Ham, Apple + Parmesan Panini

 Ham, Apple + Parmesan Panini | Sarah J. Hauser

It’s a weird season for cooking, in my opinion. I’m all cooked out after Thanksgiving but not quite ready to gear up for Christmas recipes. Okay, I may have already made my first batch of Christmas cookies—and it’s not even December. But apparently I can’t live off that batch of Double Chocolate Sea Salt cookies for the next few weeks (recipe coming soon!).

In these weeks in between feasts, I’m trying to keep it simple. We’re eating leftovers, soups I made a while back and stored in the freezer, and sandwiches. It’s so easy for me to go overboard in the kitchen during the holidays, and that only adds to the stress and overwhelm this time of year. But I’m learning to be realistic, simplify, and still eat food that’s really good.

Paninis are a perfect weeknight dinner. We’ve done panini nights in the past with friends and family, too. We provide an array or ingredients, or people bring something to share. Then everyone assembles their own and savors their creations alongside soup, salad, or a good glass of wine. (If you do this, I suggest borrowing multiple panini presses from others to make the cooking process go faster. We learned that the hard way!) It’s a great way to get a meal on the table, gather with others, and enjoy good food without spending a ton of time prepping. And to make things even easier? Go ahead and pull out those paper plates. You can use the good dishes at Christmas.

What are you cooking this week? Are you ready for the next big holiday meal, or craving something a little more simple?

 Ham, Apple + Parmesan Panini | Sarah J. Hauser
 Ham, Apple + Parmesan Panini | Sarah J. Hauser

Ham, Apple + Parmesan Panini
Yields 1 sandwich

2 slices bread (I prefer a crusty white bread)
Olive oil
Freshly ground black pepper
A few slices of deli ham (I used Oscar Mayer Deli Fresh ham)
Thinly sliced Parmesan cheese
Thinly sliced apples
Fresh thyme leaves

Preheat a panini press or grill pan. Brush both sides of the two pieces of bread generously with olive oil. Season both sides with black pepper. 

Layer the ham, Parmesan cheese, sliced apples, and fresh thyme leaves in between the slices of bread. Warm it all in a panini press and enjoy! It also taste great alongside your favorite soup (like this Butternut Squash Soup)!

Note: I didn’t give exact ingredient amounts because you can layer on the ingredients as you like! You can also try changing up the recipe to fit what you have on hand. Try using Asiago instead of Parmesan or sage instead of thyme. Enjoy!


This recipe was created in partnership with Oscar Mayer. All opinions are 100% my own.


Sheet Pan Sausage, Peppers + Potatoes [gluten-free, dairy-free, and Whole30!]

 Sheet Pan Sausage, Peppers + Potatoes - Sarah J. Hauser

I always shop for the Thanksgiving ingredients I need as early as possible. If it can last in the fridge for a week, you’d better believe I’ve already purchased it. I make every attempt I can to avoid endless long lines at Trader Joe’s or ALDI, although inevitably I forget something and wind up heading to the store late Wednesday night.

And then every year about this time, I look at our overflowing fridge and realize I’m fully prepared for Thanksgiving, but not at all ready for dinner tonight. And apparently, everyone in my house still wants to eat between now and Thursday.

So, here’s an answer. While you’re planning your big holiday feast, let’s make the next meal simple. This recipe takes one sheet pan and only a handful of ingredients—many of which you may have on hand. It’s based on the Sweet Potato, Sausage + Apple Bake I shared a couple years ago over at Coffee + Crumbs, but this version uses bell peppers and white potatoes seasoned with paprika and oregano. It’s easy to toss together and makes a perfect weeknight meal!

P.S. This dish also travels well if you need to bring dinner to a friend, family member, or neighbor! It’s also dairy-free, gluten-free, and can be make Whole30 compliant (just double-check the ingredients in the sausage).

What do you make in between big holiday meals? Our other favorite option, of course, is takeout!

