Orecchiette with Bacon, Mushrooms + Kale [and learning to sit in the dark]

Orecchiette with Bacon, Mushrooms + Kale | Sarah J. Hauser

I scroll through my social media feeds, read articles about the latest news, and listen while a friend shares her heartache. It all feels so heavy. It is so heavy, the corporate hurts and the individual heartaches, the mundane struggles and worldwide crises. Some griefs are deeper than others, and I have the luxury of walking away from the news or giving up social media for a while before the weight crushes me. But the world is a hard, dark place, and I’m trying to learn what it means to mourn with those who mourn, to sit in the darkness without the darkness swallowing me whole.

I believe God will one day make all things new. He will fully bring his kingdom on earth as it is in heaven, he will put everything right, he will bring justice and restoration and glory and joy. But we’re not there yet. We’re in this strange “already but not yet” place, a place still speaking the language of lament. My brothers and sisters throughout the world speak it fluently, but I easily forget. It’s a language that’s not easy to listen to, one I want to silence and ignore.

Frederick Buechner writes, “But if (the preacher) does not make real to them the human experience of what it is to cry into the storm and receive no answer, to be sick at heart and find no healing, then he becomes the only one there who seems not to have had that experience because most surely under their bonnets and shawls and jackets, under their afros and ponytails, all the others there have had it whether they talk of it or not.”

I so often look for a solution. I look to speak a word that will fix what is wrong or at least attempt to silence such uncomfortable sorrow. But the Gospel we preach must be big enough for the nights when solution seems far off, sure enough to sustain us when our God seems absent. It must be clear enough to speak to tongue-tied souls that can barely mutter a prayer. Because even when we can’t bring ourselves to preach, the Gospel remains true in our silence.

We hold up our heroes in the faith, Noah, Abraham, Sarah, and more. But we gloss over what Hebrews 11:13 says, “These all died in faith, not having received the things promised.”

Is our Gospel strong enough to hold us if we die without receiving?

The same Gospel for which so many are killed is the same Gospel that sustains in the day-to-day. It’s not a gospel of easy solutions, quick fixes, or temporary comfort—that’s no Gospel at all. If that’s what I preach to myself and others, we’ll all too quickly find that gospel will crash with even the smallest storm. Superficial solutions make a feeble gospel.

Those heroes of the faith died before receiving. Jesus wept before raising Lazarus. He was crucified before he rose from the dead. But the Gospel—the true, sure, life-altering Gospel—says that his promises will come to pass. Our weeping will turn to rejoicing. The dead will be raised. The same Spirit who raised Jesus will give life to our mortal bodies (Romans 8:11). And so we live according to that Spirit with enduring faith, come what may. That is a Gospel to cling to—and it will hold us.

As we wait in this “not yet” place, we weep and mourn, wrestle and plead. We learn to speak the language of lament knowing that one day our God will turn those cries into rejoicing. We work for change, justice, growth, and renewal, standing not on the shaky ground of cursory solutions but on the sure foundation of the kingdom of God, a kingdom that can never be shaken (Hebrews 12:28).

Orecchiette with Bacon, Mushrooms + Kale | Sarah J. Hauser
Orecchiette with Bacon, Mushrooms + Kale | Sarah J. Hauser
Orecchiette with Bacon, Mushrooms + Kale | Sarah J. Hauser
Orecchiette with Bacon, Mushrooms + Kale | Sarah J. Hauser

Whether in seasons of deep grief or ordinary heartache, we all need encouragement. But sometimes when we long to speak life-giving words and give comfort, our mouths get dry. We say something stupid. Suddenly we realize we have no idea what to do with our hands. (All these things happen to me all the time. Please tell me I’m not the only one!)

When you need to fill the silence or process sorrow by putting your hands to work, food is a great place to start. This recipe is a hearty, comforting dish that travels well so it’s perfect for sharing with friends or family who need a little encouragement.


Orecchiette with Bacon, Mushrooms + Kale
Yields 6-8 servings

1 pound orecchiette pasta (other types of pasta work, too!)
12-16 ounces bacon, chopped
1 medium onion, diced
1 pound cremini mushrooms, sliced
3 cloves garlic, minced
8 ounces chopped kale
1 ½ cups shredded Parmesan cheese
Salt
Freshly ground black pepper
Red pepper flakes

Cook the pasta according to the package directions. Drain the pasta, reserving 2 to 2 ½ cups of the pasta water.

