Sheet Pan Balsamic Salmon with Roasted Tomatoes + Green Beans [and learning to rest in the chaos]

Sheet Pan Balsamic Salmon with Roasted Tomatoes + Green Beans - Sarah J. Hauser

Happy Monday! I don’t always enjoy Mondays, but I’m excited for a fresh start this week. Last week was a doozy: stomach bugs, loads of laundry, a family diet consisting of bananas, applesauce, and rice, and lots of time shampooing carpets. Thankfully, though, everyone’s healthy again, and my carpets are cleaner than they’ve been since we moved in six years ago.

Even more than starting fresh physically, I’m ready to restart emotionally and mentally. I didn’t exactly handle the chaos of last week very well. Come to think of it, I don’t handle chaos in general very well. And in our house, chaos is like the toys on the floor—always there, even when I clean. And then when I clean, when I deal with the chaos, another layer lies beneath the surface—like the toys under the couch that go unnoticed until I pick up the rest of the room.

I too often find myself looking for calm and ease around the corner. It’ll just get easier when we’re healthy or if I can get organized or if I hustle a littler harder. My house will be clean if I pick up the toys, life will feel less chaotic if I get through this week.

That may be true to a degree. Some seasons roll by more smoothly than others. Nights are certainly calmer when not interrupted by sick kids. But I too often put my trust in the idea that “someday it’ll get easier” or “if I just get this done” or “hustle a little harder.” At various points, those phrases may ring true, but they’re not strong enough to put all my weight behind. They’re like trying to grab a leaf when you’re climbing a tree. The leaves are there for a reason, they have their place and their purpose. But they’ll never hold you up.

Psalm 127:1-2 says:

“Unless the LORD builds the house,
    those who build it labor in vain.
Unless the LORD watches over the city,
    the watchman stays awake in vain.
It is in vain that you rise up early
    and go late to rest,
eating the bread of anxious toil;
    for he gives to his beloved sleep.”

I don’t have to hustle and strive and anxiously toil. Instead, I can rest, physically and in every other way. My soul can be at rest. Charles Spurgeon wrote, “The Lord is mainly to be rested in...Faith brings calm with it, and banishes the disturbers who both by day and by night murder peace.”

Friends, take a breath. Soak that in. Even in extraordinary messes or mundane chaos, we can know calm, peace, and rest. We can go to bed with unfinished to-do lists. We can live with purpose rather than spinning around on a hamster wheel. We can do the work God has given us to do and no more. He doesn’t ask us to be sovereign. He’s got that one covered.

This week, I’m trying to take a step back from the anxious toil, from the laying in bed awake thinking about all that went undone, from endlessly longing for the elusive “someday when it gets easier.” Because there’s rest to be had now. I don’t want to miss it.

Sheet Pan Balsamic Salmon with Roasted Tomatoes + Green Beans - Sarah J. Hauser
Sheet Pan Balsamic Salmon with Roasted Tomatoes + Green Beans - Sarah J. Hauser
Sheet Pan Balsamic Salmon with Roasted Tomatoes + Green Beans - Sarah J. Hauser
Sheet Pan Balsamic Salmon with Roasted Tomatoes + Green Beans - Sarah J. Hauser
Sheet Pan Balsamic Salmon with Roasted Tomatoes + Green Beans - Sarah J. Hauser
Sheet Pan Balsamic Salmon with Roasted Tomatoes + Green Beans - Sarah J. Hauser

Back to normal this week also means I’m back in the kitchen, and lately sheet pan dinners have been my jam.

For this recipe, everything except the balsamic glaze gets cooked on one pan, making for easy cleanup. The glaze takes hardly any effort to prepare and can even be made in advance. It’s a great meal when you want something simple, fresh, healthy, and flavorful.

Any favorite sheet pan dinners in your repertoire? I’m always looking to add more to our rotation, so let me know in the comments below!

Sheet Pan Balsamic Salmon with Roasted Tomatoes + Green Beans
Yields 4 servings

4 (5-ounce) salmon fillets
1 ½ pounds cherry tomatoes, halved if large
1 pound fresh green beans, trimmed and cut into 1-1 ½-inch pieces
3 cloves garlic, minced
5 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, divided
¼ cup balsamic vinegar
1 Tablespoon honey
1 Tablespoon dijon mustard
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1-2 Tablespoons chopped fresh parsley

Remove the salmon from the refrigerator, and allow it to come to room temperature for about 10-15 minutes. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.

Line a large sheet pan with parchment paper. Add the cherry tomatoes, green beans, and garlic to the pan.* Add 3 tablespoons of the oil, ½ teaspoon kosher salt, and ¼ teaspoon black pepper. Toss everything together so the vegetables are evenly coated. Roast in the oven for 15 minutes.