 Sheet Pan Sausage, Peppers + Potatoes - Sarah J. Hauser
 Sheet Pan Sausage, Peppers + Potatoes - Sarah J. Hauser
 Sheet Pan Sausage, Peppers + Potatoes - Sarah J. Hauser
 Sheet Pan Sausage, Peppers + Potatoes - Sarah J. Hauser
 Sheet Pan Sausage, Peppers + Potatoes - Sarah J. Hauser
 Sheet Pan Sausage, Peppers + Potatoes - Sarah J. Hauser
 Sheet Pan Sausage, Peppers + Potatoes - Sarah J. Hauser
 Sheet Pan Sausage, Peppers + Potatoes - Sarah J. Hauser
 Sheet Pan Sausage, Peppers + Potatoes - Sarah J. Hauser

Sheet Pan Sausage, Peppers + Potatoes
Active Time: 15 Minutes | Total Cook Time: 60-65 Minutes
Yields 4-5 Servings | GF/DF/W30

1 ¼ - 1 ½ pounds mild or sweet Italian sausage (for Whole30, check your ingredients!)
1 ½ pounds potatoes (I like using red-skinned potatoes or Yukon Gold)*
2 red, orange, or yellow bell peppers
1 small onion
3 Tablespoons olive oil
1 ½ teaspoons dried oregano
1 teaspoon kosher salt
½ teaspoon smoked paprika
¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Chopped fresh parsley for serving

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Cover a large sheet pan with parchment paper and set aside.

Cut the sausage into 1-inch coins. Cut the potatoes, peppers, and onion into bite-sized pieces. Add to the prepared sheet pan in a single layer (use two pans if your sheet pan gets crowded). Drizzle on the olive oil.

In a small bowl, mix together the oregano, salt, paprika, and pepper. Sprinkle evenly over meat and vegetables. Toss everything together so it’s all evenly coated with oil and spices.

Bake uncovered for 45-50 minutes, tossing everything once halfway through the baking time. The potatoes should be tender on the inside and the sausage cooked through.

Remove from the oven and transfer to plates or a serving bowl. Sprinkle with chopped fresh parsley. I like serving this alongside a salad or sauteed green beans. Enjoy!

*Note: Ever wonder which type of potatoes works best for roasting, mashing, or baking? Check out this article from The Kitchn.



Autumn Chowder [and remembering at the table]

 Autumn Chowder - Sarah J. Hauser

It’s a Wednesday night. We’re on the homestretch after a day filled with toddler laughs and toys strewn on the floor, naptime snuggles and pleas to share. I pull out the giant soup pot I inherited from my mom. That pot has seen gallons of homemade spaghetti sauce, wild rice soup, and our perpetual favorite, Autumn Chowder. I place it on the stove, turn on the heat, and start frying chopped bacon and sauteing an onion. The potatoes, carrots, and corn get dumped in next, followed by broth, milk, and loads of cheese. It’s hearty, rich, and full of the flavors of fall—quintessential comfort food.

I think of my mom while I stir, and soon I’m back in her kitchen. The fan above her stove hums, and the smell of bacon wafts through the house. She wears a stained apron and holds a wooden spoon in her hand. She stirs up magic in that pot. Dishes cover the kitchen island, alongside the skins of onions and trimmings from carrots. Our excitement grows as dinnertime nears. The “First Making of Autumn Chowder” felt like a special occasion, despite usually occurring on an average weeknight amidst soccer practice and algebra homework. We set bowls and soup spoons on the table—the table always adorned with one of my mom’s seasonal tablecloths—and shuffle to fold napkins, fill glasses, and find our seats.

I pull myself out of the memory and back into my own kitchen. Dirty dishes balance in a precarious stack next to the sink, and the squeals of three kids fill our ears. Our table sits bare. I rarely use a tablecloth, and attempting to set out dishes and utensils in advance seems useless with a one-year-old who constantly climbs on said table. But my stovetop fan hums a familiar tune, and the savory aroma of onions and bacon smells like memories that make me tear up—although I blame it on the pesky alliums.

It’s been five years since she died, and I notice her absence most when I’m cooking. Yet somehow it feels like the act of chopping vegetables and melting cheese keeps her alive.

Keep reading and get the recipe at Coffee + Crumbs.

