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.

Roasted Squash + Kale Salad with Maple-Dijon Vinaigrette [and why I celebrate]

Roasted Squash + Kale Salad with Maple-Dijon Vinaigrette

Many of us will gather around the table to celebrate Thanksgiving in a couple days, and if your family is anything like mine, there will be an abundance of food. We’ll talk and eat and laugh and eat some more. We’ll all go home with leftovers for a week, and you’d better believe I’m already thinking about the turkey sandwich I’ll make the next day. 

Thanksgiving dinner is the quintessential feast. 

Feasting demonstrates bounty, abundance, provision, security, generosity, beauty, enjoyment - all things we want to see and experience when we celebrate the holidays. But whether it’s Thanksgiving, a birthday, Christmas, or any other occasion we commemorate, we don’t just celebrate merely to eat, drink, and be merry. It’s so much more than that. 

As Christians, our eating and drinking and gathering around the table point to the ultimate celebration and the feast we will one day enjoy in the new creation. 

Isaiah 25:6-9 says, 

“On this mountain the Lord of hosts will make for all peoples
    a feast of rich food, a feast of well-aged wine,
    of rich food full of marrow, of aged wine well refined.
And he will swallow up on this mountain
    the covering that is cast over all peoples,
    the veil that is spread over all nations.
He will swallow up death forever;
and the Lord God will wipe away tears from all faces,
    and the reproach of his people he will take away from all the earth,
    for the Lord has spoken.
It will be said on that day,
    “Behold, this is our God; we have waited for him, that he might save us.
    This is the Lord; we have waited for him;
    let us be glad and rejoice in his salvation.”

The Christian community is the beginning and sign of God’s coming world - and no more so than when we eat together. Our meals are a foretaste of the future messianic banquet. Our meals reveal the identity of Jesus. Our meals are a proclamation and demonstration of God’s good news.
— Tim Chester, "A Meal with Jesus"

Whatever holiday it happens to be, we celebrate because we have the promise of eternal celebration. Our God will swallow up death forever. If that is not a reality worth celebrating, I’m not sure what is. We celebrate because we rejoice in the salvation we have received from God, for without this, any celebration on earth is temporal. But here on earth, we have the opportunity to depict the glorious celebration that we will someday be a part of in the new creation. 

God throws a party for his people, a party with the richest food and the best wine. It’s a feast incomparable to any we could enjoy in this life, but one we can look forward to with longing and expectation. 

As we feast now, as we celebrate the mundane or extraordinary moments of our lives this side of glory, may we do so remembering what is yet to come. As new creation people, this is why we’ll gather at the table on Thursday. Our feasts are a glimpse of the joy we have in salvation and joy yet to be revealed when we’ll sit at the table with Him and say, “This is the Lord; we have waited for him; let us be glad and rejoice in his salvation.” 

So eat and drink. Enjoy the turkey and stuffing and pumpkin pie. Celebrate with everything that you have, and welcome others to your table. Let your laughter and fellowship be a joyful celebration that points to the ultimate feast we long for in the new creation. 

Roasted Squash + Kale Salad with Maple-Dijon Vinaigrette-6.jpg
Roasted Squash + Kale Salad with Maple-Dijon Vinaigrette-6.jpg
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Roasted Squash + Kale Salad with Maple-Dijon Vinaigrette

Roasted Squash + Kale Salad with Maple-Dijon Vinaigrette
Yields about 6 servings

2-3 pounds butternut squash, peeled, seeded, and cut into 1-inch chunks
1 cup pecan halves
1 Tablespoon granulated sugar (omit for paleo)
10 ounces chopped kale, hard stems removed
1 cup pomegranate arils (requires about 1 pomegranate)
Olive oil
Salt and pepper
Maple-Dijon Vinaigrette (recipe below)

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Add the squash to a sheet pan and drizzle with 2-3 tablespoons of olive oil. Sprinkle with a few pinches of salt and a couple grinds of black pepper. (Don’t worry too much about measuring here. Just eyeball it.) Roast for 25-30 minutes, tossing halfway through, until the squash is tender and slightly browned. 

Meanwhile, make the candied pecans. Add the pecan halves and the sugar to a small pan. Heat over medium heat, stirring constantly until the sugar melts and coats the pecans. Keep a close eye on it so the sugar doesn’t burn. Remove from heat and set aside. 