While the vegetables roast, in a small saucepan whisk together 1 tablespoon of oil, the vinegar, honey, and mustard. Heat over medium heat until the mixture comes to a boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer for about 7-10 minutes, stirring frequently, until the mixture reduces and thickens. Set at least half the glaze aside for serving.

Drizzle the final tablespoon of oil onto the salmon fillets, and sprinkle each fillet with a pinch of salt and pepper. Lightly brush some of the balsamic glaze onto each piece of salmon.

When the green beans and tomatoes have roasted for 15 minutes, remove them from the oven. Push the vegetables aside to make room for the salmon. Add the salmon to the sheet pan and return the pan to the oven. Bake for about 8-10 more minutes. The salmon should be cooked to medium, the tomatoes should burst, and the green beans should be tender yet slightly crisp.

Transfer the salmon and vegetables to servings dishes or plates. Drizzle on the reserved balsamic glaze, and season with additional salt and pepper if desired. Top with fresh parsley. Serve alongside rice or quinoa if desired. Enjoy!

*The sheet pan needs to be large enough for everything to fit in a single layer. If the vegetables get too crowded, divide this recipe onto two pans.

Weeknight Pasta with Cherry Tomatoes + Spinach [and friends gathering as family]

Weeknight Pasta with Cherry Tomatoes + Spinach - Sarah J. Hauser

We sat around the table together, filling our plates with piles of angel hair pasta topped with homemade sauce. A basket of garlic bread made its way around the table, and we dished out salads with romaine, tomatoes, bell peppers, and carrots.

It was the beginning of my senior year of high school, and several friends and I decided it’d be fun to hang out on Monday nights to eat dinner and watch football. A few of us actually planned to watch the game, but mostly, we wanted to hang out. (Despite the early onset of senioritis, we did promise our parents we’d finish homework during commercial breaks.) I thought it was the perfect idea: dinner with my friends, study help afterwards, and a little football.

With my five older siblings out of the house by that point, my friends filled the empty chairs as if they’d sat there for the last 17 years. And we ate. Just my mom, dad, me, and a ragtag group of high school kids.

The family routine didn’t change much. Most people at that table weren’t actually family members, but especially on those evenings, they felt like family. We gathered around the table, prayed over the meal, ate, talked, laughed, and then finished the night off by spreading our homework out in front of the television. We interrupted the commentators’ play calling with questions about calculus (I had many and should never have taken that class), and halftime meant we scrambled to read a few pages for English class. Eventually everyone packed up and headed home, stomachs filled with good food and minds energized by friendship and conversation.

Keep reading and get the recipe at Coffee + Crumbs!

Weeknight Pasta with Cherry Tomatoes + Spinach - Sarah J. Hauser
Weeknight Pasta with Cherry Tomatoes + Spinach - Sarah J. Hauser-12.jpg
Weeknight Pasta with Cherry Tomatoes + Spinach - Sarah J. Hauser
Weeknight Pasta with Cherry Tomatoes + Spinach - Sarah J. Hauser
Weeknight Pasta with Cherry Tomatoes + Spinach - Sarah J. Hauser

Read the full essay and get the recipe at Coffee + Crumbs!

Tropical Quinoa Breakfast Bowl

Tropical Quinoa Breakfast Bowl - Sarah J. Hauser

Happy Tuesday! My kids had their first real day of preschool today. They seemed to have a great time and looked wonderfully worn out when I picked them up a few hours later. It’s a new stage for us, one that makes us all a little nervous but mostly excited. Having twins before our third baby means I’ve never consistently been home with just one kiddo, so that will (hopefully) bring a much needed break!

It's been a while since I've posted here, but I'm excited to get back in the kitchen again. I recently worked with Kizingo Kids, a company that makes products to promote health and independence in kids. I created this recipe for a Tropical Quinoa Breakfast Bowl. I’ve been looking for new breakfast ideas, especially for the mornings we have to get out the door for school. We eat a ton of eggs as well as oatmeal, but adding quinoa in the mix gives us a little more variety and nutrition. You can definitely play around with the recipe to include whatever fruit you like, or sub out the coconut milk for other options like whole milk or almond milk.

To get the recipe, head over to the Kizingo blog! What are your breakfast go-tos? I’m always looking for new ideas, so let me know in the comments below!

Tropical Quinoa Breakfast Bowl - Sarah J. Hauser
Tropical Quinoa Breakfast Bowl - Sarah J. Hauser
Tropical Quinoa Breakfast Bowl - Sarah J. Hauser
Tropical Quinoa Breakfast Bowl - Sarah J. Hauser.jpg

This post was created in partnership with Kizingo. Head over to their blog for the recipe!

