Anyone else know what I mean? But alas, the weekend is here and so is this smoothie. 

Summer afternoon—summer afternoon; to me those have always been the two most beautiful words in the English language.
— Henry James

I've been craving a coffee smoothie lately, but so many of the recipes I've seen contain extra sugars or loads of dairy - both of which I love, but my body doesn't. This one is sweetened with dates and uses almond milk. To make it paleo, use almond butter instead of peanut butter, but there's something about the peanut butter flavor that just can't be beat. If you're not avoiding peanuts for dietary reasons, I highly suggest sticking with that creamy, peanut goodness. 

For the coffee, cold brew iced coffee tastes best. I used FreshGround's ready-to-drink Black Ice Brew. If you use a cold brew concentrate, you may just need to add a little extra almond milk or water to the smoothie. It's a flexible recipe, though, so just taste as you go along!

What are you sipping this weekend? Any favorite summer beverages? I'd love to hear in the comments below!

Coffee, Peanut Butter + Banana Smoothie - Sarah J. Hauser
Coffee, Peanut Butter + Banana Smoothie - Sarah J. Hauser
Coffee, Peanut Butter + Banana Smoothie - Sarah J. Hauser

Coffee, Peanut Butter + Banana Smoothie
Yields 2-3 servings

1 cup unsweetened almond milk
1 cup brewed coffee, cold*
2 large bananas
¼ cup creamy peanut butter
3-4 Medjool dates, pitted
1-3 cups ice

Add the almond milk, coffee, bananas, peanut butter, 3 dates, and 1 cup of ice to a blender. Blend until smooth. Add another date if you want it to be sweeter and additional ice to taste. Less ice will give you a richer flavor but a thinner smoothie. More ice tones down the intensity and makes the smoothie thicker. (My personal preference is about 2 heaping cups of ice.)

*Your recipe is only as good as your ingredients, so use good quality coffee! I used FreshGround’s ready-to-drink Black Ice Brew. Cold brewed iced coffee is ideal in this recipe!


Rosemary Quinoa Salad with Walnuts + Cherries

Rosemary Quinoa Salad with Walnuts + Cherries - Sarah J. Hauser

Lately the questions, "What can the baby eat?" and "What will my toddlers eat with minimal complaining?" seem to drive my meal planning. I feel like I've lost a bit of my joy in the kitchen. I still love cooking, of course, and I'm grateful I even have the luxury of choice in what I make for dinner. But I've found myself stuck in what's practical. I miss asking, "What can I make that nourishes body and soul? What can I make that delights?"

This dish is an answer to those questions. It's nourishing for body and soul, and it's one of my new favorite salads. It's got a slight kick from the arugula and Dijon but then richness from the goat cheese and sweetness from the cherries. Hearty, healthy, sweet, and savory.

And God said, ‘Behold, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is on the face of all the earth, and every tree with seed in its fruit. You shall have them for food’…And it was so. And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good.
— (Genesis 1:29-31)

I generally serve my kids at least a version of what we eat for dinner, but my twins often do better eating the components of a dish separated. For this one, I'll give them a scoop of plain quinoa, a handful of walnuts and dried cherries, and then add chicken or whatever else to their plates. That way, they try new foods and eat what we eat, but they also have something a little more palatable. (I don't know if that's the right way to feed toddlers. I could be doing it all wrong, but hey, we're all just figuring this out as we go, right?)

It's easy to get bogged down in the utilitarian that we forget the beauty of variety and the joy of cooking. After all, our God could have only provided the basics needed to keep us alive, but instead, he gave us thousands of foods with endless combinations. So every once in a while, regardless of how your kids eat, treat yourself to something you love, something that delights. After all, I think when we delight in God's good gifts, we can taste that the Giver himself is good. 

Rosemary Quinoa Salad with Walnuts + Cherries - Sarah J. Hauser
Rosemary Quinoa Salad with Walnuts + Cherries - Sarah J. Hauser
Rosemary Quinoa Salad with Walnuts + Cherries - Sarah J. Hauser
Rosemary Quinoa Salad with Walnuts + Cherries - Sarah J. Hauser
Rosemary Quinoa Salad with Walnuts + Cherries - Sarah J. Hauser

Rosemary Quinoa Salad with Walnuts + Cherries
Yields 4 entree-sized portions

1 cup quinoa
1 cup dried cherries
1 cup roughly chopped walnuts
1 Tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
2 Tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 Tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 Tablespoon honey
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
Crumbled goat cheese (optional)
Arugula or other salad greens (optional)

Rinse the quinoa thoroughly under cold water. (Quinoa has a natural coating that can taste bitter or soapy, but you can get rid of this coating by rinsing it well.) Add the rinsed quinoa and 2 cups water to a medium saucepan. Turn the heat to medium-high, and bring the water to a boil. Then, reduce the heat to low, cover, and cook for about 10-15 minutes. 

Remove the pot from the heat, and let it stand for about 5 minutes (keeping it covered!). Uncover and fluff the quinoa with a fork. Set it aside to cool while you prep the dressing and other ingredients. 

For the dressing, in a jar or container with a tight-fitting lid, add the olive oil, lemon juice, Dijon mustard, honey, ¼ teaspoon kosher salt, and a pinch of black pepper. Cover and shake vigorously until all the ingredients are mixed well. 

In a medium bowl, add the cherries, walnuts, and rosemary. Add the cooled quinoa to the bowl, and stir everything together. Pour in about 1/4 cup of the dressing. Mix well. Add more dressing if desired, reserving some for serving. Season with additional salt and pepper to taste (I added about another ¼ teaspoon each of kosher salt and black pepper). 

Transfer the quinoa salad to a serving dish. Top with crumbled goat cheese, if using. Serve on its own or over arugula or other salad greens.* 

Drizzle each portion with some of the remaining dressing and garnish with fresh rosemary. Enjoy!

*Rather than serving the quinoa on top of greens, you can also add a few handfuls of arugula right into the quinoa mixture. Pour the rest of the salad dressing on it, and toss well. The arugula will wilt slightly with the dressing, so serve immediately.