Maple Roasted Sweet Potatoes + Brussels Sprouts

Maple Roasted Sweet Potatoes + Brussels Sprouts | Sarah J. Hauser #sides #dinner #paleo #easyweeknight

I tend to overcomplicate things. While researching a recipe using bread I thought, “Well, why not just make the bread myself?” That’s all fine and good. Things with homemade bread taste better. But while I daydreamed about the smell of dough in the oven, a pile of laundry sat in my bedroom, dishes from two meals ago filled my sink, I had yet to shower, and I watched my one-year-old running by with a diaper about to explode. I don’t have time for homemade bread—but I bookmarked the recipe for another day. Maybe tomorrow. Or next week. Or when my kids drive off to college. For now, I need to simplify.

In the spirit of simplicity, I thought I’d share what I do most nights for meals. I’ve slowly learned to get more realistic about dinner. Then when I can make the space, I add in a new dish or try an interesting ingredient. But many nights, our menu consists of a green veggie, a starch, and a protein. Tomorrow, we’re doing baked chicken drumsticks, green beans, and corn. Another day, we did baked salmon, rice, and roasted asparagus. Sometimes I’ll follow a new recipe or make a stew or soup on the stove or in the slow cooker. But the formula still stands: beef stew, mashed potatoes, peas (technically a legume, but whatever).

Also, 9 times out of 10, whatever vegetable I make is roasted with olive oil, salt, and pepper. That’s it. Keep it simple. In the recipe below, I added a little maple syrup—’cause every once in awhile you gotta’ go wild.

This formula makes it easy to mix and match, and I can gradually introduce new foods to my kiddos. If we’re going to have brussels sprouts, a food not exactly known for being kid-friendly, I’ll make sure the other two parts of the meal are relatively well-liked (although, kids are quite fickle, so you never can know for sure). They have to try at least one bite of the new food. If they don’t like it at least they’re not leaving the meal hungry, and I’m not making a whole separate dinner for them. If I’ve got time for that, I’d rather go back to making the homemade bread.

Everyone has their own methods for feeding their families, and I’m still learning as we go. For now, this seems to work for us more often than not.

How about you? Do you meal plan? What tips and tricks have you found helpful as you’re getting dinner on the table? I’d love to hear in the comments below!

Maple Roasted Sweet Potatoes + Brussels Sprouts | Sarah J. Hauser #sides #dinner #paleo #easyweeknight
Maple Roasted Sweet Potatoes + Brussels Sprouts | Sarah J. Hauser #sides #dinner #paleo #easyweeknight
Maple Roasted Sweet Potatoes + Brussels Sprouts | Sarah J. Hauser #sides #dinner #paleo #easyweeknight
Maple Roasted Sweet Potatoes + Brussels Sprouts | Sarah J. Hauser #sides #dinner #paleo #easyweeknight

Maple Roasted Sweet Potatoes + Brussels Sprouts
Yields 4-6 servings

2 pounds sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into ¾”-1” pieces
2 pounds brussels sprouts, trimmed and halved (large ones quartered)
2-3 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 Tablespoons maple syrup*
1 teaspoon kosher salt, plus another pinch
Freshly ground black pepper

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Spread the sweet potatoes out onto two large rimmed baking sheets. (If you crowd it onto one baking sheet, the vegetables won’t brown as well.) Drizzle with two tablespoons of olive oil and the maple syrup. Sprinkle with salt. Toss the sweet potatoes to make sure they’re evenly coated with the olive oil, syrup, and salt.

Bake for 16-18 minutes. Remove from the oven and use a spatula to toss the potatoes. Add the brussels sprouts, dividing them between the two baking sheets. If the vegetables look a little dry, drizzle on an extra tablespoon or so of olive oil. Add a pinch of salt and freshly ground black pepper. Toss to coat and return the pans to the oven.

Bake an additional 20-25 minutes, until the vegetables are tender and browned to your liking. (For extra browning, you can also put them under the broiler for a minute or two at the end.)

Serve alongside your favorite protein such as pulled pork or crispy chicken thighs.

*This gives a very slight maple flavor, but in this recipe it’s intentionally subtle since sweet potatoes are already so sweet. If you want, you can increase the maple syrup by a tablespoon or so. You can also leave the maple syrup out entirely if you want to avoid added sweetener.

Note: These vegetables also taste AMAZING with an over easy egg on top in the morning! It’s a great way to get some veggies in for breakfast!


Cold Brew + Pomegranate Soda [featuring FreshGround Roasting]

Cold Brew + Pomegranate Soda | Sarah J. Hauser

My three kids actually napped simultaneously yesterday. It was glorious. I don’t think that’s happened in at least six months, because my twins have dropped their nap for the most part—and it came back to bite us last night when they weren’t asleep until 10pm. But for one afternoon, I savored the quietness while my kiddos slept. And by savored, I mean that I didn’t do anything “productive” and read a book the entire time. I sat with my book (If You Only Knew by Jamie Ivey!) for over two hours, and I didn’t feel the least bit bad about it.

While I loved reading the whole time, what I enjoyed the most was resting without feeling guilty. I’m not good at that. I’ve talked in the past about my need to feel accomplished, but sometimes letting go of my to-do list proves to be an accomplishment in itself. I constantly battle this inner guilt that’s neither helpful nor even true. Rest isn’t all that restful when we sit there feeling bad about it the whole time. When we do let go of that guilt, there’s freedom and joy to be found. It’s like our soul can finally exhale.

Today I’m back to the to-do list. We needed groceries. The house needs to be cleaned. I have to get work done. That’s okay, because there’s been a break, a renewal, a physical and emotional refueling. I can work from the overflow rather than pouring from an empty cup. That is a gift.

Cold Brew + Pomegranate Soda | Sarah J. Hauser
Cold Brew + Pomegranate Soda | Sarah J. Hauser
Cold Brew + Pomegranate Soda | Sarah J. Hauser
Cold Brew + Pomegranate Soda | Sarah J. Hauser
Cold Brew + Pomegranate Soda | Sarah J. Hauser

Need a little pick-me-up, or want to sip a fun drink while you dive into a favorite book? This Cold Brew + Pomegranate Soda is perfect for that! You could also make it with decaf cold brew or add a splash of vodka for the grown-up version. Enjoy!


Cold Brew + Pomegranate Soda
Yields 1 drink

¼ cup pomegranate juice (make sure it’s 100% pomegranate juice)
¼ cup cold brew coffee (such as FreshGround’s Black Ice Brew)
2-4 teaspoons simple syrup
1-2 teaspoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
½ cup sparkling water
Ice
Lemon slices for serving

Add the pomegranate juice, coffee, 2 teaspoons of simple syrup, and 1 teaspoon of lemon juice to a glass filled with ice. Stir well until all the ingredients are fully incorporated.

Top with sparkling water to taste. (I use about a ½ cup of sparkling water.) Stir gently, and add more simple syrup or lemon juice if desired. Serve with a lemon slice and enjoy!


This post was created in partnership with FreshGround Roasting. All opinions are 100% my own.


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.