Meanwhile, heat a large pot or Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add the bacon and cook for about 4-6 minutes, until some of the fat renders out and it just starts to get crisp. Add the diced onion and cook for another minute until the onions begin to soften.

Add the sliced mushrooms and the garlic. Cook until the bacon is fully cooked, the onions translucent, and the mushrooms soft, stirring every few minutes. You want the onions and mushrooms to take on a darker color and get a little caramelized. This should take about 12-15 minutes.

Turn the heat to low. Add the cooked pasta, kale, and 1 cup of the pasta water. Cook for a couple minutes, stirring everything together, until the kale wilts and the ingredients are fully incorporated.

Stir in the shredded parm. Add additional pasta water, a quarter cup at a time, until the pasta has the consistency you like. (I end up using another cup, for a total of 2 cups of pasta water.)

Season with salt and pepper to taste. The Parmesan and bacon give this dish a decent amount of salty flavor, so you shouldn’t need a ton of salt, but I do like to add in plenty of black pepper. Top with red pepper flakes for a kick of heat.

Serve with garlic bread and a fresh salad if you like, or enjoy the dish on its own! Pair it with a crisp, dry white wine like Pinot Grigio. The wine balances out the richness of the pasta perfectly. Enjoy!


(Paleo + Vegan) Maple-Cinnamon Hot Chocolate [and the gift of play]

(Paleo + Vegan) Maple-Cinnamon Hot Chocolate | Sarah J. Hauser

My daughter keeps asking to have a tea party or a picnic or play doctor with her. I oblige when I can, but preschool play is not my strength. But little by little, my kids draw me into their worlds, teaching me how to play again. They show me the joy of silliness and letting go of inhibitions. They help me loosen my grip on practicality. I still fight it every day. I want to see check marks on my to-do lists and know I’m working toward a goal. Those desires aren’t all bad, of course, but we’ve lost something when we let utility push fun completely out of the picture. We’ve lost the joy and beauty of play.

Dr. Stuart Brown, founder of the National Institute for Play, researched how the absence of play contributed to the violent behavior of homicidal males. (Don’t worry. This blog post won’t take a dark turn toward examining the psychology of murder, but if you want to learn more check out Dr. Brown’s TED talk or resources on the National Institute for Play website.) Through years researching both humans and animals, Brown “came to understand that humans are uniquely designed by nature to enjoy and participate in play throughout life.”

We shouldn’t wait to play until all the more important things get done. Play—doing something for the sheer joy of it rather than as a means to an end—is essential for human thriving. It’s something we need in our everyday lives. It cultivates creativity, combats stress, and stimulates the brain. Whenever I watch my kids play, I see them creating, adapting, growing, working together, figuring things out, smiling, and so much more. Yet somehow as an adult, I decided play wasn’t important.

Even when I do try to play, I struggle. I play with my kids but grow easily frustrated by the fact that they’re not following the rules of Candyland or adequately explaining the rules of their own made-up game. I set a mental timer trying to decipher how long I have to sit and eat pretend food or roll cars across the floor before I’ve fulfilled my duty as an attentive mother. To be honest, preschool play can feel utterly mind-numbing to me sometimes. (Please tell me I’m not the only one?) I marvel at the creativity of my kids’ preschool teachers and friends and family who play with my kids with ease. Give me a basketball and a high school kid, and I’m good to go. Give me Play-Doh and a three-year-old, and I’m lost at sea.

When I attempt to play as an adult, I often only do so when there’s a clear goal. I run for exercise. I photograph to get a blog post out. I create a recipe in the kitchen so I can share it online. But what if I did all those things—running, photography, cooking—for the joy of it? What if I allowed myself to do something I love just because? That sounds so...frivolous.

Despite my ineptitude for play, having kids has given me a new chance to learn how to do this. I see them making funny faces, running in circles until they’re dizzy or creating elaborate story lines as they talk to their stuffed animals. They’re learning and growing in many areas that could be labeled as productive. But my daughter doesn’t assign dialogue to her stuffed sloth because she's practicing her language skills. She’s doing it because it’s fun.