 Autumn Chowder - Sarah J. Hauser
 Autumn Chowder - Sarah J. Hauser
 Autumn Chowder - Sarah J. Hauser
 Autumn Chowder - Sarah J. Hauser
 Autumn Chowder - Sarah J. Hauser

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


Butternut Squash Soup with Rosemary + Bacon [Paleo and Whole30!]

 Butternut Squash Soup with Rosemary + Bacon [Paleo and Whole30!] - Sarah J. Hauser

Last year about this time, a few friends hosted a shower to celebrate the birth of our third. I gave birth to him in July, but with summer schedules and newborn exhaustion, we decided to wait until the fall for a baby shower—and I loved it!

Celebrating three months into his life forced me to stop and practice gratitude in a way I couldn’t necessarily do during pregnancy. It allowed me to step away from the diapers and spit-up and appointments. It created space to gather with friends and family and look back on what God gave us in this sweet, little boy—while still looking forward to his life ahead.

My friends know me well, too, because that evening, they made it a point to serve home-cooked food and sit around the table together. We passed baskets of bread, poured glasses of wine, and savored spoonfuls of soup. We chatted and laughed, talked about birth stories, and commiserated with each other about sleepless nights. I remember thinking how grateful I was for my new son and the loved ones who took the time to celebrate him with me. What a gift.

 Butternut Squash Soup with Rosemary + Bacon [Paleo and Whole30!] - Sarah J. Hauser
 Butternut Squash Soup with Rosemary + Bacon [Paleo and Whole30!] - Sarah J. Hauser
 Butternut Squash Soup with Rosemary + Bacon [Paleo and Whole30!] - Sarah J. Hauser
 Butternut Squash Soup with Rosemary + Bacon [Paleo and Whole30!] - Sarah J. Hauser
 Butternut Squash Soup with Rosemary + Bacon [Paleo and Whole30!] - Sarah J. Hauser
 Butternut Squash Soup with Rosemary + Bacon [Paleo and Whole30!] - Sarah J. Hauser

My friend who hosted my baby shower ladled soups into small glass jars. I thought it was a great idea, and it made it easy for people to try both soups she offered that night. Not only do jars work well for serving smaller portions to a group, but it makes it easy to snag a cup for lunch to go alongside a salad or sandwich.

This Butternut Squash Soup is dairy-free, gluten-free, paleo, and Whole30, so it works for all kinds of diets! You can also omit or serve the bacon on the side for a vegan option. Enjoy!


Butternut Squash Soup with Rosemary + Bacon
Yields about 10 cups

2-3 Tablespoons olive oil
1 large yellow onion, diced
2 medium apples, cored and chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon kosher salt
¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 Tablespoons white wine vinegar
2 teaspoons dried thyme
1/8 tsp red pepper flakes
4 cups vegetable or chicken broth
3 ½-4 pound butternut squash, peeled, seeded and cut into 1-inch cubes
⅓ cup full fat coconut milk (from a can, not a coconut milk beverage)
8-12 ounces bacon
2-3 Tablespoons chopped fresh rosemary

Heat the olive oil in a large pot or Dutch oven over medium heat. Add the onion and apples, and cook for about 2-3 minutes. Add the garlic, salt, and pepper. Cook for another 4-6 minutes until the onions are translucent.

Add the white wine vinegar, thyme, and red pepper flakes. Cook for about 1 more minute. (Add about ¼ cup of stock if the mixture starts to stick to the bottom of the pot.)

Pour in the broth and add the squash. Turn the heat to medium-high, cover, and bring to a boil. The reduce the heat to low and simmer (covered) until the squash is tender, about 20-25 minutes.

While the soup cooks, fry the bacon until crisp, and chop into small pieces.

Turn the heat off the soup. Stir in the coconut milk. Using an immersion blender, puree the soup until smooth. If you don’t have an immersion blender, allow soup to cool for a bit and then transfer to a regular blender in batches to puree.

Season with additional salt and pepper to taste. Transfer to bowls for serving. Top with crisp bacon pieces and chopped rosemary. Enjoy!

Note: This pairs really well with Crostini with Caramelized Apples, Fontina + Rosemary!