Put the chopped kale in a large bowl. Drizzle on about half of the Maple-Dijon Vinaigrette and toss well. Let the kale sit for about 5-10 minutes, allowing the leaves to soften. Toss in the roasted squash, candied pecans, and pomegranate arils. Season with a little salt and pepper to taste and serve with the remaining dressing. 

Maple-Dijon Vinaigrette
½ cup olive oil
2 Tablespoons apple cider vinegar
1 Tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 Tablespoon maple syrup
1 clove garlic, very finely minced

Whisk together the dressing ingredients. Refrigerate until needed. Shake well before using. 

Mulled Cider with Cinnamon + Ancho Chiles

Mulled Cider with Cinnamon + Ancho Chiles

This past week has been marked by cloudy, rainy days and crisp, fall weather. All I’ve wanted to do is curl up on the couch with a hot drink and a good book. And to be honest, that's exactly what I've done. I've unabashedly taken advantage of the days when my kids took a good, long nap (which definitely didn't happen ever day, but I'll take what I can get). 

Mulled Cider with Cinnamon + Ancho Chiles

I know chores and to-do lists can't be put on the back-burner forever, but sometimes you just have a to let good things go in order to fill up with the best things. My kitchen may still be a mess, but my soul is refreshed - and for that, I'm grateful. 

Mulled Cider with Cinnamon + Ancho Chiles
Mulled Cider with Cinnamon + Ancho Chiles

Of course, during this season, if you've got a good book in one hand, you need a mug of hot cider in the other. I changed things up from my normal orange-clove-cinnamon combo and threw an ancho chile into the mix. I absolutely loved it. I know the added heat may not be for everyone, but for me, there's something calming, comforting and pleasantly surprising about the slight kick after every sip. Rest assured, this is a drink that'll keep you warm during those cool fall days!

Mulled Cider with Cinnamon + Ancho Chiles

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Mulled Cider with Cinnamon + Ancho Chiles

Mulled Cider with Cinnamon + Ancho Chiles

2 quarts apple cider (make sure it doesn't have any added sweeteners or spices)
8 whole cloves
2 cinnamon sticks
2 Tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice (about 1 medium lemon)
1 lemon, sliced
1 ancho chile

Add the cider, cloves, cinnamon sticks, lemon juice and lemon slices to a large saucepan. Cut the ancho chile in half and add it to the cider (seeds and all).

Bring the cider to a boil, then turn the heat to low and cover. Let the cider simmer for at least 30 minutes. Pour into mugs and garnish with a slice of lemon or a cinnamon stick. Enjoy!

Quick Tip: You can also make this recipe in a slow-cooker. Just let it mull for at least a couple hours before serving. 

Pumpkin Oat Smoothie

Whether or not I'm ready, it's now officially fall! It’s the season when nearly everywhere you turn, recipes are popping up for pies, muffins, breads and cookies with that sweet, spiced pumpkin flavor. Despite feeling like summer flew by a little too quickly, it’s my favorite season - and I can't help but join in the autumn obsession.

Most pumpkin recipes I come across are for decadent treats topped with cream cheese frosting, pancakes perfect for a special occasion (and best served with butter) or pies with a spoonful of whipped cream. While I love all of those, I decided I needed at least one pumpkin recipe that’s healthy. I wanted to enjoy the flavors of fall without starting my day with loads of sugar and butter.

The result? This Pumpkin Oat Smoothie.

Pumpkin Oat Smoothie
Yields 2 servings

1 cup pumpkin puree
1 cup vanilla yogurt
1-2 tablespoons honey (depending on how sweet you like it)
1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
¼ cup rolled oats
Handful of ice

Add all ingredients to a blender. Blend until smooth. Pour into glasses and top with additional oats and a pinch of pumpkin pie spice (optional). Serve and enjoy!

Quick Tip: For variations on this recipe, try adding a banana or a spoonful of almond butter. Or, if you just can’t resist pumpkin desserts, make it a milkshake by using vanilla ice cream instead of yogurt (and adjust the amount of honey accordingly). 

This post was originally featured by Bright, Bold & Beautiful.