O Lord, how manifold are your works! In wisdom have you made them all; the earth is full of your creatures. Here is the sea, great and wide, which teems with creatures innumerable, living things both small and great. There go the ships, and Leviathan, which you formed to play in it.
— Psalm 104:24-26

God has given us the gift of play—a gift we see his creatures using throughout creation. In Psalm 104, the psalmist writes of the Leviathan in the sea, “which you formed to play in it.” Leviathan (whatever we deem that creature to actually be) was created to play. We see the playfulness of God throughout his world, in the colors of the sunsets or the creativity of the animal kingdom. What was God thinking when he made a platypus? I wouldn’t be surprised if he simply thought it was fun. If we’re to image God, one of the ways we do this is through play. We see and recognize the joy he takes in his creation, and we image that to the rest of the world. If we only ever image our God as practical, realistic, or utilitarian, are we really demonstrating who he is to others?

When’s the last time you did something for the fun of it, not as a means to an end? When’s the last time you allowed yourself to truly and wholeheartedly play? Do you view it as a luxury, or as a necessity? What can you do this week to wholeheartedly, unabashedly play?

(Need some play inspiration? How about playing in the snow and then savoring some hot chocolate afterwards? The recipe below is dairy-free, paleo, vegan, and so, so good! Scroll down to learn how to make it!)

(Paleo + Vegan) Maple-Cinnamon Hot Chocolate | Sarah J. Hauser
(Paleo + Vegan) Maple-Cinnamon Hot Chocolate | Sarah J. Hauser
(Paleo + Vegan) Maple-Cinnamon Hot Chocolate | Sarah J. Hauser
(Paleo + Vegan) Maple-Cinnamon Hot Chocolate | Sarah J. Hauser
(Paleo + Vegan) Maple-Cinnamon Hot Chocolate | Sarah J. Hauser
(Paleo + Vegan) Maple-Cinnamon Hot Chocolate | Sarah J. Hauser

(Paleo + Vegan) Maple-Cinnamon Hot Chocolate
Yields 1 large serving or 2 small servings
Adapted from Detoxinista

1 ½ cups unsweetened almond milk
3 Tablespoons maple syrup
2 Tablespoons cocoa powder
¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
Pinch of salt
Pinch of cayenne pepper (optional)
Coconut whipped cream for topping*

In a small saucepan, add the milk, maple syrup, cocoa powder, cinnamon, salt, and cayenne pepper (if using).

Turn the head to medium-low. Cook until warmed through, whisking frequently until the hot chocolate is smooth.

Pour into a mug and top with coconut whipped cream. The coconut whipped cream adds an amazing creamy richness, especially as it melts into the drink!

*For full instructions and tips to make coconut whipped cream, click here for a post from Tastes Lovely. Basically, take a can of full fat coconut milk and put it in the fridge for a few hours (I just store a can in my fridge at all times). The cream will separate from the coconut water. Scrape the cream off and add it to a bowl. Using a hand mixer or a stand mixer, beat for a couple minutes until soft peaks form, scraping the sides of the bowl as necessary. I whip in a bit of maple syrup to sweeten the cream. The ratio I like is about 1 tablespoon of maple syrup per cup of coconut cream.


Cold Brew Granola with Chocolate, Walnuts + Chia Seeds

Cold Brew Granola with Chocolate, Walnuts + Chia Seeds | Sarah J. Hauser

Happy Tuesday! How’s your week going? Yeah, I realize we’re only a few days in, but anyone else feel like this week has been about a month long? My kiddos are fighting sickness, and the weather here is still gloomy (although about 40 degrees warmer than last week!). We’ve read all the books, played with Play-Doh, watched movies, spilled Cheerios, snuggled on the couch, and laughed a lot (four-year-olds are hilarious, by the way). And now I need to refuel with coffee and chocolate.

I make recipes with that combination a lot, and maybe it’s overdone…or maybe it’s just that good. Whatever. May coffee and chocolate enjoy a long and happy life together, because they truly make the perfect pair.

I shared this granola recipe a few years ago on an old blog I had, and I decided it was time to give it a facelift. It’s made with cold brew coffee concentrate (I use FreshGround Roasting’s Black Ice Brew), but in a pinch you could use regular strong coffee. This time around, I added in cacao nibs instead of chocolate chips in an attempt to be more healthy, but use whichever you prefer. Throw in some dried cherries, extra nuts, or a hint of cardamom for even more flavor options.

Scroll down to get the recipe!

