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!


(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.


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
Roasted Squash + Kale Salad with Maple-Dijon Vinaigrette-7.jpg
Roasted Squash + Kale Salad with Maple-Dijon Vinaigrette

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

Salad
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. 


Baked Maple Whiskey Banana Bread Doughnuts [with buttered whiskey glaze]

Baked Maple Whiskey Banana Bread Doughnuts

I wasn't a huge doughnut (or donut, if you prefer) fan until I got pregnant. Pregnancy will do that to you...especially a twin pregnancy. I had all these grand ideas of eating healthy and exercising throughout those nine months and, well, that happened for about a week. Especially towards the end, it was Netflix binging and doughnut eating. Oh, and bagels. And Chick-Fil-A. And whatever else. Don't worry, I did eat healthy things occasionally, too...but only occasionally (hence the postpartum Whole30 my body desperately needed a few months later!).

Anyway, back to doughnuts. After I had the kiddos, I bought myself a doughnut pan, stalked my favorite food bloggers' sites for recipes and eventually got around to baking up these bad boys. (Might I suggest checking out The Faux Martha and Joy The Baker for further doughnut inspiration?)

While my post-pregnancy sweet tooth did dissipate slightly and I'm learning to tame the sugar dragon, there are just some days when you need a doughnut. And if you're going to eat a doughnut, make it a good one - like this banana bread version sweetened with maple syrup, served warm from the oven and drizzled in a buttery whiskey glaze. Go big or go home, my friends. 

Baked Maple Whiskey Banana Bread Doughnuts
Baked Maple Whiskey Banana Bread Doughnuts
Baked Maple Whiskey Banana Bread Doughnuts
Baked Maple Whiskey Banana Bread Doughnuts
Baked Maple Whiskey Banana Bread Doughnuts
Baked Maple Whiskey Banana Bread Doughnuts

Baked Maple Whiskey Banana Bread Doughnuts with Buttered Whiskey Glaze
Yields 6-8 doughnuts

½ cup white whole wheat flour
½ cup all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
¼ teaspoon salt
¾ cup mashed bananas (about 2 small bananas)
¼ cup buttermilk
3 Tablespoons maple syrup
2 tablespoons butter, melted and cooled slightly
egg, lightly beaten
1 Tablespoon whiskey (I used Bulleit Bourbon)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350. Whisk together the flours, baking soda, cinnamon and salt. In a separate bowl, mix the bananas, buttermilk, maple syrup, butter, egg, whiskey and vanilla until fully combined and smooth.

Add the wet mixture to the dry mixture and stir just until combined. Pour batter into a pastry bag (or you can use a zip top bag and snip the corner of it). Squeeze the batter into the prepared doughnut pan, filling each compartment about ¾ full. 

Bake for 13-15 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean. All to cool for a couple minutes and then remove from the pan. Drizzle with Buttered Whiskey Glaze. Doughnuts are best served warm. 


Buttered Whiskey Glaze

2 Tablespoons butter
2 Tablespoons brown sugar
1 Tablespoon whiskey (I like to use bourbon)
1 Tablespoon maple syrup
Scant pinch salt

Add all ingredients to small saucepan on medium heat. Stir until sugar dissolves and butter is melted. Remove from heat and drizzle over Baked Maple Whiskey Banana Bread Doughnuts.