Digory's Plea, The Magician's Nephew + The Compassion of God

Digory's Plea, The Magician's Nephew + The Compassion of God - Sarah J. Hauser

It's strange reading things you wrote years ago. Sometimes I roll my eyes, embarrassed by my words yet grateful for the growth that embarrassment shows. Other times, it feels like someone poured a bucket of cold water over me as I wake up to truth I knew but have since forgotten. 

My dad recently reminded me of a post I wrote on my old blog almost exactly six years ago. At the time, my mom had stopped treatments for pancreatic cancer and her impending death loomed over us like a dark cloud. My husband and I were rereading The Chronicles of Narnia, and a passage in The Magician's Nephew hit quite close to home. 

I've toyed around with the idea of sharing this post again. I thought maybe if I posted it, I'd rewrite it from my present-day point of view. But I'm not in a season right now like I was then. While I still grieve over my mom, we're through heaviest of that sorrow. I made a few minor edits, but otherwise kept my six-year-old post the same. I think if I changed the perspective the weight of the words would be lost. 

So this is me, six years ago, writing about my dying mom and the compassion of God. My mom has since passed, and my season of life is different.

In all of it, God is still good.  

“‘But please, please – won’t you – can’t you give me something that will cure Mother?'”

I can’t count the number of times in the last year and a half I’ve asked that same question Digory asked Aslan in the The Magician’s Nephew. Then you wait for an answer. And you wait longer. And longer. Until it seems God finally answers with a resounding, “No.”

What do you do with that response? I guess I can’t say God has given me a resounding no, but right now it sure seems like that. There’s always been one more appointment, one more treatment, one more thing to try. Yet eventually there comes a time when the road of possibility arrives at a dead end. 

Where is God in that?

Up till then he had been looking at the Lion’s great feet and the huge claws on them; now, in his despair, he looked up at its face. What he saw surprised him as much as anything in his whole life. For the tawny face was bent down near his own and (wonder of wonders) great shining tears stood in the Lion’s eyes. They were such big, bright tears compared with Digory’s own that for a moment he felt as if the Lion must really be sorrier about his Mother than he was himself.

Our God is not distant nor apathetic. Karl Barth wrote, “If we fix our eyes upon the place where the course of the world reaches its lowest point, where its vanity is unmistakable, where its groanings are most bitter and the divine incognito most impenetrable, we shall encounter there—Jesus Christ. On the frontier of what is observable He stands delivered up and not spared. In place of us all He stands there, delivered up for us all.”

What does that mean for us now? We can have hope of eternal life in the midst of our temporal suffering, because God has overcome suffering. 1 Peter 4:1-2 says, “Since therefore Christ suffered in the flesh, arm yourselves with the same way of thinking, for whoever has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin, so as to live for the rest of the time in the flesh no longer for human passions but for the will of God.” The suffering of Christ provides a hope for the future and an example to follow in the midst of our own suffering in this world.

“‘My son, my son,’ said Aslan. ‘I know. Grief is great.’”

God takes up the broken state of humanity and fixes it. He does not remain distant but rather relates so deeply to the human condition that he became human. He defeats suffering through experiencing it and overcoming it in the resurrection. Our God is not a distant God. He doesn’t shy away from our pleas, our questions, our tears. He knows better than anyone that grief is great.

Then Digory took a minute to get his breath, and then went softly into his Mother’s room. And there she lay, as he had seen her lie so many other times, propped up on the pillows, with a thin, pale face that would make you cry to look at it. Digory took the Apple of Life out of his pocket.

I can’t help but read that paragraph and think, “Stupid story. There are no magic apples in this life. There’s no Narnia, no Aslan, no…whatever.” Spoiler alert: Digory’s mom gets healed. 

Why hasn’t God healed my mom?

I don’t know. That’s why it’s taken me so long to write this blog post. I’ve had it half written for probably six months and haven’t been able to bring myself to finish it. If I’m going to finish writing, I feel like I have to come up with an answer, a nice little conclusion that puts the my mind and the minds of my readers at rest. I’m supposed to have an Apple of Life to pull out of my pocket.

I don’t have one.

God sees our suffering and knows better than anyone that grief is great. There is hope in the midst of grief, joy and peace knowing this is a light and momentary affliction. An eternal “Apple of Life” exists, despite my frustration there’s not one right now to heal my mom. Instead, I’m left holding a thousand questions and pleading with God. He graciously listens. 

In my attempt for some semblance of conclusion, I fall short. This part of my family’s story is not over, and I expect that the epilogue will not be revealed this side of eternity.