Cold Brew Granola with Chocolate, Walnuts + Chia Seeds | Sarah J. Hauser
Cold Brew Granola with Chocolate, Walnuts + Chia Seeds | Sarah J. Hauser
Cold Brew Granola with Chocolate, Walnuts + Chia Seeds | Sarah J. Hauser
Cold Brew Granola with Chocolate, Walnuts + Chia Seeds | Sarah J. Hauser
Cold Brew Granola with Chocolate, Walnuts + Chia Seeds | Sarah J. Hauser
Cold Brew Granola with Chocolate, Walnuts + Chia Seeds | Sarah J. Hauser

Cold Brew Granola with Chocolate, Walnuts + Chia Seeds
Yields about 4 cups

3 cups rolled oats
½ cup walnuts, coarsely chopped
½ cup cacao nibs or semi-sweet chocolate chips
½ cold brew coffee concentrate or strong coffee
⅓ cup honey (sub maple syrup for vegan)
2 Tablespoons cocoa powder
2 Tablespoons olive oil (preferably “light tasting”)
1 Tablespoon chia seeds (optional)
¼ teaspoon sea salt

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. In a large bowl, add all the ingredients and mix well.

Pour mixture onto the baking sheet and spread into a thin layer.

Bake for 35-45 minutes until the granola is crisp, stirring gently 2-3 times throughout the baking process.

Remove the granola from the oven and let it cool completely. Transfer to an airtight container and store until you’re ready to serve. Serve with milk, yogurt, fresh fruit, or additional honey.


Marinated Skirt Steak with Pineapple + Green Onions [and fighting for connection]

Marinated Skirt Steak with Pineapple + Green Onions | Sarah J. Hauser

Sitting in my bed, I attempt to hide and drown out the noise downstairs with the rhythmic hum of my breast pump. I can still hear the baby crying and my toddler son whining. His twin sister yells at the top of her lungs for no reason, except maybe to keep up with the decibel level of everyone else. I’ve been here longer than necessary, partly because pumping takes extra time. I worry my supply is dropping, maybe due to diet changes or stress or who knows what. My mind conjures up a thousand possibilities, all of which I feel the urgent need to research.

I stop my frantic Googling as I notice my heart pounding faster. Apparently escaping to a semi-quiet room only made my anxious thoughts louder. I try to sit still as I listen to the steady hum of the pump, praying those bottles will fill with a few more drops. I’m not ready to add the chaos from downstairs to the chaos I carry in my own body.

It’s mac and cheese for dinner tonight—the one from the box, not the good homemade stuff. I can hear my husband’s footsteps bound up and down the stairs as he manages whatever is going on. He’s working hard to give me peace and quiet, but the volume can only be helped so much—especially during the witching hour.

There’s no denying it’s hard to connect. It’s hard to have the time and space to look each other in the eyes and ask, “How was your day?” and then actually answer without LEGOs being thrown across the room or a not quite potty-trained toddler peeing on the floor. How can we connect when I can’t even be in the room with the rest of the family?

Before babies, we used to get home from work and sit at the table together. I’d cook a homemade meal nearly every night. We’d talk over pasta and salad, garlic bread and a glass of wine. Now, even the most gracious attempts to talk more deeply or resolve conflict seem impossible. My husband’s words get caught in the tornado of emotions and information swirling in my mind, and I can’t seem to calm the storm. Some days that storm rages only in my head and heart; other times everyone else gets swept by its gale force winds. Feeling connected—feeling as though we’re on the same page, moving in the same direction, on the same team some days appears to be an exercise in futility. How do you connect with each other in the midst of a messy house, postpartum anxiety, sleep deprivation, carrying the burden of parenting, mom guilt, kids’ schedules, and the fact that if one more set of hands touches me, I may completely lose it?

Keep reading and get the recipe at Coffee + Crumbs.

Marinated Skirt Steak with Pineapple + Green Onions | Sarah J. Hauser
Marinated Skirt Steak with Pineapple + Green Onions | Sarah J. Hauser
Marinated Skirt Steak with Pineapple + Green Onions | Sarah J. Hauser
Marinated Skirt Steak with Pineapple + Green Onions | Sarah J. Hauser
Marinated Skirt Steak with Pineapple + Green Onions | Sarah J. Hauser
Marinated Skirt Steak with Pineapple + Green Onions | Sarah J. Hauser
Marinated Skirt Steak with Pineapple + Green Onions | Sarah J. Hauser
Marinated Skirt Steak with Pineapple + Green Onions | Sarah J. Hauser