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!

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.

Tropical Chia Pudding

Tropical Chia Pudding

I've been (mildly) attempting to curb my pregnancy cravings for chocolate bars and Chick-Fil-A. The other day, I cooked a Whole30 approved dinner (a staple recipe in my house - Cinnamon Beef Stew from Well Fed). But lest you think I succeeded, please know I followed up that healthy dinner with chocolate chip banana bread from the Joy The Baker Cookbook. This banana bread is by no means a healthy, whole-grain bread. It's pretty much cake. Cake that you can eat for breakfast. And dessert. And late at night before bed. Clean eating plus buttery, sugary, chocolatey dessert? I call it practicing balance. 

Tropical Chia Pudding is an attempt to swing the pendulum back to clean eating. When you soak chia seeds in liquid, they create a custard-like consistency, and if you're avoiding dairy, blending chia seeds with non-dairy milk makes a great alternative to yogurt. I like to make a batch big enough to have a few days' worth of pudding. Anything to make mornings more convenient (and nutritious), right? 

For this recipe, I HIGHLY recommend using Ataulfo mangoes. They are creamier and sweeter, giving them the perfect texture and flavor for chia pudding - no added honey or maple syrup needed (read: Whole30 compliant!). Ataulfo mangoes are pretty readily available (I bought some at Costco the last time), and when I'm at the store and have the option, 10 times out of 10 I'll choose the Ataulfo variety over the conventional Tommy Atkins mango.

Who knew I could be this opinionated about mangoes? But trust me. If you haven't switched to buying Ataulfos, you'll thank me. (Also, I don't really know how to properly pronounce "ataulfo," so I try to reserve mango discussions for the written word only.)

Have you made chia pudding before? Let me know your favorite flavor combinations in the comments below!

Tropical Chia Pudding
Tropical Chia Pudding
Tropical Chia Pudding
Tropical Chia Pudding
Tropical Chia Pudding
Tropical Chia Pudding

Tropical Chia Pudding
Yields about 36 ounces

3 Ataulfo mangoes (about 16 ounce of mango flesh)
1 medium banana, peeled
1 (13.5 ounce) can full fat coconut milk
1/4 cup chia seeds

Peel the mango, and cut the flesh from around the seed. (Yes, this may be the most annoying food to prep, but have no fear. Alton Brown is here.)

Add the mango pieces to a blender along with the banana, coconut milk, and chia seeds. Blend until smooth. The consistency at this point should be similar to a very thick smoothie, or a very runny pudding. It'll firm up a bit more as the chia seeds soak.

Pour the mixture into airtight containers, and refrigerate overnight (or at least three hours). Top with unsweetened coconut flakes, nuts, or additional fruit. Enjoy!

Note: Leftover pudding can be stored in the refrigerator for a few days.

Green Breakfast Smoothie [paleo + vegan!]

Green Breakfast Smoothie [paleo + vegan!]

In my ideal world, I’d sit down every morning for a hot breakfast, complete with over-easy eggs served on top of sautéed vegetables with a side of perfectly crisp, thick-cut bacon. One of those recipes is coming soon to the blog, but I usually end up making that type of "breakfast" dish for lunch or dinner. I can barely think straight enough to pour myself a cup of coffee before 10am. Most days I’m scrambling for something to hold me over until my kids’ nap - when I can hopefully eat for a couple uninterrupted minutes. Unfortunately, my grab and go food choices all too often include treats like chocolatey scones and sugar-topped muffins - hardly a nutrient-rich option (but so delicious!).

This past week, I’ve skipped the pastries (OK, not counting the occasional scone) and whipped up a green smoothie to get fruits and vegetables into my system first thing in the morning. This recipe is dairy free and only uses a banana and dates for sweetness. It also has a good dose of fiber, vitamin A, vitamin C, iron, and potassium. And best of all? It takes about two minutes to make. Perfect for busy mornings!

What's your go-to quick breakfast? 

Green Breakfast Smoothie [paleo + vegan!]
Green Breakfast Smoothie [paleo + vegan!]
Green Breakfast Smoothie [paleo + vegan!]
Green Breakfast Smoothie [paleo + vegan!]

Green Breakfast Smoothie
Yields 1 (12-14 ounce) serving

3 ounces fresh spinach
⅓ cup unsweetened almond milk
1 medium banana
1 medjool date (add an additional date or two for extra sweetness)
1 Tablespoon unsalted almond butter
4 ounces ice (one big handful)

Add all the ingredients to a blender and blend until smooth. Pour into a glass and serve immediately. Enjoy!

This recipe was originally featured at Lark + Linen.